Friday, June 19, 2015

Ice Cream Flavors of Work

It’s been a long day—started at 7:00 a.m. and finished at 5:30 p.m. My day? Helping human resources at a Fortune 500 company with notifications for the downsizing of production and salaried workers. So, how was your day?

Some of us have had a day like this. Maybe you were notified once upon a time or recently notified—downsized, excessed, terminated or fired. No matter what it is called, there is a loss. The company lost you along with your skills, education, leadership, ideas, dedication, etc. You lost your career path along with your salary, insurance, 401k, co-workers, and a place to go 40 hours a week or more.

Life is filled with beginnings and endings and that encompasses our career. I always celebrated the beginning of  new employment. It was a time of excitement, electricity, new challenges, new people and new possibilities. And then, there are employment endings.

Endings come at different times and in different ways. Some endings are by choice and some are imposed.
Endings are like the flavors of ice cream. Some are smooth and predictable like your retirement day; maybe the flavor is Vanilla or Chocolate. Sooner or later, we will generally have one of these basic flavors.

Sometimes the flavor is Rocky Road. Remember a time when you had an off day at work, missed a deadline, had conflict with a co-worker, or a poor performance report. The taste of Rocky Road offers those big learning moments with its chocolate ice cream mixed with marshmallow and nuts. Soft and hard…Rocky Road is full of contrasts and gives us something to chew on.

The flavor of the day during the recession would have to be Elephant Tracks. The flavor of chocolate ice cream with a swirl of chocolate and peanut butter cups was a gooey mess and we struggled to eat our way of it. The elephant like the recession had a heavy impact on our lives, careers and businesses.

I have had the privilege of meeting wonderful, talented people who are making the most of the recession, working hard to have a rebound or new direction. I am amazed to see people who are coping, networking and supporting one another to find innovative ways to keep moving forward.  It’s so true, tough times call for a tough attitude! I have seen people volunteering, updating their education, thinking outside the box and using creative self-marketing to move through uncertain times.

We are amazing human beings. We continue to look forward and not backward. We fight the role of victim and self-pity. I wish you well as you persevere in your job search or recreate your career path. What’s your ice cream flavor?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Life is like MahJongg

I have read all of Amy Tan’s books starting with the Joy Luck Club, Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, and more. Each book carries the reader to the Far East and often, the author mentions people playing the game of Mahjongg, an ancient Chinese game of skill, strategy, and calculation with a certain amount of luck. I usually paused and thought, what’s that?

Recently, a friend invited me to learn how to play MahJongg. I didn’t know anyone who played Mahjongg, no matter how you spell it (Mah-jongg or Mah-jong). I thought the game was no longer played in China, let alone in America!

Reaction & Reflection on Learning Something New
I wondered, do I have time to learn the how to play the game? I felt insecure, out of my comfort zone. I wondered, would I catch or would I need remedial MahJongg for the slow learner. I decided to take a risk and show up for the first learning session. I got hooked and committed to show up and practice weekly for two hours. After five sessions, as Professor Higgins would say, “By jove, I think she’s got it!” And the added bonus, I made a new friends and had a few laughs. Just like playing cards, there’s an amount of memory, concentration and strategy involved. I think I stimulated a few brain cells.

Steps to Learning
Most of us would like to say we are life-long learners. That’s good. Yet, when we are asked to step up to the plate to learn or try something new, we often find an excuse like:
  • I’m too busy, no time
  • I’m too old
  • I’m not coordinated
  • It’s too expensive
  • I'd feel guilty

When is the last time you learned something new?
As a life coach, I tell people I coach clients to get in the Game of LIFE and not merely be spectators. I think it is easy to get sidelined in our lives and become spectators rather than participate when we get stressed, get overwhelmed, get older, get complacent in life or work. We think being on the bench will be easier and safe. Yet, I think, most of us want to get reinvolved, but don’t want to fail.

What has been calling to you?  Do you feel like you want to try something new, but something is holding you back?  Maybe it's a new exercise, a new hair style, a new job. Take some time to sit down, check in with yourself and write it down.

What am I curious about? What have you been thinking about, but put it on the back burner. Remember the movie, The Bucket List? We don’t have to wait until we are running out of time. Maybe it’s reading a book, joining the church choir, learning to knit, taking an online class, visiting a yoga class, meeting a friend for coffee or trying out snowshoes. Raise the antenna on your life for better reception. Maybe it’s about fun/recreation, career, health/exercise, home, relationships with family/friends, or spirituality/personal growth.

What gets in the way? Usually it is time, money or fear. These familiar items seem to multiply and feed on each other. Yet, we find ourselves stymied by them time and again. Like a broken record, these items replay in our lives. How can we become bigger than the obstacles? How can we shrink the items and regain control rather than let the items control us?

Gains vs. Losses
What do you have to gain? A lot. This is about what you value, what you find important, what you find meaning in? If you are resisting and saying “no,” you continue to live your life small by sitting on the bench. The excuses become the default in your life.

Who losses? You. It can become habitual to play life small by letting the obstacles hold you back. Are you happy in this place? Are you fulfilled? Are you tired of the broken record of excuses? Are you ready to regain control?

I challenge you to try something new, push the envelope for yourself, and move forward. I’d love to hear from you. Tell me what you are saying “yes” to. Good luck!