I Hate Being A GrownUp

One of the good things about about being a grown up is that you get to choose when you act/think like a kid. The problem is that many of us never choose that path, even for a few minutes. Once we’re grown up, we think it’s wrong to be silly or color outside the lines. This is a shame.

The older we get the more invested we are in ‘the same’; what Seth Godin calls lizard brain. Our prehistoric need to stay in the cave, “to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise.”

The idea is to live our lives according to what we (and our loved ones) need at the time.  This doesn’t mean I have to work at this job or this career forever. Just right now.

People forget this. They also forget that they can change their minds. I am not recommending arbitrarily job hopping. But trying several different paths to build skills and ‘try things on’ is a legitimate path – AT ANY AGE.

The problem is the judgement of other people, specifically our fear of it. When I requested and got approval (in 1984) to manage my team while working part time, many of my colleagues were upset. Here’s what they said; “why does she get to?” “she can’t be serious about your career” and my favorite “I wish I could do that.” Blah, blah, blah. I showed them how to do it, they were too afraid. That’s cool. You do it your way and I’ll do it mine.

But if you think you can go your own way and not face judgement from others, stop. it. right. now. Accept the fact that for whatever human reason, the pack doesn’t like lone wolves. If you choose a path that isn’t like everyone else’s, people are going to be upset and many will let you know.

Insofar as you can (and still pay your bills) stop thinking/worrying about what everyone else wants/thinks. You will NEVER please everyone so you might as well please yourself.  For me, this was a tough lesson, but once I learned it… I was free forever.

It’s hell in the hallway but the difficulty doesn’t last forever. But when you’re in the hallway… it sure feels like it will.

Want a laugh? check out my daughter Jenna’s take on ‘grownuphood” (alert: fbombs & other foul language included)

Photo credit: Why Do We Work?

 

Creating Work You Love (Sounds Scary or Ridiculous)

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Why am I an entrepreneur? “We’ve made the decision to let you go,” my boss said over the telephone.  I was shocked and upset.That was, the first time.

The second time I was let go, not so much. By the third time I said to myself, “Never again.” I am not going to put myself in a position where how I earn my living is dictated by someone else’s priorities.

I learned to work hard when I was young and frankly, since I’m a Baby Boomer, being a workaholic is normal and I always wanted my own business. I remember more than one person saying to me, you can’t start a company (you girl, you), what could you possibly do? As angry as I was at them, I used the anger to motivate me.

Assessing the possibilities I had a bunch of skills, foreign languages, marketing, healthcare, blah, blah, blah. They didn’t really fit together into a solid plan for earning a living being an entrepreneur. So I devised a three pronged strategy for creating income.

1) Teaching

2) Speaking and workshops

3) Consulting

Getting started I met with a lot of people and talked about my idea. Some nodded, “Hmmmm, I could see them thinking, she’ll never make this work.”  Some tried to discourage me, “Get a job,” and a few encouraged me, “You can do it!”

I can report that 5 years in, I am doing better than I ever hoped. It isn’t what I expected and that’s not only good, it’s fun.

You can do it too.  So if you are wondering where your next job is going to come from… I will ask you this; what will it take for you to say, “Enough. I’m gonna try something different?  I can guarantee you will learn more in 1 year on your own path than you will in 5 years working for someone else. If, at any point,  you decide to go work for someone else, you’ll be even more valuable to that employer. You will be a better problem solver, see the big picture and actually empathize more with your boss in a different way.

But I can’t…. I have responsibilities   The first time I co-founded a start up I was the single mother of 2 kids, 14 and 12 with no family to help me. That start up only lasted 2 years, thanks to 9/11, but I learned so much and my actions showed my children how to go for what they want and to not be afraid.

Just Do It. Join millions of others who are finding a way to create meaningful, interesting work.

Photo credit: You Can Do It

Nothing is Certain, But Everything is Possible

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Do you remember stories that were told in your family? In my family, my grandfather used to tell, “Billy the Mountain Goat” stories. Now I was too young to remember any of them but for those who heard and know them, they are treasures.

In this article, “The Storyteller of Marrakech,” the author tells us about the 1,000 year old tradition of story tellers in the public square. The tradition had been dying out due to noise, traffic and the general “busy”ness of modern life. The story has a happy ending (a new home for the story tellers and young people coming to hear them and learn).

But it got me thinking about stories.

In my family there are stories about my kids when they were little. I shared them with them as they got older. Then I shared them with their friends and ‘significant others’/ spouses and now they are having children; so I look forward to sharing them with the next generation. This is an easy tradition and one we all likely follow.

But what about all those stories that are part of our religion, heritage, ethnicity, tradition, neighborhood, town, city, country? Do we work to keep them alive? Do we share the stories that mean the most to us with others? Most importantly, embedded in those stories are the guideposts, pillars, mile markers of our shared journey. If we let them die, we miss giving our children the one thing that might just help them through the dreaded darkness.

Today I ask you to reach out to one person and tell one story. Any story. And remember the power of a story to change a life. So as the Moroccan storyteller says, “Nothing is certain, but everything is possible.”

Photo credit: Think More: A Novel Concept

Listen My Children And You Will Hear…

I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in “A,” “B,” “C” and “D.” Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?Barry Goldwater 1981

I’m not here supporting one political party (I’m an independent) or religion or school of thought. I’m here to ask each of us to look inward. We often say, “they” are wrong, “they” should speak up/be quiet. “The government” should do more/less, defend me, help me, support me, stop them, arrest them, defend them.

But the truth is we are “they.” We are “the government.” This is America; it is up to us to change things we don’t like: vote, participate, read, discuss, listen, ask, accept responsibility. Democracy requires work.

It doesn’t matter what religion we are. What God we believe in. Where we grew up. What political party we support. What matters is that we stop blaming and start figuring out how to participate in solutions. Think you are not part of the problem? Try this.

Find someone whose opinions are radically different than yours.  Pick a topic that you agree you disagree on. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Each of you take 5 minutes to explain your position. The other person takes notes. The listener’s job is to reiterate the speakers key points. That’s it. You don’t have to discuss it further. Now talk about something else. Kids, whatever. What we all need is practice listening to each other.

Each person can then pick one point the other made, and think more about it. I’m not asking you to change your opinion. I am asking you to think about the other person’s point.

Imagine the world if we could teach our children this simple (not easy) skill.

Photo credit: Words As Visuals: Unity

What I Learned from My Dog: Part 2

Untitled  How do dogs spend their days?

- Eating, sleeping, sniffing, barking, chasing

We human beings can learn a few things from them. The eating and sleeping part we all get. But what about:

- Sniffing – this is the equivalent of learning, but hands on learning, not the… oh I went to college kind. The kind where you have to get right in there and possibly not be ‘perfect.’ This is where the real learning happens.

- Barking – this is the communicating part of the day. We all communicate in various ways, we whimper, we brag, we talk etc. But dogs don’t gossip, they don’t shame each other, (okay they may bully a bit but they do it for a survival reason.)

-Chasing – My dog watches the squirrels, chipmunks and birds out the window. She was bred to dig varmints out of holes so she’s happy to let the critters be. But occasionally she finds something so compelling, she just has to chase it. Can you relate? I can.

One last thing. When the wind blows, instead of turning away, she puts her face right into it. The harder it blows, the longer she stands facing it. This inspires me: when the wind is blowing in my face, I work to stand firm, sniff and see what I can learn.

Seasick

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I visited (helped out) one of my children recently; they just had their first child. Watching your child with their child is one of life’s great joys.  We are fortunate, mom and baby are doing well.

As I watch them learn about their new family member, I am impressed by their calmness. They are both exhausted and yet, they simply go with the flow. They don’t fight against the exhaustion or the baby’s crying; they just accept it. Together they figure out what to do and then they do it. If you were like them as a new parent, then you are probably thinking, what’s the big deal? Well, I applaud you too.

For many of us, being in an overwhelming circumstance is … overwhelming. Small things become big things. Irritability takes over. For those of us with depression, this is, unfortunately, somewhat normal. We are not calm in the face of things we can’t change. We fight, argue, moan, blame… everything but accept.

Leonard Cohen’s quote struck me because when I think back on how many times I did not… “become the ocean,” or surrender to/accept the circumstances, I realize that I could have (perhaps) saved myself some grief.  In those difficult days, the more I fought the ocean waves, the more ‘seasick’ I becameAfter many years, I learned how to surrender with dignity and peace of mind.

One of my favorite sayings is, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Most of the time when I was lost, I thought I was my own teacher. I was wrong.

So if you find yourself in transition, if you are in the middle of a difficult time, I empathize. Ask yourself, am I fighting the waves? In the past when I have been ‘seasick, it’s because I didn’t know how to do anything differently. I didn’t know how to become the ocean. If you don’t know how to become the ocean (and you’re sick and tired of being seasick) ask for help. Start by asking one person. If they can’t help, ask someone else and keep asking until you find, your teacher.

If you don’t know Leonard Cohen, check him out. If you’ve never heard him sing this… you’re in for a treat.

Photo credit: direct current

Key Hiring Question: When & Why Will You Leave?

When you are interviewing for a job… probably one of the last things on your mind… is why and when you might leave. You’re thinking… I don’t even have the job… why would I think about when I might leave?

Great companies make this complex question part of the interview process.

In an insightful article by someone I admire, Charlene Li of Altimeter Group, How I Hire: Figuring Out Fit — And The Exit Strategy… she outlines the criteria and process for assessing candidates based on culture, skills and my favorite and what I consider relatively unique…  sense of purpose.

“As part of the hiring process, I also talk with people about how they will leave Altimeter one day. The idea of lifetime employment is dead, so why not face up to the reality that this person we’re hiring will one day leave? It’s a core part of us living the value of Integrity — that openness and transparency develops trust.” Charlene Li

The last regular, ‘show up in the office’ job I had, I actually negotiated my departure date as part of my hiring package. When they offered me the job, I told them I would stay one year.  It allowed me to focus on getting the job done without worrying about how I’d leave. It was very empowering.

I am not suggesting that every time you take a job, you should negotiate your exit. What I am suggesting is that you think about what you want to get from the assignment… even it it’s just to earn some money or stay for 6 months.  Be conscious of what it will look like when you have reached that goal.

By the way, this takes courage and it puts the responsibility for finding your next ‘step’ right where it belongs; with you.

Image credit: Diane Arbus Moving On

Leadership: Handout or Hand Up?

As leaders do we see ourselves as coaches, mentors and teachers or as managers, bosses and the person “in-charge.” The distinction may be subtle but the influence you may have on people and the results you drive may not be subtle. In the book, “Leaders East Last,” (title derived from the Marine Corps where enlisted men always eat first), Simon Sinek says, “whether a leader puts themselves or their people first, determines if they are worthy of our love and loyalty. Leadership is a decision not a rank.”

Many people think that the ‘younger generation’ is lazy and entitled. I say every generation has this type of person. I see so many 20-30 somethings doing such great things; I hope you see them that way too. I loved this article, “Meet 6 Entrepreneurs Who Use Tech to Change the World.” Each young entrepreneur is doing something simple to solve a problem. My favorite is HandUp started by a young woman named Rose Broome.

“HandUp is direct giving for homeless people and others in need in your neighborhood. Your donations are redeemed for basic needs like food, clothing, and medical care through our partner organization Project Homeless Connect.”

Like all start ups, this one will have critics and bumps along the way. What I like is that Rose didn’t just give the homeless woman a dollar and forget her. She’s looking for a way to help stabilize her situation. It may be a handout right now, but hopefully a hand up is on it way too.

Photo credit: photo leroys

You Must Go to College BEFORE You Start a Company

We're midway through the judging at the <a href="http://www.dfj.com/venturechallenge">DFJ Venture Challenge</a> today…Here you see a UC Davis team demonstrating light-dimming demand response to help reduce utility bl...

I was skimming through a book titled, “The $100 Startup, Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, ” by Chris Guillebeau (a wicked cool guy). In the first pages, he tells the story of Michael Hanna, the successful sales professional.  Twenty plus years experience and he is called in to his boss’s office, the HR person shows up, he’s let go, handed a cardboard box and walked to his car. He moans and worries for a while but then something happens.  He starts a company by accident and ends up a successful entrepreneur.

Kids, You Must Go to College

I am stunned when I hear parents and teachers say, you must go to college before you start a company. You don’t have enough ‘experience.’ What could you possibly do? How will you live? and on and on. Thousands of reasons why not.

Hey folks, for many, what you learn in college won’t get you a job, a career or make you happy. There are wonderful alternatives to college (40 Alternatives to College) but we, as a society, don’t support or value them.

Don’t get me wrong, I think college is great. I understand about “education-related income”and there are lots of successful people who are high school drop outs… Peter Jennings (new anchor), Princess Diana, Bill Gates, David Karp, the founder of Tumblr, etc.I have a young friend who was accepted to MBA programs at MIT and Stanford who opted to skip grad school to start his first company.

My point is that encouraging every kid to go to college, whether they want to or not, is dumb. Look around at Gen Y, they are starting organizations and changing the world including Warren Buffet’s ‘heir apparent.”

Photo credit: Enlightening. Jurvetson

Shut Up and Listen. You Can’t Learn If You’re Talking.

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Have you ever tried listening to someone who is annoying you? Have you ever tried going a whole day without giving your opinion, not even once? If you’re an introvert, this may be easier for you. But for outgoing people, this  is a big problem.

And, by the way, it can be a problem for all of us. Most of us love to hear ourselves talk. We love to tell our side of the argument, our thoughts on other people’s lives etc. That’s why people love stories. It satisfies the need we humans have to know about others and compare ourselves to the them.

But the truth is WE CAN’T LEARN IF WE ARE TALKING.

Put a sock in it. The more important the relationship, the more we need to work on listening. Try it and let me know how the experiment works for you. I’ll let you know how I’m doing.

(By the way, if you have a job interview and the question comes about areas of self- improvement; a statement about the sincere desire to improve one’s listening skills for both personal and professional reasons can work. Just be prepared to talk about what you are doing to improve and make sure you are really practicing!)

Photo credit: Shhh Vox Efx