There is something about being midway through a special event like World Domination Summit that makes it so fun to wake up. You have at least one previous day to mull over, and still at least one more day of exciting things to anticipate.
We got to sleep in a little, since the first event wasn’t until 10 am, and something funny happened right away.
I was doing “Laughter Yoga,” the purpose of which is to laugh even if you have to start out faking it. I was sitting at the dining table with my headphones on, clearly on a call, when my husband walked out into the living room after his shower. Au naturel. I knew he wasn’t visible on camera - but he didn’t! I don’t know if there is a yoga name for the physical motions that he did, but there definitely should be.
Let’s just say I didn’t have to fake laughing for the rest of the session.
After laughing yoga, QT picked us up, and we ordered lunch while we set up the big screen at her place.
Our first group session was Ben Allen’s workshop on Micro Books. We all took vigorous notes. He is an incredibly charismatic and fascinating presenter. His premise is that both readers and publishers are looking for books under 25,000 words. It’s much easier to test an idea with an audience if you can write and publish something quickly, while it’s still relevant. You can do a series on your topic that is more targeted to your readers’ needs, while also earning more and seeing results sooner.
Obviously I have a ton of ideas for micro books of my own. This feels like something I could manage while working full-time, especially since my 9/80 schedule allows for predictable three-day weekends.
We had a half-hour break before our next meetup, which we used to compare notes and talk about our book ideas. QT wants to do a book with her sister, who said Yes before the call was even finished, and doesn’t that make you cry??
Next we did a session called “The Anti-40-Hour Workweek.” The idea is how to build your income and work life around your chronotype, mental bandwidth, and physical energy levels. QT and my husband are both Bears and I’m a Dolphin - more on this in another post - and this sort of explains everything! We did breakout sessions and brainstorming direct actions we could take. I typed up a whole list of things I can do to support getting more sleep and freeing up more time on weekends. It’s a bummer, but as a COVID survivor I will just have to plan around my energy level more than I did in the past if I ever want to do anything cool.
We had a break before our next session, which we spent eating cake and watching a Masterclass. (Or, it’s on in the background while I multi-task, working on this blog and my tech newsletter).
Our next session was “Rewrite Your Future History.” We did three versions of our timeline for the next five years. First, whatever would be default mode if nothing changes. Second, what if everything quit working and you had to make a sudden change. Third, what you would do if money and time were no object.
This was a trippy experience for me, because my default position is actually great! I wasn’t particularly bothered by the prospect of everything collapsing and having to start over, because I’ve done it before several times and I always have at least Plans A through G. We’re already in TEOTWAKI-lite mode. At this point, I believe that I thrive on crisis, and it’s an opportunity for me to come out ahead while other people panic and make poor strategic decisions. What was alarming to me was actually the “if money and time were no object” scenario.
We did breakout sessions where we described our third timeline, working backward from the “I’m traveling the world after winning the lottery” scenario. This is hard for people! I found that it was easier for me to help other people come up with a more vivid and detailed vision for themselves than it was to concentrate on my own timeline. Hmm. That would make it more of a fun ideation exercise than serious inner work with an implied commitment, wouldn’t it?
This was a great session and we were all buzzing about our plans. Then we ordered dinner and got ready for our last session.
We ended the night with “10 Fun Games to Play on Zoom” with Caelan Huntress. We thought it would be a casual hangout, but it turns out that it was run by one of the most polished and professional presenters we’ve ever seen. He managed his hour so well that he made it look easy - which we know it isn’t - and not only ended on schedule, but actually managed to fit all ten games into one hour! It felt like a game, and also a game-within-a-game, as we took notes and focused on how we could use these games with our families and at work. We even learned some app features that we hadn’t seen yet, which is nuts since we’ve all been living on Zoom lately. If you’re doing a lot of Zoom stuff professionally, you should check him out.
One of the games was “Terrible Gifts,” in which one person pretends to give the other the worst present they can think of, and the other pretends to accept it with enthusiasm and gratitude. I “got” a porcupine that had been in an oil spill, and I said I would give him a forever home and take him into the bathtub with me. Then we decided I could replace his collar with one that I knit from my own hair. Should I call him Porky or Pokey?
This was a weekend that felt like a week! We got to catch up with old friends, laugh a lot, and learn some technical tricks that we will use right away at work. I think all three of us feel like we have redirected some of our goals and plans for the rest of the year. I’m getting out my hula hoop and reminding myself that another way of doing things is possible - well, lots of other ways - and probably the WDS way is the best way.
This is technically our fifth World Domination Summit, a placeholder until we can hopefully hold the 10th and final WDS next year. Our first event in 2016 completely changed our marriage and our life. Ever since then, we’ve done all our goal-planning around what has become the center of our year.
Since our first WDS, we paid off all our debt, radically downsized, started living on half our income, went car-free, packed up everything to move to the beach, we both have our dream job, my hubby has just filed for his sixth patent, and now I’m planning to go to grad school.
It’s hard to imagine where we’d be without WDS as an energetic recharge and such a big part of our strategic planning.
This year, rather than a full week including a family visit, running around Portland at all hours, going to Powell’s Books, and all that... we managed to condense the event into two days of volunteer-led Zoom calls.
Starting off the day at 9 am was a treat, a fascinating view into Chris Guillebeau’s living room. We also started seeing names and faces we recognized from previous years, and every time we’d be like HEY!!!
The next meetup I did was on the “Eight Play Personalities.” It started on a somewhat downbeat note, as people related about all the activities we can no longer do during the pandemic. We missed each other, we felt cheated to have to postpone WDS, some of us were very isolated indeed and not getting human contact.
Ahh, but THEN! WDS magic kicked in as everyone started sharing ways we played when we were kids. Instantly the mood swiveled to excitement and hilarity, especially as one person’s favorite childhood activity was ‘playing in the mud.’ We started remembering that once upon a time, we knew how to enjoy ourselves. We all had dozens of ways to bring those feelings back into our stressed adult lives, usually without spending money or having to leave the house. As we started brainstorming how we could fit more of these once-cherished frolics into our workaday lives, it seemed so simple.
Note that creativity, joy, curiosity, awe, and laughter can’t share the same space with stress, anxiety, dread, or boredom. Which one is going to be the default?
What did you do for fun as a kid? Are you still doing it sometimes? Are you making time for the things you enjoy now that you’re a grown-up? If not, what are you going to do and when?
I chose hula hooping as a break, something I can probably only do for a minute or two anyway right now.
We ended on a high note, just in time for QT to pick us up, grab curbside lunch, and take us over to her place.
The first meetup we did as a quaranteam was “Celebrating Failure to Skyrocket Success.” At first we were trying to parse the title with the emphasis on “failure to skyrocket” - which seems like an issue common to overachievers and also something particularly relevant to the aerospace industry.
For an event on failure, the mood was mostly cheerful. The main theme seemed to be someone judging themselves extremely harshly for a personal standard that didn’t necessarily matter to anyone else. This is what makes fail stories so funny and relatable, because it reminds us of our own overreactions to our own petty mis-steps.
I shared how I accidentally unmuted myself at my new job while I was picking up my parrot. Roughly 35 people got to hear me saying, in cutesy pet voice: “Come here, baby” followed by smooching sounds. Including my new boss and my HR rep. Which is even funnier considering that everyone on the call knows that my husband and I both work at home, in the same department. I only just now realized they might have thought I was talking to him.
How would things be different if we focused more on our strengths and enjoying what we do well, rather than beating ourselves up for minor mistakes that other people might not even notice or care about?
Our next meetup was “Visioning for Leaders.” We did breakout sessions with a partner. We clicked so well with our partner, who lives on the East Coast, that we traded email addresses and she wrote back to us right away! Love this idea: a manager in the staid field of finance who wants her entire team to go paperless and have flexible schedules - because she wants to work on the beach! We were like, If you can do it in your industry, anyone can, and guess what, you are exactly the person with the power to shrug and say, Why the heck not.
What if *your* boss secretly wanted everyone to have desk independence and wasn’t sure if everyone would be on board?
We suggested that she start by telling her team about her vision of herself working from a beach chair, then ask everyone what their motivating image was. Now, how do we work backward from there, and can we do it by next year?
We didn’t have anything else between this meetup and the closing ceremony, so we hung out and talked about our goals.
Last week I was wrestling with impostor syndrome and feelings of inadequacy in my new job, perhaps exacerbated by the fact that I am now surrounded by people with doctorates, patents, and academic publications.
After just one day of World Domination Summit, I am reminded that I was hired for my considerable gifts in ideation, one of the things I find most fun and awesome in life. My job is literally a wish come true. I have tons of positivity that I should be bringing with me.
What are you best at? What do you enjoy the most? If you aren’t living your wish right now, what would that look and feel like?
Leading Without Authority is an automatic classic. This is not a motivational business book in the traditional sense. It’s more of a tell-it-like-it-is guide to why some people are really hard to work with, which can be so refreshing. Read the right way, Keith Ferrazzi’s book can help deal with not just frustrating people at work, but frustrating people at home, too.
What I love about this book is the concept of co-elevation, that improvement is a group project. I can’t become a better person without having a positive effect on others. Helping others, in turn, is a form of self-improvement. Any person at any level has the power to reach out and try to solve problems in the workplace, no matter how pernicious.
Try, anyway. Usually it’s the small stuff that rankles on us more. We can sort of learn to accept larger issues - like my first job at a mortgage bank, where I knew they sometimes foreclosed on people - but daily friction with our coworkers can become nearly intolerable. That’s usually why people quit, because there is that one person (or boss) they just can’t stand any more.
Part of the reason why is that we feel like we’re expected to pretend these interpersonal issues don’t happen. Meanwhile, the person who is bothering us - and possibly everyone - may have no idea! We only know how other people perceive us if they tell us.
Ferrazzi encourages us to approach the people we’ve written off and figure out a way to work with them. Leading Without Authority has a bunch of examples of how much this oogs people out, how they’d basically do anything to avoid this type of conversation, but then how they did it and managed to make a real connection.
I have tried this and I have to say, it does usually work. There are people out there who are unapologetic jerks, and it can be funny to have a conversation with them about their methods, because they have no problem admitting their part in things. Other times, the person everyone is whispering about is totally oblivious.
One of these successes involved the guy who always came to the potluck but never brought anything. I hate nothing more than when people talk smack about someone behind their back and refuse to confront them directly. I said to him mildly, “Usually when people come to a potluck they bring something, like a bag of chips or some paper plates.” “Oh?” he said. He was from Ukraine and, guess what? This was a completely new custom to him, so how was that his fault? From that point forward, he always made sure to bring a contribution.
Start with the assumption that people are nicer than you think they are.
Another occasion that went much better than I expected: I worked at a campus with limited parking. There weren’t enough parking permits to go around, and they only lasted a year. The person in charge issued new permits, and suddenly several people found out that their permits had arbitrarily been canceled with no notice. (!) Mass outrage. I suggested that at least a form letter should go out to tell people, if not some other systemic reforms, but nobody wanted to confront this infamous Revoker of Permits. I volunteered as tribute. I emailed her, and she literally invited me to her office for tea and cookies. She had an entire collection of beautiful teapots and an oak dining table she had brought from home, complete with cloth napkins. I made my suggestions, she instantly agreed, and then we just hung out and ate cookies together for a while. Not much of an ogre.
If you ever find yourself lying awake at night, going over a bad interaction at work or just dreading going in the next day, you need this book. Maybe everybody does. Leading Without Authority is most excellent, and I can vouch that its premise even works for lowly administrative assistants.
Ever had the kind of day where you just collapse face-first into the couch, pull a blanket over yourself, and cry?
I was having that kind of day. A nine-hour workday including four hours of meetings, a half-hour gap, and then a two-hour meeting for my volunteer commitment. So tired I couldn’t see straight. I couldn’t get warm and my hand tremors were back, one of the lingering after-effects of COVID.
I had hit the wall.
It’s the same thing in marathon training. You hit your physical limits, and just when you’re already exhausted and in pain, a whole new set of fun symptoms pops out of the closet. Oh, you thought that was a wall? Nope, it turns out it there’s an entire room on the other side!
There I lay, trying to will myself to get up and get camera-ready (which did not, in the end, happen. Take me as I am). My hubby came over and started rubbing my back.
“It’s only Wednesday!” I wailed.
I’m not a crier, as a rule, unless I’m running a distance race. For some reason, running sets off all my emotions. I cry because I love my friends so much, I cry because the weather is so beautiful, I cry because I just set a PR, I cry because I can already imagine the giant meal I’m going to eat at the finish line. None of that bothers me.
Crying when I’m ill, though, is something I find humiliating and pathetic. One more thing that makes me feel worse when I really don’t need anything else.
I got up after ten minutes - which feels like a long time when you’re bottoming out - and started getting my equipment set up. I was so tired I kept forgetting stuff. “I just made eight trips back and forth for four things!”
Then I logged on to my meeting, and everything changed.
There were the faces of my friends, colleagues, and companions. This is what gets me through, the same as it does on the race course. Connecting with people I care about somehow taps into a well of energy, even when I’m at my lowest physical ebb.
This was a transition meeting, a sort of farewell to the previous year, passing the torch to the new team. Everything is a relay when you think about it.
I didn’t feel like I had anything to offer that night. What advice did I have? Uh, try not to die in office? Don’t be me? I felt like I had failed at every single one of the big plans I had at the beginning of the program year. I had campaigned on a platform, and I hadn’t made progress on any of the grand plans I had, nary a one.
When I looked back over the past year, I didn’t know how to avoid cataloguing my woes and tribulations:
“Let’s see, I started this journey with a root canal and sutures in my mouth, we moved, our dog died, I had an antibiotic-resistant staph infection, had surgery and four stitches in my midsection, was on four separate courses of antibiotics, my husband almost went blind in one eye, and then I almost died of COVID-19. Any questions?”
(You’d never guess from looking at me that I recently developed the medical file of an elderly person)
But then we went into discussion, and here were the new recruits, so bright and ambitious and excited about the year before them. I welcomed them to start asking questions, and that’s when it turned around for me.
Because it wasn’t about me.
I never had to rattle off my piteous tale because it was irrelevant to the discussion. Nobody was asking me to explain myself or make excuses for why I didn’t reach all my personal goals. Nobody likely even remembered my platform from last year.
What mattered was that somehow or other, we made it. We made it as a team. We kept things together well enough to pass them on to a new group, a new group who wanted only one thing from us: information.
Well, actually something more, something that a new group never really realizes they are asking for, which is encouragement. This is one thing I can claim about my leadership skills, that I work hard to make an emotional connection with my team and help reinforce their confidence in their own intuition, their own judgment, their right to lead in their own style.
It helps to start out with the assumption that the people you are leading are smarter and more talented than you are, that they’ll surpass you, and that when they inevitably have your job they’ll do it better than you do. If any of that is true, it will mean that you’ve done the most you can do, which is to make others stronger and better than they started.
At the beginning of the year, I probably would have pictured myself in full makeup, dazzling everyone with a packet of materials and a carefully polished inspirational speech. Instead I sat at my dining table, wrapped in an old afghan. It was fine.
It turns out that what inspires people, one way or another, is all the parts of your personal example that you can’t control. People will form impressions of your behavior that you may never know. (And may prefer not to find out!) What my team shared about working with me was how lucky they felt to be a part of a tight-knit group. In my mind, they built that, and in their minds, I did.
Looking back, I have to remind myself of how far I’ve come in four years. I started out so afraid to stand up and speak that my whole body would shake - and now I’m worried about a little hand tremor? I had never even heard of any of the offices I wound up holding or any of the awards I would go on to win. I never dreamed I would serve in a leadership role at all, much less one during a time of such turbulence.
I’m still tired, about as tired as I’ve ever been. I still doubt myself and whether I can handle whatever it is I’m currently trying to handle, just as much as I’ve ever doubted myself. Somehow, though, it seems that I keep feeling tired and doubting myself after bigger and bigger accomplishments.
This is why it’s important to acknowledge the wall. There is definitely a wall and it definitely feels as materially tangible as any other physical object. Walls, though, can be climbed. They can be toppled. They can serve as infrastructure and you can paint them and grow vines on them.
I hit a wall, because I was worn out and feeling sorry for myself. Connecting with other people helped remind me that sometimes we wear ourselves out for good reasons. Just because I’m tired doesn’t mean it’s time to quit, or that I have nothing left.
The next time I hit the wall, I wonder where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing?
Sometimes it feels like I’m the only person for 500 miles in any direction who believes there is still a pandemic going on. But then I remember that I have readers on other continents, or possibly in other timelines created by the trans-dimensional portals that keep popping open.
If you live on the other end of a wormhole, can you come get me and bring me back with you??
Anyway, I have a vested interest in knowing as much as possible about this coronavirus outbreak, and not just because I’ve been an epidemiology nerd since I was 15. Chances are, for a non-medical person, I’ve read more about this thing than most people. Consider this your chance to spare yourself hours of reading pre-prints and research abstracts.
One of the most interesting things about this pandemic is that it’s giving science a chance to make great forward strides. (At the cost of mass suffering, death, and economic devastation on every level from individual to business to national). Conjectures from the H1N1 outbreak a century ago, and SARS more recently, were just guesses. Now we have what looks to be a lengthy stream of uninterrupted data.
That should be helpful because it appears far too many people are immune to the concept of social proof. They have no intention of adjusting their behavior, even to save themselves. It’s what we should expect from humans who take everything personally, including suggestions to wear a seatbelt or a motorcycle helmet, avoid smoking, save for retirement, or not eat Tide Pods.
What do you mean, save myself from the prospect of future harm? NO!
Oh, what now, you want me to change my behavior for the sake of others? Did I stutter?
I am now thinking of these defiant sorts as “data donors.” Bummer of a way to make history.
Personally I only need one skimpy little reason to adjust my own behavior. If it will help me or help someone else, sure, why not try it for an experiment. I prefer not to tie my identity to any particular behavior. I can do this because my sense of personal autonomy is deep-seated and I know I have nothing to prove to myself or others.
I do what I want - including whatever it takes to avoid getting COVID-19 again.
I celebrate my freedom and personal liberty - to not be sick with COVID-19 again.
I demonstrate my ability to do whatever I want all the time - by doing whatever I want, while not having COVID-19 a second time. I found that its physical and mental effects seriously interfered with my enjoyment of even basic activities, like speaking to my family or watching a movie.
We continue to stay home - which is something of a moot point because we are still on mandatory WFH on a 9/80 schedule. Four nights a week, all we have time for is to work, eat dinner, work out, and get ready for bed.
We continue to see our quaranteam buddy, QT, a few times a month. We’ve been helping her move, which has meant alternate weekends, and that’s slightly more often than before. Her new place is twice the size of ours, and it has a yard, so it’s a pretty fair trade for hauling furniture up a flight of stairs. She is struggling with the fallout of disagreeing with her closest friends on coronavirus science. Not a single one of them is distancing at all, and one of them is basically a human misinformation station.
The way people react to crisis changes how we see them, and how they see us. It’s hard sometimes.
We have a series of three-day weekends coming up, and I’m thinking about scheduling the big plasma donation. Consensus seems to be that convalescent plasma does help, although it’s still considered an experimental treatment a century after it was first attempted. Maybe we can help. Maybe I can finally find out my blood type. Maybe we can get some answers as to why I got sick and my hubby didn’t.
It’s good to remember that while things are dire and people are acting crazy, we are learning. We have a chance to start packing all this information into pop culture, where it can eventually become common knowledge. This will be useful when the next pandemic comes down the pike - and it’s also good to remember that that could happen any time. Stay alert, stay ten feet apart, and keep your masks on. Let’s all try to make it to next year.
Now that 99% of my social life is being performed virtually, I’ve discovered the advantages of multitasking. It’s not that I’m not listening to you - it’s that sitting still on the phone makes me restless and impatient. I got through large lecture hall classes in college by crocheting a massive afghan that I still use today. Think of these activities as ways to help me pay closer attention to you.
Things I have done while my phone was on mute:
Squeegee my sliding glass door, inside and out
Unload the dishwasher
Make a sandwich
Wipe out the microwave
Draw in my bullet journal
Floss my teeth
Update our whiteboard
Feed my parrot
Dust the baseboards
Eat a bowl of oatmeal
Organize my desk
Wipe fingerprints off my tablet
Make a fairly large breakfast
Wash the pans
Have a sneezing fit
Change into my gym clothes
Make the bed
Get in the elevator and ride down to the lobby
Examine my hair for split ends
Give my parrot a vigorous scalp massage
Sweep the floor
Look at your photo and wish we were together
I’ve done a lot of things while I was talking to you with the phone on mute. One thing you can’t accuse me of, though, is texting anyone else at the same time. At least the only person I was talking to was you!
I’ve been getting a lot of texts from my landlord lately. We’re on his mind because he’s been doing a gut reno of the unit beneath ours. One of the improvements is something he wants to add to our unit. I reminded him that we are both working at home and that this would be really hard to do with a skill-saw running ten feet away.
It occurred to me only recently that our jobs are an abstraction to our landlord, because he... has never had an ordinary job.
This is true of a surprising number of people in our community.
Prosperous as they may be, busy and hard-working as they may be, the way that they’ve “made it” in this world is usually in a weird and personal way that would not apply to anyone else. On the one hand, this is exciting, because it speaks to the idea that no matter what you want to do, there probably is a way to succeed at it.
On the other hand, it illustrates the fact that not everyone’s advice is generically useful.
Most people’s career advice won’t help you, either because they have no experience in your field, because what worked at the time they did it is no longer effective, or because the reason they think they succeeded is not actually the real reason.
Keep this in mind if you are currently out of work, because, as you’ve probably already noticed, everyone has a theory and everyone has plenty of time to share it with you.
Don’t ask your romantic partner for career advice. This is paramount even if they do, in fact, happen to work in the same field as you. It just gets messy. They have a vested interest in the outcome. They (hopefully) have a strong bias about how great and cute you are. More likely, in spite of all their many adorable traits and touching loyalty, they are lacking in the sort of strategic planning or negotiation skills that you need.
Don’t ask your parents for career advice. To them, you will always be three years old. They already had their chance to tell you anything you needed to know while you were their captive audience in a high chair. What worked for them when they were your age is unlikely to be on the cutting edge of your field today.
Don’t ask your friends for career advice, unless all your friends are work friends? What brought you together as friends is most likely that you’re all on a similar wavelength, which means they can’t tell you much other than “You got this!”
The sole exception to this is if your friends group is ambitious and you’ve all been trending upward together. If you are very lucky, your friends know you and your skills quite well, and they can pinpoint areas where you can improve or show yourself off.
If you’re unlucky, these same friends are your most likely competition. I know more than one person who is no longer friends with someone because both parties applied for the same job, and only one of them got it. It’s worse when one friend tells the other about the posting and then loses out. That’s gotta sting.
I didn’t tell anyone when I was busy applying for my new job, and I didn’t ask for advice, largely because I was trying not to die at the time. I had barely enough juice in me during those three weeks to hold the phone to my head, much less run a mastermind session. None of it would have come together for me if I hadn’t put in so much effort months earlier.
I did ask for career advice, as should anyone who is looking for something more interesting and more remunerative. I went to an actual career coach, someone with decades of experience in HR who teaches workshops on the subject. She also volunteers her services in the community. It’s not uncommon for people of her experience level to spend the majority of their time mentoring others, because there isn’t much left to learn or explore otherwise. Once you reach mastery, every day is pretty similar to every other day. The joy of watching others blossom into a better version of themselves, though, that never gets old.
Usually the advice of someone at career mastery is straightforward and simple. That’s because you’re not their first customer. Undoubtedly they’ve helped others in your situation before, and they remember what worked and what didn’t. What a strong mentor is looking for is initiative. If they give you advice and you ignore it, they’re going to back off, because their time is valuable and there’s someone else in line who will pay closer attention.
If you’re wise enough to take action and *do* what your mentor suggests, that’s exciting. It shows that you get it and that you’re worth the effort. After you’ve done the first obvious thing, you’re much more likely to get the golden envelope with the next obvious step. Entire careers are built this way.
The first piece of advice that I always give to job-seekers is to put up a profile on one of the major job sites - not LinkedIn but Monster or Indeed, one of those. I have yet to encounter someone who has already done this simple, obvious step. The second piece of advice sounds yet more obvious, but it is nevertheless true: treat your job hunt like a job. Clock in and do eight hours a day. What else are you going to do all day, anyway?
(Answer: do training modules on some software that you don’t know, or at least learn some advanced features of the stuff you already use).
When you’re out of work, it can make you feel vulnerable like nothing else. It’s haunting. Why me, what next, what if this is it, now what am I going to do?? Getting unhelpful advice (or critique) from people who could otherwise be cheerleading and boosting you is just going to make matters worse. Quit giving updates or asking for advice from anyone in your life who does not have tangible success in your specific field.
Keep your chin up and keep going! Remember, you don’t need every job, you only need one. You got this!
Having just started a new job in a new field, I can verify that the job-hunting approach in #ENTRYLEVELBOSS is accurate. Listen to Alexa Shoen, because she knows how this is done.
For some reason, the old methods persist. Every conversation with someone who has just been laid off is the same. “There are no jobs out there.” That basically ends the conversation. They’ll wind up taking the first opening that they hear about, a random position at a random company, and keep trudging along until the next round of layoffs.
I personally just got a job that I applied for while I had COVID-19, and if someone with a lung infection can do well in a panel interview, chances are that anyone can. That is, of course, if they are using an effective approach, and not simply emailing their crusty old resume around every now and then.
I asked a friend who is successful in my field if I could see his resume, and used the same format. Then I had him look it over. After that I passed it to a friend who is a manager for another tech company. I also went to a workshop and had a couple of sessions with a career coach, who helped me figure out some highlights to share at interviews. In all three cases, I wound up adding and emphasizing aspects of my resume that I hadn’t realized were important.
I applied for three jobs - only three. The first one never replied, the second one sent a quick rejection, and the third one went from application to start date within six weeks.
My experience validates Shoen’s emphasis on targeting very specific jobs, rather than sending out the maximum number of applications. This is really important. The job you want, at the company where you want to work, may not be advertising all its openings in places where you would see them. It’s also possible that you can set up a profile and fill out an application at your desired employer before the job you want opens up - that’s what happened to me.
I got a job that didn’t even exist when I applied for it.
That kind of thing happens all the time. I’ve also seen people close to me have positions created for them because someone wanted to bring them aboard. Employers want motivated people to come to them and say, “I can solve this problem for you.”
Whoever you are, you have skills that someone wants. You can fill a role that nobody else can do quite as well as you. Just because you might not be a fit at one place (or several) doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be perfect elsewhere. Don’t give up - read #ENTRYLEVELBOSS and do whatever you need to do to change your approach.
You will never again find yourself at a dead end, panicking without a plan.
It is extremely unlikely that you are the one truly unemployable person on this earth.
The sense of a fresh start can be incredibly motivating and invigorating. It’s important to remember, though, that fresh starts are fake.
What that means is that a fresh start is really a figment of your imagination. As such, it can be created at any time, and if it feels real on an emotional level, then it is real in fact. Just as valid a psychological spur as any other.
In some ways, I have a legit fresh start right now. I’m still not over the novelty of narrowly surviving a deadly, lingering illness. Hey! I can stand up on my first or second try! Watch this, I can roll over without the room spinning!
In other ways, everything else in my life is exactly the same.
Same credit history
Same neighbors insisting on approaching and speaking to me with no masks on
This is the trick: finding the sparkling newness in the midst of the stale, old, boring, annoying, and/or disappointing.
(Not to say that every consistency is disappointing or boring! Just that some of them can be).
I’ve used my physical fresh start to give me a push in physical areas of my life, such as starting to work out again and changing bedtimes. There is a ripple effect whenever a keystone habit is fitted into a routine, so that everything else adjusts around it - which of course can be good, bad, or neutral.
The hardest thing to wrap your mind around, when it comes to habit changes, is that they all fit into specific time slots. Doing one thing displaces another thing. A minute spent in one way cancels spending it in a different way.
This was a bit more obvious when the slow process of recovering from COVID started to feel like non-time, like I would feel just as bad forever and always, that there was no time when I was not ill and that everything would simply go on like this, far into the afterlife.
Every minute that I lounged around being ill was a minute I was not visiting my family, training for an ultramarathon, reorganizing my closet, going to grad school, folding laundry, or anything else at all.
This has actually been great, because even the tiniest little things, like fixing my own bowl of instant oatmeal or unloading the dishwasher, still feel that little bit magical.
‘Magical’ is precisely what we seek when we’re looking for that fresh start feeling. The trouble comes when we believe that magic comes from somewhere outside, rather than realizing that we generate it inside ourselves. It is our act of seizing initiative and creating something out of nothing that makes magic happen. All we have to do to make a fresh start is to snap our fingers... or not even that.
We decide it.
I decided, even in the depths of my illness, that I wanted to get a new job. I kinda meant ‘someday’ but it all happened very quickly. My dream job suddenly opened up when the previous person got a promotion and left the department. They were looking to fill it quickly, and the window for applying was closing at the end of the week. I was far too ill to do it myself, but previous efforts had left me well enough organized that my husband was able to put my application together for me.
These are important factors to notice.
Two straightforward, common, ordinary things happened in my life. I got over a condition that literally millions of other people have had, and I got a new job at a time when dozens of people are being hired by my organization. There is nothing rare or special about either of those things.
Statistically, at any rate!
The events of my personal life are special and rare to me because this is the only life I have.
Likewise, the events of your life should feel magical and fascinating to you, because what else are you going to think about?
You don’t need a change in external events before you create the sensation of a fresh start. You can do it any time you like. Or, you can take advantage of world events such as the pandemic, or the rising tide of justice, and decide that THE TIME IS NOW to make major changes.
The time is always now. That’s another reason that fresh starts are fake, because every minute is a fresh new minute anyway, exactly the same as the last one.
Here’s a little bit of hope for the tired people, the injured, the ill. It can get better. Little by little, it can.
I started recovering from COVID-19 about six weeks ago. I’m back to working out, doing 60 minutes of cardio a day. It feels great!
I just realized today that I couldn’t remember the last time I had vertigo. That was a symptom that lingered for so long, I sort of thought I might just have it for the rest of my life. I figured every time I rolled over in bed, the room would spin, and I’d just have to get used to it.
Then, finally, it went away.
It’s important to notice these small victories, because it’s very easy to start believing in illness and injury as permanent conditions.
The body doesn’t just “get stuck that way.” Sometimes it takes surgical intervention, sometimes it takes prescriptions, sometimes it takes many months of physical therapy. But the body can change and heal. That’s what a body does.
I keep thinking of this as I watch my surgical scar heal. It’s almost completely invisible now, thanks to my obsessive twice-daily slathering with scar cream. What I thought would be a large ugly mark in an unfortunate location is now basically gone six months later. In fact, it looks so good that I’m going to take a picture of it and email it to my surgeon, a nice side-by-side before/after for her records. Satisfaction of a job well done, that is one thing that never goes stale.
Yep, it’s been a rough few months. First the surgery, then COVID. I might also mention that I had quit running several years ago because of an overuse injury to my ankle. Year after year, month after month, there always seems to be a good excuse to roll over and quit.
Legit doctor’s notes!
This isn’t P.E. though. I don’t have a desperate desire to escape gym class any more; now it’s more the opposite. Let me back in!
What do I need to do today to make my body feel at least marginally better?
For me it revolves around quality of sleep. No matter what else is going on, if I’ve slept poorly I feel terrible. I believe that sleep is the main factor for a strong immune system. As a recent COVID survivor, this is understandably high on my list of priorities.
Sleep depends on a few things, which are also very important to me as a person with a parasomnia disorder. (Yeah, I didn’t really appreciate having night terrors WHILE I was sick with the coronavirus, as if I didn’t have enough problems). These things are meal timing, hydration, and cardio.
For night terrors, the absolute most important factor is to stop eating three hours before bedtime. I front-load my calories for the day, making an effort to eat about 3/4 of my fuel by the afternoon. Parents of tiny kids should note this, because night terrors are common in kids and they often get a bedtime snack. I think those things are related.
Hydration is shockingly under-rated for insomniacs. I’ve found that if I’m even a single glass of water short for the day, I just can’t drop off. My sleep quality is dismal. I use an app to track my fluid intake, which is admittedly very boring, but not as boring as lying awake in the middle of the night for hours.
I’ve tried out a bunch of different types of exercise, and they are good for different reasons, but in my experience cardio is the best for mood elevation, pain management, and sleep quality. When I can’t do it for a while, due to schedule, injury, or a cough or whatever, I start to feel the difference within days. There are different types of peace available from other types of workout; for instance, martial arts somehow magically removed my fear of needles and yoga is great for releasing old emotional junk. They just don’t hit the same physiological targets as running, biking, or the elliptical.
It is so good to be back to reconsidering my workout!
In April, I felt like I was dying. Now it’s mid-June and I don’t constantly think about being ill anymore.
I put some effort into small improvements, in a process that is known as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” If you improve something by 5-10%, it may be enough to make a disproportionate difference in your results. For instance, 5% of one hour is three minutes. Getting ready three minutes earlier could be enough to start being on time for most things instead of chronically late. Cutting spending by 5%, as another example, could make the difference between being in debt or financial freedom. Little things can add up quickly.
My small improvements in recovery were:
Increasing our intake of cruciferous vegetables
Tracking my fluid intake
Setting a bedtime alarm
Arguably, starting to work out again was not a small improvement but rather a “keystone habit.” It does tend to make the other steps, (drinking more water and going to bed earlier) just that little bit more attractive.
More sleep. Better quality of nutrition. More water. Hard to argue with this strategy, two parts of which are free of charge.
Right now it’s hard to tell whether my mood has improved so much just because I’m getting well, or because I’m something of a cardio junkie. Does it matter, though? Right now, I have everything I wish I did when I thought I was on my deathbed: my new dream job, the ability to do the laundry without tipping over and crying, maybe even the chance to run an ultramarathon in a few years.
It’s so hard to be seriously ill and feel like it will last forever. It’s so depressing and boring and lonely and exhausting and painful. Every day we’re still here to complain, though, is another day we’ve made it through. Every day is one day closer to feeling better. One day, maybe even so much better that it didn’t even seem possible.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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