Monthly Archives: April 2014

This is Me, this Might be Me, Is this Me

I am currently reading Harriet Reisen’s biography of Louisa May Alcott.  I was given the book by my aunt and I am greatly enjoying it and learning a lot.  I am also remembering how much I enjoyed Little Women, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys when I was younger.  I am named after Beth.  (She dies you know, which devastated me when I read that part at the age of twelve.  Thankfully I survived past the age of fifteen despite the fate of my namesake.)

DSC03784

Anyway, her parents were idealists and the part that I want to ruminate about today is something that the author mentions had an effect on Louisa – falling short of who you should be.  I am taken with this concept.  I’m not sure which thought thread to follow first.

 

Who decides who you should be?  What criteria do they apply if it is someone other than yourself, such as your parents?  What criteria should you apply to decide for yourself who you should be?  Who is to decide if you are falling short of this ideal of who you should be?  How long should it take to get to who you should be?  Maybe you are just still on your way to this end point.

 

From an ethical standpoint, I do agree that there are aspects of self that you should be.  You decide what this ideal ethical self is like, where your ethical barriers lie.  And life is all about falling short of this ideal of who you should be, in small moments and less than ideal circumstances, and then striving even harder to be it.

 

What do you think?  Are you intrigued by this notion of falling short of who you should be?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The Wrong Pickles put you in a Pickle

My son goes through about a jar of pickles per week.  Dill spears or slices.  This week he accidentally picked up a jar of bread and butter sweet pickles at the store and only figured it out after he had opened the jar and taken a big bite out of a slice.

 

Now not only is he highly disappointed that he has the wrong pickles and irritated with himself that he didn’t pay closer attention, he has to figure out what to do with the pickles that we have before I’ll buy a jar of the correct pickles.  Drat & aggravation.

DSC03781

I have done this very thing – ended up with the wrong item due to inattention, I read the info on the shelf but didn’t check the label on the item that I picked up.  Figuring it out at home putting the groceries away or worse just when I go to use the item.  It’s a pickle for sure.

 

It is like your brain rushes ahead to the next thing.  Like pulling in to your driveway and not being sure how you got home.  Or not registering someone’s name when you first meet.  The opposite of mindful in-the-moment.  Not quite absent minded.

 

It would make a bit more sense if we were in a hurry at the store.  I had an action packed day last week and had trouble adjusting my thoughts once I got to my last meeting in the evening.  I had to tell myself to breathe a couple of times before I could settle in.  A blip in attention would have made sense then.

 

What is the weirdest thing that put you in a pickle in a moment of inattention?  And any suggestions for what to do with bread and butter sweet pickles?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

A Workday in Increments

5:49 am – Oh no, no, no.  I still have 11 minutes to sleep.  Shhh…

 

6:49 am – Breakfast done, half-way through my morning ablutions.  I want to make sure to have time for some extra stretching since my back is a little tight.

 

7:49 am – Nearly done with my morning commute.  Slow & steady is winning the race this morning, that guy who raced past me first chance he got is now back behind me as we merge.

 

8:49 am – Phone tag isn’t nearly as much fun as tag was as a kid.  Maybe he’s an email person.

 

9:49 am – Oops, almost forgot about my meeting at 10.  Do I have everything that I need?

agenda

10:49 am – After meeting catch up and if I’m lucky I can sketch out some of my to-do’s while they are still fresh in my head…

 

11:49 am – Come on lunch, I’m hungry.

 

12:49 pm – Next meeting coming up.

 

1:49 pm – I am not sleepy, I am not sleepy

 

2:49 pm – I won’t think that our team might wrap up the week well, I won’t jinx it.  I definitely will not say it out loud.

 

3:49 pm – A nice stretch of time to do some project planning.

 

4:49 pm – Finished planning, only 11 more work minutes to the week and then weekend.  Don’t want to wish too hard for these next few minutes to go by fast, that seems to have a bad effect on the weekend and its Monday again before I know it.  A little email clean up and Monday prep should just about fit.

 

5:49 pm – Hmmm, what to do about dinner?

 

6:49 pm – Once again I have failed to do any planning for the weekend.  Wonder if anyone has any free time?

 

7:49 pm – So nice that it is still a little light out at this hour, longer days feel so overdue this year.

 

8:49 pm – A little newspaper reading, a little TV watching…

 

9:49 pm – Best moment of the weekend, I can turn off my alarm and wake up on my own tomorrow and Sunday.  Here’s to a great, restful and yet purposeful weekend for us all.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

An Accomplished Grumbler

In our house, growing up, we learned early on that whining, wheedling and grumbling got you banished.  Who wanted to be banished?  We kept our grumbling to ourselves when we just couldn’t help but indulge in it.  (Especially when dad was around, he ‘would give us something to grumble about’!)  I did my best to instill this same message in my boys that grumbling wasn’t an effective method of getting what you want.

 

My son’s dog grumbles.  (Hrumphf, hmmrrr, rrrmmm, sigh)  It is hilarious as long as she only does it occasionally.  And only hilarious because she is a dog.  I never knew that animals wheedled before.

pleading eyes

What isn’t hilarious is the percentage of the adult population who didn’t get the same message that children got in my family – that grumbling isn’t effective in getting your point across.  There are an amazing number of grown people who must have had their childish grumbling validated and have carried this annoying trait into adult life.  Who have become accomplished grumblers.

 

What does grumbling cost the grumbler?  Why were we banished when we got in that mode as kids?  My mom was a Pollyanna type – amazingly positive and sunny.  (Not sickeningly, perky cheerleader so.)  One of the ways that she stayed that way was to focus on positive activities, which grumbling is decidedly not.  Grumbling is gloomy and low energy and draining.  It sucks you in rather than drawing you closer and you can’t wait to get some distance.

 

I try really hard not to laugh out loud when the dog does her grumbling thing.  She is a clown and I don’t want her to think this is a good method to get what she wants.  I don’t want her to be added to the list of accomplished grumblers.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

A Near Complete Lack of Curiosity

I never fail to be stumped when I encounter a person with a near complete lack of curiosity.  I can’t even bring myself to say that the person may have a complete lack of curiosity.  I have to qualify it, and hope that the person has some curiosity about something that I just don’t see.  It just doesn’t seem possible to me that a person could have zero curiosity.

 

Sure there are things that I am not interested in at all, or so I believe right now.  I would have said that was true about beer until last June when I sat through a talk that my son wanted to attend and the panel brought up the history of beer and tied it to some things that I am interested in.  Heck, I find myself feeling curious about math at times now that my niece is so taken with the topic.

 

But there are people who just want to be told to put that there and twist this a half a turn and move on.  They don’t want to know why.  They don’t want to know how the thing came to be in front of them or what will happen to it after it moves on.  Huh.  I am curious why that is, what is it about their make-up that left aside the wonder?  I can’t fathom it.

Nov 1997-Are they gone yet

Sure, curiosity killed the cat but lack of curiosity narrows.  Or at least it seems to me.  I would like to have a conversation with someone who has no interest in learning new things, who is content within their comfort zone.  Has that person ever had to deal with big changes?  In my experience life brings alterations, from tiny to seismic, fairly regularly and my curiosity has helped me to get resettled.

 

What importance do you place on curiosity?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Complaint or Solution?

It’s been a long week of varying sized hassles after last week’s hassles and the week before that.  Hassles, snarls, frustrations – don’t have to move very far in any particular direction to slam into one.  It is what it is.  Job security.  Life.

public domain image

public domain image

 

 

“If they would just…” begins the statement – ‘they’ being some power-that-be at work – and so formulates the complaint.  ‘They’ should fix something to make my work go more smoothly.  I can’t meet my deadlines because ‘they’ make the process more difficult.  And on and on in hundreds of permutations goes the complaint.

 

More personally, ‘she’ – when a person accepts a position as a boss that person must expect to become part of ‘they’, a representative of management induced worker frustrations – ‘she’ expects too much.  (If you aren’t ready or willing to be ‘she’ or ‘he’ – personally representing ‘they’ – then think twice about being a boss.  It comes with the territory, even in the best of circumstances.)

 

The complaints slip out as an easy release when coworkers talk in pairs or groups.  Sensible, short term stress relief.  But also potentially toxic.

 

Complaints aren’t a be all and end all, but a starting point for a solution.  If you want something to get better a complaint by itself isn’t going to accomplish anything.  A complaint by itself is an abdication of any responsibility for improvement.  A complaint by itself is acceptance of the hassle as part of your lot.

 

com·plaint Dictionary.com

[kuhm-pleynt]

noun

  1. an expression of discontent, regret, pain, censure, resentment,or grief; lament; faultfinding:
  2. his complaint about poor schools.

 

In order for a complaint to become an effective long term method for hassle reduction, it has to move into being a solution.

 

I’ve seen the echo of ‘she’ coworker complaints on plenty of faces over the years.  More than I can count.  But I can count the number of times that someone on my team has come forward to ask for clarification, to talk further, to want to discuss a potential solution.  And I don’t mean guns blazing accusations, but measured discussion.  Seeking understanding.  I wish I could say this approach was utilized more.

 

Nobody really intends to create hassles – well, ok some small subset of the population gets a kick out of it.  Plans filter down from senior management to middle management to the people that get it done day after day.  Honest discussions about improving the plan can happen at any level.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Social Media Samba

I realize that I haven’t written about LinkedIn in a long while.  (I have to admit that I haven’t allotted much time for LinkedIn lately – shhh don’t tell them, it’s bad for my SEO.)  It is hard to keep up with all the content that can be found for perusal on the social media sites – and there is plenty that is worthy.

 

Do you do social media?  Are you tweeting and Facebooking and connecting on LinkedIn?  Or all of the other social media sites that seem to pop up every week.  I have no idea what the latest thing might be in terms of social media but I’m sure there is someone to tell me what I should be doing this week.

profile-plea

I do have a social media presence because I do get that it has merit.  It provides a great topic for interaction with new acquaintances too.  Ask a person about their social media engagement and you will find out quite a bit about that person.  As much, or maybe even more, than you would if you brought up one of the taboo topics of religion or politics.  Everyone has a position on social media.

 

I have found that it equates a bit to dancing – hence my title today.  (Plus I just liked the alliteration.)  Particularly for people of a certain age.  Do you dance – are you on social media – seem to cause many people to become self-conscious.  Fear of embarrassment.  Fear of doing the ‘wrong thing’.

 

While I wouldn’t advocate going out and standing in the middle of the dance floor and moving with the abandon of a 3 year old, I think that we should all be aware when we stop ourselves from doing something because of the fear of embarrassment.  Look at all of the public figures who have overcome some amazing faux pas.

 

Come on and pick the rhythm of your choice and stretch your social media muscles.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Remembrance & Relevancy

My dad comes up frequently in posts because I am pretty sure that my work ethic comes directly from his influence more than any other.  I know that anything I understand about tools and fixing things was first honed watching him, sometimes directly for hours and sometimes covertly.  He is still in the creak of the flooring when I manage to find an old-time hardware store and the smell of freshly cut lumber.  I hear him laughing at old puns and sometimes catch glimpses of his very same twinkle in the eyes of both my boys, particularly when some mild mischief is involved.

 

Dad would have been 77 today, a date that he shared with Abraham Lincoln – one starting out his life and the other’s coming to an end on April 14th, 72 years intervening.  Perhaps it was this shared date that started my dad’s deep interest in history, American history, and specifically the Revolutionary and Civil War periods.  Abraham Lincoln loomed large for dad.  A fascination with history is something else that I share with my dad.

Aug 1965

Dad was an only child who came to preside over a noisy family with three children.  While he very much wanted a family, I don’t think that he was prepared for the chaos of multiple children so his basement workshop became a welcome retreat.  He was always very good with his hands and happiest when working on a project, or even had various projects in different stages.  Happy being a relative term for dad.

 

It was highly important to him to be a good man.  A good man provided for his family and had a solid standing in the community.  A good man embodied the Boy Scout Oath and Law, particularly since dad achieved the rank of Eagle Scout and went on to make Scouting his career:

Scout Oath (or Promise)

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

 

Scout Law

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly,
courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty,
brave, clean, and reverent.

(Borrowed from the official website of the Boy Scouts of America)

These principles were the core of his purpose in life, though he had his times when these failed to help him know exactly what to do.  Like many men in his generation, he was at a loss to best express his emotions – positive or negative.

 

Dad has been gone from this world for a little over 15 years.  I just finished reading Jan-Philipp Sendker’s The Art of Hearing Heartbeats and really like what the character U Ba has to say:

“Do we leave the dead behind us or do we take them with us?  I think we take them with us.  They accompany us.  They remain with us, if in another form.”

I like this because I have been thinking a great deal about getting farther and farther away from my parents.  Maybe I’m not.  Maybe because they are still with me, accompanying me, they are still relevant.

 

Dad can be anywhere and everywhere now.  He is part of the appreciation of a finely crafted wood item, he is encouraging a young man on the path to Eagle Scout, he is present at campfires and taking in museum exhibits.

 

Happy birthday, dad.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

A Chance to Lead

You decide if this post is about group dynamics or individual leadership.  Several things have gotten me to think about leadership from different angles recently.  Talk about leadership is everywhere, a distinct meaning of what it really is, is not so prevalent.

 

Have you ever been in a group where everyone is trying to lead – whether there is an established leader or not?  Everyone is working to get the upper hand for their own agenda and chaos ensues.

 

George Washington in 1775 (public domain image)

George Washington in 1775 (public domain image)

Have you ever been in a group where no one wants to take the lead – even if there is a designated leader?  Aimless chaos usually ensues, along with plenty of finger pointing when nothing is accomplished.

 

Have you had opportunities to lead?  How did they come about?  I had an employee once who would regularly tell everyone and anyone that she never got any opportunity to lead.  Because she expected the opportunity to come gift wrapped with a tag that read ‘This is Your Chance to Lead’.  When she would ask me about leadership opportunities, I would start to enumerate specific recent instances that were opportunities to show leadership – to direct a circumstance to her expected outcome.

 

Have you been on a team with a leadership vacuum?  How did you respond?  If you created your own method to get your work done and perhaps to help your coworkers do the same did you see that as leadership?

 

Have you ever known a leader who complained that they had to do everything because otherwise it wasn’t done right… because the only right way was their way?

 

A boss should be a leader, but a true leader doesn’t have to be a boss.  I know I have quotations about leadership, being a boss and the distinguishing characteristics of each in a quote book that I keep, but those will have to go in a future post on leadership.

 

What do you have to say about group dynamics, leadership, and bosses?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Sprinters Running Marathons

I don’t run.  For that matter I don’t jog, trot or canter either.  I have been known to lope and I’ve been told I walk at a pretty fast pace.  I well remember the joy that came along when, as a child, I would burst into a sprint.  (And then because I was mostly bookish, I would gasp and pant for several minutes.)

 

But I digress, I think in part due to the burgeoning spring which encourages thoughts of being outdoors and being active.  This post isn’t about literal running of any kind.  It is about understanding the right pace and energy level for a project or activity.  Most of us start out full of energy and enthusiasm for a new venture but if we didn’t clearly understand how the venture would go, we can let our pace lag well before the finish.

forward

I’ve been known to sit comfortably on my couch and turn on the last portion of a long race like the Marathon during the Olympics or the Tour de France.  It amazes me that the athletes who are still in the race at this point can find it in themselves to increase their pace at the very end.  These people have mastered the art of being in it for the long haul.  They can portion their energy and hold something back to make a strong finish.

 

How many times have you found yourself agreeing to something, thinking in the short term, only to feel disgust build as the thing goes on and grates at you?  I’ve told the story how I accepted the request to be called by my first and middle names at the start of a job only to have to get everyone to change a now established habit when I started to think long term.  How many marriages end simply because the two people weren’t really thinking long term at the start, were just entranced by their love goggles?  How many times were you ill-suited for a job that you took?  How many projects are in a partially completed stage around your house?

 

Relationships of all kinds can be entered into casually, even if intensely, and rarely do we think about how they may develop and last.  Sprint or marathon tells over time.

 

Tasks and projects should be easier to identify as sprint or marathon, but this will require a bit of planning before the plunge.

 

Have you mastered the art of identifying and planning properly for a sprint or a marathon?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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