Piecing it together

Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual. It’s as if life was a thousand-piece puzzle all over the floor, along with the pieces from everyone else’s thousand-piece puzzle. And to top it off, the pieces are face down.

We can’t ever really be sure what we’ll be, how we’ll do. But we try things. We make mistakes.

Sure it’s okay to cook from a recipe book, but isn’t it more rewarding to experiment?

Time-Suck

The wasting of potential through unthoughtful and unaccounted for hours in the day. Nearly anything can be a time suck if allowed to be. Some things I’ve noticed – video games, email, social media, Netflix. While none are inherently time-suckers, using them in an unmindful way will suddenly resulted in wasted hours.

When used to distract from something else, they merely sap your attention. These diversions can take many forms, but they all will waste the most precious commodity that we only have so much of – time.

Mindfully approaching your day-to-day experiences will eliminate the need for diversion, and give you control over more of your time.

Weekly Rundown

Two weeks in a row. I’m still feeling good about it. Calling it Weekly Rundown, that is.

What I’m Reading: Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life by Terry Brooks. Coming out of John McPhee a few weeks ago, I wanted to give this one a try. Concise, fun, and a little “out there”, I’ve enjoyed reading it so far. One thing that did throw me off a bit was the intro by Elizabeth George, who derided some authors who could only produce one book. Whereas I do respect a person’s opinions, I think anyone who has at least sat down to write a book, even if it’s just one, deserves some consideration for their efforts. But that’s a minor thing, at least for me.

What I’m Listening To: The Nothing But Major Gifts Podcast. This episode deals with keeping Major Gift Officers. So I’ve actually worked for two organizations, building a development program from scratch for them. After about ten months at each place, they felt the results weren’t worth the money or effort that they were putting in. Best practices require one-to-two years for that level of relationship building. After my last stint, mired in aggravation and dealing with an unresponsive ED, I decided that I’d never take on a fledgling development department again, unless perhaps a contract was in place for a period no shorter than three years. Anyway, if nonprofit administration is interesting to you, check out the Veritus Group and their podcast.

What I’m spending my time with: Meditation. I’ve been trying a new 3x daily meditation practice (most days… I’m committed to every day for a month. Working my way up to it.) I was recommended this practice from a yoga teacher I practiced with last week. In theory, it’s a way to rest your internal programming – pushing through all of the negative buildup that accumulates. Here’s a link to Elephant Journal for an article I found, but it doesn’t really explain the three times daily practice.

Other things of interest to me this week:

  • Seth Godin’s post on mediocrity, and how corporate policy is about consistency, not necessarily excellence.
  • Society for Psychical Research. A leftover from Mary Roach’s Spook, I was curious to see what kind of activities that they investigated.
  • Dude – a brief history from The Atlantic. “You know… if you’re in to the whole brevity thing.”
  • Trying some new recipes in the kitchen, this time experimenting with Indian cuisine. My first endeavor will be this weekend making Aloo Matar, but here’s a link to some basics.

Setting communication standards

Management is about delegation, communication, and motivation. Peter Drucker warns that, “There seems to be little correlation between a man’s effectiveness and his intelligence, his imagination or his knowledge.” (The Effective Executive)

When managing any group of people, from three up to multinational corporations, communication is paramount. Any misstep in communication regarding expectations, assignments, etc, rests solely with the management. (Any lag in communication regarding issues that arise in the trenches are most likely the cause of ineffective management as well, as effective communications in the past will lead to open channels of dialogue in times of crisis.)

The importance of communication is the shared understanding. “Communications are a two-way process.  You can be certain of what you communicated, but how can you be sure what you communicated was understood by the receiver? The assurance of your message being understood begins with the message and the manner of delivery.” (University Survival)

Interview questions

“Think of a time that you were in a stressful situation at work, and tell me how you handled it.”

“What do you consider to be your weaknesses?”

“Tell me about a time you had to choose something else over doing a good job.”

“If you were an animal, what kind would it be and why?”

The interview question. I don’t even know what to say about the interview question. Does it matter? Can you gauge a person’s aptitude, willingness to work, good behavior, ethics, attention to detail, etc. off an interview? Human Resources departments would say yes, undoubtedly.

I’m not convinced. I’ve seen some slick monkeys give amazing answers to these questions. You know what slick monkeys use their slickness for in the workplace? Sliding out of responsibilities.

What’s an animal in the trenches? An elephant? A donkey? That’s not a sexy animal to be. (I didn’t mean to take the animal thing and run with it. But I grabbed the metaphor and it grabbed me back.)

But seriously – how can you gauge talent? It has to come down to a feeling. Sure, sometimes something slick will slide by you, and you won’t catch it until you’re undoing some mess  that’s been made. And, more often than not, you’ll be passing on honest-to-goodness qualified talent, because you just can’t hire everyone that would do a great job. You’re going to watch them get away, and you shouldn’t even give that a second thought.

I like the Google example in The Internship. In deciding whether to admit to seasoned (nee, old) out-of-work salesmen into the internship program, one of the reviewers asked, “Our final judgment is always based on the layover test, right? Who would you rather be stuck next to at an airport bar for a six-hour delay?”

Maybe that person is the next golden goose for your company, and that’s no bull… (I’m done, I swear.)

Letting Go

As I progress in my blogging, I start to think I’ve used titles before. Like Letting Go. I search. I don’t find it. Maybe the search bar doesn’t work like I mean it to. Or I actually haven’t titled one Letting Go. I don’t know for sure.

Either way, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Letting go. Of the past. Of stuff. Of the personal baggage that I hang on to. It’s little things.

This item went to the trash tonight:

coconut crow
Jamaican-made bird feeder from coconut.

I had purchased it from a street vendor in Jamaica – exactly which area I don’t recall. I was in Jamaica for a mission trip with my significant other. She and I are no longer together. I also have no relationship to speak of with any of the church members that went on the trip.

I think I paid $10. I could have gotten it for cheaper. But the words of a very persuasive priest came back to me.

“While talking with a parishioner,” he said in his homily, “she was bragging about how she had talked the seller down on some item she purchased on vacation.” [I believe it was in Mexico, but it could have been anywhere].

He proceeded to ask her, “Are you saying that you’re proud of taking away the money the this person needs to care for the family, put food on the table, and keep a roof over their heads?” This particular priest is an odd, joy-filled individual.

He then said, “I guess I shouldn’t go on vacation there. I’d be haggling the price up.”

So in looking at this strange coconut bird feeder, an authentic carved item from Jamaica, I couldn’t bring myself to haggle the price down.

But it no longer serves me. I took this picture of it to have the memory, but item itself has been let go.

A matter of principle

Every now and then you may be asked to do something you don’t agree with. It could be small, or maybe something much larger. But how do you adhere to your principles when maybe it’s your job on the line.

The workplace should have an open forum for that kind of discussion. Something that doesn’t devolve into a shouting match. You shouldn’t have to choose to defend your principles or to keep you job.

But if you are asked to choose, maybe it’s time to find a different employer.