Archives for Shannon Cutts


When Change Changes You

Suddenly it seems like everywhere I go online I'm reading about an app called Slack.

Apparently it is like Twitter + Facebook for office types.

Slack's goal - according to its CEO at least - is to eliminate email.

But his underlying goal is to get back to his family and his herd of alpacas (small furry camels, basically) by eliminating work...or at least some of it.

Stewart Butterfield, Slack's CEO, did exactly that after selling his first creation, Flickr, to Yahoo for an alleged $25 million.

But then he quickly came back...with Slack.

In a recent interview, Butterfield had this to share about why he feels it is important to reduce the time we spend working:

I think that we're as a species not quite equipped to deal with the power of this stuff just in the same way we weren't quite equipped to deal with infinite free calories. This is how people end up with diabetes...we will now have the cognitive emotional diabetes of over interacting with people who aren't physically present.

Butterfield thinks Slack can help with the tendency we seem to have to overwork ourselves, or (in some cases, most notably Japan's Karoshi) literally work ourselves to death.

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How I Found Happiness

I used to chase happiness like a fiend.

I would run after different experiences - goals, achievements - quite sure that once I caught up to them, happiness would at last be at my beck and call.

This is when I learned happiness is a very fast runner.

So then I would try to sneak up on, "if I don't care to little or too much but just enough" won't see me coming and I can catch it.

Turns out happiness is related to owls - they both have 360 degree vision and exceptionally keen hearing.

Finally I decided to sit still, very quietly, until happiness forgot I was there, let down its guard, and crept close.

This, surprisingly, worked better than either of the other two strategies.

After reading a short post in Time magazine's Wellness section, I think I know why.

Apparently, for Americans, the pursuit of happiness is inexorably linked to achieving individual goals.

This is a very big contrast to how other cultures (happier cultures!) view happiness - as a social phenomenon that happens most readily when it is shared.

But our individualistic society puts the sole responsibility for catching and restraining happiness squarely on each of our respective shoulders - a heavy burden indeed.

Brett Ford, the author of the study Time references in their post, says that for this very reason, what we Americans tend to end up with instead of happiness is a life full of neutrality.

We're not really sad....not really happy....just kind of in between, existing.

Personally, in a world fueled by Facebook posts full of ridiculously happy people doing amazing happiness-producing things, I find it reassuring to know that behind the scenes, no one is really that happy all the time. 


I also like what Ford tells Time reporter Mandy Oaklander:

A happy life doesn't consist of happy moments every moment of the day.

Double whew.

So back to why I now understand why letting happiness come to me works better than chasing it down or pouncing on it. 
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I Love My Body…Except When I Don’t

Recently I was chatting with a recovery friend about body acceptance.

All of a sudden it hit me.

Body acceptance is one thing.

Body love - body enjoyment - well, this is quite another.

For example, most days these days I am filled to the brim with body acceptance.

I also feel reliable amounts of body gratitude and appreciation (especially after my 2011 surgery, when I experienced just how much I rely on my healthy body to do just about everything).

But body love - well, this is still a work-in-progress.

I suppose I could even say that my relationship with my body is still evolving. We've gotten to the mutual respect thing - but the raw throw-the-doors-wide-open "I love you with my whole heart and nothing less!" stage is yet ahead.

Of course, I'm not complaining....precisely.

After spending nearly three decades immersed in all things body hate, body revulsion, body disownment, finally experiencing body acceptance is pretty great.

But still, I aspire to more. Much more. 
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Mentoring Book Reviews

Living Life in Three Acts

Recently I began reading Brene Brown's new book, Rising Strong.

I haven't gotten very far, though.

This is because it only took a few pages before I realized (yet again) how much she knows that I do not.

For instance, did you know there are three acts in every story?

This includes Hollywood movies, literary classics, our daily life and all the rest.

Here is a basic summary of each act:

Act 1 - The main character of the story is offered a chance to go on an adventure, solve a problem, learn a lesson, et al. They waffle for a bit, then accept.
Act 2 - The main character looks for all the easy ways to get from A to Z, discovers none of those ways are available and hits rock bottom.
Act 3 - The main character finally tackles the hard way and (depending on the plot line) succeeds or doesn't.

So here is the thing.

I've always been aware of Act 1 - new beginnings and all that.

And Act 3 is hard to miss, seeing as how it is often full of fanfare and finality.

But Act 2....honestly, I guess I've always just categorized it as the "sh** happens" phase. 
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The Reality Behind Strange Addictions

A couple days ago I was over at my boyfriend's house.

He has cable television - I do not.

This is probably a good thing, since every time we turn on the tube at his place, I am instantly sucked in.

This last time we ended up watching a show called "My Strange Addiction."

It was actually a marathon, so we watched several shows on this topic all in a row.

I couldn't say if the addictions got more or less strange as the hours unfolded. But what I can say for sure is I probably qualify to be a guest on the show, and so does my pet parrot.

Here are some of the addictions the people on the show had: drinking paint, eating dirt, chewing tire rubber, dressing up as a horse for something called "pony play," using Vicks' VapoRub (for practically everything), cross-dressing using silicone costumes complete with breasts and face masks, hugging inflatable pool toys, getting butt injections....and these are just the ones I can remember. 
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Animal Mentors

Why I Love My Stomach

Oh. The stomach.

That bastion of photoshopping. That naysayer of bikini season. That frenemy of (tasty) dessert.

With so much seemingly riding on its relative degree of concavity or convexity at any given moment, it is no wonder I have suffered with digestive issues for nearly as long as I've been alive.

But today I am happy to share I am mostly free from these life-long embarrassments and discomforts.

Thanks in large part to a combination of affirmations, probiotics, breathing techniques, meditation and other gentle helps, my stomach is too.

Today, my stomach and I have an agreement. It takes care of "digestion" and I take care of the rest. 
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Where Adult Friendships Go to Die

This has been a year of transitions. Or changes. Or losses.

Or simply choices, depending on how you look at it.

Several years ago, I had a really big "aha moment." It wasn't the kind I really wanted but I definitely needed it.

This aha moment happened when I read a quote about how I would become most like the people I kept closest to me. So then I couldn't resist taking a look at my close circle.

To my horror, I discovered I did not want to become like some of these folks. And every time from then on I grew more and more aware of our dissonance whenever we would hang out together.

This was a hard period for me. But it wasn't as hard as what came next.

In the past two years, I took hold of the "friendship reins" in my own life for the first time ever. This was significant for a couple of reasons:

In the past, I pretty much just was friends with anyone who seemed to want to be friends with me.
This was because I thought I wasn't very good "friends material" and I always thought I was lucky anyone wanted to be my friend.

By taking charge of my friendship life, I became more discerning and deliberate about qualities I looked for in a potential friend.

I actually made a list of desirable qualities - these same qualities being the ones I hoped to develop in myself.

Positive and optimistic.
Smart and witty.
Engaged in their own life and the world.
Open-minded and accepting ("live and let live").
A good conversationalist and also a good listener.
Curious and fun-loving.
Compassionate and caring.
Respectful with good "social radar."
Able to open up and share without getting stuck in a rut of constant complaining (this is a big one for me!) or allowing me to do the same (which speaks to having a basically positive and optimistic nature underneath life's hard moments).
Supportive and loving and willing to be supported and loved.

There were more qualities on the list too, but these were the big ones.

I also expanded my concept of who qualified as a "friend."

For instance - I included my parents. My mom and dad are two of my best friends in the world today. I also decided pets qualified - my parrot, Pearl, and my tortoise, Malti, are my daily life sidekicks and I can't imagine life without them.

But some of my friendships hit the skids around this same time because they didn't fit most or any of the criteria on my list.

Some of my longest-running friendships felt the impact most deeply, while some of my newer friendships experienced cardiac arrest in fits and spurts as I woke up to behaviors and experiences that just didn't feel like anything I wanted to be a part of going forward.

This hurt. A lot. It still hurts.

This week I discovered a lovely little blog named Peaceful Dumpling.

A few of the posts focused specifically on what the poster called "adult friendships" - making them, ending them and all that can transpire in between. One particular post, titled "On Breaking Up With Friends," caught my attention.

In this post, the blogger talks about how jarring it can be to realize the old cliche, "boyfriends come and go, but friends are forever," may not hold water in every case.

(Interestingly, today my boyfriend is one of my best friends, although he didn't used to be - we've had some rough years together (and not together).)

But not all of my friendships have weathered the journey from "then" to "now" so well as ours has.

The blogger also talks about navigating "end of friendship" challenges, such as when only one friend wants to "break up" and the other wants the friendship to continue. 
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The Black and White and Grey of Whitey Bulgar

For my dad's birthday a few weeks ago, we took him to see Johnny Depp's new mobster flick, "Black Mass."

The film's focal point, one James "Whitey" Bulger, has kept me thinking and pondering for the last few weeks.

After making several wrong guesses, I had to hunt a bit before finally learning what the film's title, "Black Mass," stands for.

Turns out that a Black Mass is the opposite of the traditional Catholic mass where everyone dresses in white and addresses God. In the black version, well, you can probably visualize what everyone wears and who is being worshipped.

This aside, what I find perhaps most intriguing is what Depp has said about Bulger (through archival research only, since Bulger refused to meet with or speak to Depp and has now panned the film he hasn't seen).

Depp states:

There's a kind heart in there. There's a cold heart in there. There's a man who loves. There's a man who cries. There's a lot to the man.

Families who lost loved ones to Bulger's violence are angry about this statement.
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Animal Mentors

Unexplained Powers of Our Pets

I really like to read books about animals, and especially about pets.

Frequently, one book leads to another and then another.

Recently, this led me to Rupert Sheldrake, PhD's book, Dogs That Know When Their Owners are Coming Home (and other unexplained powers of animals).

If you, like me, have ever wondered if your pet (dog, cat, parrot, tortoise, ferret, et al) is holding out on you, this is the book you need to read.

Obviously, Dr. Sheldrake wouldn't have written 300+ pages on the topic if there weren't something to write about.

But what he writes about - Oh. my. goodness. 
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