Thursday, October 28, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
I woke up this morning and in the few minutes while I lingered in bed, snug inside the warmth of my little comforter cocoon, my monkey-mind started dancing. My first two thoughts were stress inducing thoughts. The first was related to my nephew, who is destined to return to South Dakota in about a week. His stay in California has been enjoyable, but problematic for him.
I believe that we shape our lives with our choices over time – both the choices to do things and the choices to not do things. He made his choices and they left him in a place where, at the end of the day, he was dependent on other people for housing, being chronically under-employed. He made enough of an income to keep the wolf from the door, but not enough to actually build a door.
So, under that circumstances, sooner or later you snooze the wolf comes charging in. My stress arises from the fact that I have an internal debate on what I should do – my nature and instinct is to lend a helping hand, but, when you help people hold the wolf off – they never learn to do it themselves. Even then, it is not so much that they don’t learn how to do it themselves, but rather than they don’t see the need to do it themselves.
The wolf never gets them because someone else is always there to hold the wolf off. I think that sometimes in life you need to get bitten by the wolf so that you understand that the wolf is very real and that you have an obligation to make the right choices, the choices that keep the wolves of this life at bay.
I am, by instinct and inclination, a protector. I will often hurl myself into battles that other people should be fighting, simply because it is on my nature. So, making a tactical decision to not engage, in anticipation of a strategic good, is very stressful for me. In the case of my nephew I made the decision not to engage tactically in the hopes that strategically he will learn how to engage. But, it’s always tough to stand by that decision when the wolves are rushing in.
My second stressor this morning was thinking about work. One portion of my portfolio is to provide application support to a suite of applications used by a wide variety of customers. The challenge arises because, though I can support and influence the application, I cannot support and influence the environment the application works within (the desktop/laptop configurations). Consequently, customers sometimes land on me where I literally cannot do anything to help them and the group that should be helping them isn’t (can’t or won’t, either information of implication).
This leaves the customer in a tough spot – often caught in a vicious loop where they can’t get any help. Because of that nature I mentioned above, I am inclined to help these people – in this case, they are trying to fend off the wolf (in this case a faulty desktop) but the bureaucracy and anonymity of a large organization are preventing them.
They are doing the right thing – asking for help, reporting bugs and problems – but the group that is supposed to help them – isn’t. It’s a struggle for me because I have minimal influence with the other group – I can, through force of will, sometimes manage to hammer them hard enough to take the extra steps of actually helping the customer, but it is emotionally and resource intense – the cost paid is fairly high.
So in both of these stressful cases I am holding a bag full of stressors that I really shouldn’t be holding. In both cases it is literally someone else’s bag full of stress, and I just can’t figure out how to let go of it. (I have a scheduled meeting later this day with my manager, as I feel the need to seek their authorization to tell some of these customers – “I’m sorry, I simply can’t help you, you need to go hammer desktop support”. I hate doing that, but emotionally, in terms of managing the stress – I need some way out from under that particular bag of stress.
As far as the nephew is concerned, I just keep reminding myself that he is an adult, capable of making his own decisions and responsible for the consequences of those decisions. Easy to say but tough to do when the wolves are surging through the door.
Monday, October 18, 2010
To me, winning and loses presupposes there is a finish line to this great journey called life. I don’t really think there is, so I tend not to cast things as winning and losing. (Combine that with a lifetime of experience of losing-while-winning and winning-while-losing and I’ve pretty much abandoned that whole paradigm.)
There are however people who definitely succeed more often than others, and in the course of my life, I’ve become one of them. I thought I would write about some of the things that have made me successful in this life, in the hopes that they might influence someone else.
First, don’t be afraid to fall down. A successful person can run all out because they’re not afraid of falling down. It’s a simple thing, but having a decisive edge is a simple thing. Outside of the athletic paradigm the same thing applies. If you want to be more successful than not in relationships, don’t be afraid to take chances. If you want to be more successful than not in the working world, push the edges of the envelope.
Second, successful people run all out. I’ve always loved the Kipling line – “If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run, then yours is the world and everything in it.” Whatever environment you’re talking about, personal, professional, or that combination of both, if you want to be successful – run all out, don’t hold anything in reserve.
Third, successful people run the race they are in. Not yesterday’s race. Not tomorrow’s race. Today’s race. Successful people understand that you never rest on your laurels, nor to do you take the approach of “I’ll win tomorrow’s race”.
Fourth, successful people get good coaches. A successful person understands the value of tapping other peoples experiences and abilities, of seeking their advice and then following it, at least until you’re certain it works or doesn’t work.
Fifth, successful people readily accept and respond positively to criticism, whatever the source, whatever the criticism. Their first response to criticism is “wow, that is interesting, what else can you tell me”? They understand that even poorly delivered criticism can have a valuable gem buried within it.
Sixth, successful people are always ready and willing to learn and approach everything as a learning experience. Every single race you run is an opportunity to learn – to learn about yourself, to learn about the other racers, to learn about the courses, to learn about the impact of weather, to learn about the impact of equipment.
Seventh, successful people understand that it is all about relationships, and so they invest the time and energy in the relationships that matter most to them. They understand that relationships have the power to make bad times good and good times great.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Well, technically, it isn’t the Ides of October, but close enough for government contractor work. I’ve long been in love with fall weather and this fall has been no exception. I love the warm days and cool nights. To me, that is perfect weather – warm enough in the day to take the jacket off, cold enough at night to put the jacket on. Oh, and can I mention that wonderful feeling of being in a warm bed on a cool morning. Just an outstanding time of year, all in all.
I’ve been focused at work this week. My manager is out on vacation, so I’ve been attending meetings and fending off callers on her behalf, which is always interesting and amusing. It is interesting because it is a window into what is going on at the level above me and it’s amusing because, well, some of the stuff is just amusing. I guess you can firmly put me in the list of people who thinks the flatter an organization is the better. If you get too many layers you start to run into isolation, where upper management not only doesn’t know what is happening in the field, but they are also far enough away that they don’t even actually know what the processes and procedures are.
I think if I were to give a piece of advice to aspiring managers it would be this – no matter how far you rise in the organization always take the time to know what your basic field person, the person who builds your product or actually provides your service, is doing. That key bit of information can make the difference between a good decision and a bad decision.
Switching to another topic, I stopped at a sporting goods store yesterday and bought myself a pool cue. I’ve been feeling the need to take up a hobby and lately I’ve been heading to the pool hall on the weekends to spend a couple of hours playing pool. I used to play years ago, I used to be fairly good. I can say without hesitation that – I’m not. I haven’t played in so long that I am having to relearn the very basics of form, position and style. I did read an interesting article the other day that broke the basics of pool down into seven things, so I memorized those seven things and I am going to give them a try and see how it improves my game.
I also stopped at Nob Hill last night and picked up an assortment of Greek Gods yogurt (I bought two containers of each flavor) based on T.R.’s recommendation. T.R. was the one who turned me on to the incredible Sheer Bliss ice cream and she was right about the Greek God’s yogurt too. If you haven’t seen it, it is worth looking for – just outstanding. I’ve already fallen in love with their pomegranate flavor. The simple pleasures of life are amazing things. Ice cream and yogurt and T.R. all fall into that category for me. (And yes, I was able to write “turned me on to…” without…diverting.)
So, we are at the Ides of October. Whoever you are, wherever you are, I hope your fall finds a few magical moments hidden in the nooks and crannies.
Monday, October 11, 2010
October is a beautiful month. A month of warm days and cool nights. A month of long sunsets and subtle sunrises. It is my favorite time of year. It is also an introspective time of year for me, for a variety of reasons I won’t detail here and now. This October is no different. October is the month of contemplation. October is the month of remembrance.
October is also already one-third gone. How fast the time seems to be flying this year. Each day flows by and spins into the next and the next and yet again, the next. In between those days there fall many things are not done. They just seem to slip away.
I’ve been free-writing this October, but I’ve only been able to do it about fifty percent of the time. In the other fifty percent I’ve either banged in writers block (about thirty percent of the time) or simply forgotten (about twenty percent of the time). Compared to my writing output over most of the summer though, that has been pretty good. I haven’t really written anything that dazzles me – but I have managed to write.
Over the weekend, as I was wandering, I stopped at Barnes & Noble and picked up something called “The Writers Tool Box”, which is a book and some tools to help a writer – I am looking forward to giving them a try, perhaps tonight when I get home. I opened the tool box on Sunday and glanced through the material and it looked like it might be of some help.
So, let us continue on this particular journey through this contemplative month and see if this is the month that I manage to work my way through my writers block.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
I was in conversation with some friends over the weekend and we talked about the rather low quality of movies in 2010. I listed my three favorite movies in 2010, the best three in my opinion, and of course they were movies most of my friends hadn’t seen. In order:
#3: Let Me In – a totally awesome little vampire movie, a remake of the Swedish film “Let The Right One In”. A small and striking exposition on what it means to be a monster with the astounding Chloe Grace Moretz. http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1810048892/info
#2: The Runaways – with Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning. A great little movie about the seminal girl rock and roll band “The Runaways”. I highly recommend this movie as it is a slice of history. http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1810129048/info
#1: Winters Bone – this is an astounding movie with the best performance as an actor I’ve seen in 2010, and that is J.D. Qualls as “Teardrop”. I think his performance as the lead characters badly damaged Uncle is astounding and unexpected. In my opinion he should be locked in for Best Supporting Actor, certainly a nomination, if not the win. http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1810128334/info