Tag Archives: business

What to do when you’re fed up

Are you sick to death of an important relationship, your weight, your inertia on a project or the pigsty you call an office?

Whatever it is with which you’re fed up (for me, it was the pigsty), consider wallowing in your fed-upness before reacting prematurely.

The term “fed up” comes from the barn yard.

Imagine cows or pigs being force-fed to make them fat and meaty for market. They are fed until they are full and then fed a little bit more to get the best price before slaughter. They’re trapped in their stall with ready access to the trough, no longer free to graze in the meadow or root around for tasty morsels in the pen.

That’s how it feels to be fed up. Overfull. Trapped. Slaughter looming. Being fed up is having had more than enough of something, whatever it is. So when you’re fed up, you’re understandably tempted to quit or get away from or otherwise take rash action with the something.

Don’t do that quite yet.

How about doing nothing?

Control is an illusion. We itty bitty human beings have control of nothing. Oh, sure you can choose to eat this or that, but really, we’re all standing at the trough of life, dining on what’s in front of us.

Should you quit or wait until you’re fired? Same result, different timing. I don’t get to choose whether I get wrinkles. I only get to choose whether I can afford the wrinkle cream and laser treatments to stave them off (temporarily). My brother, the smoker? He died in a car accident.

Stuff happens. Inevitably.

like a dandelion disintegrating in the windEverything in this world is impermanent. Except our souls. I believe our souls are eternal. But everything else will eventually dissolve, break, end or disappear. And it probably won’t happen on our timetable.

So to think we can somehow control anything is dubious at best.

I’m reading a fascinating book. Have I mentioned it already? Yeah, it’s that good. In “A New Earth,” author Eckhart Tolle says, “sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.”

Maybe your suffering is necessary. Instead of trying to get rid of it, consider trying to roll with it and quit trying to predict what will happen. As Tolle might say, “The more expectations you have of how [your] life should unfold, the more you are in your mind instead of being present for [it].”

Maybe whatever it is with which you’re fed up is a necessary experience, a crucial step in a much bigger process. From “A New Earth”:

You differentiate between events that are “good for me” and things that are “bad.” This is a fragmented perception of the wholeness of life in which everything is interconnected, in which every event has its necessary place and function within the totality. The totality, however, is more than the surface appearance of things, more than the sum total of its parts, more than whatever your life or the world contains.

When you’re fed up, that phase of doing nothing, rolling with it and accepting the greater wisdom of the interconnected universe helps prevent reaction and informs action. At some point, you’ll know what to do.

I am reminded of some advice from Cheryl Lightle, one of the co-founders of Creative Memories, which declared bankruptcy a couple of months ago and is in the midst of a reorganization some might describe as chaotic. Lightle retired a decade ago after 15 years of epic success, and I’ll let someone else opine on whether the company’s current woes can be found in the abandonment of some of guiding principles followed by Lightle and other top execs in the company during its infancy.

In her book, “Creative Memories: The 10 Timeless Principles Behind the Company that Pioneered the Scrapbooking Industry,” Lightle counsels, “Don’t knee jerk”:

Change is hard. Our immediate reaction when faced with change is to take action. I say stop and hold tight.

Was my complete and total lack of willingness to address my messy office the past couple of weeks somehow interconnected with the universe? Perhaps. I cannot say for sure. But I wallowed in it for a while. Was change hard? Yes, cleaning takes effort (at least for me). Today, I took action (not reaction) and found a home for every file, photo album, manuscript draft, unsold product, outdated handout and book cluttering the floor of my office. For some items, the home was nearby (the bookcase), and for others, their destination was the garbage can in the garage (why I was holding on to catalogs from 2004 is beyond me). I cleared enough space to vacuum! Ah, never has such a lowly household machine been put such a higher purpose.

I’m no longer fed up. I’m admiring my space.

Looky there! Space for the pretty puppy to lounge.

Looky there! Space for the pretty puppy to lounge.

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When chaos reigns, where do you stand? Or leap?

Hull clinger or deck leaper?

File it with questions like “vanilla or mint chocolate chip?” “Domestic or import?” and “Stock market or mattress saver?” Your answer to whether you’re the sort who clings to the hull of a sinking boat or you’re the kind of person who leaps from the deck of the boat before it goes down says a lot about your character.

It’s the sort of question one ponders when considering how to pack in the 60 seconds before your house burns down/gets flattened by a tornado/drops into a sinkhole. Do you grab your dog or your cell phone? Or do you try to find both and end up scorched/splintered/buried?

I generally think I’m pretty good about keeping my senses in an emergency.

I’m the lifeguard who saved a kid once.

I’m the tour guide who calmly aided a kid who fainted during a tour of the newspaper office while his teacher panicked unnecessarily (the child wasn’t dying — he probably should have eaten a better breakfast).

Once rear-ended in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the interstate, I calmly pulled over, exchanged details with the dipchick who hit me, calmly pulled back into traffic and caught a plane to Dallas.

I’m also the idiot who reaches to my right to secure my purse in the passenger seat when I stomp on the brakes. Really? My purse is worth saving in the event of a car accident?

I ask this question after reading a spellbinding story in the Star Tribune about a houseboat that went over a dam on the Mississippi River earlier this week (if you haven’t read it, check it out — it’s written like a play-by-play of the sinking of the Titanic if the Titanic had been a houseboat, the iceberg had been a dam and no one died).

The story includes a quote from one of the passengers: “I thought I was being so smart, grabbing my purse and keys” as the houseboat neared its demise. “I can’t believe I didn’t put my life jacket on.”

I’m probably that woman.

I’m probably the person hanging on to my purse and the hull as the ship goes down. My Beloved, on the other hand, is the guy who jumps into the swirling water without a thought to his wallet, sure he’ll catch another break.

I am thinking, too, of this analogy as I watch a company for which I formerly worked slog through a second bankruptcy. It’s clear that some of those closest to the situation — executives, employees, salespeople — jumped off the boat, maybe too soon, but with purse and respect intact. Some are pondering their next move while carefully weighing the pros and cons of the swirling water below. And some are irrationally clinging to the sinking hulk, thinking about their purse instead of the life jacket and refusing to recognize the dam looming ahead.

I was directly involved in a looming bankruptcy once, too (either it’s the companies for which I choose to work, or it’s me, not sure). My Beloved contends I waited too long to jump, but I think breaking ties when I stopped getting paychecks was reasonable (I liken this to Rose in “Titanic” — I went down with the ship but I wasn’t playing violin on the deck). People hung on without paychecks for weeks after that, believe it or not. They were the hull clingers.

So what are you? Are you the type to cling to the sinking boat because it represents security? Or are you the adventurer who leaps quickly into the deep water?

Stuff happens

It’s been a weird day, and while I’d like to be eloquent, I’m not sure I have the energy.

Like the rest of the sane citizenry of this earth, I’m shocked by the bombing in Boston yesterday, but as a recreational jogger, I’m really confused: Why would anyone target runners? Runners bug no one except an occasional territorial dog and drivers who can’t share country back roads.

I’m grasping for answers to “Why?” but there are no rational answers for irrational acts.

Other weird stuff is going down in the business world — more crazy machinations over which I have almost no control. I’m feeling really bad for people being treated like commodities.

Closer to home, I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Control freaks don’t like feeling out of control.

I think I need to exert my power over a small thing I can control: I think I’ll clean out my purse. Those receipts won’t know what hit them.

Take this management book and shove it

leadership booksAmong the books I gave away earlier this week was a whole passel of management and leadership books I collected during the course of my years as a middle manager in Great and Powerful Corporations.

Like Oz, those corporations were full of flash, short on substance. Both went bankrupt in the past decade (both emerged from bankruptcy, too, but that just emphasizes my point of management by smoke and mirrors).

The book I was happiest to dump was “Working with Emotional Intelligence,” which I picked up after a supervisor for whom I no longer have a scintilla of respect told me I lacked emotional intelligence. She probably would not have approved of my choice of “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office 101,” which I also hoisted into the giveaway pile on the grounds it used “mistakes women make” in the subtitle. I’m sorry, unwitting recipients of bargain books at Savers, but neither one softened my rough edges. Odds of me picking up Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book? 100 to 1. Lean into that.

When I’m looking for information to support my opinions of Big Business, I turn to Dilbert, which I check out daily over my morning coffee. I love Scott Adams. His is a philosophy I can believe in. I typed “bullshit leadership quotes” into Google and got this delightful result, written by Dilbert’s creator just yesterday. Here’s an excerpt:

“Consider the thousands of different books on management/success/leadership. If any of this were real science, all managers would learn the same half-dozen secrets to success and go on to great things. The reality of the business world is more like infinite monkeys with typewriters. Sooner or later a monkey with an ass pimple will type something that makes sense and every management expert in the world will attribute the success to the ass pimple.”

~ Scott Adams

Book reveals complex nature of Steve Jobs’ success

Readers with any interest in biography, business, technology or the company of Apple would appreciate Walter Isaacson’s 630-page tome on Steve Jobs.

I found it fascinating. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for the great Christmas present.

Isaacson’s biography of the Apple icon is a bit workmanlike, but it successfully illumines the man behind the Apple Macintosh computer and iEverything.

I knew Jobs was a creative genius. This book shows in detail how he contributed to the inventions to which he’s credited, without underplaying the contributions of others like Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Apple chief designer Jony Ive. Isaacson interviewed more than 100 family members, friends and adversaries for the book, and his research shows. I was particularly impressed with the volume of comments from Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Jobs’s quintessential competitor.

What I didn’t know was what an “asshole” Steve Jobs was (that’s Isaacson’s word). Isaacson’s descriptions of Jobs’s vulgar language, his treatment of anyone he didn’t consider an A player (including hapless waiters) and his arrogance in the face of criticism make him sound like a tyrant. His soft side as a parent is barely perceptible. Isaacson also spends a lot of time describing Jobs’s strange diet (which doesn’t make him an asshole, per se, but is evidence of his sometimes strange perspective). Primarily a vegetarian throughout his life, he sometimes spent weeks drinking only carrot juice or eating only apples. Early on in his career, numerous people complained about Jobs’s body odor because he failed to shower regularly, under the misguided assumption that his fruitarian diet prevented B.O. Reading between the lines, Jobs’ thought his shit didn’t stink.

What a jerk.

Still, I admire his business philosophies and design aesthetics. Isaacson packages the story in such as way as to make me believe the genius would not have been that way without the asshole.

One might wonder if Isaacson really needed so many pages to describe Jobs’ life. I never found him wordy, and I read straight through. I can’t imagine the reams of information he had to comb through. The author repeats some details a bit much (like descriptions of Jobs’ diet and bad language), but that approach actually offers a way for someone who only wants to know about, say, Jobs’ career at Pixar or how the iPod came to life, to dip into only those chapters and still have context.

The “story” is presented more or less chronologically, which may not be literary, but it’s sort of required in a standard biography. Isaacson writes a nice summation at the end though he comes off like a bit of a sycophant (“History will place him in the pantheon right next to Edison and Ford”; perhaps so, Mr. Isaacson, but history will tell us that so you don’t need to).

steve jobs coverThe cover is perfect for a biography of a man who found simplicity to be sophisticated. Though Jobs had little to do with the words inside (other than provide 40 interviews with Isaacson), he did influence the cover before he died. It’s only the words “Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson” and a backgroundless image of Jobs gazing out at the reader with his legendary stare. It’s as menacing as it is pure.

Other Minnesota Transplant posts about Steve Jobs:

 

The Power(Point) of magical thinking

“I hate the way people use slide presentations instead of thinking. People would confront a problem by creating a presentation. I wanted them to engage, to hash things out at the table, rather than show a bunch of slides. People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.”

~ Steve Jobs

After reading “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson, I learned the founder of Apple who died in 2011 was a foul-mouthed narcissist who routinely dressed down employees, vendors and clients by calling them “shitheads” and much worse in corporate meetings.

I used to admire the man and his innovative thinking. Now, I just admire his innovation and appreciate his aesthetics.

Still, I love the philosophy on PowerPoint from the man who coined “Think Different.”

Slide presentations can be effective and powerful in a lecture setting where a single speaker is talking authoritatively to a large group. The best slide presentations rely heavily on images and short headlines designed to underscore the point being made by the speaker. Even Jobs used PowerPoint in his Apple product launches.

But in a business setting, PowerPoint is often gee-wizardry designed to overpower weak thinkers or mask weak thinking.

It’s not surprising, given Jobs’s contempt for ineptitude, that he would refuse to listen to PowerPoint presentations in his boardroom because he apparently much preferred to get into people’s faces and intimidate them into his way of thinking (different). But even without the rudeness, he had a point.

I can’t tell you how many bad PowerPoint presentations I sat through during my years as a corporate drone. I was mute witness to thousands of slides filled with statistics, complicated diagrams and words, words, words, often created by an MBA who was trying to prove her superior intelligence. Sometimes I even helped create such works of dazzling BS in my role to make a weak-thinking boss look good in front of a board of directors.

Not my best work.

Just for fun (because I’m arrogant and rude like a supercilious CEO sometimes, too), I dug up an example from my past (slightly modified to protect the guilty) of a “shitty” slide (in Steve Jobs’s parlance) that was used as more of a crutch for the speaker than to underscore a point for the audience:

shitty slideLots of pretty colors, huh? It’s like an explosion of baffling brilliance. You know you’re in trouble with your deck when you have to say, “You can’t read this one, but … .” For the eagle-eyed, I especially love this particular slide because it mentions “Oprah” as part of the strategy on the same level as “Bus. Cards” (because there wasn’t enough room for “Business Cards”). Thank goodness Oprah has a short name. And she’s so accessible.

Jobs was profane when he encountered such incompetence, and I wish I would have read that he learned a little more compassion before he died of cancer. In my case, I’m just grateful I’m no longer sitting in a boardroom full of shitheads patting each other on the back for crappy PowerPoint presentations.

Tomorrow: My book review of Walter Isaacson’s biography

The intersection of ‘a good leader’ and ‘what I’d like to see in a leader’

Is a good leader the same as what matters most to you in a leader?

These two questions crossed my mind as I was reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computers.

In a fit of insomnia, I read 100 pages of the 571-page tome in the middle of the night last night just after I found an article in November’s Real Simple magazine about “What Matters to You Most in a Leader?”

Real Simple was posing the question in light of Election Day, but it’s relevant in light of Obama’s inauguration, too.

Answers from Real Simple readers included:

  • “An open mind and a tolerant attitude.”
  • “Humility.”
  • “Kindness and sympathy.”
  • “The ability to help people with opposing viewpoints find common ground.”

Meanwhile, Isaacson uses words like “bratty,” “arrogant,” “demanding” and “harsh” to describe the perfectionist behind such products as the Macintosh personal computer and iEverything.

Which leads me to wonder, “Is what we want in a leader what we really need?”

After reading just the beginning of Jobs’ biography, I know I’d never have made it at Apple Computers. I would have hated working for such a jerk. Yet I admire the work of that jerk.

I wonder if, like a spoiled 5-year-old who gets everything she wants and then throws tantrums anyway, we’re getting exactly what we ask for in our politicians and business leaders?