Sometimes you pick that word. Sometimes it picks you.
This year, I thought my word would be “healing” because, after the chaos and turmoil in my life around last year’s presidential election, I wanted to start healing. Also, I always walk around feeling like it’s me against the world. I want to start feeling less troubled and unsettled.
So, I thought it was time to heal. I even ordered a bracelet with the word “healing” to wear on stage and when I’m around other HR ladies like me who feel wounded and aggrieved.
But, it turns out, I was wrong. My 2017 word of the year isn’t healing. It’s “de-escalate,” as in, take it down a notch. Let’s all calm down and stop making a big deal out of nothing.
And the word “de-escalate” isn’t just my word of the year. I think it’s the world’s word. I was just at Waffle House, the other day, and watched a supervisor try to give feedback to a waitress who was using the phone for personal reasons. The restaurant uses the landline to accept phone-ahead orders, and employees aren’t allowed to use the phone unless it’s an emergency.
This waitress was on a personal call, and when her supervisor repeatedly asked her to hang up, she slammed the phone down and yelled, “WHY DO YOU DISRESPECT ME LIKE THAT?”
Talk about the need for de-escalation.
They continued their conversation in the back of the house, and of course, I was seated at the booth closest to the back of the house. I heard the supervisor explain that she’d been warned about these behaviors. He asked if something was going on in the employee’s life, but she just kept repeating that he was disrespecting her.
So he sent her home.
Another waitress came over and apologized. She told me, “You just gotta pray for some people. She makes a big deal over everything. We try to talk to her, but she won’t let us help. And she was sent home, last week, for the same thing.”
Oh man, life would be so much easier if people could chill out and see that their first reaction is often not the best response. I wanted to tell the disrespected Waffle House waitress that not everything has to be a big deal unless you make it a big deal.
“Heed my advice! The stakes are not so great, lady! Hang up the phone! Get back to work!”
But then I realized that my warning would fall on deaf ears. The only person who can de-escalate your life is you.
So “de-escalate” is my 2017 word of the year, and I’m getting down to business by calming the hell down. What’s your word?
I’m a huge nerd, and I’ve been watching Hardball with Chris Matthews since 1999. It’s not always a smoothly produced show, and there were times in the past when Chris Matthews seemed drunk, but — like The McLaughlin Group — it’s one of those shows that has influenced my generation.
Over the years, I’ve come to know a lot of journalists because Chris Matthews and his team showcase diverse voices. One of those voices, April Ryan, has always stood out to me. She’s the White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks. Ms. Ryan is terrific and always has something insightful to say about politics.
Our president, Donald Trump, is also a fan of Ms. Ryan. Just yesterday, before warning her not to ask a tough question at a press conference, he told her that he enjoys watching her on television.
Anyway, Ms. Ryan asked the president if he planned to include the Congressional Black Caucus in his efforts to ‘clean up the inner city.’ She used the acronym CBC, and it was pretty clear that — like Gary Johnson and Aleppo — Trump didn’t know what she was talking about.
Once he started tracking, though, he asked Ms. Ryan if the members of the Congressional Black Caucus were friends of hers and if she could set up the meeting.
And a collective groan was heard ’round the world.
My heart sank when I saw how the disparity of power played out between the president and April Ryan. And it breaks my heart further that she can’t directly call out the president for using racist and sexist language. Ms. Ryan has to rely on other white journalists to have her back and move the conversation forward.
It’s just appalling and shameful. And, while April Ryan doesn’t need anybody feeling sorry for her, I’m embarrassed that Trump can’t do better by a professional woman who has earned her right to ask a question.
And the exchange reminded me why, during African-American History Month and beyond, we need efforts like #BlackBlogsMatter. Trump isn’t the only person in power — running complex organizations — who thinks that all black people know one another. And he’s not the first civil servant to believe he’s a king and women are there to serve him, either.
So if you haven’t been on Twitter in the month of February to check out the hashtag #blackblogsmatter, it’s not too late. And contribute your voices, too. Because when April Ryan is disrespected in such a ridiculous and offensive way, we’re all affected.
The only good news is that I now get to see Ms. Ryan on TV a little more, not just on Hardball.
I used to think there were a lot of buzzwords and jargon in HR, especially when it came to the war for talent and searching for the purple squirrel. Then I worked in marketing, and I learned to dimensionalize everything and evolve the brand.
But, now that I have a nascent software company, I’ve discovered that there’s a whole new level of jargon. I can’t get through a meeting without hearing phrases like feature-creep, iterate and human-centered experience.
(As opposed to pig-centered experience? Because a pig-centered experience might be okay, especially if it’s a baby pig.)
So it’s pretty much decided at GlitchPath that we’re for creating human-centered experiences. Not against. My platform is for people, not robots, and everything I do is an attempt to make life better.
But I am against jargon across all verticals, including the vertical in which saying “vertical” is okay. Jargon is exclusionary. Jargon can be divisive. And jargon is often racist, sexist, ableist, and meant to create a wall between two people to demonstrate status and access to information.
I’m anti-jargon at all levels because jargon impedes communication. And, if I’m committed to human-centered experiences, I can’t be all about jargon. It’s the opposite of human-centered experiences.
There are words we use because it’s part of the popular culture, but there are words we use to sound like we have a business degree when we actually don’t. (Or maybe we have a business degree, and we want to other people to know it.) Regardless, communication is a privilege and responsibility. Do better. Think better. Speak better.
Drop the jargon, and lead by example.
I quit social media in the month of February.
The thing about being in HR is that I have “industrial psychologists” for friends, and they don’t let me get away with anything.
Apparently, I haven’t quit social media.
I might be detoxing from social media by only checking my feeds in the morning and night. (During the shortest month of the year.) But it turns out that quitting means something. It means that you stop or discontinue your behaviors. And, because I think that I can’t step away from the internet, I’m not really quitting social media. I’m just turning the dial down.
That’s not a bad thing. It’s just not quitting.
Reminds me of when I quit Starbucks, which was a legitimate effort to quit an addiction. I went a few months without having a triple grande mocha, and now I only have Starbucks when I travel. Or when I’m driving past a Starbucks with a drive-thru. On my way to my pilates class. When I’m tired and need caffeine.
Now that I think about it, I had Starbucks 3x last week. Dammit.
My HR psychology friends have told me that quitting is no joke. To quit something, you need to abstain for more than a few weeks. It takes about a year, and only then do you realize that it’s over and have some “emotional distance” to process your decision.
And maybe not even then.
I asked, “How do I quit social media for a year?”
Or alcohol? Or fast food? Or Starbucks?
And the answer is, “One day at a time.”
Christ, that’s the hardest answer to hear because it’s both cliche and true. Most of us can’t see into the future and predict what will happen with our lives in a week, let alone a year, so it’s important to set realistic goals and focus on getting through today.
And, there’s more tough news: If you partake of the forbidden fruit — your Twitter addiction, alcohol, cocaine, the ex — the year-long clock starts over again.
So the key to success, my friends, is never to get addicted to anything — Facebook, food, champagne, Girl Scout cookies, etc. Once you’re addicted, it’s a pain-in-the-ass to break the cycle.
But, if you want to make a change in your life and break the addiction like I do, seek out the help and support of a professional. And commit to changing your life one day at a time.
I’m not feeling too defeated about my social media efforts, though. While I can’t give up Twitter for a year — and I miss seeing your kids on Instagram — it does feel good to step away from online toxicity and fill my day with other data. And, to manage my social media consumption, I’m using an app called Freedom. Works on both my phone and my laptop.
I recommend the app — and the detox — and I hope you find it helpful.
I started my job as a writer and speaker in 2007. I began traveling around the country and telling people how much I hated HR and recruiting. It wasn’t a super sophisticated message, but I just wanted my fellow colleagues to know that they could do better.
Like, don’t you want more for yourself?
And, during the past ten years, there’s been a sea change in the way HR-related professionals talk about themselves and their dreams.
A lot of consultants take credit for helping HR see its potential, but I think my friend Gerry Crispin is one of the central figures who contributed to the rising self-esteem of HR and recruiting.
Gerry describes himself as a life-long student of recruiting. He gets excited about meaningful work, technology, and data. And he dreams of a world where employers and candidates have crucial conversations about fit and passion before anybody gets hired.
And, back in the day, I used to be all like — COME ON, GERRY, STOP LYING TO US. THAT DREAM SUCKS. GIVE ME A DIFFERENT DREAM.
For the first few years of our friendship, I’d basically roast him from the edge of the stage while he was addressing recruiters and HR professionals about the future of staffing and HR.
I was a fool because Gerry’s vision affords him a pretty killer lifestyle. His work takes him all over the world to meet fabulous people. He eats good food, drinks great wine, and he helps companies get better at hiring talented people.
Tens of thousands of recruiters and HR professionals have seen Gerry on stage and must’ve had the same thoughts I now have:
Damn, Gerry! It’s a pretty fabulous way to make a living.
Gerry is one of many impressive people I’ve come to know, love and respect during the past ten years. My job — of being a cynical naysayer — has given me the opportunity to meet all kinds of individuals with weird and random dreams who challenge the way I think and, more importantly, teach.
I used to roll my eyes at a lof of these HR topics — especially when I’d meet someone who described themselves as passionately sitting at the intersection of millennials and leadership. But, you know what? Thank goodness there is someone out there who wants to create a world a where ACA compliance is easier. And I’m grateful to know people who want HR generalists to think like marketing and sales professionals.
I can’t believe I’m writing this, but those HR dreams are worthwhile.
So, if you have an idea about HR or recruiting, don’t listen to the 2007-version of Laurie Ruettimanan who made fun of your dream. Well, okay, listen to me. I’m not wrong. Take my advice and try to frame your HR vision in a different way that’s not boring as hell. Get a speaker coach.
But if you think you could coach someone into peak performance — or if you feel like you have a new way of seeing an old staffing process — you need to get your act together and follow that dream right now.
And, for the record, don’t just dream your dream. Teach your dream. Because HR needs you now more than ever.
Psychologists say that people with high anxiety levels benefit from a daily calendar and morning routines.
So, for years, I’ve tried to wake up early and make sure that I schedule all types of stuff on my calendar: sleep, breakfast, writing, email, running, pilates, mindfulness, cross-training, water breaks, afternoon snacks, micro-naps, and even accountability meetings where I sit down with myself and go over the wins and losses of the day.
That kind of rigid, hyper-scheduled life really sucks.
I don’t like to be busy, even if I’m busy with “good stuff.” Scheduling my life doesn’t necessarily make me feel more in control. Being in control is what makes me feel in control.
If I’m busy with anything — wellness, the internet, errands — I’m still busy. I’m not the boss of me, even if I pretend like that calendar represents a contract with myself. And scheduling my life means that I often miss those small and quiet opportunities to make connections, dream up silly ideas, or solve problems that are bothering me.
Should I schedule in some quiet time for reflection? Hell no. My new plan is just to live my life.
So now I wake up and lay in bed listening to NPR for twenty minutes. Waking up slowly is the best. Then I drink some coffee, putter around the house, and I pay attention to my cats for as long as that feels good.
I could do that for hours, believe me, but I don’t. Despite what psychologists and life coaches have told me over the years, I have the internal capacity to keep an eye on the clock and not waste too much of my life in my bathrobe.
But sometimes wasting time is good. Today I looked at my front yard for twenty minutes and wondered what the hell I should do with my crepe myrtles. I don’t want to cut them back aggressively, but they’re starting to look spindly. Didn’t we just have them serviced a few years ago? Bah, they’re not the right trees in my front yard, but I don’t care enough to replace them. And, oh, look! Birds!
I always have plenty of time to look at birds.
And I won’t pretend that scheduling my life removes anxiety. Nothing removes anxiety and stress from my life. In fact, it haunts me when I try to beat it back into submission and calendarize my moods. The only thing that makes anxiety better for me is to see this part of my personality as a companion. Preferably, a friend in a bathrobe who likes to listen to NPR.
Maybe I’ll never be the CEO who creates a billion-dollar unicorn. Maybe I won’t sit on corporate boards and solve our nation’s pay equality issues. But I’ll live the life I was meant to live, which is one that is useful to some and wasteful to others.
And I’ll have plenty of time to read the new George Saunders novel, next week. Funny how priorities are a priority whether you have a daily routine, a morning ritual or a calendar or not.
There is nothing better than SoulCycle.
Orangetheory’s secret sauce is that everything is orange. The walls are orange. The lights are orange. And, to be your best self, you collect something called “splat points” that are totally orange.
The more splat points, the better. When you earn splat points, you’re in the orange zone and “you burn maximum calories for 36 hours” or some marketing nonsense like that.
So how do you maximize your efforts at Orangetheory and earn the most splat points possible? Here are my tips.
1. Don’t lie about your age or your weight. Splat points are awarded by calculating your target heart rate along with other stuff that is fuzzy and unclear. But you can’t get an accurate read of how hard you’re working if you lie about your body. It might take an NDA to reveal your weight, which is fine, but don’t lie on your Orangetheory profile.
2. Do the hardest thing first. Orangetheory splits the class into two groups: treadmills and rowers. If you hate running, get that out of the way first. It gets your heart rate up, by the way, which also aids in getting splat points.
3. Focus on your form and breathing. All exercise benefits from good form and breathing, but Orangetheory truly pays off when you’re challenging your body and doing the exercises properly. I always get more splat points when I focus on form versus speed and rep count.
4. Dance. Whenever I hate doing something at Orangetheory, I add some dance moves. Yes, really, I look like a sassy mom who’s cheering on her kids at the bus stop, but it works for me. I might not be moving quickly, but I am burning calories. Moving earns you points.
5. Don’t sip water. It’s tempting to nurse from a bottle of water while on the treadmill or rower, but sipping water causes cramps. If you’re cramping up, you’re not earning points. Hydrate before the class, make sure you’re not loaded with food and get ready to move. Bring water with you, but remember that exercise is hard. Sipping that water bottle won’t help you earn splat points.
I think the number one way to earn splat points is to crush it, but there may be a medical reason that prevents you from crushing it right now.
If you can’t crush it, that’s understandable. Take some time, learn the Orangetheory system, and work hard in 2017 to crush it at 100%.
It’s not a super-complicated piece of writing, but it’s also not very good. Throughout the essay, the reader is told that society doesn’t know what to do with a woman’s age. When you share your age, people judge you. And if someone knows your birthdate, he has the power to measure you against an invisible set of benchmarks that you don’t control.
So, yeah, I’m not buying it. It’s the same argument against wage transparency. If you tell people how much you earn, they might try to undermine you or rig the system to benefit themselves and not you.
It turns out that everybody judges everyone. And it also happens to be true that people are super bad at processing complex and nuanced topics. If you try to guess how much your boss and colleagues are earning, there’s a big chance that you’re wrong. Statistically, you’ll wildly overestimate your boss and underestimate your peers. (Or do I have that flipped? I can’t remember because I’m old.)
But the bigger point is that the way you break stereotypes and clarify complex issues is to talk about those issues. Tell people the truth and use yourself as an example.
When I stand on stage, I almost always tell people my age. It’s not because I like to brag about being a middle-aged woman. In fact, being a middle-aged woman is hard. I tell people my age because I don’t know what 42 looks like, and if I don’t know, other people don’t know. Let’s clear this up. You can help me. Tell everybody your age. Don’t apologize for it, either.
I also talk about weight with friends and family members. I don’t have a good sense of what a number means, and a lot of people walk around feeling bad about their bodies for no goddamn reason. Here’s the deal: I weigh 131.6 pounds, I can do 50 push-ups, and I’m about to haul my body up a skyscraper. Here’s some breaking news on my weight: I can’t fit into my XS yoga pants, anymore. Guess what? Crisis averted, I bought some new yoga pants. Life is good.
I’m also a huge proponent of sharing my salary as a human resources professional, a consultant, and as an entrepreneur. Right now, my software makes zero money. I have no income coming in from GlitchPath. I’m not sure when I’ll have money coming in from the project. Being an entrepreneur is really hard.
So here’s how life works, my friends: It’s impossible to prevent someone from judging you, but you can control your stories. Share your information on your terms, de-escalate hostile responses, and stop giving a fuck when someone tries to shame you.
And when someone like Ms. Chittal tells you not to share her age, ignore that bad piece of advice and bless her heart for being so young and naive.
Wait, how do I know she’s young? Because she’s listed #30under30 in her Twitter bio. Of course. It’s okay to share your age when you’re young and braggy!
I would love to tell you that you can recession-proof your career, but in the coming age of automation, it doesn’t look great. The best thing you can do is fight for basic income and pray for mercy from our Chinese AI overlords.
You don’t believe me? You want a specific way to recession-proof your career without worrying about an apocalyptic future where we take direction from titanium overlords?
Fine. The best thing you can do is have more than one skill.
If you work in HR, for example, there’s no reason why you can’t pick up some marketing skills. If you work in marketing, learn how to hire people. And if you work in sales, learn how to be a line cook at Waffle House. They’re always hiring.
(I’m not kidding about working in a restaurant, by the way. Most of the job growth in America is in the service and hospitality sectors. And while we’ve automated much of the kitchen, franchise operators still need people to show up and serve food. Right now, at least.)
The bigger point — finding a different, monetizable skill than the one you already have — is an important one. Specialists are great. When there’s money laying around, companies will compensate workers for specific and unique needs. But, as layoffs loom and businesses try to squeeze blood from a turnip, it benefits all employees — from HR to logistics to procurement — to take a personal inventory and diversify their knowledge, skills and abilities.
So start thinking about what’s next for you. Get certified as a project manager. Take some accounting classes. Learn how to be a massage therapist. Do whatever it takes to develop an additional skill so that your career — and your life — is recession-proof.
You might just have a chance against the robots.
I’ve been trying to change my media consumption habits in the month of February so that I’m feeding my brain with the words and stories of intelligent and successful women instead of slow-witted men who think they’re funnier and smarter than they truly are.
There’s nothing like a man repeating political talking points and jokes from the internet — or the radio — to tell me that it’s time to get off the web.
So, first up, I downloaded the Making Oprah podcast. As a forty-two-year-old woman who grew up in Chicago, I had two crushes when I was a kid: Phil Donahue and Al Gore. (I was a weird child.) But I had one person in my life who was a de facto role model, and that was Oprah.
I wasn’t particularly interested in most of Oprah’s show topics because, as a kid, I couldn’t relate to the pain of being a suburban mom who struggled for work-life balance. But I was interested in how she lived her life. Her work ethic made a huge impression on me, and I loved the fact that she didn’t have shady friends or a loser husband who held her back.
You know what else made an impression me? Oprah was a victim of abuse. She was a victim of institutional racism and sexism. But she made good choices and played a long game. As her career progressed, she surrounded herself with intelligent and supportive people who gave good counsel. But, more importantly, she trusted herself to make the right decisions.
Oprah is all about accountability, which wasn’t lost on me as a child and still resonates with me as a middle-aged woman. And you hear that theme of accountability — for your life, for treating others well, for leaving a positive mark on the world — throughout the entire Making Oprah podcast.
Listen right now!
After wrapping up the podcast, I stumbled onto an e-book called The 10 Habits of Highly Successful Women. It’s published by a group called TheList, and it’s a group of women who support other women in business. One of the founders, Rachel Sklar, is a Canadian lawyer turned writer turned social media marketing professional.
TheList published The 10 Habits of Highly Successful Women to offer advice to women who are creative, artistic, and entrepreneurial. And the book isn’t horrible. It’s certainly earnest. But the problem with most career advice is that it’s always more about the author than the reader. The thesis goes like this: if you read my story and copy my moves, you can be like me.
And, no offense to the writers of The 10 Habits of Highly Successful Women, I don’t want to be like any of them. I want to be like myself, which was a problem because I couldn’t place my story in any of the scenarios in the book. It’s almost as if the writers had no interest in or empathy for my experience, which, coincidentally, is the opposite of what Oprah consistently delivered for 25 years.
Oprah was obsessed with the audience, or in today’s speak, the user of her content. She wanted them up on the stage when she talked about work-life issues, and she wanted them right on the couch when Tom Cruise acted like a dumbass baby and got excited about his child-bride, Katie Holmes.
You can’t write an advice book without some empathy and understanding of your audience. And you can’t put your audience on a pedestal and make them feel amazing about themselves — and see their inner potential — if you put yourself on a pedestal.
And let me know if you have any recommendations for podcasts or books by remarkable women. I’m all about improving my media consumption, and I’d love to learn about new people and ideas.