Thursday, December 20, 2012

Through the Season on an Elf with No Name



Extravaganzalorious.

We may have gone a little Elf crazy this year. It probably started with Schickabush and my willingness to respond to the Wordsmith Studio writing prompt showing an Elf crouched in the branches of a Christmas tree. 

Then we read this post about the preposterousness of the Elfing taking place in households like ours.  Not the kind of Elfing my friend Khara and I chatted about in a #wschat a couple of weeks in a row, but the tattle tailing Chinese-made imp from the North Pole, complete with book and handsome box.

Our friends have their tween-aged daughter doing said Elfing in their home. She’s discovered Pinterest boards dedicated to Elf on the Shelf ideas.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Things They Hand-Me-Down

Essay submitted to Skirt! but not included in the December issue. Enjoy!
_____________________________________________

Lamp, microwave, sheets for my new full-sized bed. Before I moved into my first apartment, as a sophomore in college, I made a list of items I would need: “nightstand, lamp, kitchen trashcan.”   

To each item a good friend and future roommate responded, “don’t buy that, I have one.” 

It became such a joke that our third roommate and I began suggesting outrageous items like private planes, sequined gowns, and autographed copies of the first Beatles album following each with, “don’t buy that, Josh has one.”


We carried this couch down the street from mom's house to our old house. It sits in our home to this day, comfortably broken in and a little bit shabby.

We furnished the apartment on hand-me-downs. A couch someone would have tossed out, a halogen lamp that wobbled when the front door closed, a television stand that used to hold a microwave in someone else’s kitchen. My favorite was the kitchen table with the 1970’s-style roller chairs.

As newlyweds, several years later, Charlie and I furnished a rented bungalow in Charlotte’s fashionable Dilworth neighborhood with our collected assortment of hand-me-downs. A stereo cabinet circa 1975, a cherry wood desk with one bad leg, a wooden four-poster double bed that squeaked mercilessly. The few new items we possessed (wedding gifts like ice buckets, coffee bean grinders, and crystal punch bowls) hid in kitchen cabinets.

Charlie played a second-hand set of drums in a rock band and I enrolled in graduate school and read used books; we waited tables in a brewery nearby and tried to make ends meet on tips and student loans.

Our first landlord had given us the old washer and dryer in the home we rented before we married. When we left for Charlotte he sent those appliances with us. But by the time we arrived the washer had been through enough and called it quits before we could ever employ it in Charlotte. 

We made do until we could save up for a new washer. Charlie took a few baskets of work clothes to the Laundromat and brought them back, soaking, to toss into the dryer, which still worked. I hung what I could on the rusted clothes line just a foot above the tallest weeds in the backyard of the rental property.

One morning before work the doorbell rang and a delivery driver from Lowe’s stood on the porch. He confirmed my name and said he had a delivery for us: a shiny new washing machine.

Standing in that dingy bungalow kitchen, having no idea how such an item would just show up one day, I explained to the man from Lowe’s that I couldn’t pay him for a new washer.

“No, ma’am,” he said, “it’s already paid for.”

I hugged him.

Conversation chairs, also a mom hand-me-down. It's still strange to see these in my living room. These were "fancy" furniture in my parents' house.
A year later our income would level out and we’d buy an $800 couch and finance a new car. We had full time jobs, health insurance, and in two more years we would buy our own 1400 square foot home. 
 
Back in 2001, Charlie’s Aunt Carolyn Sue had relocated, too, and had lost need of her old washing machine. She’d graciously offered it to us and then, without the resources to get it from her apartment in Uptown Charlotte to our home in Southend, she simply sold it to the new tenant and took that money to Lowe’s.

That she didn’t call to tell us the item was en route was in keeping with what my in-laws termed Carolyn Sue’s “eccentricity.”

Barefoot, holding my wait staff apron in one hand, the half-read text of some American Realism novel in the other, I admitted the Lowe’s delivery staff and watched as they shimmied the broken washer out of its nook in the kitchen and rolled it through the doorway.

It seemed like a dream as they hoisted in the new one in, connected it to the wall, and handed me a clipboard to sign. There it was, my name, on the top of the list for deliveries.

A surprise, new, hand-me-down washing machine.

Eleven years later, Charlie would get promoted; I would finish graduate school and start my own business. It's nearly December and we’ve moved into our second home. 

With so much square footage and so few items to fill it, we’ll again rely on hand-me-downs to furnish a new home. My mother’s cherry dining room suite that my aunt has had for the last eight years, a bedroom set for our daughter’s room that used to be in Charlie’s room when he was a boy, the green couch we hate but has served us well since we inherited it nine years ago.


We’ll again wonder if the risks we’re taking are the right ones and we’ll again cross our fingers against the bad luck that tends to find those with the least amount of extra funds.

That morning in 2001 I drove to work with the glint of the shiny white metal still bright in my eyes. I told my coworkers a washing machine had been delivered to my house that morning and that I had no idea why or how such a thing had come to pass.

For a minute we all wondered at a universe that simply provides.

Then we strapped on our aprons, started the tea, pulled down the chairs, and opened the restaurant.

Have you been surprised by an item you desperately needed but couldn't afford to purchase? Tell me about it in the comments.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Confessions of a Book Club Slacker



I joined three book clubs this summer. It’s not a big deal because I read voraciously and the three clubs are very different.

The first, through the Richland County Public Library, reads book-clubbable-books. We read The Postmistress, Before I Go to Sleep, The Language of Flowers, Unbroken, State of Wonder, and The Good Daughters.  

http://www.momswhoneedwine.com/
The second group, Read Between the Wines, is just what it sounds like: an excuse to drink wine. We read Emily Giffin’s latest, little-known author Mariah Stewart’s Coming Home, and a John Grisham novel called The Litigators. We’re not reading a book in November because it’s the holidays. Yep. Easy peasy.

The third group is an online group of writers and we read writing craft books. We read On Writing by Stephen King, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, and are now reading The Right to Write. I’ve become moderator of this group and find myself more attached to the group’s success than before.

In November the Clemson English Alumni group decided to read Cloud Atlas and meet here, in Columbia, to have a discussion on the book. Book club four? Sure! I’m in.

Try Over-Committing Just Once
It was at this point that book club FAIL occurred.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How I spent 3 hours returning a library book


I was turned away from the polls. Here’s how it happened. I parked at the library and walked over to the middle school, my voting precinct as identified by a web search. 

I had with me the library book for book club. I had only just started it and book club meets next week (oops).

I stood in line for two and a half hours. I’ll spare you the details of how cold it was. I had on my Ugg boots and a fleece. 
There is a time for every purpose.

I won’t mention how everyone wanted to complain but didn’t. We all know how ridiculously lucky we are that we are allowed to vote and that we were safe at the voting place

We also know there are procedures for voting. I thought I’d followed them. I thought I had gotten my new driver’s license and registered to vote at the same time.

On the website where you would change your voter registration it says, “change your driver’s license first” with a link that carries you away from the voter registration.

I never went back.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Digging for the Pony



Taking a positive perspective on things has never been a problem for me. I have been a glass-half-fuller my whole life. 

When we were kids my dad used to tell a story about two sisters. One was an eternal optimist, the other a pessimist. These sisters were supposed to be me and my younger sis.

One day the dad puts the two girls in separate rooms. The pessimist, we’ll call her Kristen, in a room full of toys and the optimist, we’ll call her Kasie, in a room full of manure.

It’s important to note here that my sister and I are not really the caricatures the story makes us out to be. We are both governed by a tremendous logic that tries to honestly weigh the odds and make calculated decisions.

That said I am more likely to think things will turn out okay and Kristen more likely to expect imminent disaster.

Anyway, after an hour the father returns

Monday, October 1, 2012

Remind Run Repeat



There’s one word hanging over my desk. Thanks to a summer spent in a preschool where the ratio of teacher to student was 1:2, HB (age 4) can now read it. Standing under it and looking up, she sounds out the letters:

“R says ruh, U says uh, N says nuh. Ruh-Uh-Nuh. Run!”

Yep, the word over the desk is RUN. Not that I have been. I’ve been out for two weeks. 

I felt guilty for a week or so but I don’t now. My ankle was hurting, my shoes are going bad (again!) and I’m not that excited about the group I’ve been with. They’re nice but I haven’t made any real friends there.

I bailed like HB at dance class. I am still looking for a NE Cola running group (send suggestions), but taking some time off. I'm changing direction.

So why does the word RUN have such prominence on my desk? What the heck does it have to do with Kasie’s Autonomy? It’s a mantra reminder.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Down Side to Achievement Part II



What do we do about the self-defeating side of achievement

How do we keep ourselves from sliding completely into an abyss of self-loathing, or, worse, becoming so goal-obsessed that we disregard all other things in pursuit of perfection? 

Here are three ways, of course, because bloggers love lists!

Through hardship to the stars, by Tom & Carol who sponsored my leg in the Spinx 1/2 last year.

1) Identify YOUR levels.

Take some time to say, “this is the dream level.” – for me, this is regular 10 mile runs, marathons, seriously crazy runner-freak stuff.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Down Side of Achievement


The problem with being a continuous-improvement-junky is achievement. I know, that seems counter-intuitive. We want to achieve, right? We want to get better. I do. Every day I do.

Six miles? No problem!
But once I’ve achieved something it becomes a standard. So today, as I huffed and puffed through 4 miles, reminding myself that running is a habit and I’ve been slack in the habit for months, I kept thinking, “I run 6 miles. Minimum.”

Yep.

Like when I swim. I swim 3000 yards. Period. No less.

How does this happen? High jumpers don’t take a month off in December, gorge themselves on Christmas cookies and eggnog and come back to the bar at 6 feet high. So why should I?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Fiction Location

Hi ya! Just wanted some new visitors to know I post my fiction on a different blog:


I've just put up a revision of a short story. Take a look if you get a few minutes.

Glad to meet ya! Be sure to leave a note in the comments introducing yourself!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hey Man, You're an All Star

Get your game on. Go play. This is for the GUTGAA meet & greet.  

Welcome, new friends! Be sure to leave a comment so I know you've been here!

-Where do you write?
At home, Columbia, S.C. in the "little house" which is the apartment we're staying in while our house is being built. I usually sit at the desk but sometimes I sit on the couch. Boring, right? I also write on bar napkins and scraps of paper, in the pages of books I'm reading and in a red leather journal I carry everywhere. 

-Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
A window. Dirty blinds and a parking lot beyond. Some empty spaces, a few pine trees, my own CRV "Brando" waiting for me to come and take him somewhere.

-Favorite time to write?
Morning. Early.

-Drink of choice while writing?
Coffee. Preferably iced. It's flippin hot in Columbia.

-When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
Music. Lyrics are inspiring. But classical helps me focus.

-What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
Gleaming the Cube. '80s skater movie with Christian Slater. Seriously. Main character: Brian. Skateboarder. Punk. Trying-to-be-a-grown-up. Best friend commits suicide. a la The Big Chill. Only I didn't get to see that movie until much later.

-What's your most valuable writing tip?
Revise. Revise. Revise. I've had four versions of Brian's story and am working on the 5th. As he grows, I grow. And when he's done with me, I'll know. 

Writers, Check out GUTGAA. Everyone else, bear with me. Contests are contests ;-)

Feel inspired to answer one of the questions? Do it! You're an All Star, too!


Friday, August 24, 2012

A Difficult Reflection on Courage


I couldn’t even look at it.

I followed the link through a tweet. I knew what it would be. Just one look would make me cry. I closed the window before it began.

It’s the Faces of the Dead slideshow and it has pictures of the first 2000 service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan who have been identified and whose families have been alerted. 

That’s 2000 families whose lives are forever changed by the irrevocable sacrifice of their fallen soldier.

And my cowardly self cannot even view their pictures.

Perspective


Lately I’ve been pretty wrapped up in the personal drama playing itself out in my small world. I have been in the water, as David Foster Wallace might say. I have been convinced of the hardship of my own experience.
 
But I am really good at changing perspectives. Like removing colored filters from theatre lights, I can adjust the temperature and shade of the scene I’m in. 

Though sometimes I find myself dangling from the rafters, high above the stage and sometimes I forget mine is not the only stage in town, I can usually do the psychological work necessary to put things in perspective.

Adding Shadows


I am fiercely patriotic. Not in the way that I think there’s nothing wrong with the U.S.A. or in that Dixie-Chick-hating-fervor way that mistakes loyalty to one as hatred of all “other.” I am patriotic in the way that I really believe I would do anything for my country.

Ever since September 11th and even more so since we went to war, the National Anthem has brought me to tears. Not just small drips of pride but sobs.

I cry for the soldiers on that slide show. For their families. For the great loves of their lives. For the loss of what else they could become.

I didn’t join the military. I didn’t sign up and put myself in harm’s way to defend our freedoms. I believed I could serve my country by making it a better place to live.

Get Busy


And what have I done, to that end?

I have been teaching English to people who want to improve their lives through higher education. I coach and mentor young girls interested in running. Book clubs and writing clubs and running clubs and YMCAs. I have the activity-suggests-a-life-filled-with-purpose approach.

I care for my family, obey the law, and write.

Define "hero"


I am lucky enough to experience the “quandary of self-actualization” as my friend Lynn wrote. In my playhouse, I adjust the setting, the actors, and the lights. I move the plot along.

But I need to remember mine is only one such playhouse. There are countless other stages upon which significant personal dramas are occurring.

When I write about perspective I expect to be helping others step away from their immediate circumstances. Think about those other stages, those other playhouses, those other dramas of which they may not be fully aware.

Hide from nothing


It’s a tremendous gift to have the means by which to ponder such things and the security in which to do so. I am grateful for those whose physical courage has given me the freedom to exercise my psychological courage.

Experience and exposure are the shaping agents of our immortal souls. To open oneself to both is to try to live one’s fullest possible life.

I’m going to watch the slide show now.

What personal reflection have you avoided because it would challenge you? Is it your career? Your family? Your fitness?  How did you overcome that fear?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I will never regret this

As Brando raced down I-20 toward Florence I thought, “I will never regret this.”

Brando is our blue CRV. HB rode in Brando’s back seat. Five-point-harnessed, the wild curls of a doll’s red hair tangled around her fingers, an abandoned half-empty bag of fruit loops wedged between her leg and the seat, she whined, “I don’t want to go to Nana’s.”

“Someday,” I said, “when your Mama is old, you will pack up your own little girl and carry her to visit Mama. And your daughter will wail, ‘I don’t wanna go,’ and you’ll say this: It’s important.”

“I don’t wanna go,” she said again.

“It’s important,” I said.

It isn’t often that while I’m doing something I acknowledge, “I will never regret this.” On the contrary, I have frequently acknowledged the opposite while continuing ahead on an ill-fated path.

I regret exiting the dirt track at Lowe’s Motor Speedway by climbing the 20-ft fence. I regret letting a good friendship sour in one reckless, thoughtless weekend. Ancient and unaffiliated events; both fueled by too much alcohol.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Winning a Free Year

In the early days of the internet my sister once clicked on one of those flashing banner ads that said “You’re a Winner!” She called the number, immediately, to claim her prize. The person who answered the phone couldn’t believe Kristen had received the message she described.

“Wow!” the operator said, perfectly rehearsed, “let me ask my manager about that one.”

It was one of the rare ads that would send Kristen on an all-expenses-paid trip around the world. They only had a few of them. How had she found it?

“You’re so lucky!” the operator gushed.
What's under the bridge?
Leigh Johnson Reed Photography, June 2012
After surrendering her personal information, enough to allow them to hack her identify and get to anything electronic they considered of value, they told her she would receive her voucher in the mail.

“Congratulations again,” the manager said before hanging up the phone.

It was the blinking banner that drew Kristen in. She couldn’t believe she’d actually won something. The fact that she hadn’t made a lot more sense. It was a scam. No vouchers ever arrived and she’s never been around the world on an all-expenses-paid anything.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Three Tools to Get Where You're Going

Get busy building your dream, right? Isn’t that what I said a couple of weeks ago?

The real question is how?

I’m a process person as I’ve explained before here and here. I’m also into pirates and so from my pirate vocabulary I’d like to offer these essential tools for building one’s personal process for success.

The Map


The map is a tool that shows the way, it provides direction but it also provides the “big picture.”

In business a map is referred to as a plan. That is probably because a plan can be fallible but a map implies finite dimensions like latitude and longitude. Plans are preparation and maps are drawn after achievement, a proven path.

I call my plan a map because, despite the likelihood it will need revisions, I am not inventing this path. I’m following the advice of others who’ve done this before me.

Friday, July 13, 2012

How to Stalk an Editor

Every now and then we writers get bold, adventurous, and desperate. Today's guest post from Lauri Meyers of Your Imagination is the Limit suggests desperation has a process.

Puma courtesy fPat on Flickr
Having a literary agent would be sweet.   They boil my manuscript down to its two sentence essence, target the right editor at the right publisher, and sell my book.  Voila!  Way better than my process:  spend a million hours (approximately) researching publishers, try to write something cute about the editor in the query letter, remember I don't actually know anything about the editor, cry. 

My $10 writing budget didn’t allow for a conference to meet editors in person so I could at least say "we met once."   Nor did it allow for driving into the city, hanging out in swanky wine bars, and buying anyone a drink who said the word "editor."  Learning 1: I needed to find information without turning into the creep at the bar.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Living the Dream

When DTC called us, we said yes. YES! We will go. WE WILL GO! This was the opportunity we had been waiting for. The one Charlie has been working for.


Grand Opening Picture of Discount Tire store in Columbia, S.C.
New Discount Tire Store in Columbia, S.C
Discount Tire talks about “the dream.” It is at the heart of what all of the guys that work for DTC know to be true: work hard enough and you can accomplish anything. On Saturday the store on Clemson Road opened. My lovable tire guy, Charlie, is working on his dream.

When DTC offered the dream to Charlie, our family moved to Columbia, S.C. Leaving friends and family behind was hard but leaving my old “job” was not a tough choice. Despite the friends and experience I had gained there, it was never my dream.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Links, Not Golf, Not Sausage, Still Fun and Delicious

Let's generate some BUZZ by visiting some of the older posts. Cheap, shameless self promotion? Or a good platform-awareness-strategy? Eh. Who knows.

Per Darren Rowse at ProBlogger and Stanford Smith at Pushing Social, a 7 Link Challenge.

  1. Your first postThe Rookie’s First Post which explains the reigning philosophy for 2012: Land the Plane. I have traditionally been someone who was “all over the place” as my sister would say. I hope to focus in 2012. It’s now mid-way through the year and I’m more focused, but still not exactly on target.
  2. A post you enjoyed writing the mostCollector, Storyteller, or Hoarder because it describes the things HB carries with her. If you look closely, you might see some patterns that are similar to a great short story called The Things They Carried. Or I might be thinking too much of my own prose ability.
  3. A post which had a great discussionNotes on a Senseless Tragedy was about the murder of a musician in Florence, S.C. The discussion mostly took place on Facebook where the reporter covering the story and the musician’s fiancĂ© posted links to the blog. A lot of hits and I’m not sure it made a difference. But I was hoping to help them heal.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Right as the Mail

I’ve decided to be a joiner here in my first few months in Columbia and I thought I’d join the book club at the Sandhills Library. In May they read The Postmistress. I didn’t finish it in time, so I skipped the book club. (I made it in June, funny story, maybe next Monday’s post ;-)

Anyway, The Postmistress completes my tour of World War II that began in 2010 with Lisa See’s Shanghai Sisters. Then I read The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons about WW2 in Leningrad. Then Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford about San Francisco and On Folly Beach about the southern coast of South Carolina. Then Gilgamesh and Sarah’s Key about an Australian woman in Armenia and an American woman in Paris, respectively. Then The Piano Teacher about Hong Kong.

That’s World War II in Shanghai, Leningrad, San Francisco, Charleston, Australia, Armenia, Paris, and Hong Kong. I was missing England. The Postmistress delivered.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A visit with S. Chris Edmonds

Chris Edmonds is a speaker, author, and senior consultant with the Ken Blanchard Companies, a leadership consultancy firm. He has authored two “Tweet Books” which seemed like a challenging medium to me. So I sent him an email and asked him if he’d answer some questions about his work. He agreed! Here are my questions and his answers.

What made you adopt the tweet medium for your latest book, #POSITIVITY AT WORK? Are there some limitations to the brevity required by tweeting?

 

My first tweet book, #CORPORATE CULTURE tweet, was released in April '11. I've been learning a bunch about social media over the past two years and had begun seeing a real community develop around my culture insights delivered daily in tweet form.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

She's Four on Her Birthday

At a Clemson football tailgate last fall the gal who parked next to us drew a hopscotch on the asphalt for her three-year-old daughter and HB to play on. The other little girl, Ellie, went first: “one, two, four, five, six,” she said.

Then HB, “one, two, three, four, five.”

Ellie again, “one, two, four, five, six.”

Then HB, now a little concerned she was not getting all the way to six, “one, two, three, four, five,” took an extra hop, “six!”

Ellie again, seeing the extra hop, “one, two, four, five, six, seven!”

HB, hands on hips, looked at Ellie and looked at me and said, “hey, what’s going on here?”

How does a mom explain that the other little girl keeps missing “three” and that my own precious daughter is doing just fine?

And I'm her mom


Though I have a good friend who likes to respond to things I say with, “you’re such a mom,” I don’t ever feel that way. I feel like things are different, maybe a little harder sometimes, maybe a little easier sometimes.

I don’t spend much time thinking of myself as a mom. But four years ago today I became one. There’s a little person in my house who was three-and-four-on-her-birthday and today’s her birthday.

“Goodnight, HB,” I said to her last night, “my three-year-old-sweet-girl.”

She grinned and snuggled deeper into Guh-Gus, her elephant pillow. (He’s prone to unprovoked attacks which elicit peals of laughter from HB, more on that some other time.)

I’m partial to birthdays and to birthday posts. I think they are an excellent reason to think about one’s own life, what has been accomplished thus far and where one might want to be this time next year. They’re sort of a New Year’s do-over.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Love the Process Art

At some point (Sunday) I realized I am simply too old to spend $30 on a swim suit. When the $30 suit looks awful and the $120 one looks fantastic, you don’t question why, you just lay down your credit card.

So I did. All the time wondering, “how did I get here?”

In my 2010 goals plan I gave myself this theme: Learn to love the process. Not coincidentally, by the end of that year I was ready for a new career as a process analyst. I adopted the theme because the dissertation was taking significantly longer than I had anticipated.

Interventions

Last week I went to the State Museum’s lunch art talk hosted by Paul Matheny, III, Chief Curator of Art. The artist was James Busby, a Columbia resident who teaches art at the University of South Carolina.

I won’t bore my non-art-fan readers with details about Busby or his art. I’ll just highlight what I found most interesting.

James said when he was younger he went through the process of priming a canvas as quickly as he could so that he could create his oil paintings upon it, covering all of that priming work.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On Being A New Mom

Crunch, crunch, crunch, from the kitchen table: HB happily munching on Froot Loops cereal with mushrooms.

Yesterday we played at the Y so HB could "wun" as fast as she can and today we will go to the farmer’s market where Clemson tents sell peanuts. HB will skip along singing, “here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail, pippity poppity, Easter’s on its way!”

I know Easter was several months ago, but it's the song she knows best.

Her vocabulary is growing, partly hindered by those difficult sounds in the English language, mostly the double-consonant ones. But also partly hindered by the real silliness that she strains to make sense of: how can those men be ‘building’ a ‘building’?

I gently correct some of the slips, “I need the ‘nother one,” she’ll say and I respond, “the other one.” She repeats, “the other one."

Others, like the mushrooms in the Froot Loops, I just let go. She’ll get “marshmallows” eventually and the mushroom thing might be an association with our favoritepizza place.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Personalized Leadership Creates True Contributors

I’m a big picture person. I usually can’t see the trees for the whole forest. I keep a spreadsheet of all of my annual goals and their corresponding tasks. It's true. Nerdy, but true. I've been doing it for years.  I have to construct lists to get myself to a task-level. I list specific tasks every day.
A model of one of my Goal - Objective - Task Pyramids

The tasks I list every day are things like: storytime at the library, 9:30 a.m., call SVP of case subject firm B, prep lasagna, blog post write, blog post post, blog post share, read book for book club, clean bathroom, get mail. Each one contributes to a goal.

Whenever I feel distracted, I ask myself:

Task lists are how I make sure the answer to that question is usually yes. That question hung on a post-it note on my monitor at my previous job for about three years. It reminded me to stay focused by naming the tasks and then doing them. I consider this personal leadership.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Unfit Metaphor

There’s nothing so uncomfortable as an ill-fitting metaphor. It feels sticky, wedged into a crevice it doesn’t belong, gritty with sand, and smeared with sunscreen that only makes one’s fingers greasy when trying to remove it.

Such is the case in a leadership blog Tweeted today by some well-meaning consultant-types. I won’t directly dispute the suggestions here about creating a stellar team.

It seems like the writer has the right ideas. I’m not a leadership expert (yet) but I have studied some of the seminal works, Blanchard and the like, and I think this article has a good mix of approaches.

It’s the metaphor with which I take issue.

When comparing two similar things, or when using one to analyze another, it’s important to find the most accurate metaphor. I don’t think these characteristics say “rock band:”

·         Have a clear vision and purpose.

·         Recruit star players / Find your team’s star power.

·         Help the team know their strengths and the strengths of others.

·         Let people play to their strengths.

·         Let them be stars.

I’m not a rock band expert, either; though we did live in Charlotte for two years with our sole occupation the promotion of Backyard Green. Never heard of them? Big surprise.

Without dissecting each of the items on the consultant’s list, I’ll just explain how the metaphor fails. It fails because