Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanks - my acknowledgement

Yesterday I sent my book to the printer.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who have helped me along the four-year journey of writing The Gift of Stress. I certainly couldn’t have completed this project without the tremendous support of my many friends and colleagues. In particular:

Janice Wright, who helped me get started. Al Desetta, who first put my scattered thoughts and words into one document. Scott Shane Holt and Lyndell Moore, who honed draft after draft. Fran Vogel, Saryn Goldberg and Shreedevi Thacker, who shared much appreciated direction and insight. Kate Addicott, my editor, who sat with me dozens of times and always had the right answer. David Edelstein, one of my oldest friends, who also edited and literally gave shape to the book. Dr. Gideon Orbach, DC, for helping me understand how stress affects the body. Alex Linsker and Michael Weitz, who have helped me be more like myself. Itay Blasenheim, who checks on everything I do. My brother, Ron, who gives the best yay and nay. And my parents,
to whom this book is dedicated, for being honest and enthusiastic.

I also recognize that I could not have learned as much as I have about who I am and what I do without all my workshop attendees, clients, mentors, trainees, coaches, and all the random people I interact with from day to day.

And a happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dealing with perfectionism

Most of the time I'm a big-picture kind of guy, but every once in a while I will get caught up in the minutiae of a project.

You may have heard of the line, "Don't let 'perfect' get in the way of 'good enough.'" I think that's very true, particularly for something subjective and/or evolving (like writing). At some point you have to say, "it's done."

I try to live a life of purpose with high standards. As a result I've put a lot of extra pressure on myself to ensure that I put out something as close to perfect as possible (or at least not inferior). This mindset has resulted in a lot of extra stress. Stress is helpful up to a point (see eustress), but after that it's unproductive (and it always takes a toll on the body).

Fortunately, back in seventh grade science class my friend, Eli, told me, "Zohar, you're perfect minus one."

It was a line he quickly forgot, but it's stuck with me ever since. I can't tell you how much pressure that "minus one" takes off. It gives me permission and acceptance. "Minus one" is really darn close - definitely enough to surpass the "good enough" threshold. And if that's the way I am when I act naturally, well then...

It means my reputation and past performance is solid enough with people who know me to give me the benefit of the doubt - where they expect good things and tolerate or overlook the minus ones.

What about those that don't yet know me? They'll come around. I didn't know the people I currently know until I met them.

I've found that most of the time people get caught up in perfection they've lost touch with (or never had a clear definition) of "good enough."

When in doubt ask for perspective, get some assistance, and reconsider if what's being attempting is worth doing at all.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Moving on from judgment

I'm about to send my book, The Gift of Stress, to the printer.

Back in the days when I was a student I would get judged all the time... for my writing, tests, attendance, etc. Looking back, the nice thing about those days was that you'd get one grade, and then you'd move on.

When I'd perform improv I'd have the same feeling - it was one-and-out. My performance was a one-time thing and if you were in the audience you'd react to it in the moment and then it'd fade. Everyone would move on.

In 5th grade I made a stupid comment in class that a few people teased me about until sometime in high school when it faded. I think it helped that there was no written record. Even then we moved on.

It doesn't work that way for a book that you want a lot of people to read - one that you've billed as the culmination of four years of work. It's easier to write-off a bad appearance on Letterman than a book. People almost expect you to screw up on national television. But a book? You had all the time you wanted for it. In fact, since most books that are started aren't completed there's a higher expectation for it (after all, if it wasn't good you would have given up on it. Right?)

So each person reading it will judge the work. And it will continue to be judged pretty much forever. You can't un-write a book. And these days it's google-able forever.

The bad news is that I still want everyone to love it, or not disagree, or at least cut me some slack. The good news is, that I believe I'm about to share a quality product (and the semi-objective feedback I've gotten has been universally positive).

So what really matters in all this? How I'm feeling in the moment. Is it stress? Is it joy? Something else? Right now I want to feel excitement and joy. oooh, maybe even gliddy!

P.S. I didn't put so much effort into a book just to move on from it (at least that's my perspective right now). I can picture that in a decade or two I'll want people to move on from it and pay attention to my latest brilliant work.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Healing Power of Improv

I just came back from Portland, OR where I co-lead a workshop about health, laughter and stress with Sue Walden.

We discussed:
- The impact of laughter and stress on health
- The impact of laughter on the creative process
- Laughter Yoga exercises
- The Four Intensifiers/Diffusers of Stress
and gave a ton of resources.

You can find a pretty detailed write-up on the Applied Improvisation Network's site.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Going off the beaten path

I went mushroom hunting today for the first time. It was such an innocent thrill to traipse through the brush, over mossy logs, and discover hidden treasures - nature's on-going Easter Egg hunt.

One nagging thought kept gnawing at me. Most times I've gone hiking in the past have been in parks with signs telling me to stay on the trail. Unknown consequences loomed - a warning, a fine, expulsion. Well, that wasn't the case today, but letting go of those recurring thoughts took effort since I'd lived with them for so long. The easiest way was to recognize the pattern I had been tied to and consciously immerse myself in the new experience.

(I got so caught up that I forgot to take my camera out and photograph the hunt or the 3 pounds of chantrelles we picked - the photo in this post is from here.)