Tag Archives: Inspiration

Being an Introvert with Extroverted Tendencies

BAR_logo_color_1I have vacillated for the last few years in the consideration whether I am an extrovert with strong introverted tendencies, or the opposite. I am not by nature a joiner, but I do love to collaborate and share.  I just took one of those psychological tests that define some of your broader characteristics so that I can participate in a seminar later this week.  This test, based on the answers provided on that day, decided for me that I fall on the introvert end of the spectrum.  I think that many who know me will find the results a hoot because the test actually did peg me pretty well.  (You can take the test at http://www.humanmetrics.com/, it’s the Jung typology test.)

Folks who know me will also not be at all surprised that I got sidetracked in taking the test by the wording that was used in many of the questions – an absolute here, a vague reference there.  Since it is a psychology test, I have to assume that the test creators were deliberate in their word choices.  I would really like to ask why, for example on this question:

  • Strict observance of the established rules is likely to prevent a good outcome

This is an essay question to me, not a yes/no proposition – therefore a terrible challenge to decide upon an answer.

Or this question:

  • You prefer to act immediately rather than speculate about various options

This is also an essay question, and incomplete at that – how can I say yes or no without details or the opportunity to explain why each response would be valid based on the circumstances?  I certainly hope that in an emergency there is someone on the team who can parse through various options, lop off inappropriate ones and act while taking initial actions that don’t require thought.

It turns out that the people behind the test drove me mad intentionally to determine that I build specialized knowledge systems – that I like to track down the answer to the question, ‘does it work?’.  Darn Skippy, figuring out a system and getting it to work better is entertainment.  There are 16 combinations of 4 letter results possible in this test and the writers don’t tell us the reasoning and criteria behind each of the letters which make up these combinations.  Being an INTJ – I really need to know.

I can’t wait to find out how we will use the results in the meeting this week.  I found myself already weighing the pros and cons of applying these types of personality tests in the work place.  In the right hands, with deep understanding of creating combinations for optimal dialog and interaction, this would be a boon to any organization.  And then there are the rest, where the possibility of misuse is varied and high.  (There I go, studying systems to create sense again.)

It is this interest in process – systems and people working together in harmony – that informs my business writing.  And that helps me to see that it really takes all kinds to create a strong team.


You may also like some of my other posts:


Introversion Revisited – How Could I Resist?

When We are all Attempting to Differentiate Ourselves, Why don’t We like to be Different?

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Change the Angle, Create Mental Space

I’ve been having some great new experiences lately, but somehow that hasn’t prevented me from being a bit on the cranky side.  I don’t like being cranky and I certainly don’t ever intentionally share it when I am.  So I’m consciously working through my cranky to get out the other side.


This morning as it rains, fingers crossed for my friends who are still bailing out from the round last week, I decided to look at things a different way instead of questioning why I’m crabby.  (By the way, whoever forgot to turn off their request for rain when we were in drought last year can turn it off now.)  Sometimes it is better to accept a thing that is, but to adjust to give it less of a priority.


So I’m inching around, looking for a sunnier view of things and while I am at it I remembered a conversation that I had with an employee a few years ago.  She had to send an email out to resolve an issue and she asked me to read it first because it had the potential to be sensitive.  I suggested that she reframe her whole premise in a more positive light and rearrange her facts to reduce the emphasis on a couple of problematic ones.  She told me that she felt that was dishonest.  While admiring her straightforwardness, I was a bit taken aback at her use of such a strong word in a conversation with a boss.  (I know bosses who would have considered her insubordinate, I disagree.)


Perhaps my suggestions smacked of being disingenuous. (Check out the differences in meanings if you are at all unsure.) I told her as much – but followed up by asking her intent.  Was she determined to be straightforward and walk into a sensitivity bramble, or did she want to resolve the original issue?  My suggestion would achieve the latter more easily than hers.


One person’s weeds are another’s wild flowers – except for dandelions, even for the folks that like them on their salads.  (You really shouldn’t eat the ones growing in yards.)  Principles are highly necessary, but shouldn’t always be held in a short view.  Sometimes we should walk around the principle and even take a few steps back to see it from different angles and distances.  I too am a straightforward person, but I can couch my communications in a manner that will best convey my intent without compromising my straightforward tendencies.


In this world where we seem to honor confrontation over many more worthy traits, wouldn’t it be a nice change of pace if we took that walk around our ire (principle) and thought about what we intend to gain before we act on it?  I promise I will closely monitor if my cranky is the driving motivator for my actions and words in the days to come until it loosens its hold on me.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Superlatives Sound, Well Just Super

Excellence, Best in Class, World Class, phantasmagorical – wait phantasmagorical?  And bippity, boppity boo to you too.  Superlatives were invented so that we could have a means to express sheer utter overwhelming wonderful feelings like new love or hard won success.  Our heart pounding, breathy JOY that we absolutely must share with the whole world right now or burst.  But then they became a marketing tool and teenage girls everywhere just loved every blasted cute little thing.


Tell us what you really think about the use of superlatives, Beth.  Super-duper, I will.


I cherish every moment of unadulterated joy that I have ever felt and fervently hope both that I will experience many more and that each reader of this blog has a long list of their own immensely joyful moments.  (Superlatives cover that deep, dark end of the emotional spectrum too – but let’s keep this discussion on the high end today.)


But just like antibiotic resistant bacteria, we are running out of meaningful words to describe our true emotional peaks because we emptied out many of the existing words with overuse and misuse.  The meaning of excellence has begun to ring hollow when too many claim it without backing it up with real actions.  And as for Best in Class and World Class – what do these phrases really mean?


Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious was a fabulous (superlative) song as Julie Andrews presented it in Mary Poppins, but if we attempt to feel that way all of the time, we become numb to the pleasure.  We twirled and whirled around the living room to that song until we were dizzy and giggly, but please don’t mar these special memories by telling me your new product is even better than supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.


Call attention to your idea, your product, your system by telling me real, solid words that define the usefulness.  Work harder to evoke a sustainable, achievable, reasonable explanation of what it can do for me.  Don’t co-opt these beautiful superlatives.


Sometimes I think ideas are just in the air, I started this blog post, had to set it aside for a call and happened across this interesting article – Never as Bad as it Looks and Never as Good Either.  It doesn’t talk about superlatives, but I think the writer’s point enhances mine.  Why is this moment a peak or a valley?


But, Beth, haven’t you advocated fake it until you make it in past posts?  Yes, I have so I’ll further define it.  What is the best high point of your life?  If it was superlative then you can use the memory of that moment for a fake it until you make it moment where you need to be more positive than you currently feel.  If you are not a superlative person – say your high point is particularly pleasant – then that is the memory to use to fake it until you make it.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations



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My Mind Simply Refuses

I do hope that I find that I am not alone in this one.  Do you have information that you just cannot, no matter how hard, how often, how many methods you try absolutely cannot seem to remember the next time that you need it?  (Right now my mind is finding it quite amusing not to give up the specific word, to use as an example, which I always confuse with another word.  The one which made me think of writing this post just a little bit ago.  Hilarious.)


photo credit-news.sciencemag.org

photo credit-news.sciencemag.org

Now if this were a math issue, I could commiserate with my mind’s disinterest.  I can’t tell you the number of times I sat in a math class, thought I understood the lesson, only to find out that apparently I missed something – or that something hadn’t bothered to stick around and make it into long term memory.  I get the logic of math, but some element of it eludes me and math and I are comfortable with this current agreement.


Microsoft Word and I regularly fight over sentence structures, I don’t recall all the detailed grammar rules terribly well, but if the sentence sounds the way that I intended I am ok with my mind not bothering to dust off all the grammar rules that I learned once upon a time.  Noun?  Check.  Verb?  Check.  Sounds ok when spoken?  Check.


Sometimes I get just a wisp that I retained the needed thing once and it was stored somewhere around up there – yes, there’s the spot.  But the needed thing has perhaps been moved to make way for some other reference, or grouped with something similar.  I can bemoan that it is missing, or I can figure out how to look it up again.


My example word is refusing to even give any hints.


In instances like this when the knowledge is a word I am particularly consternated.  A WORD.  I’ve always loved words, why would one trip me up?  I know that I’m trying to hard – I can’t Google myself out of this one.  I’m thankful to Google for most of the other times when my mind just says nope, didn’t keep that one around.


Ah, ha – one of the words I always confuse is restive.  Not the word that started this whole thing, but a little closer.  Whew.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Take it for Your Share & Go On

Thank God or the School Board or whoever is responsible for those dynamic teachers that I hope we all have in our past.  If we are lucky, we have a full string of them stretching back to our early days in elementary school and carrying on through college.  Today’s post comes to us via my 7th grade Language Arts teacher, Mr. Bruno.


He was just the right height to look most of us in the eye and every bit of the Italian stereo-type when it came to effusive use of his whole body to make a point.  My brother and I still talk about him since we each had the pleasure of being taught by this man in our turn.


The title of today’s post is the summation of Marjorie Kinnan Rawling’s The Yearling that Mr. Bruno offered up to our hormone infested brains, which he turned into his mantra.  I don’t believe that you will actually find this as a quote within the covers of this book, but let me know if I’m wrong on that point.  It is certainly a major theme in this work.  And a great thought to lodge into a pre-teen’s head as the fight for social standing heats up.


photo credit - Wikipedia, original cover art

photo credit – Wikipedia, original cover art

If you take it for your share and go on, there is no need for escalation, recriminations, and the like.  Learn what you can, discard the rest as unnecessary and forge ahead.  This suits particularly well in situations where you have little or no control to alter or improve the outcome.


Mr. Bruno lives large in my memory because he gave us each a ticket to find real meaning in whatever corner we chose.  We analyzed song lyrics, we were required to come up with compelling arguments why authors such as Shirley Jackson made the story choices that they did (The Lottery – I highly recommend reading it if you never have.)


I’m sure that many of the seeds that he planted in decades of teaching didn’t find fertile ground to thrive.  I imagine that he took that for his share and went on – being his own unique version of a junior high teacher.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Giving Our History Its Due

Tomorrow, April 14th would have been my father’s 76th birthday. Of my parents, I tend to reference my mom more in my blog posts, but I did write about my dad in How Things Work, Or the Tools that We Need back in February.  And he comes up here and there, especially when I am writing about fixing things.

c1996 @Lake Katherine

My dad was a flawed man (really, aren’t we all?) with a good heart.  He believed in following the rules and became disillusioned when that method did not lead him to the success he anticipated.  I take from him this do-it-right attitude, but temper it with my mom’s belief in tailoring the rules to suit logic & reality so I can offset the disillusion with the just-get-it-done mentality often found in businesses.


My father had a very strong work ethic – do the necessary work and then the rest will be more deeply enjoyed.  The only problem is that it seems like it is harder and harder to tell when the work is really done as the to-do lists grow and grow.  We grumbled terribly, and often, when coming home from any trip because we were required to unload the car and unpack everything and put it in its proper place.   And yet, now all three of us still do the same and see the value in it.


These relentless obligations took a toll on the relationship that my father had with each of his children in several ways sadly.  He was deeply rooted in the now defunct (thankfully) father role of sole bread winner and therefore missed out on the warm, fuzzy side of parenting.  We only got to see glimpses of his joy – water fights which nearly ruined the newly planted grass in our back yard, snow ball fights in a different back yard, dad as Monopoly tycoon.  In my late teen years, we spent several months playing Tripoli as a family and I smile at the memory.


I learned a great lesson in perseverance and dispute resolution from my dad when I was trying to register for classes one year.  We were in the process of moving and I was trying to register at the community college as an interim step but was informed that I didn’t qualify as a resident.  I went to my dad’s office and he got on the phone.  He worked through several people, carefully making his case, until he got someone who could understand that I should qualify.  I went back and registered successfully.


My dad passed on his deep respect for history, Abraham Lincoln was an icon who interestingly died on the very same date of my dad’s birth.  Coincidence or connection?  We each have so very much to offer, small things and larger, and sometimes it is good to examine these individually so as not to lose any good parts.  Happy birthday, minus one, to my dad and anyone else who is celebrating on April 14th.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Spring Fever for Grown Ups

Who didn’t work hard to convince a teacher or two to hold class outside, or if the school structure allowed, open the windows to let in that fresh air back in the day?  We assumed that the teacher had burned through this urge for space and freshness and newly growing things as he or she passed into adulthood.  Now we know that assumption was wrong.  Spring is quite distracting to all living things, and adults are far from immune despite our knowledge of responsibility and obligation.


The world around us is waking back up and turning a lovely pale green, why would I want to look at spreadsheets and answer customer calls?  And that smell of spring – moist earth and plants waking up to sprout new shoots.  Pish-posh to the afternoon meeting prep.


All of these modern buildings with the windows that give us a view, but don’t open to let our other senses share in the joy of spring, the balminess of the breezes, carrying the scent, and the warmth of the sun on upturned faces.  Subject to conditioned and re-conditioned air that hasn’t been exposed to the elements, only man-made filters – I want to use my Wi-Fi sitting on the bench outside, under the tree whose buds are growing and will burst out with leaves soon.

spring fever

Pah to fabric half walls and shades of beige coated drywall – we crave bark on craggy trees, grass reverting from dormancy and squishing underfoot, birds chirping and building nests.  Who can think of dollar-cost averaging when its spring?


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations



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Sassafras & Susurrus

I live about a mile from a major interstate road which is just far enough that I can mostly forget that it is there – except when I take a walking route that goes past the houses that boarder the highway, or if I wake up in the very early hours of the morning when the neighborhood and the house are quiet enough that I can hear the tires singing on the pavement.  This susurrus always reminds me of car trips, waking early in a motel near the highway, getting ready to get on the road and get closer to the destination.


Where are all of these people rushing off to in the hours that are dark and quiet when most people are snug in their beds?  Is there ever a time in the 24 hour clock that the road is deserted?  The distant murmur of tires travelling at speed across expanses of concrete has a lulling effect, like the white noise machines, but I can’t imagine living closer to this constant movement.


Susurrus is a word that I knew long before I knew the meaning, because of its sound.  It represents the background noise in our lives.  Think about how some of those noises have changed in an office – the clickety-clack of a typewriter which included the abrupt DING at the end of the line and the zip of the carriage return which has now turned into tippy-tapping of the keyboard and the soft, insistent click-click of the mouse.  The silence shattering RING of the bell in an old phone has been replaced with various trilling sounds of modern phones.


These modern business implements make sounds that are more muted than their predecessors and yet the level of background noise grows in the morning as more workers arrive and slowly fall in the afternoon as workers head off to home and their personal time.  Despite fabric cube walls and these lower level sounds, the susurrus in an office by mid-morning can be quite distracting depending on your current task.


Imagine if the susurrus of leaves blown by a breeze would be piped into the office to blend in with these man-made sounds.  It would make me smile because the image of a lazy summer afternoon would come forward.  I picked sassafras leaves because these words are fun to say together – susurrus is a murmur and sassafras, while similar in alliteration can be just a bit feisty. Say it with some emphasis, see?


We work and our senses can be dulled by the same old, same old.  But there can be poetry anywhere and at any time.  Poetry, to me, can be defined as the expression of brief bursts of sensory awareness.  The symphony of office sounds might be poetry in susurrus instead of just another day.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Ideas, Ideas – Popping & Fizzing Like Soda

ideaWhen asked which is more important: the ideas or the prose, Jack Kerouac growled in return, “Ideas are a dime a dozen.”  Well, kind of rude, but true, so true.  How many good ideas die from lack of nurturing, development, exploration – or are killed due to cost or avarice?


Movies and books love to use the killing or obstruction of an idea as a main plotline.  It makes for good storytelling, that is certain and we all probably have a story or two of our own to tell about a lost, bad or half-baked idea.  Our lives are driven by our own ideas, ideas of people close to us, and even ideas of people we’ve ’ever met or who are long dead.  The idea of ideas is the subject of so much legend because there is tremendous possibility in ideas.


How do we know when an idea is worth pursuing?  What keeps us from pursuing an idea that ‘has legs’?  The answers to these questions are numerous and dependent on whom you choose to talk to as far as scope.  And most likely all valid, at least for the responder – which leaves it up to you to decide if the answer is valid in your case.


When you decide that you have an idea that you want to pursue you want to consider if you have any fixation that will create a barrier.  Functional fixedness can come from cultural assumptions (a rural person is naïve) or from long-term knowledge (knowing cars because of shop class c1982).  Your mental set, which is a natural leaning toward patterns and/or mechanized thinking (think riddles, which trap us in the expected) is another kind if fixation.  Fixations can have a poor effect on ideas.


Is your idea fully formed?  You can utilize divergent thinking, which is expansive and the main element of brainstorming to create options and a full framework for your idea.  Look at your idea from all angles and facets; think about its originality and flexibility.  But if you stay in divergent thinking mode, you will never move to the next step which is to plan how to execute your idea.


You can apply convergent thinking to drive your idea toward a solid meaning.  Review all the points that came out of your divergent thinking and consider if they truly apply to the intent of your idea and will help drive it forward.


Once you develop your own process to vet your ideas, then you put yourself in a better position to take action on them.


[My thanks to Dennis Cass, author of Head Case: How I almost Lost My Mind Trying to Understand My Brain for the technical speak used here.]


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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March 4, 2013 · 8:29 am

Cultivate Resilience

resilienceChange, especially when it comes upon us suddenly or unexpectedly, is painful.  We don’t like to have our comfort zones altered in any way.  A small range of variety and only the addition of good things like a bigger paycheck, please – this is the good life for most of us.

Being willing to change allows you to move from a point of view to a viewing point — a higher, more expansive place, from which you can see both sides.

~Thomas Crum

Some changes, regardless of our normal malleability make us brittle, at least for a little while.  Changes such as a death, a job loss, a major illness – usually something catastrophic – make our lives seem suddenly overtaken by sharp, cutting edges everywhere.

The greater the amount of natural resilience that we possess, or the better we are able to nurture and grow our natural amount of resilience, the better chance we have to adjust and feel like our normal selves again.  Notice I didn’t use the word return.  We like to use the phrase ‘return to our normal lives’ when we experience shocking changes, but the reality is that the shocking change is just as much a part of our normal life as getting up in the morning and plodding through our regular routine.  We just want to distance ourselves from the unpleasantness.

There is some small part of each of us that draws inside and doesn’t know quite how to go on, our own inner Miss Havisham (from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations).  Personally, reading this as a teen I thought that her family must be quite different than mine by letting her create the stasis that she did.  In my family, you got your moment to think, adjust to the new reality, and then the expectation was to figure out how to move forward.  I cursed this behavior then, and bless it now.

Pay attention to how you respond to difficulties.  Give yourself a moment or two of crap that is maddening.  And then train yourself to start to look forward, develop a plan (or two) to get yourself back on the track that you want.  Enlist the aid of someone who can help you from backsliding into the brittleness of stasis.  Look for joy.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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