Extra-Curriculars, Rediscovered

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Back in high school, my entire day was planned.  For each month. From August – May.  As a classic Gen X attention deficit teen, I thrived on constant structure.  I always knew where I would be next: English class, History Class, Track practice, Ballet lesson, Theatre….

My transition to the business world brought my regimented life to a screeching halt.  Now, instead of 57 minutes of this, 48 minutes of that, I had 8 hours of “what?”  I had 480 minutes a day for projects and deadlines.  To make matters more confusing, I had nothing to do after work, except think about what I would do tomorrow at work.  For 480 more minutes.

Two years later, I rediscovered extra-curricular activities:  I remembered how much I loved art class and recruited comrades for Sips and Strokes; I started taking Yoga classes; I compiled a list of classic lit pieces I never read in graduate school.

It was disorienting to live life without the small, structural pleasures that kept it relevant.  Staying committed to a schedule outside of work keeps me interested in each day.  If you feel “suspended” this time of year, it may be time for you to reconnect with your own lost passions.  At least, it will give you something to do between Super Bowl Sunday and St. Patrick’s Day.

And hey, if you need something to get you started, I have a Mahjong club that meets every Sunday.

What Do We Want? Food! When Do We Want It? Now!

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If there’s one thing that all of DAXKO loves to do it’s eat. That’s right, here at DAXKO – we’re big fans of food.

You’ve probably heard about our endless supply of free fruit, soda and coffee, but did you also know about our weekly Family Lunches? At the end of every week, we all get together in our Garage Café for a yummy catered lunch. It’s always at 11:30 am sharp. God help us if the caterers are ever late, because there will be a line of hungry, impatient Team Members standing outside the Garage Café just waiting to pounce. I believe I’ve even seen drool pooling at the corners of their mouths.

Naturally, we have our favorite caterers – Chappy’s Deli, Taziki’s, and Full Moon BBQ, just to name a few. And Salsarita’s Cantina is always a smash hit. Apparently DAXKO is a big fan of Mexican food, so no one ever misses out on a Salsarita’s lunch.

As our company continues to grow in size, it’s become harder for Office Manager Melissa to keep the fruit bowls stocked. She makes several fruit runs a week and returns to the office with both arms full of heavy sacks of bananas, apples, oranges and raisins. Once, a curious supermarket cashier couldn’t help but ask her, “Honey do you work for the zoo?”

I’ve only been at DAXKO for about four months now, but in that short time, I’ve picked up on a few unwritten rules about food at the office that I’d like to share.

  1. Always, always put your name on anything you store in the community fridge. Food without a friendly little reminder like mine – “Barb’s lunch: Eat it and DIE!!!” – is considered up for grabs at DAXKO. I’ve seen DAXKO men devour unattended, unlabeled food in seconds flat. Not even a little mold can stop these hungry, hungry hippos; so always put your name on your food.
  2. Always RSVP to the DAXKO Family Lunch. I’ve heard of incidents when our Office Manager didn’t receive an accurate headcount. The result? Not enough food and fighting to the death. (Ok, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration… but didn’t I mention food is very important here?)
  3. Got leftovers? Share! Bring your unwanted, leftover birthday cake, casserole or bagels to DAXKO and we’ll gladly take it off your hands. We delight in seeing the “Free food on 4th floor!” e-mails in our inboxes.
  4. If you’re trying to diet, GOOD LUCK! It’s extremely difficult to watch what you eat at DAXKO – there’s always a plethora of tempting food. Sure we hit the gym downstairs, but cut back on the food? Now that’s just crazy talk.

Work, volunteer, family… I don’t have the time!

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They teach you to have extracurricular activities in high school.  It’s supposed to look good on college applications.  Then, they tell you to be involved in college.  I have seen resumes that state “maintained full-time job while attending school”. Again, this is supposed to help you get a job because you are well-rounded.  But no one ever held a class on what to do when you have a job, plus volunteer work, plus a family, not to mention church, hobbies, and other activities.

So what now? Explain to your boss how important these other activities are to you, and hope that he allows you to take an hour or two here and there to attend to other matters? Sacrifice time with family in order to get the job done? Or only focus on work and family? Or just family? Or just work? This can be a very confusing debate for a Nu Professional.

In the HR arena, “work-life balance” is definitely a buzz word.  At the 2009 SHRM National Conference, Jack Welch stated that work-life balance is a personal choice.  There seem to be multiple articles coming out every month with new studies on how employers should provide this balance in order to keep their employees happy.

I think that it boils down to what you, the Nu Professional, wants. Here are some suggested steps for balancing your life.

  1. Set Goals – I am a big – no HUGE – proponent for writing down short-term and long-term goals. Determine what you want to accomplish, then go to step two.
  2. Get a Map – Decide how you want to accomplish your goals.  One of the better ways is to find a mentor that is already there and follow the trail they have already blazed.  You may choose different landmarks to visit and places to see, but something they did obviously worked.  They’re already there.
  3. Recruit a Cheerleader – Be it your mentor, parents, friend, spouse, or children.  Whoever is in your life has to understand what you are trying to do and be on the same team as you.  (Note: You’ll avoid many “discussions” with your significant other if you’re on the same page from the start.)
  4. Take a hint from Nike and “Just Do It” – It’s up to you and only you to make it happen.  It will not be easy. You will make mistakes. And you will make enemies. But it’s not about them – it’s about YOU.

I am in the process of reading 10-10-10 by Suzy Welch.  It is supposed to be a great book on how to successfully manage your life.  I will let you know how it turns out.  In the meantime, if you’ve read it or have suggestions for us Nu Professionals, hit me with a comment.

Thinking Shapes Action… I’m Positive

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Our very own Tom Patterson once told me the story of 2 shoe salesmen who were sent to the jungle.  Upon arrival both men noticed most of the natives were barefoot.  One salesman called HQ and said, “Whose bright idea was it to send me here?  Nobody here wears shoes.”  The other salesman called HQ and said, “Send me two containers ASAP.  Nobody here wears shoes!”

The ability to focus your thoughts, your speech, your actions on positive outcomes comes more naturally to  some than others, but we can all benefit from making a shift to the positive side.

As we move into the final stretch of the year, I challenge you to do a little reprogramming of your brain.

The reprogramming I’m talking about is a subtle change, but it has enormous impact. It’s the power of positive positioning, mind share, and action. It starts with speaking in the affirmative, which is fairly easy to put into  practice once you get the hang of it.

A few examples:

  • Man, that Ops Review was brutal  >> The Ops Review feedback is helping us identify ways to get better
  • I have no idea where to start >> With some guidance from you, I’m sure I can run with this
  • We can’t be everything to everyone >> With greater focus we can put our skills to better use

We can achieve more (and be happier doing it) if we train ourselves to think and ACT in the affirmative.  The affirmative actions are focused on:

  • opportunities, not problems
  • strengths, not weaknesses
  • solutions, not excuses

I’m not professing that we should walk around here like the cast from Little House on the Prairie.  Affirmative practitioners don’t ignore that negativity exists (they would truly be in la-la land.)  Instead, the affirmative practitioner acknowledges a negative situation then articulates a positive action.

I’ll leave you with 3 last thoughts on the topic:

  1. The affirmative practitioner is the rescuer, not the victim.
  2. The affirmative practitioner takes responsibility for his/her actions and knows the result will be good.
  3. The affirmative practitioner is a natural leader because others are drawn to possibilities.

If the challenge to make positive changes to the way you think and act resonates with you, check out the following resources:

Book: Change the Way You See Everything – Asset-based Thinking

If you’re not up for a whole book, but are willing to really contemplate Ten Tips, here are some good ones: Ten Ways To Take Control with Positive Thinking