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Archive for May, 2009

I sit here thinking about words of encouragement and pearls of wisdom for the working woman on this Sunday before Memorial Day and I am at a loss.  My words seem so insignificant, but I’m writing anyway.  This Monday morning deserves more than best practices and philosophies.  No level of business prowess can trump the efforts and sacrifices made by the men and women of our armed forces through the decades.  This Monday I get the day off to pay homage to those warriors of days past, but will I actually do that?

Will I reflect on the stories of heroism for those who survived and those who died in honor of their country–my country?  War has never been something I have understood, but it is something that always has been…like air and water…it just is.

I am humbled and I am broken as I watch the PBS Memorial Day concert.  I am guilt-ridden when I think for one moment that I’ve had a remotely difficult day lately…or ever in comparison.  I’ve never been to a National Cemetery on Memorial Day and I’m ashamed…tomorrow I begin the tradition.  I cannot enjoy a day with friends without first making the somber trip to pay my respects.  I can only apologize.  I have become one of those people who takes for granted my fortunate life and my blessed existence.

Who do I thank?  How many people do I owe a debt of gratitude? When and where did they fight? Can I make up for lost time and begin a tradition of memorializing our fallen heroes?  I’m going to try.

According to HomeOfHeroes.com, since the birth of the United States of America on July 4, 1776, no single generation of Americans has been spared the responsibility of defending freedom by force of arms.  More than 42 Million American men and women have served in time of war…more than a MILLION have purchased freedom with their lives.  Below are statistics from the US Department of Veterans Affairs detailing the war service and sacrifice of America’s sons and daughters.  I’ve got some making up to do.

My final thoughts are to say to all who served, “thank you, I’m sorry, please forgive me and I love you for what you’ve done for me.”

War Dates Served Battle Deaths Other Deaths Wounded
American Revolution 1775 – 1783 217,000 4,435 Unknown 6,188
War of 1812 1812 – 1815 286,730 2,260 Unknown 4,505
Indian Wars 1817 – 1898 106,000 1,000 Unknown

Unknown

Mexican War 1846 – 1848 78,718 1,733 11,550 4,152
Civil War (North) 1861 – 1865 2,213,363 140,414 224,097 281,881
Civil War (South) 1,050,000 74,524 59,297

Unknown

Spanish-American War 1898 – 1902 306,760 385 2,061 1,662
World War I 1917 – 1918 4,734,991 53,402 63,114 204,002
World War II 1940 – 1945 16,112,566 291,557 113,842 671,846
Korean War 1950 – 1953 5,720,000 33,686 20,560 103,284
Vietnam War 1964 – 1975 9,200,000 47,410 42,788 153,303
Gulf War 1990 – 1991 2,322,332 148 1,194 467

Totals 42,348,460 650,954 538,503 1,431,290

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I used to live in the land of “what if.”  It’s not a very enchanting place to be, but so many of us end up there time and time again.  Let’s compare two stories of far away lands: “What If;” where the princess never kisses her prince and the knight never slays his dragon to “As If;” where the princess is already making wedding plans and the knight clears a place on the wall for his trophy kill.

Over the past few years I’ve come to realize the energy expended on all the things that never happen is so much more useful when used to live as if my desired outcome has already occurred.  Some psychologists believe that only 8% of what we worry about is even legitimate and only a fraction of a fraction of that percentage ever comes true.  Still we utter, “but what if I…” or “what if they…”  I see it in the workplace daily…hourly…all the reasons something cannot happen due to the “what ifs” of downtown or the big boss or the system.  Doesn’t leave much room for happily ever after, does it?

Our English word “worry” comes from an Anglo-Saxon word that means “to strangle!”  No doubt!  It is very strangling or stifling to limit ourselves with fear.  Fear of the “what if.”  It can be debilitating, but there’s a method to moving through worry.  It takes a leap of faith, it takes a paradigm shift, and it takes a passage into make-believe that is well worth the journey.

I’ve heard counseling terms like “fake it ‘til you make it,” or “act as if” so that’s what I learned to do. I also read about Robert Kelly, a psychologist and mathematician who concluded that there are an infinite number of outcomes to every worry or scenario, so why not take the positive one?  Let’s see, 8% probability versus infinity…I’ll take infinity (and beyond)!

The point to this fairy tale was to say that for three months, I’ve been living “as if” the sponsorships I’m chasing are already in place.  I’ve strategically assumed their involvement and that’s lead to another, and another and yet another.  Now, have I landed every opportunity?  No.  I said the outcomes are infinitely possible not necessarily guaranteed in my favor.  BUT, has living in that make-believe reality helped to further my efforts?  You bet your royal highness it has!

It’s really a simple mindset that can benefit us professionally, emotionally and even physically, but it is very clearly a choice.  And we have the power to make that choice not just every day, but at every uneasy or indecisive moment throughout our day.  I didn’t even realize I was operating in this realm until I got a callback Friday from a prospect that I was already assuming was on board.  That’s when it hit me that this particular company was the initial proposal I sent out that got the ball rolling for several more that followed based on the possibility of their involvement.  I’d say the knight from “As If” just kicked the dragon from “What Ifs” tail!

What land are you living in?

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I spent the weekend working a Latino Rodeo and Festival at the fairgrounds. Good thing I paid attention in Señora Alarid’s class, otherwise I’d been more overwhelmed than I was.  I was in charge of getting the folks (who paid a GOOD price to get into the festival) to sign up para la rifa del carro (for the car raffle) on Sunday.  I pieced it all together and even remembered a few gems like, “good luck,” “good afternoon” and “see you later.”  That part of the language barrier I handled pretty well…the second part was a bit trickier.  I soon learned was that my watch and the watch of the promoters were about three hours apart…my “open at noon” was their “3 o’clock.”  My mom says it’s always been that way and will always be.  She calls it the “mañana factor.” She’s fluent in Spanish and I could have really used her this weekend…but without her I was left to my own devices…my blackberry which came in handy when I realized I was saying Rodeo wrong after a day and a half.

The point of all of this is to reiterate the value of speaking the right language when addressing your audience.   Whether it is another dialect, another industry or another age group, the fact remains that everyone’s experience is better when you speak their language…or at least attempt to do so.   I’d like to think the fact that I happened to be working the front gate added to the positive experience that these folks deserved after paying $10, $15 & even $20 just to walk through the gate.   I’m sure I was a bit of comic relief as well since they never expected those words to roll off my tongue, but they were amenable to listen attentively to my recitation of the rules for entering.  For me, it was a lot of work screaming over the Mariachi’s in Spanglish…but it was worth it.

I remember in the mortgage business the loan officers who constantly used jargon and lingo that would make a poor customers’ head spin…it should just never be taken for granted that someone knows what MIP, or HUD or PMI mean.  It’s just downright nasty to hear all of that in a loan closing.  Most of the time a customer is too embarrassed to tell you to go back and explain because they do not want to look uneducated.  But how many of us get so comfortable in OUR world that we forget to adjust to someone else’s?  It’s probably one of the most important lessons in business whether you’re in sales, customer support or even behind the scenes.  I created a few rules that keep me in check when I veer off onto the Acronymical Highway, (E.C.R.U.’S.):

E – Everyone I interact with—whether co-worker, vendor or client—IS MY CUSTOMER

C – I will utilize the tools and technology provided to me to communicate BEST

R – I am responsible for their experience

U – I will spend the time that is necessary to understand the question in order to provide the correct answer

S – I will speak their language first, and then see how mine fits in

ECRU is not really an acronym; it’s a word meaning, unbleached and raw…just like a simple conversation ought to be.  Obviously if your job is to speak to rocket scientists, this may be a little more complex than a little “keep it simple stupid” rule, but the overall theory works.  Always, always, always speak the language your audience can best hear.  And if your audience speaks a completely different dialect, take a few minutes to learn a phrase or sentence that shows you’ve taken an interest in them.  There are oodles and oodles of translators on google…so have some fun with it.

If I keep my conversations and speaking engagements true to these five simple thoughts, chances are I have kept it on a level that works for my audience.  And at the end of the day, your audience is probably the source of your bread and butter as it is mine, so it’s worth the extra work to find out if they prefer tortilla’s over corn bread!

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My father-in-law used to say, “The best time to look for a job is when you have one” and I tend to agree.  I’m happy with my current career choice and my accomplishments, but I am not naive enough to think that I am indispensable.   None of us are safe as so many have come to realize this past year. But just because I’m grateful for my job, doesn’t mean I’m going to rest on my laurels and hope that I stay at the top of my game.  Me? I’m constantly creating the game.

I used to criticize myself for changing not only jobs, but careers every few years. But now I realize that it’s because of what I have done, from entertainer to mortgage banker and everything in between that makes me who I am today.  While I admire people who retire from successful careers after 30 years of service, I can easily tell you that it’s not for me…or most people in my forty-something circles. Constantly creating the game was the only reason I got to entertain with Bob Hope, had an office at Walt Disney Imagineering, interviewed Garth Brooks, rode along with Mark Martin, flew with Dan Marino and tasted moonshine with a famous songwriter (identity withheld because I think moonshine is illegal). Me! The girl who lived her youth to its fullest has done the same with her career.  And I can say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, when it comes to my career I have no regrets.

I believe that job interviewing for the sheer practice is great exercise.  I think getting too comfortable in any job can cause you to lose your creative and competitive spirit.  But by allowing yourself to dip your toe in the pond you can sometimes take a well-deserved and refreshing plunge into new waters.

These days, with social media at our fingertips (and on our nightstands if you’re like me), there’s no excuse for not keeping your accomplishments fresh on prospective employer’s minds.  I’m not saying to bore your “friends” or “tweeple” with constant praise of your own work, but be willing to share who you are and what you’re proud of professionally with people that might not otherwise know.

If staying in one career for 20 years isn’t for you, then you might think about this from my perspective.  Sometimes you have to toot your own horn if you want it to be heard.  And there’s a graceful way to “sell” yourself that’s not obtrusive or nauseating.  Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Take the time twice a year to update your resume
  2. Get creative with your presentation and consider developing a binder of your work
  3. Join LinkedIn and take the time to really know people, recommend their work and take an interest in their lives
  4. Use social media sans the political or overly personal slant to get to know professional acquaintances
  5. Be willing to create a “personal board of directors” for advice
  6. Crawl out of your box and become a mentor or volunteer

I have to admit that I have met more powerful, wonderful people through my volunteer work the past several years than I would have through traditional channels.  I know my work was valuable because I took pride in it.  I also know that going outside of my comfort zone afforded me friendships that otherwise may have not occurred without the personal connection.  I’m not saying to always have an ulterior motive up your sleeve either; I’m saying open your eyes to the experiences and opportunities around you and be intentional in your endeavors.  Job seeking can be a full-time career and it’s best to seek one when you don’t need one.  And to quote my father-in-law again, “If you keep doing what you’re doing…you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.”

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