They Should See It Coming

Today’s Lesson: You can throw a drowning man a life preserver but it is up to him to take it.

*****

When deciding whether to let a team member go, I think good leaders consider three important questions:

1. What would saving the team member look like? In other words, if we are able to correct the behavior leading to this path (assuming it is not something egregious like stealing) will this person again be valuable to the team’s culture, efforts, and goals?

2. Have I/we provided all the tools this person needs to be successful? In other words, has the team member been provided every opportunity and resource to save himself?

3. Will being let go come as a surprise to them? In other words, do they know how close they are to being let go? This is the big one. A termination of employment should never come as a surprise to the person whose employment is in question. If a team member is on the verge of being fired and they do not know their job is on the line, then we have failed as leaders.

We failed morally, because we did not give the person a chance to fix the problem and grow (which we would want for ourselves). We failed ethically because we are taking away someone’s livelihood and ability to care for their family with no chance to redeem themselves first. We failed as professionals because it is more expensive for a company to re-train than it is to retain.

Finally, it sends a signal to remaining team members that they can not trust you. After all, you might let people go at any time without warning. Who would want to work for a boss like that?

Firing someone is never easy and never should be. If you have done a good job answering those three questions, though, you can at least go to bed knowing you did all you could.

As a leader, part of your job is to give your struggling team members enough rope to pull themselves up. It is up to them if they choose instead to tie it into a noose and hang themselves. Just be sure they understand what happens when people succeed in hanging themselves at your organization.

Share

Why We Resist Having a Better Life

Today’s Lesson: Change is supposed to be scary.

*****

Whether it is acknowledging we need to lose 10 pounds or being on the receiving end of a family intervention and hearing loved ones tell us we have an abuse problem, or just adopting a new strategy at work, everyone resists doing things we know we must do to effect change.

Even when changing something is clearly for the better, we run from personal growth before we embrace it.

It seems crazy, even counter-intuitive, yet smokers struggle to quit smoking, dieters rarely stick with diets, alcoholics fall off the wagon, and there is always someone in the meeting who thinks everything is a bad idea without having a better one to offer.

The surprising thing is, if you think about it, our resistance to changing our lives is totally understandable. Even with a small change like losing weight, our first and immediate reaction is to resist, as it should be. Think of how dangerous change was to a person’s life up until the last 100 years or so.

Trying to lose weight was crazy in a world where food was scarce and not eating when you had the chance might have been tantamount to you skipping your last meal. You could not be sure if your hunt would be successful today or if the fruit tree you found yesterday was going to be picked over by other animals or tribes today.

Venturing out of your cave home into new territory meant uncertainty about where or when you might next find food, shelter, or safety. Of course, staying in one place indefinitely also increased your chances of perishing. The longer you stayed in place, the more likely you were to be found by a neighboring tribe also fighting for resources and the more likely you were to leave clues of your whereabouts to other would-be predators.

Albeit reluctantly, our ancestors embraced change and eventually moved on, traveled, explored, and sought out novel experiences, but never before being overly cautious at first. Just as today, we resisted change at first but eventually accepted the necessity of change.

The next time you catch yourself reacting to doing something new or different with initial resistance (or the next time someone reacts to your suggestion of change with initial fear), remember it is normal. Just as we jump when we catch something moving in the corner of our vision and then calm down and smile when we realize it was our reflection in a mirror, it is expected that we react to change.

The important thing is, after the initial fear, to properly evaluate the potential good and bad of any change and then take appropriate action.

It is okay to fear change at first. Just be sure to remember it is a natural reaction and it is both okay to feel fear and okay to let it go.

 

Share

You Are What You Seek

Today’s Lesson: You are like gravity. You attract the people, situations, feelings, and life surrounding you. If you see nothing but despair, inequality, and suffering everywhere you look, consider looking for better people, situations, feelings, and lives to surround yourself with. 

*****

Scrolling through social media posts is something I find myself limiting more and more. I like to see what friends and family are up to but I can only take it in small doses. The overwhelming majority of posts, in my opinion, are really just complaints (including mine, including this one!).

Some of us are on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, Instagram, etc… to find and share everything we think is wrong with the world. Articles on people we never met who died, links to rants about politics, racism, sexism, posts challenging people who do not agree with our religion (or non-religion), pictures of the stupid people we saw or dumb things we did today, stories of abuse to people, pets, or the environment… the list is endless.

It is all like a cloud of poison, spreading and permeating gossip and negativity into the world. I get it. The world is not perfect and some people want to change it (most of us just want to complain about it, though, because actually changing it is hard and we are busy coming up with new complaints). Consider, however, how much of your life is spent seeking out what is wrong with everyone else’s lives.

Some people just seem miserable all the time. I feel for them. My life is not perfect by any means. I am always working to improve something, but generally, I do not seek or mostly ignore hate, bad parenting, tasteless humor, and anything that ends with -ism (racism, feminism, sexism, theism, environmentalism, etc.). Because I avoid these things and actively work to keep them out of my life, they are not part of my world (much).

I am not advocating living with rose-tinted lenses. I know there are real problems in the world, but unless we are individually actively and actually addressing them (which means doing more than sharing articles or sending what is essentially hate-mail to everyone, which means sending it to no one), I recommend taking the timeless advice grandmothers have given for generations: if you can’t say anything nice, then do not say anything at all.

It is okay to either not have an opinion or to keep one to yourself.

In the modern world, that may mean using a simple guideline to structure your world more positively. A good start for many is to simply un-friend or un-follow the people, organizations, or brands who are not making your life better. If they are not contributing to your life, then consider what they are contributing to.

You are what you seek. What world will you choose to live in today? 

 

Share

You Have to Experience It.

Live for the experience of living.

*****

Nicole has a knack I admire for seeking out new adventures. We probably did something I have never experienced before every day this weekend.

Left unattended, I gravitate toward building rituals and habits but I love adventure and new experiences (or even revisiting old experiences that I have not tried in many years). These two extremes, I think, are what have given me a reputation for being “adaptable” to many social environments while also still being strategic and consistent in my work habits and hobbies.

New experiences, in my opinion, are the core of what makes life worth living. Some adventures are better than others. Sometimes adventure leads to danger (real or perceived, social or ethical, physical or financial) but that is part of the game. As long as you are not intentionally causing damage to yourself or others, it is probably worth doing.

Especially if you are a young adult (but even if you are not), here is advice that has enriched my life and I hope will put you in the mindset of living a (mostly) joyful experimental life:

Live lots of places. If you have an opportunity to move, take it (or create one). There is no rule that says you have to spend your entire life within five miles of your current friends or family. Let the world be your family and make friends everywhere.  Every place is so different. I have lived places I have loved and places I have hated (and sometimes they were the same places) but I have never regretted a fresh start somewhere new. Living somewhere new, especially if you are on your own, is difficult but it teaches you self-sufficiency, forces you to leave your comfort zone and grow, and builds character. It is one of the best things you can do for yourself, if you ask me.

Explore. The first thing I do after settling in a new town, is explore it, mostly by foot. I try to find the nooks that hide the best coffee shops or the lushest parks. But exploring does not have to be saved for moving. Pick something you have never done in your own town and try it. Either way, just get out in the world and go somewhere you have not been. When fuel was cheap, me and a friend would meet every Sunday, pick a direction and just drive for 4 or 5 hours, seeing where the road took us. We always found cool places to eat, if nothing else.

Say “Yes” a LOT. People present us with chances to explore and experiment all the time but we are often so caught in our own routines and rhythms that we miss the opportunity. If a friend says, “Hey, I was thinking about trying (tennis, a new restaurant, rock-climbing, the museum, going to a roller derby, seeing a cabaret show, checking out a live jazz band, the ballet, yoga, etc…), just say, “Sounds cool. What time should I be there?” Even if it sounds like something you will hate, remember your mom’s advice about broccoli and try it anyway. My personal rule is, “I’ll try anything twice.” I figure the first time I am going to be nervous, not know what to expect, maybe feeling some trepidation. Whatever it is, even if it is a bad experience, I will very likely give it another shot in fairness.

 

Those tips work for me and I am reminded of them almost daily (Nicole really keeps me on my toes–I am almost never sure where the weekend will lead, but I am lucky to be in a new city now so every day is an adventure either way!). I hope living an experimental life works for you, too.

 

Today’s Lesson: Home is not so much where the heart is as it is where your feet take you. Go explore, wherever your are. Say “Yes” often and try anything twice before deciding you do not like it.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share

You Can’t Change Who You Are

When it comes down to it, once a (cheater/ jerk/ addict/ liar), always a (victim/ downer/ cynic/ sucker). After all, a zebra can not change its stripes. You can try but in the end, you can not really change who you are… right?

*****

Sure you can. Just try harder.

The idea that any of us are forever stuck in an impermeable mold is patently absurd. When we are born, there is no blueprint for who we will become. If there was, someone born in the ghetto would never rise to fame as a singer or actor, and someone who born wealthy would never have to file for bankruptcy.

People change all the time. As I assimilate new information, I act on it. An over-simplified example: Nicole absolutely hates it when I roll my eyes during a conversation. I have built up that bad habit for years but that does not mean I can never overcome it. Once she explained why (it is disrespectful, dismisses what the other person is saying, and bad manners), I considered the information and now I practice not doing it.

Eventually, I will no longer be practicing and will have respectfully listening on auto-pilot.

By the same token, Nicole knows I feel the same way about the liberal use of a certain finger and she practices not throwing casual gestures my way or in my presence, particularly among family. It only offends me but she makes the change because it pleases me, and we enjoy seeing each other content.

Change does not have to be for another person, however. The point is only that anyone can change anything about themselves if they want to. What people mean when they say, “You just can’t change some people” is “Change is difficult and some people do not want to bad enough to make a difference”.

But that is only an excuse, not a law of human behavior.

 

Today’s Lesson: If you want to change something about yourself, then change it.

 

Share

It’s My Hobby

What if some of the things you know are good for you are hobbies you pick up instead of work that has to be done?

*****

A friend was telling me about a new business idea–something we could do together that might end up being a very good, and very big, idea. I thought about the work involved for such an undertaking and said, “It sounds great. The biggest obstacles I see are the obvious ones: money and time. We don’t have enough of either to lift something like this off the ground.”

He thought about it and said, “What if it isn’t a business idea? What if we just do it as a hobby?”

With that simple contextual change, the idea was transformed in my mind. Suddenly, the work of it faded and the fun of it came forth. We have been talking about it and bringing in other friends to brainstorm every day since.

A funny notion occurred to me. What if getting daily exercise was one of my hobbies instead of one of the chores I try to put off each day? What if eating healthier and learning to manage my triglycerides was one of my hobbies instead of what I do because the doctor scared me into it?

Where else can I transform labor into learning and having fun?

 

Today’s Lesson: There is always work that has to be done but it does not always have to be work to do it. Maybe some of the things we procrastinate doing (but know are good for us) can be leisure and lifestyle activities (even with friends!) instead of drudgery and busy work. What new hobbies can you pick up?

 

Share

Curse You, Styrofoam Packaging!

There are probably bigger things to worry about than packing peanuts… but I still hate them.

*****

I was putting together an office desk today, that I bought from Amazon.com. It came packed in white styrofoam molds. I passionately dislike styrofoam. It breaks up and static clings to everything, it is environmentally unfriendly, it squeaks, and even after vacuuming I know I will find bits of it for weeks.

The desk was packed in so much styrofoam it took me nearly an hour to unpack all the parts and remove them from their white particle jails. By the time I was ready to assemble the desk, I was furious about the stupid styrofoam snow covering my carpet.

So I paused.

I looked at it all for a minute, the styrofoam, the desk parts, outside the windows at the world going by… I thought, “Really? There are people dying of hunger or torture right now, there are fellow animals being slaughtered by factory farms, families struggling through poverty, fanatics holding human progress hostage (and holding humans hostage, too), ecological disasters looming, even just people losing loved ones to old age at this very moment… But I want to hang my hat on the styrofoam thing now? That’s the biggest problem I want to be angry about at this moment? THAT’S the thing that is truly setting me off… really?”

I shook my head, sighed, put on some music and got to work assembling the desk, sad about the other stuff but appreciative that my biggest problem today was invasive packaging, which suddenly did not seem like a big deal.

 

Today’s Lesson: Your problems are probably not the biggest problems in the world. Appreciate your life. Move forward.

 

 

Share

It’s Better Than You Think

Don’t get so caught up in the running that you forget to do the breathing…

*****

It has been a stressful week. Uprooting our lives and leaving everything behind to make a dramatic (but well-planned) move to Tampa from Grand Rapids was not easy. Despite the welcome change in climate, there is still the pressure of building a new home, of me finding new work, of Rainee (our cat) settling in, and of Nicole and I not having much time to spend together (she has a new job with long hours right now).

Of course, buying all new stuff means having to shop for, and agree on, all new stuff and presently home does not yet feel like “home”. On top of that, Nicole’s had a death in the family last week, causing an impromptu un-budgeted trip back to Michigan. Needless to say, tension is understandably high and finding common ground is not always easy during transitions like this (for anyone).

The funny thing is, I can turn all of this right around and see it for the amazing things in it. There is a great love story here, for one… how many couples have (or take) the chance to say, “What are we doing here? Let’s go somewhere we both want to be and live in Paradise together!”? How many of us have the fantasy of just leaving everything behind and starting over? We totally did that!

I am in a place filled with sunshine, with an incredibly lovely and loving partner, living a life we chose instead of one we accepted. Every morning when I wake up, I open my eyes to a beautiful sunrise and for probably the first time in my life I have an opportunity to be picky about the next move on my career path (a rare choice for anyone, really). I am in great health, surrounded by great friends, in a great environment. In short, stress or no stress, it is hard to imagine life being any better!

Regardless of how good you have it, sometimes you have to be willing to open your eyes to see it.

 

Today’s Lesson:  There is no guarantee life will never have bad days but I see no reason to have to accept more than one at a time. After all, even on the worst day, life, as far as I know, is a lot better than the alternative…

 

Share