Monday, May 13, 2013

Lean Back

I'm tired of feeling guilty for being unambitious.

You know what, Sheryl Sandberg? You're a freak. Even Penelope Trunk admits it, and she's usually my go-to source for feeling lame in my career.

The truth is, if you want to make $845 million a year, you have to be exactly like Sheryl: very smart, able to work 18-20 hours a day until your mid-30s, and absolutely obsessed with success. You also need to get access to plenty of rich, successful, MALE mentors who will guide you on your way as the token woman. And you need to cultivate relationships as if you're constantly living on LinkedIn, rather than living an actual life.

I do agree with some of what Sandberg says - spend less time on work, and less time on childcare. Of course, since you don't have her disposable income, you need to do this by cutting back on your ambitions, rather than delegating. It's ok to turn off your cell phone and your computer at 5:00 and go the hell home. Or at 3:00, if you can swing it. It's also ok to let the kids play video games and run around in the backyard unsupervised.

If you adjust your expectations, there is very little difference between sitting with your bare feet in the sandbox drinking a home-made margarita with your S.O. while your kid plays and sitting on some exotic beach doing the same, except one is much, much cheaper.

Here's what I do want:

A good, strong relationship with my family and friends. I want them to know that I will drop whatever I'm doing to help them when they really need me, and that I still love them even if I don't want to drop what I'm doing to tend to their every petty issue.

A comfortable home with lots of natural light, and functioning heat and A/C. Pretty much everything else is negotiable. Non-leaking roof would be nice, but you can always buy another bucket.

Time to do what I love best: reading, gardening, cooking, drawing hanging out with friends and family, critiquing stupid bestsellers on the Internet.

The opportunity to do meaningful important work that benefits actual people, and doesn't just make rich people richer.

That's pretty much it.

I don't want a size 0 body. I don't want a jet. I don't want a $2 million salary, or even a $200,000 salary, not if it means trading in what's most important to me.

Although every once in a while, I would like a new pair of shoes.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Why I Love Video Games

The Kid has a habit of leaving his room a "creative" mess, with Legos strewn everywhere from his latest building project. I can relate - my study requires a periodic whirlwind cleanup to excavate important pieces of paper. But this post isn't about the fact that video games create no mess.

Every once in a while, we work together to scoop up all the Legos and sometimes even sort them into bins, and the kid exclaims how nice it is to have a calm, clean room. The problem is, he assumes EVERY TIME that dumping out another bin of Legos on the floor will not lead to needing to do it all over again. (Much as I tell myself that it's ok not to put the dishes away right this second and then find a few hours later that the house has become a sinkhole of clutter).

In the last few months, he's picked up some benign kiddie games on the Roku player, things like downhill bowling (collect stars and knock over pins!) and frisbee (collect stars and go through hoops!) and Angry Birds (shoot vicious avians into precariously constructed structures full of green pigs and watch the carnage!). The common thread is that the better he does, the harder the game gets.

It's called "leveling up."

And it's seriously the best life lesson this year.

We could see that at school, once he'd behaved well for one period, he thought his job was done for the day. Now he could goof off as much as he wanted, because, hey, he did a "good job." Once. As we've gone through a series of diagnoses and behavior modification attempts, the metaphor of "leveling up" has become our go-to explanation of stepping up his game. What's the reward for a job well done? Another job, of course, and probably a more challenging one.

He went from tracking and self-monitoring one behavior a day to several, in several different circumstances, and is getting better and better at meeting his peers' and teachers' expectations. Although we're proud, it's more relevant that he's proud of himself. He has finally taken on responsibility for his own efforts and the rewards that come with them.

So thank you, video game makers, for teaching The Kid how a challenge can be its own reward.