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Hello, everybody. Hope your new year is off to a good start.

My first five days of 2018 have been a joke. It’s snowing and extraordinarily chilly in Raleigh, which is uncommon. I’ve had a cold for nine days which has me talking like Jacob Silj, and now I have a stye in my eye that I’m slathering with erythromycin because I’m sexy. We had a leaky pipe that destroyed our family room right before the new year. My husband’s car broke down last night in this frigid weather. And my mom is sick, which is always super fun.

So, that’s a lot of bad news, except I’m feeling mostly okay. Not too agitated or anxious. Laughing a lot about our “good luck” with my husband. Not going to hit anyone with a baseball bat. Not anybody who doesn’t deserve it, anyway.

In this middle of all this chaos, there’s calm. I’ve been exercising as much as possible since before the new year. I’ve stopped watching the news on TV, which that makes me feel better. I’m reconnecting with old colleagues and having a lot of good luck with my professional life. And I’m still practicing mindfulness and incorporating all the good stuff I learned from my MBSR coursework at Duke, last year.

TL;DR I’m breathing and practicing mindfulness. Like, even with my obstructed airways, I still take five minutes each day and focus on my breath.

Mindfulness doesn’t come naturally to me because it doesn’t come naturally to anybody. Our brains still act as if we live in caves, and the mind interprets our 21st-century problems as imminent death threats. Sally in procurement isn’t trying to kill you with her bullshit, but it sure feels that way. And all systems in your body are fighting unnecessarily hard to keep you alive in this doomsday scenario.

I picked up mindfulness like most people: when I was desperate and tried just about everything else. I’m not the kind of person who can pick up a book or listen to a tape and change my life. I needed to hit my emotional rock bottom, and then I needed to try something new. Someone mentioned mindfulness, aka MBSR coursework, to me in passing a few years ago. My brain stored that information, and, when I needed it, revealed a path to me. Meditation has changed my life.

So, I picked Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics as the second choice of the #HRBookClub in January because I think mindfulness and meditation can change your life. Will you become a meditation expert from reading a book? Heck no, and the book makes no promises of spiritual enlightenment. In fact, it demonstrates how hard it is to meditate in our noisy world.

But, thankfully, the book takes the reader through real-world scenarios where it is possible to breathe — even if it’s just ten good breaths — and calm your central nervous system down.

I hope you read Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics. I hope you find a mindfulness instructor or a meditation class. But, I mostly hope you file this book and blog post away for another time when you’re feeling desperate and need a new option in your life. Self-care isn’t just about massages and colon hydrotherapy, because, if it were, nobody would ever heal. Wellness is about building a better foundation to help you endure, and, potentially, enjoy life.

Why not now? Why not you?

Hope you enjoy the book.

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I have a lot of firsts in my life. I’m the first in my family to finish college. The first to have a corporate job, travel abroad and see the world. Early to a world with a social footprint and a public life.

Also, I was early in my career. Learned about the cloud and consumerism through my early work at Alberto-Culver. (Walmart has been doing cool things with its vendors for over twenty years, and we’re now just hearing about it.) I also learned how mobile devices would change B2B e-commerce (and insurance) when I worked with a mergers & acquisitions group at Kemper Insurance. And I saw firsthand the impact of automation and the internet of things (IoT) on manufacturing and R&D when I worked for Pfizer.

Back in the day, those experiences made me ask a lot of questions about how we treat people. It was clear that HR was in the business of supporting leadership decisions and protecting the company from risk. People are inherently risky — a line-item on a budget that impact shareholder value — and my job in HR started with risk-management and ended with compliance. Have a heart, smile, listen. But never forget your role.

It’s tough to be first, which is why I left HR and fell into blogging and social media. Unfortunately, having been writing online since 2004, I was also early to the emerging field of digital communications. When I tried to tell my friends and former colleagues in HR and marketing about the benefits of “social networking,” they laughed at me.

Once, I was booed for speaking about the benefits of Twitter and Facebook. Now, these same people can’t look up from their phones and use Twitter to trash-talk me. Hard to feel sorry for people who currently don’t realize that mobile devices are hijacking their brains.

Being early, and, also, different, is one of my greatest strengths. It’s also incredibly lonely. People are unkind to new and unfamiliar ideas. When they finally adopt your early ideas, nobody says thank you. It’s like being roadkill. Sure, you’re there first. Now get out of the way, or we’ll run you over.

So, that’s all depressing, except that I just finished Brené Brown’s new book and felt better about being early and being alone. She describes this place as “the wilderness,” and you can brave it — and even enjoy it — by having a curious mind and a solid relationship with your values.

Can you lean into criticism while having faith in your beliefs? Is it possible for you to endure judgment while having compassion for people who don’t see things your way? Will you demonstrate empathy for other people who are in the wilderness and understand things you don’t yet see?

Brené’s book was useful in helping me recognize my place — and putting me in my place — about life, my values, and my role in going first. That’s why I hope you pick up the book and join us for #HRBookClub. Later this month, we’ll discuss Braving the Wilderness. Brené will also appear at WorkHuman, a conference that I’m attending, and I can’t wait to hear her keynote session.

Enjoy the book, leave a comment if you’ve already finished it, and let me know what you think of this month’s first selection!

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Hi, everybody! It’s January, and I’m pleased to see that the #MeToo movement hasn’t become the everybody-hates-men-circus that people predicted. Although it’s never too late for the bottom to fall out, I suppose.

Instead, many people are having serious discussions about how companies can protect all workers from abuse and harassment. TLNT is hosting an event, later this month, to help HR professionals get serious about eliminating workplace harassment. WorkHuman has a historic #MeToo panel, as well. Lots of good conversations are happening all over America. It’s better than I expected.

You know where good conversation is also happening? In my inbox. Even when I don’t agree with it, I’m hearing from earnest and hardworking HR professionals who want to be helpful but are frustrated with the #MeToo movement. Take this note from a former human resources executive that I knew when I was just starting my career.

OK. I just have to say something about sexual harassment. I am getting tired of hearing about things that happened 20, 30, 40 years ago; long after it’s too late for someone (who might be innocent), or not, to defend or to find witnesses.

I was just watching a panel of 12 women on with Megyn Kelly. The word powerless came up. Really?! In this day and age? I knew two women who worked with me. One reported their bosses boss twice to me. I reported it. Nothing happened then. The second one came to me and said — Can you help me? It was the same person. To make a long story short; my persistence and testimony, coupled with past reports, got the person fired.

It would not have worked if the women had come forward 20 years later. Ladies, stop whining and using the word powerless and talking about training men. Do something about it now.

Laurie, I have been around the block a few times. I have investigated numerous harassment claims. I realize that a trust relationship between women being harassed and a senior manager/HR person is most important, but if nothing else report it anonymously. Thoughts? You are one of my favorite people because you are smart and brave.

Listen, the person who wrote this note has a huge heart. Nearly twenty years later, he still reads my work and cares enough to check up on me. And, he’s also right that waiting twenty years to report sexual harassment and abuse makes it hard to fire someone who’s hurting people right now.

But my friend and I disagree on why people wait and how HR can fix things. I thought about my response and eventually wrote back.

Good to hear from you, buddy. I feel like some things are happening in society that makes it safer to complain now compared to a few years ago. First of all, there’s safety in numbers. More women are speaking up, which empowers other women. Also, many of the accused men are powerful — but they are almost always over the age of 40 and not as powerful as they used to be. Easy to take someone out when his power is waning. Finally, we didn’t have social media back in the day. That’s unmistakably different. It’s a new way to report abuse that didn’t exist 20 or 30 years ago.

So, while it seems absurd for accusations to emerge YEARS after the event happened, it also makes sense to me. Especially if you’re poor or a sole breadwinner.

I don’t think it’s helpful to be irritated with women for not saying something. I think the individual accountability lies with men who abuse power. I’m mad at them. There’s no statute of limitations on my anger. They did this — whether it was in 1995 or 2015 — and, now that we know about it, they are responsible the actions that follow.

Yikes, how did I do? It’s not easy to have conversations about the #MeToo movement. But, if someone approaches you earnestly and with an open mind, have that discussion. Whether it’s in real life or via a mobile device, listen to someone else’s point-of-view and seek to understand.

Then, when it’s your turn to talk, slow down. Speak (or type) clearly. Take your time, trust that you’ll get more than one shot to make your point, and be measured. You won’t change the hearts and minds of your colleagues by saying something inflammatory or divisive. Be brief, be thoughtful, and be kind.

If you’re ready to have less awkward conversations about #MeToo in the HR community, I hope to see you at the TLNT Summit or WorkHuman. And, as always, I welcome your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

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I am so excited to read books with you!

Welcome to the first month of HR Book Club. Our theme for January is wellness, which means something different for everybody. Some people hear the word “wellness” and think detox, diet and exercise. Others think of spiritual journeys and Himalayan salt lamps. I think all of that sounds like too much work. Also, seems premature to look for wellness solutions without looking at why we develop unproductive habits in the first place.

For January, the HR Book Club offers a choice between two books that focus on wellness. You remember the rules? Read one, read both, or read something else. I’ll write a blog post each Monday about my progress with the books, and we’ll come together on January 31st on the internet (TBD) to discuss the books and the wellness industry as a whole.

The first book is Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. It’s by Brené Brown. She’s writing about disconnection, loneliness, and social isolation. How do you make a difference in the world while also being okay when others don’t accept you? If it sounds depressing, it’s not. Her style is accessible and easy to read. Brené is speaking at WorkHuman, and I’m personally excited to read this book.

Doesn’t sound like your cup of tea? Want to read something else? Let’s do it. Here’s another option.

You can’t read an article about work without someone telling you to meditate. The second book we’re reading is Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-to Book. It’s by Dan Harris, who is a pragmatic dude. He wants you to meditate without going to yoga or giving up your personal spiritual beliefs. It’s a quick read for those of you who want something faster and lighthearted.

Don’t like either of those books? No big deal. Don’t read them. Read something else. Share your ideas below, or join the challenge on Goodreads, too!

Now here’s the fun part: I’m launching HRBooks.com in the next few weeks, and, remember, we’re coming together to talk about the books on January 31st. Put that on your calendar. Just block out the whole day, ha!

You can read 12 books in 2018. Let’s start with one of the books above, and reach out to me at yo@thecynicalgirl.com if you get stuck. We are in this together!

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Welcome to HR Book Club. Reading will change your life if you let it, and I believe you can read 12 books in 2018. Let’s get started.

I’ll announce January’s books on Tuesday. First, let’s set some rules.

The first rule of book club: All rules are arbitrary and meaningless. Don’t like a book suggestion? Want to read something different? Who cares? The goal is to read 12 books in a supportive community. Learn more about the thinking behind the club here.

The second rule: Let’s keep it fun and respectful. Everybody wins when we come together as a community and support each other’s healthy reading habits.

The final rule: You can start a different HR Book Club, and it would be a blessing to the industry. Reading makes any profession better, and almost all books are HR books if they deal with humanity and identity. So feel free to pivot from this effort at any point and do your own thing. I’m not the HR Book Club police.

At some point, this entire thread will move to HR Books, a domain that I purchased with some spare change from under the front seat of my car. We’ll have reviews, articles from HR book authors, etc., and it should be fun.

Stay tuned for the launch and sign up here for more information. Have ideas and suggestions for the club? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Happy New Year. Back tomorrow with books!

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I believe you can read 12 books in 2018. I’m starting #HRBookClub to make this goal a reality for you.

Reading is a crucial habit for leaders and business professionals, and far too many people leave high school and never pick up a book again. Maybe you’re one of those people — too busy and tired — and many books look boring. In fact, many traditional HR books are boring. That’s why I’m creating #HRBookClub. Why waste time reading bad books? That makes no sense.

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While researching book clubs, I learned that quite a few of them are formal and even dogmatic. There’s a book assignment, meetings, discussions, and even homework. Reading is hard enough for some people. Why complicate it? And what if you don’t like the book of the month? Do you just skip it? That’s stupid. I won’t allow needless complexity in #HRBookClub.

Some of the book clubs are too elitist, as well. You might enjoy reading books on the intersection of climate change, behavioral economics, and blockchain. You’re probably not the guy for the #HRBookClub. But if you don’t read 12 books a year, we’ve got your back.

Also, a lot of the book clubs are too feminine and try to emulate Oprah. Who doesn’t want to drink Pinot Grigio and bitch about their kids while attending the neighborhood book club? There’s only one Oprah, and anybody else who tries to mimic her style is doomed to fail. I promise that #HRBookClub is not just for menopausal women with a Lexus RX, although we welcome those women. That’s my future. I can’t run from it.

So, stay tuned for more updates. I’m currently working on a website and formal plan for #HRBookClub. It won’t be ready in the next week, but I don’t care. I’ll announce the book selections for January on my blog on Tuesday, and we’ll roll with the punches.

Welcome to #HRBookClub, everybody. Reading will change your life if you let it. Let’s start with a realistic goal — one book a month — and go from there. We’re in this together!

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I always end the year by writing about my accomplishments, failure, regrets and resolutions. I love this time of year because the calendar naturally moves me to reflect and take action. This post is all about 2018 resolutions.

Earlier this year, my marriage needed a tune-up. To be fair, all relationships require regular maintenance. Mine was just long overdue. People get old, grow apart, find themselves in different places and wonder why it took so long to notice. Following the advice of a dear friend who sat down with me at SHRM in New Orleans, I gave my marriage the full attention it deserves and found a counselor.

Now, I find the intersection of psychology and consumerism to be fascinating. The first role of a counselor is to be honest. The second is to offer some hope. The third is to take your money and make you feel good about the exchange. Rarely do those three imperatives line up smoothly.

We saw a therapist who came highly recommended. I’m sure she is a lovely human being, but she’s a horrible businesswoman. Our sessions started late even though her office was in her basement. She never seemed to remember who we were or why we were there and often had to refer back to her files while simultaneously talking to us. She also sent out messages to her MailChimp email list about her troubles filing claims with BCBS. And once, while trying to make a point about first-world problems, she said that real problems hit you in the face.

Correct, by the way. Real problems do hit you in the face. But real problems also hit you in the heart.

After a few sessions, sitting in her office felt like the Twilight Zone. The one thing this counselor was good at doing? Uniting us in a shared belief that she needed to take a business class through the SBA.

There were a few good moments, though, where I learned a lot about myself and marriage. The counselor told me that continually putting my husband and relationship under a microscope is counterproductive. Instead of airing my grievances, I should make a list of the things I want to improve in my life and get to work.

So, with that in mind, I identified a few things that I want to address.

• Drink less and/or quit drinking 100%
• Stop ruminating
• Manage my anger and hopelessness
• Stop watching too much TV and surfing the web in the evening
• Exercise more consistently like I did just a year ago
• Talk less, listen more
• Work on improving my professional career
• Spend more time with friends
• Build and stick to a better budget

None of this has anything to do with my marriage, but all of it could improve my marriage. Or not. That’s not the point. Do it, anyway, because it must be done.

So, I’ve been tackling my list for the past few months. None of it is easy, and it’s not like I’ll ever finish the work. However, shifting my focus from the cracks in my marriage — to the flaws in my own foundation — has been helpful. In retraining my gaze, I’ve noticed that the relationship I have with my husband has improved a little. The relationship with myself is waaaaaaaaaaay better.

Reminds me of this Derek Walcott poem.

Love After Love – Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

I hope to feast on my life in 2018. That’s my resolution. Hope you can feast on yours.

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I always end the year by writing about my accomplishments, failure, regrets and resolutions. I love this time of year because the calendar naturally moves me to reflect and take action. This post is all about 2017 regrets.

Out of all of these articles, this is always the most difficult one to write. I think regret and shame are two sides of the same coin. Regret is nostalgic, narcissistic and unproductive. Regret has your attention focused on personal disappointment instead of motivating you to do better. Regret is boring.

The closest thing I feel to good old-fashioned regret is missing my friend Mike Carden in New Zealand.

On my first day of learning how to drive on the lefthand side of the road, I drove from Auckland to Lake Taupo. If you’ve never been there, it’s all about #lakelife except cleaner than your American lake. And the people are friendlier. But it’s still a lot of bars and restaurants and tattooed people in shorts and jandals.

Mike Carden, a longtime friend and random dude you don’t know from New Zealand, happened to be in Taupo on the same night. Except he was flying in late. I wanted to stay awake and see him and his new haircut that makes him look like a lead singer in a 90s boyband, but I was struggling to stay sober during the trip. So, I went to bed instead of waiting up like a normal person who can have a conversation without alcohol.

I felt like an asshole for ditching Mike, though. I woke up early and went to his hotel at 8 AM the following to surprise him with breakfast. I rang up his mobile and was like — Surprise! I’m at your hotel! Get up, you lazy Kiwi! Let’s eat!

Except, of course, he wasn’t answering his phone.

Mike and I are friends. I’m a significant figure in his soon-to-be-published book. I helped him achieve an enlightened form of self-actualization at a bar in Chicago. But I’m not a stalker. That’s why I left the parking lot without storming the front desk.

But how could I travel tens of thousands of miles and miss this guy? It was all my fault because I can’t seem to moderate my drinking. Why does it have to be all or nothing? Why can’t I have one drink instead of six?

About twenty miles into my road trip out of Taupo to Napier, my phone rang. It was Mike, and he was like — Dude, I had no reception in that lousy hotel. This town sucks. Let’s eat!

It was too late, of course. I regretted missing my friend, but I also felt some pride that I stayed sober and could wake up and drive without a hangover. I’ll see Mike another time.

See? I told you that regret is boring. It’s nothing more than anecdotes and emotion without action. Who wants to hear that? Here’s to a new year filled with good choices and more interesting stories!

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I always end the year by writing about my accomplishments, failure, regrets and resolutions. I love this time of year because the calendar naturally moves me to reflect and take action. This post is all about 2017 failure.

My biggest failure was GlitchPath. It was a start-up focused on preventing project failure that failed. I know you think that’s ironic — just like rain on your wedding day feels ironic — but it’s not. Failure in the start-up world is typical, and I used my little web app to decided that it was time to press pause and invest my time and money elsewhere.

But make no mistake about it, GlitchPath was a failure.

Did I learn a lot while failing? Sure. People have specific problems and challenges in the workplace, but they’re not always honest about it. When you use a tool like a premortem and work backward to identify better solutions, you see that the world of work is fucked up for a lot of reasons. Mostly, current-day corporate processes (and culture) are built on the ruins of other failed endeavors.

Work is just like Millennium Tower in San Francisco. Have you heard about that building? It’s a skyscraper that’s tilting, which is a horrible thing in an earthquake zone. Excavate underneath, and you quickly learn that the foundation isn’t secure. The building rests on heaps of trash from neighborhoods destroyed in previous earthquakes.

What’s worse is that everybody knows it, and if you work backward, you learn that time and money stood in the way of anchoring the foundation into the bedrock. Now, there are no simple options on how to fix it.

That’s your work environment. While the people closest to a problem are the ones who often have the best solutions, they are, largely, disempowered and unable to fix things. If they work backward to identify solutions, it’s a shitshow.

So that sucks.

GlitchPath can’t make someone take a stand against corporate dysfunction, and there’s no ten-point plan to being brave and bold in the face of hegemonic corporate power run amok. There’s you and your conscience. That’s it.

So my biggest failure of 2017 was a true failure. It also wasn’t the end of the world. I hope 2018 brings all of us the opportunity to fail in new and more exciting ways!

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I always end the year by writing about my accomplishments, failure, regrets and resolutions. I love this time of year because the calendar naturally moves me to reflect and take action. This post is all about 2017 accomplishments.

As I write this, I’m in my jammies by the fireplace. Already I’m winning. Looking back at the past year, it’s easy to be absolutist and binary. But I know one thing is true: I’m Laurie Fucking Ruettimann. My list of accomplishments is a mile long in my heart, as well as on paper. Even when I failed, I kicked ass in all major categories of my life.

Do you want a specific list? I traveled all over and met new people. Saw my family a little more and argued a little less. Was honest about my mindless patterns of behavior. Had crucial conversations with loved ones that were painful but necessary. Didn’t force myself to run while sore and in pain. Stopped listening to Morrissey after he defended Kevin Spacey and claimed to be misquoted.

I also never quit writing or thinking about new business ideas even when I took some time away from publicly writing and speaking. Right now, I’m working on plans for 2018. I’ve ditched my expensive Lifetime Fitness membership and joined the YMCA. I’m optimistic about the new year.

Well, as optimistic as a cynical girl can be.

Thanks for sharing 2017 with me. Hope your list of accomplishments leaves you feeling satisfied, too!

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