Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes…

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As the old saying goes, if you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change how you think about it.

Some people love change. I mean, really love it. The fast pace, the uncertainty, the chance to problem solve and break new ground…they really, REALLY love it.

In my experience, these people are few and far between. Most people hate change and just keep on hating it until they get used to the “new world.” Throughout my career, I have experienced change times three. Centralization, and de-centralization a year later. Focus on growth today, but tomorrow we’re going to shrink and focus on what we do best. Today, we are forging a new culture for Company X, but if you wait until next week (or maybe tomorrow), we’ll be right back to the way we’ve always done it.

Real change takes time. Partly because fundamental change takes time to really take hold and be adopted fully. But part of the time it takes to change is really about getting people on board. The group driving the change needs to fully explain the new direction and why a new direction is needed, but individuals also have a responsibility to think differently about change. I think most people – myself included – need to see change as an opportunity…a good thing. And only individuals can change their own mindset.

How do you view change? When you are faced with change, what is your reaction? How could you look at change differently?

We all need to find our way through the maze of change we face. Because nothing endures but change. So when change becomes too much, and we think we can’t do it, we need to learn how to take a different approach…change how we think about.

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Resolutions

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As the New Year approaches, the world begins to think of fresh starts, of new beginnings, of New Year’s Resolutions.

I’ve never been a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions. From what I could see, most New Year’s Resolutions are broken within the first week or month. Legendary jokes are made about it. I certainly broke my resolutions – when I made them – pretty quickly.

But this year is different (do I hear laughter?). I think I better understand what resolutions are really about. It’s not necessarily about the success. It’s not really about being the most organized person on the planet. It’s not really about becoming a hard body. And it’s not really reaching an ideal of becoming whatever your idea of perfect is.

Resolutions are about the intentions. At some point, I realized that my youthful metabolism left me, and Cheetos and Coke were no longer a diet I could stick with…unless I wanted to keep putting weight on and buying new clothes. So I resolved to lose weight and get back to where I was when I was 25 years old. A bit of a stretch, given the fact that I was definitely well beyond that age.

It all started out fine…I tried to take a very sensible approach (again, being well beyond 25 years old). I began to exercise (a little) and started really paying attention to what I was eating. More fruits and vegetables and less (sniff) Cheetos. And it began to work. I lost weight and had to buy new clothes, in a smaller size this time. And then the resolution broke. And I leveled off, five pounds short of my goal, which left me angry and frustrated and sad.

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But then I thought more about it…while I didn’t reach the ultimate – and somewhat unattainable – goal, I did lose weight. And more importantly, I felt better…in fact, the best that I had in years…probably since I was 25 years old.

It made me realize that when we think of these resolutions, we often set the bar too high. When I started this blog, I set a goal to post twice a week…forever. Well, clearly that hasn’t worked out. But now my intention is to continue to post as often as I can. And that’s ok. I enjoy writing and so I will continue to do it whenever I can. But I’m to going to hold myself to an unattainable standard that simply adds pressure. There is enough pressure in my life on the things I have to do. I don’t want pressure to ruin the things I want to do.

So for those of you that want to set New Year’s Resolutions, I wish you strength and luck! For me, I am setting intentions to keep my weight, health and energy level as it is now, continue to write as much as I enjoy it and the muse moves me, and to enjoy as much of life as I can. And finish binge watching “Once Upon a Time.” After all, a girl’s got to have a goal.

 

The Show Must Go On…

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The past few weeks, I have been feverishly preparing for a fairly major work event…and we’re not ready.

The event kicks off this week, and we are still working on some of the major details: agenda, presentations, etc.

Now, I’m not new to business or to these kinds of events…there are always last-minute changes, and updates. And that’s fine. But this time I’m feeling completely unprepared and incredibly anxious about the glass balls in the air that will shatter when they hit the ground. (I’m less concerned with the rubber ones that will bounce, and I can catch on the way back up.)

My regular readers (translation – my sister) know that this is my first major project in my recently started new job. Maybe that’s why I’m feeling unprepared? Not really. These kinds of events are really pretty common within business, and while the content may change slightly from corporation to corporation, the nuts and bolts are pretty consistent.

But the whole thing got me thinking…how often I feel discombobulated in many aspects of my life. I enjoying trying new things, because it’s the new that makes life interesting. But I’m a girl who like to have a plan. When I try something new, there is always a little voice in my head that says, “Wait…what’s next? What haven’t I planned for?”

Now I’m sure this event will all work out, like it usually does. And while I have tried to plan for every eventuality, if something happens, we’ll do what we can and what’s needed to fix it. At some point in all this, I’ve realized – like in all parts of my life, the show must go on.

Can You Live the Fantasy Life?

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So we are in Week 6 of the 2014-2015 National Football League Season…and Week 6 of the Fantasy Football life.

My husband was an “early adopter” of Fantasy Football, meaning that the first opportunity he got to pretend he owns a football team, he took it. So football season in our house has been “interesting” for years. Suffice it to say, the kids learned at a very early age not to talk to Daddy on Sundays after Noon Central. Sadly, their language skills also took a turn for the blue.

Now let me be clear: I am a football fan. I have been a football fan since college, although I don’t, and never did, follow college football. I am an NFL Girl all the way. Baseball on television more often than not is like watching grass grow, and basketball…well, you really only need to watch the last two minutes as far as I’m concerned…even if you are invested in the outcome.

But football? That is for me…I love the fact that it is fairly condensed, with most of the games played on Sundays. I love that my whole Sunday is dedicated to football, starting with the Noon kick-off and running straight through to the last seconds of the Sunday Night Football game…if I can stay up that late. I love the fact that the games all convenient come with a third quarter where generally, nothing happens, making it PERFECT for a quick 30-minute nap.

In the past few years, I have even come to love most of the pre-game shows and their “crews.” Fox Sports has by far the best, funniest crew out there, with Long, Bradshaw, Strahan and Johnson. But I do still love ESPN or whatever channel Michael Irvin is on. (I have loved Irvin since he was a star receiver on the Dallas Cowboys…back when they were actually good.)

Now being from the Chicago area, I am a Bears fan at heart. And like most Chicago sports fans, I will bash the Bears with the best of them. But I have always had a soft spot for the Cowboys, which started back when they were America’s Team and even as far back as the Danny White days. Surprisingly, I also kind of like the Vikings and Lions, despite the fact that they are both in the Bears division. And while this may generate a firestorm of comments (which would be a first for my blog), I even liked the Packers for a brief time when Favre was taking the snaps. He was just fun to watch, because he clearly was having fun.

So after years of watching – and listening to — my husband play Fantasy Football, and suck our son into it, I decided to take the plunge. Technically, I am the owner, I did the draft and I make the week-to-week decisions. But because I am a newbie and I don’t have the head for stats…like remembering that this running back gained more than 200 yards back in 2012 or that wide receiver caught 12 passes back in his Pop Warner days…my husband has a habit of moving players around without telling me. He calls himself the Puppet Master. Which I am generally fine with. As of right now, I’m sitting atop the league, although that may change depending on tonight’s game. And I have no problem being the decorative figurehead…and he knows not to take Witten out without my approval.

I never thought I would like it, but I think I can actually live the fantasy life.

 

The Elixir of Life

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September 29 is National Coffee Day, at least according to the coupon section of the Sunday paper. And I’m going to celebrate it like it every other day of the year.

I am a coffee devotee. That is not to say I am a coffee aficionado, because that would imply that I am a coffee snob, which I’m not. In fact, while I am a loyal supporter of Starbuck’s Vanilla Lattes, I honestly am not a fan of their straight coffee. I’m not a “fan” of coffee, but more of a “fanatic.” I honestly would drink coffee all day if I could (and often do).

I’m not entirely sure when this dedication to coffee started. When I was young, I didn’t even like the smell of coffee. I never drank coffee in high school or even college, in order to pull all-nighters. Coca-Cola was a sufficient amount of caffeine. But somewhere along my life’s journey, I discovered the life-giving properties that coffee – and only coffee – could provide to me.

Like millions of Americans – and likely humans across the globe – I start my day with a cup, a hint of sugar and cut with a good amount of French vanilla creamer. I have to start the day there. I have been known to drop everything to run to a store for any of the ingredients…or even a new coffee maker if necessary. But the coffee consumption doesn’t stop there.

Around 9 or 10 in the morning, depending on when I have meetings scheduled, I run down to the Starbuck’s in my office building for a “Venti Skinny Vanilla Latte with an extra pump of Sugar-Free Vanilla,” my signature drink from Starbuck’s. (I’ve even taught the kids how to say it so that when they stop at Starbuck’s, they can get it right.) During the work week, that will usually get me through the day, at least until I get home, where I immediately heat up a cup of coffee, sit down and drink it. And when I say immediately, I mean before I start making dinner, before I change my clothes, some days before I even say hello to the family. (Those are the really bad days.) And then I proceed to drink the rest of the pot (and sometimes even make another small pot) before hitting the hay. And no, I have NEVER had a hard time falling asleep.

Of course, my “devotion” was worse when I was at home all day. The convenience of having the coffee pot located in a central location fueled my addiction, and our local economy, since I was buying coffee and creamer by the gallon. (I do wonder sometimes if my local grocery store has had to readjust its creamer order since I’ve gone back to work.)

People I work with have always marveled at my love of coffee, but it has made life pretty easy for them when it comes to any kind of gift for me. They know that a Starbuck’s card is the way to win my affection and gratitude, not to mention make me a delight to work with. My family knows that, when in doubt, Mom will love not having to pay cash for her Starbuck’s…which also makes for a much happier house. Even the husband knows that if he’s making me get up early for something, as long as the coffee is made, well…happy wife, happy life.

So here’s to you, Juan Valdez, on National Coffee Day. May you and your cute little burro continue to provide the world with the elixir of life!

 

Old Habits Die Hard

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Upon my return to “Cubeland,” I am amazed at how quickly I fell back into the routine. It’s amazing how, no matter where I work, the phone is always on the left, I put my stapler in the exact same spot, and I got right back into buying Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for the candy jar that has been on the corner of my desk at every job for the past 20+ years.

Sure there are challenges. When you enter a new job, there is always a ton of stuff to learn. You need to learn the company’s business strategy, culture and how it “speaks.” You need to get to know your new colleagues, who may be incredibly welcoming and who may see you as a threat. It can make your head swim!

But you also need to learn the simple, stupid, but important things. Where are the bathrooms? Which of the 20,000 passwords and user names do I use to log on to my laptop? Where are the damn pencils??

But even with all the differences and new information to process, it stunned me how much is really the same. While the people are different, you always have the crusty long-time employee, who is willing to help but will also share their views of everything the company does – right and wrong – mostly wrong. You always meet the employee that is just SO EXCITED about EVERYTHING! Then there is the super quiet employee who will help if asked but is also happy to do his or her job without any social interaction and go home at 5pm. And in my experience, all of these personalities are key to the team functioning the way it needs to. (And I think I’ve been every one of these folks at one time or another in my career.)

It takes a good four to six months to get semi-comfortable in a new job…a year to really feel like, “Yup, I got this.” I remind myself of this every time I feel like an idiot because I have no idea how to find the copier paper. But I do always find it, because I am just OCD enough to not be able to leave the machine empty of paper. I don’t want to be THAT guy.

Reflecting on it all after the first two weeks, I feel pretty ok about where I’m at so far. It’s a long way to comfort, but I’m one week closer. And I know where the copier paper is now, and I have Peanut Butter Cups in the jar on my desk. It’s a great way to make friends and make sure that people visit me. After all, old habits do die hard.

 

Shameless Self-Promotion

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I’m not a good salesperson.

I’m that person that always shares a compliment, as a “team effort.” I’m that person that responds with “aw shucks” when someone says good job. I have a really hard time selling a product or service, even one I really believe in, because even though it is right for me, doesn’t necessarily make it right for everyone. And I hate the thought that someone may be disappointed in something I recommended.

Even with Thought Pops, I have taken a passive marketing approach…simply linking to my Facebook page and Twitter account and hoping that maybe one of my friends will take the time to read it.

But that’s all gonna change now. I’m making an aggressive move. People can now subscribe to Thought Pops and have it delivered to their email.

At the bottom left tool bar on Thought Pops, you will see a section marked “Follow Blog Via Email.” Click on the “Follow” button, answer a question or two and technology will magically email you when there is a new post.

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This fabulous new feature has been added in response to requests from readers, so I guess that makes it less “aggressive marketing” and more “you asked, we listened,” but hey…if I can get two more people who like to read my random thoughts on life, it will bring a smile to my face.

But I can’t lie, I’m still worried so to those of you disappointed, I’m sorry…and it still feels a little like shameless self-promotion to me.