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Friday, August 18, 2006


Strange Conclusions

I was thrilled to read this post by the Drs. Eide about a reworking of the oft-quoted study where four-year-old children are given a choice. In the 1960s version, they were left alone in a room with a marshmallow, and told that they could have one marshmallow now, or wait 20 minutes and have two marshmallows. The conclusion usually drawn is that those children who chose not to wait have poor impulse control; and they examined their SATs at 18 and found that they scored lower. Here's the wiki, incomplete but better than nothing.

Anyway this experiment and the conclusions drawn from it about impulse control and emotional intelligence have always bothered me. As a kid, I can quite easily see me not believing a strange adult in a white coat when they told me this story about getting two marshmallows - eventually. Or, believing that my ability to charm the second marshmallow out of them regardless of whether I ate the first or not would save the day. I actually didn't even like marshmallows as a kid, and most probably I would have just sat there with it for 20 minutes, perhaps seeing how small I could squish it or pretending it was an alien or using it as an ear plug. But eating it? Nah.

Now I never took the SATs but I bet I would have screwed their curve right up, as a gifted kid with a huge imagination and an attitude to match. And I bet there are thousands more reasons why a four-year-old might decide to eat a marshmallow, or not, to do with their past experience of strange adults, or even experience with their own inconsistent parents or caregivers. There are plenty of ways to be in the world and most of them are "successful" by one standard or another. The issue here, I think, is which children were more suited to the standard systems and procedures, which involve standard motivations and actions, which are rewarded by standard tests like the SAT. I bet they never had a check-box for "Ate marshmallow. Had a twenty-minute tantrum, inducing mother to buy second marshmallow from research assistant."

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Friday, August 11, 2006


Moved to Calgary

Thanks to Anonymous for pointing out that I haven't even mentioned my move to Calgary on this blog. There's a bit of a story to this....

We decided to move to Calgary and we found a great place for the beginning of May. Now I have my own office in the basement which is great! We have a lot more house for our money here, and I'm loving this town. So why didn't I mention it?

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed a big swatch of nothingness in April and May as we made our move. I felt completely discombobulated by the whole process and I didn't want that feeling to tinge my business. I had no idea how to handle telling people I was leaving the province while convincing them that I am willing to travel anywhere to give workshops. I still don't, although I love to travel - in fact I'm off to Minneapolis tomorrow to do just that.

It seems like a trivial reason now, but what can I say, fear is always irrational. I have those business guru gremlins in my head who are whispering nonsense about stability and establishing a market presence and the value of predictabilty, and this time I listened. Thanks again to Anonymous for making me "come out". Beware listening to your fear!

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006


New Project

Hey guys, guess what! I got a new gig!

I'm going to be teaching communications part-time, on contract, at SAIT starting in a couple of weeks. This is extremely thrilling for many reasons, not least the impact it will have on my cash flow and my social circle here in Calgary.

I am concerned, however, that there will be a whole segment of my experience that I probably shouldn't blog about if I want to keep the job. It's one of those big institutions that I assume has a policy about this kind of thing, and I don't want to get fired for talking about work in public like my dear bloggers Dooce and Meg. I have railed against this unreasonable restriction on free speech here, but now that it might be my neck on the chopping block, I'm feeling a lot less brave.

However, this fear does not extend to the way I'm going to teach these courses. I'm going to make this required first-year course a total blast and substantive learning experience for my students. Everything I have done so far in my business and life has been pointing toward this and it's shown up just in time to save me from having to go back to executive assistant work. I'm going to be able to continue building my coaching business and finish my book, because it's part time. And there's more than enough new work and new people to keep me interested!

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Monday, August 07, 2006


SENG Conference - Part 4

The last thing I simply must share with you was my experience of watching Annemarie Roeper give a presentation on the first evening. It was the most electric, real, and useful session of the whole conference.

The topic was "Growing Old Gifted". There was a great anticipation of her speech because she has been highly influential in the field of gifted education, and shows no signs of stopping now. A tiny elderly lady dressed in white, she was introduced and the interview format began.

Annemarie began to talk as she had planned but soon ditched her format and began to cry. She had just heard the news that she was to be a great-grandmother - that one of her granddaughters is pregnant. This overwhelmed her with emotions. She was profoundly grateful that she had been saved from the Nazis by the incredibly courageous actions of her late husband, and deeply touched that her family and work was allowed to flower in the US as a result. The happy news took her to unexpected memories and a tracing of connections in her life that had made it possible. A reasoned exposition of getting older as a gifted person became impossible - and unnecessary - as she explained to us why this event meant so much to her.

It was the most beautiful thing to witness her presence and emotion - the reality of being gifted, the great sensitivity and deep feeling than so often occur in this population, leading to a keen awareness of the beauty and fragility of life. It was a rare example of someone exposing their giftedness and being extremely vulnerable in front of 400 people. It was true leadership.

Afterwards, I thanked Annemarie for her session and she expressed her disappointment at her performance because she hadn't given any information about growing old gifted, as she had planned. As I said to her, that's why it was so incredibly valuable. She didn't tell us; she showed us.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006


Coaches coaching Coaches

Thanks to Morris for asking a great question. Why do coaches need coaches? Why can't coaches survive in the world without that kind of support?

Sometimes people have this image of coaches, therapist, counsellors etc., as people who have all of their issues and problems sorted out. After all, they have been to school for this stuff, so they should be able to put it into practice in their own lives, right? Otherwise, perhaps they don't have any business telling others to do it!

The truth is for me, and many other coaches, it is even harder to see what I am doing that is getting in my way precisely BECAUSE of my training. I can talk myself out of things incredibly well. Don't feel like going to the gym? It's self-care! Want to avoid making that difficult phone call? I'm just following my intuition - perhaps it's just not "meant to be"!

I've warned my coach about my slippery behaviour and she holds my feet to the fire, holding me accountable, reminding me what I told her I wanted for myself. As I grow and get to doing even scarier and more difficult things, I need her support and encouragement to stay out on my learning edge. I feel that the best thing I can give my clients is the assurance that I, too, am constantly pushing myself to grow, and loving every second of it. I can only inspire that in my clients if I am doing it myself.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006


SENG Conference - Part 3

So much is going on right now, but I really feel it's important to keep debriefing my SENG Conference experience in the background.

One session I attended was given by Kimberly McGlonn-Nelson about meeting the social and emotional needs of gifted African-American girls. I learnt about things like the Video Ho culture and the incredibly pervasive nature of music video/video game stereotypes for young people. I was surprised to realize that I had a lot of assumptions about teenage culture, based on my own teen years, that are simply wrong for today's teens - and I am only 32. It was definitely an eye opener and I made sure to thank Kimberly at the end.

The thing I appreciated most, however, was the frank nature of our discussion about race and minority. It is the first semi-public occasion I have had to learn about race in North America where I felt free to be honest and speak my mind, as others were clearly doing. Most of the time, whenever I bring up race, people immediately back away from the topic or hide their truths behind politically correct facades. I understand that it's a hot button issue for people and I really need to know more about this stuff! I was raised in a monoculture, where there were only two non-white girls in my whole year at school. I have no idea of the particular pressures, and therefore could blindly make things worse. Kimberly did help me see some small areas where I could make a difference - but only because we were all admitting to being clueless, not trying to portray an enlighted image.

I strongly believe that the more emotion and charge attached to talking about something, anything, the more vital it is to talk about it. If we don't, it just festers, as assumptions grow unchecked and become dogma. The current inability to talk openly about racial issues gives us no opportunity to examine our prejudices and learn more useful ways of being and thinking. I am grateful for this rare chance to grow.

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