Avoid Catastrophe, Make Fewer Assumptions

By Angela Noel

July 9, 2018

More than once I’ve been dead wrong about the reality of a situation for one simple reason: Instead of asking questions, I made assumptions. Though I detest this in myself, my sphere of influence is relatively small. Thus, I can do little harm. But, the same cannot be said for others in positions of power. Their failures to question assumptions can lead to disasters, as illustrated by Ken Burns’ documentary on the Vietnam War.

In the documentary, James Willbanks, an army strategist, said of Robert McNamara, secretary of defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, “When McNamara wants to know what Ho Chi Minh is thinking he interviews himself.” I found Willbanks’ words chilling. Continue reading “Avoid Catastrophe, Make Fewer Assumptions”

Awesome Nuggets: Summertime Edition

By Angela Noel

June 27, 2018

I sometimes forget, particularly when life gets over-busy with obligations and activity, to revel in little moments of joy. Bringing them to mind helps dig happy pathways in my mind, reinforcing the good like steel girders in the skyscraper of life. Sharing these nuggets of awesomeness are my way of reminding myself to keep delight alive.

You can read former Awesome Nuggets posts collected for you on the new page devoted to these posts. Please feel free to visit it anytime and add your nuggets whenever the spirit moves you.

Here’s the Summertime Edition:

Continue reading “Awesome Nuggets: Summertime Edition”

Campsite Restrooms: An Appreciation

By Angela Noel

June 13, 2018

Only sixty percent of homes in 1940’s America had indoor flush toilets. Seventy percent had running water. Both amenities reached near ubiquity by 1970, the decade in which I was born, according to The Rise and Fall of American Growth by Robert J. Gordon.

Naturally, I take toilets and showers for granted. My guess is most of us do. But a recent camping trip brought me a new appreciation for the gift of potties and showers amidst the wilds and wonders of nature. Continue reading “Campsite Restrooms: An Appreciation”

Women and Leadership: Stop Talking. Start Doing

By Angela Noel

May 13, 2018

I want Amy Jean Kramer Brenengen in the room when tempers flare. She’s the cheerleader I want on my team when I’m afraid I may lose. She’s the leader I want in my ear when the stakes are high. But she’s also the woman I want to have a huge glass of wine with to either celebrate our victories, or strategize on how best to learn from our defeats.

Though passionate about many things including, family, working, running (kind of), and the arts, a constant and persistent interest tells much about this woman’s story and her contribution to the world.

This interest, this love, recently drove her to issue a public challenge.
Continue reading “Women and Leadership: Stop Talking. Start Doing”

Three Different Stories, One Common Thread

By Angela Noel

May 6, 2018

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I’ve been criss-crossing the country lately. Not only have I been to five destinations in six months with work, but Paul and I also went to Nevada for a long weekend. Invariably, someone is driving me somewhere in each of these trips. And those someones have stories.

I learn things when I sit in the back of someone’s cab, car, or van. You might recall my experience with a cabbie last year when a simple question resulted in a truly unique conversation about his road to recovery from a gambling addiction and his path towards helping the homeless. These more recent stories are like that, but different. Continue reading “Three Different Stories, One Common Thread”

I Have a Problem with Pedestals

By Angela Noel

April 29, 2018

I’ve been traveling quite a lot lately, which has afforded me excellent opportunities to both learn stuff and share stuff I’m learning. Air travel however comes with drawbacks. One of them is security lines. But security lines after a massive snowstorm when the airport closed down the night before and everyone is a little extra unhappy provide the curious mind with a perfect Petri dish for observation. Continue reading “I Have a Problem with Pedestals”

Between Birth and Death are Paperwork and Swearing

By Angela Noel

April 22, 2018

Last summer my husband and I took a bike ride along a trail near our house. I think about a lot of things when I’m riding a bike or running. On this particular occasion I was thinking about death. One thought in particular: Dying is the only obligation of the living.

Obviously, some things we cannot choose, like getting hit by a car or assaulted by a bad guy (or gal). But we can choose our response to the situation. We can decide what we do next.

I can also decide my actions. For example, I don’t have to obey laws or treat others with respect. I might go to jail and have no friends as a result–but still. I pretend I don’t have a choice as to whether or not I do certain things, like scrub the toilet or get an oil change, but I do. These decision could mean I pay a price, but they’re still my decisions.

I Swear

Admittedly, sometimes I complete some of these seemingly obligatory tasks only to avoid the painful or inconvenient impacts of NOT doing the thing.

For example, I recently filled out multiple forms with my name, birthday, social security number, address, previous medical history, shoe size, astrological sign etc. in preparation for my first appointment at a new dentist. The many swear words I used throughout the whole processes attested to how much I enjoyed it.

Paperwork, death
Full disclosure: it wasn’t THIS many forms, but this is how it FELT. Photo by Christa Dodoo on Unsplash

My son wanted me to read with him, but I wanted to get those damn forms done. He’d have to wait while I plowed through. As I glowered my way through the task, the possibility of my sudden death came to mind again. Continue reading “Between Birth and Death are Paperwork and Swearing”

Fact: We Find What We’re Looking For

By Angela Noel

April 10, 2018

Vegas reminds me of a little black dress I once owned. The dress served its purpose. Coupled with a pair of very swanky heels, it attracted the attention I craved. Wearing it felt like I’d stepped into a different world, one I wouldn’t inhabit nine-to-five.

But one day, when I put it on I no longer felt a thrill. The shoes hurt my feet and my back. The eyeballs that tracked my every move weren’t nice eyeballs. The dress had lost its magic. Or maybe, I’d lost interest in the kind of magic it was capable of offering. Continue reading “Fact: We Find What We’re Looking For”

Peel the Onion: Why We Answer the Wrong Question

By Angela Noel

April 5, 2018

Questions without easy answers abound. But we humans hate that. Our brains like certainty. Tough, complex problems without clear solutions make us very unhappy indeed. In these situations, particularly where public pressure exists to find a fast and clean answer, we’re susceptible to a type of brain elf, Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, calls substitution. He writes, “If a satisfactory answer to a hard question is not found quickly, System 1 (our fast-thinking brain) will find a related question that is easier and will answer it.”

Since being sure of something is our preferred condition, our brains tend to do a lot to help us feel that way. I wrote about our search for certainty before, and how hard we fight to preserve our version of events even when we know it’s wrong. But, this time we’re talking about certainty from another angle. This time, we’re talking about onions. Continue reading “Peel the Onion: Why We Answer the Wrong Question”

Queen in the Quiet of My Child’s World

By Angela Noel

March 27, 2018

Lying close to my son as he slowly drifts into sleep is the most cost-effective therapy I know. But I know it can’t last.

Most nights, at least lately, after we snuggle and he reads a few pages from a chapter book, I say goodnight and exit his room. Then he reads a few pages of a comic book (Garfield or Calvin and Hobbs) on his own before flipping off his reading light and heading to snooze-town. But one night recently, we turned off the lights and I stayed a bit longer. He flung his arm around my neck and nuzzled a little closer. “Tonight,” he said, “you’re my stuffy.” Continue reading “Queen in the Quiet of My Child’s World”