Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Paean* to Someone Else

* - Word for the day, meaning “a song of praise, joy, or triumph”

When the project has sat undone so long it’s become furniture or wallpaper or otherwise invisible to you, and has spent an eternity on your to-do list, it’s time to call in the Big Guns:  Someone Else.  This is different than the Accountability Buddy to whom you report while doing a project.  This is the friend to whom you whimper, “I won’t get this started without you.”  This is the friend who will go with you for the first time to the unemployment office (it feels so shameful!), or to begin that quilt or start doing your museum research.

Ah, what a friend is Jim!  He let me browbeat him into meeting me at the museum.  He introduced me around, explained how all this works.  He made sure I was on my way, then wrapped his Super Researcher cloak around him and flew away. (“My work here is done, little lady.”)  And a project that had languished for months was begun.  From this point, the path has been tromped across the field of waving grain, and I can move ahead on my own.

The secret to involving Someone Else is that SE thinks what you’re doing is fun, not the torture it’s become in your mind.  Like networking calls, for example.  I once volunteered to do phone fund-raising for a charity, and I couldn’t wait for my two hours of smiling and dialing to end.  When my sweaty hand slammed down the phone as the quittin’ time bell sounded, the solicitor next to me smacked his lips, yipped a happy HOO-rah, and wished he had another shift.  He’s the guy to call, not me.  Invite him for coffee and hand-holding while you make the calls.  Someone like me will quail just like you before that forbidding phone and talk about anything but networking.  Solicitor Man will make you punch in your first number.  This is fun for him, not torment.  He can't wait to see you do this easy thing!

Get the picture?  Find Someone Else to whom your dreaded project is fun, and ask for help with the first few steps.  Then you’re on the road.  Skippity skip.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Should You Share Your Dream?

When should you talk with others about what you’re developing. . .the idea for a new business or career?  That depends on the strength of the dream, your excitement about it and your confidence.  You have to think of yourself as an artist.  At what point are you ready to give your creation light and air?  Are you fragile in your thinking, or firm?  Do you have confidence in the idea’s hardiness, or does it have the delicacy of newly unfolding butterfly wings? 

Be careful sharing too early.  People love to diss ideas.  They often can’t take their little editorial paws off of them.   It’s too impractical, they tell you.  Why should you start over?  Don’t do it that way; do it this way.  The danger you face in a too early “reveal” is the death of a potentially great way to go.

Take me as a writer, for instance.  When I begin I’m never sure if my work has merit.  Is the idea good?  Where will it go from here?  When the project is pretty new, as I’ve discovered when later mourning dead butterflies, I’d better keep my stuff to myself.  It’s why I don’t join writing groups.  They can’t WAIT to take me in another direction, to create as THEY would have with this as assignment.  I begin to write for their approval rather than the advancement of my dream.  Once I’ve been at the piece awhile, however, I’m more confident in myself; I’m ready for critique and feedback, and I’m very specific about what I want.  If I’ve been going here, don't send me there.  At later stages I'm happy to hear what I missed or how I could enrich what I've done because by then I own the work and its direction, but I want a light hand, not a re-write.

As well with you.  Understand how you respond to others’ input and when you will welcome it.  Too early and your plan will take on a shape you never intended; too late and you’ll be too rigid to hear good counsel.

Hold that dream closely in its early days.  Talk with those who are skilled and close to you, who know how to handle emerging butterflies.  Once you can see where this needs to go, then give it to the world and get the help you need.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Unhappiness at the Crossroads

You’ve made a significant change.  You just left school, or changed careers or retired; all of which held exciting potential for you.  Yet you’re not happy.  Do you know why?

You won’t know for awhile whether you made the right decision because you have some settling in to do, seeing how this fits you.  What’s causing your unexpected grumpiness is being at a crossroads of your life.  You are more familiar with the life you had before than the one you recently chose.  So, this new place feels odd to you, uncomfortable, unfulfilling.  You don’t have a routine, the road map.

The solution?  Take a giant leap into your new life.  New career?  Spend long hours at it.  Study the org charts and the industry.  Expend greater effort to make new friends than to stay in touch with the old (some of them will still be there after you’ve adjusted).  Do a housecleaning to get rid of the books and papers and symbols of what you were.  You can bring them back.  They are making you unhappy now.  Bye Bye!

If you have retired, the same goes for you, but a better prescription is to get a structure:  a part-time job, a volunteer gig, classes at the life-long learning institute.  You don’t know how to sit at home.

Action and patience with yourself as you let go of the old will get you through this.