How to Ping + Pong

This guy’s got some balls.

Unless you’re this guy, playing ping-pong is about fun rallies. And it seems pretty straightforward, right? Tap the ball over the net, then tap it back. I was recently reminded, however, that tending to lively balls with a firm surface can result in some volatile interactions. (*Snickers*) Inappropriate jokes aside, ping-pong is a great analogy for personal communication. I’ve come to understand that, in both table tennis and conversations, my enthusiasm to play can interfere with my ability to serve hittable shots. Split-second triggers sometimes override neutral analysis, and it’s wall, net, awkward table edge, aiiirbaaalll. I’m so ready to make every hit count, that I forget to see the longer picture, that the person on the other side needs to return the ball for the game to be fun. The exchange is more important than any of my individual shots.

So what’s the secret to a good rally? How do you illicit a sweet pong using a well-played ping? Well, based on my own shortcomings, here’s what I’ve got so far:

An equal and opposite reaction

And this guy needs some brains.

1.    Use appropriate force.

Remember that guy Newton, and how he’s kind of a big deal? For every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Sometimes it takes lobbing a soft one to gather useful information about your opponent’s ability to respond. If you just smack the shit out of it in an attempt todisplay Ultimate Superiority in Trivial Matters, the situation will rapidly deteriorate into a whole lot of foolishness. This often includes grasping incompetently at random, flying balls. No bueno, indeed.
Always bring a towel, and the answer is 42

2.    Prioritize a thoughtful mindset over a frantic one.

Panic is not your friend. It results in excessive activity and a lack of control, which means you’re already behind for the shot coming right back atcha. Panic escalates. Outward spiraling of defensive tactics ensues. Balls in and around everywhere. Yikes.

3.    Have an eye for angles.

This involves vectors. And points of contact. And forward motion. And backspin. And friction. There are a lot of factors in the interaction, but there’s a lot to be said for a split-second sense of the situation. Just paying attention to where the ball is coming from and how that affects where it’s going can go a long way.

What a douchbag

The epitome of Crushed-Little-Balls Syndrome. Please, don’t contribute to the cause.

4.    Be prepared for random, crazy shit.

Those little white balls get around. (Alright, so I’m not setting the dirty jokes aside.) You can’t always tell by looking at them what kind of dents they may have sustained or repairs they’ve undergone, and when that past will intervene for a wild, unanticipated trajectory. This is why the first three steps are the most important. You can’t anticipate everything. Ultimately, it’s about instinct. The more calm and steady your starting point, the easier it is to rely on your instincts and trust the process of on-going practice and self-correction. (And just say no to douchebaggery.)

So now what? Get to the table. Learn from your own downfalls. And let me know how it goes in that lovely comment box below– especially with all the stuff I’m sure I missed 😉

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Photocredits (in descending order): Daily SpeculationsYour Extra BaconTragically

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How to Escape a Bubble

bubble boy tries to escape

We all live in bubbles of our own making, where comfort zones and rationalizations make pretty, soapy swirls and a cozy, finite environment. In the Bay Area, the bubble effect creates lovable attitudes–a dogged sense of optimism, innovation, and tech glam in spite of grim global problems–and misguided enthusiasts as well. A consumer technology article I read last week surmised that now that “we all” have access to high-speed wireless communications and pervasive online networks, the social-local-mobile model is just so passe. Now, we can set our sights on the next vision of the future!! *Orbitz girl smile*

It’s always good to look beyond the present and think big for the next step, especially when world-changing innovation could be just around the corner. The techni-coded bubble of the Bay is not without its faults. Even though they provide the stability needed for further growth, sometimes our bubbles blind us. That’s why stepping outside can be so terrifying.

holy captain barnacle, spongebob!

If you’re covered in sticky stuff and the bubble wand has fallen in: never fear, help is here.

How to Escape a Bubble:

1) Go outside.

Walk around in a neighborhood that’s not yours. Be open to the beauty abounding around you. Make eye contact with and smile at people on the street. Question the root of social conditions that detract from human dignity, even if they make you uncomfortable.

2) Solve real problems.

Not celebrity bullshit. Not the next Facebook. Not an easier way to order a soy decaf cappuccino while dropping off your dry cleaning while your dog is getting a facial. Refer to your brain and step one for inspiration.

3) Be your bigger person.

Being wrong is part of being human. We’ve all heard it before: embrace your mistakes by learning from them. We all come up with a lot of reasons to defend our bad behavior, but it just hurts more in the end. The best we can do is own up, move on, and stop letting it mess with other people.

And, in here’s where it gets good: because of our perpetual imperfections, the process of breaking down and building up, breaking down and building up, is what keeps creativity fresh. That’s what allows our daily work to be meaningful. And that moment when we choose to break the seal, pop the top, or take that step– that moment is actually pure joy, not fear.

This kid’s got it right, for sure.
boy popping bubble


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