27 hours in Pittsburgh

IMG_0532I flew to Pittsburgh on Wednesday this week in order to give two speeches on Thursday. They both went well, though they had a very different vibe. As I build my business as a speaker I am becoming ever more aware of how audience dynamics (percent men vs. women, age, how full the room is) affect how I should present concepts to people and how I should engage with them.

In any case, the speaking was fun, if tiring (two speeches in a row take some energy!) but I also really enjoyed a personal upside: reconnecting with one of my old college roommates. She and her husband and their daughter live in Pittsburgh, and so I stayed with them overnight. We chatted over wine at night, and breakfast in the morning. They have fixed up their cozy-yet-stately old house, and various properties in their neighborhood (that they rent out). And IMG_0536they had renovated what they call the “barn” on their property so it was a nice little guest studio, complete with hotel-style amenities such as a coffee maker, a hair dryer, etc. It was the best of all worlds: staying with friends and still feeling like I am at the Hyatt!

The sad part is that I had not seen her since our 10th reunion in 2011. We are just gearing up for the 15th now. Her daughter was an infant then and is currently in her last few months of kindergarten. Oh my.

The Pittsburgh airport is a ways out of town, so the event organizers and I had built in quite a bit of time after my second speech to get there, and then the traffic was a lot better than it could have been. So I had time to eat one of the best burgers of my life at Bar Symon (past security, in the central hub area, if anyone reading this is connecting through or flying into Pittsburgh soon). It was this bacon-topped, onion crunchies monstrosity on challah. I washed every last bite down with a nice pinot noir. After 3-plus hours of speaking, I felt I needed it.

In other news: I am writing a piece next week on how to take a compliment well. Have you learned how to be more gracious in accepting praise?

You can also check out two other pieces I wrote recently. First, What You Should Do When Someone Takes Credit For Your Idea. I love the idea of a redemption fantasy, rather than a revenge fantasy, even though this is an incredibly tricky negotiation.

Second, The Secret To Creativity: Become An Intellectual Middleman. Often, highly creative people root their ideas in common knowledge. They are just combining disparate concepts in new ways.

Photo: scene from the roof, and the very nice guest room.

19 thoughts on “27 hours in Pittsburgh

  1. Pittsburgh is my hometown! I hear it’s become a lot cooler since the 80s 😉 I’m often tempted to move back when I hear about the affordable housing prices.

    About compliments – I treasure them. So I realized it would be better to be more graceful about accepting them than trying to brush them off or make excuses. So now my response is a straightforward “Thank you – that means a lot.” (for the really good ones from people I care about).

    I also noticed I was “excusing away” compliments for my daughters that were directed to me. For example, “oh, your daughter speaks really clearly for a 3 year old”, and I’d respond with something like “yeah, but she didn’t walk until she was almost 2” like I didn’t want to brag or something. That’s so dumb. I’ve stopped doing that now, too, and hopefully am setting a good example for the girls on how to accept a compliment 🙂

    1. @ARC – so true about children hearing how we do with compliments, including compliments of the children. Though I always find it funny how many people will speak in front of children as if they aren’t there. Someone told me how smart my daughter was in front of her, and she said “I am smart!” and I was thinking yep, and she’s not deaf either.

      Pittsburgh is definitely gentrifying in parts, and is landing on some lists of cool places to live – while still relatively affordable (unlike, say, San Francisco).

  2. That burger sounds amazing. I love that you eat normal food! I know that sounds strange but it often feels like every blog I read is written by someone with a weird diet.

    1. @Tory- hah. Well, some days are better than others. I’m generally trying to eat limited quantities of what tastes good. I think my weight has pretty much settled where it’s going to be for someone who runs a reasonable amount, but also really, really likes to eat.

  3. I’ve finally gotten the compliments thing down, after years of self-deprecating comments and denial. “Thank you! That is so nice to say” or, when its true “you made my day!” Though somehow I can’t do this with my husband, I revert to the “ha ha, you’re joking right?” and it annoys him.

  4. Similar to replies above, I smile and answer something like “Thanks for saying that.” or “Thanks for telling me.” If it’s about the way I did or handled something, I may add a remark about how I find their comment encouraging.

    I do a lot of crafting and I’m afraid I still brush off a lot of comments about my work. I just think anyone could do it so it’s nothing special. But that’s where “Thanks for saying that” or even “I’m glad you like it” works b/c you don’t have to negate or accept what they say while still being appreciative. (I think.)

  5. I am so bad at accepting compliments-because I think lots of med school and grad school training have taught me that they can’t POSSIBLY be complimenting me! I’m the village idiot of the lab! (Not really, but when it took 3 months to figure out what it took a postdoc 10 minutes, it’s hard not to feel that way) I usually just look down and mumble something and give my mentor all the credit (win win!)

    We do have one fellow in our lab whom I absolutely love. She is a phenomenal doctor and scientist and incredibly direct with her feedback-so when she praises me for my work or work ethic, I really get amazed.

    Pittsburgh is on the list for residency-close to my parents AND my sister/BIL. Unfortunately, I told my parents it was on the list and they happily told everyone I’m moving ‘back from the West Coast to Pittsburgh’.

    1. @GradStudent – I do think many of us try to figure out how to sound humble, but also accept a compliment graciously. I think it’s important to realize that the virtue of modesty/humility is shown in many ways, not just the “aw shucks it was nothing” when paid a compliment.

  6. Sounds like a wonderful time! Speaking professionally is very draining, so having a chance to recover with a good meal is wonderful!

    For compliments, I was able to get passed the need to dismiss or apologize that “it’s really not a big deal.. It’s an old outfit… /this great piece of work was nothing much” etc. by constantly reminding myself that most people don’t have this background. They have no idea if this work is really small compared to other things I can do, so why not take it at face value?
    But more than anything, it really changed when I Started complimenting peope more consciencely. When I started making a point to compliment people often, I realized how many of the reponses were apologetic. That made me super aware, so now I breathe once or twice after saying “thank you” to a compliment. If I still have to say something, it is not an apology!

  7. Nothing to do with taking compliment, which, incidentally, I’ve become a lot better at doing over the year; however, I do have a suggestion/request about a future blog post. I keep seeing this idea pop up: instead of having a to do list, schedule what you want to do in your calendar. What do you think of this idea? How would that work for longer-term projects. What about things you just want to fill in during those 10 minutes of down time. To me, scheduling down to the minute (recommended in that same opinion piece) seems exhausting and time-consuming. Would love to hear your take!

    1. @Rinna- I think the idea is that people often put things on their “to-do” lists that they don’t intend to do. If you put it on your calendar, it is more likely to get done. However, I don’t really have that issue. If I put it on my weekly priority list, I do really intend to do it, so I don’t need to schedule every minute. If it is a particularly busy week I will look at my calendar and think, roughly, about when things might happen but I think this particular system is as much about creating accountability as anything else. And, I’d add, in order to know what you need to schedule you need to think about it. You may as well write that down somewhere and, wow! We have a to-do list. Even if we don’t intend to call it that 🙂

    2. Cal Newport talks about this in Deep Work – the idea of a “block schedule” where you plan out your work day in advance by the half hour, filling each slot with big tasks and interspersing them with the little stuff like email catchup, errands etc.

      For someone like me who vastly overestimates what I can get done in a day (and forgets that some days are 5 hours of meetings), this is useful because I can see on certain days that some things just don’t FIT. I do this in a paper planner (in pencil) rather than in my “calendar of record” which is Outlook for work. I need to have this on paper in front of me.

  8. On compliments – I am terrible at this, so looking forward to your article. When asked my profession (chemical engineer) I often get the response, “Wow, you must be really smart!!” Um… well, I am smart, so I don’t want to say I’m not, but it’s not everything and I have nowhere to go with this conversation. This makes me so uncomfortable that I frequently downplay my job: I just say “engineer” or identify by what industry I work in rather than my job role.

    1. @Byrd – that is a tricky one. I mean, yes, obviously, you are smart! Maybe something along the lines of “Thank you, I love what I do.” or “That you, it’s a wonderful and fascinating field.”

  9. Enjoyed your two article links very much, especially the one about someone else taking credit for your ideas, which I also discuss when I give teambuilding seminars. There were other ideas I’d have added, but there was no place for comments, unfortunately.

    1. @Louisa- Thanks. I would be happy to have the comments here! But yes, it seems Fast Co decided the comments in general weren’t adding much to the website. It’s interesting to think that a lot of sites have decided that the discussion can just take place on social media.

  10. The person whose idea was grabbed says, “I like the way you adapted my idea.”
    But the best line I ever heard was a firefighter (in one of my trainings) who told the group that she had said, at a team meeting, “Am I on acid? I thought I said that!”
    The whole room broke up laughing.

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