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Life Inside a Chaos Bubble

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


Life Inside a Chaos BubbleRecently I used the term the “Chaos Bubble.” It happened during a conversation in which I was describing how some people whose time is in such high demand actually become immune to the whirlwind of chaos surrounding them. So to properly define this new concept, a Chaos Bubble occurs when the heavy demands of your work and hectic lifestyle create a protective layer to the outside world and insulate you from the chaos.

I’m of course basing this off of several people I have met who have the “luxury” of experiencing this Chaos Bubble phenomenon. These people are in such high demand that their email and voice mail are consistently filled to capacity. Not a single new message can be received. Their phone rings but almost always results in a missed call due to a dead phone battery or because they’re in and out of meetings all day. Their secretaries or personal assistants are the gatekeepers. If you need input or an approval, your best bet is to get the message to their #2 or risk it bouncing off this Chaos Bubble never to be seen, heard or so much as acknowledged.

To reach such a threshold where chaos becomes a protection and no longer a threat, first takes going through many uncomfortable, and at times unbearable, levels of chaos. It’s fairly comparable to being in the eye or a hurricane. Outside of this inner circle a fierce storm of mayhem is constantly brewing, but inside all you experience is an eerie silence and false sense of calm. To get inside this eye, you may spend years being whipped by the winds and swirled around to the point of not knowing which end is up, but once you make it to the inner circle, the chaos spins around you—not within you.

For the most part, chaos is an unwelcome and heavily avoided part of life. But when the dinging and ringing of emails, iPads, cell phones and calendar reminders reach a high enough volume, they have the ability to create a white noise that cancels out their sounds all together—leaving just you and your thoughts inside your own Chaos Bubble.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2016 in Life

 

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Thanking Up: Sharing gratitude with your superiors

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


Thanking Up Sharing gratitude with your superiorsRecently I have talked about how the career of a consultant often brings with it the feeling of having many bosses instead of being your own. While I enjoy the variety of work and array of relationships this alternative career path has provided, I still experience moments that remind me I am my own boss and at times – I stand alone.

In past traditional work experiences, I always worked under a direct supervisor. I was fortunate to have these bosses often treat me as a peer and encourage me to share my opinions, but at the end of the day, it was their knowledge and expertise upon which all decisions were made. Though I’ve become comfortable and confident in finally being the decision maker, I can’t quite replace the other benefit a direct supervisor provided – consistent praise.

A client-consultant relationship is not the same as a boss-employee relationship, though comparable. Full time employees often receive regular performance reviews or quarterly meetings to discuss their progress and reward them with a “gold star” when appropriate. As consultants, we’re often out of sight and out of mind from the traditional work relationship. So while we may luckily bypass the formalities of performance reviews, we miss out on the regular thanks and praise for a job well done. Realizing the impact positive feedback has on my own performance and confidence led me to an even greater realization.

Bosses need praise too.

Your job title or hierarchy in a company shouldn’t determine if you receive praise or from whom. I regret to look back on all the times I didn’t thank my previous bosses for a job well done. They all had to make some tough decisions and accomplish tasks that weren’t easy – but they did successfully. Yet because they were the boss and I was the employee I didn’t see it as my place to tell them what a great job they were doing for fear of sounding like a parent praising a child. I regret more to think of all of the times I should have communicated how impressed or proud I was of a client for excelling in various ways. Again, I never wanted to be mistaken for assuming the position of a superior when I more fit the role of an employee or a peer.

Some of my clients now have several other employees working under them and are always offering words of praise to keep them motivated. They are the same people who put in even longer hours, make sacrifices and put their reputation on the line every day to keep the business afloat. On top of all of that, they are also expected to motivate others. I’d say that deserves some motivation in return!

It’s time to bring positive feedback full circle and to break through the misconception that only a superior can offer praise. It’s time we start thanking up.

I don’t think there would be one person who would be offended to receive a message saying “You’re doing an incredible job – keep up the good work!” every now and then. While such a message is appreciated and expected from a superior, imagine how much more it would mean coming from an entry-level employee or an intern who simply wanted to express how impressed he or she was with your work. Speaking from my own experiences, sometimes the most unexpected compliments are the ones that stick with you throughout the rest of your life.

Have you ever “thanked up” before? Or has someone “thanked up” to you? I’d love to hear YOUR story and how it made you feel!

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2016 in Business & Success

 

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Finding a New Perspective at 13,000 Feet

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


Not much in life shocks or scares me anymore. I’m not an adrenaline junkie or immune to fear, but I just haven’t experienced much in my daily life lately that has gotten my heart racing. I began to question whether I was apathetic to life or just not pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, so I decided to take an extreme test of fear, courage and insanity to find the answer. I decided to go skydiving.

Throughout the whole experience I was most apprehensive about kneeling at the door of the plane, looking down at a world so small, it’s barely recognizable…and not feeling a single thing. How sad would it be to discover that life isn’t enough to satisfy you? With everything beautiful and wonderful to experience in our world, I think the worst emotion to suffer through is the lack of emotion altogether.

Skydiving proved to me that I am very capable of feeling every emotion and in rapid succession. As the door opened and I inched my way toward it, I had no time to over-think what was happening—I jumped. And like that, I was free falling to the earth for close to a minute. In those 60 seconds I experienced doubt, fear, confusion, lack of control, excitement, happiness, appreciation, love and pride. When the parachute successfully released, I felt an unexpected sense of calm. I was still falling rapidly toward the earth, but in comparison to free falling, I was relaxed and content to just enjoy the ride.

By the time I landed, sitting in the grass, all of the stresses that had seemed so overwhelming must have blown off me on the way down. The only way to describe how I felt is to compare it to having just gotten the most amazing massage. I was so relaxed and almost in a dream-like state, my heart rate might have been 40 beats a minute. I understand how ridiculous this sounds, comparing skydiving to a massage, so I don’t blame you if you don’t believe me—I wouldn’t have either 24 hours ago.

I loved my experience, but I’m not “addicted” to this extreme sport and I may choose to never go back. I think I’ve gained from it everything I needed to and I don’t want to risk a second experience tarnishing the spiritual awakening it was for me.

When you’re free falling 13,000 feet above the earth, your mind can focus on little else but finding the energy to breathe. And maybe that’s what this whole experience helped me to realize. Life is made up of a series of breaths and no matter how stressful or uncomfortable the situation may be, as long as I find the strength and composure to take that one next breath, everything else—just like the world from two miles up—is small in comparison.

First breath out of the plane

Scott during his free fall

Back on the ground, coming off of an adrenaline high!

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2015 in Life

 

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Life Lesson: Above the Clouds the Sun is Still Shining

The sky above the clouds in Philadelphia on December 12, 2014.

The sky above the clouds in Philadelphia on December 12, 2014.

Last month, I was flying from Orlando to Philadelphia after ending a weeklong “workcation.” As if it wasn’t hard enough coming back home after some relaxing time away, we also had to trade in the sunny skies of Florida for the thick layer of icy clouds above Philadelphia.

I looked out the airplane window as we began our descent and saw what looked like a flat arctic tundra as far as the eye could see. Without the plane’s wing in view, anyone might believe that the photo (to the left) was taken near the North Pole.

The whole scene felt surreal, like what might exist outside the gates of heaven. No, not because of the clouds, but because of the bright blue skies that shined above the clouds. Regardless of actual temperature, the view looked warm, calm and peaceful – and it helped teach me a very valuable lesson that couldn’t have come at a more perfect time in my life.

Above the clouds, the sun is still shining.

That week away was my first real period of extended relaxation since becoming a mother (family vacations just aren’t quite as relaxing with a toddler). I had been looking forward to it for months and coming home – especially to Pennsylvania in December – was the harsh reality that I would have to get back to my less than glamorous responsibilities as an entrepreneur and mom with no reprieve for the foreseeable future. To add to this dismal outlook, my husband was headed straight into his busy season of travel, taking him away from us on average half of the days each month through the end of January.

I wasn’t looking forward to that plane’s descent, the one that would take me not only under the clouds and away from the sun, but back to project deadlines, toddler tantrums, holiday stress and playing the role of two parents. But that final glimpse of blue skies was the hope I needed to remind me that the sun will always be there – even throughout my gloomier days.

Weeks later, this Pennsylvania winter is only getting started and it’s been days (maybe weeks) since I’ve really felt the sun on my skin. It’s tempting to give in to the weight of the clouds and lose sight of the joy that exists just a layer above.

That’s the broader life lesson I think we can all take away from this snapshot.

The clouds you are under right now are likely far more than just the weather. Maybe it’s post-holiday financial stress, work, relationship issues or simply the winter blues. No matter what “clouds” you have hanging above your head right now, be encouraged by the sun that is shining not too far away on the other side.

Just as the sun will eventually burn away these winter clouds and bring us back to the summer sun, our own internal burning determination to melt away the hypothetical clouds in our lives also has the power to bring us back to blue skies and happier times.

Were you inspired by this post? Share your own life lesson that you have recently learned!

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2015 in Life

 

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Every Business Needs A Designated Worrier

problem solving rubix cubeThere are few things I enjoy more than being prepared. This should come as no surprise to those of you who know me (or who have least read this blog for a little while). Organization, planning and preparation are all means to staying in control and finding that sense of stability in a career field that is anything but stable. Aside from my own sanity, I’ve also found that my love for preparedness has become the quality my clients most appreciate. I play the role of the “anticipator” and the problem solver before issues even arise.

Essentially, I have become the designated worrier for many of my clients. Part of what I do is to anticipate potential communication issues and crises and nip them in the bud long before they bloom into a full-blown problem. Business owners are busy. They can’t put all their time and effort into worrying about what could go wrong when their time is better spent maximizing what is going right. This is why, separate from the business owner or CEO, every successful company needs that one person who can anticipate and put out fires before anyone else sees the smoke.

The role of the designated worrier.

Though my expertise lies in Public Relations, I sometimes feel like I could also claim a degree in risk management with some of the experiences I’ve had. Dealing with the politics of politics, handling registration for large-scale conferences and communicating with constituencies of more than 70,000 individuals are all in a day’s work. You can imagine how there’s room for much to go awry if not carefully monitored. When a client comes to me with a communications goal, my purpose is two-fold. I first craft a plan to reach this goal, but I also (even unbeknownst to them) note the challenges, backlashes and potential miscommunications that could result during implementation. Though I’m hired to make things go right, anticipating the things that could go wrong is a critical component to creating a prepared and effective communications plan. Not doing so seems downright, well…risky.

If you anticipate a problem, anticipate a solution.

If you’re lucky, all your worrying and anticipating will be the furthest you’ll need to address any particular problem. This is a good thing. However, wishing and worrying alone is no real solution. If you anticipate a problem, you must also anticipate a solution. To be the most effective worrier I can be for a client, I’ve found that I must also present a solution at the same time I’m presenting a problem. Simply saying “We have a customer that’s really upset about a mistake made with his order,” is not enough. You must also anticipate the client’s next question which will likely be “What do we need to do about it?” If it’s a solution you can handle on your own, handle it without being asked. This is what will make you invaluable to an employer – knowing you are not only able to identify problems, but solve them without micromanaging.

A potential problem doesn’t have to result in a real problem.

Yes, for so many instances in life worrying doesn’t ever achieve more than a stomach ulcer. There’s an important distinction between worrying about things you have no control over verses worrying about things you do. In business, many worries are valid and do fall within your realm of control. It’s far more effective to be proactive than reactive. There are enough real-life examples to prove this saves insane amounts of time, money, damage to reputations and sometimes the business as a whole. But most importantly is that with the right worrying and anticipation, a problem that would ordinarily seem inevitable can be successfully avoided altogether. Just because a problem is looming overhead is no reason to throw your hands up and let it come crashing down. There is always opportunity to lessen the impact – and there is when having an effective worrier in charge makes all the difference!

Who is the designated worrier in your business? If it’s you, what tactics do you use to accurately anticipate problems and solve them before they escalate? Share your thoughts by commenting below – your input could help us all get one step closer to solving our own rubix cube of business problems!

 

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Finding the Balance In Life’s Negatives and Positives

yin yang symbolI once read a philosophy which stated: we have no right to ask when hardship comes, “Why did this happen to me?” unless we ask the same question for every moment of success that comes our way. Take a moment and really process this. How much more critically do we analyze the negatives, shortcomings and misfortunes of life compared to the positives we’re also given? I know I personally take any set-back hard. I question what I did wrong to bring this on myself and carry a weight on my shoulders for hours or days. Yet, for all the things that go right in any given day, I don’t dedicate this same time to appreciating these moments. When negatives carry such a greater weight in your life, that hanging balance becomes skewed and so does your perspective.

I believe there’s something we can really learn from this philosophy – and it’s to keep a balanced perspective of both the ups and downs of we’re given.

In Business

In running my own business, this is where I feel like I experience the highest peaks and deepest valleys of positives and negatives. It’s not the day to day variances of ups and downs, but the big changes to which I really take notice and take to heart. For example, signing a new client – one that I’m very excited to work with and think I can help a great deal – is an extremely high peak for me. I feel emotions of excitement, stability and like I’m continuing to make progress toward the direction I want Bennis Inc to go. On the other hand, when I experience a setback – a lost client, error in my work or something else – the emotions I experience from this are just as extreme, but far more lasting. I would estimate that experiencing something negative with my business weighs on me ten times as much as an equal balance of positive news. Why is this? I suppose, I overly lay the blame of a negative on myself while not giving the same credit for a positive in which I’ve worked hard to earn. I often chalk all good things up to luck or timing, when in reality, there’s much more to it than that. This is when we must remember that we have no right to ask when hardship comes, “Why did this happen to me?” unless we ask the same question for every moment of success that comes our way.

In Life

In contrast to the peaks and valleys of running a business, in life I seem to over analyze the little things. If I forgot to press start on the dishwasher before leaving the house, I get agitated with my oversight and that the dishes won’t be clean right upon my return. When I’m driving and take the wrong exit or can’t find an ideal parking place, I get annoyed with the lost time and additional effort this is costing me. Yet, I can hardly recall all of the times that these things occur like clockwork, without my thinking – or appreciating. It seems I only remember what disrupts me or bothers me. This is no way to live, right? To apply this philosophy to life, we must embrace our inner child a little bit more and allow ourselves to become genuinely excited for the small blessings every single day. Did the grocery store have your favorite snack still in stock? Did you find an open pump on your first try when filling up with gas? Did you simply remember to lock the door when you left the house (and didn’t second guess yourself and have to go back to check)? These all carry positive weight in our lives and we should be sure to place them appropriately upon our scales. The negatives will always weigh on us without our trying, but we must make more of a conscious effort to also value the weight of our positives.

How do you identify with this philosophy and balance of the negatives and positives in your life? Do you over analyze the bad and overlook the good or do you give thanks for both? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Business & Success, Life

 

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The Things I Would Never Know Without Facebook

facebook loginFacebook – what was life ever like before this social networking phenomenon? Old flames and friendships have been rekindled, businesses have taken off and tanked and jobs have been found and lost all as a result of our publicly displayed interactions on this single web site. With more than 750,000,000 unique visitors estimated each month, you’re in the minority (at least within modern society) if you’ve chosen to stand strong and quit or resist the temptation of joining Facebook. Because of the nature of my business and my own curiosity with other people’s lives, I don’t think I’ll ever join the ranks of Facebook protestors, just as I don’t anticipate becoming Mennonite anytime soon. However, just entertaining this idea did lead me to ponder what would I be missing if I deleted Facebook and disconnected from the world of “likes” and “status updates.” What would I never know if it wasn’t for Facebook? So here is my comical, but insightful list of the knowledge and resources I’d lack without my daily logins to the world’s most popular social networking site:

Last Names

Without Facebook I’m fairly certain I would know as many of my acquaintances’ last names as I would their phone numbers without my cell phone contact list. Which means I would basically only know the last names of my family members…maybe. Facebook has become my flash card memory game for learning people’s full names and placing them with a face. I’m always proud when I can reference someone by their full name without stuttering or second guessing. What I don’t also reveal is that in addition to knowing their last name, I also likely know what they ate for lunch and the name of their family dog…

Birthdays

What better way to make someone feel special than to remember them on their birthday? Facebook has made this nearly fool proof so long as everyone chooses to list their birthday on their profile. I’m not a supporter of the cheesy and impersonal birthday wishes on someone’s Facebook wall (in fact, I think it’s been years since I’ve done this for anyone), but Facebook does help to prompt me to send them a more personal message or mention it in conversation if I see them that day or week. Is this a cheap shortcut to actually committing birthdays to memory? Absolutely. But I know I always appreciate a birthday wish and rarely accuse someone of only knowing this because of Facebook – particularly if the wish is accompanied by cake or an alcoholic beverage. I’ll take it!

Life Milestones

Even more useful than a birthday reminder is being cued in to the major life milestones of my contacts. Without Facebook I would have to rely on second-hand information or class reunions to tell me about my acquaintances marriages, children, new jobs and even the less happy parts of life. This instant news feed of pictures and posts allows me to stay in the know and offer support or congratulations where warranted. It’s safe to assume that with the volume of “friends” most of us have on Facebook, most people look, but don’t comment on such milestones. However, the pride and excitement we experience from announcing our news to the masses is well worth the couple of haters that might come along with it.

Insignificant and Trivial Facts

Life milestones are one thing – they’re newsworthy, interesting and I’m happy to be kept informed of them. On the flip side, there are far more insignificant and trivial items that are also shared on Facebook that I could manage without ever knowing. When I spend more than 5 minutes of my day reading about someone’s rant over a ref’s bad call, cliché quotes or a self-photo shoot taken in someone’s bathroom mirror – I know that is 5 minutes of my life I will never get back and I need to remove myself from my computer immediately. There’s no denying that Facebook can be a huge time waster, so we have to keep in check what type of information we’re consuming and know when to step away.

How to Reach Someone Without an Email

Back to the more useful elements of Facebook, I’ve found it to be an extremely reliable resource of reaching people who I don’t have an email for. Mostly these are friends or distant relatives, but in some cases Facebook has also helped me to connect with someone regarding something business related. They had a bad email address or were unresponsive, yet answered my Facebook message within minutes. It’s amazing! Without Facebook, my “Plan B” for reaching someone aside from email or phone would be reduced to smoke signals or a carrier pigeon. While both are creative, they yield far less reliable results.

My Husband

I could say I saved this as the last item on my list because it’s my most exciting and most life-changing thing I gained from Facebook, but in reality it’s because I really didn’t appreciate how impactful Facebook has been on my life until I started thinking a bit deeper. It wasn’t quite as awkward or painful as an online dating experience, but the story of how we met is a pretty entertaining one that you can read more about here. My husband Scott and I first connected on Facebook after being introduced by mutual friends. Without a platform for social networking, I’m not sure how we would have followed-up and communicated further since no numbers were initially exchanged. Chances are good that the excitement to see each other again would have faded and that little spark fizzled out. But thanks to Facebook, that wasn’t the case! Our story is far from unique and the accurate number of couples who have connected and ultimately married as a result of Facebook would be hard to quantify.

To wrap up with just a brief moment of shameless self-promotion – for those of you who are among the 750,000,000 monthly visitors to Facebook, you should also connect with Bennis Inc here: Facebook.com/BennisInc. I would love to soon have our number of “likes” reflect the number or loyal readers and followers of the Bennis Inc Blog. Don’t have Facebook? I still want you to connect! Instead, comment below and tell us why you made this choice.

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2013 in Life, Social Media, Technology

 

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