As I was searching for a way to trade services or barter with those in my community, I found a site called Simbi.

The name is a reference to Symbiotic Relationships:

Symbiotic relationships are a special type of interaction between species. Sometimes beneficial, sometimes harmful, these relationships are essential to many organisms and ecosystems, and they provide a balance that can only be achieved by working together. – Sarah Friedl

Here is their video:

From the Simbi Website:

Choose from over 100,000 services
On Simbi, you can exchange services with other members or offer to “pay” them for their time using your credits

Offer what you love
By offering services that bring you joy, our community gives you the opportunity to share your hobbies, skills, and talents in a whole new way.

Find symbiosis!
Members get to start conversations and propose exchanges. Don’t want their service? Ask to be paid in simbi “” and choose another service you want later. Every deal is a win-win!

So I decided to search for my original need, guitar lessons in exchange for something I am good at. I chose the third listing on my screen because the user was in my time zone.

In the section where she is looking for services she lists, music & audio, and Art & Design. Because I can offer art and design help I would now be able to trade my time for her time and no money would exchange hands.


So what services could I trade for something in my area that would help out my wife?

After a quick search in my zip code, I find Chip who is a licensed massage therapist and lives not far from me.

Just like Tehila, Chip is also looking for Art and Design services. So in both cases, I could do something in my spare time to trade for something I want to have or learn.

A while back, I was a member of where I would frequently get a rather nice book for about a dollar and a book I was done with. I liked this because paying full price for books doesn’t work well for me and borrowing books to read for leisure from the library almost always results in renewing twice and then paying fines when I don’t have it back on time.

Now there is a way to trade exactly what I am good at for exactly what another person is good at. Wish me luck. I will write another blog post as a follow up after I give it a try.

If you join with this link, I get some credit on Simbi.


There I stood, electric hedge trimmers in one hand and a ninety-nine-foot extension cord in the other. On the ground in front of me lay a one-foot extension cord.

At this moment I had three items that were essentially useless. There was the hedge trimmer which now had no power, and two wildly different links of perfectly non-functioning cord.

Moments before this I was happily chopping away at a holly bush and then when I wasn’t paying attention, I cut into the thing that you should never cut into… the thing that powers you.

So let us take a moment and name our players in this tale:

We have the Electric Hedge Trimmers which work on the front lines, are aggressive and are seen as being risky and a little dangerous. They see themselves as the only one who really does anything real work around here. If you take an electric hedge trimmer and really look at its design, the cord is not long enough for the trimmer to cut it off. You cannot physically get the cord into the teeth of the trimmer, even if you really pulled it and tried. Without electricity, even if you stuck your finger into the blades, they really won’t do much damage. By itself the trimmer can plug into an outlet, work perfectly, and never cause damage to itself or the outlet. But how many holly bushes are there within the six-inch reach of an electrical outlet?

Next, we have a ninety-nine-foot electric cord who works seamlessly with the one-foot electric cord. They work together so well that no one even knew there were two extension cords there. Most of the time, the trimmers see the ninety-nine-foot cord as something that is holding things back and frustrating to have to drag along behind you. The ninety-nine-foot cord has to get the power a really long distance, something that the one-foot cord cannot do. But the ninety-nine-foot cord cannot work with the outlet. There is no interface. Without the one-foot cord, the others cannot do their jobs.

Lastly, we have the one-foot extension cord. This guy understands how the outlet works and how to get power from it. He works great with the ninety-nine-foot cord, and for the most part, just tries to stay away from the hedge trimmers. They have been around each other before a few times at parties but the trimmers always seem to forget they even exist. When others do take the time to notice the one-foot-cord they see something that is a little sad and hard to understand.

When everything was functioning correctly, it was a perfect line of transport. The ninety-nine foot and the one-foot extension cords were of one mind and the hedge trimmers were getting what they needed to do the client facing action. Then… nothing. No work is getting done. The trimmer is furious. The Gardner is frustrated.

Let’s recap the metaphor, shall we?

  1. The only thing that actually USES the electricity are the trimmers.
  2. The trimmers think they do all of the work and tend to get most of the gardener’s attention.
  3. Without the other components, the trimmers can accomplish nothing.
  4. If the trimmer lashes out, everyone loses, including the Gardener.
  5. We sometimes resent the ninety-nine-foot cord for slowing us down or holding us back
  6. We tend to only notice the one-foot cord when it is no longer doing its job.

So let us consider our varied roles in our organizations and in our systems.

When are you the hedge trimmer?
The ninety-nine-foot cord?
The one-foot-cord?
How does it feel to be in each role?
When you are a cord, what makes you feel appreciated?
When you are the hedge trimmer how do you approach that role?
What behaviors make the system work well from each of the three perspectives?

A huge thank you to my friend Erica Marx for helping me crawl through the finish line on this one. She proofed the ending and thought it wasn’t my best work. The new ending reflects her thoughtfulness.

For this week’s Sunday Improv Experiment I will be taking sets of three random words from, saying what it makes me think of, and then writing a bit of the story behind it.

I will state word 1 + word 2 + word 3 from the generator and then = my first thought.

Wish me luck!

monkey + vitamins + decorator = the statue of willie b at the atlanta zoo
When I was a kid, my parents would take me to the zoo. At the time, the most captivating part of the trip was always getting to see Willie B, the Silverback Gorilla. The first time I saw him he was in a cage with only a television and a tire swing. The next time I clearly remember visiting him, he was out in an open exhibit outdoors. I remember thinking how much happier he must be now and why on earth they thought a TV and a tire swing were what a gorilla would want 24 hours a day. The last time I saw Willie B he was a statue as the real Willie B died in the year 2000 at the age of 41. More about Willie B here.

knife + teacher + barber = watching sweeny todd for the first time
When I first started studying theatre in high school, I got very confused between the play The Barber of Seville and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street  by Sondheim. In my mind they were combined into one story. Now keep in mind I didn’t have an internet to go and check and listening to Sweeney Todd songs, while we read excerpts from The Barber of Seville, only perpetuated the problem. I am fairly certain that my drama teacher could have corrected this any time she wished, but far too entertained by my juxtaposition. It wasn’t until college, when I saw a recording of Sweeney Todd all the way through that this was all cleared up but by then I am sure there were countless confused drama majors that were very frustrated with my explanation.

nun + ipad + beast = sally field as the flying nun
I watched Sally Field religiously when I was a kid, both in her role as Gidget and as the Flying Nun. I am hearing from parents and teachers that of a lot of children nowadays that only want to immerse themselves in their tablet computers.  It makes me wonder if they would be enchanted by a flying nun? I mean, I remember waiting and waiting in the show until she would finally have a reason to fly, and then… liftoff! Later in life, I saw Sally Field in the movie Punchline with Tom Hanks. She was amazing. Sally Field is a beast.

Oh dear. I seem to have gotten addicted to the generator. Here’s what just came out of my brain.

herb + ladder + genius = my relatives growing pot in my grandfather’s amongst the tomato plants.

backpack + tail + wood = my father being sprayed by a skunk on a backpacking trip and thinking everything smelled like skunk for two weeks after.

park + tax + apple pie = as american as apple pie, taxes, and south park. 

toy + submarine + coat = the book tintin and red rackham’s treasure had tintin wear a coat and pilot in a submarine shaped like a shark.

sunburn + fireman + fact = extreme exposure can cause third degree sunburns similar to those suffered in a house fire. fact.

bandit + luggage + junk = stagecoach robbers in 1883 must have hit bust on some of their hijackings, disappointed in the quality of their stolen goods.

Happy Sunday everyone!

 Photo by Willard

I learned about GOTE in my freshman year of college as I was studying theatre. GOTE, which stands for “Goal, Obstacle, Tactics, and Expectation”, is an acronym devised by Robert Cohen and was introduced as a way to approach playing a character and telling great stories. I took that approach and applied it to improvisation, teaching it in my intro to improv class and using it for team coaching. It was around 2003 that I realized that GOTE had become my way to help others in my life to get unstuck.

Goal – What do you want? Do you want to work on Wall Street? Do you want the girl next door to notice you? Do you want to discover a cure for the common cold?

Obstacle – Who stands in your way of getting what you want? What stands in your way? Is there a rule that is stopping you? A lack of funds? A leader with a grudge?

Tactic – What will you do to get past the obstacle that is in your way of getting what you want? What will you say? What will you do?

Expectation – What do you expect to happen if you get what you want? Do you expect to be happy? Do you expect to feel content? Do you expect to feel powerful?

It is this basic framework that I have used to help others discover the things that are out of alignment in their life and are causing them to lack contentment.

When there is clarity, we can find a clear path using GOTE and begin moving towards real results. But what happens when there is no clarity? What happens when we remove our own clarity?

Interestingly enough, getting to your goal is not usually about simply circumventing the obstacles in your life. The biggest eye-opener for those I help usually comes when we get to expectation. Many fail to honestly and rigorously examine their own expectations and decide if they are realistic or if they are perhaps downplayed or heightened.

GOTE is used to craft great stories. It is when we begin to tell stories about our GOTE that the problems arise. 

When we really try to go about getting what we want, we must remove excuses first because they are the obstacles that exist in the most dangerous of places… our own minds. It is in examining our excuses that we discover the stories we have told ourselves about the situation we find ourselves in may not be the most accurate of tales. We may have assigned someone in our mind as a villain as a way to excuse why we have not gotten where we want to get. We may overemphasize the hold our upbringing has on us, or how much money we might really need to accomplish our goals.

When we look at obstacles, people often think they just need to figure out a tactic to get past the villain, but the first step is actually to examine if they really are a villain at all.

When we place strong expectations on an outcome, we change not only the obstacles and tactics but we also change the goal. If our expectation is too unreasonable and our goal is therefore much bigger than it needs to be, we may protect ourselves by convincing ourselves that the obstacle is insurmountable.

It helps to look at GOTE in reverse. Sadly, ETOG is not as fun to say.

Expectation – What is my expectation if I were to get what I want? Is my expectation based in a firm reality? Have I told myself a story that has thrown my expectation completely out of whack?

Tactic – What have I really tried to do to get around the things that I believe are blocking me? Am I really seeking to move forward into action in my life or am I lost in the emotions I have stirred up with the stories I have told myself?

Obstacle – What is the truth about the things that are in my way? If I remove the obstacles that are not as bad as I told myself they were, will I discover that my biggest obstacle is really my own fear of success or failure? Will I discover that I care for my comfort too much to want to do the difficult things achieving my goal would require?

Goal – What is it that I want that I am currently getting in life that is in the way of getting my bigger want? Is my comfort stopping me? Is the fiction I have created in my mind going to dissolve if I attempt to go after it?

These ideas, when combined together, allow us to go through our current stories and then go through again and define our realities.

Take a moment today and ask yourself… What is my REAL GOTE?

 Photo by Michael Kahl on Unsplash

When a company, team, or individual goes about creating a strategy, they like to have as close to a full picture as possible of all the details to give themselves the best chance of heading in the right direction. But what about times when you don’t have a full picture?

When I am working, there will be constant course corrections as I move forward on a given project. What I hope to avoid is not the course corrections, but instead, to avoid missing the vital moment when we need to start moving forward.

To sum up, in most cases I will not have the full picture of the need, the obstacles, and the solution so I will need to make a logical leap using the data I have gathered at that point.

This is where things get tricky because as we mentioned the average person is not comfortable with making decisions without all of the facts. So how do we fill in the gaps in our knowledge enough to know we aren’t jumping blindly to our doom?

The Metaphor

The frog DNA metaphor is taken from the novel and subsequent film Jurrasic Park by Michael Crichton in which he describes a world where scientists have collected enough dinosaur DNA to clone a dinosaur. Their problem is that they are missing sections of the DNA strands and must fill it with bird, lizard, and frog DNA to make a complete picture. Haven’t seen the movie? Shame on you! Want to remind yourself what I’m talking about? Here is a video for a 3 minute refresh.

In all fairness, due to a plot device, the frog DNA turns out to have been a tragic error, but the metaphor is just far too fun to let go just because of the movie’s outcome.

So in this situation I ask myself “what is the most logical data to include that is the most similar to the data I have already collected?”

What I use as frog DNA:

  • My knowledge of the customer or user of the end product.
  • Existing research from another similar field.
  • Existing research from a very different field that aligns with this project.
  • What we know about humans from the fields of psychology, sociology, and neuroscience.
  • What I know about myself and those closest to me.

Applying Improvisation

When I am improvising a scene in front of an audience, I must play characters as close to the reality that we have created so far in the show.  But when I do not know a character would do, I try to envision a version of myself or someone close to me in a situation where I might this choice might be a reality.

I am realistic about myself and how imperfect I am in the right circumstances, so I can usually come up with a scenario that would cause me to act boldly enough in a given scenario to match my character. If not, I try to do the same work with someone that I know that is different from myself but similar to the character.

High Velocity Decision Making

Why would I want to use frog DNA instead of just waiting for the remainder of the information? Why take the risk in order to get moving? Jeff Bezos of recently filled in a great explanation for me in his annual letter to shareholders:

“Most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in his annual letter to shareholders, released Wednesday. “If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being slow.”  One of the tenets of the Day 1 mentality is to make faster decisions, he said. But it’s not just about speed. Anyone can pick things fast willy-nilly. You have to somehow make high-quality, high-velocity decisions,” Bezos wrote. “Easy for start-ups and very challenging for large organizations.” -Jeff Bezos

In improvisation we defer judgment, accept the ideas presented, and play them out to the best of our abilities. Working with improvisation allows us to make the types of high-velocity decisions that Mr. Bezos speaks of.

Third, use the phrase “disagree and commit.” This phrase will save a lot of time. If you have conviction on a particular direction even though there’s no consensus, it’s helpful to say, “Look, I know we disagree on this but will you gamble with me on it? Disagree and commit?” By the time you’re at this point, no one can know the answer for sure, and you’ll probably get a quick yes. – Jeff Bezos

Beginning improvisers disagree and commit so often that they eventually start skipping the part where they disagree (the judgment) and jump straight to the commit (yes, and.)

So what happens in improv when something we do doesn’t work well right away because of the frog DNA that we use? We course correct and refine. We add in additional data that we learned along the way and use it to make the overall story better and stronger. This is all done without ever pointing at someone and saying “that is a bad idea!”

The steps for using frog DNA

  1. Get as close as you can to the 70% mark on the data that you need.
  2. Examine the gaps in your data and define what you are missing as clearly as possible.
  3. Fill in those gaps with frog DNA. Whatever you have, and as close as you can get to the original source.
  4. Run the strategy as if it were a reality and look for logic issues.
  5. Jump back to #3 again and continue with other frog DNA until the strategy is as stable as possible.
  6. When stable, run the strategy.
  7. Be prepared to course correct, and course correct, and course-correct again.

In conclusion

So what are some high-velocity decisions you made and what was your frog DNA? What decisions that you have been sitting on because you want all the facts first, but you are realizing you might never have in time?

There are times when a hurting or broken relationship could be restored with a simple apology.

There are moments when saying, “thank you” for help received, could strengthen trust, and foster a new connection with another.

It is in these times that we must make a very difficult choice. Do we stand firm on being right, or do we follow the healthy path and do what is right for the relationship.

Trouble is, many of us have not learned the power and value of being humble. We are not willing to make a minor sacrifice of ego or face in order to build something vital and healthy.

There are a handful of real and reasonable phrases that proclaim a state of correctness and are unfortunately used as an excuse for not meeting another human being halfway.

I have a RIGHT to be upset

I DESERVE an apology

It is the PRINCIPLE of the matter

I am JUSTIFIED in my reaction

It’s not my FAULT they are so sensitive

In select cases, I have heard others almost saying, “I am allowed” to be in this state. As if they were waiting for an opportunity where the would be justified in a large reaction and letting go of that opportunity is not something they are willing to take lightly.

Others seem to be fearful that they will lose respect, status, or inherent value if they were to be the first to admit to how their participation accelerated or heightened the encounter.

Some believe that the situation is a win/lose encounter and that if they apologize or give thanks, they will lose and that is not acceptable to their nature.

In other situations, people seem to be trapped by their own black and white view of the situation and do not seem to be capable of bending that view easily.

Whether it is a choice or a mental block, it is often true that the effort needed to move beyond these thoughts for the benefit of the relationship is not applied and no action is taken for the better.

Improvisation has allowed me to understand the power of the apology and the thanks. By giving an apology for my part in things, I do not lose respect, I gain it. By extending my hand first, I am not weaker, I am stronger; nor am I losing, I am winning. By seeking to understand the purpose behind the other person’s actions, I am gaining something of greater value than the opportunity to be right.

Once you begin to empathize and apologize or connect and thank, it becomes possible to find a new satisfaction in facilitating healing in the relationship and valuing that above any of the other trappings of our own ego or viewpoint.

Try it this week. Meet the other person halfway. Give them an honest show of gratitude without believing you will be weaker for it. Apologize for your part in things without worry that you will lose.


I began this post with the intention of talking about my new /now page on, where I now list everything that my life is about at this moment. I did a quick hop over to google to find out more about the /now movement and how it started. This led me on a rabbit trail of fascinating information about intentionality and authenticity, which I will share with you now.

All of the relevant text is a part of this article so you won’t need to click the links to get the knowledge. This trail can be read from beginning to end here on this page. 

Hop 1 > the /now movement

What is a “now page”?

Most websites have a link that says “about”. It goes to a page that tells you something about the background of this person or business. For short, people just call it an “about page”.

Most websites have a link that says “contact”. It goes to a page that tells you how to contact this person or business. For short, people just call it a “contact page”.

So a website with a link that says “now” goes to a page that tells you what this person is focused on at this point in their life. For short, we call it a “now page”.


Hop 2 > Derek Sivers- Creator of /now

Derek Sivers

What I’m doing now

(This is a now page, and if you have your own site, you should make one, too.)

I’m home in New Zealand, being with my boy, teaching him to read. I was supposed to be in Tanzania for the past three weeks, but I missed him too much, so cancelled my entire trip, including TED. Fair trade.

I spent most of the last two weeks learning the C programming language — something I’ve wanted to do for years. Since all the other languages I know are based on C, it feels like learning Latin. Though I like how the great “21st Century C” book compares C to punk rock, and it’s tempting to try using it for my next few projects. (If you know other languages, but were always curious about C, try that book or “Beginning C, 5th edition”.)

I’m just starting to learn Portuguese, using Michel Thomas audio, and daily conversations booked with a native speaker through iTalki.

There are some other things I’m considering doing, but I’ll update this page when I do them.

This update was September 2nd, 2017.

Hop 3 > Don’t speak in future tense

The challenge: Don’t speak in future tense

When I lived in Los Angeles, I noticed they have a strange speaking pattern.

Everyone speaks in future tense. (Or, more specifically, present-tense inaction, future-tense action.)

“This guy from EMI is interested and going to be presenting it to the VP.”

“We’re in talks to do a pilot for the fall.”

“I’m getting ready to work on some new material with a hit writer.”

Of course these are the things some people have to tell themselves to be hopeful when facing another day of challenges.

But of course nothing materializes. You never hear it mentioned again, and you politely don’t ask. (Surprising circumstances always foiled the certain event.)

I felt like wearing a t-shirt that says, “TELL ME WHEN IT’S ACTUALLY HAPPENING.”

So now when I hear a future-tense sentence, my ears shut down. I’ll say “cool!” and hope it helps, but I don’t believe a word.

Try noticing this in yourself and others for a week. Are you speaking more in future tense or present tense? Are they?

Remember that announcing your plans makes them less likely to happen.

Hop 4 > Announcing your plans makes you less motivated to accomplish them

Shouldn’t you announce your goals, so friends can support you?

Isn’t it good networking to tell people about your upcoming projects?

Doesn’t the “law of attraction” mean you should state your intention, and visualize the goal as already yours?


Tests done since 1933 show that people who talk about their intentions are less likely to make them happen.

Announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you’re less motivated to do the hard work needed.

In 1933, W. Mahler found that if a person announced the solution to a problem, and was acknowledged by others, it was now in the brain as a “social reality”, even if the solution hadn’t actually been achieved.

NYU psychology professor Peter Gollwitzer has been studying this since his 1982 book “Symbolic Self-Completion” (pdf article here) — and recently published results of new tests in a research article, “When Intentions Go Public: Does Social Reality Widen the Intention-Behavior Gap?

Four different tests of 63 people found that those who kept their intentions private were more likely to achieve them than those who made them public and were acknowledged by others.

Once you’ve told people of your intentions, it gives you a “premature sense of completeness.”

You have “identity symbols” in your brain that make your self-image. Since both actions and talk create symbols in your brain, talking satisfies the brain enough that it “neglects the pursuit of further symbols.”

A related test found that success on one sub-goal (like eating healthy meals) reduced efforts on other important sub-goals (like going to the gym) for the same reason.

It may seem unnatural to keep your intentions and plans private, but try it. If you do tell a friend, make sure not to say it as a satisfaction (“I’m going to run a marathon!”), but as dissatisfaction (“I want to lose 20 pounds, so kick my ass if I don’t, OK?”)

Thanks to Wray Herbert’s article about this. Also please see this article for more clarification.

Hop 5 > Wray Herbert

I grew up on the Jersey shore, and besides loving all things that taste and smell of saltwater, I developed an early curiosity for life sciences. In fact, I was originally a pre-med major before my 60’s-style search for meaning and my love of all things bookish drew me into more literary pursuits. I loved school so much that I kept going until I could no longer afford it. Then, in the mid-70s, I moved to Washington, DC, to try my hand at journalism–which I’ve been doing ever since.

Passions, circumstances and opportunity intersected to shape my journalism career, but I have always had a strong focus on human behavior and health. I started out writing for the National Institute of Mental Health, where I was immersed in cutting-edge work on the brain and neuroscience. My subsequent jobs included: psychology editor at Science News; editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, health and science editor at US News & World Report; columnist for Newsweek, Scientific American Mind and, most recently, the Huffington Post. I now write two popular psychology blogs–“We’re Only Human” and “Full Frontal Psychology.” Each of these jobs has reinforced my belief that every story, whether it is about war, or love, or crime, or economics, is at its heart about human psychology–how each of us uses our brain and mind to interpret the world, make choices, and learn from our experience.

The area of cognitive psychology described in On Second Thought will continue to evolve as talented and curious psychologists study human behavior both inside and outside of the lab. Great literature, current events, pop culture and my own life experiences–all these provide lenses for examining human behavior both old and new. I hope you will join me in an ongoing discussion as I continue to blog about the science (on, what it means (and doesn’t mean) and how you and I can use it in our lives every day.

I live and make decisions, choices and judgements, both good and bad, with my wife Susie and dog Zooey in Washington, DC.

Hop 6 > Association for Psychological Science

This page made me excited. A blog of psychology where every single previewed title piqued my interest:


Hop 7 > Overclaimers

I grew up with a habitual overclaimer. He wildly exaggerated his expertise, at times claiming knowledge of things he couldn’t possibly know—people, events, ideas that simply do not exist. Being unfamiliar with overclaiming, I just called him a liar.

I couldn’t have known the word overclaimer, nor the concept. The word didn’t exist, and is only used today in the world of psychological science. Even so, we’re all familiar with these people who feel the need to overestimate what they know about the world. What underlies such assertions of impossible knowledge?

A team of researchers at Cornell University—Stav Atir, Emily Rosenzweig and David Dunning—have a theory about overclaiming, one they decided to test in a series of studies. They had the idea that people’s perceptions of their own knowledge of specific domains—biology, personal technology, sculpture—might play a role in overclaiming expertise in that domain. So for example, if I believe my understanding of biology is excellent, and you are a little shaky on the field, I will be more likely to claim knowledge about biology—even non-existent biological concepts.

The scientists decided to test this connection in the area of personal finance—a domain where a distorted sense of one’s expertise could lead to devastating results. They first asked about 100 men and women to rate their general knowledge of personal finance, and to compare themselves to the average American. Then they asked the subjects to rate their knowledge of specific terms related to personal finance. But here’s the rub: Only some of these terms were real—fixed-rate mortgage, home equity, and so forth. The others were non-existent terms invented by the scientists—pre-rated stocks, for example, or annualized credit.

The results were intriguing. The more that people viewed themselves as knowledgeable about personal finance, the more they claimed impossible knowledge of made-up concepts. This remained true whether the subjects were genuinely knowledgeable about finance or not.

The Cornell scientists ran several other versions of this same basic experiment, illuminating some nuances of overclaiming. In one, they showed that overclaiming is domain specific. That is, if I see myself as an expert on personal computers but not Renaissance art, I will only claim impossible knowledge in the area of personal computers. Interestingly, even warning subjects about the bogus concepts ahead of time did not diminish the effect. This suggests, importantly, that self-perceived knowledge prompts mistaken claims of impossible expertise—not dishonest claims.

The scientists also demonstrated a clear causal link between self-perceptions and overclaiming. They experimentally enhanced only some subjects’ self-perceived knowledge of North American geography, and then tested them on both real and made-up places. Those with overblown perceptions of their general knowledge of North America were much more likely to claim specific familiarity with non-existent places like Lake Othello, Wisconsin, and Cashmere, Oregon.

These findings, taken together and reported in a forthcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, suggest that the seemingly straightforward task of assessing one’s knowledge may not be so straightforward after all. It seems that people do not simply consult a mental index that catalogues their knowledge. Instead, they draw on pre-existing self-perceptions to decide what they do—or should—understand about the world.

That’s it. You followed along with my rabbit trail. Now you are free to roam about the cabin.

 Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash

For today’s improv experiment, I am grabbing twelve random words from and I will then write a poem using the words in order, one per line. Wish me luck…

The beauty’s eyes were nearest a copper shade
My presence in her house I tried to explain
Is an ill-fated tale of fleeing a creature
Who or’turned my truck, with no righting-feature

To her path, I ran a neat, tidy trail
Lest the horror behind me unite with my tail
From her tree, at the front, I broke off a sharp limb
I educated the fiend with a stab to its brim

Her belief in my story was obviously tenuous
Till the hum of the beast made her shift right to tremulous
My next move, decisive, was to or’take her rifle
And the creature fell dead without notice or trifle

 Photo by Elti Meshau on Unsplash

While adding new shelf paper in our new rental house there was a knock at the door. When I opened the door I was greeted by a congenial and intelligent man who expressed his need for help. He had just moved in with his family down the street and he did not yet have a job. In Alabama, where he used to live, he worked for a landscaping company. Without contacts, he explained, he was having a difficult time getting hired onto a crew near his new home. He asked if he could do any work for me in my yard to raise money for his family. As we walked around the back of my new house, he started to call off the names of the different plants he passed and talked about what I might do if I were to make a change to the landscaping. Back home he had graduated from technical school with a specialty in horticulture. “When I first got there,” he explained “I didn’t even know where carrots came from. I thought they grew from a tree! Now I know the Latin names for all of these,” he said, pointing around the yard.

If you have ever heard me talk about my philosophy for intentional encounters, you know that I always attempt to Lower the Ladder and Only Lift Up. This is how I live life and is now the working title for a book I am writing.

Lowering the ladder means to help someone out of a hole they are in by adding a tool or knowledge that allows them to get out of that hole under their own power. I believe this is an important part of helping people not become enabled into defeatist behaviors and allows them to feel a sense of accomplishment even though they did receive help getting there.

Only Lifting Up means that in every encounter where a need is discovered you are helping that person reach a new level in their life in a way that does not put you in a bad place yourself. If you cannot help the person, then the alternative is to avoid pushing them down by instilling in the conversation a sense of hope and retained dignity.

Most people’s first impulse would be to give him a few dollars and send him on his way. I do not see this as really helpful and could inadvertently push him down. As we walked around the yard, I asked him questions about his sudden move from Alabama to Georgia. I asked more about his mother who was ill and his daughter’s epilepsy. I listened closely to see if I could identify what would act as the ladder in his particular situation. Then I heard it. If he were able to get his hands on a lawn mower, he could get started mowing lawns and could work his way out of his hole under his own power.

Now a lawn mower is not an overly expensive item, but it is still more than I can afford, having just gotten into this new house and put down deposits and paid for household items. So I started to look around on Facebook marketplace for an affordable used lawnmower. I am also going to put up information on facebook about this story and see who would be willing to donate a few dollars to help him get a lawnmower.

My goal in the whole situation is to see him get to a new level in his life and be able to make a real difference in helping his family. If the lawnmower is the answer then it is time to get the man a lawnmower.

 Photo by Simone Acquaroli on Unsplash

I am an applied improviser. This means that I solve problems, teach difficult complex concepts, and coach others toward their goals, all by utilizing the foundations of improvisation.  Improvisation is who I am, what I do, and is the core of how I treat others. It would only make sense that the things I am looking for in a relationship are the same things I would be looking for from an improv scene partner.

#1 – Acceptance

In improvisation, accepting the reality of our scene partner is the foundation of the trust necessary to play together. In improvisation, we have no idea what will be thrown at us or what we will discover. The same is true for our relationships. The idea that I will be accepted for exactly who I am in this moment and that I do not have to try to be something I am not or pretend to be something in order to gain favor is something that is a must in my relationships.

#2 – Listening

As improvisers, listening to understand, accept, and build is the core of our performances on stage. It doesn’t work well otherwise. In my relationships I seek out others who listen actively and are interested in building something together that would be bigger and better than what could be built on our own.

#3 – Alignment/Mutual Purpose

This is probably the most important part of a scene being improvised in front of an audience and also the most important for me in a relationship. We need to have a mutual purpose, even if we have different perspectives. Though we may not always agree on every element of a strategy or a tactic, we are always in alignment and seeking mutual purpose. If we seem to lose that mutual purpose at any given time, we recognize it and start the journey back to each other.

#4 – Heightening

In improvisation, heightening is taking something and making it more important to the story. In a relationship, it is vital to me that the other person is raising the stakes of my actions in order to accelerate us both toward our mutual purpose. Without heightening, we do not have the needed healthy tension that drives us into needed action.

#5 – Humor/Playfulness

As improvisers, we do not need every moment on stage to be funny, but we do need for the other person we are working with to have a sense of playfulness and a good sense of humor. We need them to have a sense of humor and playfulness about life, themselves, and the relationship itself. If we take the actions we are doing too seriously, we end up with just the action and not the relationship built from the actions. Our humanity must be present in our work and in our relationships, and humor combined with playfulness is a great aspect of what can make it happen.

What about you? What elements of a relationship do you look for when starting out on a new journey with someone?

Shoulders of Giants (what does this mean?)

 Photo by Bryan Apen on Unsplash