Dancing on the Conference Room Table: How Comedy Brings Our Inner Monologue to Life

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In my first role, I sat in a lot meetings. (Too many — to even throw together an estimate).

As a research specialist in a large consulting firm, it was my job to provide senior executives the information they required to help clients (and sell projects, of course). The firm functioned much more like a creative agency than your standard consulting group — so there was always a lot of discussion. My bit in the scheme of a meeting was usually rather brief, yet it was best that I sit through every meeting in its entirety. If not present, the group might commit to research questions that simply weren’t deliverable — or a schedule that I knew I could not meet. At times, I would have to reel the group back to solid ground. They seemed comfortable with that dynamic — which on some level always surprised me.

So, there I would sit in conference rooms, minute after minute.

Hour after hour.

Certainly, there were discussions of the projects. However, there was always much more than that. Topics would wander and I would feel myself “glazing over”.

On many occasions, I would itch for an escape and my mind would wander to creative (and not so creative) methods to end my misery. I might boldly take over the meeting and usurp the creative director (suicide)  — or let them know I had another “pressing” engagement (a bit less risky). Yet, my most enduring fantasy was this: jumping up and dancing on the conference room table. That would likely do the trick. The madness would stop. Of course, my job and viewed sanity would likely have been sacrificed, as well.

So wrong.

Yet, Oh. So. Satisfying.

My inner monologue was not doing me any favors.

The first time I caught an episode of the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm. I had to look away. Literally. It depicted the key character, Larry, in a doctor’s examination room where he inappropriately decide to use the telephone sitting on the counter top. Told he should definitely not touch the phone — he debates that he absolutely should be granted that privilege.

David routinely shared his inner monologue — and it was outrageously funny. There was always some shred of truth to his stance. However, that truth was usually pushed to brink of absurdity.

I’m convinced that our inner monologue has something to tell us. However, in many cases, how we resolve to end the ensuing frustration should remain fantasy-based. I’ve accepted that in most cases, I should let others live out those fantasies for me.

To Larry David and Jerry Lewis (and all of the comedians out there), thank you for playing out our low “EQ” fantasies.

With no risk involved.

You’ve saved us.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.

Listening to The Beat of Our Own Steps

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Ron Turcotte & Secretariat at The Belmont Stakes

I watch the Kentucky Derby nearly every year.

Not for the fashion — or the revelry.

I watch (in complete awe), because I am transfixed by the sublime majesty of the horses and the story that exists behind each one of them. I’ve always hoped that after the pinnacle of their career had passed — which might be on that very day — they might live out their years respected, happy and healthy. (You can give to a foundation for retired race horses here. Read how Secretariat’s half-brother Straight Flush was saved here.)

Many are convinced that the greatest race horse of all time was Secretariat. When he passed away at age 18 in 1989, it was revealed that he possessed a heart more than double in size, when compared to other horses. It served as a powerful engine, oxygenating his blood and catapulting him to break records at every turn, in the quest for the 1973 Triple Crown. (Those records stand to this day.) But, everyone with proximity to this horse saw that he was more than an unusually fit specimen. He was special, loving, playful. He enjoyed both people and the cameras — and  was said to perk up when he heard the click of the camera.

On the day of the Kentucky Derby, he had just come off a surprising prep loss. Doubts were planted. Some were shaken, thinking that he wouldn’t or couldn’t, fulfill his potential. (It was later revealed that he was suffering from a mouth abscess.) However, he would win that first leg of the Triple Crown, from behind — in an unusual display of speed and fortitude.

When his jockey, Ron Turcotte, allowed Secretariat to follow his own “beat” once again, in the last leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont — most experts in watching in the stands believed that the jockey had completely lost control of his horse. That if he had continued ran at such speed, for too long, it would prove to be a disastrous race. But they were wrong. Secretariat’s owners knew this. Secretariat was running his own race. To his own tune. His own way.

Secretariat had a destiny to fulfill. (Turcotte admitted that he felt compelled took a peak backward, even if his horse was sure and steady.) Secretariat was emblazoned to be himself.

It was his destiny. Alone. Powerful.

Running to the beat of his own, amazing, full heart.

We all must walk alone at times. With only the beat of our own drummer as a guide. This is sometimes necessary to fulfill our own destiny. This can be misunderstood — and painful. If only that process could unfold, sure-footed, as it was for this remarkable horse.

Featured image: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial & Organizational Psychologist and HR strategist. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared at The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum

 

 

How to Survive When Challenging People Try to Knock You Off Your Game

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Photo by Eutah Mizushima on Unsplash

No one relishes the thought of meeting the client, colleague or supervisor whose mere mention will become synonymous with pain. However, challenging people (and the situations they create) are a work life fact. Chances are high that you will encounter one of these individuals along the way — and when you’ve landed in a tight spot with someone who just isn’t playing fair — it can feel like a tidal wave of emotions.

Unfortunately, the experience can leave us feeling off balance and not quite like ourselves.

This can be overwhelming.

Feeling undermined or attacked is traumatic, and emotions will undoubtedly run high. (This is completely normal.) Most of us will immediately formulate response; an internal counter-attack or argument. However the opportunity for this to play out in real time, is often dependent on the existing power dynamic. In some cases, we simply have to process the situation as is and move through it.

There are few work life situations more challenging. You must gather your internal resources and leave with your self image intact.

If you are not in the position to openly respond  — or directly defend yourself — you can be left with disturbing after-effects. We might feel “hung-over” or dazed. Ultimately, encountering toxic people can affect our ability to thrive in the workplace. This is a real and present danger. So we must address the situation quickly.

Here is a bit of advice to wade through the fall-out:

  • Psychologically separate. The first thing to protect is your work life well-being. This may require applying mindfulness techniques to observe the situation from a safer psychological distance. Most human beings have a powerful response to extreme negative feedback — so ensure that your emotions (and feelings of worth) are not hijacked or completely destroyed. Think of things this way: What if the situation happened to a friend or co-worker? What advice would you offer them?
  • Seek support. Touch base with a trusted colleague, manager or mentor to share your experience and gain some perspective. Knowing that you have support, will help your resolve and deter deep doubts from taking a foothold.
  • Learn from the experience. A post-mortem review might be challenging — especially when you feel you are not at fault. However, reviewing the entire story to identify where things may have gone off the rails (and to inform revise future strategy) is warranted. Subtle cues can provoke someone who is already difficult to work with. Protect yourself going forward.
  • Exit the battlefield. If you feel your reputation may be at stake, attempt to exit the dynamic entirely. Request another colleague to cover the client or complete unfinished project work. Sometimes, more exposure only breeds more trouble.
  • Focus on resilience-building. Learning strategies that help us bounce back are critical. Protecting our psychological resources should be an ever-present concern. Situations where we feel misunderstood or attacked can have long-standing effects.
  • Give things time. The surprise of the initial shock will fade. However, how you process the experience will matter longer-term. You will change as a contributor — but hopefully you will also emerge wiser, stronger and better prepared.

How have you dealt with unreasonable individuals in your work life? Share your strategies here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial & Organizational Psychologist and HR strategist. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared at The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum

Defining Your Story

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We all have a story.

However, the bits and pieces may feel somewhat random. (But be assured they are not.)

Discovering that arc — that story — requires reflection. Time to obsess over the threads. To look back at the fabric that is being created.

This exercise also requires help. Guidance. Levity.

Feeling uncomfortable. Seeing patterns. Letting go.

What plots have we written that were destined to fail? What characters are sorely missing from our story. What villains have we failed to recognize and omit?

Exploring that story is worthwhile.

It can be affirming.

Because finding meaning is everything.

Read more about it:

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Change is a Muscle

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Change is a muscle that we forget how to flex.

As a result, it atrophies and becomes weak.

At some point, we pass a mile marker and have little tolerance for any kind of change. This limits exploration and resilience. We can opt for routines — and that works for certain aspects of our lives.

However, we may not realize what we could be missing.

That becomes risky.

We often say that habits are good. But, when does a “habit” pass its expiration date? For example, when do our daily routines become merely protection? When does an assessment of our own value or potential, become inaccurate? Of where we work?

As with any other muscle that is neglected — we must start slowly and build its capability. If not, we may be hopelessly unprepared if events arrive uninvited.

Today, I’ve altered my Sirius radio presets. (Which have never been revised). I happily discovered a couple of genres I was missing. I’ve also added a couple of new outlets to my morning reading routine.  (There is nothing like a new writer with a fresh perspective.)

To be quite honest, I didn’t know what I was missing.

You may not know what you are missing.

Even small changes can feel like discovered bursts of energy. They help prepare us for what is next in some small way.

Change one thing in your routine today that might energize you — even if it brings a bit of disruption. Challenge your team to do the same. Tolerating change is actually a foundational skill that breeds stability.

See what comes up.

Change is a muscle.

Flex it.

Read more about it here (Vision=Change):

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Big Idea 2018: Define Your Unique Work Life Philosophy

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Serving as a coach offers me an opportunity to experience the excitement of a promotion — or an inspired organizational evolution — more often than those in other roles. However, even when clients approach new and positive challenges, anxiety often emerges as a by-product.

Interestingly, this can be healthy. On some level, these thoughts serve as a rehearsal for future events — and realistic assessments of workplace scenarios are a key component in building resilience. This becomes unhealthy, when a racing mind (at 2:00 am) only offers grief and foggy mornings.

Chances are you are actually working out quite a few vital issues about how you’d like to manage yourself. So — capture and utilize the information in a way that offers you guidance down the line. When mulling over these past experiences and future situations, attempt to elevate your thoughts to another level.

Group your thoughts so that they bring clarity.

Notice patterns that tell you something about your unique philosophy of work. (You can also try imagining how you would behave in extreme situations, to flesh out your philosphy.) This process might offer you guidance as you move forward and serve as a base for future decisions.

To facilitate the process, offer yourself a couple categories to group your thoughts. Ask yourself why the experience or conversation was remarkable. Think of what it represents — and why it is meaningful going forward. Couple this with the challenge that lies ahead. For example, how you will approach a new team or challenge.

Try these categories:

  1. Experiences/observed behaviors/conversations that represent the philosophy of how the work should be completed.
  2. Experiences/observed behaviors/conversations that represent your philosophy of how people and teams should be treated.

See where this leads you. Add categories as you see fit.

Sleepless night don’t need to be a total waste when foundational work gets done.

Simply offer your racing thoughts a bit of structure.

Please note: I’m sharing more during the holiday season — 30 Thoughts for 30 Days!

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

 

 

Moving On From a Narrative That Just Isn’t You

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“Letting go means to come to the realization that some people are part of your history, but not your destiny.”  — Steve Maraboli

The people that surround us affect our lives. Our managers, colleagues and clients — all help to create the supporting stage in which we find ourselves. When facing tense workplace situations, such as a misstep or difference in opinion, the eventual outcome can become an important inflection point. When a narrative emerges among these vital players that doesn’t reflect the real you, the situation can quickly become troubling.

If possible discuss the situation openly. Explore what might led to that point and if the situation can be saved. (This allows us to move past the impasse.) Be clear that the situation isn’t acceptable, that it is uncomfortable. Provide information to counter the confusion,

However, if you suspect that the poorly deemed decision or opinion has begun to negatively define you and cannot be revised — it may be time to reconsider your surroundings. When a negative narrative is written that appears set in stone, it can become an unhealthy place.

Ultimately, you should be surrounded by those who see the best in you (and you in them).

If necessary, explore a new stage that fits.

A narrative shouldn’t define you — unless it is your own.

Please note: I’m sharing more during the holiday season — 30 Thoughts for 30 Days!

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.