October 4, 2011
It’s been awhile since I have had time to blog. First it was a new job and finding my way around, then the broken toe and the recovery process, and then just the usual drama when associated with raising teens…
I’m taking a break week between jobs. It wasn’t that I wasn’t satisfied in my last job; it was truly that a better opportunity found me. Because I believe that I will cultivate more positivity with the newer opportunity, I made the change. And I got a week to relax, rejuvenate, and blog…
Over the prior two weeks, I wanted to be sure that I had left my old gig well, completing technical reports, effectively transferring knowledge and information, and reinforcing the positives with my many wonderful colleagues. Although it probably looked “effortless” to those around me, it took time, effort and was quite stressful.
Being the data junkie that I am, I was delighted to see that the effects are measurable. When I reviewed my heart-rate (HR) results from my regular Sunday runs (which are essentially the same week-to-week, 6.8 miles in about 1 hour exactly), clear differences emerge when reviewing time spent in each HR zone over the duration of the run:
Three weeks before my last day –> Normal:
The week before my last day –> Redlined:
The week after my last day – Relaxed:
The more detailed data shows that normally, I am running about a 9:00/mile pace, and get near 7:00/mile pace at the end of the run when I sprint the last few hundred yards. Even though my heart was working harder when stressed, I was actually going SLOWER. When relaxed, my heart was working less and I was going FASTER (just a little).
It proves the point that too much stress is a very bad thing AND it shows that my normal isn’t actually that far from my relaxed. Isn’t that cool?
I am looking forward to my new job, but I hope I can find a little more time to blog.
January 24, 2011
I feel that I must add to the Tiger Mom discussion…
When I read the WSJ article Why Chinese Mothers are Superior by Amy Chua, I had an immediate negative visceral response. I was simply aghast after the snippet on the actions that Chua took to get her 7-year-old prepared for a piano recital.
Although I didn’t read Chua’s book, I collected more information by soliciting two of my very successful Chinese-American friends and by reading other related blogs/opinions/comments. I learned that there is a range of behaviors within the extreme parenting advocated (described? lamented?) by Chua. Both of my Chinese-American friends agreed with some of Chua’s observations but not all. There is also a range of reactions to the behaviors. Many kids became successful (as shown by the statistics) and some became scarred for life (see opinion by Lac Su who also wrote a book on Tiger Mothers).
What I have realized is that parenting methods derive from parenting priorities, whether stated explicitly or not. What you choose as your priorities determine your methods and your metrics. There can be endless argument in favor of differing priorities, but as a parent, you get to choose the investment priorities in the extremely complex and multi-fauceted task of raising a child.
If you narrowly focus on a few factors (academics and music) you can achieve success in those domains, but potentially at the expense of other factors. David Brooks make an excellent case for the value of social factors in his NYT piece, Amy Chua is a Wimp.
Amy Chua deliberately chose academics and music as her priorities for teaching her children. Her metrics were GPA, class rank, and recital success (piano or violin only). By her own admission, her methods were often shame, humiliation and coercion. To her credit, her daughters succeeded in both of these domains.
With two teenagers of my own, I have deliberatley chosen:
- Impart the ability to make good decisions, and
- Create a caring and generous soul.
The metrics for my priorities are much more difficult to quantify and my primary method is to capitalize on teachable moments. The jury is still out with regard to success because my children have not reached matriculation.
I have given and continue to give both my son and daughter opportunities in diverse environments (social, music, academic, domestic, athletic, etc.) trying to amplify what interests them while providing them safety in the background. Although I do require a minimum of proficiency across all domains, in their early years especially, I supported just trying stuff with a minimum level of commitment. My kids tried languages (Japanese!), music (flute and piano), and many sports. Even though my husband would have liked our son to play baseball, our son found his soul in soccer. I dreamed that my daughter might be a swimmer, but her passion is cheerleading. By allowing them to choose, we have nurtured self-directed drive for accomplishment. I never tell my son to practice his soccer footwork, but I do have to tell him occasionally that it’s driving me crazy and that he needs to give it a rest.
Like Brooks, I tend to think that the trickiest stuff to learn is the social factors – there is no road map or easy measurements. Yet the next generation will have to navigate a more complex world than we live in today, thus it is super important to ensure that my kids be fully competent in this capacity. Disallowing media, sleepovers, and friends avoids the issue and does not allow for development, so it is imperative (to my husband and I) to thoughtfully allow all of these complex interactions to ensure that they achieve excellence in social collaboration without becoming lost.
To that end, my husband and I hold fast to the, “trust but verify” method of teaching. We give our kids sufficient rope to try stuff (what friends they will choose, what media they will consume, and how they spend their leisure time), but we pay very close attention to what they say they are doing and the congruence to the signals that they send. We don’t allow them to go just anywhere, we require knowing: the who, the what, the where, and the when, of their choices and then we observe. For example, does their style of dress match the social situation they told us that they were attending? If stuff does not match, we hold them accountable taking each breach as a teaching opportunity.
My kids hate reading books or writing essays on the subject of scrutiny, but we have found that such methods instill the required reflection for incremental maturation. One time after a particularly egregious transgression of trust, I required my daughter to read with me, girls gone MILD by Wendy Shalit and then write an essay on selected themes from the book. Her essay was excellent and I know that it made a difference from the perceptible changes than manifested.
To Chua my priorities and methods might look like over-indulgence in media, friends, and leisure, but the reality is instilling my priorities in my kids is just as excrutiating as instilling her priorities in her kids, mine are not as visible.
Thus, after much reflection, I do respect Chua’s priorities; I only question some of her specific methods (she also questions them in her memoir, but not necessarily for the same reasons). Specifically, I object to the strategy of extreme shame, humiliaiton, and coercion because it does not scale effectively. When I consider the parenting arms-race, if everyone were to adopt this superior method, it would stop being superior simply because not everyone can be 1st in their class — the necessary escalation goes up considerably with increasing competition. Can you imagine the consequences if every child had to withstand escalating levels of shame, humiliation, and coercion to be 1st in their class when by definition only ONE person could achieve that pinnacle? At some point it crosses the line from instilling discipline to abuse. It’s a slippery slope…
Everyone agrees that parenting is hard. Depending on the age of the children, it can be physically hard, emotionally hard, or psychologically hard, and there are no days off. My long view advice on parenting:
- Know your priorities, act with intention
- Be deliberate in your method, understand how your tactics scale
- Love and nurture because children are our most precious gift.
In the end, only the children can truly decide if the job we did was proper. I guess I’ll find out in a few years…
Can you articulate your priorities?
October 12, 2010
There are so many titles that I could give this blog post: discomfort, latency, periphery…but going beyond seemed appropriate for the lesson I just had reinforced by life.
I judged the debris to be limited and I decided to simply to jump (hurdle?) over it and then continue my run. Unfortunately, I misjudged it. My right ankle caught an entangled vine and whipped another vine into the back of my left leg leaving an 8” scratch in the back of my left thigh.
It all happened fast and seemed inconsequential. However, because of endemic Poison Oak, I used a urushiol removal product, Tecnu, along the 8” scratch – just in case. What I didn’t think about is that contaminated region might extend beyond the obvious 8” scratch.
Twelve days later, I learned the hard way that I had indeed been exposed to Poison Oak on my right ankle and on several other areas on both of my legs – except where I had treated the scratch (which was duly healed and gone).
So, my long view advice:
- Consider a bigger region than just the obvious – periphery damage may not be visible.
- Consider the potential for latency – sometimes a problem is not immediately obvious.
In hindsight, I probably could not have avoided the misjudgment that caused the exposure, but I could have used the Tecnu a bit more extensively and liberally (go beyond), but I just didn’t consider it. So, now I’m miserable with itching and angry red welts on my legs and ankle. 😦
Have you considered latency, periphery, and going beyond?
June 21, 2010
I have had a terrific opportunity to spend some time traveling in Europe on vacation. There have been many opportunities to learn a bit about perspective, but a really great lesson has been taught to me via automobile parking in France.
As Americans accustomed used to large roads, large cars, and plentiful parking (most of the time), the roads, cars, and parking spaces in urban France were downright micro. After a few days in France, we became more and more acclimated to the very challenging parking of the densely populated urban areas (often requires curb jumping for success).
When we arrived in Saint Tropez, there was a mix of the micro and large cars and thus the parking situation was mixed. As my husband backed our rented European car into a marked parking space at our hotel, I was giving him guidance. He asked me, “How many spaces were in the empty back area of the lot?”
My first answer was 2 (from my American perspective based upon the striping of the spaces). My second answer was 3 (when I realized that the spaces were large relative to the size of our small European rental car and there was plenty of room for another one next to ours based upon my recent acclimation to Paris parking). My third answer was 4 (when I realized the same was the situation on the opposite side of the back lot based on the more recent acclimation to Marseilles parking which is even tighter than Paris!).
My answer sounded something like 2…, 3…., 4, because my perspective was shifting.
Afterward, my husband gave me a hard time about being unhelpful and indecisive, but it made me realize that he had assumed a single answer to a multiple answer question if you consider multiple perspectives…
In the morning, there were three cars parked in the back lot, so the answer was 3! Perspective was indeed important.
My long view advice:
- When asking for guidance, recognize that advice might not assume a specific perspective.
- Be patient with difference in perspective until a specific perspective is defined.
Are you considering the affect of perspective?
May 17, 2010
It’s been super busy for me and I’ve neglected my blog….
It’s the usual cause for inattention, too much to do, unexpected loss of time (a mild bout with food poisoning!), amongst other causes. However, on Friday, my schedule was flipped upside down to accommodate another’s schedule, giving me an opportunity to regain a little perspective.
I usually swim in the early morning or late afternoon (a few days a week), but am rarely at the pool in the early afternoon. What I learned on Friday afternoon is that the some of the early afternoon swimmers differ from they typical crowd. In the locker room, I noticed one woman in my peripheral vision mostly because of the sound of her walk – I thought that she was wearing flippers in the locker room! When I turned to verify, I found that she did not have flippers, but had a challenging gait that caused the odd sound when she walked. Nevertheless, she managed very well. Not two minutes later, another woman walked past, muttering “Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, not Palin, Sarah, Sarah, Sarah.” When I turned to see her, her one-piece swimsuit was inside out and she clearly had challenges of her own.
I was most impressed that both of these women were at the pool getting some exercise given their personal challenges. Their courage made the inconveniences and slights in my own life seem so very small and insignificant. How lucky I am to have full faculties and physical abilities! My long view learning:
- Be grateful for healthy vigor and intellectual breadth.
- Maintain perspective because others’ challenges are often far more significant.
Friday’s mixed up schedule actually allowed me to regain some balance.
Are you maintaining perspective?
March 25, 2010
After acquiring a handful of consulting clients over the past many months, I have finally embarked on building a real business. I am in the process of creating a manifesto of services and infrastructure to support it.
I recently hired Greg (Cloud Marketing Labs) to build me a website and “market Linda.” He pushed me to define what I represent, how I work, what clients should expect, and more. One of the things Greg recommended was to solicit feedback from my current clients, find out what they liked and what they might value in a future offering. Thinking that I had really over-delivered with clients thus far, I compiled a list of questions and asked for feedback.
It all seemed easy until I received the following feedback relative to Rapport (Beside Manner):
Question: Do you find our interaction to be positive? Did you feel like you better off because you called me?
Answer: I feel that I was better off because of you, but not sure if all shared that sentiment. You have a very strong personality, which is not completely embraced by all.
That was unexpected and I needed to understand how to improve. I immediately committed to understand “strong personality” – it could mean so many things…
I had a follow-up meeting with my client yesterday. (I am grateful that he agreed to discuss this further.) I learned that the negative reaction was associated with a strong recommendation that I had made about how to run a specific experiment and what data should be gathered. In retrospect, I had not taken adequate time to parse, describe the why, and encourage understanding about the data needs. As such, my strong recommendation felt disrespectful and intransigent to some team members. Although there is always tension between Go Fast and Move Slow, ultimately, my desire to execute the experiment quickly got in my way. I must remind myself constantly that a hike is not over until everyone reaches the campsite. It is not possible to go faster (without casualty) than the slowest team member.
My long view advice:
- Slow down – take time to teach and encourage understanding with the entire team. It is not good enough to understand alone, achievement occurs only when everyone has arrived at understanding.
- Stay committed to improvement, know that everyone needs to be reminded to do better – no one is perfect.
- Ask for the last 10%, which is the feedback that is difficult to give, harder to hear, but most important for improvement (described in the book Integrity, pg.120).
- Listen, internalize, and adjust accordingly.
I am extremely grateful for the candid honesty of my client. To that end, I am re-committed to slowing down to ensure that understanding is achieved before asking for execution.
Are you ensuring understanding before asking for execution?
February 10, 2010
I learned a new Hebrew phrase this week, “Shev VeAl Taaseh,” which means “Sit and Do Not Act.” It is a rabbinic (leadership) tactic that is the moral equivalent of “If I cannot have my way, I’m going to take my basketball and go home.” Although it doesn’t surprise me that such a tactic exists (or has a name), it does surprise me that anyone would consider it an appropriate leadership tactic in a modern community.
Our world is fluid and complex; full of choices, opportunities, and negotiations. As individuals, we find and align ourselves with communities that meet our needs recognizing that aggregations large enough to share costs of community transactions (services) may not be perfectly aligned with each of our personal worldviews. We tolerate and accept those differences for mutual benefit.
Thus, in aggegrated diverse communities leaders must be positive, proactive, and effectively connecting to ALL members by:
- Being sensitive to the needs/desires of every community member,
- Striving to create tolerance, coexistence, and compromise for mutual benefit, and
- Seeking novel solutions for challenges not yet resolved.
“Shev VeAl Tasseh,” a primal command and control tactic that might have been useful in ancient society, has been outgrown by modernity and should be relegated to the dustbin of history along with animal sacrifice. Channeling the proverb: If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem, leaders must lead in times of difficulty — it is never acceptable for leaders to opt out.
- Exert effort on OTHERS first,
- Determine the needs of each constituency beyond your own (What’s in it for them?),
- Gracefully concede that others have legitimate needs,
- Engage, participate, and create innovative solutions to enable diversity,
We are fortunate to live in a society that tolerates a richness of many communities, each with different leaders, norms, and conduct. Yet in order for any specific community to flourish, leaders must participate inclusively and exercise good judgement lest their community pick up and leave due to no confidence.
Are you EDGE-ing?
December 17, 2009
While there we visited Dad’s nearest neighbor Todd, who lives in a woodstove heated mobile home down the road. The conversation was largely about the weather, how many water lines had frozen, how to use heat tracing to keep them from freezing in the future, and how to ensure that the livestock get adequate feed, water, and shelter during the extreme cold. Todd and his family have spent many years in that area and he summarized the conversation, “Heat is Life.”
Because I live in a temperate climate, staying warm for me is mostly inconsequential. I just don’t think about the importance of heat for daily life or survival; I never face bitter-biting cold or frozen pipes. As I listened to Todd talk, his perspective put my own into stark contrast. I was reminded that Scarcity and Abundance differ for each person, each organization, each community, and changes with time (heat, food, shelter, money, time, privilege, opportunity…). Different operating assumptions exist based upon what is Scarce and what is Abundant at any given time. For example, when summer comes and heat becomes abundant, there will be little discussion of frozen pipes and heat tracing among cowboys; something else will have become scarce. Yet, the installation of heat tracing is best done in the summer as part of a plan to prepare for the cold when winter arrives…
This observation became a clear and present long-view reminder:
- Consider the ebb and flow of abundance and scarcity – what matters and when?
- Mitigate the intensity of scarcity by planning for the expected and unexpected – what can be done to limit the impact?
Have you considered the ebb and flow of abundance and scarcity in your world and created plans to mitigate scarcity?
November 1, 2009
To celebrate my blogging success thus far (today’s post is my 50th), I am creating a tribute to the long view advice “if you like something and it works for you, stick with it.”
There are many things that fall into the works-for-me category: my husband, my friends, this blog, yet I choose to celebrate this milestone with a post about my long-term love affair with my Terry Bicycle Pro Racer Skorts.
I bought my first Terry skort about ten years ago. I loved the fact that I could act pretty unladylike yet still look ladylike! I have been collecting them ever since at a rate of about one per year. At this point, I have a terrific collection of brightly colored prints that are fun, uplifting, and playful. To date, I have eleven skorts (including a plain black one, not shown in the photo whirl). I share this whimsy, not because I need to have them validated by others, but rather it just happens to be a great example of something that works so well for me that I am planning to continue.
Skorts are versatile. They provide more coverage than just shorts, a zest of femininity, have great flexibility during spring/summer/fall, and they wash and wear like iron (my oldest one still looks great!). I wear them to work at my computer, ride my bike, rock climb, weight lift, run errands, and/or blog. I do avoid them for professional venues (except themed events such as a beach party). At the high end, I even wear the black one with a nice sweater, bling and heels – violà – dinner wear! 😉
The combined knowledge that I receive many compliments and that my teenage daughter tells me regularly that skorts are ugly and horribly out-of-style, ever encourages me to carry on with my non- mainstream skorts. Could it be any other way?! Although, I’m the only one at my rock climbing gym to wear skorts, everyone can readily identify me from the others: I am “Skort Linda.” Have you seen me?
After I purchased my first few (those early years), the fact that I did not really need any more (they last forever!) caused me to decide to wait for the post-season sale to purchase. I abandoned that strategy the year that Terry ran out of my size in the color I wanted most. Although I purchased the next size up that year, I don’t wear it because it is too big. Thus, I now buy immediately (at full price) when Terry Bicycles releases their new spring colors. Afterall, I have a collection and I can always work in a new color. 🙂
While I await the 2010 collection of Pro Racer Skorts…Are you keeping what works for you?