Analyfe Has Moved!

I have officially moved this blog to analyfe.com and will no longer be updating the blog here. All previously published posts can now be found on the new site.

Please update your bookmarks accordingly and consider subscribing to the new site–instructions here.

As always, I can still be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you so much for following and I hope to see you soon!

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Want to Stay Subscribed to Analyfe? Please Read!

If you see this page, you’re in the right place!

Just under two years ago, I decided it might be fun to try blogging. Try…

It turns out, I actually enjoy writing and connecting with people. It amazes me how a simple idea and a few baby steps beyond the boundaries of my comfort zone propelled me into an entirely different world. A world built on the exploration of ideas, brilliant sparks of inspiration, aimless wanderings, overwhelming excitement, and that impossibly complex task of figuring this life out. When I stand back to consider the ground tread between Point A and Point B, I have to admit: I’m impressed.

I began blogging as a personal challenge, something to push me and amuse me. After several months I began gaining readership–and not not just followers, but incredible people and thought-provoking discussions. Am I providing something worthwhile here? I’m not sure, but perhaps my sincere attempts are shining through.

I feel as if I’m at a cusp–standing in the middle a tightrope, where moving forward and turning around are equally terrifying. I’ve spent the past few months pacing back and forth between self-hosting this blog and walking away from it. After sorting out the technical back-end, I finally have my self-hosted blog up and, as far as I can tell, functional. Hooray!

If I had to consolidate my blog into a single statement, I would say:

My life is a blank canvas. I see ideas and people and nature and am in awe of the beauty and the potential; through my peripheral, I can see how these different colors could fit into my unique picture. But everything is so amazing that I can’t seem to commit to anything.

That’s a difficult place to be caught, and it’s even more difficult to openly share that experience. However, with wavering uncertainty comes endless possibilities. As much as I feel inclined to cower away or just do something easy–to do what everyone else is doing–I don’t think I can. The next step in my “Just Do Something” plan was to bite the bullet and set up self-hosting, so here I am.

Starting November 1, I’ll be exclusively posting at my very own blog, Analyfe.com (Until then, I will continue to post only here, so people don’t get double notifications.) There’s a link on the new blog’s sidebar where the old subscription link used to be; if you’d like to stay subscribed–and I truly hope that you do want to stay subscribed–please head over and subscribe to analyfe emails or update your rss feed to http://analyfe.com/feed. As always, I can also be found on Twitter and on Facebook.

If you’d like to continue receiving posts from the new analyfe in your WordPress news feed, here’s what to do:

Hover over that “W” in the top left corner, scroll down to “Reader” and click.

Within your “Reader,” click on “Edit List”

Beneath Edit Following, type http://analyfe.com, click “Follow”

You have successfully subscribed to analyfe.com!

 Head over to http://www.analyfe.com/ and let me know what you think and what I could do to improve the site!

I hope to see you soon!

-Erin

Greatness in the Modern Paradigm

“No man is truly great who is great only in his lifetime. The test of greatness is the page of history.”
-William Hazlitt

In the early 19th century, Hazlitt and other social commenters viewed ‘greatness’ as an effortful feat extending far beyond one’s lifespan. Greatness was doing something meaningful without ever seeing its effect.

Fast forward to the present day. Within seconds of takeoff, the space shuttle Endeavour launched itself from Kennedy Space Center to its trending position on Twitter. With the help of news platforms and online sharing, knowledge and valuable resources are at everyone’s fingertips. Modern technology lets us connect in ways not possible 200, or even 20 years ago. With the onset of internet, cell phones, and blogging came new opportunities–what may have previously been a once-in-a-lifetime chance meeting has been made an everyday reality. Those passionately proclaiming their life’s message can now be heard by those beyond their neighborhood. And, if the message is worth hearing, it will trickle down through networks of relevance with ever-increasing rapidity.

Can it still be said that greatness cannot recognized during one’s lifetime?

Those labeled ‘great’ are seen as leaders in their field, and individuals who have achieved some level of importance or distinction. The great are notably good at what they do and are well-known by those who care about the work being done. During the Second World War, the name Enrico Fermi was recognized by nearly every chemist, but few outside the field. Today–thanks to history books–he’s know as the developer of the first nuclear reactor and a leader in the Manhattan Project.

With the current transformational shifts in idea-sharing, should the term ‘greatness’ be redefined? How does the modern understanding compare to the concepts of 70 and 200 years ago? Is it possible that modern greatness can be recognized sooner?

The growing use of social media and online platforms is still young, so only the passing of time can provide answers to those questions. However, based on my own experience, I believe that Hazlitt’s perspective is quickly losing relevance. Greatness is not only found in the pages of history, but in the notes of our everyday lives.

With all of our social connections–each of which has been meticulously hand-chosen based on shared interests and potential gains–we recognize ourselves and our values, we see them mirrored back and magnified. We cannot only see greatness instantaneously in every new post, tweet, and presentation; we can also bolster and promote others whom we personally identify as ‘great’ and, in doing so, we can become a part of that excellence.

When someone proclaims that “You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.”* or “Maybe stories are just data with a soul.”** and we connect with these messages, we become a part of something bigger than ourselves–some overarching humanist mission to save mankind, nestled cozily inside our own favorite little niche.

When these influential individuals also happen to be active on social media networks, you can feel as if you are a part of their important campaign. You can feel as if–even in the tiniest way–you, too, are making a difference. Over the course of my time blogging, I’ve unwittingly backed up countless individuals and causes, which I mention simply because I have personally gained something and hope to pass those benefits along. That article, that song, that senseless yet insidious thought that so affected me, when set out on the public table, could spark a discussion and inspire individual change in others.

As the vehicle for idea transference, might you and I be participating in some facet of greatness? Were you once the link connecting an idea to he who brought the concept to life? Might a statement made in passing have inspired someone to keep on dreaming–could your simple statement have ultimately changed the course of history? What if your impossible “What if…?” were made real? What if your impassioned confusion and strive towards ‘something worth believing in’ paid off in the end–not in the history books, but now.

Businesses no longer take decades to gain footing and mission statements no longer rest beneath piles of dusty old documents. The modern world is a feverish breeding ground for infectious greatness, and that excellence is accessible to everyone. A perfect example of this is Scott Harrison’s charity: water. In just six years, the concept of a charity with full transparency and accountability was transformed from a crazy idea into one of the leading non-profits. In donating, we’re not only helping those in the third world access clean water, making ourselves eligible for a tax deduction, and helping the organizer reach their goals; in donating, we’re joining countless others in an important mission and becoming part of something bigger than ourselves, we are joining in on that ‘shared greatness’.

Never underestimate the influence of the human spirit and never underestimate the potential for greatness that lies within each of us. The modern paradigm of greatness has little to do with historical significance and world-wide recognition. Rather, greatness is defined by the combined efforts of individuals–each working to change their small portion of the world. Amassing those small, individual efforts and tracking their ripples is where future historians will uncover the GREATNESS of our generation. And we live in a time where it is easier than ever to be a part of that dense and deeply rooted modern greatness.

Want to be a part of the shared greatness? Consider contributing to my charity: water birthday campaign. 

*quote by Chris Guillebeau

**quote by Brené Brown

At Arm’s Length

I don’t bite, but please don’t come any closer. (Taken by my best friend for her B&W Photography 101 Class)

When I first meet someone, I tend to keep my mouth shut and smile.

Talking to an old friend over coffee is nice. I just listen intently and nod as they share their stories.

When I talk to acquaintances or exchange emails with my blog readers, I hear time and time again,

You’re so honest and genuine, yet…I feel like you’re holding back.

And when I go on to ask what I should do differently,

Let us get to know the real Erin. What is a typical day like for you? What makes you come alive? What do you do when you’re not writing?

My initial response is usually a slightly defensive sigh and perhaps an eye roll. Then I pause and wonder, Do I really come across as aloof? The fact that the same critique continues to come up–both in real life and within the realm of blogging–makes me believe that maybe I am suppressing and concealing parts of who I am. A pocketful of bright confetti strips, stuffed into the dark depths of my favorite jeans, secretly longing for the freedom to carelessly flail about in the wind.

For years, I’ve been picking at the outer seams, cautiously tucking my colorful idiosyncrasies further and further from view. For years, I’ve been attempting to understand how it is that I can be seen as authentic and relatable, yet simultaneously apprehensive and unfeeling. Somehow both a mass of charged energy and a complete enigma.

I think I compartmentalize topics into safe zones while sectioning off others with caution tape. Make yourself at home in the living room, but don’t you dare peek into my son’s filthy bedroom! I’ve always been good at analytic problem-solving, so I want to talk about about how to optimize your work space because I can actually help; I absolutely love yoga, but I’ve only been practicing for a year, so I don’t feel I’m experienced enough to offer any helpful insights. It feels as if some doors have been swung wide open and others are dead-bolted shut, without my realizing it and against my will.

I recently met up with my cousin for dinner. He’s five years older than me, so he has always been like a big brother. There has always been lots of teasing and he has always been my strongest role model and mentor. Though we’re different in nearly every way imaginable, he never fails to give me a new perspective. It’s the kind of relationship money could never buy. 

A year ago, the two of us drove together on a road trip to California, and at one point he asked me, “If you could be anywhere right now, doing anything….what would it be? It was a tough question for me, and I never ended up offering an answer. I still don’t have an answer, in all honesty. Even if I did, I’m not sure how comfortable I’d feel sharing it. My dreams seem fluid and fleeting, a string of unrelated and contradictory hopes and longings.

In talking to to my cousin over sushi, I shared some of the things I hope to do in the next several years. He smirked and replied, “I can’t see you doing any of that. Really think about it… Can you?” Yes…I mean…I don’t know. He made me question myself, which was slightly perturbing. But worse yet, he was convinced that 1) I won’t go back to school, 2) that I’ll jump at the first chance to move across the country or across the world, 3) and that if I meet the “right guy,” I’ll be as good as gone. I was completely taken aback. Is he projecting his own life onto me? Does he know something I don’t? Or does one of the people I’m most honest an open with see me in a completely different light than I see myself–a completely different version of “me” than I’m trying to convey? It was an eye-opening evening for me, though I still haven’t figured out exactly what it is that I’m supposed to be seeing…

I don’t have my life together, and I often beat myself up over that. I can’t decide what book to read next, let alone what I want to do with my life. I try to do everything, I give up on everything, and then suffer asphyxiating panic attacks because I’m not doing anything. It’s a vicious cycle. I’m highly allergic to peanuts and if any of you have food allergies, it’s that feeling. For everyone else, I’d describe it as an external crushing paired with an internal swarming and swelling. I sometimes feel like I’m dying, just because my ducks are out enjoying the water, rather than lining up at my feet.

No one has their life together. I am fully aware of this. Yet, I still set unrealistically high standards for myself. I still, somehow, expect myself to do it ALL and to continually function at 110%. Cue Friend #1 to walk up, slap me, and then give me a hug and tell me to lighten up.

Sometimes I get so scared of failure and not being enough that I bury those insecurities and then decorate that unstable little sand castle with my shiny and ornate superfluous parts.  The things we do, the ways in which we attempt to compensate for and hide our perceived shortcomings are pernicious. A subtle and insidious erosion that, with time, can begin to seem normal.

I recently read (and heavily marked up) Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. The subtitle —How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead–says it all. Being vulnerable requires courage. And being vulnerable can positively transform how we go about our lives and how we interact with others.

Vulnerability has always been a struggle for me. I don’t feel comfortable speaking up, standing up for others, or revealing things that could potentially be turned against me. I’ll do any of these uncomfortable things when I feel that the gains outweigh the risks, but that’s admittedly not very often. Though I don’t understand that aloofness that seems to permeate my presence, on some level, I do. It manifests itself as a heaviness, anxiety, and sense of inadequacy. When I want to say something and then think better of it, I can physically feel the knots and the lumps growing in my. My pockets are bulging with multitudes of mylar, but there’s something unsettling about being the only one in a austere room tossing up confetti for no better reason than to just release it into the world.

Alright, Erin, so you’ve taken all of these classes and read dozens of books on the psychology of  happiness and well-being. You’ve studied interpersonal relationships, vulnerability, uncertainty, cognition, and more. Shouldn’t you understand how to stop fending off friends by now? Don’t you know how to change? Hypothetically, an exuberant YES! In practice, it’s a bit more complex, simply because vulnerability requires habituating a practice. It takes time and a continued effort to break out of our comfort zones and explore new (and potentially better) territories. When you put up walls, you’re not protecting yourself from getting hurt; you’re isolating yourself from people who actually care and shutting out countless magnificent opportunities. Just out of reach is the worst place to be, the worst place to hold someone else.

Vulnerability is something that I need to work on. I just need to figure out where to begin.

Daring Greatly Review + Giveaway

What if I fail? What if I’m not good enough? What will people think of me? We’ve all probed these and similar questions. Each of us, at one time or another, has doubted our abilities. No one is perfect and bulletproof is a myth, yet everyone occasionally trips over these instances of fear and insecurity.

In her many years of researching connection, psychologist and storyteller, Brené Brown has spent much time exploring the topics of vulnerability and shame, as well as examining how these emotions affect our relationships. In her latest book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brown shares her research findings, fearlessly exposes her personal story, offers a guided journey towards understanding the driving forces behind out behaviors and–most importantly–encourages each of us to reclaim our lives and fearlessly reopen our hearts.

“Connection is why we’re here. We’re hardwired to connect with others and it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”

Though we’re inherently driven towards connection, over time society has driven a wedge between our natural inclinations and societal exceptions. The structure of our cultures, families, and organizations choke that desire for openness and vulnerability in well-intentioned, yet devastating attempts to preserve order. We construct complex means of navigating through life while keeping everyone at a safe distance and forever fixating our eyes on the exit sign. We want to experience others’ vulnerability while keeping our own secrets and insecurities close to the chest. I can completely relate to Brown when she states, “along with my fear of vulnerability, I also inherited a huge heart and ready empathy.” That dichotomous combination makes day-to-day life excruciatingly difficult, at times. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Vulnerability is at the core of our most difficult emotions–fear, disappointment, and grief–but it is also the wellspring of love, belonging, joy, empathy, and creativity. It involves both an openness to positive experiences and an acceptance of the potentially heart-breaking risks. Likened to a tightrope, vulnerability is that trembling midpoint where moving forward and turning back are equally terrifying, and standing still is an entirely unstable option. With that knowledge, why would we ever do anything other than move forward?

As the title suggest, Daring Greatly is broken down into multiple sections. The implications of Brown’s research and observations are applied to all areas of life, from self-growth and relationships to parenting and leadership. The insights offered in the book are thought-provoking and invaluable.

What drives our fear of being vulnerable? Are we building walls around ourselves as a defense against vulnerability? What is the price we pay by shutting down and disengaging? How can we learn to embrace our vulnerability and begin to transform the ways in which we live, love, parent, and lead?

We live in a culture of scarcity. Nothing ever seems to be “enough” and we’re continually striving for more money, more power, and more material possessions  Maybe, beneath all those superficial “wants,” what we truly long for is love and acceptance. Remove that maybe, because research has shown that it is connection, not possessions that bring us true and lasting joy.

We live in a culture of shame. We compare our lives, our relationships, our children, and our teams to those around us and then question our own technique, our own worthiness. We’ve forgotten how to trust our intuition and we’ve lost sight of our unique strengths and perspectives. To complicate things further, men and women experience shame differently–women struggle with physical beauty and motherhood, whereas men worry about being perceived as weak. We all cause ourselves unnecessary pain when we shut down or lash out due to fear, pain, and that all-too-familiar insidious sense of inadequacy. An important lesson highlighted in the book is to pay attention to how we act while in this state of shame and fear. The worst crime we can against a loved one is to shame them–even after an apology, the damage is irreparable because we’ve shown them our willingness to use confidential information as a weapon.

The concept of perfection is seductive. Yet, perfection does not exist in the world, as we know it. Instead, vulnerability lies at the core of human experience. It’s through vulnerability that we learn about and experience courage, compassion, and human connection. Vulnerability is also a prime catalyst for innovation and change.

In interviewing numerous individuals over the years, Brown realized that vulnerability is never an effortless pursuit, but rather it is often a daily struggle to become comfortable with one’s power and gifts. Each day is a new opportunity to remind ourselves that we are worthy, that we are enough. We don’t have to be “perfect,” but we should strive towards engagement in all that we do, and we should commit ourselves to finding some alignment between our personal values and our actions. 

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to  wake up in the morning and think, no matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to be at night thinking, yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”

Having majored in psychology, I’ve developed a post-collegiate fondness for psychology and personal-development books. Under that broad umbrella of admiration sit many prominent researchers. Brené Brown is the one standing tall, smiling, and shamelessly singing along to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. After viewing her TEDx talk on vulnerability, reading The Gifts of Imperfection, and singing along with her at World Domination Summit 2012, I  did not hesitate to pre-order Daring Greatly as soon as it was announced. The book far exceeded all expectations.

Does the book sound like you something you may be interested in? As luck would have it, I was offered by the publisher an additional copy to give away. You read that correctly–you could win a free copy of this wonderful book!

Daring Greatly Giveaway

What can I win? Enter to win a free copy of Brené Brown new release, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. I have one book to offer, so there will thus be one winner.

When does the contest run? The contest will run now through Saturday, October 13th at midnight (MST). 

How can I enter? In the comments below, answer the following question: What’s worth doing even if I fail? (You’re welcome to share other thoughts, as well.)

Can I earn additional entries? Yes, you can! Like analyfe’s Facebook page, post a tweet  about the giveaway @analyfe and then leave a comment saying you’ve done so.

Are there any restrictions? The contest is limited to residents of the continental US.

How will the winner be chosen? The winner will be chosen at random, and each entry will be counted separately.

What if I don’t win? Daring Greatly is a wonderful book, so consider investing in your and buying or borrowing a copy.

*I’m still in the process of transferring the blog from analyfe.wordpress.com to analyfe.com, so to avoid confusion I’ll be accepting entries on both sites, though I’d prefer the former (turquoise header)*

When the Movie is Better Than the Book

It doesn’t happen often, but now and then a movie is released with the side-note: based on the acclaimed novel. That’s generally not a good thing. However, there are exceptions. The films Fight Club, Atonement, The Lovely Bones, and possibly the Harry Potter series live up to their paperback predecessors, in my humble opinion. As of Friday, The Perks of Being a Wallflower was added to that list.

I first read the book in 1999 when it was first released, and reread it again last year. Though many of the topics went over my head as a kid, I really connected with the story–that feeling of never fitting in, and then finding a group of people with whom you can be yourself, and those experiences in which you feel infinite and alive.

The film version of the story features Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller. Now, thirteen years after publication of the book, its author, Stephen Chbosky, has helped his vision come full circle. Chbosky took the liberty of writing the screenplay, choosing the cast, and directing the movie himself. Since he had full control, Chbosky was able to create a mirror image, moving picture of his novel. The scenes, details, and emotions were all spot on, which made the story even more powerful.

I’ll eagerly read a book if the movie has a stellar plot, but I have hard time seeing movies based on books. I loved The Hunger Games series, and though my sister owns the movie, I haven’t watched it, as I’m worried the movie will ruin the story. Just seeing the trailer triggered thoughts like, “That is not at all how I envisioned it…”

Though I was wary of the movie featuring such well-known actors, at a local book signing Chbosky made an interesting point. Logan Lerman and Emma Watson were both child actor–their lives have been filled with the same socially awkward, don’t quite fit in sentiments as the characters in the book. Thus, it was easy for them to take on the roles of those teenage misfits. For nearly two hours, I forgot that they were famous. They were just Charlie, Sam, and Patrick.

If you happened to have read and enjoyed the book, I would highly recommend the movie. If not, perhaps check out the plot and reviews and then pick up the book in honor of National Banned Books Week or check out the movie some evening when indecision and boredom kick in.

What is your opinion of movies based on books? Do any stand out in your mind as prime examples of either engenderment or butchering of the story?