Sunday, August 31, 2014

#821 serenity

"All stress comes from resisting what is."  Oprah Winfrey

Think about the time and mental energy that you spend fretting about things that you cannot change.  We stress about the weather.  We worry about whether others will fulfill their commitment.  Whether people will like our idea or if people will like us.  

How much better off would we be if we accepted more things as they were?  Even if it is just for today, try to be at peace with "what is" and who you are.  The clear thinking that comes from serenity will help you craft a better tomorrow.

--- beth triplett

quoted in The World According to Gayle (King), O Magazine, March 2013

Saturday, August 30, 2014

#820 compadres

I received a post on LinkedIn that described qualities of people the author most enjoyed as colleagues.  I liked his Venn diagram a lot:

When I saw it, I immediately thought of the Strategic Planning Committee of 2011-2012 -- my group of compadres that was responsible for the development of our new plan.  That group put in a crazy amount of hours -- including a Friday 3pm-4:30pm weekly meeting -- but I had more fun with them than any other committee here.

I guess I have higher expectations that Jeff Weiner, because if I was drawing the circles I would have four.  In addition to dreaming big, getting shit done, knowing how to have fun, I would add: open to learning.  I want to work with colleagues that instinctively evaluate programs after they occur and who are continually trying to make things better.  I like people who not only "dream big" but "think small" and work to continuously improve the details.  

Think about your circles and how colleagues would draw them if describing you.  Do you have overlap and a good balance of dreaming and doing?  Are your contributions proportionate in the three or four areas?  Work to become the person others want on their team.

-- beth triplett

Friday, August 29, 2014

#819 the wall

When I was in Washington, DC I was taken aback when I walked by a construction site.  It was a fenced off area that contained all of the usual heavy equipment, scaffolding, large hole with workers scurrying around, etc.  Only instead of a site that was designed to build a new building or even renovate an old one, all this work occurred around a pre-existing wall.

One wall.  The front of the building was preserved and everything else was totally torn down.  It was cause for a double-take -- here was a complete wall standing in the middle of an empty lot.

I was intrigued as to how they were able to save just the front and tear down everything around it.  I wondered what would warrant the obvious effort and expense to preserve just that one part of the building.  Obviously it was important for political, economic or historical reasons that I couldn't understand.

Your organization's mission is like that wall.  It needs to remain, despite the odds, obstacles or expense to preserve it.  You can alter what surrounds it, but the mission remains as the center for everything else.  Give yourself a mental image of what your "wall" would look like, even if nothing else were there, and take care that it remains standing through time.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, August 28, 2014

#818 feedback

Earlier this week, I listened to a teleconference by Sheila Heen, co-author of Difficult Conversations.  The topic was billed as negotiating, but what was most memorable for me was her description of the three types of feedback:

1.  Appreciation:  The acknowledgement that you notice someone and their work and that they matter.  Heen believes that we don't give appreciation as frequently as we should (guilty as charged!) and that this often makes people less receptive to hearing the other two kinds of feedback.

2.  Coaching:  Comments given to a person to help them become better at something.  This type of feedback is given with positive intentions (although not always received that way.)

3.  Evaluation:  People don't always hear coaching because it is phrased -- or even heard -- as evaluation: feedback that evaluates performance or compares the person to a standard or expectation.  

Her example:  If after a presentation you say to a person: "That didn't go so well" it is evaluation, contrasted with: "I'd be happy to offer a few suggestions about your presentation" which is coaching.

Think about the feedback you are giving your staff and how you are phrasing it.  Even if your intent is good, if you mix categories in language or spirit it's likely that the message will be muddled rather than received.

-- beth triplett

Difficult Conversations: How to discuss what matters most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton & Sheila Heen (an excellent resource!!)  2010

Thanks for the Feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well by Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen, 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

#817 worth a thousand words

I recently read an article about learning a foreign language.  The author claims to have become fluent in French in five months and Russian in 10 through a process of mentally tying words to images.  He cites research that shows our visual memory is "extraordinary" and by capitalizing on that, we can learn new words and actually remember them with great accuracy.

Instead of repeating "" to learn the feline word in Italian, he suggests that you connect the word to an image of a cat; preferably an actual cat that you know.  Those associations penetrate our memory and help us to learn new languages much more easily than through memorization of rote grammar.

I believe the same idea is true when trying to help people grasp new concepts.  Instead of talking about the theory of enrollment management, I can make my point instantly understood through the visual of a three-legged stool.  I have a wooden block that distinctively demonstrates what we are trying to achieve in our student mix and a saltshaker that illustrates a supervisory style.  In my office I have visual aids such as Wile E. Coyote (like creativity and focus), ruby slippers (empowerment) and a spider (making connections).

I use analogies all of the time: applications are like bananas, ideas are like dots, goal setting or vision is like Indianapolis, transitions are like a rubber band, a marble jar is like credibility, etc.  I think they help get the point across more quickly than an elaborate explanation and it serves to make the point memorable.

Think about how you can enhance your visual connections -- not just through words on a power point, but by analogies and images that are as sticky as a spilled jar of honey.

-- beth triplett

Source:  The path to fluency is paved with pictures by Gabriel Wyner, Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2014.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

#816 threshold

Last week, a local news story unexpectedly went viral, so the requests for interviews came in.  The best person to speak on the topic was someone who is normally not a spokesperson.  While she had the most knowledge of the details, she had little experience in being questioned on the radio; thus, she was understandably nervous.

As she was being prepped for a media interview, her boss stopped in with words of encouragement.  "You're building your threshold," he said.  "The next time you have to do this, your threshold will be higher."

What great words of advice.  People often avoid doing challenging things because they are not experts at them, but it is precisely through doing the difficult work that our threshold increases and our proficiency in doing the hard task is improved.  The skills she learns in doing the media interview will translate into making it easier to have difficult conversations in other venues.  The confidence she gains by succeeding at something she did not think she could do well will carry over and buoy her in different settings.  

Instead of listening to that inner voice that urges us to avoid the difficult tasks, embrace them as a threshold-building workout.  Your strength will amaze you.

-- beth triplett

Thanks to Mike and Stan!

Monday, August 25, 2014

#815 equalizer

Today is our first day of classes.  Our students are set to fill their brains with many lessons; in my mind the most important thing they can learn is time management.

Time is the great equalizer.  President Obama may have more power than you do, but he has exactly the same amount of time.  Warren Buffet may be richer, but he, too, has the same 168 hours week as you.  LeBron James may have more talent, but no more time than a kindergartener or homeless person.

How you use your time will set you apart -- in good ways and bad.  Too much frivolity and leisure will leave your career wanting; too much work will leave you stressed.  A lot of time in one area can make you proficient, but too much focus can make you sheltered.  Too much time on planning can preclude action; too little time on it can result in chaos.  Time is our most precious resource to balance.

As you start a new school year, or just begin a new week, first think about how you use those seconds.

-- beth triplett

Sunday, August 24, 2014

#814 Polly

Oftentimes we are so convinced that our point of view is the right one, if not the only one,  that we don't pause to consider that our perception reality may be way off base.

Such was the case when I first saw the picture above of the beautiful parrot...

then I learned that it isn't a bird at all, rather a woman who is covered in body paint.  (If you have trouble seeing her, start with the blue tail/her foot and work your way up to the white face and eye).

Just like that famous drawing of the old woman/young woman from psychology class, once you see both views, you have no trouble seeing them again, but when you first view it only one image comes into focus.

The next time you are in a discussion or debate and you can't imagine how the other person holds the viewpoint they do, think about the painted woman above.  Remember that while their argument may ruffle your feathers, to them it is just a different color of paint.

-- beth triplett

Thanks to Curt for sharing!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

#813 key ingredient

Our annual employee picnic had always been a potluck.  Like most such events, everyone brought far more than they could eat so a lot of food remained at the end.  A ridiculous amount of leftovers, actually, so last year we made "assignments" as an attempt to cut down on what people brought.  Half the people brought desserts, the other half beverages, and the rest was catered.

As a result, what was left was a copious amount of desserts and beverages.  So this year, the event was 100% catered with no potluck dishes at all.

And it became ordinary.  There were no special treats that you heard about at work and wanted to try.  You didn't learn about the favorite dish that your co-worker makes.  Your beverage choices were punch or water.  For dessert: cookies or brownies.  It became generic and even institutional.  

There is a trade off between not having to deal with the remaining food and having something become a special event.  Just as when people grumble about participating in the talent show at the annual meeting, but later acknowledge that it creates memorable bonding.  Pitching in a few bucks isn't the same as walking in the charity fundraiser either.

Personal investment yields a high ROI in many intangible ways.  Easier is not always better.

-- beth triplett

Friday, August 22, 2014

#812 greeting

I have been in a hundred situations where I saw someone that I knew and did not exchange a greeting. This isn't with people I know well, of course, but with those who are acquaintances or even more remotely connected than that.  If I see them out in a restaurant or store, I may not interrupt them to interject a greeting unless our paths naturally meet each other.

But the other day, I was out shopping and saw a former member of the arts council where I serve.  I went over to her and said hello and this led to a wonderful conversation. I learned she is just beginning to pursue a doctoral degree and so I shared my words of encouragement regarding that as we had a nice chat.

The next day, I sent her an article* I had written about tips for finishing your dissertation.  She wrote back one of those warm-your-heart-and-keep messages about how she has admired me, etc.  

Had I not said hello, I wouldn't have even known that I made any impression on her at all and who knows, perhaps the article will help her persist to finish her degree. 

You never know the impact you are making on people or how much your interaction can mean.  My exchange was a reminder of what we do know: that the little things -- even a simple greeting -- can help people be inspired or blessed.  

Just like in the film Jerry Maguire, you had me at hello.

--- beth triplett

 *if you would like a copy, email me at

Thursday, August 21, 2014

#811 seamless

I recently did some consulting with a former colleague.  We haven't worked together in 15 years, but jumped right back into the rhythm and flow as if we had been in the office together yesterday.  

A similar situation happened when a friend came to visit earlier this week.  We haven't seen each other in a year, but it was as if the conversation had never been interrupted.  After a brief hello hug it was as if we saw each other all the time.  

Perhaps life in higher education has prepared me to foster seamless relationships in an environment that is disjointed.  Faculty and students leave for the summer and then they return.  We pick up our work and our connections as if they had never left.  It carries over to far-flung family and friends, even without the benefit of Facebook or often any interaction in the interval. 

How can you lead your life with a continuity that is unaffected by time or physical space?  Sure, the hair color may change and you may have exciting tales to tell, but it is a comfort to know that the core is unaltered and omnipresent.  If you remain authentic and surround yourself with people who do likewise, you'll feel as if your support network is always with you -- even if "present" involves a transcendent nature. 

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

#810 lemons

Today is National Lemonade Day.  It's a day that is especially meaningful for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation -- a charity that was established to help fight childhood cancer.

Alex Scott passed away at age 8, but before she did, she infused her positive attitude into everyone's life.  She took to heart the motto "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade", and thus the lemonade stand idea was born. In her life, she raised a million dollars through her lemonade stand. The foundation has continued and now raised $80 million more.

Can you take lessons from Alex?  If a kid with cancer can have such an outlook, can't you adopt it too -- even just for today?  If someone who is so sick can muster the energy to start a lemonade stand project, can't you find the time to do a good deed today?

Ignore those minor petty differences and look at things in a more holistic perspective.  Don't use time as an excuse.  Chances are that your life is pretty good.  For today, act like it is.

-- beth triplett

To learn more about Alex's Lemonade Stand or how Red Robin is supporting the Foundation today:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

#809 manual

My blog from yesterday elicited a host of comments from friends who were seemingly more excited about my new car than I was.  For me, it was a functional purchase.  I would have purchased a new version of the same model had it still been in production -- because I liked it, but mostly to avoid car shopping!  Apparently others feel differently!

My friend who went to the dealership with me when I bought my last car 9 years ago reminded me about the experience.  The car I had previous to that came with a manual transmission, and I set out to get a stick shift again.  In fact, I really wanted a stick and only reluctantly ended up with an automatic in my car.  They mollified me with a "sequential sport shift" that allowed me to manually shift when the situation warranted. It was marketed as "the best of both worlds" and I fell for it. I think I used it once.

I did not think twice about getting an automatic with this purchase.  I have grown accustomed to the convenience and it now seems totally natural as to how it should be.  I didn't even remember that I once wanted a manual until I was reminded.

What is the equivalent to a manual transmission in your world?  Is there something out there that you are reluctant to give up or change -- but you haven't really considered the alternative?  I think about software upgrades that I put off, but then can't imagine what it was like before I had the enhanced features.  Or our receptionist's beloved typewriter that I forced her to replace with a label machine that she now adores.  Or was there a time when a new hire seemed so slow but whose thinking revolutionized a process that you now take for granted?  

Maybe it's time for you to shift your perspective and be open to new options.

-- beth triplett

Monday, August 18, 2014

#808 spare nothing

I have been driving (and loving) my car for nine years, but over the weekend I took the plunge and bought a new vehicle.  A lot of things have changed on cars between the 2005 and 2015 models; I felt like I needed a computer programming course before I could drive my car home.  My friend said that the new car has "more technology than Neil Armstrong enjoyed" and it certainly felt like that was true.

But what surprised me the most was what the car didn't have.  For one: a key.  It has this fancy new "fob" that just has to be in the vicinity of the car for it to operate.  But most interesting to me is that my new car does not have a spare tire.  Not a "donut" tire or a full sized one -- none.  Instead, it has a fancy little compressor box with a fix-a-flat attached to it.  Let's hope I never need it, because it, too, looks like a miniature computer that will require lessons to operate.

Ever since Henry Ford, keys and spare tires were standard operating equipment on nearly every car ever built.  Until now.  The dealer said that it was done in an effort to reduce weight, thus increase speed and fuel efficiency.  

Think about the assumptions you make in your organization. Instead of trying to make a smaller tire, could you eliminate tires all together?  Are there things you have had since forever that maybe you really don't need anymore?  There is no longer anything out there that is a "must-have".  Start your thinking with a truly blank slate and see what creative alternatives you can develop.

-- beth triplett

Standard issue 2015 trunk contents:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

#807 that thing

How many things are in your world that you know what they are, but do not know what they are officially called?  We develop functional language that is known to us and allows us to communicate well with intimate family and friends, but becomes baffling when we involve others.

Some examples:

> When you say "get the salt out of the cupboard" and your don't mean the shaker, what do you mean?  What's the official name for "the big thing of salt"?  Box?  Container?  Morten's?

> I have a garment that is like a sweater, only silky and not knit.  I know it as "my black thing".  What do you know it as?  A silky sweater?  A black wrap (even though it has sleeves)?  An unstructured jacket?   I bought a new one in blue and was trying to describe it to someone but had to give up.

> I recently purchased a desk accessory that is a tower of shelves to hold projects.  I think its official name is a five-slot in-bin, but I call it "the shelves".  There are other literal shelves in my office, but people know what I mean when I refer to this.

Pay attention to your vocabulary for a few days.  To what have you given unique labels that work only for you?  Do you make it harder for visitors or a new colleague to become comfortable in your world?  

Jargon goes deeper than acronyms.  Be attentive to the ways you speak a private language instead of a universal one.

-- beth triplett

Saturday, August 16, 2014

#806 you're out

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about Major League Baseball's "batty rule book".  The official playbook of the MLB is 240 pages long, in part because of rules that are hard to believe actually are necessary.  Some examples:

> Rule 7.08i: You can't steal first base.  Someone tried to go from second back to first (in an attempt to divert attention from a teammate's steal of home).  It happened in 1911 and has been on the books to prevent a future occurrence ever since.

> Rule 4.03:  You have to have fielders except the catcher must be positioned in fair territory.  Again, this seems logical, but in 1870 infield grounders that were fair and rolled foul were still in play and MLB did not want fielders in the foul territory to make plays.

> Rule 3.13:  A home manager can make up his own ground rules if the visitor's manager agrees.  This gem got on the books in 1903 when fans were allowed to occupy parts of the outfield and the teams had to agree on how to handle balls hit there.

Last year, MLB added three more rules; perhaps in a decade they will seem preposterous too.  Like many organizations, the focus is on adding rules -- trying to codify something that should be common sense, but, in at least one instance, wasn't.

What if the Wall Street Journal came to your organization and wrote a piece on your rule book?  Would someone be blogging about how crazy and out-of-date some of the regulations are?  Have you created such a monstrosity that no one even reads it to know what it contains?  

Think about the three-strikes-you're-out way of expressing rules. There are some things that baseball did get right.

-- beth triplett

Baseball's Batty Rule Book by Brian Costa, Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2014, p. D6

Friday, August 15, 2014

#805 key

There are many thoughts out there and even whole self-help sections in bookstores about how to get ahead.  

A faculty member I recently interviewed has boiled her philosophy down to four keys to success:

1.  Data
2.  Planning
3.  Execution
4.  Optimism

It is her theory that without all four, you will falter somewhere and not achieve your ultimate goal.  Seems pretty simple, doesn't it?

That is until you try to put it into action!  But try it anyway.  If she doesn't have the magic key, she's certainly close.

-- beth triplett

Source:  Deby Cassill, August 1, 2014

Thursday, August 14, 2014

#804 pile of ideas

On Monday, my colleague and I hit "send" to submit our 29-page report on the external assessment we conducted just nine days prior.  How we were able to write it so quickly stems in part from how we structured our work.  I use this process every time I need to organize a project or write anything of length:

1.  Write out each of your thoughts -- ONE per index card or piece of scrap paper.  In the case of our assessment, throughout our visit we wrote out on sheets of notebook paper all of the points we wanted to make (in no order whatsoever), then literally cut them up into little strips of paper -- ONE thought per strip.  You can write notes over a period of time -- they don't have to to come to you all at once.

2.  Clear a table (or in our case, the hotel bed) and lay them out in piles according to topics.  Make a heading for the pile once a few cards gather in one spot.  (So our headings were things like Structure, Opportunities, Challenges, etc.)

3.  Then put your piles in order as you think they will flow linearly in your report, session, article, etc.

4.  Type up your pile of all the comments in that order.  Wa-la!  You have an outline, with not only the main headings, but all the points you want to make underneath.

5.  Start writing from this.  If something doesn't flow, you can always move it, but overall you have a structure that will a) get you started and b) provide sub-sections for you to complete and get that dopamine hit to keep you going.

We left the hotel with our outline in hand.  Because I didn't have to stare at a blank piece of paper or blank computer screen, I started writing even on the plane ride home -- just taking the points from my "strips" and turning them into sentences and stringing them together.

I have used this process hundreds of times -- it's how I organize retreats, workshops, articles, projects -- and now even the class I will be teaching.  As soon as I know I have a big project, I start collecting notes into a pile as ideas come to me in the days, weeks, or months leading up to the moment I really dig in and start working on something.  It makes all the difference to start with "something" rather than starting from "nothing", and I can begin without thinking about it.

Our brains don't work in linear fashion. Even with the miraculous cut-and-paste feature on computers, it is still hard to be random when starting on a document in Word.  Avoid all that frustration and try the "pile" method above.  I guarantee it to be foolproof!

-- beth triplett

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

#803 drugged

If you asked author Simon Sinek* where all my energy came from on Saturday, he would say that it wasn't from getting started or getting in the zone, rather that it came from dopamine.  Dopamine is the biological chemical inherent in our bodies that releases when we achieve a goal.  Sinek calls it "an incentive for progress" or how the body is wired to keep us working toward tasks.  When each step of a project is completed, we get a "hit" of dopamine; when something difficult is accomplished, we get a noticeable physical reaction to the triumph.

So as the theory goes, you need to get started to get a chemical release to get you the energy and motivation to get finished.  It sounds like a vicious circle, but can actually function as a motivating cycle.  Even if you don't feel like you can finish something -- whether that be writing a report, running the last mile, losing ten pounds or saving for a cruise -- you may, in fact, be able to do so if you factor in the additional boost that you'll get from achieving incremental steps along the way.  It is the biology behind why self-help experts encourage you to write down your tasks and to break them into manageable, tangible mileposts.  Think of watering stations along a run; incremental action steps are like little dopamine-fix stations where you get an equivalent Dixie cup of energy to push you along.

So the next time you're tempted to reach for a Mountain Dew or Red Bull, try letting Mother Nature add the boost -- simply by starting what you need to finish anyway.

-- beth triplett

*Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek, 2014

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

#802 in the zone

A week ago, I was out of town to do an assessment of a division at another university.  It was a case of somebody-knowing-somebody who knew me, and I was invited to come in and provide a fresh look at the structure and staffing that was in place.  Another colleague and I received a 24# box of materials in the mail prior to our visit, then we interviewed people in person for three days.  I left with a notebook full of notes and a head full of ideas.

Unfortunately, information in that format is not easily sharable.  So I spent most of Saturday trying to translate and type up comments, create an executive summary and compile appendices to somehow translate my observations into a meaningful format.  

About an hour after I reluctantly drug myself into my home office, I got immersed in my task.  It became a giant puzzle to assemble and a personal quest to finish the work that day.  Somewhere in there, I got lost in the zone.  I worked on it for hours, took a break for dinner, and willingly was back at it again. 

The screen saver on my computer says: "The secret to getting ahead is getting started."  It is good advice that I don't always heed, but this weekend was validation that it is true.  Keep the mantra in mind the next time you are putting off a task that seems undesirable or daunting.  Just start, and more often than not, the energy will follow.

-- beth triplett

Monday, August 11, 2014

#801 elixir

As I have written before, I have enough pens, pencils and Sharpies to provide continuous ink for the rest of my days.  I am a professed office supply junkie, a true paper-ophile, peN-ophile, Sharpie-ophile, etc. so all the Back to School sales are like nirvana.  I know I don't need anything, but who can resist the rock bottom prices that stores use to entice shoppers in their doors.  I admit I cannot.

So over the weekend I came home with a 10-pack of brand new Ticonderoga pencils.  The front of their package exclaims that they are "The World's Best Pencil", and I believe them. Who doesn't have a renewed burst of creativity when opening up the pack and taking out a pre-sharpened HB #2?  

I know I am not alone in my fetish.  There was an article in the paper* by a columnist who is also a self-professed "pen fanatic" who "stockpiles her favorite pens" as she invests "in whatever pen I was convinced at the time was the smoothest."  I laughed out loud as I thought I was unique in my fleeting loyalty to one pen and then another.  Both of us treat our pens as if they were "magic" pens, and the thoughts flowed from them instead of our brains.

Disney's Dumbo had his "magic feather" to give him confidence and the ability to do things he did not believe he could do otherwise.  I have special pens to provide inspiration and an enticement to begin writing.  What is your elixir that can transcend reality and provide you with the impetus to do the thing you need to do?  It may not be rational, but it often works. Try to stock up on the equivalent to a new pen today and see how far the inherent energy can take you.

-- beth triplett

*Lots out there for writers, pen fanatics by Mary Kenyon, August 6, 2014, Telegraph Herald, p. 1C

Sunday, August 10, 2014

#800 buzz

When a colleague and I were both new at another institution, we found ourselves in the position of making a lot of changes.  Some of these were not popular with the staff or students, and we had the suspicion that we were being called a certain name behind our backs. The name started with the letter B.

As a symbol of solidarity, one of us gave the other something in the shape of a bee.  Then there was another exchange.  And another.  And another.  Now more than a decade has passed and I still think of her every time I see items with a bee -- and let me tell you, there are A LOT of them.  We have exchanged slippers, dishwashing sponges, sandwich bread cutters, jewelry, wind chimes, sunglasses and numerous toys.  Once you start paying attention to "bee items", you will be amazed at how pervasive the image is.

We continued the bee exchange for years after the initial rumble was long forgotten.  We ended up being well liked by most and the nickname faded, but the camaraderie that it engendered did not.

Do you know someone who could use a little extra strength to pursue an unpopular but necessary course of action?  Perhaps a little bee could buzz into their lives and give them the fortitude they need to stick with it, even if it stings for awhile.

-- beth triplett

Happy B-day Kim!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

#799 classified

I am not sure why, but I am fascinated with the Lost and Found column in the newspaper.  Although I have never placed an ad myself, or even brokered a "find", I read it daily.  Usually it contains the typical lost pet or keys, but this was last Sunday's column:

> Lost garage door opener near tennis courts
> Lost $74 check for jewelry at farmer's market
> Lost brown tabby tiger-striped cat named Baxter
> Lost Pet Chicken, brown and black with crest
> Found a land line cordless phone in Flora Park

Reading the lost and found is a fix for my imagination.  I find myself making up stories -- why did someone have a land line in the park or a garage door opener by the courts?  Will the lady who purchased the jewelry at the market contact the vendor and write another check?  Will the chicken come home to roost?

The classified ads in general are a great stimulus for your creative muscle.  While you're sipping your morning coffee, try to imagine the stories behind the ads.  What does that house really look like and why are the owners moving?  Why does someone have a bridal gown for sale?  What use does someone have for the pallets he wants to buy?  What stories could the 1973 MGB convertible tell if it could talk?

The classifieds used to be the only way to communicate wants and needs with others who could fill them.  Long before Craig's List, eBay or other swapping sites, this was the community marketplace.  Now they can be a window into your neighbor's trades and treasures -- as well as a door to your imagination.

-- beth triplett

Friday, August 8, 2014

#798 blossoms

Our campus groundskeeper was watering plants as I drove in to work.  I stopped to tell him that many of the prospective students who have been visiting all week have commented on how beautiful the campus looked.  I thanked him for his efforts.

"Yes, but are they enrolling?" he asked.  "That is what really matters."  

I told him that many were only juniors in high school so he had to keep the campus looking pretty for another two years.  

We had a good laugh and I drove on, but as I reflected on this exchange it became more gratifying.  My conversation signified that the "it takes a village" mantra had been internalized.  We say that we need everyone on campus to be in the student service business -- not just the admissions staff or the senior administration -- and here was someone as a shining example of understanding the impact of his work.  

How can all of us do more to articulate the "why" behind the tasks, to share the information about what matters to the bottom line and toward mission achievement, and to remind ourselves that we contribute to a larger effort.  Work becomes much more important and meaningful when we are building cathedrals instead of just laying bricks -- or changing student lives instead of just watering flowers.

Take a moment to think about how the work you do connects to something bigger -- and to someone else -- and then take a moment to thank the person today for making that connection with you.

-- beth triplett

Thursday, August 7, 2014

#797 go nuts

I have recently become familiar with the children's books in the Scaredy Squirrel series and see many applications to me (and other adult lives). Scaredy Squirrel is afraid of a different thing in each book, but the scenario is the same.  He accounts for all the reasons the status quo is a good thing, then he decides to make a plan to be brave.  As in life, something always happens that causes him to say "This was NOT part of the plan" so he has to lay down and play dead for a few hours, in hopes that the trauma would pass.  When he gets up, things are never as bad as they seemed and in the end he has a new experience that turns out for the better.

Whose world isn't like that?

I think Scaredy offers lessons for all of us.  It is very natural to become comfortable with how things are.  Even when we partake in prudent planning, somehow things never seem to go according to that plan, but in the end, they often work out for the best.  Maybe the lesson from Scaredy is not to waste time and energy "playing dead", but rather embracing the uncertainty that life is sure to throw our way.

Maybe Scaredy can offer you or your colleagues a lesson in bravery.  It could be a novel way to introduce the topic for discussion in a group who seems to be afraid to move forward, a way to reassure someone that the future is not to be feared, a mirror to reassess your own reaction to change -- or just an entertaining read for you or your children.  No matter your purpose, you can be assured that Scaredy's "This was NOT part of the plan" will become part of your lexicon, and hopefully your mantra to press on anyway.

-- beth triplett

Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt.  Also Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend, Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach, Scaredy Squirrel at Night, Scaredy Squirrel has a Birthday Party and Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping.

Thanks to Amy and Leah for the great tip.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

#796 assembly inspired

When I buy something that needs to be assembled, I dread the task.  Directions are always in hieroglyphics and the arrows are indecipherable.  

And then there was the bookcase from Sauder.  I should have had a hint when on the cover of the directions it said:  "Great for all those books you'll never read."

Page 1, Assembly Tools Required:
> #2 Phillips Screwdriver with a "tip shown actual size"
> "Hammer, not actual size" And then it had a smiley face!
> A power drill with a "no" line drawn through it:  "Skip the power trip.  This time."

Humor in furniture directions?!

And it continued throughout the whole set of instructions.  
>After listing out all the parts it said "Now you know your ABCs".  
>When you needed to screw: "Remember:  Righty tighty. Lefty loosey."  
> "Don't worry.  It isn't Rome.  This can be built in a day."
> "Pro Tip:  Lift with your legs.  And, you know, your arms."

And at the end, it encouraged people to celebrate by sharing their success story via icons for Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest and You Tube.  Genius!

Sauder showed people that not everything has to be taken seriously.  Can you take a lesson from them and lighten up some of your forms or instructions?  Those who have to complete them will appreciate the unexpected humanness injected into a traditionally dull forum.

-- beth triplett

Thanks Emily for sharing.