Monday, May 20, 2013

Philosopher's Physics

I have a guilty pleasure - a thing for novels involving religious intrigue, you know the kind: Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus and the true first pope kind of thing. Not only does this kind of fiction make for great summer reading, but the genre usually introduces us to a historical character (DaVinci, Dante, Galileo to name a few) charged with keeping the Catholic Church's secrets. And through their stories, we are reminded of the remarkable toolkit such men had to help them navigate life. These safe-keepers were "Renaissance Men." They were poets, painters, astronomers, philosophers, musicians and mathematicians in one. What a foreign concept! After all men and women are rarely afforded such knowledge in the 21st century.

Today's colleges and universities, even those built on the foundation of liberal arts, are designed to educate masters in their fields. Not only are students often asked to major in a particular discipline but general education is presented like a buffet menu: pick any two.

I think back on my own undergraduate education when I met my science requirement with a Physical Anthropology course. I adored the class and my instructor, but wondered, "What's the point? What does this have to do with my actual interests and goals?"

If only someone had helped me make a connection. Perhaps, instead of sitting in this New York coffee shop, I'd be off the coast of Madagascar leading an excavation. After all 20 years later, I discovered a genuine passion for the role of the performing arts in ancient and/or tribal religion. What an awesome thing to have uncovered as a twenty-year old theatre major.

Don't get me wrong, there are folks out there, folks with more letters after their names than me, that aim to re-introduce the renaissance man (and woman) into our working world. A few years ago I met a faculty member, an astronomer by trade, who created a science liberal arts course that was designed to marry the disciplines on his college campus. The course tackled questions such as , "How are astronomy, physics, philosophy and religion intertwined?" "How does a keen understanding of science help inform the artist's work; and vice versa?"

The course took years to make its way into the curriculum and was then balked by biology, chemistry and premed students (and in some cases their faculty mentors and advisors). After all these students were taking enough science as it was and didn't have time to take what I heard called "philosopher's physics".

But is there not more value in witnessing the marriage of seemingly unique disciplines than to have a base understanding of a particular subject? After all your every day undergraduate who asks, "What the hell does Latin have to do with my future as an account manager?" has a point. And it's the job of the college educator (faculty, advisors, resident assistants - everyone - to help students connect the dots.) Even so, their jobs would be a hell of a lot easier if the relationships between the disciplines and between careers and a liberal arts education were explicit.

Friday, April 12, 2013

from the archives: a favorite "aha moment" story

Simply Defined: the cellist (or how to succeed at music by really ...: So I have a story for you... A few years ago I was working with a young musician. He was enrolled in a highly respected program where he c...

Saturday, April 6, 2013

your workspace should be a space that works

my boy at his workspace- because being a toddler is serious business
In my mind, one of the most critical components for success is being in the right workspace. Whether you're a student needing a space to study; an artist needing a studio to paint; or a writer needing a space to write, your environment has to be in line with your needs.

A few years ago, I was working in a multi-functional space that served as my office, reception, storage and an occasional faculty lounge. Located on the building's first floor there were two ceiling high windows that had been  covered up with foam board to protect the glass from wear and tear. So, like Tantalus who couldn't eat the fruit above his head or drink the water before him, I spent my days dreaming of sunshine that couldn't be seen. I was miserable. My office was over-crowded at times, unorganized, and lacked charm. I couldn't even keep plants alive in such a sad little  place.

I personally need warm light (preferably natural but anything besides the awful overhead lamps that are found in most work spaces will do); occasional quiet and solitude; a place for my tea or coffee; pictures of my husband and son; and something green to make my workspace a space that works.

One of my challenges right now is I'm working on a book - exciting right? - and trying to find the physical and head space to do my work at home, is tough. My husband, a writer by trade, seems to manage. But he also is happy working into the wee hours of the morning after my son and I have gone to bed and he at least appears to to be comfortable holed up in the little room we call "the study" or working at the kitchen table. I, likewise, need to find an at home workspace that actually works. I have ideas (I'm thinking a lap table in the bedroom: just the right size for my iPad, journal and a cup of tea), but I've yet to execute.

What about you? What kind of work do you do and what kind of space - ideal space- do you need to be your most creative, efficient, and/or productive?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

money talks

photo by angie
We've all heard the phrase, "Money talks." I, for one, find it a little obnoxious as it immediately creates an image of a well-manicured man in a pinstripe suit dropping hundreds of dollars on frivolous luxuries and over-priced toys. Movies like Wall Street make my skin crawl - if only because we witness the implications of misdirected greed and ambition on a daily basis.

But putting all that aside, money does indeed talk. In fact, how we spend money speaks volumes about what's important to us; what we value. And, realizing this, is radically changing my relationship with money. I've never over-spent (in fact quite the opposite) but I've never felt comfortable earning and saving either. And, as a result, I've never invited prosperity into my life. Sure, my husband and I have always had more than enough, even while living in one of the most expensive places in the world. But I think it's because we've been afraid of failure. Afraid to be the guys from Salt Lake City, Utah who couldn't make it in the bad big apple. For many years, I rarely took risks which meant there was little chance of failure.

But I've found, over the last few months, my relationship with money has changed. I understand that spending money and more importantly earning money isn't inherently a bad thing. I should embrace my potential and steer towards prosperous opportunities. And I should do this with one thing in mind: what I value - love, family, loyalty, integrity, beauty and compassion - can and will be reflected in how I choose to spend (or don't spend) the money I earn.

What about you? What does your relationship with money say about you?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

a perfect day

Pencil tips
photo by Dvortygirl
When thinking about how to better manage your time, it's critical that you know how you'd actually like to spend your time in the first place. We all have obligations, but we may have some control over how we go about checking things off our to-do lists.

Try this: 
Think about your typical day. Make it a work day, whatever that means to you (a day you go to the office, a day you have the kids, a day you set aside to write, a day you have class). How would you most like to "tackle" your agenda on that day; and what self-care activities would bookend your to-dos?

On a typical work day, I'm in the office for about 8 hours. During that time, I meet students, attend meetings, facilitate workshops, manage a team, create communication pieces, plan events, and of course follow through on "other duties as assigned." When I'm not in the office, I want to spend my energies focusing on my home and family. My ideal day (within the constraints of my somewhat traditional 9 to 5 career) looks like this:

5:30am Yoga and meditation
6:15am Prep for the day
6:30am Wake, feed and play with my son
7:30am Commute
8:00am Student appointments
9:00am Catch up on email; define my action plan for the day
10:00am Work and planning meetings with supervisor, team or colleagues
12:00pm Eat, write, blog, check-in at home
1:00pm Open office hours for impromptu student meetings
3:00pm Wrap-up, return calls, prep for the day ahead
4:00pm Commute
4:30pm Catch up with husband and son, attend to housework as necessary
6:00pm Dinner
7:00pm Evening routine with son (read, clean toys, bathe, prep for bed)
8:00pm Downtime with husband (read, watch television, knit etc.)
10:00pm Bathe and prep for bed
11:00pm Sleep

That's my perfect work-day, again within the constraints of a 9-5 job. It doesn't always happen. Some days, I'm called upon to respond to the unexpected needs of my supervisor, team or students; some nights my toddler fights going to bed. But knowing how, in an ideal world, my day should look, provides a certain amount of structure and routine. I also think it reflects my values - it shows that at the core I'm a wife, a mom and an educator. I don't make time for friends on a typical day. Yes, my friends are important but at this stage in my life I really have to calendar them in, because meeting folks for an impromptu drink after work isn't realistic. But things might be different for you, given your needs, values and responsibilities. And that's okay. It's not about what's right or wrong- but rather how you simply want to define your daily life.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

you have to find time before you can manage it

Clock
photo by kojotomoto
The fact is you can't manage time that doesn't exist. Over the years I've had countless conversations with individuals that are spiraling out of control because, from their perspective, they just don't manage their time well. And in some cases they're right. Time-vacuums like television, social media, clutter and poor-decision making are taking up far too much real estate on their calendars. But in some cases, quite frankly, people just have too much on their plate.

Before you can successfully manage your time, you must first ensure that you have enough time to manage. Which requires you to do a little self-assessment.

Ask yourself the following questions:

How do I think I spend my time?
Question number one requires some brainstorming. Take five minutes and write down the things, activities, people, problems that take up time in your day-to-day life. Try to be specific. Don't just write down "work" but rather the actual activities at work that take up your time (i.e. answering email; attending meetings; returning calls)

How should I spend my time?
Next, take five minutes and brainstorm the most important things, activities, people and problems that should take up your time. This isn't a list of what you would necessarily like to do, but rather the things you need to do to be effective in your various roles. 

How do I really spend my time?
Answering this question is going to take a bit more heavy-lifting. Over a one-week period I challenge you to log your time-spent. Leave nothing out. For example, on Wednesday nights, my husband and I watch Modern Family - that's a half hour that should make its way into my log.

So, where's the disconnect?
Why do this exercise? It's important that you compare what you perceive (how you think you spend your time) with the truth (how you really spend your time). Once doing so, you need to weigh it all against what you value most (how you should spend your time). There may be things that are taking up serious amounts of real estate on your calendar that don't need to be there. Likewise, you may realize that there are activities or priorities for which you've left little room. If you find that the latter is true, you may need to actually find time, rather than manage it more effectively. You have to make some tough decisions. What gives? What can you evict from your calendar to make room for what's most important?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

are you open to success?

photo by DannyBen

As any coach or advisor should, I write a great deal about goal definition and action planning. It's because you have to know what you want to make it happen. However, I also believe you need to leave room for the unplanned and unexpected.

I've always struggled with this concept. I feel inherently more at east when I have accounted for every detail. But I've realized that over-planning can be an obstacle to success. My few regrets often resulted in turning a blind eye to the opportunity that came out of left field.

In an effort to not let such opportunities pass me by in 2012, I've intentionally chosen the word "Open" to define the year. I'm open to new experiences, new ideas and new paths. I choose to be "open" to what the universe throws my way.

It is this approach that gave me the courage to:
  • Join a Visionary Mom Team.
  • Request mentoring from A Daring Adventure's Tim Brownson.
  • Conceptualize the type and movement workshop that I'm set to co-facilitate this spring.
  • Say "yes" to work projects that have opened unexpected doors.
  • Explore a personal/professional development experience that I've been afraid to tackle until now and
  • Cast my career net high and wide.
What about you? What might happen if you were truly open to what the world has to offer? What would happen if occasionally you said, "yes" even if you didn't know where saying so might lead?