Archive | articles RSS feed for this section

Normal is whatever you know (or knew)…

2 Mar

Have you heard the saying “this is the new normal”? Every time someone says this, I wonder, what is the “OLD NORMAL” ?

I believe that “normal” is whatever you know to be true, and I liked what I knew as normal before the economy took a turn for the worse in 2008.  I remember people following up on their promises, treating others with respect, giving common courtesy to strangers.

I don’t see that today – and if the new normal means any of the following, I simply want to go back to the “normal” I know with respectful people who live lives of integrity.  Here’s what I find with the “new normal”:

  • An erosion of respect for others: such as cutting in line ahead of others (who are waiting), insulting people without apology, breaking promises, making commitments that cost others money and then not showing up, making false excuses, outright lying, etc.;
  • A lack of common courtesy: such as not saying thank you when someone does something for you, not responding to voice mail or email messages from friends, not letting people know you’ll be late, not acknowledging presents or gifts, etc.;
  • Outright rudeness: such as dominating conversations with others (and then not listening to them talk), ignoring and interrupting, temper tantrums when you don’t get your way, rude remarks, inconsideration, selfishness, etc.
  • Unilateral, self-centered behavior: such as calling friends for support when you need it, but not being there for them when they call you for support;
  • Taking advantage of the generosity of others and then abusing it: such as asking to stay with a friend while you get on your feet, then staying for months (without paying a thing);
  • Talking out of turn with third parties: I have a former friend whose daughter asked to store furniture temporarily in my garage for a couple of months, now six months later (after ignoring my continued requests to vacate the items) she badmouths me to others because I will no longer give her the free storage.

What is your experience with “normal” behavior in today’s society?  It is easy to blame the economy for the downturn in niceness, but I think that rudeness is becoming the “new normal”.

I long for a return to niceness and common courtesy – is that too much to ask?  I want the “old” normal that I know and loved where kindness and positive comments prevailed.

Be kind to one another today!

Carol

Share
//

Happiness is… no expectations

11 Feb

Remember the Charlie Brown song “Happiness Is…”?

Growing up, happiness seemed like something I was born to live (and it’s true!)  Somehow through the years it eroded with mortgages, workloads, family stress, divorce, and life.  When you watch the evening news it is easy to see that happiness is not the mainstay in society but the road back to it can be as simple as the Charlie Brown song.

For me, happiness comes when I remove expectations of others.

This takes away a lot of the disappointment I used to experience when I expected something of others. Without expectations, there is room for positive surprises. Yes, I realize that life is an interconnected web of people, places and events, but it is in discovering my own pure worth where I find happiness. Reliance on anyone else to achieve my happiness is a surefire way to failure.

I believe Einstein’s quote:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

The inverse of this is also true: sanity is doing something different each time so that you can expect different results.  Makes sense doesn’t it.

In my first half of life, insanity (from an Einstein perspective) ruled.  Now that I have tried the sane route (different things), I have gained new results.  I would like to share with you my different ways of looking at things that brings about different results.

  1. Hope for the best in others, but never expect it.
  2. Never make anyone a priority for whom you are only an option.
  3. You can only anticipate (and count on) you.

These are new adages for me!  In prior posts I s, I used to think that the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would like them to do unto you) was a universal law, but I know today that it is only an ideal.  People do as they please in spite of or in the absence of me and of you!  Just because your actions may be giving and considerate does not mean that anyone else will behave or  treat you well.

Let’s explore each adage:

Hope for the best in others, but never expect it.

Today more than ever, people are necessarily self-centered and foraging to make ends meet for their family. So, unless you lend them money or give them a high paying job, you are likely a bit player. Expect nothing from others, and it will remove your disappointment. In fact, should another respond positively, it is a bonus.

Instead of expecting that people will be considerate of you or treat you well, remember that you can hope for the best, but know that this may not happen. Expectations lead to disappointment – lower your expectations to none, and your disappointment will slowly disappear.  People will either live up to your new expectations (which are none) or do better. (Yes, I know that supporters of the Secret would argue that the way others treat you is your own manifestation – but this is utter b.s. You can only manifest your OWN behavior.)

Never make anyone a priority for whom you are only an option.

This is my adaptation of a quote I heard a few weeks ago by a dating expert.  As female (and some male) colleagues know – we often over-give our energy to others, prematurely.  We fall in love completely and genuinely and begin to take care of another (and even make him/her a priority in our life) before there is mutuality.

Some partnerships end up with one spouse taking care of the other (with good intentions) and the other taking care of him/herself. This can be prevented by following the adage and taking care of oneself first and foremost. Side dishes may be good at dinners, but not in relationships.

This realization came late for me as I spent too many years in a relationship where we both prioritized his needs. Fool me once, shame on you but fool me twice, shame on me! Never again will I make someone a priority for whom I am merely an option.

You can only anticipate (and count on) you.

This is one point I have included in prior blog posts but is worth repeating. We can only ever change our own behavior, and live in our own heads. As such, every other person we meet is governed by his/her own beliefs and directs behavior.

Since we have no control over anyone else’s mind (except in the case of temporary hypnosis), we can only take responsibility for and anticipate our own behavior. Removing this illusion of control from our lives frees us up for happiness.

Happiness is… no expectations.

Do you agree?

Wishing you a happy day!
Carol

Share
//

Dear Daughter, Lessons from a female engineer (part 2)

31 Jan

You might be hearing many people saying that these times are not “normal”, and if you listen to the media, you know that predictions say things will get better, get worse, or stay the same. No one has any idea what will happen, but because bad news sells newspapers, gloom and doom prevails.

Today is the “new normal”. It doesn’t matter what anyone says was normal before or what might be tomorrow. Your life is a combination of your environment, attitude, background, personality, and luck/opportunity and it is as unique as you are (I love that!)

This does not mean that life is easy as every generation faces new challenges.  You will emerge from today’s economic instability with renewed energy and vitality – the universe never throws anything at you that you cannot handle (even when things seem overwhelming).

Carrying on from last week’s post (part 1) I hope you will let me share a few more tips from my life as a female engineer:

  • Listen to unsolicited advice (but you do not have to take it). Advice is worth what you pay for it, and when it is unsolicited, that tells you something right there.  Take it or leave it, just listen and then decide for yourself if it has any merit. Most people (with a few exceptions) throw out unsolicited advice hoping it will help you – but only you can decide whether to pick it up. When someone tosses you such advice, thank him or her, and then consider the source.

  • Be proud of you! (And your accomplishments.) You deserve praise from yourself.  I can tell you that I am proud of you, as can your friends, but the most important is when you are proud of you!
  • Patience and tolerance can be a double-edged sword. Practice patience with people – especially when it comes to situations out of your control (delayed flights), children, the elderly, and anyone who may not be as adept as you are.  The double edge comes when people take advantage of your patience in business or your personal life. When this happens, remember the adage:  fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.  If someone takes advantage of you for being patient, learn from it and don’t let it happen again.

The same goes for tolerance.  Start out by being open and tolerant to people whose beliefs or behaviors may be different from yours.  This has paid off greatly for me in my international work on ISO software standards: I have many global friendships and enjoy cultural adventures everywhere I travel.  The double edge comes when one is too tolerant – such as being tolerant of verbal or physical abuse.  When someone says or does something that makes you feel uncomfortable, your intuition may be telling you that your tolerance is set too high.  Abuse and bullying is beyond anything you should ever tolerate.

 

  • There are consequences to every action and no matter how much you plan, not everyone will agree with you. Always do your best – with decisions, work, and relationships.  By doing so, you reduce your regrets because you took action based on the information you had at the time. This does not guarantee that others will agree, but at least you can look in the mirror at the end of the day and take comfort that you did your best.
  • It is better to face conflict than to live a lie. Everyone faces times at work and in personal life where we avoid creating conflict with bullies, controlling people, and people who disrespect us for our opinions.  Of course I know that you already choose your battles wisely (why create conflict when it is over something trivial), there are also times when given conflict is important.  When you have to suppress saying what you feel for fear of an outburst or tantrum from someone you love, consider that it might be a toxic relationship. We do not choose who we fall in love with and there is no guarantee that your love will be emotionally healthy.  While another’s emotional health is not your responsibility, yours is.  Better to be yourself and face conflict than to sacrifice your emotional health and live a lie. It’s not always easy, but you deserve to be happy as you.
  • Always be authentic. I thought that I knew what this meant when I read it in author don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, but I did not.  Being authentic and living with integrity means never saying anything to yourself that you would not say to your best friend.  Our inner critic can be cruel and treat us with total disrespect (telling us that we are stupid or fat or naïve or a host of other harsh words). When we allow our inner critic free reign over our intellectual real estate (our mind) – we are not being authentic!  Make sure you treat yourself with the same level of respect you afford your best friend, and you will soon find that you have a brighter outlook on life.
  • Everyone carries baggage. Even the most gorgeous, thin, young, rich, poor, or athletic people carry baggage and you may never know to what degree.  Life is not fair in terms of who experiences what and when, but life guarantees everyone his/her own story.  Rejection, ridicule, embarrassment, failure, success, pain and joy are sprinkled in every life – some get more of the good or bad than do others.  However, no one escapes feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt.  Be kind to strangers (unless there is danger) – you just never know how much a kind word can mean to a person living with pain.

I will always be proud to be your mother no matter what you do and no matter where you live.  You have only one life  — do all you can to make it a happy one!

Love and hugs,

Mom

Share

 

80/20 in life is PDG (Pretty Damned Good)…

25 Jan

8020You may have heard of the 80/20 rule – and it is applied to business and life situations where 80% of problems are attributable to 20% of the causes, or 20% of effort leads to 80% of the profits. There are many variations on the theme.

When I was talking to my friend Karen last week, she spoke of one client whose negative energy was bringing her down.  After regaling about the problems, I asked her what percentage of her income he was generating and the answer was small.  We purposely misapplied the 80/20 rule and concluded that out of her total client base, 80% of her clients were wonderful, yet the other 20% brought her down.  For some reason, negative people and situations, even when they account for a small percentage of our life, can dominate our day.

The 20% or less of our life that is obnoxious, monotonous, boring, or downright unpleasant should never steal our happiness with the remaining 80%!  Maybe it is our negative press (80% of front-page news is negative) or our upbringing (the word “No” dominates childhood) – but we need to get over this preoccupation!

Consider how much brighter your life would be by focusing on the good 80% and forgetting the rest?

Imagine for a minute an open meadow of gorgeous wildflowers – what do you see?  It is easy to see that the flowers are beautifully enhanced by the greenery and weeds.  If the field had entirely weeds or entirely flowers, the beauty of the flowers would be diminished.  It is the greenery that makes the flowers stand out.

wildflowers

Now, what if you only looked at the green and saw that it was a mismatch of greenery and weeds?  With such a focus, you might even miss seeing the flowers all together.  We do this when we miss the beauty in life in favor of the crap.

If you don’t believe me, start tracking what happens to you during your day – how many neutral events happen that you don’t really notice (these are like the greenery), how many truly negatives occur (these are like the noxious weeds), and how many joyous moments (the flowers) are in your day?

Rebalance your day

If the balance is off, and you see more weeds than flowers, what can you do to do about it?  Think of ways to increase the moments of joy in your life? Did you miss counting some of the joyous moments once a negative came into play?  Maybe you could frequenting positive eating places where you feel good, drive to work via the scenic route, or rearrange your day to enjoy more of the sunset.  Anything that increases the positive moments is good.

At the same time, figure out if and how you can reduce the negative moments in your day.  By changing the balance of positive to neutral and negative is enough to change your entire outlook.

Most of life ranges on the neutral to positive side and we need to recognize them. Just like my friend who fixated on the one negative that brought down her otherwise positive day, we need to focus on being grateful for the good.

Do not extend a negative by “bringing the negative person home to dinner” figuratively (sometimes we dedicate more time to reliving the event than it took in the first place)!

A wise man told me years ago – never waste even a single precious heartbeat on anyone who does not matter.

The story of two monks
(paraphrased)

I am reminded of the story of two monks from an order that banned contact with women. As they were walking by a pond one day, they came upon a woman crying on the shore.  She was finely dressed in a long dress and was despondent that she could find no way to the other side where there was a family wedding. The first monk expressed sadness and said there was nothing he could do. The second monk picked up the woman and carried her across the pond holding her high enough so her dress stayed dry.

For the rest of the day, the first monk scolded the second about how he had broken his vows about touching a woman, and would owe repentance on their return.  Once they reached home, the second monk finally had enough of the tirade and said to his friend, “sure I made a choice to touch the woman by carrying her across the pond for 10 minutes. I can live with that.  But how can you live with the fact that you carried her around with us for the entire day?”

Even though the 80/20 rule refers to inputs versus outputs in process, (eighty percent of results come from 20% of the efforts) – the idea to focus on 80% of our day that is good, and disregard the other 20% is a valid concept.

If you can imagine every day being an 80/20 day – that is pretty damned good!

Have a happy, productive day!)

Carol

Share
//

Do social media kill social skills?

17 Jan

In this day of social media and instant messaging, I think that people are forgetting how to be social.  People everywhere seem more direct, curt and intolerant – and I believe this increases both our personal and societal stress.

I have been out with more than a few colleagues who hate Facebook and Twitter, yet they are increasingly direct to the point of rudeness in their demeanor.  If a “barista” or sales clerk makes a mistake, the error is quickly noted and announced.  Is it just me or is the world becoming “too honest”?

rudeHave you noticed how much more direct people became since text messaging got popular?  People don’t talk naturally in 140 character sound-bites (the Twitter limit) – yet that seems to be the way that interactions – even in person – happen today.

I could chalk this behavior up to age (most of my friends are over 40 and proudly assert their new-found intolerance to things on which they stayed silent on in the past) – but it seems to pervade age and culture.  While Andy Rooney (of 60 Minutes fame) calls this “refreshing” in his discourse about why he likes women over 40 (because they speak their mind), it also opens the door to sometimes abrasive behavior under the guise of integrity.  When someone follows up a searing statement with “I’m just being honest” you know that they said something heavy on opinion and low on substance.

I believe that language erosion due to text and twitter shortcuts increases stress in our everyday lives. I hasten to add that the adage of “if you have nothing good to say, say nothing” is extinct.

The range of observations go from extreme (out-and-out public displays of anger) to mild (restaurant conversations that leave one dumbfounded).  Let me share with you what I’ve seen lately:

  • Public Facebook quarrels with ex-partners/spouses/former friends.  No longer are disagreements between two people, they are displayed for all to see and live on in cyberspace indefinitely.  What people cannot say in person gets blasted to the world with amazing venom and speed.
  • Road rage and text rage (the worst part is that this is often done while driving) – it is one thing if the offender is a passenger, but when they are operating a 2000 pound piece of dangerous machinery at 70+ miles an hour, the person should be cited for WMD (weapons of mass destruction) violations.
  • Public displays of anger where people yell, berate, pout, and otherwise demean another human being they choose to be out with.  Is love gone from our world between husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends?
  • I hope you don’t mind but… table talk where a friend or colleague feels compelled to be “brutally honest for your own good” and spouts out why you do not have a spouse, significant other, job, money – you name it.  Whatever compels someone to say what they do in direct sound-bites and then top it off with “I just thought you should know” is beyond me.  Most often it is a pure opinion piece with little substance and illustrates the intolerance to accept you as you are. (Sidenote – when this happens, remember the song line: You are amazing – just the way you are! – BECAUSE you are.)

We need more patience, tolerance and understanding in our world today.  Good, hard-working and honest people are facing stresses beyond those ever faced since the great depression.  Work is scarce, real estate is shaky, the rich get richer, and the middle class is disappearing. Each and every one of us has (in my opinion) and obligation to practice self-love, self-respect, and respect for all living things – including those you meet during your day.  How much better would things be if we held our tongues when it does not matter, and instead focused on the strengths of others and not their weaknesses?

On that note, who have you shared a kind word with today?  Thanks for reading – have a happy, healthy, positive week!

CarolkindnessShare
//

Let Go of Letting Go…

16 Jan

Does this sound like a circular reference to you?  It is not if you let me explain how it makes sense to “Let Go of Letting Go”…

circleSo many self-improvement, positive thinking, psychology, and other books today talk about how important they feel it is to “let go” of things that hinder our lives:  past experiences, toxic relationships, negative people, poor choices, mistakes we have made.

Typically, the experts support a three-step letting go process along the lines of

  1. Identify what you need to let go of;
  2. Do some sort of “root cause analysis” (in the hope of avoiding it in the future); and
  3. “Burn” (either figuratively or literally) the issue to let it go from your past and present.

I do not know about you, but I find that this process is good in theory — but does not work in practice!  When I focus on that which I need to let go, it exacerbates the issue at hand (akin to rubbing sand in a wound) and does not get rid of it.  I am finding that the best way to really let go of something is to let it flow – in other words ride the waves of emotion and let go of the need to formally let it go.  Somehow the process of letting things flow (i.e., letting the waves roll over my subconscious and not giving them focus or concentration) seems to dissipate their strength – and the next time the same wave comes (it does not magically go away) its amplitude (size) is less. Before long, I know the wave will be a mere ripple.  By letting things flow instead of forcing the memory out (letting go), I also feel more open to the possibility of new better memories.

A quote that feels right for me is

The past is our definition. We may strive, with good reason to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it, but we will escape it only by adding something better to it. – Wendell Berry

Wow!  To me, this means that when we try to let go of something or run from a bad memory, we can’t really escape it. Instead, when we add to our collective past with a positive memory, we escape what was there before.  The quote seems to give credence to my “Let go of letting go”  plus introduces the idea of adding on something better.

In my engineering, analogy thinking mind, it reminds me of a Lego house with eroding pieces…

instead of deliberately removing damaged pieces and leaving holes in the structure, I choose to allow new pieces to come in and thus, remove the old ones as a matter of course.  My life is like the Lego house.

This is a conscious choice – rather than trying to escape the past through concentrating on letting go, new positive experiences can replace the painful memories. 

As distance grows from the past, my new, positive experiences today replace (and add on to) my history.  Good memories enhance and build up on past good memories, and painful ones can be replaced with new adventures. This gives me hope!

In terms of relationships, now that I experience self-love, it adds on positively and I can escape the bad memories of love in the past. When my financial independence comes about with new employment and opportunities, my memory of the pain of financial troubles will ebb.  As I meet and engage with new positive people, I can escape the memories of toxic friendships of the past.

Let go of letting go – let flow…

Have a great week!

Carol

Share

Will work for…

12 Jan

I know that it takes fortitude to ask for support.

I don’t know about you, but the new millennium is strange:  everything I grew up to expect in life is upside down; jobs are not guaranteed, home ownership is no longer an investment, the middle class is shrinking, and homelessness is no longer the domain of a few downtrodden souls.  Here in Florida, the number of unemployed continues to rise monthly (Florida leads the nation in both unemployment statistics and real estate devaluation) and I am thankful to have a roof over my head.

While there are buskers who pretend along with others who may not deserve a handout, the benefit of the doubt has graced people I’ve seen with signs or an open hand.  Maybe it’s my upbringing, but I find it difficult to pass by without giving them something.  I often think “There but for the grace of God, go I,” were it not for good luck and education.

Have you seen how creative some of the signs have become?  It seems that today even the homeless compete for dollars (did you see the story about the New York person whose sign “Need money to buy weed” brings in close to $500 per shift?)  This was not the society I was raised to inherit – yet I find that there is little security today.  Here at the crossroads of mid-life, neither friends nor I wasted away savings or quit jobs; we are challenged because of downsizing and business cuts.  Do you see the same things occurring where you live?

As a young engineer who graduated in the 1980’s,

I was fortunate to have job choices and options – there were more jobs than applicants!  For years, I could move freely between jobs progressively up the ladder.  It was also easy to start my business in 1994 and to make a profitable living.  I had no idea how lucky I was then or over the next six years when I was able to support a freelance team of 5 people.  I kept my team gainfully employed with generous salaries for several years and life was good.  During this time, I could have advised other young women on how to build a profitable business easily and quickly — even though my secret was that I was in a niche and high demand market.

Since then, life has changed – business changed and contracts slowed, and today my clients want short-term (less than a week at a time)  project management and software metrics training.  I deliver high energy knowledge transfer in my speaking and consulting engagements, but the work “pipeline” remains low.  It is frustrating to have good health, an excellent reputation and skills, yet have open blocks in my calendar.  When I look at who I was with a highly successful business and who I am today, I am the same person of high integrity, but with more experience, credentials, and compassion.

Finding contracts online or via job boards is no longer a reality as anyone with a computer and a mouse can click their way to applying for technical jobs.  The key to finding work today is through connections – successful job seeking is based on who you know not what you know.

So, it is with humility that I say “will work for…”

I definitely need more speaking engagements and contract work!  Will you help me by referring me to your superiors, colleagues, and friends when you hear that they need a speaker or an instructor for their upcoming event?   I speak on topics ranging from project management to making technology a success to software measurement. In addition, I can be a spokesperson for your company at conferences to bring traffic back to the trade show floor.  My fees are reasonable and I am willing to travel internationally.

Recently my keynote speeches included the International Project Management Association Global Congress (Nov 2010 in Istanbul Turkey) and the International Function Point Users Group annual conference (Sept 2010 in Sao Paulo Brazil).  I deliver workshops on software measurement and quality topics throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Over the past 10 years, I have spoken in  25 countries including Asia, Australia, and South Africa.

Thank you in advance for your leads and kind help. My passion is speaking and consulting — I work best with companies who want to improve their business with technology. Please me email (dekkers@qualityplustech.com) or visit my other blog at http://musingsaboutsoftwaredevelopment.wordpress.com for more information.

Thank you, I am grateful for readers like you.
Carol

websites: http://www.caroldekkers.com and http://www.qualityplustech.com


Share
//

%d bloggers like this: