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every day is a do-overMy sister turned 32 on the day after the election.

I was worried she wouldn’t get out of bed.

It’s not that Trump was just elected the next president. It’s that America took a crap on everything that matters to her, from civil rights to women’s issues, and she was devastated. Plus she’s thinking about changing careers and redesigning her life, which is pretty stressful.

And I could relate.

When I was 32, George W. Bush was president. It was near the end of his final term — well after he assumed control with a record surplus and plunged the American economy into recession but slightly before the banks failed and the housing crisis reared its ugly head. I was working for Pfizer and laying people off all over the world, and I could barely get out of bed.

I came home from work on my 32nd birthday and experienced an inflection point. My husband captured a photo of me opening my gifts, and I asked to see it. I didn’t quite recognize myself as I spied a chubby and tired-looking brunette wearing pajamas at 7 o’clock at night on her birthday because she was too exhausted to go out for dinner.

Something in me snapped. It snapped hard.

I remember thinking — fuck, no, I can’t make it another year. Things need to change. And, while I didn’t have a grand plan, I knew that I wanted a second chance at adulthood.

So, very slowly, I began to dismantle my life. It took awhile, and it’s not like I had an orderly process and picked one thing to tackle and worked hard until I fixed what was wrong.

Instead, I looked outward instead of inward. I kept my eyes open for opportunities to change my circumstances. I began asking for what I deserved from my colleagues, my friends, and even my husband. I said yes to things that sounded hard and scary. And I stopped eating McDonald’s — something that I’ve maintained even until today.

The key to my process was simple: I kept my expectations low. The only thing I wanted as a thirty-two-year-old woman was a chance at a do-over. What I discovered is that every day is a do-over. As you live and breathe, you can wake up and change your destiny.

And, nearly ten years later, I have changed mine.

I’m truly sorry that my sister woke up to President-Elect Trump on her birthday. That’s the worst gift for a hardcore feminist who volunteers her time and fights for those less fortunate. The only thing worse than a Trump presidency is a Republican majority in the house and senate. So, yeah, America basically took a crap in an envelope and mailed it to my sister on her birthday. Postage due, no less.

But I still believe that every day is a do-over. It’s never too late to change your life. And I hope that today is the day that you, my dear readers, decide to reboot your life.

Don’t wait another year.

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twitter chat benchmarksHey, everybody. I’ve been doing a Twitter chat for the past five weeks called #failchat to prepare the market for my GlitchPath launch.

Each week, I posted a topic and talked to my audience about overcoming failure. We talked about politics, relationships, and even interpersonal communication.

If I had to describe the chat in one word, I would call it unsuccessful.

The chat was great. The people who joined were amazing. But, from a marketing standpoint, there are specific, short-term Twitter chat benchmarks that I failed to hit.

  1. Reaching an attainable size of an existing audience. Anything worth doing takes some time to grow, but I’ve now learned that a majority of my audience cannot make themselves available at the scheduled time. You can hold the best party, but it’s not a party if your guests can’t make it.
  2. Week-over-week growth. I love it when marketers hope for viral and organic growth. The only thing that grows organically is a baby, and then it pops out of your womb and makes unreasonable demands of your time and energy. When it comes to marketing, you need to put some money behind your efforts. Especially social media marketing. So I invested in #failchat marketing before/during/after the chats, but it didn’t pay off in week-over-week growth.
  3. Diversity. It’s great to host a chat with people you know. The true test of the idea is whether or not new people see the conversation and join the fray. While we had some new people join #failchat, it wasn’t enough to justify the advertising spend.

So I’m sitting here in my pajamas on a Sunday morning eating oatmeal (which always gets stuck in my teeth) and looking at the data and chat history. The numbers aren’t great, and more importantly, I don’t want to spend any more money. So #failchat is over in its current iteration.

I love the concept of jumping on Twitter and connecting with people, so I reserve the right to do pop-up Twitter chats to talk about why current issues are failing. But Twitter chat benchmarks don’t lie. That’s why I’m ending my weekly #failchat on Mondays at 1PM.

It was super fun while it lasted, and I hope everybody enjoyed it.Thanks again for being a willing participant in the ongoing experiment that is my life. Now I’m going to finish this oatmeal.

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Last week, I wrote an article called, “How Will Trump Fail?”

The article lightly applies the science behind insights to predict the ways in which the Trump administration will fail the American electorate.

It’s a piece meant to stimulate a response. My audience consists of mostly upper-middle-class readers who work in HR, marketing, IT, and finance. They have the intellectual capacity to read a story about politics — and disagree with the political POV — but learn a thing or two about how to prevent failure by applying the premortem methodology to work and life.

Except for the HR portion of my audience.

Well, some of them.

My friends over at Human Resources Today published my blog post, as they normally do, but this time it caused a bunch of HR professionals to have a hissy fit.

Like, for real, some of them were very hostile.

I’m not shocked. Middle-aged HR professionals over the age of 45 — without a VP title — have a low rate of job satisfaction. They complain about everything because, as they near the final stages of their career, they don’t have a sense of autonomy or purpose.

So, yeah, they sent me all sorts of crazy messages and left a bunch of dumb comments that I stopped approving because most of them are lame.

“How does this relate to HR? Give him a chance. The Obama experiment is over. It’s time for something new.”

The fiery response to my article had me thinking about Jackie Robinson. He integrated Major League Baseball, and some people called it an experiment. During his time in the MLB — and even for years after — people felt like it was an experiment that went wrong. And it took years for professional baseball teams to integrate because southern farm teams “course corrected” and refused to expand the minor league talent pool beyond young white men.

But, eventually, change happened.

So I’m not surprised that, in 2016, a bunch of HR weenies who love to complain about Obama’s job-killing programs — but seem to have a job, themselves — complained about the political nature of my post. Simply put, it’s a natural (and racist) reaction to eight years of an Obama presidency that shook many people hard.

“Who are we as a country, and who am I as a person, if we have a black president? And now you want a woman? No way.”

And those big HR whiners — who cash their paychecks every two weeks and never created a job of their own — went a step beyond the friendly confines of my blog and complained to Human Resources Today’s founder and aggregator-in-chief, a dude named Tony Karrer.

“Why did you publish such a political article? This isn’t HR.”

As the founder of Human Resources Today, he likes his subscribers to be happy. And I knew this would happen, so I proactively reached out to Tony and thanked him for having the courage to syndicate my post.

It’s not really courage, mind you. It’s an algorithm that grabbed my article and sent it out via email before anyone at Human Resources Today noticed it. Nobody is getting a Pulitzer Prize here. But I wanted Tony to know that digital aggregators, also called content thieves, are an important part of our digital landscape.

Simply put, diverse opinions matter. Great publishers (and great aggregators) should give the people a healthy mix of what they want — and what they need — instead of jamming sycophantic content down people’s throats. The decision to publish a dissenting article in a tightly-knit ecosystem like Human Resources Today isn’t a straightforward calculation; however, the fear of losing a few subscribers shouldn’t factor into the decision on whether or not to publish a post.

Well, I’m an idiot because Tony Karrer took down the article. It no longer appears on Human Resources Today, which is disappointing.

But I don’t take this as a loss because I know that, for a brief moment, I riled up several thousand HR professionals and challenged their beliefs.

If that’s not what blogging is all about, then I don’t know what I’m doing here.

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A few weeks ago, I had my garage painted by a fifty-two-year-old woman who just wanted to talk.

She’s an individual contributor, proud of her craftsmanship, and wanted to take advantage of the companionship to make small talk and chat about her life.

I work from home. I’m alone all day. I get it.

So this lady is chatting about life, and she started complaining about hot flashes. She said something like, “I can’t tell if it’s menopause or something else, but I’m always warm. Couldn’t be the change, could it? I’m too young.”

I said, “Nope. Sounds about right.”

She said, “But I’m only 52.”

I’m like, “Sounds like menopause to me.”

Then I went inside and made myself a snack, wholly oblivious to the fact that this woman wasn’t asking me for my medical advice, but rather, asking me to reassure her that she’s not old.

I’m so oblivious, in fact, that I didn’t even realize what the painter was asking until my husband said — Oh my God, Laur, that was rude.

And I’m like — I know, it was rude of her to talk about menopause with a stranger, right?

He’s like — Didn’t you hear what she was asking you?

Then he repeated back the story and told me to listen. Very slowly, I emerged from the fog of my perspective and realized that I missed the signs of someone begging for a compliment.

I have a problem with saying the things I want to say and not the things that need to be heard.

When someone talks, I retreat into my brain and prepare the next point I’m about to make. Part of this is rooted in my ongoing anxiety disorder. I’m always in problem-solving mode because, clearly, someone is only talking to me because something is wrong.

And if I’m not trying to solve a problem, I’m in thought-leadership mode and ready to say something insightful. That’s because I think too highly of myself. Doesn’t everyone want to know what I think on every subject?

Basically, I suck at interpersonal communication. The reassuring news? I’m not alone. While you’re talking, you are also gazing inward and doing some “relational math” that calculates how much you like yourself, how much you like the other person, and whether or not there’s anything to gain from tuning in versus tuning out.

So, today, I want to talk about interpersonal communication and relational math on #failchat. What are the building blocks of healthy communication? How do you get it right? How do most people get it wrong? And I’d like to know if everybody — from your colleagues to your siblings — is worthy of the same amount of relational effort?

Hope to see you today at 1 PM Eastern.

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The election in America reminds me that interpersonal communication, which is an exchange of information between two or more people, is super complicated.

Very few people seek to understand before they speak. We don’t ask enough questions, and we rush to declare our opinions before we even fully realize if the people around us want to hear our opinions. And then we have a ton of expectations for people that we can’t live up to ourselves.

It’s amazing we get anything done in this world. And, yet, progress happens. History is measured in centuries, not seconds, and I honestly believe that this is the greatest time to be alive.

Please join me on Monday at 1 PM ET for a very special #failchat where we talk about interpersonal communication. What are the rules for effective communication? How can we need to structure our personal and professional relationships to achieve better outcomes? How can we say the things we mean without being so mean when we say them?

I hope you’ll join me to figure out why we fail at interpersonal communications. Should be an incredible discussion with professionals from all industries who are sick and tired of making the same communication and relational mistakes.

See you then!

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My international friends want to know what the hell is happening in my country.

“Why did Hillary Clinton lose?”

Well, she didn’t win the electoral college.

That’s not what they’re asking. They want an analysis of what went wrong, but I’m not a big fan of post-mortems. We won’t learn anything from her campaign’s mistakes. Nobody ever learns from the errors of the past. That’s not how the brain works. We improve outcomes by considering what might go wrong and then doing the opposite.

And, besides, Trump is now president. Let’s figure out how he’s about to fail and work to prevent it.

First, I believe he and his comrades will come for women.

They always come for women, even when they say it’s not about women. The administration will focus on the family, which translates to a google search for “white + Christian + heteronormative family.”

Trump and his coalition will concentrate on restricting abortion and limiting access to affordable birth control. So, let’s create a strategic plan so that no woman is denied access to her constitutional healthcare options.

Women’s interest groups will continue to lawyer up, hire lobbyists, and invest in phone banks to secure hearts and minds. But regular women should volunteer, develop public speaking skills. Do your part to show that you can be pro-choice and pro-family, however the heck you define family. That’s possible.

The second thing Trump will do is act concerned about kids while overseeing the systematic dismantling of educational standards and funding.

Not that we have a lot of standards. I know that equal education in America is a joke. Do you know what else is a joke? Local charter schools with little oversight that care more about ideology than crafting a curriculum that allows American kids to compete in the global market.

Trump and his chumps will tell you that school choice is the answer. They’ll say that federal funding is best managed at the local level. And they’ll also insist that local values trump national standards.

I’m here to tell you that Chinese and South Korean kids kick our kids’ asses at math and science because they study math and science. There’s no local interpretation of math. It’s math.

You know what they don’t obsess about? Abstinence-only education.

If we flash forward and ask how Trump will have failed our kids, it turns out that you will have failed your children because you didn’t serve on a local school board and fight these Trumpian reforms.

Sit on a school board or curriculum committee for the sake of the kids. I know it sucks, but you had kids. Own it.

Finally, we know that Trump and his cronies will try to tell you that what’s good for business is good for America.

We have 100 years of data showing us that our jobs are trying to kill us. American workers are underpaid, overworked and our cholesterol levels are too high. Sitting is the new smoking, and smoking is less dangerous than working in one of those new Trump coal mines he’s promising that will change our economy.

Conscious capitalism can improve the world, but Trump doesn’t give a rip about changing the world. He doesn’t even give a rip about the business community. He cares about his balance sheet because nobody has a better balance sheet if you remember. The banks love his sheet.

Do you want to make sure our economy doesn’t fail? Don’t let him drag America down the path of bankruptcy. Improve your financial knowledge, don’t buy a home you can’t afford, and don’t let him “do deals” on behalf of America unless those transactions are 100% transparent.

So, yeah, it’s not hard to see a fundamental path of destruction with Trump.

But all presidents fail to some degree. We let them fail even though it’s not that hard to get involved and police the political environment for shenanigans on either side of the aisle. And we can prevent failure by envisioning it, planning for it, and, hopefully, leading our country to a brighter future.

You just need to raise your hand, ask better questions, and be willing to get involved.

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pre-mortems

I’m not obsessed with failure, but I am obsessed with project pre-mortems.

The father of the modern pre-mortem is a guy named Gary Klein. He asked his clients to engage in something called prospective hindsight. Here’s how it works:

Before you do anything, ask yourself — how will this fail?

It’s an easy question, sure, but it’s a difficult cognitive strategy for people who cannot process failure. For example, the Democrats don’t have a plan if Donald Trump wins. While the Republicans are threatening to impeach Hillary, the Dems are too afraid to think about a Trump presidency. And because they’re not planning for it, they’ll fail twice if he wins.

The Democrats in America? It’s just one example of people who are in denial. Many people cannot think about failure because it gives them hives. You keep having political discussions with family members who don’t agree with you, right? Why are you doing that? Why can’t you stop yourself? You’re never going to change a person’s mind. You’ll just walk away feeling annoyed.

So, before you open your mouth, ask yourself, “How will this fail?”

The act of envisioning failure before you work at anything — a break-up, a political discussion, buying a new car — can improve your success rate by 30%. That’s a significant advantage that your adversaries and opponents aren’t using.

Still don’t like to frame things in a hermeneutic of failure? Fine, don’t think about failure. Think about gaining new insights and setting yourself up for success. My local university, NC State, has adopted a mantra: think and do. That’s what pre-mortems are all about. You think. You learn something. You follow through with informed action.

Think and do. The ultimate pre-mortem.

And the nice thing about pre-mortems? It’s versatile. It works at home, in the office, and in the most heated political environments. So, let me repeat this: before you say or do anything, be sure to think about how it will fail.

You’re allowed to dream about success, too. Just make sure you’re not a chump who can’t face facts.

After all, there’s no shame in failure, but there is some shame in willingly being taken for a fool.

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The great thing about my life is that every day is different than the last.

It’s also a challenge because healthy rituals are lost to travel schedules and client meetings. I have core activities in my life — food, coffee, cats, chores, writing, exercise — but that’s not enough to anchor my day.

(Especially if I get on Instagram, ugh.)

So I started asking around. What are the three things you do every day that make a difference?

I heard a lot of good ideas. Here are a few.

Exercise: One of my friends does 100 sit-ups and pushups each day, which is impressive. I can do 50 if I space them out. (Well, I can do 37 push-ups and then I’m a little shaky.) So getting to 50 — sit-ups and push-ups — without a problem is a goal for me. And I want to throw in some squats, but I haven’t crossed that bridge.

Mindfulness: Another does something called loving-kindness meditation, which is very trendy but I’ve never heard of it before a recent trip out to Boston. Apparently, you do a little breathing. Then you send some intentions out into the world. There’s a process. I can’t remember it all, but I know that you say something positive about your enemies or troubled people in your life. That sounds like a lot of work, but I’ve started using Headspace app to calm my brain. I like it.

Knowledge: I have a friend who sets a daily reading goal. She reads a minimum of twenty-five pages each day, which is easy on some days and harder on others. I adopted this habit and plowed through a book called Power Cues. I’ve missed a few days because I’m watching election coverage, which is such a waste of time. Can’t wait for this cycle to end.

So those are a few things I’m working on to create a better daily routine. Are there three things you do each day that make a big difference in your life?

I’d love to know.

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politicsFor the past month, I’ve been hosting weekly chats on Twitter. They have nothing to do with HR.

Each week, the audience tackles failure from a different angle. We’ve talked about “generalized failure disorder,” relationships and managing difficult people at work.

The audience is expanding, and the person-to-person interaction is growing more fun and entertaining with each passing chat.

This coming Monday, we’re going to talk about politics.

Please, don’t run away from this.

Yes, politics are awful to discuss. Twiter fights are brutal. But I’m not interested in your personal views on Jill Stein or Gary Johnson. Politics happen everywhere from the boardroom to the voting booth. We have politics in our families of origin, and we even have politics in the bedroom.

On Monday, we’ll be talking about the politics behind politics — why some of us love it, some of us hate it, and why most of us fail to persuade others when we’re trying to make an important point about an issue that’s dear to our heart.

It’s a meta-discussion, sure, but we’ll have a practical chat on everything from the politics of managing family members to dealing with an employee who just can’t help himself and inserts his political point of view in every conversation at the office.

You know that guy. You might be that guy. So I hope you’ll join me at 1 PM on Monday, November 7th to talk politics on #failchat.

See you then!

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There’s another new HR technology conference on the scene. It’s called HR Tech World San Francisco.

The company that organizes this event has a foothold in Europe. Now they’re coming to the states with a pretty stellar line-up of speakers and a desire to clean up the American HR technology conference market.

You ask — “Aren’t there 600 HR technology conferences?” The answer is yes and no. There’s a big one, a lot of little ones, and some heavily marketed attempts at creating “HR technology events” with “thought leaders” but it’s really just an infomercial.

Wait, technically, all of this is an infomercial to get you to spend some money.

And, technically, none of this is HR technology. You define technology by the user, in my opinion, not the buyer. Most of these applications are replacing HR professionals and directly servicing employees, financial executives and boards of directors. And, to be fair, HR is very rarely the sole buyer of these products.

What’s also interesting is that some of the technology on display at these shows barely meets the definition of technology. From my experience with GlitchPath, I’m learning how the sausage is made.

  1. Innovative technology comes with a log-in screen, a few forms, and the ability to link your profile to Facebook.
  2. Then it’s a few guys in the background — probably named Kyle and Colin — doing all the real work until the technology company can get some additional funding and hire a few more engineers and developers.

It’s is how all the big businesses in the 21st century HR technology industry got started. If you can get one of those old-timey monkeys to join your company, you got yourself a real circus!

Anyway, based on the speaker line-up, HR Tech World is something to watch in the industry. Remember, though, it’s European. Who knows what you’ll find at that conference. Hubris. Wine. A bunch of foreign dudes lecturing you on the American political system.

I remember being at an HR technology event in 2010 listening to two Dutch guys talk about how America doesn’t know anything about innovation. They were standing in the heart of New York City. Talking about their disruptive applicant tracking system. I almost had a stroke.

But, between New York and a Dutch recruiting product, guess which one of those two great institutions still exist? Yeah, man. Always bet on New York.

But the expansion of the HR tech conference market means the great American dream endures. People still want to come to this country and plant a flag. I wish HR Tech World San Francisco a lot of luck. I think they’ll do well in this noisy market. I hope they make a difference and make a positive imprint on the industry.

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