What “CAN’T” I do?

Look out Business World, here I come!

Look out Business World, here I come!


As I near the end of my MBA program, I get this question a lot:

“What do you plan to do with your degree?”

I feel I get this question more often than other MBA graduates as even though my bachelor’s degree was in business, over the past seven years I have been an elementary school teacher. Although I am switching career paths, I have learned a lot from my Master of Education degree, and I feel that I am better prepared than most candidates.

From Teaching to Business: 5 Attractive Assets Experienced Teachers Offer the Business World

Every day I practice my leadership skills amongst a challenging audience. I have unmotivated followers that require unique and individualized attention. I have to design and implement instructional strategies that will not only meet their academic needs, but also inspire them to do their best. Are you underestimating the talent needed to complete these tasks? Then volunteer for one day at your child’s school, and I promise you that your opinion will quickly change.

After evaluating all that I do on a daily basis, my response to their question is: “What can’t I do?” Conceited? No, I just feel extremely well trained by working the several positions I fulfill every day as a teacher:

Planner/Developer:
As a teacher it is critical that I am very organized, and have every moment of my day planned to maximize my classroom’s efficiency. I have developed routines, and procedures throughout the day to maximize smooth transitions between subjects, limit distractions, and increase the focus of my students. Although every minute is accounted for, I must also be flexible throughout the day when unforeseen events occur. I must take into consideration the completion times of tasks, as well as develop a curriculum that best meets the individual needs of all 25 of my students. Everything I do is with the consideration of 25 “unique jobs” in mind.

Record Keeper/Project Manager
I am in charge of keeping, updating, and organizing every piece of data that comes in and out of my office (classroom). Data must be accurately reviewed, quantified, and made easily accessible for my immediate supervisors. Progress must be monitored in weekly increments, and all correspondence with outside parties (parents/principals/psychologists etc.) must be documented and processed. In my profession differentiated instructional plans are continually designed and implemented on a per student basis. Managing a few projects would be nice, I’m used to doing 25 at once.

Presenter/Public Relations
I am very proficient in public speaking, whether it is to students, adults, or other professionals. I have become quite skilled in this area, and have no issues speaking clearly, confidently, and energetically to groups of any size. I utilize each moment to share my passion, my joy, and my enthusiasm with everyone around me.

Marketing:
Marketing was my passion before I entered the field of education, and I feel it is one of my greatest strengths. So what am I selling to my students you might ask? SUCCESS. Try getting a student motivated to do an assignment in a subject they struggle with. Teach them a math formula for the 10th time, and reap the reward when the light bulb goes off in their head and they finally “get it.” Each every day I sell my passion for their future success, doing my best to create diligent and caring citizens that will push through their problems and find creative solutions. When they say they can’t, I show them how they can, one “sales call” at a time.

Manager/Executive
In my classroom I have complete and total control in the design and implementation of the rules, procedures, and routines with my students. I design the curriculum, discipline plan, and every regulation that we all follow. I lead by example and hold them to the same standards I hold myself to. I inspire teamwork and positive interactions in which we all work together and learn from each other in supportive environment. Teachers have been practicing transformational leadership long before it was a popular catchphrase.

Are Teachers Really Leaders in Disguise?

Maybe all I need to do is pick a direction and go?

Maybe all I need to do is pick a direction and go?

The list goes on and on, so what can I do in the business world? I am ready to make waves of impact wherever I land. After reflecting on all I do know, my answer remains the same, “What CAN’T I do?”

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“One of those people”

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I think for many people the thought of trying mindfulness can be quite overwhelming. I remember when I first began doing my mindful meditations I was worried about what others would think, and I was wondering if I wanted to be one of “those types.”

You know what I’m talking about, one of those overly “granola, homemade clothes, organic, free-range, non-processed, alternative, free-spirited, know-it-all, snotty, new-wave types of people that annoy us all. I’m talking of those crazy hipsters that over-share every gimmicky thing they have ever done, and pass on their judgments and experiences without solicitation.

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(I am having flashbacks of traumatic Starbucks conversations that I’ve accidentally overheard.)

The 9 Most Annoying People at Starbucks

If it wasn’t for the mindful leadership class I took as a part of my MBA program, I highly doubt I would ever have had the courage necessary to try mindfulness. There is something to be said about trying something new, but for me I enjoy my comfort zone too much. New experiences usually only occur when I’m being forced, or I stumble upon it accidentally.

Mindfulness is nothing more than creating space, and you’ve probably been doing it for years. Do you remember when you were getting angry and your mom told you to, “count to ten” to calm down? Or have you ever felt that moment of relief after taking a deep breath during a hectic day?

You had a mindful moment.

So you're telling me the peaceful lake isn't included with my meditation package?

So you’re telling me the peaceful lake isn’t included with my meditation package?

We all find our ways of calming down whether it is through prayer, a nap, a favorite song, or exercise. What makes mindfulness so beneficial is its portability. All you need is to focus your thoughts, concentrate on your breath, and sharpen your mind. It’s not about flowing robes, reading the latest books, stacking rocks, or sand gardens.

How to Bring Mindfulness Into Your Life

Mindfulness is about maximizing the most of the present, ignoring the static that distracts us, and putting all of our attention and focus to those things in life that are most important. We are so overwhelmed with the saturation of information of around us that our minds simply cannot keep up.

Mindfulness In Everyday Tasks

How do you take a stand against this constant chatter we are subjected to? That’s what mindfulness does for me. It’s allowing myself 20 minutes every day to sit, reflect, and slow the world down. Don’t worry mindfulness is okay for normal people too.

How much time would you give to have clearer thoughts?

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“WWOJD?”

What Would Old Josh Do?

What Would Old Josh Do?

One benefit of mindfulness is that it allows you to be quite reflective on your life. Those past moments where you may have reacted poorly to a situation become more apparent with this clearer hindsight, and it helps you to avoid making the same mistakes.

With this clarity, it is quite clear that I have made only several thousand mistakes that I wish I could “redo.” When I look back at many of the mistakes I have made, I see several patterns:

-There were times in life where my impatience made the situation worse.
-I often leapt before I looked, and reacted instead of responded.
-I was stubborn when I should have been flexible and compromised.
-I was angry and jealous when kindness and compassion were needed.
-I would say things without thinking (over and over again)
-I was often reckless, and didn’t see how my actions would affect others

Mistakes are only bad if you don’t learn from them. Now with mindfulness I’m more present in these emotionally charged situations, and I am better at recalling past lessons that I learned the hard way. I like to ask myself, “What Would Old Josh Do?” and it helps me to regain my focus to find a positive solution.

The “Old-Josh” was before I began practicing mindfulness: the impatient, cynical, bitter, stubborn, and self-centered person that I have been slowly changing one meditation at a time. I was very impulsive and immature, and let my emotion drive my behaviors.

If I could only go back in time and teach him what I know now! It still frustrates me to think of all of the problems and stressors that I used to let get in the way of me being a happier and more productive person!

Now I am better at being positive, and I have found there is an upside to so many past mistakes, and I am bound and determined to learn from them. In order to not fall into the same emotional traps, you have to be better at seeing these situations before they occur. Mindfulness helps you maximize your focus in the present moment, and is very helpful in recognizing these patterns.

How to Stop Making the Same Mistakes

We all have those moments where we get frustrated with ourselves for making the same mistakes over and over again. That moment when you walk away and say to yourself, “Why did I just do that?” It could be that moment when your stress gets the best of you, and you yell at your spouse or child, when they were doing nothing wrong. It’s in these situations when we let our emotions trump our rational thoughts that we do the most damage to those around us.

10 Negative Thinking Patterns to Avoid

Mindfulness is great at helping you avoid your knee-jerk reactions and the negative patterns you create for yourself. Even now I’m nowhere close to being perfect, but I am improving in how I handle difficult situations. I still have moments where my initial reaction to a problem is wrong, but I’m better at correcting myself and finding a positive solution, instead of making things worse.

Even though I wish I had started practicing mindfulness long ago, I am thankful I’ve found it now, and I can use these skills to make less mistakes in the future.

Which mistakes are you constantly repeating in your life? Take a mindful moment and examine what you can do to break those patterns!

MISTAKE QUOTE

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Does EVERYone deserve a second chance?

Mistakes are only bad if you don't learn from them.

Mistakes are only bad if you don’t learn from them.

“Everyone deserves a second chance.” It sounds overly optimistic to me, I absolutely hate blanket statements, but yet I still feel this is true given the appropriate situation. Of course I believe that in situations of gross negligence, theft, violence, or severe disrespect that employees should be dismissed immediately, but I think a lot can be said about a leader in how they deal with failing employees.

I was watching an interview last night of a CEO talking about how he every time he has given an employee a second chance, they have let them down, and he ended up terminating them all over again. He now has a flat policy that if someone has quit and/or been fired, they will never be allowed to work for his business again.

WHEN TO GIVE EMPLOYEES A SECOND CHANCE

Obviously I do not know the exact circumstances as to why each employee for this man was fired, but it seems to me that having such a rigid policy could be detrimental to a company. Often when an employee fails it isn’t just the employee who is at fault. I think blame can also lie with leaders as well.

Maybe it’s the (soon to be) former teacher in me, but most experiences lend themselves to teachable moments. Often when there is a failure to meet expectations, it could be due to many reasons, not just employee incompetence. An effective leader must analyze the situation deeper, and reflect on their actions in regards to employee performance.

Effective leaders must ask themselves the following questions:
1. What have you done to ensure employee success? Could you share in the blame?
2. Were your expectations clear and attainable?
3. Can this serve as a lesson to help further strengthen the employee’s skills?
4. Were your requests of the employee reasonable?
5. Do you hold yourself to the same standards you expect of others?

Employees must be encouraged to take risks, and as long as these risks are taken in the best interest of the company, leaders must be willing to accept failure from time to time. Allow these shortcomings to be coachable opportunities in which you can reflect with your employees, analyze their mistakes, and collaborate on new strategies to ensure success in the future.

Employees who take risks can achieve incredible rewards.

Employees who aren’t afraid to take risks can achieve incredible rewards.

By treating subpar moments as a more positive learning opportunity, your employees will actively seek your advice, and are more likely to utilize your suggestions. If failure is met by a negative confrontation in which employees are belittled and/or they feel their job is threatened, employees will do their best to cover up their mistakes. Employees will be more loyal, and work harder for a leader that supports them even when they fail.

HOW GREAT LEADERS HANDLE BAD NEWS AND CREATE OPPORTUNITIES

Does every employee need a second chance? I guess it all depends. Are you doing everything you can do to make that employee successful? Maybe their shortcomings are a reflection of the work environment you are creating for them. Create space, reflect, and see if there is something you can do to improve the situation.

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Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers

church design zebras

As I’ve said before in a previous post, when we become stressed our physical causes us to be reactionary creatures. During times of great stress and anxiety we tend to throw out the thousands of years of evolution and upper level brain function, in order to succumb to reflexive hormones rushing through our brains. Our bodies take over, and it takes time for our minds to catch up to create the right response.

Dr. Robert Sapolsky from Stanford University has a very interesting BOOK in which he analyzes, “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.” Sapolsky is a professor of neuroscience at Stanford University, and has completed some rather fascinating studies in regards to how animals and humans respond to stress. In this study, he compares the emotional behavior of baboons and zebras regarding how they handle the stresses of their lives. You can watch a synopsis of his findings in the video below:

According to Sapolsky, humans are much like baboons as we are the main culprits for our own stress. Our lives have become easy, we do not spend much time foraging for food or avoiding predators, and we use this surplus time to let our minds wander and worry about things we cannot control. We have such an elaborate and amazing brain, but yet we put the same stress reactions we have for serious problems to even minor and insignificant problems.

The zebra never worries about stress, it has the potential to constantly be under attack, but can shed off these traumatic experiences with predators and return to a calm state rather quickly. Why? I would like to think (and I think Sapolsky would agree) it’s because their minds do not wander, they have brain function that allows them to better focus on the tasks at hand necessary for survival.

Think about how you have handled some of your most stressful moments. Did you yell at someone when you wish you hadn’t? Pushed or shoved to get someone out of your way? Did you flee from the situation when you wish you would have stayed and made things right? Maybe you just froze at that moment, and someone had to respond for you.

We all have these moments of clarity in hindsight, but it’s very difficult to maximize our emotions during these stressful “fight or flight” moments in our lives. Mindfulness is a reflective and clarifying process, that when exercised effectively, can allow you to have clear thoughts even during the most chaotic situations.

It’s been called many things. Michael Jordan and other athletes call it, “getting into the zone.” The moment when they don’t even notice the crowd around them, the ticking clock, or the stress of hitting a game winning shot, he simply felt the ball in his hand.

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We have all experienced those moments, when our concentration is hitting on all cylinders, every decision we make is correct, and your timing is perfect. Was it just dumb luck? Or were you finally able to block out the stressors and distractors in your life and put the full power of your brain toward the situation? I strongly feel it’s the latter.

Since practicing mindfulness I have had significantly more of these “in the zone” moments. It’s a skill that needs to be practiced, but my stress has greatly diminished during difficult times, and I find myself more adept at selecting the right choice for the problems I face.

As a leader, couldn’t you use more “in the zone” moments throughout the day? Making the space necessary is only a short meditation away.

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Inter-Office Drama

One challenging dilemma all leaders must face is how to deal with inter-office drama. It is always a difficult situation to decide when to get involved, or when to ignore the chatter. Even the biggest introverts will find a time when they can no longer avoid the gossip and drama that surrounds them. Office politics can engulf a workforce and be a cancerous detriment to productivity.

Unfortunately for me, I work in a field in which complaints, drama, and infighting runs rabid. In education we often beg for respect, but the lack of professionalism between peers and administrators is a common occurrence in most schools. Conflict between both groups have had a drastic impact on our productivity, and has been a serious plague to staff morale.

5 Tips for Handling Workplace Drama

When I first began my career in education, I would dive deep within the hallway drama, and listen or share as much gossip as possible. If I look back to those times, I get annoyed with myself thinking about how many hours I wasted chatting away on such unimportant topics. This professional soap opera did nothing to improve my performance, and only created barriers between my coworkers and I. Lines would be drawn, and sides would be picked on all the problems at my school. Petty disagreements and bickering would always grow into what seemed like major issues, resulting in hurt feelings and grudges held against one another.

It took me two years to finally decide that the inter-office drama was not worth it any longer. I would like to credit myself with an act of maturity, and choosing to be the better person, but it wouldn’t be truthful. My withdrawal from school politics was mainly an act of surrender. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted from it, and I finally tired of getting singed from burning so many bridges. Work was hard enough, and adding this extra stress to my plate was insane!

Ten Tips for a More Positive Workplace

Sometimes in life you have to learn lessons the hard way, and I certainly did in this case. I have excused myself from office politics, and I have found it much pleasurable to go to work over the past few years. I am enjoying working my co-workers, and I have been able to not get stressed over matters that do not involve me. Are problems still happening, and gossip still spreading? Possibly, I wouldn’t know. I have just enjoyed dealing with my coworkers as pleasantly as possible, and I have been happier because of it.

Surround yourself with POSITIVE people, avoid the drama, and create some space!

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Mindful Moment

With a Positive Mind, it's hard to let things get you down.

With a Positive Mind, it’s hard to let things get you down.

This week I had a wonderful moment of mindfulness that I wanted to share with you. My mother and I are both teachers, and we were excited when we found out our spring breaks lined up, and she could come visit my wife and I from Washington. I planned every activity this week, from hiking at Lake Tahoe, snowshoeing in Mt. Rose Meadows, and a two-day trip to San Francisco. My mother had never been to San Francisco, so I was very excited to show her all of the sights, and had several activities planned.

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Our trip started out extremely well. We drove over to San Francisco early in the morning and decided to rent bicycles to ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a spectacular time. The weather was absolutely amazing, and we made it to Sausalito and continued our adventure. In Sausalito we walked around the town, found a great lunch spot, and took the ferry around Alcatraz back into San Francisco.

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It was an absolutely amazing day, and then this happened:

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What a way to ruin a great day! I came back to my car to find a tire iron sitting on my front seat, and my driver’s side window in a nice pile on the parking lot floor. I walked down to parking lot attendant, and went to file a report about my car getting broken into. This “secure lot with cameras and security patrols” was a total joke. I asked to see the camera footage of my car being vandalized, but was told that guests were not allowed to view footage, or even seen the report they filed with the police. (Which leads me to believe they probably didn’t even file a report.)

Not only was our car broken into, the car next to mine was also broken into. We asked when did they notice our cars were broken into, and they couldn’t tell us for security reasons (or so they claimed). The only thing they would tell us (over and over again) was that they were not responsible or liable for any damages.

When we returned to my car, there wasn’t a single camera on the entire parking level in which I was parked, and their head of security was a total idiot. I have to imagine that you do not need a lot of training to watch cars for a living, but even still, this man seemed grossly under qualified. He called for a maintenance man to come help with the glass, and after waiting 45 minutes for him to show up, this comedy of errors progressed to a whole new level.

First, the maintenance man’s idea of cleaning the glass out of my car was to sweep the glass on the seat to the floorboard and celebrate his good job. I asked him if he would please sweep the glass out from under the car so I didn’t have to drive over it, and he thought it was an amazing idea! Next, the head of security picked up the tire iron used to break my window and dropped it on top of my car, having it fall onto the door, scratching the side of my car all of the way down.

During this whole debacle, my mother began to get angry. It’s hard to not feel violated and upset when someone breaks into your car, and with Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum’s idiotic behavior in the parking lot, she began getting frustrated and impatient. It was at this time I had a well-timed moment of mindfulness. I didn’t get upset at all, much to the surprise of her or I. My mother asked me, “How are you not angry?”

I responded by telling her that yes, I was upset, but getting mad at these two workers wasn’t going to fix anything. I was able to focus on the present, keep my temperament, and not let one bad moment ruin what was an amazing day. In my mind I could see a crossroad where I had two choices:

1. I could get mad, yell at the inept security guards, get angry at the person who broke my window (who was long gone) or

2. Minimize my anger, focus on fixing the situation, and not let one horrible person’s act to ruin my vacation.

I chose the latter. I moved my car to the parking lot of my hotel, scheduled an appointment to get it fixed the next day, and was ready to go explore San Francisco even more.

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After we cleaned up in the hotel room, and grabbed a cable car to go across town, my mom thanked me for handling the situation the way I did. She said it calmed her down, put her at ease, and it was what allowed us to have an amazing night.

Like I said before in a previous post, never let a bad moment lead to something more. It’s easy to be mindful and calm when life is easy, but with practice, even the most difficult and challenging situations can be seen with a clear and focused mind. Give it a try.

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