2 for 2

We’re officially clocking in on our second year of marriage today, and I’d give this whole married thing a solid two thumbs up.  So far, we’re 2 for 2 as far as amazing years of marriage go.

After birthdays and Christmas and Valentine’s Day, we both felt like our gift-giving abilities were limited so we’ve made it a tradition (2 years in a row counts as a tradition, right?) to go in on a gift together for our anniversary and pick out something that is edifying to our marriage or brings us closer.

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This year’s gift.  Can you guess what it is? 🙂

I’ll be sharing about the gift we chose this year next week on the blog (some related exciting news coming soon–stay tuned!) but in the meantime, here’s what I’ve learned from last year’s anniversary gift.

His Needs, Her Needs: Building An Affair-Proof Marriage

We thought we had read all the marriage books before we got married, but we were wrong.  This one is my favorite because the author isn’t afraid to deal with the reality of a married relationship.

Central to the book is the concept of a “Love Account” that we each have with everyone else in our lives. When we feel loved, a deposit is made in the account. When we feel hurt, a withdrawal is taken out.  For two budget nerds, this double-entry accounting method of describing a relationship had a great appeal but I understand that it sounds a little too mathematical to some.

These Love Accounts explain why you can be in love with our spouse/significant other but still have an affair with someone else.  You can have two love accounts with lots of deposits each with two different people.  As you can tell by the title, the book then describes how to keep withdrawals to a minimum with your spouse and how to avoid making the wrong kind of deposits in someone’s love account who isn’t.  What I really appreciated about this perspective is that it explains why

(A) trust and love can be eroded but recovered

(B) it’s easy to get stuck in a non-stellar relationship (romantic or otherwise) but not be able to let go if the love deposits are just marginally greater than the love withdrawals.

One of the ways we can make deposits in the right love accounts is by enjoying recreational time together. During the chapter on this need for joint leisure, the author frankly states that if you don’t share any favorite activities, you’ll need to do some brainstorming to find mutually enjoyable hobbies and then ditch your favorites to make time.

We hear about sacrifices in marriages in vague terms, but I loved the bluntness of this author’s approach.  Being married might mean giving up your favorite activities.  And that’s okay.

All this to say, read the book.  Whether you’re married, engaged, dating, or not interested, it’s an insightful look at how we love.  It’s encouraged me to not always insist on my way. It’s also inspired me to be more intentional about finding ways to make those deposits into Luke’s love account.

For a $12 book, I’d say that’s a pretty good ROI.

$800 Car Wash

I’m sitting on my couch, just marveling that I have the free time and mental space to write this blog post.  I got into my first (and hopefully, last!) car accident 2 weeks ago today and the last 14 days has been an endless game of phone tag with insurance agents, auto shops, and claims adjusters.

I am relieved and grateful to say that as of 4:30 PM today, we have a Ford Focus back in our lives sans all the dirt that clung to the windows and floor mats.  Since the old car was declared a total loss and we replaced it with its nearly-identical Ford Focus twin, we basically just got the world’s most expensive and longest car wash.  Nothing has changed except the musty “I moved across the country in this” smell has been replaced with that slightly antiseptic “new car” stench.

Very long story short, I lost a little bit of my naive faith in humanity—I had assumed that the at-fault driver would tell the truth—but gained it all back (and then some) due to the generosity of our friends, family, and co-workers as they helped get us where we needed to go during the last long two weeks.

Now that the massive car headache is finally subsiding, I can focus on more important things like Phase 2 of Mission: Minimalism. Coming soon to a blog near you.

 

3 Lessons From The Last 365 Days

Today officially marks my 1 year anniversary working in marketing for Buffini & Company and I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned during my brief stint so far as a young professional.

1. Have some humor

I am always far too serious. Luke and I learned this the hard way.  When we first started dating, he’d make an off-handed sarcastic remark and I’d assume he was dead serious.  Thoughts start racing: “How could he say that?  Am I dating a psychopath?”  Nope, turns out I just had zero sense of humor.  My roommate proceeded to put me on a strict diet of The Office reruns which helped me identify sarcasm out in the wild.

I’m not saying you need to be the office prankster, but developing a professional sense of humor has helped me not get too caught up in the smallest remarks and honestly, it just makes every day more fun.  You’re going to be spending a considerable part of your life at work, why not have some laughs at the same time?

2. Just Say No

For those of us who are new to the workforce, this might be the hardest lesson to learn.  We’re eager to please, eager to get new experiences and opportunities, and bring a lot of energy to our work.  All of these are great things with huge potential pitfalls.  In his book Essentialism, Greg McKeown makes this powerful point: “Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.”  Saying no to things because you’re feeling lazy or aren’t working efficiently enough is a problem.  Saying no to things because you are trying to make the most valuable contribution to your company by effectively leveraging your skills and strengths is smart.  I’d encourage you to read the entire book, but here’s the jist of how being an Essentialist makes you a more valuable employee.

Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.

3. Set goals

Want to take the next step up the ladder or switch to a different department?  Got an awesome idea you’re itching to implement?  Those things won’t happen without clearly defining your goal and then breaking it down into actionable steps.  Give yourself a deadline and then get to it.

I’m fortunate to work at a company that encourages goal-setting and continual improvement.  As a result, I’ve experienced some positive spillover effects into my personal life as well.  I’ve always lived and breathed goals but often equated them with to-dos.  Learning how to make longer-term goals and then parcel those out in the near future has been incredibly helpful in making dreams come true.  For Christmas, my wonderful husband got me a Nomatic planner + journal that is designed perfectly to balance daily tasks, long-term goals, and everything in between. Take a look!

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Whether you’ve been working for 3 months or 30 years, what are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned so far?  I’d love to hear them!

 

Insta This.

There have been some pretty great mockeries of the Instagram facade lately.  Like when Barbie when hipster and this girl decided to cut out the cropping. Personally, I’ve been tempted to create a satire of my own, showing the moments that truly encapsulate my day: red brake lights, my empty coffee mug, the dirty dishes that NEVER END.

It’s not news to anyone that our Instagram and Facebook feeds are rarely indicative of reality.  And that’s okay.  We turn to social media as a way to escape from the real world of traffic and messy kitchens.  What worries me isn’t the fact that your albums are full of happy photos and inspirational quotes.  What worries me is that everyone’s albums are full of the same happy photos and inspirational quotes.

My Instagram feed is starting to look like a really good set of stock photos.  Cute feet, artful lattes, the latest book.  Since moving across the country, I’ve become a much more avid consumer of social media.  I like seeing what my friends and family are up to.  But nowadays, I can’t tell if those legging-clad feet in adorable saddle-back shoes belong to my childhood neighbor, high school acquaintance, college soulmate, or dad. Minus that last one, I’m missing what used to be the backbone of social media: connection.

Don’t get me wrong.  The photos are gorgeous.  I just want to see more of you in them.

Until next rant,
Chloe

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

When asked if working hard is very important to them, 80% of Americans said yes.  Yet when that same sample was asked if they were working hard at their jobs, the vast majority (84%) said no.

That makes no sense.  We want to work hard, but don’t.  Where’s the disconnect?

It turns out, that the corporate culture and management style makes a word of a difference. As they say at my internship, culture eats strategy for breakfast.  You can set quotas and crack the whip all day, but if your employees hate you, no good work will get done.

I’ve had the unique vantage point of working for two different companies in entirely different industries.

At one, small milestones are celebrated.  The employees are given the tools and resources they need to succeed and the company takes care to match work with skill sets so that the days are satisfying and the quality is top-notch.

The other refuses to believe that Employee Relationship Management (ERM) is just as important as the more well-known acrononym CRM (Customer Relationship Management).  They are under-staffed and refuse to break out the checkbook to ensure that there are enough employees so they can work where they are best suited. The employees leave frustrated and company loyalty is tied directly to a bi-monthly paycheck and very little else.

As I start this absurd adventure of starting my own company, these are lessons I never want to forget.

 Treating employees as well as customers.
 Celebrating small successes.
Providing work that fulfills.
Viewing people holistically instead of as cogs.

Time Zones

My sister has lived at least one time zone away from me for the last five years.  Minus one, plus two, minus three.  My time, your time, Eastern Standard Time.

This summer, my fiance has been in two different time zones.  At first, I consoled myself by thinking, “It will be better once it’s a ten hour difference, not 7 hours.  7 hours is too awkward–10 will be better.”

Turns out, any time difference is the wrong difference.  For now, I am eagerly anticipating the day when I can call all of my loved ones without whipping out the calculator.

#1 Fan

I think people become fans of sports teams because we need something to identify with other than ourselves.  We want our moods and happiness and excitement to be based off of something beyond our own circumstances.  We can’t make life what we want it to be  so we blame our TV shows, sports teams, and friends.

It’s far easier to put the responsibility on something we have no control over than ourselves.  We can’t change things around us, but we can change ourselves and that takes courage.

Strangers’ Smiles and Sunday Sweaters

I am consistently astounded by the friendliness of people I don’t know.  Today, I have pinpointed why a smile from a stranger can make my day when nothing else can.

That person I passed on the sidewalk had no obligation to smile when they saw me.  I wasn’t making awkward eye contact, I didn’t initiate the smile, and they didn’t feel a need to greet me because I’m their lab partner’s sister’s roommate’s neighbor.  We were strangers until the smile.

I am consistently delighted by Sundays.  Some of my friends have dedicated themselves to doing no work on Sundays in honor of the Lord’s day, and I respect them very much for it.  For me, Sunday is a wonderful day to not have the pressure of five meetings in the afternoon and two exams and one quiz during the day.  It is a wonderful day to start with church and allow myself to be by myself or with others or spend a few minutes doing nothing or getting work done so I can thrive and not just survive during the next week.  Rest is highly underrated.  I always insist on wearing a sweater on Sundays.

Sweaters mean comfort and peace and contentment.  Sundays are a good reminder of what every day should contain.

Unspoken

What happens to all of our unspoken thoughts?  Whenever I’m in group conversations I watch people’s faces.  Sometimes I see their eyes light up, their lips part involuntarily, an idea about to release……but the moment passes and the conversation dominator rushes along to their next story and there is one more thought never to be heard.  Do all these unheard wishes and opinions simply die?  Or do they stay inside us, begging to be released but never given the opportunity?

Personally, I write them down and feel like I’m being heard, that I am understood.  Yet I begin to doubt.  I feel like I am sending imaginary letters to people through the thoughts in my head but I rarely actually say the things I would like to.  Maybe I never told that friend how much I appreciated them.  I never shared that once, their words saved me.  What would my life look like if I didn’t avoid confrontation or awkward situations? What friendships would have been deepened and which would have disappeared?

Sometimes we don’t have the address to mail these thoughts to.  How can I thank the stranger whose smile and random compliment made my day?  How can I tell a friend that I’m glad they were in my life when we haven’t talked in years?

I can’t ever make up for all the words I’ve left unspoken.

Sushi and Diamonds

I am the type of person who cannot be within eyesight of a sign, posting, notice, billboard, book, graphitti, pamphlet without reading it.  I will read the same sign over and over just because it is there.  So, when riding in the car, I pay attention to what’s on the other side of the tinted glass.

We were just outside of Pittsburg and I saw a billboard that had a picture of a diamond being held by a pair of tweezers.  I looked away for a second and on a closer look, I realized that I had mistaken what was truly a piece of round sushi and chopsticks for exquisite jewelry.  An honest and harmless mistake.

While misidentifying images may be relatively harmless (with the minor exception of street signs while driving), when we begin to categorize and identify people based on first impressions we run serious risks.

It might have been said that first impressions are important.  I’d like to add that they are wrong 95% of the time.  If I can’t tell a roll of sushi apart from a diamond, then I surely can’t accurately assess someone within five minutes of knowing them.  I shouldn’t be assessing them at all.  Just enjoying getting to know another story and friend.   Yet it is far too easy to fall into a faulty first impression judgement.

I mislabeled the billboard advertisement because I looked at it too quickly.  You can’t possibly expect to know someone after a brief meeting, especially depending on the circumstance and opportunity for true conversation.  I also got my diamonds and sushi confused because I had seen a billboard with tweezers and a diamond before.  I wasn’t expecting to see sushi, so I fit it into a mold that I already knew.

How many times do you meet someone and say, “You are just like my friend so and so!” Or at least think it.  Except they aren’t.  Because they can’t be.  We are who we are, nothing more and nothing less.  Squeezing people into cold metal molds is great if you want a bunch of friends that are exactly who you think they should be but nothing like who they really are.

I think it’s time to get our eyes checked.