Category Archives: Personal Growth

The Importance of Persistence

We admire someone with stick-to-itiveness, a person who single-mindedly pursues a goal.  Persistence does not mean adhering to a specific path, but keeping eyes on the intended goal.  Methods can change, as well as participants; even some aspects of the goal may be altered to achieve the essence successfully.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons - Builders of the past had amazing persistence, minus modern tools

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons – Builders of the past had amazing persistence, minus modern tools

 

Let’s say that you and your co-workers were sitting one day discussing a particular issue that affects your ability to get tasks done and a new person says that they know about software that will make the task much more efficient.  Excellent!  You share this information with your boss as soon as possible, but she lets you know that there just isn’t money in the budget.  Blast, now what?

 

Well, you and your team mates could just continue to discuss the problem periodically and lament the stupid budget limitations.  But you are persistent.  You and your buddies split up some tasks to convince your boss that the software is the best answer.  Some people do research on the software itself – how it works, some alternative software platforms, reviews from people who have used the software.

 

Another part of your group starts to track the time lost on the task using the current process, not only time within your team but within the organization as a whole, perhaps on the part of your customers as well.

 

Now you can go back to your boss with a great deal more information that includes information to calculate the cost of keeping things the same.  You don’t necessarily have to compute these numbers (you probably don’t have enough of the data to do so anyway) but now the company can take a clear look and make an informed comparison.

 

Hopefully your persistence will pay off with a new solution to the methods in your task.  If not, regroup and start to plot plan C.

 

“Plenty of men can do good work for a spurt and with immediate promotion in mind, but for promotion you want a man in whom good work has become a habit.”

~Henry L. Doherty

[We’ll purport for the sake of the modern age that Henry was not excluding woman in his thought on purpose, merely making assumptions of his era.]

(I must admit to rerunning this post from last year at this time, from my old blog.  This wind seems to be blowing all thoughts from my head.)

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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Different isn’t Deficient

When I was learning to drive, no one said that your foot had to always be on a pedal – either the gas or the brake.  Maybe my dad actually said coasting bought me some time to think about the right way to handle an oncoming situation and maybe I figured it out as I gained experience.  I don’t exactly recall.  But I did teach my boys that you can coast sometimes.

 

Similarly, somewhere along the line I realized that there are more categories than right and wrong.  I don’t have to put something or someone into a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ category when they are different from my own understanding of the world and I need time to think about how I think about them.  So things and people that I don’t readily understand go into the different area for further evaluation.

 

Different isn’t a good or a bad thing, it isn’t more than or lesser than what I do feel confident that I understand.  It isn’t deficient.  It is just different – different than what is familiar to me, sometimes just slightly so and sometimes radically so.

they all hold liquid to quench thirst...

they all hold liquid to quench thirst…

 

I can grow to understand different.  I can learn from it.  If I decided that it was wrong because I didn’t understand it, then I could never hope to understand it and learning from it would be a much more difficult proposition.

 

My son who loves to cook asked me to give onions, specially prepared by him, a try even though he knew that I’ve disliked onions all my life.  He just wanted me to move a category of onions, ones that he has prepared into the different area.  I resisted.  He persisted and now sometimes I eat onions.  They haven’t moved into the ‘right’ category exactly, but I eat them and even allow that they add to the overall flavor of a dish.

 

There are things that should not go into ‘different’ – people or situations that make you less than you should be, or make you feel uncomfortable, in danger.  Anything that really belongs in the ‘wrong’ space.  Different isn’t meant to remove this option.  Just to provide an option for an unknown that deserves an opportunity to prove it’s worth.

 

I think of times when I was quick to judge and came out wrong because I didn’t take some things into account.  I remember a story of a long road trip, a broken gas line and some questionable looking teens who made sure that my mom and sister got home safely despite my mom judging them initially on their appearance.

 

Do you have a ‘different’ category where you set things aside for further consideration?

 

© 2014 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

Asking the Wrong Thing of Someone

Is a person failing at a task when they simply do not have the right temperament to do the task?  (I’m not talking about skill here.)  Or did the person who set them to the task set them up to fail?  Granted in the all too frequent situation of job insecurity these days, many people stretch in one way or another because any job that brings in a paycheck is better than the alternative.  But we’ll set that aside too.

 

There are people who pick up rather easily on tasks, even someone complex ones, and others who will be great at the task but must be given time to learn it at what would seem to be a glacial pace to that fast learner, but is just right.  Both of these temperaments will excel at the task once the training is done – but if the more deliberate learner isn’t given the time to make the task his or her own they will probably fail.

public domain image

public domain image

 

Most people work better when they know their boundaries – my job starts here, covers this area, and ends here; anything outside that area belongs to someone else.  A person with a collaborative mindset will fit perfectly into a job with overlapping responsibilities, while a person who is best when working entirely independently will struggle.  A person who likes narrow boundaries will implode in a situation with nebulous boundaries – particularly if they are also cautious.

 

When I’m interviewing a candidate, I like to ask them what sort of student they are – not were, but are.  This will tell me a lot about their temperament.  Will they ask me to better define the parameters of the question – do I mean back when they were in school?  What do I mean by student?  Or will they dive in with a canned answer that they are up for anything and love to learn?  This isn’t a trick question on my part (I don’t like trick questions.)  No, I want to make sure that I won’t be asking the wrong thing of anyone.  I don’t like to be set up to fail, and I will make every effort not to do so to anyone else.

 

Failure is a part of life, and can be useful sometimes.  But we don’t need regular and unceasing doses of it with no end in sight.  Being in a job where you are asked to do something counter to your temperament regularly is quite wearing.

 

Have you been there, what was your solution?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Return to Doodling

I used to doodle.  Mindless scribbles in my school notebooks.  Once I hit the working world, I made myself stop because I didn’t want to be seen in a meeting with my doodles – I didn’t think that it would enhance any image of professionalism.  So I’ve taken to twirling my pen (and trying really hard not to click it repeatedly) in meetings instead.

DSC03739

Now seeing this news clip, CBS News Sunday Morning: The Higher Purpose of Doodling I might just go back to my doodling habits.  Perhaps this will keep my mind present in the room when a meeting goes on.  I have found that even when I am interested in the topic, or it is in some way pertinent to me I have a terrible time keeping my thoughts in the room after about 20 minutes or so – which bears out research that I’ve read about adult attention spans.

How will I balance this return to doodling experiment with perceptions of professional behaviors?  Hmm, not sure just at the moment.  Hunching over my paper so that no one can see doesn’t seem like a viable solution.  Why, exactly, any of us feels that we would have to explain our note taking habits in the work world is an entirely different blog post.  Regardless of any of my actions, I cannot direct, control, or shape someone else’s perceptions of me.

Perceptions of doodlers is a main theme in the hyperlinked video clip – and how we should reconsider them.  Why do we perceive doodling to be such a bad thing other than we can all probably recall a moment or two in our school days when a teacher called out someone for doodling instead of paying attention?  Engagement takes on many forms, as does disengagement.

The other main theme is the point that doodling serves a purpose beyond occupying your hand.  I find it very intriguing that researchers found better detail retention in the doodling group when playing a tedious voicemail.

How about you, do you doodle?

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

‘We Already Tried That’

I fear that these words have passed my lips at some point in the past and I imagine that they fell on the ears of the listener about the same way they fall on me when I hear them.  Shut down, denied, rejected.  Unintended enthusiasm killer.

 

I got together for brunch recently with some friends, we used to be co-workers, but now all work in other places.  This phrase came up and stuck with me because it is a common thing to hear in many offices.  New people mean new opportunities to examine old process and tasks in a new way.  New people could be new to the company or new to the team with prior experience at the company in a different role.

 

When I first heard ‘we already tried that’ in response to something that I said, I was rather crestfallen and rolled the rest of my comment back up, folded my hands and clammed up.  Now, I redouble my efforts to find a way to introduce the idea in a manner that will be palatable to the listener.  Or if I overhear someone else get shot down, I try to help them get an opening to complete their thought.

 

My thought isn’t so much that we should take action on the idea itself as much as it is about giving people the opportunity to speak up and participate in solutions.  Or the process for developing solutions.  Maybe we really did try exactly that and it didn’t work at that time, in that manner.  But that isn’t the point (plus this is a new time and maybe with a couple of tweaks the idea is valid again.)  Maybe it didn’t work the first time for some sub reason that would no longer affect the outcome.

Imagine if we hadn't allowed any new versions of Edison's inventions? (public domain image)

Imagine if we hadn’t allowed any new versions of Edison’s inventions? (public domain image)

 

The objective, purportedly, is to have engaged employees – ones who participate actively in creating solutions to the situations that invariably come up.  This phrase is high on the list of reasons why employees stop participating and just trudge along.  It is in my DNA to keep putting forth new suggestions, but this isn’t true for many people.  Who knows how hard someone had to screw up their courage to put forth an idea to be told ‘we already tried that’ before the whole idea was out of their mouth?

 

We already tried to shoot down ideas with ‘we already tried that’ and it failed miserably.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Trail of Dots

Remember those fun sheets that we would get in those early years at school?  Random numbered dots scattered on the page with the occasional squiggle or line or recognizable body part – and we would know what the picture represented after we connected the dots in numerical order.  I’m sitting here right now thinking that those exercises where just about the best training for work, and life, that we got in school.

public domain image

public domain image

 

This led to that, and sometimes you really had to search for that.  Not to mention if you accidentally got out of sequence it could be a slow and messy clean up to start again.  In the meantime you wouldn’t be able to tell what you had at all.  (If only tracking down things now resulted in a cute little picture that I could happily color.)

 

The one aspect of dependencies that was represented on the page – maintaining the right sequence – had to stand in for others such as waiting on other people or working within system or program limitations.  I suppose teachers were wise in keeping this one to themselves for a few more years.  We were still busy learning the get along with others and sharing part, no need to muddy that yet.

 

Now that I am thinking about how these Connect the Dots exercises were so much more important than they seemed at the time – I wonder about how one went about constructing them?  Obviously starting with the full picture, but the art, or science, was to determine the right points to keep so that the recipient couldn’t immediately guess the subject of the picture but would also not get confused.

 

Sometimes the designer made mistakes and left out parts or skipped a number and the puzzle couldn’t be completed as shown.  This left the child hanging, or gave the child the opportunity to use their own imagination.  Again, making this a great test for work and life – a low risk chance to practice what to do when instructions are wrong or incomplete for the task at hand.

 

Some days, by the end of the work day, my brain is only capable of the most rudimentary task.  Maybe I should go out and get myself a book of these Connect the Dots and see if that will help my brain unwind from the more complicated trail of dots in life.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

A Highly Developed Sense of Duty

I came home from work last night with a blog post idea floating around in my head.  This isn’t it, I hope to retrieve it later and have it show up on this site at some point.  No, I walked in thinking I would just start in on the computer but the dishes called out, and a load of laundry too.  Once those things were no longer disturbing my sensibilities, I didn’t have it in me to write that other post.

 

This post is about the sense of duty that drove me to work on the chores first.  Is it a gene, a cluster of brain cells, or something else entirely?  Why do some people have this sense practically oozing out of their pores and others wouldn’t recognize duty if their existence depended upon it?  And then there are the majority of people who have just enough to keep them from scampering off to Tahiti and instead make a life which includes a considerable dose of responsibility.

 

I believe that I’ve written about this before.  And I will certainly write about it again.  Dad was big on fulfilling duty first.  His words and actions showed us daily.  I wish that I had more of this trait when it comes to keeping my house in good shape, but I have plenty of ways that I relentlessly apply my energy to duty first.

"Lets have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."  ~ Abraham Lincoln (public domain image)

“Let’s have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”
~ Abraham Lincoln
(public domain image)

 

A sense of duty is a very helpful thing to develop and maintain – I am thankful to have it.  However, I have spent the last few years seeking to balance this duty with other important things too.  Time with people that mean something to me, opportunity to gain new experience, pleasant pastimes.

 

Now that duty has been met, I need to get my head back into the right frame for that other post.  First I will wish for you a nice balance of duty and leisure in your weekend.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Show Me the Way to Catch Up

Fourteen or so years ago I remember talking to someone and telling her that I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that I was forgetting something.  She helped me to talk through general things with my house, job, and kids so that we figured that there wasn’t anything glaring.  We were operating on the assumption that my feeling must be based on something concrete – an actually overdue or nearly due to-do.

 

This conversation sticks in my mind because it marks the start of my current stage when I have learned to live with this feeling as a constant companion.  Because I am forgetting things, those little things like all the personal, car, house maintenance that we should do to keep things tip top and running smoothly.  And all the little things at work that would make other things less reactive.

 

We imagine that past generations had it a bit easier – indeed they didn’t have things like 401k accounts to rebalance, or HSA accounts for that matter.  The types of insurance constituted a shorter list, and so lessened the bewildering amount of paperwork, rules and the like to track and decide upon.  Working on the car didn’t require specialized skills or tools – diagnostics was what the doctor did when he depressed your tongue.

 

Public domain image, Bay Bridge

Public domain image, Bay Bridge

No matter, I would just like to break this feeling of falling behind.  Knowing that I am not alone in this is some comfort, but not relief.  And hiring an assistant would be amazing, but not in my budget.  Friends and I often compare areas where we are ahead or behind each other – a little competition to spice up the endless race not to fall further behind.

 

(The title is hummed to the tune of “Show me the way to go home”… I’m tired and I want to go to bed…)

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Cultivate Your Inner Two-Year-Old

I don’t think that this post will interest people who like to have a steady, few task oriented occupation.  I was thinking the other day that 2 year olds have it right to be so inquisitive.  The world is more interesting when you want to learn more about the things around you – how they work, why they are the way that they are.

 

Going farther back, I had a revelation about colic as I tried to soothe my sons when they were babies.  And suddenly I saw the world as they saw it and while my realization didn’t ease my own exhaustion and wish that they would just stop crying, it did give me empathy to continue my quest to bring them peace.  The revelation was just this – there is a tremendous amount of stimulation around us every waking moment of every day, lights, sounds, movement, touch and our senses are bombarded, we have learned how to process it all to the point that we are nearly unaware of how much stimulation is around.  But to a baby it is all new and disorienting.

 

By the age of 2, we can filter through the familiar stimuli and get drawn to anything new that tickles our senses.  We explore this new thing with delight and share this pleasure with anyone who might be around.  Who can’t help but be charmed?

DSC03720

Somewhere along the line, the curiosity and delight in new things dries up for many of us.  New things might start to mean more to do, or harder to understand, or any number of unpleasant associations.  Sadly.

 

I won’t deny that much of this reasoning can be true, but we miss out on new things that could be good by this wholesale shutting down.  I was thinking the other day about one of my least favorite responses to the cheerful good morning that I offer around the office, which is ‘what’s good about it?’.  I’ve gone to the effort to fire up my cheer and get a snarl in return?

 

Well, here is my hard-won answer to that question – the possibility.  I’m breezing through my own apprehensions and morning grumpy to cultivate my inner two-year-old.  There is possibility for something interesting, potentially delightful just ahead.  And I don’t want to miss it because I filtered it out.  If I channel this inner curiosity, I might just make more opportunities for myself at work by expanding my knowledge of the how and why of my work place.  What do you think?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Procrastinating Resolution Planning

Do you make New Year Resolutions?  Do you plan them, or are they usually spur of the moment ideas?  Do you make the same one every year?  Do you make progress on it?  Sorry, I don’t mean to seem like I am grilling – you have someone in your life for that, I have no doubt.  I am merely curious, really.

public domain image

public domain image

I remember in my childhood that we spent plenty of time at the dinner table talking about New Year Resolutions this time of year.  My mom would be captured by the idea of renewal and self-improvement on a mass scale for the first few weeks of each year and want to get us involved.  I don’t remember any of the actual resolutions that any of us made, of course.  The resolutions themselves were rather secondary to the intrigue of so many people embarking on new plans at the same time.

This was of course long before today’s media fascination, or should I say obsession, with Resolutions.  Maybe the media has just picked up on mom’s drum beat.

Dad was the list maker, and the head down, plow forward, get your chores done before fun kind of person.  He didn’t want to talk about getting things done, he wanted to get to it.  I’m pretty sure he mostly just listened to these conversations about resolutions.

I stopped making resolutions when I started to realize the repetitiveness involved and how few resolutions are actually acted upon.  I had a friend resolve last year to sparkle – I do hope that she came through on that one.  And I have a couple of other friends who have made big changes like healthier lifestyles and I admire their success.

It isn’t that I don’t have any need to improve aspects of my life, just that I don’t use resolutions to create progress on those fronts.  I have plenty of room for improvement.  I regularly resolve to keep on top of things, particularly finding ways to get myself to do the ones that I don’t like.  I just don’t do it around New Year with a capital R.

“We will open the book.  Its pages are blank.  We are going to put words on them ourselves.  The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”

~ Edith Lovejoy Pierce

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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