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2. Be Willing.

20 Jul

And I am ushered into a new place, somewhere where I can throw away this scarecrow and be expectant of a new way of living. Willingness. 

Being willing is similar to hope–except that, instead of a optimism in the ridiculous, it’s the very impulse that allows us to do, well anything like trying or risking or loving or receiving love from others.  For me, this looks like the willingness to believe a slower model of work is possible and equally productive. To be willing to believe that my staff is good and that our members don’t wake up every day with the intention to devour as many “free” resources of The Commons as they possibly can before they sit down and save the world with their business plan. The willingness to say ‘no’ and ‘yes’ and that something will intercede on my behalf.

I want to be willing to believe.

And for now, I want to stay right there. It’s important to stop striving for a second–never underestimate the time for perspective.

Until the morning, I pick my up clothes, throw away the fast food box. Instead of gmail, I read by my window.


1. Quit.

20 Jul

Length: 7 paragraphs. Read Time: 2 minutes

When you’re laying facedown on your stomach in the middle of your apartment floor, sobbing into a throw pillow, I think you’ve had a bad day.

Two hours earlier, I thought being rolled up in a standing fetal position on the co-working bathroom floor was hitting rock bottom but I think the above state is the tar pits where T-Rex’s go to die.

It didn’t make it better when I pushed myself up to wipe all of the liquid coming out of my face and found clothes strewn everywhere–a half-eaten box of Popeye’s chicken, judging me by my couch. Who bought that? How did that get here?

“I want out.” I thought. And descended, very much, into the ugly cry.

It is a 70-hour work week trying to achieve something you’re not actually good at. I work that, just to keep up. I don’t do anything I like. I look fondly on the days where I use to sew things and read books instead of shovel through gmail. Being informed about all the earth’s current events used to be my primary mode of being. I haven’t read the news in 4 months. Who the fuck is Rupert Murdoch?

I wish all that grit meant something, like by attempting to rise to this challenge, I put out more content, proved my worth as the model employee, the endeavoring boss. But it’s not true. Now more than anything, I feel like my entire staff won’t listen to a thing I say. Don’t fucking grumble about writing up the events on the event board, just DO it, and I promise you can continue to do what you were doing before. I walk around feeling like I’m cramping their style and feel like I’m failing at managing all the talent I see within them. When they’re not taking long lunches and forgetting to straighten up the co-working space, they’re pitying me. Poor Unimposter. Never eating. Never drinking. Never stopping. Always working.

And I think this is when people step in to comfort that little girl on the floor, twirling their little red/white/blue flags of the American Dream, whispering: dig deep. push through it. You’ll get better if only try harder. Try harder, little sobbing girl. Try harder.

Bullshit, you banners of pick-yourself-up-by-your-boot-straps.

Let this ring from the controversial heavens: trying harder is a lie. Trying harder at the same destructive things that got you where you are in the first place will kill you.  Don’t let inspirational videos give you the wrong idea. You’ve got to figure out the difference between good pain and bad pain before you lace up those shoes again and run that mile.

This is counterintuitive to most, but I only get better when I quit.  What will allow me to get out of bed in the morning is humbly admitting to myself I cannot do this. I cannot work 70-hours a week, I cannot get everyone to do what I say, I cannot answer 80 emails/day. I cannot answer every question, fix every problem, anticipate the next co-working space disaster (“No wireless?! NOOOOOOOOO!”). I can’t try harder. I won’t. I’m done.

I’m an Imposter, not a Con-Artist.

31 May

"I am not a crook. I've earned everything I've got."

Lying is silly, so I won’t: girls like me should be high school guidance counselors and watching seasons of MTV’s Daria on the weekends (which are worthy endeavors, are you kidding me, Daria is hilarious). The bosses? Not convinced. So I’ve set myself up the task of doing a kick-ass job despite the facts. I have no interest whatsoever in playing dress up to leech the life flow of paychecks until it stops coming.

Though the paychecks are nice.

I’m an imposter but I’m not a con-artist. I know what a con-artist looks like. He has come into the co-working space with no intention of paying and every intention of schmoozing our members and eating our Salads that are Sexy!*

I could smell a hint of slime at the very first introduction. He was just so goddamn complimentary. A crisp pinstriped dress shirt and pressed gray slacks, a wide smile to complete his thin professional disguise. I gave him a tour and his bemusement was palpable.

“See, I was wondering how you could get this space for free?” he creened.

INTRUDER ALERT #1: If someone immediately asks you how he or she can get stuff for free, he or she is not there to contribute the community part of “co-working”. This is not a profile of a co-working worker.

“Well, you can’t really, since everyone here recognizes the value of being connected to the space, they pay. However, we also have a work-trade option where you can do administration one day a week for free use of the space.”

Usually at this point, the eyes of credible folks sparkle. His shifted down and to the right. “Yeah, yeah, I guess I could do that,” he gritted through his teeth, as he slithered away from the thought of labor.

INTRUDER ALERT #2: Someone who fails to extend a compromise or rejects your efforts to help them should be heeded with caution.

I told him to think about it, he’d benefit a lot from being in the space. I guess he wanted to think about it in person, because he came back every Tuesday, feasting on the member lunches in my face; :chomp: “I just don’t think I can afford :chomp: to join at this time.” THEN GO TO THE CO-WORKING SPACE DOWN THE STREET! I matched smile for persuasive smile, coaxing him to commitment but he wouldn’t. “No, but I am just going to keep coming by if that’s okay.” I am going to kill him. The fourth time I saw him, I was so outdone, I couldn’t speak. Adrian and Nate, with kindness, closed his once-wide welcome for me. Apparently, he had also been using my name as an entrance alibi.

The Reflection: I am not a con-artist. Con-artists don’t give, they only feed of off. But I am an imposter—and that is what we have in common, this guy and I. Showing up in places where we cannot be fully ourselves is our livelihood. Until we overstay our welcome, we show up smiling, hoping to get the best out of the situation.

*every Tuesday, a guest chef comes in and prepares a CSA box of organic greens for our members. We call this sexy. 

5 Manager Lessons I Learned This Week.

15 May
  1. Do not call a testy visitor a ‘douche bag’ in front of your staff or supervisor.  If you don’t have anything nice to say, mutter it under your breath.
  2. Keep your shoulders down.
    In places of high stress and activity, your staff and your customers are looking for stability, the comfort of a  touch stone. When you’re anxious, your body is tempted to raise its shoulders. Pull them down and two things will happen: your mind will chill out a little and people will come to you for comfort. I did this and the results were startling.
  3. Create an Agenda Bin.
    You’ve started late and time is running away from you. You realize that one topic of the five-item agenda is taking half of the time! Last week, I got impatient and verbally closed the thing down. This week, I realized the topic’s importance and drew a bin on the white board, putting the  topic inside. I checked in with everyone and offered to make it the main discussion of the next meeting. My co-workers felt heard and the meeting moved along.
  4. Take a sick day.
    ((cough)) I’ve been sick for NINE days!  Instead of exhibiting how hardcore I am, my supervisors were irritated I wasn’t taking care of myself. It also didn’t help when I tried to disguise my sickness in nice clothes. Bronchial coughs and mini-skirts are not cute.
  5. Act your values
    I went to a leadership development workshop on Tuesday and learned that the people you work with look for consistency and integrity. Often what you say you value doesn’t come out in the things you do. I’m going to write down what I truly value in a manager and make sure I do actions this week that back those things up.

Milton Glaser–On the fear of Failure

14 May

“There’s only one way out.”

Power Struggle. Part two.

13 May

“Come here,” he waved and I distrusted him immediately. He’s using his pretty face to break the tiny power I have left! If I go over there, I’ll lose everything.

“I’m just going to stand here with my hands on my hips, thanks.”
“When did this become a hierarchical thing?”
“What are you talking about? You’re the one who wants to fight!”
“I’m not fighting. Come here.”

This is a GAME and you’re losing, kid, I thought as I tried to decide my next move. He is good. He is verrrry good. What I thought was a joke in the beginning was maybe not a joke now; there was something serious about his sta–why is he not moving?! I felt absolutely ridiculous standing there like Napoleon Bonaparte.

The dictator. Not the curly, blonde kid.

What if this IS a power play, I fall into this trap and I get stuck cleaning everything by myself from now on! Mr. Adrian, I have no interest in being power-bitch, actually. I need your help and you are abandoning me. My inside head voices are really getting yappey at this point. Victory Plan of Action: I’ll start to hurling flaming balls of post-its and run.  I will go out epically before they fire me for being ineffective. He was unmoved. And because I had no idea what to do, I broke ground. I walked over there because I was never good at winning things anyway.

Power Struggle. Part One.

11 May

“I need your help now.”

I placed a hand on Adrian’s back gingerly because I felt that if I used a soft hand on his shoulder, an intimate gesture, instead of stumbling over and asserting my orders like I usually did, maybe he’d actually help me. Over the past few weeks, he had turned icy to me and I couldn’t figure out why he wouldn’t do any of the things I asked. This was my dude, Adrian and I were great, I was practically in love with him; I knew just as much as anyone that he was hyper-driven to get his company off of the ground. Doing this hosting position was cramping his 60-hour workweek, I was sure, but “look”, I said to myself, “if he wants access to this space for free, he has to be staff and he has to do shit.”

He turned and looked up at me squinting. He stood up, 5” inches on me in height, and pointed to the ground. “You! Come here now.” I threw him are-you-crazy? look and he laughed but didn’t follow me to the kitchen like I thought he would. I tried to figure out what he was doing this time, what way he’d think of trying to weasel out of hosting duties this time and I absentmindedly put my hands on my hips while I peered at him across the room.

A stand-down.


10 May

Fuck. Now I’ve got to figure out how to turn the tables on this situation.

My friend Kate is a genius, almost so much so, she rushes to catch up with her words. She helped me form some questions to help guide myself through this rapid transition, because the learning curve is steep–wall steep–and if I don’t watch myself, I will get hurt.

A pair of personal guiding questions kept relatively constant can help you figure out if you are getting the best of your job or if your job is getting the better of you.

A sticky note on my laptop (4/4/2011):

  1. How do I maintain/realize my aspiration to be grace and peace in the midst of co-working chaos?
  2. How do I learn at my edge? What is my learning edge to push my professional development? How do I recognize and play to my strengths and learn to delegate my weaknesses?
  3.  How do I take care of myself in an entity that isn’t structured to take care of me?
  4. How can I structure my learning in this job so that it advances my long-term aspirations to work in international development and continue my education?

No one knows what they’re doing.

9 May

ME: “Joel, I’m not very good at my new job, what should I do?”

J: “Get good.”

ME: “I don’t know how to. I’m not sure about the strengths I offer because I don’t think I’ve ever known them. And also–if they’re there, I don’t think they’re applicable to business.”

J: “Have you done strengths-finder?”

ME: “I haven’t. I tried to buy it today from Amazon but I’ve misplaced my debit card in this room somewhere.”

J: “So, you can cross off organization.”

He talks this way to me all the time.

“You’re good at being inquisitive, asking questions, finding context, and showing people a bigger picture. What do you feel you do badly at your job…?”

ME: “Well, the organization bit. I’m finding it really really hard to be in charge of a staff, creating structure around programming, taking care of all of the members, knowing all the members names, and knowing where everything is, while simultaneously keeping a larger vision of context. I get lost in all the little things I can’t manage. I am not going to be able to keep this job. There’s no way I’m going to make it through the 90-days to contract.”

J: “Well, honestly, that’s a stupid attitude to have, see, because at the end of the 90-days you should be the one who decides if you want that job or not. They should want you because of what you’ve brought. You’ve got to figure out how to turn the tables somehow.

And another thing, this is just like the Overcoming Imposter’s Syndrome post I read. In reality, no one knows what they’re doing. After I found that out, I relaxed.”

Imposter’s Syndrome is a real thing.

8 May

I didn’t know Imposter’s Syndrome (IS) existed until a conversation I had after a breakdown. I had literally spent half an hour bawling to my mother after she came smiling into my room, inquiring about the apartment I called her about earlier. I was unintelligible really. I think I just squeaked most of the words.

She sat their uncomfortably as I brushed off every consolation, looking at me as if I was a crazy person.

“You are doing fine, you are doing great at your job!”
“No, I’m not! You haven’t even seen me. I can’t do half of the things they’re asking me to do!”
“Yes, you can!”
“I CAN’T!”

I was brat-like and despairing. I was ugly. It was stupid to go apartment hunting when there was no way in hell these people were going to let me keep this job. I was not the one delusional about my abilities, my bosses were.
The Imposters. There are masses walking around this earth feeling like absolute shams and, apparently, a majority of these folks are women. In a 1978 study, Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes, from Georgia State University, first used the term to describe a group of 150 highly successful, professional women who believed that everything they had achieved was by pure luck.“Despite accolades, rank, and salary, these women felt like phonies.  They didn’t believe in their own accomplishments; they felt they were scamming everyone about their skills.” It didn’t matter what field they were in, all of these women had a common conviction. I am not who they think I am and they are going to find out one day.

Imposter’s Syndrome, that insidious bastard, strikes  intelligent, competent people, resulting in a chronic self-doubt about ability. Instead of feeling satisfaction, these folks feel like they are bolstering up a person that doesn’t exist, someone who’s competent, someone who’s smart, someone who can guide and lead others to their paths to triumph as well.  Symptoms:

  • You secretly worry that others are going to find out you’re not as smart as they seem to think you are.
  • The slightest bit of criticism is more crushing to you than it is for others because it is a sign of your ineptitude.
  • For fear of shoddy results, you procrastinate or shy away from challenges.
  • You chalk up present successes to flukes that will surely not be so successful next time.
  • When people honor or compliment you, you discount them as unable to judge you accurately.

For the imposter, it’s never what they do. Social pscyhologists call this “locus of control“. ISers feel that events happen to them (exernal locus), they don’t make things happen for themselves (internal locus), and that’s just the way things are. The discrepancy is that colleagues, friends, and family members assure them they must be doing something awesome to be where they are, resulting in feelings of fraudulence. Why do people keep SAYING I’m good at things?!

It’s crippling for women in tons of other ways.  IS keeps them from negotiating higher wages, seeking promotions, asking for equality in their personal relationships. They just don’t feel they deserve it. You’d think they’d spend more time feeling grateful (to fortune or to God) but are they busy courting anxiety instead.

This was me. I was drowning. So I called out for help. I called Joel.