The possibility in a word

When my now-husband, Anthony, first told me he’d majored in American Studies, I was tickled. I couldn’t fathom such a choice, which seemed so … indulgent.

Why study history when we live in the present? Why study culture when the world simply is the way it is? Far better, I thought, to dedicate time and energy to building skills critical to navigating now.

A few years ago, my husband introduced me to Neil Postman. As I read book after Postman book, I began to see some of the many ways the present is a byproduct of processes in the past. The future, in turn, will be a byproduct of processes in motion now.

Different processes, different product.

I began to grasp why two of my siblings are historians, and why my husband would be interested in American Studies.

In one particular conversation, my husband explained that he’d majored in American Studies to find words for his experiences as a Black man in America.

I was incredulous. He already had words. Why did he need a program of study to give him words, available en masse in dictionaries and thesauri everywhere?!

Recently I’ve been eating humble pie here, too.

In mid-June, someone I trust suggested I watch Brené Brown’s Netflix special. I did so, and my mind was blown. The world Brown described was so different than the world I was used to seeing. 

I liked her vision of the world better than my own; there was so much possibility in hers! I watched others of her videos. Having watched those I could find, I then bought and read each of her books, enjoying them in visual and audio formats.

It took me a little while to pinpoint what I found in Brown that I didn’t find elsewhere.

After I’d pinpointed it, I couldn’t help but laugh: Continue reading “The possibility in a word”

The knowledge of worth

“Knowledge is only rumor until it lives in the bones.”

When I began writing my last post, I intended to write about muscle memory. About 1,500 words in, I realized I’d gone a totally different direction. I split that lengthy draft into two posts and shared instead about the place where Voldemort meets software licenses.

In that post, I wrote about how:

A few years ago, I began putting key licensing costs and terms into a simple worksheet. Rather than emailing these and calling my job done unless folks emailed back with questions, I’d set up time to review live, explain what the review was for, and walk folks through the worksheet–notably, the places in licensing agreements where Voldemort tends to live.

At first, I created licensing worksheets as a communication device. I needed something easier for stakeholders to digest than huge blocks of contract excerpts, which make many people sleepy, some anxious, and others downright agitated. (“I’m a good person! I shouldn’t have to spend my time looking at this stuff! Gah!”)

Something funny started happening after I’d been using those worksheets for a while. I started creating them even when I wasn’t trying to explain anything to anyone else. The work itself changed my relationship to the contracts I reviewed; rather than being lifeless statements of fact that lived in my head, they were living things for which I was developing internal roadmaps.

Continue reading “The knowledge of worth”

Where Voldemort meets software licenses

My software licensing job is actually a communications job. 

What now? How can that be? Licensing is not the same thing as communicating!

It’s like this: I don’t deploy software myself. I work with people who deploy software. For them to deploy software correctly, they must know what “correctly” looks like.

For that to happen, I must effectively communicate both what “right” looks like and what can happen if not-“right” is done. The consequences can be pretty gnarly, about which I’ll say more in a future post.

To bring this closer to home for most people, I’ll draw on the world of Harry Potter. I think it’s safe to say billions of people in the world are more familiar with all things Potter than they are with any single thing software licensing (and the many possible catastrophes related).

If my job is to protect you from Voldemort and I can’t be with you at all times, I must let you know important facts about Voldemort. Given this objective, which facts are the important facts? Those fact’s that’ll best equip you to keep you away from direct encounter with Voldemort: Continue reading “Where Voldemort meets software licenses”

Far from alone

I’ve been stalked for a year and a half.

It’s not something I talk–or write–much about anymore. I’m not interested in having my life defined by what others do to me. Much more important to that definition is the choices I make; as I learn and grow by the day, these are getting sounder..

Why write anything about it, then?

If you’ve read my last few posts, you probably suspect it has something to do with Brené Brown,

If you’re thusly suspicious, you’re right. 

I just finished rereading Brown’s first book, Women & Shame. In this book, Brown emphasizes how critical genuine connection is to overcoming shame. Only by speaking shame can women escape it, and, powerfully, help other women learn to escape it. Continue reading “Far from alone”

On Perspectiving Crushes & True Belonging

A few years ago, my husband introduced me to author Neil Postman. I developed what my sister calls an “academic crush” on Postman, special ordering and reading almost every book he wrote.

Postman taught me many things, foremost among them that “perspective” should most accurately be considered a verb. Since reading Postman, I have aimed to perspective better, and cherished those teachers–local and global–who help me improve my perspectiving skills.

(WordPress’s spellcheck, not having read Postman, informs me “perspectiving” is not a valid word. Little does it know … !)

In late 2017, I checked out Antifragile from my local library and promptly academically crushed on its author, Nassim Nicholas Taleb. While Postman introduced me to some of the currently underappreciated wisdom of the ancients who paved the way for us, Taleb got irreverently explicit about it. Continue reading “On Perspectiving Crushes & True Belonging”

Choosing Comforts Wisely

On Sunday evening, inspired by an afternoon chat with my husband, I re-watched an eye-opening Brené Brown video. The first time I watched it, I mainly absorbed its core message on “Why Your Critics Aren’t the Ones Who Count.” This time, I locked on a specific nuance.

At about 16:40 in the video, Brown says that “clarity of values” is necessary for anyone committed to living in the arena. She names courage as one of her values, and says, “If courage is my value, I have to do this. Whether it’s successful or not is irrelevant.” 

This got me wondering how Brown identified courage as one of her values. Even more so, I wondered how on Earth I could identify mine.

I searched “Brené Brown finding values.” I found her list of values, but wasn’t sure what to do with them. I read folks’ examples elsewhere and got an idea how to proceed. 

First I wrote down every value that resonated deeply with me. I thought the list would be huge, but I captured fewer than a dozen words.

After I had the full list in view, a few clearly resonated less intensely than others: Continue reading “Choosing Comforts Wisely”

Dragoning Greatly: An Introduction

I wrote my first blog post in June 1995. From the very first email response I received, I was hooked. I’d been heard! That could actually happen: I could be heard.

Online, I could be appear more than the broken teenager I was offline.

That was so powerful. Unfortunately, it was also setup for a lot of unhealthy behaviors.

A couple months ago, I fully and finally saw just how unhealthy my relationship with blogging had become. I deleted my existing blogs and began learning how to simply sit with myself, my thoughts, and my feelings. This, too, was powerful.

At first, it was only painful. It might have remained that way, but for one thing: In this quiet place, I found the works of vulnerability and shame researcher Brené Brown.

A friend had recommended Brown’s Daring Greatly several years ago. I’d bought a copy, read the preface, and … didn’t relate at all. As far as I was then concerned, I was already daring greatly.

About a month ago, my primary care provider recommended Brown’s Netflix special. I said I’d consider checking it out. I thought, Yeah, I already tried Brown. Not my thing. In fact, I just sold back my copy of her book a couple weeks ago!

On a whim, I did end up starting Brown’s special. Within moments, I was transfixed–laughing, choking back tears, and celebrating the fact Brown’s out there doing what she’s doing.

I wasn’t exactly sure what she was doing that was so foreign and new, but that was okay. I was just glad she was doing it.

Since then, I’ve discovered Daring Greatly was only one of Brown’s books. I’ve read all save one of them, and am halfway through the last–her latest, Dare to Lead.

I didn’t intend to ever again have any kind of personal site, but I’m inspired by Brown. What I do today doesn’t have to be like what I did yesterday. In fact, it couldn’t be, with all I’ve recently learned from Brown and my many other teachers, both global and local. Continue reading “Dragoning Greatly: An Introduction”