A few years ago, I had the privilege to hear Soledad O’Brien speak at the Bay Path College Women’s Leadership Conference. I’m paraphrasing, but she said when you look around you and see so much wrong with the world and you’re overwhelmed by where to start, just START.
Start by helping the person in front of you.
Even if only in a small way. If we all do that, those small actions will turn into something much bigger, stronger, and good for our planet.
I recently overheard an interaction between two people I know. One person was brusque (basically they sounded rude) in their words to the other person. Without having any context, my immediate emotional response was to feel sympathy for the non-brusque person. (And to think the other person was being a jerk.)
Later I came to hear of the validity of the frustrations of the brusque person. I would have felt the same way as they did were I in their situation.
This whole situation is interesting to me though.
- Does it matter if you come off like “the jerk” even if you’re totally right?
- When and how is it effective to express anger or frustration?
I don’t believe there is one right answer for all situations. I do think it’s worthwhile to think about the above questions (preferably when you’re in a calm way of thinking).
I was just speaking with a very savvy VP of Marketing (Gregg Mazzola) for one of the more innovative higher education institutions I’ve come across (SNHU). He shared a poignant observation which, now, I want to share with you.
Of all of their marketing efforts:
- College Fair
- On campus
The one thing that has the most impact is a handwritten note. He acknowledges that all of the different media are important in their own right. But it’s worth remembering that we are humans after all. We respond to the personal touch.
Let’s tackle the low hanging fruit first. We’ve all heard that expression. It sounds great — doing the easiest, fastest work to cross out the most items on our list. Feels gratifying, right?
But, it can be a distractor.
In a recent talk I attended on website usability, Steve Krug, author of Don’t Make Me Think, cautioned the audience about being tempted to go after the deliciousness of the low hanging fruit, whilst ignoring that one big, glaring hard problem. Instead, he advises, “Do the least amount of work possible to make your biggest problem, no longer be your biggest problem.”
At first when you hear, “Do the least amount of work possible,” that might ring of being lazy. But read that again. It’s actually smart time and resource management. Once your biggest problem is no longer your biggest problem, you can repeat that approach. You can do the least amount of work (again) and make your new biggest problem no longer your biggest problem.
Low hanging fruit feels good to power through. But it can be a distractor from your priorities.
I’m going to admit something that I’ve always felt sheepish about saying out loud, though I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels this way… I really (I mean really) dislike reading today’s headlines — “the news.”
Because the percentage of upset compared to the percentage of hope is abysmal. I force myself to read it. To be current. To know what’s going on. (I don’t do this all the time because I don’t like it).
Today, after about 15 minutes of it, I felt exhausted, and like the earth’s gravitational pull had somehow just increased. I felt small, tired and powerless. What do I do about these bigger than big things happening in this world that are so terrible?
I’m still grappling with how to deal with this. Processing news. Hearing the bad stuff. And still having energy to do something good.
Is ignoring the news” an answer? I don’t think so. Living in a self-made perception of the world where everything is lovely causes us, by being detached, to be a new and different problem.
Today, when I felt the way I described above, I decided I needed a dose of inspiration. I turned to Seth Godin’s blog and read the latest few posts. It worked. There was normal gravity on Earth again. Thanks Seth. I needed that.
I was at work the other day and a situation started to happen. A project started to become “bigger” in terms of scope of work. The deadline could move a little, but not a lot. The stress-o-meter was rising.
But here is the thing…
Stress = Waste.
- It takes up mindshare. (Unproductive mindshare).
- It saps focus
- It’s not fun
It’s not that I don’t like digging into some hard work. It’s not that I don’t expect my team around me to do the same. BUT, it is about keeping things focused, energized, managed… and not stressed.
Stress happens when there are unrealistic expectations about what can be done with given resources within a certain timeframe. Another way of saying this is to consider the equation below.
RESOURCES (e.g. people / dollars) + SCOPE = DEADLINE
If we have an UNTRUE equation (e.g. the resources we have for the scope we have cannot hit the deadline we have), then that makes stress. We need to adjust the math to turn it into a true equation. Then we can get rid of the stress.
In terms of Resources:
- Can we work more focused?
- What skills/expertise do we need? Do we have it with the team assigned? If not, how can we get it?
- Can we dig in and (smartly) pull a longer work week or few work weeks?
- Can we shift workload off of some people and onto others?
- What other resources can we pull in? (internal or external)
In terms of Scope:
- Can we do things differently to deliver comparable value more easily and in less time?
- What is less important (and can be prioritized lower or for a later phase)?
- What is must have?
In terms of Deadline:
We have to set it to be as soon as we can make it BUT as far out as is realistic. And there needs to be some padding in there for unknowns. And along the way we need to keep the client informed and keep their expectations managed.
Good perspective. And proud to say, that my team managed that equation in multiple ways. Stress will rear it’s ugly head. But we have tools to manage it.
Graphic design is about getting someone to do something and feel something that the designer intends. There are lots tools and tricks for creating great designs that deliver on their intentions. When I craft a design for a client there’s thought, there’s research, there’s pointed questions, and revealing answers. There’s connection, discovery and great “a-ha” moments.
But there’s also inspiration: This way of moving and feeling and flowing and “NOT-thinking.”
That’s powerful stuff.
And then there are the moments when I’m awed by the ideas and pure design that comes out of my kids. They sit. They get an idea. The create. It’s usually quite a fast process. It’s never what I’d do. It’s often so “raw” but that’s what makes it powerful.
The other day my 6-year-old sat down, he stapled some pages together and he whipped up this book. I’d say the ideas just popped of the top of his head, but actually I think they came right from his heart.