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Self-discovery and self-actualization through exploration and reflection

My writing desk is a work in progress.

My writing desk is a work in progress.

While you are looking at this photo of a work in progress, I am marveling over the real deal—the varnished, cherry writing desk, now with knobs on the two drawers and a panel that goes over the drawer on the left to provide additional surface.

From the unfinished writing desk that my brother Larry and my cousin Marty are modeling in the photo, you can likely tell that this is homemade. Larry, our family’s very own woodworker and furniture maker, asked me what I’d like at the start of this very tough upstate New York winter. Answering Larry’s question was easy. I wanted a writer’s desk. Read More

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Note: This blog is adapted from a recent Thinking Forward event, in which a troupe of professional speakers (including me!) explored the theme, Transform Your Community for Good.

The lyrics to songs can be like poetry that speaks to us. Music—the arts, nature, so much that surrounds us—can reveal intelligence, wisdom, and basic truths that we can apply to the communities in which we live and work.

Do you know the song, Accentuate the Positive? It goes like this:

You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between
You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith, or pandemonium is liable to walk upon the scene

To illustrate my last remark
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark
What did they do just when everything looked so dark
They said you’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between
No! Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between

(Music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, published in 1944.)

I got to thinking about how this song relates to communities—and here I’m thinking of communities in the broadest sense.

What are some of the characteristics of communities?

Communities of people come in lots of different sizes and shapes.

Communities are specialized and similar or diverse and different in terms of age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, cultural background, residence, level of education, economic status, type of employment, or some other demographic.

Communities likely have insiders and outsiders. Members may all live in the same county. Maybe they are all librarians or healthcare providers. Maybe they have the same professional degrees or licenses.

Communities can have different structures. They can be flat, where all members have an equal voice. They can be hierarchical, where some members fall somewhere between the top and the bottom.

In some communities, you already belong. If you graduated from a certain university, you are in the community of alum. In others, you have to join. For example, membership in an association of alums likely makes you a more exclusive member of the community, with additional benefits.

Some communities share a physical space and some share a virtual space. For example, the technical communication community, to which I belong, meets every year at a conference. Members of this community also meet virtually at webinars and other online forums.

Though communities are different, members have a common tie that binds them to the community—whether at home with your family and friends; at work with employers, clients, employees, and colleagues; in recreational activities; or in volunteer pursuits.

And, as human beings who breathe the same air and walk the same earth, we are all part of a very large community where what we do touches others.

Know a good community when you see it. Focus on the good. Focus on the positive.

As the song says, you’ve got to:

  • Accentuate the positive. Latch on to the affirmative.
  • Spread joy up to the maximum.
  • And have faith!

How do you recognize a good community? You’ll know it by its fruits. You’ll see a lot that’s positive, affirming, and encouraging. You’ll see signs of joy. And yes, there will be a spirit of faith and optimism. There will be a sense that wonderful possibilities can transpire.

Let me give you two examples: Read More

You, too, can inspire thyself!

You, too, can inspire thyself!

In-spire. Yes, breathe in. Take in some fresh air. Become refreshed. Become renewed. Look, listen, touch, smell, taste from the many creations in art, crafts, literature, movies, music, and nature that surround you. Many of these sources of inspiration are others’ creations. Yet, some sources may come from you—at an earlier time, perhaps in a different place. Look back at your work, and let it move you to something better, something great, maybe even something profound.

In the two plus years that Career Success in 12 Easy Steps—A Journal has been available, I have written blogs and presentation material for seminars and webinars—all intended to inspire and motivate others—and myself—to move their life in a positive direction.

And now is a time to pause, to reflect  on my own words. Read More

In early 2013, while reading Shifra’s Story, written by my book club colleague, I recalled writing some of Kalman’s Story and discovered my handwritten pages, likely written around 1980. This story is my recollection of how my grandfather, my Pa, started a journey at the turn of the 20th century from Must, Poland, that led him, eventually, to the United States. With the passing during the last days of 2012 of Pa’s precious daughter, who was my dear mother, I treasure the many family stories that live in my memory. I will do my part, now, to preserve them by writing what I consider to be sacred texts.

Comment: It’s now 2019 and an unexpected introduction to a cousin on Kalman’s side of the family caused me to look into the sparse notes taken so many years ago from family members long gone. It appears that Gittel’s sister (Kalman’s maternal aunt) was named Leah. Kalman had a paternal aunt named Chani and a paternal uncle named Ellie.

“Mmmm. Ouch. Ugh.” moaned Kalman. His little legs ached as he ran. His little arms hurt as they held on to the wagon. Running—literally—to freedom and safety meant holding on to the back of the eggman’s horse-drawn wagon and keeping up with a horse’s four legs that were much longer and speedier than his two.

“What’s that I hear?” murmured Reb Mayer. He stopped the wagon. “Who’s there?” Reb Mayer stopped the wagon, sprung to the ground, walked to the back of the wagon, and found Kalman. “What are you doing here?”

No answer came from the eight-year-old boy. A pleading, pained look said, “Please offer me a ride.”

“Come on up front. Have a crust of bread. And tell me why you’re here.”

Kalman began, “I know you stop at Bialystock. I want to go there.” To Kalman, Bialystock meant Mama Gittel’s sister and her children. It meant an end to Must.

Read More

At a recent memorial service, I said a final good-bye to Hannah. An artist, she taught ceramics in her home studio for many years. I recalled what I saw then—incredible patience, tolerance, and joy as her students selected a statue, a jar, an ornament; colors; and textures. Some of her students excelled, winning numerous awards. Others created imperfect pieces that continue to adorn many, many homes, including my own. At the service, what I most recalled about Hannah in her studio was the atmosphere she created. She allowed all—the young, old, talented, struggling, talkative, silent, compulsive, confused—to be, to do, and to create what was possible for them.

I thought about Hannah during a workshop last week in which a group of participants worked through some of the activities in Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal. We explored the question, “What types of obstacles do you face on your road to success?” The conversation focused on getting others to see us as a whole person, a human being who is capable, qualified, and well-equipped to do the task! Hannah was a pro at seeing and encouraging others!

True, if we want others to see us favorably, we need to do our part to influence and evoke a favorable impression by demonstrating and conveying our value and worth. Yet the only impression we control is the one we make in our own minds and hearts.

So, let us not become an obstacle to others’ success. We can start by seeing others as they are and could yet become. Let us look beyond our own projections and prejudices and do our part to understand and value those with whom we interact. Let us see their abilities, their competencies, their strengths, their achievements, and their potential. Let us provide opportunities for other human beings—flawed and imperfect as they are—to grow and thrive. After all, is that not what we want for ourselves?

Life is funny. We must be willing to give away that which we hope to receive.

The job seeker’s perspective—Kerry Meagher

In today’s climate of 700 responses to a single job opening, it is important to identify for yourself exactly what it is that differentiates you from the other 600-plus applicants who are applying for the same job. No doubt those in charge of the interviews are looking for someone who is:

  • Analytical
  • Creative
  • Detail oriented
  • Hard working
  • Objective
  • Problem identifying
  • Problem solving
  • Punctual
  • Reliable
  • Synthesizing

… and the list goes on.

Now, it is unrealistic for anyone to have all of these traits, but everyone has an assortment of some of these, which is just what makes you the unique candidate for each company to want to hire. Take a moment to ask yourself this—what combination of traits do I have that makes me unique?

Personally, I can list creative, detail oriented, hard working, and problem solving in my unique combination of traits that makes me marketable in the roles of technical writer, market researcher, and editor. Just taking the time to identify for myself the traits I bring to the table has helped me in my current job search by easing the process of writing cover letters and using my list of traits as a type of mantra that I can repeat to myself before the always frightening job interview.

The employer’s perspective—Judith Shenouda

This business succeeds if workers are appropriately aligned with the business’s mission, which is developing publications that simplify the tangle of technological jargon, making them readable and usable for the intended audience. Achieving this mission is no short order and requires workers who get it!

Those who do not get it are not keepers. Who are they? They are workers who do not come through for this business or for our clients. The deliverables are an unacceptable quality. Deadlines are missed. The time required to complete the project is excessive. Questionable integrity, talking ill of others, leaving a project before completion, passively agreeing to anything and everything, aggressively lashing out, and similar behaviors are indicators that a worker is not a keeper.

Now, who are the workers that do get it? Who are the keepers? Simply put, they are suited to the mission of the business and its clients. They take pride in doing quality work. They continue to hone their skills and positively influence the project team and the project. Keepers possess a strong work ethic and have a professional demeanor. They are committed, dedicated, and enthusiastic.

This employer seeks workers with the right competencies, the right attitude, the right demeanor, and the right alignment—a combination that produces the right results!

Over a glass of wine, Kerry Meagher and her friends shared their successes. What a great way to build confidence and self-esteem—important ingredients when seeking new career opportunities. Here’s what Kerry writes.

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Last summer, I had the opportunity to sit down with friends and peruse Judy’s recently published book Career Success in 12 Easy Steps | a Journal over a glass of wine. My friend began reading through the self-assessment portion of the book when she stumbled upon the question, “Have you ever experienced any of the following successes?” As she read through the list of successes…

  • Winning a game
  • Bringing estranged friends together
  • Coaching a team
  • Graduating with honors
  • Receiving an award, such as employee of the month, student of the month, most improved, or top performer
  • Representing my school, employer, town, or organization at an event
  • Rescuing a pet, person, building, neighborhood, or other entity
  • Serving as an elected officer

…my friends piped in with an example from their own lives.

One friend had brought estranged friends together, and we had all received awards of some type, even if they were only of the paper-plate variety. We also had an assortment of elected officials in our midst, thanks to college clubs and activities. However, the true assortment of our successes was shown as we shared how we had represented our schools. Two of us had participated in a mission trip to North Carolina where we built ramps for the elderly. Another played in the band and represented his high school in competitions across New York State, and another was on his high school’s swim team. Who knew a group in their early twenties could have experienced so many successes?

Now take a moment and go through the list for yourself. Which successes have you shared in? Any success that you have experienced counts! Even if it isn’t on the list, any time you have identified a problem and have then taken steps to overcome it, that counts as well!