Sunday, May 24, 2015

Splendid Sundays Volume 182

A handful of splendid finds from around the worldwide web:

A Somali refugee, who couldn't read or write until age 14, will graduate from Harvard this month. "Dayib has high goals. She is preparing to run for president of Somalia in 2016." [Harvard Gazette]

LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman on the biggest lie employers tell employees. And the best question to ask potential hires (especially millennials): "We'll ask, 'What's the next job that you would like to have post-LinkedIn?' . . . We're so committed to the idea that we're going to be transformative in the prospective employee's career. So we need to know, what's the next job after this? What do you want it to be?" [Vox]

Twitter opens a $3 million learning center for San Francisco's poor and homeless. "Not only does the 4,000-square-foot learning center offer child care next to its computer lab, but it’s also staffed weekdays with Twitter employee volunteers and social service workers, offering coaching on everything from basic tech skills to housing and job assistance." [SFGate]

The economics behind bacon's current rise as a foodie trend. "Last year, 68% of U.S. restaurants had bacon on the menu, up from 62% in 2005." [Bloomberg]

Noteworthy from The Splendid Collective:

2015 wedding industry statistics and insights available from Splendid Insights:

2015 Global Wedding Market Report

2015 Luxury Wedding Market Report (budgets of $96,000 or greater, not including honeymoon)

2015 Premium Wedding Market Report (budgets of $31,000 - 95,000, not including honeymoon)

2015 United Kingdom Wedding Market Report

Friday, May 22, 2015

13 Ways To Prevent Burnout

In 2008 I wrote a series called "Lessons in Burnout" with insights gleaned from a previous experience of not just burning out, but burning to an unrecognizable crisp. Working in a high-touch, highly personalized industry like weddings  — where purchase decisions are driven more by emotion than in any other field — makes a person more susceptible to burnout. Burnout is a slippery slope and one we often don't see coming until it's too late.

Working to make the world a better place through change or celebration is admirable, but a savior complex is not. You can’t do everything and you aren’t meant to (that cheesy line, "We're meant to be human beings, not human doings" is true). Neglecting your own family in order to help other families isn't admirable and means you’re halfway down the slippery slope to burnout if not engulfed in flames already.

I certainly don't have everything figured out, but here are some things I've learned as someone who has personally been through burnout before and who has worked hard to avoid it ever since. None of these insights are earth shattering, but there may be one or two you're currently avoiding that can help make your current life better:

Take care of your brain. Your brain is in your body. Take care of your body.

Eat breakfast. Drink water. Take vitamins.

Eat well. I tend to follow Michael Pollan’s three rules: eat real food (aka pronounceable ingredients), mostly plants, not too much. At the same time, there is no "organic Oreo" that tastes as good as the real thing in all its processed chemical glory. For some people, "all or nothing" works well. For others, being stringent and then having a cheat day works. For me, a loose 80/20 rule of moderation is what works best.

Exercise. I typically do a mix of pilates, spin, hiking and yoga at home, but prefer the Ballet Beautiful workouts when traveling because they can be accessed from any device and done in a hotel room.

Live beyond the end of your driveway. Give to charities that are tackling issues you’re passionate about, not necessarily the ones that will bring you the best PR. Create a Kiva account for each of your kids and let them choose who should receive the investment and reinvestments each time. Get involved in something bigger than yourself and your family. (This may seem like it contradicts what I said about neglecting your own family to help other families, but it doesn’t. Becoming completely self-focused and insular doesn’t help you either.)

Plan your days, but hold those plans loosely. Productivity is great, turning productivity into an idol is not. There’s a quote by Alain de Botton that I love because it is true, true, true: “There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.” Set goals and make plans, for sure, but don’t delude yourself into thinking your fancy planner or high-tech app will control all the curveballs life throws your way.

Create financial margin. As much as possible, stay debt-free or work to get there. Put money in savings. This may not be easy, but it’s not impossible. Married or single, parent or childless, everyone has expenses you don’t know about. Comparing yourself to others in this area will poison your mindset and prevent you from accomplishing your goals.

Start liking Mondays. Mondays represent a clean slate and fresh start. We all have days we dislike our jobs, but for many people what we do is a dream job. If you dread going to work each week, consider what needs to happen in order to transition to something else and start working toward that.

If you're considering hiring a life coach, spend the money on a licensed therapist instead. And don't just google one — get recommendations for a reputable professional who is committed to your wholeness, not to having you in therapy forever. (A side note: we all have issues — some we don't even know exist — and there is no shame in a commitment to living as a whole person. If this is a concept you're still wrapping your head around, start out with Brené Brown's books, The Gifts of Imperfection or Daring Greatly, which are both based on scientific research and not sketchy pop psychology.)

Keep a gratitude journal. Paper or phone app, or even Instagram, it doesn’t matter. If you’re glad for something, write it down or snap a photo, no matter how small or dumb it seems. I literally have “glitter” as an entry in mine because glitter is fun and cheerful so, yes, I am thankful for it.

Listen as if you’re wrong. This doesn’t mean compromising your values. It means leaning into the mystery of life and operating from a core belief that you may not have everything 100% figured out.

Use social media to expand your point of view, not to keep up with the Joneses (my friend Marcy calls this "compare and despair"). Twitter has exploded over the past eighteen months with people who use it to share thought leadership rather than for self-promotion, so there's plenty to choose from in whatever subject you're interested in. Your brain processes social media as an in-person interaction, so if it's constantly draining you, change who you follow.

Take a real vacation. Easier said than done and probably the one I struggle with the most. Destination weddings and business 'fam trips' or conferences are not vacations, even if they’re fun (work is supposed to be fun). A self-described workaholic friend of mine in his fifties once told me that he and his wife never regretted taking a vacation but there were several over the years that they regretted not taking.

Originally published December 2014

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thoughts On Being 1000 Days Sober

Today marks one thousand days since I decided I was done drinking once and for all. Even though I use social media for work, I’m a pretty private person and have very specific boundaries of what I will and won’t post online. I firmly believe that not giving strangers access to every part of one's life does not make a person any less authentic. That said, I’ve chosen to be public about my sobriety because it both helps with accountability and because I’ve gotten countless emails from other people saying it has helped them. Below is something I wrote for a select group of friends at the two year mark and I’m posting it here today with a few additions:

Some random observations on being sober, in no particular order:

*I am a very private person who happens to be well-known in the industry I work in. I have specific boundaries of what I will and won't share about my life online, but my sobriety is one I choose to talk about for one main reason: accountability. It's hard to have a drink at a work event when everyone there, including people you've never met, knows you're not supposed to.

*I can shut down a dance floor sober just as well as I could after a few glasses of champagne.

*It's not uncommon for people to lose friends when they stop drinking. I lucked out in this. I have always had smart, interesting, kind friends who are passionate about the world beyond the end of their driveways and that didn't change.

*While alcohol in the event and hospitality industries is prevalent, it is, for the most part, a social function. In the international development world it's a social function as well as a common substitute for therapy. It doesn't take much imagination to understand why. You see and live incredibly hard things. You feel personally bound by all the red tape. You can't shut out the news because the news stories are about people you have shared meals with and cultures you have called home for a time. Alcohol becomes a coping mechanism, a way to keep doing the "good work" even when it feels anything but good. Burnout is high in this sector, and while alcohol is not the only — or even primary — reason why, it is often a key component and the habit typically carries over even when you pursue another line of work.

*Alcoholism looks different for everyone. Mine was far from stereotypical and I surprised a lot of my friends when I stopped drinking because on the surface it never really appeared to be a problem. I've never been a binge drinker. I didn't get mean or angry. I never broke an NDA, which I'm required to sign for almost every client. I didn't make crazy decisions and I am fortunate in that I have very few alcohol-related regrets. I've never drunk texted or engaged in tipsy online shopping. Recognize that the signs don’t look the same for everyone: you don’t have to have a movie script-worthy problem to have a problem.

*Better mornings. Better skin.

*Being the only non-drinker around a bunch of people who are drinking is the best. eavesdropping. ever. Sí entiendo.

*You can be the designated driver if you want, but you don’t have to be. Your name isn’t Uber. There’s nothing less fun than driving a bunch of inebriated friends around.

*I'm an introvert who really likes people. I have fun wherever I go and I have a rule about always choosing the option with the story. You can do this with a drink and you can do it without — and you can have fun either way.

*You’re not regulated to a life of water or cranberry juice. The bartender can make you any mocktail, just tell them the types of drinks you like (I personally prefer something more on the sour or bitter side than sweet).

*My parents never really drank and I didn’t grow up seeing it at home. It’s common to assume that someone with an issue with alcohol saw it at home all the time. That was not the case for me. The most I saw my parents drink was the occasional margarita at a restaurant.

*If you can't give up something for 30 days, you're addicted. I am still fully addicted to coffee and my phone (though this year I took a six-week Instagram break and it was the best ever).

*The only two "secrets" I know for living a joy-filled life are actively practicing gratitude and actively forgiving. Joy doesn't come from drinking. Joy doesn't come from not drinking.

*It's not about you. And by this I mean my decision to not drink is totally, 100% all about ME. Your sober friends don't expect you to not drink and their not drinking is not a judgment on your choices.

*I will, however, judge you for that iridescent blue mystery fruit girlytini you order while we're out to dinner. If you're going to drink, do it right.

An addendum: If you have a problem and can't kick it alone, there is no shame in going to AA or some other type of support group/program to get help. AA was not a good fit for me, but it is for some people (hundreds of thousands, in fact). Find something that works for you and surround yourself with a group of friends who will keep your best interest in mind and hold you accountable.

7 Thoughts On Choosing A Mentor

I've been really fortunate to have some amazing mentors in my life over the years. People who were and are generous with their wisdom and poured into me, who weren't afraid to lovingly call me out on my BS, who didn't laugh at my crazy, outlandish dreams, and who checked their ego in order to cheer me on. I am a firm believer that we should be lifelong learners and that everyone at ANY age should have a mentor (or several) in their life, especially if you are in a position of leadership (and if you own a business, you are). Here are seven things I've learned over the years about selecting a mentor. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but just a few things that come to mind as I write this:

No mentor is one size fits all and it's fine to have different mentors for different areas of your life. Some people may kill it in business, but have a parenting style you'd rather not emulate. Some may have a marriage relationship you want to learn from but have a managerial approach you don't care for. If you're looking for people who are perfect in all areas of life or work, you will end up navigating life alone.

They should be good at or continually working to improve their conflict resolution skills and will encourage you to voice your truth. Effective leaders use healthy communication to work through conflict. Cowards use the silent treatment to dissolve relationships. While no one is perfect in every area, conflict — large, small, exaggerated or imagined — crops up in every part of life and a good mentor is willing to do the hard work of peacemaking. They won’t push you to sugarcoat reality or to sweep things under the rug and they won't model that in their own life.

A good mentor will be committed to helping shape you into the best version of yourself, not a mini-me of themselves. They will give you the space to be yourself yet will push you out of your comfort zone. Extroverts who insist extraversion is the only way to do life won’t be a good mentor to introverts. Extroverted mentors give introverts space to recharge, recognizing that for an introvert, alone time is life-giving and provides the needed capacity to be effective in interpersonal relationships. Likewise, introverts realize that extroverts need more activities and opportunities to socialize as they draw their energy from other people. A good mentor helps you create the margin you need, not necessarily the margin they need.

A good mentor will recognize that different seasons of your life require different priorities. For a long time, "go big or go home" was a mantra that worked for me. These days when I hear that phrase, my first reaction is, "home, please" and I have made embracing the joy of missing out (JOMO) a top priority. Acknowledging that different seasons bring different priorities is healthy; not just for you, but for your family and friends as well.

Some mentors are a good fit for a season, some for a lifetime. It's okay to recognize when you have outgrown what a particular mentor has to offer you. This doesn't mean they or you have stopped learning, but rather that you are now on different paths. This also doesn't mean that you need to end every aspect of your relationship with them, just that the mentorship part has reached a point of closure.

A good mentor should have similar values as you. It’s okay if they don’t match exactly, and you may be passionate about different things. One of my mentors is passionate about animal rights and, while I feel this issue is important, my passions are very specifically orphan care and issues of systemic poverty. What matters to me is not whether we champion or donate to the same causes, but that we’re both interested in the world beyond the end of our driveways — that I’m not choosing to be mentored by someone who is solely interested in using all their resources to make their own life better in the name of “looking out for number one.”

Choose a mentor based on who they are offline rather than on how put together their life looks on social media. Instagram is typically a (heavily edited, well curated) snapshot of singular life moments, not a portrait of real life as a whole. On the other side of the coin, oversharing via social media is typically a red flag signaling deeper issues and isn’t necessarily an indicator of healthy transparency. Not allowing strangers to have access to every part of one's life does not make someone any less authentic. Choosing a mentor should never be based solely on what you see online.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Moving From Envy to Excellence

When someone newer to the business reaches a shared goal before you do, it can be demoralizing. A bout of envy is normal, it means you're human. No one is generously enlightened and kumbaya every minute of every day.

Staying in that space and allowing your jealousy to descend to bitterness is a mark of mediocrity.

Acknowledging that a tack different than yours worked and wasn't just a stroke of luck for your competitor is a mark of maturity.

Being willing to swallow your pride, reevaluate your own process, and make changes if necessary is a mark of excellence.

Originally published February 2012