Categories
Blog Commentary Life Relationship Workplace

Are You In or Out?

Recently, I thought how funny it was that, when it comes to a pool in the summer who can only let 50 people in at a time (no thanks, Coronavirus), if you want a line, you should start a line, keying into the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) that plays so deeply in human nature.

In fact, an interesting thing I noticed is that when everyone was in line, people talked and joked with each other amiably — a sort of communal suffering brought us all together while standing in a line for a pool.

But the moment the gate to the pool was about to be opened, the very intention of the line changed. Like a physical change happened, the gate was not a resting place any more. It was a vehicle. A means to an end.

The game was now afoot and, I imagined to myself the gears turning in others’ heads as they sized up the lady two feet in front of them with three small kids and a Target store’s worth of pool toys, or the grandmotherly woman they were exchanging now-vacant pleasantries with, grinning to themselves as they deduced they could easily beat her to one of the scarce poolside umbrellas that were just out of reach, past the pearly (wrought iron) gates blocking our access to Shangri-La.

Marketers Play on our FOMO

In fact, marketers are so savvy to this primal need of ours to fit in, they often position their products with this exact pitch, letting you know you’re out unless you know that Choosy moms choose Jif, you could be saving 15% or more on your car insurance, that hipper, more active/creative people than you wear the Apple Watch, that going to McDonald’s is actually a lifestyle choice, and that wearing this makeup is not only good for your skin (spf 15!) but if your daily walk to work accidentally turns into a photo shoot for Vogue, you’ll be ready.

We see this constant us vs them show up in so many forms throughout life:

  • Graduating from the kids table at grandma’s Thanksgiving Dinner!
  • Being invited to the cool kids table at lunch.
  • Being on the (insert sport/club) team in high school.
  • Acceptance to your college of choice.
  • Receiving a highly contested scholarship.
  • Getting the job you know so many others applied for.
  • Receiving a raise when you know others did not.
  • Keeping your job when others lose theirs.

Even silly things make us feel important when, really, we’re absolutely no different than anyone else. Here’s a few I have to admit to:

  • My GPS app getting me around traffic smartly, saving me exactly 37 second of drive time. Suckers.
  • Checking out of the big club discount store using their app, skipping the 30-minute checkout line. Smiling condescendingly down on others from around my cinnamon dusted churro.
  • Being able to use the HOV lane on my commute, mocking the unwashed masses stuck in traffic as I comparatively and arrogantly fly by.
  • TSA Pre-Check enabling me to skip the slower airport security lines for the common-folk.

Comedian Brian Regan got it right when he noted that what we’re really saying about ourselves in situations like this is “I think I’m more important than I really am.”

In fact, in life, it seems the only constant is that in every sphere we are in, we are, by definition, out of some others, and that can be a source of intense unseen bias if we are not aware of it.

  • People who retort “all lives matter” to Black Lives Matter sentiments because, in their spheres of influence, they have never experienced the haunting systematic injustice many minorities live with as a daily backdrop to their lives.
  • Not having empathy that its hard to get a job sometimes when you, yourself, have always been employed.
  • Recruiters ghosting candidates because they are very busy getting offers out to the successful candidates.
  • Demanding VIP treatment because of your past donations or “platinum status” or some other so-called qualification.

If you are employed today, with 40 Million unemployed in the United States, you are a very lucky member of a very “in” crowd right now.

What can you do to avoid thinking you are more important than you really are?

Categories
Allyship Blog Communication Life Lifehacks Process Improvement Relationship Workplace

The Skill that Saved My Business and My Marriage

If there’s something people have remarked consistently about me, it’s that I can talk about almost anything.

I am a naturally curious person.

And, in recruiting, it’s not a lie that I get a lot of excitement hearing about people’s life stories, their passions and their dreams. Occasionally, their downfalls and their struggles.  All of these things, to me are part of the tapestry of their life, and I love hearing about them.  

Being naturally curious may be my super power as a recruiter.

I also enjoy reading, spend an unhealthy amount of time on medium, and replaced my heavy metal music with podcasts and audiobooks while mowing the lawn on the weekends.  (The latter has become somewhat of a favorite past-time, which my 10-year-ago self would have actually, verbally scoffed at.)

Often, I find myself using this treasure trove of stories from different sources as an attempt to relate to people. The flow seems natural at first glance, 

“Oh, you went zip lining? Nice! I know a guy that runs a whole Zipline and ropes course. Cool place. They are expanding and they do summer camps now. I played basketball with him and his sons for years. Good people…”

From inside my own head, this seemed like a good conversation. But from an outsiders perspective, and especially from the perspective of the other person in the conversation, I had developed a problem. 

I had become a One-Upper.

I had a story for everything and everyone, and while I thought I was adding to the conversation and moving it along, in reality, I totally missed the person right in front of me because I got too busy sharing something someone else has done!  Or worse, something I have done!

What a jerk move!

We all know that person who can’t keep their mouth shut about an experience that clearly tops whatever experience you share. 

Beware The Me-Monster

Brian Regan calls this the Me Monster, and covers the phenomenon beautifully in his act, I Walked On the Moon (Amazon): 

Needless to say, when you find yourself in the company of a one-upper you feel pretty small and unappreciated after a while (like, 27 seconds).

Imagine working with or being married to one (some of you know how this is from firsthand experience)! If you have been chained to a one-upper as a desk-mate or partner, and had a chance to magically do-over that relationship, it seems most people would either opt-out of the one-uppmanship or opt out of the person altogether.

And that is what was happening for me in my life and in my work. People and relationships that were important to me were starting to move away from me, or just not invite me back to work with them.

In my marriage, this was part of some other challenges I brought that all resulted from being overly focused on myself and not what my partner was dealing with or concerned about.

The Elementary School Skill That Saved Me

To get around this problem, I began to realize I needed to do something that would:

  1. Help my mind stay quiet when others spoke
  2. Enable me to actually listen and hear the other person
  3. Recall and remember the things they discussed

As with most things, being aware that I had a problem here helped me start to look for way to fix it.

The Importance of Taking Notes

Back in 2015, I stumbled on* a linkedin post from Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group** called The Importance of Taking Notes.

In the article, which also strikes at the heart of gender disparity in the workplace, he noted how infrequent it is for him, who is a ravenous note taker, to see other executives taking notes in meetings.

He states the aside that many of the most-successful ventures he has undertaken came about because of random chance things he thought to write down. Yet, in business, note taking is somehow not seen as a smart way to It is seen as “office housework,” to quote Sheryl Sandberg, and, as Branson notes, is a fantastic skill to develop to help someone understand their business better:

“On top of counteracting gender bias in the work force, it will also give men a better understanding of what going on within the business and what needs to be done to make things run more effectively.'”

The Importance of Taking Notes by Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group

So, I started consciously taking notes.

On p.a.p.e.r.***

In a hardbound notebook that I carry everywhere and can reference later.

It’s something I actually found myself good at doing, since I really had been taught to take notes since elementary school.

And, over time, I found that the process of note-taking forced me to actively listen to people as they spoke, to get the words and information they were trying to convey.

This helped my mind focus on them and what was going on, not on myself or what I wanted to say next.

That enabled me to really connect with the person I was talking with, feel with them the hard parts of what they were experiencing, celebrate with them the successes they had, and make an actionable plan that could be carried out to collaboratively solve a problem we identified.

Leveraging the brilliance of the scannable app and my Evernote account to archive and keep notes forever, a journal (with page numbers) became the final lynch pin in my note taking trifecta as I could reference items by page number or, if something was really a long project, by book and then by page number.

I used to prefer Moleskine notebooks, but more recently, I prefer the Leuchtturm 1917 dotted, numbered series journals, and the “A5” size (148 x 210 mm), which is a thing. It feels a bit like a legal sized piece of paper folded top-to-bottom, then turned on it’s side to write with.

I find the A5 book size is just enough that I have plenty of room to write most things, and I am not carrying around a huge notebook and feel like I should be headed off to school at any moment.

Note Taking Has Become A Super Power

Its been five years since I actively worked on this habit, and I would like to think it has over taken my desire to overtalk and subconsciously one-up the others in the room.

This has lead to more business deals, fantastic opportunities I have been able to execute on that came initially from scribbles on a pice of paper, and the uncanny ability to actually recall what happened in a meeting three months ago because, I wrote it down.

Clients have remarked how much they appreciate that I take notes. I have been told it helps people know I am listening, and there’s a sense that I truly must value what they’re talking about or else, “why would [I] take notes on it?”

Wait, How Did Taking Notes Save Your Marriage?

Anyone in a committed relationship will tell you that your relationship will be stronger if your partner seems to really be interested in you, listen to you, sees and hears you, and follows through on the things they said they would do.

To the letter, every one of the benefits I have found from note taking will improve your ability to be present with, care about and follow through on your commitments with your partner or loved ones.

I have even pulled out my notebook in the middle of something going on and said, “One moment. This is important to me. I am going to take some notes.”

As awkward as it may have been the first time I said that, my wife appreciates that, when I write something down, it sticks in my mind longer than the dinner menu does, and when there’s a commitment I make, I stick to it much better.

Try it and let me know how it goes.

*well, the algorithm “stumbled upon”
** disclosure: I own shares in Virgin Galactic via Robinhood.
*** mental note: why I write on paper deserves its own write up.
Some links in this article

Categories
Blog Life Lifehacks Relationship

Give > Receive

Our parents or grandparents taught us this principle, often in the middle of our requests for some grand thing.

“Grandpa” a photo of a woman kissing an old man’s cheek outside an apartment building or storefront in a busy urban environment. He smiles and you can tell she loves him.  Photo by Treddy Chen on Unsplash
grandpa”, photo by Trendy Chen on Unsplash.

At the time, we probably didn’t hear it or felt it was a cop out or distraction technique to change the subject from the thing we begged for.

“Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

To say I didn’t understand his urging—that giving was somehow better than receiving—is an understatement.

If you’re like me, this puffy, patriarchal principle seemed something passed down from another time, an age gone by. A time when things were scarce, not plentiful. A time when pictures were black and white, not color, and things were hard to come by, not easy to accumulate like they were in my childhood (and easier than ever now). To me, this advice was from a bygone time marked by saving everything and “making due” (whatever a 9 year old could make of that strange phrase), and of a long, faraway look in my grandfather’s eyes when he thought perhaps too much of those hard, lean times when he was a boy.

(But perhaps, they are times more and more of us may be facing again)

Of course, this proberb’s lesson, as they are wont to do, seems to sweeten and perfect itself over time.

Giving Of Your Time Actually Gives You More Time

Our rise and grind culture of worshipping at the altar of the eternal hustle dissuades this belief, but for centuries, people have found that the more you see and be with other people around you, or open yourself up to the humanity that is present when we just stop and listen for it, the happier and more abundant your life will become.

And I argue you will have more time, and you will be more productive with your time because you will be happier, think clearer and have more energy.

If you are struggling, lonely, find yourself frustrated, anxious or afraid, I am moved by the calm that can come as you pull yourself away from the tightening, shrinkingly claustrophobic cares and concerns of your own life and open your heart wider to allow the life of another.

Perhaps a forgotten friend or a struggling neighbor.

A widow or a stranger.

Even getting to know your postal worker or the Amazon delivery person, or making a concerted effort to graciously thank your DoorDash delivery person can open your heart a little wider than before.

Thanking employees your come across for working and brightening their shift as you check out from the store or buy your take out meal can brighten your day as well as theirs. If this feels challenging to you, remember that they would probably rather be (and might need to be) home caring for a loved one rather than working, but they are deemed essential and have to work instead (which carries less and less paycheck and more and more risk these days).

In times of COVID-19, many people’s support systems are shrinking smaller and smaller. Rediscovering the joy of a phone call, letters across town like a pen pal, or baked goods delivered carefully to another’s door can lighten or brighten a day, a week or a year.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.”

And, it turns out, giving is much, much better than receiving.

What will you give or give up today to have peace and more happiness tomorrow?

Categories
Blog Life

Make the ‘Good-er’ Choice

I dont know what challenges you will face today, or what decisions you will have to make, and I’m not going to tell you if your choice is right or wrong.

I can encourage you to keep choosing the good.

But, if that brings some kind of remorse or shame or pressure to make sure you’re making the right choices, then let me break it down for you a little better:

Just choose the good-er one.

As you pick between

  • Two potential new jobs
  • A job versus caring for a member of your family
  • Or for caring yourself (for a change)
  • Saying no to the busy work you always get left with
  • Or to stop pretending you’ll make time for that relationship when things settle down (spoiler: they won’t)
  • And every other choice you make in a day

Choose the one that feels even 1% good-er than the other one, and you will be alright in the end.

Because that 1% more of the good things you choose builds and builds over your life, leaving you the result of a good, rich life, over time.

Side note: Turns out that good-er is usually not the one with the most money involved, at least at the outset.

  • That relationship you finally made space for
  • That mental peace and emotional resilience you developed through meditation, exercise, and/or working through past trauma
  • That ability you finally developed to say No to things that made you look one way but feel another

All these good choices have a compounding effect.

A goodness about you that will pay its own dividends in peace, good work, centeredness, full love, and better alignment of your reality and your expectations.

And, instead of searching for riches, you will find richness—in your heart, your life, faith and work.

That, my friend, is a good, good life.

Categories
Allyship Blog Commentary Life Workplace

You Are ‘Amy Cooper’ & So Am I. Now What?

A confrontation in Central Park sparks outrage about privilege and race in the United States

A few years ago, my teenager asked if we could watch The Hate U Give, a movie based on the book of the same name. I knew the subject would be controversial, and I wanted her to watch it, though I was adamant that we watch it together because I wanted to talk with her about it.  I am glad I did, and I highly recommend this movie to you so you can better appreciate other’s lived experiences if you have not lived them yourself.

Why This is Relevant

The very real and needed debate that is happening right now where, in the same week, a white woman named Amy Cooper called the cops on a black man who asked her to obey Central Park Rules and leash her dog, though she claims she was in fear of her life, and George Floyd, a black man suspected of forgery in Minneapolis, who died after being taken into police custody when a police officer knelt on his neck (video: MSNBC) for an extended period of time, even when Floyd repeatedly noted he could not breathe, of course, hearkening us all back to Eric Garner’s death in 2014 under similar circumstances — circumstances in which no federal indictments were brought.

There are many debates, and I would say changes, that need to happen in our society that these two incidents, so close in time and so terribly visible on camera show, but in the more narrow scope of this writing, I think one question needs to be asked, in terms of Amy Cooper, what do you do when someone in your company is spotlighted like this. How do you react?

Kate Bischoff, an employment attorney, poses it this way on linkedin and further follows up on her website:

You’re in #HR . Over the weekend, an employee engages in racist behavior that’s caught on video. The video goes viral. What do you do?

Do you immediately fire the employee? What do you say to other employees? Do you tell everyone not to talk to the media? Should you just let it be?

Doing nothing is disastrous. HR needs to take the lead in addressing employees, holding forums with staff, drafting talking points for leadership and managers, and fostering an environment where employees feel safe to raise issues stemming from this incident and others.

Do you ultimately fire her? Abso-fricking-lutely. Not only is there a legal risk for her employment decisionmaking, but the organization’s commitment to being a fair, harassment-free workplace is now squarely in the spotlight. Keeping her will forever damage the organization for both employees and customers.

What do you think?

More important than that, the reality is that ALL of us have faced real situations where either we are ‘Amy Cooper’ or we behave in a way like ‘Amy Cooper’ toward others.

Those of you in leadership positions, this becomes especially tricky because, what if ‘Amy’ is someone in your team? Even more, what if he/she is your top performer?

As I noted on Katie’s post, “what do you do if there is NO video and the employee in question has ‘always been a team player’ and ‘consistently ranks above average on evaluations’?

No. Really. When there’s no spotlight, what do you do?”

This is not an easy thing to grapple with, and likely is more real than any of us want to admit.

Allyship Requires Action

Jodi-Ann Burey, a writer and speaker, poses the following suggestion to each of us who look in the mirror and realize the problem may be more “us” than we wanted to otherwise believe:

Please Note: Central Park Karen is not the exception, she is the rule. You work with women like her… everyday. You care about women like her. You may very well be her. Allyship requires action. If you want to exercise your allyship, talk with each other as white folks about what you all can do to help each other stay accountable to being better.

So… Now What?

So, today, May 27, 2020, what are you going to do differently, seeing so much that needs to obviously change?

Part of the answer, as Jodi-Ann notes, is Allyship.  This means getting clear about what your part in all this might be, and realizing you may be complicit more than you know.

Tolerating even a little racism or sexism leads to cultural challenges personally, organizationally and, as we see too frequently, nationally.

People will do what they see their leaders do. Actions > Words. Serve and care for those around you and, if you are a leader, then lead from the front and from the back, cheering those on who are struggling, and carrying those who otherwise could not make the journey.

Resolve, today, to be part of the solution.

Is That What It’s Really Like?

A few days after we watched The Hate U Give movie, my teenager asked me openly, “Is that what black neighborhoods are really like, or was that just for the movie?”

The question set me back a bit, I admit.  We don’t live in a glitzy, fancy neighborhood. Our homes are very moderately priced. Even underwhelmingly priced. Yet, our quiet community South of Salt Lake City is markedly different from the streets depicted in the film.  But, they were not too different from some of the streets I knew as a kid in Indianapolis (though I lived in the quiet suburbs, I spent a moderate amount of time in the city).

I relayed back to her that I thought it was a pretty fair depiction of what life in black communities was like in a lot of the country.

She thought about it and said she appreciated the chance to see things through the eyes of the teenage girl in the film — torn emotionally between her black roots and the predominantly white prep school she attends — and then a secret witness to the death of her friend at the hands of a police officer.

She has been different since we watched that movie together. These stories and other lived experiences have helped her want to lift up and care about people around her in ways I think most teens would not spend time on.

I hope she will continue to be an ally to those around her. I hope to continue helping her have those experiences as well.

Categories
Blog Life

Waste Hours —> Save Years


I’m writing this near a hideaway campground I found near Capitol Reef National Park. I took a few days off this last week, not just physically but mentally as well — something I haven’t done in six months and something I think I have never actually done well.

So, I am nostalgic. Bear with me.

Someone I highly respect said once that as you get older you start experiencing what he calls “long days and short years.”

I am starting to understand some of that.

I wonder if this same sentiment is echoed in Robert Frosts’s Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening where he laments how many miles to go he has before he sleeps, and in Five for Fighting’s “100 Years” (YouTube) remarking how he is chasing the years of his life and speaking back to his fifteen-year old self telling him he’s got plenty of time ahead.

I saw this sentiment come up again in a different way recently when @ShaneAParrish quipped “We waste years because we cannot waste hours.” *

And I am reading Four Hour Workweek for the first time (yes, late bloomer, I know) and considering his admonition that we should take Fridays off, even if we “work” but focus on self-work or learning new things, and that compressing our work is better for us than relentlessly trying to hustle for more, more, more and more.

So, as I pack up to take my remote trailer office home today, I am pondering the value of just unplugging and letting things that I have built on over weeks and months and years “fend for themselves” for a few days.

And nothing blew up — that I know of.

And I am fresher and more excited about the good things I need/get to do.

And I am also more keenly aware of the endless loops I get myself into where there is a lot of hustle but no production — a lot of noise but little signal.

And a resolve to do better about breaking that cycle. Now.

Partly by forcing myself to waste some hours in the week. On purpose. So I can ALIGN myself better with what I want to DO, which I am decoupling from (and still appreciating the overlap in) what I do for money.

What are you doing to not waste your years?

— — —

By Robert Merrill, written near Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, USA

*The debate in the comments to this tweet point to the idea this sentiment was previously noted by the late Amos Tvsersky, whose Nobel-prize winning work I love, though I admit I like Shane’s packaging better.

Categories
Blog Communication Life Relationship

Be Interested, Not Interesting

Here on the corner of my computer screen, I have a little piece of a sticky note with the following on it:

Interested > Interesting

Meaning, being interested is better than being interesting. And, if you’re in the people business, or have any personal relationships that are important to you, this is good advice.

It comes from Mark Goulston, Author of Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.

This is a great book and, for me, has been instrumental in me trying to really deepen some personal relationships as well as going farther to develop connection with the people I work with, both as candidates, hiring managers and as just other great humans I want to know better.

The whole book is interesting. Mark, who trains hostage negotiators, opens the book with a pretty intense confrontation between a man threatening to commit suicide in a mall parking lot. You see two kinds of negotiations take place. The “Hey, you’re in big trouble so put the gun down” kind that we see on TV and a much different approach that diffuses the situation and brings a peaceful resolution — listening.

One challenge I admit that I have in listening better is, well, asking questions. It sounds funny, but I sometimes get stuck just knowing what I should be asking someone!

So, from my notebook to yours, here are some fantastic tips you should hold on to. Let me know how it goes? I am definitely curious! ?

Great Questions You Can Ask Anyone To Show You Are Interested

As quoted from the book Just Listen by Mark Goulston. See the snippet here on Kindle.

Professional:

  • “How’d you get into what you do?”
  • “What do you like best about it?” 
  • “What are you trying to accomplish that’s important to you in your career (business, life, etc.)?” 
  • “Why is that important to you?” 
  • “If you were to accomplish that, what would it mean to you and what would it enable you to do?”

Personal:

In personal relationships—for instance, at a party or on a first date—questions like these can often trigger a heartfelt response: 

  • “What’s the best (or worst) part of (coaching your kid’s soccer team, being away from home, etc.)?” 
  • “What person has had the biggest influence on your life?” 
  • “Is that the person you’re most grateful to? If not, who is?” 
  • “Did you ever get a chance to thank that individual?” (If the person asks, “Why are you asking these questions?,” you can say: “I find giving people the chance to talk about who they’re grateful to brings out the best in them.”) 

FTD Delivery

Mark goes on to talk about how he tries to get people to respond to questions that include how they feel, what they think and what they did or would do. He mentions in passing that you can use the initials of those phrases, FTD, and the name of the popular fast florist delivery company of the same initials as a way to remember the formula.

“I know that when people ask me questions that generate all three of these answers, I feel known by them in ways that I usually don’t if we’re talking exclusively about what we feel or what we think or what we did or would do.,“ Mark continues.

He finishes with these sage words that I am trying to take to heart day by day.

Much of who we are is composed of what we feel, think, and do, so when we’re in conversations where we get to express all three, we feel more satisfied. Eventually, one of your questions will click and you’ll see the person lean forward eagerly to tell you something with enthusiasm or intensity. When that happens, do the right thing: Shut up. Listen. Listen some more. And then, once the person reaches a stopping point, ask another question that proves that you heard (and care about) what the person said.”

Try this tip out and let me know how it goes!


Read The Book:

Editor’s Note: The links to Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone by Mark Goulston in this article reference Amazon.com with an affiliate code. Using this link helps to support our services. However, if you’d prefer to go directly to the book page on Amazon, this link is affiliate free !

Photo Credit: Priscilla du Preez on Unsplash

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