2010 Lessons Learned

Another year has passed and I am left wondering where the time went. I need a new clock with 30 hours a day instead of 24, because 24 isn’t cutting it. Even with the measly 24 hours per day, a lot happened in 365 days. Today I reflected on how many things changed in my life this past year and what I learned as a result. Some changes I consciously focused on throughout the year, while other opportunities randomly presented themselves. Here are my takeaways for the year…

Friendship:
Over the year I developed some new friendships and ended some old ones. Such is the circle of life I suppose. The idea of friends coming and going made me think about relationships in general. Whether with your spouse, your friend or just a new acquaintance, if you cannot communicate and respect each other, then you cannot connect. Connections are very important in our daily life. What is wrong with wishing the cashier at the market a happy holiday? The concept of connecting with people seems obvious, until you realize that some people can’t or won’t always tell you their true feelings (duh, they are not communicating!). Also, what you see on the surface may not be the reality. We all have problems and challenges in our lives, so why can’t we share them? Isn’t that what friendship is for? This year I realized more connecting and sharing (even the worst part of our lives or ourselves) felt a lot better than hiding behind conversations about the weather.

Respect:
Respect seems to be something you earn by placing boundaries around yourself. Not the unhealthy kind of boundaries made of steel bars or moats with alligators, but the kind where people are forced to treat you like a person, not a doormat. I learned this year that pushing back definitely worked. When you demonstrate to others that you respect yourself first, then they can respect you next. I didn’t let family, friends, or customers at work push me around this year and I was a lot happier as result. I highly recommend it.

Communication:
I spent a lot of time communicating this year and I am not sure the message or the end result always turned out the way I wanted. Sometimes I had to tell people things they didn’t want to hear OR listen to things I didn’t want to hear. “What?”, you say, you didn’t know that LISTENING was part of communication? No one wants to hear they lost a job or be ‘unfriended’, however, I experienced new doors of opportunity that opened when old ones closed. Accepting the situation and dealing with next steps was lot more fun that sitting around wondering ‘why me’?

Hope:
People talk about hopes and wishes, but that is total crap. If you really want something, you decide what you want and then go out and make it happen. I want to be the person making things happen, not sitting around waiting for it. I recall a friend from years ago who wanted to get married and have a family, yet she sat around her apartment waiting for Prince Charming ( or some guy named Steve) to show up at her door. You cannot depend on others to fulfill your dreams. We are responsible for our own destiny. Instead of hope, you need action.

Community:
So many people this year talked about the sense of community (or lack of it.) What happened to the small town feeling where everyone knew you and your kids? What about lending your neighbor a cup of sugar? Unfortunately whether living in big cities or suburbs, people are divided instead of brought together. Letting the neighbor kids come by for a visit so another mom can get a much-needed break seems an obvious thing to do in a community, but who am I to say anything with cinder block 6′ high walls around my house? I may have the physical walls, but I am trying to remove the mental walls, at least for myself. Hopefully others will find the removal of the mental walls liberating too.

The more I learn in life, the more I realized how little I know. I can only hope that 2011 brings as many opportunities to learn, just different ones than 2010 – because honestly, I don’t want to relive the year. Hello 2011!

Blunt Egomaniacs Befriend Me

I have a new job! It is exciting yet scary. The idea of working for a new company and a whole new group of people is uncomfortable. I know this is true for everyone starting a new job, but how many people are hired over the phone never having met their coworkers in person? Maybe this happens to more people than I realize, but it is the first time it happened to me. At least social media tools like LinkedIn provided me a glimpse of my new coworkers.

The idea of adjusting to a new work environment made me reflect on the first days at my last company where I met a lot of new people. Each day new friends were made as coworkers bridged the gap and appeared on my Facebook or became my buddies to hang-out with on business trips. For some reason it seemed like it took a long time to get to know each person as well as a whole new culture.

Specifically, I am talking about Israeli culture. Working with a large team in Israel and numerous Israeli’s transplanted to the U. S., avoidance was impossible. At first I thought they were blunt (sometimes rudely so). I thought they had no feelings or were mean. They were very emotional and somehow right about everything (at least that was always their opening position). After spending more time with these blunt egomaniacs I discovered something surprising.

Under the harsh and often scary exterior were smart, caring, and compassionate people. Sure, they would disagree with you on, well, everything! I stopped counting the number of times I was enraged or irritated. In the end though, we seemed to just ‘get over it’. I can say that I always had to be at the top of my game, because this was the smartest group of people I had ever worked with. I loved working with them even when they felt like a thorn in my side. So at times, voices were definitely raised (as is normal with Israeli’s) but in the end it didn’t matter because we had a level of respect that transcended the yelling. Eventually yelling was not needed. Had they “Americanized” or had I “Israelized”?

I was sad about leaving my Israeli friends behind at my last company, but at the same time I felt fortunate that I had the opportunity to learn about a completely different culture. No one can take that away from me. From any job there are takeaways – bonuses, paychecks, a 401k and eventually maybe a retirement or severance check. I like to think that I left with something much more valuable – friendships and cultural understanding. I can only hope for as much at my next job.