Bacana Notions is the name of our short ‘n sweet weekly blog.  We aspire to have each Notion in some way capture the essence of the Bacana vision statement.

no·tion noun \ˈnō-shən\ an impression, a concept,
a theory, a whim, or a belief held by a person or group

A Bacana Notion could spark a new thought or give you a grin in the middle of a long day.  It may even provide you with that helpful advice you’ve been waiting for.

the walls and shelves of a room of one’s own

For my high school graduation, my Aunt Alice gave me the book A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. The title says it all.

I’ve been thinking lately of how that room of my own affects the work I do. I have a small room in my apartment that has been designated as my office. And in that room, I have carefully chosen the books on the shelves, the pictures on the walls, and the location of my desk. I happen to find it inspiring to, when I work, see a photo of my great-grandmother, a collage of people I admire pinned to a bulletin board, books that are particularly meaningful on the shelf next to me, framed pictures that were gifts from friends hanging on the wall, and a tiny rubber frog sitting on my desk because… well, just because. My office is inviting to me, comfortable for me, and, everywhere I look, I am reminded of what grounds and inspires me.

Some of you have an office away from home or a cubicle away from home or a work corner in your living room. Whatever and wherever your office room is, consciously creating the atmosphere around you, even if it’s hanging a single photograph, makes it a room of your own.

What are your suggestions for creating that special work space?

risk the poo

When birds fly overhead, I simultaneously think “how pretty” and “please don’t poo on me.” On this day, it was the same for this monkey. (It was a narrow miss for the latter.)

Some of the most wonderful things in the world are capable of that dichotomy — joy and / or crap at any given moment.

Are you willing to risk the poo to see the wonder?


impossible thoughts run through my head

“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
– Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony’s enthusiasm about the bicycle makes me wonder what she would have thought of a woman driving a car or a woman piloting a plane or a woman flying in a spaceship. At that point in our history, she could hardly imagine a woman filing for divorce or running for Congress or owning property!

Susan B. Anthony did, however, imagine that women could one day legally vote in this country. She devoted her life to that imagining. And what she imagined did indeed come to be.

But even though we still ride bikes with abandon, we are, in 2014, living lives that Susan B. Anthony couldn’t even imagine. We are living, to her, impossible lives.

It makes me wonder if the things that I believe are impossible are actually… possible.

a complicated penguin

It was a sunny day on the last day of September at London Zoo, and this penguin was feeling it. Basking in it proudly.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about zoos. Wanting the animals to be in their natural habitats rather than on display in enclosures or behind bars. At the same time, understanding the vital role the better zoos play in conservation and education.

I thought about all of those things on my visit. Some animal areas made me feel profoundly sad. That bird is supposed to fly over the mountaintops, but his wingspan is half the width of his too-small enclosure. And some made me feel really hopeful. That animal is massively endangered in the wild from illegal poaching; thank goodness for this safe refuge.

This complicated conversation in my thoughts reminds me that there are times when we all live with contradiction. That sometimes there is no clear-cut resolution on the radar.

The navigation there is to not let the contradiction be crippling. I can’t let not having the “right” choice keep me from making any choice. Action comes from careful deliberation in my mind and with trusted colleagues, and then definite commitment.

Where are some areas you feel contradiction? How do you navigate those?


knowing a number by heart

I can tell you the phone numbers of four childhood friends from the 1980s. And the phone numbers of both of my grandmothers who’ve long ago passed away. But important phone numbers in my life now? Uh, let me think on that one.

Okay. I think I know two. Or maybe three. And that’s including my parents’ phone number which has been the same since before I was born.

Our list of contacts is so easily accessed with the swipe of an iPhone screen, the tap of a name. Convenient, yes, but what if I’m in an emergency and I’ve lost my phone?

I got this idea to give a list of emergency numbers to the three people whose phone numbers I have memorized. So, say, I’m locked out of my New York apartment without a phone, I can call my parents in Kentucky from a pay phone or anywhere and say, “What’s my landlord’s number?” Or I could call my sister and ask for my doctor’s unlisted cell number, for example.

We take for granted that information is always at our fingertips. It’s good to take precautions, though, for when it’s not. Do you have any tips to share?

lost in the paper shuffle at tax time?

“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.”
– Harvey MacKay

I’ll add something to this… For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned, as well as a new level of awareness.

Let’s just apply this to the question of bookkeeping. Picture this… It’s tax time, and you’re surrounded with manila folders of bank statements and a shoebox of receipts, trying to shuffle through them all to determine what your deductible expenses are for the past year. Nothing is clear, and you spend hours sorting through the papers.

Even if you are very neat about keeping your statements in categorized folders, you still need to take the time to go through each statement and / or receipt and total them up to get your nice, organized list of numbers.

There are alternatives to the time-intensive paper shuffle.

A couple of examples… As you run to the store for some needed office supplies, you pop out your smartphone app and enter the charge along with the category. Or you snap a photo of the receipt and email it to your bookkeeper. What has just taken a few seconds will cumulatively save you hours come tax time. With a few mouse clicks, there’s a single report with all of your totals by category in the exact time period you need. Begone, tax craziness.

And in between tax seasons, you’ll have reports and numbers at your fingertips that give you greater awareness of how and where your money comes from and is going to. And with greater awareness comes greater possibility to set your intentions exactly how you want them. You can find where you can save some money, start delegating part of your budget for something you really want, all sorts of things. It’s really awesome to make your money work for you with a simple bit of awareness rather than just being worried about what the bank says your balance is.

So if numbers are fun for you, or easy, or even just ok… If you’re not doing it already, consider getting some bookkeeping software and setting yourself up. (My favorites are YNAB and Xero — full disclosure, I’m a partner with the latter.)

If numbers are not really your thing, consider hiring a bookkeeper to do it for you. With this route, make sure he / she helps you with the awareness part, whether it’s emailed reports or regular conference calls or some other communication. That’s just as important as simply tidying the numbers.

Either way, you end up saving time and raising your awareness. Two massive pluses.

the back of our hands

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”
– Audrey Hepburn

My friend Liz and I are fifty-five years apart in age. We share a name and a deep friendship. I marvel at this picture of our hands, side by side. I see so much: that we support one another, that we both take pride in our work, that we both hold onto life with a force, that we know one another like the backs of our hands, that we are similar in some ways and different in others, that each of us has her own history and mystery, and that we both still write in long-hand cursive!

I see how much she has helped me in my life, with her generosity of home, spirit, love, time, and mentorship.

And I see how fragile Liz’s hand is. I see that her skin is paper thin. I see that she needs help in ways that she didn’t when she was my age. I see how strong my hand is and how eager, I hope, it is to help the hand beside it.

What do the backs of your hands say?


the hazard of perfection

“Perfectionism is not the path that leads us to our gifts and to our sense of purpose; it’s the hazardous detour. … Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving for excellence. … Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval. … …research shows that perfectionism hampers achievement.”
— Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

I love for everything to be neat. For all the numbers to reconcile perfectly, for every paragraph to be formatted consistently, for each item to be in its exact place in the filing system. I can get lost in those types of details for hours. It actually gives me some pleasure and makes me feel like I am being productive.

But that feeling of being productive has a very small p. The return of productivity on investment of time is most definitely on the smaller side.

I’m not willing to give up my attention to detail. After all, it’s one of the things my clients greatly value about my work. But there are instances where I can set boundaries. Where I can ask myself whether it’s a better use of my time to refine tiny details on the first page of a document or to move forward drafting the content of the rest of it.

There are times to pay attention to the trees despite the forest. And there are times to stand back and look at the whole landscape. In both instances, a question I always need to ask myself is “Is my working towards perfection in certain details taking away from my striving for excellence overall?”

honest abe may not have liked you

“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”
– Abraham Lincoln

First impressions do count. I believe that. Intuition is often at work there. But you know what also counts? Curiosity and opening one’s mind to a new perspective.

Sometimes the most likable parts of a person aren’t seen / known right away so it’s certainly worth the effort to search for those likable parts. You don’t want to miss out!

tourists and the Buddha

You must pass by a row of tourist shops from the cable car stop on Lantau Island in Hong Kong before you get to the monastery or the statue of the Buddha.

The crowds of people from all over the world can be intense (though I didn’t really catch many people in this photo!). And I really don’t like crowds. I know I felt some moments of judgement on the day I took this photo. I wondered if people understood the significance of the place, or if they just wanted a selfie with a big statue. I felt annoyance as other people were impatient with long lines to get back on the cable car and with the workers who were managing as best as they could. Getting angry about it doesn’t make the line move any faster. I felt conflicted at the commercialization and cheap (or not-so-cheap) trinkets of the tourist shops.

On the flip side, what an opportunity to practice the tenets of the teacher whose image you’re there to see. More frequently than the moments of judgement for me were moments of simply enjoying the day and the company of a dear friend I hadn’t seen in 6 years. Moments of seeing a few unexpected young cows and saying hello. Moments of sharing a cool drink on a beautiful day.

Moments of breathing in and being present.

So grateful for that. And perhaps even more grateful that I can acknowledge the moments of judgement without beating myself up for having them.