127ch 7

Stretch international cyber book club – Ch 7

Catch up here:
Ch. 1
Ch. 2
Ch. 3
Ch. 4
Ch. 5
Ch. 6

“Finding ways where different parts of our lives work in harmony is very fulfilling.” 

I completely agree. That quote reminds me to embrace my whole self. To better utilize my skills, talents, and personality characteristics—even though they may be underused, underdeveloped, or maybe even forgotten. Embrace all of it to become a better wife, mother, business owner, and friend. 

Sonenshein talked about recognizing our different identities (professional and parent), and the importance of using the skills from each to better the other. For instance, as a mental health advocate and one who has recovered from panic disorder, I’ve developed a strong compassion and empathy for those dealing with life’s challenges. That trait helps me to be a better business owner by being patient and compassionate with customers. I’m organized and structured with our businesses, and that in turn, helps me to run our household more efficiently. 

I liked the section about thinking of ways to make improbable combinations work. Such as gourmet food trucks, which use limited kitchen resources to make high quality food. The delicious food attracts long lines of customers. And Charles Goodyear, who, after many years of experimenting, finally came up with the improbable mixture of rubber and a hot stove, to transform rubber into a usable (and hugely profitable!) substance. 

It can be highly rewarding for companies to stretch by using improbable combinations, and go outside of the expected norms to make something work. To think outside the box and “build a better mousetrap.” 

Something I didn’t agree with is when Sonenshein talked about how mere exposure to potential rivals increases liking. Then the rivals can work together to succeed. I get it… maybe you think someone is going to be an awful person. But then you meet him or her, and he or she isn’t so bad. I’m all for working together, even with a competitor, to enrich and improve our businesses.  

But here’s where it goes wrong for me: He says, “The more we’re around people, the more we tend to like them.” (Or not!) Sonenshein says the same thing about a song we might not like at first, but if we keep listening to it, we’ll eventually warm up to it. No matter how many times I hear an acid rock song, I am not going to like it. And if I spend hours in the same room with an annoying person, it doesn’t mean I’m going to warm up to him or her. 

I loved the story about Bette Nesmith Graham and how she used her skills as a secretary and as an artist to develop Liquid Paper. Sonenshein says, “Understanding that we’re a blend of different characteristics, traits, and roles helps us recognize the versatility we have in how we think about ourselves to solve problems.”   

Being mindful of the qualities we possess can be powerful. Sharing our gifts with the world can enrich other people’s lives, as well as our own. 

Take care,

Next Up: Ch. 8 by Christine O’Connor


  1. Thanks, Jeni, for this summary and your illustration of how your skills and insights apply to more than one arena in your life. The food truck story reminded me of a block here in Portland, Oregon, on SW Washington between SW9 and SW 10 where a cluster of food trucks thrive side-by-side. The critical mass of a great variety of food makes it a great destination for groups of people: you don't have to decide on one kind of food for the group! Gyros, Korean BBQ, burgers — people can get whatever they feel like eating. There are several clusters here in Portland. I'm not sure that it succeeds because of cooperation but rather the draw of a critical mass of choices, like a "Theater District" or a "Restaurant Row" or a shopping area.

  2. Jeni, I couldn't agree with you more about the author's "exposure" theory. It probably does happen some of the time, but in my experience, prolonged exposure to something (or someone) I don't like does not usually make it more appealing.

    Other than that, I really loved this chapter, because it speaks to something that is important to me, and that is being creative and using my gifts to support and uplift other people. I have been repeatedly accused of being ridiculously optimistic and upbeat, and I have to plead guilty. But I find that most people appreciate a little lift in their day, especially if it's unexpected. I was at the VA hospital with my father in law last week, and there was a gal in the cafeteria who was wearing magenta scrubs, and her hair, lipstick, and nails were an exact color match. No exaggeration. And she had on these HUGE disc earrings featuring a graphic of King Tut. I could see other people warily checking her out, but my first impression was that she was delightful and unique, and when she got in line behind me I told her so. You would have thought that I'd handed her an Oscar. And once I'd started talking to her, everyone around felt free to jump in and contribute. I dare say that gal went back to her department after lunch feeling like a million bucks. But my point is that I wasn't afraid to open up and share, and that gave other people permission to do the same. That is one of my gifts – to be the person that says what others are thinking and are too timid to express.

  3. Thanks Christine, and that sounds like a fun and really delicious place to go in Portland. So many choices! And that's a great point, that those food trucks attract lots of different groups of people, which makes it more fun, and kind of an event. Some of the food from those trucks is amazing!

  4. Kelly, I love your comment and that story! I totally relate, because I also am very optimistic and have found that when I open a conversation or even just smile at someone, most people are very willing and happy to chat. And I think, they're thankful that I said something. People want to connect.

    Your story describes that perfectly! You completely made her day!! I think it's wonderful how you recognize that your optimistic, friendly personality is a gift. It is! And it's great that you use that gift to brighten other people's days. When I do something like that, it brightens my day too.

  5. Thank you, Jeni, for a great summary! You said it perfectly at the beginning of your piece – we all need to be confident enough to embrace ourselves. It's easy when you're in a workshop, or away for a weekend and allow ourselves to relax and respond instead of reacting. But to know we each have valuable experiences that prepare us for this moment.

    Then to conclude with consciously being mindful of those qualities. You wrapped up this chapter perfectly and tied it with a bow! I love what Christine and Kelly wrote too. It's exciting to see how each person approached the chapter and what they walked away with.

    As we walk in and out of people's lives, especially in today's climate, carrying that optimistic attitude, a smile and saying thank-you goes a very, very long way 🙂

  6. There are certain types of music I'll never like no matter how many times I'm exposed to it. And that goes for certain types of people, too. ha ha

    So while Sonenshein got that one wrong, I can extrapolate from his words some glint of truth: If we hold prejudices against people we don't know well, getting to know them a bit better could very well change your opinion to where you see them in a positive light. First impressions are really important. If you meet someone and don't like them for some reason (her attitude is negative, he looks disheveled, she never smiled, he was abrupt…), we can hold a prejudice against them. But what if that person was just having a tough day? Maybe the woman whose attitude was negative just got dumped by her boyfriend. Maybe the disheveled man is a nurse who just pulled a double shift. Maybe the sad looking lady was having back muscle spasms. Maybe the abrupt man was running late for work because his infant daughter had just spit up on his suit as he was heading out the door.

    If you were given the chance to have a relaxed cup of coffee or tea with any one of these characters, it's quite possible you'd find some connection and change your impressions from what they first were.

    While this isn't exactly what Sonenshein was talking about, I think we can stretch our ability to give people we know to a lesser degree, and who we haven't taking a liking to, and who we run into on a fairly regular basis, a second chance. We all can have a bad day or morning, etc.

  7. Patty, your comment really made me smile! Thank you for your kind words, I appreciate it so much! And you're right… kindness goes a long way. This world can never have too much kindness.

  8. I totally agree with you Sue! What excellent examples. First impressions are important, maybe we place too much importance on them. Because we don't know what's really happening in that person's life at that moment. Maybe it's best to give people the benefit of the doubt, instead of jumping to conclusions as to what type of person they are. I know that's happened to me, when I wasn't at my best, and I worried that whoever I came across that day wouldn't know the true me.

  9. I've only been to Portland once for a long weekend and didn't get the chance to enjoy one of those clusters, Christine! Sounds like I might need to make another trip up there. Having worked on television shows at the Beverly Hills Hilton, I enjoyed the food truck story. I have no idea if Roy was chef at the time, but I enjoy reading about these types of coincidences. He could easily have shrugged off the making of the taco or the combining of it with wheels, but he didn't. Heading that type of creativity is fascinating!

  10. LOVE THIS STORY, Kelly…isn't it amazing what a smile and a few kind words can do? Thank you for sharing, this comment and your enthusiasm, kindness, and compassion!

  11. Love this, Sue. Thank you for reminding us of this very important point. And I kept thinking about Brene through this whole chapter…when she says that people are hard to dislike close up. To know this to be true, though, requires us to get close enough to find out. There are so many impediments most of the time to our ability to meet the challenge of getting close to people. But what bonus if we could/would/do/will?

  12. Echoing what Kelly wrote, I very much enjoyed the part of this chapter where Scott wrote about understanding the creativity that goes along with our routines. I had already felt the sense of this, but had not put such concrete language around it. Plus. I love my routines! Perhaps this is because I'm not as young as I once was!! but these days I take solace in having many set tasks that cover a wide range of activities to complete and having to use creativity to figure out from day to day the best and most effective ways to go about getting everything accomplished and have some fun while I'm doing it. (Phew!) Now that I think of it, this is probably one of the better take-aways I got last year from my time on that non-profit board…to develop better boundaries around what I do and don't decide to undertake so I can use my energy and creativity to focus on what means the most to me.

    As far as unlikely combinations go, this is something I want to seek out more of in my life in a variety of ways. I think it will enhance my life in ways I can’t yet fathom.

  13. Thank you for the great write-up, Jeni!

    I enjoyed this chapter as well because it reminded me of the books "The Gifted Adult" by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen and "Mastery" by Robert Greene.

    A path that can lead to mastery is by discovering something new, one which others have not discovered before, and to do that = mix it up! Also, for a gifted adult to thrive with his gifted life, he needs to find the right balance between static things (e.g., rules, norms, traditions) and dynamic things (e.g., taking risks, breaking conventions). The topic of mixing it up reminded me so much of these.

  14. Thank you Xeno! I like how you describe 'mixing it up.' I think that's how I'll remember this concept, of finding the right balance of following rules but also taking risks.

  15. Working on catching up. Just posted comments on Chapters 5 and 6 if anyone's interested. Sorry for the flu-delay. Hopefully, I'll get to read Chapter 7 and post before Chapter 8 comes online. Can we please slow this merry-go-round down a bit?

  16. I know how you feel Marci! I'll def check out your chapter 5 and 6 comments. Thank you for catching up!

  17. In regard to the "exposure theory" I do find a lot of truth in it. Like Tracey said ,"people are hard to dislike close up" – most people anyway. But, I don't know if it's about liking a person or a song exactly, but about learning to find some redeeming quality in everything and everyone. In my company we have a motto that "Together everyone achieves more" and it is found to be true over and over , especially in a real estate. In the case of the food trucks I can see this would be true also. While they may not be the best of friends, supporting each other only makes everyone's success grow. If a customer comes to my taco truck each week and sees your Mac & Cheese truck, they may bring a Mac & Cheese customer with them next week. Together we attract more people and we all achieve more.
    In regard to music, we probably all have certain music that we just don't enjoy. However, if you have ever spent time with someone who understands and enjoys that particular music, they can often enlighten you to something you didn't know about or recognize about that music. You may still make a face when you hear it but you have a new found appreciation about some aspect of it.

  18. Thanks for your insights and write up, Jeni.

    Chapter 7 was definitely not one of my favorites. Thinking back over the ideas, I realized that Sonenshein hadn't rocked my world or even nudged me to consider any new perspectives. I generally agree that bringing an integrated self to all aspects of our lives and looking for opportunities to create value can only enrich our experiences, satisfaction, and success. I'm already intimately versed in the benefits of collaboration and expanding the pie over zero sum competition because of my work with Roger Fisher and principled negotiation.

    Reading through everyone's comments, I wonder if others also found the content more intuitive and less informative than they did other chapters. With apologies to the clearly self-aware Xeno, it seems to me that the stretching characteristics proposed in this chapter might actually describe the way the majority of women more naturally exist in the world. From my experience, observations, and study, women maintain a consistent conscious, and subconscious awareness of all relationships around them, actively tending to them, and recognizing their importance to organizations and to achieving results. Valuing connection, women are already more likely to work collaboratively, find ways to expand opportunity, and create a supportive environment. Unlike men, women don't tend to notice the competition for hierarchy that men find so salient, so they're less aware of any negative judgments others might have about the personal and nurturing aspects of their personalities. Accordingly, they feel less of a need to compartmentalize their personal and professional identities, enabling them to bring more integrated, authentic versions of themselves to all spheres of their lives. IMHO

  19. Well Janice, I must admit that no matter how many times Olivia used to get me to appreciate death metal music, it just never happened! But I sure get your point! 🙂

  20. Thank you Marci for this interesting and provocative comment! I'm mostly with you regarding what you've written here about women working collaboratively and creating supportive environments, but my personal experiences compel me to disagree with this: "Unlike men, women don't tend to notice the competition for hierarchy that men find so salient, so they're less aware of any negative judgments others might have about the personal and nurturing aspects of their personalities." I have worked for and with women who were far more competitive than the men with whom we worked. The unfortunate fact is that they believed they had to be to achieve the status that men of lesser qualification were easily able to achieve and maintain due to their gender. And these women were not interested at all in potential fall-out to their female cohorts due to their cut throat desire to "make it to the top." And. They were extremely aware and hyper-sensitive to co-workers negative judgments (both professional and, sadly, personal) regardless of whether or not those judgments had merit. I was speaking about issues similar to this with a woman executive in my family not too long ago. She has reached very high position in her field, almost the highest, and maintained for many, many years. She expressed to me that the people in her experience who worked the hardest to "take her down" were women. I haven't asked, so can't know for sure, but I feel fairly certain these women made specific attempts to keep much of the nurturing aspects of their personalities out of the workplace. Oddly, though, I'm less sure of my thoughts relative to the last part of your comments re: women being naturally more authentic in all spheres of their lives. I'm sitting here really reflecting on past experiences and trying to construct a cogent narrative around this idea and my experiences. My intuition wants to say that of course women are more authentic automatically, and I believe this to be true. I think. But in the workplace I'm just not sure. My comments are based only on my personal experiences and should not be misconstrued by anyone that I think these comments are true across all work experiences and people. Thanks again, Marci…you've really got me thinking with this one.

  21. Thanks for your thoughtful comments Tracey and for providing me an opportunity to clarify my expression of an idea that I oversimplified in a quest for brevity. I absolutely agree with you that women can be cut-throat, cold, aggressive A’s. I’ve even found in my former incarnation as an attorney in a major New York law firm that those who’ve clawed their to the top behave more punitively toward relationship/connection oriented women than any of their male counterparts.

    When I asserted my point about gender differences, I was imprecisely referring to averages, likelihoods, and characteristics more often found in one gender than another across the entire population. Specific individuals of either gender may of course fall anywhere along a range of typically male or female characteristics.

  22. When I had my studio I set a goal for myself to try to combine both my former career in working with children with disabilities and the "spa" business. I wanted to start a work program with schools and day programs in my area for the students to come to work for. I wanted to teach them parts of my business that they would do well in and I would pay them. I never got to do this because of time( as I said before from an earlier chapter) and had to close the store.Bring all my knowledge together to try something new to benefit both the children and my store. This "tradeoff" did not work for me as did becoming a teacher assistant instead of a psychologist because of lack of time and money. Becoming a TA gave me more time as a mother, even though I am sure I could have had it all, the degree and my family.

  23. Wow Christina. I don't believe you clarified when last you wrote about your store what type of business it was you were trying to launch. What a magnificent idea! I'm so sorry that it didn't end up working out. With all the volunteer work I've done over the last several years with NAMI, I know how desperate the need is for businesses and opportunities exactly like the one you were trying to implement. I'm so glad that were you able to achieve the same sense of satisfaction from becoming a TA and that it afforded you such valuable time and energy and spend with your family. I stopped working when my daughter was young. It was so difficult, although I don't regret the decision for a minute. She's no longer young and we will always have the memories we cultivated during those times. thank you for this lovely comment.

  24. Yes, but it also took me a long time to get over the fact that it was timing or whatever that didn't have it work out. I am very happy and grateful for the experience and accepting of all it. I do not have any more regrets. Onward!

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