Same Still

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The packaging might look a little different, but inside I’m still the same girl.  I still have the same hopes and dreams, and I’m still willing to tilt at windmills for the right cause.  I’m still the same girl with indomitable will and a kind heart.  I don’t think that will ever change.

Life moves on and some of my challenges and successes are new, even though the themes are consistent.  I’ve done things I would never have contemplated ten years ago, and some of them have even been good decisions.  Some of them might turn into great decisions, with hard work and another 10 years of perspective.  I’ve learned from all of them, but the same girl I was then also believed in learning.

But inside, I’m still the same girl who bleeds Scarlet and Grey, who wades in Mirror Lake and sips coffee at 2 am.  Still the same girl, dreaming of bright futures and happy moments.  I don’t think that will ever change.

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Sacred Things

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Some people build temples in the jungle, and some erect large cathedrals in cities.  Many people head to churches while other people retreat to forests.  Supplicants fling silent prayers to the heavens and others wail at walls.  Some people build physical monuments while others memorialize in their hearts.

The temple in my heart sings quietly with happy memories of the past, and dreams of bright futures.  Within the walls of this temple are the essences of the people I love most dearly.  We may choose to leave this temple and enter other sacred places, or even leave for the mundane world surrounding us…but for this point in time, my heart sings quietly and myriad other voices join mine.

It is a joyous, contented song and it celebrates the joys of the past and the potential of the future.  The song pushes forward, preparing the path ahead as I pause a moment to reflect.

The Why We Work

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Sure, we work to make a paycheck…and it’s certainly true that we wouldn’t work so hard if we made absolutely nothing for our efforts.  But after the basic selection of what career/job/company will optimize income and quality of life, it’s really not about the money…at least, it isn’t for me.

It’s about building sustainable teams full of people who trust and like one another.  It’s about creating learning organizations with processes that make everyone better.  It’s about having fun, and occasionally it’s about winning.  Work is especially about winning when I can find ways that both my customers and I win at the same time.  On really good days, work is also about learning something new.

When I get demotivated or leave a role, it’s because I’m not learning anymore, or my rate of wins decreases (and I’m less successfully building teams, creating value, improving processes).  When I hit low points in productivity and effectiveness, I find that I deeply question my methods, skills, and resolve to move forward.  I’ve been having one of those periods this week.  Perhaps it’s just true that we all have productivity lulls at work, and that no job is ever perfect.  And perhaps it’s true that the “honeymoon” at Avaya is finally over and now I’m trying to processize my role.

Either way, the “why” I work has been another key focus area for deliberation this week.

Suited Up

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It’s been a really tough week. I’ve been questioning the meaning of life and my place in this world, and especially the meaning of happiness. It’s led to some melancholy moments and more than a few tears.

I keep coming back to this sole, irrefutable fact: life gives us terrible beauty and harsh kindness all at the same time. Almost every tough moment is also a wish for a brighter future, and almost every ending is the painful birth of something new. In seeing the good balanced with the horrible, we can find hope for the future and energy to sustain us through dark nights of despair until we can see the varicolored sunrise.

My heart is full of love and heavy with sadness. My days are filled with myriad small adversities but also the promise of something great. I have so many moments of joy but they often get overshadowed by the wish for something greater. I should revel in my accomplishments but instead I cry bitter tears over my failures.

Space Duck is becoming my meme for this difficult week: I do not know what the moments of today will bring me. All I can do is suit up in my space suit, leveraging my best skills and brightest technologies, and hope that the day brings me more success than failure…and that the space suit hangs tough for tomorrow.

I sure wish I floated as well as Space Duck.

Up and Away

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I really don’t know the exact day when the joy of travel died for me, but I know it’s been gone for a long time. Many people hate the process of getting to a new place, but enjoy the experience of being in a foreign location…I just dislike the whole process. I’ve leaned through deep experience that I am a creature of habit – I like my own bed, my routines, my Handsome Cat and handsome Per, and my beloved city of San Francisco. I’m a simple girl, and I really don’t need much more than these few things (oh, and maybe a bicycle).

My new job has me traveling more than I’ve had to for a few years, which leaves me with mixed emotions. By every standard metric, I am going to cool places like Singapore, Austin and Ireland. I’m visiting “cool” cities while engaged with my eminently cool, hipster customer.

And I feel like a bit of a curmudgeon because I’d rather just stay home. I’ve leaned that I really don’t have wandering feet, unless I get to travel in the fashion I love – apartment with cooking facilities, and stay in the same place for at least two weeks so that I can really get acclimated and “feel the rhythm of my surroundings.” These quick 2-4 day trips are really exhausting and not at all personally satisfying.

I guess I am a victim of habit. I know I should feel grateful that I have this opportunity to travel and socialize and explore…but it often just underscores how much I really miss and adore my daily life.

Perspectives

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I had two reminders, during the past 24 hours, that it’s important to use humanity when expressing your perspective.

The first reminder came from Satya Nadella, who made a significant mis-step when addressing wage inequality between women and men (see link). Basically, he asserted that women who “shut up and work hard” build good karma and will get appropriate raises and promotions because the system will look out for them. This approach has not been my experience…the person who demands respect, raises, and promotions (regardless of work ethic or talent in many instances) gets the prize.

The second reminder came during a discussion with one of the Avaya CTOs, as he discussed Avaya’s Contact Center philosophy of “carbon based assets” vs. “silicon based assets.” Minimizing the role of contact personnel – thinking, living entities – to carbon based assets was slightly horrifying and more than a little emotionally tone deaf. The message was simple…we can trade out the carbon based assets which are expensive and faulty by using more silicon. I was left wanting to ask whether he’s learned anything from the customer service revolutions over the past 15 years.

We all battle biases about gender, class, and race…and we often don’t see the biases as the limiting mental models that they are. I’m just as guilty as anyone….it’s my mental model that the woman does the cooking in the household, so I organize the kitchen around my cooking needs and take on the responsibility. I assume Per doesn’t want to learn to cook, and just take over this role. Most of the time I don’t even question the cooking assignment, until I get tired or overwhelmed…and then Per finds that I snap at him about taking advantage of my bias.

My insight of the day is to use humanity and a questioning spirit when making biased statements. Humans are not carbon-based assets, nor are we living in a gender or race blind meritocracy. The biases we have, our mental models of the way our world works…they might not be the same as your neighbor’s, and we need to use gentleness and understanding when building consensus.

Trees, Meet Forest

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There’s a funny thing about having a few good days…it gives you the energy you need to step back and take a look at the larger picture. For someone like me, who makes lists in their head and loves to tick off my small accomplishments…these big picture glimpses can be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I can celebrate how far I’ve come and because I enjoy big picture thinking. A curse because I have the kind of intensely critical mind that immediately identifies all the gaps.

The forest is both beautiful and scary…the possibilities of larger time scales and big picture thinking is seductive. Given enough time, I am sure I could change the world — help solve world hunger, make all my friends and family happy and successful, and achieve self actualization. The big picture view says all of these things are possible, given time and commitment to big picture thinking. However, my view of the forest makes me face all the current roadblocks and blind alleys and makes me realize how disconnected my daily life can be from the vision.

For now, I’m headed back to navigating a path between the trees…lest I end up like Wiley Coyote with yet another failed operation. I need to make sure that my forest map wasn’t issued by Acme Labs…but it might be time to do some new path finding and trail blazing very soon.

Ah. The joys and frustrations of perspective.

Cosmic Alignment

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I batted a perfect 1000 today, much to my surprise and delight. Everything seemed to just align perfectly – I finally got the dreaded presentation done at work, I had some really positive discussions with my team, I got my car washed after over three months of ignoring the grime, went to the gym for the third day in a row (!!), and I even made it to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription (no, not that one).

I also got to see the beautiful moon in the sky as the sun rose, and I very much enjoyed sipping my morning coffee as I drove to work. I implemented “Birdfeeder 2.0” which will hopefully stop the squirrels from dumping all the birdseed onto the ground and gobbling it up. I cuddled with Mr. Handsome. And if I am lucky, I’ll get to cuddle with my other Mr. Handsome later tonight.

Two good days in a row…the Quarter of Quarter seems to be exactly what I needed!

The cynical side of me is waiting for the other shoe to drop.

A Million Treats

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It’s funny what a small decision can do in terms of your perception and stress levels. Today I chose not to do two simple things, in my “quarter of quarter” — I decided to skip my last malaria pill (which meant skipping a long detour to the pharmacy to pick up the single pill), and I decided to hit the pause button on my emails so that I could travel home before rush hour (and finish work at home). I even extended the pause button for an hour and stopped by the gym on the way home.

And suddenly I feel grateful and happy and not at all stressed. At the top of my grateful list…

1. Sunrises (as pictured above) while lying in bed, contemplating my day. I seem to get my best introspective thinking done before 7 am.
2. Avocado, always in the fridge. Sometimes I eat it for breakfast or a snack, often straight up with a spoon.
3. Exercise. My body is pitifully out of shape, yet I’m grateful for the couple of pain free weeks I’ve had and the focus to get back to the gym. Two days and counting!
4. Evening walks. Per and I talk about life, the Universe, and the impending zombie apocalypse. Must. Buy. Bullets.
5. Friends, new and old. They’ve been making me feel really special recently. Thanks Aleks, Pooja, Beth, Rob, Smital, Reiko, Scott, Oskar, Christopher, Mo…heck, that was just the past week.
6. My job. Every day is a challenge, and I feel like I’m making a difference. My coworkers also seem to think I’m fun to work with, which helps. The feeling is mutual.

I’m just going to sign off with a big thank you to the universe. This quarter of quarter is awesome.

Quarter

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Quarter: noun \ˈkwȯ(r)-tər\: clemency or mercy for the life of the defeated when they surrender at discretion

I’ve declared this season as the quarter of quarter. My energy has been flagging and I’ve been feeling increasingly resentful of many of my commitments. I’ve decided that it’s time for a change. I’m going to take the next three months off from anything that I don’t really, truly want to do. Well, outside of working hours – my bosses would probably stop paying me if I took a work holiday too.

Personal stuff, that’s a different matter. If it’s not fun or rewarding, I’m hitting the pause button until January. I’m hoping the pause in my frenetic pace will help me find my energy to tackle new and exciting directions in January, and will provide a nice break from the status quo. One of the joys of being childless is that there’s no one who will be particularly harmed or stunted by this decision, and it gives me some mental space to recuperate.

Like an exhausted steed that has just run 700 leagues, or a soldier who survived the great battle…I’ve been struggling to muster focus or excitement for months. I think my new job, some freak health issues (mostly cleared up now, thank goodness) and the recent pace of change in my life has drained a lot of my personal energy. Rather than trying to push through (the Wendy standard tactic) I’m just going to give myself permission to be lazy, disengaged, and even occasionally selfish.

Until January, because I couldn’t possibly take a permanent vacation.

So, let the quarter of quarter begin! I started this morning off famously, by waking up at 5:40 for my 6 am spin class…and then staying in bed to read instead. I think this idea might be the best Christmas gift I could ever give myself.