I Know How They Feel

Sarah Hoyt sez

However, around the edges, I actually found out what makes people bond with you personally. I found it out both by reading a lot of blogs and running one: People want to know you. As a person. They want to know the funny little things in your life. They want to feel you’re one of their friends, and they could drop by the kitchen for a cup of coffee. (To be fair, my fans who know where I live are welcome to.)

So I’ll riff off of a couple of other posts I came across today with a personal flair.

First, Fillyjonk muses on how to play as an adult:

But tonight, the cable was out (it just came back, just in time for me to start thinking about going to bed). Instead, I put the BBC app on on my phone. There was a World Service program on, called “Why We Play.” I kept listening partly because the announcer (I *think* he was Welsh) had a pleasant and interesting voice, but then the program interested me – I might try to relisten to it if they have a recording of it posted.

This episod was about playfulness in adults; I came in on a feature about an improv class. And comments were made about how being playful makes life better – that people with a sense of playfulness are perhaps better at rolling with the punches in life, and they’re more creative at work, and generally are happier.

But playfulness is hard to pin down – the announcer noted that what I refer to as “enforced fun” doesn’t work (e.g., a workplace instituting silly hat days, or similar) because some people dislike the conformism and anyway, you’re playing by someone else’s rules so you’re not being creative yourself.

There were a couple dimensions of playfulness – I forget all of them but openness to new things was one and gregariousness was another, and I know those are both things I am low on – I’ve never been that open to new things and I’m also a little overtaxed sometimes by too many people.

You know, I could use a little more play as well. Most of my days are filled with work, chores, ferrying boys, attending school events or church, and reading. Some days, the highlights are a hot shower and a nap.

Fillyjonk also says:

Another thing, I think: I’ve lost a lot of playfulness in the past few years. Partly it’s the shocks we’re all heir to in all times and all places – losing a parent you were close to is no joke. Partly the state of the world is just more difficult (or feels more difficult) than it once did, and I also feel in a way like the scales have fallen from my eyes and I have a more cynical and jaded view of humanity and how it interacts.

But I would like to get back to being more playful. I think I used to be? It seems like I used to be? But I’m not sure how. I’m sure part of it is having good local friends and support and I have a lot less of that now, between people dying and people moving away and some people just still *isolating* because of health issues. And it’s hard to be playful alone.

I also maybe feel like I need guidance or help or opportunities – like a class (they featured an improv class, and though that might not be for me, maybe something like a pottery class?) But that’s not a thing any more, not here, not in the time of COVID.

Although I did not see the program, I, as a blogger, I must opine on how to play mostly by gazing at my navel. Here’s what you (I) need:

  • Permission to be goofy
    Basically, you have to allow yourself to be silly, to riff on things, to make jokes no matter how lame. You can train yourself to do this when you’re alone or with your pets. I sing operatically to the cats, I talk to myself, I crack all the jokes, even when they’re clever and not funny. Then, when you get comfortable with that, you can do try it with someone else.
  • Someone to Play With
    This is the tricky part: A friend with whom you’re comfortable and can kid around with without reservation. I think I’ve met one couple like this in the last ten years. Maybe 25. When you’re riffing/joking around, it helps to have someone to laugh at your jokes and to make you laugh as well. When you’re hanging out or doing things like that, you’ll be playing no matter what you do.

    However, most people you meet and might come to call friends won’t rise to this level (or sink to this low). Most friendships will remain at a more formal level. Coworkers you come to have dinner with, for example. And maybe some of this is lost with age; back in the Atari Parties days, we played a bit with co-workers, but I can’t imagine doing this now. Of course, I have not met only one client or co-worker in person in the last fifteen years, so who knows what it’s like with “normal” people my age.

  • Spontaneity
    Fillyjonk, and apparently, the television program held up an improv class as a possibility. However, a class is a good way to do something different and to meet new people with whom to have fun, a class is going to be a little like work if you take it long enough and will become part of the routine from which you’ll eventually play hooky and like it. Take it from a guy who has been studying martial arts for a number of years: It was great fun at the beginning for the novelty; now it’s not as fun or novel (but still a good workout). An improv class, on the other hand, will help you to be silly (see the first bullet).

Of course, your mileage may vary.

Meanwhile, at Rural Revolution, Patrice Lewis tackles The question of ambition:

Which led me to thinking, in a convoluted sort of way, about the subject of ambition, and how it means different things for different people.

A few years ago, someone I like and respect asked me where I saw myself in ten years. What, he wanted to know, is our (my husband’s and my) goal over the next decade? This question was asked because the gentleman is a go-getter, a business whiz, an operational genius whose ambition drove him to strive for greater and better things.

I replied that we were very satisfied with our present conditions. We were happy with our marriage, our children, our employment, our farm.

But my questioner persisted. Surely we had some lofty goals we wanted to achieve? Didn’t we want to find a corporate ladder to climb? Didn’t we want financial wealth or societal acclaim? Didn’t we want to change the world in some way? As politely as I could, I said no.

You know, I was asked this question a bunch when I was younger; as you might know, I have talked to a lot of people about jobs and contracts recently, and that question rarely comes up. Which is just as well. Now, as then, I don’t know where I’ll be in ten years (although given my family members tend to conk out at about sixty, the answer quite likely is not here. Back when they asked me that in the 1990s, they often said five years, and I still didn’t know. I hopefully hopped from high school to college and have since gone through a series of jobs and contracts, none longer than three years, with an interregnum of primary child care. Even now, I won’t know where I’ll be in five years. Will my current contract(s) have turned into something lucrative? Will I be onto other contracts? Will I be working in the retail industry? All of these things are distinct possibilities. If I’m not dead.

I don’t know how much ambition I have ever had–I mean, I like working for small companies and startups, and I hope that they’ll set me up in a position to retire early (so far, not so good). But I’ve never wanted to climb a corporate ladder. Well, not seriously. I’m sure I thought about it when watching The Secret of My Success over and over, although I always considered myself a writer first and foremost and a business guy somewhere down the list. So I don’t really think of myself as ambitions in that climbing the ladder way.

My beautiful wife is very active in the local, what, business networking community? She’s hoping to get a consulting business off of the ground, so she’s taking a lot of training and writing a lot of things and platforms to increase her visibility, and she makes weekly plans and maps out a lot of things. And me? I like to learn new things, too, but I take a bit more measured approach, recognizing that things and plans change a lot, so I don’t get locked in on them.

Perhaps I’m a bit jaded–I’ve written lots of articles professionally, both in magazines, on third-party Web sites, and on LinkedIn, and they haven’t got a lot of traction. Business consultants will tell you you have to have a blog, you have to write on Medium (does anyone write on Medium any more?), and you’ve got to keep at it to increase your visibility. Well, yeah, um, I have been blogging for a number of years (the number is coming up on 19), and my personal brand has not pushed many physical or Kindle books, and my LinkedIn articles have not gotten a lot of views, either–and although I tout them when reaching out for work, only one person in the last few years, with dozens and dozens of contacts, asked me a question about one of them. And professional networking groups tend to be full of people looking for new clients, so you end up with a lot of business consultants in them and few business who do something real and many nonprofits.

I dunno; maybe I’m trying hard not to confuse all movement with progress. Or maybe I am lazy. Or, most likely, it’s somewhere combination of the two.

It probably makes me a poor consultant, as I’m not on the treadmill trying to grow my consulting business (I just want to work myself, not build a stable of mini-mes to rent out). Not ambitious, I guess.

Ah, so be it. But it makes for a bit of culture differences when I do attend the networking events.

Wait, this just in: Sarah Hoyt continues:

Here’s the thing: I started my blog with a bunch of personalized little things like that. I think I had two readers? Because no one cares. They don’t know you, why should they care if your fish is swimming in a funny pattern?

Oops. Oh, well, never mind, carry on. I will get back to posting the brief book reports and movie reports, along with some pictures of actresses and musicians, by and by.

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