Friday, June 16, 2017

This is 34

It’s hard to believe we’re almost halfway through 2017. My birthday the midway point in the year for me and for the last several years… since I turned 30 at least, my birthday has really been a bit depressing. It’s the milestone of another year gone by. It’s been a yardstick of measuring what I have and hadn’t done with my life. The goals I’ve achieved and the marks that I’ve missed along the way.

No way would I have thought at 22 I would have excelled as far as I have in some areas, yet be so stagnant in others – repeating the same mistakes over and over. Sometimes old habits are hard to break. And Facebook certainly aint no help! All I see is the life that everyone else wants to portray. How great their lives are; filled with the wonderful vacations they’ve gone on, the concerts attended, the new house,  the kids, the wedding, the great friends, the new car, the promotion, the new job, the move to the new city and the new successful business. The reality is that I only see a representation of the life they really have. Real life is a struggle! Most people leave out all the negative parts of life and it can honestly make my real life seem a bit underwhelming. Sometimes it literally feels like life is passing me by and I’m in a constant do-loop trying to catch up.

This year, rather than going through another quarter-life crisis, I am feeling allot more optimistic about the present and the future. A big part of my adult life has been about pleasing others and waiting on them so that I could make decisions in my life - esp when it came to money, trips, vacations and relationships. Last year I really did want I wanted when it came to travel... if I found a person or two who wanted to make the trip and I was out - It was great!

The first half of this year has been about preparing for the next steps in my life. I’ve spent the last 5 months really thinking about what I want, where I want to be, where I want to live, who I want to share my time with. Yes, it's been selfish, but much needed. Too much energy had been wasted with no appreciation or reciprocation.

Now, I’ve been getting myself mentally prepared to step into bigger shoes and letting go of bad habits, bad people, bad attitudes, bad situations and just overall bad vibes. I told myself I would give myself 2017 to get my act together so I that I can step into 2018 on a defined mission with the right people around me. It’s been a real journey; and while I have made progress in some areas, I have definitely been slacking in others. Sometimes it takes others to point those shortcomings out; but it’s upon me to take that feedback, internalize it, get ready and do better.

So my birthday is still a milestone, a yardstick for measuring up to where I want to be. But it is also an indicator of the changes I need to continue to make and reflection of how far I’ve come on my personal journey.

Cheers to another year’s blessings. This is 34!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Part 10. How Not to Suck at… Optimism

Today I found out that I am an optimist! Until now, I always considered myself a realist – that I saw things for what they were and didn’t try to make things better (or worse) than what they were. But today I learned what an optimist truly is – a person who accepts and chooses to make the best out of a situation. They refuse to take the victim mentality and continue to push for success. That’s me!

Contrary to popular belief, everyone has setbacks – all of us. We are human, and therefore fallible. The difference in those who succeed and those who don’t is their reaction to the setback. Will you take the time the figure out your next move? Or claim to be the victim? Next time you think to say why something can’t happen, take 1 minute to think about how it can happen. That 60 seconds can make all the difference. The “can happen” route will likely take more work, research and effort, but that’s what successful people do – make things happen!

Optimists spend time and energy on things that are within their control. Pessimists worry about things beyond their control. So take purposeful action to remedy problems, remove obstacles and move forward on those things that you can positively effect. The other stuff – that stuff that out of your reach – LET IT GO! Optimism demands that you don’t stress on the things you can’t fix. Either take action or let it go. There is no place for worry.

Optimists need other optimists. You’ll need people around you who support you and your dreams. Who don’t just poke holes in your dreams but offer solutions to patch those holes up. You need people who are going to help you figure out how to make the dream happen. Do get me wrong, we need people to point the potential it falls – but they also need to help think though the solution. Those who only shoot the dream down are a cancer – remove them before their pessimism kills your vibe.

So is the glass half empty? Or half full? You decide.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Part 9: How Not to Suck at... Delayed Gratification

I was in a leadership class on influence the other day. A small section of the class dealt with the topic of delayed gratification and how people who have learned to practice the art of delayed gratification were generally more successful in life.

This applies to saving, dieting, relationships, jobs, school, shopping... just about EVERY area of life.

However there is a balance between delayed gratification and instant satisfaction. There are trade-offs to everything, so in our microwave society, how do you influence yourself and others to give up at least some instant satisfaction for future gratification?

For instance, let's talk about saving for the future. The class taught me that simply telling someone that they should save does not work. They know that they should save... for retirement, for a vacation, for a newer car, and the kids’ college tuition. They already know so telling them isn't going to help anything. In fact, it might even hurt the situation. People don’t like to be told what they already know!

So, instead of telling, we need to influence them.  Per the book, there are 6 sources of influence… and therefore 6 ways to influence a person to save, per say a vacation.

·         Source 1 – Personal Motivation – whether you want to do it.
This is the easy one, I doubt there are many people who don’t want to take a vacation. I don’t think there will be much convincing there.

·         Source 2 – Personal Ability – whether you can do it.
So here is a harder one. Can we save? Is there anything to save? Do we have enough to live now – pay bills, rent, car note & buy food - and save for a trip? If there is not enough for now, a vacation is out of the question.

·         Source 3 – Social Motivation – whether other people encourage the right behaviors.
My circle of friends like to travel. They like to do big things and go on grand adventures. I have that motivation from the people around me. They encourage me to travel, which in turn encourages me to save. Be that for someone else.

·         Source 4 – Social Ability – whether other people provide help, information or resources.
I had to learn the hard way how to budget, so showing someone else how to save a few dollars here and there will go a long way. Helping them realize that there is enough will strengthen their personal ability to save. Budgeting & saving are skills we need for life but probably weren’t taught in school. If you can teach someone else, do it. Not everyone really understands how money works.

·         Source 5 – Structural Motivation – whether the environment encourages the right behaviors.
Another hard one. Our culture and society is motivates us towards NOW. We are regularly bombarded with images and advertisements to act now and get instant satisfaction. And the most attractive offers seem like they wouldn’t hurt our budgets (and savings) that much – but when I look at my credit card bill, it’s never the big purchases that surprise me. It’s all the $15 ones that add up!

·         Source 6 – Structural Ability – whether the environment supports the right behaviors.
To combat the lack of motivation, we can set up a system to helps us save. Have a set amount transfer from you main bank account to a saving account every paycheck.  Forget about this account and don’t touch it – until it’s time for the trip

They say that if you want to influence change, hitting just one or two of these areas isn’t enough. You need to reach them in three to four areas at least before there is real momentum to act differently. So if you are someone hasn’t be successful in saving before, look at things you can do in each of those areas to influence them to act in delayed gratification. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Part 8. How not to suck at… Addressing the Issue

I’ve been a supervisor for a short 8 months, and I just went through my first performance review with each member of my team. Fortunately I have a great group everything went smooth. But what if it hadn’t? What if there was some issue I needed to address with a member? At work, is mostly business but in the real world, friendships and relationships can be devastated by unresolved issues.

I’m naturally passive aggressive – so I’m generally pretty easy going, let allot of things slide and just pick my battles when necessary. But I’ve also been guilty of letting things fester and build up so that when I do address the issue it’s a full blown explosion instead of simmer. And here’s the added bonus, as man you’re often labeled a sensitive or moody when you bring up an issue. We’re supposedly not supposed to care, feel or be bothered. Just “man up.” That is not healthy and we need to stop teaching young men that. The things that bother us need to be addressed. How we feel needs to be heard. That unresolved issue adds stress to your life and stress kills.

As a supervisor, the official performance review shouldn’t be the first time an employee hears about a problem in their performance. The same holds true in our daily lives. It’s better to talk through an issue after it happens than to let it build and let an explosion come out of nowhere. Yes, the other person may be defensive but a conversation allows both parties to be heard. Plus, they may not even know that there’s an issue until you tell them. It may be a complete misunderstanding and easily fixed. However, an argument, especially one seeded from an explosion is not going to do much but piss the other person off.

The only way to deal with the issue is to talk, I mean real communication. A conversation where both people are able to be truly heard and allowed to get stuff off their chest… not the kind of conversation where all you do is think of your next clap back. Don’t discredit how they feel by talking over them or saying why they shouldn’t feel the way they do. It’s their feelings. Let them feel! The need to understand how the issue makes you feel and you should understand why they do what they do. Even if the issue doesn’t get resolved, a little understanding of the situation will go a long way. You should offer constructive feedback, solutions, and help. Not judgement!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Part 7. How not to suck at… Encouragement

Contrary to popular belief, most people do care what others think. They may not want to, they may not want to admit it, and some definitely won’t tell you… but they care. We all care on some level, its human nature.  Its part of how we are designed and rise of social media proves this!

Everyone has a bad day, week or even a bad year. They will feel bad and like life sucks, like the world is against them, like nothing they do is right. At these moments especially, people care what others think. They will be especially sensitive to everything said to them, about them and around them. This is your moment to be a hero… or a dick. You have a choice to positively motivate and encourage them or just make the situation worse.

We live in a world where it is easy to focus on the bad. It’s what we remember, it’s what sticks out and grabs our attention. It gets noticed because it negatively effects our lives. The news, Social Media, gossip – all highlight and reflect what’s wrong in world. But what about the good? All the things that people do right everyday go largely unnoticed. When we ignore the good and only point out the bad, people start to feel unappreciated and abused.

After a strong drink, we all need a little encouragement, validation and appreciation. Realize that and provide it to a friend in need. Bring them back the good place and give them a boost to keep moving forward. Don’t be a dick. Be a hero. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Part 6. How Not to Suck at… Conflicts

Whether it’s in your daily life, or your personal relationships the rule about conflicts is the same: address them as quickly as possible!!! There is no time to waste. It will not work itself out. It will not get smaller. Deal with it… now!

The longer the issues sits out there unaddressed, the worse it will be for everyone involved. The things that should have been easy to deal with will snowball completely out of control. In the absence of facts, people will start to tell themselves stories. And not just any stories… worst case stories. People will begin to act as if these stories are facts. Tempers will rise and attitudes will fare. Without being addressed, the situation will get worse.

Most conflicts will result from poor or lack of communication. The things that should have been asked or discussed but we ignored instead. The feelings we had but didn’t express. The questions that we did ask, but weren’t answered. The things we thought we knew, but had the wrong idea. We assumed when we should have had explanations. We filled in the blanks with our imagination and start to treat people based on these alternative facts.

Have the courage to address the conflict. It will suck. It will be a tough conversation, otherwise it wouldn’t be a conflict. Here’s the catch…it will be better addressed quickly then after it festers. Now is better! Do not text or email. Pick up the phone or talk face to face. Leave no room for additional miscommunication and deal with the issue head on. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Part 5b. How Not to Suck at... Communication (In Relationships)

B.                  … In Relationships
If you thought communication (or lack of) is a big deal in your life, it’s a bigger deal in relationships! At least at work people have to deal with you. For the rest of the world it’s a choice. In your relationships bad communication can end a friendship and halt a relationship before it even gets started.

I just finished a 5-day leadership class: they say that communication is 70% body language, 20% tone and 10% words –hence the phrase “it’s not what you said, but how you said it.” Communication is meant to build trust and share information but if your verbal message doesn’t match your body language and tone, people have a hard time believing what you say. It feels like you're lying, or at best, hiding part of the truth.

People mainly lie because it’s easier than telling the truth. That’s the coward’s way out, and as an adult it’s time to mature enough to have some of those difficult conversations. Be open and honest; those hard exchanges will help us grow as people. Though they may not like what you have to say or be happy about it, person on the receiving end will actually appreciate your straight forwardness.

A key part of communication for me is commitment… not the let’s have titles or put a ring on it kind. That just comes with time with the right person. I’m just talking about the follow through on plans kind. I used to plan allot of group trips and outings and people’s lack of assurance drove me up a wall.  Pet peeve: when someone says “I’ll let you know.” In my head that’s a polite way of saying “no.” But it gives the other person a way back in if they want it. The down side is that holds my time hostage! I felt like I couldn’t make other plans waiting to see what they would say. Now, I set a deadline to “let me know” by or just treat “know” as a “no” and move on. I’ve been a lot happier that way. And when they try to come back with a last min answer, they get the “I’m busy,” “you didn’t let me know” or the “I have plans already.”

Now that I know how certain phrases and tones can sound, I try to clearer in my message, esp. via text. I am sarcastic. Depending on a person’s mood I know that some of the stuff I say can come off as mean and rude when in reality I was being completely playful. For that reason, when I think a text/email conversation is going south I immediately pick up the phone and call. No more texts until I hear their voice and understand they know I don’t mean any harm. I make sure that my massage is received the way I sent it!

My point is that you must to listen and look beyond what people actually say, and also take into account how people may interpret your words and body language. Allot of miscommunication is not in the words, it’s in how the other person interpreted them.  The message you sent was not received as intended! I learned the major cues, sayings, body language and tones and what they generally mean. I want to believe the words that come out of people’s mouths but now I know to pay attention to how people say things. People how a million ways to say “no” and just a few to say “yes.”