Why Sarah Silverman is Pretty Radical and Currently My Hero

By Angela Noel

January

Since my last post on performing radical acts of empathy, my friend Hayley posted a story on Facebook about comedian Sarah Silverman’s actions in response to a fellow who called her the c-word.

This twitter exchange, and how the guy responded to her outreach has been shared many times over. No one necessarily needs me to comment on it or to say any more about it. But I’m going to because when this kind of beauty happens just when I’m thinking about what it means to perform radical acts of empathy, I’m pretty sure that’s a sign from the universe. Continue reading “Why Sarah Silverman is Pretty Radical and Currently My Hero”

Performing Radical Acts of Empathy in 2018

By Angela Noel

January 4, 2018

In 2018 I want to perform radical acts of empathy.

I first heard the phrase, “reading is a radical act of empathy” at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis during an open house for writers.  Months later I heard author Kelly Barnhill, winner of 2017 Newberry Medal for her book The Girl Who Drank the Moon say the same thing on a children’s podcast, Brain’s On. “Reading is an act of radical empathy” she said, ” . . . It’s a reminder that my own point of view is not the only one . . . We have to be able to be another person . . . so we can stop being such selfish jerks.” Continue reading “Performing Radical Acts of Empathy in 2018”

The Seductive Power of Coffee and Clinging

By Angela Noel

December 28, 2017

I have a teensy weensy Starbucks addiction. The app seduced me. Though remembering my stupid password is probably the hardest and most frustrating trial of my life (and I’m including childbirth), I love the simplicity of paying with that barcode and walking away with an expensive little piece of indulgent heaven.

Because earning those reward stars (though my husband informs me they are worth less than a penny) makes me happy, I choose to go more often than I should. They’ve got me. They got me good. But this post isn’t about Starbucks or the wondrous app. It’s about a real jerk. Continue reading “The Seductive Power of Coffee and Clinging”

Cognitive Bias Series: Taming the Elves in Our Brains

By Angela Noel

November 16, 2017

Certain four-letter words get a lot of attention. I won’t write them here because you already know what I’m talking about. These words have power. Some studies have shown that cussing actually tempers the pain response in the brain. Preliminary theories tell us swear words trigger a “fight” response, helping the body dull sensations of pain.

But I want to talk about a different four-letter word: bias. The word itself won’t lesson pain. Its power comes from describing a whole host of unconscious actions governing our responses to all kinds of sensations and experiences. Saying the word out loud won’t increase or decrease pain, but bias operating in our lives just might. Continue reading “Cognitive Bias Series: Taming the Elves in Our Brains”

Two Mathematics Concepts You Should be Thinking About

By Angela Noel

October 26, 2017

I have two favorite mathematics concepts. That sounds weird, I know. I’m a communications and writing major, an author and a blogger, but I’m also a collector of mental oddities. I find little scraps of interesting tidbits from all kinds of places and add them to the museum of my mind. The scraps can come from anywhere, a technical specification, high school algebra, Nietzsche, an ad on the radio, or a quote in a magazine. I pull them out to illustrate ideas, as either analogies or examples. Most of the time, they’re useful little tools, bringing context to complexity. Sometimes, they confuse people. I hate it when that happens.

Hopefully, this isn’t one of those times. Because these two concepts form so elegant a metaphor for life and human interactions, I can’t resist sharing them with you.

Mathphobes, please keep reading. I’m not about to amaze you with knowledge of multivariable calculus–mainly because I don’t know the first thing about it. These two little gems I learned in my first fifteen years, and you did too.

I’m guessing though, that many of us left these things buried where we hoped never to see them again: in the textbooks of our youth. But, maybe I can change your mind about their usefulness and application in daily life.  Continue reading “Two Mathematics Concepts You Should be Thinking About”

Five Essential Qualities of Everyday Leadership

By Angela Noel

October 16, 2107

Bosses make our lives better or worse with the simplest of inconsequential acts. A “good job” can mean the world. A well-placed critique can change a career. But a thoughtless comment will damage any relationship, never more so than when one person has the ability to terminate the other’s livelihood. Worse, a pattern of ego-driven blindness can turn a leader into an employee’s personal Satan. Continue reading “Five Essential Qualities of Everyday Leadership”

Why Participation Matters Much More Than Winning

By Angela Noel

October 12, 2017

I admit, I don’t really know who James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers is. But, he posted this in 2015 to rave reviews on Instagram: 

I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best…cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy. #harrisonfamilyvalues

I’ve heard some version of this from many people. In fact, a reporter for For the Win by USA Today put up a poll at the end of his post about another athlete, Kobe Bryant, offering his opinion of his own children’s less-than-first-place wins. Of about 700 respondents so far, more than half feel participation trophies are “bad.”

And while I agree that recognizing everyone for every little thing is both unnecessary and possibly detrimental, I disagree that participation doesn’t deserve its own kind of reward. And here’s why: RAGNAR.

Continue reading “Why Participation Matters Much More Than Winning”

What’s in a Name? Identity, Security, and a Pat-Down

by Angela Noel

September 21, 2017

Through a quirk of the online travel service at my work, my airline ticket was issued in my old name. A fact I did not discover nor suspect until I arrived at the airport and attempted to check in for my flight. When the ticket printed from the self-service kiosk, I stared at it for a full minute.

What to do? Continue reading “What’s in a Name? Identity, Security, and a Pat-Down”

Why Dragons are Terrible Role Models for Humans

By Angela Noel

August 10, 2017

Dragons, according to some myths, hoard gold and shiny things. They gather the stuff up into a big pile and sleep on it. They can’t spend it. They’re giant flying serpents for heaven’s sake. If they wanted something they could take it, no need for a wallet or coin purse. Why would a giant, powerful creature feel the need to find, store, and jealously guard shiny things it cannot ever use?

Then again, why do people hoard things like compliments? Why do humans find it so difficult at times to offer genuine praise or admiration? Or to accept it graciously when offered?Could dragons and humans suffer from the same affliction: protecting things we cannot possibly make use of because of some fear that without that thing we’ve lost our power? Continue reading “Why Dragons are Terrible Role Models for Humans”

What Matters More: Numbers or Relationships?

By Angela Noel

May 18, 2017

Almost a year ago now, I sat agonizing over my first blog post. I’d convinced two or three brave souls to let me profile them. Each had placed tremendous trust in me, but I worried. Would the words I put on the page both honor my subjects and connect with readers?

As a few people read that first post, then a few more, I felt the rush. My heart pounded in anticipation every time I checked the stats. Ten people. Then twenty. A hundred. Matt French, the subject of my first post, liked it. His friends and family liked it. That’s what mattered most, right?

But the more I read other blogs, and the more research I did to understand what “success” for a new blog should look like, the ickier I felt. A few months in, after I’d faithfully posted each week, I remember reading a piece from another blogger. She lamented she had only a “small” following–10,000 views a month. I felt shame. If she was disappointed with 10,000 what did it mean that 1/10th of that number visited mine? Clearly, something was wrong. Continue reading “What Matters More: Numbers or Relationships?”