Ramblings of a Creative Mind

Thoughts on Work and the World from an Executive Mom


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Planting Seeds

Did I ever mention that I’m a farmer? Well, a wannabe farmer anyhow. I was born in a rural farm town, surrounded by crops and cows. Once we moved to California, my Dad always had a garden box in the backyard, growing tomatoes, beans and whatever caught his fancy. I loved eating the fresh vegetables, warmed by the sun. So a few years ago, in my middle-aged nostalgia phase, I told my husband I wanted to grow fresh food and have our kids experience that as well. Ever supportive, he dutifully built me a beautiful garden box – shaded with a watering system – and we planted our first “crop.”

Well, being a farmer – albeit an urban one – is hard work. First, you need some serious patience. Planting seeds that first year, you’re excited and antsy. Why can’t they just hurry up and grow already? Then, if you make it past that, you need to be diligent in how you tend to your garden. The soil is our area is laden with clay, so it took a lot of fertilizer and added nutrients to help nurture the plants. While the watering system is a nice safeguard, the weather in L.A. is hot. Watering a few times a week was not enough. We had to supplement it every day, and knew quite quickly if either of us had missed a day (brown, withering leaves are hard to miss). And, while it sounds a little kooky, plants need love too. Love comes when you spend time with them, care about them and want to see them grow.

I’ve just celebrated my one year anniversary with my “new” job. And lately, this first year at work has been reminding me of that first year with my garden box. Whenever you start something new, you want to make an impression – do something big to prove yourself and your worth. Maybe you do have a win early, but the real measure of who you are and what you can contribute comes with time. You have to be patient, and patience is not always my strongest suit.

Then, you need to tend to your craft, to your relationships or to your growth. Reaching out to learn more, to ask questions or to seek out a mentor, strengthens you. No matter what came before or how successful you may have been, you’re in a new environment. Recognizing that you don’t know it all and that there are many people you can learn from (and who, in turn, might also learn from you), helps cultivate your skills and strengthen what you bring to the table.

Then, comes the “watering” part – I think of this as the communication part of the journey. You can lean on technology, emails or phone calls to help along the way, but nothing goes further than spending time with someone face-to-face… checking in. Make sure you’re on the same page, and then do it again and again. When you’re new and still “learning” the people you work with, you’re more prone to misunderstandings. You haven’t found your rhythm yet. Keeping those lines of communication open goes a long way to fostering healthy relationships.

Finally, everyone needs a little “love.” In your quest to make your mark, don’t forget that there are many others around you who want to succeed as well. Maybe you’re on the front lines. Maybe you’re the leader. Maybe you’re the popular new kid on the block. Whatever you are, you’re part of the team, and the team’s job is to win together. No one person wins alone. It’s your job as a teammate, a leader or the new kid, to spend time with others, care about their success and work together for the win.

To be frank, I’ve been a little impatient lately. I want success to come more quickly… to make a bigger mark. As I shared this with a coworker, he said something that struck me. He thought I’d been “planting seeds”: cultivating knowledge and relationships, laying a foundation, and investing in others along the way. As I thought about what he’d said, I realized that if I’d accomplished all of that, then my year was a massive success.

It was so because we’re in it together, building for a future that will pay off immensely if we allow the work time to grow and bear fruit.

My first year with my garden box was not fantastic, let’s be honest. I grew a few tomatoes and onions, but it was no great bonanza. I could have done better. But when I think about the office? Maybe I’m a farmer after all.

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Finding grace

I royally screwed up. You see, I travel for work and like to book things far in advance so I have a plan and know where I’m going. When I went to check in for my trip on Monday, I realized that I had booked my flight into the wrong airport – one that was three and a half hours away from my final destination. Changing my flight last minute would cost the company over $1,000 for my mistake, so on Tuesday I grimly boarded the plane to St. Louis, not looking forward to either the drive or the inconvenience. I blew it, so I was going to have to make the best of it.

Then, something wonderful happened.

Through the windshield of my rental car, I saw lavender skies over southern Illinois, and wildflowers scattered in green and gold along the side of the highway. I crossed the Mississippi, the Wabash and dozens of running creeks. With George Harrison for company, I swept past corn fields, cows, farms and barns. And with the sun setting in my rearview mirror, I took solace in my solitude.

Far too often, we live according to a plan. Everything is laid out, anticipated, prepared for… and safe. We may become rigid in our expectations. We expect perfection from ourselves, and we’re let down if we don’t come through. We’re too damn hard on ourselves. And we may expect perfection from others too – barely leaving them room to breathe, to screw up, to be human.

But there is grace in making a mistake. We find the unexpected. We find spontaneity. We find our humanity.

A mistake can be a celebration of the unknown, the moment that sets us off on a new course. A new happy ending.

I made a mistake. I took a detour from the route I’d planned, and found unexpected joy.

Cut yourself some slack. You’re only human too. It’s not a big deal. Everything is going to be okay. You’re still headed in the right direction. You’re just taking the backroads for a little while.

“Here comes the sun.
Here comes the sun, and I say, it’s alright.”

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Hashtags and holding hands…

I stayed up late last night following the hashtag and watching the Twittersphere convulse in waves of shock at Robin Williams’ sudden death. I’m not sure why I tuned in when I should have been sleeping. Perhaps it was the sense of being part of a community – coming together in confusion, anger, grief or fear that someone who was part of our world is no longer. Whatever it was, it brought back memories.

I had a friend in college who struggled emotionally. She was gifted, brilliant and successful – and yet I would often walk in and find her sitting in the same place she was when I’d left hours before. In her pajamas. Silent. Barely breathing. Looking for the light. Outside of a small circle of friends, she was always “on” – vibrant and exciting, larger than life. Even her closest friends only saw hints of what ran underneath. I think the only reason I saw it was because we lived together, frankly. I had a front row seat, and it frightened me. I didn’t know what to do or say during her dark times. At first, I used to go to my room to give her some space. But I would sit in that room wondering if everything was alright… how long would it last? She told me once that suicide ran in her family. Should I be worried? After a while, my worry drove me out of my room and to the couch, where we would sit together in silence – watching TV and occasionally holding hands. I don’t know if it helped, but what I do know is that eventually something would break the sadness, and we’d end up laughing. Life would click back into a familiar rhythm. Things would be fine… for a while. In my youth, I thought she got “better.” Now, I wonder if she did. I hope she did. Since then, we’ve lost touch, but every now and again, I think about her: how she is… if she is well… if she still struggles today.

The truth of whole Twittersphere thing is that we were probably all drawn to it last night by something more personal. If someone so gifted, so brilliant and so successful could only find solace in an ending, how many “ordinary” people – people you and I see everyday – are fighting the same battle right now? Whether it’s Robin Williams, your college roommate, a neighbor or a loved one, someone you know is struggling as you read this. How hard do they fight to win one more day? How many people are losing that battle right now?

It’s easy to take someone at face value. You say “Hi, how are you?” and get “great!” in return. And maybe that’s true. But, what if someone actually said something else?

“I’m afraid…”
“I’m lonely…”
“I’m sad…”

Would you be surprised? Shocked? What would you do?

At our core, we’re often pretty perceptive people. We sense when something is off, even if we can’t put our finger on what it is. What if we paid more attention to those feelings? Made more of an effort to reach out or ask another question when something didn’t feel right?

Would it hurt? Not at all.
Would it help? I’d like to think so.
Maybe if we all reached out to hold someone’s hand, we could change a life.

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What’s in Your Backpack?

Backpacks - then and now

Backpacks – then and now

Remember getting your child ready for the first day of Kindergarten?  It’s a pretty big deal.  You run from store to store, buying those “required” supplies: new clothes, a shiny lunchbox and the very first backpack.  I don’t know how you felt about it, but for me, the backpack was the thing.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  Watching my son walk away on the first day of class with that massive beast of a backpack strapped across his shoulders – dwarfing him – I knew some things would never be the same.  It was the moment my toddler wandered out of my life, and a big kid walked in.

It’s funny now, looking back.  The first backpack leads to another, and then another.  Cartoon characters make way for skater styles, and before you know it, you’re over 40 – lugging your checkpoint friendly, Nike, denier nylon techie essential backpack onto an airplane to Montreal.  The thing is loaded to the hilt with your laptop, iPad, iPod, noise canceling headphones, neck pillow, snacks, water and all the other travel necessities… most of which, you really don’t need.  Looking around, half of the passengers carry packs as well.  They’re supposed to make the trip easier, but they weigh way too much, and you almost throw your back out trying to get it up into the overhead bins.

They’re not as heavy as the backpacks you don’t see though.

As we go through life, we start carrying things around with us – more than we should.  We carry around things that we don’t need.  Maybe it’s the argument you had last night, or the words someone said to you on the phone.  Maybe it’s a name that someone called you, or what they said behind your back.  Perhaps it’s the day you didn’t get that raise or your spouse forgot flowers.  Whatever it was, you were upset or hurt.  You picked up those feelings and didn’t address them.  You packed that moment away in your emotional backpack and went to bed mad.  The next morning – on your way out the door – you picked that backpack up and carried it with you.  Then the next morning and the one after that, you did the same thing.

Every day, that load just gets heavier.  Each unaddressed feeling or unresolved issue is a rock you carry around on your back, weighing you down.  You think you’re strong, that you can handle the load.  But no one can go on like that forever.  Sooner or later, your legs give out.  You open that pack, and all those rocks come tumbling out.  They fall at your feet or, worse, get hurled at those around you.

Why?

It’s hard to address things outright: to speak up, to work through the argument and to forgive others – or yourself – when things go wrong.  It seems easier and safer to put things up on a shelf or pack them away for another day.  But it’s not.  When we choose not to confront something that is difficult, we’re actually choosing the path of least pain in the moment.  We’re trying to minimize risk and keep ourselves safe, when in all reality, we’re putting our health and the happiness of those we care about most at even greater risk somewhere down the road – when the backpack becomes too heavy to bear, and the truth comes tumbling out.

How heavy is the load that you are carrying around today?

How much of it do you really need?

How much better will you feel if you set that backpack down and let go of what’s in it?

While I will still be lugging my Nike torture device with me on the plane next month (I need my tunes after all), that’s the only backpack that  I will be carrying from now on.  How about you?


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Eyes, eyes, eyes – yeah.

Car EyeWe did a photo shoot at the office the other day for our Annual Report.  Instead of using stock photos, the company wanted a more personal, authentic feel.  So, instead of being marketers, managers and product leads, we were models for a day.  Glamorous, I know.

It’s 9:30AM, and the four of us – two company directors, our boss and little old me – are sitting down for our moment in the sun.  We’re the Automotive Team – the “team that makes it happen.”  Though we’ve only been together for about seven months, we work closely day in and day out, so there’s a good rapport there.  We get along.  We knock heads.  We get stuff done.  It’s all good.

Yet, it’s hard to put into words how much of a hot mess we were as models.  I almost felt bad for the photographer, as we fell apart as soon as we started.  Everyone came in with a great attitude.  The agency guy sat us in our spots, gave us our props and set up the scene – just have a normal work conversation, but make sure we stay open to the camera and look straight in each others’ eyes.

Now, I came up as an actor.  On stage, you have to be open.  Be vulnerable.  It’s a daily thing.  It’s your job.

Sitting there under the lights at the office though, it was incredibly hard.  After a minute, we were all visibly uncomfortable.  One person started cracking jokes and crossing his eyes when his back was to the camera.  Another asked when it would all be over.  Me, I couldn’t stop laughing and turned bright red… which is hard when you’re as tan as I am.  The hour was sheer torture – a lot of laughs, but torture nonetheless.

After we were done, I was struck by how uncomfortable it had been – especially with a group of people that I really like and enjoy working with.  But it’s all in the eyes.

You know, we don’t make a lot of eye contact with people these days.  The next time you are having a conversation with someone, think about it.  You’ll probably notice how often you glance away or glance down.  It’s not that you’re not interested, because you are.  Instead, you’re taking an emotional break.

Making eye contact is essential for effective communication.  Sustaining eye contact is about something much more. After a minute or so, something happens.  It’s visible.  You can see the walls we unconsciously keep start to come down in each other’s eyes.  Then, you’re left with something very emotional – something extremely vulnerable.   It’s visceral too.  Something in you reacts to something in the other person, and you both connect on the human level.  Barriers down.  Nothing is between you.  Instead, that universal human condition bonds you.

Now, the people you love, you let into your eyes.  It ties you closer together.  But when it happens in an unfamiliar environment – aka at the office – you have to figure out how you feel about that.  Last week, our team stumbled upon walls which we weren’t consciously aware existed.  It was strange.  It was awkward.  And afterwards, we fumbled to find safe ground again – creating conversations to tide us over until we were back in familiar territory again.

But yet, something new remains.  We put up walls to keep us safe, but what are we really protecting anyway?  Does that unconscious distance make us more productive?  Or perhaps, does that fleeting moment of vulnerability bring us closer together as a team?  Does that hour full of laughter and embarrassment remind us that we’re all the same down deep?  Driven.  Dreamers.  Flawed.  Fantastic.

We go to work and put on our game face.  It’s good.  It’s safe.

But as I sit here a week later, I think we’re better for the time we spent in front of the camera, defenses down.  It reminded me that we’re not put on this earth to play it safe.  We’re here to push the limits of what’s possible, to take risks, to dream and to achieve.  We’re here to change the world.


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Turning corners

At the corner of here and there

At the corner of here and there

My Mom always told me I was born under a lucky star. We weren’t rich by any means, and we had our share of hard times. Yet all in all, life has always just seemed to work out as it should. Now, I’m not a lucky person, per se. I don’t win door prizes and have never won so much as a dollar on the lotto or at a slot machine. It just doesn’t happen. But on the big things in life, things seem to go my way. Maybe it’s a matter of perception: I expect it will work out, so it does… or at least I see it that way.

But the last few months have been challenging. Life has been alright. Work is good. Kids are awesome. Hubster does well at school. But I have been feeling rather fried. I’ve felt frustrated, overwhelmed and confused personally. While my career has been right on track, privately I’ve been drifting. At the end of the day, after we’ve read bedtime stories and tucked the kids in tight, I just want to lay down and sleep. That’s not my normal M.O. I haven’t feel creative; I’ve felt drained. I’ve struggled to make decisions. Usually, I know who I am and am secure in my own skin. Lately though, I’ve felt haunted by self-doubt. Insecure. Old.

That energy – or lack thereof – quickly multiplies. What starts out as one “off” night turns to two, turns to ten – if you let it. I hate to admit that I’ve let it that feeling grow for a little too long now. I’ve been looking back instead of looking forward: thinking about “what if” instead of “what is.”

Now, we say goodnight prayers every time with the boys. There are certain phrases that I’ve said over and over for the last six years… things the kids added… that have become part of our ritual, our routine. They’ve always been special, but tonight they felt rote. I rushed through the opening line.

“Dear God: we come before you tonight to give thanks for this wonderful day and all the fun we had today. Please bless our family and friends…”

Then, Luke stopped me.

Luke: “You didn’t ask me what I was thankful for, Mommy.”

Nuts. “Sorry, Luke. What are you thankful for today?”

Luke: “That you got home safely.”

Jake: “I’m thankful that we’re all here together. What are you thankful for, Mommy?”

I was silent for a little while. They were so sweet, so earnest and so right.

I’ve been exhausted and looking for answers somewhere ahead of me, instead of seeing what’s right beside me. The kids reminded me of that tonight.

In the search for “what’s next,” you’ve got to remember how amazingly special “what is” truly is. And, if you’re struggling or searching, you have the power to turn the corner – to turn it around – if you set your mind to it.

We finished our prayers, gave goodnight kisses, and I came in here. I’m still fried, still exhausted. But what am I thankful for?

I’m thankful that I made the choice tonight to turn the corner. I’ve got a great family, dear friends and a roof over my head. I’m lucky. Maybe Mom is right. Maybe I WAS born under a lucky star. In fact, maybe we all were, if we choose to believe.


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FreedomI spend a lot of time thinking and writing about the “in-between” time: those moments between the milestones that add up to a life.  I believe it’s important to live in the moment, to be present and to pay attention to the people you’re with in order to truly enjoy life.  But this past week, I got a lesson on just how meaningful those milestones actually are.

The holidays fell mid-week this year, which translates to lots of people taking time off and not much work being accomplished.  For me, this slowdown felt unnatural.  It was too quiet for my taste, so I found myself wanting to fill up my weekend with activities.  I had to go, go and GO.  So, I told the Hubster I wanted to take Jake out to learn to ride his bike.

I didn’t know how quickly he would. 

I sat on the ground at the neighborhood school’s parking lot and watched him wobble up and down the blacktop.  Jake was nervous.  He didn’t think he could do it.

“But Jake,” I told him, “riding a bike is great.  It’s your first real taste of freedom.  It’s about you, two wheels, the wind and where you want to go.”

Steve let go, and Jake made it across the parking lot on his own, yelling “FREEDOM” as he pedaled.  Tears of joy started streaming down my face.  Milestone #1, and I didn’t have a camera.

The next day was Sunday, and we decided to try the outdoor ice rink at 8AM.  It’s a limited time thing here in sunny SoCal, after all.  So we bundled up the kids, signed our rights away and stepped onto the ice (I brought the camera this time).  They careened into walls and took a lot of falls, but after 30 minutes, Jake was skating alone across the ice.  He skated towards freedom, and rather quickly, I might add.  Milestone # 2, and I only managed a 30 second video on my cell phone from the first few minutes of the adventure.

Day 3.  I’m back to work, immersed in a project, and the cell phone beeps.  The Hubster has sent me a video.  What do I see?  Jake has now managed to learn to skateboard back on that blacktop.  He looks mighty cool decked out in his safety gear.  Milestone # 3, and I missed it entirely.

I couldn’t really sleep that night.

Something happened in those few days.  Steve and I laugh and say it was a big week in the life of Jake – one we will remember for a long time.

It was a big week in our lives too.

In the past three days, my son had his first taste of freedom, as I called it.

In those same three days, as I watched my son pedal towards freedom, I also watched him ride away from Steve and me.

I am so proud of what he has accomplished so quickly.  And I can see so clearly how short our time with him will be under our roof, implicitly trusting us and naturally following us.  This week, Jake led us.  We ran behind, our arms outstretched.  Wanting him to stand on his own.  Wanting our baby back and knowing that time is almost over.

Three days.  Three milestones.

I learned this week that milestones are big.  They may come quickly when you least expect them.  They won’t come again.

Be prepared.  Bring your camera.  Ready your heart.


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Opening Doors

Open and fearless!

Open and fearless!

My five-year old son’s a smart little fellow.  IQ smart.  We want him to thrive, learn and grow at his own pace and without any artificial boundaries.  So, we took him to spend time with a specialist the other day who would evaluate ways we could support him more completely.  After the hour she spent with him alone, she called the Hubster and me in to discuss her observations.   And as we talked, my son drew pictures.  Now, he is a people pleaser and likes to ask for feedback.  We generally tell him he’s doing a great job etc.  Instead of providing reinforcement though, she did something else.  She asked him questions:

“Would you like to add a little more detail?”

“What’s the weather like?”

“Are there any flowers?”

Each time, he excitedly went back to drawing – filling in the picture a little more each time – until he had drawn something far beyond anything Steve and I had seen him do at home.  And she remarked that she absolutely loved children at his age because “they are so open… so excited to try… to do more.”

Children ARE so open.  They are born to learn, born to love, born to trust.  They can sing, can draw, can dance.  They want to try, trust they will succeed and always go for more.

And as we age, it becomes harder and harder to stay open to life.  We’re hurt badly and don’t want to be hurt again.  We fail, are embarrassed and don’t want to try again.  The world seems to be against us, and we stop reaching.  We let go of certain dreams or settle.

When does it happen?  I can’t really say, but I think it starts around the age my son is today.  As our kids get a little older and start to go out into the world on their own, we want to protect them and keep them safe.  We set boundaries.  We say no.  NO.  NO.  NO.  We check emails or check in with our Facebook friend, and not with our kids.  We’re tired.  We tell them:

  • “Be quiet.”
  • “Go in the other room.”
  • “Stop making that racket.”
  • “Mommy’s busy right now.”

We mean well.  Yet, unintentionally we’re sending them messages that they aren’t as important to us as we are to them.  After all, a parent is a child’s entire world at this age.

We accidentally teach them that we don’t want to hear their singing or see their art (even if it is scrawled on a wall in crayon), and that they can’t do more.  They need to do LESS to please us.

Is that what I want to teach my child?  Is that what anyone wants to teach their kids?

At my age, there are still a few brave souls whose hearts, dreams and minds remain open.  They still yearn for something greater.  Others may tear them down, trash talk them or belittle them.  Why?  I think it’s because, deep down inside, they long for something that’s hard to pin down.  Perhaps it’s the freedom to believe in themselves again, to live life unafraid, unfettered by the minutiae of talk shows, politics and our digital life.

I’m not going to be able to protect my sons from all of life’s pain, but I do want to do everything I can to teach them to stay open.  I want to be more like the woman we met with the other day.  I want to ask questions and teach them to keep trying and to keep the faith.  To remain vulnerable.  To not worry about what other people may say to bring them down.  To stay hungry for more.

I want to open that door in my life too.

Children will amaze you, if you let them.  YOU will amaze you too.


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The Politics of Being New

Group of Friends SmilingI went to elementary school on a military base.  It was great.  Military life is about diversity, solidarity and commitment to something bigger.  It feels safe and special.  I loved my little school.

But in 7th grade, I transferred districts and went to a local public school – away from my military friends.  My new school was a “rich” school back then… very different than life on base.  There, you don’t always have a lot, but you make do.  These new kids had new clothes.  We wore hand-me-downs and shared our clothes.  This new school served hundreds of kids.  At the Marine school, you knew everyone.  On base, I was the 6th grade school president.  In Junior High, I was an honors student who played the cello, sang in the choir and wore glasses and braces.  I was at the bottom of the pecking order.

The kids at my new school had been together for years.  There was the established hierarchy of coolness, the inside jokes, the shared experiences that bonded the other kids together.  I was not a part of it, so I could not relate.  Through no fault of theirs, I was an outsider… wanting to fit in but with no idea how, and frankly, there was no real opening TO fit in.  After all, nothing was broken in their social structure so why add a new variable?  Now,eventually someone opened their circle of friends to me (thanks, Ed).  I found my place and figured out how I could contribute to this new world of mine, but it took a while and it wasn’t always fun along the way.

Whether you’re changing schools, jobs or careers, sooner or later we’re all the new kid on the block.  Being new can be nerve-wracking as it is.  You’re confident, and then you’re hesitant.  You had your stuff down, and now you’re learning something new.  The office is different; the pace is different; the goals are different.  It’s an incredible opportunity, and still it’s about stepping carefully.

It’s the politics of being new…  

What are the unwritten rules?  Who are your new teachers, mentors or sponsors?  Who are the unofficial leaders – those people that influence others’ opinions, actions and beliefs – perhaps without any official title?  You want to show people what you’ve got and who you are.  It’s important, but equally as important is who they perceive you to be.  Your new teammates have their established order and their shared memories.  They’ve been through the fire before and are closer because of it.  Yet, here you are: the outsider, the new addition or the change agent.

You’re justifying what you bring to the table again – why you’re there.  You’re included but not a member of the gang.  You can build allies along the way.  Or you may step on a landmine you never knew was there.

Some people come in strong – blazing their new path, brandishing their knowledge and taking a firm stand.  That may often work.  It may not.

I believe there are two must-do things that help you navigate your new hire “campaign”.

First, find ways to work across the aisle (rare though that may be in today’s political environment), to build consensus and find common ground with those you will help, support or lead.  Ask questions… many questions. Then, listen wholeheartedly.

Second, don’t let the doubt get to you.  You have to believe that you are here for a reason, otherwise why should anyone else believe you are?   If you are a change agent, you’ll run into a lot of roadblock – subtle and overt.

  • “We’ve tried that before.”
  • “Our clients won’t like that.”
  • “We do it this way.”

Yes, it’s important to honor established processes and traditions, but that doesn’t mean that you still can’t challenge them and ask “why?”  Why do we do things this way?  Does it make sense?  Or is it just what we’ve always done?

It may take patience and hard work, but that circle will open to you.  It’s up to you then to decide if you want to join it as it is, or learn to lead it in a new direction… to create new memories, cello and all.


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Building Bridges

Bay Bridge WowI was recently in San Francisco and was fascinated by the new Bay Bridge.

Now, I’ve crossed the old bridge many times.  It did what it was supposed to do – get me from here to there.  This new bridge didn’t seem like anything remarkable; in fact, I barely noticed the change at all… until late in the evening.  As I looked out the window of my hotel, I saw it… the lights.  They were glorious.  I was struck by how dynamic that bridge was: functional and beautiful.  It made an impact.  So I went online to learn a little more.  Now, it still goes from here to there, but did you know that this “epic transformation… into a global icon” does a few other cool things too?

  • It holds two Guinness world records (not the beer, though that may be almost as cool in certain circles);
  • It took six years to complete;
  • It is built to withstand major earthquakes and is, in fact, a lifeline route;
  • It offers panoramic views of the city; and
  • For the first time, it meets the needs of many with pedestrian and bike lanes.

It got me thinking about work.

When you’re new to an organization or are working with a team or client, you’re constantly building connections and forging relationships to “get you from here to there.”  We’re building bridges.

Everyone has their own style.  Each team has its own dynamic.  Each project has its own deadline.  Oftentimes, we are so caught up in “our” style, the dynamics of the team as they exist today (or did in the past) and the deadline that we don’t pay as much attention as we should to those bridges we’re building.

Yes, those bridges – those relationships – are functional.  They help us learn the ropes, motivate the team or achieve the goal.  But a bridge is much more than that.  It’s our connection from the past to the future, from where we were to where we want to be.  It’s a place we will turn to again and again… a place that will be familiar and somehow new.

Like a bridge, a relationship can be functional and fun.  It’s dynamic.  It can:

  • Set records;
  • Span years;
  • Save your life;
  • Be a great adventure; and
  • Help people meet many needs.

That will only happen though, if you invest as much (if not more) time, focus and care into building lasting relationships as you do in the short term projects and personal objectives.  And frankly, I believe your style in leadership and teamwork is pretty darn important too.  Your teammates will get things done when focused on a goal.  How many of those people will be there – years later – if you don’t invest in them as well?  How many people will be there if they don’t feel respected?  Don’t feel valued?

At the heart of each of us, we want to feel loved – feel appreciated – feel valued.  We want to have a meaningful impact on the lives of those we touch and the things we are working to achieve.  We want to know that other people care.  We want to build deep, real relationships: not with people who ask passing questions and forget your answers, but instead with those who invest their lives in seeing you succeed and thrive, professionally and personally.

Yes, bridges and relationships can be built that get you from here to there.  How solid are those bridges though?  Are you sure they will stand the test of time?  Or are there warning signs that you may be ignoring?

In my quest to learn more for this piece, I read about the Quebec Bridge.  It was an engineering marvel, but there were warning signs along the way that were ignored.  It didn’t end well, collapsing in 1907 and costing lives.  It could have been avoided.  The problems could have been corrected.  It could have dazzled.  It didn’t.

What bridges are you building today?  Are they strong?  Can you do more?

What bridges did you build years ago?  Are you maintaining them?  Will they be more?