Weekly Photo Challenge: Motion

At the last minute, I decided to participate in the photo challenge this week. It’s a great one – motion. Here my entry:

IMG_3197

I love the fire works on the cake presented at a birthday party this weekend. The kids were so excited that we had a couple of goes with the fireworks candles. The little boy turning 6 even got to make a wish.

Other great entries:
Crafty lady in combat boots – Motion

Lucid Gypsy – Motion

I hope everyone had a great weekend too!

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The luxury of being average (4 years later)

If you have been visiting this blog for a while, you may remember one of my popular blog posts back in July 2011 titled, ‘The luxury of being average. Here is an excerpt from it:

Now and then, I wrestle with my fear of being average. I worry that I’ll live an average life that won’t be worth remembering and be just as good or worse than the person that came before. I always want to be better.

Before I go on, let me put a definition of ‘average’ out here. Cambridge dictionary defines ‘average’ as

a standard or level considered to be typical or usual.

I re-read the post recently and my feelings have changed slightly but significantly. I still find easygoing folks a little annoying and I still want to be damn good at what I do. But I have found a way to live with the fact I am not good at everything and that I need to find my niche in life. How am I living with this? Here’s how: The crux of my 2011 blog post was that I felt under a lot of pressure. I know now that I was probably striving for the wrong things. It had very little (if anything at all) to do with average-ness, whether I deemed that to be a curse or a blessing. I wanted to be what other people wanted me to be and that was incredibly exhausting.

Angry or confused face?

When I handed in my resignation this past February, I discovered people find change very uncomfortable and some have certain views on what I am supposed to be and the things I am meant to achieve. To announce that I’m probably not going to achieve those things because I don’t want to is a pill some still have under their tongue and haven’t swallowed. I would say to someone, “hey, I quit my job!” and then they would proceed to tell me why they cannot quit their job. All good information but eh, I haven’t asked you to quit your job! It’s pretty funny to watch/listen to. So…do I still fear being ‘average’? No, not really. I think that regardless of whether I keep up with people’s expectations or not, I will never be average simply because I am who I am. Those decisions and the life journeys I choose to go on are unique to me. Whether or not I succeed on the path I’m on doesn’t change that. And…do I think being average is a luxury? If I define ‘average’ as

not having too much or too little and not aspiring far beyond the current reality

then yes, it could provide the luxury of a content, relatively stress-free existence. As I glance back at the definitions of ‘average’, I know it’s a luxury I cannot afford. Guess I’ll never learn.

Images from flickr user: thejuniorpartner – Angry or confused face?

On corporate careers: misconceptions, mistaken identities and other near misses

This is not your typical career post. I’m not going to patronise you by telling you how to make your career the envy of many. Neither am I going to tell you to forget having a corporate career because the corporate world is evil. No, none of that nonsense. I’m going to tell you my greatest misconceptions during my corporate career that spans 10 years. You will see potential identity issues and near misses, which could derail any promising career.

the boss

Choosing a job, not a manager – New challenges are so exciting! It doesn’t matter if I don’t have direct experience in a role, I get excited about finding out what I’m meant to be doing. In fact, if I can already do the job I’m unlikely to be interested. I read the job description, highlighting in green where I have experience, in yellow where I have knowledge but no direct experience and in orange where I have nothing at all. Then I make a plan to fill the gaps. Sounds pretty thorough, right? Well, that’s a misconception right there. I hardly ever ask crucial questions about who’s going to be my manager in the new role. I know their names but I don’t find out what they are like to work for, what their management style is and if I should be bothered to enter into their kingdom. Oftentimes, this is more important than the job itself. It doesn’t matter how smart I am. If I have to regularly combat difficult personalities or succumb to a management style that doesn’t work for me, I’ll lay awake at night. If I could go back in time, I’d ask more questions about management style and values. I might still take the job after finding out that the manager eats human ears for breakfast (my ears are my favourite feature) but at least I’ll know – and I’ll have an approach for managing them…because the job is worth it.

speak no evil hear no evil

Tolerating bad behaviour for far too long – Corporate environments are odd places. Many have open plan spaces where you sit at your desk for hours hitting away at the keyboard connected to your computer. There are times that I’m a few meters away from a colleague(s) and no words are exchanged for the most part of the day. It’s not that we hate each other. We are just really busy, hunched over from 9 to 5, buried in a spreadsheet or a slide presentation or horse manure. Offices are odd places for sure. Then imagine people behaving badly on top of that. Behaving badly could include:

  • sending that saucy email with a lot of comments about things the sender knows nothing about while copying the whole world,
  • shouting at other colleagues because life just feels better after shouting,
  • people not pulling their weight on the job

I use the ‘3-strikes-and-you-are-out’ approach but not everyone is as understanding as that. After all, we are all here to work and to get paid for a hard day’s job. Corporate environments are not charities. Sooner or later, somebody will mercilessly threw slackers under the bus.

Focusing on weaknesses instead of strengths – Ever since I was a child, I have ignored my strengths. Literally. When I get my report sheet, I scan through and notice all the ‘buts’, ‘althoughs’, and ‘could-do-betters’. I almost always need a second opinion on the report sheet, someone to talk me off the ledge. It takes another look for me to notice the ‘she is excellent at this’ and ‘she is a leader in that’. Honestly, I never see it the first time. If someone asked me my weaknesses, those would roll off my tongue quickly but I often have to think about what my strengths are. In fact, I ask my friends what my best traits are quite a lot because I tend to forget.

 

In my corporate career, this is probably the worst misconception – the misconception that I need to improve my weaknesses more than I need to make my strengths even stronger. It causes what I call, ‘mistaken identity’. I could end up presenting myself with my weaknesses at the forefront. Try it. Describe yourself with your weaknesses. For instance, you could say, ‘I’m terrible at numbers and I have no patience for slow learners.’ Then try describing yourself with your strengths. Something like, ‘I’m creative and often come up with innovative ideas. I’m also calm and productive under pressure.’ Well, who would you hire for a job? It’s the same person.  One of my lecturers at business school used to say and still says that people should ignore their weaknesses. ‘Just leave it alone’, he says. ‘Focus on your strengths’, he says. ‘That’s what the company hired you for – to tap your strengths – not to improve your weaknesses,’ he’d often say. I’m not sure I can totally ignore my weaknesses but perhaps if I focus more on my strengths, I’ll have greater impact because I’m more effective. Or so I’m told.

light the boss' cig

Neglecting to feed the ego monsters – I cannot for the life of me massage people’s egos. I’m not dissing it, trust me. It’s a good skill to have and should probably be in the curriculum at any good university. I just can’t do it because I struggle to say things I don’t mean. It’s worse when the ego monster is expecting me to feed them without doing much to deserve it. I think, ‘Huh? Excuse me…I have things to do’. Really bad attitude on my part and a potential near miss as far as corporate careers go. In corporate careers, the ego monsters could be:

  • the boss
  • the boss’ boss
  • that IT guy who can work magic on a fried hard drive
  • a senior manager whose buy-in is needed for the project to go ahead
  • his secretary

I conclude that feeding egos is possibly the most important skill in large organisations with tall hierarchies. Hopefully, it’s backed up with a measure of efficiency on the job. Bosses want to feel good (as do all human beings) and the majority of them don’t mind if you mean it or not. Just do it and it might be the start of a blissful relationship. It feels awkward when I do it. Like Pinocchio, I stand there expecting to be outed as my nose grows… My smile is tense and phony. Certain muscles in my face twitch. It would be easier if I could sit this one out. But I can remember times when my corporate career would have been much easier if I had simply played along…

There they are – I shuffled along with energy, enthusiasm and some mildly worrying misconceptions.

Do any of these resonate with anyone?

Images from flickr users: Pulpoux!!! – the boss; Theen Moy – Speak No Evil, Hear No EvilGiulio Magnifico – Light the cigarette for the boss

I submitted my 1st journal article…and now I can’t sleep

sleep thief

What’s my most recent realisation?

Eh, I am hopeless at waiting.

Until a few months ago, I would have described myself as reasonably patient. But over the past few weeks, I have needed to physically and manually distract myself almost daily from worrying about the journal paper I have submitted to the Industrial Marketing Management journal. The paper is based on research during my MBA at Henley Business School in 2012 and focuses on the change management process in business-to-business social media. The paper is co-authored with David Rees, Visiting Executive Fellow at Henley. If you are wondering why I’m writing a journal paper, see this post.

write or be written off

There is nothing I can do but own up: I am chronically impatient. I know there’s no point losing sleep over it (but that hasn’t stopped me going sleep bankrupted). Whatever the feedback from the journal editors, it will be valuable and enable me improve my writing skills. It’s just that it’s taking a while for this truth to sink in. The hyper-competition in the academic ‘publish or perish’ world suggests that if I have half a brain, I should prepare for total annihilation.

It doesn’t help that I checked out typical review times for peer-reviewed academic journals and found that it could take up to 6 months before I hear back. If accepted, it can take up to 2 years before the article is published.

Ohhh. Myyy. Worrrd. I am going to have to put it out of my mind…for now.

Wish me luck.

Images from flickr users: David Bleasdale – Sleep Thief (yawn); Djuliet – write or be written off 

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