The Fatal Mistake Many People Make

English: Gravestone of vocalist and prima donn...

English: Gravestone of vocalist and prima donna Emmi Schmidt (Emilie Schmidtová, 1836–1866) by sculptor Emanuel Max Česky: Náhrobní kámen operní pěvkyně a primadony Emmi Schmidt (Emilie Schmidtovové, 1836–1866) vytvořený sochařem Emanuelem Maxem z červeného karelského mramoru (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve had plenty of time watching new people in jobs over time, and it’s always interesting to see how they approach their jobs.  Many times, though, I see people who have huge goals, and they would like to achieve those goals yesterday.  The problem is that they fail to plan for exactly how much hard work, initiative, and leadership it is going to take to achieve those goals.  They come into a job over-entitled.  They expect to be handed the choice tasks, and be handed promotions, and many times are completely surprised when that doesn’t happen.  It is a fatal mistake many people make.

Please know that when you walk into a new job, especially early in your career, you’re going to be handed the worst, least desirable jobs.  How you handle those assignments will depend on where your career will go.  As you progress further, you can afford to direct what you want to do a little more than you could at first, but don’t think that you can completely pick and choose.  Do keep your manager in the loop on what you’d like to do, then do what you’re given with grace, and style.

If you are hungering for more, then you need to identify problems in the group or organization, and find ways to fix them.  Then set about fixing them.  If they are small issues, go ahead and fix them.  If they’re larger, make sure that your manager is on board with how you’re spending your time.  You will show your value to an organization by being able to identify and fix problems.  By working hard.

Forget being a prima-donna.  No-one wants to work with a prima-donna.  You know the kind- the ones who don’t want to be handed the tough assignments, who won’t work overtime, or who think that they are more valuable to the organization than they actually are.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you are overly valuable to an organization, unless you own it and run it.  Be humble, and work hard, and you’ll go much farther than someone who presumes too much.  Of course, you need to make sure that management and leadership know exactly how hard you’re working, and that they’re looking for it.  But, you will avoid that fatal mistake.

Stay Professional No Matter What

Cat

Cat (Photo credit: Tjflex2)

There are going to be plenty of times in our professional (and personal) lives where people are really going to annoy us, and royally piss us off.  Sometimes, it’s enough to make you quit your job, and other times you just dig in your heels and stay.  You may be on your way out of a job, and wanting to leave a parting gift for HR, and management, so that they get the message that they’re really screwing things up.  Resist the urge.  Stay professional no matter what, and keep your professional reputation intact.

Remember- it’s not just a cliche that the world is a very small place.  It doesn’t matter if you live in a city with 10 million residents.  Or that we live in a global economy.  Your reputation will follow you wherever you go.  It will either be positive or negative, and everything that you’ve done to that point will build on that reputation, and image of who you are as a professional.  Everything you do builds your reputation and your personal brand.  Think about that for a minute.  To me, that’s enormously humbling, a bit scary, and the magnitude is a bit overwhelming as well. I do mean to say that everything you do, good and bad.  Every negotiation.  Every job you’ve done, and even your personal life affect your personal brand.

That’s not to say that you can’t do damage control, that you can’t change, and become a reformed person.  That you can’t change your life.  But it does make it a whole lot trickier, because people unfortunately have long memories, especially for negative stuff.  Due to how our brains work, we are so wired to remember the negative, and less the positive things.

That means that when you are interacting with people, you need to stay professional no matter what happens.  Think about your negotiation style.  Is it super hardball?  Is that what you want to be known for?  How do you achieve resolutions to conflicts?  Are you a leader or a follower?  Do you come up with new and novel ways to solve problems?  Do you drop assignments at work?  Chances are, if you’ve ever dropped an assignment, you are perceived as at least somewhat unreliable, and unprofessional.  I’ve had situations where I’ve had to totally resist the urge to stomp on someone because they really deserved it.  Truly they did.  But that would break with the professional, kind persona that I choose to portray instead.

I’ve been in situations that have tested me pretty mightily.  I’m sure that you have too.  We all have.  It’s how you handle the tough situations that shows how professional you are, and how well you are going to manage professional mine-fields.  Navigating the easy stuff, well, that’s no test at all.

 

Doing What It Takes

Double-crested Cormorant -- near Miller Lake, ...

Double-crested Cormorant — near Miller Lake, Ontario, Canada — 2008 August. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most important lessons in entrepreneurship is learning to do whatever it takes to get the job done.  That can mean doing research on something you’ve never done before, or rolling up your sleeves and just wading in, even if you have no idea what you’re doing.  A few examples of this have come at me full force lately.

The first example has been the most visible one to the outside world. I’m learning to become a lobbyist, for my own business.  I never, ever thought I’d be taking myself down to the North Carolina Legislature, asking for clarification on licensing regulations, and a lifting of a ban on new licenses.  See, there has been a moratorium on new Home Care, personal care licenses for the last three years.  That moratorium was due to expire on June 30.  In theory, at that point, we were supposed to be able to apply for the expanded license.  The reality is that there is a provision introduced in the budget which extends the moratorium on new licenses.  Yet, there is so much change going on at the legislature, we started lobbying for new licenses for private pay home care agencies.  So we are sending letters to the legislators, and making calls, and this week, heading down to meet with several of them.  How exciting.  I never thought I’d be doing that.  I had to walk into a situation I knew very little about- and still don’t appreciate all of the subtleties and nuances of, and get to work.  Because, that’s what you do when you own a small business.  You wade in and do it.

A second example has been setting up email mailing lists for the businesses.  I’ve never used any of these programs before.  I have limited information.  I just had to rely on google, and just pick something.  It turns out that I know from Dan Ariely‘s books that most people will just not decide because they’re scared to be locked into a choice.  Frequently, it’s better to make a choice, than to thrash on for months or even years.  So, I made a choice, and went with Mail Chimp.  The great thing is that for the first number of email addresses and emails, they are free.  They will grow with my business, and I like that.  I’m not an email marketing guru, but I just made a decision, and did what I had to do.

I could probably go on and on about all of the different times I’ve had to put on my boots and wade in and just get stuff done.  People assume that since I do it so confidently that I have either done it before, or I really have a clue.  The reality is that I don’t.  I just know that the cost of failure is pretty low, but the cost of failing to act is much higher.  So, I make a judgment with limited information and just go for it.  I think it’s about all I can do, in reality.  Doing what it takes is the name of the game in entrepreneurship.

How To Piss Off Colleagues

Deadlines

Deadlines (Photo credit: FLEECIRCUS)

Honestly, there are so many sure fire ways to piss off colleagues at your job, it’s almost hard to start.  There are some sure-fire ways to achieve the goal of royally pissing off your colleagues.

 

  • Never take credit for any problems that arise.  This is especially effective if you happen to be in the middle of every conflict that arises in your workplace.  Sure, it’s not you, and it’s everyone else’s fault.
  • Get upset and royally defensive over everything. I like this when someone asks you how your day is going, and you get upset. That really makes the team gel right together.
  • Snip at everyone for their faults. Make sure you blame them publicly every time they make a mistake.  Take extra care to point those mistakes out to your boss and highlight them, for special effect.  People love to be thrown under the bus, and it makes them super eager to work with you.
  • Cry about everything and anything.  I’m a real fan either crying or being a bitch to people whenever the going gets tough.. Pick one, or both!  Alternate between them.
  • Don’t answer your emails.  That way your boss wonders if you’ve gotten the assignment or email.  Then get super annoyed because they assume you didn’t see the email.
  • Drop assignments randomly.  Combine this with not answering emails, and you’ll make yourself look super reliable, and like someone your team can rely on!
  • If you don’t know how to do an assignment, don’t ask any questions.  Just wait until someone notices it didn’t get done, then get defensive.
  • Claim credit for other people’s work.  The bigger the assignment, the better.
  • Suck up to the boss, and make sure that you tell the boss how badly everyone else is doing their jobs.
  • Foist off parts of your job on random people, because you can.
  • Work three hours a day, and claim 12.
  • Answer your phone in an unprofessional manner.  The more crass and obnoxious the better.  That always sends a great vibe to any potential clients.
  • Claim credit for work you haven’t completed.  Act surprised when people discover that you haven’t completed a task.  Then blame someone else for not doing it.

Seriously, there are so many ways to piss off colleagues, it’s hard to know where to start.  What are your favorite ways that colleagues have pissed you off in the past?

 

 

 

Posting in Haiku

English: Tibetan tangka with eight syllables &...

English: Tibetan tangka with eight syllables “dza” (18th century), obverse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve started posting my regular tweets in haiku format, as an experiment, and as a bit of fun for the summer.  Haiku poetry has a simple format, and does not need to write.  Thus it’s easier for me to come up with. The standard format for haiku is 3 lines, with 17 syllables total.  There are 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 in the third.  I figure it’s a bit of an intellectual exercise, and a bit of fun as well.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried writing in Haiku, bit it’s actually quite a bit of fun, and a little bit of a challenge.

What do you think?  Could you do it?

While The Kids Are Away…..

Stanford Sailing Summer Camp in session in Red...

Stanford Sailing Summer Camp in session in Redwood City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is the time of year when my kids are gone to camp.  While they’re gone, I usually take the opportunity to clean out their rooms, clean out old toys from the attic, and generally work on the house without a lot of distractions.

 

 

In fact, one year, we managed to clean out several van loads of stuff while our children were at summer camp.  We deliberately didn’t tell them that we had gone through and cleaned out stuff, just to see how long it took them to notice that things were missing.  Believe it or not, it took almost 6 months before any of them noticed and said anything.  That, of course, tells me that they generally have absolutely no clue how much stuff is in their rooms.  Even stuff that they insist that they absolutely must have.  They didn’t even notice for 6 months that things were missing.  Then they asked me what happened, and we told them that we had sold their toys for chocolate.  They didn’t believe us, but it was actually true.

 

 

Since that year, I take the opportunity to clean things up most times that they leave the house for an extended period of time.  Last fall, I moved the kids around into different bedrooms.  I literally tossed bins and bags, and boxes of stuff.  Old make-up, broken toys, and just a lot of trash.  It’s amazing how much trash can accumulate in their rooms.  Every time I do this clean-up operation, it feels incredibly liberating to be offloading piles, and piles of stuff that we no longer need or want from the house.  It gives us extra space to breathe, and function.  I love it.  It’s a great reason to send kids away to summer camp.  To give me precious time to clean out their rooms, with a rake and a garbage bag.

 

 

So, while the kids are away, mom is going to play.   Maybe not in the way they had intended, though.

 

 

 

 

Ninja Mom Skills

Mother & daugther

Mother & daugther (Photo credit: greekadman)

After four kids, taking care of my parents, and all the rest, I’ve developed some serious ninja mom skills.  They enable me to survive the insanity that is having multiple kids in different places, and activities.  These tricks and tips have ensured that I have skated by motherhood only semi-scathed and mostly unscarred.  Use some of my suggestions at your own risk.

7 Ninja Mom Skills:

  1. Make your family help with chores.  I’m not perfect at this, but we do have a chore chart, and when we insist that the kids do their chores, and do them correctly, things go much smother.  That even means having them come back and finish anything that is partially done. One person cannot do all of the housework for 6 people.  After all, when would you ever have time to eat bon-bons if you did all of the chores?
  2. Develop an easy arsenal of foods for dinner.  A baked potato and salad can count for dinner.  So can Chicken nuggets, pancakes, omelettes, or hot dogs even.
  3. Strategically plan bath times for the kids, especially when they’re younger.  Plan their baths on nights when you have fewer activities.  After all, most kids really don’t need a bath every day, as that can seriously dry out their skin.  Bonus points if you count a trip to the pool as the night’s bath.
  4. Get used to dust.  Lower your standards.  Accept that there will probably be dust bunnies, and messes, and your house will not be perfect.  The sooner you come to accept this, the sooner you will quit pulling out your hair.
  5. Make hard rules about where the kids can eat food.  At my house, that means at the kitchen table, sitting down.  They are not to drag food into the living room, as that attracts ants, ends up with spills, and more.  The harder you are about this rule, the easier the messes will be to contain.  Also, if any child over the age of about 3 makes a mess, they need to directly contribute to cleaning it up.  Over the age of about 7 and they need to clean it up themselves (with supervision of course).
  6. Go through and sort mail when it comes through the front door, getting rid of, and instantly recycling catalogues, flyers, and stuff that comes in the mail.  Then create a nice, neat, (Ok, who am I kidding?) pile of papers that you can tackle at a specific time.  I like to work through mine about once a week or so.  Anything that takes more than about 2 minutes to do goes into this pile, and waits.
  7. Get rid of as much clutter as possible.  That is the hardest one for me, but as I get rid of more stuff, keeping on top of things becomes easier.  That means periodically organizing and tossing everything under my sink, closets, and throughout the house.  It’s not perfect, but I always have a list of stuff ready to be taken to Dorcas to be donated.

By learning as many time-saving cleaning tips and tricks, and figuring out where you can skate by, you’ll save yourself lots of time and headaches.  You don’t get to be a ninja overnight, and there are always new ways to do things, and attack things.  For instance, I love the cleaning tricks from fly lady, but she drives me batty with the incessant emails.  Know what your limits are, and stick to them.  No one is perfect, and you should rule your gloriously imperfect household.

 

Driving My Children’s Teachers Crazy

Labeled Kitchen Utility Jar

Labeled Kitchen Utility Jar (Photo credits: West Elm)

I believe in teaching my children to question nearly everything.  And the correct answer to most questions in social studies, science, and literature is “It depends”.  Math is the only class where there is such a thing as an absolutely right answer.  Since my younger daughter likes to argue with nearly everything, including inanimate objects, this can be quite the trying experience for her teachers at school.  I recently learned that by teaching her to question authority, and question the status quo, we are driving some of her teachers crazy.

 

Apparently, the teachers don’t find it interesting or amusing that she questions science, social studies, and other classes.  She understands that the world is incredibly grey, and not black and white.  She also grasps that in politics, rules, and most things in life, there are lots and lots of opportunities for exploitation and questioning.  Apparently Xena’s Academically Gifted teacher was on the receiving end of her questioning argumentativeness a few too many times this year, and told her to back from whence she came.  Unfortunately, she didn’t appreciate Xena’s explanation that it would be physically impossible, and likely incredibly painful for her mother if she were to try to do that, thus she didn’t think it was truly an option.

 

Another one of her teachers told Xena to start using smaller words, that the other kids could understand if she was going to persist in insulting them.  Because apparently they don’t understand the really big words that she uses to twist them in knots.

 

I’m not sure that her teachers appreciate the brain that is inside of her head, and being encouraged by asking questions, learning lessons, and exploring options.  Many times I think that our children are taught to sit down, and shut up, rather than ask questions about WHY the world is the way it is.  We steal that problem solving ability from them by doing taking away their options to ask questions.  I’m pretty sure it drives the kids’ teachers crazy that I encourage them to question the status quo.  I don’t necessarily punish them for creatively interpreting rules either.

 

I usually allow them to get away with it at least once.  Case in point- being at Mellow Mushroom, and Xena was licking the beer cheese out of the container.  I told her that she had to use a utensil to eat it.  So, she stuck her straw in the little plastic cup, and sucked it out.  Bonus points for creativity, but I told her that if she ever did it again, she’d be punished, since technically the straw was a utensil, by some stretch of the word “utensil”.

 

I’ve spent time teaching kids about science and social studies.  We spend hours debating different social situations around the world, and they understand that there is no absolute solution.  Of course that can lead to frustration on the part of the social studies teacher when they go over particular moments in history, and my kids know more about them than the teacher does, and they can argue multiple sides of the story.  In middle school.

 

It’s part of what we do when raising kids- encouraging them to become fully independent, questioning, seeking adults who understand the subtleties in our society.  They understand the rules, so that they can choose to follow them or not, but know exactly where they are.  Those are the tools they need to become what they want to be.

 

I think it drives their teachers a bit crazy.

 

Steps Towards Publishing My Book

English: Tehran International Book Fair (TIBF)...

English: Tehran International Book Fair (TIBF) Is known to the International Publishing World as the most important publishing event in Asia and the Middle East. It is a place where the publishers directly supply books and negotiate for their future business. It is a venue for exchange of ideas and a commercially valuable exhibition as a business. For the Iranian Society the Fair is the festival of books. فارسی: نمایشگاه بین‌المللی کتاب تهران (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m making forward steps towards publishing my book.  Last month, I finished recording all of the chapters.  Last night, I got the transcripts back from the company that I’m working on, so we’re making forward progress and making steps towards publishing my book.  Part of the reason that I’m so excited about this book is that it will give me the opportunity to share so much great information with people who are looking for quality caregivers for themselves, or their families.

The book is on finding a quality caregiver, and what questions to ask, and why you should care about asking those questions.  I also try to highlight what can happen if you don’t ask questions, and become an informed advocate for yourself.  I know that I certainly had to learn the lessons the very hard way in many cases.  In some cases my parents were outright neglected, and some situations put them in very real danger.  I’m hoping I can help others avoid those situations, and have a totally positive outcome and experience.

I’m excited to be working with Rob Kosberg on this great endeavor. It has been a ton of fun so far, and I’m really looking forward to helping people help themselves- the best kind of help!

Remembering Dad And A Year Of Changes

Mimulus flowers, probably, from front, Mission...

Mimulus flowers, probably, from front, Mission Trails Regional Park (Photo credit: Martin LaBar)

One year ago, today, my father died.  It was one of those moments in my life that wasn’t exactly unexpected, but it was also one of the most difficult.  It was also one of the biggest turning points in my life.  So many things have changed in the last year, despite losing my dad.  I took the opportunity handed to me and decided to run with it.  Out of grief and sorrow, I decided to follow my dreams full-speed ahead.

The results couldn’t be any more startling.  Shortly after my dad died, I decided to leave my steady, well-paying job of almost 7 years to go an entirely different direction with my life.  I would leave the world of technology, IT, and software engineering for the world of senior care.  It is a very different way of life, giving back to the world, rather than building the next, new widget.  Instead, we’re helping people at a point in their lives when they need an extra hand, or they need help doing simple things in life.  We’re helping people who need help, and who are extremely vulnerable.

What a change that this past year has brought in my life.  I literally spent almost the entire year working on getting his estate through probate, while working on starting two companies, and keeping another couple going.  When I decided to start two companies simultaneously, it sounded like a good enough idea at the time, even if it was a bit on the crazy side.  Okay- it was probably the smartest- and stupidest – thing I’ve done in my life.  Two companies means twice the work, twice the frustration and aggravation, accounting, payroll, and just getting the companies up and going!  It means hiring twice as many staff members, and half the amount of sleep that I might otherwise get.

Yet, I stand here at the 1 year mark for both companies, and I can tell that we are well on our way to profitability, and that we will continue to improve.  It takes a lot of work, and persistence.  I’m pretty sure that most people thought that it wasn’t possible- yet I’m proving that it is indeed possible, just not easy.

I spent a lot of the last year missing my dad, and remembering him.  I also have thanked him for nudging me along towards doing what I feel called to do, and for reminding me that life can be very short, and we don’t always have control over it.  Since he had Parkinson’s and dementia, and died at a relatively young 71 years of age, I am reminded to get on with doing what is most important to me, and not to worry about what others might think about it.

What a great year it has been.  What a ton of lessons I’ve learned!