This way arrowsSometimes career and life decisions just don’t seem to work out. Welcome to life, Sports Fans! We’ve all been there at some time! Taking the next steps can be an exciting and rewarding journey, but it can also lead to more disappointment and frustration if you don’t take the time to think through your move.

Allow me to share a simple yet powerful question to guide you as you consider your next move:

ARE YOU LEAVING, OR ARE YOU GOING?

I have often told individuals that it’s critical to be GOING rather than simply LEAVING. Why? When you are LEAVING, the destination doesn’t matter so long as the place you were is in your rear view mirror, often resulting in a poor decision (you may end up somewhere even worse!). When you are GOING, you have a destination in mind and take more purposeful actions.

So, which are you doing?  LEAVING or GOING?

Unsure? I can help!

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I love words, languages, etymologies, etc. In wading through my resources, I was reminded of this little ditty:

“… le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.”

In Italian “Il meglio è nemico del bene” (The better is enemy of the good), this phrase is initially credited to Orlando Pescetti and was later popularized by Voltaire, who used the saying in the article “Art Dramatique” in the 1770 edition of the Dictionnaire Philosophique. It eventually appeared in French in “La Bégueule” in 1772, ascribing it to an anonymous “wise Italian”…

“Dans ses écrits, un sage Italien

Dit que le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.”

(In his writings, a wise Italian says that the better is the enemy of good.)

The moral: In insisting on delivering only the very best every time, you may end up accomplishing virtually nothing!

You should certainly strive for excellence, to be sure, but requiring “perfection” at all times may set you up for failure! After all, when is anything absolutely “perfect?!”

“Forget Your Troubles” was written by Ted Koehler in 1950 and memorialized by Judy Garland. In the Imagecontext of career development and personal growth, this seems easier said than done. Job Search, Career Advancement, Life, etc. is full of discouragement, rejection and an abundance of “No’s”.

“Get happy” just doesn’t cut it.

Actually, however, it’s pretty good advice. Research by psychologist Martin Seligman (author of two books on my reading list in http://www.goodreads.com, Learned Optimism and Authentic Happiness) has shown that “getting happy” can actually be done! As a new graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in the 60s, Seligman assisted in behavioral research using animals to determine how they learned to avoid unpleasant situations. Without going into the details (don’t worry, the subjects weren’t hurt!), conditions were created where the animals were unable to avoid a stressful situation. In other words, regardless of what they did, they experienced an unpleasant response. It reached the point where they would do absolutely nothing, since what they did changed nothing! This was described as “learned helplessness” – in humans, something we may call “pessimism.” Seligman eventually started to wonder that, if we can “learn” to be pessimistic, maybe we can learn to be optimistic, too (enter his first book, Learned Optimism).

Now some of us seem to be naturally optimistic, able to see the glass as half full. I’ve always liked the comment of the comedian, “I don’t care if the glass is half empty or half full, I just want to know who was drinking it and do I have to pay for all of it!” Quite honestly, these cheerful types tend to annoy me somewhat. Aren’t they paying attention to what’s happening? At times, I naturally fall on the side of the pessimists – that seems more realistic to me. Then, when things happen, I’m either absolutely right (“I knew it wouldn’t work!”) or pleasantly surprised (“Wow! I didn’t expect this!”).

This mindset is not very successful, however, and my faith walk has been very helpful here (I speak from personal experience.) Seligman did research on pessimism and came up with three distinct dimensions for pessimism: permanence, pervasiveness and personalization. Here is how they work:

Permanence means when something goes wrong, it will stay wrong, never to correct itself. Learn to live with it, because it’s here to stay. When you fail at something, the results of this experience will affect you for the rest of your life. Deal with it.

Pervasiveness means when something goes wrong, it’s only the beginning. There is more to come, so you better get used to it. When one company does not return your calls, no one will. You may as well give up. To quote a song by a favorite bluesman of mine, Buddy Guy: “I wonder where the next one’s coming from?!”

Personalization means that when something goes wrong, you deserved it because of what you didi or who you are. Don’t expect anything nice to happen to you because you are not worthy of such an experience. You didn’t get that promotion because you are a rotten human being, lucky to be employed at all.

These statements sound over the top, don’t they? Yet many of us practice them regularly. By the way, if you register with Dr. Seligman’s website, http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu, you can complete an assessment to identify your scores on these factors, along with all sorts of other measures.

I don’t want to stop here, however. Seligman, a major contributor to what he calls “Positive Psychology,” offers a step-by-step approach to retooling your thinking (challenging what has been called “stinkin’ thinkin’”). To do this process justice, you really should read his books, but here is the process in abbreviated form. The five steps follow the alphabet – ABCDE.

A – Adversity: This is the offending event. I was just turned down for the promotion I was counting on.

B – Belief: My natural response, what this situation makes me think. I’m not a good candidate, I’ll probably end up being a greeter at a large retail establishment. I may as well get fitted for an apron now.

C – Consequences: How my beliefs translate into actions. Since I’m obviously not a serious candidate for any quality position, I might as well give up and take a paper route.

D – Disputation: Here is where the magic can start. I challenge B and C. Am I really a waste of space, with no real options? Seligman says that we need to learn to argue with ourselves. His Learned Optimism book gives some very practical guidance on how to do this.

E – Energization: This is where you turn the “argument” with yourself into renewed action. I am not a waste of space. Although I regret not getting this opportunity I’ll find out why, improve my performance and redouble my efforts until I’m successful.

There will be days when you just don’t feel like it. That’s normal, especially for those with pessimistic tendencies. Do it anyway. “Fake it until you make it.” You can make a habit of practicing your new optimistic outlook, even if it isn’t your natural style. I have! You’re likely to be very pleased with the results.

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” This statement can be true at times, however, thereBlank billboard is always the possibility that the “hearer” replaces the wheel or, at least, ends up sporting noise-cancelling headphones!

Here is my suggestion for keeping your brand out there: think of your brand as a billboard (I say your “brand” answers the following question: “When people walk away from you, what do they have that they didn’t have before you arrived?”) .

Here’s how my metaphor works: NO ONE installs a billboard on a well-traveled thoroughfare (LinkedIn, WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al) on Monday, takes it down Tuesday and awaits the response from eager inquirers! The best you can get from such a practice is the bemused question from travelers, “Wasn’t there a billboard there yesterday?” (hardly a recipe for getting noticed!).

No, they must drive by that placard again and again! THAT’S why those annoying commercials are played over and over again, sometimes during the same break in your favorite shows!

Please understand: I don’t want you to be that annoyingly repetitious “billboard” that causes people to seek detours (or use those aforementioned headphones to drown you out). I DO, however, want you to regularly use your “billboard” to present your “value proposition” (sorry to use this hackneyed phrase, but it fits here!) to the world.

So, what does your “billboard” say, and how often do people “drive by” it?!

If you are unsure, I can help!

BTW, here’s mine:

“I help people identify and practice their God-given abilities in their work and lives.”

 

I can see it now…an emotionally charged court room. A deafening hush has fallen over the entire spectacle, from the anxious, restless jury to the thrill-seeking spectators.Image

The Prosecuting attorney strides up to the accused perpetrator, extends a critical finger in his direction and almost screams: “Isn’t it true that you and the victim were involved in a Ponzi scheme some 10 years ago?!”

Defense bolts out of her seat. “Objection, your Honor! That question is irrelevant and immaterial!”

The wizened old judge responds. “Objection sustained. The jury will disregard that question.”

Oh, REALLY?! (We’ve now left the courtroom, by the way) Do you really think that, as a result of the judge’s directive, the jury will now totally ignore the question, not even considering the possibility that the victim and the accused had a history of illegitimate financial dealings?!

Of course, forgetting the question is exactly what each and every juror must do, but here’s the sticky bit: THEY ALL JUST HEARD IT! Of course, they can (and should) consciously seek to ignore this potential bit of “evidence,” but the seed has now been planted by the wily Prosecuting attorney.

THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER SAY “QUOTE – UNQUOTE.” Once it’s been heard (or read), it’s too late. Oh, you can back pedal a bit, work up some reasonable explanation, provide some additional information to soften the blow or assuage the damage that’s already been rendered, perhaps even recover somewhat from your faux pas…

But wouldn’t it have been better if you’d taken a little more time before you opened your mouth or started typing? I sometimes think we should invoke the “7 second delay” used by radio stations to allow time to expunge inappropriate words, etc. before they get on the air.

Years ago, I had a college professor, Dr. Carl Cassell, who admonished us to “never say ‘Unquote,’ only say ‘End quote’,” since once it’s out there, you can’t make it go away!” It’s simply not possible to “unquote” something that you just “quoted.”

This sage advice can apply to all communications, from phone conversations, tweets, blogs, online posts, and emails to networking meetings, presentations and interviews. As I have tweeted, “Measure twice, cut once” is not only good advice for carpentry. How about this? “Think twice, speak (or type) once.”

I even found corroborating evidence from the Apostle in James 1:19: “Be quick to hear, slow to speak.”

Good advice. And you CAN quote me on it!

An older insurance ad I recall has recently returned. In it,  a young lady is sadly recalling the accident that totaled her beloved car “Brad.” As she recalls all that they have been through together in the past 4 years, she remembers: 2 boyfriends, 3 JOBS! 3 jobs in 4 years! Do the math. That’s an average of 16 months in each company!clipboard

Welcome to the new job market, Sports Fans! The Rules have clearly changed!

Let’s remind ourselves of the Old Rules:

  • Get training in a field where there is work.
  • Do what you are told.
  • Take every promotion they offer you.
  • Stay until they present you with the “Gold Watch.”
  • Retire. Now go do what you want!

WRONG! I would respectfully suggest the following “Rules” for the New Workplace that have taken over:

Be prepared for change at all times.

Only two things don’t change – God and change. As a company, stay flexible, forward thinking and open to adjustments for you, your industry and your personnel. As a worker, you need not fall in love with change, but you’d better learn how to handle it. Change happens.

Act as if you are self employed.

A career site (no longer around: see, even this changes!) used to tout the tagline “Because EVERY Job is Temporary.” Well, it is. As a company, don’t assume that you will be ordering gold watches at a volume discount. Help your employees see themselves as integral parts of the solution. As an employee, take action at work as if your paycheck is directly related to your contribution (because, ultimately, it is!).

Never stop learning.

Employers should provide opportunities for employees to acquire new skills, knowledge and expertise that enhance them as individuals as well as enabling them to contribute at higher and higher levels. Employees should be seeking these opportunities continually, even if they must do it on their own. To borrow a title from another one of my blogs, your workers may be thinking “Play Me or Trade Me!”

Continually add value to your work.

“What have you done for me lately?” sounds very ungrateful, but it’s a Fact Of Work these days. The best way to stop advancing in your job is to simply do what is expected of you! Employers, create opportunities for the employee to contribute more to the position. Employees, never be completely satisfied with your performance. Always seek to improve. I’ve coined a term to describe this mindset: “Professional Dissatisfaction.”

Take charge of your attitude.

When I’ve been called in to work with employees, it is never on how to use a spreadsheet or fill out a time card. The focus: learning to “play well with others!”  Employers should seek to enhance the communication and relationsship skills of staff through modeling the appropriate behavior as well as providing training and support in these areas. Employees should invest time and energy into enhancing their interpersonal skills.

Is it a New Workplace? You bet it is!

STOP USING THE OLD RULES.

 

 

Please allow me to start this “anti-resolution treatise” with a disclaimer: I have no problem at all with people who choose the start of a new year to make life-enhancing commitments. That being said, let me move on to my thoughts on this ever present reality:New Year Resolutions

Early in my career I spent years working in fitness centers, both as a sales consultant and a trainer. The die-hard “gym rats” (not a term of derision, to my way of thinking) always dreaded the first couple of months of the New Year. Scores of “newbies” would descend on the equipment, monopolizing the machines while grunting and groaning, often in poor form with little chance of success, in search of that elusive, fit individual hiding deep within them. By the end of February, however, most of the smoke had cleared, and we were back to the “old faithful” regulars at the gym.

You can also observe this well-intentioned fanaticism for resolutions in the ads on TV and the blogs/posts/tweets/updates on the Internet. Lose weight, transform your business, embrace success, take charge, be all you can be, etc. And you are all but guaranteed success in any of your endeavors as, after all, it is the New Year! It’s all New for 2018! You can have a Fresh Start! It’s bound to work this time, right?!

Well, yes and no. God bless those dear souls who, with all the integrity and resolve they can muster, make these Resolutions. I read a tweet from someone just before the arrival of a New Year that noted they had just 2 days left to achieve the results they had committed to 363 days before! Well intentioned, yet not likely to be realized in the next 48 hours!

So, you may well ask, what’s my point?! (Go ahead, ask!) Simply this: To borrow a well-known phrase from Madison Avenue that originated in 1988, “Just Do It!” Start right away, whether in the shadow of the New Year’s fireworks, the excitement of spring blossoms, the oppressive heat of the dog days of summer, the panoply of fall colors or the grey skies in the dead of winter. To quote the title of one of my favorite books by Barbara Sher, “It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now!”

And, once you’ve started, stay with it! I recently encountered a T-shirt emblazoned with this pithy phrase“Just Doing It.” Two steps forward and one step back (the way I typically advance) is still a net gain of one step! Remember that success is more often the result of “grit” than anything else (Angela Duckworth has some tremendous research on this concept, and I’ve even blogged on this powerful insight). To quote another favorite author of mine, Dan Pink (in the persona of Johnny Bunko), “Persistence trumps talent!”

Make your resolutions, whenever and however you can and, once you have done so, get caught “JUST DOING IT!”