Out on a Limb
A Monthly Newsletter from Martha Clark Scala
Invest in bringing joy back to your life.
April 2013



Welcome to Out on a Limb, a monthly newsletter from Martha Clark Scala. This free e-zine is meant to invite and inspire you to maximize the joy in your life.

Leave the Stats Behind

In the March issue of Out on a Limb, you may recall I shared this last line from Louise Erdrich’s poem, Advice for Myself: “this ruse you call necessity.” The first line of that poem is: “Leave the dishes.” Poetry being what poetry is, you could take the poet’s advice literally, metaphorically or both. I have spent a couple of months now trying my damnedest to leave the dishes. What are your dishes? What chews up a lot of actual time, or real estate in your mind? And do these dishes bring you joy or sorrow? Contentment or consternation? For some, it can be incredibly soothing to clean up a kitchen. For others, the joy of clean dishes is outweighed by the distress if you feel that your work is never done. After all, most of us eat three meals a day so the dishes do not ever end. Oy.

The set of dishes I have a hard time leaving in the sink is called Stats. Statistics. Performance reports. The number of “Likes” for a post on Facebook or professional contacts with whom you are Linked In. The number of people on the mailing list for this newsletter, etc. That kind of Stats. I worked as a bookkeeper while going to graduate school and loved the concreteness of it so you would not expect someone like me to say that stats is a dirty word, would you? For now, it is. Here’s why: while useful in many ways, the longing for better stats can alter our course away from where our gifts truly shine.

Stats are an arbitrary measure of performance. However, Mike Krukow, a commentator for the San Francisco Giants baseball team, often points out that a pitcher’s ERA (a statistic that reflects a pitcher’s Earned Run Average) does not tell the whole story, and it may not accurately reflect the pitcher’s talent. If the goal is to have a low ERA, a pitcher can have one bad inning, give up a bunch of runs, and his ERA skyrockets. Maybe the pitcher had a temporary lapse in pitch control but is usually “lights out.” Maybe pitchers in the bullpen were stressed in the previous day’s game so the manager kept the starting pitcher in the game longer to rest some of his relievers. Etc.

“Gone viral” describes an escalating Stat that tells us how many discrete computer users have viewed an artistic masterpiece, a laugh-out-loud pratfall by an animal or human, or a turn-on-the-tear-faucet video on YouTube. That is how success gets defined and measured. I fear this sets us up for constant striving. I recently saw a stellar performance on TV by a teenager and I shared her evident joy when she was interviewed afterward. My joy turned to deep sadness when the young woman said she was excited because this would increase the number of followers she had on Twitter. Really? That Stat is more important than the performance itself? Oh my.

This fanatical focus on Stats overlooks the quiet successes and impacts each of us has on one another every day. There is no Stat to measure when someone is troubled and calls upon their memory of a mentor or parent or teacher to ask themselves, “what would Mom/Auntie/Professor do in this situation?” There is no Stat to measure the deep impact that one poem can have on one person, as Louise Erdrich’s poem has had on me, but sometimes this impact is life changing! And finally, there is no Stat to quantify the joy we might derive from a video that has either gone viral or not. So yes, we need Stats. They cannot be abolished. But I say leave the dishes. Leave the Stats behind sometimes. They will not measure your infinite worth. You are not your Stats.

Quantity vs. Quality

Leave it to my husband to offer this mathematical analogy for framing the Stats of how we make a difference. He suggests we look at the desire to “mean something” as the area of a box where length is the number of people we impact and width is the depth or degree of impact. Some have great long boxes, or fame. Others have more width than length. If we make an effort to leave the Stats behind, even if as a temporary exercise, perhaps we will gain greater clarity about our “width.” Perhaps obsessions with quantities can fade out while the joy of quality burns bright. By the way, the description of this analogy illustrates the “width” of Bill Scala’s profound impact on me. Year in, year out.


An Antidote to Obsession with Stats

Thanks to serendipity, I just got an e-mail from a friend with a link to a video at YouTube that is well on its way to going viral, but that is not why I watched it. I took a look because this friend always sends me timely gems. I watched, I wept, and then wondered: how does this relate to my topic? Bingo! Our interactions with pets are usually pretty Stats-free! What a terrific antidote to this electronic world’s obsession with Stats. If you are a pet owner, go give that critter a hug and ask it to be your teacher. Pets will offer you no Stats whatsoever. Hurray! This anecdote illustrates the quality of Claudette Bergman’s impact on me. There are no Stats to measure this, either. Enough said.

Joy-Gram for April 2013

Identify the dishes that you have a hard time leaving in the sink. And then leave them for a bit. Notice what happens! Notice whether some joy drops in for a visit.

“People will forget what you said …
they will forget what you did
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

                                          ~ Maya Angelou

Your April 2013 Prompts for Joy

Click here to see the video that Claudette Bergman sent to me.  A must-see if you are a dog lover. 

Click here for a quality moment that is Stats-free. (Thank you, Akaya Windwood!)

Do a Daily Dance: Bring on the Joy!

The #1 video on the D.D.D. playlist for this month did not go viral but it’s a delightful half-a-minute! Check it out by clicking here then view the 1st video in the playlist.

Pictured Above

My sister is another person who has had an immeasurable impact on me. For starters, she is intrepid. She also taught me how to drive, how to dump the Queen of Spades in a competitive game of Hearts, and she is a model of resilience. She also really knows how to leave the dishes. This picture was taken by Geoffrey Clark in El Paso, Texas circa Easter, 1957.

Archives Available

To re-read or share past Out On A Limb newsletters, click here, or type the following url into your browser: http://www.mcscala.com/html/EZineArchives.html.

By no means do I have joy “figured out.” Please do not assume that I do! I write Out On a Limb as much as a meditation for myself in the ongoing pursuit of joy, as for you. I think this pursuit is a lifelong journey and that the full experience of joy is, at best, episodic. May we all have more episodes!


Martha Clark Scala, MFT · 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303 ·

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