surgical bomb

I’m arming you against me, an expression of tremendous respect.

You know I study communication, marketing, and propaganda. You know I constantly refine seduction technique. You know I wield language like a surgical bomb.

So I’m surrendering to you information that enables you to see right through me should I attempt any of these techniques on you.

I want you to trust every word I ever say to you, even if I package it within a psychological maneuver.

teaching joy (part one)

A conversation with a friend today illuminated my burning desire to teach existential joy to anyone who will listen.

Unfortunately, we agreed that this cannot be distilled into a recipe—that everyone must custom-make their own solution to joy’s perceived scarcity.

But we also agreed that I can succeed at the teaching process through the following two actions:

  1. Set an example through my everyday life.
  2. Write a narrative of my process; not so folks can repeat it verbatim but so they may find inspiration and guidance in it.

Finally, we agreed that my mission will best succeed if I keep this endeavor firmly secular, despite the faith that drives my core.

mathematical coolhunting

I aim to become the Timothy Leary of data scientists!

Intuitive coolhunting scales poorly. Here’s some math to help fix that problem:

Axioms of cool

Five axioms enable us to mathematically model cool:

  1. No one is intrinsically cool, individuals simply channel it.
  2. Ability to temporarily hold coolness varies by individual.
  3. Coolness naturally flows into some individuals more readily than others.
  4. Rate of coolness flow into an individual increases with the amount of cool stored within that individual’s social network.
  5. The rate at which cool leaves an individual increases as observation of cool’s presence in that individual increases.

Examining these axioms in more detail:

1. No one is intrinsically cool, individuals simply channel it

‘Cool’ flows into and out of individuals, as shown by the following stock and flow diagram:

Individuals can temporarily store some of this cool, in a manner resembling a capacitor storing electrical charge. We can for example imagine an individual’s step response to incoming cool:

We can describe this capacitive behavior in the stock and flow diagram with first-order dynamics:

2. Ability to temporarily hold coolness varies by individual

Individual capacity for storing cool differs. Given the same step input above, we might observe different responses for individuals A and B:

3. Coolness naturally flows into some individuals more readily than others

Some individuals channel cool better than others. We model this by varying the “natural” coolness input flow rate by individual:

4. Rate of coolness flow into an individual increases with the amount of cool stored within that individual’s social network

Individuals with cool friends tend to more successfully channel cool themselves. We model this by increasing influx rate according to a “coolness in social network” factor:

5. The rate at which cool leaves an individual increases as observation of cool’s presence in the individual increases

Once observed, cool tends to exit the individual it was observed in. We model this by increasing the coolness decay rate as a function of public observance of an individual’s coolness:

Source and sink of cool

Assume the universe provides an infinite source of cool. Similarly, assume existence of an infinite capacity sink for coolness that exits individuals. Also assume that everyone alive connects to this source and sink. It follows that individuals cannot “use up” the supply of cool or withhold coolness from others. Under the axioms, cool never transfers from one person to another—the relationships between individuals simply modulate the rate cool enters each person from the source and leaves each person to the sink.

Networks of cool

The last two axioms relate individual ability to receive and store coolness to the instantaneous state of their social network. To demonstrate the axioms in this social context, suppose the following friendship network exists among seven individuals:

Now suppose that Julie holds a lot of cool at a particular moment. It follows from axiom #4 that Guido’s instantaneous ability to channel cool will increase due to his connection with Julie. Similarly, if Di stores very little cool at a given time, Hardeep’s ability to receive cool will not benefit from his relationship with Di.

Hardeep’s coolness influx rate benefits from the combined cool stored within Emilio, Kaitlin, Di, and Abe. However, because of axiom #5, the fact that Emilio, Kaitlin, Di, and Abe observe Hardeep’s cool accelerates its exit from Hardeep. Due to the first-order dynamics described above, this exit of cool lags the influx of cool, giving Hardeep time to enjoy a temporary build up of coolness and time for Emilio, Kaitlin, Di, and Abe to benefit from its presence in Hardeep.

Simulating coolness networks

Using the mathematical framework developed above, we now simulate cool’s flow within the network described in the last section. Since we currently have no way to actually measure cool—and therefore parameterize the model—we run it with fictional initial conditions and examine the resulting system-level effects to see what happens.

The combined model for this friendship network is shown in the image below (sorry about the mess of arrows):

Simulating this model with arbitrarily selected initial conditions and factors yields:

A long way to go before this work is useful

As stated above, we currently have no way to measure cool, and therefore no way to validate and parameterize this model. Expect a Bayesian strategy to emerge shortly though. Until then, this work remains conjectural and exploratory.

Computation notes

Used Vensim PLE to draw and simulate the stock and flow systems, R to display the simulation output, and NetworkX to draw the example social network.

how to validate someone who won’t talk with you

We occasionally find ourselves in the situation where someone we love deeply refuses to communicate with us. In this video I present six strategies for transmitting validation across the divide. (A text version of this content is available here).

I sincerely hope you find this material useful in your own life! Please let me know how it goes, or send comments and questions, by commenting on this post or through Twitter or Facebook. I look forward to hearing from you!

Update 27 February 2017

I’m happy to have touched someone with this video! Received the following comment through Facebook today:

Thank you JoAnna!

See Also

radical forgiveness (video)

on love

the pedagogy of love

the currency of love

power and the art of seduction

In my last post, “power and sexual technique”, I urged women to gain leverage in their romantic relationships by increasing their skill in bed. More importantly, I developed this idea as a strategy transgender women may employ to decrease their overall marginalization—to help close the power differential that exists when straight men sexualize us for our unique bodies.

So far so good. But as a charismatic person (and natural propagandist) I know that the real establishment of a relationship’s or sexual encounter’s power distribution occurs at the encounter’s initiation—at the point of seduction—not in bed. One skilled at seduction, even if they lean submissive within the overall dynamic, owns the situation.

I frankly enjoy seducing my way into an encounter, thereby controlling the situation initially, and then joyfully sharing this power as the night unfolds. I might even completely surrender this power depending on the lover.

So a skilled seductress wields a mainline to authority and control.

I therefore, in a manner similar to my last post, encourage women and particularly transgender women to learn the art of seduction. My intent is not manipulation, but enhancement of mutual joy and an attenuation of the patriarchy’s power. I want us to diminish our marginalization by grabbing men by their psychosexual balls.

I realize that now I need to set an example. Problem is, I don’t particular think I’m good at seduction. To remedy that I’m committing to a thorough study of the art, starting with Robert Greene’s classic “The Art of Seduction”:

Need some inspiration? I started with a video featuring the fabulous Dita Von Teese where she irresistibly (yes, I’m bisexual) explains basic technique and attitude (below). However, I consider her words just the tip of the iceberg…

…I want the ability to start wars with my seduction (a la Troy), not merely get a date! I want to force Odysseus to break the ropes binding him.

And now, Dita Von Teese:

ten ways to deliver class (part #1)

“Class” strategically combines humility with knowing you stand a cut above the masses.

And now we begin writing about class.

“Class” is:

  1. Knowing when to lead and performing it gracefully.
  2. Knowing when to follow and performing it gracefully.
  3. Returning your shopping cart to the requested place.
  4. Realizing the full humanity in those who serve you (e.g., at a restaurant, etc.).
  5. Sitting up straight.
  6. Using proper grammar.
  7. Admitting and apologizing for your mistakes, and immediately working to remedy them.
  8. Dressing appropriately for an occasion.
  9. Driving politely.
  10. Counting your blessings.

More to come in future editions of this series!

how to validate someone who won’t talk with you (text version)

(A video version of this content is available here).

In my post “on love“, I describe active validation of one’s beloved as a key tactic for transmitting constructive love. I further discuss how that validation must express in terms of things eternal, rather than in terms of the one sending the validation. In other words, while stating your beloved’s value to you proves important, I encourage the communication of your beloved’s value in terms of the universe or the divine.

But how do you do this when your beloved won’t talk to you (or let you write, etc.)? The mandate remains, the vitality of this action remains, and you will feel pain at the disconnect. And this scenario occurs all too frequently in our lives, so prudence dictates the formation of a plan for dealing with it.

Here I offer six strategies for successfully delivering that validation when the receiver will not communicate with you. Granted these fail to match the satisfaction of a requited in-person transmission, but they help nonetheless. By help, I mean these tactics salve your pain a bit—provide a bit of meaning and purpose. But more importantly they actually validate and uplift the other person in very real social and spiritual terms.

These six strategies, plus a bonus strategy and then two examples, follow:



Give Them Space

Learned this lesson the hard way: If a person expresses a clear wish for no communication with you, they generally mean it. Therefore the only direct way to validate them requires validation of their request by complying with it.

Again I stress that I learned this lesson the most difficult way possible, by repeatedly failing to respect my beloved’s request. This only made the situation worse—it further accentuated the distance between us. Counterproductive when working to validate.

So leave them alone!

An exception to this injunction exists, which I discuss below in the “Keep the Door Open” section of this article.

Validate and Uplift Those Around Them

If you regularly interact with folks in your beloved’s sphere of influence, work to validate them too. This accomplishes two things: First, it sets an example that those in the sphere might follow to transmit their own validation of your beloved, thereby contributing to your goal. Second, it enriches the climate your beloved lives and/or works among, as experiencing validation generally improves happiness, and happiness moves socially.

Build a Better World

Taking the last strategy to its logical next step, work to make the world a better place. Not just for your beloved, but for everyone. This validates your beloved by producing slightly better world for their children to inherit, thereby contributing to their ease and peace. One person makes a difference when they choose to.

Of course we talk about “validation” as an abstract action in this case; I argue that indirectly improving someone’s life demonstrates valuation of their life. They will likely never know. But you will know. And the divine will know. And this will aid your sleep at night.

Pray for Their Well-Being

For spiritual readers, I highly recommend regular prayer for your beloved’s and their family’s well-being. I regard this as the most powerful thing one can do for a person, provided you back it up with action if provided a chance to deliver.

Prayer for someone’s well-being declares to the divine their value to you. And (at least in my faith) the divine values the person as well, so you stand in alignment. You form a team. The divine may never employ you as a vehicle for further transmission of love for that person, but prayer sets in motion action on the part of the divine to validate and enrich your beloved’s life. (See my post “the currency of love” for further discussion of this concept).

Keep the Door Open

If you can, keep the door open for reconciliation on the transmission of radical forgiveness. Smile at your beloved. Say “hi” or wave to them if permitted. Basically, acknowledge their existence in a friendly, welcoming way.

I don’t have these option with someone I particularly love and cannot talk to right now. So I’m simply going to send her a Christmas card next December (it’s now February). I’ll address it to “Jane Doe, Attn: Peace on Earth and Goodwill Department, 123 X Street, etc.” and I’ll say little other than what comes written on the card. Hopefully that will shatter a portion of the wall between us.

Yes, by doing this I will violate her request that I not contact her, but almost a year will have passed and Christmas cards are kind. In my book a nice way to promote validation. So I’ll risk her wrath to deliver this message.



Produce Art

If inclined, produce art inspired by your beloved, or inspired by the pain of not connecting with them. Furthermore, I recommend making this art public. I write and publish songs for this purpose. I write and publish prose for this purpose.

Keep your beloved’s identity anonymous when you do this! Respect demands it!

Public delivery of such art declares to the world that someone touched your life. The individual will likely know who they are. Validation!

And whether kept public or private, I think of my process of producing art as prayer in action, as per the strategy discussed above.

Bonus Strategy: Know Your Purpose and Intent

It occurs to me that I need to write an article explaining the meaning of validation, as this article simply assumes you know. But I digress…

To validate effectively, you must know and trust your intent. If you merely desire your beloved’s attention and affection, you miss the point and will fail. One must not confuse desire with validation, though I find it “validating” to some degree when others desire me. But here I mean something far more outreaching and spiritual than romantic desire.

Intend to validate them for their value in the universe, for their value to themselves, to the divine. Only then should you validate your beloved with respect to you. Know your purpose. Know your heart!

Example

To walk the talk I now offer two examples from my own life.

In the first example, my beloved worked for the same company as myself, though in different departments. So I built relationships with individuals in her department and threw myself into projects that interacted with her department—usually offering them novel ideas on how to build their business (this was an R&D environment). By building up the individuals around her I hoped they would in turn validate her. More importantly though, I worked so hard on the projects and the business proposals to strengthen her job security. This activity served as prayer in motion. Served as indirect validation of her importance because I didn’t want her to suffer job loss.

As another example, I wrote the following song about two women at once:

While it includes expression of romantic longing, it mostly states my commitment to them as a friend, in spite of the fact that they won’t have anything to do with me. When I published this song I basically declared this commitment to the world! As I work to deliver integrity at all times, this public declaration means something to me. To others. To the divine. Expressed validation. Prayer.

Conclusion

I hope you find these strategies useful in your own life! But please do not limit these strategies’ underlying spirit to those who won’t communicate to you. Please apply them to everyone you value! Also, please let me know how it goes, or send comments and questions, by commenting on this post below or through Twitter or Facebook. I look forward to hearing from you!

See Also

radical forgiveness (video)

the currency of love

the pedagogy of love

on love

Grrl on Grrl Podcast interviewed me!

Today my interview with Grrl on Grrl Podcast came out!  We discuss, among other things,

  • The science of gender identity
  • The music of Axis Evil
  • “Ladylike” behavior as a source of personal empowerment
  • Cultural appropriation
  • Psychosexuality
  • Model minorities

Big thanks to June Owatari of Grrl on Grrl Podcast for working so hard to put this together! The music presented during the interviews may be downloaded here.

 

make an intent board

Optimism is a skill.

A simple exercise that strengthens your focus and direction involves creating an “intent board”, also called a “dream board” or a “vision board”. These serve me well in life!

Basically, you make a poster, or in my case a Pinterest board, called “Intent” and fill it with images that speak to your goals, values, and dreams. Then you review it every day for inspiration! The images you select may include photos, clippings from magazines, drawings, or anything else you can imagine.

For example, my intent board (below) shows everything from vaginas to fiber optic dresses to cyberfeminist propaganda to geodesic domes.

What you believe and what you focus on creates your reality. (I won’t back this statement up with psychological or spiritual arguments today, just run with me here…). Intent boards clarify goal-oriented beliefs, convincing you of possibilities. They help focus you.

While I don’t expect to—or want to because it would be too much to healthily manage—gain everything I put on my intent board, it helps to review the full scope of what I like as I work to target my actions. An intent board not only helps you enact conscious goal-seeking activities, but it teaches and pilots your subconscious such that you diminish the likelihood of sabotaging yourself in the process.

If you create your intent board using poster paper, I recommend updating it at least yearly as your values and goals evolve. Pinterest provides the advantage of unlimited space and an easy way to search for images. If you use Pinterest, I recommend altering the descriptions of any pins you add to describe your intent, rather than keep the expressed intent of the original image source. In other words, make the image “yours”. (Note that some Pinterest pins do not seem to let you alter the description).

And remember there exists no wrong or right way to do this!

Setting An Example

To demonstrate, feel free to check out my personal intent board below. You’ll identify many concepts (e.g. spirituality and music) expressed among the images that I touch upon with this blog. (Only a portion is shown below; click here to see the full board):

radical forgiveness

(A text version of this video is available here).

Forgiveness is radical in and of itself, and I encourage each of you to promote the revolution that it demands. Moreover, I encourage each of you to take forgiveness to radical levels, in other words, to practice a doctrine of “radical forgiveness”.

The following video introduces the concept, and then discusses the rationale, the joys, and the challenges of radical forgiveness’ practice:

Aside

This video also demonstrates my significant progress to date toward developing a feminine voice and feminine body language. Much work remains on these fronts, but I’m proud of what this video portrays!

Closing Remarks

I sincerely hope you find the concept and practice of radical forgiveness useful in your own life! Please let me know how it goes, or send comments and questions, by commenting on this post or through Twitter or Facebook. I look forward to hearing from you!

See Also

how to validate someone who won’t talk with you

on love

the currency of love

the pedagogy of love

radical forgiveness (text version)

(A video version of this post may be found here).

Forgiveness proves radical in and of itself, and I encourage each of you to promote the revolution that it demands. Moreover, I encourage each of you to take forgiveness to radical levels, in other words, to practice a doctrine of “radical forgiveness”.

We all get hurt. Doesn’t matter if an offense is personal, such as someone berating you for a mistake, or institutional, such as experiencing a subtle, unconscious bias from a coworker that hinders you in the workforce due to your gender or sex.

Radical forgiveness combines several key actions: You must understand why forgiveness proves valuable, make the choice to forgive a person or institution, understand the process and pitfalls of forgiveness, continually repeat your choice to forgive that person or institution as necessary, and if possible communicate your forgiveness to the person or institution that harmed you. Moreover, you must treat forgiveness as a skill that requires practice and commitment to excel at. Finally, you must remember that humility must stand at the core of all these actions to succeed.

One might casually call one or two of these items alone “forgiveness”, but by employing the term “radical forgiveness” I assert a more comprehensive and effective mode of dealing with offenses than the mere casualty of the word “forgiveness” implies. We speak here of something more substantial than a flippant “I forgive you” or “I can’t stay mad at you”. Rather, we refer to a context of forgiving significant pain, like divorce pain or business-partner-screws-you pain.



So why forgive in the first place? Primarily, the process heals you, and enhances the chances of healing the other party and a relationship. Forgiving helps you “let go”, to use a colloquial phrase. You surrender, sort of. Basically you acknowledge the pain, and declare that it will no longer impact your relationship with the other party. You declare that it will no longer weigh you down. The act of forgiving claims power over emotional angst. Not complete power, but it provides significant relief. Note that by forgiving you still recognize guilt, and you still must take steps to remedy the problem. Forgiving merely leaps far beyond forcing the other party to remain mired in that guilt.

Moreover, your particular deity might demand that you practice forgiveness. We won’t name names.

One must make an actual “choice” to forgive, as forgiveness starts with a choice. And one must often continually repeat that choice for a given hurt, since anger and pain well up so easily. In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, clinicians talk about “turning the mind”. That is, injecting your presence into a runaway thought to turn your think toward more productive thoughts. Similarly, when a hurt wells up inside you that you have already delivered forgiveness for, “turn the mind” away back toward a spirit of forgiveness. Again and again and again. I guarantee you that this process heals.

And that’s just it, remember that radical forgiveness serves as a process, not just a destination. You wrestle with it along the way. You start out unhappy and end with greater peace, but don’t expect an easy ride. For instance, you might have to objectively face your role in a situation, to determine how actions you took that may have put fuel on the fire. Unpleasant, I know. For encouragement, just remember that this process enriches your spirit.

One can liken the process of committing and recommitting to forgiveness to the experience of the mythical Sisyphus as described by the post-war philosopher Camus. The gods condemned Sisyphus to an eternity of pushing a large boulder up a hill by day, only to watch it crash back down the hill every night. Sounds meaningless, right? But Camus declared that Sisyphus found existential meaning in the task itself. Similarly, I claim that you will find meaning in the radical forgiveness process despite its often two steps forward, one step back nature.

The sweetest spot in the process of forgiveness is letting the other party know about your decision, because it generates the most opportunity for reconciliation. But understand that sometimes one cannot do this due to safety or other considerations—use your brain here before you act! And know that the other party may simply not be able to receive your words, may not even find themselves in a place to comprehend them. This hurts, but don’t let it derail your journey to peace over a matter.

Basically, don’t think of this action as “offering” forgiveness. Think of it as “transmitting” forgiveness. Offers feel incomplete if not received, but a transmission projects whether anyone proves receptive or not. In other words, you will have done all you can, so don’t sweat over it.

Humility drives the process. Forgiveness serves as recognition that you yourself exhibit flaws, that you could easily make the same mistakes. It recognizes that you will perform actions in the future that will require forgiveness from others. To forgive effectively you must empathize with and love the imperfect humanity in the one you choose to forgive, which can only emit from empathizing with and loving the imperfect humanity in yourself.

The last point I want to make is that radical forgiveness is a skill, like tennis or playing a musical instrument. It takes practice and sometimes years to develop competency. But if you make a habit out of choosing to forgive, and nurture the habit as you go, I assure you the skill will blossom inside you! I recommend initiating the forgiveness process the instant someone hurts you, rather than wait until you are “ready” to forgive. This strengthens the habit and prepares you for rapid closure once you achieve that readiness. And this practice increases the chance of salvaging relationships due to its proactive nature.

I sincerely hope you find the concept and practice of radical forgiveness useful in your own life! Please let me know how it goes, or send comments and questions, by commenting on this post or through Twitter or Facebook. I look forward to hearing from you!

See Also

how to validate someone who won’t talk with you

on love

the currency of love

the pedagogy of love

why I transferred ownership of Gender Punk 360 and Axis Evil to a corporation I hold majority stake in

Today I transferred ownership of Gender Punk 360 and Axis Evil to a corporation I hold majority stake in. Here’s why:

I founded Whole-Systems Enterprises, Inc., the corporation, late last year to provide legal structure for my efforts to elevate the lives of transgender people through business enterprise. Axis Evil and Gender Punk 360 operate as enterprises that support the same goal, so I thought it best to roll these brands under the same corporate umbrella.

Now that Axis Evil and Gender Punk 360 generate (a currently small) income, the work faces tax liability. The new tax law in the United States (which I don’t approve of) offers reduced tax rates for corporations compared with individuals, so I retain more of the income to roll back into scaling up these efforts. Moreover, corporations may write off expenses while individuals cannot.

artificial intelligence in fashion (part one: brainstorming)

Brainstorming as usual:

  1. Fashion dictums involve many IF-THEN-ELSE rules. One can convert this into a decision engine (inference engine).
  2. User specifies their body shape, and a recommendation engine selects suitable clothing for them, taking into account the user’s tastes.
  3. Upload an image of a dress you want to buy, and specify the dress’s given size. At the same time, upload your measurements. The algorithm then tells you the likelihood of fit.
  4. Upload your measurements. The algorithm searches for clothes that fit well.
  5. Upload your measurements. The algorithm searches for clothes that flatter your body shape.
  6. User submits 10+ images of dresses they like, with the option to add more. Moreover, they submit their measurements. The algorithm then designs dresses for them.
  7. Automate difficult design tasks. My model here is the AI drummer in GarageBand which provides very sophisticated beats, and which I use in all my songs.
  8. Enhance design. Algorithms can produce combinations that have not been thought of before. Here I envision designer as “pilot” and algorithm as “vehicle”.
  9. Create fiber optic dresses that light up responsively to movement, such that the changes in lighting accentuate curves.



Collaborate!

If you would like to collaborate with me to these or similar ideas happen, I’m an extremely experienced data scientist and would love to work with you!  Please contact me through Facebook if you are interested.

AI-Driven Fashion Show

Holding a fashion show for AI-created styles sounds fabulous!

Next Steps

See what tools exist already. See what APIs exist. Determine if measurement statistics are known. Investigate the Computer Science and Home Economics academic literature.

What data is out there?

See Also

body shape calculator

Thermo Fisher: ten years at an uncommonly fabulous company

Many laid-off employees trash their former employer. But my decade at Thermo Fisher stands as one of the richest experiences of my life, despite significant challenges along the way. So I want to remind current Thermo Fisher employees and leadership what they can take pride in:

Exceptional Handling of my On-the-Job Gender Change

I joined the company at the Austin site as “Daniel Edmund Williams” and left from the Carlsbad site as “Emily Marie Williams”. No easy feat.

The (public) transition took place one year into my tenure at the Carlsbad site. My colleagues there embraced my chosen identity completely. Sure there were a few initial hiccups in name and pronoun use, but those faded quickly. No one fussed about the bathrooms or showers.

Yes, a few folks were uncomfortable at first. I took them to lunch. I turned the other cheek. They came around.

Thermo Fisher employees and leadership can therefore take pride in their openness.

HR

Thermo Fisher’s HR department knows what they did for me, along with the challenges I faced. These stories are of course not for public consumption.

I thank them for all their tremendous support. I thank them for all the collaborative problem-solving and for delivering substantial grace.

Thermo Fisher employees and leadership can therefore take pride in their Human Resources Department.

Learned to “Manage Up”

Working at a large corporation for a decade usually means reporting to multiple bosses. Most managed exceptionally well, a few struggled. One was downright abusive. Immersed in this environment, I became skilled at collaborative problem-solving and team-centered idea promotion, skills I’m extremely thankful for.

I also learned how to stand up to the abusive boss—proudly setting an example for my less experienced colleagues.

Company employees and leadership can therefore (mostly) take pride in their management.

Learned to Manage (Down)

An intern reported to me one summer, allowing me to develop my talents at management. While no one specifically coached me on management skills during this period, the many good (and a few bad) management examples set around me directed my compass.

Acquired Technical Skills and Sharpened my Business Acumen

Immediately following my layoff last July I founded Whole-Systems Enterprises, Inc. Employing all the data science skills I learned at Thermo Fisher, we are developing and optimizing day-trading algorithms. We are also selling bioinformatics and data science consulting services. My experience at Thermo Fisher made this possible.

Thermo Fisher employees and leadership can therefore take pride in their technical development.

Why Am I Saying All This?

This blog, and the book I’m writing based on it, covers transgender issues. Employment is a major transgender issue, not just during the public act of transition but encompassing the whole life experience of work. I wanted to celebrate an organization that is getting it right.

The whole proves greater than the sum of its parts.

poise, leadership, and mindfulness

I think a lot about poise: How to cultivate it, how to maintain it, what it means. I also think (and write) much about leadership. Concluded that the two overlap substantially. Further concluded that mindfulness forms the glue that holds them together.

Please permit me to elaborate:

Recently I developed my own description of poise for a witty Twitter and Facebook posting. Here is what I came up with:

Poise is an interesting mix of following tradition and inventing novelty. An interesting mix of following and breaking society’s rules.

This does not define poise, but it illuminates my vision of its practice. We follow tradition with etiquette designed to lubricate social interactions, but invent new ways of accomplishing (presumably noble) goals together as needed. We follow society’s “Golden Rule” but work to transcend society’s moral lassitude.

Realized that this describes a good leader.

Realized that this also describes the woman I want to become.

I have always been a natural leader. Not a natural executive or manager, just charismatic. Cut my teeth in leadership development as teenager organizing rock bands, an environment rich in people-skill development opportunities because you have to deal with creative conflict, egos, and drug addictions. (Compare to performing in a youth orchestra, where adults tell you what to play and how to play it, and the biggest conflicts are resolved by the same adults).

When your bassist is high and your guitarist demands the spotlight, you quickly learn to remain poise lest the whole endeavor falls apart.

But other than that I’ve never thought much about poise (until recently). I wore t-shirts and jeans exclusively, cursed like a punk rocker, and didn’t give a damn about etiquette. My best redeeming features were deep kindness and compassion. For better and worse, I moved forward in life by fully leveraging the “sexy rebel straight guy” ethos.

Likewise, I never thought much of cultivating leadership skills until recently. I just “winged it” when I needed to lead something. Also led culturally by inventing and promoting intellectual output, whether new music compositions or new ways of designing nucleotide sequences.

What changed? I decided to become a “lady”. (Please note that I used the word “lady” instead of “woman” here—they form very different concepts). This led to my search for feminine poise. This also led to a complete reevaluation of my workplace skills: I realized that my talent lies with people and technology, not just technology. Many a transgender woman reports this shift—I think the reason emerges from a combination of cultural expectation and consuming large doses of estrogen. Whatever the cause, I emerged ready to lead and/or facilitate in a formal manner.

But that’s my story. Lets get back to the intersection of poise and leadership, and throw in a discussion of mindfulness, because that might prove more useful to the world than my navel-gazing:

Leaders gain the confidence of their followers through poise. During the last presidential debates, Hillary Clinton made a conscious choice to maintain her presence and delivery rather than stop to confront Donald Trump for hovering in her space. While either decision would have been appropriate, she believed the best way to win voter confidence was through the action she felt showed the most self-control, the most poise.

Any loss of poise, though really often just a result of human frailty, knocks down a leader. Consider Donald Trump’s approval rating at this moment. The man can’t sustain a solid presence and has reaped the fruits of it.

Compare to Jesus, whom the Pharisees always tried to trap in some legal black hole. He (reportedly) always held it together with them, delivering nothing less than wit and wisdom. Jesus also provides a model of when it is appropriate for a leader to lose their cool: We consider his anger at the money-changers in the temple justified.

And here is the first place mindfulness comes in. I bet Jesus held complete in-the-now presence of mind while overturning those tables.

Poise requires mindfulness to execute, and leadership requires poise as I’ve demonstrated above, so the three concepts interact. In my example of Hillary Clinton’s debate decision above, she mindfully delivered the content while evaluating the circumstance. To manage this her mind could be nowhere else.

Similarly, in my work toward developing stereotypical feminine poise, my mindfulness skill strengthened as I learned to live my regular life while monitoring how I walk, sit, stand, talk, etc.

So my formula for leadership development from here on out involves mindfulness practice.