The Blog

Have you heard the advice to hang back in meetings until you’ve been at the company a while? To make sure you know what’s going on before you open your mouth?

Read This Before Our Next Meeting author Al Pittampalli disagrees. Who’s in a better person to ask why things are done a certain way, after all, than the new guy? Why not take advantage of one of the best things about a new hire, her fresh perspective?

I can guess what you’re thinking: “I’ve done this, and I’ve been shot down.” Which is where diplomacy comes in, Al says. You don’t have to ask questions recklessly, or take issue with the fundamental purpose of the organization.

Al says people like to be asked good questions. You can prepare them for those by asking permission to ask. I know. It sounds redundant, and unnecessarily polite. But Al says it works. If you ease into a question you’ll get less resistance.

I believe him. When Darrell watches me edit a post I’m more likely to welcome his reverie about a keyboard shortcut if he prefaces it with, “Would you like a suggestion?” Al can relate. That’s another reason he’s fascinated by meetings and their impact on productivity. “They’re a window into an organization,” he says, “and an opportunity to change the culture.”

You can’t change anything, Al says, if you don’t speak up.

If you do that nicely and the people you work with don’t appreciate your contribution, maybe it’s time to ask for another meeting -- with someone at a different company, who’s eager to hear what you have to say and will hire you to keep saying it.

My friend Brooks Palmer is a psychic. Clutter Buster is his official title, but I think he’s psychic. The last time I had him on the talk show I told him what a minimalist I am. I thought it was a good thing, and it can be. But Brooks offered -- after we’d stopped recording -- he’d sensed a sadness in my voice. “I want a bigger life,” I heard myself admit.

I’ve been working on that, and Brooks could tell. After we recorded the most recent show, he said I sounded better. Looser. More free.

That was one report card. The other one was during the interview. I’d asked about people who are mean, and he knew I wasn’t asking for a friend. He knew I had some of those in my orbit.

It had been my choice, I’d reasoned, to let people vent. They weren’t mad at me, after all -- which they were quick to reassure me after cooling off. They always felt better, but I never did.

Brooks wasn’t surprised.

If you’re pals with people who are mean to you, he says, it’s like taking punches. Especially if they keep at it after you’ve told them how much it hurts. Especially if they don’t respond with an apology and a change in behavior. Most definitely if they blame you for “making too much out of it” or “being too sensitive.”

What if the person who’s the toughest on yourself is you?

Brooks helped me see that recognizing it is a great first step. Pay attention to that little voice inside your head, and notice when it isn’t being very nice.

I haven’t yet broken the habit of beating up on myself.

But I’m trying not to beat myself up for that!

Do you have an important telephone call to make? The Phone Lady, Mary Jane Copps, has some advice.

Introduce yourself and jump right into the reason you called. Don’t ask, “How are you?” Show the person you respect his time.

Keep whatever you say to twenty seconds. Yep. Twenty seconds. It sucks, I know. But we’re all busy -- and pretending otherwise won’t get you anywhere.

Whatever you do, Mary Jane urges, spend those twenty seconds on what’s in it for him to engage you. Yes, you’ll have to figure that out. Yes, you’ll have to practice with someone else until it sounds natural. But this is a classic case of not getting a second chance to make a first impression. Don’t blow it.

And finally, close with an open-ended question.

You might not get what you want, but you might learn something that’ll help you get it next time!

I’m surprised I miss that class I’ve been telling you about. That doesn’t make sense. I’m a learn-by-doing gal, not someone who learns by attending meetings.

There are a couple of people I looked forward to seeing once a week, but we can stay in touch. One of them will join us on the show next month to talk about a mutual interest.

So what’s going on?

Oh.

The class provided structure to a project I’m starting from scratch, and I miss the feeling I’m making progress. All I can see at the moment is fog, and I’m trying to be at peace with that.

Someone once told me I’d look back on the times I was the most afraid as being the most fun.

I take a lot of comfort in remembering that so far, he’s been right!

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What if your life was a do-over? What if you had a clean slate, the chance to do something totally different -- something amazing?

Would you take it?

If the thought of making a decision like that terrifies you, I can relate -- and this might help.

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photo of 7th Avenue and Bleecker Street in New York courtesy of Katie Anderson

You might remember me telling you making the beds is an adventure this summer. Darrell’s in on it now, and what used to be a daily three-minute diversion is now a full-on fifteen-minute production. You’d think -- for those fifteen minutes, anyway -- we were working on a Broadway show.

It reminds me how much fun we’ve had renovating the house (yeah, this one) or creating a photo display for Katie’s graduation party or even making Christmas cookies before that tradition got out of hand and we bailed on it.

We work in conversation, with ideas. What a change of pace it is, to indulge what I think is a flair for design.

I have visions. Before long, thanks to Darrell, there they are! Better than I could’ve imagined. You should see Katie’s dressing room, for example. Movie stars would swoon.

Other people have turned their hobbies into careers. Still others find their day jobs easier to bear if they’re daydreaming about their hobbies.

Whatever the motivation, I dare you to find a downside to noticing what delights -- and following it wherever it leads.

Shopping for groceries is an interesting proposition for Darrell and me. One reason? The conversation. It takes us forever to weave through the aisles because we’re talking -- and I find it difficult to walk and talk at the same time. So we’ll stop, and just talk. We’ll move aside to let someone get at the soup or whatever -- only to discover, more often than you might guess, the person isn’t after the soup. He wants in on our conversation.

The same thing happens when Darrell’s driving. Good luck getting anywhere if you keep talking after telling him where you want to go. He’ll miss a turn, or drive past an exit. His mind is on the conversation as opposed to the destination.

Not a bad way to go through life, actually.

One thing at a time, all-out.

140608 for DWWEver notice how repetitive life is sometimes? How do you keep from going crazy with boredom?

One way is to sprinkle more play into your day.

Making beds used to bore me, until I looked at it as meditation. Now I find it soothing.

This summer, while Katie’s home from college, it’s party time.

Most of her stuffed animals are in storage, but she took a few with her to New York and returned home with a few more. She was so enchanted the first time I made a scene with them on her bed I decided to make that the routine. Now it’s something new every morning, with different props -- and housework feels like an adventure. That doesn’t even count the giggle fit when she discovers the latest.

Total time investment? Three minutes a day, tops. Cost? Nothing.

Memories?

Oh, yes.

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photo courtesy of Katie Anderson