Stop Trying to ‘Fix’ Everything…

I don’t know if you’ve seen what’s going on in California these days. I guess I should narrow the scope, since California is regularly splashed all over the news on account of its political leanings and celebrity drama. I’m talking specifically about this bit of legislative genius [insert sarcasm here], mandating a woman sit on the board of all publicly traded companies in California by 2021.

I. Am. Livid.

I would consider myself a feminist, in the original sense of the word…not the angry, rage against men version that is pervasive in media coverage today. I’m very well aware of the wage gaps and title inequalities between men and women that are plaguing various workplaces nationwide. I know I have made significantly less than my male counterparts, to do the same job, when I have more experience and a proven track record. I’ve watched as my ideas are shot down, while the same idea uttered by a man is celebrated. I’m not blind to the fact that women in upper management are notably and inexplicably lacking in companies I’ve worked for. I’m not naive.

But a quota spits in the face of everything I’ve worked for my entire career. This is not what equal rights is. This is, at best, a tragic bastardization of the ideals of feminism, and at worst, an intentional move that sets the cause back decades of hard work and perseverance…a move that will have to be painstakingly undone and the damage reversed before women can ever really hope to be taken seriously or considered an equal.

Excuse me for thinking I have more to offer the world than a vagina. Pardon my concern that this mandate will effectively dismiss every ounce of work women who got there legitimately have done, and instead, reduce their accomplishments in the eyes of their peers to “having breasts.” Delightful. Those women that have worked their tails off to get to the highest level will now have the respect they deserve minimized and replaced with a slew of question marks as to whether they really earned their place, or if they’re just a checkmark in the female column when someone from the government comes knocking at a company’s legal department door…both in the minds of their colleagues and likely their own minds as well.

Touche to the California majority, making a habit of legislating the results instead of bothering to understand actual problem…you managed to create something that effectively invalidates the accomplishments of the very women you claim to support, and causes them to question the legitimacy of their position, while simultaneously patting yourselves on the back for saving them.

Well guess what? We don’t need saving. Certainly not in a way that further diminishes us, thankyouverymuch.

The larger and more concerning issue is where does it stop? What other demographic will be entitled to a slot next? And at what cost? When does what’s best for the company come into play? While the legislature is busy filling up token figurehead spaces, is there any consideration as to whether or not it’s actually improving the situation and not making it worse? Or is the checkmark enough to consider your job done, so you can sleep at night, knowing you’re saving the world from itself? (Or is that easy sleep coming from knowledge you’ve secured another demographic in your constituency for the upcoming election cycle? No…that couldn’t possibly be it.)

I, for one, am not having it. I know everything isn’t perfect, and that we haven’t reached the equality we’ve been working toward. But I also know, I have a lot more opportunities than women did 50 years ago. Even 20 years ago. And I know that every step in the right direction gets us closer to where we need to be, and that’s a beautiful thing. I know that I have a choice in the matter. If I see that a company that I’m working for doesn’t respect women, I look for a different company. It may not be an easy choice…and it certainly isn’t fair…but important decisions are often difficult and the circumstances unfair. It’s still your choice to make.

That’s how we fix things. We make a conscious effort to make the right choices every day. We teach our kids to work hard and make the right choices every day. We teach them that they have inherent value, and they have so much to offer the world that has nothing to do with their gender or their skin color or their sexual orientation or their religion. We teach them that their actions matter more than which box they check on a demographic survey. And when we create a culture that celebrates who we really are and the actions we take…instead of micromanaging what percentage of which types people are in which positions, irrelevant to their merits…that’s when stuff starts getting really good.

But it takes time. Change doesn’t happen overnight, no matter how much you want it to. Small, consistent steps in the right direction is what gets us there. We need a culture shift…not another law…let’s make that shift together, one step at a time.

Down the Rabbit Hole…

So, I’m a Taurus. I’m also an INTJ, according to the Meyers-Briggs test. And if you ask the StrengthsFinder2.0, I shine in Achievment, Strategy, Responsibility, Maximization, and Individualization. My Love Language is Quality Time, by a landslide, but cool it on the Physical Touch, cuz it’s not my thing. And according to my Apology Language, I’ll gladly accept a genuine apology with clear intent to change, but asking for forgiveness will get you exactly nowhere.

Self-awareness is something I’m passionate about. Afterall, if you don’t understand your own motivations and what you’re putting out into the world, how can you hope to understand someone else’s?

But sometimes, I think about how weird it is that I get all up in arms when people try to label me, when I spend so much energy trying to figure out how I label myself. Granted, self-labeling is usually coming from a different place, as far as motivation and intent…but still…weird.

None of those labels above are wrong, by the way. I can’t say they’re 100% right either, but they’re mostly accurate. And then I wonder if they really are, or if everyone finds their own little piece of truth in something like that, because that’s why you’re there, and that’s what you’re looking for…your brain is just filling in the gaps so you can identify with something bigger than you. The brain is funny that way.

I recently listened to an episode of Impact Theory where they were talking about virtual reality programs. They were saying that, basically, your brain is already its own virtual reality environment. The brain doesn’t actually experience heat or cold or light or sound…it takes data from other sources and tries to process it into a coherent, believable picture for us. And it has to tell us some little white lies to fill in the blanks along the way. And the question that was posed was this: if the brain has to tell us all these little lies, just to keep us from bumping into stuff while we’re walking around all day…how many more lies are there? I mean, really….how can you not get sucked down the rabbit hole on that kind of a mind trip?

Truthfully, though, I’ve been having this personal renaissance kind of moment lately anyway. I’m thirsting for knowledge and inspiration. I’m listening to podcasts from neuroscientists and human behavior researchers and entrepreneurs and leadership experts. I’m reading art tutorials and psychology books and went on a full two-season Netflix binge of Sense8…a show predicated on how we connect to those around us. I even got a tarot reading for the first time ever…which was weirdly insightful, and honestly, opened the door on a whole different line of research I want to pursue at some point. I want to learn all the things.

At the same time, I know that highly reflective times of my life are usually indicative of major change on the horizon. It usually takes a while for me to figure out that’s what’s happening. Initially, it’s just pulling at a thread of something I find interesting. And then somewhere down the road, I realize I was actually looking for something specific. Like something I’ve been doing in my life feels off kilter and I need to understand why before I start altering things…or something unexpected feels way more right than I thought it would, and I’m poking at it to make sure it’s not a mirage before I jump in headfirst. I think right now, maybe it’s some of both of those things.

Anyway, it occurs to me that I don’t really know where I’m going with this post, so I should probably wrap it up before I ramble on anymore. I suppose I’ll be seeing where these little revelations are leading me soon enough 🙂

If you’re interested though, some of my current rabbit hole:

Crystal Dilworth and The Science of Limiting Beliefs: https://youtu.be/gFjBKAglykQ

Vanessa Van Edwards and How To Free Yourself From Social Anxiety: https://youtu.be/X8CD2QEYo6Q

Gary Vaynerchuk and Why Perspective Will Make or Break You: https://youtu.be/-lITalyctN4

Simon Sinek and Love Your Work: https://youtu.be/jDIZS4IQlQk

The theory behind Sense8: https://youtu.be/NiVwHbtdXns

Retail Management and the Trouble With Robots

Over the last several years, I had the unfortunate opportunity to watch a company culture shift from an entrepreneurial, do-what’s-right-for-the-business culture, to a shut-up-and-execute, never-deviate-from-the-directive culture. Ah, micromanagement…bane of my existence. I loved the people I worked with there, and was sad to leave, but that’s not who I am, and it isn’t who I was hired on to be. And while I’d like to say it’s a one-off for one company, I can see that the problem is a growing issue in the industry. I know plenty of peers across a number of companies feeling adrift for the same reasons.

I get how it has happened…retail is struggling, companies are throwing out every lifeline they can to figure out what will right the ship, and the benefits of hiring people who will shut up and execute seem to be twofold from a theoretical perspective.

First, it’s easy to standardize. You know that if you have a fleet of stores, customers will be getting the exact same message every time at every store, because whatever you tell the team to do is exactly what they do. Second, you can make a case for paying shut up and execute employees less…because you’ve made everything black and white, so you don’t need to pay extra for people with the ability and motivation to interpret and appropriately respond to gray areas.

Sadly, real life doesn’t neatly match up to a theoretical perspective. At the outset, this seems obvious, right? But you’ve probably seen for yourself that policy handbooks are getting longer, not shorter. And company directives are largely getting more detailed, not less. And from my perspective, the problem here is twofold as well.

First, no matter how many policies or directives you write, you’re never going to be able to predict and cover the appropriate actions for every possible scenario…there are simply too many variables. There will always be a blindspot you missed. Second, in not acknowledging that there are potential blindspots that will require navigation of “the gray”, you’re creating employees so heavily entrenched in directives that they don’t even understand that there might be cause for interpretation and deviation from the policy in the first place.

From a service perspective alone, most of us can objectively recognize that there may be exceptions to the rules. Even if there really haven’t been exceptions made previously, most people can read social cues enough to understand when someone is about to get upset and cause a scene. And even if they can’t, almost everyone can understand the point at which you need to give a little to cut your losses and move forward.

Employees who are empowered to be autonomous understand that the cost-benefit on holding your ground in any given argument may not worth the backlash later. Even if it doesn’t result in a full scale national media event, it would be an escalation to a service issue that, frankly, isn’t worth the hassle. Empowered employees can weigh the situation and decide accordingly.

Employees who are managed solely from policies and directives, follow them to the letter and to a fault, for fear of losing their jobs over a broken rule. In my opinion, that’s why we have so much national media attention paid to customer issues lately…employees don’t have a basic understanding of how businesses function within the community, or feel any sense of ownership for keeping them in good standing.

From a merchandising, marketing, and sales perspective, which, in my opinion, may be arguably more important in terms of actually selling product and staying open, the people in your stores are the people who know your customer, your business model, and the current state of your stores (in everything from morale to space planning). If you’re hiring entrepreneurial-minded people, they can (and will) tell you when things aren’t working. And they’ll also own the results, if you let them own the decisions…good or bad. And believe me, when you own it…really own it… there’s extra incentive for it to be good.

When companies are churning out a one-size-fits-all approach to inventory planning, marketing, and merchandising, with no latitude for store leadership to adjust to local trends, they’re creating issues with stock-levels and sell-thru rates that could easily be avoided if they only listened when their store leaders said that…for example…this outdoor umbrella doesn’t sell in northern Illinois in early March, because it’s still snowing until late April. Let’s call an audible and allocate that space to something more productive for that month. Let’s build some incremental sales during that time instead of sitting on full-price, placeholder inventory, that we all know isn’t going anywhere for 30-45 days.

Time is money…space is money…why waste both by not listening to the people you pay to run your business? Robots managers in execute-the-directive mode are only as good as the data you input. If you hire a bunch of robots to run your business and give them poorly vetted, generic data, you get stale stores that can’t adjust to a locale and quickly become perceived as irrelevant.

As retail continues to struggle to adapt, it will become increasingly clear that customers who are looking for a personalized experience with a retailer want it embodied in MORE than just customer service standards. They want it embodied in merchandise selection, visual planning, and community involvement/relevance as well.

So keep pushing the entrepreneurs out of your business if you must, but know that they’ll be thinking for someone else’s brand (or perhaps for their own), and they’ll be coming for those dollars that you missed when you were busy drawing up a non-negotiable schematic for merchandise that hasn’t moved in 6 weeks, or editing a weekly checklist for which fixtures need to be dusted on which days, instead adapting to change.

It’s Not Just the Tide Pods…

So, apparently there’s a Tide Pod eating challenge tearing through social media. And alongside it, many counter-memes both dismissing those injured in the process and sarcastically suggesting other poisonous challenges for participants to try. Both sides are ridiculous, if you ask me. But the group psychology behind the whole thing both fascinates and terrifies me, so I think it’s worth taking a moment to consider.

Frankly, it took me a good two weeks of news coverage before I finally believed it to be an actual, occurring problem, and not some Saturday Night Live skit blown up into a viral joke of sorts. Because seriously…who would do such a thing?? Clearly there’s a serious disconnect when members of the population think it’s a good idea to eat potentially deadly chemicals for fun and bragging rights. But sharing callous graphics about other ways to die isn’t exactly a glowing recommendation for the state of the population either.

That said, I take issue with how the whole thing is being handled on several levels. From the way the media has sensationalized the whole thing (giving these kids the exact viral status they were aiming for, and thereby rewarding their ridiculous behavior) to the way people are panicking and demanding laws and safe guards put in place by the government to “protect the kids”…as though the kids in these challenges aren’t teenagers perfectly capable of knowing that eating a plastic ball of toxic liquid to garner internet fame isn’t a winning idea.

Why are people rushing for laws to have Tide Pods reengineered and/or locked up at grocery stores? Why does Tide have to run a commercial telling people to not eat detergent? This isn’t rocket science. And I don’t recall cinnamon getting locked up after the Cinnamon Challenge craze a couple of years ago…and more than a few people ended up at the hospital after that…including, tragically, one little boy who died.

Personally, I think this rush for legislation obsession and “for their own good” mentality is a major part of what’s wrong in our culture today. A standing government doesn’t absolve us from having to consider our options and make appropriate choices for ourselves. You can’t just legislate morals and values into people. But I feel like that’s exactly what we’re trying to do these days.

Take the New York City legislation banning sugary drinks over a certain size a few years ago, for example (which has since been overturned by the courts, thankfully). I imagine there were a lot of well-intentioned people behind the creation of that law…people that just wanted everyone to be healthy and live a quality life. But, seriously? How did that law make it that far? How is it anyone else’s business if I order a large frappaccino on my way to work?

And aside from my own personal distaste for being told what to drink or how to shop by people who’ve never met me…where does it all end?

When you allow others to create laws dictating the minutiae of people’s lives (how they buy detergent, what they drink with lunch, etc.), to address a symptom…instead of the individual, or family unit, or community coming together to address a root cause…you end up with a society dependent on the government to make “good” decisions. (Mind you, the definition of “good” is likely to vary, based on who happens to be in office.) And that kind of power can become an ever-expanding sort of thing.

Personally, I think we could probably sit down and figure out why kids are feeling so attention-starved that eating a Tide Pod for “likes” sounds like a good idea…and figure out how to get them the support they need in order to feel whole, even when they don’t have thousands of followers hanging on their every word…all without adding a single additional law to the books, or adding another key to the manager-on-duty’s key ring at the grocery store.

Morals, values, and common sense are learned and over a lifetime of decisions and consequences. When you know better, you do better…that’s the deal. But when you take that onus off the individual (whether we’re talking about the kid who should know better, the parent who should’ve taught them better, or anyone else in the equation), you separate the decision from the consequence, and subsequently remove the weight of the responsibility from one’s choices.

Can’t we all agree that if we can’t sustain the health and well-being of teenagers without putting laundry detergent in a locked case, we’re probably doing something wrong as a society? Can we all come to the conclusion that we can do a better job, even without a law that tells us to?

We need to do a lot more work on instilling a sense of personal responsibility through parenting, family dynamics, and building strong communities. And we need to do a whole lot less leaning on outrage to incite legislation when something bad happens. We all need to do the hard work of looking inside ourselves to see how we can contribute to the solution instead of the problem.

Part of the Same Puzzle…

I’d like to think I’m a realistic, grounded, reasonable, common sense, no nonsense kind of person. I don’t get hung up on all the things that make the person sitting next to me different from me. I understand that we’re all just different parts of the same puzzle, and that’s a good thing to be a part of, regardless of how much or little our lives may resemble one another.

I genuinely want to understand how people’s experiences have shaped their direction in life. I want to take the time to consider how their views and opinions differ from my own, and consider if maybe the basis for my thought process merits reconsideration.

That said, I am also no pushover. I’ll thoroughly consider the merits of a dissenting opinion…but that doesn’t mean valid points on your side negate valid points on mine. And if your aim is to pressure me to conform instead of informing me to let me decide…I think you’ll find that your argument is lost on me.

Frankly, though, that’s where we live these days, isn’t it? In a shouting match about who’s right? It’s exhausting…and disappointing. And I find myself shying away from holding public political views of any kind because of it. I do me, and you do you, and let’s all just shut up about it, is my default setting.

But tragedy brings out both the best and the worst in people, doesn’t it? We all knit together in the moment, to comfort those affected and there’s that flicker of a moment where we’re all in this together. And then somewhere in this polarized society we’ve created, a switch flips and we turn that tragedy into an opportunity to advance a platform and tear the country apart again.

Why? Why do I see memes in the wake of this latest school shooting saying that Republicans voted for children to be murdered, or some iteration thereof? Of all the hurtful, counterproductive, idiotic things to say.

Nevermind how your Republican neighbor, who thought you were a friend, might feel about that statement that utterly dismisses what you know to be their character. Nevermind that.

Think about how the parents of those children feel…and even moreso, the few inevitably Republican parents in that already devastated group…seeing their worst nightmare splashed all over social media in careless, hurtful graphics, specifically designed to inflict the most volatile reaction in parties so far removed from the event, that they think it’s somehow appropriate to use people’s misery for their own gain.

We should all be ashamed.

Have a little freaking compassion. Try leading with kindness.

I’m planning to start sharing some of my political views on this blog, because I see the error in my decision to be quiet just to save myself a headache. I don’t know that anyone will relate, or anyone’s opinions will change. And I’ll probably wind up with backlash. But I’ll know I have shared my story and where I’m coming from, and hopefully someone will at least take a minute to consider an opinion different from their own without dismissing it outright.

If we can’t start having an open dialogue instead of just creating a narrative and shoving it down each other’s throats, we’re never going to get anywhere.

Stressed?  Who, me?

I pride myself on being pretty self-aware.  Most of the time, I recognize when I’m being difficult or irrational…when I’m overreacting to or withdrawing from a situation…and when I feel myself losing a little of my light during the shortest days of winter.  Most of time, I can step back, take a breath, and let it go…or immerse myself in a project to unwind…or call a friend to cheer me up.  Most of the time I know when to call it quits and do something for me, regardless of what’s going on, because I NEED to, for my sanity.

Some kinds of stress get to me more than others, though.  Time management stress isn’t usually a big problem.  Too much to do, not enough time?  I can handle that kind of stress.  General social stress is usually a non-starter too.  I think that’s just years of being in management and getting used to the fact that there are probably gonna be a bunch of people in my life that don’t like me for one reason or another…and deciding that’s fine by me.  

It’s uncertainty stress that really throws me off my game.  Like when I was waiting to find out if I was getting sued over a plumbing issue last year (long story for another day), or when I was waiting to find out what the consensus was on Lucy’s leg and whether another surgery was imminent (thankfully, it’s not), or even this whole election debacle that seems like four years of unrest looming ahead (and that’s not an endorsement or indictment for either side…it just is what it is…and nobody seems to be giving an inch, even if it might gain them a mile).  Give me a direction and I’ll run with it, even if it’s not ideal.  Just tell me what’s happening and I’ll readjust my game plan and continue on my merry way.  But the waiting…oooooh, the waiting…it really doesn’t look good on me.  

I don’t remember always being this impatient, but maybe I was.  Maybe it comes back down to my inner control freak.  But I like to think it’s more of a “when you finally decide what direction you’re headed in life, you want to start heading that way as soon as possible” kinda thing.  I just don’t like wasting time waiting around for something, only to have it flame out on me.  When you have a tendency to filter everything through a lens of time being a form of personal currency, it really amps up the pressure on making every moment count.

In any event, it seems like I’ve spent an awful lot of time waiting around for decisions out of my control to be made in the last year or so.  And I haven’t been managing my ‘uncertainty stress’ very well at all, I’m afraid.  Ironically, this also leads to me wasting all of that precious time, trapped in my own head, stressing out, instead of focusing on the things that are so important to me.  

I haven’t seen my friends enough.  I havent worked on my crafty stuff enough.  My meditation and yoga that I was making an attempt at went right out the window.  Meal planning?  Nope.  Blogging?  Not so much.  Busting out my camera?  Nada.  Reading my massive book list?  Uh-uh.  I haven’t even been super consistent with my oils, and I KNOW they help me!  Pretty much, I’ve been kind of a mess. 

The problem is two fold in that I don’t like people noticing that I’m a mess, so I a) go into overdrive at work, making sure that everything is super solid there, and b) have a tendency to shut down and go into hermit mode at home, so I don’t have to put my personal bucket of nonsense out there for judgement.  Counterproductive, I know.  

The good news is, in the last few months, I REALIZED I was waaay down the rabbit hole and started digging back out.  So, if I’ve been distant or absent lately, forgive me…I swear I’m getting my shit together.  And if you’re someone I’ve been leaning on lately, thank you for helping me find my spark and get my ass in gear again.  Here’s to pushing forward and getting what you want out of life, instead of waiting around for someone to tell you what’s coming your way!  🙂

History in the Making

It’s an historic day.  The day Trump is official.  Here we are…on the precipice…waiting to see what comes next. 

I’ll be honest, I’m not super vocal about politics these days.  That’s not to say I’m not politically-minded.  I am.  I have strong opinions on a variety of topics that I’ve done some pretty thorough research on.  I just don’t speak openly about them much anymore.  I lean pretty liberal on social issues, and pretty conservative on fiscal issues, and frankly, I didn’t vote for either of the big two this time around, though I don’t fault anyone who did.

I grew up around politics.  Parades and fundraisers…dinners and rallies…raffle tickets and seats at speaking events.  I knew how the behind-the-scenes worked.  I had many heated debates in college, during most of which I took the unpopular view, but none of which impacted who I went out for a drink with at the end of the night.  

We rarely changed each others’ minds during those debates, but we were open to understanding one another and where those viewpoints came from.  At the very least, it was an opportunity to step out of our comfort zones and consider the possibility that our established worldviews might not be the whole picture…that someone else looking at it from a different angle could disagree without either party being inherently wrong.  

It pains my inner idealist that it’s not like that anymore.  I think the silencing of dissenters has done more to divide this country in recent years than the dissenting opinions ever could have on their own.  Between that and the media’s rush to beat the internet amateurs by broadcasting news before it’s been verified as accurate, we’ve created a very volatile situation.   

I was recently surprised to be ‘unfriended’ on Facebook for asking someone to check the validity of their statements before writing such hurtful things about a large portion of the population (or anyone at all, really)…especially since a number of their family and friends were represented in that group.  I just wanted them to stop and think before they posted something so blatantly inflammatory.  I was promptly and unceremoniously deleted from their life, with an assertion that they have a right to say what they want.  And while that is, without a doubt, the truth, it is not their right to do so without response or disagreement.  Just because you can spew hate and vitriol, doesn’t mean you should…especially not while simultaneously preaching about tolerance and diversity.  

Diversity of opinion is equally as important as other forms of diversity.  How can we expect positive growth and change by dismissing hundreds of thousands of peoples’ opinions as flatly invalid?  Not in my lifetime have I seen the population so willing to burn their relationships to the ground over politics.  

The more socially concerning piece of this puzzle is peoples’ willingness to dismissively drop a label on those who disagree with them, while subsequently claiming the moral high ground.  The reality of the situation is that none of us are one issue voters.  It’s complicated, and it’s extremely unlikely that you would ever agree with all of a candidate’s positions.  Everyone has a complex array of beliefs based on their life experiences, and votes with whichever party or candidate they align most closely with.  No one issue defines any of us.  And the false dichotomies are tearing us apart. Consider, for a moment, how absurd the following statements are:

  • If you voted for Hillary Clinton, you support killing babies.
  • If you voted for Bernie Sanders, you want the United States on the road to Socialism. 
  • If you voted for Gary Johnson, you’re a hippie and a stoner.
  • If you voted for Donald Trump, you’re a xenophobic, misogynistic, racist, bigot.

What about these?

  • If you voted for Hillary Clinton, you support a woman’s right to choose, affordable healthcare, and social diversity.
  • If you voted for Bernie Sanders, you support a living wage, affordable education for future generations, and fair access to all social services.
  • If you voted for Gary Johnson, you support communities and families being able to make informed decisions about their circumstances without government intervention, lower income taxes, and charitable giving.
  • If you voted for Donald Trump, you support economic growth, family values, and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Sounds a little different, right?  You can’t know where someone’s decisions are coming from if you shut them down without bothering to listen.  But it seems freedom of speech is only for those who agree with popular opinion in recent years.  There have been threats made, careers destroyed, and families divided over popular opinion.  If you can’t make the effort to hear the other side and be open to understanding it, how do you expect to stay informed?  What happens if popular opinion shifts and you’re on the wrong side of it?  Would it be fair to expect you to change your views, or risk destroying your livelihood and relationships?  

No, it wouldnt.  And incidentally, that very lack of willingness to hear and understand is exactly how we ended up with half the population shocked and blindsided with Trump’s win in the first place.  And here we are, presenting a divided front to the world…marginalizing each other and looking like bickering children to countries that are happy to see us saving them the trouble of dealing with us, by tearing ourselves apart from the inside.

It makes me tired…and disappointed.  We’re better than our actions right now.  The gloating isn’t productive.  The accusations and rioting aren’t productive.  That whole “united we stand, divided we fall” thing?  That’s legit.  If we can’t get it together, there won’t be much left to argue about when this is all over.  

That’s not to say you have to agree.  You don’t.  Protest if it’s in your heart to do so…peacefully.  Share your views instead of your anger.  Listen to what your opponents have to say.  In case you haven’t noticed, telling someone they’re morally reprehensible doesn’t make them very open to your views either.  Lead with positive intent…know that the vast majority of the people in this country are doing the very best they know how and mean you no harm.  Understand that we have all dealt with hardships that have shaped our view of the world and that it takes time to influence change.  Know that we’re in this together.  And we might just surprise ourselves if we open our hearts and minds to each other.  

And if the next few years don’t go the way you hoped they would, remember that our government was thoughtfully designed to allow for a seamless change in leadership in another four years.  No wars or bloody regime changes necessary. Look at the rest of the world and know that this is no small blessing, and that it required an immense amount of foresight on behalf of our founding fathers.

Be kind.  Maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  Maybe you’ll spend the next few years working toward something that aligns better with your beliefs.  But either way, let’s not tear ourselves apart to prove each other wrong.  We’ll get through this together, and we’ll be better for it.  

A Music Major’s Time Capsule

If you’ve known me very long, you may know I was a music major once upon a time ago in college.  I was a band geek stereotype if ever there was one.  I went to band camp (yep…I played flute…go ahead and get the snickering out for the way), choir camp…even drum major camp.  I looooooove music. And I used my music major title as my free pass for buying alllllll the music I could get my hands on.  My collection was…eclectic.  Jim Croce?  Yep.  Riverdance?  You got it.  Static X?  Sure.  Eminem?  Absolutely.  Travis Tritt?  You betcha.  Reel Big Fish?  Take my money.  I’m in.

Turns out, though, that turning something that’s always been your relaxation and your release into your JOB makes it not-so-relaxing.  At all.  Do you know any music majors?  They’re a tired people, music majors.  And some brainiac admissions counselor advised me to take 21 credit hours my first semester…mind you, if you know how music credits work, that’s more like 29.  Plus another 15+ hours of practicing every week…plus homework.  So, clearly, my admissions counselor hated me for reasons unbeknownst to me.

Anyway…I burned out…bad (I’ve mentioned this on here before).  I burned out so bad that I drove around with my radio off for almost a year after I quit and changed my major to Marketing.  Silence…in the car…for hours of driving.  It wasn’t good.  (I still do that when I get overwhelmed, btw.)  A quiet car is a consequence of a loud mind for this girl. 

Here’s the thing: Business I love for the puzzle…for being able to figure out which levers to pull to affect change…I want to understand all the little pieces and how they fit together. Music I love for its existence…for the way it makes me feel…and how easy it is to relate to lyrics written by a stranger, thousands of miles away, who I’ve never met…and for how it helps me explain my feelings when I can’t quite find the words myself.  It’s as universal as math, in my opinion.  But the magic of music  (for me) is the in the ‘whole’…tearing it apart into all its little pieces so I could analyze it and see how it worked kind of ruined it for me.

So…it took some years to get back to it.  And when I did, it was to simpler things.  (Laugh if you must, but I legit ended up with a flute injury.  That shit got serious. Band kids are tough, for reals yo.  Lol 🙂 )  Now I karaoke when I have time (which isn’t nearly enough).  Because having some drinks and belting your favorite songs…that’s for love of the game, am-i-right? 🙂  And I spend a lot of time listening to a lot of music in the car…with satellite radio (because hello…commercials are not musically inspiring, kids).  

The other thing I do, every three months like clockwork, is make a new playlist of whatever new or interesting music I’ve stumbled across lately.  I listen to that playlist a quite a lot for those three months.  I’m six years into this quarterly tradition, which means I’ve got 24 little musical snapshots of my life.  And when I listen to one of them months (or years) later, I smile…cuz I remember little snippets of what I was doing back when I was obsessed with those songs.  

I remember ridiculous car dancing with friends on the way to Milwaukee.  I remember wondering about the future with guys I was dating.  I remember worrying about things that seemed big at the time, that seem comically small now.  I remember crying and laughing and old jobs and old friends.  And even if I don’t remember exactly what I was doing at the time, I remember exactly how I felt.  And it’s nice…to take a little trip in my mind back to who I was when I made that playlist.  

So…today begins my new playlist.  We’ll see what memories I can attach to it in the next few months.  I’m imagining there will be more empowering, I’m-done-being-a-pushover moments…more laughing-until-I-fall-out-of-my-chair moments…more deciding-where-this-momentum-is-taking-me moments…and hopefully a lot of time of being thankful for new and old friends, family that’s always there, purposeful business ventures, sunny days with my camera, and my obnoxious little puppies (I couldn’t leave them out, ya know…I really do love the little brats).  

Winter 2017 Playlist

  • Treat you Better by Shawn Mendes
  • Shape of You by Ed Sheeran
  • Love Me Now by John Legend
  • Shine by Years & Years
  • Don’t Wanna Know by Maroon 5
  • Be As You Are by Mike Poster
  • Let’s Hurt Tonight by One Republic
  • Play That Song by Train
  • Catch & Release by Matt Simons
  • This Town by Niall Horan
  • When You Love Someone by James TW
  • Say You Won’t Let Go by James Arthur
  • Not Easy by Alex Da Kid
  • Cleopatra by The Lumineers
  • Sad Song by We The Kings

 

The Black Hole of Political Correctness

I’ll be honest.  I have had ENOUGH of this microagression, safe space, thoughtcrimes, nonsense.  This is not to say that I’m pro-harassment, discrimination, racism, etc.  I’m not.  At all.  I’m actually very liberal on social issues, generally speaking.  But I’ve read two articles about colleges adopting this victim-mentality mindset in the last week (here and here), and I’m disappointed, and concerned at what the future looks like if this trend continues.  My opinions here are purely my own, and not reflective of any particular scientific research or data, but I HAVE spent the last 12+ years managing people and feel like I have a pretty good read on social trends and a relatively accurate long view (historically speaking, in my life thusfar).  So, without further ado…the reasons why I’m concerned:

1) First and foremost, the world (and, I daresay, universe) doesn’t care if your feelings are hurt.  It keeps on moving forward with or without you.  And your kicking, flailing tantrum on the sidewalk of your life does nothing but set you further behind on your journey.  On a slightly less macro-level, what are you going to do if something ACTUALLY terrible happens (think a divorce, a serious injury, the death of a loved one, etc.), if you can’t even handle someone saying “you guys” without being emotionally wounded?  

2) Dovetailing on that is this inability to let anyone feel uncomfortable these days. Feeling uncomfortable is a fact of life.  If you’re never uncomfortable, you’re doing it wrong.  Whether it’s because you’re trying something new, hearing ideas that are different from your own, failing spectacularly at a class or a job or a relationship…or a multitude of other things… it’s normal!  And being exposed to those uncomfortable feelings and learning that they’re not the end of the world (especially early in life) is critical.  Otherwise, you don’t come across those uncomfortable moments until adulthood and don’t have the emotional fortitude to handle them (enter college kids protesting against free speech and requesting dorms segregated by race or sexual orientation, all in the name of a safe space).

3) Somewhere in the world of social media, far too many people have based their self-worth on external feedback.  While I understand that the internet is 24/7 and that has an irrevocable impact on social norms, we’re ignoring an important factor in the fight against bullies and bigots…self-esteem.  We’re spending a lot of time these days building a wall of ego instead of a foundation of self-esteem.  When you learn early in life that your self-worth is based on what other people think of you, when the tides turn, your whole world is turned upside down and you’re left feeling defensive and resentful.  When you learn early in life that someone else’s opinion of you isn’t the end-all, be-all of your worth, a change in tides (while still a hardship) is a time to get back to your foundation, re-center, and push forward, because you know that what you have to offer the world is worth something.  We need to spend less time handing out external reminders of our worth (read: participation trophies), and more time celebrating who we are and what makes us different and how our little piece of the puzzle fits into the world around us.

4) Censorship is not what we’ve fought so hard for the last couple hundred years.  Seriously.  This country was founded on freedom of speech, expression, religion, commerce, etc.  It was NOT founded on freedom of expression with an ‘as long as your expression isn’t unpopular and doesn’t make anyone uncomfortable’ caveat.  As a recent example… you have a right to not stand for the National Anthem…others have a right to tell you why they’re pissed about it.  We fought to have a country where we can agree to disagree…not one where we threaten and shame others into keeping their mouths shut.  And if we’re going to get down to the level of expressing surprise at an inopportune time as a ‘thought crime,’ what’s left?  I mean, really.  If even our thoughts and facial expressions are going to be subject to regulation and vilification, what’s the point of living in the United States to begin with?  Might as well just sign up under a tyrant somewhere else in the world…at least you know what you’re getting at that point…no waiting for the tide of public opinion to come crashing down on you.

5) The hypocrisy is absurd.  Throwing actual aggression at a complaint of microaggression makes absolutely no sense.  Meeting what is perceived to be an unjustified shooting with another unjustified shooting is insane.  Rioting and looting over the lack of safe spaces is ridiculous.  Being offended that people of a particular gender, race, or orientation are lumped together with unfavorable stereotypes, and subsequently lumping together people with a particular amount of money, political stance, family background, etc. is a case of pot meeting kettle.  It’s all silly and counterproductive, and we’re better than that.

Vote for the people who you believe will change things for the better.  Be a positive part of your community.  Give each other a little grace…we can have differing opinions without being enemies and without accusing one another of being morally reprehensible.  Take the time to develop yourself.  Learn who you are without looking through the lens of others’ opinions.  Know that that’s enough.  Help people who are struggling with that concept see that it’s enough.  Stop tearing everyone down so you don’t have to step outside your comfort zone.  We can do better than this.  And it starts with acceptance of diversity of OPINION and BELIEFS.  Not just acceptance of diversity of physical characteristics and sexual preferences.   

The Business of Business

I’m launching a new business venture in about a week, selling jewelry and car diffusers that complement my essential oil business.  After the initial vendor fair launch, I’ll be expanding onto Etsy and including some other art pieces I’ve created. You would think it’s all the same concept, so no big deal, but frankly, I’m a nervous wreck about it.

With my oil business, I see verifiable positive results, in myself and others, and so there’s no question as to whether or not it’s a meaningful, purposeful venture.  Oooooohhh, the second guessing that comes with selling things that you’ve created yourself, though.

I’m generally a pretty confident person, especially at work.  I do what I know needs to be done, I’m comfortable setting the course for other people to get their jobs done, and I don’t {generally} worry that what I’m doing isn’t enough {let’s be honest, there’s a long week here and there that’ll make a gal wonder}.  I’ve been thinking about why, then, this new piece of my puzzle is freaking me out so much?  And I think it comes down to the function arts and crafts have played in my life so far.

When I was graduating high school, I decided to be a music education major.  I looooooved music.  So I spent the first two years of college trying to parlay that passion into a career.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that spending hours a day analyzing every little thing about music would suck the joy right out of it for me.  Not that music theory doesn’t interest me…it does…it’s like math for music, and I find the juxtaposition curious.  BUT…I find it interesting in the abstract, as a concept to be aware of…not as a constant filter for every sound I hear.

I burned out.  Bad.  Between that and the rapidly disintegrating music programs in high schools across the country, I decided to switch my major to business marketing.  (P.S. It would’ve been super helpful if my adviser at NIU had told me that a business marketing degree doesn’t qualify you for a single, solitary, thing, unless you ALSO get a communications degree…but alas…a story for another day).  So with the focus on business, I could enjoy my artistic/creative time again…although, music never has been quite the same since then.

Crafting and art and jewelry and music have been my escape route ever since.  When I’m having a bad day, I pull my cloak of crafty time firmly around me the second I get home from work and forget about everything else for a few hours until I’m feeling like myself again.  The prospect of letting people into that space…especially in a way that elicits judgement…makes me nervous.  What if everyone hates what I make?  What if I hate what I make and other people love it?  What if making it for other people sucks the joy out of it?  What if, what if, what if?

I ventured down this path once before, a few years ago, with an interest in selling jewelry.  I wasn’t in a headspace for it at the time…my life was in a bit of disarray and I couldn’t commit to the added stress (and paperwork…let’s be honest…there’s an inordinate amount of paperwork required to run a business…even a little bitty one).  My life is still in a bit of disarray now…a different bit, but still…I feel like I’m ready now.

So here we go…kickoff is a week from today.  I’m crossing my fingers that this will complement my interests and passions this time, instead of eroding them.  I think it will.  I just need to get over myself and leap!  🙂