Sunday, October 24, 2010

Thanks for the Lift

In response to In the Company of Angels regarding Jenny Laird (a.k.a QuinnMama), the inspirational leader of our weekly writing jam, Mr. Will commented:
I woke up this morning thinking about our group and everyone's writing, and wondering exactly what Jenny does to inspire such remarkable stuff from everyone around her. And as I was lying there pondering, watching the dawn light turn the sky behind the mountains pink, my inner DJ pulled a selection from my inner Freudian playlist and I found myself idly singing lines from that great Jackie Wilson song:

"Your love keeps lifting me higher than I've ever been lifted before. So keep it up...."


On behalf of all of us in the group, all of us who read your ZenMaster Quinn blog, all of us blessed to spend time doing just about anything in the presence of your love:

Thanks, Amazing Jenny, for the lift.
(and please please please keep it up!)

As I read Will's comment, I began thinking about what it means to be uplifting, my right brain dragging me into a museum lined with images of peace-corps workers, grand vistas, and anthropomorphicized dolphins, and my left brain pulling me into the lab to consider uplift categories and quotients. Hmmm... which to explore?

OK, let's head into the lab and look at the notions of an uplift-quotient or UQ.

What's Your UQ?
The first thing that occurs to me in trying to determine what exactly a UQ is would be net-positive energy-flow. For example, there are some people who always leave you charged up and ready to take on the world, providing a net-positive energy exchange. There are others who leave you drained and ready for a week away from everyone, providing a net-negative exchange. And there are all sorts of people in between.

Let's define categories of energizers: sappers, terrorists, isolationists, hoarders, catalysts, and generators. Of course, none of us is exclusively any of these; think of them more as roles than personality types.

Energy Sappers live off the energy of others, flying from source to source, digging their beaks deep below the bark, and drinking until they pass-out sated or the source dies. We often train our kids to be energy sappers simply by doing things for them that they could do themselves. Before you know it, you've got a teenager slopped on the couch watching TV yelling to his mother who's scrubbing a toilet upstairs, "Hey mom, could you bring me a glass of milk!"

As adults, energy sappers often live by the motto: Why do something that you can get someone else to do for you? The most impressive sapping is performed by those who don't particularly care about the task at hand. Although they may feign urgency, they're nourished simply by the act of being served.

Energy Terrorists blow up growing energy caches before they reach critical mass. They're expert at finding the fatal flaw in a nacent plan or pointing out previous failed attempts or the unexpected, problematic side-effects of success. A good energy terrorist can easily render even the most confident and competent person uncertain about her capacity to reach her goals.

Energy Isolationists are often recovering enablers of energy sappers and terrorists. Suffering the effects of overexposure to energy consumers and not knowing the nature of their ills, they simply avoid any exchanges of energy, period. The lingering fear that anyone is a potential energy sapper or terrorist leads them to avoid even positive energy sources. Every word of encouragement or praise is suspect.

Energy Hoarders don't actively sap or terrorize, but they're happy to receive... and receive... and receive... The inflow valve is always open and the outflow rusted shut.

Energy Catalysts are neither sources nor consumers of energy, so it's often difficult to spot them or correctly classify them. However, for some reason, whenever they show up, the situation becomes more positively energized. They don't provide the energy, they simply catalyze the latent energy in others transforming it from potential to kinetic.

Energy Generators needn't hoard nor sap as they seem capable of spinning positive energy from pretty much any raw material or situation. Even when they seem to have reached the point of exhaustion, when the need arises, they can renew themselves and those around them as if by magic.

Computing UQ
OK, that's a much more elaborate list than I anticipated writing, but let's forge ahead. In the end, everyone of us has played any one of the above roles. Now, let's translate this into a UQ.

I never tried this in Blogger before, but I just whipped up a little UQ Calculator that lets you rate yourself (or anyone you like) in terms of time spent in various energy roles. Assuming Blogger doesn't mess with this too much, clicking the button at the bottom will tally your results and provide you a score. Otherwise it might transfer you to some site in Croatia offering you ten million dollars just for submitting copies of your passport, social security card and credit cards.

Before you answer, consider that there are many forms of positive energy exchange and source. There hands-on helpers who jump in picking up slack and performing tasks. There are encouragers who find the positive aspect in anything you do. There are problem solvers who delight in the intractable. There are challengers who provoke you to dig more deeply and think more thoroughly. There are lovers who buoy you up when you can't tread any longer. There are humorist who find the lighter, funnier side things. There are givers who supply you when your stores are empty.

So, here we go...

The maximum score of this highly-scientific survey is 180. How'd you do? Think of the most positive source of energy in your life and complete the form for him or her. What's her score? How about for the biggest energy drain?

Don't Mean a Thing
Before any of y'all get to serious abou this, I need to confess that the survey isn't purely scientific. However, what I'm realizing is that all it takes to become a source of positive energy to the people around you is first, to want to, and second, to pay attention.

First come to undertand the forms through which your positive energy manifests. Are you an encourager? A clown? A lover? A provocateur? A doer? A problem solver? Next, actively look for opportunities to be an energy catalyst or generator or whatever other role you can think of that is uplifting.

Happy Uplifting Sunday,


  1. One of my favorite quotations is from John O'Donohue: "We have a sacred responsibility to encourage and illuminate all that is inherently good and special in each other." But, much as I respect Johnny O, I have to confess I'm not entirely okay with the connotation of "sacred responsibility" -- sounds burdensome! The dirty little secret is that being an Energy Catalyst or Energy Generator is tremendously fulfilling and can be a source of unparalleled joy! In my experience, the Uplifter is lifted up right along with Upliftee and, if both allow the reciprocal energy cycle to take its course, both end up high as kites. It's really nice when a sacred responsibility gets you high... ain't it?

  2. Mister Will, I love that literary jujitsu thing that you do so well. From "sacred responsibility" to "high as a kite", LOL. I'm picturing a whole kackle of kites pulling against one another, bootstrapping themselves higher and higher.

    I couldn't agree with you more. Unlike physical energy that seems to suffer the limitations of the laws of nature, personal energy seems open to concepts like perpetual motion machines, the feedback loop becoming a source, not just an amplifier.

    Better yet, if my mamma were still around, I could tell her that I'd been fulfilling a sacred responsibility. She'd have liked that.


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