The New Superpower for Women, as Steve Kardian would have us know, is intuition. This is a self-defense book, and it’s a particularly good one. The central message is that we are empowered when we can anticipate and avoid crime before it happens. According to the book, one in four women will be assaulted in her lifetime, and I am one of that group. I can vouch for the information in The New Superpower for Women. We need to know this stuff.
Thinking about being assaulted seems like it would be depressing and scary. In reality, it’s a lot like defensive driving. You hope you never need it, and then one night you find yourself skidding sideways in the ice. Time seems to come to a standstill as you pump your brakes and steer into the skid. All the information you ever took in about what to do in that situation suddenly just springs up. Your body takes over. Looking back, you aren’t even sure how you did what you just did, but clearly, you did. Same thing if you’re ever attacked.
It’s not strength or speed, or at least it hasn’t been for me. It’s emotional intelligence. What we’re able to do so well is to read other people’s facial expressions, body language, speech patterns, and behavior. We read these cues and anticipate their mood and intentions. Then, usually, we talk ourselves out of our intuitive sense that something is off, something is wrong. Only later do we remind ourselves that there were several signs, clear signals, if only we had been paying attention. If only we had trusted our own judgment. That’s what Kardian is here to remind us to do.
One of the most interesting aspects of this book is the copious illustrations. We learn that criminals target victims by their stride, of all things, and there are illustrations demonstrating the types of gait that catch the wrong sort of attention. (Confident and aware is good, trudging and distracted is bad). The New Superpower covers scenarios from walking up to your car to running from an active shooter. This is the kind of thing that gives you an entirely new strategic mindset.
When I took my first self-defense class at age eighteen, the first exercise we all did was to shout “NO!” Would you believe it? None of us did it! Even in the safety of the classroom, even when we were all in A-student mode, not one of the women in the group actually dared to shout the word ‘no.’ Next it turned out that none of us knew how to make a proper fist, much less throw a punch. Those classes may have saved my life, not so much from the moves but because I learned how to evaluate scenarios and anticipate problems before they happened. Most importantly, I learned that it is my duty to incapacitate an attacker, because if he comes after me, he’s probably done it before and he’ll probably do it again to someone else.
What I liked best about this book was the way it addressed mindset. Kardian explains what happens when we put self-defense techniques into practice. He spends a chapter on the physiological responses that we feel in different levels of stressful situation, which basically means that certain moves work more or less well when we’re extremely freaked out. With imagination, we can visualize ourselves in these situations and mentally adjust. Hopefully, we never need any of this information, but when we start driving into that sideways skid on the ice...
We don’t have to be scared. Crime is pretty predictable, really. Walk confidently with your head up, make eye contact with people, and pay attention to your surroundings. (And read The New Superpower for Women, obviously). Even though I’ve been physically attacked, I still travel, even alone, even at night. With a phone and a camera in your hand, you’re more intimidating than you realize. The more of us who are out and about, the more witnesses there are and the safer this world is for everyone.
Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism is a beautiful and thought-provoking book. Fumio Sasaki writes from his 215-square-foot Tokyo apartment, where he has a bed, a desk, and a wooden box. I, on the other hand, write from my 680-square-foot apartment, which I share with my husband, a parrot, a dog, and a moving van full of furniture and housewares. My place seems like a veritable carnival of excess in comparison. Sasaki presents a vision of minimalism that is redolent of potential. What does one do in such a spare interior?
Sasaki isn’t alone. The book begins with five photo case studies of other Japanese minimalists. It has before-and-after photos. Stop right there. Can we do this? Can we just have a look at series of photos like this? So peaceful, so idiosyncratic. What does one do in a minimalist room? Play Carcassonne with friends or make an illustrated journal, among other things. The fifth person is a full nomad, and his photo spread shows a simple array of possessions that fit in a backpack. I think I have more items than this in my kitchen drawer.
Goodbye, Things has an approachable, casual style. Sasaki writes about his previous maximalist lifestyle (including photos, of course) and how it was ultimately unfulfilling. He explains how materialistic he used to be, caught up in envy and fixated on money, and how minimalism changed him as a person.
There’s a list of “The things I threw away.” Aren’t these always the most fun to read? I’ve made similar lists of stuff I don’t have, some of which I did own at one point and many of which I never have. (I’ve never worn Crocs or owned a Beanie Baby, for instance). The author makes wry comments about the aspirations he had when he bought various items and how much money he had frittered away. He’s kind of a hoot.
Goodbye, Things explores minimalism as a movement. It carries on with a discussion on the roots of materialism and consumer culture. About a quarter of the book is a practical how-to guide to getting rid of stuff. The book closes with ways the author has changed as a result of his minimalist practice.
My household has changed as a result of this book. Sasaki mentions that he has one towel he uses for everything. Just like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy! My husband and I started using hand towels after our showers instead of full-size bath sheets. Works perfectly well, no more musky towels, and at least one load less of laundry every week. We still have the bath sheets in case anyone comes to visit, because sometimes minimalism can just be our little secret.
I found Goodbye, Things compulsively readable - in fact, I finished it in one sitting on a plane. Its clean prose speaks to true art on the part of the translator. This is a really lovely book, perhaps one worth keeping, even in a 210-square-foot room with just two pieces of furniture.
“...saying goodbye to your things is more than an exercise in tidying up. I think it’s an exercise in thinking about true happiness.”
“I believed that my bookshelves were a showcase of who I was”
Change Your Day, Not Your Life. That's a tricksy kind of a claim. How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives, as Annie Dillard reminds us. Thinking about this too hard can be really intimidating and discouraging - unless, that is, you start reading Andy Core. He has a way of making change seem easy and worth doing.
Part of how Core approaches the problem of change is by identifying why we don't do what we know we should do. He has a master's degree in the science of human performance, and he spends his days coaching the reluctant, the burned-out, and the frustrated. He's heard it all. We recognize ourselves on the very first page, when he presents the idea of "Motivational Amnesia," which is when our motivation seems to appear and disappear of its own accord. I know I often ask myself why I chose to go on this run or this hike, usually when my last meal starts wearing off.
Change Your Day, Not Your Life has a lot to say about managing your energy level. Anyone who feels too tired and stressed out to make any positive changes should really spend some time with this book. There are lists of things all of us could be doing to feel better and have more energy every day. I liked the idea of calling your workout "appointment with Jim" instead of "go to gym." Then nobody has to know. We don't do these things to impress other people, anyway; we do it for ourselves.
There are some very simple, embraceable ideas here. For instance, split your lunch in half and save half of it for late afternoon. Quit hitting the snooze button, because snoozing just makes you more tired and groggy. Lay out your morning stuff the night before. Dance with your kids right when you get home. These are EASY ideas, people! We have to ask ourselves why it's so hard to implement changes that take five minutes or less - or we can just read Change Your Day, Not Your Life.
One of the most useful concepts I took from this book was the idea of the "junk hour." Oh no. I will never be able to shake that phrase out of my mind. The next time I find myself scrolling through icons from my various bookmarks, queues, and playlists, not realizing how much time is passing, the words "junk hour" are going to go floating through my mind. The ways we spend our junk hours are infinite, but the hours themselves... are finite. Alas.
The freakiest thing I learned was that only one percent of people surveyed actually love their jobs. ONE PERCENT! Maybe we torture ourselves, doing things that lower our energy level, because we feel trapped by work? Or maybe we wouldn't mind our jobs so much if we did better at managing our energy level.
Andy Core has written a funny, surprising book about how things can be a little easier than we think. He emphasizes that we focus less on self-criticism than on action, that we forgive ourselves, that we remind ourselves to stay in today. This is how you can Change Your Day, Not Your Life.
Favorite quote: "Make a quality decision to change."
Ryan Holiday has done it again. The title of Perennial Seller is almost meta, almost a joke, because this book is guaranteed to be, indeed, a perennial seller. Holiday is an accomplished prose stylist, and this book ranks right up there with classic writing manuals such as How Fiction Works. It’s also a good idea to listen to anything the author has to say about marketing, considering that he has had several best-sellers with hundreds of thousands of copies sold.
The main premise of Perennial Seller is that if a work is well-crafted and aimed at a specific audience, it has the potential to sell even better in following years than it did when it was first released. Creatives who begin with the intention of making something that will still be relevant ten years from now will be more successful than those who want instant fame and fortune.
Half of the book focuses on what goes into producing a perennial seller; the other half focuses on the importance of marketing. Holiday emphasizes that this does not mean one should spend half of one’s time on marketing. Rather, many authors and other artists want to wave away the necessity of marketing. Isn’t it unfair to your potential audience to deprive them of a chance to hear about your work? Think of your lonely fans, staring at the ceiling and sighing, wishing they had something as cool as your book/album/comic/whatever to entertain them. You can delegate if you don’t want to do it yourself, but you can’t get out of the necessity of marketing, no matter your opinion of that trade. Holiday himself began as a marketing phenom, and this book will educate you and most likely change your mind.
Perennial Seller has a broad range of examples of talented people whose works became perennial sellers. This includes everyone from the band Iron Maiden to the movie The Shawshank Redemption. Considering Holiday’s published work on Stoicism, one might almost expect the list to include more of the classics (by which I mean, Classics), so it’s fascinating to see how many obscure corners of pop culture are hiding perennially successful artists. This is a great read, suitable for long-term study, and essential for those who want to produce an artistic legacy.
Everyone has a dirty secret. Jessie Sholl’s Dirty Secret is that her mother is a compulsive hoarder. This memoir shares an inside look at what it’s like to deal with a parent’s hoarding as an adult, as well as recollections from childhood. Sholl is a professional writer with a background in health articles, and she artfully weaves the occasional tidbit from her research into the narrative. This book is a must-read for children of hoarders. It would be a particularly fantastic read for those who struggle with attachment to stuff, because of the insight it gives into how it affects family members.
Sholl begins by quoting her mom, who asked that this book be written with radical honesty. She says that her mother read most of it before publication and enjoyed it. This is important to know going in, because many people feel intense shame around hoarding and squalor. Sensitive readers might worry about guiltily consuming an “unauthorized biography” type of book. This was written with love and respect.
Also annoyance, frustration, and the full range of emotions anyone experiences in a complicated, challenging relationship with a parent.
I work with hoarders, and Sholl’s description of her mom’s hoarded house sounds pitch-perfect to me. The enthusiasm with which my people acquire craft supplies, books, clothes, and random treasures shows here, as well as the chronic inability to keep any of it organized or complete the projects that had been initiated. There’s the same fixation with buying “gifts” for various people, gifts that rarely manage to be sent. Compulsive accumulators poignantly interpret their feelings of affectionate regard through purchases. The warmth I feel toward this object is a feeling I associate with you, so I’ll get it for you, even though you probably won’t understand why when you see it (if ever). Hoarding is a really lonely issue to have.
It shouldn’t be, though; it’s a lot more common than people seem to realize. Sholl herself may not have known this yet when she wrote the book. She was very surprised to learn that a couple of her friends also had hoarders in the family. Based on my gut instinct and experience, I think it affects about one in five households in the US to some degree. Hoarding is so prevalent that there must be literally millions of people who grew up in a hoarded home. Many of my people are buried in clutter basically because that’s how they were raised, and it never occurred to them that there was any other way.
Sholl rebels against her childhood by moving frequently as an adult. She’s also a compulsive minimalist. She describes purging objects so ruthlessly and so frequently that she may have thrown away her grad school diploma. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat while reading this; Sholl and I are the same age, have the same first name, and yeah, we both tend to move our furniture around a lot and feel allergic to clutter. My interest in minimalism has renewed and deepened every time I’ve done a photo consult, much less a home visit. Just reading this book made me grab a donation bag and start chucking things into it. Our restless desire for clear surfaces and white space is probably similar to a hoarder’s preference for a crowded nest.
Sholl asks her mother what it feels like when she buys something new. She describes it as feeling like this particular object might change her life. I call it ‘swirly eyes.’ Maybe that’s the same feeling many of us chase as we strive for a pure minimalist aesthetic: the feeling that if we can get the space designed just right, it might change our life, too. Ultimately, we can only change ourselves.
I found this book gripping, disquieting, provocative, and sometimes pretty funny. It was particularly funny when I read through certain scenes and started scratching at myself, feeling like my skin was crawling! It’s a good read, one that would make a solid introduction to hoarding for the uninitiated. There’s an extensive bibliography, as well as a reader’s guide. Dirty Secret may well be the definitive guide to having a parent who hoards.
The New “I Do” is about “Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists, and Rebels.” This category probably includes the vast majority of divorced people such as the authors, Susan Pease Gadoua and Vicki Larson; myself; and my husband. From that vantage point, I heartily recommend reading this book for anyone who is currently single, dating, or engaged. It’s also great fun for a happily married person. I came away both validated and regretful that I hadn’t read a book like this before I met my first husband. Communicating honestly and being willing to modify a customized marriage would save a lot of heartbreak and prevent a lot of divorce.
You don’t marry a person. You marry that person, their entire past, their entire family, their children, their pets, their possessions, their debt, their habits, their values, and their plans for the future. You’re also marrying their attitudes about marriage, both overt and subconscious. The reverse is also true. You’re bringing your own stuff to the table, both good and ill, both what you put up on the board and what you try to kick underneath. I believe that this, my second marriage, works because we already knew at least 80% of each other’s baggage before we even started dating. We also spent about a year talking out what our relationship would be like if we upgraded. Now we’ve been together for eleven years, married for eight, and our relationship is more or less hassle-free.
One of our most romantic nights was the night he brought over all his financial information and asked to see mine. We still have the sheet of paper we used to write out our financial goals for the next ten years. That was a few months before he proposed. It’s one thing for someone to pull out a ring and say, “I love you.” It’s something else entirely for someone to expose his financial assets after already having paid out several years of alimony and child support to someone else.
This is the sort of frank, pragmatic discussion that The New “I Do” advises. The book outlines several varieties of non-traditional marriage, each of which would require significant honesty and open communication from both parties. It would be hard to say which would be the most controversial. An official starter marriage, with a set end date and a promise not to have children! (Been there, did that, kinda). A companionship marriage for a couple who aren’t a romantic couple. A parenting marriage, designed to last only long enough to raise the kids to adulthood. A distance marriage known as “living alone together.” A covenant marriage, one where you can’t divorce without waiting for two years unless you can prove fault. A “safety” marriage, aka gold-digger plus sugar daddy (or mama). An open marriage. There’s even a chapter on pre-nuptial agreements for each type.
What if you live so long that you wind up being married for a hundred years? This is the kind of risk you run into when you put the ring on. Better be sure what you’re getting yourself into. If it’s the right person, it will still be the right person five years from now... or will it? Marriage done right is one of the best things ever. Marriage to the wrong person for the wrong reasons is a living hell. A little skepticism, a little rebellion, and certainly a little realism is the real romance. Ask enough questions that you know you’re marrying a real human being and that the marriage you create is one that suits all parties concerned.
“A wife or a husband is expected to be soul mate, lover, best friend, co-parent, great communicator, romantic, intellectual, and professional equal, companion, and financial partner, and also provide happiness, fulfillment, financial stability, intimacy, social status, fidelity . . . well, you get the idea.”
“Where there’s sex, there’s infidelity; will the next spike in divorce be over robot-human trysts?”
Option B is a tough but necessary read. Sheryl Sandberg shares her experience of being a widow with young children, using her grief as an example of how to deal with adversity. It’s important to know this setting out, because the time isn’t always right to read about death. The book covers a wide variety of traumatic experiences, adding yet more depth to the perspective.
We learn that what makes trauma hard to overcome is the belief that it is personal, pervasive, and permanent. Whatever has happened, it happened to me, it has ruined everything, and I will never feel any way other than I feel right now. The work of grieving is the thankless task of earning wisdom. This happens, it just happens sometimes, it has happened to others just as it did to me, time will pass, and eventually I will learn to accept this terrible loss.
It’s hard to know what to say to someone who is going through grief or a major life crisis. Part of the reason is that the wounds can be so raw, there really isn’t anything anyone could say that wouldn’t rub wrong. I severed a friendship after my grandmother died because I was offended that he called her Nana. As though she were his! The temerity! I look back and realize that I repaid kindness with cruelty, and I’m shocked that it felt so justified at the time. We were young-ish, and neither of us had yet lost a close relative. Neither of us knew our way through the gauntlet. Hurt hurts.
One of the great strengths of Option B is its discussion of how to talk to people about their tragedies. It could serve as an instruction manual. How do you talk to someone without stumbling into one of the many, many pitfalls? How do you talk about your own loss with others? The next time I find myself in that situation (on either end), I believe I will pick up this book and seek some advice.
This book is a work of genius. Sometimes I think I’ve read every organizing book ever published, and most of them are great, but they all tend to sound alike. Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD is actually full of original, contrarian ideas that suit the ADHD style. It even has copious amounts of illustrations. These are real rooms. Rather than a Pinterest palace, unattainable for 99% of us, these rooms designed by a professional organizer are feasible and practical. They’re even exciting!
The day I realized that I fit the criteria for ADHD was a wonderful day. I was in my late twenties, born a little too early to have a name for whatever I am. I was reading through a bulleted list of symptoms as a way of getting to know an acquaintance, and with each point, I felt a deepening sense of recognition. AHA! Suddenly, it wasn’t just me. I was just one of many, a type, a tribe member. I wasn’t even bothered by the idea that maybe there was something dysfunctional about me; heck, I already knew that. Rather, I was thrilled to see that along with the chronic disorganization came a lot of truly excellent qualities. Creativity, originality, curiosity, enthusiasm, hyper-focus, high physical and mental energy. Everything snapped into focus for me. If I could learn some practical ways to Get Organized, I could mitigate my weak points while amplifying my positive points.
It worked, too. Year by year, one issue after another, I finally did Get Organized, earn my degree, get on top of my finances, nail my nutrition and hydration, lose the weight, get fit, get rid of most of my stuff, learn to cook, and remarry. Getting my stuff and my information stream organized enabled me to start living the life of my dreams.
It would have happened a lot faster if I’d had this book!
Organizing Solutions recommends avoiding shopping in order to avoid impulse purchases. Agreed. It recommends limiting what you buy or keep to only the available storage. Agreed. It recommends taking your donation items straight out to the car where they will annoy you until you drop them off. Agreed. Get rid of excess stuff on a regular basis so there’s less to clean. Agreed. I had to figure all this stuff out for myself. In fact, the only thing I don’t agree with in this entire book is the thing about reusing towels and wearing clothes multiple times. That may be fine for most people, but I personally am very tough on clothes and our climate is too humid. Instead, we’ve started using hand towels rather than full-size bath towels, and they don’t get funky.
There’s some great advice in Organizing Solutions on how to make decisions about memorabilia, children’s artwork, toys, et cetera. There’s a discussion about how to confront the chilling prospect of identity theft and how that impacts the way we process papers. Susan Pinsky clearly understands her audience. I recognized myself all over this book, and I recognized my organizing clients even more.
As a group, we tend to prefer initiating things to finishing things. We’re more comfortable having tons of projects going on than we are winding any of them up, feeling like we’ve closed off options or that we’ve “finished” something before it reaches its apotheosis of perfection. It can be hard for us to feel like we know where to start, and we infinitely prefer research or planning or daydreaming to action. Take it from Susan Pinsky: start with your home and work from there.
“Inventory shouldn’t just conform to storage but should be less than storage, so that it never requires a multi-step dance to put things away.”
“...any well done organizing job should result in the re-acquisition of a few mistaken discards. It is proof that you applied the Brutal Purge sufficiently enough to make a difference.”
The 12 Week Year is a business productivity book that has seized my attention. In fact, I’m working on my first 12-week plan right now. The other night, I somehow convinced myself that Third Quarter 2017 was ending a month early and I started feeling frantic about my unmet goals for the year. It was a visceral confirmation that deadlines are more motivating than goals with vague time horizons. The fact that most people bail on their New Year’s Resolutions is a solid indicator that a 12-week “year” may be more effective. Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington, you’ve got me. I’m doing this.
The book claims that more than 60% of the time, the reason people don’t achieve their goals is due to lack of execution, but instead they tend to blame the plan. This is going to lead to either changing plans or giving up. I know this was true for me when I first tried to use a food log and I wasn’t losing weight. I asked my husband for help in analyzing my data, and, with some complicated math from the realm of astrophysics, he made a chart for me. I had to admit that I wasn’t being nearly as strict with my eating plan as I had convinced myself. Almost immediately I started to get results. This is an example that supports the concept of the 12-week scorecard. Rate yourself on your execution, not your results.
The 12 Week Year is fully loaded as an inspiring motivational handbook. The message is that we can achieve anything we want, if we are specific in our visions, strict in our execution, and rigorous with our consequences. It discusses “the mistaken notion that accountability is something that can and must be imposed; that’s not accountability, that’s consequences.” This is HUGE! If you’re not meeting your goals, it’s because you’re not worried about the consequences of failure. On the one hand, this is a sign of a nice easy life: the luxury of playing with pseudo-goals as a fun diversion. On the other hand, it’s a sign that nothing will ever change until your behaviors change.
The 12 Week Year has some great graphics, including a chart of “The Emotional Cycle of Change.” This alone makes the book a must-read. Another feature I really appreciated was the list of pitfalls for each section. So many goal-setting books are full of fluff about how amazing it will feel to achieve the goal, while including little or nothing about how to deal with the emotional and logistical issues that hold us back. “The Iceberg of Intentions” illustrates this beautifully, showing how easy it is to miss the hidden intentions that capsize our plans.
I have a “hidden” intention of never missing out on awesome edible treats. That’s why I struggle with my ostensible “real” intention to take care of myself and avoid predictable health issues.
My only issue with this book is the way the score-keeping system weights goals. Say I’m working on fitness, and my goals in that area are to get up at 6 AM, go to the gym and do the elliptical for an hour, and do my alternate weight-cutting food plan. I would get one point for each of those three goals, and if I blew one, my score in that area would be 66%. A D grade! I need to get up at 6 for my plan to work, but if all I do is get up early, I still get a point. Meanwhile, I know from experience that if I exercise at maximum capacity and eat vacation-style, I won’t lose weight, I’ll gain. For my personal practice, following the food plan needs to be weighted at about 10x more important than going to the gym. Either that, or I need to make my food plan its own goal and detach it from my physical training goals. Of course, all this means is that my home version of the 12 Week Year will be more personalized, not that there are any issues with rating progress on a 12-week timeframe rather than a calendar year.
For those who want to take this further, there is a website with a very glossy computer tracking system. It also has this PDF workbook, which I quite like. Messrs. Moran and Lennington, thank you for this.
“If you are unwilling to confront reality, then you will never be able to change it.”
The word “administrivia”
Just this Tuesday, we were fortunate enough to be able to see Gretchen Rubin give a talk on her new book, The Four Tendencies. One of the great advantages of living near Los Angeles is that almost every awesome person or band who goes on tour will make a stop here. Indeed, we also saw Gretchen when she was here in 2015 promoting Better Than Before. It’s hard to say which is more exciting, hearing her speak live or anticipating the new book. This is the one we’ve all been waiting for, a handy-dandy manual on the Four Tendencies.
Aaaaahhhhhh! I love this book so much!!!
Sorry, I had to get that out of my system.
The premise, if you don’t know already, is that one way to sort people is by whether we meet or resist inner and outer expectations. Learning to place people by where they fit in this system can be incredibly useful. I taught my husband about it, and it’s added a new dimension to our marriage. He uses it with his colleagues. I use it with my family. We’ve even sorted our pets. It was helpful to realize that our Questioner parrot needs more variety in her routine, and she’s not super-big on rules.
The book is structured with a separate section for each tendency. Upholders come first, naturally, since the author is an Upholder and in fact invented the concept. Within sections, there is an explanation of the tendency, its strengths and weaknesses, and variations within the type. For instance, my husband is an UPHOLDER/Questioner like Gretchen and I am a QUESTIONER/Upholder like her husband Jamie.
One of the best features of the book is that each tendency has a chapter on how to deal with people of that type. Oh my gosh, I wish this had been available when I first met my husband! It’s like a “care and feeding of” manual. We went on a vacation trip once with his Upholder mom and Upholder daughter, the three of them lined up, dressed, and ready to go every morning at 6:30 AM, naturally expecting that everyone in the world knows the Upholder Vacation Standards and Practices Guide backwards and forwards. Gee, doesn’t everyone arrive half an hour early and wait in the parking lot for attractions to open? At least they had the good sense to leave the event planning to the curious and novelty-seeking Questioner.
Generally, I think Questioners like myself have the easiest life. It’s just unfortunate that we sometimes make things difficult for others around us! I agree that I can easily do anything if it makes sense and I’m sold on the reasons for it. I’ve learned to battle my own tendency toward analysis-paralysis by adapting the engineering standard known as “low-side compliance.” Does what I’m doing meet the stated criteria, on schedule, with minimal cost and effort? Is the task relevant to the project? I’ve set up a minimalist system for running the household, our finances, my client schedule, and my fitness level, so I can get the optimal results with the least time commitment. That means I have the maximum time possible to write, research obsessively, and mess around doing whatever I want. My Upholder husband, who taught me the concept of low-side compliance, usually cooperates without comment, even when I keep tweaking the system.
Incidentally, there was another Questioner in the audience at the live event on Tuesday. He asked what I considered to be an archetypical Questioner question. Essentially, he wanted to know where the data came from, and he finished, “I don’t see a PhD after your name...” I thought this was so impertinent, a harsh startup that came across very aggressively. (I mean, do you yourself have an advanced degree? No?) How often must I sound like that to people when I ask curious questions?? He happened to be sitting directly behind me, so I was able to turn around and chat with him after the show. By “chat,” I mean, engage in Questioner debate. I shared that the data came from the hundreds of thousands of people who had taken the Tendencies quiz on Gretchen’s website, and that she has a Juris Doctor, which is basically equivalent to a PhD. His rejoinder was that that’s law, not social sciences. We quibbled back and forth for about ten minutes, with the result that we were last in line to get our books signed. Neither of us changed our minds.
My husband and I had a bit of a joke, imagining the room sorted into four groups by tendency. He said the Upholders would all nod at one another and then stand there, waiting for further instructions. I said the Obligers would be trading contact information within five minutes, and they’d all wind up hugging before they left. He said most of the Rebels would probably leave. I said the Questioners would immediately start quarreling non-stop. Then he did wind up meeting another Upholder and they traded nods... and I did get into a quarrel with another Questioner!
In practice, exploring the Four Tendencies tends to make us more accepting of other people’s quirks and foibles. Better than that, it helps us to realize that they have strengths we may have been taking for granted. Recently I’ve realized that my Rebel dad has a native genius for negotiating. I’m trying to absorb more of the Obliger gift for friendship. My husband is using what he knows about the tendencies to help mentor younger engineers. This book is going to be an invaluable resource for those who care to explore it. There’s definitely room in the world for more of this material. If the great Gretchen Rubin were to write companion volumes for the workplace, marriage, or parenting, I would be delighted to read them.
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.