Category: skills

The Whys Have It

Strobist: Shoot-through umbrella 430ex at 1/4 power up and to my left about 2 to 3 feet from subjects. The cousins get together for a photo shoot at Grandma's house. There was very little cooperation. Note to self: Bribery works better than ...

But Why?

I am visiting my 2 year old (soon to be 3) granddaughter. If you have kids, you know what happens around their third birthday… everything becomes, why? And not just single, why is that? but a continuing stream of whys. Once I answer the first why, it is often followed by 4,5, or even 6 why questions in a row.

The Power of Why

If I become even slightly impatient with the steady stream of questions, I remember that asking why is one important way to learn. It’s unfortunate that we, as adults, stop asking why. We assume that we know the answer… so we don’t ask why. Or we’re afraid to look silly or worse, not all knowing. Somehow, by virtue of our age, we’re suddenly supposed to know ‘everything.’

Growing – Personally and Professionally

On a personal level, we can ask why of people we love to better understand their thoughts and feelings. This requires us to listen to the answer. If we just ask why and don’t work to understand the answer, we are missing an opportunity to connect to those we care most about.

Professionally, have you ever heard of root cause analysis (also known as the 5 whys) ? In this problem solving exercise, a series of why questions are asked in order to get at the ‘root’ of the problem. When there is an issue, we can keep asking why (of the people who best know the answer, i.e. maybe not the manager, but the worker) until we get some at the root.

Ask Humbly

When we ask why, we have to defer to the other person’s knowledge. This is not easy for those of us who think we’re smart and know a lot. I have to practice humility, daily. I have to remind myself that things change, often. Remind myself that other people know a lot, that they see things differently from me. And that is good. Every day, I look with gratitude at the people in my life, at the work I have the privilege to be engaged in, at the beauty of the world around me.

I don’t have to ask why nature is beautiful and powerful, I just know it is. It’s there everyday, unchanged in it’s power. There are other things that don’t require a why, but not that many. ‘Why’, fills in the blanks, updates the database in our heads, changes the way we interact with people in the world.

 

Photo Credit: The Three Hams  Make Less Noise

Never Try to Up Sell an Unhappy Customer

But I’m Not Wrong!

So, you’ve had a problem with someone. Your spouse, your customer, your kids… anyone. And now you need something from them. But you don’t want to apologize because:

  1. You didn’t do anything wrong
  2. You don’t like to apologize
  3. You’re sick and tired of taking other people’s crap
  4. The other person was wrong
  5. On and on and on…

There are 1001 and reasons why you shouldn’t have to say you’re sorry. All of them perfectly justified in your mind. So I’ll ask you this one question.

Do you want to be RIGHT? Or do you want to be HAPPY?

Some people will say, well, if I’m right, then I’m happy because I know I’m right. Oookaaay. If that’s how you feel, then you are all set. Or maybe you have a great example of how being ‘right’ is more important than being happy. I’m sure there are some. My point is that when we have conflict with someone, it may be because … we want to be right.

Is the Customer Always Right?

Of course the customer is NOT always right. But the customer is ‘righter’ than we are, because we need them. They are the lifeline to our business. They have the power to influence others, positively and negatively. The same goes for our friends, loved ones, co-workers. Every day we have a choice to be ‘right’. Every day we have a choice to graciously acknowledge that other people have a right to their positions.

Trying to convince them that their point of view is wrong… is, well, wrong. Even worse, trying to convince them that we are right (the up sell), is even worse. The best we can do is to listen and see if we can find a way to bridge the gap. We can maintain our dignity (no doormats allowed), and show that we are open to hearing something different.

I wish it were easier. I wish this was a skill we were taught in school, but like many important skills, we are on our own.

Image Credit: Steve  Steve Snodgrass

Walk Through The Fire

Image result for what matters most is how you walk through fire

“There are times when those eyes inside your brain stare back at you.”
Charles Bukowski, What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire

I don’t know about you, but I spend way too much time in my head. I think about what other people are doing, why they’re doing it. I let their moods, problems, ideas effect me … more than they should. I rationalize that people are the most important thing on the planet so thinking about them is good! I think about the way:

  • they feel
  • they’re treated
  • what happens to them
  • whether they have food, friends, a home
  • how they feel in relation to other people

I was born a white, middle class girl. I know something of what it’s like to be a ‘minority’ because I’m a female and I’ve been put down, ignored, belittled, and shunned… in my personal and professional life.  I have a taste, the tiniest taste of what many people experience on a daily basis, just because they were born.

I’ve had a little taste of the ‘fire’, the pain and sadness. I hope I have walked through with some grace. At this point in my life, I want to see what I can do to help those whose fire is fixable or improved by education, political action, attitude adjustments, and perhaps a bit of magic, love and prayer.

I watched television host Trevor Noah talk about his upbringing and his book, Born A Crime.  Here’s where the title comes from:

“I was born a crime,” Noah said. “I was born to a black South African mother and a white Swiss father during Apartheid in South Africa, so them doing ‘the thing’ was illegal.” Apartheid , the despicable practice of white separatist rule in South Africa, only ended in 1990. Yes, 1990! The fact that Noah was born in 1984 to a black mother and a white father was literally a crime. How’s that for a fire to walk through?

When Noah is asked what he thinks about Americans complaining about our rights being taken away. His answer, “I never judge somebody for thinking their world is tough, because it is tough, to you.” Trevor Noah has walked through the fire and come out a man showing us how to live with the scars… with grace and humor. I tip my hat.

Five Things

Pick 5

If you could pick 5 things… right this minute… that you would like to have… right this minute… what would they be? Quick, write them down.

Be sure you write them down since having them in your head doesn’t count. Why? Because it’s easy to lose the lesson if you don’t. Do it. Write them down.

What Did You Pick

Let’s look at your list objectively. Did you put down ‘things’? Did you put down abstract concepts like love? Did you wish for things that would benefit someone else or just yourself? Look at your list. When you’re done, put it in a drawer, take it out next week.

My Picks

I am fortunate to work at home these days. When the weather is good, I’m lucky. When it’s not good, I’m lucky. I get to be out in it. This morning the temperature was perfect 70 degrees. Soft breeze blowing, lots of birds singing and swooping, my dog is pulling on her leash as we stroll the neighborhood.

When I thought of this question… I knew my answer immediately. I want my 5 senses. That’s it. I know I already have them but I don’t want to take them for granted, for one second, of one day.

  • Take a look at your hand and marvel at the wonder of all you can accomplish. Wiggle your fingers. Jump up and down.
  • Put a piece of bread in the toaster and smell the sweetness.
  • Look out your window and see, whatever you see. Revel in the miracle of sight.
  • Listen, really listen to the voice of someone you love. Can you hear the feelings behind the words? How often do you really hear their voice?
  • Yeah, ok, go get the chocolate or coffee or beer or whatever… really taste it.

You get the idea. Pay attention to your senses today.

Image credit: Five  Woodley Wonder

You’ll Understand (When You’re Older)

i wish it was summer already :\

 It Doesn’t Make Sense To You Now

Remember when people said this to you? “I can’t explain it to you, you’ll understand when you’re older.” That answer is infuriating, isn’t it? In some ways it’s true and in other ways, it’s bullsh*t. I am acutely aware of how we “older people” talk to younger people. I don’t mean little kids necessarily, but even with them, we don’t give them a ‘straight’ answer. We say, “Eat because children in Africa are hungry.” We don’t say, ” There are children who live 2 miles from us that are hungry.” We don’t drive them over to this neighborhood and show them how to help others. Look, this isn’t a lecture. Each of us has to raise our children the way we see fit.

They Know the Truth

What I’m pointing out is that I’d like each of us to consider how we talk to our children and not just those that live in our houses, but all young people. They know the truth. Much more than we want to admit. Kids are very sophisticated these days. We can argue about whether this is good or bad but there’s no turning back. They have a computer in a phone, they have way too much stimulation and are aware of what is good and bad in the world beyond where they probably should. Denying that there are problems doesn’t serve them. Acting as if they have no power is useless. It takes courage to be a good parent, good citizen, good role model. And it takes hard work. With so many things in the world to worry about, how do we tell them the truth without causing them undue worry and harm?

I’m Older and I Still Don’t Understand

Even though my next birthday will be a ‘speed limit’ (65), I am dumbfounded at how much I don’t understand the world. My goal is to take action, to do what I can to change what I can and I pray to know the difference between what I need to accept and what I can do something about.

Image Credit: Sophie in Red Hat  Mike DelGaudio 

With Walls of Purest White  Erin MC Hammer

Diary of A Wimpy Adult

Matt's pouty face.

Wimpy Is As Wimpy Does

Yes, I’m calling you wimpy. I’m calling me wimpy. We’re all a bunch of wimps.

Well, not really. But I do think many of us could toughen up. I’m not saying there aren’t lots of genuinely difficult problems that people face, clearly there are. I’m referring to a lot of the whining that goes on about parking spaces at the mall, crowds at restaurants, etc.

I love this article, “How to Increase Your Mental Toughness, 4 Secrets From Navy Seals and Olympians.”

  1. Talk positively with yourself.
  2. Set goals (sometimes really small ones)
  3. Practice visualizing what you want to happen
  4. Practice like it really matters

My favorite is the positive self talk. The author notes, “It’s estimated you say 300 to 1000 words to yourself per minute.” WOW. I first became aware of my negative self talk as I was working to improve my attitude and break the habit of being sarcastic. I had learned negative self talk in response to a dysfunctional upbringing. From that same upbringing, however,  I learned to rely on myself and be independent. My ‘work’ (school, professional, etc.) self talk was very positive but my personal self talk was very negative. I had to learn how to bridge the two. To bring what I knew to be positive about myself and reprogram the negative ‘tapes’ that said I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, strong enough, etc.. The first step is to hear the voice.

What Are Your Internal ‘Tapes’ Saying?

The problem with self talk is that it’s hard to hear. If I’m talking to myself to the tune of 200 to 1000 words a minute, how do I hear what is being said? This takes practice.

Step 1. The next time you are facing a tough situation, try listening to what you are saying to yourself. Are you focused on fear and failure? Or are you focused on doing your best and learning? Write down just a few of the positive and negative messages you are giving yourself.

Step 2. No really write the stuff down. Even if it’s just key words. Go back and review the words.

Step 3. Pick a time of day to focus on your self talk. Maybe right before lunch or while you’re driving. What kinds of things are you saying to yourself? If you can make this into a habit, you’ll benefit.

Step 4. Pick 2 or 3 phrases that you’ll replace the negatives with. These phrases need to be positive but not overly sugary or fake. I like, “I have handled a lot of tough things, I can do this.”

Step 5. Go back to step one.

I know I Hate It Too

Sounds like a lot of work? Yeah. But it’s like going to the gym. Getting started is the hardest part. Slow, steady, repetition is the key to success. If all else fails, please hear me saying, “I believe in you,” because I do.

Photo credit: Whine  Maggiejumps

But I Had No Choice, Did I?

I liked both of these images! Why not put them together..??

It’s unlikely you have no choice. More likely: There’s no easy choice. No safe choice, that also embraces your potential. No choice you can make that doesn’t cause short-term misery in exchange for a long-term benefit. Seth Godin

Do I or Don’t I?

When I hear myself say, “I had no choice,” I know that I’ve stumbled. In my time on this planet, I’ve come to realize, I always have a choice. (ok, you can probably think of some time when I might not… but I’m talking about “most of the time.”) When I say, I had no choice, that means that I..

  1. Didn’t see any choices
  2. Didn’t like my choices
  3. Didn’t want to admit I was wrong, change my attitude or stop blaming someone else

But What If I Don’t Like What Happens

I’ve spent the past several years learning to understand that I have choices and then taking responsibility for the choices I make. I’ll admit, it’s been painful and hard. It was much easier to blame someone else for my divorce, my unemployment, my blah, blah, blah. Once I learned that when I default to the choice that is obvious, it’s often NOT great. When I take the time to consider my options and act responsibly towards my own well being, things get better. I could blame my parents. I could tell you a story about their addiction. But the truth is, once I got to be an adult, the responsibility was mine to get help and make my life better. If I’m not happy with my life, I need to make it better.

One fear is that if I make a choice, I might not like the outcome. In some ways, whatever the bad things are, they are “known” bad things. And the “unknown” bad things could be worse. Fear kept me stuck.

Choice is Freedom

When I see I have choices, even if I don’t like the ones I have, I am free. Freedom isn’t just a positive attitude, it’s also accepting responsibility for understanding my choices and then acting on them. It’s often not popular to make certain choices. When you rock other people’s boats, they get hurt and angry and if I change, then people close to me must also change. I’ve learned, when the choice affects others, that I need to act slowly and thoughtfully. But I still need to act. I’m grateful to be free to make choices. Good or bad.

Image credit: Fork in the road   Jrdn7730

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.

Image result for paulo coelho quotes secret to life

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