Grateful for the Good Times

My company is undergoing an organizational change. This is nothing new. You work long enough and every organization changes. Change is the only constant, right? I was not part of this latest re-org, but I will have to say goodbye to a number of colleagues at the end of June. Sad to say, this isn’t the first time I’ve had to watch people leave, or be the person leaving. These situations are never easy, but I’m usually able to maintain some sense of perspective. Having changed jobs, I know you can leave one and find another one. There are good people in lots of places. Job transition is not necessarily the worst thing that can happen to a person.

This time around, however, I have been having a much harder time maintaining my objectivity. I have only been with this company for just over a year, so I don’t have the kind of relationships that come with working with the same people for many years. Yet I feel like I am losing my best friends. Some of them have been with the company for 14 years. I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult it must be for them to think about leaving after that amount of time. It hardly seems appropriate for me to be this level of upset after such a short amount of time together. Why do I feel so devastated?

Over the years, I have had a few great managers, some good managers, and fortunately only a small number of really bad managers. I have worked for great companies and not-so-great companies and some in between. I have had work that was satisfying, work that was boring, and work that was way over my head. I have worked with a lot of exceptional people and met a few I was not sorry never to see again. Very rarely, if you are lucky, you have the chance to work somewhere with a fantastic boss, amazing leadership, and co-workers that you universally respect and admire. When all of those pieces fall into place, it’s downright magical. I have had pieces of it here and there, but it wasn’t until I came to my current job that I got a taste of the kind of magic I hadn’t had in a long, long time.

I’ll offer just one example, of many. The group of folks I work alongside (most of whom are leaving) go crazy bonkers for team member’s birthdays. Because my team is all in the field and I’m the only one who physically works in the office, they adopted me for their birthday shenanigans. Offices get decorated with super hero signs, tropical flowers, we “put a bird on it” (a la Portlandia) for one birthday, and recently decorated someone’s office to be the Alaska Airlines Boardroom – complete with in flight magazines and airplane sized booze bottles. For my birthday, these amazing people decorated my office with a running theme since they knew I was training for a half marathon. They put out a water stop, finish line, and a huge RUN LYDA RUN sign on my door. Inside my office they covered the walls with inspirational running quotes, but not only did they decorate my office, they all showed up to work in track clothes and wore race bibs that said, “Team Lyda.” I was touched beyond words. It is powerful to be seen and known.

Upon hearing about my birthday treatment, a friend of mine said she had heard there were workplaces like that, but didn’t think they were real. Well, this place is real. And very, very special. My deep sadness comes from knowing that with all these people gone, the thing that made this place so magical is going with them. I looked into the future and I am mourning what would have been.

The truth in both work and life is that impermanence is part of the deal. The bad times don’t last forever, but neither do the good times. None of us gets out of this life alive. And I think the only way you navigate through these ups and downs without losing all hope is through gratitude. When the magic happens, you have to cherish and appreciate every moment you get. I am so thankful I had the chance to work with these wonderful people. I’m working as hard as I can to appreciate that I even got that opportunity to be with them and not focus on their leaving.

My friends, you will be missed. And I thank you for the time we have had together.

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The Kindness of Strangers

johnny_automatic_coffee_coupleTuesday morning will be my first day of a new job with a new company after 5 months of unemployment. I am both excited and nervous about what-comes-next and I’m sure it will be the stuff of future blog posts. As I anxiously await these new adventures, I have reflected a bit on what I learned during my “in-between” time.

My family and friends have been awesome, although I pretty much already knew that. They kept me sane, or at least kept me company, during my darker days. My husband, who knew better than to try and tell me ‘everything would be fine,’ showed me listings for studio apartments in Hawaii along with calculations on how we could sell everything, take the cat, and move to paradise. It was never the reality of moving to Hawaii, but the idea of it, that he knew I needed. My friends met me for lunch, coffee, or drinks and did tell me everything would be fine when they saw that that was what I needed. My family encouraged my search efforts by offering either to move in with me and pay me rent or for me to move in with them and pay them rent… Those ‘threats’ were in jest, but I was comforted by knowing that no matter what happened my family had my back.

This experience, and the support I received, showed me what a truly blessed life I live. I have much to be thankful for and any complaints I have are, at their worst, mere inconveniences.

The biggest surprise for me in all this was the help I received from total strangers. One of my strategies based on online networking techniques I learned in my time at LexBlog was to target companies that I was interested in, based on industry (e.g., technology, social media, online marketing) and use LinkedIn to research local contacts within those companies. Once I had a specific name, I looked to see if I had any connection to them through mutual friends or some other common interest. From there I sent out emails that included specific questions I had about their role or their company and asked if they would be willing to meet for coffee. Of course, some of these emails were ignored or my request was politely declined, but I was delighted to find others who accepted my invitations.

These coffee dates were a godsend to me. One of the challenges of job searching is the amount of rejection you have to endure and yet stay positive and hopeful. Applications go ignored, or you talk to a recruiter and then never hear from them again. Not to mention those times when you make it to the face to face interview stage only to have the company go another direction or select a more qualified candidate, or in the case of one interview that went sideways have them re-post the position you applied for the next day. Your self-confidence takes a beating and you start to wonder if you actually have some sort of anti-job cooties.

Unlike interviews, having coffee with someone is more about sharing ideas than evaluating each other. I loved learning about what the people I met were doing, why they did it, what they liked about it, or didn’t like about it. I also enjoyed talking about what was going on in their particular industry. I was able to offer my own observations and sometimes we agreed and sometimes we engaged in lively debate. All of this left me feeling like I actually had something to offer the world. I would come home from these encounters high on a much needed dose of confidence-building.

Aside from the time these people shared with me (and I view time as a precious commodity), I was time and time again taken aback by the generosity of spirit shown to me. I was encouraged, offered free advice, and connected with yet other contacts. None of these people knew me and had no reason to help me, and still they all said yes. There are lots of reasons to be disheartened by the state of the world these days, but I saw that given the chance there are plenty of people who will reach out to a total stranger and offer a helping hand. None of the people I met with asked for anything in exchange, except perhaps to pay it forward. I was humbled by their humankind-ness and I have made a promise to myself to do whatever I can to offer the same to others when the chance presents itself.

Let our New Year’s resolution be this: we will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word. ~Goran Persson

Recovering from Rejection

job_interviewLast week on Monday and Tuesday I had two ‘final’ job interviews with two different companies. As you might guess from the title of this post, I did not get either job. In one case a candidate with more technical knowledge was selected over me. While disappointing, I can’t manufacture a skill I don’t possess, so that one was an easier blow. In the second instance, however, I did not connect well with the hiring manager’s manager. The tension was palpable and I could see discomfort in the hiring manager’s face. Either because of that or because of reasons, I drew a total blank on a question about this company’s industry. It was a stupid mistake and even though I stammered that I didn’t follow their industry, that wasn’t even true. With the benefit of hindsight I had numerous insightful ways I could have answered the question. But, I didn’t, and in interviews there are no second chances, only lessons learned.

Go back in time to the week prior and I was high as a kite with anticipation, excitement, and some anxiety. I studied, I prepared, I did role-plays in my head of how I would answer various questions. Better yet, I literally agonized over which company I might choose if I found myself in the enviable position of having both places make me an offer. I started mentally spending the money on all the things I’ve been wanting to do when I get my next job like go to the spa, or maybe a weekend getaway for Brian and me. Oh, the hubris flowed, and flowed freely, with a nice dash of false modesty on the side (“Of course there are no guarantees of an offer…” she said with a wink). The universe has a funny way of putting us in our place and God surely laughed at my audacity. I meant well, but my judgment was clouded, or rather my head was in the clouds.

I was blathering on to a friend about why this company wasn’t quite right, but maybe it was better than the other one, or maybe not. She rather astutely observed that perhaps neither was the right job. With the wave of a mental hand, I dismissed her comments and went on along my merry way.

When I got the first ‘decline,’ the stress of having to decide was lifted, so I didn’t spend much emotional energy on it. Of course, I already knew in my heart that the second interview was doomed, but I chose instead to torture myself with false hope until the “thank you, but no” email came a few days later. Intellectually, I could see that neither job was really right for me, nor were they what I truly wanted. I had told myself I was following the advice in Stop Worrying About Making the Right Decision and focusing on how I could make either choice a successful one. I also gave myself the “the right job will come along, you just have to have confidence, believe in yourself” pep talk. And I actually do believe the right job will come along. I just forgot to remember that I’m human and rejection sucks. Fast forward to today. I happened to watch that WestJet Christmas Miracle video and suddenly all the emotion poured out and I started to cry, and then cried some more, and kept on at it well after the video ended. I mean it’s a heartwarming video and all, but I went on and on far beyond the power of even holiday marketing efforts.

Why did I care so much about two jobs that deep down I knew were not what I really wanted? I suppose there is some element of fear around being unemployed (expressed to my husband as “No one will ever want to hire me ever again and we’ll have to eat cat food and/or move in with our parents!” she said melodramatically with hand to forehead.) But I think the larger pain is that of rejection. We always want to be the breaker-upper (“it’s not you, it’s me”). No one wants to be the dumpee. We want to be loved, we want to be accepted, we want to be chosen, even if we don’t want what is choosing us. Maybe that is a control thing, or maybe it’s about fear, or failure, or all of them. All I know is that rejection sucks, baby.

Fortunately, I don’t stay down for long. After wallowing around watching more sappy holiday videos (seriously, it’s emotional blackmail, people), I stumbled across this quote that made me feel better.

Thankfully, persistence is a great substitute for talent. ~Steve Martin

I am, if nothing else, a persistent person. Or at least I know how to be persistent. My job search efforts so far have shown me that I can actually make contact with companies and get interviews. The good(?) news about being rejected is that it’s not fatal. Not being picked does not actually damage you. You’re still you. So, I dried my eyes, took a deep breath and got back on Craigslist…

When you’re following your inner voice, doors tend to eventually open for you, even if they mostly slam at first. ~Kelly Cutrone


How to be unemployed

resumeFirst, a couple of points on what this isn’t… This is not a piece on how to become unemployed. Generally speaking, I find most folks are able to figure that one out on their own. This also is not about how to get a job. There are loads of great articles on job hunting and the main suggestion I’ll make on that point is LinkedIn, LinkedIn, LinkedIn. (Oh, that, and I am finding the book Purple Squirrel by Michael Junge to be a great resource.)

This is more about how to spend the time you aren’t scouring the inter-webs and networking a go-go (LinkedIn – seriously, people). I was going to call this “rules for unemployment,” but they are more like pirate-style guidelines and don’t require 100% strict adherence.

  • Make the bed – this requires that you actually get out of bed, which is good for you and prevents bed sores. I put away the alarm clock and don’t worry too much about when I get up, but I don’t lay around wallowing under the covers. (No one likes a wallower.)
  • Put on clothes – they don’t have to be fancy, but they can’t be the same thing you woke up in. Repeats are okay, but clean underwear is a must.
  • Go out into the world – hey, you’ve got clothes on, might as well take advantage. These don’t have to be big adventures and some days it’s just down to the 7-Eleven to get a Slurpee, but I try to make sure I leave the house at least once a day. Think of it as Vitamin D therapy.
  • Do nothing – every day, I sit out on my deck and try to be still for at least 10 minutes. You could call this meditating or praying, but as long as there are no electronic devices present, I just call it being calm.
  • Do something (for yourself) – lately for me this has been catching up on my Rom-Com DVDs (50 First Dates, anyone?), but it can be anything that is not job-hunt related that you enjoy. You will never be any good to anyone else, like a future employer, if you aren’t good to yourself first.
  • Do something (for someone else) – I believe we’re on this earth to help each other. I try to find a way to do something, no matter how small, for someone else every single day. Maybe it’s volunteering, or maybe it’s helping a friend with their job search. And some days it’s just bringing home a Reece’s Big Cup for my husband when I make my 7-Eleven run.
  • Be active – I find physical activity keeps both the cobwebs and the blues away. Some days, the hubby and I go for a long bike ride, and my running buddy, Duana, and I meet for runs once a week. Today, I took my pregnant friend for a walk (double bonus for helping someone else at the same time!)
  • See people – setting the networking aspect of this aside for a moment, take advantage of the fact that your schedule is flexible and start catching up with all those folks you always promised you would meet for coffee when you had time. You now have that time. Sitting at home alone seeing no one makes your brain grow mold and who wants a moldy brain?
  • Be grateful – I try my best to think of one thing I’m grateful for every day and when I’m having a hard day, I make a list. Again, this can be big stuff or little stuff. It all counts. Sometimes the little stuff is the big stuff.

Maybe your list is different, or maybe you don’t have a list and throwing the list away is part of your strategy. Whatever it is that you do while you are laying fallow, spend the time on your own terms. It may or may not take a long time to find that next job. You can choose to see that time as tortuous and long, or as a gift to be appreciated, but it is a choice – and the choice is yours. When I think about my next employer, whoever they may be, I imagine they would rather have someone positive, calm, and happy as a candidate and not someone bitter and frustrated. Or forget the job search for a minute, why would you want to be bitter and frustrated in any case? Life is precious and short and there’s no use wasting that precious time, regardless of your employment status.

Positive anything is better than negative nothing. ~Elbert Hubbard


To LexBlog, with Gratitude

Thank_you_pinned_note Yesterday was my last day working at LexBlog. Although of my own choosing, the parting was nonetheless bittersweet (fortunately more sweet than bitter). But, I left because of, you know, reasons, and I certainly take full accountability for my own shortcomings in that equation as well. I requested a graceful exit and I am very appreciative that LexBlog, specifically CEO Kevin O’Keefe and President Kevin McKeown (aka “The Kevins”), honored and supported that request. So, I don’t want to spend my time and blog-space focusing on what did or didn’t happen and why it didn’t work out.

It can be challenging to leave a company, with no other job in hand, and keep relations friendly. It’s a little like breaking up and promising to still be friends. It’s theoretically possible and it does happen, but more often than not, it’s a bit more of a unicorn hunt in the making. But, hey, who doesn’t love a good unicorn hunt, and sometimes it is the trying that is as important as anything.

I have been reading a lot lately on the correlation between gratitude and happiness and have therefore been trying to spend a little more of my energy on being thankful versus being negative.

So, with all that in mind, I offer here a few of the things for which I’m grateful to LexBlog…

  • This blog: Although the blog existed before I came to LexBlog, I had written exactly 0 posts prior to starting here. It was through the encouragement of Kevin O’Keefe that I was inspired to try my hand at blogging. To my surprise and delight, I found it was an outlet for expressing myself in writing that I didn’t realize just how much I would enjoy.
  • Walking Meetings: Kevin McKeown and I had many a 1×1 walking from LexBlog’s office to downtown Seattle. Sometimes we talked business, more often we just chatted and occasionally we stopped to window gaze at shop displays.
  • Pranks: As Kevin McKeown and I were walking down the street in one of the aforementioned meetings, my bus pulled up as we arrived at the stop and I decided to hop on. After I got on the bus, Kevin jumped on and told everyone on the bus that it was my first time ever riding a bus and then promptly jumped off as the bus pulled away. And, I’ll mention just one other instance where the Kevins got into a Twitter debate over whether martians would think dogs ruled over humans…
  • Our Clients: I have formed some very close and hopefully long-lasting relationships with many of our clients. I have been touched beyond words at the support and encouragement I have received when I  shared news of my departure. I hesitate to name names here for fear, like the Oscars, I would forget someone who deserved to be acknowledged, but for those of you who I’ve spoken with lately, I think you know who you are.cat
  • Cat Videos: For whatever reason, sharing funny cat videos seems to be a “thing” here at LexBlog and I can’t count how many times a well-timed cat video seemed to be exactly what I needed at that moment. (Cat in shark costume is a current favorite…)
  • My Colleagues: LexBlog knows how to pick ’em. Seriously. I’m not sure I have worked in another company where there is zero in-fighting behind the scenes and such a general sense of comradery. (Maybe it’s all the cat videos??) Y’all are great and it wasn’t easy to go because of that.

In fact, given all the good there has been, it hasn’t been easy to go, period. But just like that really great, really nice guy who you know in your heart isn’t the one, sometimes you still have to break up. Regardless, I’ll be rooting for LexBlog from the sidelines and will only be happy to see the company’s future success. As I walked out the door, I proudly put on my rose colored glasses, erased the bad memories, clung tight to the good ones and was grateful for the time I spent there.


Dancing with Disappointment

One of my Team in Training teammates, Emmie Vance, wrote a wonderful post on her blog, Pain Comes in Many Forms, about the hit your pride takes when you don’t live up to your own commitments.

I wasn’t putting in the hard work of consistent training that a marathon requires, the very core lesson and triumph of my previous races.  So at some point, I had to admit the inevitable: I will not be running a full marathon in San Diego. This hurts my pride.  I should be better at this, should have done things differently with my priorities when it came to making time to run.

This got me to thinking about my own dance with personal disappointment. I strive to find that balance between self-confidence and humility, but truth be told I am often far more comfortable beating myself up over failed expectations. I have counseled many others to “take the frying pan out of their hand,” but, of course, that advice is far easier to dispense than to follow. I think most of us know intellectually that punishing ourselves for not being our best selves does not actually serve any productive purpose. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to be the kind of person who is emotionally divorced from the outcome of their efforts either. I do a good job because I care about doing well – so, conversely, it hurts when I don’t do so well. (Brian commented to me this morning that he is always surprised how much I turn on myself in these situations instead of considering maybe it’s not actually all about me and my shortcomings. Not blame myself for things outside my control?  Novel concept…)

Why do I keep hitting myself in the head with a hammer? 

Because it feels so good when I stop.

I guess it all comes back to finding balance. Holding yourself accountable, with compassion. I also find that I often get myself into situations doomed for failure because I have lost my focus. I am so busy flailing around that I’m not actually doing anything meaningful. I have learned that when I start dropping balls left and right, it’s time to start setting some of those balls down. It’s time to exercise that all important word, “no.” Usually, I can get myself back to center when I start eliminating the excess noise in my life.

It reminds me of a situation Brian and I had kayaking a few years ago. We were on our sit-on-top kayaks, paddling around near his parents home. It was February, but the weather was typical Pacific Northwest – cool and overcast, and the water was calm. For no particular reason, my center of balance got off kilter and suddenly I was in the drink.  The Puget Sound runs about 50 degrees Fahrenheit year round and it’s not a place you want to spend any significant amount of time or you risk hypothermia. I was wearing a wet suit, but that bought me time more than protection. I had practiced getting back in the kayak from the water, so I knew I could do it. First attempt, I got my torso up on the kayak and propelled myself right over the other side. Second attempt, I pulled the kayak over my head. Third attempt was no more successful. At this point I realized that I was doing more flailing than making any real progress. I forced myself to stay in the water, take a couple of breaths and think for a moment about what I needed to do. Brian advised that I get my torso on top of the kayak in one motion, stop, and then get into a seated position in a second motion. Because I had taken that moment to pause, I was able to take in his advice and successfully got back onto my kayak in my next attempt.

I think we forget that sometimes we need more than a few attempts to get back on course, and that it’s okay to “stop and drop” before we start rolling. It may take twenty tries to get it right and maybe it is the trying that it is important. Or perhaps no amount of attempts will work. (What do they say in business? If you haven’t failed, you must not be trying hard enough.) In any case, taking a moment to take stock, clear your mind, and make thoughtful choices is never going to be bad advice. The trick, I guess, is figuring out how to give yourself permission to take that moment. It occurs to me that, ironically, maybe even that takes a few tries, so I should probably give myself a break for not being perfect at that either.

For fast-acting relief, try slowing down. ~Lily Tomlin


Into the Lenten Wilderness

The season of Lent is once again upon us. As I shared last year at this time, I’m a fan of the discipline of sacrifice. This year’s distraction, and therefore the ‘sacrifice of choice,’ is the noise in my life from TV, radio, movies, and books. I have given up TV before, but that year I allowed movies. I have also given up Facebook/Social Media before, but seeing as I now work in that field, it seemed a bit ridiculous to try and find a way to give it up that wasn’t complicated and filled with loop-holes. Besides the spirit of this sacrifice is not about shutting out the outside world completely, but rather about turning down the volume low enough that I am not drowning myself out.

I go into each season with grand illusions of all the amazing things I will do in lieu of what I gave up. When it’s food-related, I imagine the amazing weight I’ll lose and the healthy glow that will come from my disciplined ways. This year I thought I would spend all this new-found free time getting my house clean and organized, and writing prolifically. So far in the writing category we’ve got this post and, well, that’s it so far. It also turns out the reason I don’t spend all my ‘free’ time cleaning the bathroom is not because my brains have been sucked out by the TV, but because cleaning the toilet is not that fun or spiritually fulfilling.  (It has occurred to me that perhaps some year I need to give up grand illusions, but clearly that is not this year.)

Mostly what I’m noticing just 3 days in is that I’m incredibly restless. I have restless brain syndrome. I have a hard time settling down to sleep at night and I wake up in the early hours of the morning. Even maintaining my focus to write this post was a challenge. I had no idea just how much of a sedative effect the TV (et al) has on me. I imagine this must be some flavor of what it’s like to have ADHD. Fortunately, my running brings relief as the physical exertion seems to counter the mental agitation, and the pleasure I get from socializing with my fellow teammates helps as well. I also trust I’ll settle into the new, less distracted brain in the coming days.

Because I think it helps to have a little help on any journey, I have also committed to going to church every Sunday through Easter. Brian and I were part of a very close church community before we moved to Seattle proper and we have not found a new church home in the four years that we’ve lived here. Truthfully, we haven’t exactly looked either. We’ve gone a couple of times to a nearby church that is progressive enough to meet our needs, but not often enough to know any names. For the next 7 Sundays, this same church will be our spiritual guide on the Lenten journey.

So, into the wilderness I go. What will I find there? Only God knows and only time will reveal.