Blinded By Your Own Micro-Climate?

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Just arrived home from a 3-week drive up the California coast, where I learned about something called marine layers and micro-climates.

We hugged the coast for the better part of the trip. And for that same period, we were pretty much locked into fog.

It’s just the marine layer, people would tell us in the southern part of the state. Then, as we moved up north, especially around San Francisco and Marin, everyone started talking about these things called micro-climates. And we began to experience them firsthand.

Staying halfway up famed Mount Tamalpais in Marin County, we’d wake up to a cool, gray morning most every day, socked in by thick misty clouds. Wow, what terrible weather we’d think. Then throw on jeans, a sweatshirt and jacket. We’d kick around the house for an hour or two, waiting for the dark weather to clear. Then, eventually, jonesing for a cup of coffee, head down the mountain.

And as we drove, something remarkable would happen. The weather would turn from stark, gray and cold to crystal clear, sunny skies and gorgeous warm air.

It wasn’t that the clouds had cleared, though, it was that we’d simply driven out from under them. Seems the clouds in this part of the country don’t hover high in the sky, but rather sit, quite literally, on the ground. Because of a blend of water and air currents and temperatures, one side of a mountain will often remain cold and gray, while the valley below is bathed in sun.

When you watch the weather forecast for San Francisco on TV, you don’t just get the weather for the city, you get different forecasts for the vast variety of micro-climates in and around the city. On any given day, the Mission might be blazing sun, while Haight is cold and cloudy. Mill Valley in Marin might be cold and gray, while Saucalito, two miles away is sunny and warm.

And, all this made me wonder how often we’re blinded by micro-climates in our own lives and businesses?

How often do we awaken to a cold, gray feeling and assume that’s just the way the world is today? Everywhere. Instead of wondering if the cloud in which we’re mired is simply a dense fog, an emotional or circumstantial micro-climate. Something that blankets not the entire world, but simply the single spot from which we currently choose to view the world.

What might happen, I began to wonder, if we viewed darkness and challenge more as micro-climates, circumstances that may well blanket our experience and thinking, but are also entirely “drive-outable.”

What if we assumed the clouds weren’t high in the sky blanketing all the land, but rather low on the ground, engulfing only the small slice of land upon which we stood. And undertook to take whatever action was needed to find, then move into a sunnier place?

Dunno, just thinking out loud here.

What do you think?


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43 responses

43 responses to “Blinded By Your Own Micro-Climate?”

  1. Debbie says:

    Hi J.
    Loved the analogy of the clouds/fog. Especially visualizing the coolness since I am in TX and it has been over a 100 for over a month. Great opportunity to view our “real world”…

  2. Love the analogy Steven because we’re going to experience those acute moments of clouds for sure.

    I think we can manage and even control our “micro-climates” more effectively if we understand how we experience emotions in the first place.

    Emotions come out of internal and external pictures we see, from the tonality of our internal dialogue and out of the sensations in our bodies.

    It’s normal that we experience acute emotions (temporary ones) and a dark cloud isn’t as bad a thing when we’re aware of this we move through it. It’s when these emotions become chronic and we get “stuck” in the emotion that it really sucks. (More a monsoon than a dark cloud)

    By controlling the internal and external pictures we see, the tonality of our internal dialogue and our own physiology (along with diet) we can manage the emotions we experience and sustain more positive emotions more than negative ones.

    I could be totally full of crap but I’m pretty sure in this manner we can have a bit more awareness over our emotional states. Of course I’m not factoring in personalities, values etc.

    But regardless I guess in this way you can at least have a some control of forecasting your own weather 🙂

  3. Hiro Boga says:

    Jonathan, thank you, as always, for an insightful, thoughtful post.

    The wonderful thing about emotional weather — like all energy states — is that it is fluid and very pliable. Once you become aware of the micro-climate you’re inhabiting at any given moment, you can acknowledge it, give it room to breathe and move, and let its own flow carry you into a different weather system.

    Alternatively, you can consciously choose to attune to a different frequency — to a quality like love, delight, compassion or blessing.

    In any situation, the clearest, strongest energy prevails. We always have the ability to choose what our own micro-climate will be, no matter what’s going on in the world.

  4. Ryan Healy says:

    I like the analogy, Jonathan. I wrote a similar piece for a client this week — but I used the analogy of migration.

    I do think it’s easy to get stuck in a micro-climate and mistake it for “the way things are.”

    The world is almost always bigger and more diverse than we expect once we move away from our current position.


  5. Jeff Harbert says:

    I posted yesterday on G+ about all the time we spend on low-quality distractions. All the low-quality stuff we’re exposed to – TV, location check-ins, junk mail – is a huge time sink. I don’t mean taking part in these distractions, but even the mere act of choosing to ignore these things takes time, time that is completely wasted and could be better spent either getting work done or on a high-quality distraction (which is of course completely up to personal preference). You don’t have to spend time choosing to ignore what you never see in the first place.

    These useless, low-quality distractions, I think, are part of the microclimate you’re referring to. How much better would it be if we all chose instead to intentionally pursue higher-quality ‘stuff?’ Books, blogs, ideas, people, activities, etc. The opposite of garbage in, garbage out.

  6. Rob says:

    This is a great analogy of the ‘micro’ worlds we create in our own minds, Johnathan. Love it.

    The world, as we see it, is (simply?) a micro-climate made up of our own ideas, beliefs and perspectives.

    If we are the creators of our own micro-worlds, surely we can affect our micro-climates if we focus on shifting our thinking?

  7. Joe Flood says:

    This is an excellent way at looking at “emotional weather.” When we’re down, we assume that the current bad condition will last forever. But the truth is that things always change. Not only can we drive out of the fog, but the weather changes as well. The fog in CA frequently disappears by mid-day, driven away by the sun, and the same can happen to bad times.

  8. Sandra says:

    Love this… Lost in a fog (sometimes of our making)we may forget to look further to see what else is out there.

  9. Gregory Berg says:

    As a transplanted San Diegan, I love the analogy Jonatathan! I’ve been in SoCal for 6+ years and am fascinated by micro-climates. I had never even heard the term before we moved here. You learn to ALWAYS have layers on hand, as things can change quickly, just as in business or life! Hope you enjoyed your stay here!

    And Hiro, I agree with your assessment that we always have a choice. Acknowledgement is the first crucial step. A conscious shift to another state is only possible with that awareness. Good stuff this morning!

    • Andrea says:

      I’m with you, Gregory. I’m also a transplanted San Diegan and I love our micro-climates. With some small amount of effort, we can go from coast to inland to mountians to desert…each with it’s own climate. Each climate has it’s pros and cons, and there are differnt climates I prefer during different times of the year. Moving from one micro-climate to another requires choice and some amount of effort. But the effort is never as great as it first appears.

      I love the analogy, Jonathan.

  10. Amy says:

    Beautiful way of putting it! Thank you for this!

  11. Tim says:

    I was just thinking, there’s a name for this in philosophy: the egocentric predicament. Personally, we can never escape our own limited, internal reality. But I also think that there are microclimates in particular industries, cities, families, offices, and social circles.

    I remember in 2009, when 1/3 of my office got laid off and everyone was moaning about how it was impossible to find any work. There was still opportunity. It took me quitting and moving to Australia for a year to recognize that fact, but it’s there.

    I work in digital marketing, where the outlook is optimistic. Were I a journalist (now downgraded to “content creator”), I think the world would look a lot different.

    The important part is to recognize when a narrative from a group you’re a member of is starting to draw the clouds in. And, consequently, to choose your company carefully.

    Cultivate your own mental garden, I suppose.

    • Scrollwork says:

      Well said! I also like the “mental garden” analogy because I first heard about micro-climates as a gardener. Walk to one side of your house, the eastern exposure, and you can plant flowers that love full exposure to the sun. The northern-facing side will be exposed to the wind, and so on. All these realities exist in one small space. While the plants are rooted, human beings are not, at least not mentally.

  12. Ellie says:

    This is great! I almost cried when I read this because it reminded me of my trip in India in 2010. We were travelling all night on terrible roads, sleeping in the bus and then we had to get up early at 4 or 5 am for some more sightseeing or visiting yet another temple. That made me naturally angry most of the time. I remember being woken up by my alarm clock at 4 am in a hotel room in Rishikesh, furious that I would have to get up early again. On top of that I had a cold(it was February), a headache and couldn’t move my neck without pain. I thought how nice it would be to spend the day in bed just feeling terrible but I forced myself out of bed, did some yoga exercises for the pain in the neck and the headache and felt better. When I finally went out in the early morning to go and bathe in the waters of the river Ganges in Rishikesh I was feeling excited just to walk in the streets to the river and although the water was very cold when I went out of it I had an amazing feeling of peace and fulfillment. My bad mood had faded away. I often remember this when I feel I am not ready to do something or when something seems to be stopping me.

  13. Giovanna says:

    Been thinking about this on a more spiritual bias.
    Been exercising it to and finding it powerful.

    If we see this micro climates as streams of hot or cold air coming from our memory, history, own conditioning, etc… from life, we can take a step back into the observer… our immortal soul and essence and look at it all from a more “above the clouds and weather” point of view…
    In doing so, sometimes it even gets easy to see were this streams are comming from…give them another meaning, really clear the air…

    It´s a wonderfull thing and such a empowering process…

    Tks for the wonderfull metaphor.

    > sorry for the bad english. I´m brazilian. 😉

  14. Jen Gresham says:

    I love analogies and this is a brilliant one. Thanks!

  15. I have had the very same experience travelling this summer. Basically your perception forms your reality.

    I live on the West Coast, further North than your travels, in the Vancouver area. It is the world’s most Northern rain forest. When you open your eyes in the morning to a rainy, drizzly and cool day, not only is your whole day likely to be like that, but it could stretch out for weeks.

    I live right at the beach, a fair distance from the North shore mountains and we like to believe we live in a sunnier micro climate. According to the weather logs, we do clock more hours of sun here, but still, generally we are part of the rainforest.

    The distinction came for me, when travelling in Southern Alberta where I was born and raised. If you woke up to clouds, pull on the jeans, tuck in for a “rainy” day. Emotionally, you steel yourself for “that kind of day”. But there is a saying in those parts – “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes”. It sometimes took 15 minutes or even 30, but sure enough the ever present wind would blow away the clouds and in behind would be some sun.

    I lived there for so many years, I can’t believe I had to re-learn this. It is a paradigm shift to the way we feel when we open our minds to new possibilities that are just a few minutes away.

  16. Love this, Jonathan. It’s a good reminder that we always have a choice in what we experience. We must take action if we don’t like the things that are going on in our lives and in our businesses. One of the best ways to do that is to stop when we find ourselves in a downward spiral and look around to see what’s occurring outside of our bubble.

    I find that blog posts, tweets, etc. can be a big source of inspiration when I feel the fog rolling in. If I want to be inspired or jolted out of negative thinking (which thankfully hasn’t been the case in quite a while), I know exactly where to go.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us. 🙂

  17. Living in Sausalito — with 3 microclimates just in our village – combine with everyone looking at the same mega and meta view of the bay, from different angles I think literally and figuratively affects us here … we often comment on the fog and feelings, which angle we see Angel Island from… and we learn so much about each other’s’ view of life from them comments we make about our surroundings…. in fact the themes in your post resonate and are somewhat familiar 🙂

  18. Susan says:

    Great analogy. It’s funny because living in San Diego, I woke up this morning to a gray day and yet I know it will burn off and I’ll be complaining about the heat.
    My emotional micro climate can be very isolated as I work from home and sometimes don’t get out for days. Then I wonder why I’m in a funk. The necessities of life are many times the only thing that can drag me from my gloom. Just a little drive in the car wakes me up to a world outside which I tend to forget exists!

  19. Rex says:

    Yep. Right on Jonathan.

    I used this thinking while I was taking math classes in college. Sometimes (okay a lot of the time) I’d feel like I was completely in the dark and couldn’t understand how to solve the problem, but usually I was just one little concept away from getting it.

    This works for any difficult problem we’re facing. When it looks completely impossible, usually we’re just right around the corner from a solution.

    I also use this thought when dealing with children. Sometimes when they are throwing a massive fit, it feels like the end of the world. But then 2 minutes later, they’re happily playing and forgot all about it. It’s amazing how their emotions can turn on a dime. It can be exhausting for adults. So when they are in the middle of a meltdown, it helps me to think that peace and happiness is really just right around the corner, and I can wait it out.

    Thanks for thinking out loud. These are good thoughts to share. Hopefully they can help someone.

  20. Tom Aplomb says:

    I have often turned to weather, and how we weather it, as a metaphor for handling life’s experiences. Recently, in the wake of hurricane Irene, I’ve been thinking a lot about storms, the stages of crisis, and how we respond. Your post drew me back to one I wrote about fog a while back – I especially like how you highlight the rapidity of the change, and the concept of a challenging situation being “drive-outable.”

  21. Susan says:

    I think it’s almost a universal trait to assess the environment – as we can see it – and assume it’s more prevalent than it might be. Humans tend to see things from our own perspective. It’s why it’s crucial to interact with others to keep our perspectives larger.

    I also live in a microclimate area inland from Laguna Beach, CA. My brother lives in Laguna and will be socked in with fog and overcast all day. I’m 3 miles inland and the fog burns off as it goes up and over his hill. I’m almost always in clear blue skies, he’s almost always in grey, no matter what time of year.

    It’s an interesting phenomenon and I really like your piece about it. I may end up riffing on it as well.

  22. Amy Brucker says:

    Another form of micro-climate happens in the brain: According to REM / nonREM dream research, if you wake up during a REM dream cycle you’re more likely to experience negative emotions. If you wake up during a nonREM dream state you’re more likely to feel positive.

    BTW, I live in Redwood City, just south of San Francisco. Our city’s motto is, “Weather best by government test.” When the rest of the SF Bay area is foggy, we have sun. If you stand on our tallest hill you can actually see a ring of fog surrounding the town!

    Hope you had a great time on your trip. I’ve done the opposite drive, from here to NY and back, and the beauty of this country often astounds me.

  23. Love this analogy. I live just south of SF on the coast and on some days I can have sun in my backyard and fog in the front. This is a terrific analogy on choosing your perspective. I’ve also written about The Mystery of Fog.

    Similar to your “drive outable”, I propose going deeper into it to see what’s there.

    Thanks for another perspective!

  24. I live in Central California and cold, foggy weather sounds nice compared to blazing heat right now!

    This reminded me of an inspirational-calendar quote that’s been with me for years: “A misty morning does not signal a cloudy day.” As a non-morning person, this has been somewhat of a mantra.

    Thanks to you and other commenters, I am taking this deeper. The micro-climate of my home has been gloomy and except for brief drives out from under it, I’ve started to feel like that’s what the “weather” is like everywhere. Time to challenge that belief.

  25. michael says:

    Jonathan, I am truly responsible for my current micro climate. I “drive out” by taking action.
    Thank you

  26. Vermont, where I live, has its own microclimates. When you listen to or watch the weather reports, they have to break it down by region.

    When you live in a place with microclimates, you factor them into your decisions: it will be 20 degrees warmer in Burlington and not raining. It’s only foggy in the river valley.

    To relay this to the analogy: if you go anywhere, you can’t remain trapped in thinking your microclimate is the general regional climate.

    So go places.

  27. Lynn Brown says:

    Hey Jonathan, you were in my neck of the woods. I live in Paso Robles, CA which can be 100 degrees while the coast (only 25 minutes away) can be a cool and gray 58 degree!

    I really appreciate how you used the micro-climate analogy. It is true, in business you just have to keep moving because there are sunny skies. Stay out or drive out of those ‘gray clouds’ and you will find the sunny rewards!

  28. Julie says:

    Hi Jonathon,
    I love this analogy & beautifully you described it! There are also many insightful comments here. I’ve been thinking along similar lines. Identifying ones own ‘micro climates’ is a starting point, and the continuation of this process is learning about how you get yourself into them & whats the best way to yourself out again. One of the incarnations of this concept in my history has been to realise that, no matter what the ‘weather’ may be like around me, I am OK!! This was my biggest step in turning my ‘monsoon’ (to borrow Tony Teegarden’s term) into ‘passing showers’! I know that the most common way for me to get into an ‘overcast microclimate’ is to take everything far too seriously. Having a laugh with family & friends or reminding myself of my basic ‘OK-ness’ usually gets me back put into the sunshine again 🙂

  29. 5,343 Stumbles! We need to talk. Great post BTW Jonathan. I’ve looked at clods from both sides now as well. Michael

  30. Scott Fox says:

    Great analogy, Jonathan.
    And nicely applied to our personal mental environments, too.
    Hope that you had fun here in Cali.

  31. So true Jonathan… we can be blinded by the light or standing with our head in the clouds and it is mostly of our own making.

    I love the Northern California weather for that (being a Monterey Peninsula Gal) and miss the change of attitude that comes with a 5 mile location change. Living in France, we don’t have micro climates quite so close by… but we do have them!

  32. […] I start on habit one though, complynn left me this link in a comment maybe you would like to have a look at it as well […]

  33. Jason from says:

    The micro climates you describe are so very real. Our world view and perspectives are defined by the circumstances and people around us. When we can rise above the clouds so to speak is when great things are possible. Great post Jonathan! Thanks.

  34. Marie Davis says:

    Exactly what I needed to hear, thanks Jonathan .

  35. Leszek Cyfer says:

    Read this:

    Another example of the same phenomenon. If smoke jumpers moved on they would leave the blind spot and get in the open…

  36. Chris says:

    I’m with you on this. It highlights the importance of perspective and mindset. This too shall pass…

  37. denis Barry says:

    I work as a quality engineer for a company that has seven production plants in the eastern US.
    as I travel from plant to plant I experience a microclimate unique to each. I find it necessary to change my approach in order to work effectively in each climate. We must recognize the situations in which we find ourselves and adapt if we are going to have that positive impact we stive to accomplish. Get to know people, climate, and 3 more things… Listen, listen, and listen!

  38. ERICH BERGER says:

    Very true! Ever noticed how you can be in a terrible mood, driving to the airport, bad weather, traffic, etc. Then the pain in the butt of parking, and getting your self onto the plane like a (salmon trying to swim through a hydro-electric dam.) The plane takes off and climbs through the clouds – the sun is shining. You look out the window, and suddenly everything comes into perspective. You get a little cheery. You see the solutions to problems. You see positive courses of action. You are open to self-reflection. Maybe now you drag out the laptop or tablet and start getting that stuff down. You even smile at the flight attendant as she comes to you with the drink cart!

  39. Michael says:

    You are right about your point. The perspective we take usually dictates our mood & actions. At first we may be upset by a situation, but then be okay with it after calming down and changing our “micro-climate”. I love your example. Reminds me of my childhood, growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area. I would travel across town through several weather extremes in the matter of a 30 minute bus ride.

  40. Kala says:

    It’s such a simple concept, and yet brilliant-we all live within our own microclimate. It relates to Buddhist ideas around “concepts” vs. reality and how what we look at is altered by our beliefs, views, expectations, and so on. I love analogies from the natural world-I feel like all the teachings we need are to be found there, if we are only able to look and listen closely enough.