Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Combat the Seattle Freeze with Vulnerability and Love

On the heels of Valentine’s Day, let’s celebrate love by watching this TEDx talk about vulnerability and human connection.  Basically, we gotta take risks and put ourselves out there if we want to get something back.

This principle applies to all aspirations—whether it’s deeper relationships, work success, or other personal goals—we need to overcome the negative voices in our heads and just go after it.

This all makes me think about the "Seattle Freeze." A term coined because Seattleites are supposedly superficially nice, but unwilling to make authentic connections. It impacts making friends and dating and is often blamed on seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the tech industry’s nerdy tendencies, and/or the Northwest’s cultural roots.

I’m not sure if the Seattle Freeze exists....(aren't people like that in any major city?) Those who buy into the Seattle Freeze are making the assumption that people are cold and I wonder about the placebo effect. If we approach people a predetermined mindset, are we signing off on our own destiny?

Being lonely is a natural human condition. When I moved to Seattle, I felt lonely. I spent the time I needed feeling sorry for myself and shed a few tears, but then I put together an action list. I outlined what kind of friends I hoped for, what kind of friend I wanted to be, and put together a plan to bridge my expectations to reality. And sure enough, it paid off.

Here’s how I continue to combat the Seattle Freeze:
  1. Breaking the ice goes a long way. The awkwardness only exists in our heads. I'm usually the first to open up the conversation, and people usually reciprocate. And if not, they aren’t worth the time.
  2. We have an unconscious bias to surround ourselves with people like us, but that limits opportunities. I talk to everyone, especially those who seem different because those friendships are often the most rewarding.
  3. I smile when seeing people I recognize and am honest. Even though I'm forgetful, I always get a positive reaction when I say, “I know you, forgive me, but please remind me what your name is."
Yes, being loved means being vulnerable, but we’re all in the same boat so it's okay. The risks are worth it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Maybe Math Ain't So Bad After All

Learning is not so much about obtaining new facts, but rather discovering new ways of thinking, or pushing yourself beyond what you already know.  

When lived in Taipei and studied Mandarin Chinese intensively, I never felt so mentally sharp and on. I guess my brain was working overtime being immersed and that forced me to adapt…quickly.  

Fast forward to now. I’m looking for a new way to stretch my mind. Instead of learning something new entirely, I’m toying with a different idea: push my math limits.

Yep, I’ve never been a math girl; I’m more of the creative type. I was just never motivated as a kid—it just always seemed so boring and unforgiving. I couldn’t stand the fact that you’re either right or wrong and that’s it.

But I’m starting to change my mind about math because of its role in physics. I love how scientists discovered planets similar to Earth by using a telescope and math (the radial velocity technique where they figure out the size and mass of a planet by alterations to its orbit due to gravity).

Math’s evolution is poetic. It took generations to build a foundation and then expand from there—and according to this Radio Lab, math is not innate. Someone first invented counting, and then someone else found negative numbers, and then came fractions, imaginary and irrational numbers and more. As society and our thinking evolved, so did mathematical patterns.  

Fast forward to now. We’re at the point of turning our heads toward space and finding new uses for math.  It’s all about pushing the boundaries of what we know, and looking at challenges with optimism. And that’s not boring at all.

So it’s hard to hate math like I used to. A little optimism and a good eraser make all the difference. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

our big (and small) space

We’re creatures of habit, consumed by routine, heads down until there’s a reason to look up. But just look up at the night sky. There’s nothing quite like it to put things into perspective and make a person feel very insignificant.

I’m currently addicted to space documentaries. I’m amazed by the scientists who try to figure out how this whole mystery works. Humans have an amazing gift—the curiosity and capability to learn about our world and our place in it.

Ironically the more we know, the more we realize we don’t know. And the few answers we have only lead to more questions. Black holes? Dark matter? Multiverses? Do we have an infinite number of selves repeating actions endlessly through time or hovering millimeters invisibly away?

It’s like we’re small children observing the nursery, making assumptions based on our limited perspective and discovering the unexpected. Obviously our quest for knowledge won’t be over anytime soon.

When it comes down to it, we are at least the center of our own universe. I guess we’re both—small and big at the same time—small in the context of the universe, but big in the story of our lives. And thus we transcend any notion about time and space.

So size doesn’t really matter now, does it? It’s just a matter of perspective.