How to Get Away WITH
I know I am a bit late to the game, but I only recently started watching and then getting addicted to Shonda Rhimes' TV drama How to Get Away with Murder on Netflix that came out in 2014. I always was a late bloomer. Beyond the high drama and antics, what I absolutely love about the show is the gender role reversal: a guy going down on a lady, a male assistant to a female boss, a guy wanting to be more than a piece of meat, and the list goes on. I am hooked. Thanks, Shonda. You've done it again.
On my recent podcast with my Finnish collaborator Ilkka, we invited Sani Leino to join us. Ilkka is the Business Area Director of The University of Helsinki's Center for Continuing Education HY+. In the past, Ilkka and I have cross-culturally collaborated on some crazy things: Skyping each other into workshops, inspiring each other's students when he was a lecturer, and our latest and greatest collaboration is a HAPPY Hour podcast. Ilkka is always good for a "YEAH! Let's do it!" Sani is a good friend of Ilkka's and the Sales Director for Europe at Thinglink. He just so happens to be one of the most positive people in Finland besides Ilkka. In his own words, Sani claims he believes in AGGRESSIVE POSITIVITY. Sounds like a total oxymoron, but is it?
Before our podcast session, the three of us had a conference call to catch up and brainstorm for the session.
"You know, it's not like I wake up positive all the time. It's a choice. People have a choice to be positive," Sani said in an upbeat tone reflecting his own mantra.
"Yeah, I would say my whole thing is brutal optimism," Ilkka chimed in excitedly. I looked at these two through my laptop screen feeling so fortunate to just bask in the positive rays they were emanating halfway across the globe in Korea.
"One of my friends passed away recently and on my way to the store the other day I thought: why do people receive so many more flowers when they are gone than when they are alive?" Sani continued.
It made me think back to my days at boarding school when we would take the yellow school bus down to town and buy sunflowers for friends' birthdays or just because (they were bummed out about someone/something). I thought about the time I would visit John (a florist) in Harvard Square when I was at grad school, and buy myself a $10 bouquet of roses every week. I thought about how whenever my mom and I would argue, I would buy her a bouquet of roses, get them wrapped and tied with a ribbon that matched the roses. I thought about how my husband makes sure to buy me flowers on a regular basis (even though they are super expensive here in Korea) just because he can actually afford to now.
Why do we wait? To treat ourselves to things we love, hangout with people we love, do things we love?
The answer lies within our brains. Enter the Reticular Activating System (RAS). It lives in our medulla and basically lets trivial things go and alerts us of "life-threatening" dangers. Well, back in the day, when we were cave dwellers, this was a great system: Lion coming! RUNNNNNNN! Nowadays, Boss coming! RUNNNNNN?! Not really the same threat level. Ok, for most of us anyways.
Our tendency towards negativity and doom and gloom is ingrained. Perhaps that's why How to Get Away with Murder is so addictive?
In a recent conversation with a former student last night he said, "I really have to think hard to choose positivity over negativity now that I am out of college and working." I told him about Sani and his idea of AGGRESSIVE POSITIVITY. He seemed to really like the concept. "You know, I don't want to bring my dreams and hopes to my grave," he continued. I shared Sani's story about the flowers and told him to not wait on those either.
So how do we get away WITH
Aggressive positivity. For every negative thought the RAS puts into your brain, you fight it just as hard as Viola Davis fought to get her role in How to Get Away with Murder as badass lawyer Annalise Keating; and just as hard as she then fought to be the first African-American actress to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2015. Shero status!
So I have a confession: I haven't actually met Sani in person. Last year when I went to Finland, Ilkka put together an incredible dinner for me on my last night there. He called it The Global Leadership Dinner and invited 20 or so people whom he believed were the thought leaders of Finland: it was a veritable mix of the most amazing + inspiring people I have ever met in my life in one room. I didn't know how to thank each and every one of them, so I decided to write them each a hand-crafted crayon card =). I left Sani's at the front desk of my hotel as he was unable to attend the dinner.
A week later, I received a Facebook video message from him: "Some people feel the rain; others just get wet. A quote from an American singer song writer named Roger Miller. I believe you are the type of person who feels the rain, Kyla." He was sitting in his car after he had picked up his crayon card. It was raining outside.
Now that's some aggressive positivity. Thanks Sani. May you continue to feel the rain too.