Category: skills

Secret to Life

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill

The whole point of life is to keep trying. Fall down, get up, stumble; stumble forward.

Many people don’t understand the joy of trying and failing. Somehow they gauge their worth by things; not by how many times they fall on their face and get back up.

I’m begging you; be weird. The world needs you.

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Image credit: Banksy

Are You a Manager or a Leader?

Good Leader vs. Great Manager

Would you rather be a good leader or a great manager? There isn’t a ‘right’ answer. It’s all in what you value, probably the stage of your career and many other factors. Lots of people think they are both a good manager and a good leader. The reality is, that rarely are people really good at both.

Recognizing Your Natural Strengths

Years ago, I took a leadership and strategic planning course. The instructor insisted that people who weren’t ‘born’ leaders, including the ability to think strategically, could be trained to do so. I disagreed then and I disagree now.

I think each of us has a natural strength toward either leadership or “managership.” We can build leadership “skills,” which are very important, but the notion that we can ‘teach’ people to be great leaders is problematic.

Learning to be a good manager is hard and takes a long time. Good managers make the team feel positive and empowered.  Good managers take themselves out of the equation and focus on the task and the team.

Maybe I’m Wrong

But wait, most mothers (and a lot of dads) are the ultimate managers. They know how to get things done. They make it look easy to run a household, feed, clothe, educate, chauffeur, etc. At the same time, they lead each child to be their very best. Maybe classroom teachers learn both. Maybe master tradesmen, learn both.

Maybe if you practice every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, for 20 years; you learn both.

Develop Unconventional Skills

Beach of maria flour. Paulista. Janga. Pernambuco.<br /><br /><br /><br />
Artur jumping.

I studied French and German as an undergrad. I always thought I wanted to be a French teacher. Once I became a secondary school teacher, I realized I liked the kids, didn’t like ‘school.’ Ok, so now what?

I had worked in the University Library for my work-study money and I loved it. So next thing I knew, I was in a Master’s of Library Science program. I didn’t have any idea what I was going to do with this degree. I didn’t really seem like all the other ‘librarians’, but I loved all the adult learning, bringing order out of chaos, etc.

I moved from Washington, D.C. to Rochester, N.Y. and finished my degree at SUNY Geneseo. Now what?

The point of the story is not… what I did. The point is that it’s surprising and amazing how all the skills I learned along the way, helped me gain my future positions. Whether it was teaching that turned into training, or knowing a foreign language that turned into translating; I had a background that others didn’t. That brought me opportunity. That brought my skills and personality to the attention of people who could help me in my career.

Just when you think your weird/odd range of interests could be of no possible benefit to anyone… suddenly you find that you are the person who can get the job done. Make your career long by doing the following:

  • Constantly be learning
  • Learn different things than other people (stamp collecting? uni-cycling?)
  • Expand your network by deliberately including people of various ages, ethnicities, professions, etc.

Do not be discouraged if you are in a job (or looking) that isn’t exactly what you want or if you feel that your diverse skills aren’t appreciated. Hang in there and never give up. With patience if you come to see where you fit. The world needs you just the way you are.

Photo credit: Somersault Netjer-Lelahell

I Don’t Care

All my life I’ve been torn between caring and not caring.

On the one hand, I care deeply about other people.  I grew up in a difficult family (alcoholics) and so much of what I ‘care’ about has to do with people who have ‘less than.’ I make a conscious effort to be helpful and kind.

On the other hand, I have never really cared about what people think about my choices. Because I grew up quickly and had a lot of responsibility, I learned to be independent. When my choices conflict with what other people think they should be, it causes them discomfort and then they judge me. They are afraid that my ‘differentness’ might rub off on them or challenge their own ideas.

A lot of decisions are made because people are so afraid of what other people will say or think. OR what we imagine they might say or think. The more time we spend thinking about what others think, the less time we spend doing cool, fun or interesting stuff, that we want to do.

This morning I heard an old favorite on the radio. “Make Your Own Kind of Music” by Mama Cass Elliott

Nobody can tell ya
There’s only one song worth singing
They may try and sell ya
Cause it hangs them up
To see someone like you
You gotta make your own kind of music
Sing your own special song
Make your own kind music
Even if nobody else sings along
It takes courage to sing your own song. Most of us want someone to sing along. Realize that to be yourself in the face of criticism, being different, having unique ideas and viewpoints, speaking up, etc. are all hallmarks of strength. And if they don’t like it, well, I just don’t care.
Image credit: RapGenius

Why Are You So Angry?

“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” – Scott Hamilton

People with a bad attitude (bullies and the like) HATE inspirational sayings. They think they are for are stupid and ‘weak’ people. They feel their anger and bad temper are justified. I remember having a ‘chip on my shoulder’ when I was growing up. (Maybe I still have it.)

My parents were alcoholics, I had my share of problems. Worse, I couldn’t control how I expressed my anger. It just came out. Often when I didn’t want or expect it to. The people I was most angry at… wouldn’t have been able to hear me even if I had expressed my frustrations and fear.

So I’d be at the grocery store and some young clerk would make a mistake and I’d lash out, all out of proportion to the error. When I finished carrying on, I would feel justified at first… then I’d just feel awful. Why did I do that? I was never going to do it again. And then, suddenly, I would do it again.

I finally got sick of being angry. I got help. I went to Al-Anon  (free peer support for families of alcoholics), got a counselor, went to treatment for children of alcoholics. My life changed slowly but dramatically.

My story is no different than many others. I was lucky; I had the will and resources to get help. Many caring and intelligent people never get help. They just stay mad, sad and lost.

If you recognize that you sometimes lash out at people, whether at people you love or strangers, I urge you to talk to someone. There are free resources available to you, no matter where you live. No matter what your problem, there are others who have had them too.

Photo credit: Scott Hamilton

Lessons From A Navy Seal: Mud & Singing

Seal buds training

“If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.”

Maybe you don’t want or think you can – change the world. I understand. Your little start up, your job, your way of being in the world, doesn’t matter much.

My idea about ‘changing the world’ is only to help one person, on one day, today. That’s it. So if you change your definition to match mine, perhaps you’d be more inclined to join me.

In a wonderful article, “10 Navy Seal Life Lessons You Can Use Every Day,” I found a mountain of inspiration for my world-changing adventure.

What struck me about this, “up to your neck” lesson was the story behind it: “While the (training) group was (sic) up to their necks in mud, one SEAL started singing through the ordeal and others joined him in chorus. It was something that gave them hope.”

I love to sing. I have happy childhood memories singing show tunes in the car with my mother when we went on a long trip. I can still picture the words carefully written out. Singing was a way to pass the time AND bring us together.

The seal story shows one person’s power to change a group’s thoughts and feelings. If not for that one SEAL, would the entire group have made it through? A calm, positive voice… when we are afraid, lost or feel hopeless… can get us through it. Can you be that one voice for someone today?

Photo Credit: Lance Iverson SF Chronicle

The Irreverent Resume

Yes to irreverent, NO to  idiotic.

When I saw this article, “Resume Blasphemy” I thought, how great! I love this idea.

Instead of listing… where you went to school and worked… the author suggests you write how you would do the job including:

  • “A clear picture of the business of the employer you want to work for.
  • Proof of your understanding of the problems and challenges the employer faces.
  • A plan describing how you would do the work the employer needs done.
  • An estimate of what/how much you think you could add to the bottom line.”

Imagine you are the hiring manager and instead of skimming boring resumes, you get to read through descriptions of various approaches to the advertised job. This is at the heart of behavioral interviews but it goes farther because it requires the applicant to do all the work.

My suggestion… whether you send the irreverent resume or not… write it! Imagine how prepared you will be for that interview.

Photo Credit: How to…

Confront Your Shark

In the article, “10 Navy Seal Life Lessons You Can Use Everyday,” Navy Seal Admiral W. H. McRaven shows us how to train like a seal. One of the 10 lessons is to “confront your daily shark.” Wow, really. I don’t want to. That’s why it’s a shark; it’s big, dangerous, mysterious, overwhelming.

In truth, some sharks are overwhelming. But many sharks are sharks – only to us. To others they are simply bosses, bullies, relatives – whoever intimidates and makes us feel smaller than we are.

I can’t tell you what you to do, but I can tell you what I did. I went through a bad, awful, terrible divorce. Specifics aside, I can tell you there were many times when I felt I couldn’t keep going. I wanted to give up and give in. I had grownup with alcoholic parents, was always taking care of other people (mom, little brother, chronically ill older sister) and I had a poor sense of myself as a strong, confident person. So when this ‘challenge’ arose in my life, I was more than shaken to my (already shaky) core.

Here’s what I did:

1) Got a physical and communicated regularly with my doctor

2) Exercised regularly

3) Talked and talked and talked.. thank you to everyone who listened

4) Tried to have fun whenever I could (I wasn’t great at this to begin with and … still not good at it)

5) Worked to change the “tapes” playing in my head that told me, I couldn’t, shouldn’t, wasn’t strong enough, smart enough, etc.

6) I focused on ‘the prize’ – what I wanted as an end result

7) Listened to inspirational (rock n roll songs) like:

Already Gone – Eagles

So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key

You Gotta Be -Des’ree
You gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm
 What are your favorites inspirational songs? Share them and what you’ve done to ‘confront your shark.” Go get ’em!

Photo Credit: 3D Shark Will Ellis

Are You Part of the “Other Backward Class”?

I found this homeless man with his dog, he was ever so gentle and loving with man's best friend. Chris told me his dog, Brandy, was all he had in the world. His last dog was taken away from him by the police because he did not have tags or a ...

I read an article about the unexpected death of an Indian politician named, Gopinath Mundie. Mr. Mundie had risen to prominence from, what in India is known as, a low-caste grouping called the “Other Backward Classes.” When I read this, I almost cried. Can you imagine growing up in a country where you, your family and friends are referred to by this derogatory term?

I am not judging the Indian people, their culture or their politics (in fact, we could learn a lesson from them in democracy… if you haven’t seen this Daily Show segment on voter turn out… check it out.)

I am simply asking you to think about your life in America. We have a long way to go in many, many aspects of our young country’s democracy and fairness to our citizens. There are many problems. But one thing we don’t have are Backward Classes. Of course, we have ‘classes’ that ‘we’ consider ‘less than’ – so we all have a lot of work to do on understanding, kindness, sharing, fairness, etc.

Related to this… I hear many people complaining about our economy, but I see the restaurants are full. People complain about fuel prices, but we still drive everywhere. We worry about climate change, yet we leave our lights on, use drive-throughs and in general don’t pay much attention to our individual contribution to the problem.

I’m not blaming anyone… I have many improvements to make in my own life. For today, I am asking you to think about how lucky you are that you live in a country (with all its flaws) where education is universal and opportunities are abundant. The chance to live a life that most people on the planet would give everything to have a chance to experience. So the next time your dry cleaning isn’t ready on time or the grocery store is out of your favorite ice cream, will you stop and be grateful for the abundance that being born American has given you?

P.S. One other item of interest about Mr. Mundie… “His home district of Beed is infamous for female foeticide (where they find out if a fetus is a girl or a boy and then abort it if it is a girl) and given that he has three daughters and no son, he was often hailed as an example for others to follow. One of his daughters, Pankaja Munde-Palve, is a member of the Maharashtra state assembly.” Mr. Mundie.. you will be missed but your legacy lives on.

Photo credit: His Entire World: Homeless Man  Beverly and Pack

Are You Learning as Fast as the World is Changing?

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Do you think the world is changing too fast?

Yeah, so do a lot of people. But the question is, are you learning as fast at the world is changing? In order to cope with the world, we need to figure out how to keep up.

There are a lot of interpretations of ‘how to keep up’. I don’t have a prescription. I only know my own way.

In an article titled, “The Best Leaders are Insatiable Learners,” the Harvard Business Review author points out that according to John Gardner most of us are simply bored silly.

Can you relate? When I worked at my ‘corporate’ jobs, I have to admit, I was; at least part of the time, bored. For me, working with start ups, having my own company and being a freelancer has set me free.  If I am bored, it’s my own doing; not because of my work.

Some of the jobs where I made the most money, I’ve also been so bored I could scream like the boy in the picture.

The antidote to ‘boredom’ is learning. An insatiable desire and earnest effort to be exposed to the unfamiliar. Whether it be thoughts, ideas, foods, people, places, notions, experiences, etc.. The goal is to figure out a way to get that ‘exposure’ in a way that fits with our stage in life. If I’m young, this might be easy. If I’m 80, this might be more difficult. But the goal is the same.

My way is to: read, read, read; hang around people who are excited by their work and life; LISTEN to those people; try to do things I don’t know how to do – just for practice. A conscious effort to learn new things is, I think, keeping me young.

Find your way and instead of complaining about how fast the world is changing, you can enjoy, adapt and contribute to the change.

Photo credit: Scream and shout   madanys