Tag Archives: personal relations

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

AMIGOS: Leadership Through Experience

Copyright JC Politi Photography

For one year, from 2008 to 2009, my husband and I lived in Houston, Texas. We lived through Hurricane Ike, which was directly over our house for about 7 hours; finding a copperhead in the bathtub; and a torn pup-ACL. It was not our best year.

But I also found Amigos de las Americas (AMIGOS) when I lived in Houston. I worked for this unique organization for about two years, fundraising to support their international youth leadership programs. This organization really touched me.

The people I met doing this work, from the dedicated and passionate staff at the office in Houston, to the parents and former volunteers who now serve on the board, were some of the most thoughtful and hardest-working people I have ever met. And don’t get me started on the young people who were participating in the programs.

Copyright JC Politi Photography

I had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua to see the programs in action, which was a special treat. I have shared some of the photos from that trip here and on my new photography website.

This organization is truly unique. When I worked there, we received letters from parents all the time saying that their child left home as an unruly teenager and came back a grown up. This was a consistent refrain from the parents.

Young people came back and talked about how much their world view had expanded from the experience and how it was going to influence the trajectory of their future pursuits. And I have met many former volunteers for whom the program did just that.

I was skeptical about AMIGOS in the beginning. I asked a lot of questions ranging from “Does AMIGOS have a religious bent?” to “Is there government involvement in AMIGOS?” The more I learned about this organization, the more impressed I became.

The intensive training that young people are required to complete in order to participate in the program should be a model for any organization or person doing international development work. The training requires kids to work through issues of cultural awareness and distrust of volunteers from the United States.

One very unique aspect of the AMIGOS program is that it is youth led and driven. Projects in Latin America are run by teenagers and college students who have been volunteers in the program. The training provided to the volunteers who work their way up the ladder to become project staff covers topics that I did not learn about until I was around 30. Topics include critical conversations, supervisory skills and budgeting.

This organization simply does it right.

I thought I would dedicate a post to this inspiring organization, in the hopes that there may be some of you out there with kids in high school or college, who might benefit from this program. Or perhaps you are in high school or college yourself and would like to learn  more.

AMIGOS just came out with a new video that illustrates the great work the organization does year after year. That is what inspired this post. But I encourage all of you to check out this organization’s website to learn more about the organization.

What do you think? What is your favorite non-profit organization and why? Have you heard about AMIGOS and considered sending your child through the program? Would you have fears or concerns about doing this? Did you ever participate in a program like this? What was the best part and what was the worst part?

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

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Filed under Culture, Education, International, Parenting, Photography, Photos, Poverty, Religion, Stereotypes, travel, Youth Leadership

The Cost of Owning Too Much Stuff

 

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There is a thought-provoking blog on the New York Times website that examines the price we pay when we own too much stuff. This article hits home for me as a pack-rat at heart.

In particular, this sentence really jumped out at me:

When we hold on to stuff we no longer want or use, it does indeed cost us something more, if only in the time spent organizing and contemplating them.

Almost everything I own has a twin. If I find a pretty pair of shoes, especially if those shoes happen to be on sale, I feel I must have them in brown and in black. If we are talking about handbags, which are a particular obsession of mine, the options are endless.

But why do I feel the need to own more than one of most things? I know I am not alone. For some people, their downfall is gadgets. For others, it may be tools. Some people can’t get enough clothes.

It is clear that this is about much more than fulfilling our basic needs. And I am the last person to look down upon an occasional impractical splurge, but I am left wondering if it would make more sense to focus on the quality of what we own rather than the quantity.

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

While I realize this is a problem that can only come with having disposable income, I would be willing to bet that even families living paycheck to paycheck can relate to this on some level. I also think this is highly influenced by culture, and that the United States is a society of hyper-accumulators.

I am fascinated by this tendency which, on its face does not make any sense, but at a gut level is so natural.

What do you think? What is your favorite thing to collect? Are you more likely to splurge on one high-quality item or to buy a lot of smaller, lower-quality, but similar items? Why do you think we hold onto things that we don’t use? Do you have trouble giving things away or do you frequently purge?

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

If you liked this, you might also like:

Times are Rough: I’ve Got Too Much Stuff! (newsofthetimes.org)

The Hazards of Mountain Living: Colorado Forest Fires (newsofthetimes.org)

Our Disposable Culture and the Gentle Giants of Music (newsofthetimes.org)

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Filed under Culture, Home, Love, Parenting, Relationships, social pressures

Tunes Tuesday: Lucinda Williams – Side of the Road

Copyright JC Politi Photography

For this Tunes Tuesday, I am going to highlight a song that makes me think of summer and love. The song I chose this week is called Side of the Road by Lucinda Williams.

Lucinda Williams has so many great song lyrics to choose from, but this particular song has always resonated with me. The song describes a feeling that is hard to put into words, but like the brilliant singer-songwriter she is, she nails it.

It also makes me think of a quote that I have always loved by Khalil Gibran, which is often read at weddings:

Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

This is the kind of romance that I want – the kind that respects the beauty of each individual and which becomes even more beautiful when the two are combined.

So, without further ado, I give you Lucinda Williams, Side of the Road.

Side of the Road
Lucinda Williams

You wait in the car on the side of the road
Lemme go and stand awhile, I wanna know you’re there but I wanna be alone
If only for a minute or two
I wanna see what it feels like to be without you
I wanna know the touch of my own skin
Against the sun, against the wind

I walked out in a field, the grass was high, it brushed against my legs
I just stood and looked out at the open space and a farmhouse out a ways
And I wondered about the people who lived in it
And I wondered if they were happy and content
Were there children and a man and a wife?
Did she love him and take her hair down at night?

If I stray away too far from you, don’t go and try to find me
It doesn’t mean I don’t love you, it doesn’t mean I won’t come back and
stay beside you
It only means I need a little time
To follow that unbroken line
To a place where the wild things grow
To a place where I used to always go

La la la, la la la, la la la, la la la
La la la la, la la la, la la la, la la la
If only for a minute or two
I wanna see what it feels like to be without you
I wanna know the touch of my own skin
Against the sun, against the wind

What do you think? What song tells your kind of love story?

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

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Filed under Love, Music, Photography

Helicopter Parents and Tiger Moms: Turns Out Neither Knows Best

Copyright JC Politi Photography

There was an opinion piece in the New York Times this weekend called “Raising Successful Children” which generated quite a bit of discussion.

The article examines the latest parenting research which found that giving children autonomy and allowing them to make mistakes leads to the best long-term outcomes.

My parents did a great job with this. I was sent to a sleep-away summer camp for the most of the summer every year in my formative years. I feel like this helped shape who I am more than almost anything else.

I worked for a wonderful organization called Amigos de las Americas which provides opportunities for young people to live in remote villages Latin America, where their autonomy is simply not in question.

These types of experiences can really help young people develop confidence in their abilities. The Times article lays out research to prove this hypothesis.

But it seems that it has become harder for parents to give their children space to make mistakes and to develop their independence. The article points out that there has been much attention devoted to “helicopter parents” and “tiger mothers” in the news in recent years.

I am not a parent and I can imagine that it would be difficult to find the balance between protecting your children and letting your children forge their own path. But I am intrigued and curious about what makes it more difficult for parents to do this today than when I was younger.

Certainly, when I was younger, we had parents who lived vicariously through their children, but I don’t feel like there was quite as much of what I see as overprotecting children.

What do you think? Do you think that parents are more protective now of their children that when you were young? Do you think this has to do with the increased dangers in our society like gun violence and crime? Do you struggle with this as a parent? Have you found any tips or strategies you would like to share with others?

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

If you liked this, you might also like:

The Ritalan Generation: Why do some children fall behind in school? (newsofthetimes)

The Power of Strengths and Weaknesses: Giving kids permission to just be (newsofthetimes)

A New Kind of Playground: What happens when young children are connected with technology? (newsofthetimes)

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Filed under Career Planning, Culture, Education, Love, Parenting, Relationships, social pressures, Technology, Youth Leadership

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

Copyright JC Politi Photography

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

Note to My Readers: Times They Are a-Changin’…Maybe

I am thinking about making a small adjustment to the newsofthetimes.org and would love your thoughts. Some of the posts here have been thrown together at the speed of light, without as much time and attention as I would like to give them.

I couldn’t love blogging more. This has been a fantastic outlet for my creativity and a place to share my thoughts. You all have been more supportive than I ever could have imagined. I have loved getting to know all of your blogs, which have made me laugh and think and smile and cry.

I have been writing every day for the past several months, but I am thinking about cutting back to every other day. I would still do Tunes Tuesday and one photography post a week, but I would be more thoughtful about the news stories I post and this would allow more time for conversation.

One friend told me that she enjoys reading the news stories I post, but we move on to a new topic too quickly for her to join the discussion. Maybe she has a point.

I am torn about this, because I absolutely love spending my mornings writing. But this would give me more time to visit all of your posts and still keep my day job. 🙂

What do you think? I would really welcome honest feedback on this idea. This blog has not felt like a burden in any way – I have loved absolutely every minute of this and it has become an important part of my day, enabling me to reconnect with something deep inside that had not been nurtured lately. So please be honest. Do you think this new format would allow more time for meaningful discussion on the news stories I pick? Or do you feel like daily posts, with a few lighter news items helps create variety that might be lost if I switch to the new model?

Maybe I could just try the new model on for size for a few weeks and see how it feels.

I would really love to hear your thoughts. Thank you so much for faithfully reading and commenting. As I originally imagined, the conversation here is the best part, and that is because of you, so thank you from the bottom of my heart! Your support has made this experience more special than I can say.

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Filed under Blogging, Career Planning, Culture, Health, Love, Music, Photography, Photos, Social Media, social pressures, Technology, Travel Challenge, Weekly Photo Challenge

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

The Ritalan Generation: Why Do Some Children Fall Behind in School?

David Brooks has an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times about how today’s schools leave some children behind.

He points out statistics showing that boys are falling behind girls in school and he posits a theory that this is because our school culture has become too homogenous. He claims that contemporary schools only promote teamwork and collaboration, instead of also including competition and military values.

His theory is that a diversity of teaching styles could help prevent some of the more active children from falling through the cracks and acting out.

I like the idea of diversity of thinking and feel that always adds value. But the bigger issue for me has to do with the homogeneity of the courses and teaching methods in schools today. The focus on teaching to a test has required teachers to shy away from using less traditional teaching styles and methods.

If teachers were able to tailor their classes more, perhaps they would able to find alternative ways to engage students with different learning styles.

Another factor to consider when discussing hyperactive children in the classroom is the overuse of medication that has proliferated over the past twenty years. I wonder if this is a direct result of the inability of teachers to tailor their classes because of the pressures to teach to the test.

That direct correlation may be a bit of a stretch, but if we are going to talk about kids who are falling behind, we must talk about the impact of the overmedication of our youth.

Kids in my generation were not overmedicated and there was no pressure to teach to a test. We had plenty of hyperactive kids – in fact I was probably one of them – but without medication, we turned out fine.

That last statement makes me sound like an old lady, talking about walking three miles barefoot to school in the snow when I was younger, and maybe that is who I have become. But I think it is interesting to explore our cultural history in order to find a path forward.

I have a philosophy for the most part of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I am sure the education system had significant problems when I was younger, but it does seem to have even more challenges now.

I am not a teacher, but I know that several of my readers are and many parents also read this blog. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts about this and suggestions for solutions to ensure that all kids can learn the skills necessary for future success.

What do you think? Do you feel like the culture in schools is homogenous to a fault? Do you think that this could be addressed, in part, by allowing teachers to have more flexibility in the classroom? How do you feel about the medications that so many kids are prescribed today? Do you think that hyperactive children are falling behind in school? And what suggestions do have to address this issue?

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

If you liked this post, you might also like:

How Micromanaging Educators Stifles Reform

Making Education Brain Science

Forget Them! What Do YOU Want to Be When You Grow Up?

 

 

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Filed under Career Planning, Culture, Education, equality, Ethics, Parenting, Relationships, social pressures, Sports, Stereotypes, Youth Leadership

Simple Secret to Success: Just Do It

Copyright JC Politi Photography

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.”

Copyright JC Politi Photography

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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Filed under Books, Business, Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, Health, International, Parenting, Peace, Relationships, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology, travel, Women, Youth Leadership

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?

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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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The Importance of Slowing Down in a Busy Bee Culture

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There is more to life than increasing its speed.
Mohandas K. Gandhi

An article on the Opinionator blog of the New York Times called “The Busy Trap” is getting a lot of attention this week.

This article explores the notion that the frenetic pace so many of us engage in on a daily basis is self-imposed. While the author’s approach seems a bit self-indulgent and impractical, he has a point.

So many of us rush from place to place or appointment to appointment and collapse at the end of the day in front of the television in exhaustion. It appears that we are encouraging our children to do the same. There must be another way.

While I understand that most of us cannot live lives devoid of professional work, finding a balance within this reality has become my personal quest.

One of the lines that spoke to me in this article was this:

I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love.

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My most creative and innovative ideas come, not when I am rushing between meetings, but during times of relaxation, sometimes through exercise or through conversations with friends. I know I am not alone.

Some companies, I believe Google is one, reserve 20 percent of their employees’ time for creative endeavors that interest that particular employee. Some of the most innovative ideas have come from this unstructured time.

We all know this. And yet, we fill our calendars to the brim, feeling inadequate if we have a Saturday evening without plans. In fact, that Saturday evening may turn out be the exact time when you discover the key to your own fulfillment, simply by being, instead of doing.

Some of the secret joys of living are not found by rushing from point A to point B, but by inventing some imaginary letters along the way.
Douglas Pagels

What do you think? What is it that makes us feel the need to stay busy? Do you think this has to do with a general discomfort with being alone? Have you struggled with this? Do you have any tips to help people stop the constant spinning?

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

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Four Strategies to Achieve Higher Employee Engagement

 

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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?

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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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Sheryl Sandberg’s Top 3 Tips to Keep Women in High Level Jobs

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Yesterday’s post about an article in The Atlantic magazine entitled “Why Women Can’t Have It All” written by a women in a high-level position with the State Department, who chose to leave her job in order to spend more time with her family generated quite a discussion yesterday. I would like to continue the discussion today.

Many thanks to Diana from TalktoDiana for her passion and engagement. In the comments section, she shared this TED Talk, by Sheryl Sandberg, who is the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, which I would like to share with all of you today:

This video confirms many of the statistics included in the Atlantic article. Ms. Sandberg also posits some theories about the root causes behind the statistics. She discusses three important reasons why she believes that there are not more women in leadership positions, and offers advice for women who would like to change these realities. Her advice includes:

Women need to sit at the table

Make your partner a real partner

Don’t leave before you leave

I will not go into detail on these three reasons, as I could certainly do no better job than Ms. Sandberg in explaining this complex issue. But I encourage you to watch the talk if you are interested in helping think through this more.

The first reason will resonate with most women. Women simply have less faith in their abilities to succeed than men. It is a fascinating reality that I do not fully understand, but we have all seen and felt it in action. As an example, Sandberg highlights data showing that most women do not negotiate salaries and most men do.

The second reason will also resonate: women need to stop doing all the work at home. The statistics – and people’s personal realities – show that this is an expectation which makes it hard for women to reach professional heights they might otherwise like to reach. Perhaps women need to stop enabling this reality. (I should mention that I do not suffer from this particular problem. My husband is much tidier and a much better cook than me – good man.)

The third reason really intrigues me. Don’t leave before you leave. Sandberg points out that many women make professional choices and changes before life circumstances require them to do so. I know this to be true, as I believe will other women.

I remember applying for a job several years ago. We had just moved to a new city and I had been volunteering and looking for work for several months. While my husband and I have been fortunate professionally, our lifestyle requires two incomes.

My husband and I had been trying to conceive a baby and I was absolutely convinced that I was pregnant, which is probably a subject to which many couples can also relate. I was called in for a promising job interview.

I distinctly recall talking with my best friend about whether or not I should disclose the fact that I was pregnant to the potential employer. My best friend, who is one of the superwomen described in the Atlantic article who is currently doing it all with a high level job and two small children, said “Don’t say a word.”

I turned out not to be pregnant. Wise advice from a wise woman. I believe that this type of thinking is what Sandberg refers to in the TED Talk. I am not sure why women do this, but we frequently adjust our plans based on what might be, rather than what is. I appreciate Sandberg’s advice and plan to put her suggestions into action. Thank you again to Diana for sharing this TEDtalk with us.

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Yesterday, I also came across an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Being Murphy Brown in a June Cleaver World.” Apparently, there is an entire column in the Wall Street Journal called The Juggle dedicated to just these issues. This article just confirms my suspicion that regardless of the choices a woman makes she will feel inadequate in one portion of her life or another.

There is so much to discuss here. But I believe the key is to start having an honest dialogue about how society can enable women and men to contribute to professional society, and also allow them to have fulfilling and contented lives at home – without guilt.

I am thinking about gathering personal stories about people’s experiences with these dilemmas to turn into a book. Women and men both have a lot of stories to tell. I would love to speak with high-level professional women to learn about how they have handled this and lessons they have learned along the way.

What do you think? Does the TED Talk resonate with you? Do you have feelings of guilt regarding your adequacy as a parent or a professional, or both? Or have you been forced to make these difficult choices? How did you decide which road to take? How do you think we start to shift the paradigm, as Hugh suggested yesterday? What else does this bring up for you? Do you think there is a book idea here or are there too many books on this topic already? Any thoughts on how I should get started?

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

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