How to battle burnout with kindness and why it's the only thing that will work

How to Battle Burnout With Kindness—and Why it’s the Only Thing That’ll Work

Last year I published an article in Quartz arguing that teacher burnout is one of the biggest social justice issues of our time. I really meant it… if our passionate teachers continue to burn out and leave education, our most vulnerable kids will suffer, the opportunity and achievement gaps will widen, and the health of our economy will continue to erode.

But do you know who else is suffering from work burnout symptoms? Therapists. Yes, there is a therapist burnout and it’s at least as important! Feeling stress and burnout is so painful when you are passionate about your work. It feels like a major betrayal to the part of you that loves your role as the caretaker.

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New York City Networking Events

Networking Events in NYC that You NEED to Know About

If you rely on a steady flow of clients to support and grow your business, then you need to network. It’s as simple as that!

I know that you know this and you know that I know that you know this. And yet, you don’t do it. Why?

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closing my small business

Psychological Super Powers: How to Stick with Your Business When You are Tempted to Quit

I was walking down 5th avenue on my way to a networking event last night when this question struck me like a bolt of lightening:   

“What if I can’t really create a successful business? Should you stick with your business or give the whole thing up? Who am I to think I can truly, actually, do this… for REAL?” My heart beat a little faster and a for a split second I was tempted to give it all up. “Just kidding! Never mind!  I’ll just go back to my much less stressful existence as a professor and consultant and actually have time to do things like watch TV or read a book.”

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create your own luck

Psychological Super Powers: How to Create Luck

Have you noticed that everyone is talking about the Law of Attraction these days? The Law of Attraction is the idea that whatever you focus on (good or bad) will be attracted to you like a magnet.  So, if you think about rolling around in a large pile of money (a la Scrooge McDuck) money will be attracted to you. If you focus on scarcity then continued money problems await. Can this be true?  Is there really such thing as a “universal law of energy”?

Maybe?  I’m not so sure.

I have, on the other hand, experienced some very strong luck or good fortune in my day.  Receiving exactly what I wanted.  Manifesting opportunities “out of the blue.”  Serendipity, as it were. 

Here are a few example:

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Networking made easy

Psychological Super Powers: How to Make the Most of Networking

Do you groan when you hear the word, “networking?” It might feel like this painful, corporate thing you’re supposed to do.  Perhaps it feels like a dangerous game of small talk roulette: at any moment someone will try to sell you something. Certainly, everyone can think of a time when going to a networking event left them feeling mentally wrung out.

Listen: I FEEL YOU. Until fairly recently, I hated it, too!

In the past year, I’ve made the decision to partner with a business coach so that I can level up my business and really conquer the challenges that scare me.  When we began our work, one of the first challenges she identified was my outright dislike of networking. I didn’t think I was the kind of person who networks well. I felt that it was counter to my identity to do so and I just plain DID NOT WANT TO. (Do you notice that these are the classic hallmarks of a mindset block?)

So, challenge number one from my coach was to start going to 1 or 2 networking events every week.  My goal at these events is to meet cool people- people who might want to be my clients, and people I might want to collaborate with.  Because I’m extremely coachable, I dove right in.  Fortunately, I’m in NYC and you can find at least 20 networking events on any given day.  The very first one I went to was a happy hour for a product management program.  Not exactly my ideal client, but a good place to practice without pressure!    Continue reading

A scientific, six-step plan to becoming an effective political activist

When Donald Trump pulled off a stunning upset and became the president-elect of the United States, I knew I was ready for a fight. But like a lot of people, I wasn’t sure where to begin.

For the past three years, I’ve worked with educators using a method called “improvement science” to create lasting change in schools. The method has also been used to improve everything from health care to car manufacturing to project management. And I believe it can also give us a framework for political action in the age of Trump.

The beauty of improvement science is that it gives you a framework to do the following things:

  • Understand what change you want to make
  • See the full picture of what stands between you and your change
  • Remove the barriers to getting started
  • Support yourself as you learn your way into change

Here’s how to put this method to use:

1. Ask, “What does success look like to me?”

The first principle of improvement science is to be clear on what qualifies as a success. So the very first question I asked myself when I sat down to craft my post-Trump plan was, “If I’m going to utilize my very limited time and even more limited resources to do this, what am I hoping to accomplish in the next year? What would success look like to me?”

This step is often ignored in favor of jumping directly into the fray. But while quick and decisive action is honorable, it is much less likely to result in effective change than actions that are aligned towards a specific vision or goal.

I decided that for me, I would feel like I’d had success at the end of a year if I was much better informed about what my representatives were up to. I love the idea of being someone my senator or representative might call to get a citizen’s perspective. Most of all, I wanted to be someone who went beyond “talking the talk” of tolerance and opportunity and was actually actively engaged in creating it.

I am self-aware enough to know that in New Jersey, a state of nine million people, it isn’t very likely that I’ll ever be on Cory Booker’s speed dial. And yet I let that be my vision. The power of setting a clear aspirational vision isn’t about feasibility. The power of vision is that it keeps you motivated and helps you prioritize amongst your many options. If your vision motivates you and keeps you focused, it’s working for you. Don’t let others tell you that you’ve set your sights too high.

2. Ask, “What are all the things that I could I do?”

The second principle of improvement science is to develop an explicit theory of improvement. What do you think it would take to move from where you are today to realizing the vision articulated in the first step? Getting possible steps out on the table helps you to evaluate them more objectively. This is partly a brainstorming activity; don’t try to be “sensible” just yet. Here’s a short list of the ideas I came up with, in order from truly crazy to pretty mundane:

  • I could start a nonprofit watchdog group to help citizens be more aware of their representatives’ actions (crazy mainly in that I already have three jobs)
  • I could go through a community organizing bootcamp and try to organize my neighbors to join me in monitoring legislation
  • I could micromanage my senators and representatives, calling them every week to express my opinion on current issues and encouraging them to speak out
  • I could find and sign online petitions

The list goes on, but you get the idea. Whatever comes to mind that feels even remotely actionable should be written down. After you’ve generated your list, take a look at it. What feels both high impact and somewhat accessible? Pick one.

3. Start somewhere—anywhere

This is where things get real. It’s time to take on one of these potential things that you could do and get started doing it.

When faced with the sheer number of possibilities we could take to create action, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and wind up paralyzed. So it may make sense to start small and choose the thing that feels the most accessible. Action breeds more action, so whatever gets you going is worthwhile.

As I was working on this article, writer Emily Ellsworth had a series of tweets go viral about how important it is to call your elected officials. Since making those calls was already on my list, I decided to give it a shot.

4. Think about what might stop you from following through

Probably the most misunderstood aspect of creating lasting change is the belief that, once we know what we should do, we will automatically follow through. If this were true, everyone would exercise regularly and follow a sensible budget. We know, however, that this is not the case.Every single change, no matter how small, is hard. Human beings are entrenched in their desire to do what is familiar, and really dig in their heels against change when they have a “competing commitment,” such as an unspoken worry.

That is why it is so important to acknowledge and address what you are worried about when you first make your plan of action. I had a number of concerns about calling my elected officials, but most of all I was worried that it wouldn’t actually make a difference. What impact can one voice have?

I decided to get a more informed perspective before I made my first call. I reached out to two congressional staffers, one who works for a senator in the Northeast (speaking anonymously), and Emily Ellsworth, who has worked for two congressmen in Utah. I asked both of them, “Is calling in worth the time? Does it really make a difference?”

Both staffers stressed that constituents who call their elected officials contribute to a larger picture that includes all the calls, petitions, and town hall meetings. Collectively, these combine to represent the concerns of the people, which elected officials know that they must listen to. “Your strength is in your numbers,” the senatorial staffer said.

Your voice is particularly important if you come from the political center, they said. “We hear from the far left and the far right, but we rarely hear from the vast majority of people in the middle,” Ellsworth said. And when the vast majority of centrists don’t speak up, congressmen wind up catering to the interests of loud, organized fringe voters.

“The Tea Party showed us in Utah what happens when you do organize and call,” Ellsworth said. “When you are organized and call and show up to town halls, it’s your voice and your perspective that gets addressed. They [the elected officials] know who’s watching.” In the end, both staffers agreed—calling in, writing to representatives and attending meetings really does make a difference.

5. Lower the stakes and expect to fail

One of the best things about having the framework of improvement science in place when you are trying something new is that you expect your first time to be kind of terrible. You just know that you’ll make rookie mistakes, and you’re ready to roll with them. There is absolutely no expectation that you’ll get it right the first time. The method insists that you get started so that you can collect the information that will make you more effective at the fastest rate possible.

With my concerns assuaged, it was time to actually make some calls. I steeled myself, dialed the first number… and hung up partway through. I was nervous! I didn’t want to look like an idiot, and I really wasn’t sure what I would say if the staffer who picked up asked me questions.

But then I took a deep breath, picked up the phone, and made the call. A staffer answered the phone and I asked her in an awkward tone whether my representative had released a statement against Steve Bannon. She said, sounding a little annoyed, “Yes, his statement is on the website.” I asked where, found it on the website, and suggested that he feature it more prominently. The staffer thanked me and we hung up.

The whole thing took less than one minute. It was not an amazing experience. I did not feel high on the elixir of democracy, but I did feel that I had made my voice heard. If that’s what it takes to be a voice of the people, I can do that again.

6. Optimize through action, and prepare to succeed faster than you expected

Next week, I will call again, and I’ll do better. I’ll be less awkward, and I’ll know that the woman who answers the phone is a little cranky. Over time I’ll find ways to win her over, I’m sure—maybe by looking at the representative’s website before calling. This is not rocket science, and I expect to have the kinks worked out in no time.

That’s the other great thing about using improvement science to help make a change. Just as you assume that you’ll land on your face the first time, you know that by taking action and analyzing how things go, you’ll become amazingly proficient before you know it. It was true when I learned to run, when I learned to budget, and when I learned to create visuals for my website. It will be true when it comes to activism as well. I will learn to be an effective voice in my government, because my country depends on it.

conquer self control

Psychological Super Powers: How to Conquer Self-Control

You know how it goes- you’ve procrastinated as long as you possibly can and now, at 7pm, you sit down to finally write the blog, prepare the report, or outline the paper that has been hanging over your head all day.  As you sit down to write you feel panicked and exhausted; your self-control is out the window.

Not the best recipe for success!

This used to happen to me all the time.  In graduate school, I would often write papers that important people would read and judge me upon.  Those people decided on what opportunities came my way and my future job prospects would hinge on their good word.  So those papers mattered a lot.

Despite that pressure (or, perhaps, because of it)  I’d spend all day avoiding it before forcing myself to sit down and do the work.  I’d trick myself to get started (I’ll just write an outline!) and then before I knew it I would be working away with no resistance…but not for long.  I’m a morning person and at around 9pm my brain begins to shut down completely.  Since I began at 7, I’d be too tired to go on after only a couple of hours of work.

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ways to overcome fear

How To Overcome Your Fear By Thinking Bigger In 2018

There are a lot of haters on the internet when it comes to New Year Resolutions.  I, on the other hand, am on the record declaring my love for the timeless tradition of the New Year Resolution, and urging you to ignore the cynics.

The statistics about “only 8% of resolutions coming true” encompass EVERYONE. But don’t forget, there are those who never meant their resolutions- they just wanted to have something to say when asked. Obviously, these people will NOT keep their resolutions.  Then there are those who make miracle wishes that they have no faith in, and that’s obviously not going to work.

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Learn how to relax

5 Reasons Why July is the Recharge Promised Land and How To Get the Most out of It

You know how summer goes: In June you’re still wrapping up and recovering from the school year and in August you’ve turned your attention back to the classroom to ensure that you are ready to go when school starts up again…

But JULY.  Oh, how I love July!  Here are five reasons why July is the BEST time to recharge.

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