deception pass Washington

Why I Ask Why?

Why do I ask why? According to Gretchen Rubin’s book The Four Tendencies I am a Questioner. Questioners are very good at meeting internal expectations because they have done their research and know what they want to do. For external expectations they have to determine if the expected action is the right thing to do – they won’t take it on face value. They will also ask “why?”.

They will reject anything that they feel is arbitrary. The notion of “we’ve always done it that way” is met with “why?”. And the argument of “we’ve never done it that way before” is met with “why not?” Tradition and routine is no basis for validity in their minds. Gretchen mentioned a conference where she asked the audience to divide up into their four tendencies and create a motto for their group. When it came time for the Questioners to present their answer was “why do we need a motto?”

Because of the need for more information to make a correct decision sometimes Questioners can suffer from analysis-paralysis. As one put it the questioning of your own questioning. This can be solved by deciding to trust some authoritative person or source as a sounding board for questions. And then just setting a deadline to make a decision. Flipping a coin does not help -because it is to easy to say “best two out of three” etc and it ultimately is arbitrary and contrary to their nature.

Oftentimes I have encountered instructions at work that seem unreasonable or inefficient. I have no problem with deciding I will do it my own way. I won’t clearly contradict my boss, I will just do it the way I think is best. If I encounter a supposed expert who I do not respect I will especially work to do things my way. I am always interested in doing things the most efficient way.

When training I show my trainees the way I do the work, and why I do it that way. I explain what the end goal is. And then I add “if you can get to the same correct end result by doing it another way, go for it”. I will never say “do things my way”, though I have had bosses who have said that. I always welcome questions – there is no dumb question, only unasked ones. I would rather someone ask me a dozen questions than blindly proceed thinking they know the answer when they don’t.

Questioners are end results oriented, efficiency driven, and know that there are always more than just one right answer. They are open minded when it comes to rules. While Upholders and Obligers would see rules as “if it doesn’t specifically say you can do something, you can’t”. A questioner like me will say, “if it doesn’t specifically say you can’t, then go for it”. That’s one reason when I hiked the Grand Canyon down to the river and back up in one day. The sign at the top of the trail didn’t say you couldn’t do it, it just said it wasn’t recommended that you do. I did and I know now why it isn’t recommended.

As children we all ask questions and it is considered normal. Just because we are older doesn’t mean the need ceases to exist. We are still learning. Anyone who objects to questions should ask themselves “what are you afraid of?” If what you are saying is true and valid you should be able to defend it. If it is not valid you will be found out eventually

Again I would recommend you check out Gretchen Rubin’s book The Four Tendencies. It can help you understand yourself and why you do the things you do. It can help you understand others – especially those with other tendencies. And it can help guide you to better work and organizational situations where you can thrive and avoid those places that are not the best fit.

Those Who Just Say No

To paraphrase a popular song, “Rebels just want to say no”. They resist both external and internal expectations. One stated their motto was “If I had to describe myself using only one word, it would be “doesn’t follow instructions”. They respond well to challenges and dares, but not to supervision or orders. They can be very productive, but only when it is something they want to do.

They put a high value on freedom, choice, identity, and self-expression. Sounds very American in a way, doesn’t it? Our historic identity as a country is built around the idea of independence, individualism, and not being told what to do or be. But if everyone is a rebel who makes the rules, who creates the order that enables society to function?

And rebels have trouble with meeting internal expectations – getting them to do things to benefit themselves, even though they know it is the right thing to do. So how do you deal with a rebel?

Gretchen Rubin laid out a plan that she said has worked according to the research she has done. She said the best way is to provide information, frankly present possible consequences and allow them to choose how to act. Sometimes the best way people learn, especially rebels, is by suffering the c consequences of a bad choice.

I think that I may have a rebel streak in me, but mostly I am a questioner at heart. I will push back against external expectations, and there are times when I will ignore them and do things my own way. But I don’t go out of my way to rebel or take pleasure in resisting just to resist. For more on the questioner tendency come back tomorrow.

Do You Feel Obligated?

Do you feel obligated, your life full of “shoulds”? Do those obligations tend to be external expectations that leave your personal life sometimes static and in shambles, unfulfilled? Then you might fit the Obliger tendencies. Obligers are very good at meeting external expectations, but struggle with meeting internal – ie self-chosen -expectations and goals. They put others before them, which is noble, only they often go to extremes and deplete and disappoint themselves.

Obligers are great at work and in collaborative efforts because they focus on meeting others’ expectations and are a team player. They are great to have as a boss for the same reason. They are responsible and willing to go the extra mile to get things done. And they respond to outer accountability so work well in organizations.

On the other hand, they are susceptible to overwork and burnout. They can be exploitable and become resentful, They have trouble saying no or imposing limits on themselves and thus may end up eventually rebelling and doing it quite suddenly.

Of course, because they are very focused on meeting external expectations, like Upholders, yet struggle with meeting internal expectations, they may clash with Upholders who can’t understand why they fail to meet internal expectations. And when they interact with Rebels, who also resist internal expectations, they face criticism when they rebel. The Rebels would wonder why they put themselves in obligation to those external expectations in the first place.

If they can manage to obtain accountability partners to help them meet internal expectations they eliminate the internal discord they fell on “not measuring up”,

Next up: the Rebels


In the galaxy of Tendencies, Upholders would seem to be the bright steady objects – the stars that are the representation of bright burning suns – like our own. They are constant, dependable, regularly providing life-giving heat and light to the worlds that rotate around them. Upholders have no problems meeting both external and internal expectations. They are organized and disciplined, making and keeping to-do lists – the always on time and well-prepared folks. The world needs them to have structure and a well-run society.

However, there are some drawbacks to their personality. They not only meet external expectations, but they expect others to meet their expectations and can be frustrated with others because they don’t understand why they can’t. Those with other tendencies may become frustrated with Upholders because they seem rigid and uncaring. It is too easy to think that everyone is just like you so why do they find something difficult that you yourself find very easy?

With all tendencies, there are overlaps – leanings as Gretchen calls them. For the Upholders they can lean toward Questioning (both meet inner expectations) or Obliging (both meet outer expectations). In those cases, there may be flexibility on either internal or external expectations. And depending on the nature of the relationship there are specific conflict possibilities. An Upholder will have a tough time dealing with a Rebel because Rebels tend to reject both external and internal expectations.

Gretchen gives good examples of the interaction of Upholders with other tendencies in the areas of marriage, children, work, and career. She highlights the importance of clear communication with others about tendencies and needs. And she also relates how Upholders can go overboard -tightening, she calls it – and how that can be remedied.

I am not an Upholder, but I know many who are and have learned how to deal with them and remain who I am. In every case, it helps to remain calm, confident in who you are, and compassionate to smooth over the bumps in the relationship road. Next up: The Obligers.

How Do You Handle Expectations?

How do you handle expectations? And is it different for external and internal expectations – in other words, expectations from others versus expectations of yourself? That is the topic of a book I recently discovered through a speech given in my advanced Toastmasters club. The book is called The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin. It is the latest example I have found of an attempt to help people identify their personality for both their benefit and for the benefit of those who interact with them.

The theory is that our personalities cause us to react differently to both external and internal expectations and knowing this will help both us and others navigate life’s often bumpy waters better. Some people handle both external and internal expectations equally well. They respond to external expectations positively and are able to meet their own internal expectations as well. Some people will find challenges in meeting either external or internal expectations. And still, some others seem to be resistant to or have trouble meeting both external and internal expectations.

This week I would like to briefly review each of the four types and ask you to decide which type you are and how that may affect your decision-making and how you interact with others. No one is all one type – there are shades of the others in all of us. But there is usually a predominant type for all. The author includes a Venn diagram (remember that from math?) which illustrates the overlaps between types.

The book is written to help people understand themselves and others and reduce the amount of stress and recriminations we often heap upon ourselves. We all expect better of ourselves and are disappointed when we don’t think we measure up. Perhaps it is because we are using the wrong standard. Stay tuned.

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Do you remember the Readers Digest humor pages? There was one called Laughter is the Best Medicine. It is often true. Sometimes it may be the best alternative to crying – some situations are like that. Like the days that you wish you could go back to bed and start the day all over again. For sports fans, there are some games where your team is getting beat so badly that you have to laugh at it – just so ludicrous.

I remember growing up when my sisters and I were in stitches and couldn’t stop laughing. Most of those times we didn’t even remember what started it, we just knew we laughed until our sides hurt. I also remember a time visiting with a friend I hadn’t seen for quite a while and we laughed over memories -everything is funny at 3 am, which we were up to that night.

You may wonder why this topic comes up when I am discussing important traits? Well, it is because I consider a good sense of humor to be very valuable. We can only be serious for so long. Soon depression or fatigue will take over if we don’t take a humor break. We have to be able to laugh at life to survive. We have to be able to laugh at ourselves as well.

I distrust people who don’t have a sense of humor – and feel very uncomfortable interacting with them. I think the lack of humor comes from a couple of sources. One would be a very low sense of self – always feeling like they don’t measure up and don’t feel like they can let themselves relax. And then, on the other hand, it may be that they consider themselves perfect and so everything must be serious. No room for humor either way and that is a terrible thing. None of us is perfect – and it is okay to acknowledge that and let it show to others. Embrace imperfection.

There is a kind of humor, however, that is dangerous and hurtful. That is making fun of others. It usually is focused on something they can’t change – or that they struggle with. It is a form of attack and verbal assaults can be just as damaging as physical. Often someone will make fun of someone and then when the person objects they will say “I was only joking” as if that excused their behavior. Some things and sometimes are not funny or appropriate to laugh at and we should all be aware of that.

And even times when we are laughing at ourselves we need to be aware that that can go too far. They say that often clowns can be some of the most unhappy people – hiding behind facepaint and goofy clothes. Robin Williams was one of the funniest actors I have watched and he brought a lot of laughter to loads of people. But behind the smiles and jokes, he was deeply hurting and we didn’t realize how much until too late.

So amid laughter be aware and ready to reach out to help if you sense that someone’s laughter is hiding pain. Hiding in the shadows I call it.

And if you are wary of humor – thinking it means you must be a joke teller – don’t worry. Humor can arise from many places in life and most of them aren’t scripted. Ask me about my experience with cars or cooking and I can share oodles of humorous stories. Don’t forget, laughter is the best medicine

The Need for the New

There is nothing new under the sun, the old saying goes. But that isn’t exactly so. History has a habit of repeating itself and certain trends and patterns continue to appear. But the versions are different. There are always those who hang back, desiring to keep tradition and certain routines. But in every age there are revolutionaries and visionaries who motivate us to progress and challenge the norms. Increasing efficiency and better living conditions are a result of innovation in science, health, transportation, etc resulting from the pursuit of knowledge.

This is true for us personally as well as in society at large. We all have patterns of behavior and routine habits that we rely on to order our days. But just as we grow physically and mentally we need to grow experientially by taking risks, seeking challenges, and engaging in innovation. “We’ve never done it that way before” is a phrase t hat never passes my lips – without denunnciation or a response of “why not?”

It can be as simple as taking a different route to or from work, etc. Trying a new restaurant or new menu item, cooking a different meal or in a different way. Doing anything to shake up our thinking is healthy. And always being on the lookout to find a better way to do what we do.

Here is a site called the Eight Essentials of Innovation Even though it is business oriented check it out to see how you can apply innovation to your own personal life.

Yes, you can

Have you ever encountered a situation at work where you got the message “show initiative” and then when you do take the initiative and it doesn’t go as planned (according to management) the response is “why didn’t you ask first?”? Some supervisors communicate mixed messages. They say they want new ideas, but apparently only their new ideas. They are apparently afraid of too much change or afraid of losing control.

If you want people to show initiative, you have to let go. If you yourself want to take initiative, you have to let go. And that means allowing for failure. Trying new things or new ways involves the risk of failure. And that’s okay because not everything will fail, and you can learn from failure.

I did a presentation recently on leadership for our Spring District Toastmasters Conference. The subject was reimagining and reenergizing leadership by taking risks. My lead point was “don’t be afraid to crash”. I told a story about my roller-skating days where I was able to learn new skills when I got over my fear of falling. To the point where I decided if I wasn’t crashing at least once or twice a night I wasn’t trying hard enough.

Initiative is scary and can be painful when crashes happen. But regret from not trying can be painful as well. I like the saying “mistakes are just a sign that you are trying”. Or the saying “better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission”. The problem with asking for permission is that you have to wait and you are giving the person asked the opportunity to say “no”. Yes, there are times when you need to ask, but not nearly as many times as you may think. Like for instance, when requesting time off from work, I have found that yes there are procedures and time constraints. But I always put my requests in the form of “boss, I need to take x amount of time (days) off for (fill in the blank)” I am assuming it will be fine, and if he has a problem with it he will let me know.

I know the times that I have been the most successful are the times I took charge and did something based on my confidence to do it. Like the time that I hiked the Grand Canyon rim to river and back up in one day. It was pretty audacious, totally exhausting, and yet fully exhilarating. And every time you take the initiative and succeed it will build your confidence to try it again. And this from a confirmed laid-back introvert.

Whatever you do, do not hesitate. There is a time for contemplation, research, and consultation. But when the options are clear there is no place for hesitation. Yoda was wrong – there is always try. All we do is try. We cannot guarantee that are actions will succeed (do) but we can always use all the skills and abilities at our disposal and make a good faith effort.

The ‘I’s Have It

Intuition, initiative, intention, innovation, and imagination – what do they all have in common? They all are part of an active life full of potential and progress. They are integral (another I) to pursuing dreams and not just let life run you over or pass you by. It can be stressful reacting to life’s bumps and bruises and sometimes it is tempting to just lay low, keep your head down and save energy for the next wave. But being active is better than just reactive and it can allow us to change the narrative and beat life to the punch. This week I would like to examine each of these tools for an active life.

Imagination is not daydreaming, not wishful thinking, but rather an active visualization of what could be. It’s like a walk-through for the mind to help the body be prepared to act. Initiative means taking action without asking permission – giving yourself permission to boldly act. Innovation means leaving the routine, normal, and reaching out to try things new or in a new way. Intuition means trusting yourself that you know things without having to reason it out. And intention means doing things with purpose, not just going with the flow or reacting to what happens. It means actively taking charge. We will go into detail on each of these and what they mean for us.

But for now think about what each of these words and the concepts mean to you personally. Do they resonate with you or do they scare you? Do they sound like something that would help you live a more active and fulfilling life. Sometimes it takes time to realize what works. Think on your life and see if you can remember times when one of these words characterized your life.

Trust Your Taste Buds

Trust your taste buds, they know a thing or two about what you really like to eat. I wish my parents had known more about that when I was little – and I am sure my sisters would agree. My parents were of the Great Depression era and had a couple strong food rules. One was that you had to take a little bit of everything that Mom had cooked. The other was that you had to finish everything on your plate before you could have desert. We had dessert at most every meal and it was always good, so there were times I was long at the dinner table making sure I got some.

My mom was a good cook and most of the food we had was also good. But there were a few items that only they liked and we kids didn’t have a say in it. There are some foods that I detest to this day after having to eat some – real small bites – many times. Lima beans and stewed tomatoes, sweet potatoes and canned beans (I love fresh or frozen, but canned never), beets and cream of wheat were the notables.

They had good intentions. Taking a little bit of everything is a good start for a child because everything is new. Taste buds need education and you might learn to like somethings after a few tries. But it’s not a steep curve and taste buds wise up fast. After a few times of tasting things I usually know what I do and don’t like.

And finishing what you took is a good lesson in not wasting food. But maybe the lesson should be to take less if you find you are full with what you took before? It has taken my sisters and me years to come to the point when we are okay with not finishing if we are full.

The childhood lessons are good in one way and we all turned out well. But there are side effects that are not so good. They both cause us to bypass our taste buds input. Here is what I have found. I may try something and find that my taste buds aren’t thrilled. I will try something else and find that my taste buds like it much better. If I have followed training and finished the first dish I may find that I eat too much. If I don’t finish the first meal I will have much more room to enjoy the second. My taste buds will drive me to be satisfied, so why consume “empty” (less satisfying ) calories?

There is also a money tug involved sometimes. You might say “I pad for that meal , so I should finish it and not let it go to waste” . But whether or not you finish the meal you have paid for it already, and you may find it that it goes to waist (not waste). So if I buy something and I don’t enjoy it I will resist the urge to finish and simply seek out something more pleasing to my taste buds. I have done this with candy bars, which I should avoid anyway, as well as meals I have cooked myself that turned out disappointing.

So enjoy your taste buds and don’t run over them with unpalatable food. You have my permission (you don’t really need to ask) to not finish everything on your plate, and refuse to eat things that your taste buds reject.

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