It seems oddly fitting that the words “caregiving” and “caretaking” mean precisely the same thing. Perhaps that linguistic oddity reflects the salient characteristic of care itself: a tension between our desire to receive it and our countervailing feeling of obligation to provide it. Human relations, generally, can be summarized as an on-going battle between those who provide care and those on the receiving end.
As a human child, you started out your life as the ultimate care-collection machine. Children are designed to make you want to provide them with care – and you’re designed, as an adult, to feel a profound impulse to provide children with care, especially your own children. It’s no coincidence that anything you identify as “cute” – i.e., feel an impulse to care for – will have child-like features, such as large eyes in proportion to its face and a large head in proportion to its body. These are all evolutionary triggers designed to make us feel like providing care.
The human instinct to care for youngsters transfers over to other young animals as well, and explains, at least in part, your relationship with “man’s best friend.” Everyone loves puppies – baby dogs. But with canines, the phenomenon extends further than that. Adult dogs retain many juvenile features – a phenomenon called “neoteny” – because by continuing to appear puppy-like up to and through adulthood, they can convince humans to keep wanting to offer them care. Dogs literally evolved to look young and cute just so you would care for them – and it’s worked! Unlike most species, the dog’s trick to evolutionary success wasn’t to display aggression, like a wolf. As evidenced by the wolf’s current struggle to survive in a human-dominated habitat, ferocity only gets you so far. For the dog, docility, rather than aggression, was the answer. By appearing cute – a bit like our own young – they mastered a strategy of symbiosis with another species, humans, with a strong instinct to provide care to their own young. The result is humans calling their dog “baby” and bragging to their friends that he’s “just like a member of the family.” In many respects, Fido actually is just like another child. Dogs are a bit like cuckoos in that respect – enlisting another species to do the work of raising their young – but in this case, by remaining young-looking throughout their adulthood, they lead another species to treat them like its own children for the duration of their lives.
Human children are also master care-harvesters – they have to be, because they remain dependent on adult care for survival for much longer than other species. Adult humans possess large brains, which could never fit through the human birth canal. Our children are thus, of necessity, born with a relatively tiny, undeveloped brain, leaving them utterly helpless and dependent on the care of others for many years. Humans thus possess a strong instinct to summon care as a child, but also a corresponding (and conflicting) instinct to provide care for helpless young humans. Awww…it’s a cute little baby. I want to take care of it.
Thus do we perpetuate our species. But this evolutionary arrangement sets up an internal battle between the child within you who’s hungry for care and the adult who feels obligated to provide it.
Some humans work pretty hard to be treated like children – and receive care – for their entire lives. One trick is to keep acting helpless and wait for someone to come and care for you. One of my clients was complaining about her parents recently in this regard. She grew up knowing she would have to care for them – they steadily broadcast helplessness, “parentifying” my client from her earliest years, leaving her in the position, even as a child, to tackle most of the care-providing. This year, as always, my client took her mother out for her birthday, then fumed silently as Mom ordered the most expensive items on the menu. Christmas will be the same thing – her mother will insist on exchanging gifts, with the understanding that the daughter will be expected to lay out big bucks – and the mother will buy tokens in return. In any case, this client’s parents were living on her handouts – they’d overspent for years, digging themselves into a deep financial hole.
In my client’s case, her parents are demanding care – behaving, in fact, like children. But if it’s unpleasant having an adult demand constant care – why should it be any different with a child? Why introduce someone into your life who is expected to rely on you for care? This raises the question of why people have children. And indeed, some parents seem to misunderstand the roles of parent and child, seeing the child as the provider of endless love and care instead of the receiver of it. Ask one of these folks why they’re having a child, and they might even say so outright: I want someone in my life who will love me completely.
The idea seems to be that endless care will produce endless gratitude – to put it bluntly, a payoff. You do absolutely everything for the child – attend to his bottomless need for love and care…and then he looks at you with those big eyes and says “Mommy, I love you”…and it’s all worth it. And maybe, sometimes, it is.
A more purely mercenary perspective argues that at some point the tables inevitably turn anyway, and the children – now adults – are supposed to take care of you, the parent. This switching of roles is played down in Western culture, but in Asia, it’s taken for granted. Many of my Asian friends simply shrug and write a check to their parents every month because that’s what’s expected of them.
I’ll never forget a television ad I saw once on a flight to Hong Kong. Western Christmas advertising is all about the children – the iconic image is delighted little ones hungrily tearing open gifts under a tree, with the worn-out but adoring parents thrilled that the heap of capitalist loot they’ve provided has once again managed to please the appetites of the youngsters. But this Hong Kongese ad, framed around the Chinese New Year, presented precisely the opposite scenario – a shock to my Western sensibilities. In the advert, a humble, slightly intimidated-looking young couple arrive at the entrance to a house and ring the doorbell. The door opens, and grandma and grandpa loom in the threshold. The young couple bow humbly, mumble ritual pleasantries and present gifts. Behind the young couple, barely visible, stand two young children, heads bowed in reverence.
The scale can tilt either way – toward the elders or towards the children, but it all still boils down to who gives care – and who receives it.
One big step forward comes with learning to ask for care directly – not acting out your need silently by collapsing and going victim or martyr, or going co-dependent and expressing your need by providing the care you yourself crave to others (seethis post for more on that pattern.)
A second big step – the one that counts the most – is realizing that you contain both a helpless child within you and a parent who is more than capable of providing all the care that child needs.
There is a loss, giving up the fantasy of a perfect other providing all the care you need. Some people cling to religion to avoid this loss, and construct an imaginary provider of care – a god or saint or the like.
But there is also a gain that comes from letting go of the fantasy. In separating from your parents, and the dream of perfect care, you transform into an adult, and gain a new strength that comes with self-sufficiency. You can no longer be abandoned, because you always have yourself, a capable adult, by your side. You no longer have to experience solitude as abandonment.
This doesn’t mean adulthood equals solitude. You can gather friends, and your family, around you, and ask them directly for care – and they might even provide it, and you might chose to provide them with care, too, out of love and gratitude for their friendship or just because your own cupboard is full and you wish to celebrate your abundance by sharing care with others.
But you are no longer the infant, abandoned in the cradle, who screams and cries because his life depends upon someone else coming to his rescue.
You can come to your own rescue.
My new book is a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space. I guarantee pure reading pleasure: Bad Therapist: A Romance.
Please also check out The People’s Therapist’s legendary best-seller about the sad state of the legal profession: Way-Worse-Than-Being-Dentist
My first book is an unusual (and useful) introduction to the concepts underlying psychotherapy: Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy
(In addition to Amazon.com, my books are also available on bn.com and the Apple iBookstore.)
Early intervention for children who may have a developmental issue is important and can be extremely helpful.
But, in my opinion, too often the teachers or counselors are too quick to pounce on a diagnosis and to “treat” something as a problem that isn’t a problem at all and will work itself out in time.
We are all on our own individual timetables and much of childhood development can’t –and shouldn’t–be forced. Vigilence is constructive as long as it doesn’t become hyper-vigilance and over-diagnosis.
One of my favorite stories that led me to this attitude involved my son Johnny who while in Kindergarten had awful handwriting (which he got honest from his mom and me).
A meddlesome counselor spent 30 min “assessing” Johnny when he was in class and playing with toy dinosaurs. She asked Johnny a bunch of personal questions while pretending to talk to him about dinosaurs.
Johnny came home that day and told us about the conversation and said he was concerned about the counselor because she “Didn’t seem very smart” and “didn’t know much of anything about dinosaurs or history.”
Johnny’s penmanship is now only slightly better than his mom’s and mine. And that’s fine. He made all A’s last semester in college. But I bet that counselor still hasn’t learned a thing about dinosaurs or history since Johnny assessed her.
The 1960s are retro cool these days, thanks to hit shows like Mad Men and Masters of Sex (not to mention all the Austin Powers movies). And while we admire the cool fashions (skinny ties! pillbox hats!), it’s all too convenient to dismiss the less-admirable aspects of the era (segregation, no effective birth control not to mention how women were treated in general, childhood diseases like polio & measles). But many of those phenomena are returning along with the fashions – setbacks in voting rights, civil rights, and reproductive rights, not to mention the anti-vaccine movement which is causing a return of diseases we thought were eradicated.
Well, now it’s time for another blast from the past – those of us are old enough to remember some of that era also remember the Cold War, when every spy movie used Russian villains and schools had ‘Duck & Cover’ drills (yes, we really did think hiding under our desks would protect us from the threat of Soviet nuclear weapons. Hey, I was only in 2nd grade, what did I know?, but I digress . . . )
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall, Russians were our sort-of-friends, not quite allies but no longer cool to use as movie adversaries. (And yes, we also learned that Duck & Cover was not the best strategy for avoiding nuclear fallout.) But lately, thanks to Vladimir Putin’s aggression, Russia is now a sort-of bad guy – not quite an arch-enemy but probably likely to turn up in a James Bond movie one of these days. And in the meantime, here’s a musical take on his unpredictability.
Superstar Service: JGrill Media
Whether he’s interviewing local innovators on KMBZ’s “Entrepreneur KC” radio show, writing a piece for The Huffington Post explaining why our burgeoning Midwestern tech hub is “not flyover country,” or helping a tech firm gain exposure through his PR firm JGrill Media, Jason Grill is your quintessential Kansas Citian who keeps his hometown close to his heart.
Through a unique combination of media and government relations, business consulting, and local and national commentary, JGrill Media helps establish mutually beneficial relationships among key players in the community that all want the same thing: “To make Kansas City the best to place to live and do business,” Grill says.
“Whether you need advice, are looking for capital or want to meet with someone at the Kauffman Foundation, people here have a vested interest in seeing other entrepreneurs succeed and will actually help you build your business while building their own,” he continues. “There’s a Midwestern value here that believes that strengthening the community is very important.”
Building relationships and making introductions is one of the key ways Grill does his part. Although he “never would have guessed” he’d someday have his own company—or rather companies, plural, since he’s also one of the owners and cofounders of Sock 101—JGrill Media is basically the culmination of Grill’s illustrious career as an attorney, author, adjunct professor, entrepreneur, political advisor, media correspondent and two-term Missouri state representative.
“I’ve always liked media, politics and connecting people, and all of those things are important for what I do now,” Grill says. “I know who the players are, how to get meetings set up and how to interact with the media. Being a legislator taught me how to campaign and how to fundraise. And as a business owner and startup co-founder, I understand the needs of young companies from a relationship, media and growth perspective.”
Drawing upon his eclectic background, business savvy, legal knowledge and strategic media approach, Grill has a seemingly effortless knack for fostering partnerships that not only help his clients grow and get noticed, but solidifies his own position as a superstar in the community.
His contagious optimism and unwavering civic pride only fuel his popularity. “I just like talking to people and building relationships,” Grill admits. “It keeps you sharp and helps you grow as a person so you can build more relationships.”
It’s hard to predict what this serial entrepreneur will do next. “I don’t think I’ll ever settle into one role,” Grill says. “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a football player one year, and then the next year, I wanted to be a baseball player. I think that’s the nature of being an entrepreneur. And I think that’s what makes JGrill Media unique because it works in different verticals to provide services that no other affordable and hands-on KC company can provide.”
- Kathryn Jones
Banking union is the flavour of the month. Faced with investors who doubt the ability of some eurozone sovereigns to make good on their debts, the 17 members of the single currency have agreed to work together to channel aid directly to troubled lenders. But the deal is conditioned on the creation of a single banking supervisor, empowered to crack down on risky banks, no matter where they are located.
Setting up an impartial expert to oversee the banks could well be a key step toward restoring trust. Freed from local political concerns, a central supervisor might well have a clearer view of the problems and the fortitude to take the almost certainly unpleasant decisions needed to solve them.
But well-informed banking supervisors can’t be summoned with the wave of a wand, and key eurozone finance ministers this week repeated calls for something to be put in place by the end of the year. Given that tight deadline, the options are pretty limited. The fledgling European Banking Authority, which opened its doors just over 18 months ago, currently sets standards but it has no legal authority to supervise banks. Its mandate to create a stable and level playing field throughout the single market also runs counter to taking on a specific eurozone role.
The European Central Bank is seen by many as the only operator with the credibility and resources to crack down hard on recalcitrant lenders. The current plan is for the ECB – or some offshoot – to take charge of the bigger, cross-border institutions while smaller banks would continue to be supervised locally. That arrangement – which parallels the UK plan to hand supervision back to the Bank of England next year – raises concerns about an overly powerful central bank trying to do too many jobs at once. It also contains a problematic fudge. Small banks can be dangerous too. Witness the woes of the Spanish regional savings banks and the 2007 depositor run on Northern Rock, a middle-sized UK lender.
Read the rest of…
Brooke Masters: On-site supervisors a good start for ECB
You know, maybe…. learning to play with building blocks is the most important activity we learn as children.
Because we continue– metaphorically speaking–to play this game our entire lives.
Everytime we experience something new or learn some new piece of information or glean some new insight about life it is like we collect a new block we can play with–to help build something with.
So, I guess we should ask ourselves each day, “What are we building today with our building blocks?” And, “Which building blocks are we choosing to build with?”
Success milemarkers for a new business.
The day you replace the two chairs in the entrance you purchased from Wal-Mart six years ago and assembled yourself with two chairs you purchased on clearance from Z Gallerie. That come pre-assembled.
When you hear “Japanese fashion”, what do you think? Middle-age men wearing Disney World hats, Las Vegas t-shirts and enormous cameras? Or do you think the Harajuku women, dressed up like dolls, anime characters, and the occasional horse head? Are their fashion choices representing craziness or self-expression in a repressive society? Read our takes then have your say in the comments below.
Fashion in Japan is interesting. “Interesting” used in a Minnesota-nice sort of way, as in, “it’s not my thing, I’m not sure about it, actually it makes me a little uncomfortable, but I can’t say that because…well I’m a Minnesotan.” I’ve been told that in other parts of the country people would say something like, “God bless their heart, I wouldn’t be caught dead in that!” I think many of the fashions are absolutely crazy, the pedophile soliciting schoolgirl outfits, the dancing Elvises, the anime characters!?! I don’t get it.
I don’t understand why people want to walk down the street and have people gawking at them. I don’t get why people want to become a tourist attraction. I really can’t comprehend why some of them get annoyed that tourists take photos of them, after all, they are the ones drawing the attention to themselves with their choices of clothing. More over, how long does it take these people to get all done up like this? Caking on the layers of makeup, doing up their hair, buying all the clothes, putting themselves together the way you would a Barbie Doll. The time, effort, cost and ogling makes the whole production seem unrewarding.
Are those shoes comfortable? Whatever you used to make your face look like that…is it toxic? What if it doesn’t go back to “normal”? Do you even care? What do you want to be? What feeling does it give you to do yourself up like this? Why, why, why? Maybe I have too many question, maybe I’m too cerebral for fashion, maybe it’s me that’s crazy, not them, but I’m pretty certain it’s them.
There is one thing I do like in Japanese and in broader Asian fashion: super short mini skirts. If wacky english worded slogans on shirts, strange makeup combinations, or odd styles are what we have to accept to get super short shorts on a daily basis then I could be converted…
Read the rest of…
Erica and Matt Chua: He Said/She Said: Japanese Fashion
“We could simply pack our bags and catch a plane to Barcelona ‘cause this city’s a drag.”
- Holiday in Spain by Counting Crows
If you’re reading this, there’s a decent chance I’m catching you on a mobile device. And according to the latest Pew data, 6% of U.S. consumers are mobile ONLY. No home phone. No computer. And from what I saw at Mobile World Congress(MWC) last month in Barcelona, this number is guaranteed to rise.
One of the major conversations at the conference centered on device form factors – they’re getting bigger. Samsung, Nokia and Sony all announced new phones with larger screen sizes, and Huawei showed off its new “phablet,” a phone-tablet combo with a 7.1-inch screen.
The other major trend we kept hearing about is the rise of wearables. Samsung announced a new smartwatch family – the Gear2, Gear Neo, and Gear Fit – while perpetual rumors about a similar Apple device continue to swirl. Things like smartwatches have yet to prove themselves, but simpler wearable technology that tracks daily habits without incorporating other messaging and connectivity components (FitBit, Nike Fuel, etc.) have clearly filled a consumer need.
Another trend that continues to gain momentum is the increasing use of consumer friendly tools and services in a business setting. The trend of people bringing their own devices, or BYOD, has been around for quite some time. It’s now evolved into BYOS – or bring your own services. I participated in a panel discussing BYOD/BYOS, along with executives from Evernote, Merck, AT&T and others.
As part of the panel we unveiled the results of a SurveyMonkey Audience survey to find out how many of us are downloading and using services on our mobile devices at work, independent of those recommended or offered by our employers. Here’s what we found:
Employees are spending more and more time on their phones for work purposes
- Almost 30% (29%) of people report that half of their time – or more – is spent using their mobile phones for work
- More than half of respondents (56%) report an increase in using their mobile phone for business over the past three years
And most believe they will spend even more time on their phone for work in the future
- The majority of respondents (52%) believe that they will increase their use of mobile phones for business in the future
Now that employees are bringing their own devices, they are bringing their own services, software and applications into the workplace
- Slightly more employees (31%) report bringing ALL their own services into the workplace vs. those that only use services approved/suggested/provided by their employer (28%)
- 29% of respondents report using a mix of services/applications that they downloaded themselves and those provided by their employers
- 8% do this a lot
- 8% do this a good amount
- 13% do this some of the time
With productivity tools continuing to be more consumer friendly, like Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Google office apps, etc., and more mobile (we launched our own mobile app last month), this is another trend that will continue to generate lots of momentum. Innovations like these, and the others I saw during my trip to MWC, are going to accelerate the growth of that 6% mobile only number. Gracias, Barcelona!
The “Marshmallow Test,” Batman, and law school (and life) lessons.
Ever since my sophomore year in college, after renting the movie the Paper Chase (about life at Harvard law school) and watching it three consecutive times (the third time as the sun was rising the next morning), I knew I wanted to go to law school.
25 years ago this fall I started law school at the University of Kentucky. Law school, for me, was one of those transitional and transformational experiences. The experience has a way of introducing a student to him or herself. During law school one has to come to grips with realities about himself or herself that can be both humbling and heartening. In my case, law school proved to me that I wasn’t nearly as smart as I had secretly hoped; but proved to others that I was considerably smarter than they had assumed. The experience also proved to me I could work much harder than I thought I could. And proved to my parents that I not only could –but would –work much harder than they thought I ever was capable. It was an important and defining time for me.
A few weeks before heading from Louisville to Lexington for law school a wise mentor took me to lunch and asked me what I hoped to achieve there. I told him I wanted to finish in the top 10% of my class (or Order of the Coif, as it is known in most law schools). He was unimpressed and said he only hoped -–and believed—that after law school he could say that “I was a fine young man.” And that is what was really important. He was right, of course, and over the next 3 years I never forgot his response. But I also never forgot my goal.
Over the past week, I have been texting a friend and law school classmate from a quarter decade ago about our law school experience. What has been most striking is the detail with which we each remember the many facets of our experience, but most especially the detail with which we recall grades and class rank. We each noted if we had had a single class where our grade increased by a single increment (from a B+ to an A – or a B to a B+) we would have graduated law school with a notably higher honor than we did. In my case, I pointed out to my friend, I would have graduated “Order of the Coif.”
And this is where the “Marshmallow Test” comes into play. That test was made famous for demonstrating that young children who could delay gratification (by saying “no” to the tempting offer of a single marshmallow now in favor of being rewarded with two marshmallows 15 minutes later) was a better predictor of life success than any other test devised for young children. What does this have to do with law school? Well, the night before one of my final law school exams, I got invited, cajoled, and ultimately persuaded to scrap studying for several important hours to go see the movie Batman. Prior to that night, I never—ever—had compromised on studying during law school exams. My first year I had no cable TV and would only see and go on dates with my now wife once a week. I missed an aunt’s funeral during first year finals and spent Thanksgivings alone so I could get a possible studying edge on my classmates. But this one time—when I knew I was on the bubble for Order of the Coif and that anything lower than a B would probably drop me below Coif—I went for the “instant” rather than the “delayed” gratification.
I got a “B –“ and didn’t achieve my long held goal of making Order of the Coif. And I had only myself to blame. My former classmate and I, while texting about our “near misses,” concluded that we both took it all too seriously back then and that now, fortunately, we were much less competitive than our younger selves and how that was a good thing.
That is all true. I even added that “Life with our competitive tendencies kept in check,” is much more rewarding, both personally and professionally. But I also had to confess that despite my 25 years of additional maturity and, supposedly, wisdom, I would never have anything nice to say about the Batman movie franchise.
I was joking, of course. But not entirely. The texting conversation made me realize that 25 years later I still know—and can relive— every detail about how I botched my shot at graduating law school with that distinguised honor. But what I can’t do is recall with even the slightest detail any of the movie Batman, which I chose instead that night. In other words, I have no memory of the single marshmallow I chose 25 years ago. But a vivid recall about not holding out for just 15 more metaphorical, and perhaps literal, minutes for the bigger and longer lasting prize I sacrificed.
I like to think I still graduated as a “fine young man” as my mentor friend had hoped for me—and that, in many respects, my goal of wanting to graduate “Order of the Coif,” was just an extra marshmallow I missed out on, so to speak, but nothing much more than that. But the lesson I really learned –and am quite sure I’ll never forget—is that when faced as an adult with the equivalent of the Marshmallow Test, I will remember that the second marshmallow is always much sweeter and more satisfying than the first. If for no other reason, the second marshmallow is worth much more because of the sacrifice required to earn it.
Marshmallows, like life, are like that
I have to admit when I was growing up and when we raised our children I thought weird was out. Weird was isolated, ostracized, dismissed, and definitely not cool. Turns out I was wrong. Weird is in. Weird is unique, refreshing, remarkable, and definitely cool. It just took me a while to figure it out. The evidence is all around us. Two personal reminders of how weird can be an advantage are a recent trip to Austin, Texas and reading Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh.
I was asked to give a talk on business model innovation to a group of association leaders in Austin, Texas. It was my first trip to Austin but the city’s reputation for embracing weird preceded my visit. I love the city mantra Keep Austin Weird. How many cities would have the guts to rally around such a weird positioning? I think it is brilliant. It is differentiated and sends a clear message to both residents and visitors that Austin is an edgy and interesting place where creativity is central and you just might learn something new. It makes me want to live and invest there. The night I arrived the positioning was realized immediately as I joined an eclectic crowd forming on the Congress Street Bridge to watch North America’s largest urban bat colony emerge from under the bridge. You don’t experience that every day. It was delightfully weird and the gathered crowd was a great manifestation of Austin’s community aspiration for a collaborative fission of coordinated individualism.
The discussion I went to Austin for with a diverse group of association leaders focused on declining association membership and how to design and test new business models. Turns out that many young professionals are not joining associations and the group wondered if those professionals most receptive to innovation and changing the role of their professions are the least likely to join associations leaving an aging membership uninterested in being and celebrating weird. Maybe associations could benefit from a little more weird.
I just finished reading and highly recommend Delivering Happiness by my friend Tony Hsieh. Tony reveals his Zappos playbook and no surprise weird plays an important role. One of Zappos’ 10 core values is Create Fun and a Little Weirdness. Can you imagine your company explicitly celebrating being weird as one of its core values? Zappos means it. Not crazy or extreme weirdness but comfort with unconventional approaches, learning from mistakes, and the ability to laugh at themselves. Zappos wants a touch of weirdness to make life more fun and interesting for everyone. Tony is serious when he says the company must have a unique and memorable personality.
I experienced the weirdness first-hand when I visited Tony at Zappos headquarters in Las Vegas. It is remarkable to see the Zappos culture up close and personal. If you are going to Las Vegas definitely take Zappos up on its standing offer to visit the headquarters. None of what you have read about Zappos is as powerful as seeing it in action. From the way you are greeted at the airport to a memorable stroll through the company. On the outside the buildings look like any one of a million suburban office complexes but once inside you will not forget the experience and uniqueness of being warmly greeted by each department with an eclectic mix of streamers, parades, kazoos, cowbells and what ever expression strikes the Zappos team at the moment. The Zappos culture Tony talks about is obvious, tangible, and infectious. In Tony’s own words to Zappos employees, ” We want the weirdness in each of us to be expressed in our interactions with each other and in our work.” I am thrilled that Tony is joining us as a storyteller at BIF-6 (not to be missed, hint, hint, only 60 seats remain).
If the goal is to get better faster and learning is optimal at the edge we could all benefit from a little more weirdness. We need to make room in our personal lives, organizations, and communities for embracing weird. Everything else seems boring and stagnant. Weird is in.