Monthly Archives: July 2013

Mayor Bob Filner and the Enneagram

Enneagram my colorsLast January I posted a basic introduction to the Enneagram, an approach to understanding why people do the things they do. The system identifies nine basic personality types and characterizes them with piercing accuracy. Some experts attribute the differences in the nine types of behavior to brain chemistry. Whatever the explanation, there is truth to the Enneagram that cannot be dismissed lightly.

The ancient message behind today’s understanding of the Enneagram is that we live by defensive behaviors that wall us off from realizing our natural potential. The ways in which we do this are essentially predictable, and awareness of these patterns may, if we’re lucky, help us minimize some of our habits and traits that are not helpful or else learn to channel our behavior so that our style works for us in better ways. Within each type there’s a ladder to emotional health, but climbing the rungs is a lifelong challenge and very few people reach the top.

The Enneagram is about working on ourselves – not judging others. However, public figures are fair game. That entitles me to make some comments about San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, whose aggressive, lecherous, and overall clueless behavior has drastically undermined his effectiveness in office.Bob Filner best cropped

I’m going to guess that Filner is an Enneagram type Eight.

Eights are hard-wired to relate to the world primarily through the body. “Doing” (making the world just, bluntness, high energy, spontaneity) is preferred. Their thinking minds support their “doing,” and they repress their true feelings.

To quote experts Don Riso and Russ Hudson, “Eights are self-confident, strong, and assertive. Protective, resourceful, straight-talking, and decisive, but can also be egocentric and domineering. Eights feel they must control their environment, especially people, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating. Eights typically have problems with their tempers and with allowing themselves to be vulnerable”

Does this ring a bell?

Riso and Hudson offer an extensive description of the Eight at the link above. Here are some of their points that I think can apply to Filner:

“Swaggering, boastful, forceful, and expansive: the “boss” whose word is law. Proud, egocentric, want to impose their will and vision on everything, not seeing others as equals or treating them with respect.”

“They possess a powerful connection with their instinctive drives.”

“Much of their behavior is involved with making sure that they retain and increase whatever power they have for as long as possible.”

At the unhealthy level, they “develop delusional ideas about their power, invincibility, and ability to prevail.”

If Bob Filner is an Eight, it’s going to be difficult for him to change. Getting him to resign would be a major challenge. He is not going to walk quietly into the night. Eights rarely eat humble pie, and they tend to avoid therapy and self-questioning because they don’t believe they need it. Bob says he wants to be a “better person.” That’s what San Diegans want, too. His best hope for a fast track to transformation would be a therapist trained in the Enneagram.


That said, my friend Douglas Holbrook (long-time San Diego attorney and fellow student of the Enneagram) has come up with another solution that’s worth considering. Check out his video below.



Comments Off on Mayor Bob Filner and the Enneagram

Filed under General, Personality

Pitching My Book in Hollywood

Cover - thumbnailLast weekend I traveled to Los Angeles to pitch my book, Finding My Invincible Summer, to Hollywood studios. It was a bold move and took a lot of effort. My publisher “invited” me to take part in the event a few months ago – for a fee. Officially, it’s called the Book-to-Screen PitchFest Los Angeles 2013, and it’s sponsored by Author Solutions, a division of Penguin Books. I figured I’d never know if my book was screen-worthy unless I gave it a shot, and I also thought it would be a chance to sharpen my skills at talking about my book. So I signed up.

I was not disappointed. It was a fantastic experience. Ours was the third event of its kind. It was attended by over 100 authors and representatives from at least seven Hollywood studios. We were told that several authors’ works had been tapped for consideration at the previous two PitchFests.

Getting there, however, was an ordeal. During the month running up to the event I spent most of my time talking myself into a nervous tizzy: fretting over the content of my pitch; consulting a hypnotist to calm my nerves; looking for appropriate clothes; getting my car serviced (I hadn’t driven to LA alone in six years); having my hair done—and on and on. I even ordered a satin pillowcase to protect my ‘do while sleeping in the hotel. Yet it seemed as if nothing went the way it was supposed to. The items I ordered on line either came in the wrong size or color or never arrived at all. My dogs, picking up on my trepidations and the open suitcase, got visibly nervous and started acting out. And the coup de grace was a blow to my shin two nights before my trip that sent me to the ER—possibly a clever subconscious attempt on my part to get out of the trip.

Pitchfest 2But I did it. As I drove up, I practiced my two-minute pitch in my head for nearly four hours. My husband’s niece Vanessa was waiting for me when I arrived at the hotel (the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on the Avenue of the Stars). She lives in LA, and I had invited her to be my guest at the reception. Being with Vanessa calmed me down enormously, but I was still quaking in my boots as we walked to the reception. I was sure I was going to either faint or do something really embarrassing. At the reception we met several fellow authors and I began to feel more at ease.

The speakers at the reception talked about what we could expect from the studio representatives. The first step in the development of a Hollywood project is an option to explore the idea. The author may receive as much as $500 in exchange for exclusive rights over a fixed period of time, typically 18 months. If the project moves forward, there will be further compensation down the road, but that could take years. They said that the “gestation” period for a Hollywood project can be as long as a decade. I had no idea.

The good news is that studio reps are looking for ideas and asking to come to the event. As I mentioned earlier, they optioned several titles at the previous two PitchFests.

Our registration packet contained an article by a Disney executive emphasizing that the best way for studios to turn a profit is to skip the mega-budget movies and focus on “high concept” ideas that can be developed into “stories that make us care.”

“Most important . . . is the need to create one or more central characters who confront something elemental about themselves by the end of the film. This applies to the whole enormous and extraordinary range of film experience. Name any truly successful movie and you will find that this is the case.”

PitchFest 3After citing several films, the author concludes:
“These films didn’t just involve transformation . . . they involved transformations that were affirmative and uplifting. More than anything else, I believe that these are the feelings that audiences seek out when they go to the movies. These are the feelings that audiences want to take home with them and treasure.”

I began to feel more reassured, because my book certainly fits the desired model. I also heard that they’re looking for true stories. They want authenticity. So I wasn’t in the wrong place after all. I went to bed more relaxed, telling myself that it would all be over this time tomorrow night.

Brringgg!! At 5:30 a.m. four different bells went off in my hotel room to make sure I’d be up, packed, and ready for the breakfast meeting by 7:00.

Over breakfast we listened to more advice and met more fellow authors, and then we broke up into groups to practice our pitches. I liked that part the best. As we watched, the facilitator listened carefully to each pitch and skillfully pinpointed the elements that deserved the most focus while gently suggesting the parts that could be eliminated. Everyone’s story was interesting. The variety of concepts was amazing. The facilitator’s comments to the other authors gave me ideas about where I could refine and change my own pitch. When my turn came, he told me to drop my log line (one-sentence summary) and start immediately with my scene, and he made a few other good suggestions as well.

After lunch, we were on our own to refine and memorize our pitches until our appointed time with the studio reps. It was also a chance to chat with some of our fellow authors. We bonded instantly – we knew that we shared a huge experience in common. They all loved my title.

My pitch went well. I delivered it at seven different tables, four with one rep and three with two reps sitting across from me.

If there’s any interest in my story, I will be contacted in about two weeks. I will also receive feedback on my presentation; each of the reps was asked to fill out a quick form on each of the authors.

Whew!! It was finally over. I drove home relaxed and satisfied that I was richer for the experience. And I had faced and conquered my fears.


Filed under General, My book

Independence Day at the County Fair

San Diego County Fair 2013

San Diego County Fair 2013

Thursday was closing day at the San Diego County Fair. It always ends with a bang on the Fourth of July. I decided to take a break from translating and join my friend Suzanne to celebrate our nation’s independence. The weather was perfect, with that silky summer humidity that I love when the temperature is just right. We had fun!

Our fair happens to be one of the biggest in the world, with total attendance this year exceeding 1.4 million. The last day is always the best and the most exciting, culminating with fireworks on the Del Mar Racetrack infield. There was no sign of a recession as more than 92,000 people lined up to buy extreme food, tickets to thrill rides, chances at games of skill, gadgets they never knew they needed, and a gazillion other treats and treasures.

The food was mind-boggling. This year’s theme appeared to be bacon, with wild boar bacon kabobs, bacon truffle fries, cheesy bacon bombs, jumbo bacon corn dogs, bacon-wrapped turkey drumsticks, bacon cotton candy—and even bacon beer! Turkey drumsticks (with or without bacon, or dipped in chocolate) were everywhere. People gnawing away at them make me think of life in the seventeenth century and the famous Tom Jones eating scene (—genteel by comparison. I settled for run-of-the-mill squid and garlic-battered artichoke hearts, and Suzanne was even less venturous with a meatball sandwich. For dessert we resisted the deep-fried cookie dough and opted for cream puffs, which were actually five-inch towers of whipped cream (available in red, white, and/or blue) with caps of pastry on top.

The gardens are always a must-do for me, and this year they were especially creative, though possibly not as vivid and lush as they used to be when water conservation wasn’t on everyone’s mind. I photographed a number of ideas for my latest client (a condo association looking to redo their courtyard). The gardens were also the setting for a series of same-sex weddings. We watched one of them and were very touched.

The main drag blared with sound and light, yet we decided to have chair massages at one of the “Relaxation Stations.” What a cool trip that was, going into deep relaxation with thousands of people milling around!

Fireworks from the Ferris wheel

Fireworks seen from the Giant Ferris Wheel

We managed to see a number of exhibits. My one tangible souvenir is a snazzy pair of wrap-around shades, but I also came home with lots of photos, as well as memories of experiences that I only get to have once a year.

The high point, literally, was the Giant Ferris Wheel. As luck would have it, we were aloft when the fireworks started. Boom!!! What an awesome spectacle! Yessssss!!!! I love the Fair!


Filed under General