Coloring outside the lines: can it be taught?

I recently finished Rules of Civility.  Set in NYC in 1938, the main character is a spunky gal making it on her own.  I’d recommend the book for many reasons, but the protagonist particularly impressed me when she went after a job in a nontraditional fashion.  Instead of brushing up on her cover letter, she stalked her hopeful boss at his lunch spot, pretended to be meeting someone else, and then dropped a novel of mutual interest on his table.  I’ll let you read whether the gambit works.

Granted, this is fiction.  But these things do happen in real life.  Take this guy: post WWII he borrows money to buy a new car, drives it halfway across the country for a business meeting, parks it strategically, is all like “oh, you like this car,” and gives the car to secure the distributor contract.

I would not do these things.  It isn’t just that I wouldn’t do it; it would never even occur to me to do them.  Take Martine Rothblatt as another example.  There are about a billion examples in this (lengthy) article, but it would never occur to me to start my own religion.  That just seems out of the bounds of things that one can do.  (I guess I am not honoring my Lutheran heritage by thinking that way.)

Or Bill Murray as another one.  Running up to people on the street to warn them about a lobster on the loose just isn’t something you can do.  Right?  (I know, I know, tell that to Billy Eichner.)

The Confidence Code, another recent read, talks about how women are generally great at school because they are good at following the rules; however, rule following may not serve you well in the real world.  The book also mentions that women tend to ruminate about things more, where a guy could just shrug it off and try again.

My confidence is a little on the low side right now.  Some of it is from navigating a country with a foreign language and different customs.  Some of it is from learning how to juggle two kids in public.

I’ve decided to work on this.  I’m thinking about a series of “confidence challenges.”  Baby steps.  Things like purchasing produce at the outdoor market, getting a cappuccino with the kids, taking the kids on public transit, and actually going to the weekly playgroup across the park.  Besides making myself do more, I’m also going to try not to beat myself up about them.  If an Italian occasionally thinks I’m a clueless foreigner, this really should not be a big deal.

This morning at the grocery store, I transacted with the seafood guy.   A first.  Baby steps.  And you never know, by next year I could be approaching random Italians at Villa Borghese to warn them about runaway lobsters.



confidence code

street market