Tag Archives: Purpose

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…

DSC03876

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

Hardy

Now this is a word that we don’t use nearly often enough these days.

 

“I’m interested in that thing that happens where there’s a breaking point for some people and not for others. You go through such hardship, things that are almost impossibly difficult, and there’s no sign that it’s going to get any better, and that’s the point when people quit. But some don’t.”

~Robert Redford

 

Life has taught me that hardy is something that I want to be, a trait that I want to cultivate.  There are all sorts of breaking points, and I have a few memories of quitting this or that, like playing the flute, early on that didn’t sit well with my competitive nature.

 

Hardiness consists of these characteristics – resilience, optimism, flexibility and creativity.  I read this in periodic research that I have done and I believe it because it has been true for me.  The beautiful thing about hardiness, is that while some people are inherently hardier to begin with, it is something that can be learned and strengthened over time.

 

a hardy plant, Lily of the Valley

a hardy plant, Lily of the Valley

I do not lean toward optimism, but I can turn my thoughts in that direction.  My mom was quite the optimist and I could regularly compare my Eeyore mindset to hers, and sometimes be amazed that her belief that things would be ok seemed to actually make them ok.

 

I’ve learned resilience can be born from stubbornness combined with a willingness to learn.   Realization that resilience is something that I am mastering came slowly.

 

Flexibility and creativity also make sense as parts of the hardy equation.  Creativity provides strengths and helps recharge batteries.  And flexibility releases some of the pressure from stress.

 

I am mere days away from the beginning of a new decade, so while I hope that you get something out of reading this post it is admittedly more of an exhortation to myself that I know how to be hardy.  I hope that you do too.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

What Do You Recommend?

A thoughtful recommendation is a fine thing to give or receive.  LinkedIn has made this process a whole lot easier.  My first attempt to get a recommendation from the Head Librarian where I worked during college didn’t go as well as I planned.  While she appreciated the work that I had done, she never did get around to writing that recommendation and sending it to me.  I think that she might have been more likely to follow through with her intention if she’d been able to post it to my profile.

 

Back in the day, a professional kept a portfolio that would include originals of recommendation letters on company letterhead, carefully saved in clear plastic sleeves.  I still have my dad’s judiciously built portfolio, in a nice leather binding, glowing letters spanning his career.

profile-plea

I have actually enjoyed writing the recommendations that I have given.  (I also see benefit in thoughtfully writing employee reviews.)  I spend time thinking about the characteristics and skills of that person that make them effective at their job.  I tie these to specific projects and tasks that the person has completed.  Sometimes if time has elapsed since we worked together, I might ask to meet and talk to refresh my memory.  Vague platitudes from me aren’t going to do anybody any good.

 

I learned about having that conversation beforehand from one of my HR friends.  I asked her for a recommendation and she asked me about my goals and expectations from the recommendation.  A nice addition to the question – would you give me a recommendation – and the usual casual answer – sure.

 

But I don’t want to be told exactly what to say either.  Any more than I am going to answer a survey on a company when they tell me that they want to hear that I was highly satisfied.  (If you already know the answer, why bother to pretend to ask the question…)  The reader will be able to tell when I have taken the time to craft my impression of that person from my own experience and interactions.

 

I’ve come to see recommendations as another facet of writing as communication.  It might be simpler to ask and to post now, but that just means the effort can all go to being thoughtful in your expression.

 

© 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.

DSC03769

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 Strangeness of Ordinary

The litany of ills and travails – big and small, natural, geo-political, economic – seems to be unusually long around the globe right now.  Many people in many parts of the world are steeped in or trying to fend off chaos, their ordinary life set aside for the time being.  But plenty of other segments and corners of the populated world go about their ordinary business day after day and only encounter the chaos when they access the news.

 

Does that seem a bit strange to you?  While the main part of my mind is keeping track of my appointments, facilitating tasks at work, planning and cleaning and ticking through my days another part is contrasting my regular schedule against the topsy-turvy days of all the people affected by these various storms (manmade and natural).  And wondering how these people that I don’t know are coping.

 

It is back to school season and I see the effect at the school across the street as I leave for work.  My company supplies products to schools which means that we are quite hectic these days.  But aside from some people having flooded basements thanks to all the rain, or difficulty getting in to the office for the same reason we are all going through actions that we have done for ages, routine.

 

I do know someone whose son was evacuated from Liberia due the Ebola outbreak but that is as close as I personally come to most of the turmoil.  How about you?  Do you have relatives in Ukraine or Israel or Syria or Ferguson, MS or…

 

August 2013 Political Map, credit Wikipedia

August 2013 Political Map, credit Wikipedia

The world is a big place and it has always been true that there will be turmoil here and there and normal life will occur everywhere else.  Routine is annoying, but also comfort.  A seismic shift – either literal or not – that removes a person, a group, or a whole region from the ordinary usually seems to happen elsewhere.  Until it doesn’t.  Most of the time ordinary is just that, but every once in a while there is such a spike of chaotic activity, or the chaos hits too close to home, that ordinary seems rather strange.

 

I remember my first jolt of the strangeness of ordinary.  We were all called together because my grandmother was not doing well, but when I woke up the next morning at my uncle’s house and heard laughter downstairs I believed that she must have made it through the night.  Until my dad came up to tell us that she hadn’t.  How could they have been laughing?

 

I used the phrase ‘seismic shift’ earlier in this post because I have experienced real earthquakes, including a major one, and it is quite disorienting to have the ground beneath your feet move violently.  To see the damage that an earthquake can wreak up close.  The mind can’t quite take it in.

 

Knowing that disquiet I can’t decide if it is right to carry on normally or that there is great strangeness in the ordinary.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Things I did Instead

I have a post that I have been working on for the past couple of days, but it isn’t ready to show yet.  I have other half done posts that aren’t even that close and time says it is up, post time is at hand.  Crap.

 

How many others have sat down to write today’s blog post and noodled on one thing until it petered out, and then fiddled with another until it seemed garbled?  How often have you stared at the screen for a little bit and thought about how you got farther today than yesterday when you didn’t even bother to open up a new post and stare at the screen?

public domain image

public domain image

 

When writing isn’t happening, eventually I stand up and wander about the house and:

  • Clean the tracks on the shower stall and the tracks on the sliding door
  • Water the indoor plants
  • Take inventory of the kitchen and bathroom for a grocery list
  • Pull out the lambswool tool and get rid of cobwebs
  • Go for a walk (and I’m even nice enough to bring my son’s dog along)
  • Collect quotes cut out from various magazines that have appealed to me and put them in the book that I keep for that purpose
  • Go through the pile of mail, flyers and papers that breed on the table
  • Ponder what to make to use up the 2 overripe bananas on the counter
  • Watch Sneakers or other dated, but still entertaining movies
  • Thought about going out to get plants for my 2 hanging baskets but then realized that wouldn’t appear to be writing in the slightest

 

And this is the post that you get today.  What do you get done when you are ‘writing’?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Rule Bound

Where do you stand on the role that rules play in life? Do rules create valid boundaries for protection of yourself, others, property?  Do rules hinder you from doing what you really want to do?  Do they offer guidelines?  Is the rule the most important thing, what the rule is meant to safeguard, or is it the spirit of the rule?  Do you think that rules should have a shelf-life, come up for periodic review?

 

I know people for whom rules are a means to an end.  The rules are to be applied or ignored in whatever fashion necessary to achieve the goal.  Perhaps sometimes just bent or loosely interpreted.  Creative thinking is liberally applied.

 

I know people for whom the rule is the ultimate.  The letter of the rule, the face of it – each rule stitched together with all of the others to provide these people with the comfort to get through all the moments of life.  No creative thinking necessary.

 

And I know plenty of people of varying stripes between these opposites.  And some who don’t seem to think much about rules one way or the other.

 

photo credit: Wikipedia

photo credit: Wikipedia

It couldn’t have been long after people started to congregate that it became clear that some sort of standard was necessary.  Rules were born.  And they can be found in nature – plants and animals have them.  Do this, don’t do that.

 

Rules serve a purpose except when there are rules for the sake of rules.  They help to create commonality and structure.  But they can and should be examined for validity.  (Old laws on the books can be very odd, and sometimes hilarious.)

 

I used to tell my boys that if they thought any of my rules didn’t make sense, they should tell me.  Along with why.  Scoffing at a rule is easy, but putting together a compelling argument why the rule should be removed or changed is important.

 

It comes down to one of my favorite questions – what is the intent?  If the intent isn’t clear, well hmmm….  But that doesn’t necessarily mean it is ok to ignore or flaunt the rule.

 

How are the bindings on the rules around you?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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