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.


Brexit Again

Brexit VoteI have been stewing about the Brexit vote all weekend. However, I’ve had the chance to discuss it with friends, including those who are far better politically informed than I.

Dave, who can always be relied upon to provide a well informed counter-argument, gave me an interesting alternative to consider. Following on from our discussion he sent me this article from The Intercept.

The article blames the vote on arrogant and elitist institutions (including the media). It argues that these institutions have systematically ignored the plight of people who are suffering from a decline in their standard of living. All the while the wealth gap between them and the “elite” gets wider. These people have limited alternative methods to enact change, and the Brexit vote was an opportunity to hit back. Regardless of whether it was the right thing to do or not.

Have a read and keep an open mind.

Dave has long since told me I am an elitist. A claim I have always roundly dismissed. But maybe he is right. Maybe that is why the vote upset me so much; because I identify with the oppressors and not the oppressed.

Major food for thought.

Goat School

Goat SchoolYes, you read that right, Goat School. It’s a thing, and Rob and I were there about four weeks ago.

The King and Queen of Goat School, Janice and Ken Spaulding, have lived off the income from their goat farm in rural Maine for about 25 years. In 2004 they started organising a three day workshop to impart their considerable experience and knowledge on rearing goats. What Ken and Janice don’t know about keeping goats is not worth the knowing. On the weekend Rob and I went, there were 18 attendees. They’ve had up to 100 people at a time in the past. In years gone by they have even taken Goat School on the road to other locations across North America.

Now, if I had a dollar for every time someone raised a doubtful eyebrow when I mentioned Goat School, I could probably have bought my own goat by now. I had even let these people get to me. The first day I worried whether the experience would justify the time off work and the ten hour drive. The doubters could not have been more wrong.

I LOVED IT. The three days went too quickly. I was fascinated and engaged the whole time. I felt like I had found my tribe. Most of the attendees were like Rob and I, curious about what goat keeping entailed. Many were either planning for, or in the early stages of, a lifestyle change. They wanted to back away from the world of working for others, and were trying to define what that would look like for them.

We learned about the 3 different types of goats (dairy, meat and fibre) andButter Cup the goat how to care for each type. We learned about milking, breeding, birthing, shots, food, shearing, castration (gulp), tattooing, licensing, hoof trimming and the importance of a vet that knows about small ruminants. We also learned about “freezer camp” – I’ll leave that one to your imagination. The unsentimental delivery of all this info helped me process some of the aspects of goat farming that I was a bit stuck on (freezer camp being one of them).

All this info was sprinkled with real life stories from Ken and Janice’s own experiences. Their banter reminded me of a comedy double act and our entire group spent most of the weekend laughing. In fact, at the end I really did feel like I’d joined a little community. Both, Janice and Ken said that they hadn’t had so much fun delivering goat school in years. You could tell they enjoyed it as much as we did. On the final day we learned about how to make different kinds of cheese out of goat milk, and also how to make soap. Rob was so excited about making our own cheese, I thought he was going to buy a goat right there and then!

So, what’s next? Well we can’t keep goats in our garden. And, as much as the place in EVL would be absolutely perfect, we don’t plan to live in the US. So we just have to figure out what that looks like for us. I expect that this planning is going to take a few years. It will be a journey for sure. However, I thought that if I started blogging about it, if anyone is reading it they could follow this journey with us.

The Oatmeal Dog and the Joys of Swearing

SwearingThis cartoon on Matthew Inman’s comic/blog page “The Oatmeal” has had me laughing to myself all week. I wish I could embed it in this blog.

I love it for two reasons.

The first is that he has exactly captured the behaviour of our youngest dog, Sprocket who is either in repose Sprocket1 or charging around like a thing possessed.

The second reason is because it introduced me to a new swear word. Even as I type “holy assbutts”, I am smiling.

Yes, I LOVE swear words. I can’t explain it. My Mum, or maybe a teacher, once told me that swearing showed a poor command of the English language and a lack of imagination. In other words, if you have to insert “f**k” or “s**t” in to your sentence it’s because you don’t know enough adjectives. That may well be true. But swearing is so much fun!!! I actually like learning new words, period, and then trying to fit them in to a sentence without sounding like a dork, and I don’t often swear in anger, more just because the words themselves make me laugh.

You’ll notice in a blog post below I start it with “holy shit balls”. That is also a fairly new one to my collection. I had wanted to insert a GIF that showed Tina Fey using it, but WordPress has a thing against GIFs and I couldn’t work out how to get around it.

Other recent favourites from a BuzzFeed article include “Fucktrumpet” and “Assbadger”. They make absolutely no sense, but that is part of their awesomeness.

Apparently the British are particularly good at swearing, so maybe that is where my fascination for the crude comes from. I tried to find swear words that Shakespeare used and came across this wonderful blog post by Marginalia, whose site I will be visiting again. She is obviously a scholar of literature (and a fan of profane language) and points out that while Shakespeare didn’t actually use directly foul language (there were all kind of Christian restrictions in those days about what you could and could not say on stage), he was really good at making rude references in a more subtle way. I won’t repeat the examples Marginalia provides, because you can read them for yourself in her post.

So there you have it.

Please do feel free to share your fave swear words with me, the more unusual, the better!

Back At It Again

Where did the time go?Holy s**t balls – it’s been five years since I wrote a blog post! Where does the time go?

I’ve been writing a blog for a business venture that I am working on with a friend and enjoying it so much that I thought it was time to start my personal blog again. The business blog (check it out at is fun but we are writing for an audience who is interested in getting a job in the food industry, so not much scope for my ramblings on other topics. I am also enjoying learning more about WordPress and I figured this was a good place to play in the WordPress sandbox without any consequences, since I doubt anyone is reading this at the moment!!

I’m not going to do a “catch up” type post since I think it will be really boring, but I may post a few things that relate to stuff that happened in the recent past since so much is going on at the moment. You can expect the usual mix of biking, dogs, and the odd rant. I’ve taken up quilting and sewing since completing my MBA, have this nascent online business going and have developed a bit of an obsession with becoming a goat herd. More about that in another post.

It’s good to be back, and I am making a commitment to myself and anyone else who is interested to post twice a week, even if it’s a few lines. The discipline will be good for me.

He’s the Greatest Dancer!

Rob and I are in an 8 hour endurance race tomorrow and so,following the instructions of our coach and all the advice of the books about racing, we’ve been taking it easy this week. I can’t say I’ve really enjoyed this enforced relaxation (which has made me more RESTLESS than RELAXED), but I am prepared to give it a go. One of the good things that came out of being couch potatoes was the opportunity, last night, to catch a TV show called “So You Think You Can Dance”.

Young amateur dancers lined up to audition for a shot at the big time in Las Vegas, and this guy, in the YouTube video below, was absolutely incredible. I have no clue how anyone one can move like this, but I could watch his set over and over again.