Tag Archives: choice

Be Willing to Drop the F Bomb

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When I was a senior in high school applying to college, I remember one university had as its essay question, “What was your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?”. I remember considering not applying to that school because I couldn’t think of a failure to write about.

At the time, I was on the receiving end of a lot of attention and praise for never having failed (publicly at least). But now as an adult, I know the trap of living a life based on avoidance of failure. It’s no success to have reached all the goals that have been set for you, to have checked all the boxes other people have laid out as important for you, and then to look in the mirror and not recognize yourself. Or to have your body screaming in pain or exhaustion.

Having been there and done that, I have rediscovered the vital importance of failure. Not “achieving” failure as an identity, but being willing to fail. I gave a workshop on Friday to a group of engineers, coaches, consultants, startup founders, and other change agents interested in how groups of people grow and learn. It was based entirely around sound, voice, and music improvisation – in other words, the most common fears of about ninety-nine percent of the population.

The name of the workshop was, “Play the Wrong Note: Daring Adventures in Learning, Failure, and Creativity“. The title actually refers to a specific moment in my life when everything changed for me. Those four words – “Play the wrong note” – were the four most compassionate words ever spoken to me by a teacher. No one in a position of authority had ever said, “Lisa, I want to see you break the rules. And I’ll help you.” It turned out to be the most loving instructions I ever received, and the framework for an entire body of work. Continue reading

Being Open to Outcomes

The view from Higgins Canyon Road

The view from Higgins Canyon Road

I packed water, an apple, and an orange, but no extra layers of clothing. This was Christmas Day. A leisure ride, nothing that was going to kill me. I knew the hill on Higgins Canyon Road from having come down it once by car. Winding and barely wide enough for one car and a bike to pass. Spectacular views of Sky Moon Ranch, the sheep and cattle grazing next to large water reservoirs on steep hillsides.

The route we had chosen would not, we decided in advance, include riding up that part of the road. We would turn off and make a loop back to town, way before that steep ascent. After all, this was Christmas Day. No need to kill ourselves.

The turnoff was, according to the map, just after Burleigh Murray Ranch and off to the right. All we passed were private roads with mailboxes and No Trespassing signs on the right. We kept riding because it was a gorgeous day and it was fun.

Next thing I knew, we were headed up the hill. Continue reading

Learning to Ride

It’s freezing. All I know is it’s 11 miles out and back. The description on the website had said, “Participants must be in good cardiovascular condition. No single track/technical work. Climbing for sure.

I should have known when I saw the fat tires on everyone else’s bikes.

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Oh, how we wish that learning would take place in the comfort of our familiar homes! A cozy blanket, a warm cup of tea, our favorite music playing, and the knowing that everything as we have chosen and arranged it now surrounds us.

Learning for me always looked like showing up in a classroom, or privately in front of a teacher, and demonstrating what I knew. I would then get feedback in the form of a critique, the next challenge chosen by the teacher, or a score on a test that told me how much what I thought I learned matched what I was expected to have learned.

What I learned on my first mountain bike ride this weekend is that learning – the fresh, raw experience of aha!wow! that’s new! – can be extremely uncomfortable. It can happen when we are placed (or we find ourselves) in a situation we did not know we chose (but we did) and that every fiber of our being is wanting to fix, alter, escape, or resist. But there we are. In my case, “there” was a guided 11-mile ride on a closed access trail. Turning back was not an option without taking the entire group with me.

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A map of the terrain, which can’t really tell us what it’s going to feel like.

Continue reading

Falling Down To Earth…Lessons from “Gravity”

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I saw Gravity this weekend. It was date night. Since we normally watch movies on Netflix in the luxury of our own living room, with the sunset and ocean behind our backs and the fire roaring in the fireplace, the trip through traffic and the ordeal of finding a parking space in a shopping mall made me expect a lot from this one.

We decided to splurge on the 3-D version. We got a big bag of popcorn, and settled into the theater, which we had mostly to ourselves.

I was already filled with gratitude for my life on the coast after we set foot inside the neon shopping mall that contained the movie theater. At that moment, seeing the names of the food court vendors – none of which were familiar to me, feeling the fluorescence of everything, squinting at the brightness of the SALE signs in every store window, hearing the echoes and reverberation of the cavernous container of the space, I realized how long it had been since I’d shopped in a mall. When had that shifted? I recalled a time in my childhood when the only place to shop for clothes and shoes was the mall. It was also one of the main “hangouts” for kids who went out after school (of which I was not one).

I won’t talk too much about plot points here, but I want to list several of the “messages from the universe” that I feel are embedded in the movie. I’ll scramble them up so as not to have to give too much of a spoiler alert. But if you must see the movie first, I’ll warn you that I refer to some scenes in the text below. Continue reading

Live Your Medicine

Lisa Pillar Point FB profile reverse warrior

The Native American tradition speaks of each person’s Original Medicine – that set of gifts that only you can offer the world with your particular life. I’ve always felt there was such a finality to the phrase “Original Medicine” – like I had to define the one thing I was here to do, or it would be lost forever.

No pressure!

This feeling would ignite the achiever in me, who would scramble to come up with a name, a brand, a package, a business, something very “put-together” that would create an image of how well I knew my Life’s Purpose.

I’ve been doing some version of that for most of my life. But recently I’ve begun to discover a process I find much more alive, much more healing, much more in alignment with my own sense of unconditional wholeness. I call it “Live Your Medicine.” It is the practice of asking, “What time is it now, for me?“. It involves listening for what holds the most fear for me in this moment. And then summoning the courage to take action toward that in one small way. Again and again, revisiting and refreshing with each present moment. Continue reading

How to Kill Your Creativity…And Bring It Back To Life

Is your creativity dead?

I honestly believe that few of us – regardless of whether we work as “creatives” or not – intentionally set out to kill our own creativity.

We may just gently turn our backs on it, dismissing it as something reserved for children, or as something only “irresponsible” adults indulge in, or as a waste of time that could never serve a purpose in society (ie, getting paid money for it), or as something only “talented people” get to do.

I’m here to say that none of those is absolutely true.

Creativity is not limited to art…

So, let’s say you’re longing for a more creative life. That could mean anything from having more freedom and flexibility in your current job, to finding a way to support yourself while expressing your own creativity.

I don’t define creativity as being limited to “artistic” activities like painting, dancing, singing, or sculpting pottery. I define creativity as our innate human ability to connect with the unseen. By this definition, I see every human being as creative, by virtue of our brain’s ability to spontaneously form images that are only seen in our mind’s eye.

How you choose to use your creativity is a different story.

And this is where many of us have killed our own creativity, or least left it for dead. Continue reading

Tiger Mother Amy Chua Sets the Record Straight

So, for those of you who still haven’t read the whole book, and may even find yourself getting sick and tired of all the “Tiger Mom” and “Tiger Cub” stuff being thrown around the web, here’s something that might ease your suffering. Amy Chua wrote a column in USA TODAY entitled, “Here’s how to reshape U.S. education.”

First of all, it’s short and very readable in a few minutes, honoring our short American attention spans, a la USA Today.

Second of all, Amy “follows the rules” and wears her academic hat here, citing historical geopolitical examples, statistics, and all those other techniques that make our rational brains feel taken care of. She sounds smart, succinct, and very put-together. To draw a wardrobe analogy, she would be wearing a navy blue suit and high heels in this article, while in Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother we saw her with no makeup, maybe some running shoes, and her “fat jeans”. In other words, she wasn’t so pretty and polished.

Here, she only briefly hints at her own vulnerability, her own flawed human condition, by stating that she “learned her lesson the hard way” when her younger daughter (NB: the daughter who does not yet have a blog, and has not yet gotten into Harvard…she’s only a freshman in high school) rebelled. She also hints at the vulnerabilities of her attackers – you know, the parenting bloggers and other self-righteous jumpers-on-the-bandwagon who feel the need to polarize every story into a right-versus-wrong debate – by saying this about parenting in particular, and why it’s such a hot-button issue:

“We all desperately want to get it right and never know for sure whether we are. Perhaps it’s because the stakes are so high, and it’s terrifying to admit a mistake.”

Ultimately, in the final paragraphs, she boils down her point of view into a very tidy philosophical statement of “East Meets West”, imagining an ideal borrowing from the “best of both worlds” – the structure and discipline required in early childhood to establish a foundation of learning, and a gradual opening in the later teenage years to allow ample exploration of individuality and creative self-expression:

The great virtue of America’s system is that our kids learn to be leaders, to question authority, to think creatively. But there’s one critical skill where our kids lag behind: learning how to learn.

East meets West

If in their early years we teach our children a strong work ethic, perseverance and the value of delayed gratification, they will be much better positioned to be self-motivated and self-reliant when they become young adults. This is a way to combine East and West: more structure when our children are little (and will still listen to us), followed by increasing self-direction in their teenage years.

When I read these words, they sound familiar. I agree with them.

They were the ingredients I intended to bring into fruition when I started a violin school for toddlers in Silicon Valley back in 2004. With starry eyes and the willingness to put everything on the line (including a partner-level job in venture capital) for the creation of this dream, I set out to provide the ultimate combination of Eastern and Western philosophies. This was to be “more than violin lessons”. It was to be “lifelong learning”, using the vehicle of violin to teach discipline, teamwork, leadership, collaboration, listening, sensitivity, confidence, and mastery. Everything I could think of could be taught through the journey of learning to play violin and performing around the world.

I actually used the term “learning how to learn” in my parent seminars and recruiting presentations. Continue reading

Solving the Puzzle of the Universe

A few days ago I solved the puzzle of the universe.

It came in a box. There were 500 pieces and a neat image of the final product – what the solution was supposed to look like.

I had a partner while I was doing it. We didn’t discuss how we were going to tackle the problem, we just started working on it, each in our own way. There were no words. Things just began when they began, and ended when they ended.

I noticed that I wanted to follow some instructions that were somewhere in the back of my head about “how to” solve a puzzle like this.

Start with the edges and corners,” was one set of instructions.

Find the colored pieces first,” was another.

I tried both of those, but the puzzle was just so big, so complicated, with so many parts, that I quickly got frustrated with each of those approaches. I made a tiny bit of progress, but immediately got stuck following those two paths. Continue reading

Tiger Mother Amy Chua Speaks…To Me!

One of my blog readers took the liberty of sending my video on Amy Chua’s book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, to Amy Chua herself! I never would have done this on my own, but that’s why I put my stuff out there for others to read!

Here’s Amy’s email which was sent to that reader, Denise.

Date: Wed, 2 Mar 2011 08:36:51 -0500
From: Amy Chua
Subject: Re: FW: The Music Within Us

Dear Denise:  Thank you SO MUCH for sending this to me — and yep, Lisa totally got my book and yep, she is totally right that no one else has!!  (Only correction is that I never choose or even saw and never would have approved the awful WSJ headline..)

I think Lisa is BRILLIANT, and I love what she says and the passages and moments she singles out.  She even gets it about my dogs!!!

I am setting up a website for my book, partly because to try to correct misunderstandings, and I will post this video.  Please feel free to share all this with Lisa!

Best, Amy

I am not posting this so that you can read something written by a published author calling me “BRILLIANT”. Although that’s nice and all, the reason I am posting this is to encourage you to GET INFORMED before you form judgments and opinions and join in the fun of media-generated controversies. Form your own thoughts and opinions, reflect on your own life, and learn your own lessons. Do not stop at what the journalists and media or others are telling you. Do not believe what others say until you have questioned it with your own body, mind, and heart. Know that you are always free to create your own story.

Continue reading

Announcing…Bad Asian Daughter!

Last week I started a brand new blog called Bad Asian Daughter: http://badasiandaughter.com.

I came up with the idea and bought the url months ago, and even had a first attempt over at wordpress with http://badasiandaughter.wordpress.com.

This time, I knew what the message was going to be, and tumblr.com provides the best format for creating short, frequent posts in a variety of media – video, quotes, text, and my favorite, chats (sharing conversations in a screenplay-like format).

My intention is to create an inspiring, healing community for Asian American women who have tried their whole lives to be “good”, done everything they were supposed to do, achieved success in the forms they were told to, and still find something missing in their lives. Together we will discover all of who we are, and unlock the keys to our own unconditional joy, peace, and freedom….B.A.D.ness and all. Continue reading