Defeating self-doubt

Yesterday during a coaching session with my dear and wonderful coach, Elizabeth, I got an acceptance on another science writing and research contract offer. While I am in coaching sessions, I do not have my phone on. But I saw the message as soon as I left the session.

Last Friday I had put in the proposal, since it was on sleep research, a topic near and dear to my heart. I know that some of these postings get 20-50 proposals on the first day, so I had no idea if I would actually get it. But I wanted it enough that I crafted a hook in the first line that must have gotten through, even though there were many other applicants. My blog was the source of several of my writing samples!

Courtesy of Canva designs – copyright mexi-minnesotana 2018.

I realized that if I had let my self-doubt take over as I wrote that proposal, I never would have landed the work. I have this little naysayer voice in my head sometimes when I work. Do you have one too? It’s Anne Lamott’s little “Radio KF*CKD” voice. It says things like, “you’ll never get this one, why are you bothering? You’re too new to this platform. Your last client did not even leave a review yet…” 

But a wiser voice (the one I trust more) says: “well, if you don’t submit it, you definitely won’t get it. Just take a few minutes, put in the proposal to get some practice at this. You have to make a certain number of these proposals to see what “sticks.” Don’t be too disappointed if it does not come in, this is a numbers game. Just keep working at it.”

Yup. It’s true. No I am not crazy. Turns out this is normal: we all have this inner critic that tries to protect us from humiliation or “loss” by playing it safe, not risking anything. It’s easier not to take the chance, and more comfortable. Some of us have a “louder” voice than others. I have learned to turn the volume down on mine, but to thank it for the feedback (a Liz Gilbert suggestion).

People who succeed are often just the ones who put more stuff out there, try more things, take more chances. They are persistent, they keep making small efforts, and this builds resilience over time.  Keep working at it. You’re improving. Don’t let your inner critic win. 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

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Giving and receiving

Did you grow up with the idea that “it is better to give than receive?”

It is a message I absorbed growing up, and I used to think it was about generosity. I hear a “lyrical” version in my head and think it might be from some rendering of Dickens’ Christmas Carol. I thought it meant that I should always be giving, that somehow to receive is weak. 

I now understand that this belief no longer serves me. It has gradually been unfolding especially in these last couple of months of reflection. I have a deep longing to give, and to be of service in my life. It is a part of what I consider my purpose for being on earth. But now I recognize that receiving is also an act of grace and an act of faith. 

Receiving with gratitude is a beautiful experience. When you are open to receive you allow others to give and to share with you. You allow the generosity of others to come into your life. As humans, even though we can be tribal creatures, we also have a very natural “tend and befriend” instinct that allows for our survival. Giving and receiving are often reciprocal activities, but they do not have to be. 

In receiving, we make room for others to share their gifts with us. We open the flow of giving from ourselves as well.We start to give from true generosity rather than a scarcity mindset that may be present about not being worthy unless we can give. 

I grew up with an abundance of love and care from my parents and family members. I consider myself one of the “lucky ones” in that regard, especially when I hear stories of neglect or abuse. So I guess my belief that I can and will always give comes from some sense of always having enough.

As a very independent person, I have struggled with asking for the help I need at times. Even last December, when my husband suspected I needed to go to the hospital, I told him: “I am fine, go to work, don’t worry.” Finally I had to surrender to his help when I literally could not get myself up off the couch to get my coffee (that never happens) all morning after I returned from an international trip. The pain was too much.

I accepted help (not that he would have given me a choice, he told me later). Later, after my appendix was safely removed, I visited my parents and my mother expressed such profound gratitude to my husband, I realized that this event was meaningful for so many reasons. 

My advice to you is: do not be afraid or reluctant to receive. You are worthy of receiving love and kindness. Everyone is worthy of that. If it touches you and inspires you to give to others, so be it. But if you are in a position where you cannot give at this time, then just gratefully receive.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Back in the day…

Last night I needed to find a quiet place to work, a place where I could absorb literature related to oncology research and therapeutic potential for a certain plant compound. I worked in the morning at home well enough, but in the afternoon, I was unable to get traction on the work.

That sometimes happens to me. I try everything I know how, and still I am so completely distracted that I need to have a change of location (see yesterday’s post. Perhaps it’s why cube life did not suit me.). 

So I put my stuff in my backpack and headed off to the University of MN. Even though it’s been over a dozen years since I finished my master’s degree here, I love being back on a campus. I love the atmosphere of learning and growth. Even though the science library was far too crowded to find a quiet place to work, I walked around campus for an hour or so. 

The humanities library was much less busy. Ahem…

Well, let’s just say I was a science major in undergrad and a liberal studies major in grad school. My grade point was about 0.7 points higher in grad school. Also, my undergrad was at Swarthmore, where the motto was “anywhere else it would have been an A.” ‘Nuff said.

My study hide-away

As I sat in the quiet of the library, around dinner time (that must be the reason it was less busy, perhaps), I felt that familiar sense of focus and calm. I have attention issues (diagnosed late in life while I was working on the grad thesis) so focus and calm are not exactly my strong suits. Unless I’m under deadline, that seems to be a motivator.

There is something about a library, and the unquestionable nature of being here. Working at home, I always see the undone dishes, the piles of laundry overflowing, my cats that do their best to be adorable at the wrong times (like when I have a deadline). 

In the quiet library, in my study cube, there are no distractions. There is just the pile of research articles, my laptop, my water and a snack. 

Perfect environment for being on deadline with a topic that twists my brain in all kinds of fun ways.

What is your perfect environment for working?

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Post eaten

Hi folks,

My blog post I was writing last night appeared to be “eaten” by WordPress. It would not save and it would not post. And this morning, it is clear that it is lost. Ah well. Not all words are precious. There are more to be found and generated.

dog eating paper.JPG
Photo credit link

But that is okay. Pauses happen. Life does not always flow along without any glitches. Systems fail, and flat tires happen. The quality of our lives is determined by how well we accept and stay with the circumstances of our lives, rather than add suffering by wishing things had not happened.

Acceptance is the first step toward equanimity.

Hope you have a great day and week!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Wellness Wednesday – rest and digest

Now that the excitement of this midterm election has come to a close, it is time to rest and digest. After all the “aerobic” energy of the campaign and election season, and as we process the results, we must enter a season of pausing and reflecting.

I am relieved this election cycle is over. Some of the returns have yet to be finalized but I am happy to see that the turnouts were high, and more women were voted into office than ever before.

Rest and digest.jpgThough I did not get to bed very early because I was still watching election returns, I know I will need some down time to recover this week. I identify as an introvert, so I am aware of my need for more down time than the average person. I have found that if I approach life in terms of cycles of intense activity followed by adequate rest, I am able to make better decisions for the long-term.

Maybe it is a product of age or maturity but I feel like it is easier to see the big picture than it used to be. I recognize that it is necessary to regroup and recharge between the intervals of intensity. As it turns out, this is how we best deal with stress in our lives. Stress in itself is not bad, and is in fact necessary in a healthy life.

But chronic and unrelenting stress for long periods take a toll on our bodies, our immune systems and our mental health as well. So take a break, gather your energy, allow some time for reflection and recovery. We will live and be stronger in case we need to “fight” another day for important causes that matter to us.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Binders full of women

Do you remember that phrase?

People in the U.S. probably do.

But just in case your history is foggy, it was a phrase used in a debate on October 16, 2012 by Mitt Romney when responding to a question on how he sought to create a gender-balanced cabinet. It was not so much about whether or not he did try to recruit women. It became about the objectifying women to “figures” that could be put into binders.

Perhaps that had an effect on his prospects for election. I’m not sure. He didn’t win. For a variety of reasons. President Obama had been doing a good job, and the economy had turned around since 2008. So there were myriad reasons Mitt Romney did not succeed.

And yet: 4 years after that, we elected a man who openly bragged about grabbing women by the pussy.

Trump ugly face
Photo credit link

Shocking, really.

I know and realize that Hillary made a lot of mistakes in her campaign. I also believe that her “like-ability” was in question, and I believe that a lot of misogyny, both real and internalized, affected her odds of election. As I have already written, all candidates running for office are deeply flawed.

However, there are a record number of women running for office in 2018 who have been galvanized by the obvious misogyny of the current administration. Our sense of decency and fairness has been violated. Some might say “binders full of women” are stepping forward.

The recent result of the Supreme Court appointment of Justice Kavanaugh just rubbed salt into the wound for so many of us. I hope that voters keep in mind the flawed nature of our power structure as they go to the polls on Tuesday. Electing different people sends a message to our misogynist President and the party that still supports him.

I understand that some people do not plan to vote at all on Tuesday. I have already talked with an individual who believes the 2-party system is broken so he does not plan to vote. I feel very sad about that. And I believe this is the reason we have ended up with the leadership we have right now.

Rock the Vote
Link to Rock the Vote

Please make a plan to vote on Tuesday, if you have not already voted absentee, or in early voting as some states allow. I am not going to tell you how to cast your vote. That is up to you. But when 40% or more of the country is not voting, it is much easier to ignore “we the people.”

That is a dangerous state for our democracy. Even if you think some candidates are flawed, show up and be counted. We need you. All of you. Do not drop out of your duty as a citizen.

Stepping down off my soapbox now.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Wellness Wednesday – plan time for fun

I mean it, schedule fun into each week, each day, maybe even in every hour if that is possible.

It is not optional. Fun feeds your creativity.

I used to take breaks to play and rest only when I had “earned” them through doing enough work. Probably that daughter-of-an-immigrant work ethic that many of us inherited. Work all day and then you can earn your fun.

But what it we turned that on its head?

Play at intervals, rest at intervals. Work deeply, but do so in a focused and paced way. 

Those of us with focus issues might prefer the “sprint/break” approach: work in 45 minute blocks with no interruptions (including email, social media or other distractions) and then get up and move, dance or walk for 15 minutes.

whimsical cat print
Whimsical cat print on Etsy

Others who like to work for longer stretches might work for 90 minutes take a 30 minute break. Most research says that the maximum focus for most humans sitting at one time without moving is about 70-80 minutes. Honor that. In the era of social media, it is likely substantially less, according to Cal Newport.

Knowledge work often requires sitting at a desk for long stretches, or enduring endless teleconferences that sometimes make you want to stab your eye out with a pencil (not speaking personally, of course).

What if you took a playful attitude toward work? You can inject a little creativity and some cartoons or funny videos into your (dreadful) required Powerpoint presentations. (I feel your pain. I have been there.)

One of my favorite wise teachers, Brene Brown says that “Creativity not expressed is not benign. It metastasizes.” Heed that wisdom. Plan some fun and some whimsy into your day. Your work will be re-energized and you will deliver at a higher level.

I dare you.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Farewell, with gratitude

On Monday I learned of the passing of Earl Bakken, co-founder of Medtronic, and inventor of the first battery-powered, wearable pacemaker.

I worked with Medtronic for 11+ years, and I got to see firsthand the commitment of so many people to the mission: to alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. Earl had endless creativity and persistence around the invention of technologies that could help physicians treat their patients.

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Cristy with Earl Bakken. Photo taken August 2009 at the Mission and Medallion ceremony. 

For many years, there was an annual “mission and medallion” ceremony where new employees would learn more about the mission and history of the company. We were “inducted” into the Medtronic way, and the important focus on quality and a patient-centered culture.

I used to love the annual holiday party and employee meeting that Bakken implemented, where we would hear from patients who had received devices, and the difference in their quality of life (or in some cases, life itself). It was moving to hear stories of real patients and to connect with the mission on that level. In clinical research there can be a lot of bureaucratic processes to enable to get things done, because of regulations. Keeping our focus on the patients served always kept us striving toward excellence and quality, despite the challenges.

Earl Bakken was a role model and a humble leader in his 40 years at the helm of Medtronic. He hired good people and got out of the way to let them do their jobs, said Earl Hatten (employee #8 of the company that now employs 84,000 people). After he left Medtronic, he stayed involved in many philanthropic endeavors. His focus was on enabling people to live full lives, not just implanting devices.

I am honored to have been part of the company he co-created, and to have shared in that journey for a substantial part of my career. I am grateful for the impact and influence Earl Bakken had on so many people, employees, patients and communities.

Thank you, Earl. Your legacy lives on through the dedicated work that continues today.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com