Posts tagged: strengths

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 ‘DTM’ – Difficult to Manage?

What Is a DTM?

I was one of those employees labeled as ‘difficult to manage.’ When I worked in corporate america, I wasn’t intimidated by anyone’s position in the company. I tended to say my ideas out loud, even when they weren’t solicited. I was comfortable organizing chaos and happy when working with a team to make progress where others didn’t see how it could be done. I haven’t changed; much.

In this article in the Harvard Business Review, “Improve Your Ability to Learn,I finally feel vindicated. Here’s how they describe such an employee (aka me).

“While talented, Alex had come to be known behind closed doors by the moniker “DTM” – difficult to manage. He marched to the beat of his own drummer, and he wasn’t afraid to challenge the status quo. He loved a challenge, and he was comfortable taking risks.”

Oh, Oh, Now What Do I Do?

The point of this article is that some DTM’s can be exemplary in their ability to learn, including the importance of “learning agility, a set of qualities and attributes that allow an individual to stay flexible, grow from mistakes, and rise to a diverse array of challenges.” It’s gratifying to know that my brashness and challenging personality were actually good things.

Here are some characteristics of DTM’s – we tend to be more extroverted, focused, original and resilient and less accommodating to slow progress and excuses. If you have these characteristics, try the following – look for stretch assignments, regularly seek real input and most of all, enhance your listening skills. As for me, I’m old… too late for me to get along like a nice girl.

Photo credit: Five tips

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.

Surrendering as Action

“Surrendering is action. Surrendering to what you can’t control is the most powerful form of action.” Time to quit

Surrender is not the same as quitting. Sometimes, quitting can be appropriate. Sometimes surrendering is appropriate. They are not, however, the same thing.

Quitting means, stopping. If I smoked and I stopped… then I quit. If I am in an unhappy relationship and I tell the person that I want to break up, I am quitting. If I’m on a diet and I decide that it’s too hard and start eating the way I did, pre-diet, then I quit my diet.

Surrender, on the other hand is an acknowledgement that my way isn’t working. That whatever I was trying to do, in the way I was trying to do it, isn’t effective. Maybe the goal was too lofty or incorrect. Maybe the goal wasn’t logical or ethical.

Surrender may led to quitting, but often, true surrender leads to an acknowledgement that MY ego, MY will, MY, MY, MY… isn’t the only way. It leads to a new way of looking at things. A new approach.

As I’ve mentioned before, my parents were alcoholics. For so long, I thought I had to be strong, smart, ‘right’. That I had to control everything (honestly… I still fight this battle). But I didn’t get the peace of mind or sense of serenity I longed for, until I surrendered. Until I learned that my will isn’t ‘right’ and my way isn’t the only way…not until then, did I find happiness.

As an example, I stayed in a job much longer than I should have. Had I surrendered, acknowledged that the job wasn’t right, I would have benefited greatly. Instead I just stayed and stayed and ultimately, was let go.

Big changes are ahead for me in the near future. I wonder if I’ve learned to surrender. I’ll let you know how it’s going.

Photo credit: I surrender, 39 days old Jessicafm

Success – How High You Bounce After You Hit Bottom

Army Photography Contest - 2007 - FMWRC - Arts and Crafts - The Colors Emerge</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Photo By: SPC Aristide Lavey</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>To learn more about the annual U.S. Army Photography Competition, visit us online at <a href="http://www.armymwr.com" rel=&qu...

Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom (Gen. George Patton)

Thinking back on my career, I see 5 turning points, i.e. mistakes:

  • blabbing when I should have kept my mouth shut (my most common)
  • being disrespectful to a boss
  • not admitting when I was wrong

As I suffered the consequences of my actions (getting fired or pulled off a big project); I berated myself. What helped me was…

  • talking about it to someone I trusted
  • telling myself that I am human
  • examining why I behaved that way (what was in it for me)

This last step is where I learned the most. When I would act against my own best interest, there was usually something to justify it. “He deserved to be taken down a peg.” “They don’t admit their mistakes, why should I?”

My self-defeating behavior stemmed from insecurity and a lack of self understanding.

Success depends on learning from mistakes. Mistakes are good. They wear down our sharp edges. I can look in the mirror and smile. Make friends with your mistakes.

Photo Credit: The Colors Emerge   Familymwr

Habits for Excellence – Yawn. Been There.

Creating ‘habits’ for excellence is hot topic. Make your bed as soon as you get up. Put things back in their place when you’re finished with them. Pick up clutter every night. Yawn. Heard it, tried it. Hate it.

One suggestion I do like is… Become Enthusiastic. Why don’t more of us do it? Habit.

“Most people drift through life with their shoulders hunched and wrinkles on their forehead. Be enthusiastic not just about going on vacation, or taking some time off from work… but about everything in life.”

How can we find a way to be more enthusiastic? Work at it. Set it as a goal. Understand its power.

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We show people we care by listening, so listen with energy. Be verbally supportive. Nod, smile. We demonstrate our priorities by where we put our time. It’s not easy to insert more enthusiasm in our daily lives, but it’s worth the effort. We are often enthusiastic about our kid’s accomplishments but not about our friend’s or colleague’s… or a stranger’s (heaven forbid!)

Enthusiasm doesn’t look the same in every person. Some might stand up, shift their weight from foot to foot; others might get louder. There isn’t a formula. Pay attention to how YOU show enthusiasm and then harness that focus and attention when you want it.

By the way, enthusiasm does not guarantee success, but it’s makes the journey more fun. And while some people might mock us, do we really care?

Develop Unconventional Skills

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

Embrace the Mess – A Key to Innovation

Babies on BORSCHT

Do you embrace the mess?

If you want to hear someone interesting talk about problem solving like an artist, thinking like an artist; here is designer Marc Ecko sharing his thoughts on embrace the mess. He believes that the wealth that matters can’t be really be counted. Think about it. He also recommends that each of us be an “un-label.” When you have truly found yourself,  people are not sure how to describe the essence of “you.” They only know that you are true to yourself and encourage others to do so too.

What’s good about the mess?

It’s rare that innovation/learning/joy comes from a completely planned event. It’s the goof ups, the unexpected changes, the learning how to…, that often produces the good stuff. Are you afraid of the mess?

Try finger painting, with food from your refrigerator (not a lot, just a little). Hang around little kids, watch them experiment. What can we learn from them?

When you have a problem to solve, following all the rules, doing the same thing over and over, talking to the same people for advice and then expecting a breakthrough, doesn’t make sense. For today, I give you permission to do the messy thing. Let me know how it goes.

Photo credit: messy baby photographer

The Art and Joy of Self Reliance

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.” Emerson

When we’re kids, we think we’re cool and you know what… we are.

Then we “learn” how to fit in. We lose our uniqueness.

What happens?

The process of becoming a grown up can be brutal. We try to fit in with groups because we feel lost and alone. We think people don’t understand us but the truth is, we don’t understand ourselves.

The good news about being ‘grown’ up is that we, hopefully, come to know ourselves enough to learn to trust and believe in ourselves. To stand on our own, to earn our way.

Do you still look to others for approval? Or do you look in the mirror and think.. yeah. I’m ok. Just the way I am.  Fitting in can feel good but it feels even better to know who we are and believe in ourselves no matter what other people think. Care about ‘them’ less and your uniqueness more. After all, in the end, you’re all you’ve got.

Image credit: Homemade Spidey Costume