Digital Magpie 11 November

Still absorbing the shock of the US election result, I think I'll spend the next few days avoiding the news, but look for rich stories about humans, and human nature. This is my favourite:

Irreverant, sweary and hilarious - the reason truck commercials don't have more women in them

Special note to Australians - we're a bunch of pikers, and proud of it!

Once again I'm a student, and while I'm thriving in this learning environment, I'm constantly being challenged when new information butts heads with what I think I already know. Knowledge is a priceless gift. But the illusion of knowledge can be more dangerous than ignorance. Pico Iyer's short TED talk really speaks to me right now.

Over the last six-months, I've worked on taming my inner self-righteousness (as an abstaining discipline rather than a practice) - and reading can moaning ever make you happy was validating.

Love this advice from Huffington Post: 7 ways people with a purpose live differently - aspirational

Celebratory maths teacher - love it! But what I love more is hearing his class engage during his lesson of exponential numbers

Jocelyn K Glei writes about an interesting Harvard Study - what drives learning: practice or reflection?

Admitedly, this isn't for everyone - but a little delighted to learn how to season my favourite cast-iron pan (something I've been avoiding for 30 years)

and finally, for my ENFP friends - 25 struggles only we can understand

America voted so I try curiousity

Driving home after a day of watching events unfold on Twitter, I just felt dread. When I walked in the door and found my husband absorbed in election analysis, I found it unbearable and left the room. Now I sit here trying to comprehend what just happened in the United States.

I think it's crazy to dismiss the American voters as irrational, and dismissing the outcome as a reflection with some a generalised American personality trope is in itself a form of ignorance. Something is happening ... 

To calm my mind, I tried curiousity ... what will a Trump presidency look like? How will he behave between now and his swearing in? In the tradition of outgoing presidents, what will be included in the note Obama leaves behind in the oval office for President Trump?

Curiousity initially felt like a silly, distracting process - fear and curiousity don't really travel well together, but in writing that third paragraph, my dread shifted, and my curiousity is genuinely piqued. I may not be optimistic, but I am interested.

Digital Magpie 30 September


As much as I love that my early morning walks begin in daylight, still much relief that daylight savings is finally just a couple of days away. For me it marks the beginning of summer! Happy reading for the looooooong weekend.

Catherine Rickwood writes lots of great posts on positive ageing, but particularly like her latest piece where she writes how people are innovating ageing, and, by extension, innovating their lives. Lots to think about.

I interviewed the indomitable Loren Downing last week - who is one fab human being. 

I like the honest practicality of this short video on how to overcome procrastination

As someone who is overwhelmed at times trying to get my photos and digital documents in some sort of order, this article by Oliver Burkeman was a relief and a release. 

Krista Tippett has released a series of snapshot podcasts called 'Becoming Wise'. Each podcast is no longer than 8 minutes, and as I'm working my way through them, touched by the kind, gentle and profound insights shared by the guests. Really enjoyed hearing Brene Brown and John O'Donohue - episodes 1 and 2 in this link

The thoughtful Naomi Abbott writes about the upside of self-doubt

Yum yum very quick, very easy 

I also had something to say on being appreciative

Kisses before work make you more productive! Yes they do!

Beautiful abandonment

Find conferences and networking a drain? This cheat sheet is full of great advice to navigate them with a bit more purpose (and confidence)

Some interesting insights on managing millennials, with a warning, that it might trigger some baby boomers!

Have a fab weekend!

I found some of these items at Jocelyn K. Glei  and Swiss Miss - please check them out, each has lots of interesting.

Loren Downing loves her work!

I was so delighted to reconnect with Loren Downing as I worked with her a hundred years ago and she left a lasting impression. Loren's one of those rare, analytical types with the talent and patience to make complicated concepts (and processes) genuinely accessible. But what I most admired about her was that while she never got caught up in silly office politics, she was fearless in speaking truth to power. I couldn't be more proud to see how she's used all of her professional skills and experience to build a successful consultancy that makes life easier for others. As you'll read, her desire to make other lives better extends well beyond the office space. Here's what she had to say when I spoke to her recently ... 

Tell us about what you do?
I run Sync or Swim, a small business consultancy that I set up in 2010. We provide business solutions to client problems. Fundamentally, our philosophy is that our clients are good at their trade; we’re good at business. So we work with them on everything from using text message photos and fixing keyboards to developing business strategies. I’m an ideas person, connecting solutions to problems, as well as connecting people. One of my clients calls me Nanny McPhee. While I keep my hands dirty, I’ve a team now who are kept busy.

Why do you love your work?
I love to take the stress out of someone else’s business life, and I love simplifying things. There have been occasions after helping clients realise things aren't so hard, that they've hugged me. Also, there's something I’ve done, which makes me proud. Are you aware that small business owners have one of the highest suicide rates as a group? I partnered with a team and Beyond Blue to help develop a first-ever program that helps support people deal with mental health issues that result from the stress of running a business.

What lead to you setting up Sync or Swim
Due to some health issues, I took a career break and lived with my parents for 3-months on the Victorian border. I then went over to Vietnam to teach English; and then returned briefly to Sydney to attend a wedding, with the intention of moving to Italy, for potentially the rest of my life. Instead, ill health sent me back to my parents for another 3-month stint. After I had got stronger during those stints in the country, the local businesses began to seek my professional help. Then, following a trip to Europe, encouragement from some business people ringing in my ears and six months back in corporate; I decided life really was just too short, and I set up Sync or Swim.

Can you remember what you wanted to be ‘when you grew up’?
There was a phase in my life when I thought about graphic design, but wasn’t really supported by my family (it was a very unproven industry back then!). After I gave that idea away, I never knew what I wanted to do 'when I grew up', not even when I was working. It wasn’t until I took a career break, and got advice from friends to be a ‘helper’, that I figured things out. Having said that though, when I was 14 or 15, I watched my father start a business and in hindsight, that’s where my drive for starting up a small business came from.

babysitter | supermarket face-to-front | Burger King | database entry | database design | PA to CEO | microfiche filmer. I did all seven jobs before I finished Uni - they were great preparation for consulting work.

Has study been important?
The best study I ever did was my TEFL/ESL for teaching English in Vietnam. Teaching was so fantastic; it taught me how to plan rapidly and how to improvise and how to think more creatively. I’ve brought all those techniques to my business – I’m quick at planning and execution and adaptive to business cultures and personality types.

I also did an Applied Finance degree and postgraduate Diploma of business, but the TEFL was best.

How do you stay on top of your professional development?
A client once told me that Sync or Swim brought a corporate edge to small business. As a result of him saying that I try and take on one corporate contract each year because it's good training for me. As I work with my clients, I'm constantly learning new systems and ideas, which is information I can take to future customers. I read every morning - everything from mental health to how to fix a keyboard. I sign up for webinars, especially technical skill training. I surround myself with specialists from a range of areas, which I'm always learning from, but it also means I don't have to be an expert on everything.

If it was possible, is there anything you’d go back and change in your career?
I can be impetuous, so if I had my time again I might have stuck out another 6-months in the Corporate world – but ultimately I think everything happens for a reason so there’s nothing I’d change.

Whose career do you admire? Why?
Richard Branson because while he wasn’t particularly talented at school, at 16 he created a successful business. He's good at dreaming, solving problems, making things happen and disrupting markets. And he ignores the naysayers.

Do you have a mentor?
No, not one person specifically, I’m surrounded by a group of individuals who I can call on.

Do you have a career defining moment?
Teaching English in Cambodia had a massive impact on me, literally changing my perspective on life. In a nutshell, where I worked, the kids come from the Phnom Penh rubbish dump. Entire families work in the dumps, earning money from plastic collection to send the kids to the orphanage in the hopes they can build a better life. But there's a terrible Catch-22 for the parents. Once the kids have left for an education at the orphanage, and not working the dump, the income falls away, and relatives can't afford to keep the children at the school! I got incredible learnings on perspective, resilience, coping mechanisms, and appreciation for all that I have and then, of course, the need to get out of the corporate merry go round and do something more meaningful.

How do you unwind?
I operate at either 150% or 0% - there’s no in between for me. In the past, unwinding was forced upon me, but now that I’m more conscious of my health, I’ve learned to unwind proactively – sleep in, have a long breakfast, read the news and have a few beers with friends in the sun. And I love long drives – they really clear my head.

What’s the biggest fail a person can have in their career?
When they follow or force a career, doing what they think they should do rather than what they’re naturally good at.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing what you do now?
I’d be back teaching English to orphans in Cambodia.

What would you like more of in your career?
Money – I guess I could charge two or three times what I do, but then I don’t think the businesses that need my services would be able to access me.

And less of?
Nothing – I’m happy the way things are.

Can you finish this sentence: ‘If you knew me really well, you’d know …’
... to get me to a 7:30 am meeting, you’ll have to buy me breakfast.

What kind of impact do you think you have on the people you work with?
By nature, I look for the positive in everyone and every situation; I think, the people I work with come round to see the positive as well.

Career or business wise, what do you want to do next?
I want to build my business to have specialists employed in each department (IT, HR, OH&S etc), bring all the functions in-house.

What’s important to you?
Me being transparent, respectful, honest, empathetic. If I don’t feel these things, or if there’s a breach, I know that something’s not working.

Outside of work, what do you love about life right now?
I’m getting better at balance. This weekend, for example, I’m having the whole time off! Recently I’ve been a ‘subbie’ parent for friends, and looking after their children. Those kids have been giving me a different perspective on life – simplify.

And finally, a quick Pop Quiz

Favourite song or piece of music? Ooh Child by The Five Stair Steps

Favourite book? Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson

Favourite movie? Primal Fear

Favourite piece of art? A handprint done by my niece when she was 18 months.

Favourite place? Northern end of Positano, Italy


Loren's story, drivers and commitment to clients is told really well in this short, inspiring video. 



If you enjoyed reading about Loren's career, here's the link to other interviews I've done with people who love their work

Thanks for your thanks

What's one of the simplest things you could do to give your direct reports, colleagues or even manager, a huge lift? Answer? Acknowledge their good work.

A few years ago I worked at a small consultancy - while I loved what I did, and had great relationships with clients and colleagues, six months in I began to notice that I was not receiving ANY feedback from the boss. Clearly he had the capacity, because he assiduously cultivated relationships with clients and external agencies, and he was good at it. And it wasn't personal; he didn't thank any of my colleagues either - he seemed to operate on a policy of keeping us all humble by withholding the love.

As with personal relationships, the withholding of positive attention lead to me building up a great big store of resentment, and chipped away at my enthusiasm till I lost all regard for him - and I left. A shame, because it was a great job and a fantastic company.

Wanting appreciation isn't neediness; it's a bog-standard human condition that contributes to  healthy pride and self-esteem and results in productivity, commitment and integrity. When I joined the next consultancy, my heart nearly burst when they began to acknowledge my efforts with authentic gratitude. 

Through this period I realised that rather than shrink to smallness waiting for a 'thank you', it's probably best to ask for it directly (with an open mind) - it's unrealistic to have unspoken expectations of people who are, at their core, clueless (or worse).

And don't forget, your manager and colleagues will probably also want to hear your kind words when you appreciate something they've done.

For those of you that need to know how to express appreciation - it's not difficult or complicated, but it must be real. Here are some examples:

Keith, thanks for those ideas on social media - we talked about them at the marketing meeting, and they're 'all go'.
Helen that was a great presentation, the audience looked super engaged, and there were lots of nods. Looking forward to seeing the formal feedback, but think it will be good.
Bruce just wanted to say thanks for all your good work, sincerely - it's appreciated.
Melanie, your client has just passed on some great feedback on your adaptability. Thank you for working your magic - we all appreciate it.

Nope, it's not difficult - and while employees will continue to value money, autonomy and interesting work - beneath it all a little thank you can have lasting, positive, implications.

Additional reading:

Why appreciation matters so much

Why saying 'thank you' is more important than giving employees a raise

Keeping the right people - employee recognition

and finally, a really, really lovely book on appreciation (nothing to do with employees - everything to do with life) which is Oliver Sack's Gratitude, which I wrote about here.

Image by Morgan Sessions via Unsplash

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