My Favorite Four Words

I substitute teach in my local school district. I created a bucket list of professions I wanted to try (teacher was one of them). They are mostly a culmination of undoing regrets or dreams that passed me by. I never give up hope:

  • Broadway Dancer (I go to Broadway shows)
  • Flight Attendant (I applied — was rejected)
  • NFL Sideline Reporter (I play fantasy football)
  • Beach Volleyball Player (I watch Kerri Walsh Jennings)
  • CBS This Morning Co-Host (this might be my long shot)

From my last blog post you know that I am none of those people above BUT — I always believe that if the opportunity came along, I would be ready.

“Luck is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity”

Roman Philosopher Seneca

So, my more realistic list is exactly what I am doing now:

  • Law Office Administrator ( I love learning law)
  • Substitute Teacher (the kids are amazing)
  • Organizer (my passion)
  • Realtor (my experience in family law is a good base for what NOT to do when deciding to buy or sell a home)

From as early as second grade I was fascinated by my teachers. I decided to substitute teach to get a sense of what I had missed out on. The students think that they will have a free day when I walk in but I have spent a few sleepless nights planning how I will tackle the day. They are met with the following on the board:

Brave, Curious, Kind and Organized

These are my four favorite words. I have found they encompass everything one needs to create a career as well as becoming a good citizen. The Carver Rule is simple—Respect When Someone is Talking. Starting this discussion in the first five minutes of the school day works for me and sets the tone for the day — I also set criteria for a “Kind Award” for the student nominated by the other students after recess for an act of kindness.

KIND

BRAVE — Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is hard to be a student. No question is too silly and never be embarrassed if you don’t understand something. I tell them that I spent my entire high school life not understanding math. I never asked for help. That was just sad. I give extra points for those that ask questions. I make them the hero by keeping embarrassment out of the picture.

CURIOUS — Never stop learning. Be excited every day about what you get to uncover. Why be miserable and dreading the classroom. Look at it as a special place that gives you knowledge. Share what you know. Bring up subjects that are fascinating to learn about. My two “go to” questions at the end of the day are “if you could wake up tomorrow and be in any career what would it be?” and “if you could travel anywhere where would you go?” I crack up because the most common answer is Las Vegas. Las Vegas is marketing to a group they didn’t even know about! The most common career for boys is a professional athlete and to my delight the girls common ground is becoming some type of doctor. Saying “I don’t know” doesn’t fly — Everyone deserves to have a dream. To those wanna be professional athletes I urge them to know their financial picture every day and plan for the future with a second career.

Kind — To me kindness makes life happier. I watch the students interact with each other and out on the playground. I want them to notice when someone is going out of their way to be kind. It can be as simple as letting someone borrow their eraser to my ultimate goal of including someone who is alone every day at recess. The Giving Keys Organization focuses on ending homelessness through employment. It’s funny how quickly kids adapt to an atmosphere of positive feedback. I tell them that names on the board are a good thing. It is my responsibility to model kind behavior.

Organized — No one does well in chaos. I realize that everyone is not going to be at the same level of organization. I find that it needs to be taught and repetitive every day. It is a learned habit and most of the time not on top of mind for kids. As a substitute teacher I cannot effect much change but I look at it as planting seeds for ideas that could grow eventually. Clutter is a common theme in most desks. There just isn’t time to address the neatness of a desk by the end of the day. One way that I introduce this concept is taking 15 minutes for desk check and encouraging help from each other. I love watching a group effort and they have fun doing it. Oh and it’s a great way to find lost homework —

Now don’t you wish I had been your substitute teacher? Ha – not a free day!

Teaching has helped me in my life beyond what I could have imagined. I have to be ready after about 20 minutes of preparation and keep a group of students interested when it is not exactly where they want to be. Not easy skills to learn but so rewarding for me.

It has taken me a lifetime to be comfortable in my chosen professions — BUT I never lose the dreams of my first list.

Choosing a Career — Find Your Passion!

The linchpin faces a fork in the road:

You can try to make your job have more. More impact, more responsibility, more leverage.

Or you can be industrial about it and try to have your job involve less. Less risk, less effort, less to fear.

Is your ideal job one where you get paid but no one even knows you work there . . . Or is it to bring your hopes and dreams and talents to a position where you can change things for the better?

Seth Godin

I have had many jobs in my search for myself and my passion. I started working when I was 16 and am forever grateful to my parents for making this a condition for participating in extracurricular activities in high school. They required me to pay for gas when I drove their car and my song leader camp and outfits. It was a turning point in my growth and feeling of independence. I started as a school secretary for the night school at my high school and then landed a retail position as the “Youth Council” representative for my high school. I attended monthly meetings and my input was taken into account for the store buyers of the teen clothing department. I was also able to pick up shifts at the store on weeknights and weekends. I was busy. I learned to show up on time. I loved getting a paycheck. I knew that if I didn’t show up that I was letting them down. My parent’s rule gave me a great start.

After high school graduation I got a job at a bank. I learned about checking and savings accounts and as an employee I was given a credit account with a $300 limit. I never realized it until the other day that I learned every job that bank had to offer. I watched everyone and decided that I wanted to be the utility person. I could fill in for anyone who was sick or on vacation. It took about a year to learn what I needed to. I honestly do not know how I came up with that thought but it planted a seed that has stayed with me in every job I have taken. Be the one to raise your hand to help.

Okay, it sounds like my work life has been seamless — not so fast! There would always come a point in any job when I felt I could do more, be more — make more money. I started a family and went back to college. I was always searching for what my perfect fit was. It led to a lot of starting and stopping. I’ve had a lot of “I wish I knew then what I know now.” Be curious and never stop learning but focus on a goal.

Every career journey is personal. No one can help or get too involved in your choices. It is about asking questions, learning from mistakes and finding people who do the job that you would like to do. It’s about finding companies that motivate your best ideas and concepts. It’s about realizing that starting at the bottom is always the best step.

Thoughts on Goals

My husband and I owned a restaurant for about 4 years. It required me to quit my law office job and become the manager. I was terrible at the day to day operations. I lived for getting out in the community and marketing what we could make happen for group activities. We were stressed every day. We drove far to get there. We had 4 kids who were not getting the best from us. The day we sold was the happiest day of my life. I re-enrolled in college and spent more time at home. It became my LINCHPIN — my fork in the road. I started to set priorities.

College gave me courage. Part time work gave me flexibility. I took part time jobs that taught me something I didn’t know and then I would move on. I began to think like an entrepreneur— I liked making decisions that felt like me. I was able to keep this going for quite a while. I graduated from college. I focused on law offices. My kids went out on their own. I traveled to seminars in other states. I learned how others made their way. I loved my journey but had one problem — I wasn’t making much money. That became a problem when my husband (the best breadwinner I could ask for) retired. It was time to put all my talk and education into action. Once the pressure of income came into my head, I lost my confidence. I had grown comfortable with the flexibility of part time, of going to seminars and thinking that was doing something, of learning how to set up my website and of listening to podcasts. Time for less talk, less strategy and more action.

I had one more challenge — getting my real estate license. My idea was to work with families/individuals to avoid the pitfalls I saw of home buying and the stress it caused. I had a plan — it revolved around what I had finally found as my passion — Organizing — I have found my center. I have variety. I have flexibility. Organization helps everyone I work with feel settled. My dream career mix (finally) —

  • Law Office Administrator
  • Substitute Teacher
  • Realtor
  • Organizer of Homes, Home Offices and Small Business Books

These tools have served me well —

  • My parent’s rule — get a job to pay for high school activities;
  • Be the one to raise your hand to help others;
  • Be curious and never stop learning but focus on a goal;
  • Starting at the bottom is always the best step;
  • Set priorities once you have some experience;
  • Know when thinking about strategy needs to end — less talk and more action —
  • Know your passion — find jobs that need it!

Tell Me More

It is impossible to not love Hoda Kotb. Watching her on the Today Show is inspiring. She loves what she does and she loves her family life. She brings a sense of accomplishment and wonder to the table. She might be the best role model for blending career and family. But all of this took her a while to set in motion and understand.

I was particularly moved on her first day back to work after a five month maternity leave having unexpectedly adopted her second daughter. She was paying attention to life during those five months and made sure we knew how magical it had been for her. She has a very high profile on morning television and it is refreshing to see her personality show through. She is real. She has waited a long time for her family life. She appreciates everyone and everything around her. She elevates anyone who sits next to her.

A great segment with guests Esther Wojcicki who wrote “How to Raise Successful People” and Kelly Corrigan who wrote the essay “Advice to My College Freshman” in The New York Times as well as the book “Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say” — gave great tips on not only raising successful people but how to navigate and accept the empty nest when your kids leave home. Esther was so calm in her approach to letting her kids discover the world around them and how they fit into it and Kelly was hilarious in her nervousness in trying to tell her daughter everything in an hour that she wanted her to know before leaving her at college.

Hoda brought up that we parents try so hard to teach our kids all the life lessons we want them to know that we push them too hard. Kelly’s book offers that listening is key by simply saying “tell me more” instead of giving solutions. I took note of these simple three words — tell me more — what a great way to not only listen but extend a conversation.

Life experience whether in career or family life does give clarity. We are meant to learn from mistakes and situations that don’t feel right. The panic and anxiousness felt in our 20’s and 30’s fades as our confidence builds. We shed friends and family that drain us to the core. We find ourselves having more moments of joy than sadness. We center our days so as to not exhaust ourselves. Seeing life through someone else’s eyes is a better way to understand and bond with them.

It is not lost on me that the way to know a person’s heart and mind is to listen to what they say and what they are fascinated by. Let them know you hear them instead of trying to help them. I am learning that all of us young and old have a creative outlet. Acknowledging that creativity is amazing. I scrolled through Chris’s pictures on his phone the other day and got an insight into what he takes note of when outside.

Dragonfly in Flight
Spider Creativity

When my kids call me — which is surprisingly more often than I would have thought — I want them to “tell me more.” Their ideas are more valuable than any solution I could conjure up. They’ve got it together. They have creative outlets. I want to know them more as adults than try and keep them young. They deserve that from me. They can now teach me.

One thing I have always had my whole life is a love for people. The journey someone’s mind takes fascinates me. I love reading biographies and following along on what it took to get where they wanted to go. It takes a while to understand what is worth paying attention to every day. As time goes by I see that learning to shed rather than accumulate is a path to feeling happy.

Retirement Through My Eyes

This week Chris and I went for our annual eye exam together. We have been seeing our optometrist for the entire 36 years we have lived in our home. All of our kids have seen him. He has witnessed all of our life changes and it’s nice that at least once a year we can catch up. He is patient and kind and relieves our worries of aging eyes.

Today he proclaimed that Chris is the perfect man. His eyes are so different in vision that they balance each other and he no longer needs contacts just a minimal prescription for reading glasses. Now, this is a big deal. I, on the other hand, am trying to find the CAPITAL E on the chart. His test of my left eye was just a big blur and I am always taking the peripheral test (the one with the Jeopardy buzzer) with sweaty palms — please let me see the green dot!

I went first. I gave as many details in my allotted time of our last year as I could. Even though I started first, Chris finished before me which tells you our relationship story without words. Our doctor made the fatal mistake of asking me what was happening with retirement and I proceeded to fill him in on how the last four years have been going — luckily I have spent a small fortune with him so he is not losing money when I come in.

Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • I was not happy for the first year as I was used to being home alone in my own world;
  • I am not fond of whistling — Chris is happy when he’s whistling;
  • After raising four kids, I was not in the mood to answer questions about my productivity and goal setting capabilities;
  • Chris being the amazing landscaper that he is, stepped up his weed-eater and blower duties — all which make noise and create dust;
  • I am the tech person in our home — my name was being called a bit more often to come to the rescue of wayward laptops and streaming devices;
  • I am an everything has a place girl and I am not good when things are dropped with no container underneath.

After four years, here is what I’ve learned:

  • Chris was allowed to be home — suggesting different activities or software for him to learn only put those things at the bottom of his “to do” list;
  • Whistling meant he was home and happy — unless we are in the car, I don’t hear it anymore;
  • He could in one sentence call me out on my bright shiny object syndrome; it turns out goals and objectives are a good thing in my world and have led me to the best career I have ever had;
  • Our yards are so beautiful — they have always been his place to be calm and creative — I just close the windows when I hear noise;
  • I strongly encourage reading manuals or watching a tutorial video — the technical side of life is either loved or hated and unless you love the challenge like me, just get to know what you deal with daily.
  • I had to let up a bit on my “everything in it’s place” but he takes his shoes off at the back door now. Don’t get me wrong there is never a wayward glass or a bed unmade but you will find the laundry overflowing a bit more and there are water marks on the bathroom mirrors now.
Life Is Better At The Beach

At the end of the visit, our doctor proclaimed that he will probably never retire. I told him just stay part time and ease into it.

Compromise is the key. The alternative is being consumed with loneliness. While the beds are made, the dust is barely there and the kitchen floor is clean ~~ the whistling is gone.

Celebrating Together