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Monday, July 30, 2012

Motivational Message - Let the games begin! (Olympics Edition)

"As simple as it sounds, we all must try to be the best person we can: by making the best choices, by making the most of the talents we've been given."

Like most of you, I'm sure, the Summer Olympics are pretty much on the telly (hat tip to our British hosts) non-stop in my household these days. I enjoy the Olympics. I don't get all geeked out like some folks do about them, but I'm more than a casual spectator. What's making these games even more fun for me is watching my daughter get into them for the first time. She just turned nine years old, so this is when she's putting it all together and asking lots of questions. In fact, we had to keep rewinding the opening ceremonies due to the constant barrage of questions. It got me thinking about the first Olympics that I really remember watching (or at least taking any real interest in), which was 1984. Los Angeles. The Coliseum. Mary Lou Retton. Carl Lewis. Good times.

So, with every Olympic games come the story lines and the favorites to medal in each event. It's all well and good, but what I enjoy more are the unexpected stories that unfold during the actual games themselves. Don't get me wrong, it's cool to see the best athletes perform their very best and bring home the expected medals. I'm more fascinated and captivated by the games and the athletes when the wheels come off and the unexpected happens. Call me crazy, but I like to see how these people perform when adversity hits and the pressure is really on. This is where their mettle is truly tested (no pun intended).

I pulled out a few of my favorite Olympic memories from years past that really highlight and showcase what the Olympic spirit is really all about (in my opinion). Take a few minutes to relive some of these moments. It might just help restore your faith in humanity. 

Derek Redmond at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. If you're a parent, grab your Kleenex.

Kerri Strug at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. This is probably my favorite Olympic moment. I still get chills every time I watch it. This is my definition of clutch player.

And then we have the latest Olympic drama that unfolded this past Sunday, when Jordyn Wieber failed to qualify for a spot in the all-around competition for the US women's gymnastics team. She was the hands-down favorite going into the Olympics and the current World Women's All-Around Champion. It was her own teammate (and friend), Aly Raisman, that edged her out and took the opportunity away from her. Here were Wieber's comments just minutes after her dreams were crushed and reality was still settling in.
"It was hard because of course I wanted that spot, but I also wanted Ally to do her best also for the team and for herself," Wieber told NBC after Raisman's results came in.
"It's always been a dream of mine to compete in the all-around at the Olympics and shoot for that gold medal," said the reigning world champion. "I'm really proud of Ally and Gabby (Douglas) both and I'm happy that they both made it to the all-around and I'm glad that I'll be able to help the team out in team finals."
Wow. Well played. How about that response? And this comes from a 17 year-old who just had her heart broken. I know quite a few middle-aged executives who don't have that much poise and class even under the best of conditions, let alone national/worldwide television with a reporter and camera capturing every tear rolling down your cheeks. 

This is where is gets good for me. How will she respond? The team is still counting on her for the team competition and needs her to shake it off and step up if they're going to medal. Life is messy. There's no getting around it. But how we handle the mess is what defines character, molds leaders and separates the good from the great. 

Go Team USA!

PS - what are your favorite Olympic memories? Hit me in the comments and share your thoughts. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Keep Calm and Carry On

It was a bad day at the office. Not your typical bad day. I'm talking update your resume, bang your head on the desk, kick the cat kind of bad day. At the time, I was working for Cingular Wireless (also known as AT&T Wireless, AT&T, AT&T Mobility...pick one) as an HR Manager, living in Denver. I have no recollection, now, about what set me off that day but I was in a foul mood. What I do remember is my wife taking one look at my face when I walked in the door that night and suggesting that we hit one of my favorite restaurants for dinner and a drink. She's pretty smart like that. What can I say...I married up.

So there I was, crying (figuratively, not literally) in my frozen margarita about my crappy day at work as we worked through an order of beef fajitas when we saw a familiar face. Charlie is a good friend and neighbor so he sat down for a few minutes to catch up. I asked him if he was having dinner with the family and he said he wasn't, but instead he was having dinner with some associates to discuss a procedure that they were performing the next day. You see, Charlie is an Interventional Radiologist and at the time, he was like one of 20 physicians in the world that were doing the kind of work he was doing (or something crazy impressive like that). He went on to share some of the details and how unique this surgery was. High risk. Any complications could be fatal. Enjoy your dinner. See you at the pool this weekend.

Any complications could be fatal.

I'm sure that I looked pretty pathetic right about then. Here I was, an HR Manager, bitching and moaning about my day at work and the terrible hand that I'd been dealt. When I screw up, people don't get paid right or on time, the tough conversations don't resonate, my business partners don't get the right information they need to make decisions, etc. When my buddy screws up, people die. How's that for a reality check?

I learned a few important lessons that night about myself and the role we play as HR pros:
  • Don't take yourself too seriously - get over yourself; learn how to step back and think about how others see you.
  • Let it go and live to fight another day - we're all going to have bad days at work, it happens. Know when to call it quits for the day and get after it tomorrow. The work will still be there, trust me.
  • Try to keep things in proper perspective - what we do is important but at the end of the day, we're not saving lives here people.
  • If I ever need an Interventional Radiologist (God forbid!), I know who I'm calling.

Keep calm, carry on and keep it real.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Motivational Message - Choose your attitude

"The last of human freedoms - the ability to choose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances."
- Viktor E. Frankl

Bear with me...I'm gonna get deeper than I normally get with my weekly motivational messages today. A few months ago, a friend and fellow HR blogger, Mike Caracalas, wrote a post about freewill and it reminded me of Viktor Frankl and this quote above. Viktor Frankl was a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps in World War II and authored the famous book, Man's Search for Meaning. Even in the darkest of places and the most deplorable conditions, Frankl was able to find meaning in the world around him and find the courage and strength to continue living. In short, life sucked but he was able to make enough sense of the chaos that surrounded him and keep grinding it out. 

So many things can be taken from us, done to us, forced on us, stripped from us and attached to us, but our ability to choose our attitude, regardless of what the world is offering us, is something that can never be taken away. The excerpt below is from his book, Man's Search for Meaning, and provides a powerful example of how he was able to find meaning in the middle of a physical and emotional beat down...
"... We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor's arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: "If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don't know what is happening to us."
That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.
A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, "The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory...."
 Powerful stuff, eh?