Work

I took a break from the internet, last month. I was having a love-hate relationship with my phone, which is totally offensive to the poor kids who work as slaves to make my device. Seemed like the right time to get my head out of my butt (and my eyes off my screen).

The results of my detox were pretty good. I didn’t miss Donald Trump, and, despite the incessant toxicity of alt-right politics, I have come to understand that good stuff abounds online.

I missed seeing your kids. I missed ponies. I missed The Dogist and Lil Bub and The Onion. I missed pictures of goats and otters. I missed memes and gifs and Beyonce’s pregnancy.

Thankfully, Jennifer McClure kept me up-to-speed on celebrity gossip via SMS.

There is good stuff everywhere online. From Buzzfeed to your brother-in-law’s Facebook feed, you can be inspired wherever you go online. And when you see great content, consume it. Take it. Use it as inspiration for your art, politics and daily life. Let it help you write a blog. Let it help you compose an Instagram photo. Go share something bright and affirmative.

But, please, make sure you give as much as you take. There’s nothing wrong with copying, but also try to create new stuff, too. Take risks, try on a different persona, and give people a reason to pay attention to your work. Herman Melville said that it’s better to fail in originality than succeed in imitation. I think there’s no new art, but there’s a new take on old subjects. Give us your new take, and make it good.

The internet is a cesspool, but, weirdly, it’s also pretty great. And the more you contribute, the better it will be. So go and create goodness in your own voice. Your efforts will be rewarded.

The field of human resources took it on the chin, this week, with the sexual harassment claims from Uber and Google and Tesla and Sterling Jewelers.

I’m not sure HR practitioners knew they were being blamed, but in talking to journalists and business leaders, one question kept coming up over and over again.

“Why have HR at all if this is still happening?”

It’s a legit question, and I don’t have a great answer. We have HR for all kinds of reasons that have everything to do with protecting the enterprise and very little to do with protecting the workforce from sexual predators and skeevy guys in IT. It’s not that your local HR rep is disinterested or dispassionate about sexual harassment. It’s just that she’s disempowered to do anything.

But I was corrected by smart journalists, this week, who noted that women claimed to have notified HR. Those women were, allegedly, ignored by HR. That’s the reporting.

So, this week, I had to stop in my tracks and ask myself, “Why am I defending HR? Doesn’t that make me part of the problem?”

Because I don’t understand how people who work in HR — with 100% more women and POC and LGBT workers than almost any department in a company — are comfortable working with leaders and employees who behave in despicable ways.

Some say it’s Stockholm Syndrome. You assimilate to survive. Others say that you’re trying to distance yourself from the problem to protect yourself. If you point out deviant behavior and try to do something about it, you put yourself at risk of being a victim.

But if you work in HR and someone complains to you about a legitimate problem, it’s your job to be the Jordan Horowitz of your organization and fix what’s wrong. If you can’t fix it, leave. Share your personal story on Glassdoor. Let your “truth” be helpful and inform other women/POC/LGBT candidates who might consider working for your organization.

So, I’m done defending HR. It’s not my job, it’s not very fulfilling, and I might be perpetuating the lifecycle of an outdated institution that should probably go. But if you work in HR, remember that’s it’s your job to go first and fight sexual harassment in a company. Be loud and make a difference for your workforce. Get angry when you see outrageous behavior and turn that anger into action.

Maybe reporters will start calling you if you do your jobs right.

I don’t understand how this start-up business works.

You have an idea. You get excited about it. Some people say nice things to you, and some people don’t say nice things to you. You build something. You test your ideas. You get feedback. Some of it’s good. Some of it’s bad. There’s a group of smart individuals who might give you advice if you work hard enough to gain their attention. Some of those smart folk might offer you money.

It’s a journey.

But no matter what happens, 90% of start-ups fail. And nobody can predict winners in a reliable or valid way. Not even Mark Cuban. He passed on Bouqs! He gets it wrong a lot!

But it’s not just Mark Cuban. Put three start-ups on a wall and ask an expert to pick a winner. Then ask a monkey with a dart to predict the winner. Guess what? Human beings are worse forecasters than dart-throwing monkeys.

So, I often ask myself why I’m trying to launch a start-up. Why jump through hoops? Why ask for feedback? Why pretend like I can forecast the future and predict the needs of my target market?

Well, why not?

I just met with someone who said, “This is America. You gotta take a swing. It should be a calculated swing, though.”

Agree, but let’s not pretend that our swings are as deliberate and thoughtful as we think they are. There’s a science to saying yes, but if you’re Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo, your batting average is .292. You can successfully hit fewer than 3 out of 10 balls and still lead your team to the World Series.

(And you can be Jon Lester, a pitcher with a .105 batting average, and still blow the roof off the place and hit a home run.)

So, to summarize, I don’t understand how this start-up business works. I don’t know how winners and losers are chosen, and I’m not sure why bad ideas are scooped up early, but good ideas die on the vine.

All I know is that I have an idea that was actually inspired by research. And I have friends who are rooting for me, will help me build out the body of knowledge to support it, and will help me raise some money in 2017.

This is America. You gotta take your swing. I’m taking mine. How about you?

Nothing makes me happier than seeing other people succeed. Being happy for others just naturally makes me happy.

Here’s why.

1. Your success influences people.

When I see other people succeed, I’m inspired to be my very best. I think — if you can do it, I can do it. When your hard work pays off, it reminds me that my hard work can pay off, too. If you have a good day, or if you’ve accomplished a super-challenging goal, you should tell people. It makes a difference.

2. Your happiness is infectious.

When you smile, my mirror neurons kick into high gear. I start smiling, too. Then it’s easy to reverse-engineer your happiness and see that it begins with good choices. I want to make healthy choices, too. Thanks for setting an example. That’s how a movement start.

3. Your story is important.

I love it when people write and speak and share their ideas. The more I learn about what it takes to do good work in this world, the more I want to do succeed in this world. Then, I want to share my ideas so that others can have fun and joy in their lives.

4. It’s easier to learn when you’re happy.

I learn best when I’m having a blast. Whether I’m reading your blog or attending a cupcake decorating class, my mind is open when I’m relaxed and having fun. If you want to teach me something, just show me exactly how you relaxed and had fun. Easing into a lesson is much better than facing the cold, hard reality of a dark and desolate world.

5. Your success takes the pressure off people to be something they’re not.

When the world is all doom and gloom, people around you will rally and offer their best and most genuine support. But if you’re permanently in the dumps, your mood will drain the resources of your friends and colleagues. So when you’re happy and prosperous, it allows me to recharge my batteries. That way, I can be there to support you when times are tough.

The best friends and colleagues in this world are those who are supportive of you when things are going well. They celebrate your successes, they cheer you on from the sidelines, and they wish you well without making it about themselves.

Be that person for someone in your life. If you show up for your friends, they’ll show up for you.

I started listening to the Tim Ferriss podcast while beginning my training for Hustle Up the Hancock.

The show isn’t made for me. I listened to high-achieving guests describe emotional breakthroughs, and it hurts my heart.

“I discovered empathy in 2016! I learned that — to get through life — you need other people! I stopped eating sugar, and I’m loved!”

Yeah, okay. Reminds me that even the most skilled and capable people are lonely and depressed. Everybody needs a hug, even chess champions and computer nerds.

But I did hear a guest talk about riding his bike to the Santa Monica pier. I can’t remember his name, but he’s super fast and tries to improve his pace by riding the same path every day to measure his results. The ritual became a slog that he began avoiding.

One day he asked, “What if I just try to enjoy myself?”

So he rode his bike at a moderate pace, but one that wasn’t insane, and he was only 2 seconds slower. And it was super fun. Fell back in love with biking.

I happened to be right in the middle of peak Hustle for the Hancock training — jacked up on caffeinated Gu, holding a 10-pound medicine ball in my hands while climbing the Stairmaster at a break-neck speed — while listening to this podcast.

I dropped the medicine ball. I was done with it.

From that moment forward, I decided to do the Hustle differently. I would walk the stairs like a normal human being. I wouldn’t be in a hurry. I would talk to people on my way from the first floor to the 94th floor. And I would stop and take a sip of water instead of trying to power through the experience.

Most importantly, I would let my body — and not my mind — dictate my pace and my ability to scale that skyscraper. I wanted to quiet my thoughts, focus on the breath, and be conscious of my experience rather than trying to muscle through the event on adrenaline and willpower.

And, good news, it worked.

With less training but a better attitude — and more carbs and delicious food — I beat my time from last year. It’s not my best time, but, as I write this, I’m not sore. And I met someone on the stairwell who is a double-lung transplant recipient with a relatively new kidney, too. Seeing him hustle up those stairs was super motivating, and we talked about why the Hustle means so much to him, which puts the entire race in perspective.

This was my fifth year up the Hancock, and it was the most fun. It’s 100% attributable to Tim Ferriss and his guest who taught me that my best performance is a performance that happens with full attention, without criticism, and with a little fun.

Life is hard. Extreme sports and stair climbing events are hard. But just because something is hard — and taxes the body and the central nervous system — doesn’t mean it has to be a slog.

I finally experienced the moment when my inner-self let my outer-self perform without a running dialogue and widespread criticism. I could just go with the flow and have fun.

What a gift. What a surprise. Turns out, Tim Ferriss might be okay.

HR blogging used to be good. No, seriously, like ’86 Lakers good. There was Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and a few other guys who’s names I don’t remember. And, just like the ’86 Lakers, the old-school HR bloggers played like a team that wanted to win.

But then, just like every Hollywood sports story, people got greedy. Some HR bloggers wanted fame, some wanted money, and some just wanted to start an IT staffing firm down in Alabama.

One thing is for certain about the world famous HR bloggers: at some point, they stopped playing like the ’86 Lakers and started playing like the 2016 Lakers, which was a total disaster.

Just when you think they had a chance, they blew it by being themselves and playing for the wrong reasons. You can’t have a team that dominates the league when everybody on the Lakers is trying to be D’Angelo Russell.

So I’m not sure what the future holds for the 2017 Lakers, but I know that chances are pretty small that HR blogging will reclaim its past glory. Most bloggers don’t organize and play as a team, there’s no respect for the dynasty, and nobody pays attention to the winning program that’s been built from the ground up.

They say there’s more talent than ever before in HR blogging, and there’s never been a bigger opportunity to be seen and heard. Between Forbes articles and LinkedIn’s Influencer platform, I’m told that the time for great HR content is now.

So is everybody just gonna stand around and be mediocre like the 2016 Lakers? Do you like losing? Are you seriously trying to win the petty keyword game by writing about Facebook’s jobs platform and the sexual harassment problems at Uber? Or is somebody gonna finally step-up and lead this community by saying something interesting and reigniting a movement?

Because nobody wants to endure another season of losing like the 2016 Lakers. Not in the NBA, and not in HR blogging.

I’m back to exercising regularly in groups, which means I’m back to hearing about other people’s disordered eating.

Dude next to me, the other night, was raving about his protein drink with almond milk. I also listened to a detailed breakdown on the different varieties of coconut water before a Flywheel class. And two chicks at Orangetheory were talking about their amazing weight loss results with a Himalayan salt flush.

A salt flush is what they give you before a colonoscopy, but you don’t know that in your 20s.

I’m of the mindset that real food isn’t the enemy. If you go around thinking that real food is the enemy, you fall into a marketing trap that is built to trick you into spending your hard-earned dollars on fake food — like supplements and ingredients created in a laboratory — instead of real food that, for the most part, occurs in nature.

I’m a vegetarian, which can be its own form of disordered eating, so I don’t have a lot of room to judge other people. So I’m not judging. And there is value in cutting out sugar and swapping out animal fats for leaner fats. I’m on board with all of this. Also, bodies are weird. People have food allergies. Do what you think you need to do to survive.

But my fellow fitness nerds lose me with drinks, shakes, supplements, bars, food you eat because it has a certain color, food you avoid because it has a particular texture, and food labeled as an “allergic ingredient” because you’re always bloated.

You’re not always bloated. You’re not fat. You aren’t ugly. You’re getting older, but getting older is a privilege. You probably don’t need to lose 20 pounds, and, if you do, you won’t lose it on some fad diet. Go ahead and cut out extra bread, fine, but also talk to someone in your area who is a highly-regarded nutritionist.

But nobody is meant to live on six-pump soy chai lattes and protein bars, unlike some of the yoga instructors I’ve met in my life. If you find yourself trying to stave off hunger through caffeine, the best life advice I’ve ever been given is to listen to your body and eat more food and drink less coffee or five-hour energy drinks.

Sugar isn’t bad. Salt isn’t bad. Fat isn’t bad. Food isn’t the enemy. A modified diet of herbal supplements and Diet Water Zero Lite® is the enemy, and it’s also just another form of lottery thinking.

So get moving, get active, and stop looking in the mirror or at old Facebook photos. What matters is this moment, and, at this moment, I’d love to see you join me in a group fitness class. Wouldn’t that be more fun that eating chia seeds and drinking alkaline water, which is just regular f–king water?!

Yes, yes it would.

I’m not always the best version of myself when I’m feeling anxious or troubled at work. More times than not, I walk around thinking that people are out to get me when, in fact, the opposite is true. People root for me and celebrate my successes.

So, I was both surprised and not surprised to hear from a former colleague of mine who sent an incredibly gracious and thoughtful note.

Received an email today from the famous Laurie R. Took a few moments to read about all you have achieved. You are making quite an impact in the world. Love your passion and brilliance. Wanted to say hello and let you know that I am very impressed and happy for you. Best of success and happiness as you continue to light fires!

You see, the relationship with my colleague didn’t end on the best note. It’s not like we were mortal enemies, but we certainly weren’t friends. And our falling out was stupid. The stakes, which seemed so high at the time, were incredibly small.

That’s why the email was such an act of grace. Out of nowhere, when I least expected it, I’m the benefactor of genuine goodwill and implied forgiveness.

My first thought was, “I don’t deserve it.”

My second thought was, “I don’t know what to do with it. “

Finally, I remembered that I’m an adult with manners and said thank you. I sent a brief note because sometimes I’m at a loss for words. It was the best I could do at that moment, but it was earnest.

The nice thing about grace is that it doesn’t require you to do a song and dance. It’s given — whether you want it or not — and you get to choose how to respond.

So, what I’ve done over the past week is think about all the people in my life who could use a note like the one I’ve received. And I’ve sent a few. No drama. No speeches. Just a warm and heartfelt hope that life continues to go well for them.

Couldn’t we all use more of that in our lives, right now?

word of the yearI believe that everybody has a “word of the year” whether you know it or not.

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?

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