Wishing You All a Successful and Astounding 2008!

December 31, 2007 § 1 Comment

Wishing everyone a healthy, happy, successful and astounding 2008! Clients are always talking about being “successful”. “I want to be successful”, “I don’t feel like I’m a success”, “how can I be more successful”. It’s one of those words that people use all the time nowadays in different ways. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote one of my favorite descriptions of success.

“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch….to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!” Ralph Waldo Emerson

And of course my favorite quote this season is by Thomas Alva Edison.

“If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.” Thomas Alva Edison

Wishing you all a successful and astounding year!
Rebecca “Kiki”

Barnes and Noble Finding Focus/Writing Workshop + Juno

December 27, 2007 § 7 Comments

The next Barnes and Noble Finding Focus/Writing Workshop will be on January 15th at 7:00pm. Bring your thoughts, projects, blocks, gripes, friends and anything else you’d like. The last one was terrific and honestly each one is so full of information, insights, tips and motivation that I’m blown away by it each and every time. If you have any questions or challenges you’d like me to cover please email them to me before the 14th and I’ll see how I can work it in.

Now for those of you who’ve been missing your fix and asking for movie and book recs for the holidays, here’s the story (no pun intended). I haven’t seen that much lately and my reading material this last month has been gorging on magazines while getting ready for the next batch of texts I have to read come January-ish. (Cinema Editor, Animation, Moviemaker, Scientific American Mind, Esquire(it’s the What I Learned issue) and Outside are all great this month. Of course there’s always the usual suspects as far as women’s mags, fashion mags and of course the Brit rags…)

As for movies, I loved Juno and would definitely put that on my list. I’m probably going to see it again to analyze how the filmmakers did it. What’s the big deal? Well, one of the hazards of the profession as a creative writer and being trained in any medium is that you tend to have a hard time just being an observer or consumer of it. (Believe me you haven’t lived until you’ve gone to the movies with a filmmaker and had to sit in the front row so you could FEEL each cut. The memory of it still makes my neck ache and it’s been years.)

I still love,love, love the experience of film, drama and reading and it informs my personal work and the work I do with clients on their stories and storytelling issues and challenges. While seeing Juno though, I had an experience that I haven’t had in a long time. I didn’t notice a lot of what I’m usually tuned into. The story just swept me away, and while I usually go to the movies when it’s not too crowded I found myself in a fairly crowded theatre in Union Square with a very mixed crowd of people of all ages and everyone loved it. People laughed out loud. People wept. (Ok -guilty on both counts – but knowing me when it comes to weeping at the movies it’s not a matter of “will she?” but “so? was it a three-hanky? one box of tissues? a bed sheet?”).

When I work with storytellers of all kinds in many mediums I always stress the character elements. The plot is the plot – in an interview in the current issue of Cinema Editor Magazine Nic Roeg said mentioned the fact that fairly early on people have already seen the 38 plots there are. (Great interview by the way with his long-time editor). It’s the truth. There are so many plots and different permutations of them. There’s got to be more.

What keeps you there? What makes you care about the characters? What makes you not stand up and walk out in the middle? The struggle to know your characters and make others feel for and with them whether they’re “good” or “bad” is a constant one but when you’ve got it – it’s heaven to work on. When a filmmaker gets that it’s heaven to watch the film.

Juno is that kind of film. It’s the oldest story in the book. 16 year old girl gets pregnant, what will she do? But the characters and the way they’re drawn, fleshed out and portrayed is terrific. I really just dove right into the story and when I was talking about it later realized I didn’t know how the filmmakers had done x,y, or z. That hasn’t happened to me in a long time. I don’t know if it’s the movies out there lately or me. Jason Reitman who did “Thank You For Smoking” (another terrific film) did an amazing job directing this one. Great and interesting characters, great dialogue, great conflicts, great acting. Great storytelling.

Because I cannot let it go without comment. Will Smith is NO legend as far as I’m concerned. Enough said.

Enjoy the movies and let me know what you’ve seen and how you liked it!

Enjoy the day,

Meltdown 2007 – Individuals, Groups and the Planet

December 26, 2007 § 8 Comments

While the holiday season is supposed to be full of good cheer…OK let me start that one over again with something a bit more realistic like –

Why is the holiday season so difficult? That’s the question that most people have been asking me whether in session or via email or phone, I even got an “aaaaargh” text. Nothing else just “argh”. I understood completely. Sometimes, to misquote the lyrics, “argh is all you need”.

Everyone has their own specific reasons for finding some elements of the holiday season difficult. For some people the shopping for gifts brings on hives, for some the too-much-togetherness can trigger anxiety, resentment and/or unresolved anger, for some the memory of lost loved ones can elicit tears and seasonal depression.

Throw in a dollop of relentless cheeriness coming at you from all sides, ruminating on the year that’s on its way out and formulating resolutions for the coming year. This year I will definitely ___________ and I must ___________. Now I may not be a big one for cooking but what you’ve got there is a sure recipe for a meltdown.

But being me I couldn’t let it go at that – there was something niggling at the back of my mind because 2007 seemed to bring out more meltdown situations and feelings in people than the previous few years. So I asked myself the question….what is going on? Beyond the usual meltdowns which can happen and invariably do at some point or another. That’s just life – sometimes it all happens too fast/too much/too slow/too too/too _____.

I had a couple of thoughts regarding technology overload, society, delayed post 9/11 reactions, PTSD in returning soldiers, changing culture and norms and more….and they all made sense. Then I did a google search for “meltdown 2007” and this article from Science News Portrait of a Meltdown which describes the arctic meltdown of 2007 came up. Apparently, the ice meltdown in the Arctic this year is the largest ever. Hmmmmm – is there a connection?

I think there is. I’m a firm believer that we’re all creatures of the planet (not to mention habit, learning, etc.) and when something is affecting our earth it effects us. How about this? Last week I was walking down the block in my neighborhood in Brooklyn and I saw two raccoons taking a little walk. Raccoons!! And no, they’re not usually in the neighborhood. And during the last few years tropical birds have made their homes in the trees around here too. Something is going on around us and it affects us.

So if you’re having your own meltdown – there are ways to deal with it depending on the circumstance. But pay attention to the meltdowns around you.
Are the people around you melting down and that’s causing you to feel meltdown-prone?
Is the societal cheeriness and meltdown causing you extra anxiety or meltdown-y feelings?

Try and figure out which elements are your personal meltdown and which are coming at you from the outside. The external elements can affect you but if you’re aware of them and prepare for them, you can find yourself sailing through the holidays with good feelings and optimism for the new year. (Of course there might still be some negative thoughts or feelings – you are human.)

Meanwhile – a quick soapbox moment – let’s all figure out what we can do individually and as a country/planet to save our nature. Literally.

Enjoy the day!

Reading the Mind Of the Body Politic – WSJ and The Neuroethics Society

December 21, 2007 § 3 Comments

Here it comes…Big Brother is so here and it should scare everyone. Really everyone. As soon as people start using information about how brains work to predict how one might behave, we’re all in big trouble. Individually and collectively, no matter what group, race, country, denomination you belong to.

Reading the Mind Of the Body Politic ran in the Wall Street Journal last week and I’ve been so bothered by it I couldn’t let it pass without comment. A description of the article reads “A wave of research suggests political decisions often occur at the subliminal level. Alexandra Alter reports on how neuromarketers and political strategists are focusing on an uncharted electoral frontier–the brain.”

Neuromarketers? Did you catch that phrase? I’ve known this was coming for a while now but it’s scarier to read about it in the Wall Street Journal then to discuss it, and possible solutions for it, with colleagues who study the brain and mind.

The article begins with “during last Sunday’s Republican presidential debate in Miami, Mitt Romney declared he was the only candidate who had stopped talking about universal health care and “actually got the job done.” Across the country, in San Francisco, five volunteers watched the debate while wearing electrode-studded headsets that track electrical activity in the brain.

When Mr. Romney said the words “got the job done,” there was a pronounced shift in activity in their prefrontal lobes. “They liked what they were hearing,” said Brad Feldman, an analyst with EmSense Corp., the company that conducted the test.”

They might very well have liked what they were hearing. The analysts at EmSense may have gotten that right. But what will they DO with their feelings? With their thoughts? With their reactions?

I love all the new technology that is uncovering the workings of the brain. I love it, I study it and it informs the work that I do. Really, I love it, love it, love it. I’ve met neuroscientists who are doing the most fantastic work on the brain from monitoring how people react while watching movies to the biochemistry and psychobiology of PTSD and offspring of people who have suffered from PTSD. Great stuff – really – I can’t get enough of it. But when people start using the information to predict and say with certainty what an individual, or groups of individuals will actually do – we’re getting into dangerous territory.

Imagine if every one of your nasty thoughts and feelings was registered. Every time you thought about what you’d like to do to so-and-so and the revenge you were going to take on such-and-thus. Imagine if you were judged by your thoughts – some of which you weren’t even aware of…ok – you can stop now. Way too scary.

Enter a newly founded group called The Neuroethics Society (of which I’m a member). The society was founded in May of 2006 and is “an interdisciplinary group of scholars, scientists and clinicians who share an interest in the social, legal, ethical and policy implications of advances in neuroscience”.

Check it out and keep posted about the work that they’re doing for all of us. (Martha Farah was quoted in the WSJ article.) We must all of us start paying attention NOW to make sure that the advances in neuroscience are used in responsible ways socially, legally, ethically, and politically.

Whew! Exhausted from that little stint on the soapbox but I just couldn’t let the article pass without comment. Now….if only you could have all read my mind about what I thought of it I wouldn’t have had to write it down here…but then you might have heard some of the things I didn’t want to say out loud, some of the personal thoughts that I didn’t want to share….

Finding Focus Beats Boredom – Scientific American Mind

December 19, 2007 § 3 Comments

The proof is in the article. Thank you Scientific American Mind for explaining how Finding Focus is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself and your life.

Ok – so we’re ahead of our time here. What can I tell you? Our “Finding Focus” Seminars which I developed have been running for quite a while and continue to be a tremendous success. People walk out feeling more focused, more energized, looking at their routines and habits in a new way. Participants FIND new FOCUS in their work, creative endeavors, careers, hobbies, futures, whatever it is they choose to focus on. “Finding Focus” workshops have been ongoing at Barnes and Noble for a few years and writers, future-writers, blocked writers and creatives of all kinds have found themselves energized and inspired, and productive in ways they hadn’t been.

The article in Scientific American is Bored? by Anna Gosline. It’s full of information, a little boredom quiz, a short description of boredom in the brain as well as sources for further reading.

I believe and know that when you focus on what’s important to you and you move forward in whatever direction that takes you, you don’t bore easily. I also know that it isn’t always easy to figure out what it is that you want to do. Really want to do.

Often when coaching clients a big part of our work is uncovering the layers of “should do”, “what x or y wants me to do”, “what I always thought I should do”, “what I always believed I was meant to do”, “what society believes I should do”, “what’s best for me to do”, “what’s easy for me to do” (and more) and getting to “this is what I really want” and “this is what’s right for me”.

Finding Focus helps you in the short run and in the long run. Do it for yourself. Find your personal focus. Live the life you want to live. The one you know deep in your heart you were always meant to live. Live your life.

For more info on Finding Focus Workshops and Seminars and how to arrange for one for your company or group feel free to contact me at kiki at dailylifeconsulting dot com or Jill Evans at jill at gtkgroup dot com.

What She Learned This Year – You Might Want to Too…(from Rachel C. Weingarten)

December 17, 2007 § 2 Comments

Wow – I know she’s my sister and I might be biased but this is absolutely a terrific post from the blog of Rachel C. Weingarten author of Career and Corporate Cool(TM). Read about the things she’s learned this year about friendship, love, success, work, health and much more…. I learned a lot and it got me thinking….

*Never take your health for granted because just when you think that life has cut you a break, it pulls the rug out from under you.

*Dream big and make your reality even bigger, and after you do that, shrug it off as just a fluke and try even harder the next time.

*Don’t stay friends with people just because you’ve been friends with them forever. People change and when they’re bad to themselves, chances are at some point they’ll become bad to you as well.

*Don’t be afraid to tell someone you love them, even if you know it won’t work out. Sometimes it’s a gift to yourself to remember that you are in fact capable of deep love.

*Some years are financial successes, some are personal or professional successes, it doesn’t all happen every year.

*Don’t become so terrified or overwhelmed by a milestone that you lose sight of the before and after.

*Don’t trust the universe more than you trust yourself, the cosmos may conspire against you, but you should always keep trying.

*Don’t make things look so easy that people resent you, Don’t make things look so hard that people think that they can’t help or don’t matter.

*Laugh at yourself- because the human condition when not horrifically painful, is fairly amusing.

*Live by your own definition of success.

What have you learned in 2007?
Stay Cool!
Visit Cool Quotient

Re-Grouping and Re-Charging for Evening Work Hours

December 13, 2007 § 3 Comments

Question –

Thanks for your guidance, Kiki.

Burnout is a periodic issue for me and a lot of the questions I have are
already addressed in questions above. Here’s another issue on which I could
use your advice:

With three small children in the house, most of the writing portion of my
work occurs at night, which enables me to use any child care hours/nap time
during the day to interview sources or talk via phone with editors. But some
days by 9 pm my brain is on cruise control, at best. There’s little creative
spark left in my daily dose, unless I drink lots of coffee to perk up (which
is what I typically do), which then keeps me up nearly all night. Good for
work, bad for sleep. Lack of sleep, of course, can quickly lead to burnout
on all fronts.

Do you have any recommendations for people who have to work odd hours as to
how they can re-group (other than highly caffinating!) and re-charge for
evening work hours? Or how would you recommend shifting a work schedule
where caring for small children dominates daytime hours (keeping in mind I
am not a morning person, so getting up before these early birds is not an

My Answer

Of course my first suggestion would be to wake up before the kids but since that’s not an option we’ve got to figure something else out.

First of all, cut yourself some slack and realize that you’re in a tough situation with small children around and a business to attend to which includes “being on” both verbally and intellectually. Tough stuff. But it won’t be this way forever so it’s a matter of organizing your time now to get through it the best you can.

A couple of suggestions – first of all, could you use one of the children’s nap times as a nap time for yourself? Biologically our bodies do better with a nap in the afternoon. That might decrease your caffeine need, which you’re right about – it can cause jitters, sleeplessness, anxiety if overused.

Another thought comes to mind as I put my teacher’s cap on. Play teacher. I don’t know how old the children are but try and prepare some activities for them that they can do on their own (it might take some planning of materials but once you get the hang of it it’s pretty easy – collage, cutting and pasting, easy needlepointing, books on tape, puzzles, writing and illustrating their own books) which might free up some writing time for you during the day and cut back on the night time work.

Remind the children that they can’t disturb you unless it’s an emergency – (outline what those are!) and set aside a few minutes after the activity to look at it and all around oooh and aaah and tell you about it – that will motivate them to do it again. You can also have them be part of the planning process – shopping for the materials, putting it on a calendar, getting “rewards” for a completed job or a job well done.

Hope this helps – good luck and let me know how it goes!

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