What if Work Could be an Awakening to Living Wholeheartedly?

I have always had the drive to have a job that makes a difference. I think most people would say they feel the same way.

My first job out of college was idealistic; we thought we were going to change the world with our products. We worked hard for long hours to get things off the ground. The stress levels were heavy. At the end of the day, all I could manage was to collapse onto my couch and watch Netflix. I had no emotional space left. I had no physical energy left. I couldn’t uphold the high hopes my art professors had of me continuing my studio practice. The relationship with my fiancé was rocky. He would say, “You need to learn how to leave work at work,” at least once a day. I carried the black cloud of stress and pressure with me wherever I went. It consumed me.

We get used to the pressure, the darkness, the stress. We think, Everyone feels this way–so I just need push through and keep going. One day at a time. But what if work could be a place to blossom? A place to live wholeheartedly (Brene Brown) and let that flow into all the other parts of your life? A place to refresh, renew, and grow in all areas?

It’s possible. Here are some characteristics of companies that grow their employees instead of draining them:

They are truly interested in the other areas of your life. Do you like to paint? Draw? Dance? Make music? They find ways to incorporate that into work or support you in your endeavors.

They encourage travel and play as a necessary part of your personal growth and innovation.

They believe that when you are physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy you do your best work. Then they back this ideal up with action, not just talk.

Titles aren’t important. Not because it’s a startup that hasn’t picked titles yet, but because there are no egos. Even from the top level. Titles are seen as necessary tools to get you where you need to go in the outside world, but internally everyone is just as important as the next.

They balance that belief with the idea that you are unique, special, and valuable as a sum of your parts, not just for your degree or experience. Who you are as a whole is more important than where you’ve been.

They are flexible when it comes to your job and growth. They believe you are the right person for the team and the company culture—and of course value your experience and schooling—but once you dig into your job, they are not afraid to flex the role around you. Bottom line: they don’t try and nudge and cajole you into a rigid role.

A company that sees you as a whole, sees you as valuable, and sees you for who you truly are, is unfortunately not very common. But we deserve to stop separating work as a thing to just “get through.” We are living one life, where everything we do is connected, and the ripple effects are powerful. Sometimes you don’t even know what you’ve shut down until it comes alive again. When your job values you as a whole person, work can be the epicenter of life and love and green things to grow in every corner of your world.

Saying No

We are in an age of overstimulation. Even in relatively small Bend Oregon, there are a handful of fun events to do any given night of the week, not to count the many festivals throughout the year. We have friend time and family time and every time in between. Holidays, birthdays, traveling, presents to buy, things to accomplish. We don’t want to be left out, and we also don’t feel justified in saying “we can’t make it!” when there isn’t an obvious excuse. In all this whirlwind of activity, we live our lives moment to moment, week to week, until we wake up one day and realize how much time has disappeared.

When you feel stretched thin and out of control, can you really be your truest self, and accomplish your best work? We don’t believe so. This is true not only on a personal level but also as a company.

We center our core around our company “Hedgehog,” a concept by Jim Collins and his team. In simple terms, we focus on the intersection of three things. What we can be the best in the world at, what drives our economic engine, and what we are deeply passionate about.

In reality, staying true to our core is a challenge. It means we must unbiasedly understand what we can (and can’t) be the best at in the world, find our own economic driver and how we fit into our industry, and dig deep to find our true passion at the core of our company. Perhaps most importantly, a true understanding of the intersection means saying no. Saying no to opportunities that are outside our hedgehog. Saying no to some jobs we probably could figure out given time, but are not in our core competency. Making “stop doing lists” (also a Jim Collins concept), and rearranging resources when employees have too much on their plate.

When you ask yourself “does it fit in our hedgehog?” before making decisions as a company, it does some miraculous things.

1. You create a space for forward-thinking instead of reactive action.

2. It brings peace and effectiveness when employees aren’t trying to force things to work that won’t.

3. Employees have clarity on how to contribute to the companies march forward.

4. You avoid the overpromise-underdeliver results that drain morale.

5. People feel successful, confident, and hopeful, instead of out of control.

It is a powerful thing, saying no.

Our personal lives are so deeply connected to our workday that if you are living a life without saying no, you might start to feel out of control. When we start to feel like we are out of control, we all react in different but unhealthy ways to gain that control back.

So in life and business, it’s healthy to say, “No,” sometimes. Don’t say no to everything; just take the time to analyze if it is in your core competency.

Find the power of your new spirit animal: the hedgehog.

The Confrontation of Compliments

A new year is upon us. We are making resolutions and plans for 2018. We are thinking about ourselves a lot this time of year, and that’s not a bad thing. We are evaluating our talents, our struggles, and where we want to improve. We are also thinking about how we can change the world for the better, and what kind of impact we can have on the lives around us. Sometimes the smallest parts of our day can make a difference for others.

Take for example, when we are confronted with compliments. How do we usually react? Often, we brush it off, make it seem small, shoot a compliment back, add an exception, downplay our part in whatever it is we are being thanked for. In a social experiment by John Bates called “The Compliment Experiment”, he runs through two scenarios of accepting a compliment. When he receives a compliment the first time, he brushes it off, shrugs, and makes light of it. He then asks the giver of the compliment to assess how it made him feel.

Take a moment to think about how you feel when you give someone a genuine compliment, and they give a “pfftttt, it’s nothing” reaction. How does it make you feel to be brushed off? Do you feel like you contributed to that person’s day? Do you feel more connected to them? Do you get that warm fuzzy feeling inside? No. You feel superfluous. You aren’t needed, that person is doing fine on their own. Whatever meant a lot to you, didn’t mean anything to them. If we want to make a difference in the world, how can we do that if we are making others feel small?

We are generally trained from a young age to be humble. In the second grade, when you stated, “I’m faster than you”, you got scolded for being unkind. We learn quickly that being polite is more important than the truth. And while we do, of course, want to be kind in social interactions, it is also OK to know what you are good at, and what you are not good at. So, when someone says that we are good at something, or says they are thankful for something we did, how can we react in a socially acceptable way, without seeming prideful? How do we make the individual giving the compliment feel valuable?

Bates shows us that it is simple to genuinely and graciously accept a compliment. He looks them in the eye and heartily says “thank you”.

That’s it.

Don’t block it with another compliment. Don’t shrug and say “no big deal”. Accept it as the gift that it is, and store it away in your heart. Connect with this special someone that got up the courage to share their thoughts with you. Shake their hand, or give them a hug if you have that kind of connection, but just let the compliment be. Don’t add to it, and don’t take away from it. Be thankful for that person in your life, or that passing stranger that told you your face looks like sunshine.

This year try simply accepting compliments when they are given to you, and see what a difference it can make.

Art Credit: Caligraphy by Crystal Binoeder, Painting by Addie DeLong.

Attitude Isn’t Everything

Attitude is everything. How many times have we heard this cliché, or read an article on why attitude is essential and how to “change” it? Does it mean we just need to be “happy” all the time and fake it when we aren’t? Why is it toted as such a simple thing, when it’s not? What does it even mean?

Attitude is a very important subject to me, as I have been told that I always seem happy, smiley, bubbly, and outgoing. The problem with this belief is the “always” part. It’s strange to me when I get asked “are you ever upset?” or “I can’t imagine you mad.” I’m a human! Of course, I get upset, angry, frustrated, stressed—all of the above. People who know me better see the variations of me. But through it all, I am generally a joyful person, and I have been told I have a great attitude (cue the overly-bright smile).

The problem is that I believe having a good “attitude” gets all tangled up with being “outgoing and bubbly.” This is an issue because being upbeat is part of my wiring, my personality. There are so many different personality types out there, ranging on a gradient from highly introverted to extremely extroverted. If you are a quieter person you may be perceived as “having a bad attitude” when really you are deliberative and take time to make decisions and speak up. If you are more outgoing, you can be perceived as “overly emotional” at times, and this can also seem like a bad attitude.

We believe a good attitude transcends personality. So as an employer, employee, owner, or anything in-between, let’s consider the top five things that we think make a great attitude.

1. Adapting to changing situations quickly and efficiently.

This includes having a good attitude while you change directions! If change is as common as the clichés suggest, we might as well use every moment to learn how to pivot faster and have a good time doing it. Something that might help with this is to be realistic about the good AND the bad things that a change will bring. Then you can make a list of ideas to counter the bad effects, and find joy in the benefits the change will bring.

2. A true willingness to work in a team, without seeking personal glory.

This one is hard for me, and I would say anyone who cared about getting good grades in school has a hard time with this as well. Even during group projects, we were scored individually. I worked hard! I want the recognition, the glory. But there isn’t a place for that in a well-functioning team. Striking a balance between confidence and humbleness is a struggle, but the results are worth it.

3. Being authentically ourselves, through the good days and bad.

Being authentic with those that we work with means being honest with where you are at in the moment. Again, it is a balance. It means that when you are having a really hard day, you don’t ignore it and try to just keep moving. You stop, take a moment, and communicate with those you work with so everyone is on the same page.

4. Honesty, even when it is hardest.

This is obvious but also difficult! When you do make a mistake, or something goes wrong, you must trust your team enough to be honest—always. Most of the sitcoms that we love are built around hiding mistakes from friends, family, or coworkers, but the plot inevitably falls apart. It’s entertaining when it’s happening to actors, but the damage these kinds of actions cause in real life can be detrimental.

5. Forgiving others, forgiving ourselves.

When athletes make a mistake, they must move forward and focus on the next play. If they get self-centered and focused on their mistake, they will not only play badly, but they will also bring down the rest of the team. We must strike a balance between forgiving others when they make a mistake, but also holding each other to a high standard. This is also a balance that is hard to strike, but if forgiveness is at the center, everyone can move forward.

The truth is, we are human. We make mistakes, we get emotional, we have bad days. But we are also unique, important, and valuable. Don’t strive to have a “good attitude” if what that means is faking a smile. We learn and grow through our actions. Most of all, don’t be discouraged if this list seems hard to accomplish. We are all on a journey! Forgive yourself—the next play is yours.

Why focusing on your passions won’t get you the dream job

Our world is expanding all the time with new job roles that have never existed before. Technology is changing rapidly, and we are more connected globally than ever in history. This is exciting, but how can we successfully navigate such a landscape and find our place in it? How can we find the perfect job role when that job might not even exist right now?

I graduated with an BS in Art and Business Management. You might be thinking that I wanted to have a business degree so I would know how to sell my art, but you would be wrong. I do not have the personality to sit in a studio and create art. That is a much harder job than our society would lead us to believe. I graduated without having a clear vision of how these passions would come together for me. In the few years since graduating I’ve held positions in project management, HR, video, recruiting, teaching, and now in PR and Marketing.

It’s been a long journey in a few short years to where I am now, and I don’t think I’m alone in the uncertain path after graduation. If you found your dream job right after graduation, then congratulations! You got lucky or did it right. But, for the rest of us, it can be a messy few years (or decades). I would like to suggest that the problem lies with a misplaced focus on passion.

We are constantly asking and re-evaluating the question, “what am I PASSIONATE about?”. There are hundreds of articles, books, Pinterest boards, and inspirational speakers that call for us to start with our passions. And here’s the thing. I get this. I even think it’s important. However, I think it’s misleading, and here’s why.

What am I passionate about? Art, painting, dogs, travel, business, making new connections, spending time with family and friends. I spent a lot of time writing and re-writing lists, wracking my brain to find the job that my passions lead me to. These lists didn’t help me find a company to work for. It didn’t even help me single in on a solid career direction. (Dog washer? Gallery director?) I was stumped after those two options. I knew there were so many ways to combine these passions, but how do I find them? Where do I begin?

What if, for a moment, we started with what kind of company we want to work for instead of what kind of job we want? What qualities would a company have that would make me want to work for them?

I want a company that has a long-term mindset with ambitious goals, flexibility, true transparency, the opportunity to travel, celebrations when we succeed, the ability to take calculated risks, trust, true connections with coworkers, ethical practices, charitable giving, opportunities to grow as an individual and as a company, good coffee AND tea, and ultimately, to be truly known and loved.

This thinking ignores the company product or service. Instead, it focuses on HOW they do what they do. It certainly doesn’t discount passion, it just incorporates passion into a wholistic view of the company. I want to be a part of a company where my passion is authentically recognized, valued, and shared. When you find a company that is truly a fit, the job role will fall into place around their needs and your talents.

So my suggestion to you, fellow young (or young at heart) persons searching for true joy at your job, is to make your own list. Your uncompromising list, of what KIND of team you want to be a part of, not the product they sell or the job they currently have open. If you focus on passion first, you might never find the kind of company you want to work for. I never would have seen myself working for a company that creates cables, wires and connectors. But here I am, so happy and thankful to be a part of this amazing team.

To break it down for you:
1. Do research on some companies that you are drawn to. What kinds of qualities do they have that you admire?
2. Create a list of company qualities you are looking for.
3. Search for companies in your area (you can find companies in your area by searching in your zip code on LinkedIn).
4. Research the company’s social media platforms, online engagement, websites, and career pages to see if they live out the qualities on your list.
5. Send your resume with a cover letter to companies you are interested in. (Whether they have posted open jobs or not!).

Here’s the kicker: You have a lot of content to create a unique cover letter. You can share why you want to work for their company, and it will be genuine and sincere.

For my entrepreneur friends who are thinking right now “I’ve followed my passion right into a career of my own!” That is amazing and I am rooting for you! You are a leader that will CREATE the space and culture that others want to join. We need you. Keep it up!

If you are interested in learning more about the amazing company I work for, Tensility International Corporation, check out our career page. (http://careers.tensility.com/)

We want to hear about your list, so comment and share!

Photo credit: Landscape photos by Jenni Kowal