Sacred Weekends

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I saw an interesting interaction on Facebook this morning and it triggered a line of thinking. Basically, the original poster had declared that her weekend was really terrible and she couldn’t wait for Monday. One of her Facebook friends responded by correcting the statement….saying the surely her weekend had been bad so far, but what she really needed was more weekend days so the overall weekend could improve.

It made me consider how much we endure through 5 long work days to get to two all too brief weekend days. Do we, in fact, increase our weekly happiness by 50% if there’s a three day weekend? Is happiness only defined as absence of work, or is it that we do special things on the weekends to make us happy? And could we possibly bring some of that happiness factor into the week with planning and commitment — or (gasp!) even bring it into the very workday?

I don’t want to feel like I’m a slave to work. I don’t want to hate what I do, and while I’ll commit to enjoying weekends — time for long bike rides and enjoying the sunset with dinner on the back deck — I want to enjoy my weeks too. I want to find meaning in my job, and like the people I work with. I want to make not just my weekends, but also my weeks, sacred times of success and happiness and rejuvenation. It’s an aspirational goal, but it should be possible.

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Performance Improvement

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I’m done with my fiscal year, and tomorrow I’ll be cycling up Mt. Hamilton with a group of friends. The only urgent action item that remains for today is completing my performance review for Fiscal 2013. Which is really what this post is about…not cycling performance, but job performance. Cycling is just where my head is at right now, hence the picture.

Performance reviews are funny things. One of the most fundamental aspects of my personality is that I’m self-critical. I’m always looking for ways I could be better…better friend, better employee, more efficient, better partner. The performance management process is completely divorced form how I actually analyze my job success — I look for improvement areas, and the review process requires me to be my own best cheerleader. The disconnect is stark enough that the process is painful for me — all the stuff I want to write, I can’t. And all the stuff that feels trivial to me is the focus.

Here’s what I want to say: I could have planned better, and I could have been less distracted with internal bull poop. I should have been able to close another $1 Million of business if I’d just been able to get the deals I wanted to do through our internal review processes. I could have sold both MS licensing AND services to my customers, and they would have been less confused if I’d done so. But most of all…I should have said thank you more often to the team of people who surround me, who made me successful.

Instead, I’ll talk about all the good stuff on my review. But I am going to make a focused effort to reduce the list of “could haves” for next year. It’s all about getting better, stronger, and more capable. Performance training for your career.

Wandering Feet

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I’m craving a change of scenery. For the next couple of weeks, my work meetings will be rather light and I need a break. Not sure where I’m going or what I’m doing…but I think I’m going to go a bit nuts and pouty if I don’t make it happen.

Enough for today….I need to go look at Air B&B.

Bedhead and meeting-based video

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I had one of those mornings…I got to bed late, and I didn’t sleep soundly. When the alarm went off, I hit snooze…and I rolled out of bed precisely before my 8 am call. I threw on a sweater and yoga pants…underwear optional…and hopped on a call. Brewed coffee while on my 8 am conference. Ate toast during my 8:30 call. Started to feel more human.

But there was no time to comb my hair, put on makeup, or adjust my wardrobe because I was on continuous calls. Typically it’s not a problem, because they’re just audio and people can’t *hear* my halitosis or my bedhead. Then I hit my 9-10:30 am call….and my customer decided to insist on a video-based call using Lync and BlueJeans. Danger, Will Robinson.

I threw caution to the winds, and turned on my video. I looked exactly as pictured above…no makeup, crazy hair, and an old sweater from 2002. Yeah, I was rockin’ the work-from-home look. And I got a few grins but no comments about my appearance…which made me wonder if people were just being polite, or if the typical level of grooming doesn’t really matter all that much. I do sell to IT, after all. Most of the time they’re more bemused to have a female contact, and I suspect I could show up in about anything and they’d take it as normal.

So, today was an adventure. And now I have an hour break between calls, and I’m going to go get sorted out, hop in the car, and head to SF for a meeting. Transformed from beast into beauty…or as close to it as I get. And I suspect no one will remark on that, either.

Being SIlly

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Most of this blog has been terribly serious, and at times even morose. I tend to be contemplative by nature, and use my writing to reflect on the day ahead or the one behind me, because it helps to gel everything inside my head and also acts as a nice reminder for what I was experiencing at the time. But there are a ton of moments in every day that aren’t introspective or serious, and that’s an important aspect of my personality too. I’m just not very good about writing them.

I’m an inveterate user of puns, most of which are more terrible than funny…but Per laughs at them anyway because he loves me. I’ll joke about the sleeping Mr. Handsome being cat-a-tonic, for instance. The jokes come to me in the moment, and are mostly a reflection for the love I have for language and my joy in blending meanings together. But they’re rarely funny. My father used to use puns – I like to think for the same reasons – and I detested his punny ways. Now I find I’m following in his footsteps — one of the many ironies of life.

The rest of my humor is merely ironic and perhaps a bit sarcastic. I joke about our neighbors, most of them Republicans, who want to keep the plebs at the bottom of the hill. I’ll tease a friend who brings her blind date to our house party. The humor is more implied than obvious, and sometimes I fear I cone off as a bit of an ass to those who don’t grok irony. I’d be much better off living in Britain, I suspect. But it’s inherent in my personality, and I can’t seem to turn off the stream of somewhat flippant comments…the best I can do is keep the most acerbic in my inner dialogue.

There are rare times where I’m merely silly. Happy and unburdened by cynicism, and perhaps not even afflicted by puns. I’m sensing today is one of those days. And even though I suck at writing about that feeling, I cherish it’s rare presence…So I think it’s time to stop writing and go enjoy the good mojo.

Party Time!

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I love hosting parties. I love it so much, I really don’t hate the prep work…cleaning the house, shopping, and cooking seem like much less of a chore when you’re doing it for the singular purpose of hosting friends and neighbors or family in a gathering. This time is no different, although I’m slightly more annoyed that I’ll have to cut the grass thanks to our landlord’s forgetting to pay the lawn service. But that’s another story…

I’ve thrown big ones and small ones. A single guest over for dinner qualifies as a party! The biggest was about seventy people, and I cooked for them all. I especially like the experience of pairing up people who might not know each other, separated by one degree (me or Per) to see if they enjoy each other’s company.

I suspect that parties are so special because I didn’t have many of them in my childhood. My parents weren’t social people, and so most nights were spent at home and weekends with family. My mom only once threw a big gala, to my knowledge…and that was my high school graduation party. Which was a good gig…she should have done it more often.

Intermittent Introversion

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They come without warning, these days when I’m not excited to interact with people. It’s a bit of a career-limiting trait for a salesperson, which is why I wish I could schedule them on weekends or holidays. Generally, I’m energized by working with others and I seek out contact — the bigger and louder the group the better. That’s my everyday personality, which is an asset in general. I can even be funny and charming when I make the effort.

Then days like today happen. I have a design session with 10 people in the room. I have four calls and an important deal to close. And me? I’m wishing I could sit in the corner and do email, and maybe read a Gartner report when I get bored of doing email. I don’t want to be social, or charming…and I fight my inclination to give monosyllabic answers to questions. I have to think of my jokes ahead of time, and everything feels a bit forced. I suspect my co-workers and customers picked up on it, too.

I wonder where these times come from. Am I a closet introvert living a life of denial? Am I just tired? Or maybe I am coming down with a flu of the soul? Well, that sounds a little dramatic..I hope it’s something more benign. All I know is that being charming and interactive took about 4x more energy than it normally does, and that I’m exhausted.

I did let myself eat lunch by myself, and outside. Thus allowing myself a little intermittent introversion.

Value of Team

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I’ve been thinking a ton about the value of the team you surround yourself with…the people who you lean on to accomplish everyday tasks. There’s so little that we do which can be accomplished by one person. The superhero culture we create is so far from the actual truth — that we need each other, and lean on one another constantly.

I can’t buy a house without a team of people – a Realtor, a Seller, and a Broker. Then there’s the title agency and the underwriter and appraiser. Some of these people – the most crucial ones – I get to hand pick. In fact, I’m in the middle of changing my Realtor because I chose incorrectly the first time and picked someone who wasn’t quantitative enough. She chose a Broker who wasn’t communicative enough, and the entire purchase process was a disaster as a result. The quality of my team wasn’t good enough — and selection of the best team is something I can’t delegate or compromise.

It matters in the work place even more. We set ourselves big, hairy, audacious goals and we execute on them. But the quality of our teams also has to be great…people need to have the skills to do the job, and they need to be supported by the right management and processes. When these things fail, or work improperly, the implications can be dire. Without the right team, a job can be Hell on Earth…a high quality team is becoming my number one screening criteria for every facet of my life.

Old as Pants

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When I was a teenager, my stepfather Hans used to remind me that “he had pants as old as I was.” The phrase was used to remind me that my troubles were insignificant — and that I simply lacked experience in life. After all, his pants had more experience than I did…and they weren’t worried, or demanding, or unhappy. If I could only achieve the age and aplomb of his pants, I would clearly understand life much better and make the choices my stepfather recommended.

As any teenager would be, I was horrified. My stepfather had old, uncool, dirty pants. And he was *proud* of them! I could barely imagine wearing something from three years ago, let alone wearing sixteen year old pants. I imagined that a miasma of old man emanated off of those pants, and I was always a bit reluctant to be around Hans when he was wearing them.

As I was changing the linens today, I realized that I’ve now approached the advanced age where I own 15 year old sheets. I wish someone had told me, all those years ago, to buy carefully because I’d be stuck with the junk I bought for the rest of my lifetime. Of course, I didn’t have as many choices back when I was 21, and my finances weren’t so great…so I don’t know if it would have changed anything at all.

But I do now own sheets as old as Hans’ pants, and I still put them on the bed. They’re comfortable and worn in and have so many fond memories of snuggly times.

I draw the line at pants, though.

Grey Hair

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As of the past 18 months, I’m starting to get grey hair. I count myself lucky – I am pretty sure my mom was fully grey by the time she was 35 – but I still resent their presence. Generally, I ignore them…unless the grey is right in the front or top of my hair, I just leave them. If one is unlucky enough to grow up top, I pluck it out. Simple solution…much more simple than committing to dye. I’m sure I’ll get there at some point, but thanks to my long hair the dye will be a lifetime commitment once I start.

One offending hair became obvious today…and was plucked immediately. The funny thing was that the hair was long and mostly brown, and only grey for the last inch at the root. It made me wonder what I did that made that particular follicle “go grey” in the past month or so. Did I treat it poorly? Did it give up the ghost when I had that near-collision with a car when I was riding my bike? Or perhaps when I offered such a large sum of money for a house? And then proceeded to lose the house anyhow?

Clearly, my hair is not bearing up under the recent pressure particularly well. I wonder if it needs therapy…not in the form of hair dye, but perhaps in the form of a vacation. Do walks on the beach, evenings spent reading a good book, and days spent riding my bicycle prevent grey hair? If so, I think they’re a better investment than hair dye…I wonder if I can claim the vacation as a health-related expense on my taxes?