“It hurts worse to fail at something you don’t even care about than it does to fail at something you love,” he told me one night over dinner. Here I was, a 23 year old woman, wide eyed and ready to start my career. I couldn’t wait to begin making my own money, become independent, and show the world all that I could do.
There was just one problem. I had no clue what that something was. I felt lost, hopeless, confused. What was it that I really “loved” to do?
This is the question that I think sits on a lot of kid’s minds. If we are fortunate enough to be raised by well-meaning parents, then they probably told us we should just follow our dreams. This was always so confusing to me. I had a lot of dreams! There were a ton of things that I wanted to do.
How was I supposed to pick just one?
Not wanting to make a mistake, I just started somewhere. I took a job in finance and found it fascinating. I loved learning about exchange rates, the federal reserve bank, and everything in between. It was a fast-paced work environment and I felt like my job was very important. However, after a year of doing the same thing every day– I was bored. I wasn’t challenged and I stopped looking forward to going to work. I also noticed that I didn’t care about learning more about LIBOR, accounting, and anything that had to do with brokers.
That was when I knew it was time for a change.
The universe sent me another job opportunity right around that time, in marketing. It sounded more fun than finance, so I said, sure. I got started and before long, I realized I was in LOVE with marketing. The job was what I would imagine owning my own business to be like. I got to touch all aspects of the business – product development, sales, manufacturing, advertising, accounting, and more. It was challenging and exciting at the same time. I started to learn about why people buy certain things and not others, and I looked forward going to work every day. I started to come alive. As crazy as it sounds, over the weekends, I couldn’t wait to get to work on Mondays – it was so much fun.
Being at work made me feel like I had come home. My co-workers were people I enjoyed spending time with. They were like me – goal driven with bubbly, friendly personalities. I knew I had landed on the right career.
Here’s the thing. When we start to pay attention to how we feel – and specifically around whether or not something feels fun - that is the signal that we are in the right or in the wrong direction.
So pay attention to what is fun for you – if it is something creative like art or dancing or if it is something like writing or solving complex problems. Pay attention to what you naturally gravitate towards and find out if there is something in the world that supports your interests.
One other thought. There are going to be a ton of things that you enjoy. You will have many different interests. That doesn’t mean that you are lost or confused – it just means that you are interested in life. That’s a good thing.
Even if you choose a career that doesn’t exactly feel like something you LOVE to do, you can find ways to practice it where you are.
Here’s what I mean.
Let’s say you are in accounting but you secretly daydream about being a therapist when you are sitting in yet another boring meeting. Instead of quitting your job tomorrow and throwing all of your hard accounting career work out the window, try this instead. Be at work and pretend you are already a therapist. Take the time to get to know your co-workers, learn to listen to them closely and see if you can offer some objective advice or solutions on how to deal with their problem.
Just start from where you are.
Turning Loss into Life
Recently, I was reminded once again of the loss of my Mother. The grief overpowered me. I spent an entire day reflecting on the circumstances. What was the point? Why did she have to go so soon? What could I have done differently? How do I turn this huge loss into something worth living for?
Through all the analyzing, the replaying, the guilt, I sat there alone with myself. Crying. Shaking. Scared. Alone.
I had to face the inevitable question “What now? What do I do with this sadness? How can I turn the grief into something productive?”
I had to turn the loss into life.
As I thought more about my Mother, I realize how much I don’t know about her. Our relationship was by no means perfect- full of misunderstandings, confusion, and overreactions. I realized that I never stopped to ask, “Hey Mom, what do you want in life?” She wouldn’t have told me anyway, she was forever a people pleaser. My mother never wanted to interfere, to be a burden, or to cause conflict to anyone. She was a quiet sufferer, in emotional and physical pain, but never spoke up for herself.
Because I never knew what she really wanted out of this life, I don’t know how to live out her legacy.
Our relationship was like a group of necklaces tangled together – a mess with no clear way of how to get it back straight again. A lot of knots, complicated twists, and snarls. She knew I loved her but I didn’t always say it. At times I remember me as the selfish, ignorant, rebellious woman who couldn’t stand being near her. Other times I remember laughing and having fun with my Mom who was so strong, so wise, and so independent. The version of my memory and our relationship just depends on the day.
My mother never saw the world, she only went on a few major trips in her lifetime. Money and time and responsibility kept her close to home. There were so many places she wanted to visit and she never did.
Emerging from the tragedy, I am looking for ways to turn her loss into a life. I am striving to become an ambassador for my mother.
Turning her loss into life, I have done three things so far
With each year I will keep looking for ways to turn the loss into life.
“I am so over this life,” she said to me. “Sure, I have an okay job, an okay boyfriend, an okay apartment, things are okay. But is it okay? A life of okay-ed- ness? Things are just meh. Mediocre. Average. I am bored at work all day. I am bored when I come home at night. Same thing. Different day. Is this all there is?”
Let’s be clear. The dull background of everyday life can seem mundane. Work is work. But it doesn’t have to be miserable! No matter what position we are in, no matter how routine it is, we can turn a dull job into one that satisfies.
How so? We get curious.
Curious minds can make life interesting. When we stay curious, we stay engaged. When we stay engaged, we are more content with everything. Get curious about each task involved in your job. Break it down into small parts and then ask yourself:
Instead of always trying to cut corners and spending a lot of energy trying to avoid having to do any actual work, try getting curious. Think about finding ways to accomplish more on the job.
When you are going about your day to day errands, you can start by getting curious about the people you interact with. Pay genuine attention to the supermarket clerk, and go beyond just the surface level convo of “how are you today?” When you interact with people at the doctor’s office, the bank, on the street, try this:
You can also stay curious by doing whatever needs to be done with focused, concentrated attention. Take a boring, routine task like washing the dishes, dressing, or folding clothes and get curious. Pay attention to every step in the task. Next time you are washing the dishes, notice the little things:
Life becomes more rewarding if we approach the most routine tasks with curiosity.
Now, I would love to hear from you! In the comments below, tell me - what are things that, once you've approached them with curiosity, have become more fun?
My Silent Meditation Retreat
Who am I? What’s my purpose? Why am I here? These questions and more were what came up in my head when I participated in a full day silent mediation retreat.
I first learned about meditation retreats 6 years ago when I had a co-worker who was really into it. At the time, I was a mess – I had just lost my Mom to cancer and I didn’t know how I was going to survive. In between my suicidal thoughts and hopelessness feelings, there was only one thing I seemed able to do.
I found myself easily able to get up and go to my job every day. Work provided the mental and emotional distraction I desperately needed. It gave me a sense of purpose, something to focus on and feel good about.
For in those 8 hours, I was normal again. I wasn’t the woman whose Mom had just died, I was a functioning member of society. I had a job to do, emails to answer, money to make. I was important. I was needed. I could get over the traumatic experience I had just gone through.
The other hours of the day, when I wasn’t getting ready for work, at work, or thinking about work, I was an uncontrollable, incoherent, out of control, sobbing, emotional, train wrecked mess. When the work days ended, when I came home, alone to my apartment and sat with myself, the grief started pouring in. For months on months I spent my nights crying myself to sleep. Once asleep, I would have wonderful, comforting dreams about my Mother that made me think she was still alive. Waking up with the hope that she hadn’t really died and it was all just a nightmare, reality of the situation would set back in.
No one really knew what exactly I was going through. I was too traumatized to talk about it.
So I put a smile on my face and acted like everything was just GREAT!
But I did have one sweet co-worker who had also lost her mother. Without me saying a word, she seemed to understand. She knew what I was feeling. She could sense the pain I was in. She introduced me to the concept of a silent meditation retreat. She was part of a zen wellness organization that held all day retreats and she said she felt it would be good for me to attend.
Desperate and looking for any escape from the pain I was in, I said yes. I had no idea what to expect. I was a practicing yogi, so was somewhat familiar with meditation and was confident that whatever it was, I would be great at it.
I was wrong.
A silent meditation retreat consists of 12 hours…yes 12 HOURS of sitting quietly meditating, walking mindfully in nature, and listening to talks or consulting with a teacher.
Sounds fun and relaxing, right? Yeah, that is what I thought too.
Let me tell you…when you spend 12 hours completely silent, not talking to anyone, away from your smartphone, laptop, TV, books, and any other form of distraction you may use…well, fun is not the first word that comes to mind.
I was in no way ready for the roller coaster ride I was about to get on. It is an interesting experience to say the least. And one I would totally recommend.
Here’s what I realized during the retreat:
And in this space, when you are in this space, all you feel is love.
Have you ever heard the story of the great ninja warriors? The story is about a group of good warriors who must fight the bad warriors to prevent them from taking over their land. Each of the good warriors were told by their ninja master that they each had a very special power. One warrior had the power of wind, one had the power of fire, one had the power of water. There was one ninja warrior who had the power of green and he was so confused about why he had this when it didn’t seem like a power at all. He was very upset. Why did everyone else get a power and he was stuck with a stupid color? It just didn’t make any sense. He was frustrated that he didn’t have a super power like the rest of the warriors, and didn’t see how green could be beneficial to anyone.
Over the course of the story, the ninja warriors realize that they must get the special weapons to unlock their magical powers to save their land. But the bad warriors have stolen the weapons from them. They were stuck. Doomed. Nothing they could do. They didn’t see a way out. All seemed lost and hopeless, it became clear that the bad warriors would take over their land. They were going to lose.
Then, the green ninja warrior came and saved the day. He told his warrior friends that they didn’t need the weapons to unlock their secret powers, that their special powers were inside each of them already He convinced them that they didn’t need to rely on the weapons. He made them see that they already had the powers.
He saw that his power of green was helping his friends be great. That is what makes you a true ninja master. They didn’t need the weapons, they had it inside all along.
Once the good warriors realized that they had already had the weapons they needed to fight, they were able to defeat the bad warriors. They felt the power of wind, fire, and water ignite inside each of them and together they attacked the bad warriors. In the end, they kept their land, and all was okay. They won. Victory. Good over evil prevailed.
You, like the ninja warriors, already have the powers you need inside each of you. No matter what you think you need out there in the world, to be successful…the truth is you don’t. You have the brains, the beauty, the confidence, the ambition, the discipline. You can be and do whatever it is in this crazy world that you want.
So the next time you find yourself feeling defeated about wanting something – a job, a relationship, a material possession – but not seeing how you can get it…remember the ninja warriors. You have the power inside. You just have to unlock it. It’s there for the taking. Look inside of yourself, go down deep, feel the desire, and let the fire light up.
You have the power. I know you can find it.
Since the beginning of time, humans have found joy through dance. Dance has been an important part of our lives since before the birth of the earliest human civilizations. Archaeology delivers traces of dance from prehistoric times such as the 30,000-year-old Bhimbetka rock shelters paintings in India and Egyptian tomb paintings depicting dancing figures from c. 3300 BC.
Dance has ability to heal, to release stress, to bring people together. From ceremonies to rituals to healing to means of social bonding and communication, dance as a form of expression has always been present. Have you ever watched a child when they hear music? They start dancing. It is something that is ingrained in us, a part of our core DNA.
Dancing has natural healing powers. It can turn a bad mood into something positive, and can literally relieve tension and stress. Dance constitutes a “pleasure double play.” Music stimulates the brain’s reward centers, while dance activates its sensory and motor circuits. It activates the right hemisphere of your brain which means that you give your overactive analytical brain a break. It calms the mind and soothes the soul. That is why it has withstood the test of time.
So why not do more dance breaks? When you are going about your day, at work or at home, and you start to feel your energy going down, here’s an easy thing you can do. Get up and dance for 15 seconds. Jump around, move your body, scream and shout for joy! It will re-energize you, increase blood flow, and get your senses in action again.
Once I started incorporating this in my daily practice, I noticed a huge difference. Not at first, but over time. I started printing out a monthly calendar and putting a star sticker on every day for every time I busted a move. At first, I would only remember to do it once or twice a day, but before long, I started looking forward to my dance breaks and would get excited. They slowly became the highlight of my day at work.
If you are in an office building and you can’t just bust a move in the middle of nowhere, what do you do? Find a conference room with no windows or in a bathroom stall, and jump around for 15 seconds.
So who’s up for the 15 second dance challenge? Let’s bust a move and beat stress today!
She walked over to the kitchen. Again. For the 8th time in the last hour, she reached for a treat. Another cookie. Then another, then another. It tasted so good! That sugary splendid deliciousness hitting her soft, wet lips. She could feel her mouth salivating in eagerness. Anticipating the next bite, that slightly crunchy, chocolaty, ooey-gooey, taste that was coming. As her teeth bit into the cookie, she felt her shoulders go down a little as her entire body relaxed and loosened up.
In no time, she felt what she was looking for. There it was. That feeling of pure bliss, of sweet escape. Her mind and body buzzed from the sugar, and she felt alive! So alive! This was the best part of her day, and she felt it from her head to her toes. Was this love? Is this what heaven feels like? Ahhhh. As she took another bite, she made a deep breath, gave out a long sigh, and started to close her eyes, taking in every morsel of the cookie.
10 minutes later, the reality of what she had done sunk in. She had ruined her diet again. AGAIN. She said the last time that it was going to be the last time. And then she messed it up again. OMG. She couldn’t believe what she had done. As Alice realized what had happened, she was enraged. She said, out loud, to no one in particular, “I promised myself I wouldn’t do this anymore. What is my problem? Why can’t I just be a normal person who eats one cookie and moves on? Why do I have to be the person that keeps going back, again and again and again and again, and keeps eating? Why? I am so mad at myself. I am such a fat loser. Disgusting. Lonely. Alone. What a waste of a life.”
As she walked away from the kitchen, she went into her bedroom, laid down on her bed, curled up in a ball, and started to cry her eyes out. After 10 minutes of this, she got up. She walked into the bathroom, looked into the mirror, and spit at her reflection. Fat. Fat. Fat. Fat. Fat. She started to punch her stomach in disgust. Angry at her body. Angry at herself. So much anger. She hated herself. She hated her inability to be disciplined in this one area of her life.
She was so great at everything else! She had a good career, a stable group of friends, great hobbies that she loved. But this one thing. This one thing in her life. This big, enormous, one thing that she couldn’t seem able to control. She just couldn’t. As she kept looking in her reflection, staring at her fat belly in total disgust, looking at those 30 lbs that she had not been able to shed.
Her she was, painfully aware that she had to lose weight to get healthy. This was a matter of life and death. She knew, intellectually, that she needed to get rid of the weight to help herself. Her blood pressure was high, her risk of heart attack going up with each pound. She needed to, no she HAD to change her ways. There was a history of heart disease in her family and she had committed to stopping it with her. She knew this, yet she couldn’t control herself. When the cravings took over, it was like this other side of herself took over. Something else, stronger than her, was acting on the urges, the cravings. She just had to give in. She had no control over it!
Food. So many women and men in this country have unhealthy relationships with it. Eating addictions, unlike other addictions, aren’t ones that you can just stop. It’s not like giving up drinking or smoking where you can easily stop buying or bringing it into the house. Since we need food to live, this is one of those relationships that we have to figure out. Worldwide, we are consuming about 500 extra calories a day from unhealthy food, mostly consumed in some form of sugar. The same amount you would need to consume if you wanted to gain a pound a week. A pound a week! While people know that eating in excess or consuming too much sugar is not good for them, for some reason, they can’t stop. It might be that we are in the mindset of “what we don’t know can’t hurt us” but I say ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is pain. And you want to avoid pain, don’t you?
If you really knew what it was doing to your body, though, you might just be able to avoid it after all. Here are 5 things that may surprise you about sugar.
1. Want heart disease? Eat sugar.
A 2013 study showed evidence that sugar messes up the pumping mechanism of your heart There was a molecule discovered from sugar & starch called glucose metabolite glucose 6-phosphate (G6P). This molecule created changes in the muscle protein of the heart. Once this happens, you increase the risk of heart failure. One half of people diagnosed with heart failure die within five years. ONLY 5 YEARS.
2. Sugar. The silent killer.
Leptin is the hormone that lets us know when we’ve had enough food. When we eat too much sugar, we increase our leptin resistance. So, as the sugar intake goes up, the signal our brain sends to us to stop eating goes down. Before long, we have no signal whatsoever that the body has enough food to function. Why the silent killer? Because it all happens without symptoms or warning signs. If you’ve gained weight and don’t know why, look at how much fructose you’re feeding your body.
3. Sugar “addiction” is real.
For those of us who have ever made the comment “I can’t help it, I am completely addicted to sugar,” you may be right. A recent study showed that those who had genetic changes in a hormone called ghrelin consumed more sugar (and alcohol) than those that had no gene variation. Researchers think the ghrelin may have a lot to do with whether or not you have a neurological reward system associated with your sugar cravings. There may actually be a genetic component to it. Thanks Mom & Dad!
4. Alcohol isn’t the only thing that damages our livers.
Alcohol and sugar should have the same warning labels. There has been evidence showing that fructose and glucose (sugar) can have as much of a toxic effect on the liver as the metabolism of ethanol (alcohol contained in alcoholic beverages). Sugar increased the risk for several of the same chronic conditions that alcohol was responsible for.
5. Sugar makes you old.
Research has revealed a positive relationship between sugar and aging. Glucose consumption causes aging of the cells which can result in health consequences ranging from wrinkles to chronic disease. There is also evidence that sugar affects the aging of your brain. Excess sugar consumption has been linked to deficiencies in memory and overall cognitive health.
So now that you know the impact sugar can have on your body, you can take action. If you are suffering from obesity or another serious eating disorder, it isn’t too late to make a change.
As for Alice, she took action. She found a sponsor through a free online resource. Her sponsor has helped her deal with stress in more healthy ways. Three years later she puts down the cookies and picks up the crafting. You can too.
Let’s mark down today as THE DAY when we start changing the channel. The day when we stop that negative voice in our head from playing any longer than it needs to. Let’s decide once and for all that when we see something that doesn’t make us feel good about ourselves, we simply change the channel.
I have friends who watch a lot of Netflix, like a lot. I don’t know how they can watch so much TV! What I notice is that when they are watching something they don’t like, they just change the program. They stop watching it and turn on something different. It’s as easy as that. No drama, no intrigue, just a simple switch of the show. Like changing the channel when you are watching something you aren’t interested in, how about you change the channel when you see, hear, or tell yourself something that isn’t helping you?
So many times, in life, we are hit with things we have no control over: the terrible weather, the bad health report, the traffic jam, the kids’ report cards…but we do have control over the channel in our minds. When things start feeling overwhelming, when we are stressed out, when we start to go down that self-pity spiral, how about we stop and change the channel? I know people, who, when something isn’t going their way, instead of moving on to something more positive, they pull up a chair, bust out some popcorn, and take a front seat to watch that negative show. It’s like they can’t stop watching the negative, and when they start to be entertained by this terrible show, they start watching even worse things! It isn’t helping them. It isn’t entertainment and it isn’t healthy.
I see so many people who start their days by drinking a gallon of coffee, watching the news, and then sitting for an hour in traffic on their way to work. No wonder they are miserable! They aren’t helping themselves! Here’s the deal. The news is negative. It always has been and it always will be – it is fueled by fear. Fearful things are what viewers pay attention to. When viewers watch these shows, the station makes more money. It’s that simple. Starting your day off by watching the news is not going to set you up for success! What you watch infiltrates into your mind! It isn’t healthy! So why do you keep doing it?
10 years ago, I was in a very dark place. Things were just not going well for me. I didn’t like my job, I didn’t like my boyfriend, I felt stuck but I had no energy so I didn’t see how I could be bothered to make any real changes. At the time, I had a friend who seemed like she had it all together – she was happy, excited, always seeing the positive in everything. I wanted a piece of that! I asked her what her secret was and she said that she is very protective of what she allows in. She doesn’t let anything negative into her protective shield. Her shield? Huh? She said that she puts up a mental shield all around her that protects her from anything that isn’t positive, or sent with light and love, from coming into her protective shield. It takes effort at first, she said, but over time, eventually you just wire your brain to only pay attention to the positive. She stopped watching the news, doesn’t follow celebrity gossip, and doesn’t surround herself with people that make her feel worse about herself. She just won’t let it in. She changed the channel! She did it!
You can do it too. When things aren’t going well for you, when you feel like everything you do is met with some resistance, when life throws a curve ball at you, when you start comparing yourself to others, when you are hit at all sides with things that aren’t what you wanted. Put up a shield. Change the channel. Protect yourself. Life is too short to be swimming in the negative murk of any of that stuff.
Do yourself a favor, don’t pull up that chair and start getting entertained by the negative. Put the popcorn down, bust out the remote. Change the channel.
I have spent my entire life never being satisfied. No matter how well I am doing in life, I have always found a way or another reason to keep looking for more. No. Matter. What. While I have been able to achieve plenty of goals in my time – attending my dream college, getting my dream job, dating my dream guy, buying my dream car, and on and on, I still never feel satisfied. I am the type of person that is always, constantly, consistently, striving for “what’s next” – and my friends and family have never understood why.
As a little girl, I remember my Mom asking me why I wasn’t satisfied with all the things I had around me – great clothes, great friends, great grades. She didn’t understand why that wasn’t enough for me. Why couldn’t I be happy with my life as it was – safe and secure in middle class suburbia – WHY? But it wasn’t, and it still isn’t, enough.
For years, I always thought that meant that there was something wrong with me. I thought it meant that there was something about my personality or my mind that didn’t work – why wasn’t what I had enough for me? I would lie in bed, crying, night after night, trying to feel satisfied with where I was. It would work for a while, for a week or so I would feel amazing and calm, just going with the flow. Then it would creep in again. Slowly at first, but then, over time, I would start to sense that feeling – the undeniable, indescribable feeling of not being satisfied. Surprisingly, sometimes the feeling of being unsatisfied would come to me right after I achieved a big goal!
Here’s what I would say to you. If you have this same feeling day after day, night after night, don’t give up. Don’t question it. You know what that feeling is? That is ambition. That is striving for your goals. That is having goals while others don’t. You have what others don’t have.
So, I say, don’t be satisfied. You feel joy in your life when you are working towards your potential. One goal is reached, then the next, then the next one is even bigger than that one, and then the next, and then the next. Satisfaction leads to mediocrity. You aren’t mediocre. Keep that hunger, that drive, that desire alive.
I say stay unsatisfied. Not being satisfied means you have more to accomplish in your life. And you do. Putting pressure on yourself will force you to tap resources you have had dormant in yourself for too long. So I say, push yourself! See what you can do!
Never. Be. Satisfied.
She came home that night, sobbing uncontrollably, tears streaming down her face. It was clear she was coming straight from work since she was wearing a black button-down shirt tucked into dress pants with a pair of heels on. Alisa had spent the last 5 years in her job at a creative agency. She was an account executive, or an “AE” as she called it. She often talked about how it was a tough work environment, one where she had to work long hours, often on the weekends, and had to deal with a very competitive team. This was the type of work where everyone was constantly trying to get one step ahead, always looking for ways to outperform each other and make a good impression in front of the bosses.
As she walked into the apartment, I handed her a tissue and asked her what was wrong. Her only reply was a muffled sniffle as she blew her nose. Walking toward her bedroom, her shoulders slumped while she looked down, feet shuffling across the floor. She was so sad I could feel the despair in the air. As I sat there stunned and helpless, I couldn’t help but think something terrible must have happened. Did someone she loves die? Were they in a bad accident? What could it be?
You see, my roommate was the one that always kept things fun, who made me laugh, who could find meaning in tragedy, light in darkness, and humor in the mundane. As a kid growing up, Alisa had always been told she could be, do, or have whatever she wanted – that she was truly free to create her own path, live out her own life. She had the brains to go after it and the guts to do it – true freedom. Today, she didn’t look so free. Here she was having a total meltdown! This couldn’t be – Alisa always had it so together, she was the type of woman who just sort of adjusted to whatever was going on, took things in stride, rolled with the punches. I often thought of her as having the elegance of an eagle, where if the wind started shifting in one direction or another, she wouldn’t fight against it, but rather would just change to fly with the wind. She usually accepted things as they were, and didn’t resist wishing or hoping things were different. So whatever it was, I knew it had to be serious. Like really serious.
An hour or so later, she came out of her room, now in sweat pants and a t-shirt. I could tell she was ready to talk. With an already opened bottle of her favorite red and some brie cheese with pita chips and grapes ready to go, this was my way of saying I was all ears.
“I’m getting fired,” Alisa said. “I put my time, heart, and soul into this company for 5 f-ing years and they are done with me. I can’t believe it. I just don’t understand this! I mean I heard the words “immediate termination” today but I still can’t believe it is happening! There is so much that I still wanted to do, so much that I wanted to contribute. I feel like I was just starting to hit my stride and making an impact on the company.”
As Alisa went on, she mentioned that her boss hadn’t exactly been her biggest fan. For the last 6 months or so, he was constantly telling her that she wasn’t taking enough initiative, wasn’t doing what she needed to do, wasn’t happy with her performance. She, on the other hand, didn’t understand what he saw. She couldn’t see what he was seeing – she felt like she was doing everything he asked, was on top of her deadlines, was delivering everything he asked her to, was putting in the extra time and effort, was really going above and beyond! The rest of the employees loved working with her, they all seemed to be great friends, and had a lot in common. She just couldn’t see where she went wrong.
“I never did like my boss, he is such a freaking idiot. I don’t understand how he is in the position he is in, and why he has been promoted so many times. Did you know that he uses the corporate credit card, the corporate card to buy food for his family? He takes such advantage of the place! This man literally goes out to eat for every meal, on the COMPANY and doesn’t feel bad about it at all. He is also incredibly sexist! He always makes these off color one liners, like a f-ing frat guy. Everyone around him starts laughing even more, and that only encourages him. I can’t believe HE isn’t the one getting fired. Grow up already! UGH…I can’t stand that guy! What a moron.”
As I talked to her some more, I started to understand maybe, just maybe where things had gone south for her. While I kept listening to Alisa, I realized that she may have had a little bit of an attitude problem. I mean, here she was, complaining to me about her boss. It was clear she had zero respect for him and I am sure he could sense that. As she kept going on and on about how terrible he was and how she didn’t understand why or how he was still working there, a different image of the situation started to emerge in my mind.
I asked her if she had told anyone else about her experience with him, and she said “Yes, absolutely! Anyone that would listen to me, I told them how terrible of a person he is.”
Then I asked, “Alisa, how long has he worked there?”
“He has been there over 20 years.”
“Well, don’t you think after 20 years that there must be a lot of people who support him, who have seen good work come from him, who may even really LIKE him?”
Then, when she mentioned that she had been to HR multiple times to complain about him, things started to become clear. The thing was, it wasn’t the “what” she was doing, it was the “how” she was doing it. She didn’t sound very grateful to have the job that she had so desperately wanted 5 years ago, when she voluntarily walked into the building and interviewed for the position. It seemed like she had lost sight of the way it felt when she didn’t have a job at all, back when she was desperate and vulnerable, having to send out dozens upon dozens of resumes, do countless phone screens, and get prepared for in person interviews. There was a lot she had to do to even be considered for the job she just got fired from! I am sure that her bad attitude was seen among her team and colleagues, which may have influenced how they perceived her.
“Well, did you make any allies while you were there, was there anyone that was on your side?” I gently asked, assuming she would have thought to do so.
“No, I mean they DID assign me with a mentor a few months ago, and she offered to help me with some of my work, was willing to come in on the weekends to assist me, but I wasn’t going to work a weekend for this place! NO WAY.”
I could see, with certainty now, that she was resentful, bitter, and angry towards this company, her boss, and everything in between. She hadn’t taken the time, care, or attention to really try to learn from the people around her. As a result, she lost her positive attitude, ignored all offers for help, and basically shut down, assuming everyone else was the problem, not her. What’s the lesson? Check that attitude…and when at work, it’s best to keep it professional and positive.
Look, there are so many things in our lives and in this world that we have no control over. From the weather to taxes, from politics to healthcare, from traffic to our bosses… often we are at the mercy of a bigger source, greater than all of us, that we have no influence on. As my father used to say, they can take away your house, your car, your money, and your job, but they can’t take away your attitude. The one thing that we have that no one, and I mean no one, can take from us, is our attitude.
Your attitude, positive or negative, is your freedom. Which one are you going to choose?