When the fog clears, you can see forever

golden-gate-bridge-fog

I miss our frequent visits to the Bay Area for conferences. I seriously could stare at this view. All. Day. Long. (Image: Axel Anta)

Or at least, what lies just ahead.

Work (or anything, really) can be like a fog, occupying our minds and keeping our lives busy, too full to accommodate one more idea or commitment. Certainly no room for dreaming.

After months on a fairly sizable freelance project, I’m taking off for a few weeks.

On this first day off, there was no pile of work to plow through. No emails to answer or meetings to attend.

Free to think, breathe and generally just chill, I found clarity like I hadn’t had in sometime. Oh, the peace.

Jeremiah 29:11

The forest or the trees?

Forest or the trees?

Good days are like that.

They can start out feeling like you can’t see the forest for the trees, and then – all of a sudden, the path is straight. Before long, you’re in a clearing and, while the destination is a long way off, with new clarity, you know exactly where you’re going.

Just keep your head down and keep paddling. You’ll get there.

Do you and your team complement each other?

I confess, I’m an assessment freak.

I like to know “how I’m doing” and where I stand – sometimes on my own, other times as I compare to others. I just like to learn more about how I’m wired so I can be better in whatever I do.

Also of interest to me is finding out what makes other people tick and how they’re wired. Most of the time, I like to sit and listen to them and hear them talk from the heart. You learn a lot when you let other people tell their story.

But often you just don’t have that kind of time.

Take job interviews, for example. If you’re lucky, you get maybe an hour to get to learn first-hand whether a candidate is compatible with you and/or your team. That’s not a lot of time, especially when you’re covering technical skills and other competencies.

I remember trying to get a read on potential hires during interviews. I’d ask a few Either/Or questions to candidates to get an idea of how they operated and, consequentially, how we might work together. Not that everything about us is either/or, but we typically know what we like or don’t like.

That’s all I wanted to know. So my questions went something like this:

Which is your preference:

  • Fast-paced or slow?
  • Details or big picture?
  • Dreamer or closer?
  • Starting or finishing?

If the candidate and I were wired similarly (fast, big-picture, dreamer, starter), chances were good the combination wouldn’t work as well as it could. We might get along socially, but why have two starters when you could start well and finish well – with a really strong closer? So I typically went for my opposite, or at least more of a complement.

For what it’s worth: In my experience, visionaries or big-picture folks can report to each other pretty peacefully, as can details people. And details people seem to work well when reporting to a big-picture person. Just not vice-versa, for some reason.

What do you think? Have you experienced the same?

One theory I have is that the latter combo can be less-than-ideal due to the vastly different languages visionaries and details people speak. It’s like apples and oranges.

Of course, if you like apples and oranges, I suppose you can always make smoothies.

Blog comments: Where to share?

After returning to blogging last month for the first time in a long time, I realized so much has changed, thanks largely to how “social” media has become.

I didn’t realize, however, the number of hoops a blog reader now has to jump through just to participate in a conversation. We’re not talking just Captcha anymore, although it still makes appearances (like the “I’m Not a Robot” check box).

It also didn’t occur to me that blogs may or may not be where conversation really happens.

And none of this was even on my radar until:

Hyatt admits his decision may not be right for everyone, but there is some really strong rationale around why he did it – especially with numbers like his. He was, after all, named one of Forbes’  “Top 10 Online Marketing Experts To Follow In 2014.”

Since Poor Mexican Gone is very young, I feel I have time to make this decision based on where the traffic comes from and where the ongoing conversation ends up.

Wanna be startin’ something?

I’m entrepreneurial by nature and by birth. From a legacy in my family of “starters”  — from grocers to gas station owners, seamstresses, ministers to musicians and marketers, bootleggers, accountants to attorneys and retailers — there’s a lot of startup in my blood.

metate1

Making meal for corn tortillas went from 16th-century low-tech…

The best part: my grandmother owned a molino de nixtamal, a corn mill for grinding maize to resell to markets that sold tortillas. I just learned that having the kind of manufacturing equipment required to run this operation was pretty cutting-edge for the early 20th century – anywhere in the world.*

Ha. My grandma was high-tech! Sigh. One more story to run down. But back to business.

molino

…to high-tech, with marked advances in the early 20th century.

Working for the man
While I’ve mostly worked for “the man” (The Man, actually) much of my career, I’ve had to find ways to feed my need to build new things, wherever I was. I’ve been fortunate to be in rapid-growth environments and fill in critical gaps due to the growth.

But here’s what I learned: If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and work in a larger company or business that’s not yours (yet), learn what you can where you are. Make the way you’re wired work for you and your employer. And then take it up a notch.

Here are a few ideas on how to “be startin’ something” right where you are:

  • Find an important problem that needs solving and perhaps that no one has “discovered” yet. If you’re one who spots trends or opportunities early, this is where you use it. Get some traction by taking on a project you know has a start and a finish – something that’s measurable, with tangible output.
    One project I worked on a number of years ago capitalized on what was then “new” RSS technology – the ability to syndicate content. We needed to distribute globally gathered story content from a team of field reporters — a good solution for our customers, who were also globally distributed. RSS was a seemingly small solution, but it had a big impact on productivity and opened up great opportunities for me to contribute more.
  • If you are ready for a bigger challenge, identify an initiative that meets an ongoing business need. How about that new CRM idea that’s been kicked about for so long? Got a knack for tech? Maybe this is your thing to drive for the business side of the house.
  • Heck, it could be something that has been broken for so long, everyone has just accepted it and learned to “work around” the “broken” state and call it good. Fix that. Think big.
  • Next step: Mention the idea to your supervisor and measure the warmth of her reception. If it feels good, come back with a more thought-out solution and a high-level plan. You never know – you just might be onto something.

It is possible to carve a niche for yourself by spotting opportunities and showing you’re self-starter who can help advance the business and your team’s credibility while growing your personal toolkit. My grandmother did it. She spotted an emerging opportunity and seized it – by making tortillas highly reproducible.

You can do the same in your space.

The fact is, you know your work and understand the types of problems that need solving or are trending. Chances are also good you’re pretty familiar with what good solutions look like, now and in the future. So find them. Offer them.

If you don’t do it, who knows when anyone else will get around to it?

p.s. I’d drafted this post (the one that blew up) before coming across this one from Seth today. Love his wisdom – don’t miss it!

* Source: Goods, Power, History: Latin America’s Material Culture, Arnold J. Bauer, p. 190.

WFH: How’s it going for ya?

* WFH – Working from home

DeathtoStock_Creative Community3-xsm

Death to Stock Photo image

A few years ago, I wanted so badly to trade places with my consultant husband. I worked for ‘the man’ and had done so my entire career.

But I didn’t get to pick up at the drop of a hat, go for a bike ride or on a fishing trip (not that I would) – or even ride some powder in the mountains after fresh snow. I was a mere mortal.

If I’m honest, I probably held a grudge for a good 10 years. Until the tables turned.

Now, I’m wearing his shoes and well, there’s a lot to learn — mostly about myself.

In fact, it wasn’t until just recently I realized how much I need to be around people as part of my work. I’m a flaming extrovert, so while I adore my cat, being alone with him all day – well, that just won’t work.

Trust experienced telecommuters
I’m thinking Someone is saying something to me. Between this blog from Tara Mohr:

One of the things that made difference – that made the exciting parts come to the fore, and the harder parts fade to the background, was taking care of myself in the little ways. I’ve been spending so much more time with people I love, and taking the time to get out and do my work in beautiful cafes – doing the little things that nurture me.

..and this straightforward listen-to-your-rhythms piece, I need to make some changes.

Is the grass really greener?
In a world driven by happy-path stories and personas, it’s easy to think everyone else is living the dream. (Pssst…they’re probably thinking the same of you.) But sometimes what we have is exactly what we need during that moment … just with a slight twist.

My “twist” will be working away from home more – in cafés beautiful or otherwise – so I can be around people more. What will yours be?