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Personal vs. Professional

At what point in your career is it acceptable to intertwine your personal life with your professional aspirations?

Most people say never. Others say it depends. I say always.

No – I do not mean share the details of your family drama with your co-worker or use company time to plan your best friend’s birthday party. I’m referring to an aspect of your personal life that is a bit more discreet and sometimes overlooked.

Take for example the time you have spent training for your half marathon. Have you ever thought that maybe the personal time you have spent running was a key contributor to developing yourself as a diligent and progressive professional? Or have you ever given credit to the fact that just by being a parent, you have unintentionally developed the core qualities of a leader – patience, intuition, and the natural ability to nurture and mentor employees?

It’s intriguing to me that the word “personal” has been given such a negative connotation in the workforce that we don’t even give it a second thought. In fact, we spend most of our effort separating the two that we neglect to appreciate that our personal trials and tribulations have set the foundation of our hard work and developed the confident and strong professional we are today.

Can you imagine how happier we would be and the joy we would have working 40+ hours a week if we could just be “ourselves” at work? We could be a parent to the younger employees or be an endurance runner on the project that others have already given up on. What if you love playing video games on your personal time? Why not transfer that focus to beat level 10 to exceeding your company’s revenue goal this quarter. Love shopping? Start dressing to impress and feel more confident at your next executive meeting. Is traveling your thing? Plan the next team outing and go somewhere different; consider it your next staycation. The list goes on…

If we truly combine our personal and professional life, I strongly believe that we would not only excel in our professional career but we would have more fun doing it. It’s not in everyone’s destiny to get paid to do the same in their personal and professional life. Unfortunately, we are not all reality stars. The only thing we can do is stop considering one more important than the other. We can stop complaining and start shifting our perspective. We can start being the high-performing professional Monday through Friday, but don’t forget to do the same with your personal attributes. Repeat the behavior on Saturday and Sunday, and don’t forget to do this for the rest of your professional life. After all, isn’t that what they meant when they told us to “make a living doing what you love to do”?

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I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.

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Got a Question?

Question
Remember when you were young and when you wanted something you simply just asked for it? The other night, I was standing in line at Rite Aid when a child in front of me broke the silence.

“Mom, can I have a candy bar?”

“No honey,” her mother says.

She reaches for a Snickers bar anyway and asks, “Why?”

“Because we are going to have dinner soon,” she replies reaching for her daughter’s hand. “When we get home you can have a snack.”

Satisfied with the reason, the little girl put the candy bar down and stood quietly, holding her mom’s hand.

It was at that moment that I asked myself why we as adults don’t ask simple, innocent questions anymore. I’ve sat in numerous business meetings, holding my tongue and asking questions in my head but never had the audacity to ask them out loud. Why? I’m not sure.

From the little amount of life experience that I have, I have noticed that the more questions that someone asks the quicker they are able to advance in their career. Let’s take for instance the over-achiever at work that is constantly asking for a promotion or a raise. Between you and that person, who seems to get recognized at work more often? Even though I know this, I still struggle to ask questions in my professional career so maybe there is something to be learned from the little girl that wanted a candy bar. If you want something – ask for it.  Honestly, the worse that can happen is that you don’t get a candy bar today instead you get a snack later.

What makes you different?

pink cubicle

When everyone in your company is striving to achieve the same objective, how do you standout amongst your colleagues? What makes you different from Bobby and Suzy if everyone is trying to seek the approval of the same executive management and out perform each other? No really.. I’m asking you because I have no idea.

There are times in your career when you push yourself out of the ordinary to go above and beyond your expectations with the hope that your efforts will pay off in some form of reward. Sometimes the reward is paid in monetary value other times it is just the simple acknowledgement of your company. Whatever your incentive may have been or is, there is no guarantee that the time you invest and the effort you have made will play out in your favor. So what can you do to increase your chances of being recognized for your high performance?

(1.) Be genuine. Don’t expect to be rewarded for efforts that only benefit yourself. Your talents are worth more than that. When you begin working on a project, think of ways that your efforts will result in mutual benefit for your entire company and your professional development. Think as big as what you can do to contribute to your company’s financial bottom line or as small as sharing your previous experiences with your teammates to ensure their success.  Simple and small but extremely genuine.

(2.) Trust your instincts. When you’ve set a foundation of pure intentions, don’t second guess yourself. Trust your instincts on what you feel is right. At the end of the project, if your name is on the dotted line, make sure that whatever decisions you have made are your decisions. Listen to the voice inside your head and don’t doubt yourself because you were assigned to the project for a reason.

(3.) Know your shortcomings. Even super heroes knew their weaknesses and it never stopped them from achieving their goals. Even if you aren’t good at one thing, you are great at many other things, so leverage those strengths to obtain your objectives. Knowing your shortcomings doesn’t mean you dwell on them, it simply means you know what your limitations are and you master them through compensating them with your strengths.

(4.) Be a team player. Teamwork makes the dream work. If you are the most senior on the project, your team relies on your experience and leadership but your team also has the ability to contribute a new and fresh perspective, so allow the opportunity come to life. Conversely, if you are an emerging professional, don’t be timid to think out loud and share your ideas. Your team will appreciate your energy and enthusiasm.

(5.) And, above all – be confident. Don’t be afraid of a learning opportunity. The lack of confidence usually stems from fear — the fear of mistakes, rejection, falling short of expectations, and judgement. But the truth is – the outcome is bound to happen, so let it happen confidently. No matter what happens at the end of the day, one thing is for sure – you’ll learn from it. So, sit up in the conference room and speak up at your meetings – you are who you are and you should be proud of it.

If you’ve been true to yourself and put all your cards out on the table but there’s still no traction in your professional career then it leads us to a totally different topic – do you fit into your company’s culture? Have you outgrown your position and exceeded your talent offerings and is it time to move on to allow other people’s talents to shine through? Maybe its time for you to leave your legacy and continue on your journey….

What are you thinking?

silence

Are you comfortable in silence? Or better yet, are you confident in silence? Whether you are in the car with your boss or on a first date, it is inevitable that there will be a moment of silence that you begin letting your mind wonder to places that asks random questions or generates thoughts that usually turn into words that break the silence.

Your thoughts are powerful. What you think can change so many components of your life – your mood, your attitude, the direction of your career, a relationship, or even a conversation between two people.

Think hard – when was the last time this happened to you? Who was it with and what were the words that broke the silence? It changed the direction of the conversation, did it not?

So, why is it that we watch what we say more than what we think? Shouldn’t it be the other way around since your thoughts lead to the words that come out of your mouth? When you begin to think negative thoughts about your career, don’t your words usually turn conversations into job opportunities? Or, when you begin thinking about the person you can’t live without, aren’t the words usually associated with “love” and “marriage”? The examples are endless, but the focus remains the same. Your thoughts are powerful enough to dictate the conversations that you have with the people around you. Be careful what you begin your day thinking… even if you it doesn’t bother you, it may affect the people around you. Start thinking in a positive way and the words will follow…

I tried to explain why I appreciated the moments of silence between two people last week but I failed to put my thoughts into words – until now.  This is why I appreciate silent moments.  I’m a controlling opportunist, and silent moments are opportunities for me to control my thoughts. Even if I can’t change every aspect of my life or the people around me, I can at least change my thoughts that change my words that might even change the outcome of my life. It’s a simple task that requires a lot of discipline and determination. To constantly think in a positive way is almost impossible, but people do it. It’s evident through the friendly and uplifting moments that you share with friends and family. Now, if only you can change that kind of behavior into habit. I’ve started it in the New Year and I’ll continue to practice it until I perfect it. I apologize in advance for negative words and multi-directional conversations that seem to not have a purpose. As you can see, I’m new to the idea of censoring my thoughts. My only hope is that this concept of “thought censorship” will not only infect the people closest to me, but also affect everyone that I come into contact with – starting with the reader of this entry – you.

Dear Beautiful Girl

This is your warning…

Watch your thoughts – they become words.
Watch your words – they become actions.
Watch your actions – they become habits.
Watch your habits – they become your character.
Watch your character – they become your destiny.

Recently, I came across this thought provoking poem, and I not only wanted to share it with my friends but I wanted to start a series of blogs on the workings of my own body and mind. So, here is a precursor of what is to come….

No matter the differences, there are always unifying commonalities among all of us. When you are sad, don’t you cry? Or, when you feel lonely, don’t you usually yearn for companionship?

The foundation of life is all the same; the only difference is someone’s purpose. We are constantly striving for a sense of meaning or a sense of balance. Isn’t it ironic that life is created in extremes of opposites – love vs hate, happiness vs sadness, success vs failure, etc.

From my experience, I have discovered that there are three types of people (1.) the extremist – the ones that are constantly on one side of the spectrum. These people are constantly fighting the “in between” (2.) the middle-ist – the people that are just content with falling in between the situations of life. These people are the ones that I have always envied. How is it possible that someone can be content between “success” and “failure”? If I can mimic this behavior, I would definitely not have ulcers, that’s for sure. And, finally there are those that create their own niche of behavior. Basically, I created this group as a default category.

So, what type of person are you? Are you an extremist or middle-ist? Can you define your purpose for life? For success, or even love? As perplexing as life is, I want to think out loud and explore the phases of my own life starting with my first entry the next few weeks on the first sentence of the poem – “Watch your thoughts – they become your words.”

Now or Never

How do you know if where you are now is where you will be tomorrow? You don’t. Whether it is on a professional or personal level, you don’t know what will happen in the future. What you do know is the decisions that you made in the past and the way you live your life today will determine how happy you are and how content you are in the moment.

The Past
Everyone makes mistakes. The only difference between those that still succeed and those that don’t is the way people react to their past. Successful Susie learns from her past, vows not to make the same mistake twice, and focuses on the now. On the contrary, Failing Freddy dwells on the things he can’t control like his past mistakes and wonders why his career and/or relationship is at a stand-still.

The time you spend dwelling on your past is time you won’t ever be getting back. You can’t change the past. So, why are you wasting your time thinking about what you know has already happened? You made a mistake – cry a river, build a bridge, and get over it. It was a learning moment, but you still have the “now” to redeem yourself and your professional worth. Mastering this technique is easier said than done, but it is possible. You become successful when you accept the imperfections of yourself and the people around you. And, you will be genuinely happy when you accept the complexity of life and cease the moment of now.

The Future
Similarly, emerging professionals have a tendency of spending the majority of their time thinking about the future. Not that there is anything wrong with planning ahead or envisioning future success, but there is a fine line between setting a goal and driving yourself crazy thinking about “what if” scenarios. What if I don’t get a raise? What if this relationship doesn’t work out? What if I’m not good enough? What if I make a mistake? What if…? What if…? What if…?

By allowing yourself to focus on the now, you avoid the snowball effect of this kind of endless questioning. If you transferred all that effort toward the things you can control now, you would be maximizing your time and energy toward something that will reap immediate results. There are some things you can’t control; the future is one of them. The faster your accept this fact, the faster you will see movement in your career.