Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Secret to Achieving Goals?

I have always been a very goal-focused, results-oriented person.  For this reason, failing is incredibly hard on me.  There are certain goals or activities I pursue with the allowance that I can fail, but there are others at which I am determined to succeed.  The former are great because I can learn from them, the latter send me into a temporary depression. 

I think the most common goal people set, especially around New Year's, is weight loss.  With the flood of amazing food and drink, especially that which is inexpensive and convenient, that our culture affords us, and the "lack of time" people associate with balancing work, family, and other priorities, it's not surprising that this is both a difficult task and a common goal. 

I read somewhere that if you set goals, no matter what they are, the only way to achieve them is to focus on one at a time, and have only one goal until you accomplish that.  I questioned that assertion, because I tend to carry multiple goals and achieve quite a bit.  But the one daunting goal I continue to fail at is weight loss, because I've allowed myself to prioritize other things above it, and when that continuously happens, I fail.  For me, this simple realization is all I really needed.  So I'd like to modify the assertion; I think it is just fine to juggle multiple goals at a time.  For many goals, you can make progress in spurts, spend a few hours here, take a class there, draw up an idea this day, take a step that day.  Weight loss, on the other hand, has to be worked on pretty much all day everyday.  A book called "The Slight Edge" would have you believe that every goal is like this - you're either moving forward or you're moving backward.  I disagree with that assertion now too, although it is still a worthwhile read; I think it is really only addressing perhaps the most difficult goals.  Easier, smaller goals can be accomplished without constant attention.

My assertion is that there are discrete-step goals and continuous-step goals.  Discrete-step goals are goals that can be worked on at your own pace, when you have time. Of course, you have to make the time to work on them in order to achieve them, but you don't go backwards by not working on them.  Continuous-step goals, on the other hand, have to be in the forefront of your mind at all times when you're making decisions.  My conclusion is that continuous-step goals must be prioritized or they will never be accomplished, while discrete-step goals can be secondary and still show forward motion and achievement. 

Continuing with weight loss as an example, if I'm going to spend time with a friend, we can either go to the movie theater or go rock climbing.  Obviously, one is better than the other with respect to the goal of weight loss.  Likewise, if I go to the movie theater, I can choose to eat pizza or nachos, or I can live with an iced tea or water.  Seemingly every decision I make is either moving towards the goal or moving away from it.  Yes, it is okay to cheat from time to time, as long as you get back on track in short time.  Depending on your level of self-discipline and control, you may need to create rules to operate from, in order to make such exceptions without falling off course altogether.  For example, instead of cutting out alcohol altogether, allow yourself x number of drinks per week; then you'll have to decide if its worth it to drink now or if you want to save your drink(s) for a different event later in the week.  The same is true of paying off debt.  Most people know how much money they will receive on an on-going basis, and know how much their bills are.  Everything beyond that, from how to spend gifts or bonuses, to spending on eating out or making unnecessary or extravagant purchases, is a decision that impacts whether you're paying your debt off or increasing it.  Unless you have a 0% interest rate, there is no financial transaction that is neutral.  Thus, every spending decision needs to be made with the goal in mind.  If you're really aggressive about it, then you'll spend more time on free activities and be very cautious about those activities which cost $20 or more.  In fact, you can make additional decisions, like holding a garage sale, donating to charity to increase tax deductions, starting a small business, doing freelance work, etc., in order to increase your income to help speed up the progress of the goal.  Similarly, if you're a single woman, you can go on free dating sites and get guys to treat you to dinner so you can reduce even your most basic spending requirements. 

Discrete-step goals can be small or huge goals; either way you can take a break from them without moving backwards.  Getting an MBA, for example, was a goal of mine at one time (and has now been accomplished).  The first steps are pretty basic: review and identify schools of interest, study and pass the GMAT, apply, accept, and pay tuition.  The harder part was going to class, doing the homework, working with teams, studying for exams, and scheduling classes.  Each step moved me forward, and if for some reason, I decided not to start a class just yet, I wouldn't necessarily go backwards unless I waited too long for school policy. 

I've tried various tactics to track my progress towards my various goals.  Sometimes I just track the results of my efforts to lose weight, in the form of a graph showing previous weigh-ins against an aggressive goal line.  Sometimes I assign myself actions like riding my bike for an hour or doing 150 crunches; I can mix these in with actions for other goals like cleaning out the spare room, installing a light fixture, studying chapter 1 of my APICS class, etc.  I've tried visual to do lists that stare me in the face, their blank boxes begging to be checked off.  I've tried tracking them on my phone and on my computer and on Evernote which syncs between my phone and my computer.  Regardless of what I do, I find that I am conscious of my goals and tasks required, and yet I do what I want to do when I want to do them.  So no program or visual or tracking tool is going to change my behavior.  Luckily, I am actually pretty disciplined in some ways; having made weight loss my primary goal, I've spent good amounts of energy moving towards it, allowing only brief cheating periods and getting back on track quickly.  My other goals aren't moving along as fast as maybe I had originally wanted them to, so they would be past due in trackers, but I am okay with that, because I am making progress on my primary goal and am not moving backwards on the secondary goals. 

This may all sound common sense to you, but I think it's really a remarkable insight.  Understanding what goals need to be prioritized and which goals can be put on the backburner is very different from either of the two previous philosophies on goals (you're either moving backward or forward, and, you can only have one goal at any one time). 

On the fence with R

I've been spending a lot of time with R the last few weeks.  In fact, I've not meant to be exclusive with him, but that's how it's worked out as of late.  The Flipflopper continues to drunk dial me four or five times a week, but is otherwise MIA.  I think Mr. Suave has given up on me, especially because he sees me with R at the dances.  Monkey has even been too busy to see me lately.  

Since R is such a big fan of dancing, we've done a lot of it together.  For St. Patty's Day we lindy-bombed an Irish music concert in Scottsdale, and the weekend before that we lindy-bombed In 'n Out after dancing at The Kat's Korner.  In fact, this past weekend I did about 24 hours of dancing, between balboa and shag lessons to social dances and swing-centered house parties.  

Needless to say, I really like dancing with R.  He doesn't always do the kinds of moves or styles that I enjoy, and I am pretty vocal about my distaste for certain moves.  But overall, he is much more talented than me in this area, and he challenges me and helps me improve.  It also just feels good having his arm around me; I don't know exactly how to explain it but I feel taken care of and safe when I'm dancing with him.  

R is good to me in so many other ways.  Having danced so much this weekend, my feet have been hurting at the end of each day; and at the end of each day, R has rubbed my feet, and he does a great job!  My feet felt so much better and were ready for the next day of activity.  More importantly, the way he took care of my feet seemed to mean a lot more than just a kind gesture; it showed how much he seems to care about me.  

Having said all that, I have a lot of hesitations about him.  And I mean A LOT!  In my boyfriend criteria, intelligence and ambition are the most important, and humor is the next important.  I still am on the fence about how smart he really is, and he clearly is not as ambitious as I'd like.  And there's always a good chance I could live with those two factors if he was funny and outgoing.  And R is definitely outgoing and social, but he is not as funny as he thinks he is. He appreciates my jokes, which I like, but I can't reciprocate.  When he's trying to be funny, it's like he has a conversation with himself, and interjects laughing in between, and he just keeps going and going and going with it.  Meanwhile, I'm not laughing along at all, and he just keeps going.  It annoys the heck out of me.  

A much more subtle annoyance I've discovered is that he doesn't pronounce "other" correctly.  He says "utter".  The first time I noticed it, I wasn't sure if I had heard correctly, but sure enough, he says it every time.  And it's not just the sole word other, its any word with that "ther" sound, like another (anutter) and together (togedder).

The ambition thing is a problem for me because he doesn't seem to make enough money to be able to do just about anything.  This is always a sensitive topic because I don't want to come off as being a gold digger or materialistic, I just want to have an equal partner that I can count on to be able to do fun things with.  There were a few times early on that R insinuated that I would buy him dinner, one time insisting I take him out for a steak dinner, and I put a stop to that.  He doesn't have a car, so he uses me for rides when we're together.  Then on top of that, he makes decisions that I perceive to be bad financial decisions.  For example, he had me take him to Crispy Creme to buy four boxes of donuts for his co-workers, most of whom he barely knows, but couldn't buy dinner or drinks the night before.  And, by the way, he didn't even offer to buy me a donut, which I was a little peeved about because I would have wanted to try one of the specialty donuts.  When we got to the car, he did offer to let me have one of the plain ones he had gotten.  Bleh.  He normally works Monday through Friday and half days most Saturdays, and has the option to work on Sunday to get ahead on his 40 hours; this week is going to be a short week because of the holiday, and he hasn't worked yet and its Tuesday.  He could have worked Sunday but went to a birthday party, yesterday he was too tired to go to work and today he took a relaxing day in order to go grocery shopping.  Now mind you, I was the one taking the dancing workshops all weekend, they were his idea and I registered for them and then he told me he wasn't going.  So I was exhausted, but I went to work yesterday and worked from home today.  He hasn't worked ONCE yet this week.  This could really kill our relationship.  

We had a talk last night specifically about my concern that he won't be able to keep up with me.  His lack of working is part of that; I can work a full day and go out to a fundraiser or mixer and then go out and party and then after party and then be at work again the next day.  That's just how I roll.  He spends a couple late nights with me and can't work for two days.  Not good.  He seemed positive he could handle me, and I didn't bring up the specifics, but I might have to if he brings up how poor he is again.  I already told him I don't like talking about money and him telling me he's strapped for cash is a big turnoff, and he has brought it up less, but I'm sure it will come up again.  

Last night I was saying something about taking calculus in college and how hard it was to me, and he said he loved calc.  This is why I'm confused about his intelligence; because he talks about being smart, but he doesn't come off as being smart at all.  His humor is atrocious, and I guess I take that as a queue that he's not very smart.  Also, there are lots of things I've talked about that I thought were kind of common knowledge, at least among smart people, that he knew nothing about.  He says he geeks out over things like how my car plugs in, but he doesn't seem to know anything about electricity.  He had a really hard time grasping the concept that I was trying to choose four paint colors and that it didn't matter what order they went in, they were all going together.  It seems like he's not smart, but then he tells me how smart he is and tells me I "earn points" when I say something smart; as if I have to prove my worth to him!!  

He has a lot of disturbing history in his past which I won't go into detail here.  I mention it for two reasons, first because I think there is something to be said about how far he's come from those challenges.  He's still in a very different place in life than I am, I see him really as being "behind" by quite a bit, seeing as he owns next to nothing and is working an hourly job with no career or education ambition at all.  But then we started in very different places; education was emphasized in my family, whereas responsibility was emphasized in his, although apparently not all that well.  The other reason I bring up his past is that the means he used to get from there to here is very hokey to me; almost cultish.  It's as if he had a need to belong to something, to feel like he was going somewhere, and couldn't do it himself, so he found addict recovery groups and self-improvement seminars that he treats like a religion.  

What's more, R seems to be a somewhat devout Christian, too, which creates an interesting dynamic with me.  I used to be a "Jesus Freak" in my junior high and high school days, going to a non-denominational church and all the summer camps and conferences I could.  I strayed early in college for various personal reasons, although I never fully abandoned my beliefs.  I can talk circles around most people claiming to be devout Christians, and I can effectively argue either side.  Pride was always an issue for me when I was acting on my religion, and you can see it come out when I talk about religion; I still assert that even without having gone to church regularly for 10 years, I could probably convert non-Christian to believers more easily and with greater success rates than most Christians.  Anyways, R goes to the same kind of non-denominational church as I did, which is also the same kind of church that my Mom and oldest sister go to.  So if I wanted to return to a more spiritual and religious me, we would be compatible I guess.  He hasn't said anything to the effect of me not being an active Christian as a deal-breaker; in fact, he's already asked me to be his girlfriend directly, and references it indirectly regularly.  Still, it's a little strange to be in any kind of relationship with a Christian, because I've dated atheists or guys of other religions for so long.  He'll say things about God's Word or praying about something or being Christ-like, and I understand it all, I just don't know if I want to hear about it.  And then on the other hand, R is breaking a lot of Christian rules with me, so I don't know if I should call him a hypocrite or a weak Christian or what.  I worry that his draw to Christianity has more to do with whatever need draws him to recovery groups and self-improvement seminars than a need to have a relationship with Christ.  

Socially, R is comfortable in large group settings and one-on-one and small groups.  He is comfortable to be around, too, and can talk with just about anyone and about anything.  This appeals to me because sometimes my pride gets in the way of me carrying on conversations, because I really don't care; so it's nice to think of having a boyfriend that can carry a conversation and pleasantries when I'm too proud to do so.  He is well connected in the swing dance community, and knows all the major players it seems.  This again may be another escape like the recovery groups, he does a lot with dance and aspires to do even more, like going to the different conventions in other states.  Still, I think he fulfills the requirements of being comfortable in social situations.  What worries me is that he has some social awkwardness that he doesn't even perceive, and I think it has gotten him a bad reputation among the swing dance community.  For example, we arrived at the after hours house party Saturday, and the hosts had barely gotten there and were finishing cleaning - he immediately went to the kitchen and demanded food.  Likewise, we stopped at my house last night just so I could change out of my work clothes before going out to dinner, and he immediately walked over to my fridge and got a drink, and then told me I was out of soda.  My reaction was that we're going out to dinner in a minute, did he really have to get a drink right now?  He agreed he did not, and put it back, saying it was just a habit; a day or two earlier he had taken a soda on our way out, opened it, and then left it in my car completely full.  His sense of humor also probably plays into some of his awkwardness that he doesn't perceive.  

What I've described to you here is a man I cannot possibly conceive of dating whatsoever.  What gives me hope, though, is that he has been very receptive to the little criticism and behavioral change requests I've given him (i.e. don't flirt with me so publicly on facebook, don't smother me with kisses in public, don't talk about how poor you are, pay your own way when we go out, it's a bad idea to drink Red Bull at midnight before going to bed).  I haven't yet given him the full weight of my brutal criticism, but I have hope that if he understands my position and sees value in the change, that he can do it.   I don't know if a sense of humor can be taught.  I don't know if he can be re-trained on how to pronounce his "thers".  I don't know if he's really a freak I should run from, or how the Christianity thing will manifest itself.  But I'm willing to continue seeing him if he shows progress on the things I test him with.  I guess I almost see him as something that can be molded into my perfect boyfriend.  Not that I want him to change for me, but that I can help him be a better version of him.  At his very core, I think he is a good person and cares a lot about me.  I could see that future R moving in with me and making me very happy.  I could fall in love with the potential R. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Startup Community

My biggest goal in 2012 was to start a company.  I wasn't very particular in what kind of company, and I kept myself grounded in the reality that most startups fail, and I probably wasn't going to be able to quit my job and be a millionaire with the first one out.  I had several brilliant ideas (doesn't everyone?) and they varied in scale, scope and potential.  

I got wind of this new thing called hackathons and within a month or so I signed up for a Startup Weekend event in Orange County, California.  You can read all about my Startup Weekend adventure here: http://startupweekend.org/2012/06/13/my-startup-weekend-experience-laura-winger/That journal was very lengthy, so I'll suffice it to say that my pitch was lame, I joined another group, and we won, which was a terrific accomplishment.  The company was called GrowUnity, and we had a domain name with a splash page, a rockin' logo, a Twitter handle, followers on facebook, you name it.

The unfortunate thing, and this seems to be a common theme with Startup Weekend winners, is that after the weekend was over, our team dispersed. That's not to say that there wasn't an effort, because there were meetings scheduled and emails exchanged.  I even went to far as to order my logo'd shirt from CafePress, signed up for an Earth Day event and handed out grapefruit from bf's backyard in exchange for email sign ups.  It was a raving success, and I was talking it up like it was going to launch soon.  I went to a few networking mixers set up by ASU Venture Catalyst with the intention of finding programmers / developers, and I did actually find a few willing to work for free up front.  I told our team's leader, but we never connected the dots.  Finally, he emailed me one day and told me that it was time he went to get a real job, and I guess the venture was over.  The website still exists with out splash page, a picture of me and the group, and a little story about how we started.  I assume the domain will expire soon and it will cease to exist completely.  

I was okay with seeing GrowUnity wither, because it wasn't really my passion or area of expertise.  Hell, I don't even eat fruit or vegetables most of the time, and I certainly can't keep even the most simple plants alive.  I think I was happier about beating the cocky guy who got second place than I was about winning, because he rubbed me wrong during the pitches and I wanted someone to take him down a notch.  I learned a lot from Startup Weekend, but probably more than anything was the formula for winning a Startup Weekend: customer validation.  While other teams presented fancy prototypes and fully functional apps, we had video testimonials, pre-signups and followers.  That lesson would repeat itself over and over again; the idea is worth zero, the people are important, but the customers are critical.  Do people want this?  

In lieu of being a part of the most collaborative team I've ever experienced or heard of, having seen it wither, I was ready to try my own gig.    I was going to start a local brewery tour, just like those which the bf and I had gone on in San Diego and San Fran.  It seemed simple, I could rig it so it had no upfront costs, therefore no seed money or funding required, and I could can it if it failed, no harm no foul.  I worked with a few friends who were interested, but none of them seemed to have the drive to actually execute and get things done.  Eventually, I allowed a couple of them to convince me that I may have to do it all myself, and I could delegate small tasks to them as employees, not partners.  

I then made one of the most common entrepreneur mistakes: I built my "product".  In this case, making the deals with brewers, catering service and transportation services.  I guess, like most early entrepreneurs, I assumed that I needed to have something before I could sell to customers, and of course they'd love it because it's a great idea.  

Well, by the time I had my offering together, the transportation providers were all closing up for the summer; it's too hot in Arizona to run those kinds of vehicles.  I was disappointed, but took it as an opportunity to work towards an opening date in the fall, so I'd be really prepared.  Wrong again.  The date of the first tour came and went.  Not a single ticket was sold.  I had passed out fliers and talked it up in bars, but my efforts were completely fruitless, unless you count getting a "like" or two on facebook as a win.  That was my first reality check.  

Venture Catalyst hosted a 10-week course called Rapid Startup School.  That was the first time I'd heard that it wasn't uncommon for Startup Weekend ventures to fail, and the idea was that this and the Lean Launchpad were what was missing from the puzzle.  I'm not quite sure how I got tangled up, but somehow I was signed up for the Rapid Startup School geared towards military applications and veterans, neither of which applied to me.  But they never kicked me out, and I figured the basics of starting a company would be the same regardless of the specific product or business type.  I was right, to an extent, I learned a lot more about startups; I also learned about how much opportunity there was for veteran-owned companies.  I encourage one of the bf's friends to join me, because he was a Marine with entrepreneurial pipedreams, but after one session he concluded it was too far to drive.  

The first night of Venture Catalyst is probably the most memorable.  One of the serial entrepreneur panelists stood in the front of the room and demanded "Let's start that business tonight!"  Over and over again, his mantra was repeated; let's start that business tonight.  The idea was that you don't need a website or business cards or even a working prototype, there are actions you can take right now to connect a customer with the product or service, and get it done.  One of my classmates did take this to heart, and came back the following week with a success story: his first customer!  Sure he was doing everything manually instead of through the fancy website he had envisioned, but you could see the potential for his manual efforts to provide revenue that could be used for development.  It was a great inspiration.  

There were a few other morsels that impacted me greatly from the Rapid Startup School, including financial and legal liability which I don't know much about and scared me into checking myself.  Specifically, even if you have an LLC, if you mix your finances with those of your LLCs, you are no longer protected personally, and a lawsuit could come after you.  There were also a lot of things I had very little interest in; different technologies ASU was pumping out that could be used to create a business around - interesting stuff but I wasn't looking for ideas, I had too many as it is!  

The last night was also very memorable because Jay from Local Motors came to speak.  I knew about Local Motors and had previously visited; they are a very cool company and if you haven't heard of them, definitely check them out.  Essentially, they are pioneering the idea of open-sourcing a vehicle design.  Their first vehicle is called the Rally Fighter, and it's bad ass.  When I had visited a few months prior, I had connected with and was given a tour by an individual who was already planning to leave the company.  His attitude towards LM was a little negative, making it sound like Jay was a little crazy and unrealistic.  I could see his point - the idea was in that gray area in which lies the line between crazy and genius, and I think it's always a little hard to tell on which side of the line you fall until the fog clears and you've either failed miserably or become the next big thing.  LM wasn't the next big thing, yet, but it did have cars rolling off the production line and revenue for them, so there was some legitimacy to the madness.  While visiting, I had seen a book about collaboration on the desk, and I went home and bought that book and read it.  I was a little disappointed in it, because it was supposed to be all about how collaboration is the next business model, but LM was the only real example of any sort of success in this regard.  Anyways, hearing Jay speak at Venture Catalyst was a very different experience.  His passion was obvious, but more so, his vision was clarified for me well beyond my previous understanding.  I had some challenging ideas of my own, and I debated whether or not I should put Jay on the spot with those types of challenges, and in the end, I did and he handled them with great style and flair.  I concluded that he is one of the smartest, bravest and most interesting people on the planet, and one I want to know better.  

So in 2012, with the goal to start a company, I had: (1) gone to a Startup Weekend, won, and then failed to make a business, (2) started the seeds of a network through ASU Venture Catalyst Techiepalooza events, (3) got an LLC, website and service offering together, and then failed to get customers for the brewery tour, and (4) diligently attended a Rapid Startup School which inspired me.  I don't really call my efforts a failure or a success, because I learned a lot, and I did finally see revenue on the brewery tour recently, although it was in 2013.  So in a small way, I did start a company that eventually had revenue, although not profit and not an ongoing business by any means.  

The breakup had a profound effect on me in many ways.  The ex- and I were going to try to stay friends and he wanted to continue helping with the brewery tour.  Indeed, when I did finally run my first private brewery tour, he was the tour guide, and we celebrated because we both did an excellent job in our roles.  But the breakup made me very lonely; sure I had friends and family, and I am forever grateful for those people who helped me get through the first couple weeks.  It was out of this desperation to fill the void that I finally turned to Meetup.  Mr. Suave had told me about it a number of times, and I just always assumed that I didn't really need it in my life.  Now, I needed it.  Within days, I was signed up for dozens of awesome groups and following their events on my phone through the app.  

It was through a startup group that I found Lean Startup Lab.  The host, Rick, is a serial entrepreneur and very clearly a seasoned and passionate person wanting to help other entrepreneurs.  It appears one of Rick's deepest desires is to create a community in the Phoenix area to foster startups.  The idea is that as small successes come through, everyone helps each other and we all grow and benefit.  I won't get into the details here of what transpired over the next few months, but it was worthwhile for me to go every Thursday night (and at times, other nights for smaller meetings) for quite some time.  I met some great people and connected with them through Twitter, LinkedIn and Rick's creation, Startup Orange.  

Last week may have been the beginning of the end of the Lean Startup Lab tale, at least for now.  It was originally started to be a three or four week lab at most, but we continued meeting as we got fresh meat week after week, and it continued to feel valuable.  Last week, though, only a few people showed up, compared to the 30 or 40 people that had previously filled the room.  Some of the groups had formed little ventures and were pursuing those outside of the lab, and I supposed I was probably the only person that had been there at day 1 that showed up last week, besides Rick obviously.  Maybe that makes me a sucker, I don't know.  

The resulting meeting was very different, as one might expect, than previous weeks, and we ended up talking about what I call a big hairy audacious goal. Much like an idea I've toyed with for years, the idea was centered around empowering inventors and creating businesses rather than a specific product or business idea.  My idea was focused on consumer products, like home decor accessories.  This idea came out of Emelia's venture engineering concept, so it was more focused on engineered products requiring CAD drawings and functional design and the like.  We met again last night, and vetted out the idea in a little more detail.  I'm pretty excited about it, because I truly believe something like this is inevitable and will exist in the near future, so to be a part of its creation would be a huge honor and achievement.  We haven't really nailed down "what" it is, its kind of like an incubator or an accelerator, its a little bit of venture engineering, its potentially a matter of coaching, and nothing exists exactly like this.  
Somehow, we hope, this will create a robust startup community that can have a huge impact on the local economy.  

Monday, March 11, 2013

Weekend with R

As the title implies, I spent the entire weekend with R.  I didn't mean to, necessarily, but it was so easy to do so, and I didn't care to do otherwise.  Or at least, I didn't have any plans with any other guys, so I didn't have to figure out a way to get rid of R.  It started on Friday night.  I went to dinner with Monkey, and after he left, I decided I wanted some attention.  I actually called The Flipflopper first, especially because he had texted me while I was at dinner with Monkey.  I figured he'd be delighted to see me, but he didn't pick up.  I didn't wait for him to call me back.  I texted R to see if he was still up, and he was, and I told him I was coming over. 

I spent the night with R, and we slept in, which is a precious rarity with me.  He had to work, so I took him, after stopping to get donuts for his co-workers.  I was a little peeved that, here I was shuttling him around, and he didn't even offer to buy my a donut.  When we got back to the car, he offered for me to have one of the donuts he had purchased.  Whatever.  

While he was at work, I went home and showered and then went to the Local Motors open house and car show.  I was surprised that they were charging money, they hadn't done that at previous open houses.  One of the first cars I saw was a Lotus, and I took a closer look.  I read the paper inside, and it happened to have written on it the name of one of my ex's closest friends.  Not that I've ever had a serious interest in him, but for the sake of my stories, I'll call him Goldfinger.  I looked around, and within seconds, I spotted Goldfinger and walked up to greet him.  We chatted a bit, and he told me to go check out the EV on the lot that had a little hamster spinning a wheel, as if that was powering the car.  I agreed that would be hilarious and went in search of it.  After waiting for a short eternity at the food truck, I ate my sandwich and went to chat with Goldfinger and his buddies for a bit.  

Then I headed over to Desert Eagle Brewing Company; I had been meaning to try their Blk Cherry Blonde that was just released.  As I drove over, I wondered if Goldfinger would ever hit on me.  My ex's previous girlfriend had married Goldfinger after she and my ex broke up, and Goldfinger quickly divorced her when he realized she was a gold digger.  I had met Goldfinger prior to my ex and I actually dating, and he had come on to me pretty strong then.  His persistence turned me off, and I thought he looked a bit like a troll.  Still, there was evidence that he was desperate for someone to love and I was right up his alley.  So it only seemed natural that, as I was back on the market, Goldfinger should try to pursue me again.  I wouldn't let it get too far, I decided, but I might let him take me out somewhere fancy once or twice, just to see what it was like; and I'd be totally honest about it with him, because that's my style.  

To my dismay, Desert Eagle had already run out of the Blk Cherry Blonde, but several of them informed me that they had some more brewing right now and it would be ready within a week.  So I ordered a Red Mountain Ale, followed by a Pomegranate Wheat.  I wasn't really sure what the gameplan was, at this point.  I was pretty much killing time until something demanded my attention.  Right on time, R demanded my attention, and I was toying with him a bit via text.  Meanwhile, my server asked me if I wanted to try the Blk Cherry Blonde.  I said I definitely would be back to try it, and she replied, "No, they found a keg of it.  It's getting hooked up right now."  I was astounded.  "You FOUND a keg?"  Was she just pulling my leg?  "Yeah, Chris found it."  "Well tell Chris he is my hero and I love him."  I got a sample of it, but was feeling the alcohol at this point, and I wanted to go get R so I dared not have a whole one.  In fact, I was still starring at half a glass of my Pomegranate Wheat, trying to figure out how I could finish it without being too drunk to drive.  I closed out my tab, and resolved to chug the last bit of my beer so that it wouldn't hit me until I got back to R's work.  There, I hopped out of the car and told him he should drive since I was tipsy.  

I had intended to go back to Desert Eagle that night, but we never made it.  We went grocery shopping and went to dinner and then to swing dance.  Swing dance, of course, was awesome as it had been before, being his date and all.  Mr. Suave showed up too, and made some comment about R being up to his old tricks again.  I didn't bother to tell Mr. Suave about my relationship with R; it was funnier to keep him guessing.  R kissed me a couple times throughout the night, and I kept wondering if Mr. Suave saw; not because I like him or anything, just because I wanted to see his reaction.  But I don't think he ever noticed.  

After swing dance, about 40 or 50 of us went to In 'n Out and "lindy bombed" the place, meaning someone started playing music and we all got up to swing dance, like a flash mob but not nearly as intense.  We were recorded by dozens of cell phone cameras, and most of the innocent bystanders seemed to enjoy it.  After a long night of dancing, R and I were both exhausted, and I thought it would be better if I took him home and parted ways with him, but that just didn't happen.  We crashed at my place, because I had a coworker coming over in the morning to do some glass etching with me.  

Irene showed up right at 9 and I showed her around my place, then let her know that R had spent the night and may come out if he ever woke up.  Then we got to work with our chemical etching on the snifter glasses for her friends' upcoming birthdays.  We needed some more stencils, so at 10 we were going to go to Michael's.  I went to the bedroom just before we left and let R know we'd be back; he was cuddling with my dog, who is normally very skidding about new people.  He said he'd come out when we returned from Michael's.  We found some really nice stencils, and got back much later than expected.  R had been trying to turn TVs on and was stumped by my big TV.  I helped him out, and then Irene and I got back to work.  I ordered Jimmy John's, and the three of us chatted and worked on our etching until about 2 pm.  It was interesting to see R and Irene in the same room; it was kind of an experiment for me to see how R was with other people around.  I liked him even better, and couldn't wait for Irene to leave so I could have him back to myself.  

After Irene left, we headed back to the brewery in hopes of having my Blk Cherry Blonde.  They had apparently had their biggest night since opening Saturday night, and thus, were out of that and my Pomegranate Wheat.  I mourned and then ordered the Roman Eagle Pale Ale.  It was pretty tasty, I guess as good as disappointment can taste.  R ordered one of the many IPAs.  There was a blue grass band playing, and the one couple dancing was doing mostly country steps but threw in some east coast swing from time to time, which made me want to dance.  

We grabbed some dinner at Greek Pita, and then headed back to the brewery because R was interested in seeing the local blues musician playing that night.  We got great seats right by the band, and ordered another round of beer.  Before long, we were out of our seats dancing swing or some semblance of it, as R saw fit to lead, and had a great time.  Then I was talking to the head brewer, and expressing my disappointment in once again missing the Blk Cherry Blonde, and he said he had found ANOTHER keg of it.  Seriously?  Well, hook me up then, I insisted, and he did.  I finally got to enjoy my tall glass of Blk Cherry Blonde, and it was delicious.  I talked to the people sitting by me; they were from Chicago and visiting for the spring training.  R was talking to the girl next to him, who only dated men over 40 apparently.  All of us danced at various times, but I think R and I were showing off, and I liked it.  

You'd think after all that, I'd be willing to get rid of R for the night.  He isn't as smart as he thinks he is, his sense of humorous is atrocious and drives me up the wall, he comes on to me too much, he smothers me, he adores me, but still - something about him feels right.  I let him spend another night at my place before starting the work week.  At lunch, I chatted with my coworker about the weekend and about R, and she kept telling me I was crazy for even considering him.  But you know, there's something to be said about the kind of company he provides, and its the kind of thing I lacked in my most recent relationship and its the kind of thing I want.  I am working really hard at not moving too fast with him, but it would be so easy for me to invite him to live with me and try to fast forward to my happy ever after.  

The Flipflopper called at 2:30 am. I didn't answer.  

Friday, March 8, 2013

Why I think excuses are lies

I used to think of excuses as lame cop-outs, but I've come to the conclusion recently that they are actually much worse than that.  Excuses are lies.  You may be giving a truthful statement in your excuse, but the implication of an excuse is "I want(ed) to but there is(/was) no possible way because..."  The reality is, where there is a will, there is a way.  Imagine if your life, and all the lives of those you cared about, relied on you doing that one thing, and if you succeeded in doing that one thing, you would be rewarded with millions of dollars.  Could you have found a way around the barrier under those circumstances?  If the answer is yes, then making an excuse is lying.  The truth, in that situation, is that you're not willing to; the perceived cost/benefit is not great enough for you to work around the barrier.  

Certainly, there are circumstances where the cost is obviously much higher than the benefit, and that could be easily discussed, like "I didn't come to work yesterday because I had a heart attack and I was in the hospital being treated."  Very few people would argue that coming to work was more important than being treated for a heart attack.  Most excuses are much less dramatic, like, "I have to do the laundry so I can't make it to dinner tonight," and those are the types of excuses I just can't stand.  If the person you are blowing off is important to you, then I'd say it is more respectful to tell the truth, and show some willingness to compromise.  So rather than making an excuse, a truthful statement would be something like, "The logistics of it would be complicated for these reasons, and I'd prefer to do this another time when I don't have so much going on.  Can we reschedule?  When is the next time you'd be available?"  

Perhaps an even more clever way of dealing with it would be to give the option and prioritization to the other person.  Present the facts not as excuses but as hurdles that would have to be overcome, and ask them to decide how important it is.  Something like, "It would be difficult logistically because of these reasons, but I don't want to blow you off if it's important to you that I do this.  Is it that important that we do this right now?  Or can it wait for another time?"  You may find that the rule of reciprocity plays in here, and the other person may sympathize with your difficulty and decide for themselves that in the grand scheme of things, it is actually not that important.  This is not a guaranteed out, though, so only use it if you really are willing to make it work.  If the person does say it is important, you may want to ask them why, and that might give you a better perspective on the whole situation; maybe the benefit was greater than you had initially perceived.  

Along those lines, can't is a dirty four letter word, in my opinion.  To me, the worst thing you could say is, "I can't because..."  Conflicts come up all the time, and it's very rarely the case that you actually can't do something, it's more often the case that you've made a decision on what is more important.  I think it's much better to say, "I have a prior commitment at that same time which is important to me to keep."  Obviously that specific statement is only honest when you really did have a prior commitment that you feel is more important.  If you're trying to get out of a prior commitment, then say something like, "An issue has come up that I feel is important to deal with before I..."  That's more honest, and it's less of an excuse.  I'm generalizing here, but I wouldn't recommend you keep it general with people you care about; give them the specifics of the prior commitment or the issue you have to deal with.  People are very sympathetic, and the more information you give them, the more in control of the situation they feel.  In a professional setting, I think it's okay to keep it general.  But if you keep it general with someone you care about, they may feel shut out completely.  If you explain the situation, they are more likely to agree with you that you need to deal with the other thing, and they could potentially even offer help.  

Bottom line: when you make an excuse, the implication is that you want to but are being prevented, and the reality is that there is almost always a way to make it work, but you're not actually willing to do that (because the perceived cost/benefit analysis says its not worthwhile).  Therefore, excuses are lies to cover up your unwillingness to make the effort.  You may be justified, but simply stating an excuse is lying to the other person, it's concealing information pertinent to the situation.  It is more honest to put it all out on the table and state your feelings about the situation than to make an excuse; excuses are downright dishonest.  

Theme Songs

I am curious if anybody else does this.  I really enjoy music, mostly Broadway musicals and pop / alternative rock type music.  For all the men in my life, I assign them some song that I happen to like at the time.  One of my ex-'s from a long time ago got a tattoo over his chest after we broke up, so his song had something about a mark on his chest in it.  A more recent ex- was assigned the Adele song, "Someone Like You" because he broke my heart and I didn't understand it.  The way its sung in my head, I'm the one singing, "Nevermind I'll find someone like you," then he'd sing "I wish nothing but the best for you," and so on back and forth.  It's different than how Adele wrote it, but it still worked.  What's really odd, I think, is that I can gage how "over" the guy is by my ability to sing along with the song without crying.  As long as it makes me cry, I'm not ready to move on, but once I can get through it without tearing up, I'm okay.  

My most recent ex- gets the song "We Are Young" because we used to drink a lot together and all I want from him is for him to take me back and for me to just fall into his arms again.  But it's not just ex's that get songs assigned to them.  In fact, while we were dating, he had a different song: "The Way I Am", and I always imagined me singing the first and third verses, and the second verse was him singing to me, because it's about curing headaches and keeping the other person warm, which was fitting while we were together.  And currently, Excuses gets the song "Overjoyed" because that's how I feel when I'm with him, when he actually makes it and doesn't make an excuse, that is.  Maybe it'll change if I ever decide I dislike him, but that song will still always be his.  Even though the gender roles are wrong, "Mermaid" is my song for The Flipflopper, because our relationship always feels like two ships colliding, always accidental.  

On a funnier note, Fidgets informed me that he is going to Mardi Gras, asked me to go out with him again, and then told me to stop texting him because he has other priorities and I'm interrupting him, and he hopes he understands.  I guess that means he's breaking up with me for the third time now?  I'm going to assign him the theme song, "Bye, Bye, Bye", unless someone can think of a better one.  Obviously, I don't care that much for him or he would have had a more meaningful song.  

So I'm throwing it out there for you, my readers.  Do you have specific songs that remind you of a love or past love of your life?  Do you have your own theme song?  Let me know, I want to hear about it (and maybe determine I'm not alone in this, or maybe I am).  


Mr. Suave is one of my favorite swing dance partners; he is so confident and cool as he dances, and he has taught me a lot and helped me get better.  That's probably the biggest redeeming thing about him, and what keeps me playing nice with him.  When I got ditched by my first date for Valentine's Day, Mr. Suave was quick to agree to take me out; I wanted to go see the new zombie love movie, "Warm Bodies" and he took me.  Despite being stood up at first, my Valentine's Day ended about as good as it could have, given the circumstances, and I was very happy Mr. Suave was there for me.  

The movie, unfortunately, was a bit of a disappointment.  I was really looking forward to a hilarious romantic comedy, but the humor was sporadic and kind of dead pan, and I wasn't laughing my ass off like I had hoped.  The main character, the zombie, couldn't remember his full name, but he was pretty sure it had started with an R, so he was thereby called R for the rest of the movie.  I like it, and I think R is a fitting name for my next character.

R, like Mr. Suave, is a swing dancer.  In fact, R may very well be the tallest swing dancer in the world, at 6'6".  I met R a few years back, too, and remember dancing with him quite a bit.  He also taught me a lot, especially that one weekend at the Biltmore during a Fourth of July swing dance conference.  

We had been in workshop after workshop together.  I should mention that I am strangely attracted to extremely tall, lanky guys, so R is just my speed, if not a little on the short side for my tastes.  I remember being attracted to him at the workshops, but he seemed to have just started a relationship with some other woman, and he never pursued me like I wanted him to.  

Very shortly after my most recent breakup, I had the strangest experience at Kat's Korner.  I was going to meet Mr. Suave there, although I knew he'd be a little late.  I went early, and intended to dance with the guys I've danced with for years.  I hadn't seen R in a long time, so I figured his controlling girlfriend was keeping him away, and didn't expect for him to show up that night of all nights.  There was another guy there, though, that I hadn't seen in a long time.  
Let's call him Mormony.  Mormony had been a wild dancer, and I was sure he'd been kicked out for being too crazy.  But there he was, wearing that goody expression of his.  Mormony had definitely liked me at one point, and was disappointed to find out I was not Mormon like he was.  That was a long time ago, but here he was, dancing again.  I dreaded him asking me to dance, but to my surprise, he made eye contact with me but showed no sign of recognition.  I danced with a few strangers at their requests, but none of the people I usually dance with.  I asked The Engineer to dance; I think he was the first person I met at Kat's over eight years ago, and he didn't seem to recognize me either.  I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone, something very strange was going on.

Then, imagine my surprise when R walked in with a new girl.  I was excited to see him, even if he did have a girl with him.  But when he should have asked me to dance, he didn't.  He passed by me 20 times I think, before I finally got fed up and went to ask him.  "[R], are we going to dance, or what?"  He looked at me a little dumbfounded, but agreed and took me on the dancefloor.  The dance was fine, but at the end, he asked what my name was, as if we were meeting for the first time.  I didn't know what to make of it. 

I was relieved when Mr. Suave walked through the door, and my night improved vastly by dancing a few songs with his strong lead.  By him showing me off, other people asked me to dance, and I ended up having a great night and dancing with every guy I wanted to.  Mr. Suave joked that one of the guys I danced with was Amish, because he was dressed in rather unusual attire for swing dancing.  I was still bothered by R not recognizing me, though.  

Fast forward a month.  I was back at Kat's Korner by myself, and R walked in alone.  Within minutes, he walked directly over to me and said in the sweetest tone, "Hey there, haven't seen you in a while.  Shall we?"  It was so surreal, a sharp contrast from the R of just a month ago.  Now I really didn't know what to make of this whole thing, but as is my usual, I just went with it.  

I've always known R to be a little intimate in his dance technique; he likes to hold girls close, and make it a little awkward, I think because he thinks its funny.  I remember the first time I danced with R, he had my head on his chest and whispered in my ear, "Did we remember to close the garage door?" and then later, "Did we unplug the toaster?"  I was put off by his humor at first, but had since grown to adore it.  

This night was different, somehow, still.  He was holding me very close, too close, I'd say, if I wasn't so nonchalant.  And it wasn't just a dance or two, or three, we probably danced to a double digit number of songs, several back to back.  In swing dance world, that kind of behavior is reserved for couples. 

Something was up.  Mr. Suave showed up, too, and he and I hit the dance floor as usual.  I was teasing him about what some of the girls were saying about him to me, and he teased me about R finally dancing with me more.  When the dance was over, I didn't know who to end my night with; it was a little confusing.  But since I didn't come here with anyone, there was no obligation to say good night to either of them, right?  Well, I bid Mr. Suave good night, he seemed like he was in a hurry anyways.  Then I just kind of waited for a minute, looking at my phone, until R came up to me.  I guess I intended that to happen.  He asked if I wanted to go get a bite to eat or something, and I agreed.  

We went to Applebee's, and his arm was immediately around me like I was his girlfriend.  But unlike Fidgets and other overly aggressive guys, I was comfortable with R being so aggressive.  He sat on the same side of the booth as me, and had his arm around me pretty much the whole night.  He tried to kiss me once or twice, but I dodged it.  We talked a lot and got to know each other; it felt a little forced, as if we had met on a dating site and were trying to determine if we were really as good a match as the website suggested.  

I couldn't take my curiosity any longer, and he was obviously crazy about me so I felt very comfortable asking.  "You and I have danced together for years, but when I was at Kat's about a month ago, you acted like you had never seen me before.  What was that all about?"  R said he was with a new girl at the time and that his mind was soley focused on her; that's why he paid little to no attention to the other girls around him.  Now that he was single, he was available for me.

I've never felt so worshipped in my life.  I kept thinking back about how I had just written in my journal about wanting to be pursued, and laughing in my head about how this was so over the top.  I'm really hesitant, though.  He clearly has some financial issues, doesn't make a lot of money, and doesn't seem to be as ambitious or intelligent as I'd like.  I struggle with whether or not I'm being to judgmental and picky or not.  It seems like if I have high standards, then the only guys I'm interested in dating aren't interested in me.  The ones that very much want to date me feel like "settling", but then again, if being in a relationship is the most important thing to me, is it really settling?  

I let R kiss me good night.  The next day he wanted to see me already, so I told him I wanted to go read at Tempe Marketplace.  It was the most easy-going "date" ever, we just sat on one of the couches, the weather was perfect, his arm around me, and we read for hours.  I feel really comfortable in his arms.  The next time I went to Kat's, it was with him, and he made it pretty clear I was his.  It made an incredible difference in my dancing, too; he really pushed me and I got so much better just in that short time frame with him challenging me.

I can't quite place my finger on it, but there is something a little lifeless or empty about R; he is a little like a walking zombie but I don't know why.  Still, I find that I enjoy being with him when I let my guard down, but most of the time, I am very defensive, not wanting to hurt him and not wanting to get involved with someone I'm not sure I can handle long term.  He feels it, I know, and we've talked about it a little.  He's agreed to be patient with me and to take it slow.