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Being Spectacularly Yourself

A few years ago I had a very difficult year.  There’s a list that pops up periodically in articles of serious stressors and I was affected by a fair number of them in this particular year.  This isn’t about stressors or difficulties, though.  It is about finding your joy by understanding yourself.


“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was within me an invincible summer.”

~Albert Camus


I learned many, many things that year, but two stand out as beacons to me still.  The first is just as Mr. Camus states above, only my personal expression is that there is joy to be found.  It is in such varied and unexpected places if we can only keep our minds, ears, eyes and hearts open to absorb it.  Or since such constant vigilance is difficult to maintain, remind ourselves of the possibility on a frequent basis.


The second was an idea that took hold of me then that every person has within them a ‘great thing’.  Some people have more than one; some people may never realize their great thing.  But it exists and just waits to be discovered.  No one else can tell you what your great thing is; you must look inside yourself and then nurture it.


By saying great thing, I don’t mean to imply that it is something that will bring fame and riches or indeed any sort of renown necessarily.  (And I am deliberately not capitalizing great thing because it is personal.)  Your great thing will most likely play a part in your definition of success.


“Do not look back in anger, or forward in fear, but around in awareness.”

~James Thurber


I have a friend that posted on Facebook shortly after this past New Year that while at a party she was asked the traditional question about her resolution for 2013 and on the spur of the moment she answered to sparkle.  Isn’t that just grand?  She has had her trials, but she chooses to sparkle.  (She is possessed of an excellent wit, so I have no doubt that she will be able to fulfill this resolution.)


Finding joy, nurturing your great thing, or sparkling won’t prevent the trials and tribulations of life from pecking at you, this is true.  But each will help you to achieve contentment, and internalized, will flavor all your endeavors.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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February 11, 2013 · 9:21 am

Assessment Test with a Twist Or What’s Your Ideal Medieval Job?

This one is for the folks who like to take these tests to see what your ‘ideal’ would be based on your answers to the questions.  This one comes to us via Career Management International.


Are you a monarch, perhaps a knight, or would you prefer to be the jester?


The twist is that this one is focused on what your job would have been during medieval times.  I’ve earned the title of Discoverer.

detail from French medieval tapestry

detail from French medieval tapestry


Personally I like to take these tests because I like to see if I can figure out the test developer’s underlying premise.  (I’ve been known to suggest to survey creators the flaws in their wording – too vague, too leading and the like.)


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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February 9, 2013 · 9:07 am

Motivated to Improve Motivation

Can't Swim? No Problem

Can’t Swim? No Problem

Webster’s defines motive (root of motivation) as:

Noun – A moving cause

1 some inner drive, impulse intention, etc. that causes a person to do something or act in a certain way; an incentive; a goal

Motivation then is to be motivated.


Employers, teachers and leaders of all stripes like to talk about motivation – but you must note that it is driven by an inner cause.  No one can motivate you but yourself.


“Each of us has a personal philosophy, but few of us have defined what it is.  Although you may have never sat down and defined what your philosophy is, it is fully operative and working in your life at all times.  It deals with what you believe about the world in which you live, about its people and events, about how events and circumstances affect you, and about how you affect them.”

~Chris Prentiss, Zen and the Art of Happiness


I find that I like to engage in mental puttering, especially when at cross purposes for one reason or another.  If I can be allowed to examine new ideas like a wander through a garden, then my mind will light upon one or two that I will want to explore in greater detail.


Of course, in the work world that is a luxury, but I can still make something a mental game for myself.  Maybe I have to call a disgruntled customer back so I can list out several ideas to turn the customer’s attitude around by the end of the call.  Or maybe I have to slog through a pile of forms to categorize responses so I can set a time limit for myself and see how many I can complete in that time.


What gets your blood moving each day?  (Besides coffee)

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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February 5, 2013 · 9:22 am

Thought Blizzard

In my part of the country there is much talk about our lack of snow.  Each new day breaks the record that the previous day broke, and so on.  Well, if my thoughts were only snowflakes, the children of the region would be building snow monuments to me (and cursing me in the summer when they are still doing make up days for the snow days).


Anyway, I have been subject to frustration for the past couple of days due to a mental tangle.  Try as I might to follow one thread to release the snarl, I have been thwarted similar to a mom trying to get gum out of a child’s hair without creating a bald spot. Each potential means to unlock the mess must be rejected after time spent carefully following the lead.


I woke up yesterday with two great thoughts – one for a new page and one for a post.  By the time that I had completed the ablutions that I must before sitting to write, the page idea was sitting alone in my head, the blog post dissipated – perhaps lost in the cat food container, or poured out with my orange juice – but gone from my head, leaving only the reminder that it was an excellent idea.  Drat.


I’ve been through this before, I told myself.  I will survive; perhaps revive this idea at a later point if I just leave it alone.  I got ready for a workshop on career planning and at the workshop, other ideas for posts popped and snapped as the presenter engaged each of us and drew us into his story. I was glad at this point that I didn’t sit at home pouting about my lost great idea.


Instead as the day progressed, the lost idea became a storm cloud, gathering in the other ideas, passing unrelated thoughts and miscellaneous brain flotsam to break out into a full-fledged mental white out of a snow storm.


By late afternoon, my White Rabbit self was in a tizzy – we’re late with plans, things are backing up!  Must resolve now, must resolve NOW!  (My logical self trying to remind me not to heed the rabbit, he never does any good.)


I admit to giving in to the frustration.  Maybe giving it its due, like an offering, would clear the storm.  But I had nothing in waking this morning.  And then I remembered that sometimes the best thing for a frenzied mind is nothing.  The simplicity of repetitive tasks.  So I picked up a broom, and I did the dishes and some minor clerical tasks – and was rewarded with this post on my thought blizzard.


The great idea is still lost to me, for now.  Perhaps it will again come sneaking up to visit as I sleep one night.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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January 21, 2013 · 9:21 am

‘Go-To’ Person

go to personIn business, being the go-to person is similar to the good driver in the larger population – everyone seems to be It while the rest just don’t quite stack up.


What does it really mean?  If you really want to be seen as a go-to person, you have to spend time and effort defining the meaning specifically.  A person who can’t easily articulate what it means to be a go-to person in their business, department or whatever situation will have trouble truly being one for others in their realm of influence.


Start with what you know – do you want to be a go-to person for a specific skill, say writing?  Or do you know a lot about a variety of things?  This is your skill set, your strength that you can share.  Again, you have to be able to clearly convey your skills to others to be a go-to person.  If you can’t sketch out a simple outline for others about this skill, then while you will benefit from the use of the skill you are not the go-to person for the skill.  What benefit will others get from understanding and growing this skill?  Why are you the best person for them to go-to to learn this skill?


Now you have to think carefully about how this skill fits within your organization?  What are the organizational or departmental goals?  If you don’t have clarity on this point, ask.  Explain that you are making a concerted effort to both increase your own skill and to strengthen the department or organization by sharing your skills.  You want to make certain that your skill will continue to have value as the organization moves forward, or that you can adjust your skill in advance of any changes if necessary.


This effort to define your go-to status will pay off in many ways for you.  You have honed your critical thinking skills, reinforced your own value within the organization and strengthened your department.



© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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January 15, 2013 · 9:25 am

What Do I Want to be When I Grow Up?



Adults love to ask this question of small children, but really we could keep asking ourselves this question throughout our lives.  Very few of us answer this question in the same way at the different stages of our lives.


I had stopped thinking about this question in relation to myself once I got into my twenties but then one day there were a bunch of us moms waiting outside the preschool to pick up our kids.  We were all going through kindergarten screening with our children and we learned that one mom had kept her daughter in preschool for an extra year  ‘because she wanted to give her a better chance of knowing what she wanted to be when she graduated high school’.  My response, before I even thought about it, was that I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up.


My generation was told endlessly by parents and educators that we could be anything that we wanted to be – the sky was the limit – because we were part of the first wave that had less limits in opportunities than previous generations had experienced.  It paralyzed a lot of us, this too vast landscape.  I dabbled in various things in college because I had a lot of interests.  Then I felt strongly that I wanted to be home with my kids.


So why do we all do what we do?  Expediency?  Passion?  Fear?  Inertia?


I have continued to dabble as an adult – I’ve worked in food service, a library, retail, an office.  I have worked at various levels within organizations and in organizations of various sizes.  Counting my volunteer work gives even more nuance to the list.  There has not appeared to be continuity in my efforts, yet I have found themes that cross these experiences and the variety feeds my writing as well.


It has been said repeatedly that the old norm of working for the same company throughout your work life is extinct for the most part.  Perhaps then it would be good for each of us to ask ourselves this question every so often.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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January 12, 2013 · 9:31 am



In our eternal human quest to simplify, we usually allow only two choices for something new – Right or Wrong.  I propose a third choice which should be prominent – Different.  Putting something new in this area for a time allows for reflection, consideration, exploration.  It allows for adjustment.


This is kind of like driving.  Most of us seem to have the idea that we must have our foot on either the brake or the gas (only 2 choices).  When I was teaching my sons how to drive, I talked to them about coasting as a viable option.  It gives you time to think before coming to a decision – therefore hopefully making your decision stronger.  Of course, this is an option and should not be used in an emergency, say when the car in front of you suddenly stops.  But if you are paying attention, you have time to think if you allow your car to coast toward potential issues.


Different is similar to coasting.  It is a safe place to try out a new idea, theory, concept without immediately categorizing it.


Years ago a company meeting was called in the lunchroom without any detail being provided by senior management.  Luckily the time span between the announcement and the meeting was short so very little postulating was done.  The purpose of the meeting turned out to be an announcement that we had grown too large for our current location and a search had been initiated to find a new one.  We were being advised because a For Sale sign was about to be posted out front.  Details of how the search for a new location were shared – all employee home addresses had been shared with a consulting company and were factored into other parameters for the new location.


This was certainly something entirely new and unexpected for all of us.  I was intrigued, hopeful this would mean a move closer to my home, and pleased that employee concerns were being called out and discussed.  I found that I was in the minority in my somewhat positive/somewhat neutral reaction.  The majority reaction was quite negative.  Opinion was weighting toward senior management taking some sort of advantage, evidence just presented to the contrary.


This announcement was filed in the Wrong category by most of the listeners without much consideration because it was surprising and therefore unwelcome news.  There were a handful of us who suggested a wait and see attitude should be adopted, but we were brushed aside.  (As it turned out it took several years to affect the move, but that is a story for another day.)


Putting something unfamiliar in the Different, or wait and see, category gives you time to look it over – both actively and passively.  Give it a test drive, see how it looks on a shelf in your house, mention it in casual conversation.  Unfamiliar or new isn’t bad, it’s just different.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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January 11, 2013 · 8:52 am