Tag Archives: career

When It’s Over, Is It Over? (The Monday Fits)

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The ultimate test of a man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard. – Gaylord Nelson-


The life of a hero, idol, or even a dreamer are often legendary. The further from the bottom they climb, the better the story there is to tell. There are successful people who are chameleons who continue to mold their career, or have different stages in their life where it seems like there isn’t an end. But the average person is planning for their retirement. Some times that retirement doesn’t happen as early as they want to, or they cannot financially leave the workplace. Whether it is financial or they are not able to let go, when is it time to walk away? This subject is kind of a continuation of  last weeks Monday Fit. Every millennial or generation X’er works or has worked for a boss (or knows someone) who works where the person in charge has no plans to retire, and that should be the number one thing that they should be thinking about. Unfortunately, it has plagued our two generations with the reputation of being too aggressive and trying to push baby boomers out faster than we should or before it’s time. Now as a disclaimer, I am not SAYING every person who is older needs to retire, there are people who retire too early, or there are people capable until they are 90, because they have the capacity…. but that ain’t everybody .

But how do you know when it’s time to go? Better yet, as Millennials, how do we learn from inadequate leadership or managers? It may seem like we are a generation wanting to get paid more sooner, and be in charge sooner, but I promise a decent salary and a good manager, most millennials would be happy, just as much as any other generation.  More times than not, it’s about feeling appreciated and recognized for your contribution, and there is nothing wrong with that.  Part of the problem is the work culture baby boomers grew up in was harsher on their employees, and provided for less freedom, autonomy, so that when they get to a certain level in the career, that is the first time they may be really leading or feeling appreciated, why would they want to let go?

Being in Austin, I talk to a lot of millennials in start-ups or tech companies, and the reason they are less likely to feel frustrated is because they are given autonomy, freedom, and the ability to make decisions in the business structure, but understand that they are not in charge, but feel appreciated. That is the kind of environment that we should be striving for. But is the answer that simple? Probably not.

So let’s take a look at an industry where when it’s time to go, you don’t really have many options, and yet, time and time again, the aging workforce STILL takes forever to walk away, and it ain’t about the money. I think of my favorite football player, Peyton Manning, who could ( some would say should) retire today. He is going to the Hall of Fame one day, he already has a great legacy, AND he has a championship. But of course, he wants more, just like my least favorite player, Tom Brady, who know has 4 championships. But with Peyton Manning, I would hate to admit, his performance is declining and it was noticeable in the playoffs. Now Peyton’s decline is still better than half of the quarterbacks out there, but just like other quarterbacks who could hang it up, he plans to play next year.

Now his profession is the kind when your performance is declining you have to close up shop. Not because you are no longer going to be paid, but he’s own health and safety would be better served if he wasn’t out on the field with men half of his age. I wonder, how many tough games ahead I will have to watch and how painful will it be for me. But the question remains, why is it so hard to let go, when we aren’t the best at something anymore? How do we pass the torch in our industries, when the older population can contribute, but maybe not at the same level, and the younger generation is hungry?

If you look at most professional development advice for millennials, in most people’s top five things to do, is get a mentor. That’s right, if you’re under the age of 40 and you want to develop your skills and continue to improve, mentorship is key. Most people I admire professionally all had mentors who lead them and taught them along the way. That one person showed them the ropes, told them where the traps are, and how to avoid them. For some, they never had a mentor, they learned from trial and error, and you know these people, because they emphasize, that they made a lot of mistakes, but that they made it through; either path works.

But my charge is if you’re in a leadership or managerial role with millennials or generation X’ers under you that are eager to learn and you’re not mentoring, that is one sign it is time for you to go. If you’re more worried about the younger generation taking your spot, and making life hard for them in the bad way (not being hard on them to make them stronger way) then it’s time for you to go. Why do I say this? Because it is just as important to excel in a position and it is to bring in the best generation who can be vital assets.

Look at the benefits of reverse mentoring popularized by former GE Chairman Jack Welch. Now the idea is still a little crazy to me, because I have never seen it in practice, but I wish there was more of it in my industry. Reverse mentoring is described as “a situation where the old fogies in an organization realize that by the time you’re in your forties and fifties, you’re not in touch with the future the same way the young twenty-something’s. They come with fresh eyes, open minds, and instant links to the technology of our future”.  (source) This method is so key to the workplace, especially for millennials but also for baby boomers. And as baby boomers are retiring later and later, it will be important to accept this change.

According to a Gallup poll, the average age Americans reported retiring has increased over the last 14 years since the poll started to be collected. Although the difference is small, in 1991, Americans, on average, reported retiring at 57. In 2014, the average age at which Americans report retiring has increased to 62. (source) The polls cities that  “retirement age may be increasing because many baby boomers are reluctant to retire. Older Americans may also be delaying retirement because of lost savings during the Great Recession or because of insufficient savings even before the economic downturn”(source)

The reality is that the financial state of the country may require baby boomers to continue to retire later and later, so we have to be deliberate and intentional about the work environment in which we develop. It is important how we nurture and grow new and raw talent. Although our generation may seem whiny, demanding, and impatient, but as I’ve mentioned before, “Attitude reflects leadership”. We are a product of our environment, let’s make it an even better one.

Let us be sure that those who come after will say of us in our time, that in our time we did everything that could be done – Ronald Reagan

Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls… Well, Maybe Just a Little Bit (The Monday Fits)

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What is a waterfall? It is a beautiful flow of water over a cliff, and generally, waterfalls are located in the most beautiful parts of the world. But anyone familiar with popular culture may also think of waterfalls as referred by the 1995 single by the R&B trio, TLC.

“Don’t go chasing waterfalls, please stick to your rivers and your lakes that you’re used to, I know that you’re going to have it your way or nothing at all, but I think you’re moving to fast”(Click for Video)

So in popular culture, waterfalls have come to describe a crazy, tumultuous dream, goal, lifestyle or ambition that is out of reach, and as you move towards it, you can place yourself in more danger, because you can’t handle it. It is too strong.  Now, in most instances, we should avoid waterfalls. The obstacles that they bring us are too strong, the pain they cause can be too great. But I always wondered how can you truly tell if you’re going down a river that leads to a waterfall; if the decisions that you make are good or bad? You just can’t.

So you’re GOING to go down waterfalls in life, that is inevitable, why not chase one?  Yes, I’m saying we should chase waterfalls. And will chasing waterfalls produce a positive result. Maybe. Maybe Not.  But the process of chasing what you don’t  know may have a positive result for you. This idea of chasing waterfalls really vibes with my methodology towards life, and I promise that I am not exactly a risky type of person, but there’s a reason to this madness in my mind.

People talk a lot about career advancement with millennials. We are young, and still have plenty of time to change, alter, and improve the direction in which we want to go. If we’re unhappy, they tell us to change it. And we love to hear from people who have found a job that they love, or have turned their passion into a career and become the coveted entrepreneur. I would argue that the latter is mostly supported, even if people don’t like or understand the idea, most people like the idea of starting something new and innovative. But for the former, if you’re unhappy, change it, my experience has not quite been that way in my career.

Academically and professionally, I have had some really amazing experiences. They haven’t always felt the best at the time being, but through all my experiences I have always learned a great deal for the next step in life. But even more so, I have a certain standard for what environment I want to work and thrive in. Recently, I was in a situation where I was unhappy, rarely did I feel supported in my frustrations from other co-workers who were in the exact same situation. We all were upset, but rarely was anyone willing to do anything about the situation. And as the only millennial (unfortunately) in the whole department, my constant approach to identify and change the situation was seen as a sign of immaturity.  Often times, people would “understand” my frustrations, but rarely were any of my suggestions good ideas or pursuing the path for change  seen as necessary.

“Oh, it  is not that bad”, “There are worse work situations out there” (which was true), “You’re young, you have to be patient”

That’s right, just wait your turn. The idea that I should wait. That things will change eventually. Wrong. Wrong. And more wrong. Unless, I am waiting for my Heavenly Father to lead the way, the idea of waiting on someone else or something to get better, isn’t for me. But I will say that every step I took to change my situation, or pursue a different recourse, I often felt like I was going down a river toward a waterfall. There were difficult days , because trying to change things while being very upset is a bad combination. There were uneasy times, and job safety is always in the back of your head when you’re challenging the status quo. But change wasn’t coming to that position, that department, so I started fighting differently. I started pursuing new positions that everyone told me I wouldn’t get (people love to tell you what you can’t do). But I knew this was the right fight.

I was able to get a new job, and not just any new job, but a better job, a job that many were surprised that I got, because it was a significant promotion for a person who had only worked with the organization for a year. But I wasn’t surprised, not because I’m amazing, but sometimes you have to step out, especially professionally, when everyone is telling you no.

Why do I tell this story? Because when I was feeling like I was on a fast track to a waterfall (because I was so close to blowing that place up). It was very lonely. I had family and friends who were trying to be supportive, but they were not here and couldn’t really know the exact situation. At times, the people who were in it, didn’t have the same need or desire to fight, but I did. I only felt supported when the fighting was over, and sometimes it feels that way, but heading towards what could’ve been waterfall was definitely worth it. You can’t focus on the end, you have to be able to muddle through the water. My river didn’t lead to a waterfall but it could’ve, but it was worth the ride. So you have to fight for what you believe (even if you’re wrong at times) is my philosophy.

Here’s two examples in popular culture,were taking a bet, one with public support and the other with a public lashing: At the Oscars, last night, Patricia Arquette lit it up, and social media by simply telling women, that we have fought for equal rights for others, but the time is now, for us to fight for equal pay for women. Those words couldn’t have been said on a better stage, with the best part followed by Meryl Streep overly animated concurrence. Positive Words. Great Stage. Almost Full Acceptance. (I’m sure there is someone out there disagreeing somewhere)

Conversely, look at the past week for former Mayor Giuliani is having. At a fundraiser for the presidential hopeful Gov. Scott Walker, Giuliani took the spotlight off of Walker, and put the bullseye over his entire body. Mayor Giuliani bluntly said that President Obama does not love America. Yep, that’s right. Just that plainly. In his Wall Street Journal op-ed that followed this past Sunday, he said he wasn’t questioning the President’s heart or mind, but that the President actually has criticized this country more than any other President in history. Now a lot of people didn’t like what he had to say, including a lot of the other Republican presidential hopefuls, and they tried to distance themselves as fast as lightning. Did I mention Giuliani wasn’t invited, and he sure as heck wasn’t supposed to speak.

Negative Words. Wrong Stage. Much less acceptance of his words. (Because you know Rush Limbaugh praised every single word).

My question should either of their voices be stopped. In my mind, they both could be going down a path to a waterfall. Patricia Arquette took a stand, that could’ve been rejected, and so did Rudy Giuliani. Just because Patricia had a 90% chance of acceptance, and Giuliani had a 30% chance, do we only take the safe bets?

I challenge us all, especially millennials, to not always taking the safe bets, chase the waterfall. The waterfall isn’t always a new thing, business, or something uber aggressive. It can just be a new project, requesting more responsibility, or asking for a mentor who is going to challenge you and not just puff up your ego. So go chase a waterfall, just a little bit, because standing in the lake will get you nowhere.