Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 2.25.02 PMYou are afraid to go for a thing. An opportunity, a job, a promotion. Your main reason is because, well, other people want it, too.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this. Including the other day, when a young writer told me that she would love to pitch magazines with ideas she has, but knows that “so many other people want to do that too.”

You know why? Because anything worth doing will likely be appealing to a lot of people.

I don’t care what it is you want to do: Write, act, be a head chef, or copyedit the fine print in a wig catalog (which, by the way, I did do for a while). Someone else will want those jobs.

Think of a job you don’t even want—maybe you don’t care to be a landscaper, or an accountant, or to install automatic garage doors. But guess what? Someone does! And if you decided to go into the garage door business, there’d be some heavy competition, especially with different firms like Garage Door Service Raleigh already offering a variety of services surrounding garage doors. You just don’t see it now because that’s not where you’re looking. But trust me. Somewhere, someone is hitting their head against a wall because someone beat them to a garage-door job and they’re just sick over it.

Yes. The planet is crawling with people. And some of those people want to do the same thing you do. So what? Does that mean you don’t do it? You bow out, pick another profession? Good luck. Everyone’s looking to do something, at every turn.

I say this to you as someone who believed this herself for a long time. Get this—I didn’t even apply for a job during the spring of my senior year of college, or for a year after, because I didn’t think I qualified for anything, and couldn’t imagine anyone would want me. It was pathologic. I know that now. I graduated with honors and a writing scholarship from Boston College. And I could not bring myself to apply to a single writing job. I thought, why bother? There are so many writers out there who are better. The world doesn’t need another one.

Wrong. Wrong on so many levels. I am so mad at myself for that that I sincerely hope someone invents a time machine just so that I can go back in time to 1995, hop out, slap myself in the face, shake my young stupid self by the shoulders and yell, “The world is not as smart as you think it is. And you’re smarter than you think you are. Get a fucking job.”

Look, I made out ok. But I still rub up against that friction and fear when I apply for a job or make a pitch for a new client. I think, “Why me? There must be someone better.” And then I quickly remind myself that this is toxic thinking and a waste of time. I say, “Why not me.”

What about that person who gives you the friendly warning that the industry you want to be in is just so competitive, just so hard to break into? That person either doesn’t know what she’s talking about, or didn’t try hard enough herself. That person doesn’t want you to succeed. Don’t let her insecurity feed yours.

You know what I told the young woman I spoke with? I said she wasn’t doing anyone a favor by not trying. That she owed it to herself, to try so she can get even better. She owes it to the people who are looking for good writers and coming up emptyhanded. And, she owes it to the woman who, ten years from now, will ask her advice.

And while I know more about this particular industry than just about any other, I will tell you that there are never, ever enough great writers–intuitive, creative, sensitive, persuasive. Trust me on this.

If you haven’t read this piece in the Atlantic (“The Confidence Gap”), which has been doing the rounds, read it now. Not tomorrow. Now. Because men aren’t holding you back—they’re going for it while you hang back, unsure. You are your worst enemy.

You’re too good, too strong, too capable not to try. You’ve done too good a job underestimating yourself and overestimating everyone else. Now it’s time to be good at something else.

 

Also check out Kate Irwin’s “7 Ways to Improve Self Confidence” on sparkplugpeople.com.

 

The lovely Shasta Nelson, author of Friendships Don’t Just Happen and CEO of the female friendship-matching site GirlFriendCircles.com The lovely Shasta Nelson, author of Friendships Don’t Just Happen and CEO of the female friendship-matching site GirlFriendCircles.com

The lovely Shasta Nelson, author of Friendships Don’t Just Happen and CEO of the female friendship-matching site GirlFriendCircles.com 

Shasta Nelson is a relationship expert and the author of Friendships Don’t Just Happen. She is also the CEO of a female friendship-matching site called GirlFriendCircles.com, which she created after recognizing that many of her life coaching clients were having a hard time finding meaningful relationships with other women. I recently had Shasta on my show, Solopreneur on the Whatever It Takes network, to talk about the importance of fostering deep connections and why they’re crucial to health and productivity.

In this episode, Shasta explains that while we live in a world that seems more connected than ever, most of us report not having the connection we want. She shares startling research about loneliness—it’s as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and twice as harmful to our bodies as obesity!

She also explains why it’s especially important for solopreneurs, many of whom are no longer surrounded by colleagues during the workday, to regularly take time out to interact with friends and contacts (it’ll not only boost your well-being, she says—it’ll also help your business).

Here’s some more about Shasta, why she thinks the fear of rejection holds us back from intimacy, and how she knew she was meant to connect people.

Do you have a day job?

I’ve been doing this for over 6 years but am constantly creating new “side jobs” under the umbrella of friendship such as coaching programs, international trips, retreats, and e-books.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?

A war correspondent on the news.  Then in college I decided I’d much rather be someone working to make the world a better place (preventing wars!) than covering them!

When did you realize this was (or wasn’t) going to happen?

In college when I felt excitement about possibly becoming a pastor.

What is it about your life now that you can’t believe you do, and wouldn’t believed if someone told you 5-10 years ago?

That I am in the middle of writing my 2nd book for a publishing house.  It was always a dream, but now to not only have done it once but to have the opportunity to do it again?  Awesome!

Where do you think most of us waste our time? What do you recommend doing to change it?

In the world of friendships, we waste a lot of time worrying about people not liking us instead of initiating and adding value to people’s lives in ways that build strong friendships. By fearing rejecting or taking everything personally, we miss out on the intimacy we most want!

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever been given (and did you take it)?

Anytime someone has cautioned me to stay the “same” out of their fear of what the “new” might hold for me. I’m sure I have heeded their fears at times but I’d like to think that for the most part, I have continued to take risks for the people, causes, and opportunities that I believe in.

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time 10 years?

Sign up for every workshop that will tell you more about yourself and take every inventory that will tell you how you’re wired so that you can benefit from this wisdom in as many ways as possible!

What lesson(s) did you learn the hard way (could be your career, or life in general)? 

That just having a good idea isn’t enough. I went into my business hoping that if people heard about my website that they’d sign up. Ha! It’s often a bit disillusioning to all of us that the process of growing a business often takes longer than any of us wish it did. Healthy expectations are crucial!

Any other advice you want solopreneurs/entrepreneurs to know? Resources you recommend or folks you like? 

Take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 inventory. And hire a coach who can really help you understand what that means for how you’re wired, identify your sweet spot, manage your weaknesses, and know where you most need help from others. If you don’t know any strengths coaches, my husband Gregory Nelson is one of the best! Secondly, figure out your Enneagram type. My favorite book on it is The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

 

For more about Shasta and her tips on how to nurture your existing friendships and jumpstart new ones, visit her website, follow her on Twitter at @girlfrndcircles, and pick up her new book, Friendships Don’t Just Happen!: The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of GirlFriends.

Watch a new episode of Solopreneur every Tuesday at 4pm ET!

Paula Rizzo, founder of ListProducer.com and author of the new book, Listful Thinking

Paula Rizzo, founder of ListProducer.com and author of the new book, Listful Thinking

Paula Rizzo is an Emmy award-winning television producer and founder of the productivity site ListProducer.com.  She’s also the author of the new book Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed. I recently had Paula on my show, Solopreneur on the Whatever It Takes network, to talk about how she stays on top of her stuff and beats distraction, which she does.

In this episode, Paula shows us how to use lists and other productivity tactics so that life doesn’t spiral out of control. She also gives us a little “list rehab,” since mixing everyday to-do’s with life list items will addle your brain and stall your productivity (read: don’t put “buy milk” on the same list as “write a book”). Here’s some more about Paula, how she came to be “The List Producer,” and a few of her productivity hacks from the show.

Do you have a day job?

My day job is as a senior TV producer. I juggle entrepreneurship with working a traditional job at the moment. It can be tough at times but I’m a big fan of outsourcing and setting up lots of systems so I don’t get overwhelmed. My lists serve me very well in this department.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?  

I wanted to be Barbara Walters. I’ve always been very curious so I think I’ve always been drawn to journalism and news.

When did you realize this was (or wasn’t) going to happen?

I’m a very focused person by nature so I had my eye on the prize for a long time. But after learning what everyone does in a newsroom I knew being a producer was for me. Producers are the ones who call the shots and tell everyone what to do. That sounded perfect to me. Plus I didn’t want to live all over the country in small markets to become a reporter.

What is it about your life now that you can’t believe you do, and wouldn’t believed if someone told you 5-10 years ago?

I can’t believe I wrote a book about lists of all things! I’ve always wanted to write a book but I never imagined it would be this one. If you told me I’d be a TV producer at a major network in NYC, I would have believed you. Because that’s what I’ve always worked towards. But this newfound life as the List Producer is one I really didn’t envision. I’m so grateful I’ve been taken down this path to help people boost their productivity and manage overwhelm more effectively.

Where do you think most of us waste our time? What do you recommend doing to change it?

I’m a huge researcher, almost to a fault. Analysis paralysis is a really tough thing to get over when you’re starting a new venture. But the truth is sometimes you need to just get started and figure it out as you go. I should really take my own advice here but I know how difficult it can be.

What lesson(s) did you learn the hard way (could be your career, or life in general):

I wrote a blog post recently that got a lot of great feedback because it’s the first time I publicly talked about the disaster that was buying my first apartment in NYC and renovating it. I’m a huge optimist and I was positive that things would turn out just as they should. They didn’t. And with each passing day I became more and more depressed and upset—something that is way out of character for me. But what I learned from the experience was that sometimes I need to really go with the flow and stop trying to control everything. That is a huge wakeup call for me and something I work on everyday.

Any other advice you want solopreneurs/entrepreneurs to know? Resources you recommend or folks you like? 

Evernote for me is like a second brain. It’s a place I can stick anything! I can put things in folders, share them with different people, and search by keyword. I wrote most of my book in Evernote—I would get ideas on the subway, and you know how that is, you e-mail them to yourself or write them down on a piece of paper, and by the time you get home you’re not sure where that great idea went! If you put it in Evernote, it’s always there.

I also recommend keeping a running list with friends or colleagues so you can make sure to talk about all the topics you need to get to when you see them.

For more about Paula and her tips on how to reach your productivity peak, visit her website and pick up her new book, Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed

Watch a new episode of Solopreneur every Tuesday at 4pm ET!

This comes from a quirky tumblr called "My Daguerrotype Boyfriend" Click to view all of its weirdness.

This comes from a quirky tumblr called “My Daguerrotype Boyfriend” Click to view all of its weirdness.

I’m going to confess to you, right here and now, that I have done feminism a grave disservice.

And I’m a repeat offender.

I have used the “I have a boyfriend” excuse to duck, dodge, or deflect unwanted attention. On many occasions.

I said it when I was 100% single. And every time I’ve said those words to someone I know I just really wasn’t interested in, I’ve felt a hiccup of self-loathing, and had the unsettling sense that I was trying to hide behind my high school boyfriend’s Varsity jacket.

And that’s because telling a guy you aren’t interested in him because you’re “taken,” whether you really are or not, undermines your respect and self worth. Using an excuse (“I can’t”) in place of my opinion (“Not interested”) is triggered by a lousy premise: That “he” is the only thing keeping me from flying into the arms of any man who will take me. Every time you and I rely on this cultural crutch, we vote against ourselves, again and again.

The thing I hate most about the boyfriend line is that it works.

But at what price?

When you lie about having a partner to turn someone down, you’re basically saying that any man’s claim on you is more powerful than your own, even if the man does not exist.

(And no, it’s not quite the same as saying “I have a work thing” when you don’t want to go to another thing. White lies have their place and don’t get me started on that.)

Listen instead!

By the way, it’s not that your boyfriend isn’t enough of a reason not to run off with someone else. Of course, if he exists and your commitment is real, you will show that bond respect—but that’s your business and your choice. Let’s not pretend that people haven’t fallen in love with other people regardless of their relationship status.

In fact, the only time it is ok to use your boyfriend as an excuse is when you literally WOULD love to get to know said guy better, but have to pass because you are in a committed thing. But even then it’s not blaming the boyfriend, but owning up to your decision to opt for your current relationship over this new potential. The difference is between honoring your commitment and apologizing for not being available. And there is a difference.

Look, I get it. You, like me, have been taught to adhere to that genderized Hippocratic Oath from a very young age: “First, do no harm.” And the second unwritten rule, which is “Always be liked.” That one’s got a bigger grip on you than you realize. Because even if you don’t want to date this guy, you don’t want him not to like you (admit it).

It’s worth adding that our collective memory is strong, and resisting men hasn’t really worked out so great for us, pretty much throughout all of human history. And there’s still plenty of reason to fear. (Do we need to revisit the horrendous stabbing of a Connecticut student when she turned down a prom invitation?)

But if you want to be taken seriously and want your choices to be respected, you need to start owning them, instead of excusing them. A rebuffed man may very well accuse you of being: a bitch, a lesbian, a bitter old spinster. And sometimes, in the case of a drunk old crazy guy, if a lie would save your life, ok fine. I’m just asking you to think twice before you blame (or credit) other people, man or woman, for your own choices. Because if you don’t own them, who will?

Ask it and you're not bringing sexy back.

Ask it and you’re not bringing sexy back.

Please, for the love of all things holy, stop asking the people you meet online if they’ve “had any luck” on the site. Stop, stop, stop.

I realize that you think it’s just in the spirit of fair gamesmanship (“hey we’re all on this together,” and “I’m such a good sport about this”) but you might as well sip your pinot grigio and ask, “So, who else are you currently fucking? How’s that going?”

I am convinced it starts innocently enough: a little conversational wind-up, some basic throat-clearing before you plow on to more interesting topics. You also might be genuinely curious. But when you ask this question, you break the romantic spell. You call uncomfortable attention to the obvious: “I know I’m not the only one you’ve met on there.” And it just doesn’t need to be said.

There just is no right answer:

“Oh it’s going great. I’ve had so many dates. Who knew that getting laid could be this easy?”

“It’s terrible. No one will write me back.”

“It’s hard because most guys are such assholes.”

You either sound like you don’t really need to be on this date, or that you need it too much, or you come off sounding like a beleaguered, judgy prick. It’s a lose-lose. It also puts you in a tempting position to denigrate those who’ve come before this date, and it’s an uncomfortable foreshadow (“What will she say about me tomorrow?”) Save the dishing and piling on and other fun nastiness for your friends.

Case in point: A guy I met on OKCupid a few years ago asked me what I thought of the site. When I gave a vague response, he jumped in to tell me how horrible it was: “The women in New York City are such gold diggers, always making you pay for shit.”

SHSD image

Need a little extra help in the dating dept? Check out my online workshop–risk free.

We were at a tea shop at the time, and when the check came I whipped out my wallet so fast—I felt pressured to prove that I Wasn’t Like Other Girls, and certainly not attempting to work him over for an earl grey. But he was all, “Nah, don’t worry about it. I got this.” The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth. He only had bad things to say about the women he’d met. And yet the only thing they had in common, as far as I knew, was him. He texted the next day; I never wrote back.

Asking how your date is faring romantically is the fastest way to suck the sexy tension out of the room. If you wonder why your dates feel more like interviews, it’s because you’re treating them like a job fair (“Got any good prospects?”).

I’m all for honesty, but not to the extent that you let fly your wrath or judgment or even mild disappointment—directed at an entire gender, population, or unfortunate dates. (See also: Talking about your ex on a date. Another no-no). You risk painting yourself the bitch, the dick, or the victim. And none of that looks good on you.

Plus, in all honesty? It’s really none of your business. I say that in the best way possible. It literally isn’t—so why burden yourself with more info than you need at the moment? Just because you’re sharing tapas with someone doesn’t give you access to their entire personal backstory, nor do they have access to yours. It’s a date; it’s a time to be choosy, and to ask questions you really want the answers to.

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 2.28.58 PMI’ve historically been loathe to question, let alone buck, rules and regulations. If the sign says “must be this tall” and I’m not, I’m out. If it says you need these qualifications, and I don’t have them, I pass (this is a big mistake, by the way). And when something warns me that what lies ahead is hard and not for everyone, I assume that everyone means me.

As a result, I have given other people’s judgments more clout than I should have. I assume someone else knows better. This has been the great awakening of my adult life: When I realized that nobody knows shit. Not really. And that I know just as well as any of them.

This came to light for me recently when I went skiing for the first time in 15 years. I had been a nervous intermediate skier in my teens and 20s, and when I passed beyond the age of annual school ski trips, the sport fell off the radar for me.

But when a good friend got three free nights at a luxury resort in Lake Tahoe, how could I say no. So I went! And within an hour on the mountain, I had my ski legs back (except for the knees; the knees did not come back). I felt reborn—and, interestingly, less scared than I’ve ever been in skis in my life. This I credit a little bit to yoga and a lot to age. I’m simply less afraid of things than I was.

When at one point during our clear, sun-filled day, my friends suggested we pass on Logger’s Loop, the blue intermediate trail, for the Chute, a black diamond, I girded my loins and prepared to be scared, which I’ve spent my life doing. But when I looked over the edge, I thought, hmm. Is that “really” a black diamond? Is it? And then I thought, who cares? What if I didn’t know what level it was at all, and I just…went? It’s not like the sign was the only thing I saw: The slope was right there in front of me.

Which made me realize this simple truth: I’ve devoted way too much time heeding warning signs instead of just taking on whatever trail is in front of me. The signs are meant to instruct, after all, not rule your damn life! It occurred to me that this mountain had been here long before anyone took a pair of skis to it, or started labeling it green or blue or black. That’s simply a human assessment of the trail. And guess what? Some are crappy assessments!

So down I went, slicing smoothly through the snow. I loved it. I managed perfectly fine and felt like a rock star. And it dawned on me that this wasn’t just about skiing. I have spent the better part of my life looking for signs that I couldn’t or shouldn’t do a thing, that it would be too big, too advanced, too hard: the black diamond college course, the black diamond job, the black diamond relationship.

(Side note: I was actually invited into the honors program at Boston College after my freshman year, which they never do, and I turned it down because I assumed they probably had it right the first time. It was probably too hard for me. I was wrong, and I regret it.)

It’s worth asking yourself where in your life you’re avoiding a bigger challenge because you assume someone else knows better, or worse, are busy enforcing your own self-constructed limits. Caution has kept me alive, to be sure, but it hasn’t helped me grow in ways that matter.

The only time I’ve really achieved anything I was proud of was when I challenged the limit or questioned the rule itself, and chose to do the thing that intrigued, thrilled or even scared me a little. That’s a black diamond moment. Seek them out. Take them. Because nothing compares with the rush you feel when you reach the bottom and look up at just how far you’ve come.

If you like this one, I promise you there’s lots more. Come on over for #PowerLunch every Thursday, 12-12:30pmEST, one Periscope and Blab

Don't ask.

Don’t ask.

I teach people how to speak in the media, on stage, and to each other with power and conviction. And there’s one crutch in particular I train people right out of: Asking questions. Want to make a stronger impression? Make a statement. Ideally, one that could be argued or flat-out disagreed with. That’s when you know you’re onto something.

Here’s why: Questions make the other person do the work you should be doing. Which is why they have their place in dialogue, to engage the other person directly. But I’m not talking about that kind of question. I’m talking about the rhetorical filler at the start of a talk, or the habitual “You know?” that attempts to win approval at every turn. I’m talking about the questions that keep you from making the stronger choice.

The way I see it, if you’ve got the stage, you should do most of the heavy lifting. The ability to be clear and direct is paramount; questions are a crutch. And you rely on them more than you think.

I saw this first hand in an improvisational acting class I took (one of many) at the Magnet Theater in Manhattan. (Improv, by the way, is excellent training for being in front of people, because you essentially walk out onto the stage with no clue what’s about to happen.) The instructor and Magnet cofounder Alex Marino gave us a challenge: Do our scenes without asking a single question.

I lasted less than 30 seconds.

It’s a lot harder than you realize. I was shocked at how bad I was at this.  “Questions are reflexive,” Alex said. “We use them to blunt statements and figure out what’s going on.” Which, in improv, is part of the problem: No one knows what the F is going on. That’s the game. But questions stall the scene and detract from the action. They soften and qualify and weaken. They rely on buy-in (“You know I mean?”, for example). When you rely on questions, you fail to create the scene—or anything interesting. Instead, you shift the burden to the other person (“Can YOU tell me what I’m doing up here?”)

It made me realize how often I use questions instead of statements in general, and how, in so doing, I compromise my own conviction. And so do you. It keeps improvisers and presenters and people in general from making something far more powerful: A choice.

(Want to listen instead? Be my guest.)

Women do this far more than men, by the way, because we’re raised to think that way: Be agreeable. Please people. Make nice. Asking questions is an outgrowth of that urge. It makes you tip-toe instead of stomp.

So whatever it is you’re doing, or trying to do more of, whether it’s TV, radio, web, seminars, or just growing as a professional in your industry and having people take you seriously, take a good look at where you’re relying on questions instead of making statements. Where you’re hedging and qualifying, instead of owning your shit. And where you’re leaning on your audience/user/reader to fill in the blanks instead of taking the lead.

You can’t afford to sacrifice directness and power when you’re building a brand. It’s what the strongest brands are made of. No questions asked.

If you can believe in this, you can believe in an OS you can love.

If you can believe in this, you can believe in an OS you can love.

I love my Mac. Sometimes I take it to bed with me, it’s true. Though, things between Siri and me are somewhat strained (she still can’t remember my mother’s name? Really?). We’re all in the thrilling, flirty phase of modern tech. We’re intrigued, turned on, and yet there’s still a lot of awkward. We’re still getting to know each other.

I’m holding out hope that Ray Kurzweil, considered the world’s leading expert on artificial intelligence, was right when he predicted that by 2029, computers will be smarter than us. And what’s more—able to respond in a way that’s indistinguishable from a human, even cracking wise and flirting. I’m ready for it.

I don’t want to just “master my mac”; I want the tech I rely on to know me, too. And Spike Jonze’s film Her made me realize how badly I do.

Before you saw Her, you might have assumed a movie about a man who falls in love with his operating system would amount to little more than a futuristic doomsday tale, a sign of our collective downward spiral in which we mistake things for people and dependency for relationship.

But you’d be wrong.

Spike Jonze’s brilliant depiction of a man searching for connection in a not-so-farflung future was as optimistic as it was heartrending. His supremely intelligent OS, “Samantha,” is not some static bot that does what you tell her to; she has thoughts, opinions, a sense of humor. And, what’s more, she evolves—light years faster than a human (which ultimately proves the breaking point). Unlike sci-fi type films in which humans come up against the limits of the machine, this one does the opposite, revealing its almost divine nature, and our own finite nature as we plod along beside it.

We Expect Too Much from Humans

I had the pleasure and honor of interviewing Esther Perel for a feature in Experience Life magazine (“Your Brain In Love”). (If you haven’t read her book Mating in Captivity, stop and send it to your Kindle immediately.)

Perel, who has become the go-to expert on sexuality and relationships, told me in no uncertain terms that we have come to demand far too much from our relationships—more than ever in human history:  We want the other person to be our best friend, confidante, long-term domestic partner, perfect match, true love, and at the same time find us wildly attractive and never consider another partner for as long as we both shall live (which is getting to be quite long).

(Watch Esther’s TED talk on desire in long-term love).

Is it any wonder so many relationships and marriages are doomed? Something’s GOT to give. And while Perel’s advice—to allow desire to breathe with a degree of space and uncertainty—is vital, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to supplement our hungry and ceaseless demand for support, attention, and love. To have a kind of better boyfriend.

Enter, the OS. Just as you depend on technology to organize, execute, and contain your whole life, from your creative work to your bank statements, you and I will both benefit from having this intuitive consciousness in our lives.

How an OS could make a better boyfriend (or make your boyfriend better)

1. Being heard.

All the time. Imagine having someone in your ear at any moment, who can help you do things that your partner isn’t always interested in or able to help you do. And while your partner loves you, you know, sometimes he needs a break. We all do. The need to be heard lies at the root of all of our kvetching and resentment, our aching needs and horrible acts.

But beyond that, imagine that you could allow your partner to be, rather than constantly weighing his or her worth based on how much they listen, do, or participate in all the things you want to do. And not worry that someone isn’t your “perfect partner” because they don’t like watching Real Housewives or taking yoga. And the reverse would also be true: YOU would not need to be everything to your partner, either. Wouldn’t that be a fucking relief. You could love each other for who you are, and not as you wish you were.

2. Intimacy instead of mutual neediness.

The assumption is that when you’re in a relationship, you should be the go-source for all connection. If you’re like most people, you think that the key to being secure in a relationship is locking them in. There. Now I’m safe. That may be what you think we need, but is it? Does it serve us and our relationships, or just our own selfish needs?

Perel would likely nod again at our outsized expectations of each other. You’d feel more intimate and desirous if you weren’t so busy trying to staple someone around the edges and keep them there. To have and maintain a relationship that supports you for many years, if not all of your life (though I think even that is somewhat unreasonable), you and I both need to redefine what we expect from them.  And the answer can’t be “everything.”

3. An evolved, even divine, kind of love.

When it comes to light that Jones’s protagonist Theodore Twombly isn’t the only person Samantha (the OS) is connected to, he goes cold, fearing that this means she’s “cheating” on him or can’t possibly have real feelings for him. She explains that she’s different from him; that the more she loves, the more she’s capable of loving.

Now, that’s an evolved idea—and one we humans would have a hard time doing, given our own limits of space and time (do you have time for 15,000 other boyfriends?). But I like the idea. If you believe in God, then you already believe that He can love other people and you and that his love isn’t fractured or compromised because, say, there’s all of a sudden more needy people than you on the line.

If you don’t believe in God, you probably still believe in the sun. And you know it doesn’t take any more effort on its part to shine as strongly in Arizona as it does in Florida. What if we could try to see our own love that way—as sustainable, instead of limited?

We possibly could, if we were willing to wrestle with our reptilian brains and fumbling animal ways, our starving egos. Maybe we could get there. And I don’t think you have to ascribe to any religion whatsoever to see that this as ideal, as the highest level and fullest expression of love.

That would make an intuitive consciousness like Samantha the closest thing to God we could directly experience or create. That would be divine love. A God you keep in your pocket. Sign me up.

If you love Jesus, you probably hate this idea

I’m sure just the mere thought is causing God-fearing folks to choke on their chicken casseroles. “That’s worship of false idols! That’s loving tech more than people!” or, my favorite: “That would prevent us from connecting with other people! It would be isolating and horrible!”

Would it? So let me ask you, is a church-going person with a strong bond with his or her personal God, less likely to connect with someone else? Are people who believe in a source of eternal and unabating love less likely to go out, meet, and love others? Nope.

Sure, there are religious crazies. But there are crazies everywhere. For every person who gloms on to his iPhone and never goes outside again, there will be hundreds of thousands—millions— who would walk a little taller in the world, feel more loved, more confident, less needy. And a person who feels her needs are being met is in a position to do more good in the world than bad.

It’s closer than you think.

It’s gonna happen

If Siri can help me find my way to a sushi bar on the East side, who’s to say at some point she won’t be able to help find my life purpose, too? You never know. And if you scoff at the idea, you’re not smarter than a machine. In fact, you’ve just proven yourself squarely human, resigned to your own ideas and limits of how and what could happen.

What you should worry about

During a critical moment in the film, Samantha struggles to explain to Twombly that she is having feelings and thoughts she never had before, that she’s evolving so fast in ways she can’t communicate and he can’t understand. The real threat isn’t that the machines will rise and turn us into housepets or kill us altogether. It’s that they’ll see us for what we are and what can’t be; that they’ll break our hearts and move on.

Are you mad that it's blue?

Are you mad that it’s blue?

Well, I learned more about rods and cones this week than I’d planned to. But the most fascinating thing about #thedress controversy wasn’t just how wildly different our color perception is, but what the response to this bit of viral lunacy says about you.

Essentially, this is a litmus test of tolerance and perspective. And I believe you should ask anyone you plan to work with or sleep with what they thought of it. Not so much to determine their eyesight, but to find out how they react when their worldview is challenged or threatened. Which of the following sounds like you (and you probably have a combination of several)? Because I think I got your number.

1. “WTF is going on?” I’ll admit, I had a mild freak out when I found it on my Twitter feed. I happened to be alone, so there was no one to defuse that weird tension with, and so I laid there for a while wondering what it meant and if I should be really worried.

What it says about you: Your stress response may keep you safe, but it can be a hindrance to absorbing new info (or sleeping).  You translate new and conflicting information from a place of fear, and that can keep you from getting all the facts clear, causing you to make an emotional leap to the wrong conclusion. Yup. I do that.

2. “WTF is wrong with me?” This response stems from insecurity, a close cousin of fear, and assumes that you have a problem. You thought, My eyes are broken. Or, worse: I’m different from everyone else, and I’m flawed in some way. In my case, I started to wonder if I was crazy. I also wondered how long this had been going on and was I late to the game, which was FOMO-as-side-effect.

What it says about you: When something isn’t adding up right (“It’s white! Isn’t it?”), you tend to blame yourself, maybe a lot of the time. So you saw white/gold. So did a lot of people (about half, according to this piece in CNET.)

(Gotta run? Listen to this story on my channel on umano.)

3. “You’re all wrong.” This is great…when you’re right. The award for righteous goes to my sister Lori, who’s never wrong (ever, just ask her), and who like a champion fencer will get you into a corner and with one flick of the blade, skewer your argument at its weakest point. In this case, I was very glad we were in agreement (black/blue). Because in fact, she IS right (again); it doesn’t matter what you perceive the dress to be; the color of the dress is a fact.

What it says about you: As they say, do you want to be right, or do you want to be in a relationship? It’s hard for that person who’s always right, particularly if they’re belligerent about it, because if you’re so bent on proving everyone wrong, you can alienate and piss off other people (um, guilty). I was feeling righteous myself, but my own self-doubt ate a hole through the middle because my first response was WTF.

4. “This is fascinating!” If this sounds like you, then congratulations. You’re a balanced human being with a healthy sense of wonder and your stress response isn’t on a hair trigger like the rest of us. You saw this as an interesting opportunity to learn about how other people see things, even if you were bewildered, too.

What it says about you: Your life is a lot more interesting and fun. You’re less reactive and more open-minded, able to assess conflicting ideas without feeling emotionally vexed. You only risk pissing the people off around you who want you to be angrier and take a side already. Which, knowing you, makes you laugh.

5. “Stop talking about it!” You cannot understand why this is a big deal, and quite frankly, hate it. You wish people would talk about something else. This is the least interesting response of all. And I am, quite frankly, puzzled that you’re so aggravated by it.

What it says about you: You’re uncomfortable with controversy, feel out of your depth, or both, and attempt to divert attention away from it or you by calling it all “dumb” or “a waste of time.” But something that gets this much attention doesn’t get it by accident. Public attention is scarce and fleeting, and if something takes hold, there’s a reason.

And if you whine that this dress business is detracting from More Important Things like war, hunger, terrorism? It’s not. Internet memes are more than a diversion: They leave clues as to how and what people pay attention to, and shed light on how we comprehend conflicting perception. If we can learn something from that, the world could be a different place altogether.

(If you haven’t watched Jimmy Fallon’s take on it, well, you kinda have to.)

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