Being a Clown

Kathy Kolbe for clown

I dressed up in a clown outfit once. To entertain kids at a camp I ran. It totally embarrassed my then 8-year-old son, David, who was in the audience.

Wearing a clown costume doesn’t make you a clown – but it can make a clown out of you. It proves my theory that dressing for success is often a waste of time and money.

Could a good school for clowns train me to be a better clown?

Not if I only mimicked being a clown. Being trained to act like a clown doesn’t make you good at it – anymore than being trained to act like a salesperson makes you a top salesperson. If you don’t have the right instincts to be good in a role, your attempt at it can come off as awkward.

Ouch Factor: Happy masks hiding Sad realities

Putting on a happy face while suffering in a misfit role is the stuff of tragedies (think Death of a Salesman). When people don’t have an ounce of the right conative instincts for the outfit, pretending the shoe fits ends up causing a lot of hurt. Maybe that’s why there are so many sad clowns. It’s the Ouch Factor.

We sense inauthenticity. It makes us uncomfortable. We don’t want to deal with a person who is putting on an act — whether it is as a carpenter, cleric, or cable guy.

People radiating the yucky vibes of the Ouch Factor seem to believe the fairy tale about being able to do anything they want to do. They must have bought into the notion that their preferences were the key to determining career decisions. It would be interesting to track people who followed career advice from programs based on such assumptions, and rate their Ouch levels.

Effort Effect

That wasn’t my excuse for being a lousy clown. It is in my conative nature to be at least OK at clowning around.

Being a clown was a side show for me. I certainly didn’t put much effort into it. But it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. It might have helped if I had a least practiced a couple of minutes in front of a mirror. Instead, I was just me being silly. (Moms being silly always seem to embarrass their kids.) I overlooked the Effort Effect.

My clown moment was a bundle of years ago, and I still regret that I wasn’t more convincing. The point is not that I discovered “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” If that were true, I would have garden that’s a show place – and not had the time or energy to create the Kolbe theories.

I imagined that my clown act would get a “Good job!” rating from more than a couple of kids (My son proved he had learned the lesson of not giving false praise.). Mid-act I knew I hadn’t made the necessary effort to pull it off.

Effort Effect – Reversed

I bet the most creepy clowns are the most conatively misfit clowns – who work especially hard at being untrue to themselves. Kids trust their instincts – and stay really far away from clowns they sense are that degree of phony.

There’s something ugly and unsettling about watching a person trudge through life trying to be something he or she was never intended to be. Why try so hard to be a clown when it just isn’t working?

There is a time to turn in the costume. Misplaced efforts rob us of opportunities to succeed in roles for which we are a good conative fit. A misfit clown might make a terrific Ring Master or Lion tamer. The trick is to find roles that fit both our M.O. and our interests. That’s when we make wise efforts.

Effort + right Instincts avoids the Ouch Factor and ups the level of our performance.

I trusted my instincts when I did the clown act. I dressed for success in the role. But I didn’t make a high enough commitment of effort. I have both trusted my instincts and worked hard as a Theorist. I’d say “I made the shoe fit” – but much of the time I’ve been barefoot.

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“I dunno & I dun care” Then Why Should We?

These have become pervasive phrases. You hear them when people do not choose to express anything more than an attitude, or do anything more than make an attempt.

Such omnipresent admission of “I dunno” and “I dun care” bespeaks a culture that admits it lacks the fortitude to express convictions or make commitments.

It Starts in Simple Ways

“Wanna see a movie?”
“Yeah, maybe.”
“Which one?”
“I dunno.”
“Should I just pick one?”
“I dun care.”

“Is there something you’d rather do?”
“I dunno.”

Then why should you care?

Unless a person is exhausted from having made a series of mind-draining efforts, or has made the last ten choices for shared activities, putting no energy into a decision on what to do together says there is not much interest in the relationship. Or, maybe it is not personal – maybe there is not much effort being made across the board. Maybe that explains the inability to keep a job.

Cop-out phrases like these are what you get from the uncle who doesn’t know what the referendum is about – and doesn’t care how you think he should vote. He is not going to bother.

They are the answers you get from the neighbor who just cannot muster up the energy to deal with safety issues.

They Dominate the Dialog

They are phrases spoken in a wide variety of interactions. Listen. You will hear them when you advocate for special needs kids, or the environment, or question why people still smoke. It is also what you get from retail store clerks when you interrupt their chatting with each other to ask them a question.

People use these phrases when they do not want to put their minds into gear to do the mental work of forming an opinion, making a decision, or providing information.

When used without the context of reasonable reasons for mental fatigue, the true meaning of these phrases is often:

“I prefer not to have to form an opinion or make a decision.”

“I am not willing to make an effort to give you a thoughtful response.”

“I do not want to think about doing anything about it.”

“I am saving energy for something that motivates me more than what you are asking about.”

“I do not have the slightest interest in what we do together.”

Don’t Tell Me You “Dunno” What We Can Do About It

In my own way, I have been fighting against this symptom of low levels of effort for half a century. You can, too.

My children became highly opinionated adults*, in part because I told them when they were toddlers that if they said “I dunno,” I would take that to mean that they needed to stop what they were doing and learn about what they didn’t understand. If they said: “I dun care,” I would translate that into their saying, “I don’t care enough to make a make choice.” Therefore, I would make the choice for them. Perhaps I would decide that they would not get any treats, or that I would give them what I knew they liked least.

If what I asked them about truly did not matter to them, they would be all right with whatever I chose for them.

They learned when it did matter they needed to speak up, be heard, make a choice.
They learned to decide when to be committed to determining the outcome.

*Some would say they dunno if that is such a good thing. Therein lays a good part of the problem.

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Why Monday Morning Blues During Happy Hour Sunset?

How could they be my friends and spend a lovely Sunday evening (while they could have been watching a magnificent sunset change from vibrant colors to muted tones) talking about how they were dreading going to work the next day. Both very intelligent, well-paid professionals were planning for their Monday Morning Blues.

“Why don’t you find jobs that you would love to do?” I asked, even though I knew the answer.

“It’s not that I don’t like my job, I would just prefer not to work,” one said.

“My job is filled with joy,” I said, realizing this would ruin their fun in complaining about their jobs, and make me an outsider. “Monday mornings are great, because I get to dive in to what I love doing.”

“You are not normal,” said the second, with a tone close to disgust, “I have to work at my stressful job until I can get my full retirement, because we want to be able to do lots of traveling when I’m done with it.”

“You’re your own boss, Kathy, so you don’t know what it’s like to have to work at a job where you have to do what others decide you should be doing,” said the other person.

“Yes, I created a work situation that gives me the freedom to be myself,” I said, “which, by the way, doesn’t give me retirement benefits. I’ll never retire. I look forward to working at doing something that I love doing for the rest of my life. I’m not waiting to have freedom, I have freedom.”

Eyes rolled and they both ordered another drink.

“You are not normal,” they said, in unison this time – with shared disgust in both their voices. “Part of the fun of Happy Hour is complaining about your job. Stop being a party pooper.”

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What I know about Being Gifted

Being gifted cognitively does not make you smart. Nor does it give you instinctive problem solving abilities, a better personality or a greater work ethic than others.

“Gifted” is a dumb label for high intelligence. It is a “gift’ that comes with no instructions, and is often like the proverbial “White Elephant.” It can be hard to figure out how to use it.

Being gifted adds to your workload

People with higher IQs often find it hard to use normal solutions.

If you have a high IQ this means:

You have to work hard to figure out how to get along with the majority of people who don’t “get it” as fast as you do.
If you don’t overcome this problem, you will be a terrible teacher/trainer/boss/roommate/team-member/next-door-neighbor.

You have to discover how and why you learn differently, because most teachers will not challenge you sufficiently.
If you don’t figure out that you have to be self-motivated, you’ll simply learn to regurgitate facts and not fulfill your potential as an excellent creative problem solver.

You have to work very hard to communicate the ideas in your head in ways that work for most others.
If you don’t make this happen, you will be frustrated by others not listening to you, or joining you in developing solutions you know are possible.

You have to work hard, some times to avoid the bad behaviors that stem from boredom.
If you don’t self-manage your mind, you will attract attention to yourself for all the wrong reasons.

“Over-achieving” is impossible. “Under-achieving” is a betrayal of possibilities.

Those who have a “gifted” mind do not have the option of re-gifting it. They have the responsibility of using it for good purposes.

Advantages of High Intelligence

Three characteristics, which could be used to define the unique nature of high intelligence are:

1. Ability to Anticipate Actions
2. Ability to Empathize
3. Ability to Manipulate

It’s because they have the first two abilities that gifted people CAN manipulate – for good or for not-so-good. They can to choose how and when to use this attribute.

When someone seems to “know” how you feel, it can be a sign of high IQ. However, do not confuse this with Caring about how you feel, which is, of course, in the affective domain rather than the cognitive.

Those who anticipate a movement in the stock market, or of a bear in the woods, or what will make a tree crash to the ground – are all showing higher degrees of IQ. Whether they act on it is an affective issue. How they act on it depends upon their conative instincts.

Being Gifted is Never the Whole Story

I was told as a child that I was highly gifted – in everything but math. Math turned out to be one of my greatest strengths as a theorist and entrepreneur. The terms “severely dyslexic and dysgraphic” weren’t used yet, so my weird way of reading and writing made some people think I wasn’t trying hard enough. It always took effort to “show them!” that my weird ways worked. It also took effort to prove that a severely gifted girl (born in the late 1930’s) didn’t have to play dumb. Most of all, it has required tons of effort to prove that a highly dyslexic person could play smart.

Effort is as essential for a gifted person as it is for any other person. This is understated in most literature on gifted education. Although I have been a university Adjunct Professor of Gifted Education, published “Resources for the Gifted,” and run programs for gifted youngsters, no amount of reading or discussion among experts in the field ever taught me as much on this subject as my observations and discussion with four generations of gifted family members. There is not a single one among them who has not had to work very hard to overcome challenges and discover their nitch in the world.

It is through interactions with gifted grandchildren, that I believe I have completed my home work. I finally consider myself a bona fide authority on the subject of Being Gifted.

 

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Why Instinct-based Education?

Instincts drive all actions, reactions and interactions – including individuals’ modes of learning:

  • Some kids react positively to repetition of information – others tune out
  • Some kids respond with lots of details – others ignore them
  • Some kids interact tangibly to internalize information – others are hands-off
  • Some kids actively add to discussions, others sit silently

We can see the differences among kids, both in classrooms and in homes, yet few educators and parents know how to nurture such a variety of learning modes. It is especially tough to help youngsters learn in ways that force you to work against your instinctive grain.

Instinct-based education doesn’t require that teachers or parents change their natural ways of taking action.  It requires understanding the natural impulses that drive how each student learns best– and providing options that help them learn to trust those instincts.

 “Trust your instincts,” is, after all, what we tell our kids to do in order to stay out of danger. Shouldn’t we help them figure out what that means?

Research has shown that instincts drive passive thoughts and emotions into action in the part of the brain known as conation. The goal is for kids to “Get Conative” – which means to get into their strongest conative or work-oriented gear.

How can a teacher or parent help kids trust their individual instincts when a classroom or family could include many combinations of 12 different instinctive strengths?                      

                             5 Steps for Success with Instinct-based Education

  1. Enable kids to discover their personal instinct-based strengths through valid assessments of them.
  2. Explain your own instinctive strengths as you use them, role modeling the benefits of being free to act on personal strengths.
  3. Help youngsters figure out how to adapt to your way of teaching/parenting, thereby instilling respect for your conative M.O. or instinctive methods, as well as teaching creative problem solving as a means of dealing with similarities and differences.
  4. Give youngsters permission to try alternative ways of initiating actions, helping them experience the benefits of getting into the right gear. For educators, this should include in-class projects and homework assignments. For parents, it should include family projects and the time/place/process they use to do homework.
  5. Have youngsters rate their experiences with the process, as well as the results, in order for them to learn the effectiveness of trusting their instincts.

Encouraging students to ask for options based on their instinctive needs makes them responsible for maximizing their strengths. Letting them know you will assist them in self-managing their instinct-based strengths makes them aware that you recognize the equality and significance of their natural conative abilities.

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Music by M.O.s

Musical instruments tileBach had to have been a Follow Thru because of his repetitive use of sequential patterns.

Beethoven was so much more the Fact Finder with a strong strategy.

Mozart went for the Quick Start pizzazz.

Lots of factors go into the making of a great composer, but certainly HOW a person composes will tie to their innate conative modus operandi.

What instrument should you encourage your child to play? Even if it’s just for a few years of learning music, selecting the right instrument can make the difference between it being a nurturing experience or a dreadful one.

If only my parents had known what I know now, I would never have started with the piano. My resistance to Fact Finder details made it a horrible choice. It was terribly unsuited for my Quick Start need for an instant result. My “ad libs” were considered unacceptable lapses into goofing off.

What’s a parent to do?

Fact Finder insistent kids: piano is the best place to start for those who need the background and strategy of both the instrument and way music is written. For any other kids, lessons that start with such information are tedious and could stifle their love of learning music.

Follow Thru insistent kids, who are not resistant to Fact Finder:  violin, cello, bass (string instruments, in general) meet their need for basing their efforts on patterns/systems, and being rewarded in performances because their sense of consistency helps to create quality.

Quick Start insistent kids: Singing is FAR better than “studying” an instrument, but to do it well, they need some lessons in piano or another instrument – but just for the basics of learning to read music. Make it performance-based, fun stuff, including making their own instruments. Harmonicas, bongos, ukuleles, are all better than the more formal lesson-requiring instruments.

Implementor insistent kids: Let them pound away on the drums, bang the cymbals, and/or use the mallets to play the xylophone. If they also have a high accommodation (or insistence) in Follow Thru, they’ll have a natural sense of rhythm. If not? Well, you might think more about getting them into the trumpet, bassoon or other places where they aren’t the essential keepers of the beat. Band instruments are best for them. Think marching bands!

Facilitator kids: Playing the guitar often appeals to these kids because they see themselves as using it to bring a group together in a sing-along atmosphere. For them, music is a means to an end – that does NOT include spending hours all alone having to practice their instrument. That’s why singing in a choir is excellent for them. It can lead to a very natural outlet for musical interest in a Facilitator – which is to become a musical conductor.

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Nothing into Everything

This is the poem that inspires a comment I frequently make: Nothing IS Everything.

Know you what it is to be a child?…it is to believe in loveliness, to believe in belief; it is to be so little that the elves can reach to whisper in our ear; it is to turn pumpkins into coaches, and mice into horses, lowness into loftiness, and nothing into everything, for each child has its fairy godmother in its soul.

Francis Thompson

I wrote a children’s book titled: Nothing Doings: There’s Nothing to It!, published in 1985.

With a few updates it reads as follows:

I am Nothing.
There’s Nothing like being Nothing.
There’s Nothing to it.

Nothing’s wrong with being Nothing.

There’s Nothing quite so popular as being Nothing ‘cause …
Everyone wants something for Nothing.

You often hear folks say, “Thanks for Nothing,”
And answer, “Think Nothing of it.”

With me, it’s Nothing ventured, Nothing gained.

I don’t think of myself as a mere Nothing
I’m ALL or Nothing
‘cause I’ve got plenty of Nothing,
And Nothing’s plenty for me.

Nothing’s more fun than Anything.
You ain’t seen Nothing yet.

Nothing is possible.

Nothing is everywhere. There’s either
Nothing to wear…
Nothing to eat…
Nothing to do

Nothing succeeds like success

You’re wise to say “NOTHING!”
Nothing but the truth.

I figure I’m pretty entertaining…
Because I often hear there’s Nothing to laugh about.
When I’m in an otherwise boring show, there’s Nothing to cheer about,
Even when it’s awful, Nothing would be better.

When I hide, there’s Nothing to seek.
When I surprise you, there’s Nothing more intriguing.

One thing for sure about me: Nothing is certain.

I’m original because Nothing is new under the sun.
There’s Nothing like me.
When people use me in a wrong way, the Nothing they put into a project…
Leads to Nothing coming out of it.

I’m tops when it comes to productivity because…
Nothing can be created from Nothing,
And Nothing in Particular
Turns Nothing into Everything

by Kathy Kolbe

Copyright 1985-2013

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