I am …

We were having dinner with a group of people, one of Marc’s work things, introductions were being made, and someone said to me, “How about you, Mary? What’s your career?”

It caught me by surprise, and I burst out laughing. I knew it wasn’t very elegant of me, but I couldn’t help it. “That’s a very good question,” I said. “I wish I knew.” Continue reading



I’m not dead yet! This may very well be my favorite line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail –  it’s a close tie with Silly English kuhniggits! and Run away! Run away! Spoken with the proper accent, each phrase has served me well in response to a variety of situations I’ve encountered across the years.

You might very well have wondered about my status, since my last post was about a month ago. I saw my trusty CTO Dave not long ago on a trip to the US, and the issue came up.

Dave: You haven’t posted much to Gydle lately.

Me: I don’t have anything to say.

He shrugged, and that was that. Yesterday he sent me a comic from the Oatmeal that explains it much better than I did. Make sure you scroll down to the part that says “I’m a firm believer that if you don’t have anything to say, you shouldn’t be talking. And if you don’t have anything to write about, DON’T WRITE.” Continue reading


Happy Halloween! A whole month has gone by and I haven’t written a thing here on Gydle. It’s not the funk, thank goodness, that has passed. I’m back in the saddle, writing away. I had a very relaxing vacation and knitted a pair of mittens. I am now a mitten-knitter, something to which I have always aspired.

Today as I was driving, I caught a snippet of one of my favorite TED talks, the one in which Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat, Pray, Love” fame talks about the nature of genius and the dark side of success. I quoted her talk a while ago in a post on Inspiration.

I took it as a sign.

The important thing about the creative process, she says, is showing up day after day. You have to do your part, and trust that whatever inspiration or creative genius or whatever you want to call it will come and visit you at some point. You have to make the choice to put yourself out there and create something. Continue reading

The function of funks

I was a little worried that after my last post, someone would stage an intervention. Take away all my running shoes, maybe, or set up a booby trap in front of the door so I would trip and sprain an ankle. Remember, way back this spring I asked you to remind me to be moderate when I started going off the deep end. Thanks for nothing, people!

As it happens, I intervened all by myself and took two consecutive days off. Then I went into a funk. And that has really slowed me down. Continue reading

A fork in the road

I’ve been thinking a lot lately (yes, it hurts). My reading on cognitive biases has naturally led me to reflect on my own decision-making processes. From there, it was only a short leap to casting a critical eye on what I spend my time doing. Where do I put my energy, my creativity, my passion?

I’m not getting any younger, after all. Neither are you, by the way. (You’re welcome.)

I wasn’t all that satisfied with what I came up with.

Then, today, I read something on Seth Godin’s blog:

So many things are now completely up to us, more than ever before. Where and how and when we work and invest and interact and instruct and learn… If you think you have no choice but to do what you do now, you’ve already made a serious error.

This prompted even more philosophical constipation introspection. What motivates my choices for how I spend my time? I decided that when I spend time doing something, it’s because:

  1. I really want to do it
  2. I have to do it
  3. I think it’s what I should do
  4. I do it because I’m avoiding doing something else

All four are arguably legitimate modes of action.

Perhaps the key to a satisfying life is making a conscious effort to maximize time spent doing things that fall under category number 1.  And because there are only 24 hours in a day, maximizing number 1 necessarily means minimizing 2, 3, and 4. Simple math. I can do that!

Well, I spend a lot of time procrastinating (number 4). This one should be easy to deal with, right?

Not so fast. The thing I’m avoiding doing is obviously a number 2 or 3. Do I really have to do it, or don’t I?  Sometimes it’s really hard to differentiate between have to and should. Avoidance is much easier.

Oh, I say, I have to pay the bills, do the shopping, fix dinner, change the sheets. But do I, really? How many of those number 2s are really number 3s in disguise? How many of them were once upon a time number 1s? There’s probably a lot more wiggle room here than I think there is. They’re sneaky little devils, those number 2s.

And then there’s number 3. Could he be the elephant in the room? Clearly, what I think I should do with my time is a complex construction that I’ve been building up since childhood, dependent on my parental upbringing, the culture in which I live, the financial and emotional situation I’ve gotten myself into, the social feedback I get on a daily basis. How can I quantify that rationally?

Geez, this is getting thorny. I can see I’m going to get snagged down in semantics. Math only gets you so far (right, Descartes?). Time to get out of this particular philosophical bramble patch.


In fact, I think this kind of rational reasoning applied to decision-making is fundamentally flawed. Here’s why.

When I said, above, “The thing I’m avoiding is obviously number 2 or 3,” you agreed with me, didn’t you? Who would procrastinate to avoid doing something they really want to do?

Answer: most of us.

Rationally, it’s totally counterintuitive, but I think it’s true. Dig deep and think about what it is you really, truly want to do. And I’m not talking about eating a handful of jelly bellies, here, I’m talking about how you use big chunks of your time during the day. If you feel like you’re doing what you really want to do, that you’re living your dream, then congratulations. Pass Go and collect $200. Send me $100.

But if you don’t, if you wake up every morning and fill your days with 2s, 3s and 4s, it’s likely that doing the thing or things you really want to do would put a lot of what you’ve carefully built up over your whole life into jeopardy. That’s a scary proposition. My adrenaline spikes just thinking about it. Run away! Run away!

See, we’re emotionally hard-wired to avoid scary situations, and if the thing we really want to do feels dangerous, we’ll avoid doing it. And we’ll make up a whole lot of reasons to explain it all away, reasons that involve have to, should,  and later.

Here’s my thesis: Number 1 is the elephant in the room.

How badly do you want to do what you think you really want to do? Because until you can commit to really wanting to do what it is you really want to do, then you’re going to fill your life up with 2s, 3s and 4s. You will probably feel vaguely unfulfilled and dissatisfied. You might even complain about it. Oh, well, that’s life.

So here goes. There’s something I really want to do, but doing it will be a big deal. It will mean that some of my number 2s, 3s, and 4s – in other words, what I am doing now – will have to change.

It’s my choice. It’s up to me.

(to be continued…)

Make me care

521247814_7e13273476_mI mentioned last week that I had somehow gotten through the filters and was accepted as part of the audience for last Friday’s TEDx Lausanne conference. I was really excited, because I am a huge TED fan. I’ve listened to lots of TED talks on the internet, and been very inspired. TED’s motto “Ideas worth sharing,” resonates with me. I’m an idea person.

So there I was, nametag around my neck: Self-Employed. I should have put CEO, Gydle Publishing Empire but I didn’t realize I’d get it on a nametag. Oh well, next time. Other people’s nametags also sported words describing things they cared about: virtual reality, world peace, vegetarianism, Internet of Things. I think it was supposed to be a conversation-starter. Since I’d apparently left this bit blank on the registration form, I just roamed around, not conversing. That was okay, because Nespresso co-sponsored the event and so there was plenty of coffee.

Maybe I set myself up for disappointment. Maybe listening to the best TED talks on the internet didn’t prepare me for this reality: very few people know how to give a good talk. Out of a hundred 15-minute talks, you’re lucky to get about ten good ones. On Friday we were lucky, because a few were relatively decent. But nothing really inspired me.  The organizers of the conference probably will blacklist me for this, but when it was over, oddly enough I felt kind of like the girl in the conference’s homepage image (above): disconnected. What was that we just sped past?

During the breaks, I had some interesting conversations with people who weren’t intimidated by my lack of professional affiliation; and after the talks were over I met some of the speakers and talked with them as well. They’re great people who are quite passionate about their work. It must be scary as hell to give a TEDx talk to an audience secretly hoping to hear somebody like Al Gore or Sir Ken Robinson. (I hope none of them read my blog. If you’re reading this, you know who you are, I think you’re great and keep up the good work…).

I’m not going to deconstruct the talks here, or my conversations with other attendees, even though there were some interesting ideas exchanged in both venues. Instead I’m going to share what I thought about during most of the conference, at least when I wasn’t thinking about what I should have put on my nametag or why none of the speakers was talking about gamification, given that the theme of the conference was ostensibly the future. Which was: What makes for a good TED talk?

At about 3:30 pm, I had an epiphany of sorts: In fact, a good TED talk isn’t about the speaker at all. It’s not about the audience, either. It transcends all those individual egos. A good TED talk is really just a novel form of energy transfer.

In a good talk, the passionate idea in the speaker’s head somehow takes hold of the heads and hearts of the audience. In a good talk, the speaker builds a connection with the audience using words, pictures, laughter and silence, until a kind of mental bridge forms between them and energy flows freely through the room. The audience ends up really, truly caring. If you hooked them up to brain wave monitors, I’m guessing their hippocampi would be lighted up like Christmas trees. The idea is shared. It’s emotional, it’s inspiring and above all, it’s uplifting.

In a good talk, the audience doesn’t have to work to follow the talk or to be inspired. No, quite the contrary: it’s practically impossible for them not to be inspired, not to care, to remain indifferent. Unless, of course, they’re psychopaths. But the likelihood of an audience of psychopaths at a TEDx conference is pretty slim – even in California. Certainly not in Lausanne.

So next time you have to give a talk, I challenge you to think about this energy transfer: Why do you care about your idea? Where is its energy coming from? Dig deep and find the source of your passion, the place where it all starts. Tap into that. That’s the story the audience wants to hear. Look into their eyes, work some magic with words, pictures, jokes and pregnant pauses, and then beam it out there, Scotty.

Disclaimer: I am not a public speaking expert. I would probably give a horrible talk, although I’d try hard not to. For some really useful tips on how to give a speech, I do actually know a real public speaking expert, John Zimmer, and he has a blog called Manner of Speaking. I recommend it.

Photo Credit: Ward. via Compfight cc


There’s someone in my head, but it’s not me.” – Pink Floyd

Where do ideas come from? How many of us wake up in the morning and say, Gee, I think I’m gonna to have myself a great idea today!

Not me.

In general, the harder I try to think up something original, the slower my brain goes until it ultimately screeches to a stop and I have to go play a game of Scramble or eat jelly bellies to get it going again. Continue reading