Category Archives: Business

Lean In? Maybe it should be Lean On…

Copyright JC Politi Photography

Copyright JC Politi Photography

According to an editorial in the New York Times this week, Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, has a new book coming out this year entitled “Lean In.”

Her main hypothesis is that women internalize the messages surrounding them that they should not be aggressive or assertive and that they frequently make career decisions based on concerns that are not yet real, such as kids or a spouse that have yet to come. She places much of the blame for the lack of women in leadership positions on these issues.

I have written about Sandberg’s theories on this blog in the past. I shared that I have fallen prey to some of these tendencies myself over the course of my career. I certainly know that I am an abysmal negotiator when it comes to my salary; sometimes it seems I am more likely to negotiate down than up.

But I wonder about younger women and if this paradigm is shifting. While the statistics on women in leadership positions remain fairly bleak, young women now have competent role models like Hillary Clinton and Sheryl Sandberg and Sonia Sotomayor, whose work encourages them to shoot for the stars.

As I have written before, what has not shifted as much are the workplace policies that allow women and men to find a way to balance a family and a career. There is no question that workplace policies need to shift to enable men, as well as women, to contribute fully in both the workplace and at home if that is what that family chooses.

It seems that young women and men are making more demands of their employers for things like telecommuting and flexible schedules to enable them to better achieve balance. And a number of extremely talented people are making these demands, so companies are forced to choose between accepting these requests and losing talented staff.

The choice for me would be simple. I would choose a balanced, talented staff person any day over someone who is going to work themselves to the bone until they are burned out and unable to contribute. And if all it takes is a flexible work schedule to make that person content over the long-term, who wouldn’t fulfill that request?

What do you think? When do you think we will reach a tipping point and when companies will change their policies to make them more family-friendly? Do you think family friendly policies impact a company’s bottom line? If so, how? Do you think our corporate culture is ready for this shift, or will these change come about as the next generation reaches leadership positions and can force change?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Business, Career Planning, Culture, Economy, equality, Fitness, Home, Income inequality, Parenting, Politcs, Relationships, social pressures, Stereotypes, Women

The Stress Epidemic

Copyright JC Politi Photography

Copyright JC Politi Photography

It has been a very busy time here at newsofthetimes.org and I have not been able to write as much as I would like. I would like to write about the horrific events in Connecticut and about how proud I am that our Governor has made a risky political statement that it is time to do something about guns in Colorado. I am especially proud because he made this statement before the most recent shooting.I would like to write about the holiday season and what that means to me and to all of you.

I would like to write about missing family and the adventures of raising a quirky teenage pup.

But lately, I have been stressed. Work has been incredibly intense and taken most of my time and energy.

I love my work, but I can’t say I love those times when it is all-consuming. Over the years, I have been inexplicably drawn to fast-paced jobs with high levels of stress; I am drawn to these types of jobs like a moth to a flame.

I have tried to figure out how I can do work that I love, while not allowing it to eat me alive. I am encouraged that the older I get, the more I seem to be able to go with the flow and bounce back from stressful situations – this is a welcome evolution, to say the least.

I read an article this morning from the Harvard Business Journal that talks about how to manage stress in your work. I read a lot of these articles and always find some useful message or lesson to take away.

Copyright JC Politi Photography

Copyright JC Politi Photography

But I wonder how real people manage the stress in their lives. And about your personal evolutions in this area. And what lessons my wise readers have for me in how to better manage the stressful work that I love.

Stress is an epidemic in the United States. Is it also an epidemic in other countries? If not, why not?

I went to a class on stress at work last year where they showed the physiological impact of stress on a person’s heart and mind. It was scary stuff. It is not a luxury to find ways to manage stress. It is imperative that we do so.

What do you think? How do you manage stress in your life? Has your ability to manage stress changed over the years? What have you found to be the most helpful tools to help with this? Do you struggle with this at all? And do you have any resources you have found to be helpful in your efforts to maintain balance and calm in your life that you would be willing to share?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Business, Career Planning, Colorado, Culture, Peace, Policy, Politcs, Role of Government, social pressures

Is income inequality the tide that will sink all boats?

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A woman begging outside a church in Barcelona, Spain

There is an article in the New York Times about whether increased income inequality in the United States will lead to slower economic growth. The article quotes prominent economists and includes some shocking statistics.

According to the article:

Income inequality has soared to the highest levels since the Great Depression, and the recession has done little to reverse the trend, with the top 1 percent of earners taking 93 percent of the income gains in the first full year of the recovery.

The 1 percent earns about one-sixth of all income and the top 10 percent about half.

The I.M.F. (International Monetary Fund) has cautioned the United States, too. “Some dismiss inequality and focus instead on overall growth — arguing, in effect, that a rising tide lifts all boats,” a commentary by fund economists said. “When a handful of yachts become ocean liners while the rest remain lowly canoes, something is seriously amiss.”

I am struck by these statistics, despite the fact that I have heard them before. It makes me wonder what impact these levels of income inequality have on people on both sides of the economic divide.

Our country is sharply divided on many levels and on many issues. An earlier post on this blog discussed the lack of opportunities for interaction between people of different classes, due to what Michael Sandel has labeled the “Skyboxification of America.”

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A porche taxi-cab in Frankfurt, Germany

It is much easier for people to act in their own self-interest if they can insulate themselves from people with different backgrounds and experiences. The Skyboxification of America enables people to insulate themselves from people who cannot afford their lifestyle.

But how much money is enough? Some  corporate salaries are far beyond what people need to live a comfortable existence. And yet, people continue to strive to make more money and to acquire more things – while people they work with struggle to make ends meet.

Maybe we should all focus more on acquiring more understanding for other people and their needs and struggles instead of on acquiring more wealth.

Copyright JC Politi Photography
Occupy Frankfurt Demonstration, Frankfurt, Germany

What do you think? Do you think income inequality in the United States has reached a point where people in leadership positions will have to start taking it seriously? What would that look like? Do you know of any examples of CEOs who have worked on leveling incomes in their companies? What will it take for policymakers and corporations to stand together to make some changes to the policies that lead to income inequality? What opportunities do you see for bringing people together to promote better understanding and cooperation? What role do you think the need to save for retirement plays in this equation?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Business, Culture, Economy, equality, Ethics, Income inequality, Photography, Photos, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Role of Government

Photo Friday: Frankfurt

The European Central Bank – I like the reflection of the historic building in the windows
Copyright JC Politi Photography

We arrived in Frankfurt by train from Berlin bright and early. We thought this would just be a quick stop on our way to the airport.

We were exhausted from all of our adventures, so we thought we would finally step foot on a tour bus for the first time this trip. We realized that we had not been in a car during the entire journey! How refreshing!

We took the train from our hotel near the airport, to the main train station, with the idea of hopping on a tourist bus. But when we got to the tourist information center, the woman informed us that Frankfurt is small enough to walk.

So, we set out on foot to explore the city. And we loved it!

We were too tired to go into any actual museums or anything, so we spent the day like locals.

We ate bratwurst from a stand outside the train station, walked through the city taking in the mix of old and new, ate pastries by the river, and finished the day in a residential neighborhood with one of the most authentic meals we had the entire trip.

The Bratwurst stand outside the train station where we had lunch
Copyright JC Politi Photography

We did not consult a guide book for the first time in weeks, and just enjoyed exploring the city without plans or agenda. It was decadent.

What struck me most about Frankfurt was the contrast of history and progress. Castles stand side by side on the same street with sky scrapers.

An Occupy Frankfurt demonstration outside the Central European Bank illustrated the ongoing debate about the European Union and Germany’s role in the Union.

It was delightful to experience the city without feeling like tourists. My favorite part had to be simply sitting outside in a residential area we discovered and watching the world go by. I hope we get to return and do more of that.

I feel so fortunate to have been able to take this trip. It was an extraordinary opportunity to visit places with such rich history. The museums and cafes and food and lifestyle were simply seductive. I must go back.

But for now, I will have to survive by looking back at some of my favorite photos. Here are my favorites from Frankfurt.

Castles next to skyscrapers – A great reminder that we don’t have to tear down the old to make way for the new
Copyright JC Politi Photography

The Occupy Frankfurt demonstration
Copyright JC Politi Photography

A cafe outside the Opera House
Copyright JC Politi Photography

One of the signs from the Occupy Frankfurt demonstration. I don’t know what it says, but I figure that anything with Millionaire and Democratic on the same sign is probably something I would be interested in
Copyright JC Politi Photography

The view across the river
Copyright JC Politi Photography

The Beer Garden where we had our last meal in Europe. It was a charming neighborhood restaurant where everyone knew each other. Such a perfect ending!
Copyright JC Politi Photography

Flowers from a neighborhood shop
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What do you think? Have you ever been on a trip and just decided to skip all of the tourist attractions and live like a local? When and where? What was that like? If not, does that sound like something that appeals to you or do you feel like if you are going to go somewhere, you have to see the most famous destinations in that location?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.      

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Filed under Architecture, Art, Business, Culture, Economy, Food, History, International, Photography, Photos, Policy, Politcs, Role of Government, Technology, travel

Make new friends, but keep the old: The Champs-Elysees

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Arc de Triumphe – Paris, France

There is an article in the New York Times this week about the Champs-Elysees and since, as you will read on Friday, Paris was my very favorite city on our European tour, I felt that I had to write a little bit about this article here.

The article discusses concerns that the Champs-Elysees is becoming too commercialized and mainstream and losing the Parisian joie-de-vivre that defines French culture.

We visited Paris last week and it was love at first sight. Our first tourist destination was the Arc de Triumphe and the Champs Elysees. We walked the entire length of the boulevard and were mesmerized by the luxurious shops and cafes.

We ate the most delicious pastry I have ever tasted – or seen. I wish I had a photo to share with all of you, but this gallery of sweets, which has been in operation since the 1800’s was off-limits to photographers. The word pastry simply does not do justice to this decadent delight.

The New York Times article examines the influence of new chain stores like H&M and Banana Republic opening on the boulevard.

Copyright JC Politi Photography
Champs-Elysees: Paris, France

We did a Rick Steve’s walking tour down the Champs-Elysees and learned that there was a lot of concern when McDonalds opened.

Steves notes that McDonalds was only allowed to open as long as they agreed to paint their arches white and maintain a café feel, including sidewalk tables.

I understand the concern over losing the artistic and luxurious energy of this iconic avenue. And I certainly saw some signs of this deterioration firsthand. But I also saw the future compromising with the past in a way that held some beauty.

It is hard to explain, but as an example, I was absolutely blown away by the Abercrombie and Fitch store. The outside of the store – we did not go inside – was as beautiful as any museum. We did not learn the history of that building, but I have no doubt that it is a place with great historic significance.

Frankfurt was another incredible example of the old meeting the new, where sky-scrapers share a block with castles, which I will share on my Photo-Friday about Germany.

I find myself wondering how I feel about this. It was wonderful to see historic buildings being preserved and put to use rather than destroyed like we are so quick to do here in the United States.

But is it OK to have a McDonalds in a place with such a rich history? Something doesn’t sit well with me about that. Perhaps it is the desire to slow down the rapid pace of change. But can we do that?

What do you think? Do you have issues with historic buildings being put to use for modern-day services? Would you have a problem if a castle turned into a Walmart, even if it maintained the architectural integrity of the original structure? Have you seen any positive examples of old things being repurposed for new uses that could serve as a model for others?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Business, Culture, Economy, Ethics, History, International, Photography, Photos, Politcs, Privatization, Role of Government, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology, travel

What is the Price of an Educated Child?

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What are we willing to pay for? That is the question that comes to mind for me when I read Thomas Friedman’s opinion piece in the New York Times called “Average is Over: Part II.”

The article discusses the disconnect between what politicians espouse about keeping jobs in the United States and the current realities facing CEOs whereby, through necessity, work is becoming more globalized every day.

Friedman argues that parents in the United States believe that their child is simply competing with her neighbor or with other kids in the United States, but that that is simply not the case today.

He argues that in a globalized society, kids compete against their peers all over the world. He goes on to say that this insular view of the United States education system is one reason that investment in K-12 education has suffered, because parents are content with the quality of education in their child’s school as compared to the school down the street.

He points out that soon there will be a way for parents to easily compare their child’s school with schools around the world, which he says will enable parents to advocate for better schools with policy-makers.

Photo Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Friedman has a point, but he is missing a significant contributing factor in this discussion – namely, our unwillingness to raise our taxes to invest in our infrastructure. Once we are able to compare our schools with schools around the world, we must also find a way to compare the tax rates between countries.

It is a commonly held belief by many in the United States that our taxes are too high. A blogger friend has written extensively on this subject and you should check out his thoughts when you have a moment. I have also written about this previously.

The fact is, you get what you pay for. Educating our children comes at a cost. Taxes are the price we pay to educate our children, protect our streets from crime and pave our roads, among many other things.

And,really, what price can you place on our children’s future?

What do you think? Why do you think people are so vehemently opposed to higher taxes for better schools? Have you seen your schools suffer as a result of this lack of investment? Do you think that there is a better way in which our tax dollars could be invested?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Business, Campaign Finance, Education, International, Policy, Politcs, Role of Government

Marissa Mayer: Iconic figure or simply the face of future leadership?

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The press has been buzzing with news of the recent hire of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer who, at 37, appears to be the first Fortune 500 CEO to be hired while pregnant, the youngest Fortune 500 CEO in history and only the twentieth female Fortune 500 CEO.

I read a story on CNN’s Management and Career blog about how she is also one of the few examples of successful businesswomen who “fully owns her femininity.”

What does this mean? I am intrigued by how enthralled we seem to be with this woman’s story. I understand that she is only the twentieth female to head a Fortune 500 company. And 37 is young for such a high-level position.

I certainly hope that she excels in the role and serves as a model to young women everywhere.

But the water cooler debates have been raging. I have heard discussions regarding whether Yahoo will regret its decision or whether Ms. Mayer will be able to handle the pressures, especially with a young child. And now, it seems, the press has moved on to debate her clothing choices.

As far as women have progressed in business, and there is no question that women have broken through many glass ceilings, it is clear that women still face significant gender biases in the workplace.

Marissa Mayer is being examined like a rare specimen in a museum and Yahoo is under intense scrutiny. Who is this unique creature? And what company would make such a bold decision?

I don’t see Ms. Mayer taking the helm of Yahoo as an iconic event. I know plenty of 37 year olds at the top of their careers who want children and plan to start a family after age 35. This is a trend I have discussed before, where women put off having children until they feel their career is where they would like it to be.

I am quite confident we will see more of this type of female leader in the future as the next generation reaches their potential. There was a thoughtful article called Marissa Mayer: Are the Rest of Us Shooting Too Low?, in the Forbes Magazine Work In Progress Blog about the conflict many women face when making choices about their personal potential.

With time, the media will probably continue to report on the woman’s hair and clothing – I suppose they need to report something. But I hope that the simple fact that a woman who is named CEO of a Fortune 500 Company is also going to be a mother will become yesterday’s news.

The more pertinent question is whether Marissa Mayer can lead Yahoo out of its recent slump. And if she is unable to do so, will her gender be cited as the reason for her failure? There have been several news stories questioning Ms. Mayer’s management style, so I don’t think that these questions are unfair.

Of course, these stories may come from a segment of society who generally believes that women are less competent leaders, so I will take these with a grain of salt and cheer her on from the sidelines.

What do you think? Do you think that this story deserves all the attention it has received in the press? Do you think that Marissa Mayer will be more likely or less likely to implement family-friendly policies at Yahoo? Why do you think the press feels a need to focus so much attention on the hairstyles and clothing of women in leadership positions, be they corporate CEOs or politicians? Do you think that we will reach a tipping point anytime soon where a female CEO will be less noteworthy? Why or why not? And what do you think about Yahoo’s choice to hire a 37 year old pregnant woman as their CEO at this challenging time?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

If you enjoyed this, you might also like:

Does Anyone Care About The Lack of Women in Leadership Positions? (newsofthetimes.org)

Sheryl Sandberg’s Top 3 Tips To Keep Women in High Level Positions (newsofthetimes.org)

Four Strategies to Achieve Higher Employee Engagement (newsofthetimes.org)

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Filed under Business, Career Planning, Culture, equality, Parenting, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology, Women, Youth Leadership

Why Are There So Few Women in Math and Science Professions?

There is a fascinating story on NPR this week about the lack of women in math and science fields that is worth a read.

It explores the reasons that there are more men than women in these fields and the reasons that many women do not stay in these fields. The article lays the blame on women’s awareness of stereotypes regarding their competency in these areas.

The author makes it clear that the problem is not all in women’s heads, but rather lays the blame at the feet of the pervasive messages that women hear on a daily basis about their abilities, or inabilities, in these areas.

I find this fascinating. When I was in middel school, I was told I was bad at two things – OK, maybe 3 things – math, science and art. Whether the people who told me these things recognized that they sent me this messages as a teenager or not, these messages stuck with me over the years; in fact, these messages have stuck with me to this day.

I worked in the field of domestic violence for many years and was always interested in the programs that many shelters have for children who have witnessed domestic violence, where they use art therapy to help children heal and cope with their untenable family situation.

As someone who was told that art was not a personal strength, I always felt more stressed by the idea of this type of therapy than soothed. The messages we are told when we are young stick with us.

The story on NPR seems to confirm this and posits the theory that this is one of the main reasons that women, even women in high level math and science professions, do not stay in those positions.

The story points out a fundamental challenge, in which there are not many women in these fields, and women seem less likely to enter these fields because they do not see themselves represented in these professions.

Quite a chicken and the egg conundrum.

What do you think? Have you, or your children, had any personal experiences with being told that you were not good at something? Have you found ways to counter these messages that work for you? Do you have any ideas about how more women could be encouraged to enter the fields of math and science? Or do you think that it is not really a problem to have this field so dominated by men?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

 

 

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Filed under Business, Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, equality, Ethics, Health, Parenting, Policy, Politcs, Relationships, Role of Government, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology, Women, Youth Leadership

Are Organic Food Standards a Hoax? The Green-Washing of America

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Do you go out of your way to buy organic foods? Have you put a lot of thought into this decision?

An article in the New York Times called “Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized” is raising eyebrows this week. The article explores the recent boom in organic food products and takes an in-depth look at the body that regulates what is certified organic and what is not.

In particular, the article examines the National Organic Standards Board, which is the board that decides which non-organic ingredients can be included in certified organic foods.

The article points out the number of large corporations who have been taking advantage of the new market. For example, it surprised me to read:

Bear Naked, Wholesome & Hearty, Kashi: all three and more actually belong to the cereals giant Kellogg. Naked Juice? That would be PepsiCo, of Pepsi and Fritos fame. And behind the pastoral-sounding Walnut Acres, Healthy Valley and Spectrum Organics is none other than Hain Celestial, once affiliated with Heinz, the grand old name in ketchup.      

Copyright JC Politi Photography

But certainly the most concerning portion of the article is the description of the people serving on the National Organic Standards Board.

While there is certainly room for corporations to serve on the board in the slots allocated for those interests, it is troubling to learn that executives from General Mills and other major corporations have served in positions reserved for consumers.

It appears that Congress specifically designed this board to ensure that it would represent a broad range of interests, but the appointments to this board have clearly been corporate-heavy.

Our family buys organic because we are concerned about the hormones and additives and preservatives that are found in most foods today. I understand that buying organic is a luxury, but we feel that it is an investment in our long-term health. This article makes me wonder if we are being duped.

What do you think? Do you go out of your way to buy organic foods? Why have you made the choices you have? Are you concerned about big businesses controlling the organic food standards or do you think that having big business involved is the only way to grow the industry to scale? Where do farmers markets fit into this equation?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!  

If you liked this, you may also like:

Grist BlogPost: Multinational Food Corporations Thank You For Buying ‘Organic’

Let Them Eat Sat: Who Funds These Studies?

What Foods Are Good For Me This Week?

Who Needs Government Anyway? Except… 

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Filed under Business, Culture, Economy, Environment, Ethics, Fitness, Food, Health, Income inequality, Parenting, Policy, Politcs, Privatization, Role of Government, social pressures

Do you Prioritize Your Life or Your Work? Maybe It Is Time to Rethink

An article on the Harvard Business Review blog called, “If You Don’t Prioritize Your Life, Someone Else Will,” really made me think. I also read a thoughtful blog post on a similar subject over at Truth and Cake called “Save Your Own Ass.”

The concept behind both of these posts is simple: take care of yourself first because if you don’t, no one else will.

The Harvard Business Review article tells the story of a man who attended a meeting the day after his child was born, because he thought he should. While attending the meeting, the man realized that he really should have been with his wife and newborn child instead of at this routine business meeting.

This got me thinking about times when I have felt conflicted between work obligations and home obligations. One of these moments happened just last week.

As many of you know, we had a wildfire directly in front of our house last week. I was scheduled to drive five hours for an all day work meeting last Friday. I felt that I had to go to the meeting, but was concerned to travel so far from home at that moment.

I felt like I “should” make the meeting. My bosses over the years have been very supportive when I needed to bow out of something because of an emergency at home. It is not pressure from my employers that has made me feel that I need to meet my obligations at work, regardless of the situation at home.

I ended up calling into the meeting last week instead of travelling, which I thought was a good compromise. And we were fortunate that the weather and the firefighters helped quell the fire quickly. My colleagues at the meeting were very understanding as, I’m sure, the colleagues of the author of the Harvard Business Review blog post would have been on the day after his child’s birth.

I don’t know what makes these types of decisions more difficult than they need to be. Perhaps at times like these I need to remember to repeat my new mantra gleaned from the sage bloggers at Truth and Cake and the Harvard Business Review: Take care your yourself, because if you don’t, no one else will.

What do you think? What is it that makes us often feel the need to neglect the things in life that are most important, even when it is not necessary that we do so? Is it because we take for granted that the people and things we love will always be there, but work is fleeting? But doesn’t that make it even more important that we tend to our personal needs, lives and loves? Have you learned any lessons about this the hard way or the easy way that you would like to share? Any tips for people who struggle with these types of decisions?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

If you liked this, you might also like:

The Freedom of a Vacation: Why Would We Give That Up? 

The Importance of Slowing Down in a Busy Bee Culture

Does Anyone Care About the Lack of Women in Leadership Positions?

Give Me a Break: Why Do the US Jobs Offer So Little Vacation Time?  

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Filed under Business, Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, Forest Fires, Health, Parenting, Peace, Relationships, social pressures, Stereotypes, Women, Youth Leadership

Simple Secret to Success: Just Do It

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The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.
Lao Tzu

Are you optimistic or pessimistic? And how do you think this impacts your ability to set and reach your goals?

An article in the New York Times called “How to Make Optimism Work for You” offers tips and suggestions for increasing optimistic attitudes in people looking for work.

Suggestions include:

Face your fears head on. Step outside your comfort zone to help eliminate fear, anxiety and negative thoughts that can stand in the way of success.

Re-evaluate events in your everyday life. Tell yourself that maybe things aren’t so bad.

Practice mindful meditation. Allow feelings and thoughts to pass through your mind without judging or reacting to them; that helps create a sense of detachment from negative experiences.

Take control over how you feel instead of letting feelings control you. A sense that you control your destiny can help you bounce back from setbacks and maximize your enjoyment of life.

Laugh. Use positive feelings to counter negative ones.

Be fully engaged. Get involved in activities that are meaningful to you, whether it’s a career, hobby, sport or volunteering. Do it, as Bill Richmond says. Then learn how.

The last suggestion is the suggestion that intrigues me most. The article includes a portrait of a 90 year old man whose life reads like a who’s-who of Hollywood. His motto is “Do it. Then learn how.”

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I know many will be appalled at this suggestion. I am not one of them. I have always been impatient with the planning phase of projects, preferring to jump in and begin.

This may be a weakness on my part but, in fact, I can think of few times when this philosophy has backfired. Perhaps I have had to tweak something after beginning, but taking action has rarely been the wrong choice.

I should mention that Mr. Richmond, while quick to take action, also seems to be quick to recognize his need for further development in whatever he has begun, taking courses in whatever discipline he has chosen to work in next. But he takes the courses after he begins, not prior to taking the first step.

His advice resonates with me: “The important thing,” Mr. Richmond said in an interview, “is to visualize what you want and go after it. Be ready for an opening — serendipity — all the time.”

Many of us have a fear of failure or a need to be perfect, so we never take that first step. Many prefer to remain in the safety of the planning phase of a project until the real opportunity – or serendipity – has passed.

That is not how I want to live. I would rather fail, but fail while trying to actually do something. Inaction feels like the greatest failure to me.

You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.
Wayne Gretzky

What do you think? Do you prefer to have all of your plans in place before you make a major life decision or are you more willing to learn as you go? Do you think these tendencies are natural or learned? What do you encourage your kids to do when they are embarking on a project? Have you learned any lessons you would like to share with others about this?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Business, Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, Parenting, Photos, Relationships, social pressures

The Power of Strengths and Weaknesses: Giving Kids Permission to Just Be

Photo Courtesy of Danny Brown

The old man pointed to a baker standing in his shop window at one corner of the plaza. “When he was a child, that man wanted to travel, too. But he decided first to buy his bakery  and put some money aside. When he is an old man, he’s going to spend a month in Africa. He never realized that people are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”

“He should have decided to become a shepherd,” the boy said.

“Well, he thought about that,” the old man said. “But bakers are more important people than shepherds.”…

“In the long run, what people think about shepherds and bakers becomes more important for them than their own Personal Legends.”

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

 

A New York Times article, “Redefining Success and Celebrating the Ordinary” has been on the list of the most e-mailed articles for some time now. This topic fits with the theme of the last few weeks on this blog, so I thought I would explore this issue further.

The article discusses the tendency, at least in the United States, for people to push their children to excel at all levels, filling their time with activities and events which provide further opportunities to compete with their peers.

I am sure many of you read about a commencement speech earlier this year where the speaker told the students that they were not exceptional. The reactions to this speech were heated.

But perhaps the speaker was just trying to give the students permission to find value and define success differently than their parents and society prescribe. Perhaps the speaker was trying to help students understand that it is OK to have both strengths and weaknesses.

The constant drive to compete is positive in many ways. It can lead to innovation and progress.But at what price? Where is creativity encouraged?

What about the artist who is not strong at math or writing, but can compose a symphony or paint a beautiful landscape? Where is the encouragement for this type of success?

Where is the recognition of people who may not be academics, but build and maintain personal relationships better than most?

Part of the stress many of us feel, where people run themselves ragged at all times and fail to disconnect from work, even when on vacation, seems to come from this drive. People think, “If I don’t stay connected, will people think that I am not a hard worker? Will I appear to lack ambition?”

What are we teaching our children with these messages? Are we teaching our children to develop the same neuroses that we have developed, where the prioritization of work over relationships is sorely misaligned?

This problem has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. It is striking to me, how every speech by a major politician is peppered with statements that the United States is the best country in the world.

There are many areas where the United States excels and there are also areas, like healthcare, where the United States has much to learn from the rest of the world. The US has strengths and weaknesses, just like any person or child. And is there really anything wrong with that?

What do you think? What do you think accounts for people’s relentless drive to be the best and to push their children to be the best? Have you dealt with these pressures as a parent or an employee? Do you have any tips for others who would like to readjust their priorities and goals? Do you feel that this drive alienates potential teammates in a workplace or a social environment? Why do you think this issue has gotten so much attention lately? Do you think the intensity of the pressures have increased recently? And if so, why do you think that is?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

 

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The Freedom of a Vacation: Why Would We Give That Up?

Copyright JC Politi Photography

 

Without the ability to be gay and treat serious things lightly after the serious thinking is done and the decision is reached, I doubt whether any man could long carry the job of being President of the United States.
Eleanor Roosevelt

An article in the New York Times called “Vacation Sabotage: Don’t Let it Happen to You,” is interesting, especially in light of the robust discussions we have had on this blog about the challenges of finding work-life balance.

The article discusses things that we do to ensure that we are unable to relax, even when on vacation.It offers several helpful tips and suggestions.

We all know how this works and this article validates our experience. The first few days of vacation, it can be difficult to unwind. The last few days of a vacation, we dread returning to real life. Hopefully, we can find a few days in between, where we actually relax.

With the onslaught of technology, especially e-mail and smart phones, many of us remain connected even while on vacation. I am guilty of this myself. I don’t want to return to an avalanche of messages in my inbox, so I handle minor things while on vacation.

But I have considered the dangers of doing this. If something significant occurs and I learn about it while on vacation, what happens to the relaxation and disconnection that is meant to help prepare me to handle these crisis in a better way upon my return?

I lived in New York City when I graduated from college. I remember being overwhelmed by the intensity of the city. I thought Central Park would be a refuge from all of that, but I found the intensity still palpable; it like people were intensely relaxing.

I have written much here about the importance of slowing down and finding a balance between work and life. But if we cannot even give ourselves permission to disconnect when we’re on vacation, what hope do we have?

CopyrightJC Politi Photography

The good news in the article is that we seem to view three day weekends and one day holidays differently than we do vacations.

So, this 4th of July, for those of you in the United States, let’s commit to turning off our work messages completely.

Let’s enjoy the heat that slows everything to a snail’s pace and notice the coolness of the water when we swim and the savor the tastes of the food on the grill and a refreshing cold drink. Let’s take time to laugh with family and friends and play with our pets. Now THAT is freedom!

What do you think? Do we feel the need to remain connected when we are on vacation because of the expectations of our employers or do our employers have these expectations because we remain connected on vacation? Do you have trouble disconnecting when you are on vacation? Do you check e-mail when you are gone?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Four Strategies to Achieve Higher Employee Engagement

 

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As readers of this blog know, I do not usually stay on any specific topic for more than one post, but we seem to have hit a nerve on the last few posts, so I am going to keep with this theme for one more day.

There was in interesting post over on CNN’s Management and Career Blog entitled “Exposing Management’s Dirty Little Secret.”

The tagline of the article reads: If employees aren’t as enthusiastic as they could be, it’s not because the work sucks; it’s because management blows. While obviously, this is a broad statement, there is certainly some truth.

The article talks about three factors that contribute to employee satisfaction and engagement:

The scope that employees have to learn and advance (are there opportunities to grow?);

The company’s reputation and its commitment to making a difference in the world (is there a mission that warrants extraordinary effort?); and

The behaviors and values of the organization’s leaders (are they trusted, do people want to follow them?).

My husband works in Human Resources and much of his work focuses on efforts to track and improve employee engagement in corporations. We discuss these issues frequently and agree that opportunities for growth and adequate compensation are critical components to keep employees engaged. And they are certainly the basic ingredients for success.

But the discussions on this blog over the past few days have made me think about a fourth, equally important but more elusive factor. What kind of work-life balance does a particular job offer its employees?

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We have discussed some of the reasons many women leave high level positions in earlier discussions. But this issue is certainly not confined to its impact on women. And change will only come if we expand the discussion to include the impact on men.

A few thoughtful readers commented on the benefit to a company’s bottom line of having healthy, balanced employees. I do not have data to support this claim at my fingertips, but I would imagine that companies that provide these types of intangible benefits have more loyal employees and less turnover.

This must impact the bottom line.

What do you think? What makes you want to stay in a job or look elsewhere for work? Do you know of any companies whose employees are exceptionally engaged? To what do you contribute this success? How much of a role do you think a manger plays in this and how much is determined by the overall corporate culture? What energizes you at work?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!

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