Tag Archives: Personal

Professionalism matters

I am surprised at how many people lack professional etiquette in the workforce. Too many unprofessional encounters have led me to believe it’s because people don’t quite understand what professionalism is. So, here goes:

1. Dress appropriately: There’s not much latitude when it comes to office attire in a regular cubicle environment. While niche offices (beauty salons, artist’s studio, etc.) might not have certain constraints, in most work-environments people are expected to dress professionally. So, no halter tops, no cleavage-showing, no micro mini skirts, no stockings with holes for women. No vests, no sweats, no clinging shirts, no bling for men. In short — you’re not there to party or express your personality. You’re there to work, so dress accordingly.

2. You are the organization: For an outsider you’re your organization’s ambassador. You’re the talking head. The representative. Keep that in mind when interacting with clients. What you say, do, or wear reflects on the organization you’re working for. If you don’t demonstrate pride in your work or respect for it, no one else will.

3. Accept critique: A lot of people take critique personally. Please don’t. If I were to cry every time  an editor told me I needed to write a second draft (Boo hoo! So, you’re saying the first draft wasn’t PERFECT!?!?!), I’d be drowning in a sea of my own tears. You’re there to learn, stretch your mind, expand upon your skills . Welcome critique with open arms. It’s only helping you grow — even if it isn’t helpful, it still teaches you patience! It doesn’t mean you suck; it’s just a way of telling you there is potential for something better. Embrace it.

4. Don’t socialize your day away: We spend more time at work than we do with our families any given weekday, so it’s natural to develop “friendships” in the workplace. But remember to keep social banter to a minimum. Your first priority is work and while everyone enjoys a bit of office gossip here and there, your water cooler conversations shouldn’t take over your day. Go for lunch or dinner with your office pals, grab a mug of beer or a cup of coffee outside office hours. Your office space wasn’t meant to be your personal living room. Also, remember that perception is reality — you may get all your deadlines met and be a top-notch worker, but if people know you for your rumor-milling or domestic-adventure stories more than your work ethic, there’s something wrong with that picture.

5. Beware of social media time sinks: Sure everyone’s on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Buzz and all those other time sinks, but if it isn’t part of your job profile, you really shouldn’t be using your work time to update your status or send tweets by the minute. I’ve had people make clients wait just so they could finish posting their latest photos to Facebook. Nothing tells a client that you’re not serious about your work as peering over your shoulder to see the Facebook logo staring back.

6. Don’t whine all the time: Nobody likes a whiner. Period. Everyone has loads of stuff to do. Everyone is spread thin. Everyone has zero budget. We get it. It’s ok to vent once in a while, but if you’re always complaining all you’re doing is bringing everyone’s morale down. It’s bad enough to begin with — no one needs it slapped in their faces all the time. Also, if you’re whining all the time, it won’t take long for people to mutter under their breaths: “If it’s so bad, why don’t you leave?”

7. Watch how you speak and how you write: Wassup?  See ya later dawg! Dude, hurry up! — not exactly office speak. You’re a white-collar worker in a professional work environment — act the part. Also, watch that slang in your professional communication. While emoticons and CUL8Rs may be alright when chatting with your buddies, office e-mail requires a certain amount of “seriousness.” Typing full words and coherent sentences makes a difference.

8. Don’t tie your emotions with your job: Some people take everything you tell them personally. Your job is not you. You are not your job. Stop getting your emotions in the mix. Don’t be detached, but don’t be so invested in your job that if roadblocks occur, you experience a nervous breakdown. Be civil even if you don’t get along with someone.

9. Respect other people’s time: Never leave people waiting. When you show up late you’re telling folks that you don’t really care. It’s insulting. It’s disrespectful. Just as you have a gazillion things to do, so do they. If you absolutely can’t make it on time, it’s professional courtesy to call ahead and let the other person know you’re running behind. When you say you’ll be there, mean it.

10. Don’t be cocky: Remember, everyone is dispensable. And you’re not above this rule. So, do your job well. But don’t forget that the machine will carry on just as well without you. You may be great at what you do, but you’re not the only one. Be proud of who you are and what you do, but don’t go rubbing it in people’s faces. With talent, comes humility.

This isn’t by any means a comprehensive list. Just the “top 10” compilation, if you will, from my personal experiences with those snooty, self-absorbed nincompoops….eh…no need to be uncivil — let’s just say “those unprofessional people.”

Have more tips? Do share.

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Winning isn’t everything

I’ve often wondered where our urge to win stems from. What prompts us to want to come first? Why is coming second or third not good enough?

As a kid, I was always taught that winning isn’t everything and yet when it came to class tests or sports meets, my parents would set the bar so high that, sometimes, it was almost impossible to reach.

As an abstract concept it worked well, but in reality, not so much.

When the report card came, instead of congratulating me on scoring 92 percent in the finals, my dad would ask, “Who came first?” followed by “How could she score 95 percent and you couldn’t?”

Dejected and teary-eyed I’d head to my room.

Later I would be taken out to dinner as a “treat” and mom and dad would look proudly at me, encouraging me to study harder, nudging me to go that extra mile.

I was a bright kid — they didn’t want to see my talent go waste. And they knew that out in the world, coming first was going to get me places. No one cared if you were one of the top three, let alone the top five, they reasoned.

Some children cheated — took little “chits” to class, had their art projects completed by their moms, indirectly bribed the teachers.

Because winning meant too much.

And since everyone was doing it, it was somehow justified.

So much for the mandatory moral science classes all of us attended.

I was too self-righteous. And my mom was too busy.

Most of all, I couldn’t lie to myself.

Because at the end of the day, all said and done, you might have good grades on paper, but in your heart you know you’re a failure. You may have it but you know you didn’t deserve it.

I didn’t want sleepless nights.

I knew my parents had a lot of expectations from me, but I had decided early on that my best is all I could give it. And if it wasn’t good enough to earn me the best spot then so be it.

Even today I see my friends urge their toddlers to out run each other, to come first, to be better … nay, to be the best.

Because what good is second-best?

And every time someone says, “it’s all about participation,” or “it’s all about having fun” — they’re perceived as talking to the losers’ club.

But isn’t that really the essence of competitions? The ability to show one’s mastery over a subject or a sport with the help of an opponent? About enjoying yourself?

It’s not about showing the world that you’re the best, it’s about being the best you can be. There’s a distinct difference between the two.

That’s not how the world works, though.

Winning and cheating go hand-in-hand. We learn that there are moral, social, economic repercussions for those who cheat; that those people pay somehow, some time, somewhere…but when we look around us we find them getting better grades, more money, more power.

The hunger to win feeds corruption. It brings out not only the best, but also the worst in us.

Think about it the next time you feel dejected about your (or your children’s) less-than-desirable performance report.

If you gave it your best shot, be content.

This is an abstraction that when applied in reality will serve you well.

Read David’s well-written post on the same subject, especially the study [PDF] he refers to about bronze medal winners in the Olympics who were “simply happy to have received any honors at all (instead of no medal for fourth place).”

In the end it’s all about perception — the one you have of your self outweighs what anyone else thinks of you.

Go get ’em, tiger!

 

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A journey of self-discovery

I sat in silence.

The sky engulfed me. So did the greenery.

It was a meditative state … hearing nothing but the chirping of the birds.

The sound of the breeze in the rustling leaves.

The smell of grass.

Everything kissed by the sun.

I was at peace.

As I cocked my head to the left, I saw the freeway … glistening metal and glass edifices.

A mass of civilization. People running from Point A to Point B. Mindlessly.

Trying to make ends meet. Trying to figure out their purpose in life through their work. Trying to survive in a consumerist battlefield.

Perched up on the green folds of the mountain, I tried to blur it out.

All needs, wants, ambition, goals — vanished.

Replaced by calm.

It was so real, that it felt surreal.

And then came a flood of questions.

Why didn’t I make more time for such escapes from a life that continued to stress me?

Why have I built a life that continually demands me to be a robot?

Why can I not just leave it all behind?

Why can’t I enjoy more time with Nature?

Why can’t I just spend days wandering, reflecting, marveling?

Why do I need a routine, a structure to make sense of my existence?

Why can’t I just be?

Escape.

Create my own reality.

I didn’t come back with any answers, but the questions keep nagging at me.

When I know what I really want to do, when I know what brings me contentment, when I know what makes me fulfilled…

What’s holding me back?

Is it a false sense of security?

Is it just because?

I don’t want to go down the “I don’t know” street…it never leads me to any answers, just buys me more time to muster up the courage and ultimately confront my fears.

I want to close some doors and not look back.

I want to open some doors and explore with wild abandon.

One day soon we’ll have to sit and talk it through.

I, me, and myself on a journey of self-discovery.

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True love

Love to some is like a cloud

To some as strong as steel

For some a way of living

For some a way to feel

Some say love is holding on

And some say let it go

While some say love is everything

Some say they don’t know…

Love — the one emotion that all of us experience at some point in our lives. An emotion which defies definition. An overwhelming all-encompassing joy that comes saddled with its share of sadness.

I remember having countless crushes while in school. Our neighbour’s son, my best friend’s brother, a cousin’s friend, our judo teacher … I fancied them for the colour of their eyes, their swagger, or just the way they combed their hair. Harmless “puppy loves” as ephemeral as soap bubbles.

I’d always heard that you won’t even know what hit you when you find the love of your life — the one person you want to spend time with day after day after day. And it was true.

It came at a time when I was mature enough to take on the responsibilities of a relationship which demands a lot of give and not so much of take. Love was the edifice I built on the foundation of friendship. It took time to blossom. It took a lot of understanding, loads of communication, and plenty of patience to become what it is today. 

Most importantly, love to us meant a meeting of minds. Still does.

It was notches above infatuations and what my mom likes to call “the pleasures of the flesh.”

Our parents’ generation was fed lavishly with ideals. Theirs was an era of constraints, restraints, respect, admiration, and oodles of romance. An age where the distance between the sexes somehow managed to help preserve the sanctity of an amorous relationship.

Our generation, with its openness and fading lines of proximity, jumped on to the bandwagon of love with a little more haste and defiance of “traditions.”

The next generation, I fear, is going further downhill — not quite able to distinguish between physical attraction and mental compatibility. Love seems synonymous with both. Exclusively, even.

I am amazed when I hear stories of school kids bragging about the number of physical relationships they have had. I am horrified to learn that girls barely seventeen have already been in and out of five to six “hook ups.” What about the emotional baggage these kids will carry with them?

The mindset of our “always-plugged-in” generation is all too evident in their tweets and Facebook status updates — publicly handling their personal life.

I see more and more focus on physical beauty, less and less regard for intellect. Closeness gets more importance than intimacy. There is more of passion and less of emotion. More of frivolous comradeship, less of true companionship. There is more acquiring and less sharing.

More of me, less of us.

Maybe I’m old school, but to me it seems like the essence of relationships has been forgotten.

There’s much more to being someone’s beau than gifting them red roses and Hallmark cards. What about gifting our time, our company, our support, our friendship…? What about setting priorities where our loved one comes first?

What about giving ourselves, and the ones we love, time and space to build a strong foundation? What about working towards meaningful and lasting friendships?

What about honouring our commitments? What about channeling our energies and emotions towards building lifelong bonds rather than wasting them on seasonal relationships?

Love is so much more than a fleeting song and a glass of wine. It doesn’t always lie on satin sheets. It isn’t found in diamonds and perfumes and flowers.

It’s about respect, companionship, understanding, appreciation. It’s about being yourself and loving the other person for who they are. It’s about making it through thick and thin.

Relationships take work. Love makes it easy.

I believe that true love happens once in a lifetime.

Don’t let frivolous flings tire you out so much that when true love comes your way you aren’t able to receive it with open arms.

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Face your fears

Darkness.

Heights.

Water.

Caves.

Earthquakes.

Lizards.

These are just a handful of things I’m afraid of. There was a time when I couldn’t even look at a body of water at night.

I’d imagine that darkness and water would join forces and swallow me whole.

I’d close my eyes when walking over bridges (‘coz then it was a triple whammy of height plus water plus darkness!). It was foolish. And I don’t know where I acquired such paranoia, but it was debilitating.

As I grew older, I learned how to mask my fear … but internally I was still crying, “Help me!”

A couple of years ago, as my husband and I were on one of our post-dinner walks in Iowa City, I tugged at his hand a little stronger, closed my eyes, and tried to stay in step with him. He turned around and asked what happened … I shook my head, opening my eyes ever so slightly and mumbled something about this being romantic.

“Romantic?!?!?!”

He was on to me. “What are you hiding? Are you afraid of something?”

I nodded meekly, still not having the courage to acknowledge my surroundings. We were on a bridge — let me be more specific — smack dab in the middle of a bridge. All I wanted was to cross it.

He insisted I open my eyes. Having known him long enough, I knew he wasn’t going to budge. We’d spend the night here.

So, I figured if I continued holding on to him, I’d be fine. Slowly I opened my eyes, focusing intently on his face. “There,” I said boldly. “Now can we walk?”

He shook his head, “No. Look around you.”

Grudgingly, I did — empty streets, moonless night, a couple of stars mocking at me.

“Now, let’s look at the water,” he said approaching the stone wall of the wretched bridge.

Here I was, a two-year-old in the body of a 20-something woman. If only I could disappear.

I knew he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Feigning courage, I peered over the wall and looked at the gushing river beneath.

Black water. So alive. So agile. It could leap up and take me with it in a flash.

I felt his hand around my shoulder. “So, what’s scary about this?” I couldn’t put it in words.

There I was. Looking fear in the eye. And the more intently I gazed at the water, in this darkness, from 10 feet above, the less fearful I became.

The idea of “fear” was more concrete at that moment, than the fear itself.

A couple of months later on our first vacation to Honolulu, we decided to take a moonlit stroll on the beach. All the fearful ideas came swarming back. But as I lay under a starry sky, feeling the wind in my hair and the sand between my toes, I stared into the vast blackness of the ocean.

For the first time in my life, I saw beauty. I could look at the shimmering water, the silver surf, the oneness of the sky and sea, this whole mass of black — and not be afraid.

I still wouldn’t agree to swimming in the ocean at night, but I won’t entirely run away from the idea of taking a dip in a well-lit pool. 😉

As with darkness, heights, and water my other fears are simply figments of my imagination. Seeds that were sown sometime in my childhood, perhaps. Seeds that grew into full-blown trees that took root in my mind. Gripping me strongly.

I’ve learned that the first step to overcoming one’s fear is to acknowledge it. Just doing that takes a lot of courage — it’s a reflection of one’s weakness. Vulnerability. Lack of control.

But once you’ve accepted it, you can take steps to overcome it. It all boils down to what you want: to live a life of fear and regrets, a life of limited experiences; or a life full of opportunities waiting to be grabbed.

I want to be able to enjoy snorkeling. I want to taste the freedom that comes with paragliding. I want to marvel at fireflies in caves. I want to know what it feels like to be on top of the world — literally.

I want to escape the security of a nine-to-five routine. I want to embrace the unknown. I want to be free!

Life is too short and I am in the sweet spot where my desires far outweigh my fears.

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Mirror, mirror on the wall

Sitting in the waiting area of my dentist’s office, I reached for Time magazine with the cover image of an aeroplane and the title “Fear of Flying.”

Right beside it was Redbook with a smiling Julia-Louis Dreyfus looking “hotter at 49 than 29.” What caught my attention was this message shouting out in bold all-caps: “Is your face older than you are?”

Under routine circumstances, I would have glanced, smirked, shook my head, and carried on with reading an in-depth analysis of the missed signs of terrorism on flight 253, but this headline was distinctly odd.

It had, attached to it in a slightly smaller font, a page number!

I’ve scanned through covers of similar magazines while waiting for my turn at the grocery store register and don’t remember having seen page numbers associated with catchy headlines. I figured the publishers were trying to pull in readers and making them at least flip through the whole magazine before they got to the one piece that lured them in. But this was different. They were making it easy for their target audience to cut to the chase. Hmm.

Intrigued, I swapped magazines and immediately flipped to page 49. What I saw was a slew of product placements.

Let me correct that: a slew of very expensive products. Aah! That explained the bait.

Products that would boost your eyelashes, plump your cheeks and lips, give you voluminous hair, make your large pores go away … products that promised a feel-good makeover … products that reminded you of how old you really were.

As if that is a bad thing!

The ensuing conversation with my oral hygienist was rather enlightening. All I did was mention the feature in the magazine and say, “I find it rather odd the amount of time and money women are supposed to spend looking good …”

And this followed.

“I spend half an hour cleansing and moisturizing my skin, clipping and polishing nails, massaging oil into my scalp … making sure I take as complete care as I can of my body before going to bed every night. I fight the signs of aging … at least I try,” she shared. “My husband on the other hand, changes into his pajamas and plops right under the covers.”

I couldn’t speak much with her fiddling around in my mouth except utter a couple “umm hmms.”

As she dug into my gum line, she wondered aloud, “Why do women get old and men get dignified?”

I smiled faintly.

“Maybe I should just go to bed after brushing my teeth like my husband does,” she declared. “Maybe it shouldn’t matter to me that my hair’s turning gray and my skin is sagging.”

She was on a roll. She reminisced about her grandmother going “naturally white,” while her mom and her generation try to cover up the grays with streaks and highlights. She talked about the business of marketing to women’s vanities. “Men are vain, too, but not to this extent,” she opined.

Men usually don’t care as much about appearances — the ones who pluck their eyebrows, get facials, and expensive haircuts are mocked (or — as some right-wing generalists would call them — gay), but women, no matter which culture they come from, strive doggedly to be well-groomed.

As my dental hygienist said, “Men are supposed to be intelligent. Women should just stay pretty.”

We scoffed in unison.

What was left unsaid is probably what will stay with her. It certainly struck a chord with me.

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A record of our life, our times, our vanity

Spicy Saturday Pick

What does blogging do for you?

Is it a forum for tips?

A place where you reflect and have conversations with yourself?

A safe haven; an escape?

A commentary on social, political, economic issues of our times?

A minute-by-minute record of your personal life? A journal that was meant to be personal, but really isn’t?

Do you have one eye on the traffic stats and the other on the number of comments you received?

Isn’t your blog like a monologue that you stage for your audience? Craving recognition, applause, critique, and fame?

Watching  “Private Lives,” an episode in the long-running Fox series “House”  got me wondering about the purpose of blogging.

The show is based on an eccentric genius of a doctor with no interpersonal skills but plenty of diagnostic ones. This particular episode focused on a patient whose life revolved around blogging. Thinking about having kids? She’d blog about it. Had an argument over dinner with the boyfriend? It’s going on the blog. Seeking comfort? Yep, you got it! Read the blog.

Here’s a snippet from her life:

She: So-and-so said you’d react this way.

He: Who is this so-and-so?

She: It’s one of my followers.

He: You blogged about this?

She: Of course I did!

He: I don’t want you writing about me or us. You take it down right now.

She: No I’m not. You’re part of my life and that’s what I blog about. I blog about my life.

He: You like bringing strangers into our life? To weigh in on things they don’t even know about?

She: They give me perspective.

She was so obsessed with blogging that when the doctors asked her to choose between a pig’s heart valve or a plastic one, she turned to her boyfriend and said, “Can you please pass me the laptop?”

Here was a woman seeking advice from people halfway across the globe instead of taking a moment to think about this life-altering decision for herself or conferring with her significant other.

When she was being prepped for the operation, she asked her boyfriend if he’d still be there when she woke up. He kept quiet and she wistfully said, “I wish you’d blog. At least then I’d know what you were thinking.”

I know this was an extreme portrayal, but it brought to fore an important point. How far removed are we from the people we live with, work with, interact with? And how close are we getting to those physically a world away?

The internet is a great thing — it’s brought so many people together, but at the same time is it increasing the gulf between those who live under the same roof? Have we become slaves to technology? And so much so, that before we open our mouth to talk to someone standing next to us, we look for a keyboard?

For those of us who blog, does every real-life conversation become fodder for the next post? Are we always thinking about what would resonate with the readers? Is this an attempt on our parts to record our lives and our times, or is it just a reflection of our vanity? An endeavor to feed our ego? To rally the troops in favor of our ideas? To find like-minded people?

I see my blog as a medium to spur conversations — not necessarily with me, or with people in your lives, but with yourself.

I put my thoughts in words, so that my words can spark some thoughts in your mind.

So, yes, as much as I say I write for myself, I am inadvertently writing for an audience.

And while stats and comments don’t matter per se, it’s encouraging to have a readership to validate this undertaking.

But I tread these waters carefully. Not treating my partner or friends as characters in this “play.” Not getting swallowed into virtual existence. Not treating this space as a personal diary that will serve medical practitioners with valuable information some day.

This is not where I “live” my life.

What about you?

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