Thursday, February 28, 2013

Three-Quarters of a Century!

My dad turned 75 yesterday. He's been alive for  three quarters of a century! That's a long time! His goal is to hang in there until he has completed that last quarter. Youthful and in good health, he just might make it (and I really hope he does).

My dad has lived several lives during his 75 years. He started out as one of eleven children in rural Georgia. He worked two jobs to make his way through college. After graduation, he spent a few years in the army before landing in Cleveland Ohio. He's been in Cleveland for 50 years. Grad school, marriage, family and a successful career as a school principal followed. Retired now, Dad is enjoying travel and working his home-based business.

I think it's from my dad that I get my determination. He instilled in me a strong work ethic and the belief that I truly can do anything if I want it bad enough and am willing to work hard enough to get it. Other lessons from Dad would include:

  • "You've got two ears, two eyes and one mouth. So you should be watching and listening twice as much as you are talking."
  • "Live off of 80 cents out of every dollar you make. If you tithe 10 cents and give the other 10 cents to yourself, you will never be broke"
    (Okay, I still struggle with these first two but that doesn't mean that it still isn't good advice!)
  • "No matter how high you go, never look down on anyone else." Everyone has their own talent, skills and abilities. You will never know what you can do for someone or what someone can do for you.
  • Watch people, especially when you are in a new place or different surroundings. Learn how to blend in.
  • Be independent and know how to take care of yourself. So, in addition to knowing traditionally 'female' things like cooking and cleaning, my dad taught me how to top off my oil, check my fluid levels, change a flat, jump a battery, paint a room and make simple repairs.
  • If a man can't appreciate you for the awesome woman you are, then he's not the one for you. Cut your losses and keep it moving!
In a world where the role of fathers is often discounted or dismissed, I am living proof that a great father figure can give you so much more than you can ever imagine. I love my dad to pieces and am looking forward to spending another quarter century with him.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Failure Recovery: Recovery 101

Every Monday in February, this four-week series covers a four step process for getting back up after you’ve fallen down.

Knowing where you went wrong and what you would do differently is the basis for your failure recovery. This is where you bounce back. You fell down, now you are ready to get back up.

Trying and failing is better than not trying and all. Failing and not getting back up is equally as bad. The road to success is rocky and filled with mistakes, missteps, and disappointment. You drive through rain, fog and snow. Yet, for some reason, we expect smooth surfaces and sunshine for our journey. Wrong!

You’ve asked yourself, “What will I do differently this time?” This becomes to crux of your come back plan. Assemble your team – the people who have the advice, expertise and support you’ll need. What steps will you take.  And what are your Plan B’s? What are the problems you are most likely to encounter and what will you do if those things happen? If you fall down again, what will you do this time to get back up.

Don’t delay, start today. As soon as you put your plan together, begin implementing it. Success begins today!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Advice for the Interns

Last month, on my job, a group of fourteen enthusiastic interns started. This is the first group in our newly revamped Internship program. While they are an eager bunch, some co-workers have been a little frustrated. What they forget is that they are dealing with college students and not seasoned professionals. It is our job to get them where they need to be professionally. I thought I’d share some of the advice I shared with them with you all.

  1. Separate the social and the personal. Since we spend more time at work than we do anywhere else, it is natural to bond with co-workers. Establishing strong social relationships makes work easier and more enjoyable. However, there is a difference between being social and being personal. Be amenable. Be friendly – but do not freely share personal information and situations. Remember, the root word of co-worker is work.
  2. Take Initiative. Don’t wait to be told, if you see something that needs to be done, do it. If you don’t understand something, don’t wait until a problem arises, ask. Do not get in the bad habit of saying, “That’s not in my job description.”  People that utter that phrase are the same people whining about being passed over for promotions.
  3. As much as you want to change the world, you won’t. You might want to revamp the way an entire department is working. Even if your ideas are better, as the new kid on the block take a moment and look around. As an intern, you are working with people who have been working longer than you’ve been alive. There are habits, personalities, behaviors and culture that you must contend with. Before bulldozing everyone with all of your superior ideas, take the time to really understand your surroundings and the people you are working with first.
  4. Recognize that everyone has something to contribute. It is easy to think that you are more educated, more driven or more focused than someone else … and that might be true. However, respect the fact that other people bring something to the table as well and there is always something that another person can teach us. There is no place for a condescending attitude at work.
  5. Be a sponge. Learn as much as you can about the work you are doing and the people you are working with. Take note of best practices as well as things you might do differently. Realize that the end of school is not the end of education. There is always something to be learned. Situations and circumstances are always changing and that alone means there will always be something to learn. Be a lifetime learner.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Failure Recovery: Disaster Dissection – What the Heck Went Wrong?

Every Monday in February, this four-week series covers a four step process for getting back up after you’ve fallen down.

You’ve felt your feelings and owned your mistakes. Now, it is time to move beyond the pain and embarrassment. You had a plan and somewhere along the way, it fell apart. The whole thing could have imploded or one step could have thrown you off course. Whatever happened, in Step Three you have to investigate and discover the root cause of your mistake(s).

Start by asking one question: “What happened?” It could appear that the answer is an easy one. “I gave in to temptation and ate the candy bar.” “I got sick and slept a lot. After I got better, it was easier to just sleep than to get up and exercise.” “I jumped to conclusions and constantly accused my significant other of lying and cheating.”

However, nothing is ever that easy. After you’ve asked what happened, ask yourself, “How did I let that happen?” Why did you let yourself give in to temptation? It could have been a reaction to stress. The social pressures of friends at a Girls’ Night Out could have added to the temptation. What stopped you from resuming your exercise routine after your illness had run its course? Maybe at first, all your workout clothes needed to be washed, or you were still a little tired and not ready to restart at 100%. If your significant other had cheated and lied in the past and you had good reason to be distrustful.
  • Ask yourself the following questions:
  • What parts of my plan or situation were working?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • Who could I have gone to for support?
  • Is there anyone enabling or sabotaging me?
  • What were my thoughts and negative self-talk saying to me when I made my mistake?
The last question you want to ask after you have assessed the situation. What will you do differently next time? This is where you uncovered the lessons you have learned from your mistake and where you begin to plan your recovery. However, you can’t get to this question until you have processed all of the ones that come before it.

NEXT MONDAY:  Planning your recovery

Thursday, February 14, 2013

More than a Feeling...

I wake up weekdays at 5:00 a.m., throw on my workout clothes and head upstairs to get on the treadmill or do a workout DVD. I can’t tell you of a time when I bounced out of bed, jumped into my clothes and sprinted up the stairs. In other words, I don’t feel motivated at O’Dark Hundred in the morning to leave a warm bed and sweat like a mad woman.

Motivation isn’t a feeling … it is a conscious decision to take action regardless of how you feel.

On my way to work the other day, I was listening to the radio and the deejay and a guest were discussing weight loss and motivation (or the lack thereof). The guest explained that she and a group of friends had started the year with the resolution to eat healthy and exercise. Of her group, she was one of the only ones still going at it. However, it was hard for her because she wasn’t always feeling motivated to work out.

The problem is that when you wait on feelings, you will often be waiting. This thought led me to an epiphany when it came to my own weight loss struggles.

The decision to ‘just do it,’ as Nike says, applies to how I work out. In the morning, I’m tired and I’d rather sleep in; but I get up anyway. Yet, I had not been as successful as I could be in my weight loss efforts because I while I had proactively applied the Nike mantra to my exercising, I had not been as effective in applying it to my diet.

Too much of what I ate had been the result of how I was feeling. Stressed? Reach for the chips or the chocolate. Frustrated? Make a bee line to the nearest drive-thru. Of course, never let diet get in the way of a good celebration (which wouldn’t be complete without something fried and some sort of calorie-laden beverage to wash it down with).

I need to decide to take action regarding what I eat regardless of how I feel. I need to just do it. I am writing this in present and not past tense because this is something that I am currently working on and not something that I have mastered.

Today, I got off to a good start. After lunch a co-worker asked me to make a cupcake run with her. I went. She indulged. I passed. Although I felt like having a delicious-looking red velvet cupcake, I decided to pass … and wouldn’t you now it, I felt a little bit of motivation after I did.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Failure Recovery: Eggs Belong in the Skillet

Every Monday in February, this four-week series covers a four step process for getting back up after you’ve fallen down.

It would be nice if our setbacks and major mistakes happened in solitude where they could remain our dirty little secrets; but rarely does that happen. Our worst moments are often very public. The one time I fell down the stairs it didn’t happen at home but in a packed IKEA store (luckily only my ego was bruised).

People (family, friends, co-workers, others …) often want a say about what they believe went wrong. They have an opinion to give and advice to share about our foible. In some cases this is a good thing but it can be a negative if their advice or opinion is more destructive than constructive. This is Step Two for a reason. Dealing with negative or destructive feedback is much harder to process if you haven’t dealt with your own feelings regarding your situation.

Be prepared to own your errors.  This one act can often cut negative criticism off at its core. When someone brings those things up, often, they are counting on you to deny it. Own it but don’t dwell on it … or let others do the same. Acknowledge what went wrong and your intention to move on. Tell them that you expect them to do the same.

If your mistake was largely the fault of someone else, don’t dwell on their contribution to the situation. Again, acknowledge and move on. Consistent blame is never a good idea. It keeps the blamer in a position of helplessness and self-pity. If the other person was unreliable, unethical or unprepared then you know how to deal with them (or not) in the future. Get over the urge to finger point.

Finally, change the way you look at failure. Trying and failing is infinitely better than not trying at all. To use a football analogy: fumbling the ball is embarrassing. It might even cost you the game. However, to fumble, you have to be in the game and on the field. Those who criticize from the sidelines aren’t playing. True, they won’t fumble but they won’t have the opportunity to catch the winning pass or even experience being on the winning team.

NEXT MONDAY:  Disaster Dissection – what happened and why.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Grown-Ups vs. Adults

When I work from home, I usually have the television on. Through the course of the day, a parade of talk shows and judge shows march across the screen. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the drama play out … and there is always drama. There are questions of paternity, accusations and confirmation of infidelity, lie detectors and all kinds of questionable behavior. It occurred to me as I was watching that these people, while grown in size, were far from being what I would consider an adult.

Unfortunately, these people don’t just exist on television and know a few in my own life – people who look like adults but act like children. Here are three ways you can tell Adults – those who have matured and experienced mental and emotional growth along with physical growth – and Grown-Ups – those who have only grown physically and who live in a state of emotional and physical immaturity.

  1. Adults know the difference between wants and needs. You need some form of transportation, a roof over your head, clothes on your back and a means to acquire these things for yourself and your family. Adults focus first on needs and then turn their attention to wants – things that are nice but not necessary. Grown-ups and children confuse the terms. They focus on what they want and, for them, a want becomes a need when it is something they really, really, really want! You need clothes, you want specific designer clothes. You need a roof over your head, you want a 5-bedroom house in a certain ZIP code. You need transportation. You want a Mercedes.

    Adults work for what they need and then concentrate on the wants. Grown-ups want to do work that helps them get the things they want because that work might be fun. They aren’t as enthusiastic about working to meet their needs (the fun factor there is usually a lot lower). A lot of grown-ups expect the adults around them to meet their needs so they can focus on their wants … just like children.
  2. Adults know actions have consequences. A leads to B. You shouldn’t be surprised when B comes after A. Adults consider the consequences before they act. So if A leads to B and you don’t want B then don’t engage in A. To use a common talk show theme, sex (A) can lead to pregnancy (B). So if someone engages in unprotected sex and a pregnancy results, no one should be terribly surprised. Adults look at the possible consequences and make their decision. In another example, a woman is working at a job she dislikes (A). She gets into an argument with her boss and quits (B), right then and there. Now, she doesn’t have any income but she still has bills, needs food and has to pay rent.

    Sometimes the consequences are such that the adult will pass on the immediate pleasure, be it sex or telling off a boss, because the consequences, or possible consequences are too great.
  3. Adults know the Blame Game when they see it. “It’s not my fault!” Kids say it all of the time and so do Grown-ups. Their problems are always caused by someone else. The word ‘accountability’ does not enter the Grown-ups vocabulary. Adults know, even if it really isn’t there fault, they will probably have to clean up the mess and sitting around whining about it won’t change a thing.  There might have been a series of really good reasons why the credit card balance has now exceeded the limit. Adults know they have to pay it anyway. 
This is not to say that adults are perfect, far from it. Do adults play The Blame Game some times? Certainly, they do. Do adults some times act without considering the consequences? No doubt about it, we all can get caught up in the moment. Then again, there are times when we fixate on what we really want. Yet, the balance of the time, adults are the people that do what needs to be done, even when they don’t want to and don’t feel like it.

Adults make the world go round.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Failure Recovery: Go Ahead, Feel Bad …

Every Monday in February, this four-week series covers a four step process for getting back up after you’ve fallen down.

Oops! My bad! January started with the highest of hopes. We resolved to finally conquer our resolutions this year! We were focused. We had a plan. We started off with momentum. Then, it happened. We gave in to temptation. We let the lure of old habits goad us into doing what we used to do. We worked hard and didn’t see the results we expected the first time out and discouragement set it. Whatever happened, however it to happened, now we seem to be back to Square One. How discouraging!

So, for now. Feel bad. Maybe your slip up was bigger than a resolution. Maybe you’ve experienced a job lost or the end of a relationship or received not-so-great news from your doctor. My advice is the same … allow yourself to feel bad … for a minute.

When you deny your feelings, they don’t go away. They go somewhere else and will reappear later and, usually when they do, they occur at an even worst time or someone who doesn’t deserve it becomes the brunt of your anger and frustration.

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating. The only way to get through it is to go through it. Allow yourself to feel the hurt, pain and disappointment. Find a friend you can vent to. Write it out in your journal. Close the door and cry. Take a few kickboxing classes. Respect what you are feeling because you are feeling it for a reason.

Have a pity party. Treat it like a real party. Dress for it (this could mean pajamas). Get the right foods (Ben & Jerry’s, an assortment of your favorite comfort foods). Invite the right people if you need company (or keep it as a party of one). Most importantly, give it a start time and an end time. Your journey to recovery begins here but you do not want to stay here.

In the movie Broadcast News, Holly Hunter’s character, Jane, schedules a daily 5-minute cry. She would take the phone of the hook, cry for five minutes about whatever was going wrong, then she’d put the phone back on the hook and get on with her day.

Own your emotions. Feel your feeling first. Then, and only then are you ready to move on.

NEXT MONDAY: Wiping the egg off of your face