What I Learned the Week of February 25th, 2022

From a Podcast … “I’m not much but I’m all I think about”

Somewhere around the middle of the interview with actor Zooey Deschanel (New Girl, Elf, 500 Days of Summer) both Dax and Zooey realize they have something in common, besides interesting first names. Zooey labels it as “Ego Fluctuation Disorder” which Google will point you to narcissism?!? Did they just admit to being narcissists? Dax’s description was probably closest with “massive low self-esteem with unbridled confidence”.

The quote that had me pause and chuckle was “I’m not much but I’m all I think about” which seems to have originated with author and political activist Anne Lamott who was known for your self-deprecating humor. The quote sent a chuckle and then a shiver through my spine as I pondered whether today’s hyper-focus on “self-promotion” without a balance of nurturing and building self-esteem might be creating a society of narcissism?


From a Book or Article … Reverse Bucket Lists

This was a very very very long article. A friend had shared and mentioned how she really liked reverse bucket lists and if I hadn’t been looking for that to finally be mentioned I might have given up on the article earlier. Not that it wasn’t good just really long.

The author of the article was Arthur C. Brooks, who is a contributing writer at The Atlantic, with many other associations to Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Business School, host of the podcast seriesHow to Build a Happy Life and the author of From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life.

There were many useful pondering thoughts that Arthur provided, all of which noodled around the topic of satisfaction, and contrary to what Mick Jagger sings to us about “keeping satisfaction” the real issue is about “staying satisfied”. Most of us experience many moments of satisfaction throughout our lives only to have that feeling vanish as we find the next goal to chase, thing to buy, or status to achieve. The key question is how can we continue to hold a self-improvement/desire mindset without being attached to those outcomes in such a way that causes dissatisfaction or unhappiness. It’s a neat trick indeed.😉

One suggestion provided, which I very much liked, was the idea of a reverse bucket list. Most of us are familiar with the idea of the traditional bucket list. I have one myself with at least one regrettably I did not achieve and very likely will achieve which was to complete a full triathlon before I turned 50. I suppose I could blame the pandemic for that as I am sure over the past two years I would have gotten serious about this goal (yeah right!). At a minimum, I need to adjust it if indeed it is something I want to cross off the list.

The premise of the reverse bucket list is to start with making first a list of wants and attachments being as indulgent and brutally honest as you can (e.g., my most embarrassing one might be either Oprah or Brene Brown ask to interview me for my significant contributions to helping humans thrive). Then imagine yourself five years from now and that you are happy, and at peace and living a life of purpose and meaning. Make a second list of what is needed to bring you that happiness in this future vision. Likely things like a healthy family, friendships, work that aligns to your passion/interests, meaningful moments, etc. Comparing the first list to the second list you see a difference between extrinsic motivators to intrinsic motivators. The research noted in the article positions that most of the enduring happiness is based on intrinsic motivators. This simply means that there is nothing wrong with having extrinsic motivators as long as we realize that achieving those goals will be momentary happiness versus sustained.

Whether you have a bucket list practice or not this could be a good exercise to do on your own or with your family or close friends. If nothing else it could make for interesting conversation and reflection.


From a Real Live People … Saying Goodbyes

Most of us who are working right now are experiencing a goodbye email at least once a week from one of our colleagues. Or seeing their post on LinkedIn thanking everyone for the memories. Or possibly you go to look up someone in your company employee phone book and you get the message “not found”.

The great resignation/re-evaluation/reflection (whatever you want to call it) is certainly having its impact on all of us whether we choose to stay or go. You’ll see in my reflections that this week was my last week working for IBM. I’ll say more on that later.

What I have learned in the saying of goodbyes is how many people had such profound kind words to share about the impact I had on them. Some I knew but many had never been expressed so completely. As a facilitator for over ten years you get used to having blank looks coming back at you sometimes as every person processes information differently. I learned to pay attention less to over nodding heads and smiles and more to what the eyes were telling me. Often these folks would come up at the end of the day and shock me with how much they got out of the day. But many would leave with just a simple thank you.

You learn quickly to not take feedback (or lack of) personally. I always try to remember one of the foundations of my CTI coaching training – Evoke Transformation. This means as a coach you may not get to witness the transformation yourself. You’ve just created a spark. A nudge. Something that ideally the person will noodle on for days, weeks, months later. Most of my coaching clients have said to me repeatedly that they find themselves in leadership moments and they hear my coaching words channeling in their head as if I was there sitting on their shoulder whispering it in.

I’ve digressed a bit here. While the “not take it personally” learning got an extra coat of paint the new learning was don’t wait till goodbyes to tell someone the impact they have made in your life. A great leader I admired would often share in her closing words of team meetings during COVID’s worse times “reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while just to say hi”. I loved that she did that herself and I always had the intention of following through with this myself. I’m ready to make that commitment with a slight variation. Reach out to someone new each week and share the impact they have had on your life. A great reflection for you and a positive feeling of giving. A great moment for them to receive. And best of all it’s totally free.

From Social Media … “Keeve” or “Ky-ev”

How do you pronounce the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv? A Twitter post from @MDroletGlobalTV suggests that it depends on who is saying the word. The Russian way is “Ky-ev” and the Ukraine way is “Keeve”.

Or does it? After the first post, there were many thank you’s but also several counter answers, from Ukrainians and Russians and Russians living in Ukraine, etc., etc.,. From reviewing the few I did I could find at least 6 different alternative pronunciations and reasons for those. And an overall suggestion that the original tweet was based on “English speakers”

and therefore not the complete picture.

A few lessons’s learned here.

  • The first tweet is one perspective and should never be taken as “the truth” or fact. This lesson feels more obvious I know however, it’s worth reminding ourselves. We often get a nice dopamine hit when we learn something new and novel so it’s easy to take that hit and move on without questioning.
  • There appear to be significantly more people who are ready to “accept” and move on without question as compared to “challenge” or add new light. There were 1725 retweets and 9,218 likes. There were 132 comments added to the tweet which I sifted through quickly and my quick math shows that about 12% of those comments were corrections to the correction, of various forms. And another 4% were additional critiques which were unclear if they were supporting the original Tweet or not.

I am sure many of the persons who liked or retweeted or commented “Thanks – I learned something new today” are like me simply looking for any way to express how they might be feeling as we watch the horrors unfold. If only our openness to learn something new and being supportive could somehow magically be transported to those who are afflicting the horrors in what appears to be for the sake of keeping power and control.

From My Reflections … The 1st Day of the Rest of My Life

I have worked for IBM for almost 25 years (24 years + 10 months) and this was my last week of that long and successful career as a “consultant”. I have very few regrets during that time frame, though there are somewhere I know I could have done better. Mostly I have fond memories and immense gratitude for all of the learning experiences and amazing people that have been a part of this journey. I know there was a lot of hard work,  luck, privilege, and me being me that contributed to what I consider a smashing achievement.

Many who leave the world of consulting, particularly these days, do so in a state of burnout. I knew that wouldn’t be me as I have developed the muscles for setting and keeping boundaries. However, I did wonder how would I feel in the last weeks and days. Would I be questioning my decision, doubting whether I could be successful at my next adventure, worried about if this is the right time, etc. Would I be super sad about not having a “forced reason” to continue to connect with so many great people and risk having them no longer in my life? Would I feel super anxious about getting started on the next step and not giving myself the chance to catch my breath?

I will admit that as I came to the decision, over a month ago, I had some of those moments of doubt. Fortunately, the doubt had little chance to set hold with all the support from friends, colleagues, mentors, and future “partners”, my husband, my sons, and many long walks in the forest. Probably most impactful in addressing the worries were my morning meditations and journaling. One day something just switched, the negative thoughts went completely away and with every day I became more and more certain that I was on the right path. That this is my new journey.

What I learned is just how invigorating it feels to be certain. Certainty has always been known to have a significant impact on a person’s mental state. When we are uncertain our brain treats that as a threat and certain physiology kicks in with our nervous system to prepare us for danger. Each of us has different levels of comfort with uncertainty. I’ve always been a person who has been very comfortable with uncertainty and needed a well-thought-out plan to trust that it will all be OK. However, trusting it will be OK versus being absolutely certain it will be OK feels extremely different. There is a profound serenity to that knowing. It’s feeling calm X 100. That’s how I feel and how I have felt all week.

In my very last IBM call with a dear friend and colleague (and now a future client!) she commented that I was just glowing. Keep in mind that I had been up since midnight the night before, woke up at 5:30, and had been working straight through the day trying to get all of those last-minute things done. Yet I was clearly glowing. I could feel it and even see it myself.

So today. Today feels magical. I thought maybe it would at first feel like I was on vacation. But instead, it feels like the 1st Day of the rest of my amazing, lucky, privileged, and dare I say well-earned life.

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