Today is the 11th day of the 11th month and at the 11th hour, it will mark 100 years since World War I ended. The armistice to end the fighting between the Allies and Germany was signed on this date in 1918.
The day was originally designated as Armistice Day by Britain, but other countries have modified the holiday to Veterans Day or Remembrance Day to honor not only those who served in World War I but also subsequent battle. Now, Veterans Day acknowledges the service of all veterans, living or dead.
In Britain, the country observes two minutes of silence every year at the 11th hour. Traffic stops, business pauses, public transportation halts and the people of that country pay tribute to those who died and those who were left behind as a result of war.
Even though you might be far from Queen Elizabeth as she lays the armistice wreath, take a moment to reflect today and remember those who sacrificed to make freedom possible.
When I sold my first house, the buyer was visibly nervous at the closing. I assumed her anxiety was due to the financial shock of signing papers for such a large amount, but I was wrong. As I attempted to reassure her, I learned the true reason for her distress.
“Your two dogs were outside when we saw it with the Realtor,” she said. “My young son thinks that they come with the house and will still be there when we move in! He is so excited about moving because of it. I am just nervous about how he is going to react when we arrive and there are no pets to be found.”
We often make assumptions about the motivations behind others’ behavior — whether that be at a house closing, business meeting or political rally. Make it a habit to ask, rather than to assume. You may be seeing the manifestation of something entirely different than what you would guess.
When I am supervising staff or working with others, one of the things I listen for most is their personal preferences for things (approximately) under $5. And then I write them down so I remember them. Later, this information becomes a treasure trove for “the perfect something” to enhance a note of recognition or to express appreciation for a job well done.
My list has quite the variance. I know that a certain person likes Three Musketeers, while another loves salt water taffy, and yet another can’t get enough of Sour Patch Kids. Some on my list would most appreciate a peppermint latte, while others would like a Pez dispenser, a Flair marker, a stress ball, cupcake sprinkles, a holiday tie, alligator office clips, Inkjoy pens or an orange Dreamsicle. I know who likes diet Coke and who prefers diet Pepsi, who likes unicorns and who has a thing for owls. I even know that someone likes pink Starburst (only) and that someone else likes just the dark chocolate Frango mints.
If it’s a low cost item, I take note when someone comments that they would like something. In the past, that has been a certain color earrings they couldn’t find, something from the Smart Women collection, a first-of-the-season caramel apple or a scarf in spirit colors. There is often a lag between the comment and the perfect moment to present it, but that can make an even greater impact.
While it’s important to learn about your colleague’s family and big things in their life, there is great untapped potential that comes from learning about the little things too. Recognition has so much more power when the token is specific and meaningful to the recipient. Listen and pay attention to the little loves, and you will get much more bang from your buck or two.
— beth triplett
One of my favorite ways to assess how someone really feels about an issue is to ask them to give their answer along a spectrum. It’s easy to say that you are for or against something, but that implies a false dichotomy; in reality, there are many shades to an answer and discerning those subtleties provides a much deeper understanding.
For example, in interviews, no one is going to say that they don’t like technology. So I ask: “On the technology spectrum, how comfortable are you with using it: Geek to using it as a practical tool.” Or I may ask: “On the social media spectrum, how engaged are you?” I have found that I receive much more revealing answers and have a truer sense of the person’s actual skills or preferences.
I also use the spectrum scale in other settings. In a recent session about strategic planning with a board, I asked members to rate where they fell on the planning spectrum on such issues as where goals should fall between safe and audacious, whether ideas should fall toward those which fit in the current budget vs. costs should be ignored, whether they weighed in closer to stewardship or innovation, and how they would rate their desire for building on strengths vs. addressing weaknesses. Of course, my scale did not have an exact mid-point, forcing members to stake a preference toward one side or another — which stimulated some great discussions as well as a more clear understanding of how similar (or different) opinions were.
When you frame your questions to receive answers around a spectrum, you will learn about nuances that a simple “yes” or “no” will never reveal. Make it your goal to see the range of grays on your palette before you paint yourself into a black or white corner.
— beth triplett
Some of my favorite weekend activities are attending flea markets or going to garage sales. Many people think of the two events as interchangeable, but a connoisseur knows that when they are true to form, they are quite different.
At a garage sale, people are looking to sell their items and get rid of them. Bargains abound, especially toward the end of the sale, when sellers would rather make you a deal than keep their possessions. At a parish-wide garage sale last weekend, I purchased a manual typewriter for the marked price of 25 cents. The same model is listed on eBay for $55 (not that I am selling it!)
Flea markets, at their purest, are more like antiquing. Items are often sold at a premium, as vendors are hoping to make money from their unique or rare treasures. If something doesn’t sell, they will most likely pack it up and try again later rather than giving it away for a bargain. At my last flea market, I paid $1 for a vintage Rainbow Tablet notepad that is clearly marked for 10 cents as the original price.
To be successful — as a shopper or a seller — you do best when you understand the event and have the right mindset regarding the transactions. While the two selling arenas appear to be similar, in fact, there are important distinctions. I would have expected to pay $25+ rather than 25 cents for the typewriter at a flea market, and would have wanted the 10 cent notepad for, well, 10 cents or less at a garage sale.
Think about the programs your organization is offering and consider whether it is possible they are being confused with another type of event in a similar category. Is your service project being perceived as a fund raiser? Or is your open house really a scheduled program? Maybe your educational webinar is seen as just an advertising pitch? Or what you promote as a town hall is more of a presentation vs. open forum where people can ask questions?
Be clear about the nuances in your category so you can align expectations with reality. People need to know if they need to bring their checkbook or a coin purse to your sale.
— beth triplett
The U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1787, and the first ten Amendments to it were ratified in 1791, just four years later. In the subsequent 225 years, there have only been a dozen more Amendments.
Not only is this a story about America, I think it is also a model for how most change happens.
It is difficult getting the initial concepts from idea to paper, and then it is often challenging to get that concrete delineation of change ratified. Once something is spelled out in writing, it gains clarity, and often this means that what is made clear by the writer is not what others thought it would be.
Once the idea is approved, details must be decided that were either not thought of or not articulated in the initial proposal. I believe this is akin to the Bill of Rights; things were clarified shortly after passage of the Constitution that were not considered or codified in the initial document. When a new process or program is introduced is when the most decisions must be made, as there is no precedent or clear interpretation of what was intended.
But after a change is in effect for a period, people adjust and understand the parameters and fewer major modifications are required. The change also becomes ingrained; it would be incredibly difficult to abolish or even rewrite the Constitution today.
The next time you are trying to enact a major change, follow the constitutional model. Get approval as soon as you are able for the broad initial constructs. Clarify or amend shortly thereafter to provide the detail necessary for implementation, and then let time take over to help the “change” become accepted as the “normal.” (This is why “piloting” something works so well; it reduces the barriers to start and inertia takes over to help build momentum towards permanence.)
America is a different place than when the Founders took out their quills and penned the initial document, but the change process remains as consistent as the Constitution itself. Think about that the next time you want to create your own revolution.
— beth triplett
Of all the chores I regularly do, laundry is my favorite. I also think that it provides lessons on how we can do other work:
> It’s an effective use of in between time. Doing laundry isn’t exactly multi-tasking in the traditional sense, but I can read while the cycle is running and still feel like I am being productive. I get downtime without any twinge of guilt if a load or two is done in between!
> I set limits on laundry. I do it on Sundays, and even though dirty clothes will accumulate as soon as Sunday night, I never think of dealing with them until the next weekend. This is a good practice in setting boundaries and applies to many other things (like how often you check email and social media, or how many hours you work.)
> It is a finite task. When the laundry is finished on Sunday afternoon, it is done. There is a tangible product, and an output. In the words of Seth Godin, “we shipped.” Your work should provide a sense of satisfaction on a completed job well done, even if it is putting the last of the clean clothes in the drawer.
Most everything we do has lessons for other things. Take a new look at your routine chores like laundry and see if there are things you can learn that relate to your work or other duties. There may be unseen lessons that come out in the wash.
— beth triplett
I had a vinyl window cling in my window that no longer was applicable so I removed it. At first glance, it appeared to come off without leaving a trace, but when sunlight came, the outline of the decal was quite apparent.
I washed the window and the same thing happened: at first it seemed like the residue had disappeared, but when I viewed it in daylight, the outline remained. I needed to use the trusty Goo Gone and a lot of elbow grease to truly remove its presence.
Do you have experiences like this vinyl decal: you think it is easy to put them behind you, but in reality their effects linger on? Maybe in one light it’s possible to forget that it was there, but in other settings it is not.
Memories and experiences can be like this decal. As much as you wish you could just make them disappear, their impact is deeper than that. Allow yourself some time and prepare for some effort to banish them.
— beth triplett
If you keep up with dishes and do them right away, it requires little effort to keep the dishes clean. If you let them sit in the sink for days on end, the food dries and hardens, thus requiring strength to remove it.
I think this simple little analogy applies to weight loss as well. If you eat healthy foods on a regular basis and maintain your desired weight, it becomes a routine that demands less from you. But if you ignore your weight for awhile, it will require a much more strenuous effort when you turn your attention towards it.
The same can be said for all sorts of projects. If you keep up with the data collection, it’s a piece of cake. If you go back and try to recreate it, it is arduous. If you are attentive to lawn maintenance, it is easy to maintain. If you let erosion and weeds take over, you have a chore on your hands to reclaim your landscaping.
The next time you’re tempted to procrastinate or put off a seemingly minor task, visualize the stack of dishes. Do you want to wipe away the food with ease or spend the time deep scrubbing the pot?
— beth triplett
“To say a person is a happy person or an unhappy person is ridiculous. We are a thousand different kinds of people every hour.” — Anthony Doerr, “Memory Wall”
The above quote was recently published in the O magazine and it struck me as being particularly relevant.
I have recently experienced a big life change and so people are frequently asking me how I am. I want to answer that I am a pie chart of emotions. Some days (moments?) the proportion of feelings shifts, but I never am feeling just one thing. There is a whole conglomeration of emotion wrapped up inside.
Whether it be with emotion, strategy or deciding what path to take, resist the urge to label something as one way or the other. Life is much more complex than that and you’ll do best to acknowledge the amalgamation rather than the dichotomy.
— beth triplett
*Message card in February, 2016 O Magazine