I need to tell you that my hair is figuratively on fire right now. I’m going to need some water to put it out. By some act of kismet, I learned about Charity:Water on Saturday afternoon, just in time to figure out how to set up a campaign to donate my birthday. You guys, this means a lot to me.
If anything I ever wrote affected you, made you laugh, made you think… give a dollar.
If at any point you would have bought me a card or taken me out for a drink… give four dollars.
If you would have taken me out to lunch today, give fifteen dollars.
If you’re just moved by the spirit of generosity, give twenty-five dollars.
If you want to do this like a rock star… I’m 42 today, so give forty-two dollars!
My desire is to raise enough to bring clean water to 42 people. I could have had a party in a bar or a restaurant. I could have gone out for a manicure. Instead I’m staying home because all I care about right now is DRILLING THIS WELL!
LET’S DO THIS THING!
Thank you so very much for hearing me out.
I got a birthday spanking from a drag queen. I love drag queens! Did I ever tell you that? I guess they’re the opposite of me in so many ways: extravagantly fabulous, self-assured, poised, stylish, and reveling in arcane beauty rituals that may forever remain a mystery to me. I just find them enchanting. For me, the excitement of seeing a drag queen is probably akin to the excitement that other people feel at the prospect of eating a cupcake or getting a pony ride. What? For ME?! YAY!!! They’re so marvelously dignified and wise and hilarious. At least a dozen of these elegant confections wandered the park. One in particular came within range of where I stood, pretty much just gawping.
She was strolling around offering, “Spankings! Who wants spankings?”
I replied, “It’s my birthday on Monday! I’ll take one!”
“Okay, on a scale of one to five, how do you want it?”
“I’m going with a one.” I braced myself.
This was great. She intoned, “May this spanking awaken in you the power to dominate the world!” Then she slapped my butt. Pretty solid for a one! Now, if and when I start dominating the world, you’ll know why.
I thanked her and she touched my elbow, gracious to the last.
This all happened during an intermission between keynote speakers during the main stage portion of the World Domination Summit. Apparently it was in response to a dispute with a caterer in a previous year, an unnamed entity that failed to provide a service and then insisted on charging for it anyway. So this is one possible response. “You refuse to honor our contract? Fine. I’m hiring a squadron of drag queens to do it next year, so ha!” I’m going to ponder this and keep it in mind if I ever get into a failed negotiation.
The event started with a short film that included Chris Guillebeau riding a bicycle through the streets of downtown Portland, barefoot and dressed in a zebra-print bathrobe. Assuredly that is going on everyone’s bucket list.
From my perspective, there are now two layers of appreciation when I watch a professional speaker. The first is for content. What are they saying? What can I take in from that message on a personal level? The second layer of appreciation is for stage presence and speaking skills overall. What can I take in from this that I might one day be able to imitate? I’m watching how they inhabit the stage space, how they time their material to sync with their visual aids, how they gesture, and of course how often they say ‘um’ or smack their lips. I can see myself up there one day: not this year, not next year either, but one day.
I’m skipping over the emotional impact of everything that we heard, although at one point I folded over and wept. Tomorrow I am posting something more relevant than a paragraph of me going “Ehrmagerd, I laughed and cried and it was totally awesome.” I can’t do justice to half a dozen incredible speakers by summarizing what they said. There’s no way I can affect you, my reader, in the way that I was affected through second-hand amateur reportage. All of which is to say, you just had to be there.
There is a break in the afternoon long enough to get lunch and do a meetup or two. We had a plant-based meetup where we made friends with two young ladies who are attending WDS for the first time. We were well met. The conversation turned into some pretty excellent ideas that may or may not have involved robots and luchador masks. Also: free cake.
Me: “Here’s my card.”
New friend: “This is going on my vision board.”
I went to a meetup called Ask the Literary Agent, by David Fugate. He’s the guy who sold The Martian for Andy Weir. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? The format involved sixty hopeful writers asking detailed questions about how to work with an agent and get published. I have never typed so fast in all my life. Sixteen pages of notes in an hour, interrupted briefly when I found out that I was the moron who didn’t silence her phone. 1. Almost nobody ever calls me and 2. My ringer has been in the default position of OFF for the last five years. I don’t even know how it got turned on; the switch must have gotten moved in my bag. By gremlins.
Then someone who attended my meetup on Monday asked to hire me and said that three people have asked whether I have a book out.
We went back for the afternoon session. We came out transformed.
Then we walked over to the restaurant where my uncle and I shared a family birthday dinner. Somehow, in all the bustle and hustle, there still seems to be time to fit in the most important stuff, which is showing up and being present for family.
Watch this space for an epic announcement tomorrow!
Somehow I wound up tightrope walking. By “somehow,” I mean that I saw the slack line and immediately felt a magnetic attraction to it. I sat on it for a while, my body balanced three feet off the ground on a three inch wide fabric strap, surprised that I could balance quite well with my hands in the air. Then I took my shoes and socks off and climbed up. My cousin, who is quite tall, walked with me so I could hold his shoulder. I made it all thirty feet without falling off!
This is how I make decisions. I have a general policy of pursuing anything that interests me, with a brief pause to ask, “Is there any reason why I should not do this?” Why shouldn’t I walk a tightrope?
We were at the opening party for World Domination Summit. A band played on the stage at the Edgefield, and someone in a T Rex costume wandered around the grass dancing with people. I saw a hula hoop, and the sign that I was deeply involved in conversation is that I didn’t wind up inside it. I took my cousin over to meet Chris Guillebeau, who was as usual quite gracious, although think how busy he must be this week! We rode back on the shuttle, a school bus transformed into a wandering karaoke machine with everyone singing “Don’t Stop Believing.”
In the morning, I attended the Sparked academy by Jonathan Fields of the Good Life Project. I started following his podcast last year when I saw that he would be a keynote speaker at WDS. I love the way he listens so deeply and draws out these incredible conversations with fascinating people. The academy drew on material from his upcoming book. The central question is, How can we align who we are with what we do in the world when we don’t actually know who we are? When we know more about ourselves, we can find a way to contribute in our work in a way that makes even a disappointing job into a source of meaning and purpose.
Also, an attendee shared that she has a stand-up desk on wheels that she rolls out onto her deck. We were all suitably impressed.
Usual scurrying to get lunch, running into people, meeting new faces, trying to eat before running back in the same direction. I caught up with my husband, who had no plans all morning and spent the time as a flaneur, wandering around and chillaxing in a park. He has vacation face now.
In the afternoon, he went to an academy called Afford Anything while I went to one called How to Make a Living Writing, by Jeff Goins, Tim Grabo, and Joe Bunting. MIND OFFICIALLY BLOWN. I took twenty-three pages of notes. The main takeaway is that there are plenty of ways to make a solid living as a professional writer, none of which have anything to do with our romantic rockstar image. One example was the literary novel that made lifetime sales of $85, followed by the non-fiction writing manual that earned $30,000. Also compelling: the fact that six out of ten Pulitzer winners interviewed made their living from teaching, not writing. At the end, Jeff Goins announced that he was giving each of us a free, signed copy of his book Real Artists Don’t Starve. Note that the book’s list price is $24.99 and we paid $29 to attend the academy.
This is abundance mentality in action. These three prosperous, successful men showed up to teach hundreds of wannabe writers how to make money in their own field. Potential competitors! They know that many of us will look further into their offerings, buying their books or purchasing their online courses or promoting their work to others. It’s not about the ticket sales on that particular summer day in 2017, it’s about wordfame - and the simple desire to teach and share and help other people to succeed.
Comparing notes with my husband later, there are some predictable themes that come up when talking about money. (He never really experienced scarcity mindset around money; he says that even as a little boy in a trailer in a rural small town, he always figured you could just go out and get a job and earn as much as you wanted). In his academy, where the premise was that it’s possible to “Afford Anything,” a number of attendees gave pushback about buying lattes. It’s the avocado toast problem, right? “Oh, if you want to afford things you have to not waste your money on stupid stuff like that.” Even when presented with charts and percentages, certain people are unwilling to let go of their preconceived notions about how money works. My husband and I spend an absurd amount of money at Starbucks - but we also save 35% of our income and I own a few shares of Starbucks stock. I’m not going to apologize to anyone for it, because 1. I do what I want and 2. I like Howard Schultz’s continual attempts to improve conditions for his employees, such as setting up the college plan. Also, anyone who wants to nitpick my spending is going to need to step up with hard numbers and transparency about their own cash flow. I’ll go there with you; I don’t mind.
We started our day with a pound of fresh blueberries, which we had because we woke up at 6:00 AM and my husband went out to pick them in my parents’ yard while I was blow-drying my hair. He had a relaxed and casual day while sitting in a park, enjoying the warm summer weather. These highlights of our experience did not cost money. The point here is that there are plenty of billionaire moments available to everyone, and much of the time, rather than enjoy watching the sunset or smelling an actual rose, we sit around complaining about all the stuff we can’t afford. Or why other hypothetical people spend too much money on stuff. Meanwhile I’m walking around wearing my FREE HUGS t-shirt and collecting all the free hugs. So yeah.
We were sprinting for the bus with a pound of blueberries. We had two minutes. His hat was about to fly off. We were freaking out - were we going to make it? Were the berries going to wind up flying everywhere?
Probably that story would be more interesting when performed in person. Certainly it is more interesting than what I might have written if I were trying for a straightforward chronological account of our day. This is a technique we learned in our WDS academy, How to Tell Captivating Stories, by Marsha Shandur of Yes Yes Marsha.
We later found that this was the first academy to sell out, and it only took about two minutes to find out why. Marsha has a truly captivating physical presence. She immediately launched into a funny story. Then she proceeded to teach us what made it funny, something that many funny people probably could not do. She had everyone write down a boring story - our commute that morning - and methodically pick it apart and find an interesting story element in it. It was magnificent. It was also really impressive to think that each of the hundreds of people in the room had the same experience, traveling to be in that room at the same time, and yet we also had completely different experiences of that mundane task.
The secret is to talk about the emotions around the events.
Another exercise was for a member of the audience to tell a two-minute story, then have another person boil it down to thirty seconds, and then have yet another person boil it down to ten seconds. If only we could somehow magically transmit this information to select people of our acquaintance who are prone to droning monologues… The woman telling the two-minute story finished around the 90-second mark, and Marsha kept asking, “And?” The woman would add another observation with time still on the clock. “And?” Those final 30 seconds wound up being juicier than the rest of the story!
We left wishing it would have gone on forever, animated, enthralled, and captivated indeed.
At lunch, I wound up trading sandwich halves with a technical stranger. “Hey, person I met one minute ago. Do you want to share lunches?” One of those serendipitous meetings, a vegan guy trying to decide between the same two menu items I was. (Cheesesteak and Reuben, if you’re curious). See the WDS badge on someone and there’s no telling what might happen.
My husband took off in his own direction for the afternoon, a meetup on empathetic communication. We can always find each other because we set up location sharing on our phones. “I dotted you.”
Running late again, this time trying to hold the lid on a tub of coleslaw, keeping pace with a popular friend who knows everyone, bumping into people we wanted to stop and hug but MAYBE LATER! BYE!
My next academy was How to Be Everything, by Emilie Wapnick. Naturally the sandwich-trader guy went to this one too, because also How to Eat Everything. This one was aimed at multipotentialites, those of us who are passionately interested in multiple things and can’t be satisfied with one conventional career. Philistines might refer to us as indecisive dilettantes, slackers, or procrastinators. Emilie Wapnick offers the far more attractive idea that we are actually a distinct group of humans who have our own way of doing things. I read her book on this topic recently, and adored it, but being in the same room as hundreds of others of my kind was frenetically invigorating. We were laughing, we were crying, we were cheering, we were writing as fast as we could.
Wapnick herself wandered around checking in with various aisles during the exercises. Suddenly I looked up and she had come to my aisle! I just looked at her and my jaw dropped open and I started flailing my hands around. She laughed. Speechless for one of the very few moments of my life. I thanked her for changing my life today.
[not going to say specifically why yet, but you, my dear readers, may be noticing some changes around here in the near future]
Then, kismet! Everyone was reluctantly getting up to leave. I faced backward while picking up my bag, and there behind me was the one person I most wanted to see at WDS, someone I wasn’t even sure would attend. We fell into conversation so quickly that my friend left without me and I didn’t even notice.
I walked outside and my hubby was there waiting for me. I ran up to him and started jumping up and down and flailing my arms again. We had about half an hour to hang out and get some juice before going to our next meetup, trying to download our separate experiences and information in one of the brief pauses when we weren’t trying to mainline new material as fast as we could get it.
Next, a book swap. The book I brought, One Red Paperclip, went to a man who is a huge fan of the story but did not know that a book about it had ever been written. So he was stoked! I wound up falling into conversation with someone who attended my meetup from Wednesday. He showed me his drawing of where the books are stacked up all over his house, we shared about having a huge tower of books we haven’t read yet, and two minutes later we were scrolling through our phones trying to exchange book titles and podcast names as fast as we could go. “I think we’re actually the same person.”
After the book swap, we had just enough time to walk six blocks to meet my family for dinner. Phew! Switching gears from other World Dominators to people who aren’t in the loop can be challenging. How do you explain everything you’ve been doing and learning and about all the people you’re meeting? Well, you kind of can’t, so it’s better to just listen and catch up. How are you?
World Domination Summit is in full swing. I woke up at 4:30 this morning, for no particular reason other than that I was so keyed up. It’s possible that WDS actually stands for We Don’t Sleep. We’re riding the bus downtown, getting ready for a full day of academies, a meetup, and dinner with my family. That’s a relatively mellow day! This is just one day in a busy week during which almost every minute is scheduled to the hilt. It’s when we have this intense desire to take in every scrap of information and engage with every possible opportunity that we feel like we’re drinking from the fire hose.
The more options we have in any arena, the more likely we are to feel a sense of FoMO. I’m doing everything, but somehow there are still things I am not doing! I wasn’t there! I missed the punchline! Everyone was partying without me! I’m not in the group photo!!! Wait, was there… cake??? I don’t care what they say, I CAN be in three places at once. I am omnipresent. I can apparate at will. I am somehow going to sit in this chair in this room, stand by that window in that other room, and get swept away by a conversation over there in the stairwell. ALL AT THE SAME TIME!
The brain wants what the brain wants.
When I feel this way, I try to pause and remind myself of the existence of this magical thing called the Internet. I can never possibly watch every video, connect with every person, read every article, look at every meme, follow every blog, or use every app. Even if I somehow thought I could, the moment I blinked there would be a trillion new uploads. I’m able to rest with this. Still I struggle with the bleak reality that I will never be able to read every book ever written.
…actually, I need a moment. I think there’s something in my eye.
We were talking the other day about how much I need a time turner (although I’m not Hermione Granger; I’m really more of a Luna Lovegood). I said, “The first thing I would do is leave it in my pocket and accidentally run it through the washing machine.” Accepting that we have to do all this stuff in the time dimension is something of a lifetime-level emotional project.
I’m looking at things differently after leading my own workshop. It’s a peek behind the curtain. As much as I feel FoMO about all the stuff I’m missing and all the things I won’t have time to do, I now recognize that all the speakers and presenters are also feeling a certain amount of FoMO about all the stuff they wish they had said. There’s a whole ocean of information behind the stream that comes out of that fire hose. Spending an hour or three hours in a classroom is only the tiniest drop of what that person could teach, given more time.
MORE TIME! I NEED MORE TIME!
I gave my workshop yesterday. In Toastmasters everyone always says there are three speeches: the speech you wrote, the speech you gave, and the speech you give in the car on the way home. On the surface, mine went well enough. People stayed for the whole thing, they took tons of notes, they laughed, they asked questions. I ran long, fifty percent more than scheduled. Still a half dozen people hung out afterward to ask more questions. As far as listener engagement, I did well. I’m trying to acknowledge myself for that. But…
There was so much more I wanted to say! There were entire sections of my supposed “outline” that I didn’t even touch on! I went totally off-grid, off-script, although fortunately not off-topic. (If I’d started talking about money it would have all been over). Part of why I woke up at 4:30 was that my feeble mortal brain immediately started spinning over all the things I wish I had said. Where’s my rewind button?
That’s not how it works, though. We have the moments we have. It’s life that we’re living, not waiting for the real thing to start, but the actual real thing. That’s the magnificent flaw, that we never realize until later that there was this moment, here and gone, this one half-fledged moment we had to connect and engage and experience. It’s flown off with nary a feather left behind. The rightnow bird is always on the wing.
I’m giving my first workshop later today. Wish me luck! At this time last year, I had a half-formed idea and a tentative image of myself speaking to a group, specifically my fellow World Domination Summit attendees. A year before that, I wouldn’t have done such a thing under any circumstances. In fact, when I was seven years old, I was supposed to recite a verse that I had memorized at the winter recital, and I dove under the table and refused to come out until they promised I wouldn’t have to speak. My mom rightly pointed out that if I had just mumbled through my piece, I would have been done in ten seconds, and that making a scene made it that much worse. Let’s just say that I have no particular hunger for the spotlight. At a certain point, though, you start to realize that you have something important to share and that people will be better off if they know about it. That’s where workshops are sprouted.
The first point is always to have something to say that is both important and interesting. People will listen to you blathering on about anything if you’re funny enough. You can do a stand-up routine about the tiniest thing, like sending a text message or ordering coffee. Note that these routines tend to be very brief. I carry a heavy sense of responsibility that if I’m performing, every minute that someone spends listening to me should be a good use of that person’s time. The larger the audience, the more expensive it is to be irrelevant or boring. One minute of hemming and hawing multiplied by twenty people is twenty life-minutes I’ve just drained away. This is why I’ve spent the last year and a half working on my public speaking skills. Most of the time, I don’t even say ‘um’ anymore, so if I’m boring it will be for other reasons.
After knowing that you have an incredibly useful and interesting topic and that you have a burning desire to share it, it’s time to get specific. What will this workshop be like? Where will it be held? How long will it be? How many people can attend? What will they do? Are you going to talk the whole time, are you going to lead people through a series of exercises, or will it be a combination of both? What level of participation are you expecting?
I’m a shy person - recall the table-dive anecdote I just shared - and I respect that in other people. I can easily recall all the times when even being asked to raise my hand among a group of other people raising their hands was exquisitely embarrassing. I still battle with threshold anxiety, the sense of not even wanting to walk into a room because there are people in there. *gasp* This is why one of my considerations is going to be with allowing shy people to opt out of participation. I’m not one to orchestrate a bunch of group exercises like trust falls. I like to allow the bolder extroverts to chime in, while those with a lower comfort level can observe in peace.
Wait, so why is a shy person conducting a workshop?
I’ve learned that I can switch into performance mode if I feel the need. This is easier to do when the message feels important enough that I’m thinking more about what I’m saying than I am about myself. I can think about myself and my feelings back at home. I try to focus on connecting with my audience. Making eye contact with individual people was really, really hard at first, but with weekly practice I’ve been training it into myself. I’m an extrovert. Note that a shy extrovert can track like an introvert in most ways. The difference is that many introverts are comfortable doing things like giving presentations in a professional setting, while they need a lot of solitude and do their best thinking alone. Shy extroverts such as myself get a charge out of being in groups, we tend to think out loud, we often prefer collaboration, but we find it hard to open up with strangers. “Once you get me going…” This is one reason that public speaking has been so valuable to me, even though it was brutally hard for the first several months. It’s exhilarating to share an idea or a story and to get a positive response from an appreciative audience.
People have started taking notes when I talk, or engaging with me about my work. This is weird and unprecedented for me, but it’s also great feedback. If they keep asking for more, who am I to say no? I’m so thin-skinned and sensitive to criticism that I will definitely notice if I can’t hold the attention of the audience. Eyes up and glistening, good. Heads down, phones up, not so good.
I would never be doing this uncharacteristic, challenging thing if it weren’t for Toastmasters or the World Domination Summit. I can’t praise Toastmasters enough. For a person with an acute, nausea-level dread of public speaking, there’s really no better place to go. Everyone is so encouraging and tactful, and almost every person there has felt the exact same way. When I started, I was so scared that I almost collapsed one time, and that was after I had finished my speech! It took months of concerted effort, and it remains one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, but the results have been life-changing. Releasing a fear is one of the most powerful satisfactions in the world.
As for the World Domination Summit, I can hardly begin to describe how much it has changed my life, my marriage, and how I approach problems. This is why I’m pushing myself far outside of my comfort zone and leading my first meetup. I understand how valuable my topic will be for people, and I also have a strong desire to give back to the community that has given so very much to me.
PS The workshop is called ‘Curate Your Stuff’ and I’m going to put together a workbook for download. Since there were only 33 spots, naturally there may be people who are interested in the material but were unable to attend.
This post is for anyone going to World Domination Summit for the first time. If you haven’t heard of the World Domination Summit before, you’re about to hear a whole lot about it. It’s entirely likely that several of your favorite authors, podcasters, and bloggers are going to be there, and we’ll all likely be talking about it all month. If you’re intrigued and you haven’t been before, look into it now and get on the waiting list for next year. Half the tickets will be sold by this time next week. All of this is to remind those of us who are lucky enough to attend that this is a rarity, a unique experience that can’t be replicated elsewhere. Life is short and when we plan, we can make the most of it.
I first heard about WDS in July of 2015, right before the fifth one. It didn’t even take me three minutes to decide that WE HAD TO GO. Alas! The tickets were already sold out! I promptly put my name on the waiting list, and the day ticket sales were opened for WDS 2016, we bought a pair. My husband didn’t really know what this thing was, but he was game. We were excited and curious. The event far exceeded our expectations.
We have a system when we go to almost any kind of event or party. We generally split up and go in opposite directions as quickly as we can. This way we can double our ability to meet people and absorb information. As soon as we reconvene at the end of the day, the gossip machine starts, and it doesn’t stop again until the next day. We’ve been doing this for a long time, and it served us well when we attended WDS as a couple. We went to a few academies and meetups together, and we sat together during the main stage events, but most of the time we were separate and taking notes as rapidly as we could.
One of the academies, Be a Money Boss, completely changed our life. We decided to commit to becoming financially independent, even if it meant radical changes. Indeed, we did come home and make some radical changes. We sold our car, radically downsized all our stuff, and moved into a little beachfront apartment. He chased down his dream job in the space industry and now has his own private office with an actual door! I’ve doubled my client base and doubled my readership on this blog (thanks, guys!). We started getting more serious about collecting travel reward points, with two separate trips coming up where both the airfare and the hotel will be covered by travel rewards. We’ve both taken on volunteer offices in our community. Oh, gosh, what else? I know there are other things, but those are certainly some bright highlights.
Don’t be judging your experience against ours. We came into the event with a certain amount of practice in goal-setting and making major decisions as a team. Marriage is a force multiplier. The point is not to rattle off a series of accomplished goals; the point is to recognize that you have the power to happen to things, that it’s within your reach to design whatever life you like for yourself. The more specific you are about what you want, what you want to do, and what you want to offer to this world, the more specific the results will be. Most people truly, deeply have no idea what they want, even for three months from now, much less a year or three years from now. The magic of WDS is that you’re exposed to a massive tidal wave of new ideas, and you get to meet hundreds of like-minded people, some of whom are quite busy being specific about what we want.
There are two things to focus on. 1. Meeting people and 2. Absorbing information. Please don’t stress about what to wear (answer: clothing) or what the weather will be like (warm) or what you’re going to eat. Just wear comfortable shoes and remember to wear your badge. You don’t have to try to impress anyone. Just being at the event demonstrates that you have something in common with everyone around you.
I’m a shy extrovert. I’ve been working on it really intensively by doing public speaking, but it’s still sometimes hard for me to walk into a room full of strangers. I hesitate to talk about myself. There is a long list of conversation topics that I avoid. I feel mega-awkward if anyone gives me a compliment, especially about my clothes or my appearance in general. I worry about my congenital lack of filter. What I’m learning is that when I’m worrying about myself, I’m nervous, but when I’m more interested in the other person and in the topic, I’m confident! I can redirect my attention back to my new friend, back to our conversation, and away from my weird self. I’m not there to talk about ME; I can talk to myself as much as I want back at home. I’m here to meet interesting, creative people who do awesome things.
The main difference between our first year and our second year, at least so far, is that we didn’t know what to expect the first year, but now we’re participating at a more active level. I’m leading my first meetup. It’s a one-hour workshop called Curate Your Stuff. A year ago, I never would have dreamed of doing something like this, of voluntarily putting myself up in front of people. Right now, it feels entirely obvious. It was obvious that I should do it, it was obvious when and where, and it’s obvious what I’m going to say.
My husband and I can both thank the World Domination Summit for teaching us how to focus and how to take bold action where we would not have before. We were able to nail down a lot of results that we wanted in a much shorter time span than we would have thought possible. We’ve noticed that there seem to be visible differences between previous attendees who have been to WDS in years past; each additional year seems to add a certain mystical quality. It seems to make people more open, more polite, able to listen more deeply, and also quite liable to take off on extravagant quests. Part of why we’re coming back a second time is that we want to find out what happens when we keep exposing ourselves to the enchanted, charged atmosphere that is the World Domination Summit. World Dominators we shall be.
Ready for a fiesta of gender stereotypes? We’re packing for a trip, and I asked my husband if he would be willing to be my test subject. I’m setting a timer so I can find out how long it takes him to pack. I want to know the secret of how to pack like a man. I’m going to pack my own bag right alongside him. Here we are in the time dimension. Ready? Three, two, one, and GO!
Okay, no, wait. He’s saying something really interesting!
“If it took me half an hour to decide what to take on a trip, it would be crazy! I mean, seriously, I could pack all the clothes in my closet in my big international bag and just check it, and I would have all my clothes. I don’t know if it would necessarily fill all that bag up. What filled it up on the trip to Hamburg was that I was taking my big heavy coat.” - My hubby, spontaneously writing half of this post for me
He’s onto something there. As an aerospace engineer, he’s expected to dress professionally, but not exactly in a fashion-forward, on fleek kind of a way. He used to buy his pants in a stack at Costco, until he figured out that he can get them on Amazon Prime. Likewise, if his shirt collars start to fray, he wanders into the nearest men’s clothing store and comes out with a few replacements. The main considerations are 1. Size and 2. Whether he already has a polo shirt in that color. He maintains a specific number of pants and shirts: 6 pairs of work pants, 3 weekend pants, 5 short-sleeve work shirts, 3 long-sleeve work shirts, and what he describes as a “glut of t-shirts” at 8 total. His “thing” is having a lot of empty space between hangers. Now can you start to see why packing a suitcase is not difficult for him?
I start the timer. He gets out his suitcase, which is stored inside that big international bag he mentioned. He makes neat stacks of his shirts, pants, socks, and undergarments. He puts them in the suitcase. He goes into the bathroom and comes back with his shower kit. “Okay, done.” I pause the timer. 7:33.
SEVEN MINUTES AND THIRTY-THREE SECONDS!
I ask him, “So you’re probably not even going to give that bag another thought until we leave, right?” He nods, and then says, “Well, I’ll probably look in it again the night before and make sure I have everything.”
Okay, halt. That’s the exact opposite of what I do! My method of “making sure I have everything” is to do a complete perimeter check of our apartment, opening and shutting every single cabinet and drawer and looking to see what’s there. Of course I also do that because when we’re going to be away for a while, I want to make sure there aren’t any loose ends or open loops around the place. I’m far more concerned about the state of our home than I am about what’s in my bag. The logic behind that is that I can always get anything I need on a trip, but I can’t do anything about our apartment remotely. (Not yet, anyway). I want to walk in the door on our homecoming and know that all I have to do is unpack.
I start the timer again. While my pet engineer has been packing his suitcase, I have been wandering in and out of the closet, pulling things out, counting, and wandering back in to hang things up. In the time it has taken him to pack his suitcase, I have chosen everything I’m going to wear… but it’s strewn on the bed. Our packing methods are different. Also he was sort of dominating the suitcase-packing station, also known as “our bed.”
I load up my suitcase, zip it up, wander out to the living room to retrieve my sandals, load up the shoe section, get my shower kit, and zip up. Stop the timer. 10:33.
This is the difference between us: I spent 50% more time packing because I was in the Place of Indecision, fussing over what to wear.
Why’s that? Why does it take me longer to decide?
I’m like, the weather forecast predicts temperatures ranging between 50 and 85. He’s like, *SHRUG*
I can’t stand having my bra straps show. Him: Not Applicable
I have more than one color range in my wardrobe. He doesn’t, and that’s by design.
My main secret to packing light is that I plan everything around bringing as few pairs of shoes as possible. I want to spend the majority of my time in sneakers, or at the very least, I want to bring a pair so I can sneak off to run (or at least walk fast). Whatever dressier shoes I’m bringing, I want to keep it to one pair, so it’s either going to be black, brown, or metallic. That tends to minimize wardrobe choices. I have a strong suspicion that many of my sisters in luggage try to bring as many shoe options as possible, so they don’t have to decide.
The irony here is that if you refuse to make decisions at the packing stage, you’re then forced to make them every time you get dressed. On a lot of trips, that’s going to mean one set of decisions in the morning, another in the evening, and possibly a third set in the afternoon. Personally, if I want to play dress-up, I can do it at home without having to lug a huge heavy suitcase everywhere. When I’m traveling, it’s all about the DESTINATION and the EVENTS, not what I’m wearing.
I care about whether I’ll be cold. I care about whether my straps show. I do NOT care what other people think about my outfit. Anyone who is going to judge me by my clothes is going to find a lot more not to like! It’s a highly efficient way of weeding out potential non-friends. Although honestly, I think most people are oblivious to what others are wearing; we’re just trying to look right for our next selfie.
I can actually pack my suitcase in five minutes. I took a video of myself packing the last time I went on a trip. That time, it took me about forty minutes to decide what to wear and get everything ready before I started. I was dressing up more, and there were finicky tasks like picking out earrings. That was a four-day trip, while this is an eight-day trip. I’m thinking that five minutes of decisions and five minutes of packing is pretty good!
Why am I relatively fast at packing? Like my engineer husband, I start with a system. I only buy things that fit me and that fit into my plan. My fitness regimen keeps me in one clothing size, the same as it’s been for the last three years. At least 80% of my wardrobe consists of business casual clothes that I wear almost every day; they’re appropriate for most occasions. I limit myself to six main colors, and any variables in those colors are going to be expendable garments like tank tops, workout gear, or sleep clothes. I don’t keep a single thing that I feel “iffy” about. NO THREES! On a scale of one to five, I’m only going to wear fours and fives. Why would I wear anything other than comfortable, flattering clothes that fit and are easy to wash? I’m not going to play defense lawyer for garments that don’t do anything for me.
I’m still putting way more thought into it than the man in my life puts into what he wears. We’ve talked out the option of my simply getting the same haircut he has, and mimicking his wardrobe, but we both rejected that plan. I’m still 50% higher maintenance, by mutual agreement. Still, ten minutes to pack a suitcase is pretty good… she looks around and whispers… “for a girl.”
Usual disclaimer: This post will contain foul language, and I’m assuming that if you’re put off by that kind of thing, you quit reading when you saw the text on the book cover. The rest of you, since you’ve kept reading, fuck yeah! Let’s do this. Read this book. You’ll love it. Mark Manson is one of the smartest people on the internet, one of the few writers who reliably floors me and fascinates me. There are other books about learning how not to give a fuck, but The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life is a book of a higher order. Original thoughts FTW.
BTW: For at least a year, I thought ‘FTW’ meant “Fuck The World” rather than “For The Win.” I’d keep reading statements like “Nachos FTW!” And I’d be like, “Well, it can’t be all that bad, at least you have nachos.” That’s what happens when you put fucks where they don’t belong.
Where do I even start with this book? It’s full of truth bombs, for one thing. If you can read it unflinchingly and recognize yourself in even one chapter, if you can say, Ah, yes, so this is the name for my problem, then you can walk away with total freedom. Another interesting thing is that, for a book with so much cursing, drugs, sex, nihilism, and poor choices, it has a secret upbeat message, like the core of a Tootsie Pop, except that the lollipop is glass and you don’t get the candy until the middle.
Stop caring about stuff. Accept your flaws. Admit it when you’re being selfish. Life is pain and most goals won’t get us what we really want.
I often measure my interest in a book by how many pages I’ve bookmarked. I counted, and I averaged one every two pages for The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. I can’t not give a fuck about this book! It’s so quotable. There could/should be a cottage industry of Mark Manson shirts and coffee mugs. (I checked and I’m not coming up with anything, except that apparently a few people have searched on ‘Mark Manson shirtless.’) This could be because Manson is a confirmed minimalist. The thought of one’s personal philosophy generating a bunch of clutter is sort of crazy-making, like marketing Happy Meal toys from the movie Wall-E.
“Practical enlightenment” is the message. It’s easy to take because Manson makes it so funny, provocative, and totally compelling. He walks us through the process of choosing our values and setting boundaries. He clarifies some of the most confounding problems of philosophy, such as how to find meaning in suffering and whether we are responsible for everything that happens to us. This is a topic that tends to lead to a lot of wrong thoughts, and I found Manson’s take to be refreshingly mature and nuanced. More like this, please.
I highly endorse this book and I wish I’d written it. Instead, I’ve made this little drawing of Disappointment Panda as a tribute to Mark Manson.
Some favorite quotes, but not all of them, because SPOILERS:
“…negative emotions are a call to action.”
“…the more uncomfortable the answer, the more likely it is to be true.”
“With great responsibility comes great power.”
“…there is little that is unique or special about your problems.”
Change is hard. It shouldn’t be, though! Changing from the status quo to something more positive should be the easiest thing ever. It’s like going from a state of hungry/no taco to holding a taco. It’s like being tired and then falling asleep. It’s like being all sweaty and then stepping into a relaxing hot shower. Why on earth would we ever think that positive change is hard?? The reason is that we start out in love with the problem.
We’re so in love with our problems that we think we need our own obstacles. We think the things that hold us back are actually going to help us. We think we’ll be rescued by our demons.
As an example, I used to have a problem with dizzy spells. I also had a general lack of energy and strength, chronic migraines, insomnia, pain, and fatigue. I was a mess. I drank soda and ate junk food. I would explain (carefully, as though anyone actually cared) that I “needed” to drink soda and eat greasy and salty food because I had low blood pressure. Is there such a thing as a mega-facepalm? I can look back and listen to myself blathering on, and know that I had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. It’s true that food was the solution to my problem, but it wasn’t the food I was inclined to eat - far from it. It wasn’t until I quit thinking I knew what I was doing that I was able to get answers for my various health issues.
In my world, meticulous explanations are a dead giveaway that I’m trying to convince myself of something I wish were true. Nobody else cares. Nobody but me cares what I eat, how much I sleep, how fit or fat I am, what I wear, what I listen to, what I read, what job I have, how much money I make or what my debt level is, whether I succeed in my plans, or whether I’ve been procrastinating on things. Other people only care about my problems if they are directly affected by them. They only care if I’ve made commitments to them that I am busily breaking. They care if I’m rude or if I’m late or if I’m a bad listener. Otherwise, I’m on my own, free to screw up or succeed however I like. Other people are not in love with my problems the way I am.
It’s true that money can solve debt problems, and that money is the root of debt problems.
It’s true that communication can solve relationship problems, and also that talking can cause relationship problems. (Try listening).
It’s true that food can solve health problems, and that food can cause health problems.
Thinking that stuff can solve organizing problems tends to contribute to those organizing problems.
Problems exist along a spectrum, with a polarity at each end. Take the stuff problem. On one extreme end is hoarding, and on the other extreme is destitution. A person with no bowl and no spoon has a problem, while a person who can’t find a clean bowl or spoon in the mess has a similar problem. No bowl, no spoon. It’s possible to get stuck in a problematic rut, such that we are oblivious to other ways of framing a scenario. The old “when all I have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” problem. If I’m preoccupied with body image and food as a reward, I’m missing all the people I know whose biggest rewards are friendship or dance or music or personal expression. If I’m preoccupied with my lack of money, I’m missing all the ways that my needs can be satisfied without money, and I’m probably also forgetting to be grateful that I’m not a medieval serf. When I am fixated on lack of anything, I am blocking my ability to find and acquire what I need, whether that's peace of mind, appreciation, or anything else.
Every minute I sit there complaining that I don’t have a taco is a minute I could be making, buying, or ordering a taco for delivery. Or bartering for one. Or just asking nicely, which works far more often than people realize.
I worked with a client once whose desire was to organize her email. The moment she showed me her inbox, I understood her problem. She would cc: herself on every single message she sent so that a copy would appear in her inbox. I asked her to walk me through how this helped her and why she was doing it. I showed her the Sent folder and demonstrated that every message she sent automatically appeared there. Explain me why you are doubling the amount of mail you need to read and sort? She got befuddled and could not explain a clear benefit to her practice. Did she stop doing it? Of course not. Of course not. For whatever reason, she had developed a sense of security from duplicating her mail. Changing might make her life easier, but she wasn’t going to be so dumb as to risk finding that out.
Another gentleman in the same company printed paper copies of all his mail and all his work product. He was the only person in the department with paper on his desk, and there were several stacks of it 3-4 feet high. His colleagues whispered to me that this paper hoarding was his idea, not something required by the nature of their work. This man probably wanted job security, a sense that he was indispensable or wise or useful in some special way. Instead he made his work area look like a cartoon.
Scarcity mindset is the hidden source of all these problems. I’m worried I won’t be okay and I can’t handle it and there won’t be enough. I need these emails to prove my point of view, if only I can find them. I need this paper to prove how smart and hard-working I am, which people would see if they ever quit talking about how inefficient my system is. Scarcity mindset is the root of FoMO, Fear of Missing Out. As long as I operate from a position of scarcity, anxiety, fear, or envy, nothing will ever be enough. No expression of appreciation, no amount of food or money or stuff, no position of prestige will ever satisfy me. I’m looking for the lack. I may even be caught up in problems of my own creation that would cease to exist if I quit thinking about them for five minutes.
Most of my job as a coach consists of rooting out the weirdly unique ideas people have about their problems. The organized life is really, really easy. You just follow a schedule and a budget, only make commitments you can keep, only have stuff you really need, communicate clearly, and respect your biological needs. Simple, right? It’s when we start explaining in minute, exquisite detail just why these simple structures won’t work for us that we start revealing the many ways in which we are in love with our own problems.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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