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My holiday dessert? Humble pie

My holiday dessert? Humble pie

avoid being dogmatic


A colleague and I were at a publishing conference. We were attending a session on how to be a more effective writer.

“Schedule time every week for serendipity,” advised one of the session panelists. “If you schedule time for serendipity, you’ll make it happen. If you don’t, it won’t; and your skills won’t improve.”

“Did she say to schedule serendipity?” I whispered to my colleague.

“Sure did.”

How ridiculous, I thought even though I’ve been the beneficiary of accidently tripping into discoveries. Despite my past good fortune, the speaker’s counsel troubled me. From my perspective, there was absolutely no way to schedule a fortunate accidental discovery—serendipity just happened. Right?

Curious about maybe having missed a nuance in the definition of serendipity, I did some research. I hadn’t missed anything.

Author Horace Walpole invented the word serendipity in 1754. A Persian fairy tale, The Princes of Serendip, had been his inspiration. In the fairy tale, three princes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.”

That confirmed my belief the speaker had it all wrong. Sadly, I mocked her advice on several occasions.

Shame on me.

And for that, I got my comeuppance.

I was doing online research about dogmatism for my book. I’d just read the definition of dogmatism, a viewpoint or system of ideas based on insufficiently examined premises, when the aha zap happened.

My reaction to the speaker’s words about scheduling serendipity leapt into mind.

Ewww. It hurt to see it and to say it, but I’d been dogmatic. I’d been that person; the narrow-minded one I criticize when I see people acting the same way I had.

I’d blindly accepted as fact that my belief that it was impossible to schedule serendipity without examining her meaning. I had heard her words, interpreted them with my dogmatic filters, and outright rejected her position.

Shame on me again. Her advice wasn’t wrong, it was flat out brilliant.

In a time-starved world where there’s a plan and time slot for everything, it’s pure genius to leave time open for spontaneity. Time to think, daydream, be. Time for accidental discoveries to happen.

Of course, you can’t will the eureka moment to happen in those moments.  However, making time to reflect increases the odds of creativity, inspiration, and innovation happening.

That’s what the speaker had meant. She was telling us to avoid the tunnel vision that comes from having an over-packed schedule and too much to do. She was telling us to make room for unpredictability and possibility.

*big sigh* How could I have been so dogmatic, so obtuse, so blind?

Psychologist Daniel Kahneman has an answer for us.

He says it’s incredibly difficult for us to see our own biases. We can easily point to them in other people, but not so much for ourselves.

Fortunately for me, a research aha moment rescued me from my blindness.

I both love and abhor my personal teachable moments. Love them because new paths are revealed, abhor them because I need them in the first place.

Perhaps I’d better start scheduling time for teachable moments in my calendar.


Image credit before quote added: Pixabay




Finding the perfect attitude is easier than finding the perfect job

Finding the perfect attitude is easier than finding the perfect job

leadership passion attitude


What’s your passion? Family? Gardening? Rock climbing?

Now think about where your work-for-money job falls in your list of passions. For many, a job is just a means to an end. Something that provides money for an education, an SUV, a house, and more.

However, finding passion in your job—whether it’s a clerical or professional position—is the key to your career success.

Passion will move men beyond themselves, beyond their shortcomings, beyond their failures. ~Joseph Campbell, writer and lecturer

Everyone can have a great career, especially those who are focused, have a can-do orientation, and are willing to overcome workplace obstacles.

When people are enthusiastic about what they do, the stress, challenges, and bumps in the road are easier to overcome. Passion serves as a driver, the thing that sustains them when things get tough.

I know the value of enthusiasm and dedication. Both served me well in rising from a receptionist position to becoming the co-owner of a staffing agency. Finding my passion and tapping into my strengths ultimately paid off.

They can do the same for you.

I committed to be the best receptionist I could be. By committing to being the best and channeling the positive, I created my own destiny. So, can you.

If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose. ~T.D. Jakes

5 ways to find passion in your job


I have five suggestions to help you find the passion in your job and start you on the path of your employment destiny.

1. See everything as a learning experience.

    • Be observant, ask questions, listen to the answers, take notes, and read a lot. Become a sponge. Absorb as much information as you can.
    • Don’t be afraid to let hard work trump a traditional education. That doesn’t mean you should forego college, but you shouldn’t limit your career options just because of schooling. If you want something, fight for it.

2. Know your strengths.

    • Figure out what you’re good at. Are you creative, competitive, outgoing, or all of the above? Figure out how your strengths translate to doing your job.
    • Be prepared for your strengths to change over the course of your work career. You may also find strengths you didn’t know you had.

There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. ~Nelson Mandela

3. Stay focused.

    • Being disciplined and making sacrifices to achieve your goals is important.
    • Learning to say “no” is a one-word secret for staying on track.

4. Surround yourself with great people.

    • Find a mentor who readily offers help, guidance and support. If you want greatness in your life, then you have to surround yourself with great people.

5. Let your engagement at work and happiness show.

    • Find little things about your job that you really enjoy, and do them very, very well.
    • Make sure you bring all of your skills to your work. You’ll find you enjoy work because you’re good at it.

Never work just for money or for power. They won’t save your soul or help you sleep at night. ~Marian Wright Edelman, activist for children’s rights

People often become frustrated with their job. Instead of focusing on trying to make the situation better, they look for another job because they think a new job will be the answer to their problems or frustrations.

That’s not always the case. Control what’s within your ability to control.

I think it’s easier to find the perfect attitude than it is to find the perfect job.

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style. ~Maya Angelou


Today’s guest author is Nicole Smartt, author and co-owner/ vice president of Star Staffing in Petaluma, CA.



Image credit before quote added: Pixabay





5 tips for giving truly helpful feedback

5 tips for giving truly helpful feedback

helpful feedback

Have you ever given someone what you thought was helpful feedback only to be surprised by a less-than-positive reaction?

We’ve all been taught that feedback—both the giving and the receiving—is the breakfast of champions. Right? So, when we share that breakfast with someone and the sharing falls flat, it’s not uncommon to blame the recipient for being unwilling to hear the truth.

That very well may be true. Experts tell us that “people avoid feedback because they hate being criticized.” Psychologists say that negative news triggers the inbred flight or fight reaction.

However, how many of us have honestly examined our motives and methods to discover if we contributed to the poor reception that our feedback received?

Robert Sutton, an organizational psychologist at Stanford University, observes that “we’re remarkably incompetent at understanding how we affect other people.” To assess if our methods and motives played a role in blunting the effectiveness of our feedback, here’s five questions we can ask ourselves.

Ask 5 questions for delivering helpful feedback


1) Did I make the feedback all about me?

Icky feedback: Your incessant whining about how bad things are around here annoys me.

Not icky feedback: I share your concerns about the quality of our workplace. I hope you’re aware of how people here look to you as an informal leader. If you could use that ability and work with people to make change, I’m betting you could make a positive difference around here.

Feedback really isn’t feedback if the message is all about us. Feedback is meant to help or praise the other person, so keeping the focus on them is an important element to keep in mind.

2) Did I do my homework before offering feedback?

I was in a personal development mastermind group. One of the ground rules was to write out our issue, identify the assistance we wanted, and share this information ahead of time. When my time to receive feedback rolled around, one participant said she hadn’t read my materials but still had some thoughts she wanted to share with me. Her input wasn’t helpful because it wasn’t applicable to my situation.

Feedback is a gift. We have to take the time to make ours the best possible gift by being grounded in the facts before we offer advice.

3) Did I expect the recipient to be grateful because I shared my expertise with them?

My off-point feedback provider was a tad miffed by my “thank you for sharing, but your input isn’t going to work for me” response. She doubled down and pointed out all the success she had had in doing what she was telling me to do.

We can’t expect our feedback to be well-received if we haven’t taken the time to gain familiarity with what the other person is experiencing.

Additionally, if our feedback is negative and/or unsolicited, it requires someone with high self-awareness and a degree of humility to respond with grace and openness. We have to remember that not everyone is at that level of personal development and must be willing to meet them where they are.

4) Did I provide enough information in my feedback?

Icky feedback: You were really rude to Jonelle in that meeting.

Not icky feedback: In yesterday’s staff meeting, I saw you roll your eyes several times when Jonelle was speaking. You also interrupted her three times. Because she’s the only woman on our team, wrong messages are being sent about her value to the team.

To minimize defensiveness and define specific performance to change, make your feedback meaningful and concrete. How can you do that? By using facts and observable actions to explain the situation, the behaviors involved, and their impacts.

5) In sharing my feedback, might I have come across as dogmatic or self-righteous?

We live in polarizing times in which social norms about declaring the rightness of our position and the wrongness of another’s are wobbling. Feedback delivered without respect and civility does more harm than good.

Icky feedback: Stop talking so much about change. Tradition is a big deal around here, and you have to get onboard with that.

Not icky feedback: As I listened to what you just said about your proposed project being turned down, I sensed your frustration with how slow things are to change. Stability and consistency are important to the owners. They want to preserve their father’s legacy. That being said, change is necessary. If you could just show them how a little innovation can make that legacy better, I bet they’ll be more open to listen to your ideas.

True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes. ~Daniel Kahneman, psychologist and winner, Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

If we’re genuinely interested in helping the recipient of our feedback, we’re thoughtful about what we say and how we say it. and take ourselves, our motivations, and our wants out of the way.


Image credit before quote added: Pixabay




Short on passion and purpose? Reinvent yourself!

Short on passion and purpose? Reinvent yourself!


Many Americans in the latter stage of a career, or even already in retirement, have discovered that it’s never too late to reinvent themselves and find new passion and purpose.

Folk artist Grandma Moses was in her late 70s before she began her painting career. Colonel Harland Sanders was in his 60s when he launched Kentucky Fried Chicken. Arnold Schwarzenegger reinvented himself a couple of times, going from professional body builder to actor to governor of California.

Sometimes referred to as “encore careers,” these second acts can reinvigorate you and give you a reason to greet each day with anticipation.

I wrote my first novel after working for more than four decades as an attorney. I was able to incorporate elements from my original career in law into my encore career as a writer.

In doing so, I didn’t completely shed my past self to take on this new identity. I’m still working as a lawyer, and I work nights on my writing.

So the bottom line is that I’ve pretty much added a second career into my life.

Feeling the urge to reinvent yourself? If so, I have three tips for you.


3 tips for reinventing yourself to find passion and purpose


  • Realize that purpose is important.

After years in the same profession, it’s easy to become burned out and to operate on auto pilot as you perform the tasks of your job. Essentially, people can lose their sense of purpose. When they reinvent themselves, that purpose can be reignited. You’re much more likely to be successful when you’re driven by a sense of purpose.

  • Find what excites you.

I always wanted to write, so it wasn’t surprising that pounding out a novel could become a passion for me. If you’re reinventing yourself, your reinvention might center on something you’re passionate about. That could mean returning to college to earn a degree, learning a musical instrument, or embarking on the career you dreamed of as a child but put aside for more practical pursuits.

  • Don’t convince yourself that it’s too late.

It’s never too late. Many years ago, the newspaper advice columnist Abigail Van Buren who wrote Dear Abby, received a letter from a 36-year-old college dropout who wanted to return to school to become a doctor. This would-be physician worried that it would take at least seven years to finish all the schooling.

“In seven years I’ll be 43,” the letter writer lamented.

Abby responded with a question. “How old will you be in seven years if you don’t go back to college?”

I didn’t write that letter, but I did spend seven years working on my book, writing between 11 PM and 1:30 AM each night. Burning the midnight oil paid off, so it definitely wasn’t too late to get started. It’s important to put your mind to its full use.

With law, I was only using part of my brain. I wanted to do what I was capable of doing, so I began writing my novel.

You can do the same.


Today’s guest contributor, Oliver Harris, is an author who spent 45 years working as a trial lawyer, prosecutor, and criminal defense attorney in both Chicago and Palm Beach County, Florida. Oliver’s undergraduate degree is from the University of Chicago, and his law degree is from the Indiana University School of Law.


Image source before quote added: Pixabay



Want to know how the word “should” and flypaper are related?

Want to know how the word “should” and flypaper are related?

should is mental flypaper

“Dave should have picked me to be on that special project team. He’s my boss. He should have known I wanted to participate.”

Should. Such a limiting word. It gifts us with frustration and anger.

“I should have been asked to lead the discussion group. They should have known that I’m good at that kind of work.”

Should…leads us down paths of disappointment and resentment.

“Kathy should have been smarter than to disagree with the boss. She should have known it wasn’t her place.”

Shouldkeeps the door to bias and stereotype wide open.

With its sweet smell and stickiness, flypaper attracts and then traps flying insects that land on it. Should is a piece of mental flypaper. Once we unfurl it, our thoughts get gummed up, and we get stuck in a place that’s usually not good for ourselves or others.

Sticky, limiting mental flypaper

When we think or say should, we’ve fallen into prescriptive thinking. That’s us defining the world and people by what we expect them to be and do. We ascribe our perspective onto others and judge them by our standards.

That method of flypaper thinking can get us into big trouble. How? We’re deciding after considering only one point of view—our own.

Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own. ~Paulo Coelho

Our thoughts, preferences, and perspectives make us unique. They’re our contribution to the endless smorgasbord of differences that make life fun and fascinating. That’s the plus side.

On the flip side, our preferences and tendencies can make our world small if we expect others to share them or to intuitively know them, like the words that Dave/they/Kathy should have known. Mental flypaper that gets us stuck.

5 bad things the word “should” helps us do


Whenever we think or say should, internal alarms need to ring because:

  • We’re making judgments when we may have only a partial set of facts. The boss should have known I wanted that assignment. Unless we’ve specifically declared our interest, there’s a strong likelihood the boss doesn’t know.
  • There’s the possibility we’re being close-minded, maybe even believing our own myth. They should have known I’m good at that kind of work. The spotlight effect bias is a tendency for people to overestimate the amount of attention people give to them. People may not know. Unless we’ve told him, we can’t assume they do.
  • We might be displaying incivility toward people whom we’re expecting to behave in a certain way because of what we think the should know or do, and they aren’t.
  • We may be marginalizing others because of unconscious bias or stereotype, which apply generalizations to individuals. She should have known her place.
  • We might be frustrating ourselves immensely because no one is living up to the expectations we have about them that we never told them about!

Plus, there’s a good chance we’re displaying hubris, spreading negativity, hurting others, perpetuating unspoken expectations, sprinkling incivility, and unnecessarily working ourselves up.

Psychologist Robert Hogan notes that people have three needs: to get along, get ahead, and find meaning. When we ascribe our should be perspective onto others, it’s likely these three needs go unmet for ourselves as well as others. By building the should box, we eliminate the possibility of connecting, learning, or growing.

It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see. ~Henry David Thoreau

When we catch ourselves using should, let’s think of this insight from professor Peter Elbow,

“Our best hope for finding invisible flaws in what we can’t see in our own thinking is to enter into different ideas or points of view—ideas that carry different assumptions. Only after we’ve managed to inhabit a different way of thinking will our currently invisible assumptions become visible to us.”

That’s some powerful advice.

Ready to step out of the should box?



Don’t take things personally

Don’t take things personally

taking it personally

It was five minutes after the time we were supposed to meet, and I was worried because I was still sitting alone in the coffee shop. Had I gotten the date, time, or place wrong for our meetup? A frantic scroll through sent messages confirmed I was in the right place, right day, and right time.

Ten minutes ticked by. Still sitting alone. Wishing I wasn’t such a “good girl” about always being on time,

Might she have been in an accident? Taken ill? Dealing with a work emergency? Concerned, I called her.

She apologized, saying she’d forgotten about our get-together. Said she’d gotten busy on another project and that our appointment had totally slipped her mind. She didn’t offer to reschedule. The call ended pleasantly.

She’d forgotten about our meeting. That stung. It had been her idea to meet—she said she wanted to get to know me.

Feeling a little hurt, I finished my latte and watched others as they huddled over their coffees at the small tables, engaged in conversation with people who remembered and showed up, whispered the little voice in my head. My personal pity party was under way.

My little voice pointed out that I obviously didn’t matter enough to be remembered. *ugh* A low, slow simmer of anger bubbled up and mixed with my hurt. Together, those feelings lingered throughout the rest of the day.

Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner. ~Lao Tzu

Come the next morning, I wasn’t hurt or angry anymore.

Instead, I was fixated on wondering what her forgetting said about me. Did she forget because she discovered I wasn’t important? Did she forget because she’d regretted her spontaneity in suggesting that we get together? Did she not mention rescheduling because she’d decided I wasn’t interesting enough to meet with? Where had I fallen short?

These ridiculous, self-defeating thoughts continued to lurk in my head over the next several days.

Just give it a rest, will you? Implored my little voice (funny how it changes sides, isn’t it?). You’re giving this non-issue too much air time. She was busy. This isn’t about you. My little voice bounces between critic and coach. Fortunately, the coach was back.

The coach voice was right. The woman said had she’d gotten busy and forgot. Accept it, believe it, and move on, urged the coach. Quit making something personal that isn’t personal at all.

I was giving entirely too much power to a stranger. I had no control over the woman forgetting. I did, however, have complete control over how I responded to her forgetting.

I called her and suggested we reschedule. She readily agreed.

When we met, she thanked me for reaching out. She said she couldn’t bring herself to call me because she was embarrassed and ashamed for having behaved badly. She said she thought she was a better person than that but, obviously, she wasn’t.

Isn’t it fascinating how both of us had turned the focus back onto our self-perceived failings and short-comings and made something personal that wasn’t?

Always on the lookout for teachable moments, I found seven of them in this situation:

  • Don’t jump to conclusions. Get the facts, test assumptions, and clarify, clarify, clarify before deciding you have the answer, know the reason, etc.
  • Not everything is about you, so don’t unnecessarily give your power away.
  • Consider the situation from the perspective of the other person, seek first to understand.
  • Don’t conflate the behavior with the person. There are times when all good people behave badly.
  • Self-worth comes from the inside out, not the outside in. Don’t be so quick to sell yourself short.
  • Talk it out.
  • Forgive, let go, move on.

We’re all human. That means we construct our view of reality through our personal filters, experiences, values, and beliefs. That, in turn, means we need to be eternally vigilant to not make everything about us. Because most of the time, it isn’t.

When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” -Miguel Ruiz

When we get out of our own way, that’s when success, true connection, and growth happens. Thank you, little coach voice.

Image credit before quote added: Pixabay