Confession: I love The Nutcracker. Since the very first production I saw, in 19-mumble-mumble, I’ve been under its spell, all incarnations included. (Even the weird film version (affiliate link), which boasted as its production designer none other than the great Maurice Sendak, author and illustrator of beloved kids’ lit like Where the Wild Things Are. affiliate link)

It occurred to me a couple of months ago that my four-year-old niece was probably now old enough to appreciate it. So I got us a pair of front-row tickets, and told her about the show: the dancing! The costumes! Sugarplum fairies! Mice having sword fights with toy soldiers! As I talked, her jaw dropped, her eyes got bigger and bigger, and I thought she would jump out of her skin with excitement. She was so on board with it. Anytime it came up in conversation, she jumped up and down a little. She couldn’t wait.

Photo by oldskool photography on Unsplash

Then, the night before the big event, she sought out my mom, worriedly.

“Grandma, I just don’t think I can go,” she said.

Shocked, my mom asked her why.

“Well…I don’t know very much at all! I only know this and this,” she said, demonstrating the two ballet moves she’s probably learned from watching Peppa Pig, or some such. So dawned the realization that my niece thought she would have to perform the ballet. She was, of course, immediately reassured that no, she wouldn’t be expected to perform–she needed only to sit and enjoy the show.

What pressure! How she must have sweated over it in the weeks leading up to that day!

And it was entirely self-imposed.

How many times has each of us done that — taken on overwhelming tasks because we think it’s expected of us? How often do we assume that agreeing to a pleasurable thing also means agreeing to something arduously stressful? And perhaps worst of all, how often do we say no to a fantastic opportunity because we assume that it will involve something arduously stressful?

The answer, of course, is to clarify. Speak up. Ask for details. Check in with yourself. We get so busy, particularly toward the end of the year, that it’s easy to assume. (And I think we all know what happens when we assume. If you don’t, feel free to email me and I can fill you in.)

Self-imposed expectations are a tough nut to crack. Give yourself and others the gift of clear and managed expectations, so you can sit back and enjoy the show. – Emma Alvarez Gibson


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Emma here. You may remember me as the woman who so disliked conferences that Mike felt compelled to write a blog post for her. And that’s okay if you do — but you should know that I no longer dislike them. Along with all 23 of those helpful tips for introverts in that post, what helped was attending the right conferences. Who knew? The last one I went to was so good I was already looking forward to the following year. (I’m enthusiastic by nature, but that was a new experience.)

So yes, I’ve come around. In fact, I’ve already got a conference lined up for the first part of January, and it’s one that sounds so good I want to tell people about it ahead of time.


First of all, it’s a creativity and innovation conference, and as you know that’s kind of our jam here at Brainzooming. Secondly, the sessions and speakers are impressive (hello, Disney / NASA JPL / Game of Thrones / Westworld / Ewan McGregor and many others). Third, it’s for professionals across industries and from around the world. Fourth: it’s in Ojai, CA, which is a beautiful, quirky, and deeply peaceful place to stay. Fifth, I love this aspect, from the website: This event provides a point in time for attendees to disconnect from a heavily tech-saturated world, disrupt routine habits and patterns of thought and discover new insights to catalyze greater creativity and innovation in their professional and personal lives.

Obviously, with all of that going for it, it’s called EPIC, and I would love to see you there. It’s happening January 10-12, with an optional day trip on the 13th to the Channel Islands.
You’ll want to take advantage of the Brainzooming Community discount rate of $749 — that’s a $500 discount, and includes meals except Friday night dinner. To grab that rate, go to www.epicsummit.com/register and use promo code EPICBRAINZOOMING19.

For the full scoop, go to www.epicsummit.com.

If you decide to go, drop me a line! I’d love to meet up with you.  – Emma Alvarez Gibson

Download Your FREE eBook! Disrupting Thinking - 13 Exercises to Imagine Disrupting Your Brand


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There’s a meme — perhaps you know it — in which two stick figures are trying very hard to make plans to get together. Reviewing their calendars, they trade offers and counteroffers until finally they embrace, tearfully, saying, “It was so nice knowing you!” and “I’ll never forget you!”

Adult friendships, it turns out, require a different level of care and persistence. They can be overwrought with complexity.  We’re not often completely sure about its boundaries or rules. We wonder, we worry. And yet we don’t talk about it much.

Enter Randi Buckley and Dyana Valentine.

Last Saturday, I joined forces with these two inimitable women to record episode 3 of their podcast series, The Challenges of Adult Friendships. It’s an ongoing conversation that explores “the terrain, confusion, gravity, importance, grieving, and nuances of adult friendships,” a topic I think about often, and one I was excited to discuss with these two fascinating and brilliant women. We talked about some of the things that happen around the question of, “What if they don’t want to be friends with me?” We also laughed. A lot.

We haven’t yet figured out how to solve the challenges inherent in adult friendships, but there’s something intensely freeing, and–I hope–helpful about this type of discussion. You can listen in to the podcast here — click on episode 3, far right. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the Challenges of Adult Friendships! Emma Alvarez Gibson

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