Some advice on swearing at work

Did you know that the people that swear the most are the most honest, loyal and intelligent? F***ing right, they are! (Sorry…. Not sorry) And did you know that the people that are the toughest on you actually really care about you? I meet a lot of people. A LOT OF PEOPLE. This is due to my job, my career path, my frequent moves. And I love meeting new people….. Sometimes…. Often, I struggle. I am not one for small talk. I am far too impatient and I always prefer to get to know the real person behind the small talk – their story, their plans, their struggles. We all love someone else’s struggles – that’s what makes us human. Don’t feel guilty (unless you turn straight around and tell everyone else about that persons struggles that is).

Anyway, have you ever wondered why, for some reason, some people stay with you, no matter where you move to, what you do next or how long it’s been since you have seen each other? And then others, that seem to be your very best friend for some time you never see again? I have. Over and over again. I believe it is about interest or caring and honesty.

Firstly, interest and caring, because our paths take some random turns some times and people can only stay close if they are interested in each other’s life, even if they have chosen a different paths. So we accept that our friend is possibly doing something we couldn’t imagine ourselves doing, but we care that they are happy, excited, enthusiastic, successful and we want to learn about why they may be happy, excited, enthusiastic and successful. Apart from the fact that we know they would be successful, because they are our friends therefore they are amazing. Obviously.

Secondly: honesty. They have to be honest with me and I have to be honest with them. Honest and true. True to myself. And I like to swear. A lot. So if I can’t swear in front of someone, then I am not my true self. I realised this a good few years ago now, at which time I had a great boss. I am actually working closely with her again now, thank goodness, and I am sure she will recognise herself when she reads this. She swears a lot (especially during the school run – my favourite time to talk to her) and she was/is tough, but so supportive and understanding and caring. Despite me having to leave my job back then and leaving the country, we were still in touch six years later when she helped me get another job. We have one thing in common: we don’t like people (only special people).

I didn’t realise it at the time, but my PE teacher in school was the same. He made us run barefoot through the snow (this was in Germany, where we actually get snow). He was also our maths teacher and made us do push ups in front of the whole class if we forgot our homework. Trust me, it didn’t happen often! Looking back now, he was the teacher that taught us the most because we all made sure we did the work, even though I couldn’t stand the guy at the time, I really appreciate him now.

My most recent boss: a tough guy, likes getting shit done (hallelujah). Being anxious and a bit too soft at times, I got to learn a lot from him. And guess what? I can swear in front of him. Oh yes. Makes all the difference. And do you know how I know that he knew me and cared despite the tough shell? I could tell he wasn’t impressed when I resigned. However, he asked where I was going and laughed out loud as soon as I said I was becoming something like a professional coffee drinker again. He knew this job change was like Christmas for me!

Lastly… The person that swears more in a professional setting than anyone else I know. He has liked every single blog post so far, despite me not having seen him in over a very tough year, but he is very close to my heart.

Sometimes, the toughest care the most. If you make the cut, it is worth it and most likely for life. And don’t forget: they are also the most intelligent. It’s what I saw on Facebook, so it must be true.

Lessons from a Restless Mind

1,457,827 thoughts a minute plus a bedroom that is far too warm and a dog that won’t stop panting. Like a bad dream, this is far too common an occurrence for me these days. You will know what it is like. Expectations of what life entails are high these days: a full-time job, exercise, date nights, weekends away to see friends which live all over the world. FaceTime with the niece and nephew, FaceTime with the sister, FaceTime with mom, FaceTime with dad. A blog and so many ideas about how to make this world a better place. And that’s all before even thinking about kids!

    I have a restless mind. Despite my anxiety, I love change and I love a new challenge (but am still working on accepting that I may not be able to do everything). I love creating something new and I am quite idealistic and ambitious, so I won’t just stop and give up on something. Well, apart from ballet. I really didn’t like that my teacher was better than me, so I refused to go back. I was only about five years old then. Yep, I am a pleasure to live and work with!

Back to the restlessness though. It seems to be a theme in my life and I used to consider it a curse. My mind would never switch off: not during work, not at the weekend, not on holiday, not at breakfast, not at dinner, definitely not while meditating (didn’t stick with that for long). I procrastinatemeditation-1000062_1280 over every decision, wanting to take the right next step all the time. Once I make a decision, I often look back and wonder whether I have done the right thing.

    However, these days I am proud of it. I like that I am excited about new things and that I see potential everywhere and in everyone. That I always think twenty-three steps ahead. It is tiring, of course, and it is something that I certainly need to learn to control for the sake of everyone around me, but it is also “oh, so exciting”! This is a case of not letting people judge you – they are most likely just jealous, because you’re the bomb and you are scared of nothing. You mean it when you say you like a challenge. And the procrastination? We’ll get that under control…… I am almost sure.

The book and its cover: Some thoughts on prejudices.

One Monday morning, I met a friend on the train that I hadn’t seen in forever. I was quite miserable (yes, some would say that is the default…) as I was on my way to the Black Forest for four days of work. At this stage, I had been working for this particular client for a couple of months and had to head down South for the week, every week. I dreaded it and usually spent most of my Sunday thinking about how much I would hate getting up on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday – like I said, I was miserable, but at least now you understand that I had a right to be!

Anyway, I met my friend who I hadn’t seen for at least five years. We went to university together, were quite close, but went our separate ways once we had graduated and sadly lost touch. We had a million things to talk about in the 40 minutes we spent together before we had to both change trains, but ended up talking about why we were both on this train at this time, both heading off for the week to do a job.

We both got married quite “young”, for Western European standards anyway, and everyone around us thought that was it: We get married, then we’d build or buy a house and have children. We might go back to work part-time, then have the second child. No more than two in total, obviously, as we wouldn’t want to ruin the Western European average of 1.8 (up from 1.7… some of us are really pushing the boat kids out clearly).

What struck us at the time was that we were both there heading to work, being away from home for days on end. Our friends however, those who a few years ago asked “whether we were not too young to get married”, are at home looking after their children. Neither is right or wrong, of course. And please don’t misunderstand: I absolutely and utterly LOVE prejudices! They always give you and me something to talk about and they make fantastic jokes. A lot of them are true, however here is one that is not true: Germans on holiday only get up early to put their towels on the sun beds because the English started it and we had to react. HA! Here is another one: When you get married you don’t have to have children – neither straight away nor at all. Fact.

And the morale of the story: Next time you meet someone and you mentally start to categorise them, think again. Who knows what they are capable of and what their life plan looks like.

Lessons from an anxious mind

If you have read a little bit about me, you will by now know that I suffer from an anxiety disorder and that my mind is absolutely amazing at making a massive thing out of anything and everything. I must have always been the anxious type, as I can still remember going on my first class trip for five days when I was about nine years old and I must have started fretting about it months and months in advance. I would be crying my eyes out again and again thinking about being away from home, of all the things that could go wrong or could be awkward (communal showers!!!!!), about saying goodbye. I remember it as if it was yesterday. I remember the tears when the day came and I said goodbye to my mom and I got on the coach and that was it. I was fine – unbelievable, but true! I survived! Not only did I survive, but as soon as I stepped onto that coach I became the one looking after others. I remember a couple of my friends crying then, so I dried their tears and told them that everything was going to be ok. It’s been the same story over and over again ever since.

cropped-IMG_5182-1-1.jpgI have learned a lot about perfection and expectations and how reality plays out, as you may have seen in my blog post yesterday. But despite having two degrees (who would have thought, right!) and having almost 34 years (it’s my birthday next month – someone remind my husband to get me expensive gifts) of life experience I still go through the process and worry about things non-stop. You will know what this is like and I am sure you worry about things too. Worrying is something we are meant to do, something that can keep us from harm – but if it keeps us from doing things that could make us grow and happy, then it becomes a problem.

Do you know the feeling before a job interview or a presentation or an audition? You feel like you need the toilet, your heart is racing, you are feeling warm and really just want to go home? That’s what life is like for me non-stop. I feel like that very, very often. My cure: confrontation. My shrink at the time of my diagnosis ordered me to take the train and go shopping (tough life, I know….) and to push through the anxiety and panic, so that I learned that nothing bad would happen. Ever since, whenever something scares me, I do it. And I do it again. And again. So far, I have survived every single time, as you can tell. Not only have I survived, but I have ended up with a tattoo…. Because I am scared of needles…. That confrontational approach really didn’t work: I am still scared of needles.

Most of the time it does work though and it makes you stronger and more confident. It can be exhausting, because you are on edge for a while trying to fend of anxious thoughts, but you will be all the more proud of yourself afterwards. And guess what? After losing it over a five day class trip, I went on several more class trips over the years, spend a year in the USA as an exchange student and I am now living over 600 miles away from my family. I still hate saying goodbye, but once it’s done, it’s done.

From Zero to Vulnerable

I have recently read two books by the brilliant Brené Brown – The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly, both fascinating books all about one of your and my biggest concerns: Not being perfect. Don’t tell my husband, but it is impossible to be perfect. You know that. I know that. And we are intelligent people. Despite all of the above though we consistently aim for perfection – with and almost 100% failure rate. So much for learning from our mistakes.
I have recently thought a lot about this. Changing jobs, taking on extra responsibilities and undertaking new and unfamiliar challenges, such as this very blog, send my desire to be perfect into overdrive.

The definition of “perfect”
But then, what is “perfect”? Let’s look at this more closely using a universal example: my perfect man should be taller than me, but not too tall. He should be bald or have short hair, lots of tattoos and my, I do love a uniform. I am not romantic whatsoever, so couldn’t do with someone that arranges candlelight dinners and rose petals on the bed (who cleans that mess up?)… I am sure you are just shaking your head, because you love a full head of hair and a candlelight dinner. Or you may prefer women to start with and they really, really should have long hair. So just between you and me, we could already spend the rest of our lives arguing about Mr/Mrs “Perfect”.

Getting ready to fail
I’m the type of person that will always try her best and some days that may not be much. But I will show up and give anything a go, listen and learn, try and improve and possibly fail. I start off by thinking about what the worst possible outcome could be for whatever is in front of me. If I can live with that outcome, then I will give it a go. Taking that strategy gives you the chance to celebrate small achievements and increase your confidence. I’m sure you have experienced the opposite: Thinking something will be easy and it turned into a complete car crash! Been there, done that. It usually is the little things that we don’t worry about or prepare for that stick with us. Cringeworthy conversations with our boss or client because they don’t get a joke you just made, the text message for the husband that went to the coworker on 27th of April 2013 at 5:48 pm….. Those are the things I remember when lying awake at night.
In her book Daring Greatly, Brown quotes a line from a Leonard Cohen song, which really stuck with me and I hope it will strike a chord with you too: “There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.” Go and light up the world!

The walk of same

It is Monday. As if that’s not bad enough in itself, we are now going to sit down and take each other through our plans for the week.
I’m not listening and you’re not listening, but it’s gotta be done: The team meeting aka what managers think is an acceptable form of communication and participation (really?).

Meetings are my worst enemy. It’s meetings in any shape of form: face-to-face, conference calls, web conferences. When people get together and there is no structure, then my German self and I hate it. Sometimes, there is a pseudo structure (= Agenda), which should give all participants an idea of what to expect, but no one seems to notice. So I constantly end up in a room full of the wrong people that are not prepared and not in a position to make decisions. Sometimes, just sometimes, the decision maker makes it (cue everyone sitting up in their chairs), but doesn’t have much time, so again the agenda is ignored, the group rushes through the key information, trying to get a nod before the VIP is leaving.

I’m really not a fan – can you tell? And I’m not alone. I recently saw that the majority of people asked to complete a survey on meetings stated that they’d rather have their wisdom teeth removed than sit in another meeting. Shocking huh! At least now we know where the phrase “it’s like pulling teeth” is coming from….

Chapter 5

I am just reading this book, which is based on a sliding door moment and therefore tells three different versions of the same story – same characters and all. Very confusing. Even more so because when I said I was reading the book, what I meant was that I am actually listening to it in audio form. Oh yes, that’s right. No turning back a couple of pages to get an idea of which version I am currently on. Driving me bonkers!

I’m sure you have read a similar book before. One that goes on and on, telling the story from the point of view of different characters and none of it makes sense. In fact, you get to the point where you wonder whether the book is for you or was indeed a waste of money. And then you get to chapter five and the first pieces of the puzzle come together. This is when you realise why the different characters are connected and you are curious how the story ends. And every now and again, it turns out to be your new favourite book.

This is change. This is my life. I am a project manager and almost every new project is like this. And for you it might be like this when you start a new job. For your friend or colleague it might be like this when the software at work gets changed. I am sure you have been there! Frustrating, right?

But guess what? It’s fine. And here is how you get through the first four chapters of the new job or project:

  1. Get it straight from the horse’s mouth!

Is there anyone around you that knows it all? Ask them questions. And more questions. And more questions. People like to be considered the expert and are generally happy to spill the beans.

  1. Totes take notes!

If you are anything like me, then you will make some scribbles and never look at them again. BUT those scribbles, the words and pictures you draw will help you sort and categorise the information you have soaked up. I can recommend mind maps for complex scenarios that allow you to move individual items of information around.

  1. Get the hang of it!

You’ll realise you’ve hit chapter 5 of your project, when it starts to make sense and doesn’t sound like double Dutch anymore. Go back and review your notes, scribbles and mind maps (if you still know where they are) and see whether there is something you can add to the discussion or project.

  1. Drop it (into the conversation) like it’s hot!

Make suggestions and comments to show your worth. Go back to the expert from the start and see if you can run something by them first, if you want to make sure you got it right – again, they will feel honoured to be asked their opinion or advice!

  1. Own it like a boss!

Easy, right? And so normal. Jumping in the deep end is for winners. You win!

The lesson here? Change can be scary and you will feel out of your depth, but you may end up top dog and loving it!