worldmegan           ~

Tautology: Tim Ferriss vs. The English Language

Remember this: Would you like to rephrase that more positively? Yes, that. Remember that?

Tonight Tim Ferriss made a post regarding the ejection of certain words from one’s vocabulary. He suggests this for slightly different reasons than I originally discussed, but still interesting, still valid! He takes familiar staples such as ‘should’ and adds grand old warhorses such as ‘happiness’ and ‘success’ (and ‘good/right’ and ‘bad/wrong’). I happen to think he’s absolutely right. And also, er, absolutely correct.

Tim (who sometimes links multisyllabic words to their entries in Wikipedia as if to say, ‘Look at this cool word I know’, which is exactly what I would do) suggests that the usage of words such as these does not require a lot of complex thought, which is why we have used them to the point of meaninglessness – and might consider exercising our brains in order to find suitable alternatives that better describe the situation at hand. We love them, he says:

Because they remove the heavy lifting of real thinking. These socially-accepted throwaway terms are crutches for unclear thinking, just like “thing”, “stuff”, or “interesting”–enemies of good writers worldwide.

If you stop for a moment and think about it… there are quite a few words that are likewise easy to use. I sure as hell use them! Perhaps we should all spend our next date night with a raspberry merlot and a thesaurus…

Should. You know, scouring this entry for instances of Tim’s outlawed words is a pain in the ass, this late at night. (And ‘should’ was the one I’d ditched already!) But I still think he’s got a point. I definitely see the weakness in myself, and it sounds like an interesting challenge – especially since half the words he listed are words I use over and over and over. And over.

Sounds like rather a fun game, actually. Want to play?

Positivity and The Usual Error

Ladies and gentlemen, butches and femmes, delicious blog-reading visitors of all shapes, sizes, origins and orientations: We have come full-circle.

Positivity was the first Usual Error workshop I posted publicly about, and today it is the most recent workshop I have attended—twice!! I have gone through two cycles of Usual Error presentations, give or take a few that I missed in the first round. The first set happened at the Resource Connection; the second set happened at the Human Potential Center. The ones I missed the first time around turned out to be awesome, and the ones I got to attend twice had grown and improved by my second time! It’s really obvious how organic and essential this material is, especially now that Kyeli, Sera and Pace have finished the first draft of the book. Which, I might add, Marty will be illustrating. I mean, how cool is that!?

I won’t repost my notes from the first Positivity workshop, because they’re already here! But I will post the additional notes I took this second time, because some of them are particularly fabulous—and I’m proud of how easily they came to me. I really, really love this stuff.

First things first: LOTS of people came to this workshop. It was wonderful! We sat in a huge circle and relaxed happily in the yummy Human Potential Center atmosphere.

Choice phrases of the afternoon:

  • Pace described the amygdala as the “Oh-Shit Center”. The Oh-Shit Center is balanced out by saying “That makes me happy!” (When it’s true, of course.)
  • We bond socially by coming together to overcome adversity, so having problems is good! How else can we grow and learn?
  • “It’s sooooo muddy here!” (That one was just me.) The “Awesomesa”. The wonderful word that is “oubliette”. Is “oubliette” a she? Also, there were a bunch of Cure jokes I didn’t get. Er.

The Triad’s depth of feeling charges the entire workshop with positivity. Kyeli expresses concepts on a level that I can utterly relate to, really believing strongly in the changes she has the power to make. And Sera, while soft spoken, explains her ideas in incredibly simple, honest statements—warm, truthful, heart-filled! Pace’s indescribable enthusiasm is absolutely infectious and dude, so exciting to share and experience. The Usual Error content is one thing. But what these three ladies bring to it in their individual (and collective!) perspectives and personalities is another. This changes everything.

We talked about words. I can’t do this. I can’t make it Friday night. I have talked about this extensively before. Using these words has absolutely trapped me in the negativity of my schedule when in fact I am in complete control of ME and what I decide to do. It’s an incredible thing to realize and take hold of. Sera demonstrated the difference between doing a thing and moving past it, using Conor to illustrate board-breaking in martial arts. Conor was awesome. Standing there in the center, holding the bases of his palms together so hard his arms trembled, dutifully standing still and holding strong for the experiment! And I love this illustration. If you aim for the board, you are stopped. If you aim past the board… you go through.

Then we talked about some other things. “I’m no good at…” “I’m just not very…” Bah! In so many cases, the unconscious already knows the thing, knows how to do it right. If you give your unconscious the opening to provide that information to your conscious self, you can suddenly—miraculously—be or do that thing! And of course, the opposite will hold true, too. This also seems pertinent in cases of “That’s not like you…!”

What we tell ourselves and others has a profound effect on who we all are. Expecting the best from others may make your social experiences better in many ways!

And then there was teasing.

Why do people do this? The teasing I tend to get from my extended family (and often my mother as well) is not okay. I’m going to talk about this for awhile, and I want you to understand that I love my family—even the members thereof that I don’t really see or talk to. Even in misunderstandings, I know they love me back. But this analysis of communication is really important to me. And if one of them were to read it and understand what I’m talking about, and later connect with me just to better understand how we can communicate… that would be awesome. But this particular subject upsets me. So I’m about to get a little bit upset. So… especially if you’re one of those family members… try to get my meaning on this. Because I would really, really like that connection.

The teasing I get from Marty… is mostly okay. Marty and I have come to know one another deeply and well, and the teasing we do generally reflects that. He has earned my trust in that respect. But my family hasn’t.

My father and I connect well—he doesn’t really come into this discussion at all. The rest of my family is another story. It bums me out to talk about this, because I’d love for the case to be otherwise. The fact is that I haven’t spent that much time, cumulatively, with the rest of my family. And the teasing that happens there often oversteps reasonable boundaries by quite a bit. Interestingly enough, it seems to be mostly the male members of my mother’s side of the family… but not exclusively.

For some reason—and the Triad backed this up with the things they suggested—it does not feel like oversensitivity on my part. It does feel hurtful. It does not feel simply playful. But to be playful—is that why they do it? We have gotten so uncomfortable genuinely communicating with one another that we resort to this 24/7 “playfulness”? I have so little time with my family, we can’t even spend that small amount of time really connecting? Oh, I don’t know.

I didn’t agree so much before with the Usual Error’s take on teasing, but now I feel differently. Let us speculate hypothetically on a situation where a cousin I barely know teases my boyfriend in a way that… bothers me. Seems to have a point, but bothers me. If my cousin at that time says, Megan, I don’t know you well, but I feel protective of you, and care about your well-being—that’s why I am teasing your boyfriend—well, maybe that’s why he does it. And maybe that’s okay. I can be understanding. I can chill.

But maybe he just wants to get his jabs in. Maybe he’s been jabbed so often, you know? This teasing thing. Sure, it’s one thing if it’s just teasing—especially teasing that doesn’t piss me off or make me upset. But… what if it does? What if he’s not, without him even really understanding it? What if it steps right on over the line?

This workshop, I went around and around in my head, wondering.

It’s bad enough if his teasing is just a… a shield. For honesty that makes him uncomfortable. But it’s so much worse if he jabs and uses honesty as an excuse. And more than that, it’s even worse if he does that to his children—then his children will jab for the sake of jabbing, using honesty as an excuse, passing along those habits and reactions to their children, passing along that discomfort with communication…

Back on down the line, is it ever actually rooted in positivity? Who starts the jabbing to begin with, just feeling a bit uncomfy with expressing real feelings? Maybe! Maybe some of it! And this idea, this is only acceptable because no one has compassionate communication skills. Where does it begin? Because—in this hypothetical situation—it has perpetuated a cycle where my cousin can (hypothetically) pretend he’s protecting me while transferring old nastiness that he doesn’t even know is nasty, previously directed at him by someone who didn’t even know it was nasty… onto someone I really DO know, really do care about deeply!

No wonder it’s hard for me to connect with my family!


If you know how to communicate, if you DO communicate… teasing REALLY IS fairly marginal. No big deal! But if you DON’T—if you don’t even KNOW HOW —Bad. Lots and lots of bad.

Are you getting this? This is a big deal to me. Tell me if you’re getting this. I’m going to move on. And, I mean, there’s not a whole lot to move on to. You’ll notice that this part, this teasing part, this was the big revelatory stretch for me. But we still do have Endings, which Tanya mentions relates to the recency effect. Remind me to look that up in Wikipedia. We talk about the hippocampus, which makes memory stick. Pace explains the hippocampus to Kyeli in terms of DRAM, which cracks me up! And then there is something about remembering the unusual set, and NLP, and a few other things…

It’s all good. Even with those alarming realizations thrown into the middle, it’s all really, really good. And that’s all I’ve got. Man, this is long. But worth it!

Conflict Resolution, Take Two!

Conflict Resolution—Usual Error Workshop Extraordinaire!—happened at the end of May, and did I blog it promptly afterwards?? Did I?? These poor lonely notes have been languishing in my moleskine for weeks. It’s so sad!

Conflict Resolution is the first workshop that I decided was absolutely, positively, no-contention tax deductible. For obvious reasons! And although since then I have come to feel that all these workshops are overwhelmingly valuable in business, conflict resolution really is a biggie.

This being the second workshop that I got to attend for the second time, and being that I have plenty of notes I did not share publicly the first time, there will be quotes. I hope you like them. They’re pretty and blue! (At least until I redesign this site again.)

...My work lately has been confrontational, and stressful, and I’ve had a hard time dealing with it. All of their points were incredibly pertinent and immediately applicable to me. It was an astonishing feeling to have so many answers so quickly. I always feel this way when we see Pace and Kyeli and Sera, but tonight, especially so.

I haven’t quite gotten the knack of avoiding all confrontation in business. (This is a joke, and somewhat sarcastic—those of you who spend very much time in any kind of business ought to understand.) Business as a concept is confrontational. If you’re lucky enough to be unique enough, creative enough to have little confrontation in your day-to-day business pursuits, you are still in a situation where your business confronts traditional stereotypes. Hell—if you’ve managed to sidestep all of that, you are most likely confronting yourself, your preconceptions, your upbringing, others’ expectations of you, what you want, what you have, who you are! And confrontation, whether we like it or not, often results in conflict of one kind or another.

The only way out is through.

...The only way out is through—as in, there’s no use trying to escape back the way you came, it won’t help! I used to encounter this all the time because the word “talk” was actually “Talk”... My first Big Scary relationship was notorious for avoiding real communication, and even when I got into my really nice, comfy, fabulous relationship, we had to work awhile to get to the point where we could talk and it didn’t have to be spelled with a capital T. (Now, incidentally, we have many marvelous and varied communication conversations!)

Setting it aside, forgetting about the problem… these aren’t solutions. What is useful is to pause and come back to it later—but for this to work, you must actually come back to it later.

Something I didn’t think of earlier, while I was taking notes, was that this point is at the root of my big pet peeve in communication. It really bothers me when there’s something going on… some… Issue… and one person decides to forget all about it and pretend it didn’t happen, even though it’s obviously a problem. It’s not that they have processed it and come to the end of it. It’s that they’re ignoring it and expecting everyone else to do the same. Oh, how that irks me! I can’t stand it! It’s so upsetting! (Sensitive Megan!)

The William James Threshold.

...This threshold, this is how long it takes your body to understand that it’s okay to NOT be angry or upset or scared anymore. Your brain and your body have to communicate appropriately and sometimes your body just doesn’t get the hint! ...Sometimes when we’re still feeling physical anger with no reason for emotional anger, we find reasons for more emotional anger! Eek! And here is where these beautiful people declared to us a wonderful thing, this thing that is THE MYTH OF RATIONAL BEINGS. In THE MYTH OF RATIONAL BEINGS, we believe that human beings are rational, should be rational, should never be irrational. We believe that the ideal, perfect state of a human being is sanity and logic and rationality. But that’s not true!! We are made of meat!! We are not machines! And this was a GREAT revelation for me because I have known it all along, and it’s so easy to forget! Why am I always beating myself up about being flawed? We’re all fucking flawed! We’re not machines. We are made of meat. Meat! It is THE MYTH OF RATIONAL BEINGS.

omg. i love it so much.

This point always makes me wonder how prone I am to make up reasons to be angry. I know that people in my family sometimes do this, and I’m sure I’ve done it in the past. But when you’re actually angry, it’s sometimes hard to pin down whether or not your reason is valid! And rather often, reasons to be angry will pile up and fall over—which makes that even harder.

Thing No. 12,302 of which I need to be constantly reminded…

The Lollipop!

...The whole point of the Lollipop is that we have a choice as to how we see the circumstances we’re in. I can be sad about what I don’t have, or I can be gleeful about what I do have. We never think we have that choice, but we totally do.

The lollipop point is about attachment to expectations and your perceptions thereof. You can get the whole lollipop, you can get half the lollipop—and in both cases it can be given to you or stolen from you at various points in the story. But when you analyze the bare benefit of the situation, you’re always left with the boring fact that you had a whole lollipop or half a lollipop in either case—the only thing that changed was your expectation of what you were going to get.

People keep holding onto a past that doesn’t exist. We live right here. (This makes me wonder—James, are you anti-Zen? Or the opposite of Zen?)

Something else that came up this session in the discussion of the lollipop was that, as Pace suggested, one may be unattached but still care. I am still not sure how I feel about this. We talked about attachment becoming a hindrance, and the universe knowing better, often, than we do. (I think some of the things Kiki wrote awhile back made me think of this.) And attachment to what you think you need may bungle up the universe’s awesome plans!

I want to think about this more—from an “obsessive” standpoint, from a more Buddhist standpoint. This is interesting.

“What do I get out of being right?”

Have you ever asked yourself that question?

Start asking, man.

Don’t do stupid shit just to be right. It’s dumb. (Also, this ties into accepting yourself, forgiving yourself, and remembering that you’re made of meat…)

Mirroring. | .gnirorriM

Especially in IM but also in conversation, I am constantly—constantly—checking and rechecking myself to make sure I am processing the same meaning that the words of the other person were meant to have. We jump to conclusions without even thinking about it! We translate and garble and it’s a mess! I vowed long ago to take people at their word—they’re big boys and girls and can communicate what they need all by themselves—and that’s part of this.

The funny thing about mirroring is that we’re all using fun house mirrors—even when we know we’re mirroring, even when we think we’re spot-on. But if we know this, if we remember it… we’re that much closer to getting it right.

Aikido in everyday life.

...The best bit was Aiki, at the end—resolving a conflict with compassion instead of various other things, facing in the same direction as your attacker and moving in their direction, which totally confuses the hell out of them because how often do people do this!? and then defuses the situation in most cases, because you are genuinely concerned with hearing the person, finding out what’s going on, getting to a solution that benefits everyone as much as possible.

I had an odd Aiki-like incident this last week. It was weird but good but also weird. I like these concepts a lot, and I read Aikido In Everyday Life and enjoyed it quite a bit, so if this sounds neat to you, definitely pick it up. (I think I will again, just to understand it more clearly…)

And they mentioned also, which is important to me because I second guess everybody, that Aiki is NOT about beating yourself up over whatever you did to upset the other person—it’s about wanting to meet in the middle, wanting to be on the same team. Furthermore, it doesn’t work unless it’s from the heart…

Like the last time we covered Conflict Resolution, we watched examples and then stood up to try it ourselves. Watching people fight is fun! Ha ha!

Look, all my notes on Conflict Resolution!! I’m so proud of me. Thank you for reading. :}


Watching The Pursuit of Happyness with Marty, I thought, This is the kind of movie where he will win, in the end. He has to. And other movies, I know I have thought, The end is going to be bad. And I will just have to sit here and take it.

But this one, I stay with it. No matter how many rotten, demoralizing things happen to him, he’s in that kind of movie. It will get worse and worse but in the end, it will all come together. It will be worth it. He will be lifted up, and so will we.

It’s not what’s going on now. It’s not what you’re going through now. It’s what kind of movie you’re in. I know what kind of movie I’m in. What kind of movie do you want to be in?

I’m pretty sure… we get to pick.

Conflict –> Communication (2)

Meta-communication is something very dear to my heart these days. I’ve had so many acculturated behaviors and automatic responses so deeply ingrained that were it not for a handful of particularly awakening people and texts and incidents, I’d still be doing the same thing everyone else is doing. Communicating, not knowing how to communicate.

We act so quickly, we don’t think about what we’re doing. And we will fight it out without realizing that just a little bit of thought can change the entire course of our lives. It changes the way we think and the way we react to stress. We are capable of doing so much better if we just spend a little bit of thought on it. And spending thought on communication, communicating about communication, is, of course, meta-communication.

Meta-communication leads us to answers that tell us how to heal our communication ouchies, and avoid the messes we get ourselves into over and over and over again.

Memory can be pretty freaky. Apparently there’s a lot of scientific evidence that our memories are far worse than we would expect them to be, filling in the blanks, etc. We really expect our memories to be pretty accurate but it sounds like the more accurate we think our memory is, the less accurate it actually is—science says this. (Somewhere. I have no sources, but I trust the messengers.) It’s really interesting to me that our most vivid memories are likely our least dependable. That says something about the human imagination, doesn’t it? It also says something about Sunnydale Syndrome, which is what I’m calling the propensity to remember things the way you’d rather have experienced them…

As recently as yesterday, Marty reminded me that we get to pick. I go through little cycles where I’m suddenly afraid over a decision I may or may not make in the future. Is that not the most insane thing in the history of the world? I get to make that decision. I get to choose the outcome of the situation. And if you believe in a thought-formed universe, this point is even more dramatic. We don’t we trust our future selves? Don’t we think they’ll know what they’re doing?

More is under our control than we tend to expect.

Harry Potter and the Permission to Disappoint—isn’t that what it’s called? I’ll keep an eye out, I’m sure that’s it. I give you—and me!—the permission to not be perfect. I give us the permission to want different things. Just because we’re standing in the same room wanting connection doesn’t mean we have this perfect, magical synthesis, suddenly the same. I give us permission to be different people, or whole different worlds. And man oh man, I give myself permission to disappoint others. Because sometimes, they’re just going to have to sit down and take it.

You can tell by the brevity of the second half that I’m getting sleepy. But this material is too important to me to just let go. It’s already done awesome things to my brain and it’s still going. We’re going to the next workshop on Saturday, May 26th—this coming Saturday. You can read all about it on the Usual Error’s event page. It’s going to be excellent, and it’s going to make me some kind of fabulous Saturday!

Which reminds me, why aren’t more of you on Upcoming? Got somewhere better to be? Friend me!

Conflict –> Communication (1)

Today we peruse my notes on Turning Conflict Into Communication, and the (slightly) disorganized thoughts that stem therefrom.

There has been much discussion, of late, about HALT. I think acronyms are usually cheesy, but the concept is very sensible. Consider pausing your communication attempts if you are Hungry, Angry, Loopy, or Tired. The L was changed—I won’t say by whom—because the traditional “lonely” is a great reason to communicate, and we have all seen the aftereffects of loopy communication. Almost pointless. Have you tried to have a productive conversation with your boyfriend in pain from pending root canal? Or on Darvoset? Not happening.

Some conversations are really unditchable—but you can find a good pause point if you focus, and then you have time to regroup. I often add circumstances and stop a conversation if one or more participants is too uncertain of how they actually feel to continue productively. (Often that person is me, and I feel strongly that I should know myself before diving into problem-solving situations that affect other people!) But I don’t do this all the time, because it’s obvious to me now that sometimes confusing conversations can turn into clear conversations really fast.

Wow, do I have a problem remembering this one. We’re all on the same team. I don’t know why I forget this so quickly. I’m not some kind of relationship mercenary, battling for the higher ground, or the higher pay. And although it’s very cultural—talking to friends who are getting involved with new people, and want the “upper hand”, get me angry—I never feel that my issue is cultural. I mean, it could be. Hell, it probably is. What isn’t cultural? But I’m growing and learning and I’m still programmed. That feels like… a missing link.

The reason the “upper hand” conversation makes me angry is because when we walk into a situation wanting the upper hand, we’re setting ourselves up to feel like victims if we don’t get it. Not that having the upper hand actually consists of more than feeling like you have the upper hand—but still.

When you spar with that new boy, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of intentional non-communication. And wow, the badness that can ensue. We want them to read our minds, and then we play passive-aggressive games when they don’t. And don’t you think for a minute that I’m limiting my irritability on this subject to women. When I think of old relationships, old behaviors, old reactions—not just in others but in myself—blech.

Of course, being on the same team isn’t just about working together instead of against one another. But it was on my mind. That happens.

Involve yourself with people you can talk to honestly. People who not only have your interests at heart, but people you can believe have your best interests at heart. People you can trust to be on your team, instead of people who will mindlessly enact the traditional enemy role. I keep thinking of gender battles, games on the radio. And then I think of same sex relationships, and how it can all play out just the same way. Who trained us to use these things? Did they have any idea what they were doing?

Communication and terminology. Wow, this is a theme today. Many a difficulty is based on a standard of misunderstood definitions. I thought this thing had been ironed out, but it wasn’t ironed out in a way that both parties actually understood in the same way—so it turned into a whole new thing, that thing, another thing to be ironed out. We say something that has meaning to us and so often, to someone else, it has a meaning so dramatically different that if we really outlined the scope of it, if we all sat down and wrote our personal idiolectical dictionaries (yeah, I made that up), we wouldn’t believe it. We wouldn’t believe how different people can be whole different worlds.

So, we can realize this. We can remember it and respond calmly and rationally, collectedly, when misunderstandings occur. We can try to clarify as needed. We can calibrate our terminology to try to grasp, clearly, what another person means when they say “apple juice” or “bananasquid”. You can specifically decide how to deal with the difference in terminology, decide how you want to tone the relationship words and degree words, emotional things, non-concrete concepts. We want options when one of us thinks purple means yellow.

Imminently appropriate to the next topic, Intent, is a book I’m reading right now— That’s Not What I Meant!, which Vixen lent me. I’m having a hard time getting through it and I’m not sure exactly why. I want to read it. It’s material that really interests me. Could it be her writing style? Could it be that my attention is elsewhere lately? Intent is important. (At least, I think intent is important.) We jump to conclusions and fill in the blanks with our own experience until the thing we’re assuming we have in front of us isn’t that thing at all. Happens all the time. Finding out what someone intends by that alarming statement they just made can help to avoid all kinds of unhappy encounters.

I am particularly fond of the scenario where Person A asks what Person B intended by that rotten thing she just said, and Person B pauses for a moment before saying, “Well, I was just being an ass!” Sometimes that happens, too. Seems easier to live up to it, doesn’t it? Especially since Person A and Person B are both people I like a lot, it’s really easy for me to see how admitting asshattery can move things forward. I admit asshattery on a regular basis, myself.

Ah, it’s that time again… that time where I end this post and make a new one, that time where we realize how many pages of notes Megan really has…

Boundaries (Part Two, Meat)

(Part One.)

Pace: “The Usual Error is assuming other people are just like you.”
Kyeli: “...And we all do it all the time and it’s totally okay.”

Hello there, faithful citizens of Earth! It’s soooo muddy here!

The Boundaries workshop was my first opportunity to re-attend a Usual Error session. I’m going to quote some of my older notes from the first time I attended, because they were originally posted privately. Since then we’ve all discovered the benefits of workshop notes (and liveblogging, hell!) so this makes a lot more sense. ;}

Larissa came to this workshop to get video of everything, and I think the Boundaries workshop is a great workshop to record—there’s just something about it that really resonates with me. I think it does that because I sometimes have problems with setting healthy boundaries…!

Kyeli described boundaries as a circle you set around yourself. The outer edges are your boundaries; between you and that outer edge exist your comfort zone, and your responsibilities. Everything inside that circle is Your Stuff. Everything outside that circle is Someone Else’s Stuff. It’s where you feel familiar and comfortable, and where it is your responsibility to get your needs met. (Some of you are already noticing that I’m overflowing into Ethical Slut material here—I didn’t do it on purpose, and it’s really interesting.) You can set and reset these boundaries as you so choose—if you find out that you didn’t get it quite right the first time, it’s completely okay to change your mind and adjust as necessary. Sometimes figuring out how to adjust them can be tricky, but once you’ve found the sweet spot, and held firm, it’s really, really good. So much better than fluctuating constantly. And it just occurred to me to compare boundaries to blood sugar. If only I knew a little more about blood sugar. Huh.

So! That reminds me of something I didn’t really take notes on—that if we set our boundaries too tightly or too loosely, they tend to fluctuate dramatically when met with too much discord. For instance, if we set our boundaries too loosely, taking care of everyone else’s stuff, we’re going to hit a brick wall and burn out—and suddenly our boundaries will be upset, paranoid, and very tight. The fluxing is what seems to happen when we haven’t found our proper, healthy boundaries yet. It sounds exactly like what Christiane Northrup described about blood sugar—if your blood sugar levels aren’t healthy, they will go up and down and make you crazy. (And apparently, that’s what happens to most of us… but I still don’t quite understand it completely.)

(Interlude: Holy shit! That Northrup book is not even fourteen bucks now! It used to be twenty! And it’s a huuuugeass book, holy crap! The urge now to buy a copy for everyone I know is unbearable, and my bank account still won’t support it… but dude! Price change! Yowzah!)

I actually wonder if many things are like that—moderation gets you stability, but excess results in fluctuation. There are a lot of directions I could go with that. Something to think about.

Being a big girl! (Or boy!)

The part of this I have the easiest time relating to is the concept that I have to be able to trust that a person will speak up if there’s a problem, if they’re feeling something I need to know—their stuff is their stuff. It’s not my stuff. Plenty of people don’t speak up, we know this… but if we don’t trust them to, if we don’t expect them to, they’ll never learn that they should. They need to be a big boy, or a big girl, and take care of themselves by making sure other people have the information that allows them to help! By expecting this of them… we are giving them authority over themselves! (Even if they don’t want it, ha ha ha!)

When we talked about being a big boy (or big girl), we also talked a little bit about cultural social boundaries. This is something I’d like to explore a little more, but I’m not sure where to go with it just yet. Suggestions?

In keeping healthy boundaries, it’s best to treat others as though their boundaries are healthy, too. I really like this concept and want to implement it, but it is often very challenging to get going. I have a feeling, though, that once you do it a few times… it gets easier. Because to be perfectly honest, as we also talked about at the workshop, unhealthy boundaries are manipulative. I’m making you take care of me, my stuff, or I’m taking control of you, your stuff, and taking away your opportunity to control it yourself, even to learn to control it yourself. We want to trust others to take care of themselves… and trust ourselves to take care of ourselves. Important, important.

The Myth of Boxes! (Or something like that.)

To be FIERCE is to maintain firm, healthy boundaries. To be FIERCE is to be assertive in taking care of yourself. If I can find some construction paper, I may cut out big page-sized letters and pin FIERCE to my office wall…

Some things we talked about in regards to fierceness: There are buzz-phrases that scare us away from being fierce. “Bitch” is one of them. “PMS” is another. I used to feel constantly that when someone realized I had PMS, it instantly invalidated everything I was feeling. I used to try to hide that it was that time of the month during important conversations, lest the other person realize what was going on and, in one fell swoop, make all my communication attempts worthless. It was very frustrating. I don’t feel that way quite as much now, but it’s important to remember that PMS doesn’t invalidate feelings—it just intensifies them, or puts you more in touch with them. They’re not wrong. They’re still very right and very valid. (Christiane Northrup talks about that, too!)

In business, I am often afraid that my fierceness will be met with verbal violence—because I am afraid that my fierceness will be interpreted from the beginning as violence. I’m starting to get over that, because some people do get it, and resume healthy boundary-keeping. I have also realized that the people who don’t get it… are the ones I don’t want to work with anyway. And that’s very, very interesting.

There is a lot to be said for the Usual Error as applicable to business, and I’m going to explore that later. (It really fits into my Plan for World Domination, that’s for sure!)

Axe 4 Wat U Need / No 1 Can Read Ur Mind

Yeah. It is that obvious. It’s obnoxiously obvious. I can’t believe more people don’t automatically get this.

This is the myth about the prince, the one on the white horse that appears out of nowhere and solves all your problems. He comes and he knows so well exactly what you want and what you need, that you don’t even need to communicate! Haha! (I think Pace said that last bit. It gave me glee.)

Of course, this person… if he exists… is completely taking away your opportunity to learn to take care of yourself, and to ask for what you need. In Somebody’s Perfect World, this would be great. But here, on planet Us, we usually aren’t dealing with psychics and we must ask for what we need if we expect to have some chance of receiving it.

There’s a corollary myth that asking cheapens it. And… dude… that’s so wrong.

I admit to you now that I have often been struck with the fear of asking, because I “shouldn’t have to”, or something crazy like that. But if I don’t ask, I won’t get it. And getting what I need is more important than this insane stuckness that happens when I don’t ask. Sometimes… I’m still stuck. But I think when that happens… I haven’t quite pinned down what I actually need. So I’m working on that part.

Kylie: “You’re not green. He can say you’re green all day but you’re not.”

This comes right back to the realization that any other person exists to us as a very limited model. We can understand some things—over time, many things—about a person, but ultimately we are still filling in the blanks with our own experience, with familiar bits. So someone saying things about you... that you’re green, for instance… probably doesn’t really know you. At least, not enough to know you’re probably people-colored like the rest of us! He can’t give you a better assessment of you than you can. And he can talk all day, but he’s still just sticking pins in a little doll that looks like you, his idea of you, his representation of what he believes you are. He’s sticking pins in something that seems like you… with many, many pieces filled in from his limited mental model of you. He’s not sticking pins in you.

So unless you believe in voodoo…

Okay. Right. (I haven’t told you guys about the voodoo car yet… my god. I’d almost forgotten.)

This idea makes such a difference to me, because I often take someone’s words (or ranting) to heart when there’s no point in doing so. I second-guess and blame myself, blah blah blah. It’s very silly, and this idea flips a switch in my brain—especially the part about the voodoo doll—that makes it all better for a little bit. More signs for my office.

We live in a world built from our own concepts, our own imagining. Everything else, everyone else, is a reflection of our own selves in some way. It’s alarmingly, fabulously like dreaming, where we are everyone and everything else in the dream. This needs more exploration as well.

Whew! I think we’re going to need a Part Three…

(Part Three.)

Boundaries (Part One, Musings)

Boundaries happened the 28th of April—oops! I guess a lot has been going on around here, dude.

The first thing I want to write is about how I have this question, all the time. Boundaries is a humongous subject. It certainly expands far beyond what the Usual Error workshop covers. Everyone has specific sets of boundaries in addition to their overall boundaries in relation to other people. We have safety boundaries, sexual boundaries, sleeping boundaries, social boundaries. And my question, more often than not, is answered by that realization. The items in the Boundaries workshop apply overall and specifically, if I think about it. It’s just such huge subject matter. Boggles my brain!

But there’s still more to that, and I’m having trouble explaining it. If we talk about healthy boundaries, you take care of your Stuff and I take care of my Stuff. We don’t take care of each other’s Stuff—and we don’t allow others to take care of our Stuff. We are respectful and responsible. That’s a kind of “boundaries”.

But there’s a whole other kind of boundaries. There’s the kind of boundaries where I’m not comfortable being cuddled by complete strangers (most of the time). There’s the kind of boundaries where I want to feel safe in my relationships. This is the actual Stuff—not the system that allows us to decide who takes care of whose Stuff. Is this making sense?

There are boundaries inside the Boundaries. Like there are layers inside layers, meta on meta, communications inside other communications. Hell, the world is a complicated place. But this has been bugging me for awhile and I wanted to get it out there. Do we call both these things Boundaries? Do we clarify in some way?

Despite all of this, I have really felt that Boundaries is a rockin’ place to start, even though it’s not at the beginning. I don’t know why exactly that is, but it’s interesting. And I’m sure I’ve said it before; I’m biased, I started on Boundaries. So… that’s probably it.

I wanted to post some of my basic thought processes here, so I’m going to do another more detailed post in a moment. They feel separate. Here we go!

(Part Two, Part Three.)

Usual Error Bits & Pieces

Whew! It’s been a busy week, somehow, and now we’re nearing the end of it and I still haven’t processed my latest Usual Error notes. The triad gave a condensed version of their entire presentation this last weekend, during my fabulous Bastrop camping trip, and I picked up a few extra bits and pieces to add here. Many of the subjects they covered I’d already heard once or twice or more, but because their project is organic and growing, they keep explaining items in new and fabulous ways! I think I’ve already mentioned how that’s one of my favorite parts… gush… :P

I wanted to get these notes processed and blogged today, because of course there’s another workshop tomorrow! This is going to be about Boundaries, and it was so frickin’ useful to me the first time I went. (I have a boundaries thing. And yeesh, I’ve been having boundaries things lately, too! It’s weird… a lot more solutions can be found using boundaries-related ideas than you’d think.) Even if you missed the first one, Boundaries is a really great workshop to start with. I think it was my first one too, not counting the overview presentation I attended when the Usual Error was a younger concept.

So, here are my notes. Are you ready!?

First of all, I was reminded that the technical term for the usual error is “projection bias”. I really like keeping things like that around in case I need them, to research or expand on a concept—also, “projection bias” is kind of a sexy phrase. Ha ha. :P

When explaining the usual error at the beginning of the presentation last weekend, Sera said something that resonated with me. She said, we have a limited model of other people. And what she’s saying is that other people are always going to be at least a little bit of a mystery to us—we’re not inside them, we can’t experience what’s happening in there. And this means that it’s extra-easy to fill in the blanks with feelings and understandings from our own experience, and it happens all the time, and it’s the Usual Error! I think I had been searching for new ways to explain that idea, that we have a limited model of other people… and although I’m going to keep searching for something even better, I really like that one.

A part of the presentation dealt with communication styles, and we talked about “idiolect”, which in other words is “idiosyncratic dialect”—the way you say things, the way you express them. The grammar and syntax you use, the sorts of phrasing, the way you learned to communicate. I think this is a way interesting topic all on its own—and actually, Vixen lent me a book called That’s Not What I Meant! which is all about differing styles of communication. I’m not very far into it yet, but it’s really nifty.

Speaking of sexy terminology—I’m jumping away from the Usual Error for two seconds now—during another discussion I had last weekend, we were talking about how different phrasing affected different kinds of people in different ways. (I bet if you do a search for “different” in my blog you will come up with billions of instances…) For instance, “have a seat” versus “sit down”. Each version would garner a more successful reaction from a certain kind of person. I don’t understand it extensively, but it’s very neat. I don’t remember who was there talking with us who suggested it. But I was trying to come up with a word that described that idea, and Pace jumped in with “implicature”. And implicature is all about what someone directly means instead of what they have literally said. And I love that! So I got all flushed and started fanning myself. Whew! Sexy terminology, like I said, hee!

Anyway, stepping away from my curious fetishes…

I have often noticed how smoothly the Usual Error material integrates and blends with all of the interests I have right now. All of the other reading and research I’ve been doing in the last year or so covers very similar blocks of concepts; communication and learning and understanding how people function with one another… and even, in a way, my exploration into business development theory, and information on sexuality, and what I’ve been reading about hypnotism and neuro-linguistic programming. I feel really lucky to have been discovering Pace and Kyeli and Sera as friends, I feel like I’m traveling the right path. It feels good.

There was some talk during the presentation about not being psychic. This is pertinent because so often we expect the person we’re communicating with (or not communicating with!) to just know what we want or what we need, to just do what needs to be done without having to be told what that thing is. And even knowing this, I hint—god how I hint!—because often I feel that what I want is unreasonable. Unreasonable for me to want it, unreasonable for me to ask for it. I so often don’t know what to do about that, don’t know how to solve it, but I think it’s possible that the reason I feel that way is because that thing that feels so unreasonable isn’t what I need. That’s why it feels so nebulous and unspeakable. But… if that’s the case… what it is I need?

I believe we were talking about the ways that computers make it easy to remind ourselves how other people care about us…

“Love + technology = awesome.”

~ Serafina Smith

And the last thing I have written here is that somewhere near the end of the presentation, I think it was during the part about Fierceness, Pace was explaining and said, “Passive is peaceful, docile is doormat…” and I thought, we’ve already joked about the Usual Error Jr., and now we have the Usual Error, as presented by Dr. Seuss!

I love Dr. Seuss.

So really, that’s all I have. I had a great time. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. Can you imagine that? I’m looking forward to attending a workshop I’ve already attended—a workshop I already took extensive notes on, no less. Dude. This rocks.

Boundaries is happening at the Human Potential Center tomorrow, April 28th, from 4pm – 6pm. The number is 512-441-9899, ask for Bob or leave a message to RSVP, and come have fun with us. :P


17 Hours & Counting

I’ve never been to the Human Potential Center before. I wonder what it’s like?

Today I engaged in a massive reclaiming of my office. I spent just about all day doing it, fueled by tuna fish salad and pure determination. Marty went to dinner with Heather and I’ve done a little bit of gaming with Angel, munching cereal. Tomorrow I will sleep late, and then I will find the Human Potential Center!

Sera posted the topics for the Communication Dynamics workshop tomorrow afternoon—some of them are new and different and I’m excited to see how everything has changed and evolved since the beginning! I love how organic the whole thing is.

Here’s the info Sera posted!

Communication Dynamics
A Usual Error workshop
Saturday, April 14th, 4-6pm
Location: The Human Potential Center
Attendance: $20 sliding scale
Email [email protected] or call Bob at (512)441-8988 to register.

Topics in Communication Dynamics:

  • Checking in
  • Being Yohn
  • The Usual Error
  • Differences in communication styles
  • Differences in personality types
  • Yeah, I already know this, but I just need to hear you say it again.
  • What problem are you trying to solve?
  • Feeling considered

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, here’s my original post about the Usual Error (and the ensuing Positivity excite-o-blogging). ;}


Usual Error Workshop Schedule

If you aren’t familiar with the Usual Error workshops, you may want to read my previous post about the triad and their Positivity presentation. I’m posting their upcoming workshop schedule here to increase the chance that someone may happen upon it, and to provide it to you, my beloved visitor. Yes, you! Just for you! If you’re in Austin, TX, or are planning to be, get revved up and read on!

I’m really excited that these are scheduled earlier in the day and twice a month now, so that more people may have the opportunity to come and learn. If you have any questions about the workshops, you can comment here, email me (worldmegan at gmail) or just email the triad at —they’re really nice and they love to help people out, so I’m sure they won’t mind!

Communication Dynamics
Saturday, April 14th, 4-6pm

Saturday, April 28th, 4-6pm

Turning Conflict into Communication
Saturday, May 12th, 4-6pm

Conflict Resolution
Saturday, May 26th, 4-6pm

Saturday, June 9th, 4-6pm

The first is only a week away! The ones listed here are located at the Human Potential Center. The fee is on a $20 sliding scale, which means, please come and pay as much as you can afford! You’ll find out very quickly how valuable this experience is. To register for any of these, email or call Bob at (512) 441-8988. And remember that seating is limited, and we’d all love to see you there!

More information can be found at the Usual Error website. Join us, it’s like a communication-learning-experience-PARTY!

PS: Yes, I will blog. If you come, you get to be in my blog!! omg!
PPS: Er, only if you wanna be…

Positivity (Part Three!)

(Parts One and Two, if you missed them.)

You can tell when I’ve gotten excited; I write novels.

What I have to get across to you, though, is that I’m not just getting your regular run-of-the-mill excited. I’m getting these-ideas-can-really-HELP-people excited. I moved to Austin knowing that I would be joining a community of people more intensely interested in communication and understanding, more concerned about the welfare of another person, more inclined to find out exactly what’s going on in someone else’s head. But I didn’t realize at the time that I’d be putting myself in a position to learn such amazing things about myself and other people. I don’t think I had any idea what was about to happen to me. And I would never want to go back to being the person I was before—who knew and understood so little. Who knows what bridge I crossed? I’m here. And there will inevitably be more bridges.

Would you like to rephrase that more positively?

You might not even believe what a difference this makes. You might not get it until you try it. I’m just warning you now, because I didn’t quite get it either. Until I tried it.

Now, I hadn’t really bothered to try it until this point. I had read plenty of books on the subject—thinking positively, using optimism, creative visualization and all that. And it’s all good stuff, I’m a huge fan of these ideas. But the thing that has worked the best for me so far… with the least effort, in fact!... has been this one. Right here. The one I’m going to explain to you now.

It has to do with obligation.

I wrote a post about obligation not long ago. I was reading a great book by Dale Carnegie and there were just too many great intersecting ideas for me to be able to keep my mouth shut. And I’m going to go so far as to quote my own post, so that we’re clear. This is what I’m talking about:

The first thing I’ve done is implement a Usual Error technique(...): language reform! If I express obligation in any way, one of several potential helpers (including myself) may say, “Would you like to rephrase that more positively?” And immediately the landscape of my brain is changed, and I do not say “I have to do this thing… I should do this thing…” I instead say, “I want to do this thing! I would like to do this thing!” And then I find out if I really want to do it.

And sometimes I don’t do it.

But most of the time, I do do it. And when that happens, it takes on a completely different feeling, not a feeling of obligation and entrapment and inevitability, but instead this feeling of control, a feeling that I hold power over myself and my destiny and, well, my work day! Even the ickiest responsibility is transformed because I have actively made a decision to do that thing, I have decided that I want to do that thing.

This idea has actually made a really big difference in the way I feel on a day-to-day basis. I don’t know that I really expected that kind of a difference when I started. It certainly sounded like a great idea. I hoped it would change something in a positive way. And it was easy to implement, so there was no reason not to try it. It did make a difference. I am happier and calmer and less prone to upset because I feel like I do the things I want to do—I no longer feel blackmailed into being unhappy. Even when my hormones have kicked up, the last two weeks, I still mostly feel in control of who I am and what responsibilities I take on. That’s a big deal!

You can do this, too. It’s so easy to start. Just start replacing words in your everyday conversations! “Should” changes to “Want”. Must, have to, need to… it all changes to want, would like. You might find out that you don’t really want that thing, but that’s important! If you really don’t want to do it… if there is nothing indirectly causing you to want to do it… why on earth would you do it!? This can go pretty deep, and we can talk about it for ages, but think about it. Some of those things you’re dreading, you want to do them, even if the very idea of tackling them makes you cringe. There’s a reason you want to do them. If we come at it from the wanting… instead of the shoulding… we can be so much happier.

These things really do stick, especially when you’re not expecting it. For instance, when you’re balancing the books. Yes, my accounting was the last place I expected to be implementing a Usual Error tweak. I can’t tell you if it helped—I’m still short on cash. But it made me feel better. It made me feel less panicked, less driven. And that was the point. When Kyeli said that the purpose of the Positivity workshop was to teach people ow to be “obnoxiously happy”, she was not kidding. I love being obnoxiously happy!

Teasing is an interesting example of how negativity can get out of hand.

When the triad went through these points in the workshop, I didn’t get the impression that they meant the teasing section as a sub-category of positive rephrasing… but I can’t help thinking of it that way. (My brain is squirmy like that.) Much of the time teasing is just teasing, and not a big deal. But sometimes, we use teasing to say something negative that we wouldn’t get away with otherwise. And that’s not okay.

The triad’s examples were really good at showing us how teasing can really turn negative and harmful, and things like that happen all the time. Sometimes it’s better to put yourself in the other person’s shoes before you say something that’s “just teasing”. Calling it teasing doesn’t change it, in many cases—it just helps you avoid the consequences. (And not even that, a lot of the time!) So if you’re going to tease someone, come from a positive place. It’s safer, it’s happier! And there’s less scary undercurrent. I know you’re familiar with the scary undercurrent!

...And they all lived happily ever after!

We remember endings. We remember them so well that we will often forget how wonderful or difficult something has been, just because the ending might be different. Because of this we have a special trick we can pull, and you never know when it might come in handy! The trick is in controlling the end—making the end happy.

The last day of your vacation. The commute home from work. Conversations before bed. We can make them good, and they’ll be extra sticky because endings are already sticky.

I have some other things to say about endings. “Endings” was at the end of the workshop, appropriately. It’s little but it’s good. And ending the workshop—the whole series, actually, because Positivity is the last section in their setup—reminds me how good I feel about the whole thing. Which makes a kind of funny point.

This last workshop was an incredible beginning to my weekend of learning new things at SXSWi. It happened at exactly the right time for me, even though I was tired from my first day at Interactive. I was reminded that obligations and limitations are unnecessary to a human being who is powerful and limitless, and capable of doing or making whatever she wants! We give ourselves less credit than we are due. It’s not that my week sucks; it’s that my week is interesting because it’s challenging. The phrasing makes an amazing, believable difference. Openness, honesty—with others, with oneself—a diaspora of polite social fictions, canned responses, thoughts that come from Out instead of In. Our language affects our thought. And effort does not equal value! What we do becomes who we are. You’re not really pretending anymore. It all matters in wonderful ways. We can take our toxicity in hand and heal ourselves. We can do whatever the fuck we want!

Isn’t that bizarre!? And… does it make you feel as good as me? Because, wow. Someone handed me a comment sheet at some point; I wrote like a madwoman all over the thing. I feel strongly about this. I want us to really pay attention, here! These things are important. And they make me happy! I love solutions! I even love problems, when I think about them under these circumstances! Problems are so… solvable!

You can go to these workshops, too. They’re really nice. Informal, relaxing, exciting! The next set is happening at the Human Potential Center in Austin, and there’s more information here. They have a $20 sliding scale. If you’re dead broke, go anyway! They want an audience, they want feedback, and they want people to benefit from these ideas! If you can afford to send some cash their way, please, please, please do. What they’re doing is incredibly valuable to you and me and all of us. They are worth our time and they are really worth our support.

And, hell! You could even write about them in your blog. ;}

Positivity (Part Two!)

(Part One, if you missed it.)

I learned these things from three hot chicks:

Wonderful ideas energize me, and that makes me really happy!

Our amygdalas are focused on negative emotions. Did you know that? If you have any memory at all of being a lizard or a monkey or a cave chick, you remember that your amygdala took careful account of every shitty thing that happened to you—for the express purpose of avoiding it next time! That time you almost got eaten by that dinosaur? Your amygdala totally filed it away with a big red sticker. DO NOT GET EATEN BY DINOSAUR.

So it’s not terribly surprising that we hoomans tend to remember negativity. You and I who remember the bad parts and end up in a downward spiral of unhappy, we are doing something that comes naturally—but we don’t have to keep kicking ourselves for it. It’s what we all do. Human beings are just not high enough on the food chain to have discarded their excellent memory for negativity.

There is a solution! (And it’s NOT anything to do with cyclical self-punishment.) You’re not stupid, you know when something wonderful has happened to you. You know when something pleases you, you know when something has given you a good feeling. So say so! “That makes me really happy!” Well, it does! And the best part of it is, it’s incredibly contagious. If you find yourself saying it all the time, chances are the people who spend time with you will find themselves saying it, too!

Damn! Just TYPING it makes me really happy!

We are made of meat.

Yup, read it again. We are made of meat. We are not machines, we are not perfect, we are flawed, we are constantly changing, we are organic, growing creatures, and we are incredibly wonderful. Problems, negative emotions, psychological issues, physical frailties, they are a part of us. They make us what we are. Cells must die so that new cells may replace them. We must change. We must grow. So the next time you’re kicking yourself for feeling bad… for thinking the “wrong” thoughts… for having made a mistake… do you get what I’m saying? It’s okay. It’s okay to feel those things! No downward spiral is necessary. We are made of meat!

I cannot describe the wiggling, screeching glee I experience every time I remember that I am made of meat. And you are made of meat, too! We are all made of MEAT! It’s okay to be human. There’s nothing wrong with that! It’s okay if I didn’t do the precise, logically thing. I am not an entirely precise, logical person! Nobody is. If you are like me (and who knows if you are?) you too have felt the downward spiral. Something goes wrong. You feel a negative emotion. You identify your negative emotion. You are embarrassed and resentful of your negative emotion! You feel another negative emotion in relation to having felt a negative emotion. You kick yourself for this new negative emotion! And the negative emotions, oh, they grow numerous and much stronger… they outnumber us ten thousand to one! We cannot defeat them, so we join them…


Yes! I said poo! Do not join the legions of negativity! They don’t need you! They breed like rabbits! We need you. We need you to help prove the sheer power of positive thinking. We want you. We love you and you’re important to us. Your happiness is important to us. Because what is the human race if all we do is cry and resent? Where is the thing that makes us strong? If we don’t stand together and make something better, where are we then?

G.I. Joe is so frickin’ cool.

You can’t solve a problem if you don’t know there’s a problem. You can’t solve a problem if you can’t define the problem. (Unless you get seriously lucky.) Those legions of negativity, they whisper that we are bad because we have a problem. But truthfully, we are that much closer to solving the problem, just because we know what’s going on! Dude, G.I. Joe had it down. How cheesy does it sound now? Knowing is half the battle. Duh.

I searched high and low for a video clip to link in; I couldn’t find one. YouTube would probably get sued. You think about this. Visit the Usual Error site and think about joining us at one of the workshops. I have Part Three to write… ;}

Positivity (Part One!)


I am finally going to tackle this behemoth, this big, beautiful leviathan! On the tenth of March, oh so long ago in each of our personal histories, the Usual Error covered my favorite subject… drum roll… Positivity!

Positivity! This great, powerful force inside each of us, this monster of increase! Positivity is my favorite subject for an insane number of reasons, and just by explaining this workshop to you, I am going to cover a great big chunk of them. But first, I’m going to tell you about the Usual Error, concept and convoy, because I really haven’t told you enough about them. I have mentioned them here exactly twice: My interesting financial preview and a much lengthier missive regarding obligation. Both were tiny pieces of the whole, but the whole is too important for me to be just skipping over. Today we discuss the whole!

The Convoy: They Who Convey!

Pace, Kyeli and Sera are a beautiful married triad in Austin. All three women give you that vibe—the one that makes you feel like a valuable human being, surrounded by other valuable human beings who care about you and support you! It’s a very safe, compassionified community feeling. And these ladies, you will discover, are geniuses of communication and problem solving. Sometimes they completely blow me away. By which I mean, their points are utterly worth your attention.

The Concept: The Usual Error

The many wonderful ideas that Pace and Kyeli and Sera have presented are gathered under one very prominent umbrella, which is the Usual Error. The Usual Error is a concept that describes how human beings as a general rule tend to assume that other people are just like them. You do it. I do it. The only person we really know and experience is the person inside our own heads, and other people at least look a little bit like we do. So why shouldn’t they be the same on the inside, too?

We love the Usual Error because it’s an error. We will spend the rest of our lives learning about those around us, because we are all so incredibly wonderful and different. (That is delicious.)

I feel that these workshops have made an amazing difference in the way I deal with people and problems. Sure, I’ve been reading like crazy, and many of the books I’ve been reading do align with these ideas. But the Usual Error series is a very particular set of lessons and the process that allows us to understand them is very different than just reading a book about a certain way of doing things. In some cases, the triad’s process alone has resulted in mnemonics that hugely assist us in remembering to apply the lessons to our lives. I can read a book six times and still be shaky about applying it if the concepts are not suggested in a way that stick. For some reason, the Usual Error really sticks. Really sticks.

You can visit the Usual Error gals at For me, I am going to start writing Part Two...

Slaying Obligation

“It is much worse than that. The constant reminder of “a million things to do and no time to do them” can worry you not only into tension and fatigue, but it can also worry you into high blood pressure, heart trouble, and stomach ulcers.

Dr. John H. Stokes, professor, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, read a paper before the National Convention of the American Medical Association—a paper entitled “Functional Neuroses as Complications of Organic Disease.” In that paper, Dr. Stokes listed eleven conditions under the title: “What to Look for in the Patient’s State of Mind.” Here is the first item on that list:

The sense of must or obligation; the unending stretch of things ahead that simply have to be done.

~ Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

Like you needed statistics or hard evidence to convince me!

Have you noticed the running theme? We are presented with a mountain of obligation and instead of spurring us on to deal with its massiveness, we are cowed into inaction. There’s nowhere to start, so we don’t start. But this thing is bigger than just our wont to procrastinate. Banishing this monster may also banish the source of our worry and misery. We want to banish this monster!

The first thing I’ve done is implement a Usual Error technique, to be discussed in-depth in a future post: language reform! If I express obligation in any way, one of several potential helpers (including myself) may say, “Would you like to rephrase that more positively?” And immediately the landscape of my brain is changed, and I do not say “I have to do this thing… I should do this thing…” I instead say, “I want to do this thing! I would like to do this thing!” And then I find out if I really want to do it.

And sometimes I don’t do it.

But most of the time, I do do it. And when that happens, it takes on a completely different feeling, not a feeling of obligation and entrapment and inevitability, but instead this feeling of control, a feeling that I hold power over myself and my destiny and, well, my work day! Even the ickiest responsibility is transformed because I have actively made a decision to do that thing, I have decided that I want to do that thing.

And if ultimately I really, truly didn’t want to do it… it was not important enough to be done.

In the Carnegie book I linked to before I got excited about the Usual Error material, above, he goes on to talk about useful ways of dealing with the mountain. For instance, he presents various evidence and his strong suggestion that our personal environment, at home or at work, contributes dramatically to our feeling of obligation (and therefore our undoing!). A clean desk occupied only by the specific, immediate work at hand is a huge solution. A time of day to plan your strategy is also mentioned over and over. My time of day is the early hours of the morning, I’m beginning to notice. When I work late and sleep late, I seem to muddle through most of my day… but when I go to bed at a reasonable hour I tend to wake up, ping, at a certain early hour, and immediately focus my mind on what needs to be done. This morning I woke up and outlined a project for each hour of this fabulous Wednesday, feeling gleefully clear and concentrated, wanting to do this and that and the other thing. For you, it might be better to plan your day the night before, or a few days in advance. What is your particular rhythm? Doesn’t that sound like it might be worth finding out?

In addition to all that, it may be worth sitting down once a week and looking at the goods and bads. This has never been something I wanted to do all that much until I realized how clear it made my thinking. I made a meme-like post not long ago that feels related now. What did I do well? What did I fuck up? How will I do better? Hell, I might like to do this sort of thing every day! It could have an incredible effect on the way I deal with everything under the sun. That feeling you have when you distinctly recall a past reaction, or something you read, and then you all of a sudden change what you usually do into something new and brave, I could have that feeling all the time if I just paid a bit more attention. It’s worth thinking about. And every time I succeed, I want more to succeed again. And suddenly things I felt obligated to do before, I actually desire to do now.

I know I go all evangelical and rambling on you when I make these posts. But this material makes me so excited. It’s such good stuff! It makes me feel good just thinking about it. Well, obviously—I’ve spent the last half hour telling you about it, ha ha. :P