What’s Your Problem?! Finding Your Own.

“Some are young people who don’t know who they are, what they can be or even want to be. They are afraid, but they don’t know of what. They are angry, but they don’t know at whom. They are rejected and they don’t know why. All they want is to be somebody. ”
― Pathways To Perfection: Discourses Of Thomas S. Monson

My Wattshop blog is in many ways about solving problems with emerging It's not the answers, but the questions that matter as you begin.adults in mind — that includes me.

I am not trying to solve anyone else’s problems, really. It begins with me. Solving my own problems is the debt I have the honor of paying and it has an upside to it. Solving my own problems and doing it publicly builds trust in myself and influence among others. Eventually it provides leadership in this big ol’ world.  So let your little light shine!

Don’t believe me? Conquer your own problems and watch who notices.

This year I am upping my game as an “emerging adult” with an ambitious attitude to own my own greatness (and thereby failures). The big question I invite each of you to ask yourself daily is what problem do you really need to solve?

I used to say, without thinking, procrastination. I hear it still from dozens of students, esp. here in the U.S.. But it’s not what you think, people. In fact, you’re not even thinking. You’re thoughting. Saying what you think you should say or repeating what others expect you to say. That’s not thinking.  And, if we were truly honest with ourselves (hold on…truth-telling moment… incoming) we already know how to solve that one!  As a Ukrainian student I loved once said in her thick accent to another student who didn’t get it, “Aye know why you diddent call hur. Because you diddent want to do tha wurk!!” Brilliant!  He didn’t like what she had to say but the truth always hurts.

As Baumeister and Tierney write in their fabulously practical book Willpower,

“The best way to reduce stress in your life is to stop screwing up” (2011, 238).

We don’t want to do the work. Start with that as fact and then perhaps ask the question. What problem do I really need to solve in that? That’s a problem to seriously think about and consider. Maybe you’re not doing the right kind of work or there are other kinds of work that would move you, even agitate you, into action. What works for me is not your answer. Find you own!

The question “What is your problem?” might occur very differently if you give yourself time to study, think and plan. You need clarity, space and 20-30 mins a day to start! You cannot own your own greatness by using other people’s answers or questions. Find your own!


Houston, We Have a Problem! (On the Necessities of Invention)

I’m back!!! Generating at a new current of electricity online under the banner of KyraOcity’s WattShop (Converting Wishbones to Backbones).  These are my power lines.


I was on a training call tonight and got a fresh insight into the expression “necessity is the mother of invention.” Setting immediate deadlines that agitate your sense of urgency can be self-imposed. And perhaps they should be, cuz too often I don’t like when others set deadlines for me. So this is a countdown of sorts.

The video from National Geographic above tells the story of the necessity of invention during the Apollo 13 mission. Let me paraphrase a blog I found while googling the expression.

On the Apollo 13 mission, mission control at the Houston Space Center had a problem at hand after an explosion on-board the vessel forced them to save on electricity and oxygen. The engineers discovered that the astronauts could make it back to earth but they would not have enough air to survive the time needed to return. So the countdown began.

On the ground back in Houston, engineers copied all the parts that they knew where available in the space station and within an extremely short time span managed to invent a new gadgets that could clean CO2 out of the air so that they could survive. I love this story and thank the blogger Sonja Chirico Indrebø for her inspiration.

(The Students in the Room)

The real inspiration came from my own life and the students in my classrooms. Yesterday was a challenging one for me as I realized my own interests in talking about my teaching style (a bit of navel-gazing and egocentrism) were limiting the learning needs for instruction in my courses. My internal mission control was screaming, “Kyra, we have a problem!” I’d been feeling the impact of it, like free falling and sensing I was losing oxygen. I hit rock bottom Thursday night.

After making myself self feel “guilt,” “shame,” and “powerlessness” which led to wasting most of the next morning Wednesday suffering, it was a welcome change at the end of that day to be in a conversation on my training call (unrelated to teaching) that dealt with confronting what we ordinary people don’t ordinarily confront with actual study and urgent invention. We don’t usually analyze the parts we have and reinvent but honey, now I see a light.

After wallowing in feelings about what went wrong, I was behaving as if things were not urgent, like with the Apollo 13 mission. What if I were to act as if they are urgent? What if I, with cooperation from my students, can engineer “some existing parts” to “invent new gagdets” in my instruction right now. I had started to mollify myself into thinking it’ll take two weeks.

Yes, anything lasting takes time but the invention must be quick when things are in danger of falling apart. Sometimes you must demonstrate the change to yourself quickly before anything else.

Being ambitious about your work means having the courage to study and invent that which is urgently needed–in this case, instructing vs. professing–as if the clock is ticking:  10, 9, 8, 7, 6…


In my first class on Thurday, the students in my political sociology course had a conversation about feelings of “guilt,” “shame” and “powerlessness” that surfaced as they read a graphic novel as critique of capitalism by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco called Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt (2011).

The first chapter “Days of Siege” tells a story of extreme poverty, racism, alcoholism, and exploitation on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, which is one of the poorest places in the United States of what was once Native America.

In a moment of inspiration and curiosity, I posed a question to my 36 students:

What if those three things–“guilt,” “shame” and feeling “powerless” in the face of changing our own habits, much less changing society’s problems, are the very things stopping us from realizing we can make a difference?

As part of a radical orientation to micro-sociologies, I have asked 36 students to study their own habits and their various social ecologies in this election season. They expressed interests in changing procrastinating, overeating, not getting enough sleep, eating poorly, snoozing, doing for everyone else, exercise, scoring high on the GMATs, and more. Sometimes in changing those individual habits which are far less challenging than changing society’s problems, we face those very same challenges–guilt, shame and powerlessness–that stop us from being in action and realizing the difference we can make  at a local and global level.

Tolstoy once wrote “Everybody wants to change the world. No one wants to change themself.”

That’s a great place to return to in my class instruction, but for now I have other work of my own to do–nose to the grind stone, creative, urgent and necessary work to get my feet back down on earth of being an instructor (not a professor).

“Kyra, we have a problem!”

Once you declare a problem, it’s urgent to get into action or procrastination and powerlessness are what lives in our brains (neuroscience and research on willpower are a testament to this). In those moments you don’t act on the problems of real life, the truths we face, feel and resist confronting, we miss opportunity to be creative and invent.

So all I guess I can say now is Ride, Sally Ride!! Ride!  Sally, Ride!!

It’s a serendipitous little riddle. If you know anything about my scholarly book on black girls’ musical games and the history of female astronauts, it’ll make sense. So, put your hands on your hips and let your backbone slip! I’ll keep ya posted on my demonstrations of progress. For now, signing off with

5, 4, 3, 2, 1…blastoff!