Monday, January 19, 2009

Be Willing To Do The Work

Years ago, I worked for a holding company for supermarket chains. Every summer the company hired interns. And every year, the interns were different. My two favorites were a woman who boldly bossed me around and told me that she intended to be a vice president before she was 28 and a woman who was so eager to learn that she took every project thrown her way and actually taught us a thing or two she'd learned in other internships.

How could two diametrically opposed interns be my favorites? Well, you know the saying. You're either a wonderful example or a dire warning. These two interns embodied that. LOL

I don't even have to follow up on them to realize that the woman who was so happy learning, so interested in our company, so eager to probably successful. Not that I believe she makes tons of money and is president of a company somewhere. This woman didn't need to be a company president to be happy. And what is real success other than being happy in your job, your marriage, your life?

Somehow or another over the decades the theory has wormed its way into our society that success is all about money and titles. But I'd be willing to bet that lots of us know a few unhappy wealthy people. And we probably know even more people with titles like manager, president, owner...even published author... who aren't happy. Lots of published authors don't earn out their advances. Lots of managers are people caught between management and employees. And just because a guy owns a company, that doesn't make him (or his company) successful. He could be a blooming failure!

On the flip side, even someone caught between management and employees could be happy (and therefore a success) if she loves negotiating. If being diplomatic is her forte, then solving the kinds of problems a manager must solve would make this woman's day. She would be happy in her work and, to me, a true success.

To me, finding what you're good at and matching yourself to a job that allows you to do that is the real secret to success. The girl who wanted to be a Vice President by the time she was twenty-eight had absolutely no idea what a vice president did. How could she? Different companies require different things from VPs.

She was after a title and, lured by that, she could have ended up in a job she hated. Worse, in a job she couldn't do. Unless she got lucky, I envision this woman as a failure. Not just because she wasn't clear about her abilities and what she wanted, but because she rarely worked and most often got others to do her work for her.

I titled this blog entry BE WILLING TO DO THE WORK for two reasons. First, before you can be willing to do something you have to know what it is! Before you set a goal to write a novel, start a company, seek a promotion, even raise a child, you should investigate what that job entails!

Second, work can be fun. I love to write. I love to analyze, which makes me a good plotter! (LOL) I also enjoyed being a secretary. I worked many years ago for a female attorney who was fresh out of law school. I had been a legal secretary for many years, so I quickly realized that I could help her become successful. I didn't get any more money. I got a great deal of satisfaction. That job more than any other taught me that if you love what you do, money doesn't matter.

If you choose your job well, it can be your motivation to get up in the morning.

I sometimes wonder if our current fixation with bigger and better houses and cars, boats, luxury vacations, designer labels in our suits, isn't a sign that we're dissatisfied with our job choices. With our daily lives.

I'm not just talking about our jobs. Marriage takes work, parenting takes work, yet the only time we think we should work is at our job. And then we have a negative connotation of the word work.

To me work can be fun, but I'd rather it were rewarding -- satisfying. The same is true with marriage and parenting. Giving up my choice of restaurant so my husband can have his isn't "fun" but it can be satisfying. Tolerating a child who is grounded and deliberately trying to get on my last nerve so I will lose patience and end his or her punishment isn't fun. (Ye Gawds! It certainly isn't fun.) But it can be satisfying...rewarding. Especially if the child learns his/her lesson!

Like the girl who wanted to be a VP (without a clue as to what a VP did) lots of us seek the happiness without understanding the concepts of sacrifice and service. Good parents don't merely keep their kids happy. They spend time with them, punish when necessary (and without flinching) and they teach them concepts...especially about respect and work. Happily married couples defer to each other, respect each other. They don't always demand.

In the end, those of us who do the work are happier. Our lives are fuller. And some of us even get the "rewards" of those who chase only money or status. In fact,I'd be willing to bet that in the end MORE of us who understand the concepts of service and sacrifice, who do the work, enjoy the both the financial rewards and the emotional rewards of a job well done!


Monday, January 12, 2009

Women Rule the World. Installment 2: The story of Joseph.

One of the ways to become a woman of substance is to survive adversity. Though this isn't intended to be a religious blog, I have to admit that every time something bad happens to me, or every time I face a challenge, I can't help thinking of the story of Joseph from the Bible.

Here's a kid who has a dream that more or less tells him he's going to be great. He's so excited that he tells his dad and his brothers about the dream. This in and of itself might not have been too bad, but he was his father's favorite. He's the guy who got the coat of many colors. After a few years of putting up with his bragging, his being spoiled by their dad, his being oblivious to real life, his brothers snapped and tossed him into a pit.

The original plan was to let him die. One of the brothers talked the others into simply selling him into slavery and telling their dad he died. He's sold into slavery, ends up in Egypt, and is bought by a rich guy who puts him in charge of everything in his house after he proves himself. But in the blink of an eye he's accused of a crime he didn't commit and goes to jail. Basically, he goes to jail twice. In jail, he learns the ways of Egyptians. He develops his skills in math and with people and when his big opportunity comes, he proves himself to the Pharaoh and becomes second in command of a country in which he's technically an alien.

Talk about making lemonade out of lemons. But there are a lot of lessons to be learned from this story. First, after being so horribly treated by his brothers, Joseph grew up quickly. He forgot the dream and no longer had a dad to spoil him, so he grew up. He also realized he didn't merely want to survive, he wanted to thrive. When another person might have been howling up a storm, he used his time to learn the ways of his new country.

The moral of the story to me is bad things happen to good people sometimes; life frequently isn't fair; and sometimes it's the people closest to us who cause our troubles. But if you don't whine, but try to make the best of your circumstances, you can persevere.

Nobody has to toss you into a pit for you to face struggles. Life transitions can throw us into circumstances where we find ourselves scrambling to keep up, scrambling to learn the lay of the new 'land', scrambling to grow into the person we need to be to navigate the new phase of our lives.

I remember struggling as a new wife, and being totally overwhelmed as a new mother. Raising teenagers is scary. Empty nest is lonely. Menopause is downright weird. No matter who you are and how you try to stave off transitions. . .Life comes at you fast. LOL

What normally happens in these transitions is that you shed some things that you considered important from your past and work your way into new roles with new goals. When you get married, for instance, you stop a lot of your girlish ways and begin making a home, learning to live with a partner -- as opposed to your family or a roommate. In a way, you reset your mind from expecting/wanting one group of things to going after the new set of things that fit your new life.

But once your new life is established you don’t stop working. There’ll always be work! But the chaotic situation that started your change will suddenly seem manageable.

Sadly, I've learned from a good many of my younger friends that this is a lesson that doesn't seem to get passed on anymore. Everybody wants to be happy and few of us equate happiness to change.

But it is. Especially if you're at a crossroads or in a new phase of your life.

The next time you find yourself feeling like a calf at a new gate, think of Joseph. Sometimes change is necessary for you to grow.


Monday, January 5, 2009

Woman of Substance

When I told a few friends and members of my family that I was going to do a blog series "Women Rule the World" I was met with resounding chants of "Right! Women do rule the world!" (Obviously, I'd spoken mainly with women. LOL)

When we think of the word "rule" we think of a king, president or even a CEO or the head of the local VFW Post. And if you continue in that line of thinking, it's not a leap to realize we all "rule" our own kingdoms: our homes, the purview of our jobs, maybe our friend group. But there's more to it than that.

We also rule through example. We teach our children habits (good and bad) by the way we live our lives. We can bring calm to a stormy situation simply by remaining calm. We guide our children, our friends, our co-workers, and many others with advice. And we also guide them when we don't offer advice. Even more important, we guide through example. What others see when they look at us, watch us, wait and see how we handle a good or bad situation.

Most of us don't think of that. We don't pay enough attention to the ripple effect of our lives. As a result many of us go through life in a rather haphazard way. Before you think I'm being critical or judgmental, just let me say I came upon the material for this blog series because I got sick and had an opportunity to really look at my own life and I suddenly saw a lot of wasted space.

The funny part of this is I work hard. I work a lot. So when I say we live our lives haphazardly, I'm not accusing us of being lazy. I'm saying we focus so much on making a living that we don't make a life. Or better said, we focus so much on doing what needs to be done that we don't see that the people around us might not need clean dishes as much as they need a few minutes of our time.

But there's even more to it than that. I got into trouble physically because I had (I am convinced) the world's worst eating habits. I rarely exercised. If you're going to rule your world, and by example impact the lives/health of your children, then you have to start by ruling your own appetite.

If you want to rule your world, teach and mentor your children, impact the bigger world around you, you have to take a long hard look at yourself on several different fronts. So that the message you teach is the message you want to teach!

When I really boiled it all down, wrote and wrote and wrote about what was wrong in my life, then wrote out the opposite... what I wanted to replace what I had, I saw the real bottom line. In order to impact my world the way I wanted to impact it, I was going to have to become a woman of substance.

Wow. Chew on that for a minute. Actually chew on that for a few days. LOL Because that’s lesson 1...What is a woman of substance?

Woman of Substance

Because I write, lots of people assume that I loved to teach lessons in my stories - - or even in workshops like this one. They're right. I have a passion for imparting knowledge. I love to teach so much that at least once a year I teach for free through this blog or through posting a workshop on my website.

But does that make me a woman of substance? Maybe a little, but not completely.

To me, a woman of substance is a woman whose life means something, who's gone through adversity and even if she didn't "win" comes out on the other end stronger, smarter; a woman who supports others and/or out-and-out leads -- despite the cost. A woman who "uses" her life. . .she isn't a spectator. She's part of the solution, albeit only for her own small world of family and friends.

My older sister, Helen, is a woman of substance. She has a passion for people, especially her grandkids, all the nieces and nephews in our family, her brothers and sisters and her friends. She remembers birthdays, asks about college, asks about career choices, remembers the names of boyfriends...No easy feat in a family with nearly 30 nieces and nephews.

My mother is a woman of substance. Not only did she raise eleven kids, many times sacrificing her own needs for the needs of her kids, but also she is active in her church. She makes pizza crusts (and then pizza) for the youth group and helps cook for dinners after funerals. She has friends who have been with her since childhood, because, I believe, I true woman of substance works to keep the important relationships in her life. In spite of her limited income, she gives to charities and friends in need.

If you think about it, giving -- either to friends in need or charities -- is one of the easiest ways to be part of the solution to a lot of people's problems.

So today, I leave you some questions. Do you make a difference? Are you a woman of substance? Do you recognize that others are watching you, looking for an example? Do you realize that this means that sometimes even little things you do impact the world? The future?

Are you ready to take a look at your life, not questioning whether or not you're successful, but trying to ascertain the level of impact you have on those around you?

Can you name a woman of substance or two in your life?


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Women Rule the World~Intro

Women have always ruled the world through the subtle process of example, as mothers, teachers, caring neighbors and just plain people who come into view every time we step outside our front doors. How we look, how we act, how we eat, how we dress, who we love, who we hate, how we express (or choose not to express) our love and/or hate affects the people around us. Teaches them. Impacts them.

We listen to official leaders -- presidents, governors, congressmen, mayors even policemen -- through laws. But we're constantly observing our friends, neighbors, coworkers, church mates, families, etc., looking for direction. And even though it appears our kids are only watching Britney Spears, Brad Pitt and Jon Stewart, the truth is when they actually settle into their adult lives, they mimic the lifestyle they've seen others around them live.

Or choose to live exactly the opposite lifestyle of what they've lived, which, in some cases, is a very good choice.

What's the saying? Your life is either a good example or a dire warning!
With such a great responsibility, you would think we'd all live a little more carefully. I believe we don't because days, hours, and minutes all seem so fleeting. Some of our decisions are made on the fly. We barely have time to think of how they impact our own lives, let alone how they'll impact the lives of those around us.

Lots of "self-help" pundits propound the theory that because life "comes at you fast" you need a plan. Not a picture perfect plan of how things "should" go, because we all know surprises and life don't work that way. But a background knowledge of sorts. Something that you can reach for to help you make decisions. A code, if you will.

For instance, this year I decided I MUST lose weight. I took two months and analyzed why I had gained so much weight, analyzing my eating patterns and eating traps but also looking for what would work for me. Now, I have a system in place that sort of protects me. It gives me boundaries for how to eat and how to get the maximum amount of exercise for my age, health and time limitations.

As I did this I realized we could analyze the dynamics of all the different roles women play and probably come up with some basic background codes that would hold us in good stead!

So I decided to take the months of January and February, look at the different facets/roles of women and just talk about them, examine them, kick them around to see if we can't take some of the mystery out of things.

And maybe come up with some of those "codes" we could all reach for when life comes at us fast!