JUNE 2010

         VOLUME TWO, ISSUE 6

3 Human Elements  The last time I was in Los Angeles, a buddy, Ritch Shydner, invited me to the Laugh Factory for a screening of "I Am Comic", his documentary on the trials and tribulations of living the life of a stand-up comic. Ritch and I met when we were both writing for Jeff Foxworthy. Ritch is still in the business and back on the road doing stand-up. Being back in a comedy club sparked not only memories of my own comedy roots as a writer, but a reminder of just how tough it is to be funny. 
     After the screening, a bunch of us sat around trying to pinpoint our top five funny people of all time. The only comic who consistently made the cut on everybody's list was George Carlin. It's not hard to figure out why. No one could capture, with brutal insight and razor sharp wit, the observation of human existence the way Carlin did.
     "Stuff". Carlin performed his riff on "stuff" at the first American Comic Relief in 1986. I recently caught it again on YouTube and it's still funny...and relevant. Carlin jokes about why we buy bigger houses - so we'll have room for more "stuff". By the mid 1960's, we were making room for more "stuff" by moving some old "stuff" into a "you lock it and keep the key" mini-storage building. They started springing up everywhere. And as we became more mobile and wanted an easy way to take our "stuff" with us, an entire industry emerged to help us do that. Portable pods - Rent-a-Pod, Pack Rat Pods, U-Pack It Pods - can now follow us anywhere. Today, in this country alone, we have 2.35 billion square feet of space devoted to self-storing our "stuff"! Carlin wasn't only funny - he could also see into the future.
     But it's not just tangible "stuff" we hang on to. Most of us find it just as difficult (sometimes more so) to let go of our intangible "stuff" - our habitual ways of thinking and behaving that may no longer serve us well.
     I miss George Carlin as a comic. But I'm also a little ticked at him for making me focus on my "stuff". For me, it's easier to let go of the tangibles. When it comes to intangibles, I need to ask some hard questions: Am I making choices based on critical thinking...or am I simply relying on an habitual way of thinking?
Jennie Ayers
Principal, Challenge It Now 
P.S. If you have colleagues you think would be interested in e-musings, please pass it along. Thanks!
In This Issue
The Urge to Purge
We're Not Wired to Let Go
I Hate My Job!
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collaboration cubes
Why You Should Stop Multi-Tasking 
Did you know that people distracted by incoming e-mail and phone calls while performing a task experience a 10 point drop in their IQs? You might not think that's such a big deal. But the impact of that 10 point drop is the same as losing a night of sleep. And more than twice the effect of smoking marijuana. 
Most of us believe that doing several things helps us get more done. In reality, our productivity goes down by as much as 40%. We don't actually multi-task. We switch-task, rapidly shifting from one thing to another, interrupting ourselves unproductively and losing time in the process.
You might think that you've been multi-tasking so long that you've become good at it. Practice makes perfect and all that. You'd be wrong. Research shows that heavy multi-taskers are less competent at doing several things than light multi-taskers. Practice, in this case, works against you.
It's my habit to multi-task. But after reading the info above from Peter Bregman's Harvard Business Review blog, I'm going to rethink my behavior. Check back next month to find out what happened when Peter did the same.
"Have You Left Room? The Urge to Purge" by Rebecca Ripley
(418 words - estimated reading time: less than 2 minutes)
Maybe it's because it's time (albeit a little late) for spring cleaning, but in recent weeks several of my friends have mentioned being in the process of purging.  It's like there is a universal desire to let go.  Purging paper files from overstuffed filing cabinets, purging fiction and non-fiction from over-stacked bookshelves.  Purging piles of articles that we meant to read but have finally admitted we never will.  Purging well-intentioned gifts that never quite hit the mark. Purging closets of all that fits neither the current style nor an expanding physique.  Purging the shoes with sexy heels that still look good but totally lack comfort.
TNote from editor: This is not Rebecca's office :)
messy office
For weeks, I have been giving in gleefully to my urge to purge. (Note from Editor: in fairness to Beck, I want all of you to know this is not a "before" pic of her office.) Of course I have special motivation. In my rare free time, I create watercolor paintings.  Because I take over the kitchen island when I paint, it's a bit of an ordeal and a major mess, to say nothing of the inconvenience to my husband. I also feel like I need to wait until I have an entire weekend free of commitments to make it worth the effort. Needless to say, I haven't been painting very often.  After returning from a soul-filling watercolor workshop, I thought if I could just carve out a permanent space for painting, I would create more often.  After scouring the house for options, I realized that if I moved things around in my home office and got rid of things I no longer needed, I could actually set up a painting corner. For me, artistic craving triggered the urge to purge.  For others, it was just a desire to see surfaces again.

All of this reminds me of something I read years ago in one of interior designer Alexandra Stoddard's books. She mentioned how she had traveled to Japan and noticed one stark difference in Japanese homes. Shelves were consistently sparsely filled.  It was so dramatically dissimilar from homes in the States that she finally asked about it. The response she received has stuck with me for years. Her host said something like, "Ah...that is so we have room for what is yet to come."  
What a compelling re-frame! If there is no room, how can we add more to our life?  How can we continue to grow?  What unknown opportunities may be passing us by?  I could become an artist! What do you need to purge to make room for what is yet to come in your life?
"We Aren't Wired for Letting Go" by Kris A. Campbell 
(826 words - estimated reading time: less than 4 minutes)
Last January, a posted question on the Internet made me stop surfing in my tracks!  On a Googled Search, someone asked a simple question: 
"Can I unlearn a profession?" 
A straightforward, unblinking answer was provided -
"You sure can. If you open up your skills page (press the K key) you will see a list of your skills and professions.  Click on the profession you want to get rid of and it will be displayed in the lower box and next to the profession bar there will be a red cancel icon. Clicking on this will prompt you with the question "Are you sure you wish to unlearn this profession?" From there you can select yes or no as appropriate."
Sheesh, I'm thinking.  After over 20 years of coaching and consulting in human behavior and helping people develop in their professions, how in the world did I miss the "K key" and that darn "red cancel icon"? Things would have been a lot easier if I'd known about them! 
Don't get too excited. The simple Q&A I'd stumbled upon was referencing WoW, under the title "Trade Skill Deletion Reminder".  If you're not familiar with the acronym WoW, it stands for World of Warcraft™ and it is indeed a fantasy world.
World of Warcraft 
Although, as it turns out, not a complete fantasy.  The instructions went on to add this information...

"To avoid having any of your trade skills/professions randomly removed, we advise that you select 2 trade skills you would like to keep and manually unlearn the rest. To unlearn a trade skill, select the trade skill you wish to unlearn, and click the Unlearn button that appears to the right of the skill. In order to learn a new primary profession, a player must unlearn one existing primary profession first." 

I wish I had a dollar for every time I've coached this same simple truth. I'd be retired in New Mexico.  Please note the final sentence of instruction: "In order to learn a new primary profession, a player must unlearn one existing primary profession first."  Of course, the fantasy world of WoW makes it easy. In the hard reality of our world, the unlearning part is one of the most difficult challenges we face.

Our brain simply isn't wired to unlearn, to let go. We're wired to acquire. To keep, to cache, to preserve. Ultimately, to possess. And this drive to acquire not only includes the flat screen TVs, cars and houses, but also all our intangibles of knowledge, ideas and beliefs that we accumulate in a lifetime. Just as the shelves and closets of our lives get filled with all the "stuff" we struggle to toss, the shelves and closets of our brain become "stuffed" with the learning of a lifetime.  And yet, to learn, unlearn and relearn throughout our life is a mandatory requirement of being an effective and successful human being.  These three simple yet complex activities are the foundation of our most valued and powerful attribute - the ability to adapt.  It's because we adapt that we're still here after more than 200,000 years of evolution.  Of course, some of us adapt more easily than others.
As a trusted advisor and coach, I'm spending a lifetime influencing people to change, to unlearn the ineffective and nonproductive and acquire new, more productive ways of thinking and doing. Sounds logical, doesn't it? Like it should be easy? Unfortunately, we're also prone to illogic, compulsion and old fashioned fear of the unknown.

So, how do you adapt and unlearn something to make room for all that relearning we must do throughout a lifetime? Well, you could read through the 2 million Internet hits for human effectiveness. Or you could use these three and one-half steps that my clients find invaluable.

  • #1. Be conscious: don't live your life on auto-pilot. Build an authentic and honest awareness of your relationship with the world around you.  Ask, "Is my personal lens of the world accurate?" And most importantly, challenge your habitual ways of thinking and doing!
  • #2. Know that whatever that lens in #1 shows you is probably going to lay down the track of what you DO in the world. Is there alignment between what you see you want to do and the track you're laying down? 
  • #3. After you DO enough things in the world, guess what? The world is going to react to your choices. So pause long enough to ask yourself, "What feedback is the world giving me?" Now use this feedback as a reality check to either change or keep on thinking and doing what you've been thinking and doing.
  • #3 . Now, go back to #1. Because if you really want something different out of your life here, you've got to manage the way you SEE it.
I know it's not as easy as the "K key" and the "red cancel icon"...but then, this is reality.
"I Hate My Job" by Janice Criddle
(620 words - estimated reading time: less than 3 minutes)
Over many years as a coach, I've counseled numerous employees who've expressed varying levels of distress about their work.  Lately, this distress seems to be increasing exponentially. I've even seen recent statistics that indicate as many as 80% of American workers hate their jobs. Why? What gives?
It could be that we hate our jobs because we chose a career track based on what our parents wanted us to do. Or the broader pressures of society. We may have outgrown our original career choice that seemed so promising when we were younger. Maybe, given the state of the economy, you found yourself accepting a job that had little appeal simply to "pay the bills". Any one of these scenarios results in us going through the motions and waiting for the weekends to rescue us from our humdrum work existence.I hate my job t-shirt
But for many of us, it could be that we're not thinking critically and "I hate my job" is just our habitual response to dreading getting up every morning. What if it's not our work we hate, but where we work that's causing us so much distress? Facing a toxic work climate day after day can sure make it feel like we hate what we do instead of where we do it.    
It's a good idea to take the time to assess what's making you unhappy about your work. If it really is the job and a tough economy that makes it impossible to change jobs right now, that's one issue. But if you basically like what you do but loathe where you do it, then the real issue is what we call WorkClimate. And there are things that you can do to put a new perspective on the "where" of your work.
     1.) If you're a leader, let everyone who works with/for you know that they're valued and respected. And don't cop out here - you can only accomplish this through genuine face-to-face engagement.
     2.) Take charge of your own professional development. Stop putting your career growth in the hands of other people. Your work belongs to you - own it, manage it.
     3.) Proactively seek out the information you need to perform your very best at work. Feeling competent at work is a huge motivator!
     4.) Ask for feedback...frequently. Don't waste this invaluable resource! USE the feedback to make productive change.
     5.) Avoid negativity (easier said than done, but possible). When people around you begin the bitch-and-moan sessions, remove yourself. Don't get drawn into habitual downers that drain energy.
     6.) Only make commitments you can keep. Create a personal system of organization and planning that enables you to manage and exercise your ability to complete tasks. Again, accomplishment drives the experience of competence and competence is (see above)...a huge motivator!
     7.) Build positive, energizing relationships at work and find ways to collaborate with others in building a healthy work climate. If your organization doesn't have a formal process for taking care of its climate, encourage someone in charge to start one and offer to help.

Having to do a job you dislike or work in a climate that's toxic every day takes its toll.
UCLA's School of Public Health thinks the issue is serious enough that it offers a course entitled "Work and Health".  The syllabus, in part, says "The greater our exposure to insecure, low control, and low paying jobs; punishing, harsh or inflexible supervisors; work-family conflicts; the less access we have to money, power and the ability to cope and gain control over those pressures, the higher the chance for chronic stress and chronic illness to result."
Remember, a prime key to solving the problem of job stress is to make sure we ask the right question. "Do I hate my work?" or "Do I hate where I work?"
3 Human Elements
Challenge It Now focuses its energies on a common goal - through consultation, coaching and facilitation, we help professionals in business organizations create and sustain a workplace climate where the positive experience of work is optimized, engagement is enriched and performance potential is maximized.
Please take a moment and visit our website at to find out more about us and what we have to offer. Or contact us for additional information at: 818.585.9553 or 818.429.0077 or 443.838.4327.