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Gratitude – it might be enough

I am attending the WorkHuman conference in Phoenix, AZ this week. This is the third year in a row I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of this conference, and I like it because its focus is less on “how to” and more on “why.” The conference organizers try to find speakers and keynotes who align with the message of rewards, recognition, and living one’s authentic self – a phrase a few years ago I would have snorted at. Actually…I do still kind of snort because the word is overused, but in today’s world of social media with increasing pressure to put on a good public life while struggling in private, I think the message is valid.

In yesterday’s opening session on the big stage, we watched a Q&A with Chaz Bono, a transgendered individual who knew from an early age he didn’t fit the female body he was born into. His story is rather well documented – being the child of celebrities must have compounded the challenges of dealing with these feelings of “different” – and he was open about the challenges he faced with substance abuse. Chaz shared he was 13 years clean and sober, an impressive accomplishment for anyone.

Chaz has refocused his efforts to make a living as an actor (including a secret project he can’t talk about…mysterious!) but continues to use his celebrity to support people (including kids) who are going through the emotions of transitioning and to help them understand they are not alone.

There were a lot of powerful messages in Chaz Bono’s Q&A, but one stood out to me. He was telling the story of going through his journey to sobriety and shared the advice a mentor gave him. The key to sobriety and not relapsing, this person said, was GRATITUDE. Be grateful for what you have, and you won’t dare relapse.

Now, not all of us struggle with substance abuse. But we are human beings who go through life with one burden or another. We may wallow in self pity. We may think life isn’t fair. We may dream about the next big thing without paying attention to what we have RIGHT NOW.

All of this got me thinking…am I grateful? Do I practice gratitude?

If I’m honest with myself, I would say…sort of. I do have a tendency to dwell on things. As an affirmed introvert, I internalize a lot of things, turning it over and over in my mind, wearing out my thoughts like a well-handled piece of paper. This can be an addictive way to live – stress and anxiety can be comforting because there is little accountability to act on things. And it’s easier to be stressed and anxious when you think you don’t deserve what you have.

On the other hand, I do step back from time to time and recognize that I am incredibly fortunate. I have a well-paying job. I have an amazing husband. I live in a beautiful state. I have the flexibility to make daily choices that millions don’t. So I recognize those things and AM grateful.

I just don’t say it out loud very much.

Therefore, my takeaway from Day One of WorkHuman is to be more vocal about my gratitude; to tell those around me I’m grateful for their presence; to vocalize to those who are struggling that sometimes the ability to draw breath is enough to be grateful for today…and we can figure out the rest tomorrow.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Self-Awareness, Uncategorized

 

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More than a conference – WorkHuman 2017

I know what you’re thinking: Ugh. ANOTHER ‘come to this conference because it’s so freaking great’ post. 

Well…yeah, it kind of is.

But it’s more than that! It’s a confession of sorts.

See, I usually end up going to conferences because either I’m speaking and they asked me to be there by paying my way, or because I know a bunch of cool people who are going to the conference and I really, really want to see them. I seldom go to a conference simply because it looks “interesting.”

WorkHuman was a little different.

I’ve been going to this conference since the very first one (you know…3 years ago). I had seen teasers about it and knew it was going to have some great speakers, including Shawn Achor, Nilofer Merchant, Ariana Huffington, and Adam Grant. I had seen Adam Grant speak in Denver and I just loved his book, so I thought, “Gee, what a cool looking conference. Oh well, no chance to go, I’ll just watch from afar.”

As fate would have it, I had a chance to attend because I knew people. (See? NETWORKING PAYS OFF. Go do it.) I got to see some friends I knew, but more importantly, I got to experience a conference that was unlike any other. The format was unique. The setting was far more intimate than most conferences. And more swanky. (Note to conference planners: you’ll never go wrong with choosing swanky.) And it felt more like a good conversation among friends because it wasn’t frenetic. Rather than piling on the concurrent sessions, WorkHuman had a keynote, then a few breakouts, and then another keynote, and a few more breakouts, etc. What resulted was a shared experience that allowed attendees to discuss the speakers, pay attention to the content, and not worry that they were missing something else in a session down the hall. I loved it.
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I got a chance to go back to the second one and write about it while I was there. This time, the conference was bigger with more sessions (but still swanky. Seriously…go for swank.). The venue was slightly less intimate, but the speakers were again top notch, and while there were more sessions, the conference let you sample several ideas with 15 minute power sessions, collaborative conversation spaces, and fascinating topics. And did I mention Michael J. Fox spoke? No? Well, he did. And it was fantastic.  (I also got called out to meet Globoforce CEO Eric Mosley because of something I tweeted during his session. Smart guy. Super nice. Good chat.)

And I get to go back this year – once again to write about the conference, but even better…I get to speak. YES. I am one of the 15 minute power sessions you can choose to avoid so you can see the other people talk about cool things! I’m incredibly honored and excited to be part of this conference. I love the concept. I love the theme. I love the swanky locales. (Clearly.)

But most importantly, I love the people. And I’m an introvert. So for me to say that after spending 3 days at a conference with so many people, that’s really saying something.

I got to meet some fabulous human beings at WorkHuman. I met John Baldino (who will be a fellow speaker this year) at the pool the day before the conference started. Of course, I had no idea that’s who he was (but the lack of hair probably should have been a clue), so I just talked to him like he was some random friendly guy at the pool. Thankfully, I didn’t say anything too embarrassing (I think), but he has seen me in a swimsuit, so I feel like that makes us family. I saw a bunch of people I don’t get to see nearly enough in real life (Tim Sackett, Kris Dunn, Kristen Harcourt, Robin Schooling, and so many more). I met the mind behind WorkHuman Robot. And because of the conference, I started following many of the speakers on Twitter…and they actually interact with you. Like people! (Amy Cuddy and Adam Grant are especially nice on Twitter. You guys are the best!) So I guess what I’m saying is…even though I went to that first WorkHuman thinking it was just another conference, I walked away with a new appreciation for how a conference that focuses on old topics a new way can really change the way you look at things.

So join us there and say a quick “hi.” Need help convincing your leadership it’s a good idea? Here’s a resource. In fact, since money runs the world, if you register and use the promo code WH17INF-MFA and you’ll save $200 on the registration fee!

WorkHuman helps you CONNECT – to your purpose, to your work, to other people, to new ideas. It’s fun. It’s fresh. It’s a good time.

Hope to see you there!

robot

We love you, WorkHuman Robot.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2017 in culture, Personal Development

 

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Resolutions and the wisdom of Boo

Some folks hate the “On This Day” feature of Facebook. Personally, I kind of like it. It’s interesting to see how little life seems to change year to year…or how much change can happen over 5 years.

On today’s look back from “On This Day”, I came across this post from December 28, 2015. It was about our dog, Bamboo (Boo for short).

She’s got a skin condition called sebaceous adenitis. It’s primarily cosmetic, but can lead to skin infections, which means she’s on medication AND we give her a weekly baby oil bath (the process takes about 2.5 hours). She does not enjoy this process.

Through it all, she has remained a friendly, goofy, loving, trusting, stubborn, impish, challenging, fuzzy goofball.

Boo’s rules for a happy life:

  • Nap when you get sleepy
  • If someone is in your spot, stare at them until they move
  • Smack your food dish until someone puts something in it (Or tells you to stop it…but only stop after the third threat)
  • Be too cute for people to stay mad at you
  • Snuggle with the people you love
  • Play with your toys – especially when other people want to be too serious
  • Walk away from people who annoy you

I think this post is going to stand as my resolutions for 2016 and beyond.

Boo is pretty smart for a dog.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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Christmas Day 2015

 

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2015 in Clarity

 

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Expanding horizons

This is my plea that everyone – employees and leaders alike – learns how to think outside of themselves.

That they look beyond their personal role to see how they impact the world around them.

That they try to improve the processes they work within.

That they reach out to those they work with to offer support when needed.

That they reach out to those they work with to offer a kick in the butt when needed.

That they step back and think about how the offhanded comment they made in a crowded room might have been interpreted.

Earth_GlobeThat they realize that they made a positive difference in the lives of the people they interact with.

That they see their value in the world and know it spreads beyond those who see them every day.

That they recognize their power to influence…and use their power for good.

That they learn how to say “no” so that others say, “I understand.”

That they win with humility.

That they lose with grace.

That they never lose their love of learning – or that they discover it in the first place.

That they remember that every single person they interact with is going through something in their lives that others don’t know.

That they see the potential of the team, organization, and community that they are a part of – and want to help everyone reach that potential.

That they want to build, not destroy.

That they learn that success comes in many forms.

It is my hope that everyone – employees and leaders alike – realize it’s not all about them.

It’s about us.

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2015 in Authenticity, Clarity, Self-Awareness, Teamwork

 

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Failure is ALWAYS an option

There are those who would say “Failure is not an option.”

There are those who believe if you can go 60 seconds without making a mistake, you can go another 60 seconds, and then another, and then another…and therefore you should never make a mistake because all you need to do is string together a lifetime of 60 seconds of mistake-proof life.

There are those who berate their people for failing. Who chastise them in public, in private, or both.

FailureAnd to those people I say – you’re wrong.

Failure IS an option.  In fact, it is a necessity.

Without failure, we wouldn’t know what doesn’t work as we strive towards innovation.

Without failure, we wouldn’t appreciate the sweetness of success.

Without embracing our own failures, we teach our children that failure is unacceptable. And we wonder why children are either type-A stress balls or failure-avoiding underachievers.

Without learning from our failures, we are doomed to repeat them.

Learning HOW to fail is as important in learning how to win. In fact, it’s probably even more important because if you’re taking risks and living a big life, you will fail far more often than you will succeed.

So yes – failure is an option. So is success.  So is mediocrity. So is a life lived in quiet desperation.

Now ask yourself:

Are you brave enough to fail?

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2015 in Self-Awareness

 

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You are who you THOUGHT you were! (a question of identity)

If you’re like most people, your life has been one identity crisis after another.

  • When you’re a little kid, you might have wanted to be astronaut, a doctor, a firefighter, a police officer….a stunt car driver.
  • When you’re in high school, you freak out because you’re a freshman – bottom of the social ladder.
  • When you’re a senior, you feel invincible – because you aren’t those puny freshman anymore.
  • When you’re in college, you decide you’re going to major in chemistry…no, pre-med…wait, art history…aw, screw it – business.

And then you start your working life for real, and you realize you’ve been answering the question, “What do you want to be?”, instead of, “What do you want to do?”

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He knew what he was talkin’ about.*

In our culture, we have learned to equate our job/career with who we are.  You can argue the rights and wrongs of this approach, but it’s a fact of life for most people in the working world.  I’m not here to debate pros and cons.  I’m more interested in honestly facing the impact our identity obsession has on our career decisions, and how acknowledging that fact can help us make better ones.

  • The Company: Whether it’s when you’re first starting out or are 20 years into your career, the name of the company on your business card can influence your choice. Do you join Google, even though the job sucks?  Or do you join ABC, Inc. – a relative nobody, but a nobody who will challenge and engage you on a daily basis? Easy money says you take the cooler sounding company because you know you have the opportunity to grow in an awesome organization.

    And yet…companies like Google are targeted by recent college grads, but not because of their job now, but because it will help them get a better job later. [Note: Peter Cappelli shared this thought in a presentation I saw 6 years ago – still searching for the link!]  Be honest about whether this choice is a destination or a stepping stone to something else.

  • The Path: At some point, you may be faced with the choice between remaining an individual contributor or angling for the management track.  A lot of people have no desire to lead others.  They like what they do, the challenge of the work.  The idea of dealing with the drama of others makes some people break into a cold sweat.

    And yet…some people think if they don’t achieve manager status, they have some how failed.  Is it enough to be “just” an expert in your field, or do you feel like you have to “prove” something…and maybe give up a piece of what makes you happy?

  • Title: Those in the know will claim title doesn’t matter, just what you do; and that truly happy employees are unconcerned with such trivial things as what’s on their business cards.  Plenty of us in HR and recruiting have rolled our eyes at the “Manager of Accounts” title that amounts to little more than a glorified salesperson.

    And yet…how many of us have faced those same recruiters and had to answer ridiculous questions about why you “took a step back” just because a title isn’t as cool sounding as as the responsibilities you have?  (Seriously, recruiters – you know better than to assume every company uses the same title structure!) It would be disingenuous to not acknowledge the influence that title has on our decisions.

  • Industry: My background has been in a lot of different industries – some exciting (VOIP, startups, alternate energy) and some not thought of as innovative (event planning, insurance, utilities).  Each industry I’ve worked in has taught me fascinating things and challenged me in ways I didn’t anticipate.

    And yet…there have been times in my past where I have hesitated to share what industry I worked in because it wasn’t the “hot new thing.”  If your identity is tied to being forward-thinking, envelope-pushing, and an all-around rabble-rouser, there can be some cognitive dissonance around the industry you choose to work in.

Each of us has made at least one decision (or more) in our career based on how we’ll answer the question “what do I want to be?” If we think we aren’t considering the coolness factor of a particular opportunity, and the way others might react when we’re talking at cocktail parties, we’re just fooling ourselves.

The ultimate sign of confidence and self-actualization may be the ability to simply share what you do when talking about your job…and being who you truly are.

We know what we are, but not what we may be.
-William Shakespeare 

 

*Because it never gets old to watch Dennis Green do this.

 

 
 

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Admit I’m right!!! The value of debate in a polarized world

This past week, Bill Nye (self-proclaimed “science guy”) and Ken Ham (head of the Creation Museum) debated the merits of creationism vs. science/evolution.  (If you want to watch it, you can do so here.)  There was a lot of hubbub on both sides of the aisle on this one, with the prevailing opinion being why bother?  Scientists, in particular, were not terribly supportive of Nye’s decision to participate, a fact reflected in their feedback that it wasn’t “a total disaster.”

The crux of the mindset is that since the two sides are SO far apart in interpretation and beliefs, there is no point in having a conversation about it.

Well, I say hogwash.  Or at the very least, I call shenanigans.

Our society is increasingly polarized – we are bombarded by a black or white rhetoric that feels bound and determined to force us to choose a side and do it now.  The internet has a hand in this – those with fringe beliefs can find like-minded individuals more easily than ever before.  And even better, you can filter out all the stuff you don’t believe in, thereby validating only your opinion.

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With apologies to Bill Watterson – I love Calvin & Hobbes.

The value of debate depends on what your goal for the conversation is. If you want to instantly change the mind of someone who lives by deeply held beliefs – no, there is no point.  However, if you want to start the dialogue that will allow each side to develop empathy and understanding about the others’ point of view, debate can be incredibly beneficial.

I don’t know what the motivation was for Bill Nye and Ken Ham.  I suspect both sides wanted to try and explain their point of view while winning some folks over to their way of thinking.  (Given that the debate was held at the Creation Museum, I suspect Nye had a harder time of it.)  But I applaud them both for at least starting the dialogue – if not for their own beliefs, then for those who listened.

The mere fact that we as a society are talking about the debate requires us to consider our own beliefs, as well as the beliefs of others.  We are forced to consider the why behind our arguments, and weigh the merits of our whys.  And while we may seldom change our minds, we will sometimes concede that while we don’t agree with the other side, we can at least understand why they think that way.

The debate avoidance phenomenon is alive and well in the business world, too.  Here are some reasons we shy away from the conversation and some things to keep in mind to overcome them:

  • We think we’re Nostradamus: Ever notice how many psychics you work with? –  “Why even ask?  They’ll just say no.” “I’ll just put Ken into that position, no one else would want to try for it anyway.” “Feedback is useless because they just ignore it.”  If you can predict the future, go by a Powerball ticket already.
  • Conflict is icky: The core of every debate is a difference of opinion, and people seem to think that conflict means no one will like them or that the team doesn’t get along.  Remember – conflict is inherent to progress.  You can’t move forward without recognizing that the status quo needs to change.
  • People can be jerks: Not everyone debates professionally.  While most people can have a discussion about a difference of opinions like an adult, there’s always that one person who yells, or cries on command, or is incredibly passive aggressive.  Get over it. Say your piece, remind them about the goal of the conversation, and control what you can control (meaning you).  And remember: most of the time, they resort to these tactics because they want you to drop it – don’t fall for it!
  • What if I’m wrong?: It’s true – you may end up changing your position after the debate.  Oh, the terror!  You mean you were able to consider all sides of an issue and make an unbiased decision?  Yeah, we wouldn’t want that. [sarcasm – sorry!]

There are some concepts that we all just hang on to, regardless of the evidence.  Some call it faith, some call it fallacy, some call it lies, some call it conspiracy.  Whatever you call it, why not talk about it?  The only way we grow is to be exposed to new things…so go find a new thing and talk about it.

The worst that can happen is that you’ve had a conversation and maybe learned something new.  Isn’t that worth it?

Have you had a debate that gave you a new perspective? Share in the comments!

 

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Authenticity, Clarity, Decision Making, Skillz

 

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