Introvert? Beware the coffee drinkers

Introverts and coffeeThe experience of being introverted is widely misunderstood. I don’t mean to imply that, as individual people, introverts are misunderstood. What I mean is that most people don’t understand what defines an introvert versus an extrovert. Introverts aren’t necessarily anti-social, shy, nerdy or lacking good communication or interpersonal skills. No, no, no. Not at all. I’ve met lots of extroverts with poor communication skills and know some introverts (myself included) who can be the life and soul of the party.

I am not going in to too much detail about the theories of why some people are introverted and others are extroverted, or the Jungian origins of these concepts. But this article in Fast Company is an excellent one to read on the topic if you are interested or, this one in the Atlantic, actually written by a self proclaimed introvert.

Most definitions emphasize some common themes, all of which describe me to a tee:

  • Interacting with a lot of people at once drains their energy
  • They love their own company and can happily spend hours alone
  • Highly stimulating circumstances leave them feeling unfocused and confused
  • They tend to have small groups of very close friends rather than large networks of acquaintances

All of that said, I LOVE parties, dancing, meeting new people, big events, night clubs and music festivals. However, after about 5 or 6 hours of any one of the above I am D.O.N.E. Don’t talk to me, don’t call me and definitely don’t turn up unannounced at my house (unless you desperately need the loo and plan to leave immediately afterwards). It is not uncommon for me to do a disappearing act from a party. When my social energy runs out, there are no reserves.

‘So what has all this got to do with coffee?’ I hear you say. Well, another thing I find particularly hard to deal with as an introvert is being “talked at”. And I’ve noticed that people who love to talk at you, talk at you even more after a couple of cups of coffee. It seems they just can’t stop themselves.

I started to notice this when I worked at Brock Uni. One of the students I worked with used to burn the candle at both ends quite frequently. He’d come in sullen and hung over. However, after a Red Bull for breakfast, an extra large Starbucks mid morning, a Coke at lunch and another bucketful of coffee around 3pm, he perked right up. By 4pm his ability to talk became the equivalent, to me, of Chinese Water Torture. After 45 minutes of listening to his verbal diarrhea I would have done anything to have him stop. ANYTHING.

That is an extreme example. However there are many other occasions this has happened. There I have stood, not able to get a word in edgewise, while the over-caffeinated person in front of me conducted a monologue in my direction. My body language turning in on itself, I become incapable of delivering the placatory nods and smiles that indicate polite interest. Every cell is screaming STOP TALKING PLEASE!

I can’t be the only person who experiences this. Although I read somewhere that only 25% of the US populations have predominantly introverted personalities (like most traits, introversion and extroversion exist on a continuum). So maybe I am in the minority. I guess that if you are naturally extroverted you would find it difficult to conceive the experience of an introvert. Although I have no problems imagining what an extrovert might feel like, and have, in the past, wished to be that way.

So for the benefit of those extroverts out there, I stole the following from the Fast Company article. It is handy guide to caring for your Introvert. It doesn’t include “Don’t drink too much coffee”, but in my opinion, it should.

Introvert Chart

Growth Mindset & the Power of “Not Yet”

Growth MindsetSo, I’ve been learning as much as I can about launching a ‘software as a service’ business. Since I also have a day job, I am doing this by listening to podcasts and audio books (see the page Stuff I Like for a list). Am I an expert?? Er, NOT YET! The amount to learn seems overwhelming. Mail Chimp, Google Analytics, Word Press, SEO, Libsyn. And so the list goes on….

However, a side benefit has been a reminder about something that I fundamentally know to be true, but which I often forget. The powers of a growth mindset. In other words, brains and talent are a good starting point, but dedication and hard work will lead to accomplishment.

A fixed mindset is the opposite to a growth mindset. That is the mindset of people who say things like “I am just no good at xxxx”, or “Oh, I could never do that”. Growth mindset is also the enemy of “all or nothing” thinking. This is when you say “Either I am really good at xxxx, or else I am a failure at it”. As a teenager, I was a master at this line of thought.

The “non-runner” who trains for a marathon is a great example of someone who has a growth mindset.  Or the person with no formal education who decides, midlife, to go back to school to get a post secondary qualification.

In my own life, it is what allowed me to go from a 30 year old smoker who couldn’t jog 1 mile, to a mountain biker who podiumed in a 24 hour, solo mountain bike race at 44.

Anything is possible. That is, if you want it badly enough and are prepared to work for it. You need to have a healthy ego, because the chances are you’ll fail along the way. Oh, and a great sense of humour.  Because, let’s face it, life is a shit show.

Also, you’ll notice that 15 years passed between my first, dreadful, running experience and the longest MTB ride of my life. Progress is about chipping away, little by little, at a goal. I learned to recognize small wins and forgive myself when you I didn’t meet my own (arbitrary) expectations. Out of pure frustration I have thrown my bike in to the bush more times than I care to remember. This didn’t do me (or my bike) much good! Forgive yourself but don’t give up. It’s easier and less damaging to personal property than throwing things.

I’d also suggest that you stay away from the FMP (fixed mindset people). You know, those negative nellies, who constantly wang on about what they can’t do, or worse, tell you what you can’t do. Enough said.

I’ve heard others describe this mind set as “believing in the process”. I have adopted this as a personal mantra for when things get a bit tough.

Recently I watched a great Ted Talk by Carol Dweck. She describes a school in the US that added the grade “not yet” to their marking process. If a child doesn’t pass a subject, they receive a “not yet” grade instead of a failing one.

In this way the message they gave to kids was that, although they hadn’t reached the required standard yet, it wasn’t a permanent situation. The door remained open for them to try a different approach, work harder and, with support, get to where they needed to be. Contrast this with the prevailing trend to give everyone a congratulatory slap on the back and a gold star, regardless of performance*.

One of the things I’ve noticed with a growth mindset is that, sometimes, I apply it to certain aspects of my life, but then not others. This happens with other people too. I know individuals who have achieved remarkable success in their careers, yet shy away from fulfilling their burning ambitions out of a fear of failure.

For me, I have always wanted to start my own online business. I am perfectly placed to do so. My husband is a top notch software developer, I have business experience, a wonderful network of smart people, and a relatively flexible life (read: no kids). But I haven’t done it until now because I didn’t know the first thing about it. I would probably still be thinking about it unless a good friend had asked me to join her. Once she did, and we took the first step, I was hooked.

Who knows where this latest venture will take us. We haven’t bet the farm (yet!), we are learning as we go along, and our progress is slow. However, even if this doesn’t turn in to a viable profit making endeavour, I will benefit in other ways. I always do. I’ll prove I can do it, and so gain self confidence. I’ll learn something new. I’ll meet new people and I’ll have a great story to tell.

So what is your burning ambition? What can you do to take small steps to move towards it? If I can, believe me, you can.

*Full disclosure here - I don’t have kids so this comment is based on my own experience working with undergraduate students for 7 years. Those kids whose parents have used the “everything you do is awesome” approach to parenting have fragile egos and don’t know how to deal with criticism.


My 2 Cents on Brexit

Banksy UKIPYou may already have heard enough about Brexit to last you a life time. If so, skip this uncharacteristically long one from me. However, quite a few people have asked my opinion. So I decided I wanted to figure out what my opinion actually was. The way I do that is to write about things, so here goes. I wrote this about 5 days after the vote but have only just had the time to post it now.

I’m Going Under Cover

I think I am going to change my accent. 15 years of living in Canada has already given it a funny lilt. Sometimes I am mistaken for an Auzzie, or a South African. In light of the Brexit vote this isn’t such a bad thing. Moving forward I will play along because, for the first time in my life, I am ashamed to call myself a Brit.

I was 23 when Britain joined the EU. However it was many years before that when I started traveling through Europe with my family. We’d drive south to Dover, cross the channel on a ferry, and then down through France and in to Spain. Armed only with the Relais Routiers we’d stop at little B&B’s, eat local food and hang out at the beach. These are some of the fondest memories from my childhood and have had a huge influence on the person I am today.

These early experiences of “foreignness” (France and Spain are very different today than when I was 7), gave me a curiosity about other cultures. I spent years travelling and working in different countries before settling in Canada. Nonetheless, moving to live and work in Canada was a huge cultural eye opener for me. Canada is truly a multi- cultural country. I interact with a far greater variety of cultures now than at any point in my previous, nomadic, life.

How did I get it so wrong?

Even though I’ve lived in Canada for about 15 years, I stay in constant contact with my immediate family in the UK. But, when the EU referendum in the UK was announced, I barely took any notice. In my mind, who would vote for something so completely regressive? How could anyone possibly understand what leaving would mean? Why (unless you are a white supremacist) would you agree to do anything the UKIP party thought was a good idea? Nigel Farrage is a national joke.

Shows you what I know. Now I am shaking my head in disbelief and trying to figure out what possible reason more than 50% of an entire nation would vote this way. And this is what I’ve found.

The question about the payment thing

According to the Leave campaigners, being an EU member was costing the UK, GBP 350 million a week. British funds that could otherwise be much better spent on funding the National Health Service. That was a hotly disputed number even before the vote. The number ($50 million a day) was plastered all over the “battle bus” that Boris Johnson used during the Brexit campaign. Odd now that the Leave campaigners are distancing themselves from that claim. In fact, Nigel Farrage of UKIP is quite certain that he never said this money would go to the NHS. A quick look at the Brexit campaign’s website now will show you that this is a bit of a trend for the Brexit side. You will in fact see that none of the pre-campaign statements/promises are there anymore. Just a lovely note saying “Thank You”. Accountability, anyone?

The Syrian Refugees are Coming!

Another cornerstone of the Brexit campaign was linked to Turkey’s application to be a member of the EU. The Leave side warned of the terrible dangers this held because of all the Syrian refugees Turkey was harbouring. Refugees who had fled to Turkey in fear for their lives. The story went like this:

  1. Turkey becomes a member of the EU
  2. EU member countries open their borders to Turkey
  3. Syrian refugees FLOOD the EU from Turkey and end up in the UK
  4. Syrian refugees then drain the UK economy and steal British people’s jobs
  5. The UK bursts in to flames and sinks in to the Irish sea.

OK, so I made the last bit up. Fact is, Turkey has been trying to get in to the EU since 1972. They have still only managed to meet 1 of the 25 requirements to do so. One politician I was listening to estimated the process would take until 2030. Hardly an immediate threat is it?

Britain for the British

The argument for the Leave side I found most embarrassing was the “Britain for the British” thing. Meaning, ‘we don’t want any of those non-British people coming in, stealing our jobs and diluting our culture’. Let’s suspend belief for a moment. Let’s say this argument’s appeal has nothing to do with xenophobia, misplaced nationalism or a fear of otherness. I would then admit that, if I were chronically unemployed, I would be angry to be told that immigrants were landing jobs because they were prepared to work for less money. I think that may be oversimplifying the argument, but you get my point.

However, I don’t think that leaving the EU is a solution to that problem. First of all it is a minimum wage issue. I don’t remember reading either side saying minimum wage legislation would be tabled as a result of the vote. I also can’t find (though it may exist) anything to says the EU prevented the UK from passing minimum wage legislation.

Immigration, it’s a thing, people!

The second thing people conveniently overlook is that no-one could or should, actually stop immigration. For our current version of Capitalism to work, countries’ economies need to grow. So in a country where birth rates are not keeping up with the number of people dying off, you NEED immigration. All the Syrians Germany “allowed in” are a drop in the bucket compared to their rapidly declining population. The UK is no different.

Along the same lines, there is a hard fact which seems to have escaped a lot of people’s attention. That is we were all bloody immigrants at one time or another!! A large part of my family ancestry is Irish. Were those immigrants (starving, poverty stricken and poorly educated) any more or less worthy of a new start than those seeking a new life in the UK now? If everyone that was “not from here” left, society would grind to a halt.

What Now?

So, let’s say all the above points were actually valid, what has the Brexit vote done for us so far? Well, let’s think.

First off, if free trade ends, I wonder how much all that administration is going to cost to harden borders. How much time will it take to renegotiate all these free trade agreements, individually, with each nation? Then add the possibility of Ireland and Scotland voting to become independent from the UK. Any English Government is going to be embroiled in all of that business for the near future. I wonder if the cost will be more than the money we have been paying to the EU? What does it mean for the implementation of other, important, social and economic legislation?

UK versus the world

Then there’s the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). This EU – US trade agreement, which has taken years to negotiate will no longer apply to the UK. An EU free UK will have to negotiate its own arrangements with the US and Canada. Way to go UK, you are now on your own!

There is so much uncertainty around the Brexit decision that the financial markets experienced their biggest drop ever. All the major rating agencies have taken away the UK’s former “triple A” credit rating, and the GBP has even fallen against the Canadian dollar – 30 cents in 5 days – a 15% drop.

Finally I think the free movement of people, ideas, and commerce was what made the UK an amazing place to be. I have always been proud to say that the UK was part of Europe, in my mind that was akin to saying “I am a citizen of the world”. Maybe that won’t change, but something about the protectionist and nationalistic undercurrent to the Brexit campaign makes me think that this won’t be the prevailing sentiment.

Babies and Bath Water

I get that there is this bizarre nostalgia for “what Britain used to be”, but it is simply that, nostalgia. The world has changed, and the UK has had to change along with it, as a part of the EU or not.

The dissatisfaction with the social and economic situation in the UK will not be solved by roundly blaming our relationship with our largest trading partner. It certainly won’t be helped by feeding racist ideology and a fear of foreigners, which I sense was driving much of the vote.

Now in the aftermath of the vote, there is so much hyperbole that it is difficult to sort through for the common sense. So many of the people who voted to leave are now standing up and saying they didn’t know what they were voting for. Seems to me there was some irresponsible campaigning by the Brexit side and I feel as though the UK threw out the baby with the bath water when it voted.

Absolutely Fabulous Movie Almost Here!

Absolutely Fabulous MovieAfter a long day on no sleep (dodgy oyster, don’t ask) I sat down to look at the news. Then BAAAAM! I discover that a US release date for the Absolutely Fabulous Movie has been set for July. Hurrah!!!

Absolutely Fabulous (or”Ab Fab”) represents a slice of 90’s UK culture that I hold dear. It reminds me of my early twenties. As with the sitcom, the movie is written by Jennifer Saunders of French and Saunders and Comic Strip fame. Ab Fab’s main characters are Eddy Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone, her alcoholic, pill popping, side kick, (Joanna Lumley). Each show poked fun at their outrageous, booze fueled, lifestyle and slavish dedication to fashion.

Even 24 years ago Eddy and Patsy were, ahem, “past their prime”. Eddy’s plain but sensible daughter and potty mother constantly frustrated Patsy and Eddy’s champagne soaked capers. The show’s other star is Eddy’s hilarious personal assistant, Bubbles. Played by Jane Horrocks. I still laugh when I think of her impression of a fax machine in an early episode. If you’ve never seen the show, think of a British version of Sex in the City (tough, I know). Then imagine the characters trying to behave the way they did in the first series but now they are 20 years older, drink a lot more, and are considerably funnier. Got it? Well then, you are sort of half way there.

Ab Fab has this mix of slapstick and funny, fast-paced dialogue. I loved watching two older women, dressed like 17 year olds, behaving really badly. It wasn’t just me who found them appealing. An entire generation of TV watchers loved the show. Now, 24 years later, they seemed to have pulled it off again.

The Absolutely Fabulous movie is said to have more than 60 star cameos including Stella McCartney, Kate Moss, Joan Collins, Jerry Hall and Jeremy Paxman. Even better (in my opinion), it features 90 drag queens!! Based on the premise that Eddy and Joanna accidentally push Kate Moss off a balcony into the Thames at a party. To escape the paparazzi, they run, penniless, to the South of France.

Oh how my day just got so much better (darling!).

Rock City MTB, Ellicottville

Rock CityRob, myself and the three tiny terrors were bit pooped today after mountain biking in Holiday Valley on Saturday and Sunday. At one point last night, I had to poke Sprocket to check he was still alive. So the prospect of more climbing (which is pretty much a given when mountain biking in EVL) wasn’t that appealing and instead we opted to ride Rock City.

Rock City, part of a NY state forest, is gorgeous. Riding the trails there feels like you’ve gone back in time to when the dinosaurs roamed. JP & Rock CityHuge rocks covered in moss are everywhere and the trees are large and old, with enormous roots. It’s a fun place to ride when it is dry, although for those who are nervous of rocks and roots, there might be a bit of walking involved. That said, there are worse places to hike a bike.

Looking at WNYMBA‘s review of the trail, it gets five stars and I understand why. I think their review is of a much smaller section than the one I call “Rock City” as they say it is 1 mile long and I clocked about 6km from the entrance to the end where we joined the Tournado ByPass loop and rode out on to the South Pale Ale Trail to the road, making about a 9km loop in total.Rob & Terriers There isn’t a lot of elevation and so if you feel like working on your technical skills without coughing up a lung, this is a great place to do it. You may not ride all the sections, but the sense of achievement for getting through a rock garden that you’ve not managed before is unmistakable.

I’ve included the MTB Projects map of the EVL area below so you can get a sense of where it is if you’re interested in riding there. Or you could go to the MTB Project site and search for Ellicottville for more information.

Love this story!


Adrian worked as a system support guy in DeGroote School of Business’ (McMaster University) I.T. Department. He is a lovely man, nothing is too much trouble and he always smiles and says ‘hello’. He retired a month ago after years and years and years of service and this week, after 25 years of playing the lottery, he and his wife won $6.9M. How cool is that?

Death and Destruction

Roo and Daisy have only been up two hours, but they haven’t been walked yet, and I can tell this is not a situation they are happy with. I am wondering whether ‘Death’ and ‘Destruction’ might have been more appropriate names given their activities in the shorIMG_1535t time they’ve been awake this morning:

One large poo in the middle of the basement floor

One large hole in the flower garden (right under the Scotch Moss I’ve been nurturing all summer)

One dead mouse

Three squirrel-related meltdowns

…and several head humping incidents.

Is it too early for a beer? 

An eloquent answer to a difficult question

I’m approaching the big Four Oh this year and so the question of why I am childless is raised less and less – this is a blessing as it has not always been this way. I have had few problems with the fact personally (it being largely a choice that Rob and I made early on in our relationship), but surprisingly, others definitely have. When I first moved to Canada (which was not unrelated to my, then recent, marriage) I was at the receiving end of a great deal of pressure from a number of different parties who seemed to think that our decisions about children had something to do with them and would not let the subject rest.

At the time, due either to a lack of self awareness or an inability to stand up for myself, I didn’t have a very good answer prepared in my defense. I wish I’d read the following article then. I couldn’t put my own thoughts and feelings on the subject better if I tried. Thanks to Paula for forwarding it to me.

Question of the week

Why, given a large strip of grass that’s at least 2′ by 6′ outside the front of our house, do the binmen choose to throw our bins on top of the flower bed when they’ve emptied them? It’s considerably smaller and full of flowers. Do you think they do it on purpose?