Repost: A story about car keys

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, here’s a re-post on a lesser known (but no less inspirational) story from the civil rights movement.

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I don’t know if it’s because of the inspiring speech from the Great Oakland Public Schools fundraiser tonight, or if it’s my hypersensitivity to the caffeine from the Thai Iced tea I had at lunch, but I can’t sleep right now.  So why not spend this time doing one of the things I wanted to do more of this year – write on this blog!

I want to share a story with you about car keys, that Mike Johnston told during his keynote speech at tonight’s fundraiser.  For those of you who don’t know of Mike Johnston, he’s someone who has been very active in education reform.  He helped found New Leaders for New Schools, is currently a State Senator in Colorado, and wrote a transformation ed reform bill in Colorado, that has sparked similar ed reform bills in 14 other states.  He’s also recently been featured as one of Time Magazine’s 40 under 40.  Look him up.  He’s awesome.
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Move your story forward

“No one wants to read a book about how the protagonist sat around thinking about all the things she wanted to do.”

My friend was talking about a recent revelation she had after analyzing a number of fiction best-sellers.

The audience wants to see the characters take action.  Action produces conflict.  Conflict is exciting.  Conflict helps characters develop.  It offers the opportunity to triumph.

 

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She was right.  And she was taking her lesson to the streets.  She decided to act like the protagonist she would want to read about in the story of her life.  While on a run, she passed by Boudin’s (the San Francisco bakery famous for its sourdough) and thought that it’d be cool to learn how to make bread.  But instead of just letting that thought sit as she continued her run, she went inside to find the master baker.  She took a risk, took action.  Now, don’t you want to turn the page and find out what happens next?

The rest of her story is hers to tell someday, but she presents a valuable lesson.

How do you want the story of your life to read?  Will it be safe, but with many regrets about what might have been?  Or will it be full of risk-taking, mistakes, and interesting lessons?

What type of protagonist do you want to be?  Will you sit around and wait for your fairy godmother to come grant your wish?  Or will you venture out and seek out what you want?

What will be your greatest challenge or conflict?  What will your triumph look like?  How will that feel?

And most importantly, what action will you take right now to drive your story forward?

The miracle of asking for what you need

It felt a little weird.  The floral wallpaper and Hello Kitty posters still adorned the walls, but all the furniture was different.  The room felt crowded with the three dressers and 42-inch plasma tv that had fit so nicely in my apartment San Francisco.  It was the first time I had moved back home since I moved out to go to college.

I should be grateful.

My New Zealand adventure was over, and I was back in the Bay Area.  Despite the risky move of  putting my job search on hold to travel halfway across the world, I received a job offer for a part-time summer internship.  Things ended up working out.  And fortunately, unlike many of my classmates who also graduated without a job, my parents lived within commutable distance of the job.  Free housing.  I really lucked out.

But this was far from a permanent solution.  The internship was for ten weeks.  I’d still have to find full-time work.  And I also wanted to make sense of the mismatch that my mentor pointed out between what I thought I wanted to do, and what really excited me.

 I can’t stay here. Continue reading

Envision your dream life (and make it real)

Back when I was in the third or fourth grade, I came up with a list of things I would do the time I turned 30:

-graduate from college
-get a job
-buy a house
-get married (closer to when I turned 30)
-get ready to have kids (by doing the rest of the things on the list)

It recently occurred to me that it’s time to come up with a new vision for my future.  I’m 29 now, and I’ve done almost every item on my by-the-time-I’m-30 list.  (I’m not married yet, but I am engaged.  Love you, Sam!)

This time around, I’ve chosen to approach my future in a different way.  Ever since my sister watched The Secret, she had talked about how we should create vision boards for ourselves, visual representations of what we wanted in life.  I liked the idea, and we agreed that someday, we’d get together and do just that.  For years we put it off, but with the impending completion/expiration of my by-the-time-I’m-30 list, I figured now was a good time to get together over a weekend and get it done.  My cousin came over, too, and my living room turned into an arts and crafts and vision and encouragement fest.

Visions are different from goals.  Continue reading

Now it has become your job to pass on that lesson

Yesterday at work, my team was interviewing job applicants for an open position we have.  The standout comment someone made during the debrief was:

“Hey, you know that website that one candidate said she co-founded?  It’s actually real!”

It’s a pretty cool website, too.  It’s called thanksforteaching.us and it’s a site where you can post quick thank you notes to teachers.  It reminded me of a thank you letter I sent last year:

Dear Mr. Varela,
 

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Defusing the I-need-a-job-freakout

Let’s be honest.  Two years ago, after I graduated without a job,  I had days when I freaked out.  Last winter, months after my friend also graduated without a job, she freaked out.  A few months ago, when my boyfriend realized that his under-employment was not sustainable, he freaked out.

(source)

We’re all bound to go through it: the “I need a job!” freakout.

It’s ok.

Freaking out can be legitimate. We all have bills to pay in order to maintain life’s necessities, like food and shelter.

Freaking out can also be therapeutic.  If you’re around a bunch of other people who don’t have jobs, it’s something you can commiserate about.  Aaaah freakout! Le freak, c’est chic.

But there’s a point where all that freaking out isn’t healthy.  And I doubt it’s making you happy.
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How to answer the question “What kind of job are you looking for?”

***DISCLAIMER: The following dialogue is a dramatization, and in no way reflects how much whining my boyfriend did in the early stages of his job search.***

“So, what kind of job are you looking for?”

“Arrrrrrrrrgh!  I don’t know.  Why do you keep asking me that?”

My boyfriend, now employed, told me that getting him to answer that question was the single most helpful thing I did during the months I coached him through his search for a full-time job.

“So, what kind of job are you looking for?”

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore.  I just want to find a job.”

Well, babe, it’s kinda hard to find something when you don’t know what you’re looking for.  More importantly, it’s especially hard for someone to help you find something when you can’t define what it is you want to find.  Continue reading

Breaking a bad habit

Even though I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions (you can read my new year’s post to find out what I did instead), there is at least one bad habit I’d like to break. There’s something I say all the time, without thinking, and for no good reason.

My boyfriend pointed this out to me, a couple months ago.  I had the refrigerator door open for about a minute when he asked,

“What are you doing?”

“I need to figure out what I want to eat.”

“Do you? Do you really need to?”

“Huh?”

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A story about car keys

I don’t know if it’s because of the inspiring speech from the Great Oakland Public Schools fundraiser tonight, or if it’s my hypersensitivity to the caffeine from the Thai Iced tea I had at lunch, but I can’t sleep right now.  So why not spend this time doing one of the things I wanted to do more of this year – write on this blog!

I want to share a story with you about car keys, that Mike Johnston told during his keynote speech at tonight’s fundraiser.  For those of you who don’t know of Mike Johnston, he’s someone who has been very active in education reform.  He helped found New Leaders for New Schools, is currently a State Senator in Colorado, and wrote a transformation ed reform bill in Colorado, that has sparked similar ed reform bills in 14 other states.  He’s also recently been featured as one of Time Magazine’s 40 under 40.  Look him up.  He’s awesome.
Continue reading

New Year’s List and the Law of Increase

The holiday season is officially over and it’s time to return to my regularly scheduled life.  Around this time, it seems like everyone is making lists, and I am no exception.  I feel compelled to make lots of lists: of things I would like to do differently, of places I would like to go, of people I want to see, of things I want to make, and all sorts of other stuff.  It’s not even a new year’s thing; I just like to make lists.  Lists make me feel like I have a plan, and crossing things off my list makes me feel like I’ve achieved something.

However, a lot of the cultivation-of-happiness work I’ve done this year makes me feel like creating another list of things to do isn’t the best course of action.  One of the lessons I learned in 2011 is that I spend far too much time thinking of the past and the future, and not enough time in the present.  So instead, I’m going to apply one of the lessons that popped up in a number of things I read this year.  Srikumar Rao calls it:

The Law of Increase
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