A Gratitude Response

If you listen to anyone speak on the topic of mornings— how to maximize them, structure them etc.— you’ll hear one key component in each speaker’s content, I’m assuming.


Write down X number of things you are grateful for to start the day.


Somebody far better qualified than me will tell you the science behind this. I can tell you what it does is focus your mind on the goodness of the day before or the day ahead. It trains you to have a response of gratitude…. rather than a response of anxiousness, entitlement, burden, etc.


I’m having to train myself throughout the day, though, to go through the same process. A gratitude response, if you will.

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Not in a fake way of “spinning the situation” (hello my fellow 3’s on the Enneagram… I see you, I get you). A mindset of gratitude can be displayed by genuinely expressing thanks to the many, many people you interact with throughout the day. Run through a drive thru? Be legit thankful and add in some detail around that. Have a meeting? Call out the work you know was done for folks to be there and thank them. Eating dinner with your family? Tell them something maybe small that you appreciate about them.


I can think of some people right now that when I think of a ‘spirit of gratitude’ they come to mind. And I so enjoy being in their presence. As young professionals, I can imagine these are the people we want to be around and be like, yes?


Anyone else gratitude training themselves? How’s that going?

Awe and Wonder

Flying home this week from Denver, CO, I found myself caught in the trap. You know- get on the airplane, put ear buds in, talk to no one, send emails— aka avoid all living creatures around me.

Because I forgot to shut the window during the flight, the lighting was messing with my reading. So as I went to shut the window….

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Blue skies, mountains below (can’t see here exactly), awe and wonder hit.

May we as young professionals never lose our wonder of the living and breathing creation around us. We don’t have to settle for the trap. (Ok, we do have to get our work done and plane rides are great for this.)

This also happened:

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Have you ever told a parent of young child, especially those stressed in a moment of chaos and such, “hey you’re doing a great job as a parent.” You might get a quick “thanks” as they get on with a crying baby on an airplane and you might get tears. How do I know this? Because an 80 year old woman stopped me in the grocery store a few weeks ago and said that— plus “you have beautiful children… enjoy them”… and she smiled with a deep joy on her face.

Awe and wonder in the mountains, blue skies, crying babies on airplanes, and 80 year old ladies in Meijer.

Let us not miss it. There can be so much awe and wonder in what’s going on around us.

Also, this post is a bit of a ramble today. I recently have heard some interviews with writers talking about their recently launched books… how they wrote it for themselves. They needed it above all. Same here, y'all. Same. So in writing about something like awe and wonder, just assume it’s probably for myself to not forget a topic, embrace a topic, or change for a topic. Just had to mention that as someone who keeps this small little blog…. I never want the message to come across as all knowing, I’ve-figured-it-out-so-read-this, or anything that the lady sitting next to me on the plane might be writing on. HA- ok that’s terrible and assuming and I need to let it go.

(Letting it go…. kinda…..)

Time and Priorities

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Someone was telling me about a friend that had been working on beautiful scrapbooks for her children through the years.... the journaling and photography that went into these books sounds amazing and like it should be in an art gallery some where. 

My response at the end of the sharing of these cool idea was-- Oh that must be nice. I just don't have the time for that. 

To which this friend responded-- Well, everyone decides how to spend her time. You just don't want to spend yours on that... is what you're trying to say.

Mic drop, friend. 

I've fallen into the trap of saying some version of the "I just don't have time for that" when in all actuality it's more "That is not one of my priorities right now." Which in some cases is great-- essentialism at its best, right?! But in other areas, I had to work through where that was friction against what were my true, deep down priorities. Things like health and early mornings. I make time for them; they get the time because they matter. 

Young professionals near and far: When do we use the "I don't have time for that" as an excuse? The first ten years into the world of jobs and families and everything else can feel like we're are everywhere but no where. So what really matters? 

And when it is a great declaration of our priorities, maybe better said, "It's just not a priority for me." 

Do something practically

The past few months, I have chatted with future podcast guests and friends who have been walking through a season of pain and suffering. Each and every time I ask them what they wish their co-workers, friends, and family knew..... or something that stands out to them as a time they've felt cared for during this difficult season-- each and every time I have heard this response...

Just do it. Just find a way to serve a practical need and do it. Everyone says "let us know if you need anything". When you're in the midst of it, you don't know what you need and if you do, you don't have the time or space to request that of others. So just do something that helps practically. 

This has been on my mind lately. How can we as young professionals seek to serve our co-workers, neighbors, and others practically? And just do it without request or specifics? Sometimes I think that those specifics would help me serve better but I've come to realize that it's the thinking on behalf of that person and his/her needs is what generates love. Even if they hate cheese pizza, the way their car was washed and is now water spotted, or the invite to go to something that they don't really enjoy, the response is always signaling that they feel cared for and loved. The goal. 

Grab a post-it note or your phone to-do list: Who is someone walking through pain and suffering in your life? Send a meal or a gift card for one; wash a car or mow a lawn; take a car for an oil change or grab the laundry and return it clean and folded; whatever practically meets a need, just do it. 

The power of an invite

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A follow up to last week's post on Creating more than you consume would be the power of an invite. 

Think back to a time when someone invited you to go somewhere, to join a conversation, or be a part of something that without that invite, you would have never experienced. And maybe that event or conversation led to a major moment of change in your life-- an idea, a job, a new friend, meeting your spouse for the first time, you name it. 

I wrote a post one day about the power of an invite from a co-worker named Telynda. 

Wow. The power of an invite. I can only imagine the stories we'd all share if we were sitting down together. 

(Speaking of which, if you have a story on the power of an invite, I would love to hear it. You can share it here!)

Leadership books often leave this one out. Who do you need to invite? Do you have a lunch meeting, conference, favorite dinner spot, or a sports team? Do you have an interest or a group of amazing people you're a part of or the ability to make popcorn or salsa? Then you have the means to extend an invite. 

I think as young professionals if we become people that invite others along and into our worlds we can change the trajectory of lives, even our own lives. Creating vs. consuming more invites seems like a great choice to make for some game changer moments. 

Create more than you consume

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Recently, I attended a session at our church for "technology and families". The speaker (who I hope to have on the Sharpen podcast soon!) offered great insight and practical tips to help families think through technology better in their home lives. The one thing that stood out to me that day was....

Create more than you consume. 

Her comments were around creating more, rather than consuming technology and being entertained and thought for. So I went home and began pondering how we might create more than we consume when it comes to technology. (I also went home and when my hubby turned on Netflix for the girls to watch while we prepared lunch, I yelled "NOOOOO!" as he grabbed the remote. Haha-- ZERO Technology today, man!) 

And as I thought more about this idea, I found it translating to so many other areas of my life. Things like....

- Create more friendships by initiating rather than sulk and wait for someone to initiate to me

- Create healthy meals by investing resources rather than consume what I want, when I want it

- Create moments to reflect and plan rather than just consume the days and their events

- Create order in a household of littles rather than consume the messes as a victim of toddler destruction (haha!) 

Creating more than we consume enriches lives and the speaker of the family tech. session emphasized this-- this is the joy of creating. We stretch our minds, our bodies, and our hearts to a greater extent for greater impact. 

I'll keep reflecting on this idea and ask for you to join me-- what can I create vs. consume in my life? 

Be a Telynda

Last week, I attended my company's National Sales Meeting. And it was actually my 6th NSM with the company. So as I walked in for this event, I ran into familiar faces, knew the general format of the agenda, and was excited to keep running into more people from across that nation that have become great friends. 

I couldn't help but think back to my very first NSM. I knew hardly anyone but the people on the local team. But as I started thinking back to that first event, I found myself extremely grateful. I had two team mates that reached out and let me ride with them to Chicago instead of driving alone (Mike and Del!). I didn't have to make the first step into the meeting not knowing a soul because I had two team mates to walk in with that knew many of the people we passed. 

And then were was my room mate- Telynda. Telynda was in a role with the company that she actually could have been in a room by herself but guess what she did? She gave that up and offered to be my room mate that week. I went to networking receptions with her, to the general sessions, and the evening social outings. Telynda would introduce me to everyone she knew (She knows everyone, btw) and was so kind in her introductions. She probably barely remembers the details of this NSM, but I certainly remember them all well.

 Telynda and I went to a Cubs game... And if Del Brinson is reading this he is about to make some comment about Cubs and Cards and I just can't tolerate that kind of hate mail, buddy! 

Telynda and I went to a Cubs game... And if Del Brinson is reading this he is about to make some comment about Cubs and Cards and I just can't tolerate that kind of hate mail, buddy! 

For a newbie, it goes beyond words for someone to spend a week doing this, to take you in as a colleague and friend. I know it required some sacrifices-- giving up that private room, communicating to everyone that her tag-along was new, etc. etc. But I bet many of you can think back to a moment like this when a veteran like T took your newbie self into his/her world and showed kindness and the type of person you wanted to be. 

Especially in a world that stereotypes women (and sometimes its the reality, too) as each other's competitor... there is only so much pie to go around so gotta get your full....

Not Telynda. Not that week nor throughout the time I had the pleasure to work with her. The example was set-- women champion other women. You make introductions, you invite along for opportunities to develop business acumen, you encourage when it's a rough day. 

After this year's GROW gathering at our National Sales Meeting, I couldn't help but be full of gratitude yet again for this "Telynda factor" playing out. GROW is for women in the company to grow relationships, opportunities, and their network. We had a TED-talk like event in which peer-to-peer speakers shared some really creative and inspirational stories. Some of you may have attended and are rolling your eyes thinking, "Kirby you were one of the speakers, how kind of you to mention how great the talks were." Ha! I am describing the 3 other individuals who shared their stories in this way. And then the coolest part? The Telynda factor happened-- as a speaker, I saw the other speakers high fiving each other, taking notes, and smiling the biggest smiles. The women in the room were listening intently, sending texts to champion the talks of the day, and nodding along during each speaker's time. 

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I left that day with abiding gratitude. So if you were at the event, keep being a Telynda. This is the good stuff, y'all. 

Champion, encourage, call out the good stuff. Be a Telynda. 

Lessons from the rogue Schnauzer

I posted this photo in my Instagram story a few weeks ago.

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5:58 am in Kentucky before the heat amps up for the day: A sweet moment in the early part of the day, drinking coffee as my little one is waking up to join me… such sweetness.

But what I didn’t follow up with was a video series on the remainder of that Monday morning. This gal came outside to call her puppy, Ozzie the-rogue-Schnauzer, back into the house from his potty break. But the thing is that he didn’t come…. So we shouted some more. (I’m sure the neighbors loved this at 6 am.)

So obviously his wireless collar had failed us. Also it’s a Monday morning… With a conference call about to begin. So the oldest and the hubby took off driving around the neighborhood looking for Ozzie because she says, “Sissy will be really sad if he ran away”. (Sweet sister, rotten dog) The youngest starts waking up moments later and then the door bell rings. Oz man is now at the front of the house and our neighbor had come over to tell us. (Did she hear us yelling at 6 am? Whoops.)

Where has he been? He has ruined my peace and quiet of a Monday morning. That stinkin’ dog.

So we walked outside with Trix (you gotta do what you gotta do). Ozzie can tell I’m ticked and runs over… but straight to the baby (who is now 20 months so not so much a baby). She greets him with a hug, a happy squeal, a handful of cereal, and the biggest smile. She didn’t even know he had taken off; that’s just the way she greets him each morning.

Can you blame Ozzie? He had gone down the wrong path, partly because his owner (yours truly) let him get there. He knew he was in trouble. And when the one Green stood with open arms and a snack vs. the other one with an angry face, he knew exactly what to do. 

Driving the girls into town that morning, I laughed to myself thinking about the events of the morning and also began to reflect on the two characters displayed. No wonder Ozzie or any person for that matter would go to the youngest Green. A scowl on the face, posture of anger, and clinched fist of Trix doesn't sound like someone I want to process a mishap with.... obviously, Oz man wasn't up for much processing (but rather a long nap after his eventful morning adventure). But our different reactions reminded me of the kind of person I want to be if someone is coming to me with an issue, concern, or a mistake. 

W30 Completion 🍎🍊🍋🍏

I thought a day-by-day journal would be kept for the remainder of Whole 30 but the same themes day after day existed. So here we are.......

Whole 30 is complete!

Feeling 🏃🏻‍♀️👌🏻💪🏻

8 lbs down

Eating better than I have, probably in my lifetime

And those themes after that first week that continued for the rest of the month?

- Lots of grocery shopping but it became much easier once I figured out how much to buy in one stop

- More fresh fruits and veggies than ever.... 

- I miss coffee creamer dearly

- My exercise felt better (lighter!) most days

- The daily decisions didn't feel like a big weight anymore... they just happened

So all in all, I highly recommend Whole 30 and we will be practicing the fundamentals from here out as a family. But you better believe my coffee has had cream in it on the daily since completion. (Partly because they took my ghee and coconut oil at the airport but only a few of you know what I'm talking about and are rolling your eyes because I'm still lamenting the loss)

If you are considering, my favorite recipes include:

1. Coconut shrimp curry with cauliflower rice

2. Beef with lime and garlic pepper in the crockpot

3. Grilled chicken and veggies

4. Veggie Frittata

Week 1 of W30

When we started Whole 30 last week, there were a slew of calendars and pictures that shared the sentiment of each day. The highs and lows. Mostly lows, if we're being honest. Ha! 

I decided to keep a daily journal on how it's all going. Mainly for myself. Partly for ranting. 

Day 1:

- The planning is insane-- but the grocery shopping was rather easy. Just go to essentially 3-4 sections of the store and camp out for a bit. 

- No coffee creamer? Black coffee? For real, Melissa whatever your name is? 

- I went to bed with a headache. A wake up call, for sure, in that obviously I have some dependance going on with certain food groups. The tasty food groups. Ha! 

Day 2:

- I woke up feeling less groggy/foggy and without my stomach growling which was a surprise. 

- Head ache existed throughout the day but only minor one. 

- So. Much. Grocery Shopping. 

- Purchased unsweetened almond milk... hopeful but setting proper expectations that it's not going to be great in my coffee 

Day 3:

- Woke up without a head ache or a completely empty stomach 

- MORE GROCERY SHOPPING 

- Scratch the head ache comment... it's baaaaack! My stomach is telling my head (and heart- ha!) to enjoy some pizza, ice cream, and chips and salsa.... but my calendar with WHOLE 30 written at the top is telling my head no. So it protests. 

Days 4, 5, 6:

- The headaches are gone! They have stayed gone, too. But oh-so tired... I've been out in the sun a lot lately for work so that's factoring in but as expected, tired as heck. 

- My snack now includes a Lara Bar with Almond Milk. I had that on these days and it felt like splurging.... ohmyword... what has this come to?!

- We had invited some friends over a month or so ago for dinner and then realized that not everyone might love a Whole 30 meal. Ha! But they still came, ate a meal with us, and brought cookies for the children's sake. Our daughters love them dearly now for this mighty act of sugar and delight and now want them as parents, at least for the next 3 weeks. 

Days 7 and 8 (ok now we're into week 2 a bit):

- So I've discovered that the use of garlic pepper, ancho chili pepper, garlic powder, and some lime juice used on any meat in the crockpot leads to a pretty good meal in the evenings. Hubby voted this as a great option post-Whole 30. Which we often discuss what life will look like on the other side.... we even shared the food item we will enjoy when this madness ends. Pitiful? Yes. We. Are. 

- Meal prepped for the week ahead which should make life easier-- less chopping, cutting of veggies and fruits. 

Hopefully helpful on a practical note because I have to have routine in meals to keep my sanity:

- Breakfast is bullet proof coffee 

- Lunches are either eggs with avocado, hot sauce, and a fruit or a salad with W30 components 

- Dinners include a protein in the crockpot usually with an oven roasted veggies and fruit

- Snack is a Lara Bar with Almond Milk (unsweetened, original) or W30 approved nuts 

Because there is nothing magical about January...

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Because there is nothing magical about January.... 

(in the words of Lara Casey)

I decided to join in the Whole 30 madness/insanity/goodness/sh*% in May for a few reasons:

1. Better access to fresh fruits and veggies being harvested here locally 

(Thank you Cecil Farms for my fresh box this summer.)

2. Out of the winter haze and snack-a-thon

3. The most important why.... dependence is being evaluated... and what I mean by that is....

Recently, I've been observing and trying to attack things I have dependence on. Now not the "good stuff" in life dependence. But things weighing me down, literally and figuratively. A few examples- social media, junk food/desserts. If I'm so drawn to something like food that taking something away gives me head aches, makes me moody, or causes any addiction-like symptoms, Houston, we have a problem. Please hear this-- I am not against dairy, grains, gluten etc. like some commentary you'll read on Whole 30. I am quite for lots of good protein, fruits, vegetables and want that to be the majority of what I consume. (P.S. Thanks America's farmers for making this a reality.) The goal for me is to strip down the diet so much to point out obvious and not so obvious addictions to show, hey I don't need this. And I'm going to take it away to prove it. 

(Coffee is one but don't touch that one, my friends. And if you do bring it up, you're a goner in terms of friendship. I mean, just kidding. My hubby went cold turkey on coffee and all caffeine and is handling it like a pro so it gives me hope... but not enough now to want to take it away... baby steps)

So if you're considering Whole 30, I'm not sure if my upcoming weekly summaries will encourage you or deflect you since I don't know what fully this will entail. But I'm hopeful that on Day 30 my statement is-- DO IT! HOORAY, I FEEL SO MUCH MORE ENERGY. And if it happens to be-- THIS IS THE WORST DECISION OF MY LIFE, which is likely apparently at some point, then maybe still do it any way. Hard things in life do not equal bad things in life. 

More to come on this decision in life.... 

Meanwhile, I'll be hunkered down this week trying to not be angry toward anyone who is drinking flavored coffee, eating Chex Mix, or DARE I SAY IT (see the hanger is already coming out) telling me about a new cheese they tried and loved. 

Would love to hear from you....What's something you want to start now because there is nothing magical about January? 

Advice from a Shark

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On a recent episode of Entre Leadership, Daymond John talks about his newest book and shares more about his life story. If you're a fan of Shark Tank, you know Daymond and his story a bit but this episode shared more about his recent battler with cancer and what becoming a Dad of a sweet baby girl has led him to focus on over the past few years.  

I loved when he talked about networking-- I'm not quoting him with this... it was something to the degree of...

Don't focus on the people at the so-called "top". Get time and learn from ordinary people doing extraordinary things. 

He shared he had learned a ton from a mother of two children on how to champion his daughter who has dyslexia. He shared that a step father who is his true father in life had molded him. 

When young professionals think about networking, there tends to be a pressure to try to get time with those at the top of the business, the keynote at a conference, or the "girl or guy in charge". But if our goal is to build relationships to widen our perspective on life, I think Daymond has a great message for us to seek out the ordinary doing extraordinary things. They have gritty, life perspective, they have real life, practical applications, and most of all, they are influential because of their persistent, consistent life work. 

I'm thinking.... 

Farmers, teachers, nurses, just to name a few....

In a recent episode of Sharpen, Dr. Bob Long talked about this being a crucial part of his career and told us a few stories of when he did this and the impact those people had in the world of nonprofit. 

And Daymond's message made me breathe in some fresh air on the concept of networking because MY KINDA PEOPLE that are easy to talk to, make time for you, and have a real life connection to the policies, programs, and people that matter. 

Thoughts from the cheese platter

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Picture this:

You anxiously await your chance, the opportunity to get 30 seconds to impress. Do you interrupt the conversation NOW? Wait for a moment so you don't seem rude? But heck, you still need to make your way in for your 30 seconds. 30 seconds of opportunity to impress. That's right- the 30 seconds right before someone more impressing comes along as almost an unplanned tag team to take your place. 

Ok, you made it over. Get ready. Hand shake and the talk begins. 

Their eyes are wondering, looking for the next person to talk to. Ah. Ok, now eye contact again. I'm getting a blank stare. Geez. What's this person thinking? 

(Smiles and says so great to have met you.) You somehow get positioned out of the circle. 

Did you impress? Did you earn your keep? Did you make a connection? So many questions to consider why checking out the cheese tray before trying to attempt the same pattern again. (And now you know why there is a cheese tray featured in this post. Because any excuse to post a picture of cheese and talk about cheese is a great excuse. Amen?)

Some of you are picturing a round of the Bachelor or Bachelorette. It makes a lot of sense why. But for today's post, this is a picture painted of a networking reception. Young professionals might be laughing now because TRUTH. This experience often leaves us feeling like another round of this reality TV show. Except we don't leave with a rose at the end of the night-- we're the ones sending a follow-up email or text, hoping to receive a reply. 

I'm not going to hate on networking receptions because they can be hugely beneficial. Yet just like the bachelor is not a long-term approach to building solid relationships, nor are typical networking receptions. Relationships are formed with people who should have more substance than a few minutes of conversation and also another component: time. Relationships take time and effort and trust. 

The pressure can feel like too much before, during, and after a networking reception to leave a great first impression, send the best follow up email, and then wah-lah: make a life-long connection. 

So hopefully to help with this bachelor-of-an-experience, here are some things that wise people have shared regarding these beloved networking receptions:

1. Don't fake it: don't fake another persona or set of values or anything at all to gain a first impression you think the other person wants you to come with-- you can only come with what you know and who you are. Just imagine trying to keep up various acts after the event-- wait, was I the introverted-smart guy or gal? Or shoot, did I need to become an enthusiast who made everyone laugh? 

2. Curiosity wins: pre-formulated questions often feel just like that-- robotic. Natural curiousity wins-- be intentional and also be curious to let the conversation go where it goes. 

3. Elevate others: Someone who engages in conversation ready to elevate others-- a manager, a friend, a college student, a team mate-- those are the ones to migrate toward. Do the same when appropriate. Champion others in your conversations and you will find networking receptions feel a bit different-- less "prove how awesome you are in a few minutes" and more "use this as an opportunity to share the good things those around you are doing". That is to say this may be a good chance to share something you personally are doing in a particular space and that's great, as well. But by bringing in the impact of your work on others, this tone can continue in the conversation.

4. Follow up: But not with the templated email you found when googling "example of a good follow up email to send after a networking reception." Make it personal, make it memorable to the conversation, make it valuable to the other person. Also, dare I say it but a phone call might also be a great option for follow up. (And all of the millennials squirm... ha!) Someone once shared that he steps aside at receptions or any event in which he meets someone new to jot down a few notes so he doesn't forget something that person shared-- hometown, a new hobby taken on, the university a child attend, etc. 

21 days (plus 344 more)

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If you read my last post, you might think I'm an avid runner. (But now you're questioning it because there is a cake as the lead photo so who knows....) You might even scoff because don't we all love those posts that show up in our social media feed-- 

Just ran 10 miles today. #startsmall

Or

Just finished a small jog today in this beautiful spring weather. #15milesofblessings

#kickme (and a handful of you might laugh at this inside joke quote)

Ok, I get it. So let me go back about a year ago when I first started running again.

I had always heard that it takes 21 days to form a habit and that if you evaluate your life and see an area that needs improvement, give it 21 days of solid commitment and it becomes a habit. 

I literally must be much slower than everyone else in life because when it came to running, that 21 day rule didn't apply-- I didn't want to keep running. Running had always been something I would do routinely.... for a few months and then, nothing. It was either too hot or too cold. How about 6 months later? Still didn't want to run. Too hot or too early in the morning or too late in the evening. This is not enjoyable-- let's go do something to intentionally wind myself and pant like a dog?! 

But then one year later of disciplined/forced habit formation-- Ahhhh. Hey, maybe this is enjoyable. Look at my recovery time, much better. One year later, and running is now a part of my weekly schedule. I look forward to my jogs and spend much of that time thinking (when the neighborhood dogs aren't chasing me during such time I am looking like a goof sweet talking 15 pound jaws of death). Running isn't just a habit-- it's a vital part of my week. 

During one such a run, I started thinking about this one year concept-- and started asking myself what were some things that were hard, I did them for a year, and they were either habits or truly worth every second in the end. I'm nearing one year of writing down 3 points of gratitude each day-- now a habit and now something I crave to start my day with. I truly have a foggy, ungrateful mindset when I don't. One year of doing a Jen Wilkin Bible study. She requires you to do a lot of homework, thinking, and question asking. It's hard work to fit it in each day. Totally worth it-- I think I've learned more in a year about the Bible by studying this way. And sad to say, these were pain points in my day at first-- an extra thing to do. It took a year-- a year of complaining internally, a year of learning how to fit things in the day. But now they are habits and I notice a difference when I do not have these moments built into my day. 

So I'm starting to think about habits in yearly terms. I wonder if this might be a more helpful approach as young professionals as we focus on habit creation in our lives? Listen, you're probably much quicker in life than I am so maybe it's a 6 month criteria. Because sometimes we need some time to struggle, force the habit, still hate it, force it again, and then eventually, maybe after months down the road, see the fruit of the effort. 

What is a habit you are working on forming? Can you commit a year to this? 

Heads Up (but not always)

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I went on a run this morning, an April morning in Kentucky. If you don't live here, you might imagine a chilly spring morning, birds chirping, and the sun peaking through the sky, about to warm up the day of blossoms and green grass. 

It was 34 degrees and snowing, wind blowing flurries all around. Not your ideal Kentucky spring morning. 

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As I first started running, the bitter cold smacked me in the face along with the snow. I then tucked my face down to avoid that cold wintery feeling but then shortly started to see light reflections around me as folks were leaving in their vehicles. It was then that I realized I needed to look back up to avoid getting hit by a car. But as soon as I did that, those little snow flakes started smacking me in the face again. As the run continued, I realized it was going to have to be a balance of both, getting hit in the face by the wintery mix while looking up for the big stuff-- cars in and out-- while also tucking back down to stay focused and steady on my run.

It made me think how this was very much the nature of a work day for young professionals. The combination of keeping our heads up to see the big stuff coming that we aren't prepared for while also keeping our heads down to do the work and staying focused. 

I've had a few mentors ask questions along the line of thinking before-- what are you doing to accomplish your work right here and now? And at the same time, what are you doing to develop your future plans, take a look at the big things headed your way?

And so today, after my wintery April run, I hope this can remind us all to consider these questions. Maybe just imagine yourself on a run in Kentucky in April when it's snowing to illustrate the scenario. (Insert palm-to-face emoji) 

Realists and Idealists and Painters

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We love the good ol'-- is the glass half empty or half full. By one's choice, we can determine if he/she is an optimist or pessimist. And then those people get labeled "idealists" and "realists". And the idealists live in utopia, out of touch with the hard realities of life while the realists get the core of what's going on and remind us all to forget change and relish in negativity. I've seen where these labels, in the workplace and beyond, can create a false illustration of the mindset of people, especially those who get labeled as idealists. (Shameless self identification here.) 

Positivity in the workplace is often dubbed as an ideally-minded person, someone who smiles a lot and keep the mood up in the room, and always points out the positive side of the scenario. And the realists often are dubbed as the skeptics in the back of the room ready to raise a hand to forecast all of the missing links, all that can go wrong. 

And while some of these attributes may be true, for better or for worst, this idealist vs. realist mindset, that you are one or the other, is not very helpful. What is also not helpful for young professionals is to think we then have to take on this character in the workplace (and beyond) based on what group we identify with.

I've seen some leaders model great examples of being visionary BECAUSE of being in touch with the reality of circumstances AND painting a picture or getting us all to paint a picture of "what if". They paint the core of what's going on, describing it in a way that you know-- they know what's up here. And then they lead us to re-create and re-paint the situation at hand. Sometimes not smiling and sometimes at the risk of the mood in the room. 

What if young professionals started to appreciate these painters for the display of both idealism and realism? To want to become like these great leaders? As people who find our place in the middle of these two-- who don't dub the idealists as out of touch or the realist as downers. 

This is also what I've seen from these leaders:

1. It takes discipline: to think and to feel and see. Instead of engulfing in emotions that sway us in extremes, these people are disciplined to think AND feel, followed by painting the picture of "what if". It's easier to spiral in various directions; it takes discipline to keep steady. 

2. They live lives in touch with the core of the work: No wonder the picture can be painted so well, it's because they are living it. Let's give some love to our skeptics-- no wonder that is the sentiment because we often have people in positions of power or authority who make no effort to understand the core of what they are doing. 

3. Authenticity: This one is oh-so key. The words they use, the tone they speak with, the attitude... it all bears weight in carrying this painters message. 

 

Girl, get your work clothes on.

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There is a book out now called "Girl, wash your face". Honestly, I have no clue what it's about except for that fact that everyone in my Instagram is posting about it. Every time I see a post, I actually think of a totally unrelated statement from my parents... (and can hear them saying this in my head_

Girl, get your work clothes on.

Waking up the morning, getting home from school, right after church, you name it-- It was time for our work clothes. For farm families, there is always an animal or plant to care for, it seems. We had show animals like pigs, goats, and sheep so there was ALWAYS a little diva of an animal named Fluffy or Rosie that needed a bath, special skin oil, or a portion of their curated meal provided. Seriously. See why I said divas? But sometimes the agenda included a calf needing to be pulled, a neighbors driveway needing to be cleared of the snow, or hay to be hauled in the hot sun.

When we put on our boots and work clothes, we were not only prepared for the day ahead practically but our minds were, as well. I knew my life was not about sitting around waiting for someone else to do the job. My Dad told me so a couple of times, too. (Ha-- see also Farmer Joe's form of grounding children. Brillant.)

Many of us don't wear boots, jeans, and t-shirts with pockets to work. And many of us do. No matter what we wear to work, young professionals can visualize the clothing and footwear as all work clothes. And I mean REAL work clothes. Let's not be afraid to literally get our hands dirty. Getting dressed in the morning, do we put on clothes with full intent to do some work? I wonder what my Dad would define as work and should probably ask him but I imagine it would go something like...

When you might not want to do something and you do it any way. And you might sweat or get dirty doing it. 

I once heard a Chick Fil A Executive speak at an event and share that when doing visits at their stores, the first thing the E-Suite team does when arriving in the parking lot is get out and pick up trash. I imagine they are all professionally dressed. But these folks view their clothing as true work attire. 

I often heard this growing up- "When you do a job you love, you never work a day in your life." The intent is good but the phrase in and of itself can leave  many young professionals questioning if their jobs are worth it because sometimes they do have to umm... work. I'm assuming the Exec. team of Chick Fil A wouldn't say that picking up trash at locations is the most exciting, life-giving part of their days. And sometimes, some knucklehead leaves chewing gum on the ground that he/she just picked up. Not glamorous. But it needs to be done and it is our job to do so. 

I think there is an element of work as young professionals where we must learn to delegate and ask that question of-- should I be the one doing this? But our generation in the marketplace has been fed an incorrect version of this. We can love our jobs and it can feel like work-- both of those at the same time. Putting on the proper work clothes can help us frame this up better each day. 

When we show up with literal and figurative work boots and work clothes, it's our job. And we're ready to do it. 

Water bottles and the 'Do you know who I am?' syndrome

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I recently had a plane ride in which a 7th grade science test question played out. The gal on the end of my row had a water bottle, went to open her water bottle in the air that had a straw opening, and kapoosh-- the water went right up in the air and landed on the head of the gentleman in front of us. 

The test question would have read something like:

Upon reaching full altitude during a plane ride, a water bottle with trapped water in a straw, trapped at ground level, will do the following once opened:

A) remain in the straw

B) dribble out of the straw

C) fly through the air and land on the head of a business man who can't laugh to save his life

Ok.... So hint, hint.... the answer was C. The gal next to me apologized to the man as soon as it happened, asked the flight attendant for some napkins, offered those napkins to him, and apologized yet again. This man couldn't let it go. "Do you know who I am?" radiated all around or maybe it was the water glistening off his hair with those airplane lights shining above. He was angry and there was nothing that could change that for this malicious person behind him DARE engage in such hooligan behavior. 

Sometimes we need to laugh. And get over ourselves. At the least, let someone off the hook for a complete and total accident that really did no harm. (Maybe he felt his hair was on point that day and was upset about it?)

Let us not be young professionals without a sense of humor, an ability to let people off the hook, and any sense of the what I like to call the "do you know who I am?" syndrome. Because no, no one really does most times nor do they care. Also, let us be young professionals with strawless water bottles on airplane rides. Except maybe not, because this one provided a good laugh for everyone in our section except that poor victim. 

Together

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Last week, I was able to be a part of a service project at my company's HQ. We partnered with Cheerodicals to pack delightful green boxes of fun and learning for children who are undergoing treatment at a children's hospital in St. Louis, MO. 

Prior to this service project, we had several wonderful sessions-- guest speakers, panel discussions, forward-looking presentations. We had intentional networking time to kick off the day. It was a well-planned agenda to a T.

What was unique about this gathering was that it was for the women in our company. Actually, the first time we had held a summit like this and the time frame was a couple of days. When it came time for the to wrap up the first day, a woman took the stage to share a story about her own son had been in a children's hospital for an accident. And how we all had the great privilege to pack a small box of fun for children who are facing battles in life at a nearby children's hospital. Immediately I saw women bounce out of their seats, cheerfully on to the next segment of the afternoon, all-in. Those boxes were packed with joy and speed, as we knew that leadership meant squat if we don't have our why behind what we do-- serving others for the betterment of lives. And in a small way, this project allowed us to package a small bit of betterment into the lives of families just a few miles away facing trials in their lives. 

Service projects are not for photo shoot opportunities. They are not meant for just those warm and fuzzy sentiments. This was about doing something real, tangible that meant something really significant for the people in the room. There was synergy, and relationships blossomed before our eyes. Gather people together for a meaningful project and they come alive.

I stepped away to go live on Instagram for this project and it was quite amazing. Strangers talking to strangers for the first time that day and women from all across North America finding commonality in something that made our hearts beat.

For young professionals leading in the marketplace and beyond, consider implementing something like this for your next team meeting or staff gathering. I would dare say that in 25 years when everyone has long forgotten about any workshop or panel session, we will all remember preparing those boxes of cheer for the hospital. What a meaningful project to be a part of. 

De{serve}

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I often fall into the trap of use of the word "deserve". Maybe more so mentally using the word in my thoughts but don't we love that word? We love to use phrases like...

I deserve better. I worked hard for this, I deserve it. You deserve someone who appreciates you.

Maybe it's something I'd like to have or be a part of or maybe it's something I currently do have. So spoken more for a protective sense of the word. But anytime I catch myself using the word deserve, I then try to mentally remind myself to go back to my 5th grade English class. We would often dissect sentences to show where the noun, adjectives, etc. were located to better understand the use of each individual word. And the goal was to also understand the true meaning of words or correct mistakes we made in using certain words in a sentence. 

So using that apparently old-school learning technique, I remind myself that I need to do a little word revision. By taking off the "de", I can quickly remind myself of the true goal-- to serve and not be served. Think I deserve more recognition for doing something? Serve, not deserve. Think I deserve some time away to relax? Serve, not deserve. 

As young professionals, a serving, not deserving, mindset will move our companies, organizations, and communities toward progress, get the attention off ourselves, and create an environment in which the concern for the "credit" is of less focus than the meaningful work being done. This is not to say that company culture that rewards and appreciates quality performance is not important. It is to say that in our circle of influence each and every day, a quick word dissection and revision can make a big impact on our outlooks.