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Entries for the 'Musings' Category

Free or Trapped?

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Ever think about how you ended up in the job or career path you are in?

You might be participating in a family business. Maybe a friend recruited you. You needed a paycheck and grabbed something that pays the bills. You wanted the prestige that goes with your profession. You chose to climb the corporate ladder to get the responsibilities, pay, and status that goes with doing so. You are trying to finance a certain lifestyle. Someone once told you that you would be good at this sort of work.

What is your story?

In particular, and the focus of this morning’s reflection, how much choice did you have in the matter?

Was it the only job that was available? Would any other choice have felt demeaning or less prestigious? Were you responding to family expectations? Were you competing with peers? Were you desperate for any paying work? Were you protecting your job security?

Whether we feel free or trapped is a huge factor in shaping how we deal with situations at work. Especially all that is complicated and unpleasant in our jobs!

If we feel free (i.e. we chose our situation and feel we have a choice about whether or not we will stay in our situation), we are much more likely to be able (more…)

Decisions Not So Black and White

Thursday, May 19th, 2011


It’s common and not an entirely bad thing to want to make the “right” decision instead of the “wrong” decision.

We all want our decisions to be validated in the crucible of reality.

But it is fallacious to assume either that there are only two alternatives (the right one or the wrong one), or that the reason that some decisions don’t work out has to do with a fatal flaw in the original decision.

Let’s take the two problems one at a time.

First, that there is a “right” decision to be made and all other decisions are flatly “wrong”.

This either-or, blank-and-white thinking is naive at best if not outright dangerous.

Instead of a fork in the road, imagine a chess board. There are many possible moves to make. There are multiple strategies one might select and/or switch between. There is also another player involved who is making decisions with varying degrees of precision, shrewdness and finesse of their own.

Imagine then an (as yet not invented) eight-person chess game with an octagonal gigantic chess board. Multiple decision-makers and multiple dynamics (more…)

Three Accounting Travesties

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Three accounting travesties: no means of quantifying trust, initiative or learning.

No wonder our investments in building each are so paltry.

Loving Monday: Tell Yourself the Truth

Monday, March 21st, 2011

loving_mondayToo many leaders are unable or unwilling to tell people the truth.

It is sad but true.

This inability to trust others with the truth covers myriad facets of work life. The truth about company finances, the truth about impending lay-offs, the truth about promotion prospects, the truth about changing deadlines, the truth about management planning… and the list goes on.

Today I want to focus on the unfortunate reality that so many leaders cannot tell you the truth about you.

FACT: Everyone has strengths, skills, talents and abilities. Therefore there is always something to affirm, empower and reward about everyone on the team.

FACT: Everyone is imperfect, learning, makes mistakes, chokes, falters, and fails on occasion. Therefore there is always room for constructive confrontation.

If leaders could tell people the truth about themselves, they would never be at a loss for extending compliments, expanding responsibilities or extending rewards. At the same time, in the ordinary course of events, leaders would be pointing out (more…)

Tip the Desk: Simplifying the Cathartic Way

Friday, February 18th, 2011

A fun gift the less organized among us should give ourselves occasionally is to “tip the desk.”

Not only is it a lot of fun (yes, I have indulged), the combination of a clean desk and the catharsis of acting out so dramatically makes for a powerful attitude boost.

A bit impractical you figure, until, of course, you realize that your piles could not become any less organized on the floor than they are already on top of your desk.

After prudently removing breakable items like the computer, telephone, and paper-clip sculpture your son made for you, plant your feet firmly, hold your back erect, and lift the desk to that precise angle where the mountains of paper go careening onto the floor.

As you set your perfectly clean desk down and settle back into your chair, you will notice that those unseemly mounds now lie conveniently out of view.

After reacquainting yourself with its sleek, smooth surface, step around the desk, select one item from the “differently organized” piles on the floor, and return to your seat to enjoy an uncluttered, focused effort.

On your side,

– Karl Edwards

The Simplify Journey

Cheryl Smith hosts a wonderful blog over at CultureSmith. If you aren’t a regular visitor start today.

Today’s post is in response to her “The Simplify Journey” column and call for contributions.

Join the conversation.

Building a Distinct Approach to Your New Year’s Resolution

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

For as widespread as the practice of setting New Year’s Resolutions is, almost more common is the expectation that these resolutions will not, in fact, be kept.

Are we becoming too cynical? Or are we merely laughing at our own failings?

The problem with how we traditionally approach New Year’s resolutions is that it’s such an all-or-nothing affair.

Most of us set an ambitious goal for ourselves. So far so good. It’s helpful to have a goal and for that goal to be specific.

But then we articulate the goal as an all-or-nothing proposition. In other words the only two options available are to keep it entirely or to fail it utterly.

“I will lose 15 pounds.” “I will keep my desk clean.” “I will stop calling the Trojan (more…)

Life is a Casserole… Still a Feast, Just Not Very Pretty

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

I begin with an apology to those for whom work and life come easy. To those for whose priorities sort themselves out before any difficult choice needs to be made, this article may seem so much wasted breath.

We tend to think about the various contexts of life separately. Work, family, friends, politics, sports, religion, hobbies, etc.

We then proceed to burden ourselves with the task of achieving a mythical ideal of “balance” between them all. As if there existed some ideal slicing of the pie, so to speak, by which we would be appropriately invested in each compartment in such a way that we were neither overwhelmed by any one of them.

Better than slices of pie, though, is the analogy of the seven-course meal. Each course in its time, each course serving its culinary purpose, each course designed to delight all of the senses. So we think about our various contexts of life. Each should have its time, accomplish its purpose, and result in its benefits.

Reality, though, rarely (I’m dying to say “never”) works out so neatly. Reality is messy. Reality consists of the unexpected, the complex, much that is broken, and much that does not fit very well.

Instead of embracing the messiness of reality, we launch on our various heroic quests for the holy grail of “balance.”

Maybe the casserole would be a yet better analogy for life than the seven-course meal. All the same ingredients are present, but the presentation isn’t as beautiful and the components aren’t artificially kept separate.

The task of building a meaningful and rewarding life feels differently to me when my goal is to simply concoct the most delicious casserole I can. Instead of chasing some mythical ideal of the perfectly balanced seven-course meal, I am working with who I currently am and with what and whom I currently have in the pantry.

What have you got in the pantry? Instead of stressing about what’s not there, how about taking stock of what is there. Instead of viewing what is there through the eyes of the seven-course meal and how far short it falls of that ideal, view it through the eyes of the casserole and what delicious combinations can be created by you.

The gourmet sausage industry did not grow out of trying to figure out what to do with the best cuts of meat.

Work, family, friends, politics, sports, religion and hobbies don’t need to be artificially isolated from each other and set at odds with each other. We don’t need to argue about whether the main course should be work or family or religion.

If I can be ok with the harsh reality that casseroles will never look as beautiful, organized or balanced as a meal with courses, then I can relax and enjoy how delightfully yummy it is.

I have, in essence, traded the unattainable and mythical ideal of balance for the always available if messy reality of flavor.

Still a feast, just not very pretty.

On your side,

- Karl Edwards

Keeping It Real: Dying to Live Up to Expectations

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Up to whose expectations am I trying to live?

The too-easy answer for a person with a Christian spirituality like myself is God’s.

That’s the “right” answer. The textbook answer. In light of the goodness and power and perfection of God, how could any other set of expectations be considered?

image credit to Unnikrishna Menon DamodaranThe problem with the “right” answer is that truncates our thinking about the issue before it even begins. We know that God never expects humans to be less than human. So free and responsible thinkers we must continue to be.

The “good boy/good girl” answer is to cooperate with those under whose authority we work. Our job is to meet the expectations of our boss. This option seems reasonable at first blush… that is until we experience our first supervisor whose expectations are not so reasonable.

The problem with the “good boy/good girl” answer is that, again, we find ourselves checking our brains, our skills and our experience at the door in deference, in this case, to the brain, skills and experience sitting higher on the organizational chart.

This is a child’s response to expectations. “You’ll do it because I said so.” The rationale is simply a passive submission to authority. No (more…)

Dreaming of Perseverance

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Keep on keeping on.

Both a frame of mind and the next decision.

A blend of courage, hope and love for which there is no recipe.

A life skill developed one obstacle at a time.

- Karl Edwards

Loving Monday: From Milestone to Mundane

Monday, June 14th, 2010

loving_mondayReturning to one’s daily routine after a momentous weekend can be anti-climactic… to put it lightly.

We celebrated a university graduation this weekend. A major milestone in the life of our eldest. A major milestone for my wife and I having an eldest who is celebrating such an achievement!

Some events are huge, momentous, once-in-a-lifetime and/or dramatic. Most of work is routine, daily, repetitive and/or cyclical.

The experience of the milestone is usually markedly different than the experience of the mundane.

Getting back to minutiae after experiencing the momentous can be incredibly difficult.

Even if we are returning to a relatively good job, it can feel like a big let down.

It’s quite normal to have the let-down or come-down experience of descending from the mountain top. The valley floor is simply not the mountain top.

The question, though, is are we bringing others down with us, or are we sabotaging our own re-entry into the routines of work by continually comparing the mundane to the milestone?

It’s simply not a fair comparison. The mundane will always lose.

Returning to the routines of work is not a bad thing because it is a disappointing thing. Routines are simply not as sexy or meaningful or intense as our milestone events.

Let’s cut ourselves some slack here. It is possible to acknowledge the authentic let-down of re-entry without succumbing to the false and extreme conclusion that a bad thing has happened to us having to get back to work.

A simple tool for making the adjustment back to work is to write a thank-you note to someone from the milestone event. A simple thank you note gives you an opportunity to articulate your gratitude and what you found meaningful from the event.

Once written, sealing, addressing and posting the letter is a physical way to close the door on a momentous experience. Now you are in a better position to shift your attention to work without making endless and defeating comparisons.

The mundane and routine can be a good thing again. As work should be… good, that is.

On your side,

- Karl Edwards