About what matters

Writing about what really matters

Category: In the workplace

Forty-eight things I’ve learned along the way

Leo cropped

Nora Ephron famously felt bad about her neck (though hopefully she no longer does). I do not, despite having the sort of neck not found on any swan, the sort of neck not flattered by a flaw-concealing turtleneck.

In those moments when I could be feeling bad about my neck, I instead choose to feel good about the head sitting on top of it–specifically the many contents that were missing in the days when the neck beneath was flawless.

In honor of my birthday, a list of 48 random things I’ve learned thus far. (Links are mostly to previous blog posts.)

  1. How to choose my battles. It’s amazing when I think about it now, how many (unimportant) things I was once willing to pitch battle for.
  2. Being able to recognize my ego’s involvement has really made all the difference. At least 99% of the time, that’s what the battle was really about.
  3. Compassion is a great thing to have on hand when your own or someone else’s ego flares up.
  4. Kindness is also pretty important. Even when you need to draw a boundary firmly, it’s generally possible to do it with kindness.
  5. How to forgive continually.
  6. And how to release bitterness–also key.
  7. I used to think being smart was a lot more important than it really is. It’s nice, sure, but far from the most important thing.
  8. Love–that would be the most important thing.
  9. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear …” (I John 4:18, KJV). When fear comes up in one of its many guises, love is the antidote.
  10. Learning to meditatelife-changing for sure.
  11. I learned I was an artist–and I bet you are too. I’d love to see everyone find a really good way to access their right brains.
  12. I grew up laboring in a huge organic vegetable garden, but only as an adult did I discover the joy of working hand-in-hand with Mother Nature to unleash plants’ amazing desire to grow and thrive.
  13. I still remember reading the magazine article that taught me to recognize a narcissist. Based on my early experience, I was choosing narcissists as friends. (Word to the wise: they don’t make very good ones.) I’ve finally learned to stop doing that. Woohoo!
  14. I’ve also learned to allow others to be exactly who they are. If people in my life are behaving badly, I generally do say a few words about it–and leave it at that. People have to change, if that’s what they’re going to do, at their own pace. I hope that if they’re not ready to hear now, they will be later.
  15. But just because I must allow people to be exactly who they are doesn’t mean I have to allow everyone into my inner circle, regardless of their behavior.
  16. Much if not most of what I was taught as a child simply isn’t true.
  17. It’s OK to be uncertain. Embracing a model that offers a complete set of answers about how the world works is certainly tempting, but it’s also a pretty good way to be wrong.
  18. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter a great deal what people believe, if anything. What really matters is how we treat others. Living a good life isn’t dependent on a particular worldview.
  19. Therefore, beliefs are generally not worth fighting for–but a value might be. Justice is worth fighting for.
  20. Karma is real–a universal law to which there are no exceptions.
  21. At the same time, if you’re a graduate student in the school of life, expectations are higher for you than for someone at the elementary-school level–and that’s fair.
  22. I no longer believe you only live once. I find this comforting, because it means there’s no need to try to accomplish everything, see everything, do everything, in this one lifetime. Accordingly, I don’t have a bucket list–or if I do, it’s a short one.
  23. It’s OK to relax. In fact, it’s a really good idea.
  24. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being an introvert. Oh, I am an introvert. (I was quite sure for awhile that I was right and Myers-Briggs was all wrong.)
  25. Models are really helpful, but there’s still a lot they don’t reveal.
  26. Life is not a competition.
  27. Cooperation is really enjoyable.
  28. Sarcasm is best in small doses, and is probably not one of the world’s great art forms.
  29. Participation in social media is not a measure of the validity of my life. And Facebook friends are not the same as real friends.
  30. Complaining isn’t a tool for making anything better, though feedback might be.
  31. Having companion animals is totally worth the trouble and mess. And just think of all the money I’ve saved by eliminating carpet and rugs from my life!
  32. An old house is worth the trouble too. But it’s best to have an excellent plumber, electrician, carpenter, and painter on speed dial.
  33. I am the very best person, bar none, to define what my life should look like.
  34. A good, hot bath can cure what ails you.
  35. A good cup of hot tea (my favorite: acai green tea) is also a pretty good idea. I leave my desk for at least one cup of tea every day I work.
  36. Whether or not you should listen to your mother depends entirely on what your mother has to say.
  37. The leaders of my country may or may not be wise. If they are not, I should notice and take an active role in electing those who are.
  38. Self-help is ultimately the only help there is.
  39. But we could all use a hand up.
  40. No one asked me to judge.
  41. The less I judge, the happier I am.
  42. This is what a feminist looks like.
  43. I should decide what is and isn’t BS on the basis of how well it works, not what other people say about it or what it looks like on the surface.
  44. But when in doubt, follow your gut.
  45. It’s a good idea not to abdicate control, but it’s a mistake to think that every aspect of my life can and should be within my complete control. Forces of nature came by their name honestly.
  46. I am responsible for making the world a better place–and so are you.
  47. I’m not perfect, and neither is anyone I know. Discovering anyone’s imperfection should not be surprising. We’re all human.
  48. The best is yet to come.

What have you learned along the way?

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage® card Personal power + Leo.

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

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The flip side of change

Wheel

Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts. –Arnold Bennett

When I came across this quote today, it really spoke to my experience this week. I’m excited about my new job, the work I’ll be doing, and the people I’ll be doing it with. I’m less excited about my longer commute, especially in the evening traffic. But it’s great to be working close to friends I can now have lunch with.

And so it goes. No positive change is undiluted by drawbacks, and no seemingly negative change is undiluted by positive features accompanying it. Three things I can count on: Change is constant. Life is never perfect, but always a mixture of the things we love to label “good” and “bad.” It’s often hard to know which is which.

This post is illustrated by the SoulCollage® card I made tonight, one I’ve been intending to make for quite sometime. This card is meant to evoke the Tarot card Wheel of Fortune.

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

Personal power

Leo cropped

How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours. –Wayne Dyer

I came across this quote earlier in the week, just hours before I’d really, really need it.

You just never know when someone’s going to act the fool, and you’re going to need to respond like the sane, mature individual you are to the most outrageous thing you’ve ever heard. There was definitely a Full Moon this week, no doubt about that.

I was able to respond with calm strength from the core of who I really am, and I’m pretty certain the other person didn’t get much satisfaction from my response, which wasn’t quite what he was looking for. It wasn’t an easy experience, but it was satisfactory. I really believe that it’s at times like this that the work of staying grounded and maintaining a regular spiritual practice really pays off, by making us more of who we really are. And that is something I’m truly thankful for.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage® card I made today. I went to the bookstore yesterday to look at magazines, and when I saw this lion, I knew the magazine was coming home with me. I’ve never made a card for my sun sign–until now. I’ve called this one Personal power + Leo.

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

 

How to celebrate

Yes take 3

 When I accomplish something really big, something I have worked long and hard for, I buy myself what I call a “push present.” I recently completed writing my tenth book and bought myself a beautiful new ring that I wear nearly everyday…. The ring is a physical, constant reminder and proof of my abundance and prosperity that comes from the part of me that is connected to the Divine. And, every time I look at this ring it makes me smile and remember that I have accomplished something that I am really proud of…. I also “tithe” the same amount I spend to someone or something that provides me with spiritual sustenance. This creates even more fulfillment with me. –Arielle Ford

While I was considering how to celebrate my new job, I came across a blog post from Arielle Ford that resonated with me, where she explained how she celebrated the completion of her last book.

I was definitely on board with the jewelry idea! When I worked for a startup that recognized the Employee of the Month with a cash award, I spent my award money on earrings–the one piece of jewelry I never leave the house without. I bought another pair to celebrate a hard-won raise a few years ago, and a third pair to celebrate this new job. I also made a reservation at my favorite French bistro to celebrate with friends.

When I think of spiritual sustenance, I think of books, magazines, processes like SoulCollage, guided meditations. Typically the people behind them are already doing well and really aren’t in any need of help from me. Since this was a business-related goal, I thought Kiva loans would be a perfect way to celebrate. When these loans are paid back, I’ll loan the money again, so it will truly be the gift that keeps on giving.

These are the women I loaned to (top to bottom and left to right):

  • Fanta from Mali, who sells fabrics, including African waxprints
  • Rewad from Palestine, who’s working on her degree in elementary education
  • Tuyet from Vietnam, who’s adding a bathroom to her house
  • Mahzuna from Tajikistan, a single mother with a tailoring business
  • Martina from Peru, who has a food sales business
  • Fatmata from Sierra Leone, who has a grocery store

FantaRewadTuyetMahzuna

Martina

Fatmata

How do you like to celebrate?

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage® card Yes!

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

New beginnings

New beginnings

As I prepare to start my new job next month, I find myself increasingly willing to release the old and embrace the new. This is the SoulCollage® card I made today, New beginnings. (Note the papery chrysalis from which the yellow butterfly has just emerged.)

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

At last

Yes take 3

This was my exact gesture when I got off the phone last week after verbally accepting a job offer I’m really excited about–a gesture I’ve repeated several times since. This moment has been a long time coming …

I realized nearly a year and a half ago that I would need to make a change–I hoped sooner rather than later. I went on a couple interviews then, and could have made an immediate change. But my gut feeling was that I hadn’t found the right opportunity yet, and also that (as much as I wanted to leave) my presence was needed to help stabilize the situation for others. Power and fear can be a lethal combination, that’s for sure.

There have been other interviews along the way, other offers I didn’t accept. One came quite close to what I wanted. I loved the people I would have worked with, but the job would have come with a cut in base pay along with a significantly better potential annual bonus. I was a little surprised at exactly how much I didn’t like the idea of a pay cut!

The interview process for the job I’ve accepted began two months ago, and has been slowed by a number of factors, so I was thrilled when the offer finally came through. I’ve taken my drug test–nothing like peeing in a cup while a couple of lab employees wait outside your door to keep your feet on the ground–and dug up various paystubs, W-2s, offer letters, and phone numbers for the background check.

I told a couple of friends at work that I’d accepted an offer, both of whom were surprised–which could mean I’ve finally perfected my poker face! One said he was sure I’d really enjoy handing in my notice. I was a little surprised to realize I won’t … there is no ‘charge’ around this for me. Likewise, I don’t remotely have any guilt about leaving. All of which must mean this is the perfect time for me to move on.

The really outstanding, difficult-to-match feature of my current job is my commute. When the stars are aligned and all the lights are green, I can get from my driveway to the parking garage in two minutes. Four minutes is more usual. Obviously this has allowed me to go home at lunchtime most days, which has been great. My new commute will be about half an hour and will involve tolls–assuming I want to take the fastest route, and I do.

But in virtually every other respect, I expect my new job to be an improvement over the old one. Better pay, better benefits, better bonus (which I happen to know this company actually pays, because I’ve worked for them before). I’m really looking forward to being challenged again, not to mention working with highly competent, bright, professional people. I’m also going to be doing the work I want to do in a really beautiful place–a former headquarters building with beautiful grounds, landscaping, water features, and art.

I’m so grateful for this positive change, and truly looking forward to all that happens next.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage® card I made today, Yes!

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

What I wish I’d learned in school

Flowering

This past week, I had lunch with the program director for Chancellor’s Scholarships at my alma mater, the scholarship I had in college. Our conversation about my college experience got me thinking about what was missing from my education–what I’ve needed to learn on my own since I graduated.

I’m really grateful that my university experience set in motion the process of opening my mind and forming my own values, causing me to examine the belief system I’d been given, and begin the process of determining what I wanted to keep, discard, add, or change. Looking back, though, I wish there’d been more balance in my education, and that a few other processes had been set in motion earlier for me.

As I reminisced this week, it suddenly became clear to me that an emphasis solely (or nearly so) on “the life of the mind” is a seriously imbalanced approach. And really, it wasn’t just about the mind, it was pretty exclusively about the left brain. The right brain, heart, intuition, body, and soul are pretty critical too. Of these, the most emphasis was placed on the body–two physical education classes were a core requirement. I ended up taking three, and after dreading and putting it all off till my senior year, I enjoyed all of them. My modern dance class especially helped me understand my body in a new way. The instructor would regularly give us instructions like, Now breathe through your heart! And I’d try it, and interestingly enough, it was possible. Other than this relatively minor emphasis, though, the whole four years were about developing the left brain. Which in my case, was rather developed already.

When I take the Myers-Briggs type indicator test, my results for the Thinking/Feeling (T/F) axis are equal, but my preference is Thinking, meaning that I like to reason out decisions. So an emphasis on “the life of the mind” pushed me further in the direction of my natural inclination, and I ended up valuing being intellectual to an extent that today I believe is unjustified. It occurs to me to wonder how those with a Feeling preference find this emphasis–balancing? invalidating? I don’t know, but in my case, I believe it was unhelpful.

I remember being asked to take Myers-Briggs in college, and by my first employer, which I did. The results of the test, though, weren’t given to me in any meaningful way. That is, I was given the meaning of each of the four letters, which made little sense to me, but not an explanation of my four-letter type, which I’m sure would have.

Later, on my own, I found the amazingly-accurate type descriptions in David Keirsey’s Please Understand Me II, and found the information quite helpful. Particularly since I have a rare personality type, I wish the institutions that gathered this information for their own purposes had explained to me what they’d learned. I find the ethics of deriving such revealing information, but not sharing what has been learned with the person who’s been tested, at least questionable. I also would love to have been shown how the different personality types fit together like the pieces of a puzzle–no right, no wrong, no judgment, and all necessary to the whole.

I also wish I’d been taught how to meditate, like every student at Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy for Girls (who meditate before every test). I feel pretty certain this one change would have altered my life fairly significantly, if only because I would have been able to consistently hear my intuition–which, without meditation, was usually drowned out by the constant chatter of my mind.

The school I attended was so privileged that there was hardly ever a need to mention it. But I think an introduction to the concept would have been really useful to all of us. I also would like to have been prepared, as I left an environment that was generally ethical and discrimination-free, for what I was likely to encounter in the real world–best case, worst case, and on average.

It’s taken most of my life thus far to bring my voice into something resembling balance. I understand why this was an issue for me, but I see a lot of people (perhaps especially women) who share this issue, and it’s also much more rare than I believe it should be to see people of either gender using their voices for good. I took a ‘cattle call’ speech communication class to meet a core requirement, but I wish I’d been taught to use my voice in a more useful way.

Often it seems that justice and injustice hinge on nothing more than whether or not people are willing to speak up for what they know is right. Just one voice can make a difference. So I wish I’d been able to speak to a real audience about a meaningful topic, with an opportunity to make a real difference.

More than one young girl has recently voiced an opinion and made a difference. One example … Els, who’s eight, wrote a letter to Scholastic Books about their gender-based categorization of books. She loves pirates, but all of their pirate books have been printed with “for boys” right on the cover. Based on her letter, they’re changing their catalog and all their covers to eliminate this gender bias. She will know forever the difference she can make by speaking up.

It’s only recently that I’ve begun making art, and I wish a core requirement had pushed me out of my comfort zone and into the fine arts building to learn a new skill and start creating.

I also remember noticing immediately after getting my first real job that the academic model of individual achievement that I’d been working in since kindergarten in no way reflects the real world. Nor do business-school ‘teams’ reflect my experience of the real world either. The unequal division of labor may be true to life, but fortunately it’s far less easy for people to take credit for work they didn’t do in real life. I would love to have had a positive, useful experience of teamwork in an academic setting.

I’d love to hear what you wish you’d learned in school.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage® card I made today, The flowering of knowledge.

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

Creating something new

img008

This weekend’s dark of the moon–when this month’s unusually powerful New Moon sheds little to no illumination on the night sky–is the perfect time to reiterate your intentions for 2015, to reinforce all that you intend to create but have not yet fully brought forth.

As I do this myself, I’m reminded of the two SoulCollage® cards I made at the New Year to represent what I believed the year would bring. This year, my cards (below) were about mastery and a leap forward in my professional life, and heart expansion in the personal realm.

Thoroughbred     Heart 2

I’m seeing clear and very hopeful indications of both coming to fruition, and this weekend, I’m taking the opportunity to reiterate my intentions in both areas, as well as setting down in my journal new intentions for both, specific to the unfolding that’s going on right now.

It seems to me that right now is an amazing time for the fulfillment of dreams, so I hope you’ll join me in taking some time to bring focus to what you want to bring forth next!

I like to create a specific set of intentions for each goal I want to manifest. For me, being a words person, this is usually a list in my journal–but as you can see, I use my right brain to create visual representations as well. A collage or vision board might feel more natural for you, but no doubt there are many other options too–a video, a voice recording, a painting, etc. You can describe the characteristics of a new job, partner, a new house, or whatever it is you want to manifest, or you can take an alternative approach, such as describing how you would like to feel in a new job, with a new partner, living in a new house, and so on. For example …

  • I want to feel protected in the shelter of my home.
  • I want my hard work to be consistently appreciated and rewarded.
  • I want to feel truly known by my partner, and fully accepted just as I am.

For goals that take some time to bring into being, occasionally it feels right to me to start fresh, restating the goal in today’s fresh language or images or voice. That is what I’m doing today, and I hope you’ll join me! I believe we’re just on the cusp of a wonderful time.

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage cards Unfolding of consciousness, Thoroughbred racer, and Heart expansion.

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

Bath nirvana

I just took this bath last night after a stressful week at work, and–combined with a repeat session of the grounding exercise I do in the mornings–it really did the trick! My current formula is 6 small scoops of Epsom salts, and 18 drops of Aveda Lavender Fleurs Oil. Guaranteed relaxation.

In the past, I’ve never reblogged my own posts, but I’ve decided to begin doing this sometimes in order to free up some blocks of time to work on a goal that’s both important and urgent. As soon as it’s accomplished, I’ll be back to all new content. In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy a relaxing bath on me!

About what matters

Lavender fields

Recently I put together a few simple elements that I thought resulted in the most relaxing bath ever–so of course I wanted to share!

It all started when I came across a magazine article about magnesium, “the relaxation mineral.” Magnesium fights stress, improves sleep, and not having a magnesium deficiency makes you only half as likely to die as other people. Sounds good to me! If you’ve noticed twitching around one or both of your eyes when you get stressed, that’s a symptom of magnesium deficiency, as are insomnia, high blood pressure, sensitivity to loud noises, and–you may have noticed others suffering from this!–irritability.

I have some magnesium malate tablets (horse pills if I’m honest) that I take occasionally. (It’s difficult to get the timing right for optimal absorption, I find.) But then the article I was reading mentioned that I could simply take a bath with epsom…

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The most important lesson

Thoroughbred

As I mentally prepared for an interview this week, I asked myself a practice question I’ve never actually been asked, but that I may ask in interviews myself now that I’ve thought of it–What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in the course of your career?

I knew right away that for me there were two lessons–It doesn’t have to be perfect, and I don’t have to be right. (The second lesson I’ve written about before, so it’s the first one I’m focusing on today.)

This first lesson began fairly early, and benefitted my personal life as well as my professional one.

In the mid-90s I worked for a small public company that made computer hardware components. My priorities could and often did change on a daily basis, depending on the orders that came in.

Most orders couldn’t ship without documentation, which was my responsibility, so booking revenue was directly tied to what I produced. The engineers also revised the hardware frequently, which required me in turn to revise the documentation.

I grew up watching one of my parents conduct endless research before making a move. Deadlines were met rarely to never. I found this tremendously frustrating to watch (especially since there was a clear relationship between deadlines being met and money to put food on the table), but found myself repeating the approach, to a much lesser extent.

This job completely broke me of those bad habits. It was clear to me that time was of the essence, and what I was working toward one day could easily change the next. There was no time to be wasted on hand-wringing, and plenty of inherited problems to solve. What I really needed to do was make tangible progress toward a goal every single day.

I had distinct tendencies toward perfectionism, but I saw that I had multiple opportunities to work on nearly every document. My goal became not to make anything perfect–a clearly unachievable goal given the time constraints–but to make everything accurate, and better and/or more cost-effective than it was before. Incremental improvement rather than perfection.

I’d already noticed, as I made significant strides toward dropping baggage, releasing bitterness, and becoming more positive, that I really picked up speed at work. An early manager had noted that my work could be more “expeditious.” And she was right–I spent a lot of time at that job being upset rather than working.

It turns out that eliminating mental–or audible!–moaning really saves a lot of time. What I do these days is simply dive right in to the work.

Occasionally, various delays and obstructions prevent me from doing that. At those times, the (unbidden!) mental image I have of myself is a racing thoroughbred confined to a paddock. All I want is for the starting gates to open so I can run out onto the track and open it up–flying like the wind, doing what I know how to do.

What would you say is the most important lesson you’ve learned, as it relates to your career?

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made today, Thoroughbred racer + True north.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

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