As our gardens come into bloom and butterflies beat colorful wings against turquoise skies, I am strangely obsessed with an acquaintance who claims to be “in transformation.” I doubt he will ever become a lizard, say. Or a tree. So what does he mean?
Transformation, n. change in form, appearance, nature or character.
We transform ourselves when we lose or gain weight, change our hair, pluck, tweeze, make-up, shave, wear glasses and squeeze into Spanx, but is there such a thing as shapewear for our basic nature?
We all know people who are “working on becoming a better person,” but I’ve yet to meet one who’s said, “I worked really hard to become a better person, and now I am one. Don’t you just love me?” People tell you they’re in the process of losing weight and then one day, they’re svelte. Wouldn’t it then stand to reason that someone would come forth who’d put in the time and effort and actually transformed himself into betterness? I’d settle for a degree of self-improvement. “Oh, this is nothing. I used to be a much bigger asshole.” You never hear that, either.
You also don’t see formerly decent humans who’ve morphed into reprobates. “Remember how nice Mary used to be? Today she told me I looked fat in these jeans then she knocked me down and stole my purse.”
Abraham Maslow, a leading figure in humanistic psychology, developed a theory of self-actualization, which is to maximize your potential and do the best that you are capable of doing, examples of which, according to Maslow, are Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein. It’s not so much about transforming into a better person as becoming a happier one, because Maslow knew a leopard doesn’t change its spots.
Maslow’s theory is complex and detailed, so I’m going to focus on 7 traits of self-actualized people from Maslow’s book Motivation and Personality.
1. They accept themselves, together with all their flaws.
I think it’s important to point out that Maslow married his first cousin Bertha while she was still in high school, so this particular tenet may be a skosh self-serving. It also means that the hot guy who hypnotized you into bed while telling you “I’m a bad boy” in a low sexy growl, then never called you again, is just a self-actualized human; accepting, embracing and telegraphing his flaws. (PS If a person goes out of their way to tell you he or she is a bad person and you “shouldn’t get involved,” say ‘thank you’ then run fast as you can in the opposite direction. This is the one time that person is being completely truthful, and you ought to take advantage of it.)
I’m all for loving ourselves—warts, cellulite, PMS and all, but I think Maslow was referring to character flaws, and I’m not so sure that’s such a great thing to embrace in ourselves and accept in others. And no, you do not get to count “overly nice,” “overly generous” or “too good-looking and rich” as flaws. That would just make you sound like a dick, which is a flaw.
2. They enjoy the journey, not just the destination.
My decision to move back to Wisconsin after 20 years in Los Angeles was bittersweet. My friends, work…my life was in LA. It was time to return to my midwestern family, and I was ok with that, but my heart was breaking for all I was leaving behind. My friend Sheryl agreed to keep me company on the drive cross-country, and I am guessing, to delay our goodbyes.
The destination was going to be my home again, and I was looking forward to showing Sheryl where my weird sense of humor was born, my odd turns of phrase (hand me a piece of gum once) and my desire to marry cheese, but it was the road trip itself that was unforgettable. I have never laughed so hard, cried so much or been so grateful for a friend like Sheryl in all my life. The drive to Wisconsin was not really the journey at all. The journey is the friendship. The destination remains locked safely in our hearts.
3. While they are inherently unconventional, the self-actualized do not seek to shock or disturb.
This describes the giant Venezuelan Poodle Moth as much as a self-actualized person, but I get what Maslow’s driving at. Madonna, not so much. Gandhi, absolutely. Now apply to self.
4. They are motivated by growth, not by the satisfaction of needs.
This is evident when you think of Lincoln, Einstein and Gandhi—people who moved the needle on human advancement without sucking the oxygen out of the room. Imagine giving so much to the human race, and living simply? It’s hard to fathom, down in the muck with Kardashians, Trumps and Waltons.
How do we administer this in our own lives? Do good, and shut up about it. You’ll sleep like a baby. Do absolutely no good whatsoever, but satisfy your every pathetic need—please, remain just where you are. When the revolution comes you’ll be easy to find.
5. They are not troubled by the small things.
I think the difficulty here is our inability to recognize small things as small things. We all have triggers. Mine, apparently, are painted on my forehead like targets, in vivid neon paint for all trolls to see. I try not to obsess about the odd insult or sketchy text, but I often fall on my face and forget my mantra, “don’t sweat the small stuff.” The thing that gets me back on track is called perspective.
Spend five minutes on Facebook with people asking for prayers because their children have cancer, parents are dying, dogs have gone missing and kids are going off to war. That’ll self-actualize your ass in a hurry.
6. Self-actualized people are grateful.
This may be the one area where I have achieved a small degree of self-actualization. I’m grateful for sweet Wisconsin summers, friends who lift me up when I’m down, the theory of relativity, acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, honesty, cheese, Spanx and everything in between, even trolls.
7. Despite all this, self-actualized people are not perfect.
“Have no fear of perfection. You’ll never reach it.” ~ Salvador Dali.
Happy birthday, Sheryl! You’ve made the journey so much sweeter. XO
I get that if you haven’t been alive very long you may not yet possess the necessary business acumen to dominate in the business world. Trouble is, I meet a lot of people, young and those who should know better, who confuse bluster, bravado and bullshit with business acumen. Darlings, it is not the same.
While nothing compensates for hard work, there are a few things in addition to breaking a sweat that will ensure your success.
1. Be nice to the client.
Client, n. a customer.
If you perform a task for which someone pays you, even though in every other conceivable way you imagine yourself to be an equal, in this particular case, where she is the one who pays and you are the one who does the work, you are not equals. She is the customer, the boss, the big cheese—the most holy one, never to be insulted, disregarded, talked down to, irritated, made to wait, or god forbid, told she is wrong, even, and especially if, she is wrong.
There are hieroglyphics in a cave in what was once Mesopotamia that archeologists tell us depict the words “the customer is always right” through imaginative rendering of stick people with wheat bundles on their heads and a fat Babylonian in a suit, smoking a cigar.
2. Be nice to the client even if he is an asshat.
“When do I get to tell a client he’s an asshat?” you whine. Well, when you’re at the very top of the food chain and there is no one above you who can do you harm, for example…
I got nothing. Even Bill Gates has to answer to consumers and shareholders, and the Pope has someone lording over him (see what I did there?).
No. Wait! Bob Dylan. If you are Bob Dylan you may call out an asshat any time you want, anywhere you like.
3. Make the client happy.
So you’ve got a client. Lucky you! You’ve been nice to him, now what? You must keep the client, and making him happy does this. I see you ramping up to a good pouty pout, but I am here to tell you that clients are not a dime a dozen (unless you are the inventor of the Chia pet, a physician or a coroner, in which case the clients are pretty easy going).
How do you make the client happy, aside from being nice to her? Be courteous, punctual, do good work and employ high standards of hygiene. Nothing gets in the way of customer satisfaction like stink mouth or the smell of onions and meat emanating from the region of your armpits or feet.
4. Listen to what the client tells you.
When a customer tells you she does not want the cheese in the Loaded Veggie Omelet, please do not stare open mawed like she is metamorphosing into a lizardperson right before your very eyes, and squawk, “For reeeeeeeal? No cheeeeeeeze?” Assured the desire not to have cheese is in fact, for real, do not then bring a Loaded Veggie Omelet Hold the Cheese to said client, absolutely oozing with Swiss cheese, then hiss like an ostrich when she sends the fucking omelet back.
We all get distracted, but nothing says, “I don’t give a crap about you, you asshat client” like hissing, rolling of the eyes, various statements of disgruntlement, such as “whatever,” “ugh” and “I shoulda spit in your food,” said under the breath, yet loudly enough for the customer to hear, and then expect the customer to leave a tip. Like, for real, beeeeeeeeeeeach?
The Listen Rule applies to businesses across the board. No one wants a lap band when they asked for a lap dance, and vice verse.
5. Please for the love of all that is good in the world do not be a know-it-all.
Operate on the slim chance that the person who is the client/customer/payer of the bills, just might possibly know something that you, the person whom the client is paying, does not.
When you take the bullet train to Smartypantsville, all high and mighty and sure of yourself, you’ve invited the powers of the universe to focus the laser beam of humility on your head, and there is a very good chance you will become Asshat of the Century. It will be another 84 years before you can pass that baton, so you might think about it before going Kanye-on-Ellen in an attempt to school a client.
6. Respect the client.
When you get old, like, over 30, you might find yourself with a client who is younger than you. Resist the urge to treat him like a subordinate, or worse yet, a buddy, a pal, bro, bae or boo, and especially not “sonny,” “lil shaver,” “Shirley Temple,” or “Dutch.” You don’t have to call him sir, or her Ms., but they have elected to spend their money with you when they could have spent it elsewhere, and that deserves some manners, brahski.
Other ways to respect a client include but are not limited to hitting spellcheck before hitting send, keeping your phone pantsed during meetings, taking the gum out of your mouth, keeping your feet off the furniture and not commenting on the hotness of a client’s son or daughter should you glimpse extreme hotness in a nice silver frame on the client’s desk. It is equally bad form respect-wise to ask whether the client’s assistant is single, and might consider Netflix and chill Tuesday night.
If you find these tips helpful, let me know. I’ve got lots more to share!
Check out David Clark’s fascinating interview with Pam Ferderbar on the Different Strokes for Different Folks show.
I’ve been doing a lot of interviews lately and a theme has emerged—how I deal with disappointment. (I’d like to thank everyone who helped make me an expert on this topic.)
Yesterday Lana Reid of the Don’t Box Me In radio show asked, “How do you handle so much disappointment?” I thought to myself, ‘what have you heard,’ then Ms. Reid added, “You know, when the whole film deal fell apart.” Ah, that.
Many years ago I sold the film rights to Feng Shui and Charlotte Nightingale to New Line Cinema for a record-breaking sum only to have all my executives fired when AOL and Time Warner merged and took over the studio. When the new people moved in, my project got shelved. How did I deal with the disappointment? I drank a box of wine and cried myself to sleep, that’s how.
Either I’m getting old or I’ve gone crazy (or a quaint hybrid of the two) because now when something happens that 15 years ago would have given me the runs and an epic hangover, I laugh. Literally.
Earlier this week I met a client for lunch and was expecting to collect the deposit for an executive photo shoot we had booked for the following week. We made small talk, which consisted mostly of me nodding gratuitously as he enumerated the reasons for which his ex-wife was a heartless battle-ax that deserved to be thrown into a pen of hungry swine.
I picked up the lunch check, left a generous tip, because it’s the right thing to do, and then sat dumbfounded as the man told me he didn’t see the value in spending money on a professional photographer when his five year old had taken a perfectly “rad” picture of him with a Firefly cellphone while they were at the park feeding the ducks.
My old self, which is ironically my young self, would have bit back the tears and invested in a nice square chardonnay. My emotionally evolved self instead burst out laughing. I banged my hand (and head, truth be told) on the table and bellowed HAR HAR HAR like a Yemeni with cat hair in his esophagus. The “client” pushed back from the table so abruptly that a glass of ice water spilled in his lap, and he ran off looking very much like he had wet himself. At that moment, my glass was half full.
Here are 5 tips for managing disappointment that I find work every time.
1. Laugh it off. (In other words, manage emotion.)
My non-client didn’t know whether I was counting on that job to pay my rent or whether it was mad money, earmarked to purchase extra ammo at the gun range. My cackling made him bolt like a startled greyhound, and that made me feel not so disappointed after all. I managed my emotion by making the other person scared—and it felt good.
2. Flip the script. (Or take a big picture perspective.)
I attended a screenwriting workshop where I learned that if I was ever stuck trying to come up with an original idea I should just take something that had already been done and flip the genre, i.e. 12 Years a Slave, the Musical, or Sophie’s Choice, the smiech-out-loud comedy of the entire shtetl.
Say you were counting on the big promotion only to see it go to your workplace archrival, Jane Wedgewoodworthshire. Reframe your desire to fit the big picture, i.e. the conniving pointy-headed British goddess will have so much extra work that she will no longer have three hours every night to work out, and the backs of her arms will get flabby. Even if your workplace archrival’s arm backs do not go jiggly as hoped, something’s gotta give, and that, my friends, is big picture clarity.
3. Suck it up. (Also known as not taking it personally.)
You worked super hard and super smart and still you didn’t get the promotion. Maybe a relative of Ms. Wedgewoodworthshire threw herself on an Argentinian chef during the Falklands War and saved the boss from eating bad goat. There’s no way to know.
If you did your best and the outcome was not what you had hoped, you must not take it personally, unless the boss says you didn’t get the promotion because you’re too tall or too pretty, which, let’s face it, happens to people like us every damn day. In all other cases, just accept that life will do what life will do and sometimes it just isn’t fair. Like professional wrestling and royalty.
4. Lower your expectations. (This appears on pretty much every list I make, it is that good.)
When you take a hard look at your expectations, you may find you set your sights a little too high. Let’s say you got your eyebrows waxed, watched all 109 Star Trek movies in one binge and you learned to chip, confident you would finally snag the attention of a certain mister. Along comes your dating life archrival Jessica Alba, with her scratch golf game and ability to hold her liquor, and you find it vexing that your dream man would rather play a round with her.
What did you expect? You hate Star Trek movies, can’t abide the sight of a man cleaning his balls, and the unibrow is just who you are, dammit. Perhaps hoping to hook up with Cash Warren was a bit of a reach.
That nice George Clooney wouldn’t ask so much of you, he’s bound to tire of the scrawny chicken he married, and his ass can be mine yours if you play your cards right. This is what I like to call lowering one’s expectations, done right.
5. Change direction.
We all know the definition of insanity; doing the same thing, over and over again, expecting just one time to win, but that’s crazy talk. You’ve got to rethink your goals, switch it up, change horses in the middle of the cry-me-a-river.
Disappointed that you haven’t mastered a light puffy soufflé? Feh. Pop open a Sara Lee pound cake, a nice a box of burgundy and you’re good as gold. Work your butt off, do everything right and still don’t get the promotion? Look for another job. Keep dating the same men—aimless drifters with no prospects or teeth? Kick Eustice Gump to the curb and focus on yourself, and all the reasons you deserve happiness.
Next thing you know, Geoge Clooney will be at the door with a dozen roses and a Trader Joe’s bag filled with Star Trek DVDs. Nobody’s perfect.
Listen to Lana Reid’s hilarious interview with Pam!
Invite your friends!
LANA REID’s new inspirational talk show DON’T BOX ME IN breaks from convention. Hosted by popular, award-winning author and public speaker Lana Reid, this uniquely inspirational/motivational show covers a variety of “outside the box” topics from Lana’s own DISTINCTIVE perspective.
This week Lana interviews pam Ferderbar, author of Feng Shui and Charlotte Nightingale, in a hilarious, uplifting and insightful hour.
Listen to Lana Reid and Pam Ferderbar on Don’t Box Me In.
Author and photographer Pam Ferderbar describes herself as the most optimistic person on the globe – perhaps stupidly so. It only makes sense then for her to have written a book about the virtues of seeing the glass as half full rather than half empty. Feng Shui and Charlotte Nightingale is the story of a girl with the worst luck in the world and the Chinese food delivery man who delivers a little on-the-sly feng shui with the Emperor’s cashew chicken. At its core, it is a story about finding your inner strength and self-confidence, and how those things influence everything about the outcome of our lives.