Shhh! Quiet Your Inner Critic

Last year at this time I wrote a post titled, A Sensational Summer Ending. I used the game of baseball as an analogy for overcoming adversity, and since it’s that time of year, I’d like to do it again. I was reminded of the parallels when I watched the movie Moneyball last week and discovered that Oakland won their division yet again. If you’ve never seen the movie, you should. It’s really good! Based on a true story, the A’s General Manager, Billy Beane, builds a winning team despite a meager budget, the loss of his three most prominent (and expensive) players, and the constant barrage of criticism from just about everyone except his new Assistant GM, a Yale Economics graduate, whom Billy recruits to prove a theory that will revolutionize the game.

At a crucial juncture in the story, the naysayers’ voices rise to a soaring crescendo as the A’s fall to last place. Beane’s confidence wanes, his conviction withers, not only because of what’s happening at present, but more importantly, because of what happened in his past. Maybe they’re right? What the hell am I doing? I’m striking out now like I struck out then. Louder and deeper, the voices weaken his resolve, You can’t win, you won’t win, it’s impossible to win in the majors, you failure! You never made it as a player, so what makes you think you’ll win as GM?

NO! he screams under his breath as he spins his car around. I watch the movie entranced. Something inside the character has shifted. The critical voice that’s weighed on his psyche is no longer in play.

Like most of us, Billy has an Inner Critic, a voice within that tells us we’re not good enough, smart enough, talented enough, pretty enough–or whatever enough. It dwells on our failures and reminds us of our mistakes. It develops early in life and grows ever stronger as we absorb the judgments of people around us and the expectations of the society in which we live.

In the film, Billy recalls his failures as a rookie while the A’s struggle to dig out of last place. The scouts said he was destined for greatness, but to his dismay, he never made it big. The critics hammered away then as they hammer away now. It feels all too familiar to Billy, the past playing out in the present. As I watch, I imagine his inner dialogue, I chose wrongly in my youth. Have I made a grave error again? Are the critics right? Am I doomed for failure?  In addition to Billy’s thoughts, I imagine his feelings–worry, anxiety, desperation, fear. Negative thoughts fuel negative feelings, that is, until Billy confronts his fear of failure and faces his demons head on.

In an instant, Billy changes. Prior to that time, he kept his distance from his players. It’s easier that way, he coaches his Yalie, if you ever have to cut them. It’s apparent that his rationale has been devised for self-protection; the haunting hurt of being cut is a hurt he doesn’t want to relive. So he buries it behind a wall that is now derailing his efforts. AHA! Insight strikes. It all becomes clear. He realizes that he can’t win with just a theory; he’s got to stop distancing himself and get closer to his players. He has to teach them what he’s learning, encourage them to play to their strengths, and most importantly,  show them that he believes in more than a theory, he believes wholeheartedly in each of them, no matter how they’ve been “valued” by the league.

No longer listening to the critics, inner or outer, the A’s dramatically change course. I’m on the edge of my seat, albeit in my living room. I know it’s just a movie, but what can I say, I’m a sucker for feel good stories, especially when people beat the odds and accomplish great things. The A’s did just that. They beat the record for most consecutive wins in the American League—20 in a row–and prove the critics wrong.

This week Billy’s winning again. His team is unexpectedly in the playoffs as American League West champs. Interestingly, he’s also in the press for a different reason. A San Francisco columnist is suggesting Beane run for mayor of Oakland given the downtrodden state of that city by the bay.  Nice that Billy’s being recognized for his talents, don’t you think? Nicer still if everyone, especially the undervalued, could receive much more of the same.

We all deserve encouragement. We all deserve to win. To learn how you can beat the odds by quieting your inner critic, read an excerpt from the book, Embracing Your Inner Critic: Turning Self-Criticism into a Creative Asset or call me to schedule a Voice Dialogue session. It’s an amazing process that will accelerate your growth.

P.S. This Atlanta girl who grew up in Pittsburgh hopes to see one of those two teams play the A’s in the World Series. Go Billy!!!

Step to the Right?

If you’ve never heard of Jill Bolte Taylor, let me introduce you to her. If you’ve read her book, My Stroke of Insight, or listened to her TEDTalk, you already know what an incredible gift she is to the world. A stroke victim, she found herself inside her brain as the boundaries of her body disintegrated into space. Wow! she writes. This is so cool! How many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their own brains from the inside out?”

I write this post, not only to honor Jill Bolte Taylor, but to honor every man and woman who has ever suffered a stroke, including my dear friend, Lya Sorano. It’s impossible for me to imagine what it’s like to experience this trauma–but man! Jill Bolte Taylor does a superb job of helping us know. If you’ll excuse me now, I need to stop writing so you can start listening. Please listen to Jill. Her words are some of the most inspirational I’ve ever heard.

Over the next few months I’ll share more about the brain, most especially, the power we all possess to “step to the right” of our left hemisphere and experience what Jill did during her stroke–a deep inner-peace—where stress disappeared and her spirit soared. No matter our affliction, whether physical or psychological, the power of the right brain can help us heal, change, and grow.

If you’d like to learn more and receive notification of future posts, then enter your email in the upper right and click “Follow.” I’d appreciate the opportunity to stay connected.

A Sensational Summer Ending

Why in the hell did we leave the game at the top of the 9th?  Damn it!  I shook my head in disbelief, staring at the TV as Chipper Jones knocked one out of the park to win it, 8-7. What a sensational ending. And we missed it!  I whined to my friend. Despite being down 5-0, then 7-2, the Braves never gave up. They weathered some bad breaks, but in the end, they overcame a miserable start.

I could definitely relate. My summer started out miserably. I committed an error in May, taking a part time job at a psychiatric hospital for fear I couldn’t pay my bills. The unit was located in a dreary basement. No windows. Drab walls. Florescent lighting. Ugh! How in the hell could patients heal in this god-awful place. Working there literally made me sick. I had to quit. I tendered my resignation before I even finished training. Score a run for me.

In an attempt to make the best of a bad situation, I decided to use my paycheck to fund a vacation to Tybee Island in June. I imagined a glorious time on a sun-drenched beach, nurturing myself in a charming historic hotel. But I struck out in early innings. It rained the whole time. My cold got worse. Damn it!  There’s got to be brighter days ahead, I told myself. After all, it is summer! The sun IS supposed to shine.

Quit whining, a voice within me uttered. Vacation isn’t over. This was true. I still had two days left, so I decided to make the best of things and head down the coast to visit a beautiful barrier island. Maybe the sun will be shining there?  And, it was. Fantastic! I cheered. I felt like I hit a triple when I discovered a dockside restaurant with a cool vibe, fresh seafood, and an excellent band. I was happy again.

As I gathered my things to head toward the pier, I realized that my cell phone was missing. What the f***!  I desperately retraced my steps, searching frantically to find it, but despite my best efforts, I failed. Stranded on base, miserable again, I played the part well, the pitiful one, all weepy—eyed , convincing myself that the best thing to do was to call it quits, head back up the coast, and check into a dive motel  before driving home in the morning.

Dive motel or divine night on the docks? my wise voice whispered. Vacation isn’t over! What good will it do to wallow in self-pity? It’s only a phone, and you wanted a new phone anyway.  

In that moment, something shifted inside of me. Self-pity climbed into the back seat to make room for a woman who had the confidence to hit it out of the park. Quit and go home. No way! I thought. The game wasn’t over. Right then and there, in a parking lot on Jekyll Island, my sensational summer began. I got out of my car and strutted toward the pier. I ordered a great meal, danced to soul-satisfying music, and laughed and joked with wonderful new friends. Phone, what phone? Who needs a phone when you’re on vacation?

After filling up on life that night, I drove back up the coast, the sun melting into the horizon, magenta and turquoise sky. A spectacular ending to what started out as a miserable day. I checked into a “nice” motel, dialed up wireless, and chuckled to myself after discovering an email from my emergency contact friend. It read…”Phone found. At entry gate at Jekyll.”  Too late, I smiled a wicked smile. The game was over. I won.

My summer just kept getting better. July was fantastic. I was invited to stay with friends in Montana, all expenses paid. We hiked Glacier National Park, spied a grizzly near the path, mountain goat and long horn sheep at the continental divide. The 4th of July was stellar! Cheered on my 70-year old, “never-say-quit” friend as she finished the Peachtree Road Race; ate one of the best burgers ever at an iconic Atlanta pub before concluding the day with a grand fireworks display.  Mid-month I started dating again—and oh boy! I forgot how much fun it is to kiss under a blanket of stars on a sultry summer night.

Summer’s come and gone, baseball season nearly over. But wait. The Boys of Summer know that a sensational ending is NOT out of reach. The playoffs are right around the corner. To win in the game of baseball, just like in life, you’ve got to keep moving ahead in the face of adversity. And you’ve got to stick around ‘till the very end. This, I will never forget.

I turned to my friend after gawking at the TV, “We will never again leave a baseball game before the final out. Never ever again!”