Archive | January 2015

Breaking All The Rules…

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As often as you may think that you know better, you know what needs to be done, you know how to do things more efficiently… you are probably also wrong. As a newbie in any situation the first and foremost unfortunate error that most people fall into is the overestimating of their own knowledge and skills.

In the dictionary it is explained quite simply as “The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate.”

This explains why so many people rely so heavily on Google to establish knowledge around common topics and ignore the actual advice of educated experts with various degrees. Vaccination is the primary example where non-medicine professionals claim to know more and better than scientists or doctors. Other examples include people talking about nutrition, sports, money, and climate change. Google and Wikipedia are not reliable sources to counterbalance the lack of a degree or education. No matter how well an opinion piece is written. No matter how much a commentary evokes emotions. Googling does not replace a degree. Period.

Also in your daily work you encounter those people that quite often overestimate their own skills. New to the department they know immediately what is wrong with your process or your assumptions, and they immediately know what needs to be changed to make things better. Often ignoring facts, historical evidence, and sometimes the advice of people who have been in the job for a while. These people feel they can break established rules out of arrogance driven by an overestimation of their own knowledge and skill.

Keep in mind I like breaking rules. I do so quite often — I am the last one who sticks to rules just because. However, in order to break rules effectively you need to follow some rules. Ha.

Breaking rules bears consequences. Before breaking rules, you need to understand why they are in place and you need to weigh the risks that come with breaking rules.

Who has your back? Who can support your position? What is the overall benefit to the company?

Will your rule breaking make things better? Not only for you, but for the company?

When breaking the rules there are a few people you need to keep on your side.

  1. The Expert: Do you have the right expertise at hand — This does not mean you need to know everything yourself, but you need to ensure that the expertise is on your side. Someone that can step up and say: “This is possible. This will lead to a good outcome.” This is the person who evaluates the situation. Gives you thumps up or thumps down.
  2. The Opinion Leader: Do you have a means of easily convincing the opinion leader or have her already at your side? Do you know who the opinion leaders are? This is someone who is well respected and whose opinion counts. Someone who will say something in support of your actions and everyone will just simply follow.
  3. The Authority Figure: Do you have someone with authority on your side? Someone who can defend you in a questionable situation. Someone that has your back. Someone with stripes and the corresponding resources. You need resources.
  4. The Cross Bearer: Someone who has the capacity  and skill to actually follow through and make your new way the routine. Someone able to do all the leg work possible to get from ground breaking new idea to a well established process. Someone who can support the talk with an actual walk. This is often yourself.
  5. The Cheerleader: Not a necessity, but someone who cheers you on and encourages you to take risks. This will make you more confident and courageous. The two characteristics that will carry you over the finish line with a smile.

So, breaking the rules is possible, but you need to know what you are breaking. And never overestimate your knowledge and skills. We have too many stupid or stupid acting people around.


Change Comes From Changing

I have a favorite quote that I use on a very frequent basis: “C’est en forgeant, qu’on devient forgeron” (It is through forging that you become a blacksmith). A somewhat good translation of which would be “practice makes perfect”, but to me it is also a little bit more.

I am a runner and enjoy long distance running over shorter runs. A few years back when preparing for my first marathon I asked in an online community “How can I get faster.” I heard a lot of good advice: adding to the weekly mileage, running longer, lose weight, new shoes, eat less, compression pants…. but a friend of mine put things in perspective: She said: “You simply have to run faster.”

And this is what I have taken to heart. I started running faster and soon was able to log a sub 4h marathon. Simply by increasing the pace in my training runs and throwing in some intervals.

And this logic applies to everything in this world. You can only expect a certain outcome if you work towards that outcome directly. There is no free lunch. And there is typically not a way out. No short cut. No magic pill.

Last fall I had my first DNF in a marathon. I was devastated. A hamstring injury was the cause, after 13miles it was just glaringly obvious that I either would damage something worse or I needed to stop. So I stopped. Until that moment I had never quit anything in my life before. It felt bad.

So I asked myself: Where did this injury come from and how can I avoid anything like this to happen again. Will I ever muster the willpower to run in another marathon again. Will I become one of those old folks crippled by injury and pain and only able talk about the successes of my past like they happened to someone else? I sure would do anything in my power to avoid that kind of destiny.

So, I got my injury evaluated. Back problems, too tight hamstrings, general alignment issues… Well, that sounded like I was down a path to become a miserable middle aged person. So, I asked for root causes. But did not get the real answer immediately, but intensive research over the last few months led to the following: lack of movement.

Me? Lack of movement. I am active, I run, I am running marathons…

… And I only run, I sit a lot, wear high heels to work daily and on weekends.

High heels a source of power, necessary for a professional outfit, how can they really impact my ability to be a happy old person without back pain? Are heels and sitting really this bad?

Yes, they are. Heels shorten your calves muscles and also are often responsible for tight hamstrings. Frequent sitting is bad, the hip tucked will drive shorter hamstring muscles. In order to prevent future injuries and my misalignment to get worse, I needed to change.

Bye, bye high heels

Welcome stretching, physical therapy, and a new sport.

I picked up a yoga routine and am addicted. I have put it in my head to be able to do arm balances, handstands and splits before my next birthday. I am just competitive like that. And it is fun.

And to the high heels. I am not sure, yet, if I truly like my new flatfooted outfits. I am short. Now I look short.

However, thinking about the future. I am rather painfree than trapped in a body that does not cooperate.

And maybe I will set a new fashion trend at work. We will see.

Change Requires Work

Yesterday, I realized that I need to break up with a friend of mine.

This is not the first time I have broken up with a friend. Once before I had broken off contact. But it is the first time I needed to break up consciously with someone who I used to share a deeper friendship with.

The first time was with a person that I did not like all that much to begin with. Too self centered. Too arrogant. I always felt bad after talking to her or hearing about her. So I simply decided to let go. No more contact. And it felt good.

Yesterday, nothing really happened. The person has not changed all that much in the 12 years since I first met her. And here is where the problem lies. It is the same old story every single time. Whenever I meet her, she is either going through a so called change or planning a change. She is unhappy with where she lives and how she lives. She wants to do something great, but never gets started.

Since I met her, she has changed her job at least 5 times. She was dreaming of becoming a mother and having a large family until she became pregnant and hated the pregnancy part, then the nursing part, so she decided to only have one child. She started her MBA and never finished. She planned on becoming a cook and never did. Now, it is something else altogether. Something new.

It is tiring. And I sat yesterday on New Year’s Eve with her in my kitchen to listen. And that is all I did. Listen. No advice from my side. No clever comments. I just did not know what to say. So I stayed quiet. I did not suggest an intelligent New Year’s resolution.

What I wanted to say is:  Change requires work. Change is hard. Change requires commitment. Is often painful. And you really need to do it if you want to. There is no greener grass on the other side. There is no easy success. You need to find what you want to do and just do it. Do not wait for my permission or anything else other people may say.

I too strongly feel that you are the master of your own destiny. The world and people are not doing something to you. It is you who is in the driver seat and you need to make the decisions and deal with the consequences. You do not have to wait for a special situation or date to get started. Start now if you want change. Find a new routine and stick to it.

My resolution for this year is barely non existent. No drastic mind blowing change. No trying to become someone different.  I just simply like who I have become over the last two years and I want to expand on that. I do not need to lose weight. But I want to continue my fitness routine and expand running with a more rigorous yoga schedule. I want to live more pleasantly with less pain, so I need to start sleeping more routinely and avoid shifting schedules. My idea is to become a better morning person. In a global job most of my meetings are early anyways and it will just help me to commit to getting up early every day instead of every other day. I am a strong believer in routine dictating successful behavior. And routine is something you can establish easily — if you give yourself the right choices.

So, I will try to get up at 5am every morning. Considering that half of the week I need to be at work by 6am anyways it is less of a stretch than one might think. The days I do not need to be home early I will engage in yoga, blogging, or drink a good cup of coffee while reading.

What I will not do is to engage myself in self pity or blame others on why I am not feeling right.

The hardest part of engaging in change is to understand what role you yourself play in changing, And it is a very active one. Essentially, you are the mastermind, the planner and the executing force behind every shift. It is better to accept the responsibility that comes with it. No more excuses.

Problems will be attacked. Plans will be made. Solutions implemented.

And with the friend above, I just think I need to distance myself. A lot. If not I will just become another enabler.

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