Permission Granted

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Please stop waiting for a map. We reward those that draw maps, not those who follow them. – Seth Godin

What do you most want to accomplish in your work life? What lives within your career core? If I know anything at all about work life — it’s the realization that underneath it all, we have some sort of core purpose we’re attempting to affect. I also know this element is often shrouded by the business of our work lives (the necessary meetings, reports, travel). We don’t commonly think or express this core.

But, it’s there. Bubbling in your mind. Waiting in the wings.

We simply haven’t declared it.

We’ve not fully owned it.

I know contributors who live out their work life core each and everyday. They live out their purpose. They chip away at that core problem. They recognize the connection. They are aligned with their own purpose — because they have clarified that purpose.

It’s vital to bring this core to the surface. To connect with it. To offer it the attention it deserves. To ponder it. To explore it. Declare it to be yours.

Don’t wait any longer.

Draw that map. Make that connection for others. Share what you’ve observed. What you have learned and taken to heart. This will only make your work stronger, as it will guide your behavior and choices.

So, go ahead.

Chew on it.

Permission granted.

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

Want To Be More Creative? Here’s a Plan That Really Works

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Photo by tanialee gonzalez on Unsplash

“It is my belief, you see, that thinking is a double phenomenon like breathing.” – Asimov

If you have watched the classic television series House, you’ll find that every medical mystery is solved in the most unusual of moments. Without fail, House’s uncanny ability to problem solve kicks in while he sits in the hospital cafeteria, is mid-sentence while talking to a team member or when he doesn’t outwardly appear to be focusing on the problem on deck.

It is very intriguing to watch.

But, we shouldn’t be surprised as to why this happens.

You see, our brains function in curious ways.

Your Brain Revealed
In the classic essay The Eureka Phenomena  (1971), Issac Asimov explores why these moments of inspiration occur when we least expect them. Asimov’s theory is quite simple, posing the notion that thought includes both voluntary and involuntary components. Moreover, opportunities for both types of thought must be present to become highly effective. Essentially, we can be thinking about one thing on the surface, yet ruminating on another topic below — the involuntary part of the equation.

The Eureka Phenomena sheds an interesting light on how we might become more effective in the workplace. As we all have experienced, if you are focusing too long and too intently on one topic or issue, you can be unsuccessful. Asimov would say that involuntary thought was not allowed to flourish and that contributed to the failure.

He recollects that when he was in the midst of a problem he could not solve, he shifted his focus and “shuffled” off to the movies. This action ultimately, allowed him to work through his challenge. He also tells the story of Archimedes — and how a visit to the public baths helped him to discover the concept of volume.

Of course, you may find that taking a walk or baking does the trick, but the process is of no less importance. You must give your brain the “down time” it needs to succeed.

Office Life and Involuntary Thought
There are millions of individuals who have the responsibility to process information concerning people, places and things for a living. Many attempt to accomplish this in an office environment. Of course, working in a traditional office does have merit. There are opportunities for collaboration and serendipity — yet obstacles to productivity abound. As discussed by Jason Fried in his classic Ted Talk, many aspects of office life (such as interruptions), can prove to be huge offenders, curtailing deep, meaningful thought.

During the course of a typical office work day, an individual may complete a multitude of activities and appear outwardly productive. However their brain power may not be maximized, as there are few opportunities to rest, reflect and digest information.

The Eureka Phenomena Applied
You must remember that while thought doesn’t require physical output, your brain is still hard at work. So, while you may not perceive that you are fatigued, your brain may actually be exhausted. As studies have shown, allowing the brain time to rest is critical. In this way, the brain finds the fuel it needs, so that energy can be funneled to the involuntary mechanisms that promote deeper thought. If we can learn anything from Asimov — it is that the brain cannot be bullied into becoming effective. It must be respected and nurtured.

Be mindful to offer your mind a bit of rest and identify those activities which help your brain relax and build them into your day.

Ultimately — don’t feel guilty if you feel the need to “shuffle off” to the movies. Your brain will thank you.

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

Need a Workplace Gift? We’ve Got a Few Classic Ideas

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Photo by Kari Shea @unsplash

‘Tis the season of indecision. More specifically, the season of doubt concerning what to give your valued contacts and colleagues for the holidays. How often have you thought of someone you would like to thank — yet didn’t muster the motivation to follow through and actually find the right gift.

Sure, there is Oprah’s list. However, its contents are not always office friendly.

Well, we’ve been thinking about this holiday problem — and we are going a bit retro. We’ve settled on a few classic ideas which are not only nifty gifts, but are likely to be used.

Here we go.

The Coffee Table Book.
I received Ocean Worlds, by Jacque Cousteau as a holiday gift from my first employer. (All 160 of us received the same book. This was an anticipated yearly tradition.) The books still sit on my coffee table — offering hours of enjoyment. A suggestion is below, but you can also check out our running Book List for other worthy reads. (Click on the photo for more information*)

The Classic Notebook.
Ah… the notebook! Somehow when a notebook presents itself, it unequivocally calls out to our creative side. Offering one as a thoughtful gift, shares the promise of new ideas and keen observations. Da Vinci couldn’t have been wrong, and we are following suite. The variety of choices are endless. We’ve chosen a couple of options below.

Rhodia Lined Notebook* – 5.5 x 8.5 – Fountain-pen friendly. (Click on the photo for more information.)

Find this option from Etsy by clicking here.

NotebookEtsy

The Not So Classic Pen.
Sooner or later you have to ditch the keyboard and actually hand write. These roller ball versions from Anthropoligie seemed a stylish alternative and made our wish list!
Find them here.

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The Business Card Case.
We can’t count the number of times we’ve frantically searched for a business card. Enough said. Find these by Yarrow here:
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The Gift of Organization.
It’s a Weekly Desk Planner — with 52 handy tear-off sheets. It’s just great!
(Click on the photo for more information*)

Yes, Oprah.
Ok, we aren’t daft. Here are a couple of office-friendly choices from Oprah’s list.
(Click on the photos for more information*)

Chai Tea Private Reserve Sampler. Relaxing during the holidays is priority for everyone — and everyone has time for a warm drink.

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Sauce Bucket. 5 Jars. A bucket. Who doesn’t grill? There’s your answer.

Let us know how they solve your gift-giving dilemmas. If you have more suggestions, please leave them in comments.

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

*LiveWorkThinkPlaycom is an affiliate of both Amazon & Awin — Etsy’s linking partner. That means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we receive a small commission. We only recommend products that we believe bring value to our readers.

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.