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In the pause: Love your decisions

“The more you love your decisions, the less you need others to love them.” ~Unknown

Yesterday, Phineas decided it would be a good idea to roll in goose poop. It wasn’t. Or at least I didn’t think this was a good idea. However, he loved his decision so much that he didn’t care about whether or not I liked it. He proudly marched through Central Park like he was a king. He made me think of the quote above. And though I wasn’t thrilled with having to clean him off with hand sanitizer in the park, followed by a bath once we got home, I do admire his confidence in his choices.

In the pause: How to make today count

“Each morning, we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” ~Buddha

I’ve been a little wrapped up in the activity of the weekend, some of it good and some of it not-so-good. I had a bit of day, as they say, whoever they are and they would be right. The thing is, we’ve got to do our best to let it go. I am the queen of hanging on so I understand that this is a tall order. Let it go. Exhale it. Stop worrying, thinking, churning, and obsessing over what doesn’t serve you. I get it. Yes, we’ve got to let it go, and it’s very difficult to do that.

So what if we did this, instead? What if we just promised ourselves to learn from it? What if we paid forward the experience to our future selves? What if we could accept the idea that “tomorrow I’ll do better” is enough? I think it’s worth a shot.

In the pause: I’m glad to be a turtle in the race of life

I’m glad to be a turtle in the race of life. Slow and steady progress makes the wins sweeter and the journey more interesting.

Last week, I wrote about the value of age diversity in the workplace. This weekend, I read this amazing article about Dr. John Goodenough, a 94-year-old scientist who is on the verge of inventing a battery that could turn the way we power our world on its head in a good way. In the very best way. In a way that replaces fossil fuels, and drastically reduces the cost of energy to our wallets and to the environment.

The article goes on to talk about the successes that so many people, particularly patent-holders, find later in life. And by later, I don’t mean their 40s. I mean their 50s, 60s, and beyond. In an age where we find ourselves obsessed with 20-under-20 and 30-under-30 lists, I’m embracing all that is beginning to bloom in my life now and all of the blooming that’s destined to find all of us in the decades ahead. The data shows that the best is yet to come, and I believe in data.

 

 

In the pause: Start somewhere

No matter what you want to do, there’s a real power to be found in just starting. You don’t have to know what you’re doing. You don’t need a grand plan. All you need is a little time and a desire to try. Just pick a place and start. You’ll learn as you go. You’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t. Experiment, have fun, and remember why you started. One step, one day at a time.

In the pause: It’s time to put the past in context

“The past is a place of reference, not a place of residence.” ~Willie Jolley

Yesterday, I listened to an interview with Chris Whipple, author of the new book The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency. The books shows that many of the former presidents made many of the same mistakes that the current administration is making and often with the exact same reasoning as past administrations. Whipple said, “Presidents learn many of the same lessons once they take office, and unfortunately almost all of them learn the hard way.”

This interview reminded me of Jolley’s quote. While we can’t live in the past, it is so important to learn from it. And that includes are own past as well as the past experiences of others. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to forge our own path; being armed with information about the paths of others can only help ease the way. This is why mentorship matters. This is why reflection matters. If we can learn from the past, we have a greater chance of building a brighter future.

In the pause: The age-old question of age in the workplace

“Just remember, when you’re over the hill, you begin to pick up speed.” ~ Charles Schultz, Peanuts creator

My friend, John, shared an article in which he’s mentioned. Everyone of every age should read it. It’s about the value of older people in the workforce and that constant tug-of-war between young and not-so-young employees. At 41, I’m in that mid-zone. I call it the messy middle. Not quite young, but not quite old either. I would say my spirit, interests, and curiosity lean younger while my experience level and sensibilities lean older. Lately, I’ve been having this exact conversation about the messy middle with many friends of all ages.

One of the many great gifts in my career has been that in every job except for one, I’ve had co-workers that range from brand-new college grads to those on the doorstep of retirement and everything in-between. (And that one exception was a doozy that I’m glad to have in my rearview mirror! It stands as the shining example of what a lack of age- and experience-diversity does to a team—it makes it stagnant.) Nowhere was this age-diversity more prevalent than in professional theater. At 22, I had friends who were triple my age and then some. Their stories and experience taught me about life, work, and friendship in a way that I never could have learned if I was surrounded by other 22 year olds. And my youth at the time had something to offer, too—a new way of seeing and doing things that hadn’t been done before. These were my very first professional experiences and they have been the bedrock on which I’ve built the last 20 years of my career. That healthy, two-way respect between generations is a foundational element of not only my work, but my life. My friend group still reflects that diversity in age and experience, and I hope it always does.

My point in all of this is that everyone at every age has something to bring to the table that is different and valuable in its own way. We all have something to learn from each other but to make that learning possible, everyone on a team has to remain open to entirely different perspectives. Listen without waiting for our turn to talk. Ask questions. Walk in someone else’s shoes. Try to understand the other side of an argument even though it so directly contradicts our own. Ask for help. Offer help. Support one another. Cheer for one another. Celebrate every win and loss because each offers something we need at the exact moment we need it.

Let’s replace the tug-of-war between generations in the workplace and in life with a hug and smile. We can go further together.

In the pause: Embrace endings

“I don’t pay attention to the world ending. It’s ended for me many times and began again in the morning.” ~Anonymous

I’ve learned to embrace endings, not because they are fun or comforting but because they make space for something new. I’ve learned that nothing lasts forever, that life in all its forms is full of cycles and changes. Changes and challenges, no matter how much they are welcomed, are difficult because for some amount of time there is a void. I used to be very quick to fill up that void as fast as possible. Now at the ripe old age of 41, I purposely slow it down. I spend a good amount of time reflecting, processing, and deciding how best to move forward after any major change. I’ve learned how to ask for and receive help with grace and gratitude. And then I pay forward that help, as many times as I possibly can.

One of the great benefits of growing older is that it’s easier to pinpoint what really matters and why. When something ends now, I’m grateful for the lessons it teaches me and the strength it gives me. In time, new possibilities and opportunities always present themselves and often in the most unlikely ways. The world begins again, and we’re off on new adventures that pave the path ahead. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

In the pause: The power of thinking small

One of the main tenants of business and new product development is to develop the least expensive, least time intensive version of your product to test with exactly the people you hope to become your customers. You want to put in just enough money and effort so that the idea of what you’re trying to do is clear and the experience is positive. And you want to keep from putting in too much money and effort on an idea that just doesn’t work. It’s all about using resources wisely and conserving as much as you can while also still giving the idea a fighting chance to show its value. It’s a tricky balancing act, but it has to be done.

With A Can of Coke, my online platform to provide college- and career-readiness counseling for high school students, I can use an easy, light-weight combination of Google Calendar and Google Hangout with a small handful of students to help them in the evening and weekend hours for a couple of months. This way I can see if the idea works and what needs to be improved without incurring a lot of cost.

Fast, simple, small. It’s how all great ideas start.

In the pause: How to destroy all your demons

“Do not just slay your demons; dissect them and find out what they’ve been feeding on.” ~ The Man Frozen in Time

Even the most well-adjusted, confident, and kind people have occasional thoughts and feelings in which they feel less-than. I don’t need to look any further than my mirror to find someone who fits that bill. And while I can play the game of fake it ’til I make it with the best of them, the most effective treatment I’ve found is to really get at the root of my own negative self-talk. Hack away at that root, and there is so much more freedom and joy that gets unlocked.

For example, whenever I’m searching for a new job opportunity, I read the role description and if I don’t fit one bullet my first reaction is to move on. I’ve learned that this is a direct result of my inner perfectionist (which causes plenty of other challenges for me, but let’s just stick to this one for now.) If I can’t do something 99.9% perfectly, I’m obsessing about that 0.1%.

As an adult, I’ve learned to constantly put myself in the role of being a beginner to counter this. Along the way, I have grown my skill sets, met incredible people, traveled to stunning places, and dare I say it, become a recovering perfectionist. I don’t know that I’m ever going to completely get rid of that perfection instinct, but I do know that I control it now and it doesn’t control me. I’ve learned to congratulate myself for trying something new, even when it’s a complete disaster. I’ve learned to be my own best cheerleader and my own best company. I’ve learned to value my strengths and to no longer fear failure.

And as for those job applications, I send them off. I don’t take myself out of the running for anything that sounds interesting to me. My friend, Brooke, once told me years ago that we are all born knowing nothing. We all start at zero. We learn everything we need to learn just by going through life . And that process never stops, so why stop ourselves? Now that’s what I call slaying a demon and then eating its lunch.

In the pause: A lesson about listening from Tupac Shakur

“If you let a person talk long enough you’ll hear their true intentions. Listen twice, speak once.” ~Tupac Shakur

Less than two months into my 2017 resolution to pause every day and really listen, I’ve learned a lot. Much more than I expected. It’s fascinating to hear what people really say, and what they don’t say. It’s surprising to me to hear the narrative that plays in my own head during certain situations. These days we are subjected to all kinds of glossy marketing, slick slogans, and catchy soundbites. To really see what’s going on, we have to take a step back. Maybe even a few steps back. Let things come into focus. Listen rather than waiting to speak.

People are very adept at elevator pitches. We’ve got biases, lens of experience that alter our point-of-view, and objectives. That’s part of being human and having this massive cerebral cortex. It’s a blessing and it’s also a curse; we often get in our own way. I’ve found the best way to combat this is to just stop and listen. It’s a highly under-rated and rare skill. Our society doesn’t reward it, but life in general does. When we listen, we make better decisions because we have richer information. When we listen, we increase our sense of focus because our perspective is more comprehensive. And this combination of information  and perspective gives us the confidence to take action. The actions I’m going to take in 2017 are beginning to take shape. They’re exciting and a little bit scary, but I can handle it.

So far on my listening tour through 2017, that’s what I’ve got. I’m looking forward to what happens next.

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