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Am I there yet?

Pilot gty_pilots_cockpit_airliner_ll_120718_wgMy husband is an aviation enthusiast and reminded me of this illustration. Before commercial or corporate pilots take off, they file a flight plan which includes, among other pertinent details, the destination and estimated time of arrival. Once they take off, however, wind, air currents, storms, turbulence, etc. work against the aircraft so that they must continually make corrections in order to remain on course and reach their appointed destination. Pilots understand the necessity of regulating the route, anticipating and performing the process to achieve their ultimate goal – a safe and punctual arrival.

This course correction is often needed throughout life, but too often I only recognize it after I’ve become discouraged that my project or goal is not working out right. For example, when I began my adventure into semi-retirement, I had so many ideas about what I would do when I grew up. I have many interests – Bible study, business, embroidery, friends, gardening, grandchildren and their parents, people, reading, sewing, teaching, writing and so much more – so I wanted to make my choice fit within the parameters of the things I enjoyed as well as discover a niche where I could concentrate my efforts so that I spent my time wisely.

I started out enthusiastically, doing a little bit in each genre, yet it didn’t take long to realize that I had too many things going on. I needed to prioritize my list. I thought that since I was good at multi-tasking in the workplace, I could come up with a workable solution if I concentrated on only three things. Not so. The three things were still too large, and I finally realized that I had to narrow my concentration further, yet with an interesting twist. One project remained my main focus while the other two became secondary. In other words, I did not give up on them, but I just take little chunks of time and do something that will advance their completion. It may only be reading an article, watching a video or jotting down ideas, but I am moving along in the right direction. Eventually I will get there – I will realize my goal. At that point it will look like an overnight success, but I’m not there yet, and it’s okay. This has helped my level of frustration.

Maybe when you’re asking yourself the am-I-there-yet question, knowing it’s acceptable to continue along your desired path, regardless of speed or apparent success, will help you as well. Just keep going.

Picture credit: gty_pilots_cockpit_airliner_ll_120718_wg

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Is it just your job?

How-to-keep-communication-flowing-in-the-workforceHave you ever worked for a company that gave you a job description when you hired on, continued to add responsibilities but rarely let you know how you were doing unless, of course, you made a huge mistake? In other words, if the job got done, no one said anything. They expected you to do it. After all, it’s your job.

Although most businesses are moving to correct this lack of communication with performance evaluations and other forms of recognition, most managers haven’t bought into the simple concept that regularly affirming good behavior means it will be repeated. It’s not rocket science, but they must figure they don’t have time to do anything but get widgets out the door. Maybe it’s a more difficult idea to grasp than you think because so few practice it or at least do it well.  Many think this warm and fuzzy stuff does not belong in the workplace, but the funny thing is that affirming another person, even for regularly performed tasks, belongs everywhere. It builds relationships, and people from all walks of life will respond – though some to a higher degree than others. It will work at home with your spouse and kids, at school or work and even with strangers at the market.

Think about it. Most people don’t wake up in the morning planning to sabotage their day with misdemeanors. They like it when things go well, so they apply their energies in that direction. But if no one notices a job well done, some feel they have no reason to continue and will begin to slack off. It takes integrity to keep doing your best when no one seems to care, and honestly, you don’t see as much of this character quality as you used to. On the other side of the coin, if no one says that you’re doing something incorrectly, you’ll keep on doing it the same way as you have always done and again, quality will decline. Honest communication is necessary.

So how can you sincerely and genuinely affirm someone and make a difference? Catch them doing the right thing well – even if it is on their job description – and tell them so. Make sure to avoid generic sentiments like “way to go,” “good job,” or even “love, love, love it.” If they have done something outstanding, tell them specifically what it is you like and how it affected you. “Thanks so much for staying after hours to finish up that report so that it would be ready for the meeting in the morning. It calmed my jitters to know you had everything read,” means a lot more than “Thanks for the effort.” And guess what, the next time you have a project requiring a little extra effort, you know who will be willing to go the extra mile.

At home, cooking meals, doing the laundry, mowing the grass and repairing broken fixtures don’t just happen. A little appreciation and affirmation will go a long way with family members too. Again, be specific and explain how the effort added value. It’s also a great way to teach your kids without a long lecture. Ever wonder why they behave so well at someone else’s house – likely because someone there affirmed their good behavior.

Oops! I think I forgot to mention there might be a little side effect – no small print or hushed voice necessary. When you see the positive response in the other person, it will do something in your heart as well. You’ll feel good, deep down inside. You’re creating endorphins, and they’re an excellent remedy for stress. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

Can you find the perfect cheese?

I am still in the process of removing the stacks from my home office, but in so doing I found an insert from a book by Spencer Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese? In this quick read, Spencer spins his tale of two little mice that awaken one morning to find their cheese is missing. The cheese is an allegorical representation of those things we hold as a high priority for life like your job or perhaps an important relationship. Through their adventures to discover a new food supply, Spencer engagingly outlines the steps we all need to turn the challenge of change into the true opportunity it is. The insert contains 7 bullet points as a reminder of his key points. I think you’ll get the gist of the message. If not, you can get the book. The points are copied below:

  • Change happens – They keep moving the cheese
  • Anticipate change – Get ready for the cheese to move
  • Monitor change – Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old
  • Adapt to change quickly – The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese
  • Change – Move with the cheese
  • Enjoy change – Savor the adventure and the taste of new cheese!
  • Be ready to quickly change again and again – They keep moving the cheese

Spencer had a goldmine of an idea with this one. Today, not only is the original book still in demand, but he has created a specialized training curriculum for corporations using this material. Some of the more prominent companies use it with their employees. He’s also come up with specialized editions for teens and kids.

Now the book was very helpful as are the points listed above, but here’s the real question. Is it easier to learn from a story than it is from a list of points? It gets my vote because the bullet list triggered some detailed recollections of the tale, and I read it over 10 years ago. (Sometimes I cannot recall what I had for breakfast, so I’m thinking this is a stellar teaching tool.) Patrick Lencioni also uses this method of teaching business principles by illustrating them in a fictional format. Perhaps there are some who prefer Dragnet’s “Joe Friday” approach of “Just the facts, ma’am,” but the narrative accounts hold my interest and hence boost my retention.  If I understand the plan from the experience of two fictional mice and can remember it, I think I’ll be better able to adjust to change and find the perfect cheese.

What do you do with cracked pots?

Before you think I’m crazy or using the term loosely to refer to those who disagree with my point of view, I’d like to clarify. I’m really talking about all of us because in one way or another, we’re all flawed human beings, and these imperfections, whether congenitally- or experientially-related, influence our lives. The way they impact us, depends a lot on how we choose to view and deal with them.

Few of us would judge a little boy who experienced a double amputation of his legs below the knees if we watched him sitting in a wheelchair or on the sidelines watching other children compete in running games. We’d understand that he had a justifiable reason to watch the world go by. We’d have compassion on him.

This is the story of Oscar Pistorius, one of the South African runners in the 2012 Olympic Games, who experienced this situation because he had been born without a fibula in either leg (fibular hemimelia). Yet the scenario painted above does not reflect Oscar’s life. Greatly because of his mother’s influence, he overcame an attitude that could have crippled him for life. Instead, with the help of specialized Flex-Foot Cheetah carbon fibre transtibial prostheses he overcame his handicaps and went on to achieve great things. We could name others like Joni Eareckson Tada and the late Chuck Colson, who started outstanding ministries because of what happened in their own lives, results of accidents or poor choices. Although you and I may not have suffered to the degree that these folks have, the point is that these challenges helped them to find their niche because they chose to allow God to use it.

Life comes at us from all directions – health, finances, relationships …, and we can choose to be blown over or take courage and stand up again. What we learn from these experiences will help to define who we are as well as shape who we are becoming. And, it may provide another aspect to consider when discovering where we fit – our niche for business, job search, ministry, service, writing, etc.

So what’s in your past that’s changed you, created a new sensitivity or heightened awareness and passion? Write these things down and see if a pattern develops that might direct you to future endeavors. See if you can find a spot for your cracked pots.

How do you discover your niche?

Each of us is unique, and it’s got nothing to do with our gender or appearance. Even identical twins have differences, and sometimes the only thing they share in common is their looks and date of birth. This uniqueness has everything to do our purpose under heaven, yet for many it seems difficult to discover. So, how do you discover your niche?

In my efforts to reinvent myself for my later years, I found that I had a lot of interests and some knowledge and skill in each area, but I was not focused. Some people have a strong passion for one thing, and they can’t seem to help themselves. They have to pursue it.

Years ago, I had just such a student. Today, kids would call him a nerd because he zeroed in like a laser on anything that had to do with science. I’d continually have to tell him that science was not my forte, so he’d dumb down his theories for me until our next conversation. And the topic? You guessed it. Science. He loved it. If anyone tried to realign his thoughts, he’d always return to his favorite. He had focus.

I read something the other day from Brian Tracy on finding your competitive advantage, and I thought it might be applied as well to finding your niche and moving forward with it. It will require some time when you can be alone for some self-analysis, but hey, you’re worth it.

  • Identify your strengths – What do you think you’re good at? Where have you excelled in the past as well as the present? What do others see as your strongest qualities? Write them down even if they seem small. They may develop into a pattern.
  • Identify your interests – What do you really like to do? Pay close attention to your heart because your true interests may not be where you’re currently expending your energies. Someone mentioned that you should think back to age 10 and what you wanted to be when you grew up. Are you there?
  • Identify your area(s) of specialization and narrow it down to one or two core skills. Keep in mind that these should be in the area of your strengths and interests.
  • Identify areas within your specialization that could be further developed to add different and better value. You want to differentiate yourself from all the rest by excelling where others have not even thought to go.
  • Identify markets where your skills and talents will be best used or better yet, an unfulfilled need where you can forge into new territory.
  • Pray. God created you with a specific purpose in mind, and He delights in revealing His plans when you ask.

It took me a while to narrow my focus and find my niche, but I think I’m on the right track now. Don’t be discouraged that the process requires time. Remember, it’s what we’re here for.

Overcoming Murphy’s Law

Does this ever happen to you?  You’re faced with a challenge, you discover a workable solution, and you begin to implement it and WHAM! You’re broadsided by a host of unpredictable situations preventing you from going further with your plan. I often refer to the result as Murphy’s Law – “If anything can go wrong, it will,” because it happens so frequently. Yet in the scheme of life, it is reality. It’s the law, not the exception.

I may be the last of the naïve who, rather than plan for negative possibilities and hindrances, assume that good will triumph according to plan. In many cases it does, but accidents, sickness, financial setbacks and relational issues come to everyone, so I need to change my perspective. In the meantime, I need to plan for these “negative” events, because they surely will come. In so doing, my mind can begin to foresee contingencies and ways to adjust if and when they occur. It really is logical. I’m not sure why it has taken so long to sink into my brain. In some ways, it’s defensive driving for life.

Along with finding a viable solution, I need to put feet to the plan so that I can move forward. (Someone once said that it is easier to direct a moving vehicle than one that is parked.) I need to be moving – even if it is not at the desired speed. This includes a little risk management planning to be really effective, and it may be exactly what I need to overcome Murphy’s Law.

Looking for a job?

In these days of economic uncertainty, more people are finding themselves out of work. In fact, in the US, there are now 12,806,000 former employees trying to feed their families and put a roof over their heads. Depending on your skill set and the number of others with similar capabilities, you may find it difficult to find a position in your field especially if the market is saturated. This situation may seem bleak, yet it could be a marvelous opportunity for you to reinvent yourself to find the job of your dreams. 

So where do you begin? Why not start with some self-probing questions? 

  • What do you REALLY want to do? What is preventing you from doing it?
  • What action could you take today to begin moving yourself in this direction?
  • What resources are available to you now?
  • Who do you know that is already doing this and who might be able to assist you? 

Many people who ask themselves these questions find that their previous position was really only a means to an end. They really would have preferred to do something totally different. If that’s true of you, you might want to pursue further education in order to acquire new skills. You might even decide to become an entrepreneur and develop something on your own. Kate Middleton’s mum started her own business when she couldn’t find party supplies for her children’s parties. 

What ideas do you have? Opportunity might be knocking on your door right now to pursue them. Will you go for it?