Zen is you – Be.

Make a List

Posted in stress relief by dave225 on April 13, 2009

I used to be able to keep everything in my head.. If I had a meeting next Thursday at 2:30, I could remember it.  I have no idea how I was ever able to do that – even if I had one tenth the obligations that I have now, I can’t remember more than about three days in advance.

So I started keeping a list, and a calendar.  And everything I have to do – whether it’s work, home or just an idea that I have – goes on the list.  I can keep track of everything – oh boy wha a great idea that was.  I’ll bet you never thought of making a list before.

Are you in fifth grade?  Why am I telling you to make a list?

Well, you can keep track of all your stuff however you want to – I don’t care if you use a list or hire a lackey.  The point isn’t to help you remember all the stuff you have to do – in fact, if you can do less stuff, that would be my first piece of advice.  And failing that, I might even tell you to let stuff fall through the cracks.  So why make a list?  So you can stop thinking about what you have to do later.  Forget later.  What are you doing right now?  Think about that more.

Enjoy your current circumstance.  Whatever you’re doing right now, really do it.  And if you can’t focus on your current situation, leave it.  Go do something you can focus on.  And when other thoughts come to you, write them down and forget it.  Set yourself free.

Every day is like Sunday

Posted in impact, stress relief, values by dave225 on March 15, 2009

I’m thinking about going into the office this weekend. Ordinarily, I like to leave work behind a couple days a week. But when I don’t have much else planned, sometimes an extra day to catch up can ease the stress of the week.

My big dilemma isn’t whether or not I should work on a weekend; The dilemma is how to spend that time. I could use the time to knock off some of those little tasks that seem to be in the way, so I can spend the week focusing on work that really matters.

Or I can spend the weekend on work that really matters. My idealistic side says, “always focus on work that really matters.” Don’t sweat the small stuff. Big wins.

But my intellectual but realistic side reminds me of the serenity prayer:

No -not that one! But these little tasks that I would gladly put off forever are important (or, I mean, <airquotes>important</airquotes>) to someone. So they will always be there – distracting, usurping, foiling.

I think my plan will be to round up the annoying tasks and drive the herd off a cliff. Do enough to get them out of the way – and spend the majority of the week working on stuff that matters.

And next week, Friday will be the day that I spend a little time on these nuisances, instead of Sunday. That will be my new M.O. – Big and important, Monday through Thursday. Small and dumb – gets thrown in the Friday bucket. And when Friday comes, whatever gets done, gets done and whatever doesn’t – won’t.

The best laid schemes of mice and men,
Go oft astray,
And leave us nought but grief and pain,
To rend our day.
Still thou art blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches thee
But, oh, I backward cast my eye
On prospects drear,
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear.
.

Learn Something New …..

Posted in development, satisfaction by dave225 on January 26, 2009

“If you’re done learning, you’re done.”  I think it was Ben Franklin.  Maybe it was someone else who originally said that… But it’s true, nonetheless.

A few years ago, I absolutely hated my job.  Although I worked for a great company, I didn’t feel as though I was being used to my full potential.  Until that happened, I guess I had been fortunate in my career that I’d always been able to find the niche that kept me growing (or knew when to leave before things got stale.)  I was beginning to strategize my exit plan.  I needed a career boost.  Let me back up;  I had tried to get help with career counseling in my company and wasn’t satisfied with the options.  So I began to study.  I invested my own time and my own money (a considerable amount of each) to elevate my skill levels in preparation for a job search.  And I had some offers.  Some really good offers.

Maybe it was just luck, but as offers were coming in, possibilities opened up at my current job too.  But I believe you can make your own luck.  I never had to give my boss an ultimatum or hope for a counter offer.  An offer to advance from my current job came to me – or rather, it came near me and I grabbed it.

Oh, I think I’ve read the “invest in yourself” advice plenty of times before, so I won’t make a point of that as if it’s a new idea.  And it’s probably not a new idea that continuous learning keeps you sharp and on top of your game.  And yet, I continue to come across people who don’t seem to be interested in development – for professional reasons or self-development reasons.  Or else they’re waiting and wondering why their employers won’t develop them.  So I just want to reiterate that you can make your own luck sometimes.  Because luck isn’t luck.  Luck is options.

Last week, at Ignite! Columbus, Joshua Scott talked about knowing when to move on.  I wish I had his slides at the moment – and his content.. scurve2but if I can paraphrase, he said you have to have the courage to leave something that’s going well so that you can continue in an upward direction.  This picture is the closest I could find to describe what that means:

The idea is that you leave thing #1 before it reaches the decline and move on to thing #2.  That can be a business, a career, a job, a skillset.

You never know when your luck will change – when your curve will start to decline.  I watched a disheartening story this evening about DHL leaving Wilmington, OH and leaving 10,000 people without jobs.  I don’t mean to imply that those 10,000 people should have moved on before DHL pulled out of the community.  It’s just a devastating example of how quickly things can change.  So what I’m trying to say is, be ready.  Learn something new.

Learn something new to get ahead.  Learn something new to be better at what you do.  Learn something new to feel better about the things you do.

Learn something new to be ready.

Or learn something new just ‘cuz.  And then do it again.  Don’t stop.  Luck isn’t luck.  Luck is options.

The Social Networking Popularity Contest

Posted in satisfaction by dave225 on January 24, 2009

In the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a lot of  “does she like me?” on my social networks.

Facebook

“Stuart from high school wants to be my facebook friend.  But we weren’t friends in high school.  Should I be his friend?  I’m friends with Becky, and Becky is friends with Carla, but Carla’s not friends with me.  Why didn’t she friend me?  If she does, should I say yes?”  Holy crap, 25 years out of high school and the drama continues…

Twitter

“I’m going to stop following people who don’t follow me back.” “People with more followers than followees are self-important.”  Why does twitter have to be two-way?  If you’re following someone you find interesting, why would you stop?  If someone doesn’t find you interesting – well, first of all, that’s their opinion and so what.  But if you’re really insecure about people not following you, maybe you need to be more interesting, more often.  Again I cite “there’s no honor in being right.” -if finding yourself interesting isn’t good enough and you need validation from others, it’s up to you to gain their interest.

Linked In – “Oh, you worked at Chase?  Do you know Roger?”  All I can say is, make it count.

So as much as I love the energy that comes with social networking, I can’t help but feel the stress of the social politics that have inevitably crept in.  Connect, connect, connect.. Good!   It’s not a competition, but it is a challenge to take only the positives and use them to enrich your work, your life, …


Here are my social network rules, for whatever purpose they may serve:
Facebook – if someone wants to be my friend, I say yes. (…unless they’re people I don’t know, collecting names.)   If someone wants to be my friend, then sure – be my friend.  And maybe they’ll be totally energetic about using their network the same way I do and we’ll hit it off.  Or maybe they’ll be totally disengaged and we won’t really reach each other.  Then who cares?  And I filter very little.  This is me being me, corresponding with people who want to know me – not my “internet persona.”  Everyone else is free to observe.  (Except my mom.)

Linked In – this is my trusted, professional network.  We have to know each other.  I don’t collect names -I connect people.

Twitter – I don’t care who follows me.  I don’t say much on twitter most days.  I follow people who will redirect me to interesting resources.  I follow friends so we can exchange short notes during the day.  I follow people who ask compelling questions.  I don’t follow people who don’t seem to have anything else to do but twitter all day.  I don’t follow people who use twitter like IM-meets-LadyGodiva.  I don’t follow people who obscure relevant tweets by yacking nonstop.

Plaxo – WTF is the deal with Plaxo?  People keep connecting with me and they never post anything.  I only have an account because I wanted to see what I could do with it.  (turns out – not much.)

Twine, Flickr, meetup, speakersite and any other community of practice – you bet we can connect there.  If you’re there, let’s talk.

In person – better yet.

Power

Posted in development by dave225 on January 7, 2009

Knowledge is power.

Have you ever heard that?  Do you think knowledge is power?

You’re wrong. ……

You. Are. Wrong.  Now before you become offended and tune me out – no , you’re not wrong.  But I heard a presenter tell me that once.  He went on to say that money and political position were power.  I didn’t pay attention to what else he said because I was dwelling on his statement that knowledge is not power.

And it all came down to one little letter, one little word:  “A”.  Knowledge is A power.

¨ Language is a power

¨ Money is a power

¨ Political position is a power

¨ Standing behind the lectern is a power

¨ Violence – is a power.

Power exists in different concentrations for all of us – those without a lot of money may rely on wit, some may use their spirituality to overcome a lack of political clout, some who have few options in life may turn to the power of a gun.

  1. Find your powers.  You may not be a superhero, but you have powers.  Figure out what they are.  What has led to your successes in life?  When people say “Nice job” or when you feel that you’ve done a great thing, what skills and resources did you use?
  2. Decide how/where to use it.  What can you do?  Learn how you can use your powers.  Now that you’ve discovered that you have knowledge in a certain area, what are the possibilities?
  3. Decide why to use it.  What is the gain?  My friend Andrew Pace says, “There’s no honor in being right.”  (Although I think the entire quote is from Mickey Kaus and it’s “There’s no honor in being right too soon.” But I suppose there’s no honor in pointing that out!)  You don’t gain anything by being correct if you’re not bringing people along with you.  Exercising power just to prove that you possess it is of little value to you or anyone else.  And it’s a sign of insecurity of your weakness in other aspects.
  4. Use it effectively.  Do something.  Don’t let your power go to waste.  There is no succeed or fail, there is only act.
  5. Develop and strengthen other powers.  As sure as you know what you’re good at, you also know your weaknesses.  Tapping into your natural abilities is a great place to start  – but work on everything.  If you’re like me, you’ll find that you develop fastest in areas that need the most work.

    If anyone tells you that something you value is not a power – you can prove them wrong!  Find your powers.  Use them.  Show results.

    This is also my next Toastmasters speech (spoiler alert.  oops, too late.)

    The Tao of Chuck

    Posted in values by dave225 on December 31, 2008

    Charlie Brown’s good rules for living:

    • Keep the ball low
    • Don’t keep your crayons in the sun
    • Use dental floss every day
    • Don’t spill the shoe polish
    • Always knock before entering
    • Don’t let the ants get in the sugar
    • Never volunteer to be a program chair
    • Always get your first serve in
    • Feed your dog whenever he’s hungry

    ….a better life, and a fat dog.

    *from ‘Happy New Year, Charlie Brown’

    Why Why Why

    Posted in impact, objectives, satisfaction, Uncategorized by dave225 on December 24, 2008

    Perhaps you’re familiar with this parable about stone masons and purpose (text that I lifted from here, but it could have been anywhere):

    I’m reminded of a story about a traveler in the Middle Ages, who visited a city where many stone cutters were working. Approaching several, he asked the same question:

    “What are you doing?”

    The first stonecutter he met replied, “I’m cutting stone. It’s dull work, but it pays the bills.”

    A second stonecutter responded, “I’m the best stone cutter in the land. Look at the smoothness of this stone, how perfect the edges are.”

    A third pointed to a foundation several yards away, and said, “I’m building a cathedral.”

    One lacked purpose altogether. The second was proud of the work he did. But the third clearly had a sense of purpose, of the greater reason for his work. It’s safe to assume that the third stone cutter never got lost in the boredom of the work or became obsessed with being the best. The third stone cutter knew that his work was critical to the successful completion of a larger project the construction of a cathedral.

    Well it occurred to me this morning that this parable is incomplete.  “I’m building a cathedral!”  Well why in god’s name* are you doing that?  The vision for this cathedral isn’t to have a giant, unoccupied building plopped down where there used to be farmland.  And it wasn’t built just to give people something to do.  What’s the bigger WHY?!

    It must have a bigger purpose than “build it.”  Is it to glorify God*?  To establish a place of community, a civic center? And why would you want either of those?  To raise the standard of living for all citizens or to make the king richer?  What is the real vision? And what are the real benefits?

    Execution (i.e. building stuff) comes from people working.  Vision and strategy come from the top.  Every bit of work at every level should have that vision behind it.  So whether you’re building a cathedral or a website:  ask yourself about the real why.

    (*no specific religious affiliation, promotion or denigration intended.)

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    Salvaging Info

    Posted in values by dave225 on December 8, 2008

    I’m cleaning out an old file share before it gets deleted.  I ran across an internal posting I wrote last year, summarizing a talk I attended.

    What type of organization do you have?


    The Competing Values Model: (Robert Quinn)

    An organization needs to decide what its primary quadrant is. The quadrants that are diagonal from each other are in dynamic tension with each other.

    How does our organization deal with failure?

    • Is failure allowed? Then we support innovation & open systems.
    • Is failure not an option? Then we are a process & control organization.

    What do we do with an unproductive asset?

    • If we turn it loose, we lean towards the Rational Goal Model.
    • If we mentor, we learn toward Human Relations.

    (The axis refer to the type of organization you are fostering, not what happens in the short/long run. – E.g. the top row depicts the habits of long term thinkers.)

    Long Term

    Human Relations Model – collaboration, motivation

    Open Systems Model – innovation

    Short Term

    Internal Process Model – Management & Control

    Rational Goal Model – productivity & accomplishment

    Stable

    Chaotic

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    The Boss is Always Right

    Posted in objectives, Uncategorized by dave225 on November 14, 2008

    Oh, it hurts to even write it. The boss is always right? Well, yes. Yes, boss.

    Even when the boss is wrong.

    Caveat 1 – The boss is not right when the boss is ethically wrong.  Don’t do anything you have a moral problem with. But if you have a moral problem with it, either talk it out or take it to H.R.

    No one likes a sycophant.

    Caveat 2 – Don’t be a “Yes” man. If you disagree with your boss, speak up. There is nothing wrong with questioning your boss’s position if you are genuinely questioning for the purpose of enlightenment. “Explain it again, I still don’t see your point of view” is different from “You’re wrong. I want to do things my way.” You have one, maybe two opportunities to disagree outright and explain why your opinion is right. But if you can’t sell it, it’s time to toe the line. And here’s why ….

    1. Strategy. You may not be able to see everything that is influencing decisions at the levels above you.  Moving a company forward is done through vision and leadership, which may bubble up from the bottom, but needs to be driven from the top.  Staffing and decisions are based on reaching those goals.  Even when the decisions are bad, they need to be in alignment.
    2. Trust. You build trust with your boss by supporting his objectives. The more trust you build and the more your boss believes that you are there help him to be successful, the more he will listen to you when you do have a dissenting opinion.
    3. Paycheck. Remember who does your review and approves your paycheck.  Your place within the organization depends on whether you’re helping to achieve its goals.  And it’s your boss who decides how well you’re doing that.

    Even if you have the worst, most unreasonable boss in the world, figure out what motivates him.  Be a part of his team.  You’ll not only feel more productive, but you’ll gain some social capital.   (OK, fine line between that and being a toady – decide for yourself where that line is.)

    Question authority.  Innovate.  Improve the process.  But make it align with the big picture.  And make sure you understand the big picture – and the littler pictures underneath.

    Damn!  Missed Bosses Day.

    Collaborate to Elevate

    Posted in ideas by dave225 on October 29, 2008

    Not making traction on an idea? Feeling in a rut? Or are you kicking ass and taking names and still want to elevate your game?

    Nah, I’m not going to tell you why collaborating can produce a better result. You know that. But think about how it can produce a better you. A better me. A better us. Hugs all around. Seriously though – think of collaboration as co-mentoring and team building. By collaborating to synergize ideas, we also change the way we think about the goals we’re trying to reach and, in effect, we not only tap into our colleagues’ experience on the current project, but hopefully we take some of that experience with us.

    Collaboration comes in all shapes and sizes, and again I will not bother to describe the various people and methods you can tap into. But I will take this opportunity to plug a local resource and an upcoming event:

    • Columbus Tech Life is gathering steam as the network for Columbus self-starters to meet and discuss ways to make great things happen in central Ohio. I’ve started a page on the Columbus Tech Life wiki to ask some questions about collaborative problem solving. Because it’s great to talk about this stuff in a blog, but when do we make it real?

    • In that spirit, I’m organizing an unconference to see how the local professional community can help us all advance our goals by problem solving via networking and collaboration. In this unconference, we will look at real problems that we’re trying to solve or goals we’re trying to reach, and we’ll work as a group (or as small groups) to complete something real.

    Please visit the wiki and talk about yourself! And if the unconference sounds interesting to you, express your interest here. .. Or give your thoughts on how you’d like to see it organized… Collaborate!