Unexpected Discoveries from Unrelated Experiences | Taking My Own Advice

Finding something of value you weren’t looking for can be thrilling, especially when it

By: T R L

includes self-discovery.

Recently, I wrote a post about how learning something unrelated to your job can actually boost your career.

I figured if that advice was good for you, it would do me good too. So I started taking  acoustic guitar lessons where I’m learning more than I ever imagined about myself and my career while making a little music.

Why bother?                                                       

It’s easy to get comfortable with our lives, even when we aren’t happy about the trajectory.

Deep down we know there are things we’d like to do, but the energy or the courage to make the effort isn’t there.

What we often forget is that new experiences add to our portfolio, broadening the skills and reference points we bring to our careers. Simply put, new experiences make us more interesting and more confident.

My interest in learning guitar was just a curiosity. I’d played piano as a kid but the guitar’s portability and intimacy seemed more suited to me now. I may have continued putting it off except in passing my friend, Pam, said she’d often thought about taking guitar. That’s all it took. We were both in.

And the beat begins.

Expect the unexpected. That’s how it goes when you try something new.

This process is pretty much the same no matter what you take on:

Get properly equipped–The first guitar I got was too small, so I exchanged it for a Martin that was perfect. Then I learned it had to live in a case where the right humidity was managed. After I got that straight, I needed a metronome, a tuner, and picks.  Done!

Learn skills and right attitudes–I signed up for lessons with Joey Mutis, a teaching, performing, and recorded musician/song writer, perfect. In two sessions, he got me comfortable with my guitar and  began helping me overcome my perfectionism anxieties while teaching me playing mechanics.

Build new perspectives–I needed to understand and accept that playing isn’t about getting all the notes right, but rather about making music. Ultimately, playing guitar is about playing with others, so it’s important is that everyone follows the beat and ends together, a few bad notes generally go unnoticed by listeners. Who knew?

Nurture your aptitudes–I learned that everything about guitar playing can be taught, but not rhythm. Luckily I have that. It was a relief that I brought something built-in to the experience.

Get connected–Now every time I see guitar players, I’m transfixed by their playing. I’ve discovered  friends and colleagues who play, so now I can talk about gigs, gear, and techniques, enriching our connection and building a broader bond.

While expecting a good time learning guitar, I found  a life-enriching experience.

The deeper vibe

Things we do for fun become fuel for professional growth. This guitar experience for me is no exception. As a coach and consultant, I will bring new perspectives to clients on:

Mistakes–Expecting or seeking perfection becomes useless and  punishing self-criticism that only hampers performance. In spite of some wrong notes, the music still reaches you. The same is true for your projects, presentations, and plans. So you need to just keep going, correcting for any serious mistakes in the next take.

Teamwork–Successful teams work through their problems, helping each other out, shaking off incidental mistakes, and reinforcing their collective purpose–to get the right work done in the best way possible. A good band does that because, to each player, the music matters.

Practice–Practice makes progress, not perfection. What matters is to stay committed, discover your ever-increasing capabilities, and enjoy the process while you wait for the next opportunity to showcase what you have mastered.

Learning is a process. The more we invest, the greater our return. It brings insights and revelations at every turn, through every experience, and by the sheer strength of your curiosity.

Today’s another day for you to revisit something that you’ve always wanted to explore. Then  go ahead and do it.  Your career will thank you.

As a Product of Your Choices, How Are You Doing? |The Behavior Gap

Our lives and our careers are products of our choices, the ones we make from reason ExpectationsRealityand those made emotionally. Sometimes we even make choices unconsciously.

No matter our method, the results become our property.

We generally make better choices when we’re well informed and free of fear. Bridging those two helps us master our behavior gap.

Who’s in your ear?

There’s a lot of noise out there. Much of it raises expectations. We want a good job that pays well so we can buy stuff, grow wealth, advance, run with the “right” crowd, and feel successful.

That noise influences our wants and pushes us in the direction of the crowd. Sometimes it drowns out our vision of  the career and life style we want. It can negate our dreams, convince us to replace them, and send us someplace that promises more than it delivers.

So choosing isn’t always easy, especially when we’re tempted to link the reasons for our choices to what experts, social media, and talking heads say is the way to go.

beharior gap 41vTID0CztL__SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Carl Richards makes this point when he introduces the concept of the behavior gap in his book, The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money. Richards is a certified financial planner, but his book, although focused on issues around financial decision-making, is about how we make choices.

As I see it, for every gaff we make with our money, we fall into similar traps with career, relationship, and self-management decisions. So as you read his book, it’s no stretch to take the insights well beyond the financial.

Today every “expert”  has a viewpoint and an outlet to express it. Advice about the best career strategy, the best way to manage your money, or how to live your best life is given and shared– and shared again and again–until it sounds like an absolute.

Richards writes:

“…the sheer quantity of information makes it virtually impossible to sift through all the noise…and find the stuff that actually matters. Worse, we’re losing our ability to distinguish between the two. What matters? What’s just noise?

Take control.

The struggle is fighting the fear of missing out (FOMO) and of being wrong. Listening to the noise doesn’t remedy either.

We are products of our choices. We can listen to all those voices and become paralyzed or reckless. Or we can listen to ourselves.

Richards cuts through the clutter with concepts about financial choice-making that zeros in on what we need to do:

“…make decisions that are in tune with reality, with your goals, and with your values.

He reminds us that we can only control what we can control. That does not include what’s going on in China or on Wall  Street or in the government. He reminds us that we all control two fundamental things: working hard to earn a living, saving as much as we can, and making wise decision about how we invest our money.

Richards writes:

Our deepest instincts (if we listen to them) will tell us that money doesn’t mean anything: it’s simply a tool to reach our goals…By goals I mean stuff that matters to you.

From my perspective, achieving your goals means developing your skills, adding value to your job, building positive workplace relationships, and taking advantage of the right opportunities for growth when they present themselves.

A good start is to get in touch with what you value as part of a good life and assess every career choice against it. Listen to your inner voice when faced with a choice and don’t ignore what you hear. Every time I did, I ended up burning myself with a wrong-footed choice.

The behavior gap

Your behavior is within your control, so you need to own it throughout your life and particularly as you steer your career. Reason and emotion are often at odds with each other, challenging your choice-making.

Whether the choices you face are about finances or career options, there is awareness, relief, and even comfort to be found in Richards’ book.

 

 

Fire Up Your Courage. Build Your Self-confidence. | Refocused Thinking

It may be difficult but sticking your neck out is a necessity.

By: brecro

To build a career, you have to:

  • Apply for jobs and accept offers
  • Change jobs to get better ones
  • Develop new relationships or repair damaged ones
  • Commit to expectations and do what’s  right

Putting yourself out there takes courage, and you don’t need self-confidence to do it.

The odd couple

Courage and self-confidence have an odd connection. Courage generally drags self-confidence along for the ride, often kicking and screaming. Why? Because the best way to build self-confidence is to test yourself routinely, taking sensible chances that teach you to trust yourself.

By definition, courage is that quality of mind and spirit that enables us to face danger, fear, and unexpected changes. Self-confidence is about the trust, faith, or assurance we have in our abilities. The more credit we give ourselves for our abilities, the more self-confidence we reap.

It’s terrific when we’re called to do work we believe we can do successfully. But that’s not always the case. Uncertainties set in like:

  • Am I sure I have all the skills I need?
  • Will the requirements change leaving me helpless?
  • Will I be able to meet the expectations of a tough boss?
  • Is this a team that will accept me?
  • What if I fall on my face? Could this job flat-line my career?

Unfortunately, you can’t know these answers until you commit to the work. And that means firing up your courage.

Growth by chance

No risk…no growth. That’s the long and the short of it. We don’t build our self-confidence unless we test it through courageous actions.

Here are five basic ways:

A Gutsy Move–You listen to your rational self, override your fears, and make a career move. (Finally a job you’ve always wanted is vacant. The posting is up, just begging you to apply, so you do.)

You Won’t Hide–Circumstances make it impossible for you to avoid accepting a new assignment and expanded duties that point to you. (Everyone knows you have the technical knowledge, hands-on experience, and  customer connections needed, so the team can reach its goals. You’re clearly the wo/man.)

Soft-heartedness–Your coworkers desperately want you to take over the project and lead the team. (No one wants to work for or with a newcomer. They want you there to ensure an environment that brings the best out of everyone.)

No Choice–Crisis hits and there’s no one around with the expertise to do the work or lead it. (Suddenly, seasoned leaders are gone, storm damage to company facilities threatens production, and employee backlash is escalating. You act because you have to.)

Courage feeds our self-confidence.

Case in point.

In a sense, we create a contest between what we know we need to do (driven by courage) and an internal force trying to defeat us (doubts about ourselves).

Seventh-grader, Grant Reed, has cancer, a brain tumor. He was profiled by Steve Hartman, reporter for the CBS Sunday Morning program (12/01/13), because he had a unique way of thinking about it.

Cancer is a scary word for anyone and Grant is no exception. What’s different about Grant is that he won’t use the word or let anyone else around him use it .

Grant is a die-hard Ohio State football fan and the University of Michigan is their arch rival. All he wants is for the Buckeyes to beat the Wolverines. So calls his cancer “Michigan,” never any other word, because cancer is his personal rival to beat.

Persevere.

Career challenges can be scary too. Not catastrophic illness scary, but unnerving enough. There are challenges like office bullying, harassment, and ostracism; negative performance feedback, a wrong job, and expectations we aren’t ready for. Each requires courage and the self-confidence to get through them.

The battle is always against ourselves, so we need touchstones to help us over the humps. We need to find our “Michigans” for inspiration and motivation. My word has always been personal “independence,” something always worth fighting for. What’s yours?

Career Goals in Jeopardy? Vow to Find a Way. | Swimming Motivation

Dream big dreams. Reach for the stars. Go for the gold.swimming 694371689_950a3bca2b_m

Alas, the dreaming and reaching and going are so much easier than the doing.

Achieving, big things or small, is about:

  • Amassing essential knowledge and skills
  • Preparing and planning
  • Cultivating supporters
  • Taking risks, failing, and trying again
  • Mental toughness, grit, and belief
  • Patience and perseverance

Acknowledging this work list is the first test of your commitment to your goals. The action steps are your acid test.

Keep breathing.

Goals are slippery fish. They have a way of swimming into view, tempting us to hook them, and then spitting out the hook when we aren’t paying attention.

When our goals seem elusive or our efforts to achieve them unproductive, it’s easy to:

  • Revise them downward
  • Abandon them for something less arduous
  • Defer them until we believe the time is right
  • Cave in to what others say we should pursue

If this is where you are, it’s time to take a deep breath and reconnect with what’s been driving you all along–your passion, calling, or vision for a career that is you.

It all starts with getting clarity around your career goals. Then you’re ready to rock and roll.

Keep moving.

When you stop moving,  your goals start to sink. To keep moving, you need sources of inspiration that you can tap into quickly.

Diana Nyad might be just that inspiration.

On September 2, 2013, at 64, Diana became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage–103 miles in 53 hours.

It took Diana five attempts to reach her goal: once in 1978, three times in 2011 and 2012.

The obstacles she faced in earlier tries became the lessons that prepared her to succeed on her 5th effort.

USA Today reported (with video):

Her last try was cut short amid boat trouble, storms, unfavorable currents and jellyfish stings that left her face puffy and swollen.

This time, she wore a full bodysuit, gloves, booties and a mask at night, when jellyfish rise to the surface. The new silicone mask caused bruises inside her mouth, making it difficult for her to talk….

Although dreams of success are the driver, it’s human will that propels us to overcome the sheer weight of the tasks and the setbacks.

Diana is quoted in a CNN Press Room article (also with video) saying:

When you’re feeling good… you’re singing Neil Young songs to yourself…But when you’re suffering, and…I had two nights of full suffering this time with the mask with the salt water. Now you’re not thinking of anything. You’re just coping and surviving, and your team is somehow helping you making it through every 15 minutes, every hour. Let’s not give up.

When Diana completed her marathon swim, her first words (quoted in USA Today) are worth remembering:

I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you’re never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team….

Understanding why your goals are important to you is central to your drive and the message you send to those around you.

Diana also told CNN Press Room:

The people who follow me are human beings “who are dealing with their own heartaches, and their own obstacles in life. And they want to know how to get through. And I think I’m a person who represents…You never give up. You find a way if something really is important to your heart, you look and see what’s inside yourself, and you find a way.”

Stay committed.

If your career goals are in jeopardy, you too can find a way. You may discover that you need to look at what has worked and what hasn’t, who is helping and who isn’t, how much time you’re dedicating to the work, and how patient or impatient you’ve been.

Finding the way forward may mean reexamining how far you’ve come and then reinvigorating yourself and your plan. Go ahead. You can if you really want to.

 Photo by camilla via Photoree

The Advantage of Having a Bad Boss | Turn Frustration into Career Growth

bad boss 4147951182_e8d45138a1_mA bad boss is a career opportunity.

No one promised you a great boss as a condition of employment. You get paid whether your boss is good or bad. Your job, then, is to figure out how to deal with your boss’s behavior so that you can do good work anyway.

Your career rides on the way you overcome adversity. Whether you’re aware of it or not, everyone is watching the way you problem solve and overcome obstacles to do what you’re there to do: Get the work done.

Chances are the higher ups are aware, to some degree, of the ineffective behaviors of your boss. And they’re also aware of how the boss’s employees are reacting, including you. So just keep doing your best.

Turn frustration into advantage.

If you really care about your career, you won’t let a bad boss get in your way. Instead you’ll seize the opportunity to develop the skills and abilities you need to deal with her effectively.

So instead of spending your time complaining or wallowing or bemoaning, start observing, planning, and acting to minimize the negative effects of the “bad” behavior your boss exhibits.

Strive to stay focused on what really matters and what doesn’t.

Put into effect an employee development program of your own making.

 We need to be fair. Most bosses are not evil doers; they no more want to be bad in their jobs than we do.

Your “bad” boss may very well be struggling to survive herself, contending with her limitations, trying to untangle mixed signals from above and  needs from her employees.

Many bosses know they aren’t effective, don’t know why, and can’t figure out how to become “good.”  So let’s not be too hard on them. One day you may walk in their shoes.

Zero in.

It’s important to take time to get a sense of what drives your bad boss, so you can find a way to work with him effectively.

Most bad bosses suffer from a predominant supervisory flaw. That’s the one you want to focus on to start.

Pinpoint the specific behaviors and develop actions you need in order to work with, through, or around them.

Here are three types of bad bosses, their typical behaviors, potential underlying reasons for them, and actions you might take to contend with them.

1. The Micromanager

  • Behaviors: Constantly checking on your work, nit picking, inflexibility, second-guessing
  • Potential Reasons: Fear of failure/criticism, low confidence in employees, job insecurity
  • What you can do: Pay full and consistent attention to details, submit work before     deadlines, proactively give progress reports, comply with required processes

3. The Intimidator

  • Behaviors: No or terse communication, distant, difficult to approach, critical
  • Potential Reasons: Sense of superiority, self-absorbed, distrust of other’s ideas, desire for control,
  • What you can do: Initiate opportunities to meet even if it’s unnerving; be uber prepared and clear in your agenda, presentation, or proposal; ask for feedback and a next step meeting/conversation; don’t quail; repeat until the ice is thawed

4. The Wheel Spinner

  • Behaviors: No clearly communicated direction, disorganized, routinely shifts gears and changes assignments midstream
  • Potential Reasons: Lack of confidence/clarity, fear of failure, poor business acumen, lack  of awareness about what it takes to get work done
  • What you can do:  Increase your own organization, engage your boss in conversation about work and suggest ideas, build confidence in your contributions, anticipate needs

Step up.

The workplace is a tangled web. Everyone is caught up in it with your boss at the center. You can choose to become a victim or to figure out how to navigate the strands.

If you want to stand out…to be noticed for the right things…then use your time with that bad boss to strengthen your communication, relationship building, collaborative, and work management skills.

No one’s going to send you to “Dealing with a Bad Boss” training, so it makes sense to develop your skills on your own. Your career will reward you for it. Onward!

Photo by noii’s via Photoree

Miserable in Your Job? Wake Up Your Dreams.

wake up 2373187031_87a9803e8c_mMaybe you’re sick of it–that  “follow your dreams” bit.

It can be annoying when fabulously successful people deliver that seemingly hackneyed message. Their words make it sound so easy, as though our dreams are actually clear to us and the path obvious. Their encouragement can even sound a bit like criticism. Ugh!

We often convince ourselves that realized dreams are for other people–mostly celebrities, pro athletes, and people a lot smarter than we. That’s our first mistake.

Open up.

Our desire for approval (and fear of disapproval) from friends and family can be a powerful force.

So, most of us keep our dreams private for too long.

Choosing a career that’s far afield from what you really want sets you up for big disappointments. The sad truth is that most people do just that.

When I coach people facing career crossroads, I ask them this:

Describe briefly the career/job you’ve always dreamed of having that you have never pursued or have only toyed with.

In the list below, the arrows tell you what these folks saw as their dream jobs:

  • Senior corporate finance director after 30 years → Manager of an entertainment-related facility
  • Entry level accountant → Sports team front office administrator
  • Business analyst → Own and operate a bed and breakfast
  • Single mother of four with a medical degree out of the workforce for two decades → Practicing and teaching alternative medicine
  • New college grad  with an English major →  Wine dealer/Travel writer/Set locator for movies/ Travel company founder

 Dreams linger, so it’s never too soon or too late to embrace them.

Your dreams belong to you and you only. Your challenge is to pursue them–on your terms.

Wake up your sleepy head.

Our dreams start in our heads. To make them real, we need to be awake and in gear.

Actor Ryan Reynolds is the voice for the garden snail  who dreams, quite unbelievably,  of being the greatest auto racer in the world in the animated Dreamworks film, Turbo. As Reynolds says, the message in this fantasy film is important:

No dream is too big. No dreamer is too small.

It’s often the case that we start small as we explore our dreams, testing out whether or not we can cobble together plans to achieve them. Each step inches us closer to our vision.

That’s how it worked for county singer, Dolly Parton, who ,throughout her career, has said she always dreams big dreams.

The fourth of 12 children, the daughter of a tobacco farmer in Tennessee, Dolly grew up, as she describes, “dirt poor,” living in a rustic, one-room cabin, and singing in church.

Her talent for singing and songwriting, her grit, willingness to work hard, her charity, and her willingness to dream bigger and bigger dreams propelled her career. She’s never stopped dreaming.

Neither should we.

Fear not.

It’s never too late to get started. So consider these steps:

  • Put a sock in your mouth–to stop the “I can’ts” you mutter that self-sabotage
  • Turn over lots of rocks–to find out what’s needed to realize your dream career
  • Nibble at the edges–to find an entry point for your first efforts
  • Pick your spots– set some specific goals and a timetable for your plan
  • Step forward–involve yourself in some way no matter how small
  • Keep moving–by gradually increasing your participation

You can turn your dream into reality by simply putting yourself out there.

Say “hey.”

Converting dreams into reality requires consistent and persistent hard work, sacrifice, mental toughness, and resilience. You’ll need to muster your courage, withstand  disappointments, and protect your self-belief.

Your dreams also need the help and support of others. So share them with the right people.

It’s important to ask for what you need when you need it from those who truly care about you and your dreams. Your moment will come but the ride is what it’s all about.

Photo by SanitMB via Photoree

Ahead of the Curve or Behind the Eight Ball? | Averting Criticism

8-ball 3779658241_bc1e517a8c_mCriticism lies in wait for us at work. Sometimes we can anticipate it and sometimes not.

Most of us learn to live with a few doses of negative feedback, especially when we have the opportunity to rebound.

Averting criticism that has the potential to be truly damaging, though, takes savvy.

 Protect what matters.

We each have a personal, career brand to protect so we can keep moving forward. Our bosses have one too plus the reputation of their work groups. Leaders need to protect the brand integrity of their organizations to remain competitive and viable.

Unfair, relentless, and ruthless criticism can turn your good efforts into ashes.

Consider the potential criticism leveled at a supervisor who:

  • hires or promotes an employee who steals, bullies, or lies
  • decides to absorb another work group and then releases excess employees
  • makes downsizing decisions that  cause employees to lose their jobs
  • replace fully functional equipment or technology with new ones

Everyone affected by those changes, whether directly or indirectly, is a critic in waiting. If the move is successful, they will likely be quiet. If not, watch for incoming!

There’s no reason to be a sitting duck when the potential for criticism is in your path. Going on the offensive, most often, is your best strategy.

You don’t make decisions in a vacuum. There are good reasons to act and risks too. You are ahead of the curve when you anticipate criticism and behind the eight ball if you don’t.

Keep your head out of the sand.

I recently facilitated the annual board retreat of a small non-profit facing the stepping down of four board members, including the president and vice president, both of whom were founders.

These officers were beloved, dedicated, and capable, having led the organization with warmth and strength for eight years. They were to remain as committee volunteers but it was time for new leadership.

The original board of ten would now be down to six, with two becoming new leaders. This was an unsettling time, focused mostly on internal matters. But what about the critics.

The board needed to consider what their constituencies would think and say about this major shift. How would it impact membership, sponsors, donors, partnerships with other organizations, and confidence in their sustainability? These are the questions that once answered and acted on would avert, though not eliminate, significant criticism.

The board decided on some key actions:

  • put together the messaging around these changes
  • prepare the slate of nominees for election at the upcoming annual meeting; arrange for mentoring by the exiting officers
  • develop a Power Point presentation for the annual meeting outlining past achievements, ongoing and new projects
  • write a press release for the announcements
  • arrange to meet with key allies to answer questions and strengthen relationships

Not only will this work strengthen their brand in the marketplace, it will raise the confidence of the board members and provide the messaging needed to expand its membership.

 Averting criticism

You avert criticism by defusing the arguments of your critics:

  • Provide the details of your story (transparency) before misconceptions are devised
  • Talk about your good work and successes as a foundation for your decisions
  • Anticipate and address potentially damaging issues when you see them
  • Address legitimate concerns; reinforce your intentions, purpose, mission, objectives, and positive actions
  • Be upfront and out-front, affirming the standards and values that support your position
  • Build a coalition of supporters who have your back and are willing to say so

By getting ahead of an issue, you empower yourself.

These steps also help if you’ve:

  • experienced a decline in your performance
  • violated a company rule or policy
  • mishandled a customer or vendor problem
  • damaged company equipment or software

Whether you’re an employee, supervisor, manager, or executive, managing your career progress means anticipating criticism, whether deserved or not, and then averting it.

So do you best to get ahead of the curve and watch your value rise.

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