Reunions, Reflection, Redirection - November 29, 2011
This past weekend was my 30th High School Reunion. I helped to plan it with a few of my dear classmates, and it was seemingly successful in the end. People appeared happy, and we even got a volunteer to plan the next one! I ran the 10th reunion, then our class did not have anything until 2006 for our 25th. I did not attend that one as I was in the midst of adopting my darling Kate.
The magic of Facebook has changed the face of reunions I think. In the last two years I have seen more people I went to high school with than the previous 30 years combined. I moved away from my sleepy Connecticut town in 1991 and lost touch with virtually everyone. Social Media is an amazing gift. Classmates.com was the first thing I ventured into about 10 years ago, quickly followed by Linked In, the professional version. For this reunion, I had vowed to make it simpler than the 10th. It was like planning a wedding, and I do not live in the area any longer, so I was hoping to minimize the stress factor.
We did not send out any invitations, although I did get feedback that people were waiting to get their invitation. Our school does not support the reunion planning, so we’d have to look up all the addresses and I was not up for that task. I did put ads in the local papers, asked everyone to spread the word, found about half our class through social media and googled about 40 others and sent emails and made phone calls. It was fabulous to find classmates and surprise them with a “Hi it’s Lori Evans!” One classmate said, “are you THE Lori Evans?” That made me feel famous for 2 seconds, so that was energizing. I absolutely love to find out what people’s stories turned out to be. We all knew each other at very critical times of our lives. What has amazed me that for the most part, people are similar, maybe more confident, or thinner, or heavier, or balder, but overwhelmingly nicer, a gratitude lingered in the room.
The other awareness were the struggles people have endured, and continue to face. I hate cancer, it robs too many people of their life, and a quality of life. There seems to be a geographic circle of this wretched disease amongst my classmates. We said a prayer to all those struggling. We had five classmates of 166 die. Several of our teachers have passed, and we all marveled at how many left such a legacy. I have actually reached out to a couple of the ones that made a difference in my life over the last few years to let them know how important they were in my life. They appreciated it.
After a few months of planning, the doors opened at 7 pm on Saturday night and the crowd of about 90 trickled in. The energy was apparent, and those who wanted to be there were there with bells on. A few no shows due to illness, or second thoughts. I felt bad for them, and their presence was missed. We honored our service men and women, some of whom served in the Gulf War and Afghanistan.
As the project lead of this event I found myself a bit stressed, wanting everything to be perfect for my classmates. And also overwhelmed at the numbers of people that I knew I would not be able to check in with.
I learned a lot about myself in this season. There is a great book called The Five Love Languages. They are Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Physical Touch, Quality Time and Acts of Service. My number one language is Quality Time. I love the one-on-one time that allows me to really connect with a person as a whole. (Good for a leadership coach I suppose!) To find out what matters to them. Alas, a reunion setting is not conducive to any of that, so I did feel a loss of some sort. While everyone was laughing and reminiscing, I focused in a small few that seemed like they were not connecting, and tried to find out what I could do to make it better for them.
As the night went on and the crowd thinned out and the pressure was off I was strikingly aware of how much better I felt, my ability to connect with people markedly increased. It was compelling for me to notice this about myself. I am a very clear extravert, but not a fan of the big crowd. A shock really, but good awareness.
So, how can I apply this noticing of how my energy is depleted and restored to setting new direction for growing my business? I need more intimate venues that the large mixing networking crowds cannot provide. This awareness will help me with redirection for 2012.
What awareness do you have about yourself that can make a difference in 2012?
A Handful of Thankfuls - November 22, 2011
Come on 'lil buddy
It’s that time of year again. How does it go from July on the beach to Halloween, to Thanksgiving and Christmas carols in one blink of an eye? My mother always told me the older you get the faster time goes by. When you are ten years old that sounds like one big fat lie. A year is 1/1oth of my life so NOT so quickly does it go by. But now a year is 1/48th of my life and it truly is a flash. My 82 year old Dad scoffs at me with his math. Point taken…
So what on earth can we be thankful for? It is a drizzly rainy day today, it took me 90 minutes to travel 26 miles this morning in the DC metro area, and I left at 6:15 am, thinking I’d give myself plenty of time to get to my Arlington meeting. The positive spin is “I was early for me meeting and it was really successful!”
I am fighting a cold and have consumed massive amounts of Airborne to keep it at bay. Not sure who is winning the fight, and positive spin, “Look out I am on the loose!”
In coaching school at the renown Georgetown University’s Leadership Coaching Certification Program, they taught us a concept that on any given topic you can choose to spin it down, finding the worst in a situation, or spin it up, finding the gold. There certainly are times when I find it hard to see rainbows and sunshine, but I do try to find the positive spin. I sort of just popped out of a phase where I have been feeling the change of season and the end of daylight savings sluggishness. I am reminded of the condition SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder) and the concept of the “Happy Light” that helps perk up and augment the shorter days. My office is my finished basement, and while my daughter Lexie and friend Danielle have made it darling, it is dark, and I was spending a lot of time alone writing. Another friend told me to go sit outside in the sun and MAN what a difference that made! So the moral of the story is that we need sunlight, and vitamin D! If you are feeling unusually down and unmotivated, there is likely a fixable reason.
Don’t settle for hibernation if you don’t have to!
Christmas season…the neighborhood is already brimming with Christmas With the Crank’s competition. Ugh, it just all feels like work to me some times. AND the positive spin is – oh how lovely the house looks when it is decorated! My baby Kate will be five years old three days after Christmas, she LOVES this season, it is ALL about her, and what is there not to love about that?
This year on Facebook I saw friends counting down the days with “things I am thankful for” lists which are inspiring really. So here is my Top Ten Thankful’s for 2011:
- Grandma’s and Grandpa’s for Kate
- Social Media for connecting me with long-time friends and new superstars
- Red wine (it’s just so good)
- Work that I love
- The smell of Pumpkin Spice (had to throw something fluffy in there)
- A lifetime of development ahead.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
Rights of Passage - November 15, 2011
Rights of Passage
Careers and their progression are much like watching our children grow up. My almost 5 year old is getting too big for “Little People” and board books, and it is sort of sad to realize that she is a big girl, and is ready for beginning reader books, and more complex toys like Legos and American Girl dolls. She knows how to put in the Kindergarten computer game by herself, and print out her results and is teaching herself to read as a result. She whips around the iPad like a pro, and the apps that are available are cute, interactive and have great learning messages.
Christmas is coming, and she has been creating her wish list, and my approach has been to make it a bit limited, versus a long endless list, and over indulgence of excesses that I certainly was blessed with. But a few thoughtful things that may trigger something educational, or help in making her well rounded. She has asked for cars and trucks, in addition to LaLaLoopsie (I may adopt this word to describe some of my clients that are lost and floundering.) It is a reinvigorating experience for a child to go through their things, teach them to sort what can be donated to a little boy or girl who doesn’t have many toys. Teaching them a spirit of giving early is important.
Also, it is teaching them reflective skills as well. ”Remember when you loved this book it was your favorite, now this is your favorite.”
Throughout our careers we could take a lesson from cleaning out the cob webs, sifting through our things, and purging the old and antiquated to make room for new best practices and hot new trends. And also to take a pause to celebrate the successes and victories of our past, strategies and frameworks that inspired others, and dust them off and give them a face lift in the new world order.
We need to keep our skills fresh, we cannot stay the same. The Millennials entering the workforce are techo-wizards, and with the vast majority of the workforce being in the 35-55 year old range (including this blogger) we cannot sit by and watch it all happen around us. We need to purge our Little People and keep up with the trends, without throwing out the proverbial baby.
It’s a blend of what has worked and been successful, and what is new and innovative. There is a place for both I think, and I want to send a message to those out there resisting the change in the workforce to keep up, invest in your growth. My 82 year old daddy is taking a computer class because he realizes he needs to keep up, or get out. After a long, successful career in business, he is still vital and wants to have a purpose! I meet 50 year olds who are frozen in 1979, and refuse to keep up with technology as a political statement. Now that is a lifestyle choice I know, and please do not hear any judgment here. I just choose to invest, to keep up with my continuing education credits, to be purging my old toys to make room for new ones, to donate my time and my services to those that cannot afford these things on their own. I have not piqued, I want to delay that process by refreshing my skills, learning, and taking lessons for my 4 year old. She said yesterday as we peered out the window looking at the lovely sunset, “Mommy, I love the beautiful sunset, I could just stare at it all day.”
Reflection….Rights of passage…
Just Another Day, Make it Count - November 1, 2011
One Friday morning…L’Enfant Plaza, Washington, DC…I am not native to DC, been here 10 years now though. I was not an early adopter to the metro system, but I use it routinely now to see my federal coaching clients. I am not sure I actually ever exited this station, although it is a major transfer station. It is being remodeled with lots of shops and eateries. I observe five generations of citizens, tourists, expats roaming the corridors at 9:30 am.
A young millennial gent in a spiffy suit grins while walking with his lovely counterpart – makes me recollect when I was starting out in my career, so much was new and exciting. An energy I wish I could bottle. ”Why can’t I have it now?” Yes, the Generation Jones* that I am was screaming out then too! I have been watching the classic late 80′s series thirtysomething lately and episode 7 Season 1 featured the Home Shopping Network – “I need it and I need it now!” Yup. That was certainly my mantra! Although I wasn’t necessarily aware of it, or even did I question it.
I do recall my wise Grandma Lorraine always wondering why I didn’t just save up for it.
“Use a coffee can like I do!”
“But Gram, I have a credit card!”
Ugh, the beginning of the end. And what were the creditors thinking when they unleashed a card to me at age 19 with a the $5000 credit limit in 1982? I have more than done my part to keep the economy going and fund large bonuses for the banking execs. lol.
I digress, back to the Plaza. A Gen Jones man walking deliberately and focused, perhaps late to a meeting, but determined and happy it is Friday. A Boomer couple on vacation sitting and scouring the tourist map to plan out their morning. Mom and her young teen daughter heading somewhere as if on a mission; the Great Depression era represented as well, a woman heading to her job and I can only imagine she is celebrating 50 years there and she is proud of her service.
Another Traditionalist couple looking overwhelmed, I offer help.
A gentleman about 62 whistling and his gait almost a march as he breaks for coffee at Olympic Expresso, one of the only shops open while the facelift halts operations of this potentially bustling plaza.
A 50ish jolly woman juggling a vente double whip something snacking on a high calorie treat. A twenty-something woman, head hung low, could be her boyfriend forgot her birthday or her best friend went out with him.
So what do they call the music in the background these days? It was Muzak in my day – a piano concerto of some sort. Now it is Sirius/XM, Pandora, etc. are commonplace now. Those Millennial geniuses like Zuckerberg and fellow Gen Jonser Tim Westergren, providing a constant evolution/revolution of technology and customized recreational luxuries.
And Gen Jones genius Steve Jobs, RIP.
As I wait to enter my new clients’ office for the first time I marvel at what the slice of humanity I am observing today is challenged by, struggling with, elated about. On the heels of finding out a long time dear friend has been diagnosed with a malignant tumor, I can’t help but be reflective, grateful, yet in abeyance. We all soldier through our days, hopefully lucky enough to use the gifts we have to make a living, a difference, to influence those around us and learn something new every day.
I see back packs everywhere – I wish I still had my square mocha brown leather briefcase I got in 1985 when I first entered the workforce. It would be vintage! It was exciting, and scary. As are our times today.
Just another day, make it count.
*Per Jonathan Pontell, the man who coined the term of the in-between generation, the Ivy League’s Yale University now teaches Generation Jones in a course called: Managing a Multiple Generation Workforce, which addresses: the three prevailing workplace generations: Baby Boomers, Generation Jones, and Generation X. Many Universities in the U.S. and abroad now include Generation Jones in their curriculum.