You Can Only Thrive Under the Proper Conditions

As a gift, my mother had received violets from someone at work. They were potted in a large bowl. By the time I got home that night, the poor things were wilting. I gandered at them sitting on our kitchen counter, “Did you water them?” I asked her.

“I did but they haven’t seemed to perk up at all.” Hm. Strange.

A few days pass and we continue this routine of regularly watering them, but yet no improvement. In fact, quite the opposite. Then I come across the tag that it came with. And I see it. It says 6+ hours direct sunlight. I moved the sad-looking plant to our porch where it could absorb copious amounts of rays. After just a couple of hours in the sun, there was a notable improvement.

By this point, all of the once vibrant flower petals had all but wilted and fallen off. But I consistently watered it and made sure it was getting the sunlight it needed. Then, it sprouted buds, and the next day after that all of the flowers had returned. I had successfully brought a plant back from the dead! (One of the reasons why this is so significant is because I have never actually been able to keep a plant alive prior to this.)

So what’s my point? That everyone thrives in different situations. For some, that means college, for other’s, that might mean something else. No one is cookie-cutter and we’re all unique. We all just have to find our own individual way to thrive.

Don’t Wait For Inspiration

Jason Isbell is an amazing musician. I was introduced to his music some time ago he was on Saturday Sessions on CBS This Morning, and I still find myself thinking about his segment. His peculiarly named song, If We Were Vampires, enthralled me. It was an exuberantly deep song. It had such a passion behind it that I find a lot of music circulating on the top 30 hits seem to lack. You could just tell he wrote it with love.

At one point in the interview portion in the segment, he said that after he got sober from his struggle with alcohol, everything about his work changed. He “…stopped waiting on inspiration and started working really really hard.”

That resonated with me. As someone who also is passionate about music, I find myself waiting for inspiration to begin writing a song. But waiting for inspiration can be like expecting a paycheck without having put any effort towards earning one.

Sitting down and just writing even when you’re not in the mood can be so much more effective than simply waiting for something to come along that inspires that act. And this goes for more than just writing. It can apply to pursuing any career, hobby, or passion. Just work really hard or go out and seek the inspiration you need. Don’t wait.

 

 

Start Somewhere

There seems to be a misconception that you have to be proficient in everything you do. Sure, it would make things much easier. But to set the bar so high for yourself for everything you do and will ever do is to inhibit the opportunity to learn as you set yourself up for discouragement.

Want to become a great writer? Consume content and write every day. Want to become proficient in playing guitar? Commit yourself to practicing. Want to become better at your job? Read the manual, talk to your boss about areas of improvement and apply the criticism.

When you decide to do something, commit to it. Even if it’s difficult at first. It can only get easier and easier from there.

 

Break The Mold: A Free-Form Poem

School was a chore

With a flaw at its core.

Instead of skills

I attained scores.

 

Perhaps better would be college

but that was anchorage

into the harbor of debt

and high unemployment percentages.

 

It was fool’s gold.

And I refuse to grow old

being the opposite of bold.

Instead, I’ll cajole

my destiny

to break the mold.

 

 

 

Patience is Powerful

We’ve all been there. It’s been a long day at work, your bed seems to be calling out to you but you’re still on the clock. Customers have been requiring your unwavering attention all day, and it’s becoming harder and harder to convey that happy, inviting tone as the tight feeling of irritation settles into your chest- every request sending you closer and closer to the edge.

That feeling is much easier to give in to than fight- in fact, that’s what many people do, generally with regret following closely behind. It’s truly unfortunate because many of us on the front lines don’t always realize in a moment of frustration just how much power we have to instantly shape a customer’s impression of an entire business.

You act as a reflection of your employer and place of employment. And patience is something that great employers seek out in potential candidates. You will see this in interview questions such as “How do you handle stress in the workplace?” The last thing that they or you would want is for a customer to come away from an interaction with you wondering why in the world it was that you were hired. Maybe even feeling compelled to address your employer about the interaction. How unattractive is a candidate who takes out their anger on coworkers or customers?

In times where your patience is being tested, feelings often trump logic. Instead of “This could be the moment I make a lasting impression on a customer” our thoughts will naturally gravitate towards “I’m exhausted, I don’t feel like doing this anymore.” Even if we don’t show the way we are feeling with our words, we definitely convey it with our faces and tone.

As said by Peter Frost, “Emotions tend to be contagious. Toxic ones leak out into the workplace affecting more than just one person afflicted. It can poison a team, workplace, or organization.” More than that, it can spread to customers as well. Contagious emotions don’t have to be a bad thing, however.

This idea is supported in an article by Psychology Today, “Researchers have found that when subjects “catch” positive emotions from others, they’re more likely to be viewed by others and view themselves as more cooperative and competent. They also perceive themselves as more collegial…Simply put, when you spend time with happy people, you tend to feel happier, have more energy, and feel less stressed.” Just think of all of the benefits of exemplifying positivity!

Controlling emotions under stress calls for a strong sense of discipline. Building this discipline requires work and practice, just as with learning anything. It begins with refusing to let your emotions control you and actively being conscious of the way you are feeling. Saying to yourself “I am in control of my emotions, my emotions are not in control of me” can have great benefits. Physically say it out loud if you have to.

Having a sense of empathy can also assist with this. Recognizing that customers are not being difficult simply to bother you or keeping in mind that perhaps they’re having a poor day too, even if they are not, giving them the benefit of the doubt in any situation will always improve your customer relations.

No matter what the situation, patience will always get you that much further ahead.

 

Sources Sited: Psychology Today: Feelings Are Contagious- Choose Your Company Wisely

 

Times Change, And So Must We

My cousin wrote a beautiful article about our hometown. It was one of those pieces of writing that just made me want to drop everything and write. She and I were lucky enough to have grown up side by side, so much of what she wrote, I felt a strong connection to. Check it out here.

One line, in particular, came to mind the other day, “I like walking into the local cafe, Mugshots, to find everyone I’ve ever met inside.” And that couldn’t have been more accurate.

It had been an egregious day at work, but I was in high spirits. Before making my treck home, and because the coffee shop is so close by, my addiction convinced me to stop for my usual- a gingersnap latte. I made my way to the counter and as I ordered, a feeling I can’t describe swept over me when I looked to the corner of the room and saw a previous friend of four years across the room. We haven’t truly talked in over a year.

She and I weren’t alone in our friendship. There were others in our circle. I loved them all dearly. But things just weren’t the same after I returned home from Florida.

I contemplated talking to her, asking how she had been even though I already had a pretty good idea based on her Facebook posts. But as I stood there making small talk with the barista, she called out my friend’s name for her drink and I found my feet carrying me in the opposite direction that she would be approaching. Why did I do that?

I focused my attention on the merchandise for sale across the room while she grabbed her freshly brewed beverage. As I stood there, I saw from the corner of my eye another customer come in. I didn’t think much of it. Then I heard a familiar voice. It was another one of our friends.

Again, I found myself avoiding a previous friend’s gaze as I stared into my phone screen. I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable by acknowledging I saw her, lest I make her feel an obligation to talk to me rather than a desire. (I also realize that perhaps by doing so I portrayed myself as uninviting.) She and I also hadn’t talked in a year.

But once again my feet had a mind of their own, planting themselves firmly on the ground despite my desire to talk to her- see how her cat is and how things are with her boyfriend. She didn’t approach me and she didn’t approach our other friend either. They were once closer to each other than I ever was with either of them- even planning to be each other’s maid of honor someday. She simply grabbed her called-in to-go order and left. Gone.

I did the same when my order was ready. We all, once again, went our separate ways. Just like after graduation. The only thing I can gather from this is that times and people change. We had all planned to stay in contact, constantly visit one another throughout the rest of our lives no matter where we ended up. But they’re not who they once were, and I’m certainly not who I once was. And the promises we made are null and void. As much as we may want to hold on to the past, sometimes it slips through our fingers like sand in an hourglass.

Failure Occurs When Focus Faulters

One of the most important rules in running a race is to never look back. But what I think is equally important is to never look around. Narrow your gaze to the finish line and don’t let your attention waver. With practice, this becomes muscle memory and every motion you make that moves you closer to the end grows more fluid.

That focus falters when you glance at the crowd that is awaiting your wrong move or when you acknowledge the creeping feeling that your opponent is gaining. And the effect of this faux pas is your opponent gaining on you even more, or you trip and fall. The focus was lost and, therefore, everything with it.

The same can be said of any of your goals. That promotion you want, the weight you want to lose, the singing competition you want to win, achieving a deeper sense of spirituality, what say you. If you focus too much on what others are doing, rather than pouring your attention into that which you want, you deprive yourself of the brainpower that could give you the competitive edge to succeed above all odds.

Don’t dismay because those around you are achieving greatness and you have not. That’s what holds you back. Go out and find your own greatness, narrow your attention in on it, and take it like it’s yours. Because it is.

 

When it comes to operations and looks, it’s not either/or

I went to a conference a while back for all of the libraries in the surrounding area. We have a unique organization where all of the libraries here strive to work together to provide the best service to patrons in our county. It’s called the ACLA (Allegan County Library Association).

The conference focused on team building, handling stress, and other operational classes. One of the sessions that I attended was a discussion titled “The Front Lines”. I signed up for this one because that’s essentially what my position is.

The discussion was led by an employee of another library. And portions of it were a tad awkward. She frequently had opinions that seemed to be fairly unpopular amongst the group. One of her points that she brought up was that the previous director of a library that she had worked under focused too much on visual details. “He was so picky about the way things looked, he would spend so much time just making things look to his standard of good.”

Everyone remained fairly silent as she made this remark. Then she goes on to say that his efforts were irritating to her as he should focus far more on operations. She said, “Shouldn’t we care more about providing great service rather than how things look?”

To that, my mind instantly thought: Well which would you rather patrons say, “the place looks hideous but at least it has good service”, or “the service is terrible but the place looks good.” You don’t want either. It’s about finding a balance in which both are achieved. The looks are what gets people in the door. It’s the efficient and helpful operations that keep them coming back.

Take a car for example. So much goes into its design from functionality to visuals. They put just as much emphasis on making a car beautiful as they do making its functioning effective. If it looks ugly, no one will be interested in even looking at it. But if it runs like crap, no one will want to buy from that car company again, at least that model. Then it becomes an entirely wasted investment for the company. Millions- squandered.

Create a brand and stick to it, making things look good and the way you handle service are both parts of that brand. Keep the building clean and handle customer concerns effectively. Make the website look professional and make the customers feel important. People like aesthetic as well as effectiveness, why should it be either/or?

 

My Favorite Advertizing Betrayal

In competitive markets, the competition gets tough. Sometimes, personal. You’ll see this in car commercials where they paint the competition in a negative light in a not-so-subtle way. I love watching the cutthroat back-and-forth between certain brands. It makes commercial breaks more entertaining.

My favorite of these? The Verizon guy. I grew up with the commercials of the Verizon guy in the most bizarre places, speaking into the receiver of the telephone: “Can you hear me now?” nearly every commercial break. Truly iconic. I thought he had all but disappeared.

But then, just recently, the tides turned. The Verizon guy appeared on my TV, but he wasn’t wearing red, he was wearing yellow. He had switched to Sprint. I couldn’t help but wonder what the Verizon marketing team’s reaction was to this. I like to imagine tears. It makes it a little funnier.

What’s so great about this betrayal is that it says to the customer, “Why are you paying high prices for a 1% difference in service? Verizon wasn’t even worth the price to their own spokesman.”

Verizon09ae5c6d8c33137ec223a6cc5ca24929