What’s the most important thing you can do today?

Legos

I am fortunate to be able to spend time with my 5 year old grandson two days each week. I realize the time is precious because he begins full-time kindergarten next fall, so the days are numbered. We have a routine… after breakfast every day, we go to our basement to build cities, worlds, and other imaginary creations with an assortment of Legos and Lincoln Logs. Just a little boy playing in the floor in a make-believe world with his Grandpa. Yesterday, my wife (Grandma) came downstairs to ask me something to which our grandson stated, “Can you go back upstairs, Grandma, because you’re breaking the mood of our game when you talk to Grandpa.”

He says a lot of funny things. However, this one made me think again about priorities and what is truly important. It is tempting, occasionally, when you have retired from 40 years in the corporate world to wonder if you are just wasting your time. After all, you spend 40 years driving hard every day to add value. Then, suddenly, every day is Saturday (except Sunday). If you don’t want to accomplish anything today, no problem, there is always tomorrow. Yesterday, my grandson reminded me again that sometimes, the most important thing I can ever do is something small. Pouring your life into that of another is never wasted time, whether it is your grandson, coworker, spouse, or someone you’ve never met. I’m sure that someday, my grandson will think back to those days that he and Grandpa built the most remarkable buildings with those Lego blocks. But, more importantly, I hope he remembers that his Grandpa loved him enough to spend that time just with him.

What is the most important thing you can do today? It is easy to get caught up in the hundred things you have to do. It is easy to let the routine of the day to obscure that “most important thing” that you know you need to do. Perhaps, we need to develop the habit of asking ourselves early each new day, “What is that one thing, above all else, that I need to do this day?” Sometimes, that “most important thing” is completing a project at work, making a new business contact, or taking that evening call. When it is, don’t feel guilty and just get it done. However, when the most important thing you can do is to pour your life into that of someone else, don’t neglect it.

So, what is today’s most important thing for you? Is it breaking away early to attend that special event at school? Is it calling your aging parents just to say hello? Is it doing that little project that your spouse has been asking about for the last six months? Or, could it be that someone just needs you to get on the floor to help build a castle? Whatever it is, don’t let life become so busy that you miss the things that are most important.

And, don’t forget that today could be your best day yet!

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Patience: “It’s not how long you wait, but how WELL you wait”

Waiting is hard! I remember, as a child, the long wait until Christmas. If you have children, I’m sure you’ve heard, “How many more days till Christmas?” many times. In my teen years, the time dragged on forever until I was old enough to drive a car. Learning – and teaching – patience is a challenge.

Developing patience seems especially difficult in today’s world. With the scan of a credit card, you can avoid waiting for anything you want to purchase. A few decades ago, you actually had to save 10-20% of the cost of a house in cash before you could qualify for a loan. So, most home buyers started small and eventually worked toward their forever home. Today, loans can be obtained for zero down and more than 30 years to pay. Thus, buyers can immediately move into their dream home despite having a tenuous cashflow situation.

Let me provide a couple more examples of a lack of patience I have observed in life and during my time in the workplace:

  • In one of my positions, our group hired many individuals with 1-2 years of prior experience. I recall more than once when one of these individuals might say something like, “I’ve been here now for over 6 months and I’ve done everything I’ve been asked to do. What does a person have to do around here to get promoted?” Rather than taking the time to learn as much as possible about the position, these individuals are more concerned with a rapid climb up the ladder. Credibility and value are often garnered over the course of time and having a long-term career view can often make a difference. In many cases, an individual that has developed depth rather than breadth is more valuable to the company.
  • I have observed some individuals with great potential change positions too frequently. I recall more than one coworker that was recruited from one position to another, often lasting less than a year in any position. It appears that such an individual is a rising star in the organization. However, this individual cannot possibly develop the depth of knowledge or experience that will facilitate expertise in any one area. In addition, this individual usually has no time to create any work product that can make a difference to the company. What “accomplishments” or new skills can you accumulate in such a short time that will make you a more valuable asset in future positions?

OK, so let’s say we all understand that patience is good and something we should strive to develop and perfect in our lives and careers. Easier said than done, right? So, what are some steps we can take to build patience in our own lives or to help teach the skill of patience to others? What does waiting well look like?

When you wait well, you do these six things:

  1. You develop depth (e.g., more and better skills) – You can choose to either waste your waiting time or use it to become better at what you’re doing. Waiting gives you time to gain depth in what you do, expand your knowledge, and become an expert. Instead of spending waiting time complaining about the delay, use it as an opportunity to become a better and more productive individual.
  2. You actually produce a work product – These days, hiring managers seek individuals that have demonstrated experience or have created value in previous positions. Waiting periods actually give you the opportunity to do just that. When waiting, take the initiative to do something new, volunteer for a project, or create new value.
  3. You enhance your network – One of the biggest drivers to career success is the network of individuals you develop and maintain throughout your career. When you are in a waiting pattern, use that opportunity to get to know others. Seek out individuals that are successful. Enhance your network in width (new individuals) and depth (knowing individuals better).
  4. You have the opportunity to positively influence others – The older (or more experienced) you get, the more you will learn that pouring your life into the success of others provides gratification and fulfillment. You become more focused on others and less on yourself. A period of waiting is the perfect time to invest in others. Whether you are a mother raising preschool children or a career professional on the brink of a promotion, using this time to help others thrive, grow, and develop will pay long-term dividends.
  5. You build character by serving others – You’ve probably heard this many times… “patience builds character.” This is true IF you use the time to grow, learn, and serve. Shifting your focus on serving others will automatically help you grow personally and, in the process, you will learn from those you serve.
  6. You allow pieces of the puzzle to fit together naturally, rather than in a forced manner – Many times in life, the pieces of our puzzle don’t fit together with the timing and in the order we might personally desire. When we demonstrate patience during our waiting periods, we may be allowing time for other events to occur that make real success for us possible. Yes, there are some times when we need to exhibit initiative and drive, but, there are other times when we need to wait to allow things to develop in the right way at the right time. Many times in my life, I was able to look back, after the fact, to see just how things occurred in the perfect timing. And, if I had tried to rush things, I would have missed out on blessings I never knew were coming.

So, do you find yourself in a waiting pattern today? Are you struggling to be patient? Well, you certainly are not alone. However, when you are able to exhibit the patience to wait well, you may avoid rushing decisions that have dire circumstances. Waiting well can often mean more to you personally or to your career than if events had moved faster in the first place. Think about what you can do to make your wait better and more productive.

 

I was just kidding about my “just kidding” comment

creepy doll

I am blessed with the chance to spend a couple days each week with my 5-year old grandson. It is amazing how young kids learn to attempt to get their way. Recently, he said all he wanted for breakfast was some cookies and milk. I’m not normally one to judge the “goodness” of a breakfast of cookies and milk. However, for a 5-year old, I try to set a good example. I told him, “No, the milk is fine, but you need to have something else good for you for breakfast.” He said, “Just kidding.” He really had meant that he would prefer the cookies for breakfast, but used the “just kidding” statement to smooth it over with his Grandpa.

Later, I was thinking about the “just kidding” comment and realized that we almost never really mean it when we say it… even as adults. We often twist our words to justify our actions or to create our own version of the facts. For example:

  • Politicians and business leaders often create a “narrative” to minimize or shift negative news (see Who needs a “narrative” when you can just as easily tell the truth?)
  • Commentators (or business communicators) often “spin” the news to alter the truth
  • We often alter the truth in the form of “white lies” to avoid hurting feelings
  • Some leave out important details to ensure their own viewpoint is heard
  • Individuals often stay silent rather than “become the bearer of bad news”
  • Tragedies have occurred because individuals with critical information allowed themselves to support the prevailing opinions (e.g., group think)
  • We frequently see negative consequences because an individual hesitated to “create waves by raising a concern”

Certainly, there are times when our words and actions must be filtered. For example, we typically prefer our doctors to remain positive (“This is serious, but we have a number of options that we can try”) rather than blunt (“You have no chance… you’ll probably die a miserable death”). Some balance is needed. However, what keeps us from being more open, honest, and transparent in our business dealings?

I have to admit that during my last few years working, my “filter” became much thinner than earlier in my career. During those last few years, I became much more outspoken. I sought opportunities to provide alternative ideas and raise issues. I was once termed “the King of Candor” during this time. However, rather than create problems with my own management team and others, this approach was appreciated. In fact, individuals frequently sought my thoughts in meetings and privately because they knew I would provide unfiltered thoughts. I gave up trying to appease others and the result was a greater sense of appreciation for my opinions and perspective. In retrospect, I wish I had adopted this approach much earlier in my career.

Managers need candid individuals to provide balance. All too often, we make poor decisions because we unconsciously solicit only concurrence, not the truth. We need individuals that will disagree with us and will provide alternative approaches. I am not saying that we need to become disruptive or tolerate individuals that are destructive. However, seeking (or providing) alternative opinions will only strengthen the team, the decisions made, and the ultimate performance of the organization.

So, as an individual, seeks ways to enhance your courage to be more candid. Speak up when needed. Always ensure that others have the complete story. When you disagree, respectfully say so and why. Be professional, but be honest. Seek ways to make positive things happen, not to simply identify obstacles.

As a leader, seek individuals that will provide that contrarian viewpoint. Reward open and honest dialogue. Encourage dissenters to speak up, but encourage them to also provide their rationale and potential solutions to problems. Proactively, avoid group think or individuals that merely go along to avoid waves.

So, the next time you are tempted to say, “Just kidding,” remember the words of one of the most trusted and important journalists of the 20th century:

“To be persuasive we must be believable;
to be believable we must be creditable;
to be credible we must be truthful.” 
― Edward R. Murrow

Have a great day!

Why some give up, check out, or lose heart… and what we can do about it

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You can see it wherever you look… people that have given up on life, their jobs, or on themselves. Often, at the least, this might be manifested as poor performance in the workplace. At it worst, it can result in physical harm to an individual or others.

Many have written about the reasons individuals give up, check out, or lose heart. Today, I would like to add my thoughts and, hopefully, provide some practical steps we can take to either help ourselves or others keep dig out or prevent these “valleys” from becoming something permanent. Additionally, understanding the reasons why some give up can help us as leaders, family members, or friends take proactive action to keep ourselves and others motivated.

Reasons why some give up, check out, or lose heart

  1. The pain becomes too great to withstand – Pain, either physical or emotional, can become debilitating. When someone experiences pain day-after-day without a pause, they can begin feeling things spiral downward… Will it ever get better? Will I ever have another good day? I can’t even get out of bed, much less function. How can I thrive when it is doubtful I will even survive? Pain can also lead to the abuse of alternatives that might become addictive or more harmful. Even the most positive, enthusiastic person can lose that edge when pummeled by pain for an extended time. It is important that we understand the impact of pain in an individual’s life and be sensitive when we see it in others… or ourselves.
  2. What I do doesn’t matter – Everyone has an innate desire to be productive. We all want what we do to matter or count for something. Most desire to make a difference in their work, in their family, or in their neighborhood. When an individual starts feeling that their life doesn’t really matter, they lose heart. When we start feeling that our work is meaningless, our effort diminishes. It is important that we find our real purpose and understand that, because we were created by the God of the universe, we have value.
  3. No one cares what I do – During my time in the workplace, I heard many individuals explain to me that because they felt that no one really cared what they did or how they did their work, it became meaningless to them, as well. When you feel that no one else cares, you lose heart. Finding meaning, even if only in your own eyes, in what you do makes a great difference in how you feel about your work and your value.
  4. This is no longer fun – People often check out when the things they do no longer brings the enjoyment or fulfillment that they expected or that it once did. When our work or life becomes difficult without gratification, we can slip downward. Finding some enjoyment is essential to happiness and when it cannot be found, we become demotivated.
  5. I am all alone – Loneliness can become a truly difficult life challenge. When an individual feels alone in the world, they can slowly slip into thinking that “it doesn’t matter anymore” which often leads to something worse. Finding a way to stay connected with others is essential to happiness and self-worth.
  6. I am overwhelmed – That feeling that life is throwing more at you than you can handle will often take an individual into a valley of despair. Being overwhelmed with work or time deadlines or fatigue can all hamper your well-being. Finding ways to manage the load, or at least recognizing that “all you can do is all you can do” is important to maintaining a proper balance.
  7. No matter what I do, it is wrong – When you believe that you are not successful and never will be, it is tempting to give up, or at least slack off. Finding ways to be successful, even at little things, can help one reclaim that feeling of worth and value that failures tend to diminish.
  8. There is no hope that things will get better – When an individual loses hope, despair is sure to follow. Have hope in the future is critical to finding meaning today.

Warning signs that someone is or has given up

Here are a few things to look for in others or yourself to determine when someone has given up or is losing heart”

  • They have lost their sense of humor
  • Their work performance has gotten worse
  • They spend more time alone
  • They laugh less
  • They avoid others
  • They blame others more
  • They don’t seem to care about things they used to love
  • They stop hobbies that were formerly important to them
  • They begin doing just what it takes to get by
  • A sense of sadness is evident
  • They begin spending less time taking care of themselves
  • Screen-time becomes more important than people-time
  • They begin abusing food, alcohol, drugs, or anything else
  • They begin talking about self-destructive actions, dreams, or thoughts
  • They become less reliable

When you see an individual exhibiting these behaviors (or, you find yourself experience them), it is time to take some productive action to help a complete slide. A few suggestions are offered below, though you may need to be aware that professional help could be needed, as well.

Actions for keeping others motivated

What can you do to help restore someone else that has or is showing signs of giving up, checking out, or losing heart? Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Be an encourager – Verbalize positive thoughts, comments, or accolades when merited. Be intentional about positive feedback.
  2. Provide a future event –  Plan something that the individual can look forward to. Speak about the future. Create a positive goal to strive for.
  3. Provide a new assignment, new challenge, or new opportunity – Be intentional about creating variety in the life/work of the individual. Be creative.
  4. Be a friend – Have a meal together. Do something with the individual. Share your own life. Be vulnerable. Ask about things in the individual’s life.
  5. Help them see the value and purpose in what they do – Be specific about how the individual’s work/life matters. Show them the result of their work. Show them how much they mean to your and others.
  6. Introduce something fun – Schedule something fun that is unexpected. Do something light. Make smiling important and routine.
  7. In the workplace, avoid micro-managing – Do not (repeat, do not) demotivate an individual by micro-managing their life and work in the workplace. There is, perhaps, nothing that will demotivate an individual more or faster.
  8. At home, be more positive – Find something positive to say. Do it often. Do it sincerely.
  9. Spend time with the individual – Nothing says, “I care” more than spending time with an individual.
  10. Encourage more life balance – A proper balance in life (work, family, self, hobbies, etc.) is important. It helps to distract when things in one area become difficult.
  11. Introduce the ultimate “hope” – We all need hope. You can find my ultimate “hope” at this link (What is your hope?).

Keeping myself motivated

What if you find yourself giving up? What if you don’t really care as much anymore? What if you’ve lost the enthusiasm you once had? Well, the list above is a good one for you, too. However, let me add a few additional things that I know can help:

  1. Find a way to serve someone else – There is no way to take your focus off yourself than to find a way to serve someone else. Someone once said, “You can’t call a day a good day unless you’ve done something for someone else that could never repay you.” When you serve someone else, the greater benefit is always for yourself, not the one you served.
  2. Make a change – Sometimes, we just need to do something different. Re-arrange the furniture. Drive a different way to work. Find a new job. Go outside your comfort zone. Sometimes, a single change can kickstart other areas of our lives.
  3. Visit a Children’s Hospital or Eldercare Home – Seeing the challenges and strength in someone weaker than ourselves can often motivate us to be different in our own lives.
  4. Make a new friend – Really, when was the last time you made the effort to nurture a new friendship? Give it a try.
  5. Initiate something fun with someone else – Be intentional about scheduling something fun. Go to a ballgame. Play golf. Take a class together. It is likely that this would be good for both you and the other individual.
  6. Start a journal, blog, or notebook – Sometimes, taking the time to write down your thoughts and aspirations can be motivating.
  7. Learn a new hobby – Getting into a rut can often be broken when we decide to learn something new. Consider learning something new than you can do for a lifetime.
  8. Start with small steps – Make a goal that is very achievable. Celebrate that success, then do it again. Small victories can encourage us and motivate us to take bigger and bigger steps.
  9. Be the light in someone else’s darkness – Find someone that you know that needs to see something positive in their own life. When you become a light for them, your own world becomes a bit brighter.

 

Today, as we stand on the brink of another new year, is a great time to look for ways to rekindle that spark of encouragement in the lives of others… or, our own lives. Finding ways to both recognize and do something to help those that have given up, those checking out, or that friend that has lost heart can make the difference not only for them, but for us, as well.

 

Finding happiness… even when the sun doesn’t shine

norway children copy

One of my nephews married a Norwegian girl and their family now resides in Norway. It seems the Norwegians believe it is important for children to be taken outside every day, even as infants. Despite the cold, Norwegians feel it is necessary to expose their children to all types of weather rather than protect them by keeping them inside except for clear and warm days.

My initial thought was they believed the cold helped build a tolerance for extremes in weather. I didn’t really understand there was a more important reason until I read the following quote:

“Encouraging a child to go outside in all weather builds resilience, but more importantly, it saves them from spending their life merely tolerating the ‘bad’ days in favor of a handful of ‘good’ ones – a life of endless expectations and conditions where happiness hinges on sunshine.”                                                    – Nicolette Sowder –

I recall that, as a child, I rarely stayed inside because of the cold or bad weather. My siblings and I walked to school (I can’t recall a single day through elementary school that I was driven to school) and played outdoors nearly every day of the year. When it was cold, we bundled up. When it rained, we enjoyed the puddles and mud. When it was hot, we removed our shirts and wore shorts. I’m not sure my childhood built resilience, but it certainly did not give us easy excuses.

Today, it seems, children suffer from overexposure of a different kind. Over-protection by parents, grandparents, teachers, and others promotes a view that we can take a mulligan when the conditions aren’t perfect. If we don’t like our boss, we don’t have to do our best on the job. If we don’t like the work, we can simply quit and stay at home. If my teacher is unreasonable, my parents will fix it. If we aren’t promoted within the first year, we quit and find a new job. We have become individuals that thrive in sunshine, but avoid bad weather. Our happiness has become dependent upon how much sunshine we experience in life.

Someone once said:

“A good day is not determined by what happens to us, but by how we react to the events of the day.”                                   – Unknown –

 

Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. It is toughness. How much toughness do you exhibit? Are you one that can quickly move on from disappointments? Are you known as someone that will get the job done regardless of the barriers or challenges you face? We can’t allow the amount of “sunshine in our lives” to define whether we are a good employee, a good parent, a good spouse, or a good friend. We must develop the skill (or whatever attribute or ability you want to call it) to be focused and not easily distracted by challenges or inconveniences.

In Oslo, the average number of hours annually with sunshine is 1668. That number is undoubtedly impacted by Norway’s latitude. Marseille, France experiences 2858 hours per year of sunshine. In the USA, Phoenix leads the way with 3872 hours of sunshine per year…nearly 2.5 times that of Oslo. Where I live, the average is 2594 hours annually… well below Phoenix, but still over 60% more than Oslo. So, do you think the people of Norway allow the lack of sunshine to impact their happiness? In fact, studies year-after-year rank Norwegians as some of the happiest people on earth. They are unaffected by their lack of sunshine. Perhaps, Sowder is right. Perhaps, we need to learn that attitude is a choice nurtured by how well we have learned to tolerate adversity. Things might not always go our way, but we can choose to thrive in any circumstance, not merely stay inside to avoid discomfort.

 

Succeeding at things that don’t really matter

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What is success? Really, what does it mean to succeed at something? The dictionary definition talks about accomplishing a target or purpose. Some define success as attaining a personal achievement, such as a promotion or financial goal. Others would define success in more general terms, such as contentment, happiness, or a sense of fulfillment.

Today, I would like to talk about misconceptions about success. During my 40 plus years in the workplace, I saw countless individuals that achieved a lifelong goal, yet they felt unfulfilled, disappointed, or empty. They believed that life would magically get better when they achieved the goal or target they had relentlessly pursued. In fact, many individuals actually felt LESS fulfilled when an important “life target” was achieved. It seems that it was the journey that brought the motivation and fulfillment more than actually achieving the target.

William Carey spoke of the true meaning of success early in the 19th century when he said

“I’m not afraid of failure; I’m afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”

Carey’s insight dating back nearly 200 years is still meaningful for us today. Success has more to do with achieving a purpose than a target. I have worked with many individuals in my life and career that did not understand this difference. I recall many times at year-end reviews when an individual argued for a higher rating because they achieved all their goals without realizing that goals alone might not equal success.

When I mentor individuals, I often say to them, “If I would ask you to bring everything of value that you have produced for the company in the last year, or five years – in other words, your work product – and place it on the table, how big would the pile be? What would you bring? And, how can you be certain that it was really achieving the purpose you are intended to achieve?” Some individuals would answer in terms of reports written, projects completed, or a checklist of things directly associated with their jobs. It is the rare individual that would answer in terms of value provided to the company, its customers, or the ultimate user. Too few of us think of our work, or our efforts, in terms of what is really important.

Carey’s quote recognized that individuals need to be occupied with activities. We need to feel some sense of accomplishment. However, we should all routinely ask ourselves, “Would I rather fail doing something truly significant and meaningful than to succeed at something that has no meaningful impact. Is it more important that I achieve 10% of things that truly make a difference in the lives of those I love, or to achieve 100% of things that are meaningless.” Yet, how much of our time is spend on the trivial or meaningless? Then, we beat ourselves up over things that won’t even be remembered a year from now.

So, to sum this up, let’s ponder a few questions today that can help us drive toward true success:

  1. Will the things I do today truly make life better for anyone else? Will it make my own life better?
  2. Do I know my real purpose? Are my activities today helping to fulfill that purpose?
  3. Am I looking at the bigger, broader picture or just focusing on the trivial matters of today?
  4. What do I need to change that can help me, or someone else, achieve true success?
  5. What is the most important thing I need to do today? How can I make sure that I get this done?

Finally, I believe that achieve success, or fulfilling our purpose, is not an endpoint, but a process. There should never be a time when we say, “I’m done. Mission accomplished.” No matter how old we get or what we accomplish in life, we can still impact others. We may not even see the impact of our life’s work during our lifetime. So, keep going and keep looking for ways to pour your life and your efforts into others. Our ultimate purpose may have been the impact we had on someone else.

 

“Ask” is not a noun!

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Don’t do it! Don’t get caught up in the “ask movement”! How many of you have heard someone say, “What is the ask?” in the last couple of years? Well, I have had it up to my ears and have to speak out. “Ask” is not a noun!

Why do people do it? Why do people continue emasculating the language with made up words or made up uses? Well, there are three pieces of advice I would give any of you that must deal with the world of corporate jargon:

  1. Stop trying to be cute! – Most individuals desire to be and feel modern… to be with all the new thoughts, approaches, and terminology. To do so, some feel it necessary to create new ways to say the same things we’ve been saying for decades. Converting the word “ask” from a verb to a noun simply is not that cute. Is it too hard to use two syllables (as in “request”) or must we conserve our breath and use only one syllable? I think most individuals, especially employees involved in actually doing the work day-by-day, appreciate openness and honesty more than cute derivations of perfectly good words like “request.”
  2. Stop dumbing things down! – These same people that say we need to simplify things will turn right around and say to shareholders something like, “…by retaining a nominal level of fungibility, we sustain the durability of our assets…” Are you kidding me? Straight talk always promotes credibility and trustworthiness. Manipulating our language in such a way appears to be an attempt to hide the truth or mask reality or spin bad news. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
  3. Stop perpetuating the preposterous! – Those that feel the same way I do about such abuses of our language need to take a stand and stop doing it! I remember a time when someone used “ask” in front of me as a noun. I looked at that individual and said, “Do you mean ‘request’? I’m not sure I know what you mean using ‘ask’ that way.” That seemed to stop the nonsense, at least for a time.

That’s it for today. I am merely urging all of us to speak clearly, speak the truth, and remember that ‘form’ only beats ‘content’ when you have no value to add otherwise.

Have a great day!

All good things must end… now what?

fall leaves

Autumn has finally arrived in my home area. I truly enjoy the changing of the seasons, especially the crisp, cool weather of the fall. Each new season also reminds us of the good times we experienced in the previous season. I had a great summer, spending most of it at the shores of a beautiful lake. So, a very good summer has ended and a beautiful, cool new season has begun.

Life is a lot that way. We enjoy many good experiences in life that eventually end. But, when they do, what comes next? Certainly, some transitions are easy. When your 5 year old goes to kindergarten, the goodness of a happy childhood transitions to something else that holds promise and excitement. However, when a happy or good chapter of your life is interrupted unexpectedly, what comes next? How do you handle those sudden changes that abruptly alter your life? What’s next after you lose a job you love? How do you acclimate to life alone? How do you survive, then thrive when undergoing a life-altering event?

I have observed or experienced seven key tools that can help this transition from something good to something new:

  1. Force yourself to breathe (Don’t quit!) – When thinking back to sudden life changes I have experienced, the first thing that occurs is usually panic. You are thinking, “How could this happen? Why me? Why now?” One of those initial reactions might be wondering how you can possibly go on. You might be tempted to just give up. However, picking yourself up and recognizing that you have to keep going is an important first step in such a transition. This does not normally come naturally, so you might have to remind yourself to breathe… to put one foot in front of the other… to get out of bed. Overcoming these first pangs of panic is important in re-establishing a sense of normal.
  2. Limit your time looking back (Don’t linger in the past!) – My wife’s grandmother lived through the depression and two World Wars. She saw famines, hard times, and loss. One of the things she used to say and encourage others when a life-changing event occurred was to take the necessary time to mourn the good times, but there comes a day when you have to pick yourself up and move forward. It was her way of saying that a time of reflection is necessary, but we cannot let the past swallow us up. It is good to set a time to reflect, after that, we need to get going again.
  3. Realize that good often gets in the way of better (Look ahead!) – Sometimes, the end of one good thing leads to a better thing… or even a great thing! How many of us were stunned to lose a job, but, after finding a new job, could honestly say that it was a blessing in disguise. We may have never taken that bold step to do something new without that boost. Realizing that life changes often lead to “our biggest break” can motivate us during times of transition.
  4. Be open and lean on others (Don’t do it alone!) – We were all raised to become independent. We were encouraged to stand on our own feet and “just deal with it.” Often, we feel that this means we keep our hurts and disappointments to ourselves. This may not be the best way to handle life changes. By sharing our feelings with others, the burdens become shared and, thus, lighter. This is why we all need relationships and friendships to share the highs and lows of life together. Being open, honest, and transparent can often deeper the relationships we already have, as well.
  5. See the big picture (Broaden your perspective!) – In the midst of a life struggle, it might be difficult to see how it fits into the overall puzzle of our lives. Even negative events are pieces that help to make us whole and complete us. Often, the struggles we face today become pathways of hope for others. My own career journey has provided me with many good and negative examples that I now use to help mentor others. That doesn’t mean it was easy at the time, but if we remember that our experiences make us who we are, it helps us to see a broader picture and might provide encouragement during the struggle.
  6. Look forward (Trust God!) – For me, the most important tool I have to get me through life transitions is my faith in God. His constant care, guidance, and love for me sustains me. When I trust in Him, my cares diminish. God’s Word, the Bible says, “Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7) I believe this and it encourages me.
  7. Imprint happy memories of the past (Remember and Learn!) – My daughter’s family recently lost their pet dachshund that had been a member of their family for ten years. Yesterday, my four-year-old grandson from that family said to me, out of the blue, “We’re glad we still have dog food at our house because that helps us remember when we had a dog.” Remembering those “good times” is important. Looking back can often help us to look forward. And, learning from our past helps us make better decisions and appreciate each day more that we might have otherwise.

Someone once said,

“The most beautiful moments always seemed to accelerate and slip beyond one’s grasp just when you want to hold onto them for as long as possible.”E.A. Bucchianeri

We cannot always hold onto those “good things” that come to us. Learning to appreciate each day for what it is and to move beyond life changing events are important life lessons that make us better individuals in the end.

I have often said to others, “Today might be your best day yet.” However, when it is not… learn from it, appreciate it, savor it, and look forward to tomorrow. You never know when that “best day yet” might come.

 

Actions you should take during those critical first 24 hours after closing an FDA inspection

FDA 2

Much has been written and said about preparing for an FDA inspection (or other regulatory inspection). However, I have not seen anything written which describes what actions are needed during the critical first 24 hours after the inspection closes. Certainly, you need to begin preparing any needed response to the inspection results, but there are a number of significant actions you must take during the first day post-inspection that could very well determine your success or failure for the next inspection.

Let’s take a look at those critical “first 24 hours” actions:

  1. Communicate results to management – Most firms have a policy or standard practice that communication to management regarding inspection results is required immediately after the closing conference. This is important. However, it is also important to communicate to management any other details or actions that could elicit future concerns (such as a Warning Letter) or items that should be addressed in other similar facilities. FDA expects that actions taken be global in application, so other sites should be made aware quickly of any issues that could apply there.
  2. Thank individuals involved in managing the inspection – It is essential that one of the first actions you take after the inspection is to personally thank those that worked so diligently to manage the inspection well. Those in the front room, back room, subject matter experts, and those working behind the scenes need to be identified and thanked for their work and actions leading up to and through the inspection. Many of these individuals worked far beyond their normal work schedule during the inspection and, in some cases, delayed vacations, missed family events, or postponed other important work to ensure the inspection was successful. Consider doing something special for key individuals, such as a gift certificate for two to dinner. Take the time very quickly after the inspection close-out to thank them both privately and publicly.
  3. Thank the entire site for supporting the inspection – A successful inspection result is always tied to the diligence and efforts of the entire site. A site-wide communication summarizing the basic results of the inspection and thanking the site for their efforts goes a long way to encourage future compliance and improvement activities.
  4. Begin laying the groundwork for the next inspection – In most cases, the data and information that will be reviewed during the next inspection begins the day after the inspection closes. The days after an inspection is NOT the time to become lax or less diligent. Emphasize to your inspection management team, the site management team, and all individuals at the site that it is important to remain diligent and exercise a high level of compliance every day and in every activity. This communication can be included in the site-wide communication mentioned above, a site-wide meeting, video, or other means, but it is important that you emphasize continued and ongoing diligence.
  5. Initiate actions to capture and sustain positive momentum – In many cases, the teamwork, effort, and cross-functional camaraderie experienced during an inspection is unmatched by any other activity that occurs at the site. For the period of the inspection, everyone is singly focused on a positive inspection result. Utilize this momentum and work to sustain it. Celebrate this success with a pizza party or other event. Utilize this momentum to tackle other important site projects. Quick action can ensure that you don’t merely get “back to normal” the day after the inspection closes.
  6. Assign responsibilities and actions for any needed formal response – The inspection may result in the need for a formal response back to FDA (or other regulatory agency). Verbal or written items should be addressed comprehensively, so beginning action early and assigning responsibilities for initial/immediate actions are needed early. These do not need to be completed in the first day, but individuals should begin these activities as soon as possible after the closing.
  7. Assign responsibilities and actions for any new “lessons learned” or “close calls” – Most inspections result in “close calls” or “lessons learned.” Assigning responsibilities for actions associated with these should also be made soon after the closing. Speedy action may improve quality, improve compliance, or reduce other risks.

The key point is that it is good to celebrate the conclusion of a regulatory inspection, especially if the result is positive. However, there are some actions you should take within the first workday after the inspection to ensure a smooth transition back to “normal”, to ensure that key contributors are recognized, and to ensure that actions are taken to set the stage for an even better result on the next inspection.

Good luck on your next inspection!

 

A Thousand Lifetimes

I wanted to share something that I saw a few months ago that is meaningful to me, especially today. Carved in a memorial brick in a church in southern Florida, I saw this:

“To Ray: If I live a thousand lifetimes, you’ll still be my sweetheart. – From Maddy”

I don’t know Ray or Maddy. However, I was touched by Maddy’s sentiment to her beloved Ray. But, I wonder if she waited to tell Ray until it was too late.

Today is the 43rd anniversary of my marriage to Elaine. She is the greatest blessing of my life! The years have been full, fun, and fast. Through it all, there is no one I would rather spend my days with. She is my best friend and my sweetheart of a thousand lifetimes! Happy Anniversary, Elaine. I love you!

It is my wish for all of you that you might find the love and happiness that we share. If you have found that love, don’t wait another day without sharing what that person means to you. Express your love today. Don’t assume that you can wait till tomorrow. Say it while you still can.

Have a great day!