Day 5: How To Be Helpful by Bob Newhart (and Martha Beck)

My friend Jessica is a life coach and I have been part of her coaching sessions for more than two years. Thanks to her sessions, I have learned the proper tools to help deal with the existing issues I had, as well as to tackle any of life’s problems that has come at me since. I have also gained an amazing support network where I can reach out for help if I should need it.

One of the resources we used during the sessions was Martha Beck book’s Steering By Starlight. The book is a great resource that provides sound advice, simple exercises and witty anecdotes. If you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend that you do.

One thing that Martha tackles in her book is how to calm our lizard brain. Our lizard is located deep inside our brain and provides us with survival alerts when we’re faced with danger. These warnings were really helpful back when we were hunter gathers and somehow, they’ve stayed with us ever since.

Now, I know what I’m saying may sound weird but before you dismiss it, this theory was coined by neuroscientists in the 1970s and it still holds a lot of truth. You can read more about the lizard brain in this well-written article here.

Our lizard brain is that part of us that tells us negative thoughts. We all have them. You may think that this voice is keeping you safe but it’s actually holding you back. This has nothing to do with a gut feeling where you might be in actual danger; this has to do with the fears that creep up on you when you’re contemplating big decisions. It may tell you that you’re too old to go back to school, that you can’t take that dream vacation, that your can’t quit your boring job and do what you want to do, etc. That voice can be very hurtful and it can prevent you from achieving your goals.

In her book, Martha teaches us how to calm our overactive lizard brain. What we have to do is to acknowledge it and say to it, “OK, lizard, I hear ya. Now, go back to sleep.” Sometimes that works. But sometimes it doesn’t, and you need to be firm and tell it to shut up. This is where Bob Newhart steps in.

Jessica played this video during one of our sessions and it cracked us up. Because the idea behind “Stop it” applies to our lizard brain yapping its head off to tell you that you can’t do something. You have to be like Bob and say, “stop it”.

So, the next time your lizard tells you that you can’t, just tell it to “stop it.”

Go ahead and try it. Trust me, it works.

Passion: the loaded word


I’ve always found that word to be loaded because it’s always tied to something or someone in a really strong way. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. But is it a good thing? Passion is great but it fades. But it can also morph into something else, like another passion.

I have been a quest to figure out what my passion is. I’ve had many passions. A lot of them have led me to the road where I am today. At the moment, I would say my passion is embroidery. I don’t know how it developed but the desire to do it hit hard. I couldn’t get enough of it. I picked up embroidery when I wanted to do a photo project and realized that the idea I had in mind, wouldn’t be well executed as a photograph. It needed to be something else, which became embroidery. I don’t know why embroidery. I could have drawn my idea or created a 3D object, but instead I chose a needle and thread.

However, embroidery is my personal passion: I don’t share it with my projects for school. I like keeping it separate. Right now, I feel like I’m on a quest to search for what my passion will be when I’m done school. What kind of sculpture will be “my thing”? But right now, I’m passionate about anything that’s embroidered or textile based. I clearly need to do more soul-searching or just change majors.

However, I will tell you a story about my first passion: photography. Let me preface that I still love it, but right now, photography and I are taking a break. We’ve both realized that we need some time apart in order for our relationship to work for the long-term. How we were first introduced is a quite story.

It happened nearly eleven ten years ago. I was working as a customer service rep for a mortgage broker company. I was bored at my job, bored in my relationship, bored with my life. I had an affair with a coworker which ignited a lot of passion that had not been lit for quite some time with my long-term boyfriend. I soon ended my relationship, realizing that what I was doing was wrong, and began to put my entire soul into this new and exciting, and secretive relationship with the new guy. Both of us were unhappy at our jobs. One day, he had found a job downtown and then, without a goodbye, he ended our relationship. I was devastated. I thought I had found a soul mate. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t think straight. And on top of that, I thought that everyone at the office knew–it was a really small office. I had to get out of there and applied to any job that took an interest in my resume.

One morning, I was on my way to an interview downtown. Normally, I stressed over interviews. They’re awkward and nerve-wracking, and I never know what to say whenever I get asked the question, “where do you see yourself in five years?”…

I wasn’t even thinking about the interview on the subway ride there. I was thinking about him. My passionate fling that broke my heart. I arrived to the interview on time and met with the director of the company. He began by asking very informal questions about myself, what I liked, etc. The interview went extremely well and sure enough, I was hired. I felt like I had a new beginning even though it took me a long time to get over my fling.

A few months later on a break, I stopped by to visit my friend at the reception desk and I see a stack of postcards nearby. On it was a picture of a brick wall and a bicycle and a plant on the ground. It looked simple yet something about it was just beautiful. It was advertising a photography event organized by a few Toronto photobloggers. I found out from my friend that one of the photobloggers worked at the same place I did.

I took the card and explored each of the artists listed. I was floored. I discovered a new scene of people who were taking photographs of everyday life, random things and posting them on their blog and on Flickr. I wanted to do the same. I opened up a Flickr account and with my very modest Olympus point-and-shoot camera, I began to document life the way I saw it. I followed their blogs, liked their photos and eventually attended social events where I got to meet a few of them. Some of them are still my friends today.

Through the world of photography and of Flickr, I discovered my passion for photography. I was addicted with techniques like how to take better photos, analog and digital cameras, various post-processes… I was hooked. I remained that way up until recently.

While my passion for photography waned a bit, my interest in art, such as painting, textiles and sculpture, began to grow and I wanted to seek other artists in other mediums. Without photography, and not having that horrible relationship experience, it wouldn’t have led me to what I’m doing today, which is a great many things including embroidery.

There you go: my passionate story about my first passion. So, I guess passion isn’t a bad word after all. It can drive you and take you down a path that you never thought possible. It can help you guide to your next passion, which is thrilling.