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Hey, everybody.

Years ago, I did a series of blog posts called “F@%k It Friday.” We’d spend the day on Friday talking about stuff that has nothing to do with work or HR.

So, it’s Friday afternoon. I worked hard, this week. Let’s have some fun and bring F@%k It Friday back. Why not? I’m sick of fixing work, today, and sometimes it’s good to have a little fun.

I wonder — do you prefer lakes or oceans?

Let me know!

Love,
Laurie

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Hello, everybody. I’m headed home from a week in Ireland. I hate it when bloggers like me go on vacation and then use their time away from the computer as an opportunity to lecture you to take your PTO.

“You need space and time to think,” they write. “Turn your brain off. Get away from the computer. Get back to what’s important in life: creativity.”

I don’t know what world these people live in, but most of us don’t have the freedom and luxury to take a break from reality and swap our daily negativity for a more positive inner dialogue.

But chumps like me are right. You gotta take your PTO.

It pains me to admit it, but all that touchy-feely crap about taking your PTO is right. Time away from the grind is good for your mental and physical health. You are killing yourself for your job, and it’s not worth it. Most of you work in bullshit jobs, anyway. Take your PTO.

It’s also true that too much work makes you weird. All that initial energy and passion for your career becomes obsessive and unnatural. It leaves you with a myopic interpretation of purpose and goals. And it makes you annoying as hell. What’s worse than someone who only talks about work? Not much. Take your PTO, get better at your job, and have more interesting life stories. 

Finally, PTO is part of your total compensation package. (Well, if you’re lucky and don’t work in some crappy portfolio/temp/creative job.) When you skip vacation days, you’re leaving money on the table. Companies love unlimited PTO because it turns out that works take less time off when there aren’t clear parameters around the program. Take all your PTO. If you have unlimited PTO, test those boundaries. Don’t let your company profit from your weird, peasant-like commitment to work.

And a quick word for people who don’t have PTO — join a union and fight for your rights as workers. Or get a lawyer. Years ago, Microsoft had to go back and recognize contractors as employees because the lines were blurry. I think the market is ready for another lawsuit. Words like “employee” and “contractor” are 20th-century terms in a 21st-century economic environment.

What’s full-time? What’s part-time? What’s contingent? Freelancers, artists, and entrepreneurs should test this and redefine the corporate and social contracts in America and beyond.

But all of that is for another day. Just do me a favor and take your PTO. It’s good for your brain, your body, and your soul. And you freakin’ earned it.

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Think of somebody who rubs you the wrong way at work. The dude who opens his mouth and annoys you. The woman whose emails make you feel an impending sense of dread.
You are that somebody to someone else at work.

One of my favorite theories of work is that there’s work-math in every office environment that looks like Hammurabi’s Code intersecting with Newton’s third law. For every person who makes your blood boil, you cause the same reaction to one of your colleagues. 

Hate the look of a coworker for no reason? Don’t like the cut of your officemate’s jib? Wonder why the chick down the hall is such a loud talker? That’s because those other people are you, and there’s an individual talking shit about your sloppy work habits on Slack. 

And they’re not wrong.

Introspection + Insight = Change

I’m a big fan of Cy Wakeman, who is a noted workplace tension expert, and she tackles the big stuff. If you have severe conflict issues at work, she’s your thinker and researcher on all things drama.

I know that most of you hate reading books, and some of you are thriving contrarians like me. You wouldn’t listen to good advice, anyway. So, maybe you can do a few experiments at work and see if there’s a way to de-escalate workplace conflict and live a better life without reading a workbook or watching a webinar.

First thing I do when someone bugs me at work? Well, I think back to a time when I behaved poorly and wasn’t proud of it. Last year, I took a consulting job at Zenefits. There was a VP who wasn’t my biggest fan, and she was disinterested in forming a relationship with me.

The culture in Silicon Valley in insane — and warrants another blog post or maybe bonus material on Let’s Fix Work — and she didn’t become VP of anything by suffering fools. She summed me up, didn’t like what she saw for many reasons, and wrote me off. And, at first, it was confusing. Then it was maddening. Then it broke my heart. 

But how many times have I acted that way? How many times have I felt threatened by other women or younger people? When haven’t I been insecure in a corporate job? Isn’t that why I quit corporate America in the first place? 

Horizontal competition between two women isn’t new, and I could see a path forward with this VP because some of my biggest rivals at Pfizer are now my dearest and loveliest friends.

And, looking back, we weren’t even rivals. We were women who were trying to survive. So, whenever that VP was assertive and challenging, I put her behaviors — and mine — into perspective.

We’re all human. Unless you’re the founder or owner, the system is stacked against you at work. Especially as women. Someone has to be the change they want to see in the workplace, and I decided it would be me. 

It’s funny how, six months later, neither one of us is at Zenefits. Maybe she was the change, too.

Don’t Be Somebody’s Asshole

The next time someone bothers you at work, take a second and think about a time you saw that behavior in yourself or another work-related situation. Then, apply the lessons to your life.

Someone bugging you? Tensions running high? Hate the look of your colleague? Be thoughtful, kind, and offer grace. The more you forgive the mundane, the higher the likelihood that someone will forgive you.

Forgiveness is one essential and undervalued way that we fix work.

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Jobs of the near-term future will have three components: dream, create, perform. Each part is interwoven and material to the whole. 

Dreaming is the precursor to doing great things. What differentiates humans from bots and algorithms is our ability to imagine. While robots can be programmed for artistic talent, they can’t aspire beyond their designed consciousness. Not yet, anyway. 

And while machines can create just about anything they’re told to make, they can’t forecast the emotional landscape of the human heart and build on impulse. I’ve been listening to How I Built This, which is a podcast on entrepreneurialism, and it’s fascinating to hear how people create successful companies. Our biases and weaknesses impede societal evolution, but they also cause artists and entrepreneurs to act and solve problems in creative and innovative ways. 

No robot can create Stitch Fix, and no algorithm could create FUBU. 

Finally, all near-term jobs will require some level of performance. It’s not enough to make a burger; it’s how you serve the meal. No longer enough to cut hair, but, instead, you need to impact your customer’s life. As I write this blog post, I know that hitting the publish button is the first step in my audience’s journey. Relationships differentiate me from a content bot on AOL.

So, the three components of future jobs look like this: dream, create, perform. Beyond authenticity, it’s vulnerability. And that’s easier said than done. 

It used to be that only artists thought about the creative process. Now, everybody is an artist, and, ultimately, a student of how their work gets done. If you don’t hone and guard your creative process, you’ll lose out to the commoditized products created by robots. 

Welcome to the future of work, my friends. You can beat the robots, but you must allow yourself to be human and vulnerable. I think it’s worth a try.

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It’s been awhile since I’ve written about failure, but not a day goes by when I don’t think about the concept of the “premortem.” 

As a reminder, a premortem is an act of thinking about how you’ll fail before you do something. Modify your plans, and increase your chance of success.

For example, you’ve got a grandmother. She’s old but still around. Work backward and think about how she might die. Probably due to diabetes or loneliness if she lives in America. Get your ass over to Gramma’s house and spend time with her. Listen to her stories. Be a good grandchild. Don’t let her drink Sunkist soda with a slice of Entenmann’s coffee cake alone on the sofa while watching Wheel of Fortune. 

Anyway, I’m no longer the CEO of a tech company, but I still use the premortem almost every day. This week, I had a conference call scheduled for 7 AM. I thought — that’s super early, and what if this person doesn’t show up? So I woke up at 6 AM and checked the reply status of the invitation. She hadn’t confirmed. So I went back to bed. Nobody is mad, everything worked out, and I got an extra hour and a half of sleep. 

I also use the premortem on projects like HR Books and Let’s Fix Work. Yes, I wrote business plans. But I also wrote failure plans. Tons of failure scenarios — like how I always spend too much money — so I’m trying to be frugal while producing quality content. If these two projects don’t further bankrupt me that’s a win. 

So, the premortem is a living breathing tool in my life. Just because I’m not working on GlitchPath doesn’t mean I didn’t learn from my foray into the world of technology. And just because the execution of my product failed doesn’t mean the idea failed.

Being intentional and thinking through risks scenarios will always be in vogue. You might not need software, but you need a reminder to balance your irrational exuberance with reality. So, I’m here to tell you there’s nothing to fear about failure. Anticipate and plan for it. Try to outsmart it.

I still believe that if you can see it, you can beat it. Just takes humility, practice, and a willingness to learn from your mistakes. 

If you’re scared, that’s okay. Watch me do it, first. 

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I’ve been working on my podcast, this month, and I’ve learned a lot about work, life, and the fantastic people in my network.

My podcast is called Let’s Fix Work.

It will be out at the beginning of April. I’ve been speaking to people with concrete ideas on how to fix work. Rather than a long-winded conversation about how corporate America sucks, it’s been great to have expertise-based discussions with people who are improving it.

There’s less complaining than you’d expect, more conspiring to create change.

So far, my guest list is fabulous: Scott Stratten talking about lighting a match to your career, Scott Santens chatting about basic income, Jason Lauritsen talking about being disruptive and innovative when you’ve got bills to pay, Amanda Hite on being the change while being an adult, Áine Caine and her reporting on work-related stories for Business Insider, and Alyse Kalish of The Muse.

Wait, Are You Just Interviewing White People?

You got me.

My goal is to include different voices, so I’m working on getting an interview with a freelancer’s association that focuses on minority workers and, also, lining up a conversation with someone who thinks that work isn’t necessarily broken and that access to economic opportunity has never been better for women and protected classes.

If you know someone with a specific and distinct point-of-view on how to fix work, I’d love to schedule a conversation. Have ’em hit me up on email or just share this blog post. I don’t know if my podcast will have thousands and thousands of downloads, but it will make a difference with the audience who hears it.

I’m trying to fix work, and, ultimately, fix you by talking to experts that you might find helpful. And because fixing you is a stupid goal, I’m really just trying to fix myself. Isn’t that what life is all about?

Sign up now for more information on Let’s Fix Work and all things LFR.

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Work-life balance is tough for everybody including public speakers. 

It’s hard to maintain relationships when you’re always on the road. Nevermind social media, it’s challenging to stay in contact with colleagues and loved ones when you don’t sit still for five minutes. But it’s vital to make time and be thoughtful with travel and commitments. Otherwise, you’ll miss valuable moments to connect.

That’s why I attempted to see people in New York City, this week. Before I spoke to the patrons of the New Museum, I spent an hour with my ex-boss and future nursing home roommate. Then, after I went on stage, I had a late-night dinner on the lower east side with my niece and nephew.

Because I departed from my introverted work-related routines, I showed up to my speaking gig without my notes. Afterward, I went to dinner in a manic haze and had a difficult time falling asleep when I got to my hotel room around midnight.

But relationships are more important than careers. While it’s tempting to invest all of your time and energy into your job, you need people in your life who will take your phone calls, answer your texts, and bail you out of jail. I call those people my “core four” who will always be there no matter the time or distance.

If you don’t have four close relationships in your life, you have work to do.

And I have work to do with my life. Seeing people before and after work shouldn’t feel disruptive, which is why I want to practice being “social” before and after my events. If I’m living a wandering life, I need people around me who make it less lonely. Can’t lecture people about the “core four” if I’m avoiding social interaction on the road.

So, here’s to better work-life balance in 2018 for all of us including public speakers. If you’re lucky enough to have kick-ass friends and family as I do, making those connections gets easier and more comfortable with practice.

Late-night chips and guacamole — with a lot of laughter — helps! 

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“Another Ruettimann video?”

Yeah, man, another video. I want to relaunch my Punk Rock HR speaking career without calling myself Punk Rock HR. Your interaction (or lack thereof) helps me to understand what works, what doesn’t, and how my fans consume media.

It’s also practice. Over the past three years, I’ve worked on consulting projects and started a tech company. I did all of this, in part, because I wanted nobody to see me. In the video, I talk a little about my fears.

I can’t change the world from behind the laptop in Raleigh, NC. I’m ready to reboot my career and help people think about work. And I can’t do it without showing you how the sausage is made.

So, uh, thanks for enjoying my tubular meat, baby. 

These dumb videos are part of a broader strategy to make a difference in the world. Practicing, communicating, trying to keep my head still and my eye forward. Thank you so much for watching and providing feedback, love and support.

The world of work sucks, and we can fix it. We’ll do it one conversation at a time.

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I believe in healthy, soothing rituals. I’m talking about behaviors and practices meant to achieve physical, spiritual or emotional comfort.

For example, my husband and I try to have dinner on Friday night and then see a movie. Then there’s my grandmother, who had a cup of hot English breakfast tea daily and savored the moment when her cold hands came into contact with the warm mug. Or my friend who wakes up before dawn every weekday and laces up his sneaker to run.

Small and healthy rituals are important. They anchor our minds to the present and provide a modest level of comfort when other aspects of our lives aren’t going so well. If work sucks and your kids are monsters, it feels good to take an evening bath or have that one piece of Dove dark chocolate every day.

That’s why it’s so hard for people to quit smoking and drinking. The self-soothing ritual of the morning cigarette? The glass of champagne at the end of the day? Replacing it with a goddamn cup of tea is dissatisfying, and, honestly, depressing.

But finding a wholesome, daily ritual is worth a look. Whether it’s five minutes in a dark closet where nobody talks to you — or your favorite Starbucks drink on the way to work — there is something out there for everybody. 

You deserve one moment every day that feels great and requires no apologies. I think you can find something special that doesn’t harm your body and soul. One good thing you do for yourself that nobody else can do for you.

That’s my wish for you, today.

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Email marketing works. It might not apply to every segment of the marketplace. But, if you want middle-aged people to buy your goods or services, send them an email. Here’s why.

I’m trying to add more fun back into my marriage, which is going about as well as “forced fun” always goes. I can’t shake my inner HR lady and ask my husband to do random excursions I find on the internet. Weekend trip to a civil rights monument and a cat cafe? Dinner at the art museum? He goes along for the ride. I think it might be helping. At the very least, we’re watching less TV.

Earlier in January, I received an email from my local blow-dry bar. They offered a last-minute discounted appointment for hair, make-up, and a portrait snapped by a local photographer. The combined price alone was less than a day at the spa. I thought, “I’ll look nice, and we can go to dinner on a weekday night.”

The bar for mid-week fun is low. 

I ran over and made myself look pretty for dinner. My hair appointment was great, but the make-up artist did a massive upsell for her services outside of the salon. I don’t blame her — email marketing is a form of business development for local retailers — and I swear she made me look like a forty-five-year-old anchorwoman on purpose. 

The photo captures the essence of wearing your kid’s birthday cake as a primer and foundation. My husband took one look at me and was like, whoa, what’s going on here? Did I miss something?

I’m like, nevermind, let’s get Chinese.

So, while parts of this experience weren’t super-awesome, I’m telling you that email still works. Your agency isn’t lying to you when they recommend list-building and segmenting exercises as best practices. It’s an essential component of a plan to separate your buyers from their money. 

Email works beyond the B2B and B2C realm, too. If you’re a content creator like me, email offers you an opportunity to say hello to your fans and champions. People who believe in your artistry and creativity want to hear from you. Email is the best way to do it.

And if this blow-dry bar emails me with another blow-out deal minus the make-up and photo, I’ll still buy it. Do you know how difficult it is to dry your hair when it’s long? It’s not worth it. I mostly walk around with towel-dried hair in a bun. 

But I’ll skip the makeup. When I received my photo, my husband had no recollection of the random weekday night we ate Chinese food. 

“Did I take that photo of you? What’s up with the makeup?”

Dammit, not every experience on the internet is a winner. But I’m still opening email messages with discount codes and catchy titles. Even if you’re lamenting over a spammy in-box, you are, too.

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