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Archive for August, 2009

I’ve been preparing and in the midst of the State Fair marathon for about eight months now.  At “T minus 10” days until opening ceremonies, I’m starting to not only put in long hours, but the pace is alarming.  I’m no stranger to working 16-hour days, seven days a week–that part I can handle; it’s keeping it together mentally, physically and professionally that is imperative.  A lack of sleep can cause difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, loss of energy, fatigue, lethargy, and emotional instability–NOT the picture you want to paint for your clients or staff.

For your next marathon project at work, here’s a list of suggestions to get you to the finish line:

  1. don’t skip meals, drink lot’s of water (limit soft drinks & alcohol intake)
  2. take breaks every two hours to stretch or walk
  3. make lists at the beginning and end of each day
  4. prioritize  by “absolute must do’s” vs. “would like to do’s”
  5. set expectations for yourself, your clients and your staff
  6. check and double check all correspondence for accuracy
  7. deal with problems head on, then let go at some point, “it is what it is”

Nothing revolutionary, but important in keeping it all together for the good of the project.  No one wants to do business with a grouchy, sleep-deprived maniac…I know because I’ve been her before…and she’s not pretty.

I’m keeping things short and sweet this week because I am in the home stretch, but on my list of must do priorities was today’s article.
I’m trying to avoid “blow up,” an endurance term to avoid during times of high stress. To blow up means to suddenly be unable to maintain a racing pace or high intensity and having to stop or slowdown dramatically (due to overexertion, bonking, or general fatigue).  And bonking is what happens when you run out of energy due to low glycogen levels and/or dehydration; a terrible lightheaded, dizzy, empty feeling. Also known as “hitting the wall”.  If you hit the wall, you’re not an effective leader in any way.

So as I head out the door today, I don my comfortable shoes, my breakfast bar, my gallon of water and my sanity…the finish line is in sight and I’m on pace to finish at my personal best!

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When done right, a good status update or twitter post can make your day or the day of someone you call “friend.”  Instant karma, instant love, instant attention.  This society loves instant gratification and I’m no exception.  I’ve noticed over the months that one small inspiration, witty phrase or cry for help written between the lines of a friend or co-worker never goes unnoticed.  I like that part of social networking.  Matter of fact, there’s nothing I don’t like about it. I can be as personal or superficial as I choose to be.  I can choose to check in or check out; I can status update or I can sit back and watch stories unfold all around me–it’s entertainment and friendship at its best!

Many people still say, “I just don’t have time for Facebook.”  I challenge them by saying they don’t have time NOT to get engaged.  In our busy schedules, a 10-minute glance into the world of virtual relationships via twitter or Facebook can bring us closer than finding the time to place that phone call or set up that lunch date.

It may seem impersonal, but it has actually made personal friends out of once business-only relationships; it has allowed for 237 birthday wishes to a friend that a year ago, I would not have even know when their birthday was; it’s made for an automatic pick-me-up during a lull; it’s magic!

Social Networking (Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Twitter), have allowed me to connect and reconnect with old friends, new friends and business acquaintances on a more personal level than I would have imagined.  I believe I’m more mentally in shape because of it! I get to vent, mope and inspire in 140 characters or less.  And it doesn’t matter if anyone reads it because it’s MY outlet; my cure-all; my sanity!

But the fact is, they DO read it, and I read back.  I am all for ways to connect to people that are unique to them and our relationship…and of course, easy to engage.  It sounds so clinical, but I believe my days are richer because of the brilliance of some of my “Facebookies,” and I don’t even mind their political quips or “What Song Am I” games.  I hit ignore if I don’t have time, but the fact they included me and it was important to them…matters.

My “viral networking” guidelines are simple: never post anything I wouldn’t want my mother or my priest to read.  And  even though I post a colorful read here and there…I still would represent myself as such at the alter…it’s a very transparent way to exist…and I like it! Facebook is like a face-lift for a crappy mood.  It’s like taking two asprin and NOT calling me in the morning! It’s like Phen-Phen for your busy calendar; it’s like psycho-therapy for your fingers!

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For a small woman, I have a lethal grip.  I tend to clench tightly to projects and initiatives, even when they’re dying a slow death.  I am a self-proclaimed control freak somewhat in recovery; I am learning to let go.

I have always felt that the more control I have over a project, the better it will turn out…and sometimes it’s true, but at what cost? High stress = NO peace.  No peace in my mind, my workplace, my body or my relationships. Noticing the hereditary control-gene is a good start, doing something to keep it in check is even better.  Maybe it happens when you turn 40, and for some it may never happen at all, but for me, it’s happen-ING as I write–I’m finding ways to relieve stress.  Low stress = MORE PEACE; it begins with ME!

There are all types of 12-step programs out there that teach about “letting go and letting God” and “accepting the things we cannot change,” but is there a program for the perpetually controlling stress mongers like myself?  Nope, I even Googled it.  It was time to self-evaluate and kick this habit, so I created my own plan for when the best laid plans hit the fan and stress starts to control my actions (or reactions):

  1. Acknowledge that I’m doing the best that I can, and if I’m slacking, acknowledge that, too
  2. Breathe and count to 10 to clear my head when I feel the stranglehold coming on
  3. Ask myself if there’s another way besides the one I’m hell-bent on
  4. ALWAYS, always have a contingency plan
  5. Include fresh ideas and new perspectives
  6. Have a reliable resource “to talk me off the ledge” at crucial moments
  7. Make amends with the people in my workplace and get a fresh start (chances are I’ve ticked someone off by being so controlling)
  8. Simply accept the fact that I cannot affect the change in everything
  9. Admit that there are things out of my control
  10. Get over myself
  11. Use my PR skills to create a positive spin
  12. Hit the Easy Button (previous article) as often as possible

It really is that easy, but the truth is that it’s never done alone.  I have the people I work with, the friends that support me and the spiritual guidance from many to thank for helping me look beyond the obvious and for shedding light on the not so obvious.

I notice a change in me, I have no idea if the people around me do, but recovery of any kind requires the patience of an ebb and flow progression.  I am now embracing my ebb and my flow…it’s all good…and it’s so much more peaceful being me these days!

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No roses, not this weekend—I didn’t need any stinkin’ roses—I needed comfort food and family.  A dozen fresh cut “Golden Celebration” roses couldn’t lure me away from the smell of roasting Hatch Green Chile outside a Whole Foods in Albuquerque.  I stood mesmerized as the tumbler full of bright green peppers danced their way to perfection. It was the ideal smell to transport me to another place and time—the entire purpose of this impromptu trip.

I’m 30 days out from my very first fair as the director of marketing.  My days have crept up from 8 to 10 to 12 hours already just getting prepared for the 10-day event.  By the time the fair is in full swing, I’m sure they will be 16 to 18 hours long.  I’m getting ready.  I’m preparing ME for the crazy ride.

My days are full of decisions, deadlines, brainstorming, problems, and negotiations; if it were world peace you might be in trouble!  It’s just the Tennessee State Fair, however to me, it IS my world…and peace is what I believe I’m creating.  Peace between the neighborhoods and the fairgoers, peace between the staff and the commitments, and peace between what used to be and a vision of what it can be.  So for today, peace begins with me!  Kermit the Frog always said that being green wasn’t easy, and since we’ve gone “green” this year, I understand poor Kermie’s plight.  But let me tell ya, peace don’t come easy, either.

I believe in the “flight attendant philosophy,” put your mask on first, and then attend to those around you.  Take care of yourself first!  Self-serving or smart?  Both, but I figure if I’m in a good frame of mind, it’s probably good on the people around me.  If I can “breathe,” chances are they can, too!  It’s a give-and-take kinda pay-it-forward way to survive.  It’s how I roll.  That’s why I took a long weekend to escape to some of the comforts of what I know: New Mexico, family, green chile, clean air, and a weekend class of meditation.  What an invaluable gift I gave myself; and one I can give to the people I will interact with over the next 30 days.  As much as I hate the cliché, it’s a win-win!

The deadlines will still be there when my plane lands at noon.  The stress regarding what’s yet to be done is still overwhelming.  The problems and personalities won’t have changed by the time I locate my car in short-term parking.  The task of finalizing the advertising campaign has not lessened in the 3 days away from home…BUT, the five foot one and three-quarter tall woman who has assumed the role feels ten feet tall and bullet proof today!  I am ready to assume responsibility for what lies ahead: the good, the bad and the ugly.  There WILL be ugly.  I’m still ready.  I am at peace with what I’ve created and how it’s developing.  I am at the point of surrender and smile.  I was not in this place a week ago.

In the midst of the everyday hustle and bustle, it’s important to stop and smell whatever it is that you need to smell.  For me, it was chile, but unless you really are in charge of the planet’s war and peace efforts, you might want to consider taking a break.  I don’t feel overwhelmed tonight, I feel equipped.  I don’t feel burdened by the responsibility, I feel empowered.  I don’t feel panicked to get home, I feel clear-headed.  Take that break you’ve been putting off.  Stop to put your oxygen mask on.  Take a deep breath and give yourself a chance to recover…you can’t afford not to.

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Country singer Tracy Lawrence has a great song that tells a story of a guy who’s been at the top, and when he gets down on his luck he finds out who his friends are.  Most of us have friended a friend of a friend (prior to Facebook that sentence would have made no sense what so ever). Then before you know it, you have 502 “friends” in your life.  Well, with all the hype about followers and friends, does anyone ever check to see who their friends aren’t?  It became somewhat apparent early on why I should never friend someone I met only once at a cocktail party–she just might turn out to be an overzealous politico that uses Facebook as her bully pulpit.  Then there’s the “all caps” guy who always has words of inspiration to share, but in all caps, I feel as if he’s screaming at me every morning–before I’ve even had coffee.  And unfortunately, there’s the guy who is a friend of a friend that appears on the 6 o’clock news charged with fraud.  That made me take a good, hard look at who my friends are, and ask myself some questions.

Certainly we’re mindful of whom we associate ourselves with professionally; shouldn’t we do the same personally?  Early on I sought out people from high school, college or previous jobs.  It was fun and challenging and I was on a mission to reunite a group for a hometown reunion.  I want quality (and yes there can be quality in 502).  But after this last news story incident, unless I know who they are, what they represent and how they function in the realm of ethics, I’m going with what I know (rather who I know).

I’ve realized that Facebook is an extension of who I am.  I would never post anything that I wouldn’t want my mother or pastor to read.  Now, it may be colorful in nature, but again, it’s a reflection of the real me.

I recently read an article that said it is possible to maintain no more than 150 relationships…I’m assuming they mean quality relationships and I might agree, but that doesn’t mean my 502 friends, uh, make that 499 now, don’t have a meaningful place in my life.

As a fun project, I posted that statistic on Facebook and asked my friends to comment as to why we should remain friends…the answers ranged from hysterical to sincere to caustic…and I loved each and every one of them for taking time to participate in my little world even for a moment; it was the highlight of my week.   Instant replies came from high school friends, work associates, political pundits and a couple of newer acquaintances–THAT’S how you find out who your friends are. It was just a game of fun, but the punch line is that there is a nugget of quality in each comment written and I find that invaluable.

Facebook has another added value that I’ve observed; the amazing support people naturally exhibit.  A “friend” can post a status expressing need or pain or self-doubt and in a matter of minutes a flock of people come to their aide with words of encouragement.  Where else besides a church pew can you cry out and receive immediate salvation?  I’m bringing this up because part of the message here is 1) that you can’t judge people by who YOU think they are, 2) you never know what the guy next door is going through and 3) you have a right to “unfriend” someone without feeling guilty if they don’t reflect a piece of who you are.  And even more importantly, if you aren’t CERTAIN that your friends fairly represent YOU, you might want to take some time to find out who YOUR friends really are (yes, the “all caps” are for emphasis)!

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