If Only We’d Made Cheese in High School Chemistry Class

My mother likes to tell people what I said about chemistry class, “I don’t know why anyone would care about the rate of a reaction. I don’t even care about the reaction itself.”

This, coming from the daughter of two biochemists.

I’ve always loved science, but failing at one type forever brands you a flunkie.

And yet, I’ve spent more hours than I can count creating science on the stove, in the oven and, unfortunately, in the fridge of the bluish-green variety.

Chemistry was never so fun than at a recent cheesemaking class with cheese whiz Mary Rosenblum (and science-fiction author). Thanks to SlowFood Portland (organizers) and to Chef Robert Reynolds Chef Studio (use of space). Continue reading

Which Doors Will You Close So Others Can Open?

When one door is closed, don’t you know, another is open. —Bob Marley

With the closing of the year, December is a perfect time to consider the doors you’re keeping open, the doors you have yet to open and, often more importantly, the doors to consider closing. Not slamming. Not locking. Just closing. (You can always reopen them.)

I talk a lot about closing doors so you can open others, not because it’s easy for me to do! It’s because I know it has to be done in order to conserve energy, create success, explore new opportunities and maintain enthusiasm for your work.

We keep doors open that are better shut, and for good reason.

We fear a potential loss. We’re hard-wired to avoid loss, a concept called loss aversion. Barry Schwartz talks about it in his book, “Paradox of Choice.” Even if a loss will really be our gain, we often make decisions that don’t benefit us because the primal part of our brain kicks in. Just by knowing this, you can override that automatic response and make a different decision.

You will always have a loss, but you will always have a gain, too. The problem is, the gain is unknowable and the thing we have is knowable. It might suck, but at least it’s familiar. We also don’t want to disappoint people, another form of loss aversion.

Opening a new door takes energy and time. Yes and no. It depends on the door. Most of us are so risk averse that we’re not likely to open a brand new door so wide that an ocean of possibility rushes in that we suddenly have to deal with. And remember that we’re also closing doors.

We have to figure out what we want. Many of us work on auto pilot and we also do what is nearest or easiest or most crisis-oriented. We rarely leave time for the kind of reflection that can open up new opportunities. This affects all of us — the in-house marketing or project manager, the sole proprietor, the small business owner.

Other people are involved. If you work for or with other people, closing doors might be a little trickier. You have to justify a change. But maybe your staff plugging away at an effort that isn’t beneficial. Or you’re working with companies that don’t bring out the best in you. Maybe you can’t seize another opportunity because your time and effort is tied up elsewhere. You might need to step up and gently closes a door.

………….

Years ago, I got rid of a large part of my book collection. I thought it was sacrilege but I wanted to simplify my surroundings. I created three piles: Keep, Get Rid Of and Maybe. I let the Maybe pile sit for a few days. I discovered I kept books I thought I should read but didn’t really want to. They were a cognitive drain. I got clear with what I was really curious about, what made me feel expanded and what I deeply wanted to learn, which meant having to acknowledge the opposite.

Business and work decisions are more complicated than books. But most likely, you don’t need to think about which doors to close; you already know what they are. Look at your business efforts that leave you anxious, frustrated, bored, unappreciated, angry or uncertain. The doors to open? They say those will open magically, but only when you’re courageous enough to close some first.

You have good and important things to offer. You have to make sure that the right doors are open for those things (and the right people) to move freely about.

Good luck! And if you have a good door-closing story to share, I’d love to hear it.

To Know Where You’re Going, Know Who You’re Walking Towards

It is always easier to do than to plan to do. We often have an internal knowing about where we’re going and what we want to accomplish, whether it’s a visionary decision or a single project. So we skip the meaningful questions that help us chart the best path.

But the hard questions that stop you in your tracks are also proof that you’re getting somewhere. They involve thinking critically about who you are and why you do what you do. They call to mind selling and marketing, which most of us avoid.

But most of all, we’re not clear about who we’re walking towards. Or we’re walking towards everyone and no one. Continue reading