It’s been one of those weeks where it seems like every question is a hard one, and unfortunately I’ve been designated as the “go to” person for those thorny questions that just don’t have a clear answer. I’m not sure how I got this honor. People say I’m smart, but I think it might have more to do with the fact that I’m not afraid to make up an answer if “I don’t know” won’t do. And of course, it often won’t. Hence, my inventive instincts kick in and alas, the unanswerable continues to come to me for an answer. I don’t know why others aren’t comfortable taking what they know and extrapolating an answer. Maybe it’s my personality. Or maybe it’s because I’m not afraid to do it.
Still, despite my creative instincts, there are still some things that I just don’t get. Don’t call me a “know it all” yet people, because I don’t understand:
1. Why charisma wins popularity but integrity isolates. I know people swarming with friends that don’t do anything for anybody but the almighty “I” and others that give and give, and people tell them it’s never good enough. Real story: I can tell you of instances when I took off work to go to funerals or to visit people when they were sick. “Thanks!” they said, but once they recovered I was relegated back to my place on the Christmas card list while they ran right back to their buddies that were too busy and couldn’t be bothered with “using their leave like that” or dropping a card in the mail. Why was my time out not good enough but their casual “oh, sorry for your loss” when you went back to work okay?
2. Why is it fine for some people to “be like that” but others need to get their act together. This harkens to my last entry about how it seems people like some people and their problems more than other people and their problems. An undependable person that you can’t trust to show up when they say they will is thought of as a “swell guy” because he has that charisma and can light up a room with cheerful banter. “Yea he’s not dependable, but that’s just him!” People say. But his shy neighbor that always shows up when he’s needed is “shady” because “I just don’t know if I can trust him. He really needs to be more open and honest with people.” I tell you; it seems that character doesn’t matter anymore. Why doesn't "swell guy" need to clean up his act and keep his word? And better yet, why do people get angry and defensive if you even hint at such a thing? It seems to me like people pick their friends arbitrarily and they won’t get facts get in the way of what they want to believe.
3. What's up with cliques? Why, people? They’re useless. You don’t have to be in one to have friends. I know because I’m not a group or clique person and I get along with people just fine. In fact, if I ask people questions then they usually tell me things because they know I’m not going to gossip or use it to create drama. Which brings me to my next item …
4. Gossip and drama. OMG. Why even bother? I have enough to deal with without having drama stirred up by people being sensitive and/no nosy. As the saying goes, nobody’s got time for that. At least I don’t.
5. Why are we quick to assume the worst of those we know and the best of strangers? Some people do. Here’s a recent conversation I had:
Them: “There was a bag in my yard this morning! Why would my neighbor throw their trash in my yard?”
Me: “You saw them do it? Why didn’t you ask them about it?”
Them: “No! I mean, it was between our houses. Do you think they pushed it on my side?”
Me: “So you’ve counted out that a stranger driving by might have thrown it out of their car and it blew into your yard?”
Them: “Oh. I didn’t think about that.” Pause. “Could that happen?”
Me: “I’ve seen bags blow in my yard a lot and its windy out today. But hey, you know your neighbor. If you think they did it …”
Them: “No! They probably wouldn't ... I mean, it probably blew in my yard.”
Why were they quick to blame the neighbor and count out a stranger being an igit? I don’t know. And yet, this is a small example of what I see often. People are harsh with those they claim to love and will grant eternity’s grace to strangers. It seems to me it should be the other way around: suspect the stranger, assume the best of the inner circles. But who am I to say? It seems human nature is drifting toward assuming the worst in a lot of cases. We see nefarious intentions everywhere.
6. The weatherman can be wrong 50% of the time (or more) and keep a job. Could you keep your job with a record like that?
7. Why does everybody want Friday off? Friday is my easy, catch up day because of staff shortages and slower calls/emails/mail. I want Monday off. That’s the day everybody comes back and it hits the fan.
8. Yield signs. I saw somebody stop at one a week ago for the first time in I can’t remember when. People ignore them. We need to replace them with Stop signs.
9. Wearing a watch on an airplane when you’re crossing time zones. I learned the futility of this when I went to Arizona. I think I was the only one on the plane wearing one. And yet, I was pestered to death. “What time is it in Charlotte? How long have we been in the air? How much longer till we land?” Why ask me these questions? The watch doesn’t control time and its ability to tell it was compromised. Next time, I don’t wear it or hide it in my carry on. Geeze.
10. Why do thermostats even have settings below 70 degrees or over 75 degrees? You know people get uncomfortable at temperatures outside that range. Choices, schmoices. Build HVAC systems for reality, folks!
11. Why is everybody wearing yellow today? I’ll wear my new yellow shirt, I thought this morning. Then I got here and saw about 10 people coming in wearing yellow. What’s up with that?
I don’t know. These are some of life’s questions that I can’t even hazard a guess. So I suppose my inventive instincts aren’t that sharp after all. But maybe they do still work to a degree, because the beauty of being a writer is that I can pass the questions I can’t answer on to you, the reader, and let you be the judge. Heh heh heh.
That’s all today. Happy Friday to you. Have a great weekend.
I’m often asked if the things that happened to Jana Lanning in my recent novel, Anywhere But Here, actually happened to me. For those of you that haven’t read this novel, Jana Lanning, the protagonist, is denied admission to graduate school, finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her, helps her best friend get married and move out of town, and has to settle for a job that she’s overqualified for – and all of this happens within two weeks of getting her undergraduate degree. Then to make things worse, the office where she works starts a merger with another firm and Jana finds herself on the wrong end of office politics that are the final straw in her battle with depression. The thing people seem the most interested in are the office politics. People want to know if the happenings at Dixon Financial are reflective of my job before it was transferred to a new agency a couple of years ago.
In response to that I’d say not entirely, but I can’t deny that some things that happened to me early in my career are reflected in people and events that take place in the book. I know that’s cryptic, but bear in mind two things: The people and events are fictionalized and that was accomplished through a mixture of my personal experiences, experiences I’ve seen and heard of from other people, and instances I’ve read about in books, magazines, news and other media. It came from a vast pool and I’ll admit that I had experience with being on the wrong end of office politics – heck, how could you write about it even from a fictionalized perspective unless you lived it in some way – but it’s also a universal issue that anybody working in an office environment is going to be on one end or the other of. And sorry folks, but there are probably going to be times when you find yourself on the wrong side, at least from the perspective of the majority.
My purpose in both writing Anywhere But Here and this entry isn’t to bash my former workplace. These things happened a decade ago, and I must admit that I said and did things that weren’t wise and didn’t lead to the best resolution in the situations I faced. I certainly learned from those experiences and in retrospect, I’m glad I learned those lessons early in life or I certainlywouldn’t be where I am now. The purpose is to share lessons learned, because this is something that I believe everybody in the workforce faces at some time. It makes you feel isolated and lonely when it happens, but the truth is that you aren’t alone. Lots of people face it but few talk about it because frankly, it’s embarrassing.
I used to think that people playing office politics were selfish jerks that like to hurt people, but experience has shown me that it actually grows from a root of fear. People that play with power are insecure and doubt their own ability, so they create an elaborate game of turning people and things to their advantage. I’ve found that there are 2 good ways to identify a person that is likely to use power to their advantage:
1.They cling tightly to cliques that are made up of people that are higher on the chain of command than they are; and
2.They don’t associate with anybody on the chain of command below them unless it’s absolutely necessary - and those people better give them what they want immediately or it’s insubordination.
It’s the people in category #2 that usually find themselves on the losing end of office politics because any wrong word or deed will be met with fierce retaliation. I won’t say that I never see office politics anymore, but I have found that I find myself in these situations a lot less since I’ve been reclassified to a mid-level position. I’d like to think this is because I’ve proven that my knowledge and abilities are valuable, but it’s more likely that I learned valuable lessons on how to deal with these types from previous experience – and people know it.
So what’s the secret to dealing when you’re the victim of office politics? If you’re right, stand by that. Don’t ever cave in and take the quick and easy way out because that’s a temporary end. If they’d turn on you once, they’ll turn on you again. Caving in only shows that you can be taken advantage of, and they will milk that dry, plus the consequences of doing wrong will follow you a lot longer than standing up for what’s right. They might not like you, but they’ll respect you and at least know not to let you catch them with their hand in the cookie jar again. If you aren’t right, correct yourself immediately and stick to your guns in walking down the right road. And whichever situation you’re in, it’s imperative that you have patience. Truth will show itself in time and it will be end game then. It might take months or even years for things to come around, but they will and you’ll be better off for it. The reward will come in patient endurance, and it will be something that nobody can deny. Sure, there are people that are so stubborn that they’ll refuse to change their mind no matter what happens, but don’t worry about them. Leave them in their ignorance and move on because it’s highly probably that they’ll be gone in time themselves.
I believe Jana Lanning in Anywhere But Here is a good personification of office politics gone wrong, because she’s the one in the weakest position. She didn’t do anything wrong and in fact suffered for doing right, but recent personal losses kept her from taking a stand in the right way and the right timing. The people that create these situations are masters at turning things against you even if you didn’t do anything wrong, and it’s exhausting to constantly defend your own character. Unfortunately, she found this out too late and suffered the consequences of crossing the wrong people simply by being who she was and not deferring to people doing things wrong. She was right and had proof of it, but she didn’t know how to present that truth in a combative work environment. That happens sometimes, and it’s awful. I think the worst offence in the world is to have to suffer for other peoples’ mistakes, and office politics are the ultimate example of that.
I think this is why eople tell me that they find Jana Lanning so likeable. She’s a good person that doesn’t deserve the hard knocks that come her way from people taking advantage of her shy nature, youth, and inexperience. She makes the same mistakes that all of us made in our early adulthood and we understand her confusion at why life is kicking her around. Reality is a hard teacher, and it’s the only one that can do the job once school leaves off. Remember the movie “St. Elmo’s Fire” from the 80’s? That strange, new world opening up is the exact thing that Jana faces, and we understand exactly where she’s coming from. She, like the rest of us, has to learn to find those gems of opportunity in the rubble of defeat to rebuild a new life from shattered dreams. In some ways, we may even relate to her right where we’re at, because life is always teaching us lessons.
So no, I didn’t start out in life exactly like Jana did. I actually did marry my college sweetheart, but I never made it to graduate school because I found other things that I believed were worth more in my life than higher education. I never struggled with depression, but I knew (and still know) many who do battle that demon, and I hope Jana’s struggle helps people with depression understand that this is a battle they can win if they stay in the fight. But yes, I did go through an office merger in my early years in the workforce, and I found myself prey to the power plays, albeit in much different circumstances. All I can say is that wisdom comes from experience, and I gained plenty in those few years.
And lest you think it’s impossible for poor Jana to face so much at one time, I call your bluff. Too much smashing my life to bits was the catalyst for my next novel, Splinter – but that’s one for a future blog entry. I’ll address it closer to the release date in mid 2013. Until then, enjoy Anywhere But Here and my other books - information on them and links to buy are on the other tabs of this website. I hope you find entertainment and inspiration in them.
That’s all today.
There are many secrets to winning in life, and to achieving your dreams but the problem is there's only one perfect combination that leads to the kind of winning that matters. Whether it's striving for your goals, overcoming trials, or just trying to cope with the politics of whatever place or situation you're involved with, there is one strategy that will lead to success better than any other. The problem is, it's something that isn't easy to do, and most people just don't have the internal discipline to pull it off.
That strategy is patience that is mixed with wisdom and hard work.
Despite a world that gives us things with a click here and a beep there, the truth is that reality hasn't caught up with our high tech world. The best achievements, the most lasting rewards, and the ultimate victories don't always go to the strong, or to the clever. They go to those that are willing to wait for the perfect timing - and to work hard and smart in the interim.
Hard work - you can only reap what you sow, and you have to be willing to work hard; perhaps harder than you can even fathom, to lay the groundwork for achieving long term goals.
Wisdom - because stupidity never leads to anything good. Sorry to be so blunt folks, but it's the truth. And you don't have to be Brainiac to act with wisdom. Don't act in emotion and don't react. Think before you act. Count the costs. Evaluate the situation. Act with discernment. Only move when it's wise to do so.
Patience - I think this is the hardest element because everybody wants to rule the world, and they want to rule it now. But the truth is that anybody can force things through quick and easy means and get things "right now." The problem is that they have no foundation and they have to keep playing the same game to keep it up - and eventually somebody comes along that plays the game better and knocks you off your throne. Aw, poor babies. Haven't we learned yet that true, lasting success comes from laying the foundation first and building up from it? Timing is everything and if you don't act in the right timing then you won't have a foundation that will stand when the winds of fate come blowing (and they will).
There are many other things that I believe play into living well - discernment, integrity, honesty, and courage are also important, but these are traits that lead to the benefits of mixing the above three well because they all work together. There's no way you're going to have good discernment, for example, unless you have some wisdom to build it on. And integrity means that you will sometimes stand alone while others look for the easy way out, and you are left to rely on patience to see the benefits of standing your ground while others ran. And if you're lazy none of this will do you a bit of good because you're going absolutely nowhere, my friend.
This doesn't mean you'll win every time. You will lose some battles. Others will rise and lord it over you. There will be times when you are forced to defer to things that are crap and utter nonsense. But it does guarantee that you will win the war. They may mistake you for weak, but they don't need to know everything you know. Let them think you're weak, because you're wise enough to wait for right timing to make your move and set things in the proper order. And in the meantime, you quietly work so you'll have the strength to act when the critical moment finally arrives, and you will act right on time - not too soon, not too late.
I recently got a quote through Twitter that said “it’s not the hand you’re dealt; it’s how you play it.” I believe this is true. After all, we can’t control life. Many things happen that are beyond our control. The secret is; how do you deal with it?
This is a topic that hits close to home for me, because I went through two major life changes last year that were the direct result of other peoples’ decisions. I had no say so in them, and the changes were literally rammed down my throat. Yes, I felt victimized. It definitely wasn’t fair, and I resented that other people were making decisions that were affecting my life. But I have come through, and I can honestly say that I feel my life is much better today than it was before the changes. How did I do this? Well, there are a few secrets to playing the hand your dealt and turning a hodgepodge of crap into a winning hand:
1. Take advantage of every opportunity, no matter how small. It’s the small things that lead up to the big things, and often it happens in incremental steps. My 2 E-book contracts are the result of an article I read on E-publishing last summer. I’d say that idea went a long way!
2. Realize that you have a right to work things for the very best in your life. No, you can’t choose what happens to you, but you can choose whether to remain a victim. When life gets derailed, take some time to analyze the new situation and look for ways you can work things out for good. You often can’t control what people come into your life, but you can determine what kind of relationship you have with them by letting them know what’s good, what’s acceptable, and what’s absolutely intolerable in your life.
3. Accept what you can’t change and change what you can. There are some things you can’t change, but in every situation there are details you can control. I had no control over my job move, but I decided to demonstrate my skills and abilities to my new colleagues right away. As a result, my duties were assigned based on my strengths instead of putting me wherever they needed another body pushing through work – and I’m happier with my job than I’ve ever been.
4. Don’t let other people run your life. Yes, there are times when decisions that other people make will affect you, but these times should be the exception and not the rule. That’s a poor way to set your sails and usually leads to ports you never intended to visit, much less live at. Stand up for yourself and make it clear to other people that they will respect you as an individual or they will no longer have a place in your life.
5. Reaping and sowing is a real way to turn a losing hand to a winning one. It’s a real concept, folks, and I’ve seen it play out over and over again. What goes around really does come around. If you aren’t a person of faith, consider this: The universe only has a limited amount of energy, and you can only get back what you give. So please, be mindful of your words and actions. Honesty, integrity and hard work will yield fruit. Deceit, deception, and laziness, well, sowing those if fun but reaping them’s a witch.
6. Be thankful for what you have, and take care of it. Because why should God give you more if you gripe and complain about what you have? Do you know when I saw a breakthrough on building our dream home? It was after I finally accepted the home we had and dedicated myself to taking the best possible care of it.
7. Realize the Law of Undulation. I absolutely love this concept of the ebb and flow of life that C.S. Lewis presented in The Screwtape Letters. Life really is a series of peaks and valleys, and you’re always at some point in that curve. So if you’re down, don’t fret because you will go back up. If you’re up, stay humble because things will level out. And if you’re in the middle, then praise God because at least you’re moving. The nature of the universe is change, which means that ruts are an illusion. Eventually, something will move.
8. Honesty and integrity always win the day. Do the best at all you do, and be honest. Truth has a way of showing itself, and integrity demonstrates character. You may suffer for it periodically, but in the end what’s right always stands while lies and deception dissolve into nothing. In my 13 years in the work force I can say for a fact that people that played politics and stepped on others to move ahead never lasted. They shone for a while, but eventually the favor ran out and the truth showed itself. It all goes back that that annoying “reaping and sowing” thing.
9. Don’t let fear be a factor. If the Lord brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it. I don’t care if you’re scared. Find your courage and bring the fire. We have a Savior that defeated the devil, freed the souls from Hades, defeated sin and death, and sits at the right hand of the Father. I think He can handle whatever we face – especially if it’s His will for our lives!
10. Don’t be afraid of who you are. Be real. Be authentic. Embrace yourself, rough edges and all. Because when we stand before God, He won’t ask why you weren’t more like other people. He’ll ask why you weren’t yourself and why you didn’t appreciate the blessings He gave you.
Life may deal you a bad hand every now and then, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to live in defeat. In fact, you should fight defeat. Don’t settle for life trapped in a box or accept bad things for yourself. Stand up, be yourself, and do all you can to make the hand you have a winning one!
That's my soapbox speech for today. More later. I hope the rest of the week is great.