Sweating the little things

Years ago someone gave me the book “Don`t Sweat the Small Stuff“ (with the cutesy subtitle: “and it`s all small stuff“). I can`t say that I was overly impressed at what I considered to be the implication that I get worked up over little things…because that simply isn`t true. (*cough*)

Of course it`s true.  It`s probably true for everyone, whether they want to admit it or not, and quite frankly it`s probably not such a bad thing.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Recently my daughter called me from Boston where she is doing her almost final semester/ internship.

Right away I could tell three things:

1 – She was in her car
2 – She was on the verge of losing it
3 – This was not going to be a quick call

I won`t get into all the details, but suffice it to say that she proceeded to have a minor meltdown about the lack of available parking and the price of parking being charged at a lot near the place she wanted to go.  (“Why mom?! Why would someone charge that much for parking“, she wailed).

Yes, she called me parked on the side of the road, from over 700 km away, losing her shit over the fact that she had not been able to find free parking and refused to pay the ridiculous rate of $15.00 (which for the record, I know is not that unreasonable).

It would be easy to assume a few things about my daughter based on this situation. That she is  privileged, spoiled, high maintenance, incapable of dealing with normal every day things.  That although she is almost 21-years old, she clearly cannot function without parental guidance.  In fact, she thought the same thing and asked me if I thought she might be crazy.

I mean, it was such a small thing to lose it over.

And yet, this young woman has lived away from home for the past three years, in another country, and is studying to be a midwife.  She has attended over 30 births and has been the solo attendant (yes, meaning she was the only one there) at three home births.  She has stayed up for over 24 hours during long labours, regularly travels over two hours to attend births/appointments.  And yet, she has never lost it in any of these instances – she is calm, composed and mature beyond her years.

How is that possible?

I have sat through termination meetings, difficult conversations, exhausting work sessions, frustrating strategy meetings, hopeless conversations… and can keep it together.  Even smile once in awhile.

And the next morning, I can be reduced to tears because I have nothing to wear that goes together (incredible since my wardrobe palate is a range of grey and black items). I can absolutely lose it because  “someone“ ate the last banana.  I am paralyzed by the idea of picking a restaurant idea because how can I possibly know what “I feel like“. And god help the printer if it decides to be out of cyan toner when I need to print something.

I know I that I am not alone in this.  I have seen people lose it over the smallest thing, but completely rise to the occasion when the walls are falling down.

I believe that it`s easier to let go when there is less at stake and we give ourselves the luxury of having a meltdown over the small things because we cannot do so during the big things.

So when my daughter asked me about her sanity, I told her…well I don`t think you are, but if you are…then so am I.  Either way you aren`t alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Issues with navigating

“How lost to myself I have become“  – The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood

These words have been burned into my brain ever since I read them.  Maybe it`s more accurate to say that they struck a nerve, because I have the distinct impression that I have been feeling this way for some time and it was only in reading them on a page that I was able to see them in myself.

If you work in HR, you have likely felt this way, but it`s not the part we share with those considering going into HR.  We will tell you  that HR can be hard, that being a “people-person“ may be a detrimental quality, and that it`s thankless.  But rarely do we mention those soul-crushing moments and worse, the cumulative effects that these can have.

There is something about this industry that consistently places you where the four corners of  business needs, business wants, due diligence and empathy meet.  At this convergence, the risk that you are going to make a wrong move is  high.

Actually, that does not even do the feeling justice.  It`s can be the overwhelming weight of knowing that you are placing yourself in a situation where you need to disconnect from your personal feelings about a situation and rely on the GPS of others, but you know that you can`t.

Going back to those four corners, I want to talk about empathy a bit. The definition of empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. What is rarely mentioned about empathy is that it is exhausting  (Limits of empathy).

Think about it, the bases of being empathetic is to absorb what others are feeling and, in most of these cases, they are not feeling very good.

Even when you do all the right things, for the right reasons, and in the right way…you will feel shitty.  Why? Because you just participated in a decision or action that is negatively impacting someone and to do this right, you need to be empathetic.

So is this the source of my feeling of being `lost to myself“ – the fact that I am almost running on empty in the empathy department?  Not entirely, although I suspect it`s a contributing factor.

Going back to the idea of using someone else`s GPS, or even any GPS for that matter – it messes with your sense of direction.  It allows to you to move along a route without you actually paying attention to where you are going…you don`t have to count street corners, or look for the gas station on the right-hand side or notice the names of streets that you are going past.

I think the biggest issue for me is that I have always had a good sense of direction. I could navigate to various places based on my knowledge of the neighbourhoods and the fairly reliable map in my head.  Even old school maps were helpful to make sure you were on track and, when necessary, to see how far you had gone or had left to go.

Relying on a GPS, particularly someone else`s, has made me less aware, less intuitive and even skeptical of whether I am taking the best route.

This is not a good feeling when you are driving to a location where you have never been.

It`s a worse feeling when it`s moving forward with business decisions that impact people.

And it`s even worse when you are trying to locate yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sober thoughts

I love Ernest Hemingway`s recommendation to : write drunk, edit sober.

However, after numerous false starts and some really questionable (and possibly litigious) blog drafts, I came to realize that this advice was better applied figuratively and not literally.  I then committed to myself that I would write when the feeling hit and edit in a more reflective mood.

Obviously, I have not been very good at taking either Hemingway`s or my own advice, which has resulted in a number wasted moments.

Last week I attended a conference put on by my employer for our management community.  As far as conferences go, it was actually pretty good – I had an opportunity to meet with many people whom I had not yet met, was challenged with the case studies we went over and was inspired by what we are trying to achieve.

In spite of the fact that the agenda was not put together with the faintest consideration that there may be introverts attending , I made it through with no major issues. (Seriously, if I only have 1 hour of free time in a 24-hour period, I do not want to go for a team run…what is wrong with you people?!)

Truth be told, I drank the kool-aid.  The whole damn glass of it.

And really, that was the moment that I should have written this blog.  It would have brillant, it would have been insightful, it would have had amazing analogies between what I had learned and some Pixar movie.

But alas, I waited.

Days have gone by and I returned to work.   I am still feeling the after-effects of both the conference and the kool-aid, but the buzz that I had that would have helped me to craft a spot-on blog post have dissipated.  The result is that now this reflection is more of a sober second thought on what I heard, from both the presenters and my fellow participants.

The harsh reality that things have quickly slid back to where they were. And the fear that maybe my memory has distorted what really happened and that I imagined the hope and energy that was generated.

I do recall being asked to identify three things that I would do when I return to the office to improve myself as a manager.  Not being the kind of person to rush into commitments, I deferred making this list.

I am thinking that maybe #1 should be carrying a flask of kool-aid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Do List…version 2

I am a To Do List kind of person.  Not only do they help me get a sense of what I need to do, but they also act as a visual reminder of how much I am procrastinating, as well as how I continually over-estimate what I am capable of doing in a reasonable amount of time.

In fact, I have been known to add items to a list after doing these things, just so that I can have a false sense of accomplishment.

Indulge me as I unfold a heavily crinkled piece of paper from 2015 and update it…

paper

Things that I need to do:

  1. Write on my blog
  2. Read other people’s blogs
  3. Catch up on Twitter
  4. Tweet
  5. Accept that I have moved on from my last job position
  6. Embrace my new job position
  7. Re-prioritize this list.

Okay, let’s start again…

  1. Read other people’s blogs so that I will be inspired to…
  2. Write on my own blog
  3. Then tweet about writing on my own blog
  4. Catch up on Twitter
  5. Embrace my new job position
  6. Emerge from the shell-shock state induced by my last job Build on what I learned in my last position
  7. Question my priorities again

One more time…

  1. Read other people’s blog to inspire and motivate me
  2. Actually take the time to comment on these blogs
  3. Don’t bother catching up on Twitter…you can’t…it’s over..move on
  4. Tweet something irreverent or edible
  5. Embrace my new job position and the new team I get to work with
  6. Do not look back (“…it distracts from the now”)
  7. Write about my priorities on my blog

That’s it…that’s still the one.

 

(A great big thank you to Michael Carty for giving that last bit of inspiration I needed to dust off the blog.  I happen to embrace his message and can honestly that for the most part, I always assumed no one was reading!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps I am being overly dramatic…

I know that I have come to  a pivotal point in my life when I actually find myself wanting to  quote a Kenny Rogers song.  I will give you a minute to Google who he is (or remind yourself, if you used to know).

…(cue elevator music)…

So the Gambler is one of those songs that is lame and cheesy and makes you roll your eyes, unless you are a few pints in and sitting around a bonfire, in which case it becomes the best song in the world to sing at the top of your lungs with four or five other similarly inebriated friends (or so I’ve heard).

It has the infamous lines: “You have to know when to hold ’em/ Know when to fold ’em\ Know when to walk away/ Know when to run”

And so, these lines must have some how become stuck in my subconscious with repetition  (the song did come out when I was a kid) because I have frequently found myself assessing whether my current situation is worth sticking out or whether to just walk away.

In fact, it really must have become so ingrained in me that I tended to lean heavily on the walk/ run end of things.  My poor unfortunate first boyfriends…they didn’t have a chance…one wrong word or move and I was like, “ya, I’m done – you can blame Kenny Rogers”.

In fact, this carried over to my HR career too.  At the time that my HR career started, I was at a much more confident place in my life and that, coupled with my “it’s just a job” attitude, I didn’t have qualms about moving along if I didn’t like what I saw on the horizon or in some cases, if I didn’t really connect with my environment or boss.

As a result, I *may* have become a bit cocky about this in thinking that I am always going to be the one making the choices and calling the shots.  I took it for granted that if things were not connecting for me, then I would walk/run on my terms.  And so, it came as a big ole slap in my face when I recently found out that my manager is moving into a new role.

Now what you have to understand is that I have never worked for someone in HR that I have admired, respected, and been motivated by as I have with my current boss.

I have worked for many good people, but this is different. I am inspired, I am learning, I’m actually *nicer*…I mean, I ask you, when was my last snarky post? When was my last post?! Exactly!

All hysterics aside, I am extremely happy for her, as she is still staying with our organization and she really is destined for bigger things, but I am incredibly and selfishly pissed off that she is playing the Gambler card on me (because yes, it is all about me).

Managers are not supposed to leave their employees…employees are suppose to leave managers (if they are bad) and stay if they are good.  She is good.  She is really good.  So I was holding my cards…I was staying.  I was really staying.  No walking or running in the foreseeable future.

But she is walking….My reality has become the Matrix…no, no it’s more like Inception.

No, it’s a “train bound for nowhere” .

Lights dim.

Curtains fall.

Cue Kenny Rogers.

 

 

Sustainable and renewable blog posts

Recycling is not only an encouraged, but expected practice these days.

For that reason, I would like to re-use, renew and recycle a blog post that I wrote awhile back.

Often times we focus on those people that provide us with support at work or complain about those that make our lives difficult. I’m no exception – I’ve been happy to dish on both accounts, but today I wanted to mention someone who has not only supported me in my work, but in pretty much every facet of my life.

Today is my wedding anniversary and I can honestly say, without any pretense of sucking up, that marrying my husband was the best decision I have ever made. Truthfully it started well before we got married, but that was the official start line, I suppose.
That was the starting point for all that we have now – our home, our kids, and our future.
He has been with me through my late teenage years, young adulthood, and now approaching (ahem) mid-life. He has seen me and stuck by me through all my phases, moods, highs and lows. He has been my biggest supporter and sometimes my harshest critic. And I his.
I have often been asked how could I have possibly known at twenty-two (or even seventeen for that matter) that this was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. That’s tough to answer because it was one of the few things in my life that I didn’t over-analyze so I didn’t have rationale beyond that I just knew. 
I did try to explain it once by saying that I was sure about him because we had gone a number of road trips and when that inevitable silence fell, we were both comfortable and content with just driving. There was no need to force a conversation, to entertain the other person, or worry whether there was something wrong. We enjoyed each other’s company throughout the trip – not just when we got to our destination.
I realize that this sounds counterintuitive coming from someone whose job it is to discourage people from relying solely on their gut. Someone who encourages analysis, supporting documentation, and asking questions. 
Thankfully I don’t always live my life the way I work. 
So now, 22 years later, how can I say that this is still the person that I was to spend the rest of my life with…I still don’t have an eloquent answer, but I can say that I still just know and we are still enjoying the road trip, whatever the destination. 
 Happy anniversary. 

 

6 Signs That You Should Keep Your Blog

I recently grumbled that there is a lot of blah, blah, blah out there, particularly in the realm of HR.

I am sure this is prevalent in all areas, but since I don’t read blogs written by accountants or econometricians, I can only surmise that there are only so many ways you can bitch about the Sarbanes-Oxley Act or roll your eyes about having to explain linear regression…again.

And one of the surest signs that things are heading south is when you have to resort to the How To List.

Oh and not just any How To List. But a list that will solve all your problems.  A list that is composed of items of such blatant common sense that it will smack you in the face with its true-ness.  A list that will simplify and reduce complex issues like relationships, emotions, and strategic human resources to five easy steps.

Now it bears pointing out that the How To List  is a distinctly different breed than the listing of items.  One is the entire message, the other is purely the medium.

I am not anti-list.  I am anti sell-out.

Recently I explored the idea of sharing my wisdom and wit when I was asked to write a few posts for another blog.  It was a paid gig and I thought, why not give it a g.  Well, first let me clarify that in my naiveté, I mistook “contribute content” for “”writing blog posts”.

That was my first lesson.

I was then asked to submit sample work, which I did in the form of links to selected blog posts that I was particularly proud of (read: had no swearing in them), as well as potential post topic ideas.

The topics were somewhat approved and I was then given some guidance in terms of word count (completely understandable), the target audience (a new concept for me, as I have never assumed there was an audience), and finally the format: all posts were to be in the form of “how-to lists”, ideally with five bullets. No other writing was really necessary (and I suspect at risk of being edited out).

That was my second lesson.

If sarcasm is the sour cream of wit, then how-to lists are the saltine crackers of blog posts.

Needless to say, after serious consideration and deliberating, I decided to pass on this golden opportunity to sell my soul.  And to celebrate, I am going to include a list of six (not five!) reasons why I am going to keep plugging away at my blog.

  1. Someone has to stay old school and keep balance in the universe.
  2. Because when @neilmorrison  tips his hat, it’s generally a good sign.
  3. I finally found something new to vent about (and it’s not HR).
  4. I discovered that it is possible to have an engaging conversation through post comments.
  5. I now have a muse/enabler who is both inspiring and double-daring me to keep going.

And the final reason I am going to keep my blog going:

  1. Because I like it.