I am a parent to a teenage daughter. [Insert appropriate level of panic here.]
Personally, I don't think most people really know what they are doing when it comes to parenting. I always felt like there would be a magical day when I felt grown up and like I knew all of the secrets of the world. Suffice it to say that it hasn't happened. Regardless, I have a child, and she's growing up, so I've continued to make things up as I've gone along, and it's been going pretty well. So far, she's a likable, considerate person who gets decent grades, has a lot of interests, and has friends whose parents I don't hate. As an extra added bonus, she gets along with me as a mom and a tolerable adult figure. I consider that a win.
With that less than stellar resume of my parental qualifications, here are my top 3 pieces of unsolicitied life advice for my teenage daughter. Who knows. Maybe your child, or any random adult for that matter, will learn a little something.
1. You actually don't "HAVE TO" do most things.
There are some basic life things that we all have to do--but there's a whole lot that we actually don't have to do, but that we do out of obligation. Let me rephrase. You do not have to do everything people ask or tell you to do, like or try. You get to say no and you don't even have to give said person a reason why either. How cool is that?
You don't have to like a band, hate a person, identify as gay/bi/straight, try a drug, do a shot, dye your hair, eat food, take a dare or do anything physically that you don't want to do. People of all ages will try to tell you otherwise, and they are wrong. This also goes for hugging someone creepy, eating a dessert that a coworker made or having a second helping of casserole because someone says "You are too skinny!" People often want some sort of validation for how they live their lives, and they will try to get someone to affirm their own choices by choosing them, too. You don't have to be that someone.
The flip side of this is that other people also don't have to do everything you tell them they have to do either. We each get to make our own choices, and take a "No" or "No thank you" or "I don't think so" as a real answer. Set the personal boundaries that are right for you, and accept other people's boundaries, too.
2. Plan ahead--at least a little bit.
Children and adults alike each deal with "emergencies" on a regular basis--many of which wouldn't have had to be emergencies with just a wee bit of forethought. Many day to day "emergencies" can be mitigated by having your cell phone, $10 in cash, and your house keys.
On the low end, here are a few super-easy tips from me to you. Bring a towel with you into the bathroom. Brush your teeth before you put on your lipstick. Put on your knee pads before your wrist guards. A little forethought goes a long way.
On to bigger and better things. Many other perceived "emergencies" have only become so because of neglecting to look ahead a few days to see what is coming up or a general lack of communication. On Sunday, look ahead at your week. Give me a heads up that you have a band concert, volleyball game, birthday party or sleepover at least 2 days before it happens. If I have to fill out paperwork, or give you permission to do something, or figure out any logistics, make that a week. All those activities that you are involved it don't just happen. It takes a bit to get a doctor's appointment for an athletics physical or request a copy of your vaccination records or lay hands on the special whatever-it-is that you want to get whats-her-name for whatever thing it is she's celebrating.
Also, just know that if you don't plan ahead, I am at the point where I'm done making your poor planning my emergency. I've got things going on too--must of which I had to schedule and arrange to accommodate all of your activities that I actually knew about.
Overall, take responsibility for your own life because no one is going to care more about your activities than you do. Get a calendar and write things down. While I'm temporarily still your chauffeur, I am not your concierge.
3. Seek out help when you need it.
Everyone needs help from an adult sometimes. Everyone. You can talk to me, or if you'd rather, try out these people: your dad, your step-dad, my best friend, your best friend's mom, a teacher at school who you like. Talking to your friends is great, but sometimes you need an adult opinion. (I have 30 years of life experience on you--which means I've been through a few things that are totally new to you.) You are fortunate that you have many, many people who care about you who want you to be well. Even if you think it's the most horrible thing that anyone could ever do, let's talk and figure out what's next. Give me a chance to help before you do something extreme like running away, hurting yourself or hurting others. I am also happy to share my list of stupid things that I did as a child (and some after that) that I also thought were super horrible then that you will find laughably lame, now.
If you know of someone who you think needs help, tell one of us about that, too. I am happy to talk to your friends, their friends, other people's parents, or whoever else you think is struggling to help them get through it--whatever it might be. Life is often hard, and going through it alone makes it even harder. Let one of us help--which includes picking you up and helping you get out of a messed up situation at some god awful hour in the morning (which I will happily do whenever it is needed.) I'm also not going to yell at you or give you a hard time. Again. Here to help.
What is your top "adulting" advice for others?
The Adventure of Career Transition
Since the beginning of forever, I have worked in the field of learning and development in a corporate environment. I have also learned that two of the most at-risk fields for layoffs are marketing and training. In total, I have been laid off 6 times due to economic downturns, companies being bought or sold, or good old fashion reorganizations. While each period of unplanned job transition is rough in it's own way, here are three core truths that help me weather the storm as I search for a new work home.
Truth 1: Working time passes more quickly than non-working time.
When you're a hiring manager, you have a ton going on, and only one of those things is hiring a new person. You're still trying to manage your team, meet deadlines, troubleshoot customer problems, and juggle all of the people you're considering for your open position. In an interview, when one candidate asks about the hiring process, you tell them you should know who will move on to the next steps in the process "by the end of this week"--and at the time, you believe that is a reasonable deadline. Then there is a software release with a bug that causes three meetings to be scheduled with big clients, or someone quits suddenly leaving a lot of arrangements to be made, or your child has to be picked up from daycare with stomach flu. Friday comes and goes and getting in touch with a candidate falls off your radar until the next week.
Meanwhile, as a job seeker, you put a note on your calendar that you'll know one way or another by Friday. Then you analyze every syllable you uttered in the Zoom interview hoping that you didn't say anything awful. You rethink a facial expression that you interpreted as approving and wonder if it really was that at all. You suffer through Saturday, Sunday, and Monday secretly worrying that you will never work again. Ever.
Instead of spiraling, take action to get you closer to your job of being happily, gainfully employed. After the interview, send a thank you email to the hiring manager and send them a personalized connection request on LinkedIn. Put a note on your calendar for a few days after the hiring manager said they would get in touch with you. Reach out to them at that time including a few pleasantries, reiterating your interest in the role, and asking for an update. Will you get the job? Who knows. You did your part, identified what you can work on, and will continue to learn and grow as you go through the process for more roles.
In addition, network with three more people and apply for three more jobs.
Truth 2: Don't fall in love with a job opening.
Inevitably as a job searcher, you run across it. THE job. It's the one you know is meant to be yours. It's perfect--easy commute, a great title, the go-to company, exactly what you are qualified (and want) to do. In your head you know it--this is MY job. You picture your new business cards, where you'll park, and how you'll introduct yourself as the "Director of Awesomeness" for this perfect company. You think--why should I even bother applying for anything else because this is SO my job!
Except, well, it's not actually your job yet. You're looking at it and see yourself in it, but it's not real. You don't work there. No one is sending you a paycheck for it. They don't even know your name yet. This MAY be the job you eventually get, but nothing is done yet. You know what else? It may not end up being your job. You need to remind yourself that it's not a done deal. Apply for that job--even work hard to get it. Know, though, that you may end up not even getting called in for an interview. This doesn't mean you're not still awesome. There's just a lot going on. There may be an internal candidate, or a previous coworker of the hiring manager, or someone who has a referral from a college friend, or someone who has even slightly more of a qualification that didn't make that job posting.
Instead of spiraling, take action to get you closer to your job of being happily, gainfully employed. Any time you find yourself falling in love with a job, or thinking of something as "your job", make an extra effort to go apply for additional jobs. If the job you see yourself in works out, great. If not, you're still working towards your ultimate goal of finding a new role (complete with a paycheck) whichever one that might be.
In addition, network with three more people and apply for three more jobs.
Truth 3: You only need one job.
Applying for jobs is a process. Looking back at my records, I have typically applied for between 40 and 100 jobs when I've been in career transition. It's easy to get discouraged. Sometimes you apply and hear back a fat lot of nothing. Personally, sometimes my stomach sinks when I see a job that I've applied for (and was quickly rejected) and it's reposted and realizing that they will hire "not me" for that role. It's hard when the job where you interviewed a ton of times tells you they really liked you, but went with an internal candidate. It's rough to hear that you were great, but that you came in second. There is so much rejection in the job search process, that it's inevitable that you'll feel down, and like a loser, and like there is no hope.
At the end of the day, though, you only need one job. You need one organization to tell you "yes". You need one place where you and the employer agree that you'll work together. When I remind myself that I only need a success rate of 1 in 50 to be happily, gainfully employed, it makes it all seem more manageable. All those no answers get you to the one yes you need. The trick is that you don't know which one will be that yes.
In addition, network with three more people and apply for three more jobs.
What do you think?
What job search words of wisdom resonate with you the most? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Death by Lecture
As humans in today’s fast-paced world, we often value getting the job done as quickly as possible. When it comes to helping people learn, lecturing’s, aka “just tell them everything they need to know,” becomes the unfortunate default mode of information delivery. Unfortunately, the process of knowledge transfer doesn’t work like a bank deposit, and we can’t just extract knowledge from one person and implant it in another. Instead, individuals need to engage with information so they understand what to do with those details and make them into their own, internalized knowledge.
Grandpa, Tell Me a Story
You know who loves stories? Little kids. Do you know why? They are trying to figure out what the world is all about and what to do with all of the things they are experiencing for the first time. Just like adults use stories to help children understand the world, stories help adults make the transition from bland best practice or potentially useful technique to thing-I-actually-do. Let’s look at three examples of how stories can be incorporated into training to engage people in the learning process and help adults actually learn.
Reason 1: Stories Help Concepts Become Real
In training, many times we’re covering abstract ideas, and sharing models for how to apply those ideas. Stories help us make that jump. Here's an example:
During a training with customer service professionals, we're trying to help them understand the importance of getting to know individual customers and catering to their unique needs.
"Each customer is different. Every person who calls us on the phone has their own point of view and personal struggles that we may know nothing about. We need to find out what matters to them and emphasize those points as we speak to them. Overall, be careful about making assumptions about people’s wants and needs based on your personal preferences."
Story to make the idea real:
"Here’s an example of learning about our customers and tailoring our approach to their wants and needs.
While working at a table at a church conference, my job was to discuss health insurance benefits with pastors currently working in congregations. I was there to promote a great new benefit where pastors could earn $250 for completing an online health assessment quiz. For me, taking the health assessment was a no-brainer, because I thought, “Yay! Free money!”
I quickly learned, though, that this was not the prevailing opinion among the pastors. Several stopped to express outrage that the church was trying to BRIBE them to take the health assessment. Since many of the pastors prided themselves on being more concerned with doing good in the world than with money, having a financial reward for doing something that they should do anyway became a disincentive.
One church leader realized that a different approach was needed. She used the concept of stewardship—which means taking care of the gifts God has given to you, including your money and your own personal health. She told pastors that it was their duty as leaders of the church to model good stewardship by taking the health assessment (especially since another benefit was helping their congregation to earn a discount on their health insurance premiums).
By keeping the wants and needs of the audience in mind, and realizing that they may be very different from our own, we figured out how to position this benefit in a way that resonated with our audience. "
How the story helps:
This story takes an abstract concept (everyone is different) and drives it home. Since many people may identify with the person who would gladly take the health assessment to earn money, seeing a completely different, and often unexpected, viewpoint can be shocking. Adding details about people and context for why they have the values they do, can be eye-opening.
Reason 2: Stories Help People Learn from Other People's Experiences
When you first learn a concept, it may sound good in the abstract, but you're not sure how to apply that idea in the real world. In professions like being a police officer or a fire fighter, stories are a way that seasoned staff help rookies learn from other people's experiences. Here's an example of how to use stories to share real-world examples.
With new corporate trainers, using proximity technique to deal with disruptive students in a classroom environment.
"When trying to manage students who are disrupting the classroom, using proximity can be helpful. In short, standing near a student can help them to realize that they need to change their behavior."
Story to share one person’s experience using the technique:
"During student introductions at the beginning of a sales training class, Alice, a branch manager sitting at a table in the back of the room, was explaining what she hoped to gain from class.
In the middle of Alice’s introduction, Jim (the top insurance salesperson in the region) answered his phone. He was sitting at the front table in the classroom, and there was no way for the whole class NOT to hear his conversation as he loudly explained the concept of accident forgiveness.
I asked Alice to pause for a moment, then walked over to Jim, and stood next to him for a moment. He looked at me, I smiled at him, and then he put his hand over his phone long enough to say, “I’ll step outside to finish this call.” I nodded to let him know that I appreciate it. Once he left, Alice finished up, and the next person did their introduction.
In this case, standing next to Jim was the cue he needed to realize that he was doing something disruptive and self-correct his behavior."
How the story helped:
The story involves people with names and characteristics. This shows on sometimes challenging student, a high performing salesperson, and a situation that may resonate with students. It also shows how using a relatively simple solution can solve the problem, and help the trainer maintain control of their classroom. This story shows students how they can apply the skill, which may also help them identify when they could use a specific skill in their classroom.
Reason 3: To Give Context for Technical Training
When I’ve observed technical trainers, most of them are great at taking people through the step by step process needed to make something work. However, many times the question “why would we ever do this?” is missed. If people don’t get why the process matters, they will have a hard time mustering up enough energy to pay attention. Here's an example of how to use a story to set up a scenario within a technical training course.
Showing students in an intermediate Microsoft Word class how to use the mail merge feature to create mailing labels.
"We’re going to create mailing labels. This would be helpful if you needed to mail the same item, like a marketing campaign, to multiple people. You could even use a mailing list that you had saved in Excel as the starting point for your mailing labels."
Story to illustrate why you'd complete this process:
"Joanie and Chachi are getting married and having the big wedding of Joannie’s dreams.
Now that it’s time to address invitations, her best friend, Jenny Piccalo, points out that addressing 500 envelopes by hand is going to be excruciating.
Joannie has a great idea! Why not use the Excel file they’ve created and use the Mail Merge feature in Word to create mailing labels! They can even use one of those handwriting style fonts to help them match the script on the invitations.
Let’s look at how to set that up."
How the story helped:
Especially in technical training, sometimes we get so caught up in the “click here, click there, GOOD LORD NOT THERE” aspect of it that we forget to tell students why they’d ever bother to do the process we’re explaining. Giving them a why, in this case a why that aligns with concepts people know (the joys of managing the postal aspects of a big event) and incorporating fictional characters (who doesn’t love a little Happy Days reference?) adds a layer of lightheartedness that is often missing from technical training.
What Do You Think?
Why do you think telling stories in training is beneficial? What is your favorite story to tell? How does it enhance the learning process? Include your thoughts in the comments.
No one wants to be a victim. People talk a lot about self defense--which I usually think of as the ability to defend yourself against an attacker. Ideally, though, we can learn how to prevent many of those situations from becoming physical altercations.
I think it is important to be able to defend yourself. Most self-defense training, though, focuses on the point where you're being attacked, not on ways to prevent an attack from ever taking place. Here, I'm focusing on putting yourself in a position where you can avoid an incident (like being assaulted, robbed or raped) altogether.
As someone who lives in a large city, currently with an increase in crime, and doesn't want to live afraid, I focus on these three concepts for staying out of harm's way: situational awareness, being an imperfect victim and listening to my intuition.
Have Situational Awareness
Situational awareness is a fancy way of saying "pay attention." I'm amazed by the people I see on a regular basis, who seem completely disconnected from the world around them. For many, there seems to be the prevalent attitude that bad things simply will not happen to them regardless of what they do. Being actively disconnected from what is going on around you make you more likely to be assaulted or a victim of theft.
Here's what a lack of situational awareness looks like:
Here's what situational awareness looks like:
Overall, situational awareness is making a little effort to notice your physical environment so that you are in tune with it, instead of constantly surprised by it.
Be an Imperfect Victim
Again, no one wants to be a victim, but many of us do things that make us more likely to be one. Since typically people who are going to rob or rape others are looking for easy targets, being perceived as difficult is a great way to avoid an incident.
Here's what imperfect victims look like:
Imperfect victims also remember their boundaries. Too often, especially as women, we try to accommodate other people's requests because we want to be liked. Remember, though, you don't have to be nice to random people who approach you and demand things from you. You do not have to shake someone's hand, hug someone, or tolerate someone in your personal space. You do not have to give anything to an aggressive panhandler.
Tell people no, and do it loudly if required. Put your hands up between you and them when you say "no" to let them know they really do need to stop. You may even need to yell "Get away from me" loudly to make it clear that they need to give you space. People who speak up are perceived as being more trouble than they are worth.
Listen to your Intuition
You know how sometimes dogs don't like certain people? Or how babies cry and do not want to be held by just anyone? Their intuition is what makes them want to avoid some people. Unlike small children or animals, as adults, we tend to ignore our intuition. This is out of a sense of politeness or fear of being accused of being one of the bad -ists (racist, sexist, elitist). We need to re-learn to listen to our intuition for the sake of our well-being and trust that. This is not about political correctness or offending someone we don't even know. This is about our personal safety in what could be a dangerous situation.
Here are those feelings you need to honor:
Those weird feelings that you can't quite put into words? Listen to them. Remember, sometimes, our bodies figure thing out before our brains catch up. We need to learn to pay attention to our surroundings with our heads, and our bodies, and heed that warning. It will help keep us safe.
What Do You Think?
What safety tips do you have? How do you keep yourself out of harm's way?
Do Your Future Self a Solid
Going to work expecting to finish up a report and lead a meeting and having your workday end abruptly at 10:00 AM walking to your car with a box containing all of your workly positions, is jarring. What's even more jarring is the realization that now--SURPRISE--you have to find a new job so that you can continue your extravagant lifestyle of living indoors and eating on a regular basis.
For the whole of my professional career, I have worked in the field of corporate education in positions like software trainer, training specialist, sales training manager and instructional designer. Like many of my colleagues, I've also been laid off three times in my 20+ year career. (I know people who have me beat by at least a couple of times.) While fixating on the fear of losing your job is a horrible way to exist, there are a few things that you can do now--while you're happily, gainfully employed--that can help lessen the blow if you do happen to find yourself suddenly in need of a new position.
Build Your Professional Network
If you read any articles about effective ways to find a new position, leveraging your professional network is a key piece of advice. It's also harder to start networking when you have your proverbial hat in your hand and need something. It's better to start building your professional network before you need something. Your network is also much more than a job search resource.
LinkedIn is a great tool to help you build and connect with others. In the beforetimes (pre-pandemic), I would connect with people on LinkedIn after we had met in person. Now, I proactively connect with industry leaders, people I encounter at professional development meetings I attend via Zoom, or I ask to connect with people who share common interests with me.
I also interact with people on LinkedIn. I post content that highlights my industry knowledge, comment on people's posts, and share posts that resonate with me. Being a good "LinkedIn neighgbor", and building your network before you need to use it for a job search, is a great way to position yourself or future success.
Update Your Resume In Real Time
I was once laid off from a job where I had been for eitght years. When my position was eliminated due to corporate restructuring, putting my resume together again was a challenge since I had years of diverse work experience to document. At that time, I knew details about recent projects, but it was harder for me to piece together all that I had done, and salient details that would help me get hired elsewhere.
Fortunately, and in rather unusual fashion, I was given a couple of months of notice that my job would be ending. That gave me the time to review my calendar, and files, to put together detailed descriptions of what I had done. This helped me put together a master resume. This isn't the final resume that you use to apply for a position. This is the big huge ridiculous document that contains everything you've done ever. From here, you pick and choose details that you'll include in your for real applying-for-a-job resume.
In general, I've become more proactive about recording what I do. While these projects are fresh in my mind, I write down specifics on what I did, who I worked with, outcomes and tangible results. This helps me not only for a someday job search, but it also helps me position myself for additional projects and roles at my current workplace as the company grows and evolves. Keeping a detailed list of projects, responsibilities and skills you were able to use will make resume writing much easier when the time comes.
Learn New Skills
Once upon a time, I was planning on being a high school English teacher. While my current career path focuses on education, suffice it to say that I ended up in a very different place than I originally envisioned. With each role that I have had, my skill set has grown immensely.
When I look at how the world has changed since earned my undergraduate degree, it's amazing. One of my first training jobs was as a software instructor teaching people how to use the big scary Internet. My first few job searches were done relying predominantly on the want ads in the Sunday newspaper. At one company, we were on the bleeding edge of technology by using instructor-led web based training before training by webinar was standard. With advances in technology, the workforce, and worldwide economic factors, things are always changing, and to stay employeable, you need to keep up.
Don't wait until your job's future seems uncertain to start learning. Go to professional meetings. Read website dedicated to your field. Listen to podcasts on topics of interest. Look at job descriptions for emerging positions to see what kinds of skills are in demand. Keep updating your skills so you're not left behind when change happens around you. Be Amazon, not Nokia.
What Do You Think?
What other career advice do you have to share?
As I’ve started to do more networking through one on one Zoom meetings, I have talked with many colleagues who are interested in switching jobs and are dusting off their resumes. After we talk a little about what type of a position interests them, I usually give them a little bit of resume feedback. As a many-time hiring manager, I have seen lots of bad, and lots of sort of okay, and just a few resumes that were really, really good. For me, I think a resume needs to answer three very important questions. Having a resume that addresses these questions gets you out off the no pile and into the “I am excited to talk with them” pile.
Question 1: Does this person want this job?
A few years ago, I was working on filling an instructional designer position on my team at a software company. I received one resume where the person’s career objective stated that they wanted to be a curator at a museum. The good news: this person knew what they wanted and made it very clear in their resume. The bad news: they didn’t want the job I had available.
Most (like maybe a good half) of resumes that end up in the “no” pile are so nondescript, they could be applying for any number of office positions. Once, when I was hiring a technical trainer position. I received a resume for someone who had a lot of experience in corrections working as a prison guard. The good news: this person had many potentially transferable skills. The bad news: I didn’t know if this person was interested in this particular role, or was mass applying for anything that wasn’t their current job.
For many people, it may be easy enough to tell if a person wants the job based on their past job titles. If they have always been a project manager, and this is a project manager position, or a senior project manager position, it’s a pretty good bet that they are interested in this job. Then there are the rest of us, who are decidedly less well-behaved. Some people have a lot of job titles that don’t necessarily logically flow together (like people who have changed careers). Others have careers where positions went from managing people, to being an individual contributor, to freelancing, to being at a VP level, to being an individual contributor again. No career path is wrong per say, but when applying for a job, be sure to make it clear what you are looking for now—and that it is, indeed, the open position.
Overall, do just enough tailoring on your resume that the hiring manager knows that you are interested in the available job and applied for it on purpose. Given how costly a bad hire can be, help the hiring manager know that you for real want to do the job in question.
Question 2: Can this person do the job?
Once I know a given candidate want the job, next, I look for some indication that the person has the skills to do the job. With some candidates, their work experience is neat and tidy and in the order one might expect. For example, they were a call center representative, then a senior call center representative, then a call center supervisor, then a call center manager. If they were applying for a call center manager position, from their job titles alone, I can be reasonably sure they can do the job. With that, adding in keywords from the job description and adding details about their previous education and work responsibilities as they relate to this specific position, it’s not a stretch to think they are qualified.
If the candidate didn’t have a lot of experience in a similar role, I’d expect them to describe what they did in previous positions and show how their work experience prepared them for this role. For example, if I’m hiring for an instructional designer position, the job description might include something like “collaborates with subject matter experts to assess training needs and create learning materials for client-facing courses.” If someone with a background as an elementary school teacher applied, they should show how their previous work experience relates to the available position. For example, they might include “collaborated with subject matter experts in the media center to assess training needs and create learning materials for a course for parents on encouraging their children to read more.” Without emphasizing those transferable skills, I might not be convinced that they could perform the tasks required.
Overall, be sure to make it as obvious as you can that you are able to do the core tasks that the job requires.
Question 3: If they take the job, will they be happy and stick around?
Filling an open position takes a long time and is a huge gamble. The goal is to find someone who wants the position, can do it, and who will want to be in that position (or a part of your organization) for a good, long time. Never, with certainty, can you be happy that a candidate will take the position if offered to them or stay in that role (or with your company).
This part of resume assessment is really teeing up the phone screen, and honing the questions I’ll need to ask. Will this salary be in line with their desired salary range? Will they be happy working from the office or working from home the amount required? Will they work well with the level of structure and formality at this organization? Will they want to travel as much (or as little) as is needed with this job? Are they going to be happy managing or not managing people? As a hiring manager, details in the resume is helpful as a starting point for those questions.
What Do You Think?
What do you think? What questions do you think a resume needs to answer? Include your insights in the comments.
The Importance of Recovery
I'm in the swing of inline marathon training. This includes three outdoor skates per week (currently 3-6 miles each with increasing mileage over time), one day of cross-training per week, and strength training once a week. To make all of this possible, recovery is critically important. In addition to sleep, Epsom salt baths, and monthly massages, there are three tools that help with the active part of recovery.
The Obligatory Disclaimer
Before I share my thoughts on tools for active recovery, which could be construed as medical advice, please note that I am not a doctor, lawyer, or certified health care anything. What I am is lifelong learner and a first-time inline marathon participant who's figuring out what works for me and sharing what I learn. Be sure to double check my math with your own doctor, personal trainer, or whoever it might make sense to ask about these sorts of things. Go forth and do your own research!
The Value of Taking a Class
I am a fan of learning as much as I can through research, then taking a class to help me get the bigger picture. I highly recommend a class taught by Angie Fern entitled Muscle Tension Release With Foam Rollers and Tennis Balls Workshop, or a foam roller class for short. This 3-hour class (which I've now taken twice) helped set me right and get me going in the right direction. I highly recommend it. I've included the website to keep an eye on regarding upcoming classes. Angie is definitely the go-to for how to really leverage these tools. This article only scratches the surface.
For Legs: Strap
There are a few areas in dire need of stretching that require a little extra help. While there are a few yoga stretches (pigeon and butterfly pose come to mind) that target the hips and thigh areas, using a strap helps stretch these areas more effectively. Since I'm skating, which uses a lot of quads, calves, and hips, these stretches are mission critical.
I have my fancy strap that I typically use. I also have a plainer travel strap that has the buckle. I love the strap in that it travels well, and also gives me a quick, effective way to stretch important muscle groups.
Check out this YouTube video to see the stretches I do on a near-daily basis. I typically do each stretch for 2 minutes per leg.
For Feet and Back: Two Tennis Balls in a Sock
Two tennis balls in a sock is not to be confused with the following items:
For my feet, I put one foot on the end of the sock, then roll my other foot over the tennis ball to work out knots. It seem to be the right amount of pressure to work out tightness. This also helps with planter fasciitis, that horrible tightness in the bottoms of the feet. I typically do this a minute or so per day, and on an as needed basis, to relieve that tension. As needed, I also will put my foot in between the tennis balls to ease out knots in the sides of my foots.
For my hips and back, I lie on my back, and position one tennis ball on each side of my spine down near my tailbone. Over time, I move it a bit at a time and work it up towards my neck. This is a great way to massage those key points that aren't easy to hit using other methods.
Check out this video on how to make your very own two tennis balls and a sock and a couple of ideas on how to use your creation.
For Nearly Everything: Foam Roller
Foam rollers are starting to gain popularity--and I see why. They offer a great way to do targeted massage on your muscles without having to schedule (and pay for) a massage each time.
During the class I mentioned taking with Angie Fern, I learned strategies for using a foam roller head to toe to address muscle tension and improve everything from planter fasciitis pain to improving breathing capacity to preventing headaches.
I especially love using the foam roller to address multiple areas of my legs. Rolling out my calves and quads are two key areas that help my recovery greatly.
I also have a few key bits of advice to share. First off, roll out each leg independently instead of rolling out both at the same time. This helps give each leg the attention it needs.
When it comes to equipment, I suggest a plain foam roller (instead of those that are textured). Sometimes, the textured rollers put too much pressure on a given area. Second, having a shorter foam roller, 12-18 inches, gives more options for specific exercises and is also easier to store.
Check out this video for a few basic foam roller moves you might want to check out.
What Do You Think?
How do you rest and recover while training for an event? Or just in general? Include your thoughts in the comments.
The Challenge of Behavioral Change
About a year ago, I began driving to and from work on a daily basis. Consequently, I have become an avid audiobook listener. I enjoy reading non-fiction, and I focus on topics including business, management, social science, and health.
I've read a lot of books focused on personal improvement. While the information is always beneficial, here are three books that stood above the rest. They include convincing arguments for making positive life changes, straight talk about personal accountability, and specific steps to take to take needed action. In fact, each of these books was so helpful that I initially listened to them, then bought them in a hard copy to have access to the exercises and as a reference moving forward. Here they are in the order that helped me to take best advantage of the information.
1. Emotional Well-Being: Not Nice
Full book title:
Not Nice: Stop People Pleasing, Staying Silent, & Feeling Guilty... And Start Speaking Up, Saying No, Asking Boldly, And Unapologetically Being Yourself
Dr Aziz Gazipura
What I expected:
I was looking for a book on being a better conversationalist. After a couple of false starts with other books that focused on rehearsing conversations and strategies for coping with severe social anxiety, I stumbled across this book.
What I got:
This book is about being more authentic as a person, which can increase personal confidence and make it easier to move freely about the world--including having conversations with people you don't know very well. At it's core, it is about our misconceptions about being nice, and how we "nice" ourselves into insecurity, resentment, and unhappiness.
Dr. Aziz's personal stories resonated with me, and encouraged me to reexamine my attitudes and behaviors. The book includes exercises on everything from evaluating your personal "rules" for interacting with others to thinking through alternative ways to handle common situations. After going through these exercises, I am better at prioritizing what matters to me and living more authentically. As an extra added bonus, having a better sense of myself is helping me commit to the life changes I want to make. By giving myself permission to say no to things that don't appeal to me, and feeling more comfortable really committing to what I care about most, I'm making progress towards healthy eating and fitness.
2. Nutrition: How Not to Die
Full book title:
How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease
Michael Greger, MD
What I Expected:
I was looking for a book about nutrition. While I knew the basics, I wanted to eat better, and I thought having more information on nutrition would help. I also thought it had a high probability of being painfully boring.
What I Got:
I got nutritional information formatted in a way that I cared about it and decided to change my whole diet. Given family history of obesity, pain management, and limited mobility, I wanted to take positive steps to position myself for a long, healthy life where I could skip having to take multiple medications, increase my overall level of fitness, and bypass health issues.
This book guides the reader through health conditions and studies showing how healthier eating can minimize chances of getting the disease, or even provide treatment. Using scientific studies, and even acknowledging the shortcomings of some of them, this book lays out the "why" for the way of eating it advocates. The "why" is positioned not as fear mongering or shaming the reader into making positive life changes, but on the benefits of making eating changes that are completely within your control.
The author, Dr Greger, is an advocate for a Whole Foods Plant Based (WFPB) diet, which emphasizes leafy greens and lots of fruits and vegetables. He also mentions that even if people don't become strict in their adherence to this diet, including more fruits and vegetables will have positive results. I would have never seen myself completely change my eating, but this book gave tangible, specific reasons to upgrade my diet for the better and never look back.
I got more than a dry book on nutrition. Instead, I got the motivation and key strategies I needed to make positive, healthy lifestyle changes. As an extra bonus, the Daily Dozen (also available as an app) is a helpful tool to make sure I'm planning my diet around these core requirements.
3. Fitness: The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation
Full book title:
The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation
What I expected:
I will be completing an inline marathon later on this year, and I am making plans for my workouts leading up to the event. I also know that the last time I signed up for an inline half marathon, I managed to not make a training plan and ended up not even doing the event. I went in looking for motivation (and not even really knowing what I expected that to be). I was also not entirely convinced that I could get motivation from a book, but I was willing to give it a shot.
What I got:
This book is the stern talking to I needed to commit to a goal, take steps to motivate me to achieve it, and the "just do it" mentality to take action towards that goal. The focus is not just on thinking positive thoughts, but on doing the work to make success happen. Like with many books focused on personal improvement, there aren't a lot of new and unusual ideas. It does, however, bring together useful ideas and package them together to motivate action. It includes useful tools and exercises to get from "I should maybe sort of kind of do a thing" to "I'm going to the gym right now, and I'll continue to fine-tune my plan as I go."
There are a few helpful exercises to help empower people to get out of their own way. So often, people sort of, kind of commit to a goal, then find every reason not to follow through. Personally, I think of all the excuses I can come up with for not going to the gym. Using the techniques included in the book, helped me to eliminate many of those lame excuses and motivate myself to go even if I don't totally feel like it on a given day.
What Do You Think?
What books have influenced you to make positive life changes? Share your thoughts in the comments.
'Tis the Season for Movie Watching
It's the time of year when it's cold outside, but warm and generally festive inside. The girl (now 15) and I have mother/daughter movie night on a regular basis. The week before Christmas until the new year is holiday-movie-palooza. Here are my three all time favorite holiday movies, and three honorable mentions for your viewing pleasure.
When I look back at the movie that I have seen the most times, hands down, over my lifetime, the winner is Die Hard. I first saw it when my sister videotaped it from HBO long, long ago. It has stood the test of time as my favorite movie ever.
The storyline holds together well all these years later. Even the comment in the opening scene (making fists in the carpet with your toes) causes John McClain (Bruce Willis) to end up barefoot throughout the movie. Holly (Bonnie Bedalia) using her maiden name at work prolongs Hans (Alan Rickman) not figuring out her relationship to the rogue cop until near the end. Al Powell(Reginald VelJohnson) and his backstory culminate in him causing a key bad guy's downfall as Sgt Powell overcomes his fears. Everything is tied together.
As an extra added bonus, it's genuinely funny. From Ho-Ho-Ho, to Yippee kay yay, people lacking self awareness (Agent Johnson and Agent Johnson, no relation), and a few characters that make you want to punch them in the face, this movie has it all--including at little Run DMC and Argyle (De'voreaux White), the best new limo driver a guy could be so lucky as to have on his side.
While You Were Sleeping
This is one of the best romantic comedies ever made. Sandra Bullock is Lucy, a delightful, but lonely, woman who works for the Chicago Transit Authority. She has a crush on a man she has never talked to who takes the train each day. Heroism and hilarity ensue as she saves her crush, Peter (Peter Gallagher), and his giant wacky family thinks she's his fiance.
Add a coma, an estate furniture business, Peter's brother Jack (Bill Pullman), her landlord's bumbling son Joe Junior (Michael Rispoli) and Lucy trying to come clean and failing, and you have this clever feel-frustrated then feel-good movie.
Throw in a little memory loss, the Callahan family's amazing banter, and neighbor Saul (Jack Warden) trying to help, and you have a movie with the romantic comedy payoff you want after this wild misunderstanding fueled ride.
When Harry Met Sally
This movie is not only a classic, but includes at least two Christmas holiday seasons. It's the story of Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) through their meetings over the years and the changes in their relationship.
This movie poses big questions. Can men and women be just friends? What is the right amount of cuddling time after sleeping together? Will a man ever leave his wife for his mistress? Can a man tell when a woman is "faking it"?
This movie's comedic timing is epic. In an early scene, we see Harry having an initial conversation with Sally as he spews diatribes and spits grape seeds out the window. Later, Harry and his best friend Jess (Bruno Kirby) discuss Harry's impending divorce at a football game pausing intermittently to do the wave There's also the amazing scene where Jess and Harry have a phone conversation at the same time as Sally and Marie (Carrie Fischer) and the conversations overlap. All of this is punctuated by interviews of couples explaining their relationships, ending with Harry and Sally telling their story. It's a cinematic wonder.
With movies, it's hard to pick just three. For good measure, here are three more that I love.
What About You?
What are your favorite holiday movies? Include them in the comments.
Just Eat Healthy. Duh.
We all know that we should eat a “healthy” diet. What does that mean? It’s easy to get caught up in the whirl of diets that are popular today—be it Keto, Paleo, DASH, Atkins, Whole 30, or something totally else—and feel like whatever changes you make might be the wrong ones. So now what?
Words of Wisdom on Eating Healthier
Life changes are hard. Everything is new, and everyone has an opinion on what you should or shouldn’t do. We all know that we should move more and eat less, but we often get in our own way when it comes to making a healthier life happen. Here are three mindset tips that helped me stop overthinking and start making better dietary choices.
Tip 1: Never Miss Two in a Row
Over the years, I’ve dieted a ton—including Weight Watchers, Naturally Slim, TOPS, SlimFast and other ridiculous things I have blocked out. While I had success some (but not all) of the time, the effects were short lived. Changing your diet in the short term, but not looking at how to create sustainable changes, leads us right back where we started and leaves us feeling defeated because we succeeded, then failed. Such is the issue with going on a diet with the goal of losing a set amount of weight in a set amount of time.
Instead, it’s better to focus on changing your overall diet, and on a larger scale, your lifestyle. This means the possibility of fewer results right away, but a better chance of real deal, longer term success. Instead of lying to yourself that you’ll never eat [insert thing you absolutely love] again, figure out how to make better overall choices with food that will become just regularly schedule life longer term.
Steve Kamb, founder of Nerd Fitness, has advice to help stop the spiraling before it starts. One of the core tenants of Nerd Fitness is “Never miss two in a row.” Basically, if you miss a workout, or eat a not-so-healthy meal, instead of giving up, consider it the blip that it is and keep on going. Instead of eating a donut at work, deciding you are a horrible person who can’t commit to anything, and make abysmal food choices for the rest of the day—and perhaps forever—commit to not missing two in a row. So you had a donut. Make your next meal or snack better. That’s it. Instead of labeling yourself a “failure”, label yourself “human” and get back to your bigger plan of healthier living.
Tip 2: Get It Right 80% of the Time.
For every identified way of eating that could be successful, there is someone who is ready to proclaim that whatever you’re doing is not “right” or in keeping with said established diet. Instead of listening to the voices online, in your family, or simply in your head trying to convince you that you’re not a good enough paleo/vegan/pescatarian, tune out the unhelpful voices out and focus on eating more things that are better for you more often. Other people can pound their tiny fists as much as they want to, but they are not living your lives, and, honestly, they don’t get a say in your choices.
Dr Michael Greger, author of “How Not to Die”, is an advocate of the benefits of a Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB) diet, which he backs up with scientific research. However, he also points out that making positive changes can be iterative. For example, if you’ll eat salad greens (which have multiple health benefits), but you need to have Bacos on it (which are processed and not great for you), make that iterative, positive change! More than once, I’ve had a big salad loaded with vegetables and a side order of french fries. In short, improve your diet, don’t beat yourself up for doing things you want to do. That’s the path to self-loathing and general unhappiness, not an overall healthier you.
Over time, as you eat more things that are better for you, your body will start to crave healthier food and not have any time for the Bacos/fast food/whole entire cake that you would have eaten routinely in the past. That 80% gets you where you need to be in spite of a “keeper of the label” making uninvited commentary on your choices.
Tip 3: Sometimes, You Have to Eat Like a Dog.
When you start to look at making a chance in how you eat, everything in life gets harder. If you’re no longer picking up a burger at the drive though, now what the heck do you eat? How much do you have to figure out how to cook? What do you even buy at the grocery store? Where is the grocery store anyway?
Enter my personal trainer, Colin, with the best, most practical advice ever. When I told him that I struggled with meal planning, he simply stated “sometimes, you have to eat like a dog.” He went on to explain that I don’t have to make something elaborate for every meal. Instead, I should pick a few staples and move up from there. He pointed out that we feed our pets the same thing every day for a reason—they need certain health needs met, and we know their food will do that for them. Why not do the same thing for ourselves?
When looking for recipes, we see many options that are colorful and beautiful and elaborate. We also tend to forget that every day is not a holiday, and we don’t have to make the equivalent of an elaborate Thanksgiving Dinner three times a day, every day. Instead, find a few basics that you don’t hate and that have nutritional value, build a routine, and then modify as you have the desire (and mental bandwidth) to do so. For me, I went with the following:
Done! I know I’m getting the nutrition I need, and I’m not spending an inordinate amount of my life trying to figure out what to eat. Problem solved. For others, it may be cooking up a whole bunch of chicken, boiling a dozen eggs then creating meals to take to work each day that include protein, frozen vegetables, an orange, and string cheese as a snack. For me, now that I have basic, go-to meals, I am starting to research additional meals I might want to make. The better you are at having at least a basic game plan for what you’re going to eat, the better set up you will be for success.
What Do You Think?
What are your best go-to pieces of practical advice for healthy eating? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Brenda is a dynamic training & development leader & innovative learning experience designer.