Confession: I attended leadership camps as a child. Many. I both blame and compliment the Asian upbringing for this treat. Stephen Covey reigned high.
What I learned then and thereafter is that practical advice is clear, concise and allows space for follow-up. For some reason as I've gotten older, I've become more shy about asking people for guidance face-to-face- (is it just me?) insecurity, possibly growing frustrated with the 'work hard' , 'give it time' generalities or because I often feel ten steps behind in a field that may or may not be my own. I think like most , the more specific and broken down the advice or explanation, the easier it is for consumption and action. Cliff notes on life for every situation would be a handy book, no?
Enter the Harvard Business Review. (nerd alert) While there are many posts that are quite meaty and way over my head (read: Rubik's cube conundrum), there are articles that relate to the day-to-day and the human factor element to both business and life. There really is nothing better than reading something that makes you go 'I get it.' and even more powerfully 'me too.'
A friend linked to me Peter Bregman's articles and I promptly read 5-6 in one brief coffee break.
This one is an excerpt from his article on surprise criticism and why it is so hard for us to process:
Any criticism can be hard to accept. But surprise feedback — criticism that seems to come from nowhere, about an issue we haven’t perceived ourselves — is the hardest. We’re far more likely to be defensive. Because it’s not just about admitting, it’s about perceiving. Before we can accept something, we have to become aware of it.
That kind of feedback exposes you to yourself, which is why it is both tremendously unsettling and exceptionally valuable. It’s also why our defensiveness is so predictable and so counterproductive. The things we most need to hear are often the things we defend against hearing the most.
He goes on to describe practical steps to do this. Both business and curious mind-friendly, the site is full of clarifying pieces. It's tagged as a place for ideas and advice for leaders. While there is so much information to process out there, it's comforting to know there are sites that can get down to the bulk of the matter in this sort of way. I'm digging it.
Two ladies that are without a doubt my style crushes. I don't often talk about fashion here (mainly because I dress in staples- 'that 10% of your wardrobe 90% of the time' is very much my baseline) but I adore the transformative feeling it has and how it really can become an extension of a person's personality.
Truth is, there really is that je ne sais quality of a man/woman who knows how to dress well.
Things I've learned: Simple is better. If the bigger size fits better, wear the bigger size. No one is looking at tags. Wear one statement piece daily (it does not have to be extravagant). Yes, your best friend looks better in dresses/pants/jeans (a collective everything) but that does not mean you can't find something that works. Invest in affordable staples. Iron your clothes (ha!). Tailoring goes a long way. Try on clothes before you buy them (I am terrible at this). Ask, observe, learn.
The last time I made this banana bread was with my friends' children- little fingers full of mashed bananas, flour everywhere and a delightfully disproportionate amount of chocolate chips added to the mix. It was, as you would expect, shamelessly perfect.
Today on my own, substituting a pie pan for a recommended loaf pan and overbaking by a good few minutes (do people admit that on blogs?) (convention fan ovens always vary to a frustrating degree) it still managed to come out tasting pretty lovely albeit with a slightly drier finish.
Point being, this recipe is on-point even with the likes of me at the realm. The original is one that my friend makes weekly as written (we adore it and compliment her endlessly) but with my sweet tooth tendencies, chocolate chips and/or desiccated coconut usually end up in the bowl.
It's a good one to test out with banana-averse children, on your own or just as an excuse to use up those brown spattered bananas. A good faithful to have on hand. Elise’s Friend Heidi’s Friend Mrs. Hockmeyer’s Banana Bread, As Jacked Up by Deb
(from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Simply Recipes)
3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed 1/3 cup (75 grams) melted salted butter 3/4 to 1 cup (145 to 190 grams) light brown sugar (depending on the level of sweetness you prefer, I always use the smaller amount) 1 egg, beaten 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla 1 tablespoon (15 ml) bourbon (optional) 1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda Pinch of salt 1 teaspoon (3 grams) cinnamon Up to 1/2 teaspoon (1) nutmeg Pinch of ground cloves 1 1/2 cups (190 grams) flour
Preheat oven to 180 C.
In a bowl, add melted butter to mashed bananas.
Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and bourbon (if using) and then the spices.
Add in baking soda and salt. Mix.
Blend in flour last.
Pour mixture into 4x8 buttered loaf pan.
Bake for about 45 minutes depending on your oven (!!) or until a tester comes out clean.
Allow to cool. Slice and be merry!
Petrichor denotes the pleasant smell after rain. After the mixed weather today in Dublin with no brolly in hand (Murphy's law!), ducking in and out of shops and under hooded canopies for shelter yet still. getting. soaked. reminded me of the time in Oxford, England where that word just made perfect sense (sans the soaking sweater and jeans bit).
A visual and scented postcard of sorts.
ps. A different sort of visual postcard of rain-this demo.
Firas jokingly calls me the support hotline for our friends- full of cheesy one-liners, mantras and weighted advice for those close to me. As a person who wears her heart on her sleeve and has an embarrassing collection of quotes or book pages bookmarked or pinned, it sort of naturally comes with the territory.
When I was younger I had a friend, Jason (much smarter than his years) who would rather stoically give me the best advice. Always a blanket statement that had enough scope for interpretation but aptly specific enough to hit a chord. He would repeat it to me constantly in the midst of teen angst, frustrating circumstances, growing pains- I used to dislike it to an umpteenth degree.
What I now realise is that he was teaching me about creating an anchor. A statement, a thought, an idea that took emotion out of a situation and inserted logic instead. Very similar to focusing on an object while practicing yoga or returning to a pre-set protocol in work. Something that would allow you to come back to a singular point of focus amongst the waywardness to help move you forward.
It's helped me so much and it's something that I realise I tell friends in conversations now too. (Funny feeling that Jason is reading this and smiling).
Mine today: Nothing will make you feel better except doing the work. I hope creating your own anchoring statement or idea helps you along too. Let's go be amazing, friends.
Stephen Pearce lives in Shanagarry, Cork but has travelled the world. And after meeting him and reading his autobiography, it is entirely possible that he has more creative vision and inspiration in his little finger than most (not an understatement).
So grateful to have spent a day with him in the Pottery to see it all (and have a delicious shakshuka for lunch in his cafe)- these products are loved by so many and with very good reason.
I wrote a little piece in the current issue of Image Interiors and Living about it if you'd like to see and read more! This blogging world is a funny one but the best part of it has always been the people it has introduced in its path.