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I’ve been attending a class at Duke to learn about mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques, and today is the last day. It’s bittersweet. I’m grateful for the experience. My personal and professional relationships have improved over the past ten weeks, and I’m making better decisions. But being mindful is exhausting.

Part of me feels like there’s no going back to the old way of living. Stressed, rushed, and making stupid decisions where I’m not breathing or thinking through alternative ways of coping. Another part of me welcomes the return of long summer nights on the porch, drinking champagne and wondering why I can’t move forward with my life.

Dammit.

There’s a clinical program where I could learn how to apply mindfulness to my start-up company. We are helping teams (and, really, people) make better decisions at work through our online platform. It’s exciting stuff.

But it’s not quite ready for commercialization. In the interim, I’d have to apply the coursework to people. Unfortunately, thanks to my ten-week MBSR course, I’m now mindful of how fundamentally pissed off I get when people ask me for advice and don’t take it.

Why are you wasting my time? If you made good decisions, you wouldn’t be asking me for help. So maybe just shut up for two seconds and hear what I have to say.

At the same time, my MBSR class has made me mindful enough to see that sometimes people ask for advice because they don’t know how to ask for a blessing and support. Would it kill me to take a breath and nod my head?

Yes, it does kill me a little bit.

I’m working hard on offering up a little loving kindness and wishing people good luck on their journeys. I would rather not know about your problems instead of knowing about them, offering good advice, and being ignored. That doesn’t feel very good, and it hurts to watch you suffer.

Which is why GlitchPath is so very near and dear to my heart. Prophet is rarely recognized in its own house. You won’t listen to me and make better decisions, so maybe I can create a mechanism where people proactively reflect on what might go wrong and then fix their behaviors.

Gary Klein says it works. My earlier user testing is positive. Lots of companies apply the premortem to running clinical trials, building bridges, and constructing aircraft carriers. NASA uses it, too. I never thought that analyzing language and behaviors could help people beat failure, and I never believed that beating failure could be so mindful. I’m glad to learn that I was wrong — being mindful can change lives.

So, in that way, my MBSR class has truly changed my thinking. Maybe I will enroll in the formal foundational program. I just wish I liked people more. Ugh.

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One of my mentors, Nick Morgan, believes that every public speaker is a motivational speaker. I think he’s right, and it applies to bloggers and writers like me.

If you’re on the internet telling other people how to live, you’re a player in an industry full of people like Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss, and Gary Vaynerchuk. You hope to move people from inaction to action, and your primary tool is your voice.

Having tried to be a motivational writer and speaker for over a decade, here’s what I know about successful people: I’m not one of them. The best of the best understand that they are flawed and broken, and they are relentlessly committed to improving their lives and taking you along for the ride.

That’s not me.

At my core, I’m just an HR blogger who couldn’t cut it. While I was noisy and flashy, I was mostly early to social media. I benefitted from being a big fish in a small pond. And I blew it. I didn’t offer mature or humble advice. I wasn’t one of those speakers who whispered wisdom in your ear and set your world on fire. I also wasn’t brave enough to bare my soul. I was an HR chick with a snappy URL who found myself somewhere in the middle, hedging my bets and hoping people don’t poke too many holes in the fragile narrative that I constructed to get through the day.

It never paid off.

I was never able to crack the upper echelon of writing and speaking because I was smack-dab in the mediocre middle, speaking no truths and sparing myself from criticism from the powerful. The middle-road is crowded, by the way, and full of middle-aged white men decked out in Landsend slacks telling you that your best effort is nothing more than amateur hour.

Assholes.

Now it’s 2017, and I’m committed to ending my career as an HR blogger. The truth is, my career ended years ago. My traffic is down, my advertisers are gone, and nobody wants to hear me half-heartedly rage against a machine that earns them a paycheck. When I’m paid to speak and attend events, I’m now there as someone who encourages and promotes a larger message that’s not my own.

So if I have any wisdom about HR blogging and speaking, it’s this: either burn the motherfucking boats and go all in on your journey, or toil away in mediocre misery and wonder why you’ve never been paid to speak at a national conference and can’t get above 500 page views.

Writers and speakers who try to play it safe are losers and, ultimately, imposters. And audiences can see through cowards who are attempting to half-ass their way into being motivational speakers.

So if you’re going to blog, blog. If you’re going to speak, speak. Do it with a sense of purpose and direction, or be prepared to waste a decade of your life waiting for success and wondering why it hasn’t arrived. It’s not coming for me — not on this blog, anyway — and I can only hope to God that my ongoing example of failure fulfills my ultimate goal of motivating you from inaction to action in your personal and professional lives.

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I should have known it was coming.

Last year, around Halloween, I had an allergic reaction to a bite of food. It’s not my first bout with anaphylaxis. Thankfully, I was able to apply good self-care and survive the very scary episode. But I knew something like this was coming because my body was completely inflamed for a few months beforehand.

How did I know that it was inflamed? Well, I was slow and sluggish. My body was in pain for no reason. Running was challenging and sometimes nearly impossible for no apparent reason. My skin was a mess, and I had gained 10 lbs.

When my throat started to close, I wasn’t surprised that I had an anaphylactic reaction. Mostly because nothing surprises me. Trump? The FBI? Russia? Anaphylaxis? Whatever, man. It’s just another part of the story that makes life so interesting.

In retrospect, I brought this on myself. I was drinking too much, my diet was horrible, and my behaviors were expressions of the larger inflammation in my personal life. I was not taking good care of my emotional health. I was justifiably upset with people in my inner circle but unable to express my unhappiness in a normal, mature way.

On top of that, I was angry with myself being so stuck. I felt like shit, so I mindlessly ate shitty food that my body obviously cannot digest. In the short term, it made me feel good. But instead of getting enough rest and drinking enough water, I woke up early and stayed up late drinking too much champagne while sitting on the couch.

I’ve now come to see that you can’t run the marathon of your life when your body and mind are in a chronic state of inflammation. You also can’t run a real marathon — or go to work, create art, enjoy life — when your body and mind are always recovering from chronic abuse and misuse.

So, have I flipped the script and overhauled my life? Yeah, well, not entirely. Nutritional science is hot garbage, but I’ve been on the anti-inflammatory diet and experimenting with different foods to see how they make me feel. I’ve tried to avoid trigger foods that send my body into a state of bloated shock. And I’m trying to calm my brain so that, when I’m angry, my wrath is justified and not part of an ongoing and unhealthy way of living.

Adulthood sucks, man. I want to go out for dinner, eat whatever the hell I want, and drink myself into a coma. I also want to tell everybody how I feel with no consideration of how draining that is on my heart, on other people’s emotional wellbeing.

But inflammation is the trigger for the most common illnesses that kill people over the age of 40. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and suicide are byproducts of physical and emotional inflammation. So if I want to experience more of adulthood — and run the New York marathon in November — I need to calm down.

For so long, my life was like a bonfire. Inflamed, uncontained, potentially uncontrollable. Now, as I get a little older and slower, I’m looking for a nice little firepit on the beach. I could do worse than live a life that’s welcoming, warm, and contained.

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I’ve been studying up on different meditation and stress-reduction methods because, for some reason, this blog has led me down the path of being everybody’s big sister who is immediately ignored when she gives smart advice.

(Just like my real life! How great!)

Nobody knows how to make good decisions, especially at work where we are caffeinated, stressed, and exhausted from holding ourselves in awkward positions all day long. That’s right. You don’t let the chair do its job, and you keep your body in a rigid position and aggravate all kinds of muscles in your back, neck, and shoulders.

And nobody is breathing at work, by the way. Everybody has the potential to take one good breath and oxygenate the body. Very few are doing it. The brain and organs are running on empty, and the body is operating at a sub-par level. So when the shit hits the fan at the office, it’s no wonder that people explode — internally, externally — and make poor decisions.

Then they wind up on my blog after having googled I+hate+my+boss or I+hate+work and look to me for advice.

Should I quit my job? Why does my life suck so much? Can you help me write my resume?

If I had a nickel for every person who wrote to me about a broken professional relationship or a failing marriage, I’d have a Great-Gatsby-style swimming pool full of spare change and silver coins.

I’ve gone down the path of offering advice on my blog, but nobody takes it. I’ve tried to create a consulting model based on solving problems, but I’ve repeatedly learned that most individuals (including me) only want to address superficial challenges in their lives. Depression and anxiety are seductive and alluring states of mind.

Now I’m on to a software company to help codify and clarify a methodology to solve problems and beat failure. Does it work? Yes. Does anybody really want to solve their own problems? Not at this moment. Almost two-thirds of the professional workforce only shows up and collects a paycheck. Nobody is incentivized to solve problems and take ownership of their relationships and emotional wellbeing at the office.

That’s why I’m taking classes on stress-reduction and decision-making to bridge the gap between what people say they want and what they actually want to achieve in life. But I realize that I’ll continue to make poor decisions, and so will you.

Helping people make better decisions — and making better decisions in my own life — is the challenge of a lifetime. While I figure all of this out, I’m focused on breathing and self-regulating my emotions. I’m offering goodwill, kindness, and warmth to the people I love and the people who write to me in a state of panic and dismay. And I’m trying to offer kindness to those around me whom I find the most challenging.

Most of all, I’m offering my very best and most sincere good wishes to you. Especially my HR readers. Many of us are living lives that are incongruent with our values, including me. You can’t make smarter decisions and have a better quality of life unless you’re breathing. So I’m starting there. I hope you find your way there, too.

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A few weeks ago, I went to New Orleans for Collision Conference. I only knew two people at the event, which was perfect, because my goal was to blend in with the crowd and learn about funding my company and hiring talented people.

The conference was massive. With 20,000 people and a ton of booths, I parked my ass in a chair and spent most of my time watching the keynote speakers on the main stage. I didn’t spend nearly enough time networking, which sucks because Collision tries to make relationship-building a little easier by creating open spaces and inviting attendees to party and drink at after-hour events.

Networking at conferences is tough stuff. Even for a seasoned veteran like me, it’s difficult to walk into a place where I don’t rank and start a conversation with a total stranger. Also, I know that most of the significant action at conferences happens at offsite meetings and dinners. I wasn’t at those dinners because I don’t rank in the technology industry. (It’s not imposter syndrome if it’s true, y’all.) So, it was a weird feeling to know that I was firmly planted all day long with the cattle and the riff raff.

I started thinking about the upcoming SHRM conference in June. I won’t be there, but I would do that conference entirely differently in 2017 versus a few years ago. I used to publish party lists, a tradition that was carried on by Jessica Miller-Merrell, but nobody liked having their private events posted on my website. But if I were invited to a fancy party in 2017, I would try to bring someone new.

Maybe I’d grab that person out of a coffee line. Maybe I’d find someone eating lunch alone or looking at her phone. I’m not sure. But I would ask that person to be my guest whether or not I had permission to bring a +1. I would figure out the details later.

I would also attend fewer of those snobby dinners and try to create my own party. Why participate in someone else’s marketplace when there is such an emotional and economic benefit from being friendly to strangers? People are well connected and surprisingly generous when you ask them to participate in something fun. If you’re going to the annual SHRM Conference & Exposition, think about how you can make your own spontaneous fun and invite others to join you.

I don’t mind being an anonymous conference-goer and sticking to the script, but the Collision Conference was a little lonely towards the end of the show. When I call something lonely, you should know that I spend ten hours each day alone and in relative silence with my cats. Then my introverted husband comes home, and we watch television during dinner. I don’t get very lonely in life. In fact, I crave quiet time to process and reflect on life.

But there’s something about being an individual in a crowd that gets to me, and I know it gets to some HR conference attendees, too. So, if you see someone who needs a friend at SHRM, make a friend. If you’re going to a party, bring someone new. And don’t forget to post photos. I want to see you having fun. That’s what these conferences are all about!

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I’m on a lot of lists in real life, not just in my head.

Most important lady in HR.
Most influential human being in human resources.
The top best greatest HR blog in the history of blogging.
Top people who make stuff happen.

I made it! Me! I’m number one!

If there was ever any doubt that I should be on influence lists, let it be put to rest by John Sumser who said that I should be at the top of all lists everywhere. I also have an inbox full of people telling me that I’m amazing and influential. There are a few other individuals in HR who are okay, but I’m the best.

My influence is so yuge that I’ve told people to stop putting me on lists. First of all, duh. Of course, I’m on your list. Second of all, don’t use my face and likeness to sell your stuff unless I’m getting a finder’s fee. The purpose of a list is to make your company seem like it knows stuff with the express intent of gaining buyer confidence and selling more of your shit.

It’s not an honor to be on a list as much as it’s someone benefiting from my brand and ideas. Thanks but no thanks. Keep me off. Nevertheless, marketers persist and add me to lists. I don’t blame them. What’s the risk? It’s not like I’m lawyered up like Taylor Swift. Not yet, anyway.

Every once in awhile, some blogger will get mad that another list has come out. Aren’t lists dumb?! Aren’t they stupid?! Who are these people on the list, anyway?! They’re just poseurs!

I’m like, right? But, also, don’t be jealous. It’s how Tim Sackett Day started, by the way. Tim was never recognized for his contributions in the recruiting field, and we got so sick of his whining that we made him a day. Now we honor other unsung HR and recruiting heroes who don’t make any of the lists.

Just recently, Mary Faulkner published a helpful piece to assist HR professionals who want to get on lists but don’t make it. I wrote her, and I’m like — Why don’t you just write about how you feel? You got missed for another list, and you’re mad about it.

Mary was diplomatic about it and nicely told me not to tell her how she feels, which is fair. But a lot of the angst in our HR community behind “lists” stems from the fact that people who work hard and have smart things to say are often overlooked and excluded.

Being ignored sucks. Never cracking a Top 10 list — even when those lists are for marketing purposes — still hurts. I wish more people would write about that. I want a blogger to tell me how it feels to get on the internet, read another list of the top 10 people who are awesome, and know that you’re better than those people.

What do you do with that anger? How do you stay motivated? How do you deal with feelings of discomfort? How can I apply your lessons to my life?

It’s great to rage against the multi-level marketing machine that creates internet lists. It’s interesting to learn how to crack one of those lists, too. But I want to know what to do with my very human and natural feelings of rejection when someone tells me that my work isn’t good enough and doesn’t include me in the mix of thought leaders.

Because one day shortly imma be off these HR lists, and it will probably hurt my feelings. I’d like to know how to process my emotions. Lessons about rejection and self-worth are necessary for popular bloggers like me, too.

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The problem with a lot of people in the workforce is that they confuse doing things for having power.

Don’t make that mistake. Power has very little to do with effort. In fact, it’s one of those weird circumstances in life that powerful people don’t work very hard. If you’re working on a super-interesting project at the office, it may be all encompassing and critical to your professional growth. But it doesn’t make you powerful. The person who let you in on that project? She’s got the power.

It’s tough to watch the ways in which people try to attain power. They work late. Say yes to tasks and projects. Make big powerpoint presentations like powerpoint is going out of style. I think some of those efforts build character and competency, but the path to power isn’t through more work and proving yourself to your boss: it’s through building relationships.

(Being born with money and power doesn’t hurt. Neither does being a white guy over 40.)

People spend gobs of money on coaching and leadership classes to become more influential and powerful. Let me offer you a quick life hack: be more discerning with your time and energy. Pay attention to how powerful people in your world spend their days. Be a journalist of your life, go undercover, and spy on the most powerful and influential people at your office.

While they might work hard, they’re working smarter than you. That’s how they became powerful.

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Last week, I spoke to a conference of 400 logistics/delivery executives and owners about Millennials and generational differences in the workforce. Well, I talked to about half of them. The other half were at another session or possibly still sleeping off the night before.

Turns out, the logistics industry is interesting because they’re super-focused on technology and innovation while not having the luxury to talk like a bunch of Valley assholes. Sure, the robots are coming to a highway near you, but no robot is delivering your mattress anytime soon. Logistics and delivery professionals are intensely focused on driving the last mile from the road to your door, and providing you with excellent customer experience.

Who knew? Not me. I had no idea, which is the joy of being a public speaker. As your audience grows, you have the pleasure and privilege of learning and growing as a multifaceted human being. That’s what I love most about my job.

So I’m prepping for this event — and remember, my session is about Millennials — and I’m told two things about my audience.

    These dudes (and it’s almost all white men at this event) operate under exceedingly difficult timelines. They can’t be late for anything. Traffic. Weather. Illness. Injury. Doesn’t matter. The concepts of “logistics” and “delivery” are built on the notion that you’ve got to be on time, which is especially stressful. If you’re not five minutes early, you are late.
    These dudes hate artifice. I would fail as a speaker if I showed up and tried to be Suzy HR Lady with a stuffy presentation and a rigid delivery style. No jargon, no funny tricks with the audience, and no boring stories. Be authentic and wake them up because they’re gonna be hung over.

So, of course, my flight is super-delayed getting to the conference. I’m paranoid that I’ll be the first asshole-speaker to miss an event solely dedicated to logistics experts who pride themselves on being on time.

Eventually, I rolled into the hotel at two o’clock in the morning and found a bunch of executives closing down the bar. I was pleased to see that they really do let loose. The conference organizers weren’t lying, which was a relief.

I went up on stage the next morning with three hours of sleep. I wore a blazer and slacks and sensible shoes — just like Suzy HR Lady — but I deployed my shock-and-awe methodology of swearing within the first thirty seconds. Then I made fun of Millennials. Well, that’s not true. I made fun of everybody. Millennials. Gen Xers. My parents. The audience itself. I tried to use my mindfulness + improv + stand-up skills to make a session on Millennials seem fresh and new.

It was the best time I’ve had on stage in years.

Two highlights:

    I got heckled once by a guy who told me that I was mistaken. Thirtysomething wasn’t a TV show, it’s Twentysomething. I’m happy to report that he was summarily booed by his colleagues before I could even correct him. Then I asked him to get on stage and mansplain my presentation for me.
    Another guy asked me how to get Millennials to put down their phones, and, as you can imagine, this dude was my age and his phone out for my entire presentation. So I’m like, buddy, you put down your phone first before you criticize Millennials.

After the presentation, I was mobbed. The Thirtysomething guy came up to the stage and apologized to me. Also, he was humble and super good-natured. Other people came up and told me that I’m little and fierce, which are super-secret feminist compliments. I’ll take that. Most importantly, everybody told me that they learned something.

That’s a win.

I’ve been working hard on GlitchPath and trying to move away from the world of human resources. Like anybody trying something new, I’m full of doubt and fear. I’m also incredibly hard on myself. I’m willing to allow other people to fail while holding myself to an unreasonably high standard. It sucks to be bad at something new. It also sucks to be so public about sucking.

That’s why it felt pretty good to get on stage and get the W. It feels good to be up above the clouds. I want more of it. Please!

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Every once in awhile, a word will take over America.

Back in the late 2000s and early 2010s, it was totes. Remember that phase? Things were totes crazy. Your new girlfriend is totes pretty. Do I want to have a drink on Friday night? Totes.

No word has captured America and the internet like totes, but there are phrases in the vernacular that are both popular and stupid at the same time. For example, it was trendy for a few years to talk about narrative. Her narrative is dark. The movie was boring because there’s no narrative. My childhood narrative had its share of peaks and valleys.

Everything and a chocolate bar had a narrative in 2015. The word has been replaced with tell the story, and now everybody is walking around trying to be storytellers of their boring lives. As a professional storyteller, I sorta hate it. I’d ask you if I want to hear your story. Can you please make my coffee faster?

A few years ago, probably closer to mid-2013, we were in peak right. That Costco near the house is slow, right? The quarterly reports are due and it sucks, right? Right, these pants are ugly?

People mean what they say whether they know it or not. When people add the word right to a sentence, they’re making a declarative statement and fighting against the divided attention in our society, right?

Right.

We’ve still got a lot of rights in our vocabulary, but it’s not as popular as it was in 2016. Although it’s still hanging on, unlike literally, which is literally on the decline.

But here’s some good news: we’ve got a new phrase that’s lighting the world on fire: think about it. This phrase is on the rise, and I believe we’ve reached peak think about it. From television to movies to general conversations, everybody is emphasizing their finer points with think about it!

Again, we say what we mean. The world is so noisy, and, as communicators, we’re trying to tell people that we’re saying something important. Think about it.

What’s hilarious to me is that peak “think about it” is intersecting with a strong trend of “right.” So what you have are sentences like these:

Think about it, right? Right? Think about it!

If I had a nickel for everybody who talks like this, I’d have enough cash to fund my summer vacation up to Seattle, then Vancouver, then Bowen Island, then Squamish, then on to Whistler with a stop in Pemberton, and then a drive back to Seattle to fly home. We still haven’t planned this vacation because I’m busy, but, think about it, the vacation sounds awesome.

I don’t mind when I hear think about it because we need a more mindful society that thinks before it acts. I just wish we had a culture of communication where we think before we speak. Think about it, right? That could be cool.

So if you’re speaking to anybody shortly, mind your think about its and rights. You want to stand out by saying something interesting and compelling, but you won’t stand out if you sound like everybody else.

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I just finished Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. As a side note, I keep wanting to call this book Plan B, which is messing with both my Amazon search results and Facebook ads.

Figure me out, algorithms! I dare you!

Option B is the saddest book I’ve ever read about resilience and joy. Sheryl Sandberg anchors this book with the death of her husband and her grief. Adam Grant weighs in with the science of resilience and joy. And it works because the book tells stories while also giving useful tips should your worst nightmare come to life.

Jesus. I won’t lie. This book is sad. But in a marketplace full of motivational speakers and happiness merchandise, this book delivers an honest conversation about how life sucks and then you die. If you want to thrive in-between those tough moments, you’ll need a new language around what it means to be happy and joyful.

In some ways, this book is like Year of Magical Thinking. It’s not uplifting, but it is interesting.

Sheryl Sandberg also offers advice on how to be helpful if your friends or colleagues are suffering. Chances are you’re doing it wrong, by the way. There’s no singular way to help a friend or colleague through grief and heartache, and most of us respond selfishly even if we mean well. Throughout the book, readers are given plenty of examples of how nice people get it wrong and make her grief worse.

But we also get some examples of how to do it right, thanks to stories about people who offer up the right thing to say at just the right moment. And with Adam Grant’s background in psychology, readers are given tips for helping people with everything from divorce to job loss to widowhood.

I’m happy to report that Adam Grant is speaking at WorkHuman, this year. I’m excited to hear more about his research behind the book. Well, excited is probably not the right word. I can’t say that I enjoyed Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. But I learned a ton about how to manage difficult situations, and I also feel better equipped for the moment when I have to face my own worst nightmare.

I’m not looking forward to that day, though.

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