I’m on a vacation this week with my daughter at the SASS World Championships. Its my first time as a shooter and our first time without the rest of our family to coach us, guide us, and generally just keep us on the straight and narrow.
Funny thing about both cowboy shooting and life:
You hit what you aim at.
(Yes, I just ended that sentence with a preposition).
Sometimes, however, even when you bring your best game, your sights are dead on, and you are keeping your chin on the butt of the gun and your head down, things happen that are beyond your control. Your rifle jams, your shotgun falls apart in your hands, and the wind whips dust so strong that it stings your skin and clouds your vision.
So what can you do? You can rant and complain and shake your fist in the air, or you can just look ahead to what’s next. Keep your ‘A’ game going and your aim true and go shoot the next stage.
When life throws you a squib, just chamber the next round and move on. Beating yourself up over what could have happened or why it happened is pointless and wastes your energy.
Projects will be that way, too. You can plan all the tasks, bring in all the best players, identify all the risks, and still something will go wrong that you did not anticipate or that you did not cause. Instead of letting it get you and your team derailed from your mission, use it to refocus – to re-AIM your actions. Make sure you are doing everything that is needed to meet your deliverables and move the project forward to completion.
Whether it is cowboy shooting, work-related projects, or life in general, derailed plans are not only teachable moments about the event itself. They actually serve a higher purpose. They build character. They teach you how to handle situations you have never thought about. They give you skills that cross over into just about everything you do. At the very least they teach you how to remain composed, calm, and professional in the heat of fire. They enhance your fearlessness and teach you how to directly aim at what is coming next, no matter what it may be.
This weekend I had the opportunity yet again to spend time with some of the greatest people on earth – the SASS cowboys in Byhalia, MS at their annual match. I picked up a piece of wisdom that needs to be shared:
“Did you look at it?”
Think about this. How many times do we think we have an insurmountable problem? A task that seems to be impossible? A goal that we don’t think we have the tools or resources or skills to reach? A frustrating situation that makes us feel trapped?
So just stop and ask yourself that one simple question:
“Did you look at it? I mean, really….did you just look at it?”
Because I am betting that if you really look, you will figure it out. If you really look, you will get some hint, some path, some pattern, some glimmer of a solution that will start to make the impossible seem possible.
If you take the TIME to look, you won’t be so overwhelmed. You will start to solve it before you have even realized you have started. You will see your situation more clearly, see your possible solutions more clearly, and maybe even see yourself and those around you more clearly. Heck, you might even see something or someone you LIKE! How cool is that?
Today I had the privilege of seeing baby birds leaving their nest. We had a pair of finches build a nest in our winter wreath on our front door…I am a lover of all things snowman-ish so I have a wreath with a snowman on it that stays on the front door through the winter months. Just when we went to take it down, we noticed the nest with the four eggs in it.
Three of them ended up hatching and I was excited to see some VERY ugly naked baby birds. They were tiny and vulnerable and of course soon after that the weather went down to freezing again. All I could think of was how worried I was about those birds.
I checked on them periodically and they grew fast, developing a fluffy grey coat. They started to get all gangly and LOUD. And the Poop! I think the wreath might be ruined, which is a bummer but also I don’t mind an excuse to buy something else with a snowman on it.
I had no idea how long eggs take to hatch – it’s longer than you think – and how long it takes the birds to be ready to leave the nest. Every day the mother and father finches would flit around the yard, protecting their young from anyone that approached the front walk.
Then yesterday, I snuck a peek into the nest to see it empty, just as two birds performed a crooked flyby over my head. Soon they were joined by the third. Watching them, it was obvious they had just left the nest. They were doing what I can only describe as the bird version of the awkward, all-legs wobbly standing that a baby horse or deer does when they get up for the first time.
I could not believe how honored I was to catch this moment in their lives and be a witness to this important transition. They “flew” over and over from the overhang above my door to the crepe myrtle in front of my house and back again, 10 feet in distance and staying about 15 feet high, for a few minutes. Then, suddenly, all three of them were up in the tallest trees, their skill and confidence coming to them almost like it had been there all along. It seemed like it was imbedded in their DNA and all that was needed was a prompting to be remembered.
The nest is empty this morning. For the first time in over 2 months, I had the nerve to actually remove the wreath from its hook to get a better look. It is actually not as dirty as I thought it was. The finches have done a fastidious job of removing the dirty straw and replacing it as well as building up and reinforcing the nest so that it is almost shaped like a sock. That explains how they stayed warm during our resurgence of winter. The adult birds are still in the front yard, so I am trying to figure out if I can remove the wreath - it is almost June and so I am sure I am the talk of the early morning walkers and bus stop parents.
My googling is not encouraging, as I have found out that finches lay a couple of rounds of eggs through August and often return to the same nest each year. This means that I am going to have to actually remove the wreath and the nest now, while it is empty, if there is any hope of using my front door this summer and getting the snowman wreath cleaned up and put away.
I have enjoyed having the nest and the birds. It has reminded me of the beauty that is all around me in my suburban area and of nature’s strength and power despite our efforts to tame it with streets and sidewalks and houses and landscaping. It also has reminded me that despite the problems that might seem overwhelming at times, that this too shall pass and that life goes on. It is also a test of my own willingness to let go when it’s obvious that I need to and appreciate and keep close the memories of the parts of my life that are moving on. You have to push things out and clean up so you can be open to the next adventure.
So the wreath is coming down, the nest is being pulled out, and I am going to put it away if I feel like it is salvageable. Since I am always trying to keep my hope, I will put the nest gently in the top of a nearby bush with the thought that the finch couple can find it and keep using it. I’ll put my summer banner on the front door, and keep those spirited little birds in my thoughts.
Ever since the New Year started, I have had on my mind to write a blog post about my watchword for 2014. It’s FEARLESSNESS.
Not just FEARLESS, the adjective, but FEARLESS-NESS - the hybrid of the word, whether its real according to Webster or not, that makes it a NOUN – A “person, place or thing” - Something that you HAVE - that describes you, that you possess, that becomes part of your person at all times. To me, you can BE FEARLESS in situations but you carry your FEARLESSNESS around with you, ready to face anything that comes your way.
I would say that every mistake, every hesitation, every misstep, bad decision, and bad situation I have gotten myself into has a root cause of FEAR.
Fear of failing.
Fear of succeeding.
Fear of being wrong.
Fear of being right.
Fear of starting something I can’t finish or even the fear of finishing something I started because I don’t want it to be over.
Fear of making someone mad or telling him or her what they don’t want to hear.
Fear of not being liked or not liking myself.
Fear that the change that I so crave at all times is the sign of a personality defect.
We all have these fears - and don't get me wrong, mine is not debilitating, but I still fell like it holds be back from being better.
So that’s my word, and I am repeating it to myself whenever I find that I am procrastinating, or circling around a topic, or not facing something that I need to stare down and just take care of.
Heck, my delay in doing this blog post is a step into Fearlessness. Making the written commitment to myself and the world that I am going to hold myself accountable to my FEARLESSNESS.
I have a poster up in my office - The Fearlessness Manifesto. I read it daily. I have a necklace with the word (and a little bling) imprinted on it.
If I offend you, I apologize in advance. If you feel like I am being confrontational, I apologize in advance. But know that I am not being argumentative, or passive aggressive. I am speaking my mind - hopefully with respect - and telling you the truth, even if it is hard for you to hear, hard for me to say, and scary for both of us. Things are probably going to change in my life because of this.
FEARLESSNESS. Bring it.
How many of you have brothers and/or sisters? How many stories do you have about them…mainly ones that center on how you fought like cats and dogs?
Have you taken a moment to reflect on what they really mean to you and how they have made you who you are?
They were the ones that were always there and experiencing the craziness of your parents. They and they alone know that you are NOT insane or making it up when you talk about how dysfunctional some of that parental-child interaction was.
They are the ones you got to practice being mean to. You could treat them however you wanted – lash out; give them the full wrath of everything that your adolescent person was feeling. And they didn’t lash back and they don’t hold it against you.
They are the ones that you can totally count on. Guess what? They have aging parents, too. They have a family and concerns for their future in the same time horizon that you do. They share more in common with you than any other human being on the planet, actually. Other than your parents, they have known you the longest. They will speak the truth to you, good or bad, and have your back.
That’s how I feel about my own brother, anyway. He accepts me for my craziness and he reminds me of my strengths. He has seen me grow up, experience life, heartache, joy, and sadness. We have celebrated and lost loved ones together. He sees the battles I have ahead and gives me the courage to face them. He models for me goodness and loving relationships in his own life so that I have that to ground me in my life and relationships. He is smart and hardworking and loyal and I am so proud and honored to have him in my life.
As I think about the gifts that will be exchanged in the next day or so, I have already gotten the best one…it was my brother reminding me how strong I am and how he supports me in every single way. Right back at you, Bro.
Have you ever wanted to call a time out? Have you ever felt like everything is moving at such a pace that there is no actual way you are going to be successful? I feel like that old vaudeville act that used to spin the plate on the long pole. They would do one and then two and then three and it would all be just fine. But then the impressive part was they did 10 poles and then 11 poles and then 12 poles and then they stood on their head and played a kazoo and still kept all 12 plates spinning.
I wonder if they ever wished for a time out. When the plates and poles would just freeze in place – not fall down and break, just freeze – so that the spinner-person could take a drink of water or go to the bathroom or SOMETHING to get a little sanity without disappointing the crowd and letting all the plates fall.
Oh well. At least for the plate-spinner, there was applause and an appreciation for the effort.
I’ll keep your plates spinning as best as I can. If I break one or two, it’s not for lack of trying. And I do it even without the applause. And I know that there are a few of you who appreciate it!
Social media is burning up all month with people posting things they are thankful for each day. I, too, am thankful for my friends, family, job, health, etc. and while I don’t begrudge the exercise, I am going to twist it a little to my own design.
I try to run a humble company, but recently we were told that we don’t know our own value. To that end, I am going to break out of my comfort zone and list a few things that out customers should be thankful for about us:
1. Be thankful for an archive solution that does not try to fit your years and years of data into a data model that does not support it or that makes you map it/lose it/transform it.
2. Be thankful that there is an archive company that offers a product that is not just a data storage or database-centric solution but one that solves a real set of problems.
3. Be thankful that LDA’s solution allows you to retire very expensive hardware and software and experience a real return on your investment within the first year of implementation. Remember that when you are mired in the list of functions you think you need and compare the cost of our services to your current system. Then work with us to get to the solution that makes everyone satisfied.
4. Be thankful for a team of people that realize that the transition to an archived version of your current solution is a difficult one.
5. Be thankful that your archive partner is willing to tell you the hard truths, like when you are trying to move too much functionality to your archive solution – functionality that will not offer long-term value that surpasses its cost.
6. Be thankful that when you encounter a situation like #5, your archive partner still works with you to develop a process that accomplishes the same functional result.
7. Be thankful for our staff and their patience, in helping you manage your transition and all the changes in conjunction with expectations and personalities. We do a good job. We are very committed to each customer. When you are unhappy, we all take it personally and we do everything we can to turn the situation around. When you are a happy, we are happy.
8. Be thankful for our flexibility; our ability to listen to what you are saying and then translate that into functionality that does not break the bank – yours or ours – and that ends up benefiting all our customers.
9. Be thankful for our short memories, and our ability to forget what was said to us in anger or exasperation. We are people too, who just want to do a good job. Always remember that.
10. Be thankful that we have all your data, and the means to retrieve it, report on it, and produce it for you when you need it most even if you don’t currently know when that will be. Be thankful that we keep this know-how documented and available and resources to work with it so that you don’t have to. And when you figure out that you DON'T have those resources any longer, even before you finish your archive project, be thankful that we are there to help you figure it out and bring the right people to the team to get the job done.
All of these could have been said in one item, actually:
“Be thankful you have an archiving partner.”
We are all in this together and dependent on each other for our mutual success, and here at LDA, we are thankful that we understand this at our core.
Let me frame this up by saying that we are pretty casual here at the office – decent street clothes, basically. Anything you would go out in public in is considered acceptable, especially on Friday. Something about that US culture of “dress down Friday” that has become, mysteriously, a norm. We don’t entertain unscheduled visitors, so comfort is king.
This has been a long week. Between school and work deadlines, I am losing my good humor. Couple that with the fact that I am not a good sleeper and you have got to imagine that I can be pretty cranky by Friday. I am looking at a 5-hour block of meetings today and a long list of deliverables that I still need to tackle.
I don’t know what strategies you employ, but since I am a fairly healthy person in the mental-health department, I tend to choose ones that work for me but don’t put anyone’s life in danger. Like stopping at Starbucks and getting that extra-large extra-caffeinated expensive drink that’s on the menu. Or letting my puppy tag along with me to the office. Or wearing my sweatpants to work.
OK, OK – I know what you are thinking. That Judy Faulkner or Meg Whitman would NEVER show their face at work in their sweatpants. Big CEO has got to look the part, right? Have to be someone your team can respect, look up to, and emulate.
My thought is, if my team can’t see me as a real person, with good days and bad days, then we starts to disconnect. It builds a “me” and “them” type of culture. They need to be able to see that I can kick back and relax and not take myself too seriously. Heck, I need to be able to see that I don’t take my self too seriously.
On the flip side, it mentally prepares me for that final marathon that I have to run today. I need to find the stamina to push through my plateau and get things done. I need the athletes mindset of “Just Do It”. I might even get to go do an actual workout later today in these clothes.
And they are good looking sweatpants…
I am deep into writing every day now. I am working on my dissertation and also on a paper for a class. All the great writing “subject matter experts” – AKA anyone who has ever published something and made a living on it – say that the more you write, the More you write. I have to say that I am finding it to be true; however, I am also finding that the more I READ – or LISTEN to an audiobook, the MORE I write. It helps me find my inner voice. Also, it does not have to be related at all to what I am writing about. In fact, it helps if it isn’t.
I can compare it to how sometimes when you have a problem to solve you do a better job working on it when you DON’T think about it, at least not directly. You push it to the first part of the back of your mind, and you just let it simmer there for a while. When we ruminate over a situation or a problem we start to lose sight of the macro for the micro. Lose the forest for the trees. Forget the original purpose behind what we are stuck on.
I guess that is why I start most of the projects I manage with a “Statement of Work”. Not the contract-y kind, but the feet-on-the-ground kind. The “this is what we are doing and why are doing it” kind. I think often the person it benefits most is ME. I can go back to and remember why this particular client is pursuing an archive solution in the first place. I always distribute it to the project team and beyond. I am not sure anyone really reads it – but I refer to it often enough when I point out that we are implementing an ARCHIVE solution, not a production-supporting system. It helps me manage the scope and its always there, in the back of my mind, guiding me and giving me pointers on how to keep the focus where it needs to be for the project. When I have a problem, I push it back to where the SOW is stored and somehow, the two together provide clear direction.
Sometimes, however, we all get that INTERNATIONAL PHONE CALL. You know what I mean. Yesterday, I was very focused and highly productive. Until I looked down at my phone. I had missed a phone call from the Netherlands. Ok, I don’t know anyone in the Netherlands. And I am sure it was a mistake or a telemarketer. BUT STILL. I don’t get INTERNATIONAL PHONE CALLS. So I thought about it all day. Who was it? Why did they call my number? Regret that I was not around to answer it, despite the extra charges it would add to my bill. And just like that, I was OFF TRACK.
Our projects will encounter INTERNATIONAL PHONE CALLS as well. Times like these, you have to pull the group together, and get the work back in the front-and-center. Start running through the details of the deliverables. Re-organize assignments so that it freshens the activity. Push the problems to the back and focus on the goals.
How do you stay on task with large projects? Solve the problems that need to be solved? Find your inner voice that guides you through the weeds so you can get back to the larger forest? Handle the INTERNATIONAL PHONE CALLS when they disrupt your pace?
Recently, I had to write my bio for a presentation that I giving at an AAHAM meeting in December. I think writing your bio is perhaps the hardest thing you can do. How do you include enough information so that your audience is comfortable with your experience, respects your knowledge, and is actually interested in what you might have to say….and at the same time not come across as an ego-maniac with a inflated sense of self-worth?
Adding to my stress is the fact that I am NOT a professional speaker. I know what my passions are (and if you read my blog, you do too):
- Data archiving and not running your retired systems longer than you should
- How to choose a data archiving partner
- Data archiving RFPs
- Data archiving project management
- Patient Centered Coordinated care
- My Kids
I am pretty sure that the last two , while interesting and maybe even applicable to some people, are not speaking topics.
The problem is that I spoke to this group 2 years ago about the first four, more or less, at a really high level. And patient-centered care is my dissertation topic – so while it being a subject I know a lot about, it borders on the TMI-zone.
I have two goals for this speech: 1. Don’t bore them to death, and 2. Don’t come off like a marketing pitch. I actually want to speak about something they can take back to their jobs and use, or at least apply, to their goals and objectives in their everyday lives. Something that reduces their stress and maybe even checks an item off their list.
SO yes, this blog post is about sharing the stress; er, I mean, sharing the LOVE. If you know me, what would you like to hear me talk about? What is in my brain that interests you (wait – don’t answer that!). On a serious note, if you had the chance to hear me talk about data archiving and my experience, what would you be curious about? What questions do you have, or does this even relate to things you are dealing with? That is what I want to present to this group. So if you have a minute or two, post a reply. Let me know what topics that are around what I know about actually interest you. What would you want me to share? What would check things off YOUR list? And Thanks, in advance, for helping me with my speech.