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I’m doing this new thing where I do almost everything Jennifer McClure tells me to do.

If you don’t know Jennifer, she’s someone who never gives bad advice. She’s a former HR executive who runs a successful speaking and coaching business. She’s an advisor and leader, but, more importantly, Jennifer is a woman of character and substance. She operates with a high degree of integrity.

So, when Jennifer tells me to do something, I’m not taking that for granted. Short of finding a path to Christianity and buying a few horses, I’m on board for her guidance. And last week offered plenty of opportunities for counseling because we found ourselves in New Orleans, last week, having several of our world-famous talks about life.

The first night was fun. We went to Saint Lawrence and Hotel Monteleone. I practiced mindful listening and tried to give Jennifer the best advice I could offer about work and life. I’m an amateur. Basically, I parroted back all the smart shit that other people say to me.

The second and third nights were dedicated to Laurie-related meltdowns because I’m not at my best. We pre-gamed before going to Brennan’s and MeauxBar and talked about GlitchPath. No easy answers on how to improve a software product, but she suggested that I use more “we’s” instead of “me’s” when I speak and write about the company. I’m not alone. I have an excellent team of people who do good work. We’re all in this together.

Jennifer also challenged me to think more about my writing audience. (That’s you people.) She mentioned StoryBrand as a tool to understand my audience and what I bring to the table, and she honestly believes my blog is part of a total package that can help you solve some of your problems. She also doesn’t want me to abandon coaching for some reason, either.

I listened closely to Jennifer’s advice at SHRM because she knows a ton about internet marketing and how to maximize influence. She also knows how hard it is to turn knowledge into action when it comes to just about everything in life. The only limiting factor in all of this? Your desire to do the work.

So, yeah, I have no desire to do anything. My first impulse is to roll back into bed and cry. I only want to do inner work where I only think about myself and my existential pain. But self-reflection quickly turns into an extension of narcissism if you let it. And since I’m committed to doing almost everything Jennifer McClure tells me to do, I made a list of things to tackle.

First? Exploring my most popular blog posts over the past ten years and trying to understand why people come here in the first place. Who are you, and what do you like to read?

I already knew the answer before I looked.

In aggregate, people like the posts where I’m mean about HR ladies and SHRM. The data is old, but a SHRM article is worth a lot in the marketplace. Then people like self-revelatory posts where I talk about myself and admit my mistakes. (Another aspect of this category is where I offer advice interjected with my life story.) Finally, some of my most-viewed articles are all about my cats. Put a picture of Emma in a post, and people love it.

Work. Life. Cats.

Have we been here before?

It’s great when life advice from Jennifer McClure leads me down a path to what I already know. The next step is all about crystalizing messages and understanding what I have to offer to readers and audiences. I think my personal brand comes down to this: I hate work, and so do you. I learn lessons the hard way, but I learn them quickly. You guys love that. And I have a bunch of cute cats.

“Tech CEO, failed human being, cat mom.”

That’s a helluva Twitter bio. Needs some work. But it’s a fresh start thanks to Jennifer. This is why I love her and you should, too.

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Mary Ellen Slayter turned 40, last week. I’ve loved this woman for years. Almost a decade-ish. Look at this dated-as-hell video of the two of us.

Jesus. That’s painful to watch. When I’m nervous, I adopt a Chicago accent.

I planned on writing a tribute to Mary Ellen and telling her about what it’s like to turn 40, but the thing about turning 40 is you discover that deadlines are for millennials without any power.

So, yeah, since I’m 42 and make my own schedule, lemme share a few notes about turning 40 and hitting that significant milestone.

  1. Turning 40 is only a big deal to people who haven’t done it.
  2. You’re more interesting with some age.
  3. The things that really bother you are bugging you for a good reason. Trust that instinct.
  4. You become the feminist you thought you were in your 30s.
  5. Nobody is going to force you to change your mind, which makes your mind soften and open up to new possibilities.
  6. People are nicer at the grocery store. Use that to your advantage.
  7. Reading glasses are sexy AF.
  8. It’s finally okay to say new music sucks because it does.
  9. You gain some compassion for your enemies, which makes it interesting and sometimes complicated when you crush them.
  10. The family-of-origin drama drops off, the family-you-make drama ramps up. But it’s the drama you choose, not drama imposed.
  11. Retirement looks really good and tremendously expensive.
  12. Time is worth more than money.
  13. You love the people you love with your whole heart.
  14. You outgrow your old fears. The worst didn’t happen, or, if it did, you survived.
  15. Dammit, making a list is tough.
  16. Okay, I’m done.

You get my point. Turning 40 is remarkable. I’m not saying it’s not all sex, power, and money. But there’s a lot of that.

Because Mary Ellen is awesome, she probably deserves a better list than the one I just wrote. If you have any advice on hitting this milestone, let’s hear from you in the comments below.

And happy birthday, Mary Ellen. I’m lucky to have you in my life. You create community wherever you go, and the world needs you to live another forty years and a whole lot more.

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Hi, everybody. My name is Laurie Ruettimann. I am forty-two years old, five feet tall, and I weigh 130 pounds. My BMI is 25.4, which makes me “overweight.”

Thankfully, BMI has always been bullshit. I’m sexy AF, climb skyscrapers that tower over America’s largest cities, and get drunk at business events and still wake up early to run. I do pilates, yoga, and I have another marathon in 20 weeks. I don’t have time for someone to tell me that I’m too fat.

But I am currently in the market for a new way of eating. Turns out, I can’t digest foods high in FODMAPs. Also, long-time readers know that I have allergies to essential foods that make it tough to eat like an average person. White bread and sugar? Yes. Please. But fruits and vegetables will kill me. So will fish, nuts and tofu.

If you overlay my vegetarianism on top of this shitshow of a diet, you get a Venn Diagram that resembles the diet of a freshman in college. That’s why I’m back on the market for a new approach to food.

My pilates and yoga instructor is on the Keto plan. She likes it. I’ve also researched the anti-inflammatory diet and cooked a few meals from a delicious cookbook. There’s so my pseudoscience and garbage advice in the market. Should I start intermittent fasting? Count my macronutrients? Become a Breatharian? Unless I eat meat, I have no idea how I’m going to make it over the finish line of my marathon.

So I’m going to start eating meat, again. At least for the next twenty weeks. I won’t eat pork, I can’t wrap my mind around eating a chicken, and I tried to eat a cheeseburger and threw it up. Maybe I’ll eat whale. TBD.

But here’s what I do know: I can’t digest any of the protein powders on the market, and I’m sick of feeling sick by my disordered diet. It totally sucks that my values are incongruent with my behaviors. No animal should have to die for my body, but until someone invents a fuel-rich version of soylent green, I need to make some changes in my life.

Can’t wait to try torture-chicken and torture-beef from China. Mmmmmmmm. Wish me luck.

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“Always tell your friends you love them.”

This advice was given to me by my grandmother, and it’s pretty smart. What if people die? What if you die? If you care about someone, you always want them to know where they stand in your life.

I’ve shared this advice for ages but haven’t practiced it, lately. First of all, I don’t see my friends very often. That’s what happens when you are a sole proprietor and have remote colleagues over the world. But mostly I’ve been selfish and inwardly focused on my first-world problems. Who’s got time to love other people and express gratitude when you’re gazing at your navel?

When I saw my friends in New Orleans, this weekend, I felt renewed. (Well, no, I felt drunk.) But, also, reinvigorated. I have gifted and passionate friends. Men and women who make a difference and happen to like spending a little time with me. I’m grateful for it. I’m lucky to have it, especially because I’m not always deserving of it.

I love these people. Yes, even the ones in HR. So I spent the weekend saying hellos and goodbyes and telling people how much they mean to me. Not because I’m super freaked out that people might die. That’s a bit morbid. I said “I love you” to my friends because I meant it.

We extra. • • • • • #shrm17 #GNO #hrladies

A post shared by Laurie Ruettimann (@lruettimann) on

My grandmother was right. If you have the capacity to do it, always tell your friends you love them. You won’t regret it, and it might mean the world to someone who needs to hear those kind words.

Bonus advice: always share music with friends. I curated what was on my Spotify while in NOLA if anybody cares to listen and share some new stuff with me.

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I’m in New Orleans for two birthdays and a meeting on Wednesday. This trip overlaps with an HR conference that I’m not attending My career is messy, my personal life is all over the map, and I’m massively hungover from drinking too much.

Dammit.

How much did I drink? Well, after weeks of relative weeknight-sobriety, it doesn’t take much to tip the scales on a Monday night. The good news is that I was surrounded by friends. The bad news is that those friends now have stories where I express my frustration with my weight by literally screaming.

My throat is sore.

But I’m employing the seven-seconds rule of regret. Feel awful? Say something stupid? Freak out at a bar and feel disoriented because you think you’re stranded and left alone while everybody else boards an Uber?

Don’t give it more than seven seconds of thought.

A ridiculous night of drinking with a ton of other drunk people doesn’t mean anything. And those awkward, crazy, drunken moments are proof that we’re all human and flawed. I’m more than a vodka cranberry and a glass of champagne. (Well, maybe two.) And so are you.

So everybody who has an epic drunkfest in life should get over it. I’m off to run and have breakfast. The seven-second rule is a gift from the universe. I hope you use it, too!

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There are two types of people in this world: project managers and task managers.

• • •

I’m a project manager. Everything I do — from making coffee to launching a company to fixing my marriage — is a giant endeavor of some sort. I have a plan, I understand the steps, and I get shit done. Not all projects are successful, and I don’t log most of my work into project management software. But I have multiple “projects” in quotes happening throughout my life.

Most of my friends are task managers. They have lists and chores, and they strive to get shit done by the end of the day. Carpool, dry cleaners, launching a new product, planning a massive vacation. Those aren’t projects; they’re tasks and efforts that are part of the larger project that’s life. Adulthood is best when you can take something off your list.

It’s an interesting distinction, I think. Are you a project manager or a task manager? And does it matter? Does one approach help you make decisions that lead to success? Well, “who the fuck knows” is what I’m finding out. What we think we know about work and decision-making versus what we truly know are two different things.

There’s a ton of research that takes a heavy, academic approach to work and failure. There are think tanks and professors who want you to get lean, agile, and embrace change. But very few of those organizations ask questions in simple English — and without an agenda — about how projects and tasks get completed and who’s to blame when life falls apart.

So while my life is falling apart and I’m wondering what the hell I’m going to do with myself, I’m asking those questions in this survey.

I don’t have a purpose or point to my life except to learn more about what’s happening in the world of work — and project management — and see if I can be helpful. So, I’m embracing that role and starting our research. We are pretty close to closing our survey, the first in a series, and digging into the data.

Help our team learn more about project management and work so that I can get back to work on something meaty and helpful.

While I’m happy to spend my summer on the porch with the cats, in the North Carolina humidity and under the pretty string lights while sipping champagne, I can probably do more with my time and efforts. Here’s the link to our survey on project management. Please take it and share it.

And thank you!

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This month is ten years since I quit my job at Pfizer.

Technically, I didn’t quit. My position was eliminated as part of a broader HR restructuring. My husband’s job was eliminated, too. I signed a release and waiver, and I was given a severance package that provided some coverage while I transitioned to a new role. That new role was a full-time blogger and speaker at Punk Rock HR LLC, which seemed full of endless possibility back in 2007.

My entrepreneurial journey seemed strong.

In the early days of unemployment, we slept late and went to the gym. My husband cooked elaborate meals, and we saw a lot of movies. We enjoyed one another’s company because we knew it would be temporary. We spent a lot of our free time volunteering at the local animal rescue. I looked for rescue dogs, something we’d talked about since I moved in with my husband. And I blogged a lot.

Then a whole bunch of stupid things happened.

First, we moved from Michigan to North Carolina for my husband’s new job but couldn’t sell our home in Kalamazoo. When we finally sold it, we took a big financial hit. Then my father-in-law passed away. My mom had chronic health problems. Then my husband lost his job in North Carolina. Twice. The late aughts and early teens were full of ridiculously boring obstacles and hurdles. We never had children of our own, we stopped fostering kittens and being involved in the animal rescue community, and we never adopted a dog.

I can’t say how my husband felt during the past ten years, but I suffered from intermittent low-level depression and anxiety. Yes, I enjoyed my career as a blogger and speaker. But even I took a job at a marketing agency for a little while just to relieve the financial pressure and to get out of the house so my husband could have time for himself to find a new job.

Thankfully, this story isn’t too depressing.

There’s nothing but good news to report in 2017. My husband works for an excellent company, and we emerged from the recession relatively unscathed. Our cats are happy, and we adopted our black cat, Roxy, back in late 2014. But, while our story has a relatively happy ending, I can see how career and economic upheaval during the early and pivotal years of a relationship can lead to tough conversations in the later years of marriage.

Right now, we’re in the middle of asking ourselves a lot of questions. Who are we as individuals and as a Ruettimann-team? What do we want from our careers? How do we view retirement? How do we continue to be interesting people with a purpose as we get older? How much time do we want to spend together and apart? Who takes care of us when we get older? Is it possible to be financially secure and start a new company like GlitchPath?

I’m not ready for the next financial or emotional recession.

Everybody changes, but I am an entirely different person than the woman who left her job at Pfizer. From my appearance to my outlook on life, it’s all a switcheroo. I’m a successful writer and speaker by some accounts, but I’m also a nascent entrepreneur who never thought she’d be worried about indemnifying her husband’s retirement plans against risk.

And I’m also a middle-aged woman who knows that the economy could flip in a heartbeat. I refuse to go back to a place of emotional and marital disarray and confusion. How do I keep it all together — my company, my marriage, and my sanity?

I’m not sure. I’ll keep writing about all of this if you continue reading. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over ten years, it’s that my entrepreneurial journey cannot exist separately from the journey and evolution of my marriage. I have a husband and a mortgage. I don’t have the luxury of being a young CEO who can burn the candle at both ends and bet on future earnings. It’s just us.

The good news is that I feel informed and prepped for all the things that might go wrong. I’ve spent the past ten years finding moments of success in a landscape of failure. No matter what happens with my career or my life, I know that I’ll endure.

It would just be great to get a goddamn dog.

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I hate giving and receiving professional feedback. It’s the worst.

• • •

That’s why I agreed to write a six-part series on the Saba Halogen blog about giving and receiving feedback. If I’m ever going to get better, I need to learn how to communicate with other people effectively.

The first two posts are up.

My series forced me to research “best practices,” and I tried to find ways to apply those recommendations into our everyday lives as workers and leaders. We have a webinar coming up at the end of June, too. If you’ve ever struggled to give someone feedback, or if you don’t know what to do with feedback that’s wrong, you might want to sign up.

The whole time I wrote those posts, I thought back to a time when I gave feedback to a blogger in the human resources industry. She was young, energetic, and wanted me to be her mentor. Her writing skills were okay, and I thought it would be fun to have a protege and build a legacy.

Unfortunately, this young woman suffered from acute insecurity and felt inferior to others. Girls are like that, and so part of my job was to build her up while challenging her to find a voice and point-of-view. She started reading great bloggers like Tim Sackett and Kris Dunn, and I noticed that some of her writing mirrored their posts. Also, she mimicked my tweets and my writing style.

So I gave this woman some feedback. We all learn how to do things in this world by mirroring and mimicking. At some point, you either have the confidence to produce a new idea or you don’t. It’s fine to jump on the bandwagon and pay homage to writers whom you respect; however, it’s totally uncool to watch people and try to associate yourself with good work by literally parroting what other people say.

Because I’m an HR lady who was schooled on documentation, I had specific examples of where I felt this writer was mimicking and mirroring writers. I also had examples of how I thought she could expound on ideas and make them her own. In retrospect, I should have realized that nobody wants feedback. Not millennials. Not baby boomers. And I should know this because Tim Sackett literally wrote a blog post saying that nobody wants feedback.

(If only I had parrotted him more, I would have learned something.)

But sometimes you have to give feedback to change someone’s life. I felt that it was my job as a mentor to communicate a particular message with examples of how to improve. And you know how the story ends, right? No good deed goes unpunished, and this blogger now hates me. Furthermore, she mimics and mirrors me so much that she gave me feedback and examples of how I copy people like Ryan Estis, Robin Schooling, and Jennifer McClure.

Naturally, I heard that feedback and got defensive. I grew up in this industry with a core group of people. We have shared interests. We’re nearly the same age. And we have a passion for disrupting a conservative industry. Right around 2009, we all took risks in our careers and tried to break through the noise of SHRM and do something daring. My friends and I are part of a community, which means we sometimes see the same patterns and have similar messages.

But that feedback got into my head. Instead of mindfully listening and being thoughtful about my response, I pretty much told her to get a life. I’m not saying that I don’t stand by that action because I do. I can’t be in a professional relationship where feedback is responded to with mirrored feedback. It’s meta, and, ultimately, unhealthy. And it doesn’t respect my role as a mentor.

However, since that experience, I’ve been itching to explore the world of how to give and receive feedback. I’ve learned that trust and respect are core components of all relationships. If you don’t have confidence and esteem of someone, most of your efforts — including giving and receiving professional feedback — are a waste of time.

So, please have a look at my Halogen Saba series, and please tune in for my upcoming webinar. I’ve done the deep dive on giving and receiving professional feedback, and I’m excited to share what I have learned.

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I’m in the middle of pretty big changes in my life. I’m no longer working as an HR blogger. I’m not doing HR consulting. I’m trying to launch my nascent software company. And there’s always something going on with one of my cats. Right now, Emma has a hernia. You know, of course, my cat has a hernia. That’s how this world works.

I’m pretty stressed. Not mid-life-crisis stressed — mostly because I can’t afford a young girlfriend and a fast car — but I’m really fucking stressed.

Thankfully, I can get out of bed in the morning. The rest of the day surprises me, though. Old work habits are gone because old work is gone. New conversations about unfamiliar subjects sometimes confuse me. And HR ladies still come around and try to hassle me, which is annoying.

But I’m so stressed that I’m having crazy dreams where I’m at a speaking event, and my dearest friends are trying to unmask me. I’m rushing through buildings to tell my audience, “Don’t listen to Jennifer McClure! I am a software CEO! I know what I’m doing. My speech is going to be awesome!”

Imposter syndrome isn’t a syndrome when it’s true. I’m honestly faking my way through this new phase of my life, just like entrepreneurs before me. I feel pretty alone, right now, and it’s because I am alone. It’s the thing about being an entrepreneur that only entrepreneurs know: while it takes a village to raise money and commercialize a product, it can’t get done without you.

Also, it doesn’t help that my husband didn’t sign up for any of this. Writer? Speaker? Entrepreneur? What the hell? We never talked about any of this, and he was relatively happy with his HR lady wife who rescued cats and complained about her job. At least that woman kept a small financial footprint and was aligned with core values of retirement and opening an animal shelter.

So it makes sense that I’m stressed (and having stress dreams). It got so bad that I reached out to my friends who are more successful than me and told them what’s happening. I also said, “I’ve identified one thing about your personality that makes you successful. I’m going to copy it and blog about it. Maybe do some videos.”

I don’t believe in being a mimic, but I believe in taking the best of what people have to offer and learning from it. For example, Steve Boese is wicked smart and reads challenging books that have nothing to do with HR. I told him that I wanted to read a book that I would never consider and then talk to him about it. He agreed with a caveat.

“I choose the book.”

He assigned But What If We’re Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past, which is absolutely a book I’d never read. We’re going to read it together and talk about it on his podcast.

And my friend, Tim Sackett, is the kind of guy who tries anything once. I told him that I’d eat a Chick-fil-A sandwich, but he would prefer that I take a surfing lesson. TBD on that one because I’m not a strong swimmer, but you get the idea.

I am committed to not losing my shit or getting divorced while changing careers, which is why it’s important to occupy my brain in another way. So, I’ll be distracting myself with personal growth projects while we dissect data from the most recent GlitchPath survey.

Please take the survey if you can, and please wish me good luck. And wish Emma good luck, too. She’s having an ultrasound, today, and I’m excited to spend money on my cats while my HR blogging and consulting income has dissipated.

Sheesh, I can’t wait to get past the “nearly having a mental breakdown” entrepreneurial rite of passage. Life will never be normal, but a break can’t come soon enough.

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Hey, guys. I’m getting ready for my Facebook Live experience in San Diego, next week. So it’s important to calm down and communicate from a place of strength and power instead of going on stage and being a nervous idiot. My friend, Ita Olsen, is my coach. And she let me record our relaxation exercises. Have a peak.

Is it ridiculous? Yes, it looks funny and maybe even cringeworthy. But we normally do these exercises on Skype without an audience, and it works. We create tension in the body, we release tightness with the breath, and these “workouts” help approximate what it feels like to be nervous on stage and screen.

I’m a very flawed and inexperienced communicator. Public speaking never came naturally to me. But now I can exhale and remember that breathing calms my central nervous system and focuses my mind. It’s science. It works. And it pairs nicely with my MBSR training, which has also changed my life.

You might not need someone like Ita Olsen, but you probably need to work on something in your lives. Every job requires you to learn and grow, even the fun jobs. Whenever I’m lost and confused about my career, I find that my coaches and mentors always have wise words to offer that get me back on track.

Ita Olsen is definitely one of my favorite coaches, and I’m lucky enough to call her a friend. And because of her work, I’ll be super chill and relaxed at CSOD Convergence in San Diego. Hope you can take a few minutes next week and have a look.

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