Don’t Waste Your Time

“I discovewaste-timered I always have choices and    sometimes it’s only a choice of attitude”          Judith Knowlton.

It had been at least two months since the city street sweeper truck picked up the horrid pine needles that accumulated around our curbside, and it was driving me to distraction. The sweepers come once a month so it’s a relief for me as my front yard has two substantially large shedding pine trees in full needle dump mode at present.  Last month a neighbor’s car stalled right in front of my home on the exact night before the sweeper was scheduled. This month I was determined to ‘clear the decks’ at any cost.  Guarding my curbside like a mother hawk, I anxiously awaited the sound of the street sweeper the next morning.

Earlier than usual he drove down the other side of the street. On my way out for my morning walk, I saw the street sweeper’s tire tracks but no clean up! “I’ve been duped!” Furious I left the house in search of the lazy, #^%$# street sweeper. Mind you, I live in a hilly area but I was undeterred in my quest to nail this guy.  Following the sound of his truck around my neighborhood I put myself in high gear breaking into a jog, then all-out run to catch this creep. Mind you, I haven’t run that far in years! Twenty minutes later I see him parked along a curb.  I’m now close to a heavy pant and 5% oxygen level left as I stumble up to his driver’s side. I see his name tag.  “Ramon, Ramon …” was all I could utter.  “Are you okay?” Ramon replies. Then the utter bombshell comes. “Should I call 911?”  Arggg!!!

As I find my composure I explain to Ramon that he ‘accidentally’ missed my house. “No, I haven’t been there yet?” As he described his circuitous route, he identifies my home and assures me he’ll be by shortly. When he does drive by, I flagged him and thanked him for his efforts. I also threw in some heirloom tomatoes supplied by my neighbor to sweeten the pot.  And then it happened. Ramon did a second drive by!  Might I add my curbside hasn’t looked so clean.  Suddenly Ramon has become my favorite city worker!

Can you think of a time when you totally misjudged a situation? Do you remember your frustration or anger? Like me, did you later find out you did not have enough information or worse, you were misinformed. Did you spend more time stewing and exerting wasted energy on a misread of your problem? It’s so easy sometimes to jump the gun and respond with emotion than to take a deep breath and consider if what you assume is actually true. The latter is not only advisable but a lot less exerting!

How important is money to your career satisfaction?

MONEYMAN2Early on in my sales career, I worked for an air freight forwarder.   The job demanded a fair amount of cold calling but supposedly had good income potential, my number one criteria.  “How hard can this be?” I asked myself – ha!  (Ask most salespeople how they enjoy cold calling and you’ll quickly gather they’d have more fun selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door.)

Our sales script was written by the son of the company owner, an accountant. No surprise then that our sales motivation consisted of flash cards liberally posted around the room that read “Call more, make more”. I now see bankruptcy looming in my future.

If I had any chance of making any money, I knew this script had to go. I had to get the caller’s attention quickly. Then I made the fateful call to “Mr. Weinstein.” When his secretary asked me whom should she say was calling, I replied, “Tell him it’s a friend” thinking this was a great end run around the gatekeeper.  When Mr. Weinstein picked up the phone I replied with a sultry ‘hi’ thinking it was funny.  Mr. Weinstein, not amused, replied, “I told you never to call me at the office!”  Embarrassed for both of us, I hung up.

It was at that point I had to rethink my fixation on money. Many people value their careers based primarily on their financial compensation.  Without this barometer, they are lost.  What about you?  Read on …

How important is money to your career satisfaction?  

Recent surveys by the Conference Board compared happiness and salary. The report shows that as your salary reaches your community’s average, your happiness quotient begins to level off. The median used was ~ $52k with a flattened effect at $75k. Not surprisingly, the study further showed if you drive your career with the primary focus on money, you sacrifice your happiness.

Money may attract you to an opportunity but when the newness wears off, so too will the appeal of your salary. When you lose the excitement for your position, it affects your motivation and performance. Those people unhappy with their work see themselves almost always as working for the money. People who are very satisfied with their work report their motivation comes from their accomplishments and the recognition and respect from others. And they view their compensation as a byproduct.

Workers want to elevate their status; that’s natural. Yet, when people are given credible praise informally for their contributions on a regular basis instead of only during annual reviews, they are more motivated and satisfied.

Your reliance on money alone can erode your emotional commitment to your work and weaken your performance.

Test this out for yourself. Consider these questions …
  1. Are you recognized consistently for your performance or your contribution?
  2. Are you given growth opportunities to expand your skills?
  3. Are you involved and able to impact decisions affecting your department and ultimately your organization?
  4. Do you enjoy and respect your co-workers?   Do they respect you?
  5. Is the cultural environment conducive and supportive? If the majority of answers are true, you’re on the right path and probably are already experiencing career satisfaction. If you’re not, it might be time to look at how you can manage your career to turn some of these situations around.

Money is a tangible result of work but recognition for performance creates genuine motivation and satisfaction. This satisfaction also spills over in your other life areas. Whether you’re employed or looking for a new opportunity, a focus on the intangibles will boost your career satisfaction. After all, isn’t that what we all want!

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Career Lessons from a Four-Year Old

 I recently visited my four-year old niece, Mirah.  GIRL 2015a
When I entered her house, she informed me she was a doctor in a hospital. I unsus- pectingly became patient #3.  The ‘doctor’ gave me a diagnosis and sent me home wearing 38 bandages for my treatment (ouch).  During another visit I was a client in a bank along with my sister-in-law.  Mirah, the bank manager, was seriously immersed in her role.  In front of her sat a play cash register.  She pulled out some blank red cards and asked us to write out checks for outrageous amounts in her name.  (I see Wall Street in her future.)  

Typical of children at this age, she was excited to play act different roles.  So, I asked if she knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. With her hand on her hip, she unequivocally replied “Absolutely!  I want to be a ‘restauranter’, a vet, and a movie star.” It’s not hard to notice talents in children during play (either alone or with others).  Ever watch kids selling lemonade?  There’s generally one who’s talking to the customers, one who’s organizing and handing out the lemonade, and another who’s counting the till.  Talents will always show up and are easy to spot when we’re young.

 As we move through our lives talents aren’t always noticed and certainly not always rewarded. Take a look at your work environment.  Are you satisfied with your work?  Do you enjoy your tasks?  If not, this is likely because you aren’t engaging your natural talents.  Think about your last performance appraisal.  When it was over were you focusing on your achievements or your ‘weaknesses’, those areas where you were lacking?  You probably spent much too much time thinking about where you came up short.  The work place spends tons of time, money and effort on ‘helping’ employees fix their weaknesses instead of looking at how to maximize their talents.  What a waste.

 The real focus should be on using and building your strengths.  Do you really know your talents? Do you know what motivates you?  (Hint:  it’s not usually money.  Inspiration comes from doing what you do naturally). So, put your efforts into uncovering and developing your strengths.  That’s where your satisfaction will come from. According to Gallup organization, if you use those strengths you enjoy most, you’ll be six times happier in your work.  So, what are you waiting for!

 Einstein says, “Everyone is a genius.  But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believin

Avoid or Adapt – it’s up to you!

On a recent vacation my husband and I celebrated a                                                 significant DONT GET RIGHT 10.1.15anniversary. While enjoying a glass of wine in a romantic restaurant, I asked him what he’d learned after all our years of marriage. Bear in mind, he is an engineer so questions that don’t demand a logical process or a measurable outcome can be very disturbing. In short, he doesn’t float well with what he sees as a “loaded” question and his anxiety at getting it ‘right’ was palpable.  After tense internal deliberation, he gave me a three-word answer I only dreamed about … “I know nothing.”  For an engineer to acknowledge this is close to blasphemy. Much to his surprise I was downright giddy to hear his response.

Stressful situations in particular compel us to want to get the “right” answer so as to appear, well, right.  Picture yourself at an important meeting or interview and you’re asked what separates you from the rest of the pack  … in one sentence! Would you welcome the question or break out in hives?  If you’re scratching, read on.

Do you become overly concerned about what the other party wants to hear?  Are you fearful you’ll be exposed as a fraud if you don’t know the right answer?  If this is you, don’t panic. You can get what you want, but it’s not by memorizing a contrived response. Ask yourself what it is about you that differentiates you from others?  What is it about you that makes you who you are? One question to ask yourself is ‘How do others describe you? ‘What stories do they tell about your strengths or attributes?’  Often times, people see us more accurately than we see ourselves. Your answer might cause you to feel a bit uncertain and a little vulnerable, but don’t be alarmed.  This candidness is exactly what everyone wants most – the real you! In short, it’s the only thing that does work.

For years career professionals helped clients memorize a 30-second pitch to be delivered to an unsuspecting audience in an elevator. Let’s face it, they usually sounded phony. At a networking meeting I attended I met a young man who told me he was a manager. “Oh, and what do you do?” He replied, “I manage people and processes.”  “Okay, and for whom do you do this?”  “For companies,” he replied.  Sad as this story is, most of us would rather have something to rattle off than to do the work required to speak honestly and authentically.

You’ve heard the saying “Be who you are because everyone else is already taken.”  How do you do this?  Start by letting go of your attachment to the outcome.  Getting the right answer isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.  Instead, pay attention to what the other person is saying, what he or she wants or needs, and reply genuinely.  Being vulnerable and transparent are critical to learning to speak your truth. You’ll be surprised how many people will be drawn to you. Be authentic – the world is starving for it.

Are You a Perfect Fit?

PERFECT FITDo you ever notice how a seemingly minor problem can wreak havoc in an otherwise pleasant day? Whoever those gremlins are that live in mobile phones, mine were in high spirits. Suddenly I had a coma-induced phone. I couldn’t send texts, emails, or perform other normal functions of a smart phone. My friend who loved her new iPhone suggested I upgrade. It sounded good at the time.
Let me state up front purchasing anything technical is not my idea of a good time. In addition, I’m no fan of my wireless provider; they are to me a necessary evil. For the sake of anonymity let’s just call them Horizon Wireless. Going into one of their retail stores is like going to a Metallica concert so I opted for an online purchase.

I had a few questions about the phone, so I pulled up their site and reached chat guy, Roy. Twelve minutes later, I’m still waiting for Roy to type “How can I help you?” Forget my questions …. I’ll just order the darn phone on line and be done with it. After 15 minutes I still can’t get to the shopping cart. Okay, so dare I try another online chat? Now I’m waiting 13 minutes for my chat rep, Sonny, to bring up my account. I intervened, “Are you there, Sonny?” “Yes, I’m hear.” Oh no, I’m not chatting with someone who flunked third grade grammar! I am now forced to actually call Horizon’s customer service line. I get Risley, a young, high-pitched, overly peppy girl who went to school with Sonny. After 20 minutes and not getting any closer to the coveted shopping cart, Risley tells me the problem lies with my not being the ‘account manager’ leaving me with absolutely no purchasing power. I tell her I haven’t much time. Let’s just say the perception of time to Risley was as foreign as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Ignoring my comment, she replied, “We’ll just eliminate all your account information and start again making you the account manager. It’ll only take a ‘sec’.” This doesn’t sound good. A half hour later, I pleaded, “Risley, I know you’re trying but can you ask someone for help?” “I think I’ve got this, Mrs. Cook. Try this — hit the back button. Oops, sorry Mrs. Cook, wrong move.” And so it went for another 45 torturous minutes. Steam was coming out of my head at this point. I’ve now been with Risley for most of the afternoon. “Risley, I have a client shortly and can’t continue trying to buy a phone.” Nonchalantly she replied, “No problem, Mrs. Cook, I’d like to ask you a question before we end this call … (oh no, please don’t) … “Have I provided you with excellent service today?” I now need to be medically calmed down!

I was exhausted, but I still needed a phone. I braced myself and called Customer Service one more time. This time the gods smiled on me and I got Tony, a mature, competent man who immediately put me at ease. He apologized for my previous ‘experience’ and confidently assured me he could get me the phone within minutes. Tony also took the time to explain why I had difficulties ordering which had little to do with my not being an Account Manager, just as I suspected. Within 15 minutes the phone was now on its way to me. I wanted to make Tony “Employee of the Year!”

This is the same dilemma that employers face during the hiring process. Suddenly they need to fill a vacancy or create a new position. Where are all the Tonys in the world when you need them? Employers know how difficult and costly it is to hire employees; and most hiring managers struggle to find the right person. Why? One reason is a good hire is not made solely by matching a candidate’s skills, experience or capabilities to a job description.

A hiring manager and a potential candidate will have a much better outcome if they consider the following criteria:

1. Competency. Does the candidate understand both the tasks and the challenges of the position and can they demonstrate that knowledge and ability? In my customer service example above, neither Roy nor Sonny would ever be accused of being overly competent. As a potential candidate, can you demonstrate through your accomplishments that you understand the needs of the hiring manager?

2. Potential. Does the candidate have the capability for growth and the willingness to take on more responsibility? Sometimes the hiring manager won’t ask this question directly, but if you are a candidate you want to make sure you leave the interview having demonstrated your capacity to excel. In other words, can you set yourself apart from the other candidates?

3. Compatibility. Does the candidate show the ability to get along with not just colleagues but existing and potential clients? Dare I mention Risley, but that is one sorry example of an employee who may have been bubbly during the interview, but when uncorked fell flat when it came to connecting with others.

4. Character. Does the candidate match up with the values of the hiring manager and the team? (If you are the candidate, can you demonstrate your traits, i.e., truthfulness, honesty, or dedication?) Does the candidate reflect the company culture? Does the candidate demonstrate selflessness, enthusiasm, and commitment?

There is nothing more satisfying to a client or customer of a business than to encounter an employee who is not just competent, but committed to doing his or her best. In addition, there is nothing more rewarding for an employer than to select an employee they know from the start is going to be a perfect fit.

Know when to fold ’em

when to foldI worked for a start-up company selling desktop graphics equipment to corporations and dealers.  I enjoyed interacting and selling to my clients, but the technical talk was definitely not my thing.  I learned as much as I could but it never came naturally to me and it was actually fatiguing.  My territory was the Western US and Canada which meant I spent more time in the air than on the ground.  It was great at first, but the hours were grueling and after a while the job became lonely and stressful. It was especially challenging when after a difficult week, I’d be on a flight home only to sit next to a middle-aged guy anxious for conversation who’d ask, “So, honey, what do you do?” I had no energy to talk about my work so I’d reply, “I’m a sex therapist.” You should see how quickly they’d drape a magazine over their laps or put the food tray down and pick up a book to read!

It’s no fun to work where you know it’s not really a fit, but I convinced myself to stay.  It was a start-up and, hey, I might make my millions when they went public.  At least, that was the hook that kept me there. The longer I stayed, the more miserable I became. It was as if I was in a bad commercial and I couldn’t escape.

We grow up in a culture that tells us if we quit we’re losers.  You buck up and do what it takes to ace that geometry class, learn the viola, or get on the baseball team.  No one ever dare ask if you’re any good in math, music or sports for that matter.  You just know you’re supposed to persevere to be a winner because no one likes a loser.  So, you learn not to quit even when your work or environment  is not a fit.

Our schools teach us to be well-rounded, to at least get a C, so we learn to stick with tasks or assignments until we become at least adequate performers.  We do the same thing with our work. You take a position with high hopes only to discover that mortgage lending or product research isn’t for you.  Instead of saying “this is not where I’ll flourish,” you convince yourself you can make it work; sort of like that bad hairpiece someone said would help you get dates …so you kept it.

Okay, so how do you know if you should quit (or even start)?  I wrote a newsletter once about Colin Kapernick, the 49ers quarterback.  Colin was at one time headed for a brilliant career as a baseball pro, but he had a dream of playing football.  It was an unpopular and risky decision, but it was his dream and he took the risk.  With multiple baseball scholarships available to him, he took his one football offer from the University of Nevada.  Against the odds, he persisted and the rest, as they say, is history.

So, do you know when to quit?  You quit when you know you won’t excel or don’t have the passion to perform at your very best. It might feel risky to leave, but consider the heavy price of staying. You will spend your time learning skills or knowledge that might not be useful outside your company, and probably not for the work you really want to do.  So you waste more time, energy and resources spinning your wheels in a dead end situation for short-term gain but neglect your long-term potential.

“Is it worth it to stick with my job or company?” That is the wrong question to ask.  The right question is, “Will I be able to use my talents and passions to make a contribution here?” If you rely on what you do well and love,  in the long run you will succeed.   Quit before you get to the point where you hit burnout and stress and can’t climb out of the slump.  Winners do quit. Colin Kapernick knew when to quit and it made all the difference.

 

Strech Your Career Potential

YOGA 1I was in the checkout line behind a very attractive, younger looking woman when she suddenly leapt over the counter to rescue her falling groceries to the surprise of both the cashier and me. No way could I have performed that Bruce Lee move!   I congratulated her on her agility as she smiled and simultaneously told the cashier she was entitled to the senior  discount.  “In fact, I’m 68,” she announced!  “I want what she’s having,” I said to the wide-eyed checker as I looked in her grocery bag.  Something has to give.

When my very competent massage person, Kim, suggested I try Maria, her yoga instructor, I figured it was a sign. Mind you, I’ve taken yoga off and on but only halfheartedly.  When the typical 20 something instructor demonstrates pretzel moves only a contortionist could achieve, it’s hard to stay engaged.  Maria, on the other hand, had a calm and graceful manner and seemed to embody wellness.  I was psyched.   

Then she asked the class the sobering question …“No one has eaten breakfast this morning, have they?” Ah, oh.  I raise my hand. “I did … the new girl.”  Oh, I thought, this can’t be good.  Then we got  into to the Happy Baby pose.  Now, for those of you who don’t know this one, you lie on your back with your legs raised in the air while you grab your feet and rock back and forth just like when you were in the crib.  Suffice it to say, Happy Baby can be a dangerous pose if you get my drift. Should I just walk out now, I thought, and save myself any embarrassment?  Fortunately, I escaped that class without any undue attention.   Okay, but there is that weird tree pose where you stand on one leg hoping not to crash into your neighbor.  No, I say, this time I’m committed and willing to withstand any humiliation. 

A critical element to keeping your career strong, viable and secure is to learn something new.  I’m not talking about the latest Excel version, although admirable as you must keep needed skills up-to-date.  I’m talking about learning something that will make you uncomfortable, okay, scare the pants off of you.  Ask yourself honestly, “Am I willing to do whatever it takes (even if I feel temporarily embarrassed) to advance my career?”  Try this exercise.  Take out a notebook and write down the last time you risked being embarrassed.  What happened?  What did you learn? I know you didn’t die or you wouldn’t be reading this!   

Can’t think of anything?   What about networking or public speaking – two of the most dreaded career advancers and among the most necessary to develop.  Many a career is stuck in neutral in an attempt to save face or avoid exposure.  Sure, we have all the excuses in the world, but consider this.  If you insist on staying in your comfort zone, you will stay stuck… no two ways about it.   The secret to conquering your discomfort or pain is to move towards it.  When you do, it will lessen.  If you move away from it (i.e., avoidance, procrastination, etc.), it will pursue you like a monster .   

Here’s the real truth – no one’s really looking at you anyway. So why not take the risk of being noticed.  Remember that adage, no risk, no reward!  

 If nothing else, the last several months of my yoga classes have taught me about moving forward even if it isn’t pretty.  It’s amazing how focusing on the process and not the results can be very liberating.  And, yes, I have finally learned why I really do want to be a tree!    

What about you? No time like the present.

Is Your Reputation Flying Blind?

BAT 2One evening I heard my husband yelling from his office that there was a bat flying around.  Thinking he had finally lost it, I walked in only to see that there actually was a bat feverishly circling the ceiling.  Shocked, I grabbed my sleeping cat who responded to my screaming by permanently implanting her claws into my arms.  When the Animal Control officer arrived, he found a dead bat in a hanging lighting fixture, but claimed it had been there for some time. This isn’t reassuring when you suddenly realize you are now sharing your living quarters with wild, scary creatures.  He suggested we contact our local Wildlife Rescue group to discover the source of entrance for the bats.  Needless to say it doesn’t encourage restful sleep.  It did, however, give me plenty of time to compose my obituary from my impending death by rabies.

The Wildlife Rescue guy, also called ‘Batman,’ was very thorough in his inspection but didn’t discover the bats’ entry spot, and so chalked it up to an isolated incident.  I must say I can’t remember when I’ve met someone so passionate about his work, which I told him as I politely declined to view his vast bat photo collection.

On Christmas Day, we returned home from a family dinner and I went upstairs to change my clothes.  Suddenly I heard this whooshing sound and sure enough there he was, Bat #2.  It was hard to control my screaming as I charged downstairs.  Once again, I called Animal Control reaching a female officer who said she was on her way.  As her truck pulled up, I suddenly realized I had no pants on!  I sent my husband upstairs to the ‘bat’ room to bring anything that would cover me, fashion be damned.  When the officer arrived she was all of 5’ and carried a huge net. We had to loan her a step stool to catch the bat!  Okay, now you can’t make this stuff up, but her name was Robin!   As Robin left she declares “You have a problem!”  Wow, her perception was uncanny.

While waiting for Batman’s next appointment, I mentioned our bat dilemma to my neighbor who replied, “I love bats!” Stunned, she began to educate me on the beneficial aspects of bats — the largest being they are ‘natural bug consumers.’  Did you know they can catch up to 600 mosquitos in an hour! The downside — that’s a lot of bat guano being inconveniently deposited somewhere. In fact, that’s exactly how Batman found their hiding place in the attic. He smelled  ‘em out.

These useful little creatures also pollinate plants and can fly up to 10,000 ft. in the air.  And, in case you’re wondering, they are not blind!   Turns out they are one of the most misunderstood animals on the planet.  It’s not hard to understand why they get such a bad rap.  Don’t get me wrong — I still don’t care for the little critters, but after some research I see their redeeming qualities.  They are, after all, incapable of telling their own story.

What about you?  Are you letting others tell your story?  Do you know how you are being perceived?  In other words, do you know your reputation?  The best strategy to managing your career reputation in today’s environment is simply this — to know what it is about you that people expect from you and that differentiates you from others.   This can be a challenge for most workers who don’t know how others see them or what they truly contribute to the organization overall.  The worker whose mantra is ‘I’ll do whatever they tell me’ or ‘I’m a hard worker and dedicated’ is ironically putting himself at risk of being downsized.  Secondly, this ostensibly convenient ‘keep-your-head-down’ theme keeps workers from experiencing their potential.  Granted, there is always work that needs to be done, but what about when that work changes (as it always does)?  Many employees aren’t developing their skills or competencies fast enough to keep up with the changes within their organization, thus creating a one-way ticket to the exit.

If you don’t want to be left on the sidelines, you need to show the value you can deliver to the overall mission of the company.  By the way, do you know the brand attributes of your company?  According to Gallup surveys, only 41% of employees do.  Can you show examples of that work when talking to your superiors?  Do others in the organization know what you do and what you stand for? In other words, do you know your reputation?  Too many people are hesitant to show their authentic selves during work time for fear it might not match their company’s expectations.  Yet, that leaves the employee hiding in her cubicle with her head dutifully down; and believe me, staying in the dark may work for bats and mushrooms, but, well you get the picture.

Here’s a suggestion … look at your company’s pressing needs outside your own functional group.  Is there an area of expertise you could provide to another group to help them solve an issue or problem?  Providing solutions outside your own area is a first great step to building a broader foundation for relationships and visibility.  In addition, it’s a huge confidence builder!  After a while, you won’t bat an eyelash at all the wonderful feedback you’re receiving!

I would most appreciate your comments and remarks.  See below.

You have a plan – you’re ready, you aim, and …. ah, oh!

cowA few years ago, my brother, Steve, bought a farm in the Sierra Foothills and purchased 3 female cows.  This was quite a switch from his former life as a dentist.  As a career coach, I see lots of interesting career switches, but it was hard not to be biased about farming over the ‘family dental plan’, but nonetheless, this was his new career.  (No, he didn’t ask for my advice, in case you’re wondering.)  Recently he gleefully announced that Rosie, the cow, was pregnant and due at any time.  The impending news of Rosie’s condition caused quite a stir.  He invited his children and young grandkids up to witness the birth.  We siblings were on phone alert.  Honestly, all the preparation and anticipation rivaled the birth of little Prince George — minus the cuteness factor or the Royal media coverage. 

Believe me, I’m not one to get excited about cows, but Rosie was different.  Turns out she was hiding a secret.  A week or so after the due date, we all were still holding baited breath.  Then my brother announced that Rosie wasn’t ‘with calf’ after all!   What a bum steer he got!   

As with any significant plan that utterly bursts (pun intended), it’s important to first evaluate what led to the disappointing outcome and then take stock of the situation.  Let’s assume there was a bull involved somewhere in the story.  Okay, then the question is, “Did the bull find Rosie attractive?”  “Was the big night staged correctly — you know, lighting, music, or whatever it is cows enjoy?”  Or, of course, the question you know you want to ask, “Is Rosie even into bulls! “ 

Whoever informed my brother that Rosie was ‘in the family way’ gave him a load of bull (sorry, I can’t help myself).  His story reminds me of people who get excited and energized about their new goals, but make early, critical missteps that can result in those best laid plans going south.  

What about you?  Have you given enough time, due diligence and attention to your goal to make sure it will deliver? Let’s examine some simple solutions.   

Whether you are considering a new career or life goal (or both), here are some critical missteps you want to avoid…..

 1.      Don’t commit your goals to writing.  No matter if the goal is small, short-term or seemingly easy to achieve, not putting it in writing will almost guarantee it won’t turn out as you had hoped, if at all. 

 2.     Don’t plan aheadWing it. Once you have a new goal, it’s tempting to just throw yourself into action with all that newfound energy.  But have you thought through the steps involved? Have you completed a viability check of your goal?   Like my brother’s case, maybe it’s worth it to get a vet (or a career coach, in your case) who can definitively confirm there’s a potential positive outcome  in the pipe lines!   

3.     Give up early and avoid the rush.  You know this one – you always wanted to be a teacher and are reconsidering that as an option now.  But you read that schools are cutting back, so you give up before you even start.  My husband had a startup in a competitive hi-tech environment. Above his desk was a framed cartoon of a frog grabbed at the throat and held at the open mouth of a nasty-looking crane with the words “Never, never, ever, give up.” It’s too easy to assume that the roadblocks you encounter are permanent and impassable. Maybe you just need a ‘Plan B’. 

 4.      Focus on the negative.  So many people think only about what it would be like if they fail that they never get started.  Ask yourself why you want the goal in the first place.  If you have a compelling reason, then proceed forward.  First, write the steps you’ll need to take.  Now ask yourself what or who can help you complete those steps.   It’s the old expression of ‘feel the fear and do it anyway.’   

Do you  have a plan now?  Or, is there one in the back of your head you’ve always wanted to execute?  There’s no time like the present to make sure it’s sound … and you’re not shooting blanks!   Contact me for a quick evaluation and diagnosis.

 

Need a Priority Checkup?

The summer before I graduated from college, I was living with my friend, Linda in a cool old house in San Francisco’s Sunset District.  We had just spent an evening out in a new, trendy bar area, the hip thing to do when you just turned 21. How hip were we?  So hip we barely had the bus fare between the two of us to get home.  We knew we’d have to transfer buses in a pretty sketchy neighborhood, but, hey, we were young, hip, and, okay, dumb.

Just before getting off the bus, I noticed two suspicious looking men staring at us which obviously set off an internal ‘Oh, God’ alarm.  I tapped my friend who assured me we were fine.  Once off the bus, the men walked right past us.  No sooner had they passed us when two young punks about 15 years old walked up to us as we stood at the bus stop.

Quickly, one came over to me and demanded my wallet while the other stood guard on the corner.  The kid gave it his most persuasive ‘give-me-your-mother f’ing wallet’ assertion.  But it wasn’t until I looked down to see a gun pointed at me that his request became, shall we say, incredibly convincing.  I let out my best rendition of the ‘Hail Mary’ convinced I would shortly meet her.  He looked puzzled as though he was possibly holding up a nun. So, he turned to my friend, Linda and made the same demand.  “I’m not giving you my wallet!” she blurted out.   Just then a bus pulled up. When the doors opened, we rushed to the back faster than a female SWAT team.

Both of us still shaking, my friend asked why I didn’t hand over my purse.  “I couldn’t let go of it!” I replied.  I asked her the same question.  “No way, that wallet cost me $8!”

Deciding what is really important to you should definitely not be made under duress.  In fact, it should be well thought out before you actually have to test it out as my friend and I did.  It may sound trite to say that none of us should take our lives for granted.  Yet, in our personal and work lives we do it all the time.

The strategies and ideas below might come in handy if you find yourself with outdated priorities …

We live in a chaotic world and can often lose sight of what we value the most.  In fact, our careers have a way of pointing out what is and isn’t really important even when we don’t take the time to acknowledge it.  My client, Jane, came to see me because she felt incredibly stuck.  The new position she had accepted was full of stress for her.  She hated her hours, her co-workers and her boss, but continued to work overtime because “the work had to get done.”  It wasn’t really Jane’s work or even the setting that were to blame for her unhappiness.  Jane never considered what was important to her in her work, let alone whether she should feel entitled to them.  Because of this, she blamed everything else for her unhappiness.

Being aware and sticking to your priorities isn’t selfish; in fact, it makes for a more productive and harmonious work environment.  For Jane, one of her top priorities was to work in a setting where everyone’s contribution was valued.  Had she focused on whether this organization shared that same value prior to accepting the position, she could have had a very different outcome.

Simply put, when your talents and values are allowed to be expressed in your work environment, you’re happy.  People keep themselves in a state of constant agitation by not periodically re-evaluating what’s most important to them.  No amount of external trappings will ever make someone feel proud of their work if it conflicts with one’s internal benefits.  The trick is to keep your priorities clear and current.

Take a few minutes to evaluate what’s most important to you right now.  First, make a list of what you believe to be your current priorities.  Many people assume they are the same as they have always been and, true, there are intrinsic values that don’t change.  Yet, many of us never considered values in our past choices and so, as my client, Jane, end up living unhappily. Think about such things as flexibility, meaning, service to others, time with family, or proximity to work as examples of what is important.  Okay, write yours all down and then narrow your list to the top six.  Then ask yourself which of these are being met in your current work.  Could be revealing!

This may sound like a ‘nice-to-do’ exercise only, but consider this.   When faced with an unexpected opportunity or situation, (for instance, your work suddenly demands extensive overtime, or a better position in another area comes up), it’s much easier to make a decision if you know ahead of time what you really value.  It may seem difficult to stick to your values, but in the long-run you’ll be a much happier camper.  And, after all, isn’t that what’s really important!