Throw kindness around like confetti
The lesson: You can never have too much kindness

I had the privilege to fly with my great uncle, a WWII Navy veteran, on the Honor Flight last weekend. It was an action-packed, whirlwind of a day (starting at 3am and ending around 11pm!) and it took me a several days to collect my thoughts around it. 

For those that don’t know, the Honor Flight takes veterans on a trip to Washington D.C. to visit the monuments and memorials and creates a day that is all about thanking them for their service to our country. 

As part of the flight, families collect letters from friends and family members to give to the veteran to show our love and appreciation for them. Several of the letters we collected were from former students that my uncle taught in the 1960’s. Back then, he was teaching 6th grade and it was interesting to see multiple letters come from students in those classes.

One of his former students happens to live in the Washington D.C. area and asked if she could meet up with us during the day. We had the opportunity to meet at the National Mall at the WWII memorial. She showed up with a welcome sign and greeted our bus.

After my uncle’s surprise of seeing a student and some catching up, along with many photos taken, I asked her the question that had been on my mind since the letters had arrived weeks before. What was it that was so memorable about her 6th grade teacher that she would be willing to go out of her way on a gorgeous fall Saturday and meet up with us?

Her answer: Kindness.

She remembered the kindness he showed her in 6th grade, whether teaching or helping her with a problem, like the time she forgot her swimming suit for Friday swim. It was the kindness she remembered vividly all these years later.

And she wasn’t the only one! So many of the 30+ letters we got mentioned kindness and how much of a difference that made in people’s lives. 

What’s interesting is that I had noticed kindness from others all day as we participated in the Honor Flight. Flight team members, bus captains, volunteers, even total strangers all showered us with kindness throughout the day and that huge amount of kindness made it  truly memorable. I’ve never been part of a day-long celebration of kindness before and it was remarkable! 

I know that I’ll remember the kindness that surrounded us for a long time (maybe as long as those 6th grade students have!). It was a great reminder for me on how I want to show up in life and at work.

#PositiveAction How can you throw kindness around like confetti today? 

Photo by me, of my starting-to-get-worn notebook that is on pace to run out of empty pages by year’s end. 

 

Last week we talked about why we need to say yes more often. This week, let’s talk about why we should say no. 

I read a fantastic article about the need for saying no to create more joy in our lives. No has a negative connotation, but the part I hadn’t considered before was that every no is also a yes. 

Wait, what? Saying no to going out is saying yes to giving yourself some time to relax at home. Mind fully blown.

I’m not now, nor have I ever been, a learner for learning’s sake. I need to convert my knowledge to action. It’s not enough to know for me. I need to test things out and see how they function in this crazy little place we call reality.

Here’s an example. Since the invention of email, my inbox has always been more full than I would like. I continue to refine systems and approaches around it (although some days it seems like the Gremlins that multiply when you feed them after midnight!), but no matter what productivity approach I’ve tried, I always have more. I’ve never gotten to inbox zero for more than a split second. Time to apply this new knowledge around saying no!

What could I say no to in my inbox? I immediately found three email newsletters and hit unsubscribe. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to do that with a concise and fun newsletter like mine, but there were several newsletters that took a lot of time to read that were no longer delivering the same value I once got out of them. So I said no. Which is actually saying yes to other things that are more important to me, like time to write my first book (I know! Exciting, right?). 

It’s such a simple concept to say no and one that can be transformational, as I am finding out as I experiment with it more.

#PositiveAction What is something you need to say no to so that you can say yes to something else? Start creating that space for yourself today!

 

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Many a high school and college graduation speech is spent telling young people to dream big. Shoot for the moon. Anything is possible! 

I’m not arguing with that advice at all. I think dreaming big is great! I also think it becomes harder to do the older we get. When was the last time you went to a retirement party where the advice everyone gives the retiree is to dream big about their next phase in life? Yeah. Me either.

Somewhere between our wide-eyed youth and our cynical old age, the act of dreaming starts to seem frivolous. Childish. Unnecessary. We go from thinking, “Anything is possible!” to “How can I survive this month? (Or sometimes day or even meeting)”. I want to point out that merely muddling through is a very low bar to set. There’s no fun or joy in that. 

What if I told you that you could thrive? Would you believe me? Shrug it off? Say you don’t have time for that?

Thriving looks and feels very different from surviving (aka muddling through) and that’s because it has a dreaming component.

Many of us may be out of practice at dreaming, so let’s define it first. A dream is a cherished aspiration, ambition, or idea. I know what you’re thinking: “That sounds great! How do I get one?” The answer starts with questions. 

When we’re young, we have questions about everything. As we get older, we start to think we have answers and stop asking questions. A great way to dream is to ask yourself questions. What would I do if money were no longer an issue? What drives me crazy that I wish I could change? What legacy am I leaving for my family? How do I want to be remembered? Am I having the kind of impact I want? What do I care most deeply about?

The list of questions is endless – I’m sure you thought of more just while reading that. More importantly, are you ready for your authentic answers? It’s time each of us had a cherished aspiration, ambition, or idea we were working toward! When you do, you have energy, interest and excitement around bringing that dream to life.

I think the artist (and dreamer!) Jason Kotecki said it best, “The only dreams that have no chance of coming true are the ones never dreamed in the first place.”

Regardless of your age, you need to dream big. 

What areas of your life do you need to start reimagining? Can you dream bigger? 

#PositiveAction: Spend 5 minutes thinking about and writing the answer to one of the questions above (or one that you made up) and see if it helps to bring a dream into focus for you.

Image by tookapic from Pixabay

There’s always the latest thing that you have to try, buy, wear, or be. Frankly, it can be exhausting to try to keep up. Here’s the good news: you don’t have to!

It turns out that the harder you try to imitate someone else’s style, work patterns, or speech, the less authentic it appears. You can probably think of someone you’ve met that seems like they’re trying too hard. At its worst, they go beyond seeming insincere and move into unbelievable. 

Most of us have been there at some point in life where we edit our personality and approach to try to fit in. Maybe it was to impress the cool kids in high school. Or maybe it’s at your current job because you don’t feel like you can be yourself there. 

It becomes a vicious cycle where you try hard to act the way you think you need to, but no one buys it because it’s not really you, so you dig deeper and try even harder. That’s a game no one can win.

So why do we put ourselves through the agony then? It often stems from the fact that we overvalue what others bring to the table, while selling our own strengths short. Because your strengths are inherently easy for you, you assume that they must be easy for everyone (which is not the case at all, btw!).

The first step toward authenticity, then, is to identify and understand your strengths. Some people have a clear idea of what these are, and some people, like myself, take years to discover and acknowledge them. Once you have that piece, you need to merge it with your personal brand (all the pieces of you that create the total experience of working with you). 

Think about someone you’ve worked with that seems to be doing exactly what they were designed to do. In addition to being great at it, they also are truly enjoying themselves, even (and especially!) when the work is challenging. That’s what you want to target for yourself: doing the work you were designed to do, in only the way you can, using all your unique strengths.

It turns out that when you Work Authentically, the next big thing will be YOU! 

Do you need help with identifying your strengths or building your personal brand? I’d love to chat with you!

 

Image by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay

Adulting (the act of becoming an adult) is hard. There’s lots of advice out there from friends, family members, the Internet, even perfect strangers, on what responsible adults do. Responsible adults should floss every day. Responsible adults should eat their vegetables. Responsible adults should find a stable job with decent pay, benefits, and a retirement plan. Responsible adults don’t get to have fun because they’re too busy being responsible. 

In the words of punk rock poet, Frank Turner:  

“Oh maturity’s a wrapped up package deal so it seems / And ditching teenage fantasy means ditching all your dreams / All your friends and peers and family solemnly tell you you will / Have to grow up be an adult yeah be bored and unfulfilled / Oh when no ones yet explained to me exactly what’s so great / About slaving 50 years away on something that you hate…”

Bored and unfulfilled definitely describes the majority of American workers, but it doesn’t have to define you. The first thing you need to do is recognize that this is how you’ve been feeling. Note – if you’re reading this blog, you may have had the realization already! Check one off the list!

The second thing you have to acknowledge is that just because a job sounds good doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good match for your talents, skills, interests, beliefs, and values. Trust me, I’ve been there. I once spent more than a year trying to convince myself to stay in a job, because on paper, it checked all the metaphorical boxes. Great pay. Decent benefits. Reasonable hours. Retirement plan. Matched my skill set. 

It should have been awesome… but I was miserable and to top it off, I felt guilty for feeling that way. Lots of other people wanted that job and would have enjoyed doing it. But I didn’t. And for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why. I would love to go back in time to encourage my past self to leave that job sooner. My misery was making everyone around me miserable too and that’s no way to live. The rear view mirror eventually allowed me to reflect and see what was happening in that scenario. Spoiler alert: it was the fact that I wasn’t working authentically and it’s helped me make better career choices moving forward. 

The final piece you should remember as you are on your career journey is that everyone makes mistakes (chooses the wrong role, stays too long, etc.). Don’t beat yourself up over it – you’re already feeling bad enough if you’re in that position right now! Instead, make up your mind to get clarity on what exactly you like and don’t like about your job so you can make an informed decision moving forward. I am always here to help you on your unique career journey.

Hi! I’m Allyson. Most of my friends call me Ally. Welcome to the Authentic Ally (see what I did there?) blog where I share my thoughts on careers and life, partly because I’m interested in those topics and partly because we spend so much of our time physically at our careers (as well as worrying about them when we’re not there!) that it’s hard to separate them from our lives.

One of my favorite quotes on work comes from the comedian Drew Carey:

 “Oh you hate your job? Why didn’t you say so? There’s a support group for that. It’s called everybody, and they meet at the bar.”

It’s intended to be funny, but there’s a large kernel of truth in it. More than 70% of American workers range from unhappy to downright miserable in their jobs. There are a lot of reasons for the disengaged feelings so many people experience and we’ll explore a lot of those reasons here on this blog, but first let’s all agree that the embarrassingly high number of unhappy workers is not ok. It’s bad for people and it’s bad for companies. 

So I’m here to change that. I want to increase the number of happy workers because happier people are healthier people. They’re better partners, parents, co-workers, friends, leaders, and volunteers. And just imagine how our world changes when the majority of people are doing work that they love, that excites them, and that brings about high levels of creativity!  

Who’s with me? *Collective cheer rises up… or at least a nodding of heads in agreement* Great! Let’s get started.