Work “hard” and smile often…

I just left a meeting with my coach, Kim Knapp, and had another really insightful discussion, which caused me to think about something I say (often) and now I’m considering reworking it a bit. To share context, I’ve just gone through a 363 process and received the results today. For those who aren’t aware, the 360 degree feedback program is widely used in corporate America to help leaders assess where gaps might occur in their personal & leadership styles. The definition, 360, is tied to the “full circle” feedback you receive from a variety of inputs; your responses to the survey, your peer’s responses, your direct reports’ responses and a hand selected group of “other” participants.

All in, I had 9 people fill out a survey covering 8 leadership disciplines and I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that I was quite nervous about the whole thing. After all, I’m prone to over thinking and I also carry a heaping helping of “wanting approval” in my life, so getting vulnerable enough to ask peers, employees and other members of the leadership team I sit on, to weigh into my world and offer their perspectives was freaking scary.

The results came back and although I have a number of “development” areas, it appears that the picture I hold of my self is pretty consistent with the picture my team holds of me. Overall, the development areas are very realistic and most important to me, my self rating, in most cases, was lower (on a scale) than those of my peers, employees and leadership counterparts, so I felt good about the process. My coach, the DISC-363 interpreter and I reviewed line by line and began to make a “plan” on how to continue focusing on the requests I received from the feedback. This was a very interesting exercise and one I’m working to implement with my current team because this version of the 360 (why it’s called 363) is tied to the extra 3 degrees. Psychologists, who statistically validated this tool, work with subject matter experts on 3 “development areas” attributed to all of your feedback, so in theory, it gives you a road map on the behaviors one might adjust to continue developing into a strong leader of people, process and general business.

My coach shared her excitement about the “coaching plan” and asked me what I thought. My response to her was; “I have to keep working hard and smiling, right?” Those two things have served me well over the last 17 years of my career, but when I said it, she got that “coachy” look on her face and asked why I felt like I had to work “hard”? I tried to justify the remarks and she went on to share her opinions about work. Shouldn’t it be effortless? Shouldn’t work and our personal lives be more effortless? After all, so many of us claim to want peace, serenity and calming energy in our lives, but yet, we tend to claim the need for hard work too. I, for one, want all that peace stuff, but I also claim that “working hard and keeping a good attitude” are the key drivers of success (bit of a contradiction).

We spoke for a few more moments and I fully understood her point. The idea of “working hard” needs to adjust. I won’t insinuate that productivity, family involvement, development of children, business results, business profits and the like aren’t still a focus in the world, but I am going to begin “allowing” things to happen in the world and to focus on working with “purpose”, not having to work “hard”. As she was walking me through the concept of “effortless”, I instantly thought of golf. How many times do we get on the tee, swing as hard as humanly possible and watch, with horror, as our golf ball travels 50 yards down the fairway and then hangs a hard right (uncontrollably) and lands in the woods. When we tee up, again, breathe a bit, slow things down; allow our swing to happen and become what some may define as “effortless”, that ball rips through the middle of the fairway…some 250 yards ahead of our woods bound first shot.

To my kids, my wife and my friends and work colleagues, please be patient with my attempts at being a “Zen Master” with work and home. I know it can be tough living and working with a Dalai Llama in training, but I’m going to focus on coaching you (and those around me) that my idea of “working hard” and “always smiling” needs to adjust a bit.

Let’s work with purpose, live with purpose, smile as often as we can and become a bit more “effortless”. I think it will bode well in all aspects of world.

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Have, Had & Get

“How was your weekend?” This is a question that most of us receive 10-12 times on a Monday, isn’t it? As we get back into the weeks’ chaos of meetings, conference calls, travel calendars, kids to school, practices – someone always wants to know… “How was your weekend?”

My typical response, for the sake of being funny and keeping my sanity, sounds a bit like this; “We had to go to Ohio for my daughter’s figure skating competition, then I had to shoot over and get my son’s hockey skates sharpened, we had to make sure my oldest had his basketball shoes and ball purchased for the season and I had to make lunches, sign off on homework, pack back packs and get the kids to bed early, so we could sleep, because I have to work out at 530am. Holy Christ, it really sounds like my life is some kind of depressing punishment, doesn’t it?

I use the words have and had at an alarmingly high frequency. Do you? What would happen if I replaced “HAVE” or “HAD” with “GET”?

We take part in so many busy tasks, which, if being honest, we push on ourselves (and we also push on our children). I know I’m not alone in feeling like I really have to get everyone to practice, have a workout, have to eat a vegetable, have to study with the kids, have to go on vacations, have to buy some nice clothes, have to fix some damage to the house, have to get to practices, have to hit on my wife (love you Deena), have to visit friends, have to sign up for a race, have to read a novel, have to write a novel… (Please insert a mental picture of a person screaming and holding their head at this time).

All joking aside – imagine, for just a moment, that all of those things we feel we have to accomplish, we slowed down a bit and started to switch our thinking to include the word get (instead of have or had). My wife and I get to work jobs that afford regular time with our family. We get to vacation with friends and family, get to go to sporting events with our kids, get the opportunity to read with them, get to visit friends (because we still have them), get to be together and the list goes on.

I’ve recently started applying this logic and have been paying even closer attention to what I have to do and what I get to do. This simple exercise has really opened my eyes to all of the blessings we get to experience in our lives and I respect that we’ll never know when some of these blessings might be taken away, so why waste a moment feeling forced into living. The words HAVE & HAD should be flipped off like light switches and we can begin living a more peaceful existence with who we are, what we do and who we do it with when we insert the word “get” into our laundry list of experiences.

We all GET to live life (it’s not a punishment), so let’s GET busy living and appreciating it while it happens.

Who’s there?

Which one is it this time? Are you in there? Who is this?

The questions above pop into my head when you talk about personality. Truth be told, I’m not sure I can consistently answer those questions if you were to ask me “what is your personality like, Travis?” Although I feel way more comfortable answering questions about personality at 41 than I would have at 21, I’m still struggling, like lots of us, to articulate who I’m becoming.

Personality is an interesting component of how we are perceived and perception (mine of others and others of me) has always created wonder for me. We hear these phrases all the time, don’t we? “What a great personality”, “their personality is hilarious”, “you, my friend, need a personality adjustment”. Personality is that thing that enables labels to be placed, perceptions to be built and behaviors to be justified. Personality, as most of us know, can change over time, so how do we react (internally) as our personality morphs and evolves? I’ve been away from my writing for more than 6 months, part and parcel to my own search for personality clarity, but I stopped writing because I haven’t been overly motivated. I can blame that on work, personal schedules, marriage, raising kids, but if I’m being transparent, I haven’t been writing because I’ve been busy battling a bit with the concept of growing into an evolving personality and how, as it changes, I’m able to react to the impact it might have on those around me.

For the last two months, I’ve paid close attention to how I behave as a person. It’s not always pretty, but I can tell you that I’ve noticed a number of “personalities” and the more I notice inconsistency with behavior, the more I wonder “why”.

It would be nice to meet that person who is consistent in all facets of their life, but knowing that Buddha, Jesus or the Dalai Llama aren’t hanging with me at the local bar on Friday nights for personal coaching and counseling, I have to look for other, more “regular” people to learn from. As I’ve admitted, I notice that I act differently around my immediate family than I do my co-workers, than I do around my extended family, than I do my close friends, than I do with my distant friends, than I do with the stranger on the street (I think you get it). I used to feel bad for the people I lived, worked or hung out with (poor saps, they don’t really know what makes me tick), but as I continue on my path, I’ve realized that the only person who feels pain from regular adjustment to personality is…. “Me”. Yes, some could challenge that at 41 I’m becoming “Sybil’esque”, but I’d push back and ask how often you are consistent with those around you?

Don’t get me wrong, we all have social filters, so yes, it is normal to behave differently around a variety of people, but how intense is the difference? My search has led me to believe that the more dramatic your personality adjusts and the more often you feel it has to adjust, the more painful it will be for you over time. Are you always smiling around co-workers, but biting your family member’s heads off when you are at home? Will you be a perfect gentlemen to a stranger on the street, but let your wife open her own door to the car or the house? Do you like to be in the center of all action with your own family, but hide quietly if you need to be at a party or big function? All of these variations on your personality create a bit of camouflage don’t they? Personality camouflage.

This personality camouflage is taxing and in time, takes a toll. There is a fine line between socially adjusting behavior because you are meeting new friends, or co-workers or neighbors and morphing into a bit of an actor with a variety of different groups. Don’t fall into the trap of adjusting who you are for the purposes of fitting others’ perceptions. As basic the concept and as often as people say “be yourself”, start looking around and I bet you’ll notice that most people are living a bit of this personality camouflage too.

As I continue to grow, I believe beauty exists in change, growth and evolution. The catch is, don’t stunt your personal evolution for fear that it might make someone or some groups to lose interest in the role you play in their lives.

All of us have a personality and all of us will change, in different ways, over time. Don’t let your personality camouflage become too intense and be supportive of those around you who are looking to grow and change too.

Everyone will be better off for it.

Sweat, smiles & being uncomfortably peaceful…

I’ve read Jim Collins’ book, “Good to Great” a number of times and for those who haven’t, his read has been used in hundreds and thousands of businesses as the genesis for internal corporate change and is focused around subtle efforts needed to move one’s performance from “good” to “great”. In short, the author talks about how being “good” can deter people from being “great”. Interesting concept and it has made me think about my personal definition of great and a couple of people who have impacted my life based on their “greatness”.

Let me use Jim Collins’ concept and knock it around a bit. Let’s pretend, for a minute, that businesses weren’t the only thing on the planet that require people to go from good to great (crazy thought, I know). If we remember that people are the capital that makes up ALL companies, wouldn’t it be an interesting premise to analyze how individuals, who tap into subtle greatness, impact life and the people they encounter on a daily basis? And…is there a glue (of sorts) that people who have achieved this ability all share in common? When we talk about the people who impact the world and the people in it, we probably think very grand; Mother Teresa, Ghandi, Swamiji Parthasarathy, Eleanor Josaitis, Pope Francis, etc. Some of us, when asked, will ratchet it down a bit and think of parents, teachers, friends, etc., so I respect that my opinions are a bit less statistically relevant from the research team who penned Good to Great, but nonetheless, I think you’ll be able to change your thinking a bit and recognize that you have your own definition of great and there are people, everyday, who surround you and teach you what it means to be great. Although these people might not be Chief Executive Officers, Senior Business Leaders or Ghandi, I’d be willing to bet that they carry a set of innate traits, which trend with my observations and have led me to my belief that there are very consistent behavior thoughts and patterns, which elevate certain people to be hyper impactful on life’s journey.

My premise is simple, these people, who I consider great, have a balanced combination of sweat, smiles and the willingness to be uncomfortably peaceful.

No one will call me Aristotle for acknowledging sweat as a precursor for impacting people (yes, having a “work hard” mantra is traditionally synonymous with great). You could continue debating my theory by stating how “cutting edge and brilliant” it is to assume that one who smiles (while working hard) can also reap the benefits of positively impacting life (theirs and ours), but less of you probably think about terms like “uncomfortably peaceful” and how that trait may be the glue, when combined with hard work and a smiling attitude, that really enables someone to become a profound impact factor on life’s journey. Being uncomfortably peaceful is something of a blur, isn’t it? Peace, as I define it, is that feeling when all thought exits the mind, that feeling we experience just before we go to sleep. You know it…when your breathing slows, your muscles relax and you have that period of time where everything “feels” right. I have noticed a number of people, lately, who seem to walk the planet, most days, with that kind of…”it’s all good” attitude, so I wanted to recognize them for the positive impact they have on my life and possibly the lives of others too.

As I look back over 4 decades of life progression, 2 decades of career progression and a half a decade in the world of heavy introspection and philosophy, I have a deep respect and acknowledgement for the people I have encountered. Thousands of people along the way and I have an even deeper respect for those, recently, who have attracted my intentional focus. They are great, from my vantage point, at living life. Some of you might know these people, some of you might not, but either way…please pay attention to the fact that both of these people seem to have harnessed the ability to work hard, smile while doing it and embrace being uncomfortably peaceful and by my standards, they have achieved greatness!

My intent in sharing these people’s names is not to embarrass them, but knowing them, it probably will. Most of us know what it means to sweat (work hard and drive toward efforts), to smile (these people seem to have found a balance in the ability to recognize that their work efforts are strong and therefore, regardless of outcomes, they know they have reason to smile). And finally…they are embracing the concept of being uncomfortably peaceful (when long hours or tough projects or juggling chaotic lifestyles or embracing a new change and pace to life’s journey collide). All of those things can be uncomfortable, but these people appear to find peace in it, hence the term, uncomfortably peaceful. In closing, I wanted to recognize them for the positive impact they have on my life and possibly the lives of others too.

Jim T. Strong professional career, hyper involved with the support of our city and his children’s school, he is also someone who is well read, finds time to workout, challenges himself daily, is a strong husband and father and all the while, smiles more than grumbles. He carries that finely required mix of balance. Jim and I have been friends for years, but it was only recently that I grasped how impressive he is, holistically, as a person, so I wanted others to know that if you want to see what great looks like, please connect with him.

Kathy S., my Words with Friends buddy, was introduced into my life, by my wife, Deena. Kathy and Deena taught together and we attend the same church, so it has always been a casual friendship. Kathy and I don’t spend a ton of time together, I haven’t known her as long as I’ve known Jim, but she has still had a huge impact on me. Kathy’s interesting ability to stay so warm, so focused on others and so connecting has been an amazing experience, for me, personally. As a retired teacher, Mother, Wife and friend, Kathy welcomes you in and she has reinforced how to appreciate the life we have. Thanks Kathy.

I could write hundreds of people on this post. People who have had profound impact on my life and I’m blessed to be around so many great people. If you get a chance to read this, do me a favor and reach out to a couple of them and let them know about your definition of “great” and how they have helped teach you to pursue it.

Who do you thank for being everywhere & nowhere @ the same time?

You all know I’m “nomadic” with my ideas, my career, my life choices and my parenting styles.  I used to feel ashamed about the number of roles I had, concerned if people would whisper all the little garbage statements that one assumes are being said (when in truth, no one really cares THAT much about what every person on the planet is doing, so probably a little more insecure than I really should be).  Anyway, I moved companies in late January/early February and have earned, what I consider to be, a “life altering” opportunity.  This role has enabled me to see different regions of the world, meet dozens of new clients, take part in a business that I have loved for years and my new employer likes the fact that I’ve been nomadic, which is a plus.

I spent last week in New York City, the week before that in Cleveland and the two weeks before that in London, so needless to say, I’ve had a bit of time to do what I’m best at…THINK.

As I left NYC and came back to Detroit to see my family (in preparation for a trip to California next week), I began thinking about ways the work world has changed since I started my career in 1995.  We have iPhones, Blackberries, Droids (which give us Google maps, Words with Friends, Facebook, etc) and it also gives us email, conference calls, report reviews and business decisions in multiple time zones and in multiple regions of the world.  As my friends at PwC used to say to me, work is now a thing- not a place!  How true they were.

My new professional world is filled with 5am calls to Manila, 9pm calls with Singapore and we’ll squeak the US and the UK into the middle somewhere.  This is when my psyche whispered in my ear… “Don’t ever forget about how you got here”.  A bit sentimental, my psyche, so as I thought and thought about the importance of that statement, I remembered watching a documentary on the American author, Fran Lebowitz.  Fran is 60+, lives in NYC, doesn’t own a Blackberry or iPhone or Droid and she has made a living doing something I try to do (entice people to read and incite people to debate) with the power of words.

Fran stated that she noticed we are a generation and a society that is now everywhere at the same time.  I think she was referring to how the incessant use of smart phones, conference call lines and other technology is taking us away from basic human to human interaction.  She noticed people walking the streets of NYC, buried in their devices, and not taking in the sounds, smells and activity of one of the greatest cities on the planet.  Yes, we might be enjoying dinner with our family, but are we really enjoying dinner with the family or the funny ecard posted on Facebook?  Are you really giving your best thoughts to your clients and colleagues or are you more focused on clearing out your inbox?  How many times have you entered a local “watering hole” and noticed friends enjoying “happy hour”, but none of them are talking to one another?  See…aren’t we everywhere (restaurants, vacations, meetings, golf courses), but nowhere too (Facebook, Words with Friends, email, etc)?  I’ve done all of the above, so I guess I’m a bit everywhere & nowhere too.

I don’t want to be that way (plain & simple).  When you talk to me, I want to give you my attention and listen.  When I talk with you, I want healthy debate and discussion in return, so please get your nose out of the “cloud” for a few minutes.  Even though I feel like technology has offered us some of the most amazing advances known to man (one amazing, but selfish advancement…wireless hot spots, which enabled me to work from Manistee, Michigan and stare at Lake Michigan while discussing the latest in Recruitment Process Outsourcing strategies with my colleagues this weekend).  My point brings me back to that crazy little voice I tend to hear 4 or 5 times per day (nah- I don’t think I need meds yet, I rather enjoy talking with and to that voice).  Let’s spend some time and focus on the reflection that takes us back to how we got to where we sit.  Who were the people that helped shape us, mould us and form us into the people we are today (and the people we’ll become in the future)?  When one starts to think about this list – it becomes an emotional, humbling, overwhelming, and, for me, very spiritual exercise.  After all…I believe that we are on a journey that isn’t one we map, it has been mapped for us and we’ll keep making choice after choice until we arrive at the destination intended for us. Let me use the rest of my typing time to thank those people who have shaped me.  Some of you might know each other, some of you may be strangers, but ALL of you have played an instrumental role in my life.

The reality is, and as much as Fran Lebowitz might laugh, we’ll keep on using the advancements we receive from the technology world.  My point here is…let’s not forget about how important it is for people to pay attention to the other people who have helped them achieve through life (and for God’s sake, if you happen to be with one of those people- right now- don’t text them, hug them).  In short, GET OFF THE TECHNOLOGY and think for a few minutes about those who have impacted you and then, of course, pick up that technology and text a few people or post a few kind words on Facebook to let those around you know that you are thinking of them.

Thank you:

Mom, Dad, Josh, Seth, Deena, Chuck McShane, Kevin Fisher, Tony, Judy, LJ, Aunt Janet, Deanna Ayers, Sharon, Sharon I, Mark Penrose, Jeff Bugg, Eric Snow, Randy Nickel, Brad Dzon, Pam Berklich, Debbie Robbins, Joe Wiesner, Brad Peters, Molly, Jeff Joner, Keri, Amy Casai, Steve Liverance, Margaret Hunter, The Hollis and Cyndi show, John J May III, Tiffany Leiter, Adam C, Georgie, David, Aaron, Katie, Adriana, Wendy, Deanna, Kimberly, Meg, Lydia, Andrew, Father Ozzie, Braeden, Brecken, Jillian, Rob McShane & Steve Ali, Amy Bush, Jerry Collier, Tanya, Jillyan, Forbsey, Chiacchia, Mike Murphy, Aaron Sikora, Cleb, K. Rubis & Al Lewis, Lori McColl, Balestrieri, Buck, Campbell, Thorpe, Pieknik-Lybik duo, Kathy Schmidt, Eleanor Josaitis, All the “grandpeeps”, Arends clan, Miss Julie, Paulo Coehelo, The kid in Catcher in the Rye, Viktor Frankl, Hannah, Rachel Kristensen & your hubby, Norm, Kim Knapp, Bjorn & his wife, all the dudes who lived in the basement of DX-and all of your wives too.

It would take me a full day to type the individual ways each of you has helped me (and like my wife would do…please don’t focus on the order in which you appear -you are all very important to me).  You inspired me, challenged me, coached me, were patient with me, stuck by me, beat on me, hazed me and the list goes on…regardless, you have helped me and I feel like I owe it back to you and all those I meet in the future, in spades.

And getting back to technology- If you really want to know how you impacted me, shoot me a text or drop me a note on Facebook and we’ll have a “hug it out” moment… TTYL, LOL, #ireallyloveyoutechnology.

What’s a life nomad?

I’ve been pretty “nomadic” when it comes to my life experiences, but I haven’t been as truthful to myself or to those around me regarding how much I enjoy being a “life nomad”.  Different experiences, people, places and things energize me!  Although some have criticized the pace and frequency of my life choices (career, family management, healthy life styles, unhealthy life styles…), I have been pretty comfortable with my changes and I do realize that I bounce from idea to idea and new plan to new plan more frequently than some people change clothes, so whether I was going to become a runner, an adventure racer, a Deacon, a writer, an executive or a stay at home Dad (you get the drift)…I have always felt innately comfortable with where I was going, what I was going to do and who I was going to do it for.  Now, I’d be a bold faced liar if I didn’t tell you that there have been  “voices” along the way.  These voices reside comfortably in my head (yes…I’m openly admitting that I hear little voices- not in the “see a doctor” sort of way), but in the traditional form…doubt, fear, insecurity, confidence, comfort, etc.  You know the various self discussions one might have with themselves, “Hey- what are you thinking by moving jobs” or… “Do you really think you are cut out to handle life on the road again”…or my favorite, “do you really want to be a healthy guy or are you just made to eat cheese sticks and drink beer”.

These voices can be powerfully derailing or powerfully motivating (depending on which set of voices you listen to).  The more comfortable I’ve become with sharing stories of my life through this blog, the writing has enabled me to continue to learn and grow as a person and my opinions have generated some deep and philosophical discussions with some of the most random people who read these articles (which I love).  The irony about writing about such personal topics and being a life nomad is the realization that so many have similar experiences, concerns, challenges, and fears or have achieved positive growth, empowerment and peace on their journeys, so as I meet and talk to those who have lived through journeys of their own, they keep affirming that powerful truth… I’m not alone in my thinking and I’m not the only person who has battled those fearful tones or internal voices that can derail us from time to time. 

A good friend of mine, who also acts as one of my mentors, recently packed up her life and moved across the country to pursue something she had always thought about, but never really acted on because of these “voices”.  Her voices were rooted in a different place than mine, but nonetheless, they helped her foster a belief that being employed by someone else would give her the professional life she was intended to live.  Ironically, after a bit of a career shake up in 2010, she was able to disengage from the world for a period of time, focus on her, tune out the “negative and fear based” voices and she began to act, sound and “be” different.  This is the point in time where our friendship matured from a comfortable acquaintance to coach/coachee, because I could tell she authentically believed in herself and those behaviors started to quell the negativity she had listened to for years.  I could tell that a more clear and positive set of voices told her she could build a business if she wanted to, she could see new parts of the country if that was her interest, she could be her own leader and boss if that fancied her and fortunately…she has listened to those feelings and is in the process of building a new business, in a new area of the world and she appears to be content, which I love to see.

As my friend accomplished her goals, I’m still on that journey and as part of that journey I made a commitment to myself that I would continue working on my mental, physical and spiritual awareness (and that I would not stop being nomadic), so I could be prepared and stay balanced with regard to some of the challenges faced by a person who is as nomadic as I am.  Now, we all know that we can’t control others’ behavior, even though so many of us try to, so I am working to focus on learning  from these people’s behaviors (not controlling them) and I am also focused on NOT enabling other people’s opinions to be a focal point of my decision making, but instead, using these opinions to help me shape my decision making…who am I kidding though,  I still let other’s opinions play too heavy a role in the decisions I make, but we are working on it, right?  Finally, I sure as hell don’t want to be pulled into a trap, whereby, my natural inquisitive nature, my love for nomadic life experiences and my passion for connecting with people from all walks of life is squashed based around some hint of fear or insecurity.

As you’ll notice…when you read my thoughts and opinions, you might feel the same way about your life or, if you don’t, I’ll be happy to have you hitch your wagon to me and you can watch as I work through this, because we can all agree that I still have a long road ahead as it relates to the acquisition of “peace and serenity”- haha.  My experiences have shown me that the peace and contentment or the powerful aspirations one has for their life, their family, their career, their health, or their peace of mind…won’t be attained without significant effort, because attaining these goals comes from living the experiences life’s journey affords us.  So, as the New Year unfolds…I’m going to continue to be  nomadic with my experiences, I’m not going to live with the “routine” and I’m going to be active, introspective and will work to choose those things that will give me the life experiences that most of us seek.  In short, I hope you’ll do the same.

A belated Happy New Year to all of my readers and I’ll look forward to sharing 2013’s stories and experiences in the weeks and months that follow…

It’s fine…

I challenge each of you to pay attention to the number of times you hear the phrase, “it’s fine”, through the course of a day.  And, the next time you hear it, make sure you capture the situation, the story, or the experience that elicited the comment too.

I, for one, started to observe people and their use of this comical little phrase about a month ago and here is why I’ve decided to keep a mental tally of each time I hear these words.

The phrase, when interpreted in the literal sense, means everything or every situation is going to be alright, it will be tolerated and the people in the midst of the “situation” will be just fine, hence…”it’s fine”.  Now, when you start paying attention to when this phrase is most often used, you’ll start to have some fun.  I was at work the other day and one of my close work colleagues stopped by to chat for a bit and she began telling me a story.

The story had plenty of detail and as I listened, intently (yes…although I’m really good at talking, I too, can be a listener from time to time), I noticed that she used the phrase “it’s fine” 6 times in 15 minutes, so I stopped her mid sentence, and asked if everything was really fine.

She paused for a minute and retorted with a quick, “what do you mean?” and I smiled at the opportunity to pontificate, so off we go.  I shared my view that if the story she was telling, involved me, I wouldn’t be “fine” with what she was talking about.  My reaction to the situation I was listening to would have elicited more of a “that’s total bullshit” response (that’s just my opinion), but for her…everything was fine.  We laughed as she caught my point and I continued my rant with more questions around why do we think so many people, me included, close sentences of stories that really aren’t fine, with…it’s fine?  We do it because it is expected that the world will throw curveballs, it is expected that challenging situations will surface in life and it is expected that we will be able to stay calm through these situations…hence- it’s fine.

Now…I’m not going to expect that my little observation will prevent me from using the phrase any more, but I am more curious about why we have to use it.  I, too, will respect the challenging situations work might present or the frustrations that accompany navigating through marriages, parenthood, civil service or whatever else you might have rolling in your life, but I am standing firm on this…if something sucks, it is ok to discuss why it sucks (for you) and how you might adjust the “sucking”, so that it becomes a better situation.

Ironically, if we continue to reinforce a behavior with “it’s fine”, we may be subjecting ourselves to continued frustration and the people or circumstances who could be inadvertently inflicting frustration on us wouldn’t ever suspect that we might have an issue with their behavior or request if we always say to them…it’s fine.

My friends…If something doesn’t feel right, share that with the people around you.  You never know when a simple push back or requested behavior change might elicit a great conversation and ultimately correct something that is paining you.

And if that doesn’t work, “it’s fine”.