Archive for the ‘Do What You Love’ Category

Are you skipping to work?

One of my favorite mentors always asks… “are you skipping to work?”

When you are skipping to work, you wake up before the alarm, and are excited about the day.  When skipping, the most challenging part is juggling and prioritizing all the creative things you want to accomplish.

I find that when I am skipping,  others are attracted to the scene and generally are excited to skip along.

I skip when I am in the right job.  And usually, I can skip when I am in the “wrong” job because somehow I work to transform it into the “right” job by focusing on the aspects that make it fun.

For me, skipping always involves developing people and turning things around.  When the politics get too thick, or the hardest transformational work is done, I find my energy a bit harder to muster.  When energy gets low, I look deep to see what I can change about me, or my situation.

I have found it useful to stay in touch with my own energy barometer.  It is tough to lead well, or achieve good results unless the answers to these questions are “yes” most of the time.

Skipping Barometer

  • Am I excited to wake up in the morning, and energized about the possibilities for my day?
  • Does what I am doing feel important?
  • Do I come home wanting to share stories I am proud of?
  • Am I constantly thinking of what to do next?
  • Am I sharing an engaging vision that others are excited to follow?
  • Do people comment on my passion and excitement?

Gretchen Rubin has a great book about taking an intentional project-based approach to finding happiness in your personal life.  ( )

I use a similar approach at work.  It is helpful to make a deliberate list of what is bringing us joy, and what is not… and making plans from there.   Often there are small shifts that can make a big difference.  Sometimes, this approach can lead to more dramatic change.

What changes could you implement that would lead to more skipping for you or your team?

Early calls

“Enter each day with the expectation that the happenings of the day may contain a clandestine message addressed to you personally. Expect omens, epiphanies, causal blessings, and teachers who unknowingly speak to your condition.  Expect that through the right lens, all our encounters will appear full of thunderbolts and instructions; every bush will be a burning bush”

– Sam Keen, Hymns to an Unknown God

One of my favorite parts of being a mom is watching my kids discover what they love to do.  The other day, Seb (6), looked at me with an epiphany.  “Mom, when I am talking and everyone is listening to what I have to say, my heart feels happy,  and I feel totally in control of myself.  My life feels good and easy.”   Yikes.

The truth is, he is right.  He has a natural gift for speaking,  and people light him up.  I am so glad he is paying attention.

I love to talk with adults that seem that happy and engaged in their work.  It’s fun to ask them when and how they “knew” what they wanted to do.  It always leads to fantastic conversation, and people who are jazzed about their work are even more jazzed to talk about why.

I keep a running list of themes I hear from folks who are in love with their work.  Here are a few…

  • It’s okay to not have found your calling, be patient
  • Create space and time for reflection
  • Listen carefully to your heart
  • Build a strong network and community of support
  • Take some risks
  • Don’t discount it because it feels too simple; it may feel easy because you have a gift
  • One thing leads to another, pay attention to signs along the way
  • Know that it will be hard, involve sacrifice, and come with it’s own junk
  • Be grateful for the journey

Are you doing what you love?  How did you know this was what you wanted to do?

What advice do you have for those in search of…

How can we best help our children identify and develop their callings?

Firefighter Fodder

Last night I had fish tacos with about 20 firefighters.

Well… not actually real firefighters– yet, that will happen tomorrow after graduation.

This was a team of new “recruits” finishing their 12 week, intense, training academy ready to begin their new lives of public service.

The tacos were not remarkable, but the energy and excitement in the air was palpable.  This was a group of folks up to something.  Each recruit I spoke with had a  different background and reason for joining.  What they had in common was the passionate expression that this is what they “were meant to do” next in their lives.

What a feeling to be surrounded by new beginnings.

What struck me most throughout the evening was the intense level of questioning.

Mostly I heard the questions these recruits were asking themselves.  It was an interesting parade of extroverted self-reflection.

  • What is the most important contribution I will make?
  • How will I respond to fear?
  • What will this mean for my family?
  • What will my role be on the team?
  • What if…?

As leaders, the questions we ask ourselves are vital, particularly as we start something new.

Here are a few questions I find my self pondering as I enter a new gig or start work with a new team.

About the Work

  • What one thing will our organization be known for above all else?
  • Where can we have the biggest impact to the big scene?
  • What’s the most broken?
  • What shouldn’t we change, no matter what?

About the People

  • Who are the rock stars, and what do they need?
  • Who is already leading this team?
  • Who can I help?

About Me

  • What strengths must I leverage to lead this team well?
  • What mistakes did I make in my last role, which I can’t make again?
  • Which of my weaknesses are likely to surface here?
  • Who do I need to call on for help?

Please Share:

What are the most important questions you ask when beginning something new?

One Dip or Two?

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”  – Thomas Edison

Every now and then a young leader will approach me for my story, “what did you do to get here?”  When I share a bit about the less than glamorous journey, including commuting to the Bronx from Baltimore for months on an almost daily basis during my stint as a single mom… or the travel I am doing now to small towns across the country where you can be sure to find a Waffle House, I get the same reaction.  “Oh.”

Seth Godin writes well on this subject in The Dip.  He describes the value of slogging through the tough times on the right pursuits, and knowing when to quit the wrong ones.   As Kenny Rogers would say, knowing when to “fold em,” frees up time to work on what will make you great.  He compares 3 scenarios and how to know them when you see them.

  • Dips (hard times you need to get through to learn, grow, and achieve)
  • Culdesacs (dead ends, where more hard work and slogging is unlikely to help)
  • Cliffs (dangerous pursuits leading to disaster)

I am very familiar with the dip.  I am currently in the deep throws of at least 2 or 3 big dip servings, and am keeping a keen eye out for some early signs of culdesac.

It is vital to pay attention to where you invest your time.  His concept of quitting with integrity is important.

However, I disagree with his premise that “being the best in the world” is always a useful objective, and a reasonable criteria to judge quit worthiness.

Lots of important contributions are made from folks who are great, but not necessarily “the best.”  If we have too much quitting going on, the world will lose out.

He uses the analogy of the Boston Marathon, and how most quitters, quit in the middle of the race, during the “Dip.”  True.  I’ve run it, and the middle is tough, and it feels great to get through it.

What I think he is overlooking  is that just qualifying for the Boston marathon is a huge deal for many runners, a great goal and a fun achievement.  Lots of regular folks have big fun and become stronger working toward this goal.  They have already pushed through a few dips.  Most will not be the best in the world, and it doesn’t matter.  There is value in journeys that do not end in greatness.

Godin shares, “the problem with infinity is that there’s too much of it.”   That’s the fun part.

We have so many choices and so many chances.  For ourselves, and to offer as options for those we lead.

Conversation Question:  How do you know when it is time to quit?