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Weekly Wisdom

Weekly Wisdom

Weekly Wisdom

I write Weekly Wisdom as the Executive Director of Human Resources at Central Washington University. Having an eye for meaningful things, I include my own observations and thoughts, ideas I've recently encountered, and/or topics that are of current importance. I like to think that others will find reading Weekly Wisdom worth their time.

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The First 10 Minutes

Experts say that how you handle the first 10 minutes of your workday can largely determine how productive and effective you'll be the rest of the day.  "Getting off on the right foot isn't just important with relationships. It's important with the start of any workday, as well — particularly busy ones," says Michael Kerr, an international business speaker.  He attributes your overall tone and attitude to the first 10 minutes of the day. 

Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author says basically the same things: "Those brief moments can predict your all-important mindset because they're the first impression of your day ahead."  E-mails, last minute meetings, a cranky coworker, a rushed morning at home.  All of these can lead to that early morning anxiety. 

Kerr says that successful people tend to thrive on routine and habits: "Creating consistent habits is largely what makes them successful. And a key time for habit-forming practices is at the start of the day."  Check out 19 things most successful people do in the first 10 minutes of their workday at http://www.businessinsider.com/what-successful-people-do-when-they-get-to-work-2016-3.  My favorite: 

No. 13. They block out negativity.

Successful people don't dwell on any challenging events that occurred the previous night, the morning commute, or other frivolous thoughts.  "Compartmentalize by putting them in a separate 'box' as you start your (day)," Taylor says.


From the Rant and Rave section in Sunday’s Seattle Times:

RAVE  To all the kind folks who assisted in the search for my 86-year-old neighbor with Alzheimer’s who wandered away from home, including the construction crew who immediately fanned out to search, a runner who ran for blocks searching, and officers from the SPD.  Luckily, she was found safe.  A heartfelt embrace to those who shared that a loved one is suffering from this illness.  These wonderful folks showed we’re truly all in this together.


I’m always reading several books at one time.  Here’s a quote from
The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace, by Cy Wakeman:
Rule #1: 
Your Level of Accountability Determines Your Level of Happiness, so DON’T HOPE TO BE LUCKY.  CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY.

People who are accountable have an internal motivation to succeed, no matter what their obstacles.  It starts with a commitment to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

 

I write Weekly Wisdom as the Executive Director of Human Resources at Central Washington University. Having an eye for meaningful things, I include my own observations and thoughts, ideas I’ve recently encountered, and/or topics that are of current importance. I like to think that others will find reading Weekly Wisdom worth their time.  
     Staci Sleigh-Layman

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The Margins

What does it mean to live life in the margins? 

·   When I write a check for $19.46 and balance my checkbook (does anyone else still do that?), I enter it for an even $20. Margin.

·   In planning a dinner for six, I throw in an extra couple of chicken breaks, just in case.  Margin.

·   I give myself five extra minutes to ensure I make it to a movie on time.  Margin.

·   I do a lot of extra doodling taking notes during a meeting.  Margin.

     

From Anthro classes I know that living in the margins has to do with those in society who have a tough life. There isn’t leeway for times when things go wrong. Think subsistence farmers who only manage to grow enough food this year, there’s nothing left to build a reserve.  Or full-time fast food workers who earn so little they are vulnerable to illness or car trouble.

 

      Living in the margins can also mean that you take unreasonable risks in your life. Skateboarding and other extreme sports are seen as activities in the margins.

My thinking about margins started with this article:

The Biggest Mistake Made in Employee Engagement! 

By Marshall Goldsmith

www.linkedin.com/pulse/biggest-mistake-made-employee-engagement-marshall-goldsmith

Employee engagement is defined by marginal effort. In other words, what are employees doing that they don’t have to do? How hard are they trying? Compare two employees – one is working very hard, putting in extra marginal effort; the other is not. It would be a mistake to think that the second will perform as well as the first. Even so, this is not the biggest mistake made in employee engagement.

…Most flight attendants do a great job. On the occasional flight, there are two flight attendants, one is positive motivated upbeat and enthusiastic – while the other is negative, bitter, angry and cynical. I’m sure you have been on this flight before.

What is the difference? The difference is not what the company is providing. Both flight attendants may be making the same pay, with the same uniform, with the same customers, on the same plane, with the same employee engagement program.

What is the difference? The difference is not what is on the outside. The difference is what is on the inside.

I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over.  Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.

                              - Kurt Vonnegut

 

I write Weekly Wisdom as the Executive Director of Human Resources at Central Washington University. Having an eye for meaningful things, I include my own observations and thoughts, ideas I’ve recently encountered, and/or topics that are of current importance. I like to think that others will find reading Weekly Wisdom worth their time.  
     Staci Sleigh-Layman

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Last Friday, 3/25, was my birthday. It’s official. I’m getting old. I turned 58. I’ve been at CWU since I was 27 years old. That’s strikes me as sort of amazing.  Here‘s some food for thought about time and aging:

 

From The New Yorker, What is Old Age Really Like? by Ceridwen Dovey. 

Old age is perplexing to imagine in part because the definition of it is notoriously unstable. As people age, they tend to move the goalposts that mark out major life stages: a 2009 survey of American attitudes toward old age found that young adults (those between eighteen and twenty-nine) said that old age begins at sixty; middle-aged respondents said seventy; and those above the age of sixty-five put the threshold at seventy-four. We tend to feel younger as we get older: almost half the respondents aged fifty or more reported feeling at least ten years younger than their actual age, while a third of respondents aged sixty-five or more said that they felt up to nineteen years younger.  (http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/what-old-age-is-really-like)

From a blog by Susanna Conway, The (Delicious) Truth About Getting Older.

The fact is, I love being older. I love this feeling of wholeness that’s deepening with every new year. I feel rooted in who I am, and while I still get tossed around on…tidal waves, at my core I know myself. I know what I’m capable of. I know my worth. (http://www.susannahconway.com/2014/02/the-delicious-truth-about-getting-older/)

 

I found this at Slate, The Pensioner's Playlist: The 25 Greatest Songs about Aging and Mortality.

by Jody Rosen.

"Hope I die before I get old," sang 21-year-old Roger Daltrey in 1965—and 43 years later, he's still singing it. Rock 'n' roll has always been invested in a Byronic cult of blazing youth and beautiful corpses. But as tyros have turned into reunion-tour warhorses, rockers have had to come to terms with the ironies—and the indignities and the glories—of old age.  (http://www.slate.com/articles/life/geezers/2008/09/the_pensioners_playlist.html)

I know most of the songs; think it’s a shame that Willie Nelson’s Funny How Time Slips Away didn’t make the list.

Harry Chapin was one of my favorite singers in the 70s, actually continues to be. He died in a car accident on the Long Island Expressway in 1981.  He was a gifted songwriter, writing songs about life and love and time.  A couple of my favorites are Let Time Go Lightly and Cat’s in the Cradle.  Harry Chapin was a humanitarian, one of those people who cared about the earth, common folk, and relationships. Seems as though every birthday, I revisit his epitaph, taken from his song I Wonder What Would Happen to this World:

Oh, if a man tried

To take his time on Earth

And prove before he died

What one man's life could be worth

I wonder what would happen

to this world.

                                                                      I hope I can do justice to the time I have left.

 

I write Weekly Wisdom as the Executive Director of Human Resources at Central Washington University. Having an eye for meaningful things, I include my own observations and thoughts, ideas I’ve recently encountered, and/or topics that are of current importance. I like to think that others will find reading Weekly Wisdom worth their time.  
     Staci Sleigh-Layman

 

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Mindset is an interesting thing.

 

I write Weekly Wisdom as the Executive Director of Human Resources at Central Washington University. Having an eye for meaningful things, I include my own observations and thoughts, ideas I’ve recently encountered, and/or topics that are of current importance. I like to think that others will find reading Weekly Wisdom worth their time.  
     Staci Sleigh-Layman

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From the Rant and Rave section of The Seattle Times, Sunday, March 6, 2016:

RANT AND RAVE: Rant to the bus rider whose 20 minutes' phone conversation at an astounding decibel level told all of us way more than we want to know: that she’s in orientation this week, she’s disgusted with her ill mother for being scared, her underperforming children aren’t working, and she has no awareness or regard for her fellow passengers. Rave to my Metro-mates for not grabbing this woman’s phone and tossing it out the window.

Take-away: Just because you can use a cell phone just about anywhere, doesn’t mean you should. 


From a press release on the new SAT test which will focus less on obscure vocabulary: “The abstruse vocabulary words of the SAT have engendered prodigious vexation in millions…The new SAT will be more trenchant and pellucid, and the format will no longer pertinaciously reward student who punctiliously engage in the antediluvian praxis of committing idiosyncratic words to memory.”
www.collegeboard.org/releases/2016/college-board-elegizes-anachronistic-verbiage-recondite-panegyric-celebrates-final-administration-extant-sat-jan-23

Take-away: Phew! Really? Thank goodness SAT takers don’t have to understand that press release!

Ever watched Sunday Morning, CBS news magazine available locally from 7-8:30am on (duh!) Sunday mornings?  If you sleep in on the weekend, you can watch individual episodes on-line at

www.cbsnews.com/sunday-morning. It’s anchored by Charles Osgood (anchored for years by Charles Kuralt until his death). 

I’ve enjoyed recent stories on:
Meghan Trainor: More than just the bass. This 22-year old singer/songwriter doesn’t have the svelte body that so many singers have. She’s having a positive impact on young people.

Celebrating 100 years of our National Parks. A couple times each month the show airs a story about one of our less known national parks.
Kid Rock: For the Record. He lives in Detroit where he grew up. Born Robert Richey, he was known as “that white kid who rocks,” hence his professional name. I gained respect for this guy and his love for Detroit by watching this story.
In the Dark over Power Grid Security. “When the lights go out, we usually know why: Mother Nature is at it again...But what if the power went out in a number of states affecting millions of people for weeks, even months?”

Check it out Sunday Morning if you get a chance!

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Cyrus the Great?  What can I learn from this old guy?

Last week, a couple people from HR attended the excellent Leadership Conference sponsored by the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement. One of the takeaways Katelyn Jones shared was a quote from Cyrus the Great:  “Unity in command; diversity in counsel.” I’ve always believed that better decisions are made when broad discussion is encouraged. When people believe their ideas and thoughts have been truly considered, they’ll support the decision even it isn’t exactly what they wanted. There’s a lot packed into those six words!
So, I’m hooked.  Who was this Cyrus character? What did he do and why should I care?
Cyrus was a Persian King 2500 years ago (reigned 550-530BC). He created the largest empire the world had seen. He is remembered for being different. In comparison to other rulers during the era, he respected the cultures and beliefs of others. He incorporated his enemies’ cultures and customers into his empire. In a book written by Xenophon , a student of Socrates, the following leadership lessons are attributed to Cyrus:

1. Be a Force for Good. This goes without saying doesn’t it?\

2. Be Loyal. Be faithful to your commitments.

3. Be Self-Reliant.  “You’ll always be on better terms with your allies if you can…give them all they need and your troops will follow you to the end of the earth.”

4. Be Generous. Most people who have success take on more greed. This is the opposite of what a great leader does. Success calls for greater generosity.

5. Be Brief. “Brevity is the soul of command. Speak shortly, decisively and to the point.” Use logic and move on.

6. Be in control. “…discipline always brings rewards.”

7. Be Fun. Share food and drink. “No kindness between (people) comes more naturally than sharing food and drink…” If you have leftovers, share them.

8. Be an Example. “… (people) who respond to good fortune with modesty and kindness are harder to find than those who face adversity with courage.”

9. Be Courteous and Kind. This seems to be one of those things that everyone desires. Often though, selfishness is the trait most exhibited. “…one fine instance of generosity can inspire dozens more.” 

All of us lead from where we are. Perhaps you’ll find ways to think about and reflect on these leadership skills. Have a great week.

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Carrot, Egg, or Coffee Bean?

Working in HR (well, probably working anywhere) requires that you understand that there are two sides to every coin, that everyone has their story to tell, that your perception is your reality, So many times we get caught up in our own dilemmas and drama that we forget that many of our own truths that we subscribe to are based on our point of view; our perspective.  This story helps to illustrate the point:

A young woman went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her.  She was tired of fighting and struggling.  It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.  Her grandmother took her to the kitchen and filled three pots with water.  She placed carrots in one, eggs in the second and ground coffee beans in the last.  She let them sit and boil without saying a word.  In a short time, she turned off the burners and fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl.  She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.  Then she ladled the coffee into a bowl.  Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see?”  Of course, she said she saw carrots, eggs, and coffee.

She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots.  She did and noted that they were soft.  She then asked her to take an egg and break it.  After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.  Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee.  The granddaughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma.

Her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity– boiling water – but each reacted differently.  The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting.  However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.  The egg had been fragile.  Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior.  But, after being through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.  The ground coffee beans were unique, however.  After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her granddaughter.  “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond?  Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

How do you respond to adversity?  Are you the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, you wilt and lose your strength?  Are you the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat?  Did you have a fluid spirit, but after death, a break up, a financial hardship, or some other trial, became hardened and stiff?  Does your shell look the same, but on the inside you are bitter and tough with a stiff spirit?  Or are you like the coffee bean, which actually changes the hot water, releasing improved fragrance and flavor?  If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

I write Weekly Wisdom as the Executive Director of Human Resources at Central Washington University. Having an eye for meaningful things, I include my own observations and thoughts, ideas I’ve recently encountered, and/or topics that are of current importance. I like to think that others will find reading Weekly Wisdom worth their time.  
     Staci Sleigh-Layman

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February 17, 2016

Opinion and Compromise

For some reason, I turned on the radio a few days ago, and caught President Obama giving a speech at the Illinois General Assembly. In 1996, Obama officially launched his political career, winning election to the Illinois State Senate as a Democrat from the South Side neighborhood of Hyde Park. This 2016 speech marked the ninth anniversary of the day he announced his candidacy for the presidency. In this speech, he called for unity and compromise to fix American politics. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the speech:

(In the Illinois legislature) I learned by talking to your constituents that if you were willing to listen, it was possible to bridge a lot of differences.  I learned that most Americans aren’t following the ins and outs of the legislature carefully…they understand the difference between realism and idealism; the difference between responsibility and recklessness. They had the maturity to know what can and cannot be compromised, and to admit the possibility that the other side just might have a point. And it convinced me that if we just approached our national politics the same way the American people approach their daily lives –- at the workplace, at the Little League game; at church or the synagogue -- with common sense, and a commitment to fair play and basic courtesy, that there is no problem that we couldn’t solve together.

Along those same lines, I’ve learned a lot about Justice Scalia since his death over the weekend. Justices are, according to some, appointed to the Supreme Court for life so they have the freedom to think. They have the time and independence to investigate law and to really argue the fine points of any case.  Sounds like Scalia was smart and appreciated others for their intellect. Michael W. McConnell, Stanford Law School, wrote, “By sheer force of intellect and personality, Scalia helped to move the court from a somewhat sloppy, results-oriented, center-left institution to a more intellectually rigorous center-right court that forefronts text and history over other modes of interpretation.”

There will be a big fight over who will appoint the next Supreme Court justice to replace Scalia. President Obama says he’ll nominate someone. Republican led Congress vows to not vote on his nominee, hoping a Republican president will be elected in November. Seems like a wastes of time to me. Let’s get on with governing.

I’ve been reminded this week that opinion is formed by what I know, by what I hear, by what I come to believe. I must be vigilant to always seek answers and to value, as Obama said, “common sense, a commitment to fair play and basic courtesy,” as a way to solve problems.

I write Weekly Wisdom as the Executive Director of Human Resources at Central Washington University. Having an eye for meaningful things, I include my own observations and thoughts, ideas I’ve recently encountered, and/or topics that are of current importance. I like to think that others will find reading Weekly Wisdom worth their time.  
     Staci Sleigh-Layman

 

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February 10, 2016

My Super Bowl 2016 observations:

Lady Gaga did a good job on the National Anthem.  Lots of performers try to do fancy things (well, they’re performers) but I thought she did a fine rendition.  What she wore (sparkly red pantsuit with matching eye shadow, sparkly blue fingernails, and flag inspired platform shoes) was staid compared to what she’s worn in the past.  Remember the dress made out of meat in 2010?

The Super Bowl game was nothing to write home about. Both teams combined for only about 500 total yards. Lots of penalties. Turnovers galore. I’m not really a fan of either team but was rooting for Denver, mostly, I guess, rooting against Carolina. I just found the arrogance of Carolina to be over the top, even though I will admit they are a lot like the Seahawks! Cam Newton’s got nothing on the arrogance of Richard Sherman.

Post-game was the time I found really interesting. Peyton Manning could not have been classier. He thanked his teammates and his family. He expressed how grateful he felt for having had such good coaches throughout his career. I’ll even forgive him for shamelessly plugging Budweiser, since I know they didn’t pay him to say anything and he does own a couple of Bud distributorships. At 39 years old, I’m glad he could end his career on a high note. 

I just felt sorry for Cam Newton. He set himself up for being humbled when he wore the gold MVP shoes during warmups. That set him up for a long fall. I found myself thinking about my own children at 26 years old. Someone that age is not equipped to take on the media, the pressure, the failure of that moment. I saw him at his press conference, where he spoke in one word syllables and walked out, and while I think he was childish, I’ll give him a break. I actually like him better humble than brash.

I thought about how our CWU students deal with triumph and defeat. Some respond to defeat by quitting; some go home to see their families; some gather their friends around; but none have to speak about that failing grade or the breakup of a relationship in front of nationwide television cameras. And I’m glad.

I’m writing about the Super Bowl because it has become one of our cultural markers. Although I didn’t celebrate in any significant way (just home with my husband and the cat), I envision families, friends, coworkers far and wide, gathering in living rooms to experience the ritual that IS the Super Bowl. Are there better things to celebrate? Sure. Are there less violent, or sexist, or important events than the Super Bowl? Yes. But the spectacle has made its way into the fabric of America. The older I get, the more I’ll take any reason to celebrate!

P.S. Twitter has it that Marshawn Lynch is retiring from football. I gotta give the guy credit. The picture of the cleats hanging on the wire was a great shot. I think it was shady to do it during the Super Bowl though. Lynch did a lot for the Seattle Seahawks. He made me think more than once about the wisdom of being your own person. I’m glad he’s leaving on his terms.

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January 27, 2016

Happy New Year!  Several years ago, I found this article titled, 30 Things to Start Doing for Yourself, available at www.marcandangel.com/2011/12/18/30-things-to-start-doing-for-yourself/ .  Here are my favorites:

2.  Start facing your problems head on.  --  It isn’t your problems that define you, but how you react to them and recover from them.  Problems will not disappear unless you take action.  Do what you can, when you can, and acknowledge what you’ve done.  It’s all about taking baby steps in the right direction, inch by inch.  These inches count, they add up to yards and miles in the long run.

3.  Start being honest with yourself about everything.  --  Be honest about what’s right, as well as what needs to be changed.  Be honest about what you want to achieve and who you want to become.  Be honest with every aspect of your life, always.  Because you are the one person you can forever count on.  Search you soul, for the truth, so that you truly know who you are.  Once you do, you’ll have a better understanding of where you are now and how you got here, and you’ll be better equipped to identify where you want to go and how to get there.  Read The Road Less Traveled.

7.  Start valuing the lessons your mistakes teach you.  --  Mistakes are okay; they’re the stepping stones of progress.  If you’re not failing from time to time, you’re not trying hard enough and you’re not learning.  Take risks, stumble, fall, and then get up and try again.  Appreciate that you are pushing yourself, leaving, growing, and improving.  Significant achievements are almost invariably realized at the end of a long road of failures.  One of the “mistakes” you fear might just be the link of your greatest achievement yet.

11.  Start giving your ideas and dreams a chance.  --  In life, it’s rarely about getting a change; it’s about taking a chance.  You’ll never be 100% sure if will work, but you can always be 100% sure doing nothing won’t work.  Most of the time you just have to go for it!  And no matter how it turns out, it always ends up just the way it should be.  Either you succeed or you learning something.  Win-win.

15.  Start competing against an earlier version of yourself.  --  Be inspired by others, appreciate others, learn from others, but know that competing against them is a waste of time.  You are in competition with one person and one person only – yourself.  You are competing to be the best you can be.  Aim to break your own personal records.

23.  Start accept things when they are less than perfect.  --  Remember, ‘perfect’ is the enemy of ‘good.’  One of the biggest challenges for people who want to improve themselves and improve the world is learning to accept things as they are.  Sometimes it’s better to accept and appreciate the world as it is, and people as they are, rather than to try to make everything and everyone conform to an impossible ideal.  No, you shouldn’t accept a life of mediocrity, but learn to love and value things when they are less than perfect.

24.  Start working toward your goals every single day.  --  Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.  Whatever it is you dream about, start taking small, logical steps every day to make is happen.  Get out there and DO something!  The harder you work the luckier you will become.  While many of us decide at some point during the course of our lives that we want to answer our calling, only an astute few of us decide at some point during the course of our lives that we want to answer our calling, only an astute few of us actually work on it.  By ‘working on it,’ I mean consistently devoting oneself to the end result.  Read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

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