Why Success Is Like a Jalopy

I used to have a narrow definition of success: professional advancement. Because I had very little of that as a mother and as a writer, I felt like a failure. Now, my definition of success is different. I think of it as a system. And when the system is operating, I feel successful.

Getting Back on Track Successfully

Now seems like a good time to check in with those New Year resolutions. It’s the end of February, and my email inbox and Twitter feed are full of strategies for implementing habits, keeping resolutions, and bits about why We Are Failing To Do So. When I say “we” I mean me. I was struggling to get my routine back on track. I have resolutions to keep me busy.

Mastery and Success

Most of practice is failing. For example, an ice skater spends every practice trying to refine upon and improve technique to accomplish the next challenge, the next turn, inevitably more complicated than the previous one. She spends most of that time trying and falling, trying and falling, until she manages her triple lutz. Then it’s on to the quadruple.

Balancing Negative and Positive to Achieve Success

I’m liking this damaged people, damaged microwave analogy. I could really run with it. But is it what I want to get into? The point is, if there is a point, that once you get to know even those microwaves that look fully functional, those microwaves with deluxe features, even those combination convection oven-microwave ovens, their defects become apparent.

Nap Your Way to Success. Or Death.

I’ve been binging on the - what shall I call it? - the Self-Care, the Maintenance, and it’s got to stop. Physical therapy, regular therapy, facials, waxing, hair cuts, Pilates. A massage. I’m living like a millionaire, which I’m not. I have so many appointments I hardly have a free day anymore.

The Undergarments (the Lingerie?) of Success

It has been a long time since I posted here. I don’t know why. That’s not entirely true. I do know why, in part. Because of me. Me and my tendency to lock myself up in internal conflict. Which is why I began this success blog – to unlock myself. That I’m still prone to locked internal conflict these many months – okay, let's be honest, years - later, is discouraging.

Dress for Success

"What’s this focus on French chic?” The husband asked the other day. I was embarrassed he’d noticed. Although, really, how could he not have? Instead of reading our book club book for our upcoming meeting, I’d read three books on fashion and style. Plus, I'd been spending a lot of time reading style blogs by women over forty. The interest was both literal and symbolic.

Fifty

50 is of course a highly symbolic birthday. On the other hand, as others remind me, it’s just a day. It’s not as if I’m going to change radically on that day. In fact, in anticipation of it, I’m having my breakdown ahead of time. I already feel fifty, if fifty has a feeling, in that I think of myself as fifty already.

Calvin and Tiger Mom and Me

8:45 a.m. I’m going for my first colonoscopy, Readers. I’d like to tell you that I am approaching this milestone with sang-froid, with insouciance, or even with stoicism; but alas, I am approaching it with my usual mix of abject anxiety and fear. It’s at these times that I confront the chasm between the real me and the me I'd like to be.

Winter Follies

Readers, it’s January, a new year, and I feel a metaphor coming on. God help me, I do. A clichéd metaphor about cars and drivers. I apologize. I am helpless before it. All I can do is put it out there for us all.

Am I a Millenial

“Most creative artists, even successful ones, are not able to earn a living.” That’s what the article says. You know, it’s good to see that in print. And bad. Most of all, it’s a relief. Of course it’s the final dousing of any idea I had of, um, making a living from my writing. From my creative writing, that is. But it lifts one burden of failure from me.

Envy and Jealousy as Gifts

Many of us are seriously cultivating gratitude in order to shape our brains to be more positive, and not just on Thanksgiving. As I said, this is all to the good. Every little degree positive anyone turns has got to be good for all of us. As long as there’s no deviation into smarminess. Smarminess is just aggressive do-gooding.

Fall Back, Then Leap In

Thought for November: I’m challenging myself. That’s my new plan. Not that I don’t challenge myself. I mean, writing a book is a challenge. Only I haven’t been writing that book consistently enough to feel like I’m really in it, really doing it.

System Breakdown is Part of the System

The other day I went on the treadmill with my old friend Kimberly the StarTrac coach, and even though I’ve been jogging outside, the treadmill whipped me. That is pretty pitiful, since people say the treadmill is easier than running outside. Since everyone including me knows sports function allegorically, I left the gym feeling not only exhausted, but depressed.

5 Secrets of Sustainable Success By Billy Jean King

In 1973, when Billy Jean King beat Bobby Riggs, I was an overexcited nine year old, more thrilled by the phrases “male chauvinist pig” and “battle of the sexes” than by the symbolism of the match. Billy Jean King and Free To Be You and Me represented Women’s Lib to me. Forty years later, it turns out Billy Jean King is an excellent example for us once again - of success.

Borgen and Me: The Political Gets Personal

So I have to ask myself, who benefits from the way things are now? Who benefits if things don’t change? And what might things look like if this so-called feminist—but really just humanist—agenda came into being?

Success, Time Management, Ben Franklin, Breakfast, & Me

But I digress, Readers. You want to know what successful people – the most successful people - do before breakfast. Well, look, I think you can pretty much guess it. They go to bed early and get up early. We’re talking 5 or 6 a.m. Six am is pushing it. Put it this way, if you awake after dawn you’ve overslept. They do things that require undivided attention and willpower.

Finding the Sock

I was in labor with my first child. Contractions, fear, anxiety, and excitement rippled through me. The husband had my suitcase. The bed was made. Our one-bedroom-with-a-den apartment was tidied. I was all ready to go. Then I saw a sock on the floor. I'll get that when I get home, I thought.

Grit: A Marker of Success

I’m thinking about perseverance. Grit. Stamina. Why? Well, the husband showed me this article about Carol Dweck’s research on mindset, motivation, and success, which talks about how to praise children. The wrong kind of praise extinguishes their will to try harder. The basic idea is that praise should be specific and focused on effort, not on labeling a quality of mind.

Arugula, Sedaris, Stoves, Success

David Sedaris and his boyfriend are driving around Australia with a friend, Pat, who invites them to picture a four burner stove on which one burner represents family, one friends, one health, and one work. To be successful, she says, you have to to “cut off one of your burners. And to be really successful, you have to cut off two.”

Surviving Spectacular Failure

There’s a lesson here about success not lasting or not being meaningful if it’s not based on something you value. And I guess, also, his story is a parable of how fame and fortune don’t mean much, if you don’t love what you do. And Jason Everman didn’t love the rock life. He was, according to this article, an excellent musician, so he wasn’t fired for lack of talent.

Abandonment, and Other Issues of Successful Parenting

A week ago we abandoned the rising 6th grader on a muddy hillside, in the rain. The hillside was part of the grounds of her summer camp, but nevertheless, we left her there, shivering. True, she was wearing a bathing suit and waiting to take a swimming test, but it was raining, and she was shivering, and she wanted us to stay for the test, but the counselors did not.

Redefining Success: Arianna Huffington's Third Metric

“Metric” is a funny term to apply to sometimes ineffable, always intangible qualities like those. A metric is a measurement; but it has a poetic meaning, too – poetic meter. Well, it’s unusual, but I’ll take it. Metaphorically, we’ll add a little poetry to the mix of money and power. The point is balance. She describes her third metric as the third leg of a footstool.

One Secret of Successful Families: The Family Meeting

The family meeting is a way to solidify or otherwise emphasize the idea of the family unit as a unit. I like this idea of emphasizing the family as a unit. It’s one of Bruce’s ideas that’s so fundamental you don’t even see it: To be a successful family involves focusing on the family itself, and seeing it as a working group, not just as a staging ground for “real life.”

No Such Thing As Failure

Once Sondheim felt some idea he came across had “something to it,” he didn’t look back and question that judgment. He worked, and continues to work, to get that idea out. All of that work is built on a steady foundation of accepting his judgment of what is worth pursuing. For those of us who work at bringing ideas into the world, that is a great lesson in success.

Secret of Happy Families: Agility

The Secrets of Happy Families, by Bruce Feiler has been been sitting on my shelf for a few months. I’ve avoided it. You have to admit – or at least, I have to admit – the title is a little threatening. Sure, it’s catchy, and there’s that reference to Anna Karenina implied in it, but the thing is, my family is on the old side. What if we've been doing everything wrong?

Do Good and Succeed

Research shows that people feel better about themselves and their lives when they give to others. Altruism makes the altruist feel good. This is the kind of truth that gets existentialist teens and early 20-somethings worked up about living virtuously: If even giving gives the giver something, then how can one ever live unselfishly?

How to Be a Successful Woman: Be Human

I have to admit that I was one of the people who read Sandberg’s Barnard commencement address a couple of years ago, and her profile in the New Yorker last year, with a degree of skepticism. I wanted to hate her. I wanted to find the flaw. If she’s a great business woman, then she must be a sucky mom, right? Or be divorced. Or hate other women.

10 Tips for Creating a Can-Do Child

How much control do we actually have over our children's development? I've noticed a tendency, a propensity, shall we say, among people to change their views on how much influence parents actually have over their children, depending on how old their children are and how much of a mess - or a success - their children's lives appear to be.

The Tao of Worry

Here are two pieces of advice I've been given by Professionals for dealing with worry: 1. Set aside a certain amount of time every day to worry, and then don't worry until that time. 2. Or, worry once and worry well. This advice doesn't work for me. I cannot "worry once," and the time of day I set aside to worry is usually 3-5 a.m., which is kind of a drag.

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