Tag Archives: Making decisions

Change: Affinity vs. Ability

Life is so much nicer all around when we like what is happening; what we are doing, where we are living and so on.  Sometimes we forget that there is a difference between liking, affinity, and skill at a task, or ability.  We all have skills that we could use to our advantage but often don’t because we just don’t have the affinity.

 

I’ve met plenty of people who, without saying it straight up, think that they will know they are on the right track because everything will snap into place – life will be easier and smoother if they are in the right place.  If things are difficult, it must be the wrong direction or place or whatever.  How many times have you been in a discussion with someone who shuts you down on a topic with something like, ‘oh, I’m not any good at (fill in the blank)’?

 

The world is ever changing.  (public domain image)

The world is ever changing. (public domain image)

Math doesn’t have any sort of magic for me like words do, I just don’t have much of an affinity.  But I have come to understand the importance of having a math competency – in financial dealings at the very least.  I will never gravitate to math, but I can be proud that I can master the more important math concepts and make use of them in my life.  And I have discovered that there are fascinating parts of math – statistics and economics do stir my curiosity.

 

We don’t get to arrange all of the pieces of our lives so that we can focus only on those things that we like.  (We’re lucky to arrange most of them, the big ones hopefully.)  And it isn’t always clear to see when you are on the right track, because that track might be just as bumpy and difficult as the wrong one.

 

Writing is a skill that makes plenty of people grimace, I both understand and feel consternated about this fact.  But like math for me, it is an ability that can be developed to serve your overall purpose.  You can like what a competency in a certain skill brings you without having an affinity for the concepts of the skill.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Oh, If Only

There is one good thing about winter and that is that it provides a ready reason why much of the to-do list lies dormant for the season.  Now I must dust of the list and sit down with it and a calendar to figure out what should be done, where it will fit in my days, and whether the budget will allow.  But just next to the to-do list is my list of books that I’d like to read.

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If only there were enough time in the day to be able to read more of the interesting books that come out so much faster than I can digest them.  (And then there are all of the older books, too.)  In addition to the books that I hear about and put on the list are all the books that I could stumble upon in the library or a book store if I go and browse.

 

It would be simply lovely if I could take a chunk of time off from all my other obligations and I could devote my time and energy to devouring these worthy books.  I do read all day – emails, procedures, articles, and at the very end of the day a few pages from my current fiction selection.  Just a handful of pages for me, so that it takes ages to get through a single book.  So that sometimes I forget some of the subplots in a book.

 

Reading is right there with all of the other necessities – food, water and shelter – it provides comfort and education, understanding and enjoyment, inspiration.  I sometimes long for my younger years when a whole Saturday could be absorbed by a book.  I dream of reading sabbaticals when my days get too stressful.  Would I love reading as much if I could be paid to do it?  I would love to find out, I think.

 

If you dream of taking a sabbatical to do one beloved activity, what would it be?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

A Singular Purpose

It seems to be the thing to do these days when your life is altered by some sort of speed bump, start up a foundation.  If you have the means, or access to the means that is.  People at the lower end of the economic ladder might have fund raisers to help cover the unexpected bills that go along with these speed bumps.  If enough money is raised to cover their own bills, the remainder might go to help others with the affliction.

Capture

I’ve been thinking about causes and diseases that attract multiple foundations, which then often compete for the same donation dollars.  It’s that competition that got me thinking.  I understand that people want to honor their lost loved one (the most frequent reason to start a foundation in my unofficial research) but perhaps there are other ways.  A foundation has costs that take money off the top, whereas a donation to an existing organization in the person’s name could go directly to something useful for others still struggling through similar experiences.

 

Perhaps a singular purpose should be combined with a shared purpose to better serve the cause?  The question is what is most important – a cure, a solution or establishing a permanence for the lost person?  The best thing would be to find a method to do both.

 

When my dad died, we asked for donations in lieu of flowers to established causes that were meaningful to him.  He had a nearly lifelong association with Boy Scouting and so we also created a camp scholarship in his name at our local council.  I’m sure that money is long gone, mom was the point person with the council.  We wanted his name to live on with an organization that he loved and supported in many ways.  Hopefully there is a handful of young men out there somewhere who can say that they got to go to camp thanks to my dad.

 

Keeping the fund alive and continuous probably could have been accomplished, but it didn’t happen.  And this was a relatively small effort in comparison to a foundation.

 

When mom died, we again asked for donations in her name in lieu of flowers, this time for ovarian cancer research through an established organization.  I continue to give as part of the greater shared purpose to give families affected by this disease more solutions.  And more time than we had with mom once she was diagnosed.  Even if we had the means, I don’t think that we would have considered a foundation in her name.  Associating with an effective and established organization allows our assistance to be multiplied.

 

I wonder at this moment what mom would have to say to my idea, she worked as a fund raiser for a large hospital in Chicago for years.  She had some interesting stories about the large donors that they courted.  Ego was often involved.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The 7 10 Split

The pins are as far apart as they can be and still be on the same lane.  It is still your turn, and mathematically speaking you can pick up this spare.  But it takes skill, calm and a confluence of several factors.  Bowling as life lesson, not just beer swilling league fun.

 

public domain clip art

public domain clip art

I bet if you start to think about it, you will remember one and then another and another instance when you had two elements that were supposed to be working together or part of a larger whole in some way that were far apart and working independently to inhibit the larger goal.  (Passively, as in the case with the pins, or less so.)  There are ways to get these elements back into the larger plan, but it could take cunning – at the very least it will take time and effort on your part to figure out a solution and implement it.

 

I bowled on leagues on and off for years and I’ve been involved in volunteer groups, training sessions and plenty of office situations and only just this morning had the realization that there are parallels in these set ups.  From a higher level strategic point of view, there are similarities in the solutions.  I, or you, have to figure out the trajectory that will bring the elements together and keep the game going.  Now in life we probably don’t want to violently knock one element into or against the other – particularly since quite often these elements will be people.  Co-workers, vendors, colleagues, partners.

 

Sometimes the straightforward, ‘hey where are you at with your part of this project’, approach works like a charm.  Sometimes a bit of cajoling and sometimes it is a grueling game of inching the parties closer together.  It can be an endurance test for us, a question of keeping up our energy and resolve – keeping our eyes on the intended end.  Mentally testing out different solutions for alignment and success.

 

Then stepping up to the lane, ball in hand, squaring our shoulders, positioning our feet, eyes set on the pins at the other end.  Stride up, swing the ball and let it go.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

That Little Push

The sun rises, and even on a cloudy day, the world around us starts to wake up – circadian rhythm kicks in.  External and internal prompts work together to give us a little push to start our day.  Routine, or the schedule for that particular day take over to encourage our next moves.  Is the pull of that day’s activities enough for me to push myself forward into it?

Probably very few of us found our internal drive worked consistently in our growing years.  Little and big pushes to do this or that had to come from external sources – mom, dad, teacher, coach.  The object was to teach us to develop our own internal drive, to push ourselves to do the things we needed to do so that we could achieve the things that we wanted to achieve.  Oh, we needed no push on certain days, for something exciting – up, fed, dressed and maybe even got a few things ready for mom and dad.

DSC03753

Once we launch into our ‘real’ lives, our adult post-school experiences, that’s when we find out how well we internalized the push – our ability to create and implement a daily schedule.  Some people do it so well, they can plow through even the most onerous chores without having to cajole themselves in any way.  Some of us become leaders and push ourselves and our team through the good, bad, and the tedious.  Many of us become parents and suddenly want to apologize to our own parents on a regular basis if it will help our children to find that internal push sooner and more strongly.

I don’t like to leave things hanging, but there are tasks that I dread or dislike doing.  And then there are the ones that I’m not entirely certain how to move forward.  I can usually figure out some means to push myself to do these things.  Although sometimes I have to give myself a bye, and sometimes I just channel my younger self and wonder why I have to do this stuff at all.  And sometimes I dream that I can hire an assistant who will take care of all these things.

Imagine what we can each do today, with a little push.

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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

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

Directionless Progress

Let’s face it, sometimes it really isn’t clear what our next step should be – in our career or in life.  We can ask friends, coworkers and family for assistance or suggestions and we will get varying opinions and conjecture but it is up to us to create the direction.  Since we expect life to be ever advancing and improving we put a lot of import on making the right decision about direction.

 

Maybe it is our years in school that give us this impression of life as continuing advancement.  We have to learn the basics to build on with later, more specialized classes – calculus won’t make sense until we know the fundamentals of math.  Each grade builds on the information gained in previous grades, and school goes on and on for what feels like forever.  But life doesn’t really work this way, so in that respect school hasn’t prepared us at all.

DSC03746

If only it were as simple as a video game where the arrows show up ahead as you drive to tell you the next stage of your route.  Instead we have to explore, experiment and experience occasional false starts.  Or seem to stay in place while the world moves forward without our active participation.

 

If we don’t have clear direction, can we really make progress?  If we decide to change direction does that negate everything that we did toward our old progress?  Who is to say that all of us are meant to click into a certain track in our early twenties and follow it through thirty odd years of a career without any pause or deviation?

 

I haven’t taken anywhere near a traditional path (assuming traditional is that set 30 year career track).  I think that I’ve done all right with my progress despite some meandering directions – mainly because I have learned so much along the way.   In fact, since learning has been a main goal, I could say that I really didn’t meander in my direction in that respect.

 

How do you define progress for yourself?

 

© 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

That Snap into Place Feeling

Legos go together with a satisfying snap.  Lids on containers of all shapes and sizes are snuggly in place when they snap.  Locks are set when we here that snick, and doors shut tight with a click.  Now we know that at least that particular item is secure.  There is plenty of unknown only feet away, so giving ourselves any kind of assurance of safety is paramount.

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If only the right decision would offer the same satisfying snap when we land upon it.  Particularly with the big scary decisions that we sometimes have to make with little information or time to contemplate.  Have that surgery, go for the short sale or ride the foreclosure, change careers or stay the course, time to put dad in the nursing home?  All of the options have down sides and leave us feeling slightly ill – no snap involved.

Every once in a great while a decision will come with an immediate snap, reinforcement that it was just the right decision for us for that moment, for that situation.  Because if we take the same option the next time, it doesn’t always turn out so well.  What the???  Crap, I thought that was The right decision – as in my go-to from here on out.  The moment was no longer right, some alignment was different and no snap resulted.

The initial evaluations, weighing of options are tough enough.  Did we apply the right parameters, ask the right questions to get a clear understanding?  But then the re-evaluation starts with the smallest opening of doubt.  ‘I didn’t think about this, consider that point, take into account for this other…’  If only I’d gotten that snap, or known it was coming, then I would have kept looking for a better option.

I always thought that part of being an adult would be a strong ability to make solid decisions.  Ha.  The adults around me seemed to know what they were doing, to be making decisions with snap in them because they didn’t let me see the machinations and ruminations that went into the decisions not because they had a perfect sense on how to make good decisions.

I’m going to keep searching for a snappy decision making method, in the meantime I’m going to snap together some Legos.

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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