I had a minor freak out yesterday.

The gravity of all I have to do at work really hit me. The limited number of hours in the day really hit me. I have so much going on outside of work that it makes it tough to stay late at work to get stuff done.

This is a good problem to have, I suppose. I’ve not really had this problem since college.

So I was flustered over a project at work. I thought that by being late with my report, I was going to cause some other things to be late which would not make one of our customers very happy (nor our Operations group).

So there’s that. Wednesdays are also choir rehearsal night. Normally, on Wednesdays, Missy and I each leave work and meet at the apartment. We go to Jakeeno’s for dinner with a bunch of other choir folks, go to rehearsal, and then stay Wednesday night at the apartment.

I had planned to take my lunch hour yesterday to go home and pack for the night. Turns out lunch was provided for me. And I was still super busy, so as the hours rolled by, I was finding I couldn’t finish what I needed to at work and go back to the house to pack up and leave the ‘burbs early enough to make it into the city.

Our plan for the evening was already off because I had the Flak Radio party to go to and Missy had to stay late at school for conferences.

So I’m flipping out because I just do not have time to do everything that needs to be done. I have two problems. One is the problem of getting everything done and being where I need to be. The other is the problem of my mental state. I was so agitated. You know how you get that spinny, whirly, “my brain is in a blender and I simply cannot think straight right now” mental vibrate-y feeling? Yeah.

I emailed Missy asking if we could come back to the house after rehearsal instead of staying at the apartment. That way I wouldn’t have to worry about finding time to pack beforehand.

Later in the day I found out that the deadline for this report I was working on had actually already passed. I still had to finish it asap, of course. But the removal of that artificial stressor made a huge difference and I was able to focus and get it done. So funny how the stress causes all this noise in your head that keeps you from being able to do thing you’re trying to do. Not funny ha-ha, but there is that hysterical “I’m laughing to keep from crying” ha-ha.

Here comes the point.

While it was logistically more convenient in the short term (i.e., late afternoon/early evening) to plan to stay at the house and less so in the long term (i.e., late evening, post-rehearsal), the real driving factor for my wanting to stay at the house was because after all that I really needed to be comfortable at the end of the day. I needed to just chill the fuck out and put comfy pants on and snuggle with my girl.

We have still been using the apartment quite a bit. But I only really like doing that when we have places to go. Those places are usually in the city, so it’s nice and convenient and all. If we have nothing planned, I’d just as soon stay at the house. Especially now that it’s getting cold and staying home probably also means staying inside.

The apartment is the place to do. The house is the place to be.

The apartment has less stuff in it. The house has more of my stuff in it. Although I’ve learned over the last several months I really do not give a shit about the stuff. I really don’t. All I need or want is Missy.

(Okay, I know a while back I went on a diatribe about balance. Balance is still important. I’m doing pretty well in the balance department. If you don’t have balance and an internally driven sense of happiness, a partner is not going to give it to you. But I’ll add that the right partner can make your already great life even better (and the wrong partner can make it worse).)

Missy bought the house, but we haven’t spent a night apart since moving in. The house feels like ours. The house feels like home. The apartment feels like mine, and I’m ready for it to go away.

To be enthusiastic, you must act enthusiastic.

I’m taking this Dale Carnegie class. I did not want to take it. At all. My employer all but made me take it.

I’m very surprised to find that I am not hating it. I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say that I’m enjoying it, but I’m not minding it.

So I have this class on Thursday nights. It’s a pretty big class and it’s 3.5 hours long. We all give speeches every week. They only last 2 minutes. We might give more than one. At least one will be in front of the whole class of 35-40 people. It was way freaky at first, but people are really into it now.

Today’s topic was pep-talks and enthusiasm. A month ago in class we gave a small group presentation on something we were going to commit to being more enthusiastic about and today we reported back on that.

But first.

We started class today talking about giving and receiving compliments. The giver picks a trait/accomplishment/whatever and gives evidence. The receiver has to also look the giver in the eye and thank them. So we went around in small groups giving compliments to each person and practicing receiving them.

I was pleased and a little surprised by two things.

One was how well we’ve gotten to know something about everyone in the class and how easy it was to pick something to compliment each person in my group on and give specific evidence.

The other was the sorts of things people complimented me on and how what other people perceive to be my strengths are not always what I think of as my strengths, even though clearly I project these things. And I got something different from every person. (You know how some people are kind of unidimensional and get the same feedback from everyone? I would have been disappointed to hear the same thing from everyone.)

The whole group talked about it after the exercise, and a common sentiment was that it felt really good to give the compliment. I didn’t bring it up, but it’s interesting how selfish it is in a way. Giving a compliment makes you feel good. It makes you feel good because the other person feels good. But you certainly get something out of it.

Then I had a realization. If that person doesn’t graciously and sincerely accept that compliment — especially if they actually try to downplay it — you don’t get as much out of it. And you’re probably less likely to give it.

So after we collected our compliments, we took three and wrote them down on a card.

That’s the set up.

The format for full group speeches is that one person is at the front of the room, and two people sit in ready chairs off to the side. The person at the front can’t start until both ready chairs are full.

This time, the ready chairs were at the back of the room. Our instructor, Dan, gave a pep talk to each person in which he yelled “If you act enthusiastic you will be enthusiastic!” a lot. You had to demonstrate some enthusiasm before he would stop. Yell back, jump around, whatnot. You had to announce your three strengths that you were previously complimented on, and the rest of the room whooped and cheered.

Then you went up to the front of the room and gave your 2 minute speech about what you committed to being enthusiastic about.

Naturally, everyone was pretty jazzed and pumped and clearly genuinely enthusiastic about their topics.

(As everyone gets more comfortable speaking and gets a better feel for how long 2 minutes less, folks are less and less prepared before class for their speeches, but that’s okay. It’s less about the actual content and more the style and philosophy.)

We’ve done exercises on energy before, but this was a little different, and the concept of the pep talk was key.

I had another realization.

There are two parts to the pep talk. One is the energy. If someone is crazy brimming with energy, their energy will rub off on you. That’s a given. But in a pep talk, you have to have that positive feedback, those sincere compliments, to give a person confidence. Because that confidence is self-motivation, and when you put that together with the raw energy, it compounds the effect. A good pep talk has to have both parts.

Coaches giving pre-game speeches comes to mind, but that’s an obvious example. Can you translate that to the workplace or another setting?


1. I need to graciously accept compliments.
2. When I’m in the position to give a pep talk, I have to be both affirming and energetic.


Missy said it was a sign when she first walked into my apartment and saw my Jean-Luc Picard magnet on the fridge. Because she had a Jean-Luc postcard with the exact same picture on her fridge.

One of her Cut the Fluff Challenge items was the Star Trek: The Next Generation Interactive Technical Manual. And that’s only because it’s so old it won’t work on our computers.

Day 24

Fortunately, I have the book version of the Technical Manual. So we can still get our structural integrity field physics fix when we need it.

My First Speaking Gig

Tomorrow I’m speaking on a panel entitled “The Future of News.” It’s sponsored by the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at Carleton College and moderated by visiting professor Michael Griffin.

(Funny how it’s about journalism, and I had to re-write that first blurb a few times.)

And before I go on, let me just say…

SQUEEEEEEEE!!! *fall down go boom*

Okay, here’s the blurb:

Where is journalism heading in the current media environment? As traditional newspapers downsize, TV news further devolves into infotainment, and weblogs proliferate, what does the future hold for reporting that serves the public interest?

Hear what five Twin Cities journalists, all working to change the face of journalism in Minnesota, have to say about commercial news cutbacks, accelerating developments online, and shifting definitions of news in our rapidly changing media world.

And then there’s this:

The forum will feature a mix of veteran journalists and those on the cutting edge of new media.

So on this panel there’s me, and then there’s four guys that have all worked in traditional journalism — Eric Black, Jeremy Iggers, Brian Lambert, and Matt Thompson. I know Matt and I’d say he definitely falls more towards the latter end of that continuum. Eric Black and Jeremy Iggers have definitely been around for a long time. But we all have blogs that we publish to and different reasons for and methods of doing so, and we all have our fingers in some sort of new media-ish venture.

Should be pretty cool.