As many of you know, I almost lost my dad a few years ago due to complications from an undiagnosed hereditary blood clotting disorder called Factor V Leiden. It was at that point I knew I needed to work on my own health. I started eating healthier and walking my little rescue pup, Gus. On those walks, Gus started wanting to run, so we would until he got tired. We would walk for a bit then run again. And thus began my interval runs.
Shortly after, I was diagnosed with a mild form of the same blood issue that did not require medication as long as I was mindful of my health. My hematologist stressed the importance of cardiovascular exercise, especially in "spurts" as it is particularly effective in strengthening your circulatory system and reducing your chance of blood clots and strokes. So I kept running-more-farther-and more often per week-eventually having to leave Gus home as I was doing more than what the little guy could safely do with me.
I lost over 20 pounds in the course of a year and maintained it for about a year.
And then it happened.
I got a little lazy.
I stopped thinking about what and how much went into my mouth.
And as gradually as I lost it, I gained about half of it back.
I wish I could blame the increase in the scale on the 6+ inches of hair that I've grown letting my "business bob" grow out, but even as thick as my hair is, it still doesn't add up to 10 pounds!
I got a great start on getting back into shape in November and made excellent progress, even through the Holidays. I was on the right path, and then things got crazy at work after the Holiday Season. I stopped making myself a priority. I started missing workouts and mindlessly grabbing food and although most of it was healthy, overall, my nutrition was all over the place. And my stress level was high.
Then I saw pics from two business trips in the last few months and what I knew was an issue in my head suddenly was harsh reality on the screen.
And after the second business trip, with some bad nutritional decisions and in which I was in a car driving for over 12 hours coming home, I spent the holiday weekend and following week with some significant edema and overall just not feeling well~to the point of wondering if I should head to the ER to be checked out for a blood clot or other issue.
My body had become toxic.
I knew I let myself down.
I let my body down.
I let my health down.
And by letting my health down for too long, given my medical history, I am letting my family down.
This is it! It stops NOW!
I'm picking myself back up.
Back to the 21 Day Fix® program starting with a 3 Day Refresh® TODAY.
Back to daily 21 Day Fix® workouts
Back to interval runs 3 times a week
Back to "real" and "honest" nutritional choices.
No lies to myself.
I am back in control.
This is more than just vanity. This is necessary for life.
My life. My family's life.
Those that know me well know that I'm pretty tenacious when it comes to fulfilling my commitments. Even when the "writing is on the wall" (in giant black sharpie marker) I'm very hesitant to quit anything-jobs, relationships, volunteer commitments-anything. I'm not a quitter. I was raised to fulfill my obligations. To me, quitting is defeat, failure, a proverbial mark on my character. I hope that I am instilling this same "never quit" attitude in my daughter as well as other people that I influence (if there are any).
But sometimes we have to quit because it's the right thing to do.
And I have.
And it is painful.
And it is defeating.
And in the end, it is for the best.
And I hope that my daughter and others learn from this, too.
Whether it's a job, a relationship or a volunteer commitment, sometimes the best thing for everyone is to back away-resign, leave. To quit. And there is, perhaps, an even better example to be set in quitting.
Do we want our children to learn the lesson that the job that makes us ill is worth keeping? That the relationship that is causing us to loose who we truly are worth staying in? That the volunteer opportunity we signed up for is not as rewarding as we thought because it taking too much time away from our family?
So I quit. We quit. We left Dancing with the Community Stars. As a couple, but more importantly: As a family.
Due to scheduling and travel distance, it was taking over 6 hours of our Sunday. Like most families, because of custody agreements, busy schedules with extracurricular activities, work schedules and just life, Sunday was the only full day that we had as a family without pre-scheduled obligations. We thought we could give it away to a worthy cause for 9 months. But 3 months in, we realized we were sacrificing far more than our time. We were sacrificing our family. Our children. And even our happiness.
Initially, our kids were excited about our participation. (Ok, it was more like amused and horrified at the thought of us dancing in public, but you get the idea) We are a community service-oriented family and work hard to instill in our children an attitude of helping others. But other than assisting us with upcoming fundraising events, they really could not participate with us-as a family.
Each "family weekend" both children would show up at our house with a week's worth of things they wanted to do during our time together-however, due to our DWTCS commitment, we generally had just a few hours on Saturday to fit as much in as possible. For three months there was far more "no, we don't have time this weekend" than "yes, that will be fun".
Then Christmas happened. Or more like it almost didn't happen. At least not the way any of us would have preferred. And that was not okay with any of us. Sunday after Christmas we sat and had our usual Sunday breakfast as a family. Although, since our DWTCS venture started, it usually was Joe and the kids while I was getting ready to leave the house. But not this day. I sat at the table with them like I used to. And we talked, as a family, about the commitment and how it was impacting our family time. We discussed pros and cons of staying committed to our volunteer obligation vs our obligation to our family. Both kids provided great insight. We agreed, as a family, to quit. And it was okay.
But we didn't choose to quit entirely. We will still participate, as a family, by assisting with the fundraising, which is the whole point of DWTCS anyway!
What lessons did we teach our children? First and foremost-that they are first and foremost in our lives. Second-that despite the fact that occasionally we have to remind them who the "bosses" are :-) , that they do have a voice in how we run our family. Third-that quitting sometimes IS okay. Finally, that quitting does not have to be an "all or nothing" proposition. You can quit, but still find a way to meet your obligations. As a family
I am sure we have all seen it by now--the Facebook post to become part of a $10 holiday gift exchange--I have a seen it called a few different names, including a "less sexist" one that could easily include the guys. The first time we see it, it is exciting! "I can get stuff, 36 pieces of stuff, for just $10!! "YEAH STUFF!" our mind tells us because we have become a society of "stuff collectors" as somehow along the way "stuff" has become equal to "self worth".
Yes--I 1,000% admit it--I jumped in too! About two weeks ago a cousin in Florida posted a version and I had not seen this making the rounds and I jumped on board--I let my mind say "YEAH STUFF!" (or it was the second glass of wine making my decisions.) Then I got the private message with the directions, and I admit, I didn't quite understand the directions (remember, wine, and I am a light-weight). I read it again the next day. I understood a little better, but I did think that perhaps it was going to be a $60 investment--OK, it makes sense and I can handle that financially-I am blessed with a great job, I am good with money, but far more important than those reasonable, practical things, I am doing something nice for someone else--a concept that has no monetary value in my world these days.
And thought about it-that phrase "these days" "these days". It echoed in my head over and over along with "36 pieces of stuff"
HOLY COW-WHAT HAVE I DONE?
I don't want more "stuff! I don't need more "stuff"!
I have spent the last three years eliminating "stuff" from my life, and while it was painfully evident when I moved in May that I had perhaps allowed some "stuff" to creep back in, I am in a constant purge and merge mode. "Make life as simple as possible and cut the unnecessary clutter of 'stuff'" --heck--have you seen my hair lately?--I can't tell you when the last time was that it was straight! (Well, ok, truth be told, there was this time last week..., but I digress)
As I mulled over my seemingly poor decision, and more posts of similar subject scrolled through my Facebook feed daily, I thought about the investment in the gift exchange (and my brain still does not comprehend--is really just $10 or is it $60?, but it makes no difference). I thought about how very blessed my life is--a great job that allows me to work from home (often with crazy hair and dressed essentially to head to the gym or out for a run at a moment's notice), and provide comfortably for my family, an amazing significant other who loves me unconditionally to his core, an incredibly talented and intelligent daughter who is just as beautiful inside as she is outside, family and friends that know the "real me" and chose to love me anyway, which can be a challenge in itself some days! This is the "stuff" that I need. Not the "36 pieces" of random stuff that the gift exchange promises.
And then, as I often do, I thought about all of those who are not as blessed--jobless or have jobs that barely keep food in their children's mouths and warm, clean clothes on their backs. People that are in relationships that are not loving and caring they they don't know how to change or get out of. Parents that are estranged from children or those that are childless waiting for the chance to become a parent. Those with no real family or friends to love them and spend the holidays with. These are the people who need the resources that "36 pieces of stuff" can provide.
I am not looking for 6, 60 or even 600 people to join my Gift Exchange--I am hoping that just one of you will join me in opting out of the gift exchange and instead donate those funds--or even time, talent or other resources, to a local charity of your choice. Or better yet, if you know of a family or individual struggling this holiday season, find a way to secretly help them--perhaps a gift card sent through the mail or other discrete gesture.
And if I get 6,000 or 60,000 to join us--even better.
As we being a new year, don’ t forget to include your business in your New Year’s Resolution-Making!
Making the Most of Your Chamber Membership
Anyone can join the chamber. But just like a health club membership, you only get out what you put in. If you join a gym, pay your dues, but never show up, at the end of the year, whose fault is it that you did not reach your fitness or health goal? The gym’s owner, the trainers, the staff? Of course not!
Chamber membership is exactly the same way. If you pay your dues, but then never “go” either by getting involved or attending any of the events, you will not attain your business fitness or health goal—the one that compelled you to join in the first place!
Many small business owners may see it as a waste of money. In actuality it is relatively inexpensive depending how you chose to use YOUR membership. It can be long lasting advertising in the form of:
In many "small chambers" a majority of members pay less than $400 per year for membership. That is less than $1 per day, per year—some of us are crazy enough to spend $4 or more per day on a cup of coffee, certainly we can find $1 each day to invest in the success of our business! Where else can you get access to so many qualified business leads and contacts right in your own community for less than $1 each, have 24/7/365 presence for your business included, and get referrals on a regular basis, in addition to a number of other benefits of your membership?
If you truly want to become involved, I suggest you join a Chamber committee. Committees need your input and expertise! You probably talk to one hundred business owners and residential customers per week. Five hundred per month. They know you, they trust you and they generally speak their mind to you. When these associates, business customers and business people talk to politicians, it’s a more tactful type conversation. When they talk to Chamber of Commerce staff, they tend to also choose their words more carefully. When they talk to you, it is more point blank, to the point, blunt and the reality of the way they feel. You will never get a sugar coated answer to a small business dilemma from an actual owner. They will tell you how they feel. Whether they are happy or mad as hell about an issue. You also are the eyes and ears of the community with its residents
How do you join a committee? Talk to the chamber staff. Tell them you want to volunteer. Find out which chamber committees are available. Some have year-round commitments; some have short-term commitments, such as for specific events. Join a committee that interests you and that you will be able to make some time for. Don’t join one you don’t care about. Just like in school, you always got better grades in the classes you enjoyed, didn’t you?
Are you taking advantage of the opportunities a Grand Opening presents? When you read/hear/see that a new business is opening or has held a grand opening ribbon cutting event, you should visit the business:
You should attend meetings and events sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.
As many as you can. Enough that you don’t need to wear a name tag because everyone already knows you. You still should wear a name tag. After all, there is bound to be a new face popping up every once in a while. Many of these new members may feel intimidated and you can help them and really make a new friend and business associate creating team work, co-marketing efforts and sharing of customer lists with non-competing businesses. Bring lots of business cards, and make commitment to yourself to attain at least 2 new solid business contacts that you will follow up within the next week.
Letters To The Editor
You should rifle off at least one letter a month to the local paper praising a small business that you have recently visited, the Chamber of Commerce or how happy you are to have a business here. This is free publicity for you as well as the person you are writing about—and we can all agree that there is never enough “positive” news in the media.
Your success in your business is up to you, we live in the greatest country in the world. You are allowed to have unlimited success, but with that incredible gift you are also allowed to fail. The ball is in your court, your chamber membership can be one of your greatest assets, but you only get out what you put in. Stay involved, do not ever give up and use your chamber to help you win. Your Chamber Membership is your business’s Health and Fitness Club—be sure that you are taking your business to the gym regularly so that it can get the exercise it needs to remain healthy!
In 2010, we introduced the 3/50 Project, and because we are in the “slower” winter months for most of us, I wanted to take this opportunity to reintroduce it to you all in effort to “renew” our focus on the importance of “Shopping Local”. The 3/50 Project is a nationwide, grass-roots initiative that promotes stronger local economies through support of independent retailers and the consumers who shop with them. The basic principle of The Project is quite simple — pick 3 independent retailers in your community that you don’t want to see disappear, then spend a total of $50 per month among the three. (Just for clarification, that is $50 total, not $50 at each—although of course, you can always feel free to spend more!)
Using this basic concept, here is one way that you can rise to the challenge to spend more locally:
As we have asked before, for 2013, commit to spend $50 of your budget that you might normally spend out of Oswego County, either in and around the malls or on-line, and spend it locally. Simple!
So what sort of impact can that have?
Currently, we have approximately 530 members — if each of us do this just once, that is $26,500 put into our local economy! (This is essentially one full-time job created by simply shifting our spending habits!) Moreover, if we do this monthly, as The 3/50 Project suggests, we could put $318,000 into our local coffers, or potentially create the equivalent of more than 12 full-time jobs, based on the US Census Bureau’s current Oswego County medium income of $25,488!
What can happen if we share this concept with our family and friends, clients and customers? According to the US Census Bureau, Oswego County currently has approximately 46,400 households. If each household just once during the year opted to spend $50 locally that they may have normally spent outside the county, $2,320,000 would be generated!
Now, we all realize that we can not always get everything that we need locally — so let’s consider the following: talk to your local merchants about some of the items that you can only seem to find online or outside the county — they may be able to special order it for you — or if they have enough requests, it may become something they can regularly stock. Also, if you are ordering on-line from a national retailer (after exhausting all local options), if you choose delivery to the local store where possible, most often your sale is credited towards that local store’s sales. While this option may not necessarily generate more payroll hours for the retailer, it at least keeps the revenue local.
In closing, before you run off for an evening of shopping and dining, consider your choices — we have great dining, shopping, and entertainment options right here in our community — and your local purchase could just help create or keep a job that could be your own!
For more information on The 3/50 Project, including free materials and other resources that you can use in your business to help promote the “Shop Local” movement, please see www.the350project.net
Certainly we have all heard about what a problem bullying is, however, what most may not realize is that bullying is not just limited to the classroom or school yard. Bullying is becoming an increasingly prevalent problem in the business world-and not just on Wall Street, but also on Main Street, and yes, this does include our community. In fact, I was compelled to write about the issue of “Bullying in the Business World” about a year ago, because I had been either witness to, or confidant in, a few bullying cases over several months, and truly felt the need to shed some light on the issue, as it seems to be coming all too common place. In some cases, it has even become an acceptable way of doing business. Recently, it seems to have once again “reared its ugly head”, prompting me to resurrect this column and post it to my blog.
Like most things that get my attention, and yes, even raise my blood pressure, I went right to “Google” to see what I could find on the subject~and not surprisingly, found a wealth of information, including a few websites dedicated solely to workplace bullying as well as a number of studies that have been conducted.
According to Kickbully.com, “roughly one-fourth of employed Americans have reported bullying at work. That’s over 30 million people.” Another leading website dedicated to work place bullying cites that “according to the Workplace Bullying Institute's national scientific surveys (in 2007 and 2010), 35% of adult Americans (an estimated 54 million workers) report being bullied at work; an additional 15% witness it and vicariously are made miserable.” While the numbers are a bit different between the two sources, it is still an awful lot of people being victimized by something that we surely thought we had left behind at high school graduation.
One of the pieces of information that I found most alarming is that bullies tend to target the most skilled workers, and therefore can easily cripple your organization by driving away your most qualified employees. This can actually hamper the growth of your business, while creating a whole host of other issues such as high turnover and absenteeism rates. Workplacebullying.com states that “Employers are often reluctant to confront hyper-aggressive employees. They fear lawsuits and difficulty replacing the jerks considered "indispensable." The truth is that it is costlier to fail to act than it is to pursue solutions. Bullies are undermining legitimate business processes and harming people in secret. It's time to examine the real costs of unwanted turnover, absenteeism, lawsuit or complaint settlements, workers comp and disability claims. The bully is expensive. Current losses warrant greater weight than imagined future worst-case scenarios.”
Additionally, if your workplace bully is taking that behavior outside of your organization, and subjecting their behavior onto other business people and/or clients, it can certainly damage your reputation as a business. One of the most common forms of this type of bullying is “If you do this (or don’t do this, or continue to do this) I will no longer patronize your organization, I will also be sure to tell about this and do my best to be sure your organization fails”. This usually stems from a business decision that is in the best interest of the “victim” organization that the bully does not agree with and takes it personally. Isn’t the business world tough enough without having someone single-handedly trying to put another entity out our business—which is not good for anyone—even if it is a competitor!
Also quite alarming is that employers often unwittingly create conditions that foster and encourage bullying through their corporate culture with seemingly harmless things like contests or other competition-type incentive plans—even when not sales or production related—that are so often used by employers to motivate employees!
So, how do you recognize a bully in the workplace? Kickbully.com describes a successful workplace bully as being “much more clever rarely resembling the stereotypical bully. His methods are very subtle, disguised with all the right behaviors. In that lies his treachery. People respect and trust him, and he quietly betrays their trust whenever necessary to fulfill his ambitions. For him, the ends always justifies the means. And if the bully is particularly good at this, no one except his victims sees the betrayals. In some cases, not even the victims realize what has happened. To make matters worse, a highly skilled bully usually has the dedication, focus and business acumen to create success, or at least the appearance of success. Then he is honored and promoted, held up as an example of a company-centric leader. He is rewarded while the frustration builds among the targets of his bullying and intimidating, backstabbing and manipulating. For them, life has become an upside-down hell. A skilled, clever bully displays an elaborate, complex set of behaviors to exploit people around him. Those who only consider bullying to be blatantly aggressive behavior are missing the point. Any habitual pattern of intentional, socially cruel behavior is bullying, including the subtle tactics of deceit, distortion, misrepresentation and misdirection. When the penalty for resisting someone is destruction of your position and reputation, it’s fair to describe that person as a bully.”
Theworkdoctor.com nicely defines what bullying is not: “It is not incivility, simple rudeness, or the routine exercise of acceptable managerial prerogative. When abuse becomes routine, the work environment is toxic. Quality work and employee engagement are impossible. Neither is it a conflict between two equally-powered individuals who simply disagree over intellectual ideas.”
As an employer, how do we handle bullies? First, if an employee comes to us with concerns about another, we can’t be complacent and presume it is “simply a personality conflict” that two adults will work out—and remember—the bully is usually a trusted, long-time employee. We owe it to our employees, as well as the reputation of our organizations to look into what is happening. Document the conversation with “victim” employee, ask the employee to document specific incidents (either in the past or future) noting any “witnesses”, ask the victim if other employees are being bullied by the same person but are afraid to report it—you don’t need have them provide names, but you can ask them to convince the others to step forward, confidentially of course. Begin carefully observing interactions between not only the “victim and the bully, but also with other employees. Once you have all of your fats, speak with the “bully” about your observations only to maintain the confidence of the victim(s). Your only resolution may be separation from the “bully” and you don’t want any retaliation outside of work to victims. Be warned—according to one document I ran across, depending on the circumstances, the bully may threaten you with a whole host of “employee protections” such as whistle-blower policies and various forms of discrimination. Remember—they are a bully—and when they do this, they are now bullying you, the employer!
What can we do prevent bullying from taking place to begin with? This can be even trickier than dealing with the bully. First, be sure you are not fostering a corporate culture which encourages it—carefully examine any contests, incentive plans, etc—even promotion policies. Have regular interactions with all of your employees in large groups, small groups and one-on-one and not just on a formal basis at meetings. Sometimes just a small amount of one-on-one time where you can simply ask “How’s it going?” can provide more insight than anything else. Observe, observe, observe—and don’t be afraid to immediately address anything that you observe that makes you the slightest bit uncomfortable with the way your employees interact with another. And most importantly, create an anti-bullying policy for your company and treat it as just as important as you do your other harassment policies in your employee orientations and on-going training.
Monday. Just the thought of it typically brings dread, loathing and perhaps even a little fear to many of us. But why? What if this week, yes, I do mean today, we chose to look at Monday differently~As a new beginning. An opportunity for a fresh start, rather than the end of what was hopefully a great weekend.
I read recently that most people hate Mondays simply because they hate their job. So change it. I realize that it is easier said than done, especially in this economy, but what little step could you take TODAY toward that new career opportunity you've dreamed of that actually makes you want to go to work on Monday?
Instead if looking at your "to do" list for the week and wondering how you are going to manage to get it all done, start by looking at last week's "to do" list and congratulate yourself for all that you accomplished. You may also find that your list for this week doesn't look so scary after all. And if it does, ask for help! Prioritize-what are the top 3 things you absolutely must accomplish this week? What about using today to get them done and out of the way? So cue up your favorite music and get to work. You already don't like Monday. You might as well work your @$$ off to some great music and go home with a sense of accomplishment and look forward to perhaps a bit easier week. Don't have a "to do" list? Get one- TODAY-while it may seem a bit daunting, in the end, it can reduce your stress as you will see everything mapped out, fewer tasks will "slip through the cracks" and I know I find great delight when I get to cross things off. Then next week, you can look at it for inspiration!
What about giving yourself something to look forward to. Call a friend (or email or text) right now (or at least when you are done reading this) and schedule something fun-lunch, coffee, drinks, a mid-week movie--whatever, for later this week. Get it on the books NOW. Schedule it and prioritize it like you would any other meeting or appointment. If you wait to be sure you can "fit it into a busy week", chances are it won't happen. It should be an important part of your schedule because the break is good for your stress level and when we are less stressed we think more clearly and are more creative and productive. If you DO find that you are having a "challenging" week, by the time you finish with your "friend appointment" chances are very good you will be feeling better~refreshed and ready to get back at t. Also, if you wait to schedule it, you won't have something enjoyable to look forward to except, the weekend.
Which brings me to my next point: If all you have to look forward to each week is another weekend, you are wishing your life away. The week seems to go on forever, while the months and years slip past quicker than you care to think about. Only looking forward to the weekend very likely makes you not as productive as you should/could be, which will certainly just lead to more Monday dread and stress.
Monday is a fresh start. A chance to start over Embrace it! Make it a great one. By Friday will you say "It's been a great week, I have so much celebrate this weekend?" or will it be more like "what a terrible week. I can't wait to drown my sorrows in that glass of wine, hot fudge sundae, bottle of rum, etc...this weekend!" It's for you to decide. Today. Resolve to make Monday happen for you, not to you!
Remember that great weekend? Let's strive to make it an equally great week.