Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Dropping The Ball

Dropping the ball isn't just a sport's term involving football, baseball, or soccer. For some 'professionals', unfortunately, it's an every day way of doing business. So, what does that say about our society? That many people are all talk and no action? Please note, that not ALL professionals act this way, but like any other situation it is the subpar ones that can sometimes result in stereotyping an entire profession or company.

Here are a few examples, from personal experience.

Some college professionals (professors, administrators, advisers) will tell their graduating seniors to USE THEIR COLLEGE NETWORK. They will suggest that once you are a (fill in the college mascot) that you help one another. They will tell you that alumni stick together. People in hiring positions will recruit from their alma maters because they consider their education to be the best there is. Your professors and advisers will tell you they'll have insights that will help you find a job after graduation, but when they tell you to send them an email and they'll get you the information for a specific job opening that just came up and don't reply to your emails the graduates are left scratching their heads. What happened to USING YOUR COLLEGE NETWORK? Does that only work while you are still paying tuition?

There were times I had been on an interview that I felt went very well. I communicated well with my interviewer and was told they would follow up in 'x' amount of days, either way. Then the proposed timeline came and went. There are professionals out there who won't waste your time or theirs. If you aren't what they are looking for they will send you a professional and direct response right away. I would much rather have someone respect my time as much as they want me to respect theirs. Don't keep me dangling waiting on your response that was promised on your timeline. Don't drop the ball. A professional that shows follow through tells me a lot about them and the company they represent. If they drop the ball it often can indicate how an employee would be treated if they were hired. I wonder if they realize that?

When a company takes the time and the expense to promote their company and its product or service that indicates to me that they WANT the business. But when you call the number they have in print and leave a message (or even speak with them or a receptionist), it's a real bummer when they never call you back and never make the appointment for the estimate or answer the questions you had. If they are too busy to return my calls or emails, then they are dropping the ball. Their absence of communication clearly tells me either they aren't the professionals they claim to be or they have so much business that they are way too busy to handle mine - if that is the case then I wonder why they choose to waste their money on advertising. Sometimes what people don't tell you actually says more.

Yes, dropping the ball isn't just about sports. It's also about a lack of respect and professionalism. It's says my business, my time, or my potential interest in your company doesn't matter. Hmmm, I will most definitely keep that in mind when my circle of friends ask for my referrals and reviews.
Just saying ...
When was the last time you felt like someone 'dropped the ball' professionally?

To be fair, when was the last time you felt that a particular professional truly stepped up to the plate (gosh, all these sports analogies, lol)?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What Is Your Purpose?

Life is full of transitions. We grow up. We grow older. Hopefully in the midst of it all, we even grow a little wiser. We face challenges and battles; some expected and some not. I often wish I had a crystal ball that could clue me in on what I am supposed to be doing, when I should be doing it, and what the ultimate goal and outcome will be. It's mind-boggling when I think of the time and effort I put in to projects, never knowing if I am ultimately making a difference or even on the right path.
I know many people who have struggled after a divorce or the death of a loved one. They felt lost for a long time and tried to figure out what their new identity looked like now that they were 'one' instead of  'two'. I've seen some college graduates wander aimlessly after graduation, with their diploma in hand, trying to discern what they would do next and where they would go. Life is full of questions.
We look around. We assume we know what direction we are heading. We hope we know what our future holds. Sometimes, though, what we are meant to do finds us when we aren't looking for it. We're so busy focusing on the bigger picture that sometimes we don't see what is right in front of us.
We should ask ourselves WHY we think we want something. Is it our head or our heart leading us? Maybe we should be more open to the possibilities. Life is full of them. The right job, relationship, and project will come along. By nature, we are impatient. We want to know the WHO, the WHAT, the WHERE, the WHY, and the WHEN. We don't like to wait and we certainly don't like to guess what is coming next. How can we be expected to be ready or do our best if we are surprised?
So what do we do? We hold on to hope and faith. The hope is something that gives our mind reassurance. The faith is something that reassures our heart and soul. Ultimately God knows the plan and will clue us in on the details when the time is right. Knowing that we are never alone is reassurance of the biggest kind, that's where we'll find our drive and our strength to face the uncertainties.
How do you stay focused and on track with your goals and clarifying what your purpose is?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Some Things Run Their Course

Canned foods have a shelf life. Fresh fruit and meat will spoil after a certain number of days. Plants and flowers have certain seasons of growth. Some things in life run their course, and that's okay. Not everything lasts forever. Relationships will mature and change, they won't always be exactly the same as they used to be. Even friendships will go through cycles, some will last and some will not.
I've noticed through my job and various volunteer organizations that even some projects have life spans. I've been part of different service and outreach groups over the years that had a lot of momentum for a long time, then things changed. Life changes. Your core group of volunteers move through different phases of their lives. The economy changes, ultimately limiting the funding that the projects need. Sometimes the passion or interest just isn't there anymore. When that happens, it is okay. It doesn't mean that the project is no longer good or isn't serving a purpose. It can be compared to pruning a plant. Sometimes you need to trim back the stagnant growth in order to make way for new and better growth.
Projects need to be backed by people who have the right motivation and passion. We are all human. Our responsibilities, our goals, and the amount of time we have to offer changes (sometimes all in the same day). When this happens we need to know that it's okay for us to step back and make way for someone new to jump in. It doesn't mean we don't believe in the project or the relationship any more, it just means that our perspective and what we feel we can offer has changed. Often when I've done something for a long time I feel like I am somehow abandoning it when I have to step back, when in reality I am not. If the project is meant to continue, it will. If the friendship is meant to stay strong, it will. I can only accept responsibility for my own actions. Projects and relationships involve more than just me. They require commitment and involvement from others as well. Those other people will take responsibility for their choices, as I have for my own.
Things will work out in the end. If you ever feel overwhelmed, overloaded, or over-extended  ... know that it is okay to step back and take a breather. Perhaps your heart is leading you towards a new project, something that you feel a renewed sense of passion for. It is okay to put yourself and your needs first. You can't give more of yourself than you have to offer. It's better to feel that you've done something well and with excitement than continue to do something your heart is no longer in to.
Volunteering is something I have always felt passionate about, but what I have accomplished and where I have done it does change with time. Volunteering is part of my core being. Volunteers should never be overlooked or underappreciated. Without us, a lot of things would never get done. Some volunteer opportunities will run their course, and that is okay. New opportunities will present themselves at the right time. Something you have moved on from may be the exact starting point that someone else is looking for.
When is the last time you gave in to the urge to step back from a volunteer role?
Did things still move forward without you?
Did you find something new that you could feel excited about?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Blind Faith

We are often faced with situations and circumstances that we weren't planning for; the loss of a loved one, a traffic accident, an unwanted diagnosis, a pregnancy we were hoping for, a surprise visit from a friend. Not all situations or circumstances are bad, or even unwanted. Yet, they can still catch us by surprise. The question is ... how do we react when we come face to face with them? Do we welcome the situations with open arms or do we question everything about them? WHY is something happening? WHO will it affect? WHEN will we have the answers we feel we need to go forward? HOW will we handle it? WILL it be a good thing?
We go on Blind Faith. Blind, not just because we can't see the answers in front of us in a clear black and white, but because we believe that God will walk alongside of us and give us the tools we need to deal with it; whether that be patience, knowledge, or strength.
Faith is something that is bigger than we are, stronger than we are, goes deeper into our hearts than what can sometimes make us feel comfortable, and yet, has an unending supply. Faith is what we choose to make of it. It's free. It doesn't have to cost us a thing, other than being humble and perhaps vulnerable when we don't want to be. The cost is up to us. How much do we want to invest in our faith? Faith isn't something someone else can give us, rather we need to accept it on our own. Others can certainly share theirs with us and show us the possibilities, but ultimately faith will always be our own personal choice.
How is your faith these days? Does is keep you strong and steady? Does it waiver in its stability on certain days? More importantly, what can you do to strengthen it?
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understandings; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.'

Monday, May 29, 2017

Things To Be Afraid Of

We live in a frightening world. There are things that everyone should be scared of, or at least feel a little uneasy around; snakes, spiders, creepy dolls, dark deserted streets at night, clowns, MRI machines, taxes, and sometimes even commitments. Everyone is different, which is a good thing. It would be boring if we were all alike, so it only stands to reason that everyone would have different fears as well.

What should we do? Should we avoid the things we are afraid of at all costs? Some things ... absolutely. A fear can take us deep down to our inner core and bring us to our knees. But if a fear is just a discomfort, perhaps it is something we need to overcome for our own sake in order to build stamina and our confidence level.

If you are afraid of heights for a certain reason, maybe it's not a good idea to jump out of a plane (with a parachute, of course). But if you're afraid because you've never tried it or because you've piggy backed on to someone else's fear, that isn't good either. That fear now holds you captive.

If you cannot swim, then you should never consider cliff diving. But riding in a canoe while wearing a life jacket on a lazy river with someone who is experienced on the water might be worth considering.

What things should we never be afraid of? To try something new. Failure. Falling off the horse and getting back on (metaphorically speaking). We will never be able to control certain aspects of our lives, but whoever said that we would? The world has lots of unknowns; some good, some not so much. We have to deal with whatever cards we are dealt and learn to not only find a way to cope, but hopefully bring something good out of it as well. 

I've known people who have dealt with sickness, with grief, and with overcoming unthinkable odds. But they didn't let their situations define who they were or who they wanted to be. Through the process they learned things about themselves they never knew. They discovered their inner strength, they discovered their courage, and they discovered their voice.

It's okay to be afraid, when needed, but don't let it stop you from reaching for the stars, from attaining your dreams, or from letting your voice be heard.

What are you afraid of? How do you handle it? Have you been able to get past it?

Friday, May 19, 2017

The BIG Question

Every day we face hardships, unwanted circumstances, and health scares. We often find ourselves asking the BIG question of 'Why?'. WHY did a friend have to die so young? WHY did your spouse lose the job they loved? WHY didn't you get the job you were more than qualified for? When we start asking this question it is usually because something has happened that we had no control over. We all like to know what our future holds and how we can be better prepared for the hurdles, but then 'things' happen that we simply don't understand. Then we feel a little lost. We feel insecure.
But what if we tried not to focus on the WHY? What if, instead, we focused on the bigger question of 'What should I do now?' There will always be things we have no control over; things that are out of our hands.
Any one that knows me well, knows that I love words. I love to write, but more importantly I love to hear what people have to say. Words can tell a story. Words have the power to lift us up and tear us down. When words are good I like to remind myself of them. I have a tattered piece of paper taped to the top left corner of my computer at work that says this ...
'To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.' When God takes something from your grasp, He's not punishing you, but merely opening your hands to receive something better. Remember that 'The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.'
We can't always stopped the unpleasant things in life from happening, but we can control our attitudes and how we handle the circumstances. We can let them define us and dictate what direction we will let them take us in OR we can take a deep breath, take it all in, and decide what we want to take with us from the situation. My pastor recently said on Mother's Day that some women are mothers who choose to stay home with their kids, there are mothers who try to balance work both inside and outside the home, and there are mothers who had a lousy example of what a mom was when they were growing up. He also said that those last mothers don't have to let their upbringing define them. They have the choice of breaking the cycle and changing what the next generation looks like.
We will always ask WHY? But we can also ask 'What should I do now?' The choice is still ours.
When was the last time you asked WHY? What happened next?

Monday, May 8, 2017

When Time Stands Still

When I was a kid, time could never move fast enough. It seemed to take forever for holidays, birthdays, and even Saturday mornings to come. It was like the sand in the hour glass was stuck. But, as a kid, I was never very patient. Ironically, not much has changed as I've grown up. I'm still impatient, but now it's because I'm busy with responsibilities, To Do lists, and busy schedules.

As a parent, time had different issues; there was never enough of it. By the time we worked, did the laundry, cleaned the house, helped the kids with their homework, got them to their functions, etc. we often didn't have any time leftover for ourselves, much less ... a full night's sleep.

But amidst this crazy journey called 'life' I have discovered something AMAZING. I've moved into my next phase; that of being a grandparent. It's proving to be one of my favorite phases, truth be told. Why? Not because I get to spoil my granddaughters and then give them back to their parents, but because when I get to spend time with them ... time seems to stand still. I can't explain how or why it happens, but just last week I played 'stickers' with one granddaughter and rocked the other and realized that over the course of an hour I NEVER looked at the clock. So, in my mind, time did stand still. It was fascinating, truly scientific (I'm sure), and completely beautiful.

If this is part of what happens as a grandparent, I am THRILLED. It may take some creative scheduling to carve out the time needed to make a trip to the west side of the mitten, but it is definitely worth it. Today I drove to my son and daughter-in-law's house to stay for a couple of days and I had time to read to the 'little ones', rock the baby for few hours, giggle with the toddler, and for a change; live in the moment. 

What am I learning? That obviously I shouldn't look at the clock quite as much as I do, but some habits are harder to break than others. Like everyone else I am a constant work in progress. I learn as I go. The good news, though, is that I keep learning.