You know about Clifton StrengthsFinder? It’s an assessment tool that’s a locator of your easy things.

Every time I’ve shaken its Magic 8 Ball, one attribute always features first.

No, (blush), it’s not magnanimity, wisdom, or humility. Thank you, though. I’m humbled.

It’s Input. 🤖

When I was a kid, my version of “You’re not the boss of me” was, “You’re not the TEACHER!” 

Or [tɛɪi-tʃəɹɹɹɹɹ] for an International Phonetic Alphabet transcription of my Surry County tot-twang.

See? I even IPA my hills-n-hollers cradle dialect. Input.

I collect data like it’s my 4th grade rock menagerie, and I’m mystified when my exuberant educational evangelism yields glazed eyes and grocery list contemplation in the listener.

Lordt, I’m remembering one of the first academic classes I taught and the informational firehose I pumped out (via Power Point, of course).

No wonder one of the student reflections stated, “Lectures were boring.” Not to ME! I overworked HARD on those rabbit trails about the Princess Musicals and Dorothy Parker! 

And now we arrive at the jammed junction where Clifton Strength meets Callaway Cluster.

If I can make it harder, I will.

I own the bizarro version of the Staples Easy Button–

–a Rube Goldberg contraption of levers, gears, and pulleys, and when the little ball bearing lands in the cup at the end, a voice exclaims, “That was satisfyingly complex!”

I don’t mind taking one sock down to add to the laundry only to realize I left the songbook on the steps. No worries. I’ll just take that downstairs, too, while I leave the iPad on the kitchen table for a separate trip to the charger. 

Doesn’t frustrate me in the least. 

This week I tormented my soul trying to select an online scheduler that could accept credit cards, send automatic reminders, and julienne sweet potato fries; I knew the wrong software would lead to the imminent demise of everything.

So I toiled and brewed, becoming the person attacked by Tupperware on an infomercial before the low-larynx voiceover intones, “Introducing…💫” 

The irony is not lost: I subject myself to a morass of brain complexity and fantasy flow chart in search of a magical system that promises simplicity. “You just teach and let us do the rest.” 🤯

I knew what I needed to do.

(thanks to a Marie Forleo podcast one time about how to get your head to stop yelling at you.)

I got on the elliptical machine I was super resistant to us buying and has turned out to be a body and brain saver. Thanks, Melissa-Lee. 

After fifteen minutes, a lotta sweat drops, and answering questions from lil Jude about dinosaurs and what’s ewwiptical mean? in ragged two-word fragments, things started to clear up.

I didn’t need the software.

I needed paper and pen.

Complication was my way of getting in my way.

Do you have a thing like that?

A tricky moth-to-flame resistance activity that claims you’re making progress while you know you’re wheel-spinning and slinging mud on your windshield? 

Lemme tell you what my complexity movie montages backed by Avil Lavigne’s 2002 chart-topper do for me.

I bet your own clever machinations will become clearer to you, too.

It protects me from ease.

Why would you wanna be protected from ease? That’s crazy.


Making things hard upholds an early belief I crafted —  I get everything through hard work. (This includes love and acceptance.)

Even miraculously free and un-earnable things like breath (I know how to do it well because I’m a singer) or health (I eat this, and I exercise this way) become star charts. 

I’m a poor vacationer, board game player, and mid-day movie watcher. I’m working on it.

It keeps me out of action and away from the unknown.

When I was in the UK, I never even crossed the Channel.

You know why? I didn’t want to go anywhere I didn’t speak the language, and I woulda been lost in Spain, anyway.

My need to KNOW things and LOOK like I knew was consuming.

And who cared? Ding ding ding — moi. 

It shields me from rejection, being a beginner, and feeling inept.

Offering anything to anybody means they could say no. So, if you don’t offer, they can’t say no. Opening yourself to any kind of response from folks — same.

And when you try something new, even if it’s a new version of something you’ve done for years, you have the just-born fawn stumble going on for a while.

What if we cheered ourselves on like a grandparent claps for their 13-month-old grandbaby standing, stepping, stumbling, and standing again? We’d probably get moving with a lot less self-inflicted cortisol. 

I think I need to look fancy.

On our road trip back from NC, Noah took on a regal identity when he donned the Burger King crown he picked up in Staunton, Virginia. Together with one of Gram’s necklaces he couldn’t resist taking as a souvenir, he knew he was looking special.

When he climbed into the back seat after lunch, he asked, “Daddy, do you think all those people knew I was a king?”

“I’m sure they did, buddy.”

And how is keen sense of audience perception an inheritable trait? 🧬

I’ve added bells and whistles to my business that I don’t need because I think they look impressive. It’s the equivalent of financing a car you can’t afford so that you look like you have more money than you do. 

So, now I’m writing my active client and waiting list down on a super simple couple pages in my bullet journal, and it’s like a life changing magic of complexity release moment. Sparks all kinds of joy not to mention freedom, relief, and as intensely uncomfortable as it is, EASE.

I leave you with this.

If you can remember to ask yourself this question for life AND singing, things can go pretty well:

How can this be easier?

And if there’s no practical way to make something easier, how can you go easier? On you and everybody around you?

I think this is what we have to ask ourselves in 2023. Things aren’s getting easier on their own, so how can you walk through with love and tenderness toward you and the world you’re connected to?

Moving through like that, you’ll share more. And that’s good because I do believe with all my heart that there’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing.

Love much,

ps If you want to know more about Clifton StrenghtFinder (or their new rebrand as CliftonStrengths), it’s here.

pps If you ever have presentations to make or talks to give, I recommend any and all of Echo Rivera’s resources.  Her stuff saved me from creating more death by power point. Another terrific resource for teaching and talking is Dr. Patrick Wilson’s talk at MIT. Together we can end Power Point abuse. 

ppps Please do yourself a huge favor and watch this. 🎹💙 This feature from CBS Sunday Morning made my week. It’s just 2 and a half minutes, and your soul will say thank you. There is good and beauty in the world.