Tag Archives: personal development

Humus Perfume

At 21, I was given a gift. Calling to make plane reservation for my then-fiancé and me, I gave the ticket agent our names.

She began laughing and replied, “That’s so funny. Do you two travel together often?”

Punch line – my maiden name is Barber.

So, twenty-five years later, thanks to Northwest Airlines, I am Deidre B. Combs. The agent taught me that I clearly couldn’t hyphenate my name…that would not only be silly, but distracting. But, she also helped me realize that keeping my maiden name in my married mix would be a great symbolic gesture.

Not only, as one of four girls, was there no one to carry on my primary family name, but also, how can you take yourself too seriously when you have a last name like “Barber Combs”? The “B.” reminds me that our children could easily garner nicknames like “Scissors” and “Perm” and that I am a victim of the same game of Life that everyone else is playing. Honestly, just think about the likelihood of falling in love with someone whose name does that to yours? Like the Northwest agent, my name makes me giggle.

I adore the intricate connection between humor and humility. They come from the same root word of humus, or “earth.” Both humor and humility ground us; connect us to the planet and to each other. I find humor and sincere humility magnetizing. I like myself most when I am employing these two well; thus I wanted to keep that “B.” close at hand.

Watch in the attached TED video how really funny and humble connect.

Our son Cameron is a master in the sport of  humble humor — he’ll appropriately deny it. To prove my point, Exhibit A is a recent blog post from his travels in Brazil entitled “Bonbon Disaster.” Click here to read!

Observing my leadership students employing humility this week, I noticed that humor is usually always close by. For example, one young man on the MSU track team remarked how he is trying to make sense of why he gets scholarships for throwing hammers and weights in the air. “I can’t believe they give me money for that,” he explained with a wry smile. He had us all giggling as he thoughtfully considered the relevance of this pursuit and his future athletic goals. His humble assessment and humorous descriptions of his daily practices had us all captivated. By the end we were trying to convince him that his focus on excellence and discipline was leadership in action. He had us all cheering him on, although that didn’t appear to remotely be his intent.

Humility exposes our vulnerability, mostly to ourselves. We might think that we somehow need to have it all together, but our community usually sees through that façade. They know that we are flawed. We all were born, we are all clumsily trying to figure out how this world works, and we are all going to die. That you can’t overcome. Our community seems more interested in when we realize this truth.

Personally, I’m not as interested in following a leader who is perfect, but one who despite imperfections wants to give. Isn’t it strange, when our “ugly” bumps and bruises are exposed that others often find us at our most beautiful?

Play and Its Connection to Creativity

I wanted to share Tim Brown’s speech at 2008 Serious Play Conference on how holding a “playful” mindset enhances our ability to find solutions. Brown is the CEO of the California-based design firm Ideo. I appreciate how Brown eloquently builds a strong business case for playing well and its innate rules. Enjoy!

When We Don’t Know (2)

When the future is unclear…”Panic!” That’s often the frantic advice from the little voices in my head during turbulent times.  They like to add, “Get moving! Make lists! DO SOMETHING NOW!” My little internal worrywarts start looking for ways to exert control over my environment.  If that doesn’t work, they suggest running or zoning out. However, these quick reactions to uncertainty are not our usually our best responses. 

2. Watching our actions

I am not immune to the vagaries of the stock market or heightened global concerns. If you asked me how I was, I would say, “I’m fine,” but my actions remind me that I am bothered.  

A leading indicator of my discomfort with chaos is nagging my children to clean their rooms. Not the best solution to the current economic crisis I know, but a sign that I am yearning for stability.  A murky future places us in a state of alertness; what might come around the next corner? Fight/flight/freeze kicks in. My “fight” response is “I’ll create order if it kills me.” However, piles of clothes by the washer and frustrated family members are about all I get from that exercise.

 “Flight” in my case appears as sneaking in episodes of The Gilmore Girls with my daughter to escape into a gentler alternate reality. That she and I ripped through an entire season in the past week provides another clue to an offset in my internal equilibrium.  And, of course, there is the “freeze” response, which looks like periodic listless meandering around the house. Hmmm, is that why I haven’t gotten this blog entry completed?

To avoid current realities, friends and clients admit that one glass of wine at dinner has been morphing into two and that tracking election outcomes had become a constant obsession. Reading every major newspaper, predicting who will have to declare bankruptcy or organizing closets have been anted up as other favorite coping techniques. What are your tell-tale survival strategies?

We are adaptive creatures and thus find ways to keep going when times are tough. We often don’t realize how bad things have been until they let up.  My sister has been traveling in and out of the country over the past three years. When thousands across the US wept Tuesday night on into Wednesday after the election was complete, she noted, “Coming and going I noticed how downtrodden Americans have become over the past five years. I think everyone’s crying comes from fatigue and possible relief.”  The widespread tears are perhaps another indicator of our current national state.

 Tracking our reactions can help to determine the best next action.  Am I exhibiting signs of worry or stress? Am I readying for a fight or to flee? If the answer is “yes” I want to prioritize regaining equilibrium and inner calm before engaging in any important conversations or making new commitments.

When the future is murky we get nervous.  As a general rule, foggy times demand keen attention and less action. We need to slow down and watch. Watch the landscape (where I am and what is working), look for orienting landmarks and keep an eye on ourselves. Like driving in the mist, speeding up (doing more) can get us quickly lost or in danger.  Instead of frantic actions to create control, ask “what would support me, regardless where we end up?” These times call us to wait and gather information wherever possible before making a decision. 

 Next week…cross-cultural strategies for mitigating stress.