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    Entries in work (112)

    Friday
    May222015

    What are you afraid of?

    Note: This week on the blog I am trying out a little experiment - writing on the first five (or so) subjects that popped out at random from a cool little app called Writing Exercises. The app provides suggestions for topics, characters, first lines - that kind of thing. I tapped the 'Random Subject' button a few times and will (try) to come up with something for each subject I was presented. It may be good, it may stink - who knows? But whatever the topic, I am taking like 20 minutes tops to bang something out. So here goes...

    Today's (and this little exercise's final) topic is a question: What are you afraid of?, and like yesterday's post, I am going to try and keep this more in a work/workplace/career context. I mean I am afraid of Sasquatch and the a guy sitting next to me on a plane who decides to take off his flip-flops and films with subtitles, but no one cares about that.

    So what am I afraid of? Not sure I if I am still afraid of these things, but I probably was at one point or another (or should have been). Here goes...

    1. Continuing to work with people that you don't trust - There is always a kind of weird and interesting dynamic in organizations and office politics where on the one hand if everyone succeeds then everyone is happy, but in most organizations 'everyone' isn't who or how we reward that success. Said differently, and hopefully in a way that makes sense, most organizations value team work and collaboration, but when come promotion and raise and bonus time it is literally every man and woman for themselves. Naturally these circumstances lend themselves often to people having to work in their own self-interests, and their self-interests are almost certainly not aligned with yours. Once you get the sense that the big, happy family of collaborating colleagues is actually a pack of loosely organized bloodthirsty pirates, you had better be able to either play the game to win or get yourself out of there. 

    2. Staying too long in a job or at an organization that is making you unhappy - Similar to Item 1, I know that there has been a time in my career I lingered at a little too long at a place where I had ceased learning, developing, and being excited to be there. It was for all the usual reasons that I stayed - finances, location, family obligations, etc.  The same reasons you are probably gutting it out in a job you don't like either. But even though we can pretty effectively rationalize the 'stick it out' decision, in the longer term it is almost always one we will regret. 

    3. Letting someone else (or expectations) manage your career choices. One of the things most folks should do, at least early in their careers, is take the time to experiment. I am talking about taking at least some time to try a few different roles/industries/kinds of jobs in order to figure out what you are actually good at doing. It is so easy to come out of college as say an accounting major and then take your first accounting job which leads to the next accounting job and so on and so on. Until 18 years later you are the Assistant Controller and you realize that you don't really like accounting. But your Dad told you to major in accounting because it 'Would be easy to get a job after you graduate' and so you did and then, well, you know the rest. So take some time to ty out some things when you are young and you only have to worry about supporting yourself. Finding something you actually enjoy and are good at will make you infinitely happier in the long run.

    Ok, that is it from me for the week. And that is the end, (thankfully), of this week's Writing Exercises experiment. Thanks for indulging me. 

    Have a great weekend!

    Tuesday
    May192015

    Fear

    Note: This week on the blog I am trying out a little experiment - writing on the first five (or so) subjects that popped out at random from a cool little app called Writing Exercises. The app provides suggestions for topics, characters, first lines - that kind of thing. I tapped the 'Random Subject' button a few times and will (try) to come up with something for each subject I was presented. It may be good, it may stink - who knows? But whatever the topic, I am taking like 20 minutes tops to bang something out. So here goes...

    Today's subject: Fear

    First of all, thanks a lot to the Writing Exercises app for following up yesterday's uplifting topic of 'Regret' with another pleasant subject, namely 'Fear'. Well, I am committed to this silly endeavor now, so plow on I shall. (19 minutes left on the clock...)

    Fear comes from a few places obviously. The most urgent and primal kinds of fear are ones that are around physical safety, security, 'Will I have enough to eat today?' kinds of things. The next kind of fear that is probably more common among most of us is fear of failure. What if I don't hit the ball or know how to spell the word in the spelling bee or the client decided to award the business to my competitor? Those kinds of fears, fears of losing, while interesting to some extent, at least to me aren't the most compelling to think or write about. Anyone, heck pretty much everyone, has plenty of experience with competition and thus with losing. And most of us, eventually, tend to avoid the kinds of things that are likely cause us to lose, (saving for a moment the Powerball players out there), and consequently our fear of losing is addressed by avoiding competition and confrontation. Said differently, over time we gravitate towards things we are 'good' at.

    I'd say the same things about the entire category of 'experiential' fears like fear of flying or of tall buildings or of public speaking. Eventually you get up the onions to conquer those kinds of fears or you don't. I just don't think in the big picture they matter all that much or are all that life-altering in most cases.

    But the more interesting and sad kind of fear is the fear of not being needed or of being rejected and unwanted. The idea that no one really needs you whether it's in a workplace context, with family or friends, or in a relationship is pretty daunting and scary. Probably the saddest thing that one can hear is 'We won't be needing you anymore.' 

    I think most of us want to be successful at what we do. We want to have good relationships with our families and a set of close friends that we can share experiences with. But behind most of those desires is one fundamental one - we want someone to need us. 

    And waking up one day only to discover that no one out there, anywhere, really does need us is probably many people's greatest fear.

    So tell the people in your life that you need and that you count on how much they mean to you today. You'd be surprised I think how important that is.

    Dang, this content is kind of heavy, look for something more fun tomorrow.

    Monday
    May182015

    Regret

    Note: This week on the blog I am trying out a little experiment - writing on the first five (or so) subjects that popped out at random from a cool little app called Writing Exercises. The app provides suggestions for topics, characters, first lines - that kind of thing. I tapped the 'Random Subject' button a few times and will (try) to come up with something for each subject I was presented. It may be good, it may stink - who knows? But whatever the topic, I am taking like 20 minutes tops to bang something out. So here goes...

    Today's subject: Regret

    It is pretty typical and generally accepted life advice that one should live and plan and do in order to arrive at a place, usually somewhere near the end of the line, with no or at least very, very few regrets. The line of thinking holds that most people when reaching that point where they are doing a reckoning of their lives feel the worst about the things they never did or never tried or never took the time or risk to explore. Most of us, the thinking goes, lament the things we didn't do, much more so than whatever failures or disappointments we endured from the things we actually did.

    And I think that mostly makes sense. We don't, most likely, get to the end of our time and think about (too much) the more mundane and specific aspects of how we lived - where we worked, what we did, who we socialized with, where we traveled, etc. Of course we will think about our families and close friends, both the ones who have passed and those we might be leaving behind. And one thing I know for sure, no one sits up on their death bed and thinks, 'Gee, I wish I would have drank more glasses of water every day.' So have that Diet Coke or Mountain Dew or Schlitz. Have whatever you want.

    But back to regret, (and I need to wrap this up fast as I got distracted by a shiny object or someone jiggling some keys and I only have 2 minutes left to my self-policed deadline for finishing this post).

    Here's what I think I think about regret.

    If you did truly reach the end of the line with no regrets you probably had a pretty rich, fulfilling, happy, and positive life.

    But it is also quite possible you didn't dream enough or 'big' enough too. I think that it is probably ok to have a regret or two. It is ok to have, at one time, had some kind of big, audacious idea or plan or dream that for whatever reason you were unable to try and make a reality. It is ok to have missed, at least a little.

    I sort of don't really trust people who claim to have no regrets. Kind of the same way I don't really trust people who claim to not watch TV or who don't like White Castle.

    I know I will have at least one regret. And that is writing this post...

    Have a great week! 

    Monday
    May112015

    Where in your job description does it say you're supposed to be happy?

    So I got caught up (again) in one of basic cable TV's ubiquitous Law & Order marathons over the weekend and (again) picked up a great little piece of workplace wisdom that I wanted to pass along. 

    In the episode, the actual details of which really don't make a difference, one of the Assistant District Attorneys laments to the District Attorney (the Boss), about how it was extremely difficult to prosecute a particular defendant, as that defendant was kind of sympathetic, had a tough life, and really didn't have a lot of good life options that culminated in his commission of some pretty serious crimes.

    After securing a 'guilty' verdict against the defendant, the ADA said something to the effect of 'Yes, I think the verdict was the right one, but I have to say that I am not that happy about it.'

    To which the DA, the Boss, replied, 'Get over it. Where in your job description does it say that you're supposed to be happy?' 

    That's a win right there. And a great reminder for anyone, not just folks like DA's or people in Health Care or in social work -but for anyone with any kind of a job, not just the ones where dealing with less than satisfying outcomes is a part of the job. 

    Whether your job is cooking burger, designing bridges, or creating advertising campaigns, (or anything else), there is almost no chance that being 'happy' is a part of your job description. Sure, most employers would like you to be happy in your job, and certainly most workers (and more importantly perhaps, most families and friends of workers), would like you to be happy with your job, but for the most part you actually being 'happy' is not something your boss or her boss or the company customer or shareholders are all that concerned with.

    Your happiness with your job, and probably with just about every other part of your life, is mostly only important to you. That doesn't mean it isn't important, I think it is, but the sooner you realize like the ADA in the TV show had to realize, that the machine isn't (primarily) concerned with your happiness the better.

    Wow, re-reading this and it seems like kind of a downer post. Fitting it is running on a Monday.

    Have a great week! 

    Be happy.....

    Wednesday
    Apr292015

    Whatever you do, don't stare at his eye

    Yesterday I had the increasingly rare experience of meeting a professional acquaintance for the very first time in person who despite having corresponded with this person over email and having one or two calls, I had no idea what they actually looked like. While we were connected on LinkedIn, and I think following each other on Twitter, this person had no profile pic up on either site. I had also never come across any pictures of them from other events or conferences. I 'knew' this person a little, but would not have been able to pick them out of a crowd (unless the crowd were all wearing name tags, which thankfully for me, they were).

    Why bring this up? Because it seems to me in the modern world, this kind of thing almost never happens anymore. Every professional, or so it seems, is on LinkedIn. And every single piece of LinkedIn 'advice' tells people to post a profile picture, and probably most do. Add in Twitter, and if you are really a little bit stalker/creepy, Facebook, and with a little bit of sleuthing you can find a picture online of just about anybody. So meeting a professional contact that you have had a fair bit of interaction with and having no clue what they looked like just doesn't seem to happen much anymore, at least not with me.

    The episode reminded me of the first 'real' job I ever had, way back in the day. It was an entirely normal, professional office job, but since these were the days pre-LinkedIn and social media of any kind, (yes, the Dark Ages), I did not know what anyone looked like at my new workplace. Which was not a big deal back then, as we expected to know almost nothing about people we were meeting for the first time. As I look back, it is actually kind of refreshing to think we didn't start every business relationship with a bunch of pre-determined conclusions we've made from spending 15 minutes checking out the other person's social networking profiles. We took people more at face value, and judged based on how they behaved.  

    But anyway, back to the new job. When I started the person who would be my direct manager was on vacation, and would not be back for a couple of days. In his absence the alternate 'onboarding' person ('Your desk is here, the bathroom is over there'), said 'Bob (my manager), is a really great guy. You will like him. Just one thing you need to remember when you meet him. Whatever you do, don't stare at his eye.' Ok, I thought, I will try not to stare at Bob's eye. Can't be that hard, right? 

    Fast forward a couple of days when Bob returned from vacation and we met for the first time. And Bob was, in fact, a really nice guy. Exceedingly nice. Honestly even to this day one of the very best managers I've ever had. But there was one shall we say, unusual element in Bob's appearance. His left eye was prosthetic, a glass eye. And the fact that I had been warned in advance not to stare at the eye made it all the harder to not stare at the eye, if you know what I mean. It would have been better, I think, if no one had mentioned it at all to me prior to the meeting. I would have noticed it sure, but hopefully, would have not sort of fixated on it as much as the notion of 'Don't stare at his eye' had been bouncing around my head for days.

    Need to wrap up this nonsense here. Don't be so creepy stalking people online before you meet them. It's ok to be surprised sometimes. It's even ok to not know everything there is to know about a person before you even talk to them once. 

    And don't stare at their eyes.