Taking Opportunities to Connect

This week I was in a 3-day workshop with 50 other folks on the topic of Data Display and Dashboard Design.  I’m sure this topic is causing most readers to yawn (but hopefully keep reading!).  For me however, this was an exciting workshop that I had been looking forward to for several weeks.  I’ve been struggling to find people in the data display field to interact with, so I was excited at the opportunity to “geek out” on this topic with other like-minded folks.

In the weeks prior to the workshop, I committed to making an effort to meet and connect with as many people as I could.  I decided I would take the initiative to introduce myself to others, initiate conversations, and invite folks who seemed to be on the periphery into conversations I was having with others.

I’m so glad I followed through with my commitment!  Just the connections and conversations I had with people at the workshop were worth the price of admission.  The actual content provided in the workshop was an added bonus.

By stepping out and deciding to connect with others I:

  • Was encouraged and motivated by what others in the field were doing.
  • Learned answers to a couple of significant data related questions I had been struggling with.
  • Made some great professional contacts.
  • Met some very nice people.

Connecting with others is not always easy and can sometimes be awkward, especially if you’re normally a shy person.  However, I’ve found that people I introduce myself to at a workshop or other event are usually glad to engage, and often thankful that someone has initiated conversation with them.  It feels like people are eager to connect, but often tentative about taking the first step.

The next time you’re at an event with people you may not know, take the initiative to connect with the other attendees.  Know in advance though, that it will require something from you.  It will require:

  • Getting your face out of the smart phone and actually talking to people.
  • Putting yourself out there by getting outside of your comfort zone and being the first to introducing yourself, or start a conversation.
  • Not running off at breaks or lunch to check your email, smart phone, or any other convenient distraction that normally keeps us from connecting with others.

Not connecting with others and keeping to yourself is easy, but it’s also unrewarding.  Being the one to initiate contact can be scary and makes you vulnerable, but it’s so much more rewarding than being alone in a room full of people you have so much in common with.

Be the one that goes first.  You’ll be rewarded for your efforts, and others will be blessed the interest you’re taking in them.

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Seven Tips to Keep from Losing Your Mind to Emotion

When emotion goes up, intelligence goes down.”  ~Mari Smith; Social Media Thought Leader

When I heard this quote from Mari Smith on the Entreleadership Podcast, I was instantly able to recall several accounts from my own life when I’ve been in this very situation.  I cringed, because, unfortunately, those have not been some of my finest moments!

What about you?  Have you ever been in a position where you feel the emotion rising, while at the same time your intelligence waning?  It’s not a good feeling.  Historically, I haven’t realized this was occurring until after the conversation or interaction where it occurred.  By then, it’s too late to change course because common sense and better judgement have already left the station.

So what can we do to keep from losing our minds when we notice our emotions starting to heat up?  Here are 7 suggestions to keep emotions from depleting our intelligence.

  1. Know the types of interactions that cause you to become emotionally charged so that you can either avoid them or be aware of the possibility of reacting emotionally.
  2. Know how you react physically when you’re emotionally charged. Do your hands get sweaty, your face get warm, or you ears get hot?  Knowing how you react can help you identify when you’re becoming emotionally charged.
  3. Determine in advance how you will respond when you feel yourself becoming emotionally charged. If we don’t know how we’ll respond in that moment, we’ll likely put ourselves on auto pilot and let emotions take over.  Usually not a good option.
  4. In the moment, take a few deep breaths. I know this sounds cliché, but it works.
  5. Put things in perspective. Ask yourself what’s at stake and determine if it’s really worth getting worked up for.
  6. Look for something positive like humor, a silver lining, or opportunities to connect with the other side on a human level.
  7. Decide not to get worked up.  This may sound hard, but we have far more control over our emotions than we realize.

There seems to be no shortage of things to spin us up and charge our emotions.  The good news is that this gives us a lot of opportunity to practice the tips above.

Being emotionally charged up and momentarily losing our intelligence does not help us to be at our best.  Decide today to be in charge of your emotions and not a follower of them.  That sounds good to me, because I can’t afford to lose any of the precious little intelligence I have!

Missed the Mark

Pets in stores.  Does it seem like more people are bringing their pets into stores and restaurants lately, or is it just me that has noticed an increase in this type of behavior?

Every time I see someone in a grocery store or restaurant with a pet, I find myself wondering, “Can’t they leave their pet in the car or at home for 30 minutes?!  What’s wrong with them that they think they’ re entitled to bring their pet anywhere they want, regardless of health laws or common societal courtesies?!”  I guess it’s just a pet peeve of mind.  (Please excuse the pun.)

During the recent Labor Day weekend, my wife and I were at Wallowa Lake in Joseph Oregon, where we rode the tram to the top of Mt. Howard and did some hiking.  The views were breathtaking!

WallowaLakeTram

As we were standing in line to ride the tram back down, I saw a lady ahead of us in line that had her small dog in her coat.  There was clear signage stating that pets were not allowed on the tram.  As I noticed her I could hear myself thinking, “C’mon lady!  Do you really have to bring your dog up here?  You couldn’t be apart from Fido for a couple of hours?  Really?!”

Every time I saw her and her dog I had similar thoughts.  The primary thought being, “What’s wrong with people these days?”  Unbeknownst to me, I was about to find out.

Each tram car hold 4 people, and since there were a lot of folks in line, the tram staff was doing their best to make sure each car was as full as possible.  Since it was just my wife and I in our group, I was sure we’d get paired up with another group for the ride down, which is great with me, because I like talking to people.

Upon approaching the front of the line, the tram attendant said to us, “You’ll be riding down with this person” as he motioned to… (you already know who)… the lady and her dog!  “OH GREAT!!”  I can’t say I was thrilled, but what do you do, fake a dog allergy?  So the 4 of us got in and began the 10 minute ride down the mountain.

Once in the tram, the lady opens her coat and lets the dog out.  I immediately notice the dog is wearing a doggie jacket that says, “Emotional Support Animal.”  Huh.  So this wasn’t just some regular pet.

A few second into the ride, I strike up a conversation with the lady and find out she grew up in the area and was back visiting her father.  As the 4 of us were riding along, we talked about where she currently worked, the area we were visiting, and what it was like growing up there.  It was a great conversation and I was actually glad we were sharing the ride together.

About half way down the mountain, the lady shared with us that on September 5th, 2014 (1 year and 1 day prior to our collective tram ride) that the state police had showed up at her work to inform her that her husband had been killed in a traffic accident.  She had come home for the Labor Day weekend to visit her dad during the 1 year anniversary of her husband’s death.

Holy crap!!  I wasn’t expecting that.  In a split second I realized that this wasn’t a person who felt entitled to take her dog anywhere she pleased, but rather a grieving, hurting human being.

I felt like a jerk for the previous judgements I had made about her without even knowing her story.

As the ride progressed, I asked how she was doing and how the previous year had been for her, but mostly, I just listened to her story.

After we got to the end of the ride and said our farewells, I thought about how quickly I had sized up this lady with her dog and come to a snap judgement based on the little information I had.  I was amazed, and ashamed, at how far off my judgement had been.

I still don’t think that people should bring their non-service-animal pets into grocery stores and restaurants.  However, my recent interaction on the tram caused me to think about how quick I am to judge others when I don’t even know their story.  Moving forward, I’m working to adjust my thinking toward others to be less judgmental and more inquisitive.  Instead of simply making snap judgements, I’m trying to also ask myself, “What might they be dealing with?  Is there a grief or burden they might be carrying?  Could they use a kind word or some encouragement from me instead of judgement?”

I believe that there are occasions for snap judgements, but I’m also reminded that there are far more occasions where compassion and understanding is the better approach.  If the situation with the lady and her dog had been reversed, and it was me that had lost a spouse, I know I would have appreciated compassion and understanding far more than judgement.

Goals Alone Won’t Do

Everyone likes to have goals.  There is something exciting and encouraging about looking to the future and envisioning how it could be.  However, just having a goal is not enough, at least if you want your goal to become a reality.  The setting of a goal is easy.  Creating a plan of action to achieve your goal can be challenging.

I was listening to Jeff Haden on The Learning Leader Show podcast talk about the importance of having an action plan with steps you can take that will move you closer to the attainment of a goal.  This was information I’ve heard a zillion times, but this time, it was like hearing it for the first time.  It’s weird how that works!

Like most people, I’ve been guilty of setting goals and not following through with them.  I love the end of the year because I focus on what I want the next year to look like and write down a number of very specific goals.  Some I achieve, and others I lose track of or don’t make the progress I’d like to.

Upon hearing Jeff’s message, I realized that in all the goal setting I’ve done, I have never actually written out the specific action steps and timeframe to accompany the goal I’d like to achieve.  No wonder several of my goals are unattained or forgotten.  If I don’t identify what I need to do to attain them, it’s largely just wishful thinking.

It got me thinking, in order to help me reset my existing goals, and get a jump on the system I’ll use for next year’s goals, I think I need to integrate the following concepts:

  • Describe the specific goal
  • Determine the action steps I’ll need to take to achieve the goal
  • Make a plan to take these action steps on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis
  • Revisit this plan at least weekly

In addition to the above concepts, it also seems important to break up large goals into a series of smaller goals that take less than 90 days to achieve.  Larger goals that take 12 months to achieve can feel overwhelming or breed a false sense that they can be started later since they won’t be realized for quite some time.   When broken down into a series of smaller goals we increase the likelihood of building momentum having early success.

If goals are worth having, then we should have a process in place that ensures the greatest probability of seeing them fulfilled.

The next time you’re setting goals for yourself, try integrating these ideas.  The only thing that stands in the way of where you are and where you want to be is the actions required to get there.