Elimination is not the same as cultivation.

I began understanding the significance of this when I read what Martin Seligman (positive psychologist at UPenn) wrote about mental wellness and illness in his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being.

He relays a lesson he learned when he first began practicing psychotherapy. Working with folks who struggled with mental illness like depression, he found that when he succeeded in treating the depression, that didn’t automatically yield a happy, mentally well patient. It yielded something more like a blank canvas. The process of eliminating depression, he concluded, is different from the process of cultivating happiness and flourishing. Hmm.

As I carried this idea with me, I started to associate directions with each of these two processes. The process of elimination, or rooting out the unwanted is a backward facing process that draws on history and “what is and has been.” The process of cultivation, or creating the wanted thing, is a forward facing process that requires imagination of “what could be.”

I noticed, too, that individually and collectively one of these is getting a lot more attention and use than the other. So often we are only looking in the direction of the unwanted thing we’d like to eliminate. It’s so pervasive that it’s easy to take for granted. Consider the following:

  • The diet industry focuses on losing weight (eliminating fat) rather than on cultivating healthy bodies. Healthy bodies aren’t often part of the conversation at all, though attractive bodies might be. This is paralleled by our healthcare system, which aims to eliminate or treat illness without similar efforts to cultivate wellness, health or enhance wellbeing.
  • Many folks are endlessly looking for ways to deal with stress rather than working with cultivating more harmony and ease.
  • When something is broken—from cars to relationships— we try to fix it (eliminate the problem). But rarely do we spend time maintaining or cultivating improved versions of things that are basically in working order. This is evidenced by the phase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, strengthening and improving things that aren’t broken, decreases the chances of them breaking in the future. Just because something functions, doesn’t mean it’s highly functioning.

You might be thinking, “These are the same thing. If you’re trying to eliminate stress, you’re trying to cultivate harmony.” To be clear, one thing suggests the other, but they are quite different. Don’ts and do’s, elimination and cultivation are two sides of the same spectrum. But just because we know what we don’t want doesn’t mean we always know what we do want. We are so well practice in the former and so lacking in the latter. Since we haven’t exercised these muscles of imagination individually or culturally, they are weak. I, for one, am ready to start working them out.

Try it now. What is your vision of an ideal life? A perfect community or world? Is it as vivid as your image of the world as you see it everyday? As the world you don’t want to see (and fear might come to pass)? Which of these do you see most clearly and feel most deeply?

If you’re at all like me (and you are ‘cause you’re human 😉 ), thinking in this way will take some practice. And I’d encourage you to practice because the shift in focus itself is incredibly powerful. Having a vision of what you do want to see (the clearer and more detailed the better) forms the foundation of inspired action. Because acting from inspiration feels good, it provides a sustainable form of motivation. The further you align with your vision, the better you feel, the more inspired you are to act, the more you align, and so on. It’s what I like to call the vivacious circle.

Contrast this with working from a place of self-discipline and self-control in an effort to root out the unwanted. While I’m all for cultivating more of both of these, it ain’t nearly as easy or motivating for the lot of us as working from a place of inspired action. And when we fail or fall off the bandwagon (as we inevitably will) it feels bad. If we feel bad and then beat ourselves up then we feel worse and so on… the more familiar vicious circle.

Beyond this, having a vision of the wanted thing helps to bridge the gap between our existing (undesired) behavior or situation to the desired one. When you’re trying to change a habit, for example, saying, “I will not eat the cookie,” not only brings your attention to eating the cookie (which, let’s face it, is delicious and wanted on some level even while being unwanted at another), it also doesn’t suggest another activity to fill the void.

Imagine anew. Fill the void. Don’t eat the cookie. Create the life you want.


Introducing The IMAGINATOR

xray goggles by photobunny

 Quick review from my last post:

In the Human-Centered Resume, WHO, WHY and HOW are the 3 KINGS.

The message is:
WHO I am as a person, WHY I chose my past experiences, and HOW I went about doing them drives WHAT I’ve done, WHERE I did it and WHEN I did it. Therefore WHO, WHY and HOW are the best indicators of my ability to succeed in the job I’m applying for.

Then I left you hanging with this suspenseful phrase: The resume itself looks like:

Drum roll please…..

Short (one line)
Story based
Tie in with previous employment AND non-employment experiences

The first construct/superpower I’ve developed for my personal resume is “The Imaginator.”


Never content to do something the conventional way if a better way is possible, the Imaginator always has an eye to possibilities.

When empowered in my workplace, I also have the efficacy to make improvements and experiment to help already awesome organizations spiral toward even more greatness.

As the Imaginator, I improved the line for more efficient and ergonomic short order cooking for two seasons at Stanley Baking Company. Ask the manager Becky about this; she was game to try nearly every suggestion I put forth. I also executed a number of wild lesson plans as a Teaching Assistant in the Sociology department at UMass Amherst to increase student engagement. Imagining a brave new life, I’ve lived in a new location every six months for the past 5 years.

Woah, Woah, Woah. What Just Happened There, Mary?!

Notice how I gave some job history/experience information, a tie in to a reference, and demonstrated how this superpower works in two vastly different work situations.

One reason I wanted to create this kind of resume is because I’m transitioning out of my “career” as a seasonal line-cook and into any kind of work that nourishes my mind, body, and soul.

Housing my variety of experiences under a construct/superpower is so empowering for me because I’m a Meaning Maker (it’s another superpower). I see continuity in my life where others see chaos and skills-based resumes represent my life as disjointed and confusing to employers.

Wait she was a Teaching and Research Assistant for two years at a top university and then she worked for free at a Buddhist center and then became a line cook working in a town I’ve never heard of in the-middle-of-nowhere Idaho?

Actually, yes. That’s my life. And it may well be yours, too. Bold folks do weird things, ya know?

Keep In Mind

This is what I wrote off-the-cuff without a specific job posting/position in mind.

My vision for the Human-Centered Resume is to tell relevant, short, simple stories that illustrate things at the intersection of:
· Deep personal resonance in terms of illustrating who we are as gifted and capable humans
· Deep resonance for employers in terms of our ability to rock their world by meeting eligibility requirements and then some

Value-added at every turn and completely in the realm of “show not tell.”

I am from The Show Me State after all.

As I play with this more I also want to make it visual. For example, “The Imaginator” would be represented with a symbol (e.g. imaginator x-ray goggles). I’ve just begun exploring how the visual element can be incorporated, but I love the idea of images and words dancing together on a page.

My ask:
I’d love your feedback on the concept I’ve presented here. What, if anything, gave you an “aha” moment? What, if anything, made your brow furrow in skepticism? How can I make this better or present the idea better?

Compassion-fueled feedback is welcome; be aware this is rough and I am tender.

Contact me here.

Photo Credit: photobunny

Human-Centered Resumes (are the way of the future!)

Since I attended StartingBloc mid-February, I’ve been full of excitement, ideas, and energy. One major benefit of attending SB is that I got some perspective on a personal blind spot. I was among a group of 100+ do-ers n’ entrepreneurs.

Though I think of myself as more of a be-er than a do-er, the blind spot that I got some insight into was my own ideas —> action gap. Sometimes I have “good” ideas but they seem “minor,” so instead of taking them seriously and pursuing them, I just dream up more ideas. Having some insight into this blind spot has piqued my curiosity about what would happened if I fully explored even one of these “good” ideas.

Follow thru, baby.

To make this all more concrete…

I’ve had numerous conversations with folks in the past several months about the process of applying for jobs, constructing resumes, writing cover letters and interviewing. I’m (f)unemployed and so are a number of folks I know so these kinds of conversations surface frequently.

In all my conversations about the job-hunting process, I’ve never heard anyone say, “I love it. I wish I could be a professional job applicant. Chronological resumes make my heart sing!”

I myself may have used a couple expletives in expressing my views on the topic. My frustration has fueled what I’m now calling The Human-Centered Resume project.

It’s part of my practice of harnessing the power of “negative” energy and channeling it into building something better which, along the way, converts the “negative” quality into a “positive” one. It also shines the light on my blind-spot.

Bi-product: Happier Mary. Happier world.

So this:
“I f*&%ing hate searching for jobs. It’s so $#%&ing frustrating to make a resume that reflects who I am.” (Full disclosure: I was stuck in this thought process for about two months.)

Became this:
What would a swoon-worthy resume and job-hunting process look like? Why am I so irked by the current process? Considering those irksome properties, how can I build something better that eliminates them?

Then I actually started to build it… The Human-Centered Resume was born.

Let’s start by examining the logic of the current resume model:

The Skills-Based Chronological Resume.

It treats WHAT, WHEN, and WHERE as the 3 KINGS.

The message is:
WHAT I’ve done in the past, WHEN I did it , and WHERE I did it are the best indicators of my ability to succeed in the position I’m applying for.

On the resume itself, this looks like:
A description of duties in previous positions and/or professional titles (WHAT)
Displayed in reverse chronological order, showing “progression” in career (WHEN)
Headed up by the name of the organization & the physical location (WHERE)

Here comes the irksome part.

WHO I am as person, WHY I chose to do the the things on my resume, and HOW I went about doing them is:

a) considered irrelevant and ignored
b) matters (at least a little) and is assumed to be reasonably well derived from looking at the 3 KINGS
c) we’ll figure it out if we decide to interview or hire you whether we want to or not (e.g. Damn, that guy’s got a a major anger problem. His work is brilliant but it sucks working with him. Who knew?!)

Taken alone I was irked that the WHO, WHY and HOW are exiled from the resume kingdom by the 3 KINGS. So my frustration was compounded when I realized that the resume-exchange and hiring process are but a microcosm of (and entry point into) the whole dehumanizing* system of workplace organizations.

Build a Better System AKA (to SB LA ’13-ers) “Show ’em the clean glass of water!”

In the Human-Centered Resume, WHO, WHY and HOW are the 3 KINGS.

The message is:
WHO I am as a person, WHY I chose my past experiences, and HOW I went about doing them drives WHAT I’ve done, WHERE I did it and WHEN I did it. Therefore WHO, WHY and HOW are the best indicators of my ability to succeed in the job I’m applying for.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison.


On the resume itself this look like:
STAY TUNED! The next post will reveal the secrets of Human-Centered Resumes. They really are the way of the future, folks.

*My intention in using the word “dehumanizing” isn’t to trigger ya. I mean it as literally as possible. We are literally reduced, in our resumes, to skill sets, past experiences, dates, titles, etc.  I think that even in the least human-friendly organizations there are elements of humanism, but on the whole organizations (especially large ones) take on a bureaucratic tone and are essentially dehumanizing. Read some Max Weber.