Tag Archives: work

Week 3: most satisfied

When have you been most satisfied?

Confidential human resource and issues management concerns dominated my days last week. Among many other tasks, we interviewed candidates for a strategic marketing manager position in my department.

One of the questions I put on the list was “When have you been most satisfied in your life?” I thought it would be one of those questions that would reach into the core motivations of the person being interviewed, and give an insight into their character. I was right; there were some interesting and inspiring answers. As we listened to the varied responses, I was reminded of something I read a year or so ago, and I thought of how I might answer that question if it were asked of me.

The gist of the article I remembered reading was: the past is behind you, the future is not yet here. They’re not really – real, are they? The only real moment is – right now. I can think of many moments when the world was so perfect and so wonderful, I wanted to capture it and hold it forever: watching my babies sleep, playing with my children and being amazed at how they processed everything as new, writing a kick-ass speech for my boss for a large audience of influential business people, crossing the finish line of my first marathon, the first time I kissed my life partner.

Then I remembered where I read the article – it was that very same, very wise, life partner Ken’s blog post called “The best present moment is right now” in which he admits he earnestly declares every class of students the best he’s ever taught, and his friend Danny earnestly declares every meal to be the best one he’s ever had. “Sitting at a dinner table with good friends, some wine, laughter, eating a meat pie, or a salad, or whatever it happens to be, is infinitely enjoyable. Without comparison to the past, we are able to enjoy the moment. Right then. The future hasn’t arrived, and the past is done. We only have the ‘eternal now’.”

Pretty zen, right? Of course I wasn’t expecting that answer from any of the candidates last week. However, if I am ever asked that question, I would like to be able to answer as follows: “This may seem odd, but the most satisfied I have ever been is right here, right now, having this conversation with you. I have had so many good and bad moments in my life; I realize they are here and gone so quickly, it’s useless to hold onto a moment in the past as better than the one I’m experiencing this very moment. I’ve been given a chance during this interview to have a conversation to see if my skills and experience are a fit for your organization, and if you folks are the kind of people I’d like to work with in the future. I’m grateful for the opportunity, because you thought highly enough of my work to spend some time getting to know me better. What could be more satisfying than that right now?”

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Vintage microphone

Week 15 in review: everyone’s favourite fear

On the way home to Vancouver from Nanaimo for the week, I ate my White Spot meal and listened to podcasts and thought about how I started my communications career in radio news – waaaaay back when I was a sixteen year old, still in high school. How that work seemed to come naturally to me. I’ve never been afraid of speaking in public. It has always been a mystery to me why people freeze up when they have to talk in front of a group.

I’ve read the news to tens of thousands of unseen listeners, I’ve given impromptu speeches to convention halls filled with thousands of people. I’ve given presentations to hundreds, or at least several dozen. I’ve been the corporate spokesperson giving media interviews on television and to newspapers, always confident in my messaging and my delivery.

Until today.

Vintage microphoneMy staff may or may not have known it, but today, when I had to speak in front of all of them assembled at the staff meeting, I very nearly choked. Suddenly, as I looked out to their faces, I realized I wasn’t saying everything I wanted to say – that I should have prepared more.

I told them they have lifted me up as I embarked on this journey: a new city away from my family, a new job, a new institution with its history and culture that I knew nothing about three months ago. I’ve had to run to catch up. It’s been intimidating and wonderful, and I truly couldn’t have done it without the talented, amazing people I work with.

As I talked, I worried. A doubting voice in my head chided me: “What if they don’t believe you? You’ve made some changes since you’ve been here and you know some people don’t like all of the changes you’ve made – what if they think you’re full of malarkey? What will they think of you now, hearing you trip over your words because you’ve suddenly become nervous?”

So – I tried to speak from my heart. I acknowledged there have been a few bumps, and thanked them for not letting me stumble too much. Then, I thought I’d better just shut up and buy them all a drink, which is what I did.

But if I had to do it again, I’d acknowledge the three graphic designers who turn out such stellar products day in and day out, often on the spur of the moment, often without the client even knowing exactly what they want. I’d acknowledge they have been having a hard time with the uncertainty of the departure of their well-liked manager, and a new one not hired yet, and myself not being able to give them the hands-on support they’re used to. One time last month, we had to completely re-do a major piece just before we went to print – and by god they pulled it off with alacrity and grace. Now that’s professionalism.

I’d acknowledge the communications team that writes speech after news release after speech, and handles media calls, and successfully pitch stories to local news outlets. In addition, they’ve stepped up enthusiastically when I asked them to “lead with benefit,” pay more attention to our (newly-minted) corporate key messages, change the format of speaking notes, and do a little more advance communications planning, all mixed in with instituting an issues management process that was completely new to them. Oh – and also work closely with the graphics team in re-jigging that major print piece. Add to that – they’ve taken on more of a role in social media integration and planning.

I’d acknowledge my one sole events person who makes sure everything is perfectly organized at each lecture, open house, trade show, and conference that comes along. She will stay to tear down, even if she has to do it herself. She works her ass off to make everything seem easy and seamless at the front end. She’s the go-to gal for an idea for how to dress a stage, decorate a cafeteria, or come up with a fun party activity.

I’d acknowledge the UR assistants who take on the myriad little tasks: getting out the digest twice a week, doing data entry, answering switchboard calls, offering help in the Welcome Centre, always with a smile, even as they’re being interrupted by someone needing a stapler, directions, change for parking (“Parking is in the building right behind us sir…”) or just a chat.

I’d acknowledge my web team – the Bearded Ones, as they are becoming known – who in addition to keeping the “lights on,” juggle multiple and competing demands from internal clients to convert a complex network of pages over to a new Content Management System.

I needed to acknowledge that I have asked a lot of my team since I arrived at VIU such a short time ago, and they’ve done everything they could to make it happen. I hope they’re reading this, because they really did deserve that drink. Cheers! And all the best for 2016.

Photo credit: Vintage Shure Microphone B&W General Lee by Lex McKee; used under Creative Commons 2.0 license

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Stanley Park Seawall

Five reasons to love Vancouver

Since this post from three years ago continues to gather readers, I think it’s about time I cook myself up some crow pie, grab a fork in each hand, and double-fist a big ol’ mea culpa.

I’m back in Vancouver. I’ve been back here for seven months, and I love it. I love this city with all its problems, because the great things about Vancouver outweigh her faults, and besides, I have always had a soft spot for this city. You’ll note, in that post from three years ago, I said “I quite like it and, given other circumstances, I’m sure I could happily live there.” Here’s why:

1. I get so much done on my commute to work

Haha just kidding. I’m working from home most days as an independent communications professional. But when I do commute (and when I’m at the gym), I listen to podcasts and audiobooks – all my favourites: Radiolab, This American Life, Reply All, Criminal, and now Where There’s Smoke. I recently listened to all 14 hours of Neal Stephenson’s latest novel: Seveneves (highly recommended!). Honestly, when I look back at the namby-pamby 35 minute commute to downtown I was complaining about three years ago, I laugh at my formerly whiny self. If I worked downtown again I would probably take my commuter bike at least some of the time. Speaking of which …

2. Have you seen all these gorgeous bike lanes?

The City just completed new road surface for the bike route I would take to downtown from here. A nice, slightly hilly 10K to downtown, where there are separated lanes throughout. Before we moved into my Marpole condo, we lived in a small apartment on Main Street, where it was a barely sweaty, absolutely, stunningly beautiful 5 km jaunt around False Creek to downtown. Vancouver, like Victoria, is cyclist heaven.

I hope, when they build the new bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel, they also have plans for a separated bike track all the way from Tsawwassen into Vancouver. That would be amazing, because I do still love to get back to Victoria once a month or so.

I also can’t believe I was complaining about no running routes three years ago, when I routinely ran False Creek/Stanley Park, and look at those North Shore mountains for trail running! Also, just over the bridge into Richmond are some really nice stretches by the airport.

people doing yoga on paddleboards  just off Kits Beach in Vancouver

Why yes indeed, those are Vancouverites doing yoga on paddleboards.

3. The weather is really nice. Even when it rains.

No really, it is. I’m writing this at the start of a heat wave, and we’ve barely had rain for a month now, but that’s not clouding my judgment (see what I did there?). This past winter was not bad at all, weather-wise.

Shut up about climate change* for now, I’m trying to enjoy this.

4. Proximity to new friends

I make friends easily. I admit, the first six months of my return I felt like a bit of a recluse, but I’m putting that down to the knee surgery I had in April, and before that, an incredibly stressful job. As I get further away from both (I found a wonderful physiotherapist and I’ll be running again soon – RUNNING!) my circle is expanding. I threw myself into my professional association (IABC/BC), I have volunteered for the next Interesting Vancouver, I went to a LikeMind meetup that stoked my creative side (I’ve been writing like crazy since then), we’ve invited friends over for dinner. Who says it’s hard to meet people in Vancouver?

5. Family

My son and my youngest daughter are still in Victoria, but as my youngest turned 21 last year, I realized she’s really, truly OK and ready to launch. I was so glad to have the past three years with her though! She now has a plan and she’s going for it (she got into a nursing program, I’m so proud of her). My son got his B.A. and is going overseas soon.

I was at the Open Textbook Summit a few weeks ago, talking with Clint (a colleague from BCcampus), and someone else; explaining that I’d moved back here.

“Why did you move back?” my friend said.

I started to go through reasons 1 through 4 above, when Clint interrupted me with a smile: “She moved here for LUUUUUV,” he said. And he was right.

Just over a year ago I met my partner, Ken, and my life has been so much better since then. Within months I knew without a doubt he is the one I want to be with. He’s my family, my support, my collaborator and co-conspirator, my anchor. He’s been on the lower mainland all his life and he loves teaching at BCIT and Emily Carr, so it was a no-brainer that, with my career mobility, and with my already owning a home here, that I would be the one to move.

6. Bonus – it’s all about the one per cent, the things you can control: yourself.

Last week we attended a talk by Brett Gajda, who, with Nick Jaworsky, does the Where There’s Smoke podcast. Something he said smart-bombed straight into my soul and exploded with comprehension. It’s one of those things you hear for years, and you think “yeah, yeah, that’s right, I agree,” but you don’t really comprehend how it affects your life until suddenly one day it burrows into the space inside where you need it most. I’m paraphrasing, but here it is:

“Things outside of your control are so big you sometimes can’t help focusing on them. After all, 99% of the problems you have in the world are outside your control. The only thing you can really control is – yourself. Your actions, your attitudes, your values, your choices. But the moment you focus on the 1% right in front of you, everything is different. EVERYTHING.”

So yes, there were reasons to leave Vancouver, and there were reasons to come back to Vancouver. But more than that, there are reasons to be comfortable and happy with the person inside, so you’re content wherever in the world you find yourself next. And that’s the most wonderful place to be.

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*Seriously though, I am worried about climate change. That’s why I take transit and ride my bike.

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