Tag Archives: Learning

A Once Familiar Route, or Planning to be Disoriented

Every once in a while I become aware of the changes that have occurred in my routine for various reasons.  For years I headed east from my house – for work, family, errands.  Everything that I needed or wanted was pretty much east with the rare exception.  When my workplace actually moved closer to my home, my usual radius became about 6 miles, mostly east.

 

And then my life changed and now my well-worn route is south and north.  Work is south, with a slight alteration thanks to the onset of construction season.  (A quarter mile section of my regular road is being completely replaced, requiring me to go over a mile out of my way…)  New personal commitments and interests send me north several times a month.  Occasional jaunts take me to once familiar areas east of my house.

 

But I digress.  A person that I know is starting a new job this week, and my one of my sons started a new job a couple of weeks back.  Both are pleased with the opportunity for full time employment.  Both are interested in doing a good job and succeeding.

 

A new job is exciting. But it is also unfamiliar and disorienting.  A new routine, all new co-workers, tasks, procedures, culture, etc.  When we start a new job, we look forward to the additional money, the opportunities to use our skills.  We forget to think about the disorientation – all those new names and faces, the different commute – so much change.  That disorientation can really bite hard.

 

It wasn’t so long ago that I was in the midst of it myself.  At least being a writer helped me because of the necessary skills in observation and identification.  I never stopped being able to identify with new people at my previous job.  To help them to understand why their head was spinning.  Even still, I had to have more than one talk with myself when starting my current job to remember the plan.

 

How can a person plan to be disoriented?  A big part of the plan is just that – to know that it will happen, that it is a normal part of a new experience.  Normal means it happens to almost everyone.  The next part of the plan is to know that it is temporary.  Fairly quickly something will seem familiar, and then another something and another.  Friendly faces will offer assistance, ease the transition.

 

There is so much to learn and acclimate to in a new job, many go from being the person that everyone goes to for the answer to the person who feels lost.  But you are still you.  You still have the skills that got you the job, they just have to be applied in this unfamiliar place.

 

Long ago this was a familiar route to me.

Long ago this was a familiar route to me.

Things that we look forward to – a baby, a job, a house, a move, a marriage – are stressful because everything that was once familiar suddenly is shifted and disorienting.  If it was an anticipated change we have trouble figuring out why we are discombobulated, disoriented and we get frustrated.

 

Sometimes familiar routes cease to be current routes, but fairly quickly the new route becomes familiar.

 

© 2015 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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Number Stories

(Originally posted on 9/25/14 to a shared blog – http://blogtowork.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/number-stories/)

photo credit: Huffington Post

photo credit: Huffington Post

Math and numbers have never resonated for me the way that words do.  I understand that they have a practical use – at least basic math – and appreciate knowing how to use them for things like balancing my checkbook.  And I’ve always been happy to know people who really get numbers so I can ask them for help when things get beyond basic.  It has only been in recent years that I have discovered an area of numbers that really is fascinating – statistics.

 

Statistics are stories told with numbers.  Why didn’t anyone ever tell me?  Not story problems like why did the train go faster from station a to station b or whatever nonsense.  No, number stories – data meets the story arc.  Very intriguing.

 

Why am I bringing this up here?  Because job search is loaded with statistics, some of them quite contrary, and all of it worthy of some attention by job seekers.  We all know about the unemployment rate, at least the national one that is regularly reported on the evening news.  But there are state and regional unemployment rates.  Rates based on ethnicity and age group, level of education and industry segment (healthcare, manufacturing, service, etc.).  Oh and make sure that you know how it is calculated because that is a whole other facet of the story for this number.

 

What about the workforce participation rate?  I don’t remember ever hearing about this one until the Great Recession.  This one is the percentage of adults who are working for pay.  This number is also at an all-time (read since this has been tracked, I believe starting somewhere in the 1970s) low and seems to be dropping.  The story is in understanding better why it is dropping.  And in comparing this data to the unemployment rate – if the unemployment rate is dropping, why is the workforce participation rate also dropping?

 

Then there is the job opening ratio – the number of posted open positions juxtaposed with the number of qualified applicants who are actively looking.  This seems to be coming down a bit, there aren’t quite so many qualified applicants for each open position, but still too many for the comfort of each job seeker.  This is the number that directly affects another number – the average number of weeks or months it can take someone to land their new position.  Last year I know that this average was hovering around eight months.

 

There are plenty of other statistics, but you get the idea.  These numbers aren’t just for the media and politicians to bandy about – there are lives behind each one.  Stories of individuals affected, but also of how the information is collected and applied.  The statistic isn’t the end of the story, but the beginning.

 

It comes down to your number story, which is quite simple.  Back to basic math; one person who needs one suitable position.  At least knowing some of these number stories can give you discussion points with Aunt Betty the next time she asks you again why you don’t have a job.

Collaborative Writing

Writing is supposed to be done alone in a cold garret somewhere.  The writer tortured to some degree by the blank page.  Characters, storyline, theme development all taking up a great deal of space in the writer’s thoughts.  Is that still the image?

 

How about the place of the reader?  Should a writer develop ideas based solely on personal interest and preference, or in some consideration of the potential reader?  Particularly in this medium, which is so immediately public.  And yet, only so much so as the blog’s SEO commands.

 

public domain image

public domain image

I used to wonder about writing as part of a group.  I did take a play writing course in high school where we often worked in teams on pairs.  Sometimes this led to better pieces and sometimes to drivel. How does the division of labor work out?

 

I warmed to collaborative writing in the business environment.  It helped that I came across a writing partner with similar sensibilities and a more developed (at the time) methodology.  One or the other of us would usually take a first stab at writing the first draft after a brief discussion of need or intent and then we would sit together and hone it.  Move sections about, sharpen wording, tighten the message so that there was plenty of white space.  White space is very important in business writing.  In the early days, I thought that she spent too much time honing.  But I learned better editing.

 

I came to realize that my interest in fiction was actually useful in this writing environment.  Story is necessary here, too.  Not as in making something up, but in creating a clear arc; keeping the focus of the piece clean.  Every detail isn’t necessary, in fact too much detail is detrimental to keeping the reader engaged in the message.

 

We are writing about this issue.  This is a bit of the background for why we are writing.  This is the solution.  The adage to start in the middle has merit here, captures interest.  Keeps things moving.

 

A strong conclusion – with a call to action.  Here is what we want you to do with this information.  In business writing the reader is highly important, if not properly considered then the message may fail.  Collaboration of minds and writing styles can make the effort more effective.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Travelling Tales

Periodically I have reason to spend time enjoying folk and fairy tales and I am reminded anew how wonderful they are.  I am working on the storytelling workbook in Toastmasters and I also just participated in a local Hispanic Heritage day, where I was the storyteller.  We adults who don’t have regular contact with small children can forget the delights, and lessons, of these tales.

DSC03889

Part of what is amazing about these tales, beyond their endurance through so many eons as well as social change, is the way that they travel.  We like to think that we modern folk are better than any of our ancestors at getting around because we have a variety of fast modes to get from here to there.  But the reality is that even back in the days of horse carts and walking as the main means to get around, people were quite mobile.

 

People who study folk tales can provide endless examples of the different versions of the same basic tale that show up all over the globe.  The tale that I told at the Hispanic Heritage day had a very similar flavor to the Brer Rabbit tales in the American southeast.  Which themselves have provenances from other far off shores.

 

A good story is far more that entertaining.  It makes us more receptive to new ideas, learning and growth.  Folk tales are packed with understanding of human nature, right and wrong, and ways to explain the world.  They should since the oldest are quite well travelled.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Caution and Risk

Just the right balance between these two forces seems to be not only the key to survival, but also plays into success.  Cautious people live to tell their tales and to raise a new generation, but they might not have taken enough risk.  Risk takers might have gone a bit too far and checked out early.

 

I just spent some time with a couple of four month old kittens.  Sisters, one just a tad bolder than the other.  Kittens instinctively know that a certain hesitancy around new things is prudent, but they also have a strong need to know – what’s in here, can I fit in there, can I jump high enough, will this hold my weight…

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Natural laws and human rules provide some boundaries for their explorations.  A thing just beyond their reach is terribly tempting, conversely after a few minutes with the thing it loses its charm and they are off to the next thing.

 

How do we find that right balance for ourselves?  Thoughts of if only I’d done or not done this or that might mean that we were too cautious or too bold.  But maybe only in hindsight, too.  I bought my house right before the housing crash so I shake my head at the amount of money that – on paper – has disappeared.  But I’ve had the benefit of living in the house for the last nine years and being removed from the townhouse complex where I had previously lived.  So, do I count this in the good or bad category?  Hmmm.

 

Stay or move, keep a job or switch, invest in Microsoft (wish I had) or buy that car which provided mobility (when it wasn’t in the shop).  Get married, have a baby, buy a house, retire now – here or there?  Caution or risk?

 

I’m not sure that I will ever figure out just the right balance, but the consideration is worthy of a few more years of research (also known as living).  When have you been overly cautious or entirely too risky?  Or maybe you have gotten it just right?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Time Well Spent

Reading.  Time reading is never ill spent, even if I’m not too fond of whatever I happen to be reading.  Reading is a wonderful way to pass the time, to feed your mind, to learn, to escape…  Even if I manage to forget much what I read, it was still time spent well.

 

My former mother-in-law thought time reading in the middle of the day was just about the most decadent thing ever.  A person who was doing – cooking, cleaning, gardening, etc. – was spending time wisely.  Reading wasn’t doing in her book.  (And don’t even mention napping.)  I do agree with her that doing is productive.  But reading is productive as well.

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Productive.  To produce, create, generate.  Time well spent should produce something.

 

I’ve mentioned here before that I am terrible when it comes to planning for myself.  Many weekends I wind up irritated with myself because I didn’t plan for this time away from work.  Plan to get things done, or plan for a little bit of fun.  I ask myself if those weekend hours are then time well spent?  At the end of each day I can point to ways that I was productive, though some of it repetitively so.  Such as errands and laundry, cleaning.

 

Work hours can be just as confusing when asking whether we are productive – if I got things done, but not necessarily the things that I expected to do, was it time well spent?  Was I productive?  What if you did exactly what you expected to do but didn’t get the result that you expected?  Was that time well spent, was it productive?

 

So much to do, so little time.  The time that we get here is finite, spend it wisely.  But was is time spent well when there is so much to do?

 

Reading.  I’ll spend more time reading and think about this more later.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The Passage of Time, Accumulation of Dates

Weeks ago I called my eye doctor’s office for an appointment.  I wanted the first morning appointment, which was more important than the day.  I was given Thursday the 11th and I accepted.  The date gave me pause as I wrote it in my calendar.  I participate in a group that meets on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month so we met last night and as I prepared the agenda prior to last night’s meeting, and wrote the date, I paused again.

 

We accumulate dates that have personal meaning and broader social meaning.  Some are good – births and weddings – some less so – deaths and other endings.  It is hard to live a life and not accumulate dates, whether you acknowledge them or not.  A few can make a generation shudder, close their eyes and review the sights of the original moment when the date became etched.  Dates rarely carry meaning past a generation or two except as something obscure to memorize for a history test.

 

I’ve been to Gettysburg twice in my life so far.  The first time as a child whose father studied the Civil War era and passed on his interest in history.  The second I was there alone, as a stop on a trip to see family in Philadelphia.  I happened to come in to town on the same route that the Confederate soldiers had taken on a hot July day in 1863.  I was there on a hot August day almost 150 years later but the area retained an aura of the momentous occurrences of those 3 days in July that shaped our country.

 

I felt the need to try to express to those who never moved on from those quiet fields that we had learned something from their sacrifice.

 

Division monuments, photo credit Wikipedia

Gettysburg Division monuments, photo credit Wikipedia

This past summer we have been reminded that the hundredth anniversary of several significant moments of WWI have occurred.  This series of events that gave shape to a fair portion of our modern world, but is fusty and musty to most.  My thoughts turn to what we have learned from those events.

 

And the date that resonates for this generation, 9/11.  Although I overheard a father saying yesterday, with dismay, that his child was born in 2005 and had such different points of reference.   I didn’t personally know anyone who died that day.  If I know anyone who was somehow directly affected by those events on that blue sky, no cloud Tuesday, they haven’t mentioned it.  But it is a date that gives us all pause.

 

I ask my usual question, what have I learned?  How do you pause?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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