Some Things Cannot Be Taught

There are many skills and traits that I think people can take the time to learn: patience, honesty, and time management. Arguably, there are other traits that I don’t think can be taught and one of them is “caring”.

What I mean by “caring” is you can’t cause someone to one day care. If you are working a job and on a team and a member just has a very casual attitude, you can’t really cause them to put forth effort or care about the outcomes of the team. You can try your best to motivate them or inspire them, but truly “caring” about something means that it matters to you, and that can only come from that team member.

In practical application, many companies and teams fall a part because there was someone on that team “poisoning their well.” It doesn’t take too long to spot these people, many times they aren’t even bad or aren’t aware of what they are doing. They might make snippy remarks, joke about the bosses behind their backs, or just do their jobs in a lackadaisical fashion. But I believe the reason that these workers do poorly is because they have a general lack of care about the outcomes of the team. They maybe don’t see themselves staying long term, they don’t want to be there in the first place, or they have less than satisfactory skills for their role.

When team members don’t care, it’s contagious and can cause others to feel the same way. It’s very hard to make progress when you have these workers in your midst. When you’re looking to expand your team, look for “caring”. Look for the person who’s engaged and interested, not “checked out”. It’s so critical to find the people that want to be there, that want to be on your team and take the organization to new levels.

Look for the one that cares, because that trait — is unteachable.

photo credit: https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=k%2fVQxDmO&id=1432FB7B80E3DDDB722F2ABF80BFB80BBB2D00CB&q=caring&simid=608044444267908865&selectedIndex=8&ajaxhist=0

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Why We Can’t Quit Netflix

We’ve all been there… whether it’s Hulu, Netflix, or buying a full series on Amazon Prime, we just love our series. There’s something so addicting about following a crime show or a major drama all the way through to the point where you think you almost know the characters. It can be the same with books, the Twilight trilogy the Harry Potter series. We form attachments to these story lines and beg for more.

Why is it, that we love our series so much? Is it the connection to the story lines, interesting plot twists? Or could it be something more… something like escapism? I don’t think it’s intentional, but sometimes we really crave a fantasy. Life can be hard, it can be monotonous and even though we are adults, we all have that inner child that would like to live in a “Peter Pan Neverland” world, one where anything is possible. As an adult, in our own ways, our addictions to TV series are our way to escape our regular, mundane lives. We can be detectives, royalty, or survivors on a lost island conquering whatever feats may come our way.

When the series ends, or the book is over, it many times feels troubling or like a let-down. It’s as if closing those last few pages, or watching the series finale means that our fantasy is over, and it “wakes” us up. We get out of the dream-like slumber, the comatose state we were in, and realize we are back to the “real world”. Back to the kids, the obligations, the dishes…life. I think that’s the real reason why people watch Netflix and get lost in series.

I don’t think people intentionally choose to waste time watching TV or reading fiction books. I think it’s a way of dealing and maybe even hiding from pain and the world. As long as you’re in a fictional world, escaping it all, you aren’t dealing with real life or living out your own dreams and goals. You can mask pain, or unfulfilled dreams with fiction and live vicariously through characters, those that aren’t real.

So, where do we go from here? Do we stop watching the series we love? Stop reading fairy tales? I don’t think so. I think the mind does some of it’s best work when it can dream and go on imaginary trips. I think there is value in the fantasy world, and room for creativity. But I do think we need to be aware of what we are doing and realize that escaping forever isn’t okay.

Instead of clamming up and shutting out the world incessantly, I believe we should spend more time creating our own dreams, reaching our own goals, making our own imaginary ideas come to life. And I think we need to stop being afraid of doing those things that we only watch on TV. Whether it’s to travel to a place we have never been, taking on a new sport, or investing in a relationship we’re afraid to dapple in…we should stop fearing and start living. We should aim to create lives that we don’t feel the need to constantly escape from, and we should be honest with ourselves about why we feel the need to do so.

 

 

 

 

photo credit: https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=zPFsRrX0&id=970834A46A50132B6922DC9D706F8EE5B99B4E2D&q=netflix&simid=608055976242972779&selectedIndex=1&ajaxhist=0.

Night In Room 4: Trauma Unit

“So dear, how many seizures would you say he’s had tonight…” the nurse asked me while I choked back sobs.

“Uh… I’m not sure, maybe 20?” Greg held his breath and yet again cringed and turned ashen as another wave hit him, and he let out a big exhale as it passed.

“Okay, height, weight, any known allergies?” She asked again.

I dappled through the litany of questions, while Greg shook and we headed into the ER entrance right away and he was lifted to a stretcher.

TWO HOURS EARLIER THAT EVENING…

“Hey honey, how was work today?” I asked, stirring a pot of noodles waiting for Greg’s arrival.

He dropped his lunch box to the floor and headed upstairs.

“Pretty good, I’m just going to head upstairs and shower before dinner.”

He came downstairs shortly and wolfed down a bowl of tortollini and salad. Once cleaned up from dinner and loading the dishwasher, we sat on the couch to watch some Seinfeld reruns. Greg took some more cold medicine, he’d been fighting symptoms all week, but was getting better…or so I thought.

As we laughed between jokes on TV, I noticed Greg was gripping the couch in an odd fashion. He closed his eyes and braced himself, once then again and again. It was as if he was having contractions, that was the best way to put it. One would come and then leave, then they got closer together. I figured his blood sugar was low, he had been sick after all. So I grabbed him some orange juice. He downed a glass in a single gulp and seemed to be okay for a few moments. Then they came on him again, this time worse than before. His body twitched and contorted.

“Let’s go Greg, NOW! We are going the On-Call clinic.” Why I didn’t just bring him to the ER, I have no idea. I willed my brain to work.

“Why? I’m fine.” He uttered.

“No you definitely aren’t.” I raced for my keys and flip-flops and headed out the door.

When we reached the On-Call clinic they insisted we go the ER. On our way over, Greg began to twitch and contort voraciously around in his seat. I said his name, shouted it out and he didn’t respond, as if he didn’t hear me. Then he uttered a huge exhaling breath and slunk back in his seat exhausted. I lost my focus and tried to regain it while racing to the ER.

BACK TO PRESENT IN THE ER

They led us back to a room, Greg being raced over on the stretcher. We entered the room and a short but lean looking doctor entered, no lab coat, but rather a t shirt tucked in and cowboy boats. He had curly long hair and ice blue eyes with a weathered face.

“Hey, where is this guy’s EKG, where’s his chart?” They hooked Greg up to monitors and determined it was his heart that was starting and then stopping, over and over… 30, 50, 100, 120, 50, 40, 15, 0… flat lining…

A nurse entered the room…

“We are going to move you to room 4.” They moved the stretcher out quickly and I followed suit. When we got to the door I noticed the large glass windows that pointed toward the monitors in the hall with a team of doctors gathered. The door read, “Room 4, Trauma Unit”. I prayed Greg was too incapacitated to read it.

The nurses rushed around taking blood and reading the machines.

One nurse moved toward the bed with a device, paddles and a box. I knew what this was.

“Honey, this is just going to go on your chest, just as a precaution…”

I knew it wasn’t, it was very possible they’d need to restart his heart.

Soon after more vitals were taken, a cardiologist about seven feet tall entered the room.

“Hello, folks, I’m the cardiologist on the floor tonight. Now I see some wild stuff is going on with your heart and I’d like to put in a temporary pacemaker.”

A pacemaker I thought? That’s for old people who really need it… this can’t be good.

“We also gave you antibiotics for lyme disease because it’s very rare that this would happen in someone so young and healthy.”

“Potential risks of the pacemaker are a collapsed lung. But the risk is low.”

Greg nodded, we prayed and he was rushed away without any hesitation.

The dam behind my eyes broke and I wondered what exactly would happen if and when he returned from the OR.

TO BE CONTINUED.

photo credit: https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=0ETW5W0P&id=0B6BDB52A503062BC2A78A4720903DA28AAA8CC7&q=flat+lined&simid=608024416818237155&selectedindex=6&mode=overlay&first=1&thid=OIP.0ETW5W0PZ_p8caxLnTkLJwEsD6.

Breaking Out Of Survival Mode

It doesn’t matter what way it presents itself. No money in the bank, medial bills that were unexpected, an unexpected loss, or any combination of them all. We all have those times in life where things seem more like uphill battles than smooth sailing. For me, that started ten years ago, when my mother was overtaken with mental illness and ditched our family. Though I wished I felt further ahead from that event, there’s been a feeling of being in a “survival mode”.

Even though I’d accomplished a lot after she left, a degree, a marriage, and a child, life still got much harder after that. It was harder for my dad financially, my sister emotionally, and me in both ways. That event made it harder for us all to recover from and “bounce back”. It was defining. I do know a little something about what it feels like to have the wind knocked out of you and trying to constantly catch your breath.

But I don’t think we take the time to think about all that we go through in life. I took an inventory of what occurred in the last year and it was a little horrifying… a miscarriage, a job change, a spouse who was in ICU with a heart that stopped, and a complicated delivery. When I took the time to think about what we’d gone through in just a short time I realized just how hard life really can be. And yet–it felt like it was still survival mode. Don’t take time to think and grieve your losses, but just keep moving, keep trudging through the mud.

So what do we do when we feel this internal pressure? When we feel like the noodles in the middle of a pressure cooker that’s been cooking just a little too long? Honestly, I don’t entirely know. But here are some things that I do know that have helped along the way.

  1. First, make a list. I don’t know why but somehow listing things out on paper just makes me feel better and makes life feel more manageable. You can’t possibly conquer everything at once, whether it’s debt, bills, or just a huge to-do list.
  2. Take an inventory of what is going right. So many times when life gets challenging, we take the simple graces of every day for granted, the warm coffee, the sun shining, the helpful friends. Thank them and thank God for those simple pleasures.
  3. Take five… whether it’s a short walk, a moment to read a book, play with your kids… it doesn’t matter what. But it’s hard to keep enduring difficulties if you’re burnt out. You’re your best advocate and asset, so handle with care. YOU matter.
  4. Know it shall pass. When you’re in a hard situation it can give you tunnel vision, like it will NEVER get better, but it will. It might still be challenging for a while, but little by little you’ll dig yourself out and be proud you did.

I can honestly say that over time, I have gained a lot of internal strength from the hardships. It hasn’t always been easy. I used to resent those that I thought I figured didn’t really have a lot of struggles, like they had a simpler ride and I felt that wasn’t fair. But the truth is, no one has it easy, we just all handle it differently.

And there really is no use in getting bitter about what you cannot control. So choose to be happy anyway, make a decision to be grateful for what is going right. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Success Is For Your 40’s

When your in your younger years, the 20’s and 30’s, you tend to feel like success and achievement in your career isn’t coming fast enough. Success seems to be slow and far off and you seem to wonder what all that college and education was for, because the payoff seems distant. At least, that’s how I felt.

When I think about my dream job, it includes published works, being a political commentator and contributing to news stations. So I took the liberty to look up what others who have those jobs in the media, what they did to get there. I was stunned. As I did some digging I found that almost all those that I admire on TV that cover the political news are all in their mid 40’s to 50’s. It was across the board. The authors I admire who publish pieces similar to my genre, they are in their 40’s yet again…

Here are some examples… Vera Wang was age 40 when she started designing, Sam Walton was 44 when he founded his first Walmart, and Henry Ford was 45 when he invented the Model T (Business Insider).  It’s a pure myth that achievement is instant, the list is lengthy of those that found their career climax in their middle age.

Now I’m not proposing that there is something magical about this age. But really, why middle age and what’s the correlation to success? I think that we forget that success requires time, patience and priming the pump. When you prime the pump it takes time before the water flows through, but it doesn’t mean that the priming process is useless or not doing it’s job, it just takes time. Our experiences and toils in our 20’s and 30’s are still important, but they are the unsexy foundational years. They are years to learn, experiment and grow. They are the years to “prime the pump” for our careers.

When you’re starting out in your career, you don’t know how far your skills will take you. The coffee fetching, the phone answering, the filing, all those seemingly menial tasks are taking you somewhere. You start to learn how an office works, how the workplace dynamics operate, and soak in information from your workplace. All the daily abilities you acquire will build upon themselves.

Don’t despair if career success seems far off. Some of the most great achievements have occurred in time, after the pump has been primed. And priming, is a process.

10,000 Hours…

If you’re anything like me, a recovering perfectionist, you get really annoyed when you can’t do something well, naturally. I remember it back in school. I was a natural academic but not naturally athletic. I would get very annoyed and frustrated when I couldn’t play baseball in gym class or shoot hoops flawlessly like the jocks. Who knows why, but many of us have this idea that was carried with us throughout school and adulthood, that most skills come naturally and if they don’t, that there’s something inherently wrong with us. I’d accredit this idea to our upbringing by parents who expected perfection and rewarded us based on this “accomplishment” system…but I digress. We think skills, even those we are gifted with, come to us naturally, as if it doesn’t take hours of sweat and toil to make us “great”.

We all have some natural skill or aptitude in something; stunning business acumen, sports, or music. And many times we feel that that innate natural ability is all that will carry us into success. But we forget a huge component to making it to that genius or success level in our talent. Practice.

It seems so boring yet so rehearsed. Practice.  You heard it in school, over and over, “practice makes perfect”. Is there actually something to that phrase or is it just bologna? According to Malcolm Gladwell, there’s a magic number to reaching the mastery level in any skill. 10,000 hours. It takes 10,000 hours of practice doing something to become an expert. 10,000 hours of speaking, writing, singing, marketing…etc. And I think we forget this main ingredient when we pursue our natural gifts. Because they are so natural to us, we feel almost as if becoming “great” in it should just come, well, naturally. But that’s very deceiving. Just because something comes natural to us, doesn’t mean it doesn’t or won’t require practice. It seems so obvious that effort would be a necessary ingredient for success but it’s so easily overlooked, probably because it’s so simple… not easy, but simple.

I remember as a new working person in the professional world, being yet again annoyed that I wasn’t at the level of my superiors. But yet again, it’s practice, it’s time. Of course those that have been in the business world for twenty years have an edge over someone who has been alive twenty years… it seems so clear that it takes time and rehearsal to hone in on our skills to achieve mastery.

So if you are gifted want to be a “great” writer, write. You want to be a great business person, put in the time prospecting. Don’t get discouraged that it takes time, that it requires practice. That’s why we had band practice, track practice, etc. We even called it “practice” in school, and I don’t think that was a mistake.

Keep practicing, don’t despise the process. When we see the greatness of others exhibited, we don’t see the hours of toil, of failure, we only see the end product. But it took them also, 10,000 hours…

Put in the time to become a master.

 

 

photocredit: http://kayleadershipacademy.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/10K-where-to-apply.jpg.

Our Obsession With Titles

We can’t help ourselves. We have a love affair with titles. Director at Large, President & CEO, the Marketing Manager… we’re obsessed! It’s as if we somehow put so much importance on letters formed together and string them along our names… Jane Doe, MBA. And the more letters, by all means, the better! You only have a bachelors degree? Yikes! Maybe one day you’ll be more prestigious. A liberal arts degree, well that’s just not as useful to the world as the bachelor of science.

Don’t misunderstand me, I believe in recognizing hard work. The admin who has worked tirelessly for years to obtain the CEO status, she’s well-deserved of her role. The doctor who put in thousands of dollars and hours of study, hat is off to you. It’s a cause and effect world, sowing and reaping exists and therefore those who put in more should rightfully get more out of it. This can be demonstrated in the military very well. You don’t move up the ranks by not putting in effort and taking on a lot of responsibility. You don’t become Commodore of your ship overnight. There is a reason why there are titles and they help us distinguish where we all fit and maintains order.

On the flip side, there are those that don’t deserve their titles. I think the military is the easiest place for us to accept them because we realize they are earned and there is sacrifice involved in good leadership. There’s no greater degree of sacrifice than in the military. But it’s harder for us to accept the Executive’s position because I think to some degree, we don’t trust the white color corporate world the same way. And how many times has it been seen that the “Executive Admin” aka glorified secretary, did more of the role than the President or CEO? I’m not saying that it’s always that way, but many times titles get sticky and those who really perform more of the job functions many times are not properly recognized.

The problem becomes further created when we become obsessed with them, when they provide identity. Suddenly I don’t feel important without the alphabet after my name. And I think this is a problem because it perpetuates this idea, this theme that I grapple with, of finding our value as people in what we do rather than in who we are. Because what happens when you lose that job, and you aren’t the CEO or the Director of Selection? What happens when a disability makes it impossible for you to perform at the level you used to? Or your department gets out-sourced? What do we do, and who are we when the titles are gone?

I think it’s safe to say that there’s a difference between working hard and trying to be our best to serve others versus working hard to prove something. I can say that because I’ve done that–and it just leads to burn out. It’s an insecure way of being that leaks into our professional world and causes us to seek advancement and title for the wrong reasons. Bettering ourselves, there’s nothing wrong with that. Learning more and serving a wider range of clients, that’s what we should be doing. But it can never be for the reason of self-identity and that’s what this title-crazed culture has become. We should seek to serve and do our best, the titles will just be a symptom and by-product of our service.

Menial Help, Menial Pay

I think one of the most important work issues and probably one of the least understood, is regarding how team members are paid. This problem of how to pay and what to pay seems to really bother both employers and team members alike. There are so many facets to it: how much can the employer afford, what are the skills worth, how long has the person been on your team, etc. But paying properly can really make or break a team–and a business.

When I thought about it more carefully, I considered, does it really matter that much? If your needs are met and you enjoy your job, then what does the pay really matter? Of course, most people want to earn as much as they can for various reasons, mostly quality of life, and I completely understand and can relate. But I wondered if there was even a deeper reason why we want to be paid well.

I heard it once said by Dave Ramsey, and it’s well-put, “Paying people what they are worth is a sign of respect”. Wow. When I heard that statement, it really hit home to me. It’s not all about the items we can acquire, it’s not about the titles–it’s respect. And part of respecting your team, means paying your team what they are worth.

It’s not about asking for something unrealistic if you have low skills. Low skills equal low pay grades. The Wendy’s worker should not be paid the same for those skills as the digital marketer. It’s not that the Wendy’s worker couldn’t one day learn those skills, but at Wendy’s they are only valuable as the hamburger preparer. Therefore, there shouldn’t be so much pushback in why they are paid accordingly, because their value in the marketplace is just not equivalent to the digital marketer. The more you learn, the more value you add to yourself, the more you rightfully should be paid. Now whether the employer you’re with is willing and/or able to do that, is another matter entirely.

If you are not paying properly, eventually, your team will leave. People need motivation. There are some ways you can do that on your team, but a big and obvious way is by paying properly and having incentive programs. I worked on a team once that did this well. There was a clear path to raises and bonuses, and seeing that, to know it was coming, was very motivating. I’ve also had the opposite be true. I’ve had employers that myself or my friends worked for who thought they were “saving” money by cutting back for their team. Big mistake. Without your team, you are nothing. They are your most valuable resource and to keep a good team, you must respect them enough to pay them what they are worth and to create opportunity for growth via incentives. If I see nothing to work for, no bonus for helping the company, I’m less inclined to produce for them. “Saving” money on your team–doesn’t work and isn’t an investment.

Conclusively, build your team. Create a clear path to grow and realize that they are an investment in your company. Without that sign of respect in their pay, they may leave–and they should.

When There’s No Closure…

I’ve spent a lot of time personally thinking about why we just don’t like incomplete endings. We don’t like the inconclusive break-up. We don’t like a “we’ll see” from a job offer or an unclear medical test result. It’s the black and white, the categories, the classifications that we seem to drift toward and prefer. Shades of gray, well that’s a friend that doesn’t offer our hearts and minds much comfort. We’d prefer to have an answer, a clear beginning and end.

I wondered why this might be. Why do we drift toward always seeking closure, seeking an answer. I thought about the movies and books we like. As children, we read fairytales. Is it any coincidence that these books have a clear beginning, middle and end? There’s a problem that gets solved and a happily ever after. And we like that completeness, that wholeness almost as much as the happy ending.

But unfortunately, many times we don’t know the reasons or the “why”. We don’t know why a relationship had to end or why we had to fail at something. It doesn’t make sense why we lost a loved one or a child, there’s no way to reason our way out of it and no way to make peace. Somehow instead, we have to choose peace and choose our closure. We have to make do with what’s been dealt us and do our best to say goodbye to let go of what we didn’t think we’d lose.

This was most seen in losing my mom. She didn’t die. She wasn’t physically ill or disabled. She just couldn’t be a mom, for whatever reason. Blame it on mental illness, call it selfish… who knows. But there’s no grave stone to grieve along. There’s no prayer card to admire. But it’s still a huge loss, and an unclear one. Somehow, my family still needs to grieve and seek closure.

Since the loss of her, I have had many others that never seemed complete. But hers taught me how to be resilient and to understand the importance of seeking peace in the midst of confusion and not understanding. The ability to choose your peace. There will be many more “mom losses” in life, many more unclear hurts. But it’s imperative to find your own peace, create your own fairytale, and to find your own happy ending.

Why We Resist

Do you ever find it difficult to get along with people? Not your close circle of friends or the happy bank teller, but with the difficult boss or the cranky spouse? It’s so much easier to tell these people “off” or to resist them.

We are seeing it all the time in our world. Rebellions and resistance efforts all advocating for their side of the way things should be. Whether it’s right or wrong, done righteously or self-indulgent, it’s so much easier to rebel than to unify.

I remember as newlyweds, I had a real fire inside. It wasn’t in a bad way all the time but I was much less gentle and a lot more demanding. I was a compulsive complainer and tended to be anxious about everything. I was pretty sure the way I was doing things was the right way and my spouse was just a pain. But over time, I realized that this “going against the grain”, it gets you nowhere.

It was so easy to get mad. It was easy to feel I was right and someone else was wrong. It was easy to not get along with others and to sit quietly in a self-righteous stew. And most of all, to succumb to unity felt like I was giving up my identity and my own ideas. To sit quietly felt like weakness instead of strength. But I learned quickly that sometimes the one that’s quiet, the one that admits they’re wrong, they are truly the ones with all the strength.

We went to the state fair a few years back and I saw they had a set of ox that were yoked together. If one ox tried to go in the other direction than the other, it was near impossible. They would start to flail and buck in place. The yoke forced them together and to move around, they had to go together, step by step in unity.

This observation is not only a great picture in marriage or working relationships, but for our country and world. We can choose to kick and buck under the yoke but ultimately we will get nowhere and be more frustrated than when we started. It is imperative that we work together. And working together doesn’t mean we always agree. But it does mean we are walking together toward a common goal for a common purpose.

There is infinite power in unity.

 

Photo credit: http://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=mxN1TeVs&id=44E4FBCB624F53BA0EE60A43F25457831342781A&q=unity&simid=607999179552065280&selectedIndex=122&ajaxhist=0