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Life Is All There Is

Last week (or maybe two weeks ago, I am losing track), I participated in a round table-esq discussion about some pertinent topics regarding HR called “Raging Debates in HR” by Halogen Software (Halogen is a former sponsor). Jason Seiden actually brought up some good points about the question regarding “weisure.” Have you heard of this term? It is a bastardization of combining “work” and “leisure” together.

I hate the work/life balance discussion. Unless you are in a position where you can control or ditch a poorly balanced job, there is no control over balance and no choice to make. I know some will argue that you may have more control than you think but for many others, a job is a means of survival. That means if the boss asks you to come in on Saturday and you miss Billy’s soccer game, there aren’t very many people who can correct that in short order.

There is a reason why so many talking heads feel so confident talking about it: talking heads have had control over their balance for a long time. When Jack Welch talked about work/life being a choice at SHRM, it is because it has been a choice for him for more than two decades. And guess what? For the most part, he has chosen work when he could have easily chosen a life of leisure all of these days.

Then we have people who love what they do and never want to take a day away from it. They have found balance and control through another technique and believe the key to balance and choice is to choose something you love. We all know it is just that easy too. I love basketball so I should play basketball. I could shoot hoops all day but nothing in life is going to overcome being 5’11” and slow.

Most of us realize at some point that being independently wealthy is probably not going to happen and doing something you are truly passionate about is unlikely or unrealistic given that many of our passions are unprofitable. So what are the masses to do when confronted with work/life balance nonsense?

Just Live

Most of the people who know me closely don’t know me because of my work. They know me because of who I am. Certainly work factors into that but so do a lot of other things. Your job may be a necessity but so is sleeping. It can be inconsequential to who you are as well.

I am not saying it is good or bad to be career obsessed either. I could really care less. What I am saying is that the only thing you have absolute control over is whether or not your career defines you. You may have variable control over everything else (balance, choice…) but you do have control over what defines you.

Have you watched an episode or two of Dirty Jobs? I love the show for several reasons but watch the show closely next time you get the chance. You’ll see people who typically like what they do but probably don’t take it home. There is some satisfaction in enjoying their work but they are probably known for hunting or baking or volunteering or whatever.

These people are living. They have taken this bogus work/life balance/choice advice and thrown it in the garbage. Nobody is passionate about scraping shit off of a sewer filter and nobody is getting independently wealthy doing it. They are living their lives, spending time with their family and friends and doing things they love to do.

I don’t see a problem with this. Do you?

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Get Over Yourself

So you are Mr. or Ms. Big Shot. Okay, more than likely you are Mr. or Ms. Thinks They Are A Big Shot. Maybe you have a book or a TV show or a podcast or a popular blog or a big company or a big position or a fancy car. Maybe you are known. Maybe you are actually a big deal.

Get over yourself.

You know who was the worst about this for a while? Me.

Ridiculous, right?

It wasn’t even over anything big. My blog was gaining popularity and I started to receive many comments and e-mails a day. So what did I do? Acted like a diva about it of course. I started setting arbitrary rules as to what sort of e-mails I would respond to. I reduced my Google reader down to about ten sources. I started reading what some other nice people thought about me and actually believed it. I truly believed I was brilliant and knew more than everybody (at least in this crazy, niche’d up world).

Of course, the pressure of this new life was killer. I complained to someone about this new life circumstance and they kindly but firmly said:

Get over yourself.

When I sat down and embraced this philosophy, it was actually very freeing. I was free to not act like an insufferable prick to every wayward PR person who happened to track down my phone number. I was free to respond to e-mails in less than a month’s time (I am still terrible at e-mail for non-big shot reasons). I was free to write some of my best writing to date because I didn’t have to worry about whether this big shot would keep his rep. I was free to make connections with non-big shots who actually turned out to be better than me in almost every way.

I know a lot of real life big shots who got this lesson early on. You are never too big to act like a human being to people that like you and have allowed you to influence their lives.

Get over yourself.

Why did I think about this today? Someone e-mailed me asking for assistance about starting a blog. The e-mail assumed I was super busy and probably not interested but it was worth a shot since they’ve been reading my blog for 18 months. Wait, they read me for 18 months and thought I may not be interested in helping them out?

They were probably just being polite about taking up time but let me say this once and for all: I am busy but I am always happy to help if I am able. And if I am not able, I am happy to help guide you in the right direction.

Me? A big shot who is too busy to help out someone who has read this blog for 18 months? I got over myself a long time ago. Let’s help each other become less dumb together.

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Exploiting (For) A Good Cause?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and if you didn’t know that, you were probably living in a cave. Every NFL game has had a bunch of oddly placed pink items on their uniforms and fields. Television and billboard advertising is up in major cities around the country.

I get it. I can’t think of too many people that haven’t been impacted by breast cancer in some way. So yes, awareness is good. It seems like companies have gone a little overboard on the using the awareness month to hawk their own products though. So what do I go to the store to find?

Of course, I came to find out that it wasn’t just Pepsi but a bunch of products in my local Fred Meyer store (a subsidiary of Kroger). The program aims to give three million to breast cancer. Sweet, right?

Riding The Line

How do you ride the line between promoting awareness and promoting your brand (for promoting awareness)? Can you do both effectively or will it always come off as transparent and pathetic? Should we expect companies to do good things without having to promote the crap out of it?

And not that this is the component of this particular promotion but how good is a company that will donate some proceeds of the sale to a charity? So if you’re willing to buy our product, then we’ll donate it (oh, and we’ll throw in the fine print that we won’t donate more than a few thousand bucks).

The Real Problem

If people start to become cynical about a company’s charitable donations, will companies stop donating money to these causes? And if they become cynical about partnerships between companies and charities, will the associated charities see a lowered reputation? The real problem is that the charities could potentially suffer from cynicism and companies that pull out of their causes. Companies don’t need charities to hawk their wares but charities often need all of the promotion they can get.

What do you think about companies using good causes to promote their products? What works and what doesn’t?

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Three Ways You Can Fill An Empty Passion Bucket

A few years ago, I listened to a lot of political talk radio. In an age when a bunch of my peers were listening to podcasts and that sort of thing, I was trying to dial in the static on the AM radio. I stopped listening to political talk radio because it is terrible. Now I listen to sports talk radio. It is still terrible but I feel better listening to it because I am not laughing at real problems anymore.

Anyway, I am a big fan of Dan Patrick’s sports talk radio show and he had on Rick Neuheisel, the football coach fans in the Pac-10 love to hate, and he said something about having his passion bucket full before playing USC. Basically, your passion bucket is the measure of passion you have for something and to play USC and be successful, that has to be full because you aren’t going to be as talented as they are most years.

But let’s say you’re in a crappy job, with crappy hours and you’re uninspired. Your passion bucket is empty. And if you can’t just switch jobs when you’re bored or unhappy because some blogger says you should (damn reality!), you don’t have to be miserable and passionless. Here are three choices you can make right now to start filling your bucket:

1. Love The One You’re With

So you’re at a crappy job and the economy stinks and all you can think about is how you’ve submitted a million resumes and nobody is calling you. Or you’re unemployed and you’re in the same situation. Find ways to strive and thrive in your environment and make the best of your current opportunity. That means enrich yourself, be a superstar and work hard when it seems impossible to do so. Network and become friends with likeminded colleagues. Every time you think negatively about your current position, think about two things you like about it. It feels impossible but that’s only because you are making it that way. Making the best of your current situation will help make you more passionate about it.

2. Plan And Make Your Next Move

You want out of your current job but instead of thinking rationally, you just start blanketing your resume everywhere within a 50 mile radius. Or you quit and decide you’d rather work at a coffee shop than your current employer. The problem that many people encounter is that this doesn’t seem to fix the problem. They are still unhappy only now they now have a new job and they can’t do the same thing again. Planning your next move (including determining whether you want to continue in your field) and preparing yourself (including schooling) can usually be done with a lot less stress while you hold your current position. Â Making plans about your future as a teacher or accountant, going to school can help you stay passionate when you can feel like your current stop is a temporary one.

3. Find Inspiration Outside Of Work

I know some of us in HR love to think that work is the center of your life but the third option is, at least in my opinion, the easiest way to become passionate again. I don’t know what you like to do but I love to do a lot of things: guitars, hiking, basketball, cooking, reading, writing and spending time with my family and friends. I have friends that mentor high schoolers or volunteer for a church or play softball with friends. And while work may not be the most inspirational or passion inspiring activity, you can always go back to those activities and refill your passion bucket. Unlike work, you may have more control over your situation there as well.

- — -

How do you keep your passion bucket full during less than inspiring times?

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Stop Being What You Were And Start Becoming What You Are

When it comes to a motivational speeches, I often fall short. It may stem from a personal belief that motivational speeches are good for one time, short time lapse events. My philosophy has always been to persist, adapt and move forward every single day in some small way instead of trying to take giant leaps forward on rare occasions. That works but sometimes people need a little pick me up. So this is as close to motivational as I will get.

Starting My Movie Speech Right (3, 2, 1…) Now

January 1st is a great time for people to look back and reflect on the past year, right. I could have made a long post all about how much I accomplished this year and how this was the best year everâ„¢!

It wouldn’t have been true but it would have sounded nice. Professionally, I moved on from one of the best jobs I’ve had to one of the most challenging and difficult positions in my career. I made significantly more money than the previous year but more of it was eaten up courtesy of medical bills. I started a different website, merged with a social network but I am anxious to take it up a notch and deliver something with more “pow.”

People who had a great year want to do a 2008 year in review of their life because things were awesome. People who had a crappy year want to look forward to 2009 and hope that the things that sucked in 2008 will no longer be there. The people who have great perspective will talk about where they are now (only in slight relation to the past or future). Why do I think that’s great perspective?

January 1st Is Just A Date

People who get it know that the present is the most important state. So whether you evaluate your life on January 1st or May 12th or September 23rd, you still have to do something about it. The problem is if you are only evaluating where you are once a year, you aren’t getting a full year’s perspective and you don’t have much experience in adjusting yourself incrementally.

January 1st is another day. It isn’t a new beginning any more than any other day is. If you fail on your new year’s resolution on January 2nd, start again on the 3rd. When you fail again, start again. You are always one year away from being one year into your resolution.

Your goals and resolutions are destined to fail. Over and over again. If you can’t stand failing consistently day after day, forget about a new year’s resolution.

Don’t Resolve To Do It, Just Do It

I drive past Nike World Headquarters nearly every day and their slogan is “Just Do It.” You aren’t yesterday and you aren’t tomorrow. You are today. What you are doing right now? That’s you. And if you don’t like waking up to the you of today every morning, then it doesn’t matter if it is January 1st, May 14th, June 22nd, September 3rd, or any other date. The you of tomorrow can’t do anything because there is always tomorrow (with only one exception). The you of yesterday can’t help because time travel is fictional no matter how many times you watch Back to the Future.

Unfortunately, the you of the present has to take care of business. And the only way that person can take care of business is if you do like Nike suggests. Take your lumps, failures and set backs and keep doing it.

Why Do You Care Ghost of New Year’s Past, Present and Future?

Is this turning into a New Year’s version of A Christmas Carol? Fine, I’ll get to it. Every year, people I come into contact from all walks of life want to change something about their life. Many of those changes revolve around their career. Some want a career change, a promotion, a lateral move, a raise, whatever… Nine times out of ten? Failure.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Every day is your January 1st. It is going to be a new challenge every day. Simply acknowledging that it is going to be an on-going process and you are going to fail often and spectacularly along the way of reaching your 2009 goals and resolutions is a difficult mental transition. And if you are still reading at this point, I have to acknowledge the fact that most of you who agree with this advice won’t change your thinking starting January 1st.

There are no quick take aways here other than the fact that I am annoyed by New Year’s resolutions and I want people to cut it out. If you aren’t making goals consistently throughout the year and if you aren’t taking the temperature of them along the way, you’re not only going to fail (which isn’t bad), you’ll also never progress.

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How To Be An Effective Loser

One of the unique things about HR is our exposure to a lot of losers.

Hold on now, let me pull that back. I already started this post in the hole. I am going to have to dig myself out and quick before you go off to other posts that praise everything you do!

Being a loser holds a bad conotation in many people’s heads. Nobody wants to be a loser. Nobody. People don’t aspire to be losers. And if they are currently a loser, nobody ever wants to admit it. But I don’t think being a loser is as bad as people make it out to be. It is a temporary state. Being a winner is a temporary state too but it feels better so less people examine or care about it. That’s why this post isn’t about winners. Who gives a damn about winners? If you can’t figure out how to be effective as a winner, too bad. My first experience as a loser was pretty vivid:

I was in the fifth grade and I was in love with the girl next door. It was so cliche but I didn’t even know what that word meant. It also wasn’t actual love but some sort of combination of hormones and the trance of my future Scandinavian love princess. Like most boys my age, I had no idea how to talk to girls or what they were even interested in so when I invited her to a baseball game and she said no, you’ll have to forgive my ignorance. She wasn’t interested in watching professional baseball, much less a bunch of pre-teens striking out and missing catches.

After several other tries to woo her with invitations to ride bikes or play tag, I got the message from her un-love-princess, non-Scandinavian friend: she doesn’t like you and you’re a gross boy anyway so ewww.

I was bummed but I didn’t know what about. We didn’t have any good times together, I couldn’t even talk to her and she didn’t want to hang out with me. I was bummed because I was a loser, at least in the eyes of a couple stupid girls.

The moral of the story is that not much changes about being a loser from that point forward in your life. The fact that winning at various sports events, being on the right side of the debate or tricking marrying a great woman is just as important, somehow vivid memories are created at those points in our life when we are the loser. And if you’ve been turned down for a job, been reprimanded, been a low performer or quit/got fired from a job, HR has been there.

How do people deal with being a loser effectively? Let’s take a look:

  1. Everybody loses — Everybody. So get over being the loser. Everyone on this planet has been in your spot before and they have managed to pick themselves up and win again.
  2. Winning is just as temporary as losing — Abraham Lincoln said victory is short lived. When you get that new job, a bad performance review, a layoff or a bad environment can take you off of your victory lap and into losers lane.
  3. Have a short memory — Do you remember who came in fourth in the 100 meters at the Olympics? I rarely remember people that have not been hired so stop dwelling on them like a Scandinavian love princess. People remember when you win, you should do the same.
  4. Be a good loser — You don’t like winning? Neither does anyone else. Be gracious when you have been beaten and fight the fight the next day. And remember the feeling the next time you win so you have compassion for people who loses.
  5. Do something about it — If you can’t get over being a loser, then it will never change. Pick yourself up and try again. And if you lose, you’re not in any worse shape and at least you tried.

Is there anything you would add to this list?

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You Don’t Lose Passions, You Just Gain Perspective

I was on twitter and reading people’s updates about the Democratic National Convention in Denver. It was interesting hearing things from the multiple sides out there. What’s really great about twitter is being able to see a stream of conciousness from so many different perspectives as it happened. Disappointment, elatement, anger, and apathy. From the people who were updating once every 30 seconds, they all had one thing in common: passion.

I thought about how I used to be very passionate about politics. That’s fairly easy when you’re in college though. I could debate non-stop about all sorts of issues. Everything from major policies to whether gaffes in speeches were relevant. I blogged about conservative issues in 2004. I moderated several conservative communities online during the time as well and I enjoyed it.

Likes Versus Passion

Then I stopped caring.

Some may mention that it became very difficult to argue the conservative cause when a lot of things were not going our way (with 2006 mid-terms a stamp on that point). Nobody mentions the fact that it was still fairly difficult arguing conservative causes in 2004 and that’s when I hit my peak.

I contrasted that with what I am really passionate about currently:

  • Good food, wine and beer. Especially the beer here in Beervana (Portland, OR)
  • Being outdoors in tall trees and beautiful mountains
  • Playing guitar and creating music
  • Spending time with my wife, family and friends
  • Football and Basketball season (currently watching college football)
  • God and the fellowship of others who also believe

I made sure to think about things that I normally wouldn’t associate with my passions and added two more:

  • Writing in general and blogging/social components specifically
  • Human Resources as the most critical component of business

What Causes Us To Lose Passion?

I enjoyed talking about politics because I was good at it and I liked playing the consistent devil’s advocate. When that thrill grew old, my passion left it. I was not fundamentally interested in politics. There was just an aspect of it I sort of enjoyed. I can still talk about it and if you force my hand, I could talk about it enough to sound interesting. It doesn’t live up to my listed passions here.

Embrace Your Non-Traditional Passions

It is easy to be passionate about some of the great wines you can find here on the US West Coast. It is also easy to be passionate about sports (my neighbors can vouch for that). It is hard to say that “Hey, I really love HR.” I could go on and on about what I love about HR but this blog exemplifies both of my passions fairly well. I try to make sure my passion about HR floods through in every post I write. It is the difficulty in both writing and embracing it that I have troubles with at times.

How can you understand me through my passions? Hopefully by the fact that I have maintained a blog consistently about a very niche issue and that most of my blogging relates to the non-stop running commentary in my head about how HR relates to everything.

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Balancing Work, Another Job and a Life

As many of you know, I am big into work/life balance. I have also been lucky enough to work for employers that have valued that as well. Now though, it seems that I am running into a little conundrum because that work/life balance has turned into work/work/life balance and I didn’t even take on a second job! At least not deliberately. Let’s list the issues:

  • I have a day job. It runs 8–5pm with little (if any) overtime. Some travel involved but not enough to really get excited over. No the job isn’t super sexy. But yes, lucky me: I have a life.
  • I am now essentially moonlighting as a blogger. Two independent sites going (this one and HRM Today), a blog on, as well as exclusive sponsorship of a social network (HR Bloggers). My monthly income from blogging is roughly half that of my day job. It could be more if I worked harder at it (sponsorships, advertising, etc) but again, work/life balance.
  • Then life. My routine has been to come home and spend the first couple of hours focused on my wife, have dinner and talk about what is going on. Then she wants to watch a little TV or read and I get online and do my blogging. Until when? Sometimes 1am. Then to bed and up again at 6:30. The good? Weekends are intact. I rarely touch the computer on the weekend and if I do, it isn’t usually more than an hour.

How do I resist the urge to check my blog stats every five minutes or stay on my cell phone? How does my wife not want to kill me every night (she still may want to on occasion)? I think I do it by following some easy steps:

  1. Set your computer boundaries — I want to be either on the computer being productive or off it doing something else. No computer games, not much in the way of personal blogging, no chat, no twitter.
  2. Set your phone boundaries — I check my emails on my phone in the morning before work and after work on the way home. I can worry less about email when I want to spend time with my wife.
  3. Set your hours — I don’t want to be blogging at 1am but sometimes I am. I do very well on the weekends but I need to do a better job on work days.
  4. Set up an end game — Is there a breaking point with having essentially two jobs? I know there is because I’ve worked with employees who have dealt with it. It is critical to understand where your break point is and to have a plan to go one way or the other.

This post started out as a gripe post but I realized that it would seem silly to gripe about the opportunities I have and to complain about coping with it. I am grateful that I have abundant opportunities and I do get tired of people saying “Agh, I am so busy and life isn’t fair.” So turn it into a positive: being busy is either a function of having lots of opportunites (yay!) or inefficiency (something that can be easily fixed!).

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Inspiring Yourself With Music (Or Something Else)

I can’t go to sleep. I spent my entire Memorial Day weekend either sacked out or in heavy interaction with other people. The ebb and flow of it all is incredibly interesting, I just wish I didn’t have to deal with or think about it at midnight before work the next day.

I went through this phase in my life where I was incredibly inspired by music. Sometimes all it took was a little guitar riff to let an emotion wash over me. Sometimes a lyric could tell my entire story. My personal journal was full of written down music lyrics that I thought defined the moment. I was consumed by music though. I could easily spend all day listening to CD’s (or later on, MP3’s).

Looking back on it now, it seems very artificial to be pining for the days when music meant a lot to me. It seems like a lot of people find their way through their formative years with the help of music. Whether it be through rebellion or inspiration or love. For the record, my first tape I hid from my parents was LL Cool J. My first CD, Green Day’s Dookie didn’t come out from a classical music CD case until my junior year in high school. For inspiration, I turned to a worn out Boyz II Men tape. My first girlfriend and I had a “song” by K-Ci and JoJo. I had to Google the name of that band too.

The funny part about it all is that I didn’t lose that love of music, it wasn’t a phase, and it doesn’t seem artificial. 10 years ago, I picked up a guitar for the first time. I didn’t become a superstar but I became good enough so that when I pick it up, I can actually enjoy it. Every time I play (which I do with a decent frequency), I feel more tightly connected with music. I don’t know if it has anything to do with feeling the frequency of the notes resonating through your fingers.

I think the biggest breakthrough for me came when I realized that music didn’t have to emote me. The revelation that music could be used to reveal emotions I was feeling or the mood I was going through was a big deal. The more practical application was that I could correct bad or ineffective moods very easily with music.

So to the practical part of this post: a couple of days ago, I was stressed out. When I drove to work, I put in my Coldplay album instead of listening to sports talk radio (which is really for the better with all of the baseball talk). Half an hour later, all is better. It is a clever manipulation, one that initially made me angry. “Nothing changed, stupid,” I said to myself coldly. True enough.

In the end, it didn’t matter because that clever manipulation helped me perform better and ultimately did make the real change happen (albeit not directly, not that it matters). You have to use your inspirations to help you out in real life. If that means using your inspiration to leverage career success or using it to just get through your work day, do it.

So my inspiration is music which I guess isn’t all that unique but it works. Do you have a particularly unique inspiration? How do you use it to become successful?