Archive for the ‘Time to Reflect’ Category

  • Balancing Work and Life: Stories from the Trenches

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    Stone Sculpture, Willard Beach, Maine

    The challenges can be daunting but they need not be insurmountable. As a wise old soul once said, “Nothing is impossible; the impossible just takes a little longer.”

    A key first step is to identify your priorities. Determine what you want to get out of your work and your personal life, and jettison all the things that don’t help you achieve those goals.

    The second key step is to give yourself time. You can’t expect to achieve this balance overnight. Take small steps and build on each success.

    Help, as in interviews with those who have and have not achieved balance, is available at Stanford University’s e-Corner (Entrepreneurship Corner), a project of Stanford Technology Ventures Program. They have published a collection of videos and podcasts of more than 1800 of Silicon Valley’s most practiced entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

    Check out three of their videos with “perspectives on this frequently elusive pursuit” below:

    Video: Life With an Entrepreneur
    Brad Feld, Foundry Group, TechStars
    5 min. 7 sec.

    Living a “life” while being an entrepreneur can have its challenges, according to entrepreneur and investor Brad Feld. Through a candid story from his own marriage, Feld explains how he has successfully found a way to balance his love of work with his love of family.

     

    Video: Work-Life Balance for Driven People
    Dominic Orr, Aruba Networks
    3 min. 28 sec.

    Dominic Orr, CEO of Aruba Networks, wrestles with the definition of work-life balance for people deeply engaged by their work. Orr recognizes it can be difficult to separate work and life, but that we must still make room for relationships that matter to us. According to Orr, this ultimately comes down to carefully allocating our time and energy.

     

    Video: Failure in Work-Life Balance
    Lisa Lambert, Intel Capital
    2 min. 19 sec.

    “Failure is as much about success as success is,” says Lisa Lambert, vice president at Intel Capital. “In fact, it’s probably a more important part.” Lambert reflects on aspects of her career she wishes she could revisit, including work-life balance. Get practiced in the act of saying no, she advises, and accept that your time and money, and other resources only occur in limited quantities.

     

  • You and the Queen Have a Lot in Common!

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    Out on the road yesterday, with my car radio dial set as always to NPR, I happened to catch Diane Rehm interviewing Sally Bedell Smith, author of Elizabeth the Queen: The Life a Modern Monarch.

    I’m not much of a “Royals” devotée, but when I heard Diane Rehm announce, “Britain’s Queen Elizabeth will observe her diamond jubilee next month. It’s been sixty years since her father, George the Sixth, died. Elizabeth Alexandra Mary became head of the Commonwealth at age twenty-five. During her reign – the longest since Queen Victoria’s – she’s ushered the British monarchy into the modern age,” I was hooked and turned up the volume.

    I was particularly struck when they spoke of the value, as related to her 60 years of insights and information, of the Queen’s role today. “She is,” the author said, “a nonpolitical head of state who exists to unify the country. She’s had to handle crises within her family, her country, and the world. She’s very perceptive and knows every world leader – their strengths as well as their foibles. The Queen has traveled throughout the United Kingdom and based on her conversations with both ordinary and powerful people she has a great understanding of the human condition.”

    Sixty years of insights and information about the world and the human condition – isn’t that woven into the fabric of all of us 60-year-old’s? We may not have the same bling as the Queen but we do have the same time-tested experience to bring to the table. What a gift!

  • Salary Cuts Need Not Be So Painful

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    Courtesy, www.agefotostock.com

    I read two articles in the past two weeks about the reality of pay cuts in today’s bleak economy.

    The first, by Chris Isidore, Unemployed Face a Reduction in Income – Permanently, in CNNmoney.com was sobering. It is a necessary but certainly not uplifting reality check.

    The second, Penelope Trunk, the Brazen Careerist’s blog posting, When It’s OK to Take a Paycut, is more a wake-up call than a mere reality check. Her seven points make us focus on the critical factor here, which is, as she says, “You are not your salary. You are not worth less in the world because you are paid less in your job. Get your self-worth from a wide range of things and a pay cut won’t matter to you. Focus on the components of a good job: learning, personal growth, friends at work, and a good family life. All those things are worth a lot more than a pay cut.”

    Here, in summary are her eye-opening, insights on when it is ok to take a pay cut:

    “If you want to change careers. Look, you are stopping doing something that you know how to do, and you are going to start doing something you have not done before. Why would you think you will not take a pay cut?

    If you are over 40 years old. Pay peaks about age 40 for everyone except surgeons and lawyers. So if you are 40 and job hunting, take a pay cut. It’s not going to kill you, but holding out for a raise might lead to fears of starvation.

    If you have been unemployed for six months. Statistically speaking, you will have to take a pay cut to re-enter the workforce. So instead of holding out to be a superhero of job hunts, just take a job. So much of our self-worth comes from working that ditching unemployment far outweighs avoiding a pay cut.

    If you’re relocating back to family. Research from Nattavudh Powdthavee of the University of London shows that to make up for the decrease in happiness that you experience when you leave family and friends, you would need to make $133,000 more than you were earning before the relocation. So it stands to reason that you can take a substantial pay cut to move closer to family and still gain a net happiness benefit..

    If you will get a great boss. When it comes to the job hunt, getting a boss who will be a great mentor matters more than the job you’ll be doing for that boss. The number-one factor that determines your earning power is your schooling. The number-two factor is the quality of mentoring you get. Since most of you are out of school, mentoring should be your number-one concern, and you’ll more than make up for a pay cut by gaining a good mentor.

    If you are having mental health problems from not working. Work provides a lot of things:  a sense of belonging, sense of purpose, structure and balance to a day, as well as financial security. You can get all these things by short-circuiting your job hunt and taking a lower-paying job. Wondering if you are having problems big enough to qualify for this one? Are you gaining weight during unemployment? That’s a sign that you’re masking new emotional problems. Get a job.

    If you need better insurance. Taking a pay cut to get better insurance is like buying peace of mind. And at a bargain rate, really. If all you need to do is take a pay cut to know that you will not go bankrupt from medical bills (the most common cause of bankruptcy, by the way) then it’s worth it.”

     

     

     

  • We, Too, Are the Fruits of Our Labor.

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    Courtesy: mycommentcodes.com

     

    When I think of work, I think of creativity – both in terms of jobs we perform for others and in entrepreneurial work we create on our own.

    Courtesy: danliterature.wordpress.com

    And, when I think of creativity, Albert Einstein comes immediately to mind. This week “The Heart of Innovation” posted “35 Awesome Quotes from Einstein.”  Four that I find most meaningful are:

    1. “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” (They did not include the rest and perhaps most poignant part of this quote – which is: “For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

    2. “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

    3.  “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

    4.  “If you cannot explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

     

    Happy Labor Day!  May the fruits of your labor be nourished with curiosity.

  • When What You See Counts More Than How You Look!

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    Paperweight Glass Eyes, Courtesy allproducts.com

    As I sit in the eye of Hurricane Irene, I have a few moments to reflect on a world turned upside down in the past seven days.  Earthquakes, a powerful hurricane and a barrage of doctors’ appointments – all in a week’s “holiday” for this senior living in northern Virginia and on the coast of Maine.

    Amidst the wobbly joints, and patches of old, sun-baked, skin spots needing to be zapped to ward off skin cancer, I was stunned to learn that my eyesight has actually improved.  I had to ask the doctor to repeat that twice. Then, when the news finally sank in, I thought, “What an extraordinary metaphor: as we grow older our life experience actually does enable us to see better.” We see new options, we see what works and what doesn’t because we have lived both. That kind of experience cannot be forced. It evolves over time and is our most valuable asset. Our challenge, if we should wish to continue working or to begin a whole new entrepreneurial career, is to convince others who may stumble over how we look at 50, 60, 70 and more years, is irrelevant because of our unique perspective wrought from all those years of living and working. The convincing cannot be done through telling. Rather it is best “told” through the sharing of that experience so others, too, without as many years under their belts can see more clearly.

  • Sidewalk Wisdom!

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    If  you’re genuinely interested in taking a new path in life, one of your first steps should be to read Portia Nelson’s little gem of a book, There’s A Hole in My Sidewalk.

    Born in Brigham City, Utah, in 1920, Portia Nelson became a Renaissance Woman. Her name was originally Betty Mae Nelson. She grew up in humble circumstances and was the youngest of nine children, four of whom died before she was born. Her grade school friends nicknamed her Portia after a popular radio soap opera ”Portia Faces Life.” Little did they realize how prescient their naming would be.

    When she died in New York City in 2001, her obituary praised her as a “beloved singer, songwriter, actress, and author. She was best known for her appearances in the most prestigious 1950s cabarets, where she sang an elegant repertoire in a soprano noted for its silvery tone, perfect diction, intimacy, and meticulous attention to words.

    She was one of the most popular cabaret singers of the 1950s, the era when such New York supper clubs as Bon Soir and the Blue Angel featured glamorously gowned singers of sophisticated songs. Besides singing the finest torch songs of Kern, Porter, Gershwin and the other greats of popular music, she would rescue neglected songs from oblivion, introducing audiences to such forgotten gems as Jerome Kern and Anne Caldwell’s ‘Once in a Blue Moon’ and Rodgers and Hart’s ‘Nobody’s Heart’.”

    The actress Jane Russell, a lifelong friend who was the first to encourage Portia to sing, commented, “Her lyrics were sung with such understanding that you felt you’d heard a poem sung.”

    Nelson was also a prodigious songwriter. One of her most famous compositions, ”Make a Rainbow,” was sung by Marilyn Horne at President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inaugural ceremony. Her acting career included playing the indomitable nun, Sister Berthe, in the film version of The Sound of Music. ”

    Her best-known writing is this “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” from her book, “There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk,” originally published in 1977 and reissued in 1993:

    Chapter 1
    I walk down the street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I fall in.
    I am lost… I am hopeless.
    It isn’t my fault.
    It takes forever to find my way out.

    Chapter 2
    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I pretend I don’t see it.
    I fall in again.
    I can’t believe I am in the same place.
    But it isn’t my fault.
    It still takes a long time to get out.

    Chapter 3
    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I see it there.
    I still fall in… it’s a habit… but,
    My eyes are open.
    I know where I am.
    It is my fault.
    I get out immediately.

    Chapter 4
    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I walk around it.

    Chapter 5
    I walk down another street.

    As valuable as this advise is about not doing the same things over and over again, I still think one of my favorite Portia pieces is this poem from the very beginning of “Sidewalk:”

    I don’t know what I want sometimes.
    But I know
    that I want to know
    what I want.

    I know that once I know what I want
    I will be able to get it.

    Of course, I may not want what I get
    when I get it…
    But, at least
    I’ll know that I don’t want that!

    Then, I can move on to something else
    I don’t know if I want.

    That’s progress!


    I wonder if she ever read Shel Silverstein’s, Where the Sidewalk Ends?

    I think she would have like it!

  • Artist or Biologist: Career Switching Made Easier

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    Courtesy www.stuffintheair.com

    Whether you are looking for a new line of work because the old stand-by has become boring and meaningless or because you’ve been laid off and can’t find work in your “field,” a new career may need new strategies to find and secure it. You may be attuned to approach a recruiter or to diligently scour job titles in the want-ads with unrestrained vigor, but we respectfully recommend you redirect your energy. If you’re eager to use your existing skills in different ways and are not sure where to begin, go to an online job board such as CareerBuilder.com – not to find the job of your dreams but rather how to translate your experience and job skills into new career options. Skip the job titles and go directly to the “key word” search engine. (This by the way is the same way any employer or recruiter worth his or her salt, will scan online resumes.) Using CareerBuilder.com’s “key word” search engine, type in “Art” and just look at the variety of companies that pop up: insurance, banking and financial services, healthcare, retail, auto companies, and even the Art Institute!

    Type in “Biomedical Research” and, among the zillions of medical hits, you’ll find the A & E Television Network! You get the picture. Your skills may fit in places you never dreamed of – or maybe you have thought of them but figured you were not a good fit.

    Next you can “narrow your search” via Category, Company, City and State. Narrow is the operable word if you are looking for the same old same old kind of job, but since you’re not, skip the actual job postings they offer and take some time to scroll through all the options under “Category” and “Company.” Don’t jump in to the “City” and “State” options yet, even if you think you’d like to relocate in New Mexico. You’ll be amazed to discover how some of your finely honed skills can be applied to unique and exciting new careers.

    Still flummoxed… Stop and read Studs Terkel’s classic book, “Working.” Terkel interviewed hundreds of American workers. Men and women from every walk of life spoke with him, telling him of their likes and dislikes, fears, problems, and happinesses on the job. The book is a manifestation of Terkel’s belief that our work is a search for “daily meaning as well as our daily bread.”

  • Reinventing Salt and Ourselves

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    Courtesy Everydiet.org

    This blog post, Three Tips for Reinventing a Product, by Teri Evans in Entrepreneur.com is about salt. Yes, who would have thought a staple such as salt would need reinvention, but then how many of us 60+ year-olds gave much thought to “reinventing ourselves” 2 or 3 years ago?

    Teri says, “Many aspiring entrepreneurs have attempted to reinvent products, from cupcakes to pizza to coffee, which are considered commodities. Some have met with astonishing success — Starbucks being a notable example — while others have fallen flat. So what are the important ingredients in a successful reinvention?”

    Teri offers The Meadow, an artisanal salt shop with locations in Portland, Oregon and New York City, as a case in point.  Teri cites three ways in which the The Meadow’s owners Jennifer and Mark Bitterman, transformed salt into a gourmet entity, noting, “While their reinvention is specific to salt, the strategies they implemented to transform the perception of a commodity can work in just about any business.”

    I’d add an extra pinch of salt to their successful recipe. You, too, are a commodity and each of these 3 strategies is equally essential to the business of creating and marketing the sauce of your “reinvented” self.

    1. Tell the story behind your product. Mark Bitterman was enjoying a trip to France when he discovered artisan salts during a savory French meal — and it’s a delightful story he shares with customers time and time again. Creating an emotional one-on-one connection through a story, while weaving in the history of artisan salts, has kept foodies coming back. The Meadow also dishes salt stories and recipes on its website and blog, Salt News. Mark also has an award-winning book on the subject: Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral with Recipes.

    2. Create a shared experience around the product. Aside from recounting salt tales to customers, the Bittermans bring foodies together in a shared experience by hosting salt tastings at its shops. Previous events have ranged from unique sweet-and-savory pairings to events designed with the culinary professional in mind. The Bittermans have learned that if you bring customers together for a shared experience, you’re more likely to create an emotional attachment to your product, which can breed loyalty and boost sales.

    3. Introduce the product to industry influencers. The Meadow doesn’t advertise and instead relies on word-of-mouth marketing to build credibility among its foodie customers. One way it has done that is through winning over some top chefs of upscale restaurants, which have not only raved about The Meadow’s artisan salts, but also become product evangelists.

    Bon appetit!

  • What’s Wrong with This Picture?

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    Courtesy doclounge.net

    Is Justice truly blind and applies equally to all, or does it sometimes peek and tip the scales when it’s politically expedient?

    President Obama, the Compromise Czar, held our admiration for a time as he successfully navigated his way between Scylla and Charybdis, other wise know as the Democrats and Republicans in Congress, but his most recent compromise/concession regarding Elizabeth Warren and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau not only tips Lady Justice’s scales, it knocks them right out of her mighty hand.

    This past Friday, July 15, I listened to a video posted in the NY Times in which Elizabeth Warren was talking in a very calm level-headed manner about her work to set up the bureau amid heavy opposition. The posting provoked many tweets such as this clearly unbiased one, “My politics don’t really align with Elizabeth Warren’s,” the tweeter said. “But I sensed that she had a legitimate interest in trying to, at a minimum, improve efficiencies.”

    I thought, “How reassuring to hear a Republican express support even though his ‘politics do not align’ with hers.”

    Then, just two days later on July 17th I read (also in the NY Times) Former Ohio Attorney General Picked to Lead Consumer Agency by Binyamin Appelbaum.  Appelbaum wrote that President Obama had announced that he would nominate Richard Cordray, the former attorney general of Ohio, to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “The decision to pass over [the 62-year-old] Ms. Warren — who conceived the bureau, championed its creation and orchestrated its establishment for the last year as a White House adviser — reflects political realities. Her candidacy was passionately supported by liberal members of Congress and consumer advocacy groups. But she never won the full support of the president or his senior advisers, particularly the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, in part because of her independent streak and her outspokenness, which at times put her at odds with the administration.”

    “Independent, outspoken, at times put her at odds”… Rather than a negative critique, it sounds like a breath of fresh air to me. Lady Justice, it’s time to secure that blindfold and maybe hold your nose because “today’s political realities” stink!

  • Business and Life in a Shopping Cart

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    Courtesy of The New York Times

    Whenever I think about work and our different work options, I remember this extraordinary story “The Death of a Fulton Fish Market Fixture,” by Dan Berry, published in the NY Times in 2010.

    The “fixture,” a woman named Shopping Cart Annie worked the slippery halls of the Fulton Street Fish Market for decades.

    Courtesy PhotoBucket.com

    Established in 1822 and named after steamship inventor, Robert Fulton, the market was located near the Brooklyn Bridge along the East River waterfront Lower Manhattan until 2005, when it moved to Hunts Point in the Bronx. In its 170 year run in Lower Manhattan it was the most important fish market in the United States.

    Berry writes,  “Annie would doing anything for a buck: hustling newspapers, untaxed cigarettes, favors, those pairs of irregular socks she’d buy cheap on Canal. She’s submitting to the elements, calling out “Yoo-hoo” to the snow and the rain and her boys…. Making her rounds, running errands, holding her own in the blue banter, she was as much a part of this gruff place as the waxed fish boxes, the forklift-rocking cobblestones, and the cocktail aroma of gasoline, cigarettes and the sea.”

    “She cleaned the market’s offices and locker rooms and bathrooms. She collected the men’s ‘fish clothes’ on Friday and had them washed and ready for Monday. She ran errands for Mr. DeLuca, known as Stevie Coffee Truck…. She accepted the early morning delivery of bagels. She tried to anticipate the men’s needs — towels, bandannas, candy — and had these items available for sale. She clutched the handle of the shopping cart she used to hold wares and provide balance, wearing a baseball cap, layers of sweaters, and men’s pants, navy blue, into which she had sewn deep, leg-long pockets to keep safe her hard-earned rolls of bills.”

    No one knew Annie had another life. In the 1940’s she was a beautiful model who wanted to be an actress.  But she left those aspirations behind when she left the east coast and bicycled across the country to Alaska with a boyfriend who would later become her first husband. That marriage did not work out and she married a second time. She had four children, but domestic life was clearly not her forte. Nor was the bar or record store she managed. At some point she returned to New York City and took up her post at the fish market.

    Annie was not homeless. She had an apartment in Manhattan’s East Village. She loved her children and grandchildren and saw them frequently. She sent them money orders and used clothing whenever she could – which according to Berry was often – boxes of clothes from different charity stores and money orders frequently totaling $4000 a month. She was also  “mother” to many homeless women on the streets of Lower Manhattan. Her family kept trying to persuade her to give up her life at the market, but she never did.

    Her daughter said, “Work was her life.”

    But I think Annie might have said, “she missed the point.” It was not just any work for Annie; it was her work at the Fulton Street Fish Market. She had been beautiful, had always been loved. Her life could have been easier, but she chose another option. She had fun, made money and gave most all of it away.

    Annie died in her sleep, surrounded by friends and family. When she reached the pearly gates, she probably called out a hearty, “Yoo-Hoo!” to let all the fishmongers in the sky know she had arrived. I know, when I listen carefully, I can hear that echoing “Hoo.”  I look up and see Shopping Cart Annie looking down, as she says, “Yes, I mean Yoo! You don’t have to follow my path, but you do need to find a path of your own and follow it.”

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