Friday, May 9, 2008

What do you speak? Boo Hooo? or Woo HOOO!

I’ve been playing with the title of this posting over recent days. And to be honest with you, a couple of titles I have been especially fond of are as follows: “What Am I, Your Mommy?” And “No One Wants A Whiner.” But that would be mean-spirited, wouldn’t it? But I’ve got to tell you, based on, like, 85% of the emails I’ve been getting from job-seeking readers recently, I wouldn’t be hiring those people either! In fact, based on the boo hoo factor, I don’t even bother to respond to most of them (and you know who you are…that response email that you didn’t get? That’s me.).

Believe me, I’m not pointing the finger at anyone without pointing three back at myself. I know what it means to be completely at sea, not knowing where my place is in the world. I’ve even been accused of self-pity, but that was just because the accuser just like the rest of the world didn’t understand me – or appreciate me or hire me or get me or….. Get the idea?

You know those wonderful moments when the right words at the right time hit you right between the eyes? A subtle suggestion that you consider the same things but through a different light changes your perspective forever. That happened to me about 10 years ago when I was holed up in a borrowed house on Cape Cod in the depths of one of the snowiest, coldest winters on record. I was flat broke. The few people I knew in this small town shunned me like existential life confusion might be contagious. (One of the shunners is a writer too. And I found myself as an unpleasant character in one of her published short stories a few years later. She didn’t even bother changing my name. Now that was a bummer. I have the last laugh, though. My Amazon sales rankings are always much better than hers. Not that I’m holding a grudge or anything.)

The previous summer wasn’t much better either. I spent it on the basement sofa of a generous and way patient friend who took me in after I was stranded in Columbus, OH, after a client refused to pay me a desperately needed (and much earned fee) because I turned him down in regarding, shall we say, another matter. See? I can go there with the best of you!

Anyway, back to the Cape Cod house and those right words. It was definitely one of those times that Judy Collins calls the “fallow time.” But one weekend a friend of mine came up from New Haven to spend a few days on the blustery beaches. And in the evenings we’d sit wrapped in afghans, talking about life, and basically why I thought it, well, sucked. (Normally, I don’t like to use that expression, but in this case, it’s the only one that works.)

I whined (I mean, said): “I know I need a job, but I can’t bring myself to go around the Cape pleading with people to give me a chance to show what I can do.”

To which my friend, Patricia, said, “It’s not about what you need, it’s about what you can give.”

Thwack! Did you hear that? It’s the sound of an arrow of break-through brilliance leaving its bow and aiming straight between my eyes, which slowly crossed as I said, “ooooohhhhhh.” And suddenly, indulging in my mopes seemed actually selfish.

Did I happen to mention that Patricia is a coach? I think she’s one of the few true coaches who are actually born to the work. Just being around her makes you inspired to lose weight, do a The Firm dvd all the way through, and add another six digits to your annual salary.

Her right time/right words words changed my life (well at least my perspective – my The Firm dvds only get my attention when it’s time to dust. And often not even then).

And I suddenly started thinking of my search for meaningful (i.g., paying) work as being an intersection where I can introduce my passion and abilities with real market need out there. How selfish of me to keep holed up and scared in my (well, someone else’s) house when there are people out there who actually need what I can do. And what I can do would actually make them happy.

All of which is to say: It’s completely understandable how in your pain it’s easy to lose sight of who you really are, what gives you true joy and how you can benefit the planet. And suddenly you start talking about yourself in high, squeaky, whiney tones in terms of what you need and your long litany of frustrations. And my all-time favorite expression starts to surface in your mind and escape your lips: “Yeah but.”

Another arrow between the eyes happened last fall. I was Randy Pausch came on to deliver his now-famous Last Lecture on Oprah. If you haven’t seen it, where have you been? Do it now. No, really, stop reading and do it right this very minute. We'll wait for you.

You’ll see that among the many brilliant things he says, he says that we each have the choice to be Eyore or Tigger. TIgger spends his life bouncing for joy (a friend of mine has a Tigger cartoon on her fridge that says “no bouncing before breakfast.” Cracks me up every time). Eyore looks at life through one big self-pitying monocle of mope.

Now I ask you, which one would you like to hang out with? Which one would you prefer to hire? I’m guessing Tigger. Tigger speaks in Woo Hoo! And, not to rhyme or anything, but if it rhymes, you know it’s gotta be true: Tigger speaks in Woo Hoo, and so you should too!

Even if things are way crappy, there is always something to bounce about. Even that little smidgeon of joy is something you can give. And eventually you’ll be able to figure out a way to sell it, because people will want to have a piece of you and your passion.

(Here’s another link to lift your spirits…it comes from The Secret, and it’s a minute of amazing images to make you really glad to get up in the morning and be standing on this particular planet. )

And so in closing, allow me to just say: Woo HOOOOO! That is, as they say in the Hoky Pokey, "what it's all about."

A special note from Martha: If you’re a manager, your company is counting on you to be an engaging leader. But what exactly does that mean? And how do you do engagement? Just because you’re brilliant at your technical skills, that doesn’t mean that you’re a natural at people skills. New managers need a book that can help them figure it out in simple, straightforward ideas.

That’s why I wrote The Truth About Getting the Best From People. It’s a book made up of 49 short, simple truths designed to help new managers understand how their beliefs and behaviors directly impact their employees’ passion factor on the job.

Click on the title and check it out! I hope you’ll enjoy it!

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