Memories

Photo of bunnies in garden
Photo copyright ©2004 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

How long does it take for you to forget what drove you crazy?

We have all had relationships that ended, sometimes badly, and yet we find ourselves strangely drawn back to that same relationship that caused us so much pain. Why is that?

Memory is a fickle thing.

A friend of mine used to say that she judged the seriousness of any given situation by how long it would take before she could find the humor in it. Thus was born our favorite saying when things are not going according to our plans, “How long until this is funny?”

Recently, I performed at a local outdoor festival. Being local, many people I know came out to see the show. Several were coworkers at one of the places I used to work when I had a day job.

Enough time has gone by since leaving that particular employer that most of my memories are good ones. I especially miss the people I used to work with on a daily basis. For me, it is always the people that I miss the most.

When my wife catches me speaking with fondness about this particular former employer, she is quick to point out that at the time I left, I was overflowing with frustration, constantly complaining about the environment, and generally difficult to live with as a result. She’s right, of course. (She usually is.)

It was great to catch up with my former coworkers at this recent event. In talking with them, it was fun to remember the people I used to work with and the parts of the job that made it a decent place to work. However, I was also reminded of the things that used to drive me crazy about the environment. Apparently, it hasn’t changed much.

In case any of you reading this know which organization I am talking about, it is important to understand that I bear no ill will to the organization itself. They do great work in the community and I am a happy customer of the organization. But, just because you like to shop at Walmart, it doesn’t mean you would be happy working there. Meanwhile, some people love working there. It fits their style. Some people simply tolerate it. So it is with this former employer of mine. As I’ve said throughout this blog, it is all about fit.

How do you remember your former employers? Which ones drove you crazy at the time, but now you look back on with fondness, perhaps even wishing you could go back?

What if we could do that in the moment?

What if we could approach our current job as if we were looking back upon it in the future? Which parts would we choose to remember?

What if we could overlook the parts that annoy us now, the aspects that we will wipe from our memory over time, and focus on the good parts, the parts that in the future we will look back on with fondness?

How would that change the way we approach our work each day?

Enjoy the good parts. Tolerate the not so good parts. And, as always,  “Thank you for shopping at Walmart.”

 

There Is No Joy

Photo of field of spring flowers
Photo copyright ©2018 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

What brings you joy? What holds you back from experiencing it?

Most of us have participated in some form of an exercise designed to help us let go of a deeply held fear or concern. One method that many people have experienced is to write the fear or concern onto a piece of paper and then throw that paper into a fire, allowing the flames to symbolically consume whatever it was that was written on the paper.

Several weeks ago, during lent, I attended an appropriately somber church service on Maundy Thursday. After the service, I made my way through a series of stations for further reflection. At one of these stations, people were encouraged to write a concern onto a Post-It note and stick it to the cross, leaving it there as a way of releasing it and letting go of that concern.

As I sat there, pondering what to write, I glanced up and saw a note someone else had left. It said, “There is no joy.”

Those words struck me deeply.

I think a lot about joy. Joy is my purpose. Joy is at the heart of this blog. Joy drives nearly everything that I do.

At its core, the whole “Work Should Be Fun” concept is about joy.

I can understand not feeling happy. I can understand feeling sadness. I can understand many things. But, I can’t contemplate a life without joy.

Joy runs deep. Even in sadness, anger, or frustration, there can be joy.

To me, sadness is not the opposite of joy. Sad is the opposite of happy. Both are surface level sensations of the moment. They come and go.

Joy is eternal. It is deeply rooted. I find joy and hope to be more closely linked than joy and happiness.

The absence of hope is despair. So, for someone to say, “There is no joy,” says to me that they feel utter despair. They lack hope.

Without hope, we might as well sit down and give up. Hope keeps us going, even when things look bleak.

Joy and hope are inextricably connected.

Do you see the joy around you? It is everywhere. It is especially visible in this season of springtime. Take a moment to look around and see it. Then find a way to share it with others.

Take a moment to connect with another person. Walk down the hall, into the next cubicle, or talk with the person at the cash register. Share a few words. Smile. See the beauty that is all around. For just a moment, ignore the trash in the roadside ditch, look beyond the dirty dishes piling up in the sink, look away from the pile of unread emails in your inbox.

Experience joy.

 

Strategic Upgrades

Photo of skylights
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

It seems every time I turn around, something I thought I knew well has changed.

The good news is that most of the “stuff” keeps getting better. The bad news is, I have to work harder and harder to keep up with it.

Sure, you can bemoan the preponderance of cheap stuff and how the new stuff doesn’t last like the old stuff. In my experience, if you are willing to spend the same amount of money you did on the old stuff, adjusted for inflation, the new stuff is far superior. In most cases, when I am disappointed in the quality of the newer version of things, it’s because I paid far less than I did for the original. The saying, “You get what you pay for” does have merit.

Here’s one example: Sound systems.

I learned how to run sound for events when I was in college and have always enjoyed it. I did some fun events and met some amazing people. One of my favorites was Noel Paul Stookey (best known as Paul, of Peter, Paul & Mary). He gave me permission to record the concert, as long as it was only for myself. That bootleg version of “The Wedding Song“, taken directly off the mixing console, is still one of my favorite things to listen to.

In my own business as entertainer/speaker, my sound gear followed much of the traditional model. Most of what I’ve been hauling around for the last 12 years are simply newer versions of that same stuff I used way back in college.

Speaker design has changed dramatically since I first learned how to fill a room with sound. Traditionally, bigger was better, and heavy was seen as a good thing. That’s great until you get to be where I am in life and struggle to lift those heavy things up onto the speaker poles.

After much research and in-person auditioning of new systems at the sound equipment store, I plunked down some funds for a new “stick” system. The most well known of these is the Bose L1. (I am of the opinion that Bose is extremely overpriced, charging a premium for their brand name, so I went with a more value-priced alternative brand.)

These new systems use a completely different design methodology, promising things that seem impossible based on my previous understanding of how things work.

I had my doubts about the new system. How could this thing possibly fill a room to the level I was used to with my older, heavier system? I got to give it a good run at a recent event for over 350 people. Bottom line? It totally rocked. Wow!

What is the point of all of this rambling? If you are a frequent reader of this blog, then you know I’m building up to something. And you also know I’m going to be blatantly obvious about it.

Here you go.

Where are you clinging to old ways of doing things when newer, better methodologies now exist? Metaphorically, are you still hauling around heavy, difficult to lift, speakers when there are lighter, easier to use versions available?

Look around. See where you can make some strategic upgrades that will simplify your life.

Always remember, Work Should Be Fun!

Time out

Photo of flags on a flagpole
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

When is the last time you called a Time Out?

Like much of America, I’ve been watching a lot of football the past few days. It’s college bowl season. The concept of calling a time out struck me as something that has meaning far beyond football.

In football, the purpose of calling a time out is to give the team a chance to pause, reconsider their current strategy, revise it as needed, and sometimes just to give the players an opportunity to breath before the next play.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is often one in which I call a time out – from work. It is a time to pause, reflect, and spend time with my family. Sometimes it is simply an opportunity to breath before launching into whatever is coming next.

When do you call a time out? Is your play clock running dangerously close to zero? Could you benefit from taking a moment to reconsider your current direction?

Give yourself a break. Call a time out. Then get yourself back into the game.

 

Tides

Photo of beach sunset
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

Have you ever spent an entire day at the beach?

You arrive early in the day, set up the beach chairs, plant the umbrella, and spread the towels. After lathering up with a good coat of sunscreen, you plop into the chair, crack open a book and watch the day go by.

Ah…

Thanks to my wife, I have come to love spending time on the beach. Writing this on a gray day in early December in Ohio, the draw of sunshine on a warm beach is especially appealing. My thoughts today are not about the sunshine, though, but about the waves.

There is something about the constant motion of the water that is incredibly soothing. And also a great metaphor for life and work.

Have you ever noticed the tides?

People often comment on “high tide” or “low tide” as if those are the peaks of activity or inactivity. If you’ve ever paid attention to the waves, you know that both high tide and low tide are when the water is the most calm. It is the in between times that the waves are the roughest.

And so it is with work.

I love work that comes in waves, or rather cycles of waves, like the tide. I love the onrush of a new project, the buzz of activity, the excitement of doing something new. And I love the lull at the completion of the project, the end of that cycle.

It is fun to play in the waves. And it is fun to float on the calm water.

What is not fun is when either of these goes on too long and you feel like the current cycle will never end. Riding waves is fun, unless they never end. Floating on the calm water is a nice break, unless the waves never kick up again.

Leaders must find a way to manage the flow. If the environment has no cycles, the leader must manufacture them. If it is always roiling waters with no calm periods, leaders must find a way to create periods of rest and calm. I can’t imagine an environment where it is always calm, with no waves, but if that is the case, the leader must manufacture ways to create waves.

If the environment is full of natural cycles alternating between waves and calm, the leader’s job is to remind people that whichever phase they are in at the moment will change. The leader needs to encourage people to keep going through the rough waters, ensuring and reminding them that calm waters are coming. Likewise, when people are getting stir crazy during long periods of excessive calm, a good leader will remind the staff of what is on the way.

Next time you go to the beach, pay attention to the tides.

Enjoy the waves. Enjoy the calm. They’re both important parts of the cycle.

 

Eyes Front

Photo of road leading to sunset.
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

Keep your eyes on the road. Never look back. Eyes on the prize. We’re in it for the long haul.

There are so many cliched sayings on the topic of staying focused on our goals.

Why is it so hard to stay the course when pursuing a long term goal or dream?

I blame Amazon.

Thanks to Amazon, we expect 2-day delivery of nearly anything. In some cases, we can get 2-hour delivery. Or, if you’re willing to pay for it, some items will even be delivered in 1 hour. Quite a far cry from the way I grew up.

Have you ever purchased something on layaway? Does anyone still do that?

The last time I bought something on a layaway plan was 34 years ago – an engagement ring. (I could say, “and I’m still paying for it.” But, the reality is, it remains the best purchase I have ever made.)

How about saving box tops? Do you remember that? This was a common thing when I was a kid. By sending in the tops from boxes of cereal, along with a small amount to cover shipping and handling, you could get all kinds of great prizes.

I got my start as a magician with a trick I got in a box of cereal. Wheat Chex, to be exact. From there, I saved box tops to send away for a full-fledged magic kit. It required 6 box tops. Do you know how long it takes to save up 6 box tops? In our house, it was not a thing to buy 6 boxes of cereal at a time. And it certainly was not OK to open a new box until the current one was all gone. And, no, it was not OK to eat cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

After collecting all of the required box tops, you had to mail them via standard US postal delivery, then wait 6-8 weeks for delivery of your long coveted prize. There was no such thing as overnight delivery. I remember checking the mail every day for the entire time in anticipation of the fantastic prize.

Would anyone do that today?

With instant downloads on the Internet, on-demand streaming of movies, and overnight delivery (or less) of nearly anything, we have been trained to think everything should happen quickly.

With that mindset, we get frustrated by how long things take. We think we should be able to achieve anything by next week at the latest.

I started my career as a software engineer. I used to work on projects that were measured in months, sometimes many, many months. Now when I launch into a new project on my website, I get frustrated when I don’t have it done before lunchtime.

In my current career as entertainer and speaker, I often get frustrated because things are not where I’d like them to be. Why is this taking so long?

Then I pause to look back and realize how far I have come. I watch video from events I did a few years ago and compare that with video from one I did last week. Wow! Maybe I am making progress. Maybe things are on track.

Are you feeling frustrated? Do you feel like you’re never going to get there? (Wherever “there” is for you.)

Try this. Take your eyes off the road. Do look back. See how far you have already come. Acknowledge your progress.

Now you can go back to eyes front. Eyes on the prize. Sure, it’s a long haul. Might as well settle in and enjoy the ride.

And once in a while, check that rear view mirror.

 

Raising the Bar

Photo of a glass of beer
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

Have you been told to raise the bar?

Sure you have. Usually it is a boss asking us to do more (with less).

Or, it is a coach pushing us to work harder, to do more reps at the gym, to run another lap at the track, etc.

Or, it is the person in the mirror saying, “You can do better.”

This is all fine. We do need to push. We should always be striving to get better at our craft.

But, we can take this too far.

Sometimes, what we really need to do is STOP raising the bar and instead, SIT AT the bar; take a break. Raise a glass to toast our accomplishments.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. – Genesis 1:31

As important as it is to push, it is even more important to recognize our accomplishments. Take a moment to look around you. See how far you have come. See the good.

Invite your friends to join you in the toast.

 

Cover band

Photo of Kiss cover band
Photo copyright ©2016 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

Do you write your own music, or are you in a cover band?

When you show up for work, are you doing your job in a way that someone else could easily step in and take your place? Or are you doing it in a way that is clearly your own?

How about your life? Are you forging your own path? Or are you only imitating what you see in others?

So many of us spend our days trying to reproduce what others have done, living our lives note for note like what we see in others. We follow the rules. We read how-to guides. We may be technically excellent at our craft. But, in the end, what we produce looks like it could have been done by 50 or 100 or 1,000 other people.

This starts young. “Why can’t you be more like Tom?”

It continues into adulthood, especially in the working world. “We could use a lot more Toms.”

And we do this to ourselves. We see someone we deem to be successful and think, “Hey, if I can just do that, I, too, will be successful.”

We invest in programs guaranteed to produce the same kind of results others have produced. “Follow these simple steps and you, too, can earn a 7-figure income while working from home in your pajamas! This is a limited time offer! Act now!”

It has long fascinated me how many cover bands are out there. I’ve seen some good ones. The good ones can make a decent income. They might even develop their own fan base. But, it has always struck me as limiting. The best you can do is a perfect imitation of someone else. Where’s the fun in that?

Here’s the reality. We are never going to make it big in the art world with paint-by-number reproductions. We are never going to top the Billboard Charts as a cover band. We will never reach our full potential in our careers by doing only what others have done. We are never going to live a truly fulfilling life by only replicating what we see others doing.

Be an original. Study from the masters, then paint your own masterpiece.

 

If You Won the Lottery

Photo of Powerball Lottery ticketIf you won the lottery, would you still work?

That question has been on my mind since the summer of 1984.

I was a starry-eyed recent graduate, happy to have my first real job as a bona fide Electrical Engineer and eager to prove myself. So, I was thrilled when, less than a year after I started, my boss asked me to attend a trade show where we would have a booth to show off our products.

The trade show was in Atlantic City at the big convention center right on the boardwalk. This was back when Atlantic City was still in its Heyday. It was exciting.

It was a major trade show for the scientific measurements industry. I had never seen anything like it. It was full of big-name manufacturers showing off their large sophisticated machinery with equally large and sophisticated names.

The exhibits were impressive. On display was a vast array of complex scientific research instruments, measurement systems, and elaborate demonstrations of these products.

Our booth was not quite so impressive. We had a fish tank and ping-pong balls. (I wish I had a photo. It was truly a sight to behold.)

But, it did demonstrate the basic functionality of our product. Its simplicity created an opening for a conversation. At least, that’s what we told ourselves.

Have you ever worked in a trade show booth? Those of you who have, know it is grueling work. At the end of our first day, we were exhausted.

But, we were in Atlantic City!

So, we left the convention center and headed out for dinner … to … the Playboy Club. That is a story for another time.

As we were walking along the boardwalk we passed a sign advertising the lottery and its current jackpot of $1 million. Remember, this was 1984.

That was when Lou, the founder and president of the company, asked me the question. “Hey, David. If you won the lottery would you still work?”

Alert! Alert! Danger Will Robinson!

I may have been young and naïve, and believe me, I was. But, I knew a trick question when I heard one. So, I took great care with my answer.

After a reasonable pause to demonstrate I had appropriately considered the question, I confidently said, “Yes.” Lou seemed satisfied and we moved on, never discussing it again.

But, the question lingered in my head. In fact, that question became a guiding principle throughout my career. Because I knew that, “Yes”, was an incomplete answer.

The full answer, the one that I so carefully avoided saying out loud, was, “Yes, but not for you.”

As excited as I was to be there, I knew it was not a forever job. I knew this was just a starting point in my career.

Throughout my career, I have asked myself variations of that question on a regular basis.

“If you won the lottery, would you still do this?” And, “Would you still do it here?”

One of the hot topics of conversation in the business world today is “employee engagement”. It’s an especially big buzzword in the HR circles.

Employee engagement, retention and satisfaction. They all tend to get lumped together. And I do think it is an important topic.

What is the first thing companies typically do when they want to measure these? Right. The employee satisfaction survey.

Have you ever taken one of these? I’ve done several. Some of them were quite lengthy. And that’s part of the problem.

If you truly want to measure employee satisfaction, you only need to ask one question.

“If you won the lottery, would you still work here? Why? Or Why not?”

If you believe employee satisfaction is important, the goal is simple. Create an environment where the answer to that question is a resounding, “YES”.

How do you do that? Obviously, there is no one answer for all situations. Since you are reading this blog, then you know that my primary answer is, “Make Work Fun!” How you do that is the real challenge – and worth the effort.

Let’s look at the personal side of this, though.

If you were taking this one-question survey and your answer were, “NO”, my question for you would be, “Then why are you still here?”

I’m sure you’ve worked with people who do nothing but complain. Day in, day out, the only thing that seems to make them happy is to tell you how unhappy they are, and how much they hate their job.

The only response to this is, “Then why are you still here?” And, “What are you going to do about it?”

We do have a choice. The choice is not whether or not to win the lottery. Although, if you want to win, you do need to buy a ticket.

Our choice is, what are we going to do about it? Why wait?

If you don’t love what you are doing, if you are not excited to get up in the morning, what’s holding you back from making a change?

Define your own jackpot. Print your own lottery ticket.

Live your life with a resounding, “YES”.

 

Disappointment Correction

Photo of giraffe sticking tongue out
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

Have you ever been disappointed? What did you do in response?

During a recent meeting with our financial advisor, he said there is a high level of expectation among financial experts for a “disappointment correction” in the stock markets. I’d never heard the term before, but he claimed it is a well-known term in the financial sector.

Here’s one story about the concept.

The gist of this is that investors are disappointed by things not going the way they had anticipated. As a result, they will make adjustments, or corrections, in their holdings and strategies.

The term struck me as being apt for describing what happens in the workplace.

The company promises certain things, setting expectations for the employees. If done right, the employees get all excited about these promises and new ventures. They have renewed energy and focus. They work harder. Then, if things don’t pan out as expected, people become disappointed. Sometimes they will become so disappointed that they make drastic corrections, like moving on to another employer.

It’s a difficult road to travel for leaders. You want to paint a rosy picture, share possibilities, get people excited for what is yet to come. But, if you paint too rosy of a picture, or can’t follow through on those promises, you have to expect some level of frustration and disappointment among the staff. You have to be ready for the corrections.

Then there is the issue of hiring someone who turns out to be a poor fit for the position. The new person starts, everyone is excited, and then disappointment sets in because, well, they aren’t actually qualified for the position. Or, perhaps the job duties were not clearly explained during the interview process. Or, maybe the true nature of the work environment was not clearly articulated. There is a mismatch in expectations. The result is that the hiring manager needs to make a correction.

This can happen on the other side as well. I once started a new job full of eager anticipation. By the end of the first week I realized the job was not what I expected. I was disappointed. I needed to make a correction. It took me a full year to make the correction by changing jobs. The second time this happened, it only took me 5 weeks.

A workplace correction is not always a major deal. Sometimes it only requires a minor tweak to the environment, like a change of your office layout, a new computer, or bringing in a pair of headphones to drown out that annoying gum cracking in the cubicle next to you. Sometimes it means changing the people assigned to a project, or their specific roles within the team. It doesn’t always have to end in parting company.

Disappointment can show up in so many areas of our lives. When it happens, we have a choice. We can be sad, or we can take action – make a correction.

Be aware of your disappointment. Let it motivate you to do what needs to be done to move on. Sometimes a mental shift is the only correction needed, while other times serious changes in lifestyle are needed.

Where are you now? Are your expectations being met? Are you disappointed? If so, it might be time for a correction.