Outsize Influences in my life

Three people with an outsize influence on my sense of self-efficacy, skills, and personality.

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One of the things I wanted to tackle on my 30 before 30 list was acknowledging people who have had an outsize influence in my life.  I chose 3 people, but of course, there are many.

Dad:

My dad is the archetypal engineer.  Task oriented, outcome focused, brusque, somewhat exacting.  Nuggets like “Most of life is just showing up, ON TIME” would often march from his mouth, typically as I scurried into the car on a Sunday morning after he’d already started the engine.  As a kid, my weekends were filled with one project or another my dad wanted to do and needed me and my siblings to help with.  All the projects were carefully mapped out with seemingly interminable multi-page lists.  Building a back porch.  Stacking wood.  Digging a hole to put in a pool.  None of my other friend’s dads were so ambitious or orderly.  Weekdays he would patiently suffer through crying algebra tutoring sessions, insisting that I “show my work” so he could improve my problem solving and decision making. In large part, my ability (and desire) to do big things was fostered by this environment, I was becoming a person with a strong sense of self-efficacy.  Anything could be done, with the right amount of research, the correct process, and an ability to continue trying until it came out right.

Luckily, for me, it has turned out being an adult is basically the same as building a back porch.  Determine what you can do with the environment you’ve got, research, make lists, and then just keep nailing one board in after the other.

High School English teacher:

Ms. English Teacher wore sweater sets, khaki skirts, and purple Doc Martens.  She was in her mid-twenties, barely older than us, and corrected our papers in vibrant splashes of inimitable (though we tried) pink, green, and orange pen.  She was nerdy-cool before I realized that was truly possible.  I had her as a junior for English and chose her elective Creative Writing, where the phrase “skittered and bobbed” imprinted in my memory as an example of superlative prose.  Her dictum on writing papers, “The beginning is important and the end is important, but the end is more important than the beginning”  I repeated endlessly to struggling peers.  It’s to her credit that I can recognize appeals to pathos, logos, and ethos.  After I ended up reluctantly in college, it was to her influence that I chose English as my major. Freewriting, short stories, poetry.  I attempted all these things in her creative writing class, learned that I loved to edit, and honed a skill I didn’t realize would go on to become my strongest tool, writing.  Through her love of teaching and language, I received a gift and skill I can continue to use my entire life.

Toughest Coworker Ever (TCE):

TCE was my personality opposite, though we never compared Myers Briggs, alas, I’m sure she would have mirrored my own ENTJ. An older woman, nearly 60, she had been a military brat as a child, and experienced a difficult and traumatizing car accident as a young adult, which she referred to frequently.  Widely read and curious, her forays down informational back roads, and insistence on endlessly seeking input from our clients irked me.  She had a gentle interpersonal style and worked well in 1:1 situations.  The multitasking and frequent interruptions in our work environment wore her down, flustered her.  She wanted to process events at the end of the day, I wanted to finish paperwork.  She wanted to determine the best course of action, I wanted to get things done.  Our clashes were epic, not because of their volume, but because of the dwindling goodwill which eventually froze the room to an icy standstill.  This was the real world initiation I had to topics like academic psychological topics like motivation and personality.

If not for TCE, I would be at the mercy of all the flaws of the ENTJ personality.  Likely, I would still be a steamroller, barrelling down the hallways of whatever work or volunteer situation I ended up in, convinced my way was not only right, but the only way to get things done.  I would not have learned the value of seeking diverse opinions, nor would I have read the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.  I would never want to return to the stress of the year and a half that we worked together, but then again, it would be impossible for me to return as the same person who caused those misunderstandings.


What about you?  Are there people who have had an outsize influence on you?  Taught you what it meant to be a responsible person?  Given you tools and skills you use to this day?  Caused you to reexamine how you saw the world and yourself?


30 Before 30 Update -Christmas Style

Christmas Update on my 30 by 30 project. What’s done, what’s in progress, and what have I given the boot from the list.

ChristmasCardImage

Hi to all my Christmas Card readers! I wanted to be sure you got the full update on my 30 before 30 progress… but I realize (alas!) that none of you want to a 2 page Christmas letter.  I get it, don’t worry.

If you didn’t realize I was doing this project here’s where I first blogged about it.  If you click here you’ll find the last update I wrote in October.  April 3 is fast approaching to finish, but I’ll probably give myself until April 30th to complete the items.  One of my personal life philosophies is that “Getting there is half the fun.”  This is probably because I owned this suitcase as a kid.

care bears suitcse

Also because learning (and setting goals) in my personal life is something I consider it’s own reward.  I particularly like this quote in Warren Bennis’ book On becoming a Leader –

“Learning is experienced as a personal transformation.  A person does not gather learnings as possessions, but rather becomes a new person.  To learn is not to have, it is to be.” [emphasis mine]

Executive Summary. If you read nothing else, here’s what you need to know.

  • 9 Goals finished.
  • 8 Goals actively in progress
  • 2 Goals dropped due to obstacles.

Progress Report since October 3.

Goals I finished.

Although I originally planned to run the entire North Shore Trail Series (as both a New Years Resolution and part of this 30 by 30 list) some important things came up on the way.  For example, my brother-in-law’s wedding in Indiana, my final day of spring semester classes, and leading a board level retreat at church – an activity I consider to be one of my top accomplishments this year. The final race of the series was October – where I ran Ravenswood, in Gloucester MA.  I love that race, it’s beautiful.  Trail racing is also as hard as I remembered from HS cross country, and I’m not surprised that this year I racest my slowest pace times, despite actively logging more miles than last year.  There were other factors involved too, I’m sure.  Here’s the final NSTS point counts.

Floss Daily – I cracked down on my lax tooth care habits in November/December and worked hard on flossing every day.  How did I make this happen?  I started brushing my teeth with Ethan every night.  This is one of my favorite things about kids – they keep you real.  How could I not floss when Ethan wanted to as well?!  Attaching the new habit you want to do to an old habit is a proven method for making things stick.  After making this every part of my day, it’s pretty much routine now.

Goals Actively in Progress/ Half Finished

Meeting up with an old HS friend. Actively working on this… but scheduling old friends into your new routines is hard too.  Hoping to meeting up with plenty of old friends during Christmas break.

The Economics Course.   I completed the first 3 weeks of this Macroeconomics course… but then our internet was a little bit out of our control for about 5 weeks.  I couldn’t stream video.  When it finally got put to rights, I’ll be honest, I spent a week and a half catching up on my favorite TV Shows (Once, The Mindy Project, and New Girl) rather than learning more about the classical economists, supply side economics, and budget deficits.  The class wraps up this week… and there’s not way I’ll finished 9 weeks of material in the next 3 days.  We’ll see where this goal goes.

Recognize Influencers.  I ran into a woman I used to work with who really influenced how I build teams, achieve cohesive groups, and think about what it means to be inclusive.  We didn’t always see eye-to-eye when we worked, but she strongly influenced how I work with others and how I view leadership and success.  It was really great to let her know this, as well as apologize for some of my less than stellar behaviors. Two more to go!

Goals I dropped/ Am Skeptical I’ll finish.

Mentoring. I signed up to mentor a freshman at SSU this fall… but my student dropped the program and I was left without a mentee.  I’d still like to do this, but it looks like formal mentoring isn’t in the cards for me yet.

Graphic Design/Photo Editing. Depending on how I count this one, I’m either done… or it’s probably not going to happen. I has a really fun time over the summer reading more about graphic design theory.  This fall I spent an enjoyable evening completing this Skillshare Course in Lettering, and even produced this sign!  But, lately, I haven’t had very much interest in manipulating images.

Hand lettered Psalm SignReflective Summary

I could still probably pull off 25/30 of these goals… especially if I put more effort into the long term ones.  I spend a totally disproportional time job hunting compared with achieving any other goal.  However, this goal is also the most important to me.  Figuring out what to do with this blog/blogging future, then clarifying our family’s five year plan fall right under that.  The other goals are pretty peripheral… even if rock climbing would be really fun.

30 by 30 Countdown

With 6 months to go I’ve completed 7/30 items on my #30by30 list. Read more to see which ones I’ve done, and which ones have been the most trouble.

My 30th’s birthday is 6 months away – and I’ve done… 7 things. On the bright side, between September 8 and October 8 has been my most productive month – I hit 4 of them!

Galaxy Hill 27 Galaxy Hill 42 Galaxy Hill 41 Galaxy Hill 40 Galaxy Hill 38

4 Goals I finished in the last month:

  1. Finished my Masters Degree – I turned in my last assignment midway through September and Friday October 10th I finalized my paperwork for graduation. Although I won’t officially be graduated till December, or get my diploma until March, or be able to walk until May… (seriously. All that is kind of depressing)…. I am done with the work part!
  2. Attended a Professional Conference – NEHRA conference in Worcester on October 8, and I heard some great speakers, learned some great tools in my field, and yes, came home with a fistful of business cards.
  3. Went on a Weekend Road Trip – A friend recently asked me “Can you ever have as much fun with your friends if you all bring along your kids too?” A weekend long trip to VT with my ConnectShore buddies answered the question with a resounding yes. At one point we foolishly all tried to sit down to an adult type dinner with candles. I lit the candles – with great expectations – and they were quickly extinguished.  But hikes in the woods, apple picking, eating and so.much.laughter. really made the weekend amazing.  Different fun… but still very fun.  (See the above photos!)
  4. Went to a Wine Tasting – I tried a weekly wine tasting with a friend in Salem.  It was less pretentious than I thought, but as Marta pointed out, they do it every week.  I’m not necessarily sure I expanded my knowledge of wine – but I was happy.

3 Goals I’m having the most trouble with right now:

  1. Learning 4 new functions on my camera – I found a meetup group to join… but then the focus started going wonky on my Nikon D3100.   I’ve been seriously procrastinating on getting it looked at because it seems like a hassle.
  2. Running the 66% of the North Shore Trail Series – I thought it would be good to put a percentage on this goal- since SMART goals are well, smart. But then… life happened and I can’t make the percentage goal.   So, I will only run 3 of the races this year. My younger self – my black and white self- would declare this a failure. My wiser, older, more moderate self sees that challenging myself to try and run trail races, something I haven’t done in 10 years, helped to reinvigorate my love of running.
  3. Deciding what to do with this blogI love blogging. I’ve blogged for a long time, even here at this site!  But… I see the world of blogging is so different now than it was 5, 10 years ago…. I just can’t decide if I want to keep it personal, launch a more professional site, or … just keep on keeping on in the way that I do.

2 Goals in progress right now that I’m really excited about:

  1. Becoming a mentor – I volunteered to be a mentor for a freshman undergrad student at Salem State, and although the first student I was paired with dropped out of the program, I’m still optimistic about being part of a way to give back to an educational institution where I had a positive experience and share some of my hard won career and life skills.
  2. Getting a job – After going to the conference and new connections, I’m more excited than ever to continue reaching out to others, researching positions, and (hopefully soon) getting some interviews.

1 Thing I’m keeping in mind

Sure I’ve only done 7 things… but like my friend Emily said over at Relishments a week or so ago about her 101 in 1001 days list”many of these items were too specific for who I was when I wrote it and as things changed in my life, the list didn’t.”

Plans and priorities shift, roles change, and sometimes a list just shows a past self you aren’t sure you still want to be. 

Some of these things won’t get done… but I’m still excited to see how many I can do.

Here’s to the next 6 months!

All Growing Up 30by30

5 Lessons Learned this Summer

Five growing up lessons I learned this summer about myself, work, christianity, and ginger beer punctuated by the beautiful Salem, MA and Boston, MA harbors.

Salem MA Harbor Derby Salem Lighthouse

1. The two most questions to learn to ask as a critical thinker and kick-ass adult are: What is the context. What are the possible consequences. Every time I get myself into trouble it’s pretty much because I forget to ask these questions. Yeah, I got myself into a little bit of trouble this summer, but it wasn’t terrible enough to blog about it.

Mahi Mahi Cruise Marblehead Lighthouse Salem Harbor Sunset

2. I am a morning-not-a-morning person. Every person who has ever lived with me can vouch that I’m a grumpy gus from the moment I roll out of bed until at least an hour later, or when I get my first cup of coffee – whichever happens first. I don’t like small talk, whiny kids, or anything that stands in my way.

Which is why I was so surprised to take the Employee Engagement Accelerator Index at my work and have a lightbulb realization that when it comes to WORK, I am most definitely a morning person.  I get the most items on the check list checked off, am able to write decent prose, and function credibly and skillfully at meetings. On the other hand, if you get me at 3pm, all of these abilities have strongly declined.  So. I guess I am a morning person. Kind of.

Boston Harbor

3. I am still excited by Industrial Organizational Psychology – the study of behavior and motivation in the workplace.  As I’m finishing up my MS degree I’m not required to take any more classes, but surprise, I am motivated to learn more about this topic.  Unlike the end of my undergraduate career, where I wanted to run as far away as I could from all things academic, I’m still reading and learning the way theory and practice blend together. This summer I have been reading Aubrey Daniels “Bringing out the Best in People,” Donald Brown’s “Experiential Approach to Organization Development”, and plenty of great HBR articles and blog posts.

Cosco Shipping Freight Georges Island Boston

4. If you want to be great in God’s kingdom, be a servant to all.  And service can only be Christian if you take the same attitude as Christ, in humility through prayer.  So many times I have forgotten basic lessons in Christianity, and it’s nice to be reminded of them through a very intense summer. It required more prayer than usual, and service outside of my comfort zone as well as finally, squarely, inside of it.  Although I haven’t always been sure of my spiritual gifts this summer I was able to exercise some of them in a very good way.

Georges Island Boston Ma Georges Island Boston Ma

5. Ginger Beer is where it’s at.  A few years ago I vowed to drink more liquor, which didn’t really happen.  In the last 3 weeks I’ve been working oh-so-hard to learn to make better drinks as part of my #30by30. Part of this, has just been understanding more about the basic components of drink making.  The other part has involved drinking plenty of Moscow Mules and Dark and Stormys.


How about you? Any lessons learned this summer?

Pictures from my Salem Harbor Mahi Mahi cruise and trip to Georges Island in the Boston Harbor last week – Another 30by30 crossed off the list.

Be sure so follow along with my #30by30 progress on facebook – I update a lot more there than here.