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Month: April 2017

ORDINARY MAGIC

ORDINARY MAGIC

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an understanding that transcendence has nothing to do with escaping the world or your own self.  [All it means is stepping out and dancing your own heart-dance right out in the open, in the middle of the world and in the middle of yourself.]

“Listening to your heart” often seems like a scary thing.  Your heart keeps insisting that you just have to do things that are counter-intuitive and not-the-thing — the very opposite of what everybody around you says is the Smart Thing To Do.

Your heart often keeps urging you to make these moves that make no rational sense, insisting and insisting that the very thing you are trying to ignore or avoid or resist has to be embraced.

Your heartsong, it turns out, is also what holds you together when your life turns to dreck and you have been knocked down to the floor again by some other Life-thing.  Not only does it help you get back up, it can even help you keep your feet under you the next time you get a 2×4 upside the head.

This seems to me to be a very good thing to explore when you’re searching for meaning and mana for your ordinary life.

THE POWER OF THE HEART

In this YouTube video of a TEDxRockCreekPark talk, “The Power of Resilience,” neuro-psychologist Sam Goldstein tells a story about his work with children and touches on some of the things that his patients have taught him.  His early work with children led him to focus on studying resilience in humans, his life-work.

Resilience researchers ask why some people handle adversity better than others and go on to lead normal lives despite negative life experiences while others get de-railed by them.  Goldstein is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Utah, a Research Professor of Psychology at George Mason University and the director of the Neurology, Learning and Behavior Center in Salt Lake City in Utah.  He’s written many books and articles on the subject.

Goldstein’s own work has led him to understand that it is the ordinary, heartful actions of everyday people that fosters and instill in childen the strength, hope and optimism they need to face the world.  It is, as he calls it, an “ordinary magic.”

He also points out that our heart is connected to our brain in more ways than any other organ in our body.  It affects us physically and mentally as well.   He encourages us to listen more to our hearts.

In this YouTube video published by the HeartMath Institute, “The Importance of Resilience” further explains the real effects of the heart-mind connection, applying it to the business world.

HeartMath Institute is a nonprofit research and educational organization founded in the 1980’s by Doc Childre, an internationally known authority on optimizing personal effectiveness.  He believes that the “intelligence of the heart” can be harnessed and originated a system of “heart-based tools and technologies” that has been used widely in business, the military, hospitals, clinic and schools to enhance health, performance and well-being.

Another scientist (one who’s turned mystic) is Gregg Braden.  He spends his time exploring ancient wisdoms from a scientific perspective, sharing what he has discovered on his journeys and his thoughts on these discoveries.

This next YouTube video, published by philosophical freeborder in 2015, features Braden talking about how the emotions of the human heart can apparently affect the electromagnetic field of the earth in a GAIAM TV interview.

The thinking’s “out there.”  It’s also fascinating.

Braden’s book, RESILIENCE FROM THE HEART:  The Power to Thrive in Life’s Extremes, is also worth checking out.

FINAL THOUGHTS

From the ancient wise guys to modern-day big brains, the advice remains the same:  Listen to your heart.  That’s where the magic is.

Here’s a poem:


CARING FOR THE ESSENCES

I am learning:

The wiseguys are right.

It really does NOT matter

What happens to me.

The only thing important

Is my response.

 

Building up and tearing down,

I wade through the stream of Time

And dance in the Creative

As I work on caring for

What is essential to me on

This journey I am making.

 

Caring for the essences of my existence

Keeps me hopping,

But on the stage

The dancer leaps with abandon,

Throwing out her heart

And following after it as

The beauty of the dance

Continues to grow.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Sunny Sunday Mornings” by Chris Chabot via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

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A CROWDED FIELD

A CROWDED FIELD

Very often the stories you tell yourself keep you stuck in suck.

TOO MANY PEOPLE GOT THERE FIRST

Here’s one that’s likely to stop you in your tracks:  “There are too many people doing __________ (fill in the blank) already.”  You tell yourself this and then make up a story about how you’ll get lost in the vast crowds of people doing the same ­­­­__________ (fill in the blank) that you want to do.

Maybe you tell yourself, “Nothing I can do will really make me stand out in this crowd,” and then, after surveying all the competition, maybe you allow yourself to be intimidated.  Maybe you ask yourself, “Why even try?”

THE VOICES IN YOUR HEAD

Remember the Good Mom Litany?  Do this, don’t do that….”If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?”  If you’re running the “too-many-people-are-already-doing-it” story in your head, it could be you took that Litany to heart a little too much.

In this funny YouTube video published by joeschoi, comedienne Anita Renfroe condenses what a good Mom says in 24 hours into 2 minutes and 55 seconds in “The Mom Song,” sung to the William Tell Overture.

That litany, like all the other Mom (and Big Person) admonitions, was supposed to get you to stop and think before you did something irrevocably damaging – physically, mentally or socially — to your little self.

It was supposed to keep you safe and unhurt when she or some other Big Person couldn’t be around to watch over you and protect you.  Maybe you heard it so much that now it just pops up all on its own every time you want to try something new or do something different.

In order to get your head turned around when the Litany is running through your head, you will probably need to do another Un-Seeing Exercise.

CHANNEL YOUR INNER IMMORTAL

The best way to turn this situation around is to channel your Inner 12-Year-Old.

  • Remember when you still thought you were Immortal?
  • Remember when you thought you could do anything?
  • Remember when you wanted to try something just because you wanted to see what happens next?
  • Remember when you were too dumb to know what the Smart Thing was?

Here are some counterpoint thoughts you might want to roll around in your head that will encourage that 12-Year Old to step on out:

  • Just because somebody else…or even many somebody elses are doing it does not mean that you can’t too.
  • Nobody is you. You will bring your own gifts, your own skills, your own sensibilities to this thing you do.  (Just make sure you do the thing the best way you know how.)

This YouTube video, “Too Many People Already Do What I Do” was published by Sean McCabe, a young entrepreneur who is the founder of seanwes, a brand that mashes together making art (in this case, hand-lettering) and creating a successful, audience-driven business.

In the video, Sean deconstructs and refutes the too-many-people story.  He points out that in this vast interconnected world of ours, we are exposed to the best of the best on a daily basis.  We often populate our daily feeds with all the minds we appreciate.

He also points out that it’s quite likely that when you are checking out all of the makers you admire and against whom you measure yourself, you are probably only seeing a tiny fraction of the 7 billion-plus humans on the planet.

The tiny fraction of the world’s population that is grabbing your attention are the ones who are doing things and making awesomeness.   If you’re looking to become one of that number, then you’re going to be one of the relatively few.

Most of the rest of the people on the planet are more likely to be spectators, audience, or customers….people who are waiting for you to share your own gift.  That is a very cool thought, huh?

Imbue what you do with your own meaning and start building and sharing your __________ (fill in the blank) your own way.  Listen and respond to the feedback from your audience and persist in sharing what you do.

REMEMBER TO KEEP YOUR MESSAGE SIMPLE

Steve Jobs once said, “This is a very complicated world.  It is a very noisy world.  And we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us…And so, we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us.”

Keep your message about your __________ (fill in the blank) focused.  Keep your message simple.  There is incredible power and freedom in simplicity.

Think.  What’s the ONE thing you want people to know about you?

If you can distill your message down to one simple phrase that’s aligned to your values then that one phrase will help you maintain your conviction.  With that one phrase you can carry on through the whole obstacle course you may encounter and finish what you start.

Showing up is what counts.  Doing what you do the best way you know how is what counts.  Maintaining your effort tenaciously (McCabe suggests showing up every day for at least two years) until you’ve made your dream real is what counts.

The rest is just parsley.

parsley
Parsley by Phelyan Sanjoin via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Here’s a poem:


ANOTHER FOOL, ANOTHER FOLLY

I am a Maker.

(You are one too.)

The choices and decisions I make

Determine and define the life I live.

They make a springboard or a pit

As I run and tumble and leap,

Cartwheeling across this stage

We call the World,

Dancing like God’s Own Fool.

 

I do have to remind myself:

It is only another performance,

Only another folly,

Just another chance to make

Someone else smile or frown or weep,

A chance to grow,

A chance to make Beauty,

A chance to touch the Mystery.

 

And I have to think:

It is not such a bad thing,

This dancing like a Fool.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  Great Reno Balloon Race by Ken Lund via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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PETTY-PHOBIA: A Productivity Killer

PETTY-PHOBIA: A Productivity Killer

A while back I was involved in an infuriating (to me) conflict that seemed to be made up of a lot of little niggly nothings that got blown up into bigness.  It stopped me in my tracks and got me riled up…badly.

IS IT A VIRUS?

In reaction to it (and also out of my, I admit, boundless impatience), I coined a new word for a phenomenon I was noticing at the time:  PETTY-PHOBIA.

I say it means “the fear of all the little things in life”…all the myriad little concerns and dust-mote details of the World….things like whether some form was filled out properly or some rule was followed in exactly the prescribed manner or…well, you get the picture, I bet.

arc
“Arc” by Mike Green via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Petty-phobics — people who are afflicted with this seemingly chronic condition — often have major anxiety attacks caused by the massive overload of petty details and the perceived importance of each and every one of the durned dingleberries.

They spend a lot of time trying to get every single little thing just right.  They insist that everybody else around them have to get the things right before anybody can move on to more productive concerns.

Another name for these guys is “Perfectionists.”  (They probably call the rest of us more doofus sorts “Scruff-balls.”)

[I’m sorry, but I have to do this.  This is a You-Tube video of the Starrkeisha Cheer Squad @TheKingofWierd by TIU Campaign.  It is just too joyous not to share….]

NO GOOD RESULTS

Meetings led to stalemates and dead-ends.  Conflicts erupted and kept erupting over and over again.   A lot of good work kept getting stalled or had to be re-done again and again.  Redundancies proliferated.  A lot of trees died and mountains of paper grew.

It caused me incredible heartburn for a while until I got my head turned around.

DISCOVERING THE HIDDEN PAIN

I finally figured out that these people were really hurting.  What seemed like a minor thing to me was, for them, something that was of apparently earth-shaking proportions.

It boggled my mind.  I thought, what happens if they have to face something that is really earth-shattering?  Yeesh!  I mean, really.  If every situation you face is life-and-death, you are going to be suffering through lots and lots of deaths.

And I thought, how often do you make it to Perfect in this life?  For me, the answer to that question is just about never.  Something is always going to go aglay.  It’s the way of the world.

I wondered, then:  How can you even MOVE in the face of that?  OMG!

defeat
“Defeat” by Andrew Yee via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

WORKING AROUND IT

I finally figured out that rather than trying to pound some sense into the nut-heads, I had two other choices:  I could either (a) adjust and help them feel more comfortable, or (b) opt out of the game.

I could use either one of those two choices, depending on how important it was for me to be able to get on with my own dance.

It did occur to me that petty-phobics probably rule the world.  It is my opinion that this is because people who are busy doing their own thing let the petty-phobes get away with so much nonsense rather than doing the sensible thing (which, in my fantasy world, is picking up my light-saber and whacking off their heads or something).

But, I also figured out that you really can’t go around being like the Red Queen in “Alice in Wonderland.”  Doing a bad Bette Davis imitation all the time is just…tacky.

crown-2
“Crown 2” by The Manic Macrographer via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

THE WORK-AROUNDS

So, how do you deal with all the petty-phobics littering your landscape?  Basically, it involves the same three steps you need to make every time you come up against fear or anxiety or insecurity.

ACCEPTANCE.  You can accept that this is the reality with which you are faced:  There is a petty-phobe in your face and you get to deal with that.

ADAPTATION.  You can adapt to this circumstance in whatever way seems to work best in the situation and then go on from there.  You need to help that petty-phobe feel comfortable and safe and secure.  It will not be easy.

Remember that this person is a good person trying to do the very best he or she can.  Your job, if you want to get around the roadblock in a civilized manner, is to make their job easier.

CHANGE.  If the situation becomes untenable for you, then you have two choices.

You can change your response.  (In my case I had to stop blowing my top and losing my temper and come up with compromises and suggestions and solutions.)

Or you can change your environment.  (Walking away and finding more amenable situations is better than going postal, I say.)

walkaway-squared-circle
“Walkaway Squared Circle” by Fred R via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] Design by Banksy.

AND WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Now comes another big question:  Are you a sufferer of Petty-Phobia your own self?  Do you like it being in that space?  Do you like the results you are getting as a result of being in that space?

Would you like to move away from that?  Are the results you are getting unsatisfactory?  Would you like to change your behaviors and get different results?  For you, too, the same three steps apply.

ACCEPTANCE.  Know that you are a sufferer.  Know that you will never be an easy-going sort.  Petty-phobia and the quest for Perfection is never-ending.

Know that you’re going to worry and get anxious and afraid.  Know that other people are not going to understand your issues.  Accept that other people are going to get enraged at you for doing that thing you do.

Remember that the shlub of a wild-eyed maniac who is standing in front of you is a good person trying to do the best he or she can.  Your job, if you want to get the fool out of your face, is to make their job easier.

This does include being sympathetic about their distress.  Getting all self-righteous will exacerbate an already-bad situation.

ADAPTATION.  Notice when other people start to act weird around you.  Pay attention when things start getting hairy.

Check to see what you are doing as well as what other people are doing that triggers behaviors that seem to result in not-so-good results.

Think about how you could make things easier for other people without getting yourself too tied up in knots.

CHANGE.  If the situation becomes untenable for you, then you have two choices.

You can change your response.  Maybe you can make one or two small concessions without hyperventilating and curling into a fetal ball.  Definitely try to see the other person’s point of view.

If there really is nothing you can do about a situation and you are governed by rules that demand utter compliance, then say that and stick to your guns while helping them work through your dilemma.  Definitely acknowledge their distress.

Or you can change your environment.  Walking away and finding more amenable situations where you are not having to battle unreasonable sorts is always an option.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Notice that the advice is the same for both sides.  It’s always the same.  Humans do human things.  We work together (or not) and we’re all still trying to do the best we can.

Here’s a poem:


ANGRY, TIRED

You are angry, you are tired,

Caught between the desire to live your own life

And the need in some other’s eyes.

A heavy burden imposed on you

By old connections, old ties, you say,

But admit it:

You chose to swallow it whole

And now the anger festers in your gut.

 

You say you are tired of waiting for change,

Of picking up after one who is unaware,

Uncaring of the cost.

You say you are angry at holding up one

Who makes his legs rubber over and over.

You are tired, you say,

You are angry,

Yet compassion dictates your next move.

 

Trudging on, carrying the burden,

You persevere and you endure.

You persevere because it’s what you do.

All the effort that went before means nothing at all

If you don’t follow it to the end.

You say you are tired,

And you say you are angry,

But you go on because you chose to do this once

And you choose again to do it

Every time you feel exhausted.

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Face of the Dragon” by Stuart Williams via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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HOPE IS A LIE

HOPE IS A LIE

This poem was written by Robert J. Maxie, Jr, who has a You-Tube channel that features his spoken poems.  (Do check out his poetry site on Wattpad for more of his work.)  Robert recently independently published a book of poetry as well, BLEEDING INK, which is available on Amazon.com.

He says, “The back story of this poem isn’t as much in the past as it is what I’m living. I oftentimes recently have found myself in situations where I feel hopeless and powerless.

“This poem is a reminder to me that I can’t live that way. That if I let myself lose hope I won’t be able to make it.”

A wise young man….

Here’s the spoken poem on his You-Tube channel:

The words are powerful:

The truth is a blinding light
Shining over an ocean of lies
Gliding on black skies
On wings of fear and rage
It’s a rushing river that empties lakes
A hungry beast that takes and takes
A monster that terrifies
An ever living hawk
Scouting the skies
Bringing death to all
Because hope is the ultimate lie
A lie that lives on as long as the light is gone
Hope survives when hidden from the truth
Hope is the noble lie staying my soul from chaos and rage
Hope is a cage
Hope is control
Hope is a blinder over my eyes
And now that hope is gone
And all that’s left is an infinite
Black void through which I cannot find my way
Without my hope
Without my faith I stumble even though my eyes are open and my path is empty
I am blind to trouble
Though I see
Everything

by Robert J. Maxie, Jr.

Header picture credit:  Black Storm Petrel by Trish Gussler [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

[Please note:  If any of you would like to contribute a poem, please let me know by leaving a comment below….  I’d be happy to hear from youClick here to access the Guest Poet Portal.]

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LIFE IS GOOD

LIFE IS GOOD

I spent this weekend reading two books.

One was a hoary old classic marketing book, THE 22 IMMUTABLE LAWS OF MARKETING:  Violate Them At Your Own Risk! by marketing strategists extraordinaire Al Ries and Jack Trout which was written in 1994.

This slim book took the world by storm in its day for a good reason.  The master marketers were the first to distill down their work and life experiences into marketing “laws” that still apply to this very day.  It’s a good one for any wannabe marketer to have on their shelf.

gavel
Gavel: Ohio Supreme Court by Andrew F. Scott via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The second book was a joyous romp of a read.  The book, LIFE IS GOOD, THE BOOK: How to Live With Purpose and Enjoy the Ride, is written by Bert and John Jacobs and is the story of how “two ordinary brothers from Boston, who didn’t want a job but weren’t afraid to work,” built a company worth more than $100 million by selling t-shirts with the help of their friends.

It’s a very good read, authentic and honest, that incorporates told-from-the heart stories and a picture album of their wonderful shirt designs and the people who made it all happen having fun.

It was also a real-life illustration of the Ries-Trout Fifth Law, The Law of Focus, which says, “The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind.”

You burn your way into the minds of your customers by narrowing your focus to a single word or concept, these mavens say.  And your customers will help you build your world around that concept.

The corollary to that law is this:  “The leader who owns the word owns the category.”

ONE IDEA, ONE DESIGN, ONE BRAND

The rollicking tale of the Jacobs boys’ journey is part of their brand legend .

Starting in 1989, the Jacobs brothers wandered around, crisscrossing state lines in a nondescript mini-van hustling their shirts to no avail.  By 1994, with $78 between them, the boys were ready to throw in the towel.  They had, after all, given it their best shot.

As they drove home to Boston, they were talking about the daily flood of negative news. Between them they agreed that the only thing that could counter the mindset that arises from swallowing all that negativity was a different one with which they were very familiar.

It was a mindset that they had learned from their mom, Joan – untrammeled optimism in the face of constant obstacles and obstructions.

This You-Tube video, published by RogiDream,  features two short poems by the brilliant Charles Bukowski who had a genius for hitting the heart.  They are spoken by Tom O’Bedlam and speak to the real power behind the concept of optimism.

Optimism really is not about swimming in peaches and cream, you know.  It is about fighting the good fight and staying with it no matter what.

The highway talk led the brothers to one idea that led to one shirt design that became the brand called “Life Is Good.”

LISTENING TO THE FEEDBACK

After every road trip, the brothers threw a coming-home party to celebrate making it back to home base.  Even though they were depressed and tired, they went ahead with their ritual.

At each of these parties it was their practice to tape sketches of all of their newest t-shirt design ideas on the walls of their apartment and encourage their friends to comment on the ideas by writing on the wall.

The design that got the most kudos was the result of their highway talk:  a line-drawing of a good ole guy with a baseball cap on his head and a wide grin.  The caption said, “Life Is Good.”

When they printed up 48 shirts with that one design and took them to a street fair to hawk, they were amazed.  All of the shirts (including the two they were wearing) sold in less than an hour to a wide array of people.

BUILDING OF A TRIBE

Naturally they made more of the shirts.  They kept on selling and LIFE IS GOOD became their brand name.

The concept grew and evolved as more and more people joined in the fun and the brothers kept listening to the suggestions from their customers.  More and more people jumped on for the ride.

The result became that $100 million company that uses art work and shares inspiring stories from their customers.  Their designs, all focusing on the power of optimism,  were magnetic.  People flocked to join a tribe who sincerely believes in the power of optimism.

These days, ten percent of the company’s annual profits goes to help kids overcome poverty, violence and severe medical challenges.  Their nonprofit LIFE IS GOOD Kids Foundation positively impacts the lives of more than 100,000 children a day.

Festivals and celebrations are a part of corporate life.  So is helping people.

Here’s a YouTube TEDx talk at Beacon Street recorded in 2013 featuring one of the brothers, Bert Jacobs, “Do What You Like, Like What You Do.” The company’s grown a bunch since then.

It’s all good.

SUPERPOWERS YOU CAN GROW

LIFE IS GOOD, THE BOOK lists ten “superpowers” that can be developed to enhance your own optimistic mindset:  Openness, Courage, Simplicity, Humor, Gratitude, Fun, Compassion, Creativity, Authenticity and Love.

The brothers devote a chapter to each of these attributes, ending each one with ideas and suggestions for growing your own.  And they promise:  “The Life Is Good superpowers will help you overcome obstacles, drive forward with greater purpose, and enjoy the ride of life.”

That is also a very good thing….

Here’s a poem:


THE CYCLE CONTINUES

The cycle continues:

arising, becoming, crumbling away,

then born again in some new-old form –

a never-ending relentless pattern

flowing, spiraling through this life,

in this world of dust.

 

And here’s me: 

trying to dance on top of this turning wheel…

moved to try to direct it, even…

(not that there’s a steering wheel).

 

It rolls on, it rolls on,

and I keep trying to play with it,

reiterating halcyon days of youth

when us kids took turns

rolling that abandoned old truck tire

down the grassy hill behind the baseball field,

trying to keep from crashing it through

the mean old neighbor-lady’s hibiscus hedges

and running over her half-blind old English bulldog.

 

Rolling that tire back up that hill

was part of the price for playing.

 

Laughing was the best part.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  Life Is Good by Herr Olsen via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

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WORK AND MEANING

WORK AND MEANING

“Meaningful Work” is the new Grail, it seems.  Every time you turn around there’s somebody or other admonishing and exhorting you to get out there and “find” the work that gives meaning to your life.  It’s the key to happiness, joy and self-fulfillment, they say.

WHAT MAKES WORK MEANINGFUL?

Adam “Smiley” Poswolsky, in his book THE QUARTER-LIFE BREAKTHROUGH, has a clear and succinct description of the shape this “work with meaning” is supposed to take.  He says this sort of work has these four qualities:

  • It reflects who you are and what your interests are.
  • It allows you to show your gifts to help others.
  • It provides a community of believers that will support your dream.
  • It is financially viable, given your desired lifestyle.

This is the kind of work that has all the bennies and the good stuff that you like, so I suppose it does makes sense that if you actually had a job like that it’s likely you would be blissed.

Lifestyle and career coaches and fire-starters all seem to agree:  If nobody will hand over that Meaningful Work treasure to you, then, by golly, you can just get out there and make your own bread for your own self!  (Go, you!)

daily-bread
Daily Bread by M. Dreibelbis via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

“MEANINGFUL” CAN BE HARD TO FIND…OR IS IT?

In the real world, it seems to me, a majority of the people who must work for a living often have a limited number of options.  For one thing, they do have to accept whatever available jobs there are that they are qualified to get.  (They hope these jobs will pay enough to support them and their families.)

servant-girl
Servant Girl by University of Hawaii at Manoa (Hawaii Digital Newspaper Project) via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
If not, they may choose to take on a couple more similar gigs or invent side-gigs that take up the slack.  Often they may work really hard on acquiring or expanding skill-sets that will make them more attractive to assorted employers.

Some of them may even make the effort to develop skills that will allow them to build a framework for work that is uniquely their own.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, in a press release issued in March, 2015, tells us that the four most common occupations in America at the time were retail salesperson, cashier, food preparer and server, and office clerk.

All of these jobs are basically low-paying positions that are mostly done by rote.  If you tried to fit them into the “meaningful-work” template the life-coaches tout, these jobs probably would flunk a bunch of “meaningful-work” tests.

The thing is, these jobs are still a necessary part of keeping the world around us functioning smoothly and well.  If you take away all the salespeople and cashiers, all the food service people and all of the assorted office minions and functionaries, would we be able to live life as we know it?

Probably not.

WHERE DID ALL THE MEANING GO?

In this YouTube video featuring a TEDx talk given at Azusa Pacific University, Ryan T. Hartwig explores how Meaning went Missing-In-Action from the still-useful post-modern jobs we do.

Hartwig’s point in the video is this:  “There is no meaningful job unless someone brings meaning to it.

It’s not a new idea.  For what was perhaps his best-known book, WORKING, which was published in 1997, American journalist and radio broadcaster Louis “Studs” Terkel talked to over 100 people – from gravediggers to movie studio heads — about their jobs and how they felt about them.

He came away with the thought that “Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread.”

A couple of stories from the book THE POWER OF MEANING:  Crafting a Life That Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith, illustrate this point quite handily.

In the first story, John F. Kennedy ran into a janitor at NASA in 1962.  When the president asked the cleaner what he was doing, the janitor said he was “helping put a man on the moon.”

first-man-on-the-moon
First Man on the Moon by John Flannery via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
The second story is about a road-worker directing the flow of traffic near a repair site on a stretch of Colorado highway.  The guy stood in the hot sun and periodically he would turn  a sign that read “Stop” on one side and “Slow” on the other.  He kept doing that diligently, over and over again.

A driver in the line of cars waiting for their turn to get past the repair site asked the road-worker how he could stand such boring work.  The road-worker replied, “I keep people safe.  I care about these guys behind me and I keep them safe.  I also keep you safe, and everyone else in all those cars behind you.”

As Smith points out, “The ability to find purpose in the day-to-day tasks of living and working goes a long way to building meaning.”

 THE SERVICE AGE

Wharton School of Business professor Adam Grant did a survey of two million individuals across over 50 jobs.  Those who reported finding the most meaning in their careers included clergy, English teachers, surgeons, directors of activities at religious organizations, elementary and secondary school administrators, radiation therapists, chiropractors and psychologists.

These people all felt that the world was a better place and other people were better off because they were there doing their work.  Grant found it telling that every one of these satisfied workers provided needed services to other people.

We’ve been told that we have moved out of a “manufacturing economy” into a “knowledge economy.”  However, as Grant points out in a 2015 Huffington Post article, “Three Lies about Meaningful Work,” we are actually living in a “service economy.”

In the United States, nearly three out of every ten employees are knowledge workers, Grant says in the article.  They are outnumbered by the service workers who represent eight out of every ten American employees.

Not only that, but it was estimated that in 2016 almost two-thirds of the world’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) was produced in the service industries.

ANOTHER ANSWER

In this YouTube video of a 2012 “Capture Your Flag” interview, author and public speaker Simon Sinek answers the question, “What makes your work meaningful?”

Capture Your Flag” is executive producer Erik Michielsen’s educational media company which has been creating online video content and helping to develop material for online and educational publishers since 2009.

In the series of videos Michielsen continues to produce, he interviews what he calls “rising leaders” and “near peers” (people a step or two ahead of the viewers of the video) who have faced and resolved familiar business and career situations and problems.

FINAL THOUGHTS AND A TAKE-AWAY

If the only meaning in work is what you, the worker, brings to it, then it seems to me that it would be a good thing to think on the counterintuitive advice Professor Hartwig gives at the end of his TEDx talk:

  • Focus on the good you do in your work. How you help others and the value of the work you do are important building blocks for finding meaning in your work.
  • See and act beyond the bottom line. Profit is an important thing, but it is not the only thing of value for your bottom line.  Building relationships, connections and community transcends and adds to your bottom   line.
  • Never say, “I’m just a ________” (Fill in the blank) You are more than just a job title.  Remember that.

Hartwig also encourages managers and administrators to develop a work environment that will help to foster this way of thinking by allowing and encouraging workers to make their work more meaningful and allowing them to use all of their human qualities to do it.

Here is a poem I wrote about what being a property manager means to me and the lessons it has taught me.  [Kuleana is Hawaiian for “responsibility.”]


THE GATEKEEPER SPEAKS

 

Ya know, I’ve been thinkin’,

I get to walk through Other People’s worlds –

All of them valid, all of them real.

The people living in these worlds

Are who they are,

Are what they are,

And they have to be Real with me.

 

Because I am the gatekeeper –

The foo-dog holding the key that

Unlocks the theater back door.

In order to use that stage that is my kuleana,

These people must get by me,

So I become a tourist in their lives.

 

They show me its shape –

All the good parts, polished up and spiffy-nice.

(It’s only later that I get to see

The darknesses and broken crockery.)

 

This all helps me understand a fundamental thing:

These others walk wrapped in a bubble-world

Of particular hopes and dreams.

They come to me lugging a load

Of issues, the consequences of past mistakes.

 

It has nothing to do with me

When some dream blows up in their faces,

Or some hope dies a lingering, agonizing death.

It has nothing to do with me.

Their moves then are predicated on

The prevailing climate in their own world-bubbles.

 

Sometimes I get caught in the crossfire of conflicting other-people needs.

Sometimes I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time –

The quintessential bystander

(Not always innocent)

Who gets the random fist in the nose.

 

It has nothing to do with me.

But, DANG!  It hurts!

Since I don’t see it coming,

A face-block’s the only move left to me.  Ouch!

The blows a reminder-tap.

It says, “Pay attention!”

 

It surely is a liberating thing to know:

People are doing what they do,

And very often,

It has nothing to do with me.

I do not have to take what they do personally.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  The Grail by Carlos Garcia via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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TIME HORIZONS

TIME HORIZONS

The time frames you set to realize your goals can influence whether you achieve your vision of success.  This is the foundation for another exercise in Un-Seeing.

We seem to have been brain-washed into believing that if we don’t weight ourselves down with a lot of pressure to get things done and done and done, then we’re going to just sit there like lumps on a log.  That’s often the rationale behind all this deadline-making fetish we’ve all fallen into.

Put enough pressure on yourself and you’ll squirt ahead of the crowd.  Oh yeah.  Uh-huh.  Ri-i-i-ght.

More often, it seems, putting all that pressure on yourself makes it very hard to move with grace and is likely to break something – either in you or in your relationships and in your world.

SOME THINGS TAKE TIME…A LOT OF TIME

Baking a cake takes an hour or so.  Slow-roasting a side of beef takes a lot longer.  If you turn up the heat and try to cook that hunk of meat in an hour like a cake, all you will get is a charred piece of raw meat and an over-heated kitchen.  It doesn’t work.

Setting your time frame is like deciding whether the race you are running is a fifty-yard dash or a marathon.  Different strategies are required, depending on the race you choose to run.  You have to pace yourself — allocate your time and your energy differently.  You have to train differently.

This YouTube video “Eight Stages of Marathon Running,” published in 2013 by BuzzFeed Video is a giggle-inducing depiction of the emotions experienced by a first-time marathon runner over the course of a 26.2 mile run.

It’s hard to imagine any short-race runner going through all of that.

HAWAIIAN STYLIN’

Hawaiians have a most interesting concept about time.  They know that time is a mind-construct.  It doesn’t really exist in the Real, they say.  Because time is a human-made thing, it stands to reason that humans can play with time.

When the pressure mounts and they are feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that have to be done, Hawaiians remind each other to “ho’omanawanui.”

In modern times this phrase is translated as “don’t worry.”  However, a wise old Hawaiian shaman once told me, the literal meaning of this phrase can be broken down as follows:

Ho’o” = “make”

Manawa” = time

Nui” = big

When you put it all together “ho’omanawanui” becomes “make time big.”

The shaman was gently pointing out to me that I was trying to solve a very big chronic problem in a very short time frame.  It was driving me crazy. It seemed like every move I made compounded the chaos and it all got overwhelming.

The shaman listened to my tale of woe and advised me to give myself more time and more room in which to make my moves.  Letting go of an artificially set deadline, he said, would give me more time to allow the big mass of chaos I was facing to settle down so I could see how I could use my available resources – my time, my energy, my attention and my money – to better effect.

The moves I could choose to make became clearer when I did not feel the looming pressure of the deadline I had set for myself pressing on me.  Giving myself more time to resolve the situation was a simple matter of telling myself that I had all the time I needed to turn it all around.

This let me take a breath and slow down.  The situation no longer felt like a life-and-death emergency run, with lights flashing and sirens blaring.

flashing-lights
“Flashing Lights” by Thomas Berber via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
I could slow down.  Slowing down helped me see the opportunities that were already there and I was able to use them to help mitigate and correct a truly intolerable situation.

That one worked.  So have all the other times I’ve tried to use the Ho’omanawanui strategy.

THE FALSE “EITHER/OR”

A wide time horizon can help you avoid false “either/or” decisions.  It’s useful for challenging the assumptions you are carrying whenever you’re facing some choice.

all-at-sea
“I’m all at sea….” by GraceOda via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Here’s an example.  Should I spend the summer with my kids making a memory?  Should I spend the summer building my client base so we’ll be able to continue living in the style to which we’ve grown accustomed?

If you start thinking on this in March and you’re looking at the upcoming summer, it’s likely that you’ll end up turning the choice into an “either/or” thing:  EITHER I spend the time with my kids OR I build my business.

If, however,you choose to spend next summer off at the beach with your kids, then you can use the year in between to save money, take on additional clients to generate more revenue, and give advance notice to your existing clients that you’re going to be taking off next summer.

You can even get the kids into planning what they want to do and see and making their own plans for the trip as well.   Together you can work on making the whole experience more meaningful and fun.

The decision becomes an “and”:  I am building my business AND I’m building a special memory with my kids.

GETTING TO “AND”

An even bigger one is the one where you consider doing what you love and doing what makes you more money.  A wider time horizon can allow you to turn the thing into an AND decision, rather than making it an EITHER/OR proposition.

Giving yourself a wide time horizon allows you to consider working during the day and following your passion during the non-work hours.  Or, you might choose doing what you’re passionate about as your primary activity and getting side gigs that make you money.  Or, you might be able to figure out a way to make money doing your passion.

If you don’t load a lot of time constraints and have-to’s onto yourself, you can figure out how to get to where you’re going gracefully.  A bit of graciousness can creep in.

FINAL THOUGHTS

One of my favorite quotes about time is this one by Michael Altshuler:  “The bad news is time flies.  The good news is you’re the pilot.” 

Altshuler should know.  He is a sales coach whose personal track record shows over $65 million in personal and managed sales and he speaks before corporate audiences about peak performance.  For a while he did a stint on the t.v. hit show, American Gladiators.

Here’s a YouTube video produced by eSpeakers in 2016 that shows Altshuler in action.  His message in this thing is a good one….

Here’s a poem:


SAVING

There is no saving time,

No matter what they say.

There’s only the spending

In wise and foolish ways.

 

It is a saving grace,

The knowing this is true

It becomes a matter of pacing,

Of finding the real for you.

 

And when the hours are gone

And the clock has had its run,

The cosmic jest may yet come clear.

Here’s hoping you had fun….

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  Gear and Hands by Domiriel via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts.

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