When Things Are Personal

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One of the more frustrating things that I read are people in defense of things like the executive order which is, in effect, a muslim ban. It is my thought that these people are blithely unconcerned because it is an issue they are not touched by.

For me, this isn’t a matter of “trying to protect the nation from bad people” or “making sure the vetting process is working well”. I’ve actually seen what that process looks like thanks to my work experience.

It’s a 3-inch stack of paper. It’s questions that not even native-born Americans know about our country and history and laws. It’s having to submit that same paperwork multiple times.

I took this whole executive order to heart. I have a friend who is Iranian and is serving in the US Navy. He can’t go home. His family can’t go home. We have people in a Dubai office where I work. One of them is a dual citizen of the US. I’m hoping he’s in an unaffected area because, if not, he can’t see his family, either.

I wouldn’t be so bothered by it except that there was not a single check to whether or not there would be any negative repercussions in signing this order. Had that been done, it is possible people wouldn’t be stuck abroad while pursuing their academic goals.

How do you defend that? Especially if you have a single shred of respect for another human?

I don’t know. How do you defend any of this? At what point do we stop bending our brains and finally decide to do what is right by everyone?

A Caring Soul

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This past week I spent a bit of time between my normal work duties chatting with some of the guys around the office about just their day-to-day. What I ended up with was a gentle reminder that any effort I make to make sure the people around me feel cared for is not time wasted.

I wish this were a thing that happened everywhere, but for all the talk in the industry regarding soft skills, there seems to be no consideration at all that whatever you do to your clients should be done to the people you work with internally as well.

Maybe we could benefit from that thought. Maybe we should apply it.

Dance

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No, not that kind of dance, but the kind of thing where the answer is: both and neither.

In a time where people have very strong opinions about everything and have just as strong a tendency to be unwilling to hear both sides of a story, I want to remind you all that sometimes the answer is a dance between things we perceive as opposites.

Truth is always that, but in terms of dealing with most of life, we aren’t answering questions of absolute things, but rather relative things. Try to find a place where you can embrace as much as possible.

For example: happiness.

Do you need to feel happy all the time to be a happy person?

No.

Does dealing with depression mean you aren’t happy at all?

No.

There are no laws for this sort of thing. It is a dance. I am happy sometimes and sad at others. People have been touched by depression and lead happy, fruitful lives. They are doing it right now.

So can you.

Before you batten the hatches and draw the battle lines, take your feelings and your thoughts and step onto the ballroom floor, then allow those things to be free and flowing as they are. You can be constant and at peace while you process them and watch them pass.

Storytelling: Part I

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve spent a bit of time steeped in storytelling. Specifically, at the prompting of a friend and my own curiosity, I’ve taken up the mantle of Dungeon Master for a game of D&D.

I wanted to share all of that excitement with lessons I learned about this experience so far:

  1. Every story is told on the shoulders of a giant. There’s a lot I could have done wrong, but I didn’t because I had access to the experiences of others. I learned about things that make the story hard to enjoy or engage with. It let me go further. While my story is uniquely my own (and fabulous if I do say so myself),, it has a history and an ancestry, too. So does yours.
  2. Stories are a collective effort. I had my ideas, but then these players – five of them total – took this story and interacted with it and it became big. Breathtaking. I spend a lot of time how on earth I even got into this wonderful thing. Here’s the takeaway: your best ideas will bring other people into the fold. Remember: your vision grows in proportion to the relationships you can gather around it.
  3. Great and good are very different things. I could have made a story that is just enjoyable and full of combat, but that’s not my style. I enjoy depth to a story, so there’s a lot of elements in this campaign that make people question what they experience and who they are as people. That brings the best out of my players from what I’ve seen. There is a distinct difference between moments that you enjoy and moments that you both enjoy and remember. I’m going for the latter and that has made me have to make things not easy in this story. The challenge is worth it and I think that’s what is making this story a great one.
  4. Remember to be normal, too. I asked my players to tell me what their characters like to do in their free time. What they aspire to in life. What would make them happy or sad. That dimension is important because your characters in game aren’t just chess pieces or pawns in battle. They live and breathe. Just like us. That adds an interesting angle that allows you to bleed in reality when you want to while also providing the escapism we all enjoy in games like this.

So then: how are you telling your storiesWhat stories are you telling? Who are people becoming as they listen?

Drift and Discipline

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Drift is really hard to avoid.

You know that feeling when you’re going to the right places and doing the right things and you’re doing them for several weeks… except you’re not doing them. It’s more like a subconscious-zombie-robot doing all of the amazing things you do. You’re just kind of along for the ride for either minutes or hours.

Normally when those things come up, I like to do some small physical things to bring me back to the world and they all involve laughter:

  • Ask someone how their day is.
  • Find a problem you can help with, then help.
  • Walk to someone’s desk to ask them a question instead of messaging it to them.

However, what I find to be most needed and helpful isn’t a small break, but an intentional moment of focus. From there, here’s the path to a little less drift:

  1. Find a place that has a mild background noise. Coffee shops are cool. So is your living room and a bit of music you like.
  2. Pull out a notebook. Not a laptop. Not evernote. A notebook.
  3. Ask the questions you’ve been avoiding. Ask about your happiness. Ask about your contentment. Ask where you’re going and how you feel about the journey. Ask ifi you are scared to arrive, successfully or otherwise.
  4. Write down the answers.
  5. Ignore the texts and the pull to know all the information about everyone else but yourself because you are the only person you are uncomfortable sitting in silence with. If you have a pet, it will notice your discomfort and try to pull you away from it. Thank your furry companion for its efforts and remember that you have work to do.
  6. Keep.
  7. Being.
  8. Uncomfortable.
  9. After a while of digging you are either going to find joy, discontent, or nothing. If you find nothing, stop digging and look at things on the periphery like personal life.
  10. Repeat #3-8.

When you get to the end of this, 30 eternities will have passed. You will be tired. Only 40 minutes will have passed. Take a breather, then continue.

And continue.

The thing we are the most afraid of is our only path forward and that thing is examination. Not judgment, but an honest look at where and what we are and after that grace, forgiveness, curiosity and wonder and movement.

That takes discipline and, much as we think we’re all about that word as business professionals or adults, we aren’t in general. We’d rather things just work, just go, just be without us having to exhaust ourselves.

Truth is, work worth doing is work focusing on.

Truth is, a life worth living is worth asking lots of questions about.

Truth is, our focus needs more focus and that’s okay.

Discpline, my friends.

 

Let’s Be Honest: Part I

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Another week where my pen refuses to move so we’re here again. However, this is a special note related to social media because mental and emotional health are important as is the much-avoided subject of honesty.

So let’s be honest about things.

I’ve seen so many postings about protesters burning things and destroying their communities (football fans are immune from this criticism, of course), about being more like MLK, about how the Irish were also enslaved…

I would prefer that you just tell me that you hate me and be done with it.

That’s all, really. Just that honesty would be appreciated.

Let me give you this to chew on: it’s been about sixty years. Literally a portion of my mother’s lifetime since MLK marched for civil rights and here we are with people being murdered and paving the way to civil rights 2.0. This is where peaceful protest brought us. Which is to say, nowhere in particular.

Somehow the ability to be downtrodden but polite, quiet, and respectful as we are continuously dehumanized is the path to being respected enough by the masters of an unjust system to just be heard for a moment until the football commercial ends.

So yeah, just let me know you hate me. That you don’t see me. Tell me again how I couldn’t be associated with these riffraff on the news chanting something about systemic racism because I’m smarter than that and the media is trying to divide us.

Let’s get this over with.

Friend and Foe Recognition: Part I

Stress And Frustration

One of the best things about my professional life this year is that there is a more clear definition for me in terms of “friends” and “foes”. By this I mean that you’ll run into people that either:

  • Want to help you
  • Don’t want to help you

Please note: I’m not speaking of active harm to your career, but rather a passive harm.

Because apathy.

Because unavailability.

Because a lot of reasons.

There is a saying that you should find your tribe of weirdos and that is also true in professional settings. What I’ve learned is that the difference is more felt than ever directly said.

FRIENDS

You won’t even have to ask who these people are because they are drawn to you and will find you. You may or may not like them immediately, but over time you will grow to appreciate everything they add to you and they will feel the same about you.

These relationships are not always permanent because they don’t always make “escape velocity” (outside of the office), but they are often long-lasting. Relish and nurture every one of these and do not take them for granted.

 

FOES

Some of this is just the nature of yourself versus another person’s job function or personality, but these people are passively an obstacle to your professional growth because they actively have either no time or no desire to put forth the effort to assist you. In some cases, they actively resist doing so (for which you likely have an HR department).

However, if you keep grinding, you’ll eventually escape them. In the meantime, you need to focus on…. your friends. Not avoiding the foe, not opposing the foe, not crushing the foe. Every moment you spend on your foe is taking time and energy from you being able to be the awesome person you are.

Don’t do that to yourself; what you don’t feed diminishes.

Go nurture your tribe.

 

ONE MORE THING

With these things in mind, let me tell you something else. Actually, a few somethings.

  1. People that challenge you are not in your way. A real challenge indicates concern.
  2. Your foes are not inherently unfriendly.
  3. Recognizing these people and the parts they play in your world takes practice.

The comments are yours.