Human, Leadership

Sadvocates

In any tough situation, you can choose to look for joy.  To find the brighter side.  To not get discouraged by the setback.  To put yourself in the other person’s shoes.  To think slower, not faster and suppress your lizard brain reactions. To shape your own reality.

Or you can choose to look for sadness. To interpret cynically.  To believe the worst of others. To mourn the past, or damn the future.  To point out what’s going wrong, not what’s going right.  To be Eeyore.

Acceptance is a dynamic act.  You’ll find both joy and sadness if you look for them.  Unless you’re battling a mental illness like depression – you get to choose.  And your choice doesn’t just affect your reality.  It influences the reality of those around you.  So, which will you advocate for?  Joy or sadness?

We humans like to flock together.  We naturally give into peer pressure to fit in, like in the famous Candid Camera elevator experiment.  So it’s very easy to follow along with the sadvocates.  To nod your head as they tell you why your jobs all suck, or why the old way was better, or why this will never work.

Don’t.

 

Friend, Human

Heaven on Earth

Once I had a dream I was in the afterlife. It was a long white corridor with lots of doors. Behind each of the doors were rooms with different circles of my friends. Some were playing games, some were at a barbecue, some were just sitting in a room talking about nothing in particular.

I recognize it’s an introvert’s Hell but as an extrovert it’s my Heaven. And I try to recreate it whenever possible.

The last several weeks have been a series of mini-heavens. Anniversary and birthday celebrations. A weekend with 100+ friends (and 50+ new ones made) in the woods of Pomfret, Connecticut. A Patriots game. Evenings of board gaming. An evening of role playing games. A choir rehearsal. Watching great TV shows in the evening with my family. Lunches with past and future coworkers.

All ways to temporarily emulate that concept of never ending joy.

Athlete, Human

5k

No, I wasn’t the fastest – I finished 16th of 17 in my age group, way back in the total pack, just ahead of the walkers.

No, it wasn’t a Personal Record (and I’ve only done one other 5k, which I finished about 30 seconds faster.)

No, I’m not in better shape because my running has been sporadic and my weight has gone up since that 5k last thanksgiving.

No, I haven’t been training heavily for it because this Wilmington 5k was an opportunity discovered the day before.

But despite all that… all that was working against me… I finished, and finished proudly. It was good practice, it was not beyond my abilities. And I couldn’t have done this race two years ago. No way. Ive overcome a lot to get this far with a running hobby that a 6’5″ guy with flat feet and bad ankles should ever have been able to achieve. And I’m going to do more.

Human, Marketer, Musician

Finding the Opportunity

Finding opportunities out of obligations is about more than the old optimist’s creed of “making lemonade from lemons.”  It’s about efficiency.  It’s about attitude.  It’s about shaping your reality.

Once my dad was told to attend a dinner event 3 hours away to represent the company, accept an award, and shake hands with the governor for a 5 minute photo-op.  My dad’s initial reaction was annoyance – this disrupts my work day and takes me away from home, there’s so many other things that need to be done, why me, and so on.  Then he realized that he was doing this anyways – why not make it an opportunity?  He decided that he’d use those 5 minutes with the governor to draw his attention to a project that wasn’t getting attention.  There’s evidence that those 5 minutes actually contributed to that project’s approval.  He created value out of what could have been a waste of time.

The chorus I sing with is requiring its members to do 9 holiday concerts this year instead of 7.  Like many, my initial reaction was a mixture of panic and disappointment – especially since the news was communicated without fanfare, gratitude, or acknowledgement of the change. How could they do this to us? How much more will this cost our family to ‘volunteer’? And so on.  Then I realized that the holiday concerts have really changed from years ago, when they were perceived by many as a burden, an obligation, a mandatory exercise with a substitute conductor and a high temptation to mail it in. The new approach is to treat each concert like a music-making experience, and the rehearsals and pedagogy associated with them are basically a voice lesson for me every time.  I’ll take two more cheap voice lessons and performances this December, especially given that this may be my last season if I’m not in the chorus after next spring’s re-audition!

Life is more enjoyable when you reframe obligations as opportunities.

Marketer

On the Road Again

As a marketer, often the best thing you can do to improve your work is talk to customers.

Too often marketers climb up into their Ivory Tower and guess at what prospects are most concerned about.  They make up messaging.  They forget that they’re not the target audience.

You can survive on a diet of second-hand reports from the sales team, of listening in to a few sales calls, of case studies from successful customers, of analyst research on what the market wants.  But there’s no substitute sometimes for standing in a trade show booth, at a larger industry event, talking to every one who comes by to find out what makes them tick, why they’re skeptical about your pitch, and why they won’t buy your stuff.

There’s a certain joy in it, too, because you know you’re getting valuable results from the time you put in — time that many other marketers won’t.  Common sense, not commonly practiced.

Friend, Marketer

One door closes…

An unhealthy number of good people I know are going through unplanned transitions now.  Their jobs were eliminated in a restructuring.  Or, their company finished a project and cut everyone involved.  Or, the new leader of their auditioned chorus did not invite them to stay after their re-audition.

Here’s what I have tried to remind all of them, based on my own experiences:

  • You’re good at what you do. You’ve just gone through a rejection.  You’re going to question your abilities, wonder whether you’re good enough, debate whether you should just chuck it all and do something else with your life instead.  While it’s worth evaluating what you like and don’t like about your career path, don’t let imposter syndrome chase you off of it.
  • It’ll work out.  These are not just idle words. Yes, they’re highly likely to be true — most good people out of work find something, it’s just a matter of time.  But even more importantly, they’re more likely to be true if you believe they’re likely to be true.  Interviewing from a position of confidence and strength, not desperation and worry, makes a huge difference.
  • Find other people to tell you these things. This is perhaps the most important, because no matter how much self-confidence you have, and how convinced you are that it’ll work out… it’s incredibly helpful to get validation from outside your skull.  Surround yourself with supporters.  Check in with colleagues who can reaffirm that they liked working with you, would work with you again, and will put in a good word for you should you need it.

Good luck, my friends.  There’s a joyful next step out there, just keep looking for it.

 

Father

Answering the tough questions

Once upon a time the tough child-to-parent questions were from curious but naive faces. Whether one actually gets “why is the sky blue” or “does God exist” or other classics, we surmount them with pat answers that satisfy or children long enough for them to forget about it. Young minds aren’t built for philosophy and the way the world works.

Teenage and pre-teen minds are. You explain unions, and strikes and lockouts. What Spin the Bottle really is. How Ouija boards work/don’t work. That Spam was canned meat but is now undesirable email, and why that sort of works. Why Paul Manafort was indicted – what indicted means – why it’s trouble for the current president. What Hurricane Florence is doing. What religion is about, and whether science or religion (or neither) has the answers to the big questions.

It’s humbling to realize that you are passing on your opinions even as you try not to. You explain the different viewpoints and counterarguments so your children can form their own opinions. Then you hear them mirror it back to you, to their friends, to other adults, and you realize what you have wrought – a living mini-me on ever growing bodies that will soon ask even tougher questions. Even then, however, being able to answer those questions will also be a joy.