Useful metaphor and concrete language in Emotional Agility by Susan David

In Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life, Susan David offers useful metaphor, specific concepts, and concrete language with suggested actions to take for acknowledging and engaging your emotions.

An early metaphor includes the notion of a baited fishing line of emotional treachery; when hooked by thought blaming, anticipatory thinking / arguing, old and outgrown ideas, or wrongheaded righteousness, people that are hooked act against their own values because they are stuck. David gives examples of emotional hooks, with techniques to overcome them throughout the book.

David singles out joy, anger, sadness, fear, surprise, contempt, and disgust as emotionally relevant emotions. The point that as many as six scale towards unpleasant or uncomfortable is important. That surprise can be closer to joy, or the other emotions, is tied to context.

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An emotionally agile person who is unstuck tends to show up and step out on all these emotions. Six techniques for stepping out are offered in Emotional Agility, which is as thorough a thought process as I have seen in one place.

A second useful metaphor surfaces in Chapter 6 and deals with “walking your why.” To walk your why indicates “living by your own personal set of values.” Concrete detail for spelling out the concrete values in statements like this is something Susan David did quite well.

Bringing in the notion of changing habits through tiny tweaks, the notion of balance in the Teeter Totter Principle, and then applying emotional agility to work and raising kids were all practical means for impacting life and work. Closing Emotional Agility with the suggestion to become real brought the core message of the book home in a cogent, well-rounded manner that I appreciated.

My overall rating is 4-stars out-of-5.

Matt – Saturday, April 8, 2017


Luke Dittrich explores chilling questions of moral ambiguity in his book Patient H.M.

Luke Dittrich explores chilling questions of moral ambiguity in his book Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets. As revealed in the biography of Dittrich by Penguin Random House, Patient H.M. largely tells the “true story of Henry Molaison, an amnesic who became the most studied human research subject ever.”

The book extends the exposition into Dittrich‘s grandfather, Dr. William Scoville. The book delves into much of the history of “psycho-surgeries” (read lobotomies) that Scoville and Walter Jackson Freeman II promoted widely and spread with enthusiasm through the 1940s and some of the 1950s. The book Patient H.M. shares how Molaison was lobotomized by Scoville as a “culmination of a long period of human experimentation that…[Dr. William Scoville]…and other leading doctors and researchers had been conducting in hospitals and asylums around the country.” This August 9, 2016 New York Times article is the source of that quote.

Dittrich‘s book explains that Scoville was in part motivated to find a cure for his first wife; Scoville’s wife at this point (there were two) was Dittrich’s biological grandmother. The book confirms that Scoville performed surgery on Molaison, most likely the wife that would later divorce him, and an estimate of thousands of other patients as well. That this was done with the ostensible support of the American medical establishment, even after the legal and ethical condemnations to human experimentation in Nuremburg following World War II, shocks me. See this Doctor’s Trial link for more details. Patient H.M. explores this subject in enough detail that the reader is left to struggle with the ethical mortification imbued in Dittrich’s exploration.

The book goes into some of the history Dr. Suzanne Corkin of MIT, who studied Henry Molaison as a patient for more than 50-years. (Understand that Molaison underwent the lobotomy as an epilepsy patient in his 20s, and lived into his 70s). It was through much of Corkin’s research that awareness of the way memory works in the human mind became known. Dittrich asks some pointed questions about the raw data underpinning Corkin’s research, what she had to gain from information she kept or did not, and the ownership of Molaison’s brain (and the work product governing it) after Molaison’s death.

Patient H.M. is described in this Amazon book listing as a “biography, memoir, and science journalism” book, which is where it aims and largely lands. The storytelling does demand a certain degree of focus from the reader. Many threads of the narrative tend to get explored for periods of time, dropped, and then reappear. I’ve seen commentary from neuroscientists that indicate some of Dittrich’s knowledge is lacking, though the level of information worked for my tastes as a person not trained in medical science.

I came away with more insight into memory and the different ways that it works. The larger stories of Molaison, Scoville, neuroscience in the 20th century, and the meaning this had to Dittrich‘s family, fascinated me. The ethical questions around informed consent and the lines between the research and practice in medicine, trouble me. Upon finishing Patient H.M., my interest in a deeper dive on that last subject.

I would read this book again; I recommend that others read it. My rating is 3.5-stars out of 5, mostly owing to my interest in the subject matter coupled with the author not having taken a firmer stand about his own personal feelings surrounding the morality of his grandfather’s actions.

Matt – Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Top 20 Movie “Memento.”

Top 20 Movie Memento (2000) ranks 10th in Matt Lynn Digital’s Top 20 Movies in ranked order listing. This gem as directed and co-written by Christopher Nolan joins with Interstellar (2014) as the second Nolan movie to be distinguished by a Matt Lynn Digital listing Top 20 ranking. Memento also is the first movie directed by Christopher Nolan to receive significant box office success.

Memento is the story of a guy named Leonard (played by Guy Pearce) lacking the ability to form new memories that is determined to get revenge for the death of his wife at all costs. Being as Leonard cannot recall anything, he takes to the memory aids of tattoos, Polaroid pictures, and handwritten notes to help provide contextual clues to guide his mission of vengeance. These coping mechanisms are, collectively, the central metaphor that viewers of the movie should take as the metaphoric mementos of Leonard’s mission of vengeance.

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From the opening credits the film, the audience is introduced to the truly unique and non-linear storytelling methodology that served director and writer Christopher Nolan well in both Memento and Interstellar. With Memento, we see a Polaroid picture of a bloody murder scene becoming undeveloped, which is to say going from developed to the point where the picture first came from the camera. Remember that this movie came out in the year 2000, which was before Smartphones let you take digital photos with the ease that is customary today.

Memento then begins revealing itself reverse chronologically, in alternating scenes of color and black-and-white, wherein we see Leonard killing Teddy/John Edward Gammell in color and in reverse…that is, the scene is moving backwards. First we see Teddy’s glasses, then blood moving in the wrong direction, and then the gunshot moving backwards with Teddy’s glasses returning to his face. Teddy is played by actor Joe Pantoliano.

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Moving reverse chronologically, the movie then movies on to the first of a few different black-and-white scenes in the movie, which mostly serve to offer perspective on the condition of Leonard, as Leonard experiences it. These scenes almost had a documentary feel in nature, by which I mean they explained Leonard’s behaviors, deficits, and coping strategies rather than moved the narrative of the psychological thriller along.

In the third scene of the movie, we moved back to color and into the scene immediately leading to the opening scene wherein Leonard kills Teddy. The scene moves more or less forward, though there the last bit of this scene is a direct reviewing of the scene that becomes the opening death of the movie. This setting up of the narrative, and the setting of both the unreliable narrator (Leonard) and the murder victim (Teddy) signaled the uniquely Nolan method of storytelling beautifully.

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We later learn throughout this film that Leonard was seeking revenge for the death of his wife, as played by Jorja Fox. Carrie-Anne Moss plays Natalie, who plays a villainous role that ranks ahead of the villainy of Pantoliano’s Teddy. Also keep an eye out for Burt (as played by Mark Boone Junior) and Jimmy Grants (as played by Larry Holden). The real genius of the storytelling in this movie is its structure, how the story unfolds and lets us experience Leonard as he experiences his own story, and the plot twist we get at the end of the story in learning about Leonard what he cannot see for himself. That we further get to see a reality that portrays Leonard’s humanity, and the nature of his change through the eyes of Natalie, Teddy, Burt, and Jimmy is pure excellence.

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My one complaint about the movie rests in the nature of how Leonard’s illness was drawn incorrectly. Memento aimed to explain Leonard with feeling, understanding, and a sense of getting into Leonard’s head without explicitly narrating this for us, and for this the movie deserves praise. In this process, the film gets some detail wrong. Yinnette Sano from Bryn Mawr College describes Leonard as suffering from anterograde amnesia, or “a selective memory deficit…[wherein]…the individual is severely impaired in learning new information.” The film’s emphasis that Leonard had no amnesia is wrong. Further, to suggest that Leonard might be struggling with remembering his identity, his character, and fundamentally who he was, does not ring true. The psychologically complex and emotionally messy part of Leonard, as distinct from the memory loss (aka anterograde amnesia), is fine for me.

Overall, Memento remains the breakout hit that has opened the door for other movies in the Nolan collection that I have truly enjoyed. On its own, Memento works well. Consider checking this movie out for yourself.

Matt – Sunday, April 2, 2017


5,863-days to a new career

Today’s post has it’s beginning in early December last year when we had the Kleenex tissue meeting at my workplace. My colleagues and I were told over the course of the morning how my business unit had been sold in a fashion where the jobs would disappear in waves over the coming 18-months.

A small number of us with specific jobs other than my own would be given the opportunity to transfer over. Others would be asked to stay through the 18-months. Most of us would be provided with a 60-day notice and a severance package.

Unlike some of my colleagues, Lynn and I chose to keep this news pretty close to the vest. That is, I waited to see Lynn in person before sharing the news with her or the in-laws. Sharing Facebook friends with other less reticent people, Lynn captured knowledge of the news before my chance to look her in the eye and address concerns that you’d expect to appear in this case. Overall, Lynn understood my rationale and accepted the news pretty well. To this day, the means of sharing the news coupled with sharing my plans for working the problem pragmatically worked. Focusing on accepting the fact of the setback while acknowledging that it hurt seemed to have offered a sense of normalcy and optimism.

Through the time since, Lynn and I have updated our LinkedIn profile, become acquainted with Glass Door, Zip Recruiter, and Indeed as services. We worked with the displacement services to finesse a more professionally written resume; much has changed in the approach to resumes in the 16-years since landing the job I was losing. I reached out to people across my current industry, from school, in Toastmasters. The idea was to network with resilience and a positive demeanor with those in a position to help.

The decisive turn in finding our next opportunity came about three weeks ago when a former boss responded with his willingness to help. In less than a week, I had interviewed with five different people while passing a skills assessment with this company. Over the weekend that then appeared, the group that wanted to hire me extended an offer. Yesterday, news came back that my background check went well. My new role will start in 10-calendar days.

Today was the end of my 60-day notice period. The job I learned would disappear in December ended today, after 16-years and roughly 2.5-weeks. Next week, I get a “spring break” of sorts as I get to enjoy some relaxation before starting in full force in my new adventure. Today, as I joined many of my colleagues in saying goodbye on our respective last day, is emotionally sad, bittersweet, and a chance for saying farewell after 5,863 days.

Life happens. You feel sad, deal with the feelings, and then use the hurt to focus on moving forward. Lynn and I are happy that things are working out for us. Things are working better for us than for others; I am extending help and empathy where I can. Offer thanks for good fortune and support where possible; do the same with a helping hand where practical.

Matt – Friday, March 31, 2017

Politics mingles with post-Reformation Europe in Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love

Politics mingles with post-Reformation Europe in Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love. The book as written by Dava Sobel offers the reader a baited hook in terms of the close relationship between iconic scientist and Roman Catholic Galileo Galilei and his eldest daughter and cloistered nun,  Maria Celeste. While the book certainly offers crumbs to the bond between these two based on the limited surviving correspondence, the truth of the matter is that the book justifiably brings more focus into the life and times of Galileo.

The book does an engaging job of laying out the career, travels, brilliance, and creativity of the scientist that we know as the biggest influence in arguing for the sun as the center of the solar system. The many distresses that Galilei endured in his efforts to explain the nature of the world came into sharp exposition and challenge by the Roman Catholic church of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries in and around Rome.

The Roman Catholic church was a largely political animal in this time that had suffered challenges to its political and spiritual authority spurred by the Protestant Reformation as notably instigated by theologian Martin Luther, theologian and journalist John Calvin, and King Henry VIII of England. Galileo suffered from findings of heresy and censorship as a response to that Reformation through the Roman Catholic church’s Counter-Reformation efforts. The story of Galileo’s one trial at the hands of the Roman Inquisition makes up a more forceful component to Galileo’s Daughter, in my opinion, than does the telling of the relationship between Marie Celeste and Galileo.

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Galileo’s Daughter drew me in from the beginning and held my interest throughout the telling. The hook for me was having a front row, biographical telling of the human story of who Galileo Galilei was to those that loved him, were his friends or many dependents, and those that ultimately were there at the end or vacated their sense of decency, open-mindedness, and political courage in the face of Pope Urban VIII’s inquisitor, Father Vincenzo Maculano da Firenzuola.

The 1633 heresy conviction that resulted in house arrest for the remainder of Galileo‘s life (he outlives his daughter Maria Celeste) is captured well with tension, interest, and excellently with the hook of Maria Celeste’s loving interest. The earlier telling of Galileo’s telescopic inventions, motion experiments (including in Pisa), and increasingly earned influence were phenomenal. I think that I concur with one of author Dava Sobel‘s earlier arguments; namely, Galileo Galilei was able to reconcile science with his religion. That Galilei was clearly ahead of western culture in reconciling these two, then as now, is a story still with us today.

My overall grade for Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love is 4-stars out of 5.

Matt – Thursday, March 30, 2017

Top 20 Movie “In Bruges.”

Top 20 Movie In Bruges (2008) ranks 11th in Matt Lynn Digital’s Top 20 Movies in ranked order listing. This gem as directed by Martin McDonagh holds the distinction with Calvary (2014) as the second movie in the Matt Lynn Digital movie listing to include a McDonagh brother as director. John Michael McDonagh directed Calvary, which starred actor Brendan Gleeson.

Gleeson co-starred in In Bruges as Ken, the senior partner to guilt-stricken hit man Ray as played by Colin Farrell. Bruges is the town in Belgium where ruthless boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) banishes Ken and Ray to await further orders. It is through the cantankerous relationship between these two that we later learn why Ray is guilty. The hit that Harry sent these two went horribly wrong when Ray botches a hit on a priest by killing a young boy in the process of killing the priest.

The comedic brilliance of placing Gleeson and Farrell as Ken and Ray in Bruges is that the city itself is so full of history and vacationing possibility. Ray simply cannot bring himself into the mood of a trip of a lifetime because he’s so straddled with guilt. For Ray, drinking away his feelings is the only thing on his mind following the murder, beyond following the orders by Harry to sit tight.

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The comic relief of the side characters brought into the story adds a degree of light humor that works well for being juxtaposed to the serious turmoil that Ray is experiencing. These characters later play a role in why Harry ultimately orders Ken and Ray to stay put. Namely, Harry aims to rectify killing the boy in the hit by bringing about Ray’s demise.

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Like Calvary, In Bruges has a component of dark humor. Like Calvary, In Bruges is bloody, touches on religion, and deals in vengeance. Both movies are emotionally tense while aiming to hit you with ethical questions of a film noir variety that ask you to contemplate if morally ambiguous things can still be subject to a morality, even or especially after violating a basic tenet of something that we can grant is wrong…that murder is murder, and the act of accidentally killing a kid doesn’t abdicate murdering a priest.

In Bruges is our eleventh (11th) ranked film. I recommend that you see it.


Matt – Monday, March 27, 2017

Kent Haruf envisioned a spare end of life in Our Souls at Night

Kent Haruf envisioned a spare end of life in Our Souls at Night. The book was published posthumously as a a poignant, longing, spare, and other’s thoughts matter little love story in the face of old age, loneliness, and satisfying thyself.

The story is presented in a spare, bare bones, comprised strictly of the basic or essential elements of the love story of Addie Moore and Louis Waters. The opening proposition from the small Colorado town of Holt strikes you as kind of an unconventional surprise. Specifically, lonely widower Addie invites neighbor and fellow widower Louis to sleep together, without sex, in her bed.

The notion raised isn’t one of saving souls, or finding religion to fill a soul’s need as folks face mortality with the end of life. If you want something shocking or radically unconventional on this subject with cleverness yet less subtlety, perhaps the recently reviewed Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is more your book. Our Souls at Night raises questions of decency or small-mindedness, sympathy or self-interest, the present or the past.

The moving part of Our Souls at Night is the dialogue of Louis and Addie. The two tend to push the envelope for getting to know each other. The process of giving and taking in a way that expresses hopes, fears, and curiosity while setting boundaries for the information to share or not share, was sweetly done. Addie was the braver soul in pursuing the relationship. Both were conspiratorial in putting themselves on view to the neighborhood for review and perusal. Each had pasts and a need to share.

The point was the sharing of souls at night when time with self was the most difficult. It was perhaps in this space where I most appreciated Haruf‘s spareness (or colloquialism) while conversely wanting to rebel against Huxley‘s boldness (or provocativeness). It is my sincere hope that I am in touch with my own feelings in saying that my response is to the effect of the message rather than in the style of the message’s delivery.

Overall, I appreciated Kent Haruf’s final novel. I stand by the point that Kent Haruf envisioned a spare end of life in Our Souls at Night. My rating is 4-stars out-of-5.

Matt – March 22, 2017