Empathy and Grit

Yesterday my team went out to lunch and one of the items we ordered was polenta fries. One of my favorites especially with the dipping sauce that often comes with them. I found that polenta fries are not something that everyone had tried before. Polenta made from cornmeal make me think of southern cooking most likely because of the cornmeal and how similar it is to the texture of grits.

Which leads me to the true topic of this blog post. Grit. Yes, polenta fries at lunch made me think of grit, which made me think of the book I recently finished called “Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck” by Jon Acuff. He has a plethora of ideas about careers, and adds in some great ideas about empathy and grit. Empathy is something I have been thinking a lot about lately. I can often plow through the day checking items off the long to do list, going from thing to thing, and while people are my top priority, it might not always come across that way. Acuff gets right to the point and this idea kept it simple for me to remember the two components of empathy:

“At times, empathy will feel complicated, but it’s not. It only involves two things: Understanding someone else’s needs. Acting on them.” page 191-192

I can do that. Understand, and act on needs. Can you?

Which leads me to grit. Gosh, I love that word. What is it about the word grit that makes me think of rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty? Doing whatever is necessary to get the job done. Sweat, blood, tears. Well I prefer just the sweat, I can leave the blood and tears behind.

“Grit is being stubborn in the face of fear. Grit is the first time you try something and it’s the thousandth time too. Grit is believing in can when can’t is loud. Grit is expecting fear and moving forward anyway.” page 213

Folks often call me relentless and it is true. If I get something in my mind that I am going to do it, well I do. I do not always care what it takes. I am going to find a way to make it happen. It takes grit to do that. I am stubborn and I am going to move forward anyway. Want to roll up your sleeves and join me?

“It was never a dress”

Why does the women’s bathroom sign have to have the woman wearing a dress? Why is there not another way to show the difference between a man and a woman? Which is why I love this campaign: “It was never a dress.” The campaign has been making its way around Facebook, but I had to see it show up a few times before anyone gave actual credit to the website and the company behind the campaign. Axosoft, a software company launched the site — this is an excerpt from the About page on their website:

“It Was Never a Dress is an invitation to shift perceptions and assumptions about women and the audacious, sensitive, and powerful gestures they make every single day. In science, technology, arts, mathematics, politics, houses of worship, on the streets, and in our homes, insightful women are often uninvited, overlooked, or just plain dismissed. Through storytelling, community building, innovation and creative disruptions, It Was Never a Dress will foster necessary conversations, vital voices, and images from around the world that honor ALL women. When we see women differently… we see the world differently!”

This campaign is about seeing different ideas about women in new ways. How simple and yet impactful an image could be to turn a dress into a cape. For someone who grew up loving her Wonder Woman Underoos, I am just the kind of girl who sees the cape and not the dress. Of course, I am a summer dress wearing fiend. I will try to suck every possible moment of warmth out of the summer to wear a dress and sandals, or flip flops, but I am a cape flying girl first and foremost. With so few superheros for girls growing up, you latch on to one quickly, and mine had a cape!

Take a moment to explore the website. Click on the page for “Disruptions” and create your own version of “It was Never A Dress.” And, if you are feeling inspired share your story. They even have stickers and t-shirts and the proceeds go to “STEAM fields” (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). Please share “It Was Never A Dress” with others.

Don’t lie to me about Santa.

We lie to kids all the time. We should stop. I often talk to Chris about all the Hallmark holidays that have gotten out of hand. Maybe I am a buzz kill, but we are basically telling kids lies and then later expect them to trust us. My parents did it and I turned out fine (at least I think I did), but I think I might just stop the craziness when I have kids. I thought Stefanie Wilder-Taylor said it just right in “Gummi Bears Should Not be Organic:

“Early on their life is filled with fantasies they believe to be true, such as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy (notice I capitalized Tooth Fairy—because, like God, the Tooth Fairy is still very much a real and venerable life force in my house.) And who puts those fantasies in their head? We do. So when your child tries to convince you that the reason they took all the forks out of the kitchen is because they needed them to help run the jelly bean factory in their closet, how can we be mad when we’ve convinced them that a fat guy with a sack of toys is going to be sliding down their chimney?” page 92-93

She is right. We lie and then we expect them not to lie to us. Besides I think most kids do not even know the true meaning of Christmas. They think of it as a plethora of gifts, a tree, photos with Santa, and whatever other crazy traditions we have started. What if instead we all went back to the true meaning of Christmas? Giving to those in need and being together. Sadly, because of all the crazy hubbub of Christmas, I have become a Grinch. I do not want to buy you a gift just to get you a gift, and I do not want you to do the same. I do not need a thing.

It is funny — I decided to Google “the true meaning of Christmas” and I got such an array of answers about Jesus, God, and lots of other religious babble. One site did give me an answer I liked — that the true meaning of Christmas is Love. Now that is something I can wrap my arms around. Can we show our kids that? Instead of telling them about a fat, jolly Santa, the North Pole, and lots and lots of presents, why not show them how to give to kids in their community that do not have as much? Maybe sharing a coat with someone who does not have one? Or selecting toys to give to children that do not have any. What then are you teaching your kids? Love, gratitude, sharing, and appreciation for all they have each day?

I do not want to raise kids that feel they are just going to get presents upon presents under the Christmas tree, and so many they cannot even begin to appreciate them. That is commercialism and consumerism at its best. I would rather dote on them throughout the year, rather than swoop in on one day out of the year. Besides it feels like a lot of pressure, and is it really worth it? Call me a Grinch, but I do not want to start that tradition.

Bees do more than just sting

I am someone who spews a crazy number of analogies out of my mouth each day. Sometimes they are just all wrong, other times they are spot on, and then others just somewhere in between. In a meeting yesterday I somehow paralleled a situation with a project with the world without bees. How the heck do those compare?

Recently I read an article that shared if we let the bee population die off what it would do to the produce department in our grocery stores. See these images in this Huffington Post article. It reminds me of scenes from Flint, Michigan. Empty, non-existent. It is actually quite scary. I never knew how much we could be impacted by the lost number of bees.

Sure, bees can be annoying. In the summer, the patio at work where we often have meetings and eat outside is often swarming with bees. They literally land on your lunch and take a seat for a while. I think I even have a video on my iPhone of a bee eating bits of a piece of turkey on my salad. Maybe it was starving? I am glad my salad last summer potentially helped keep one more bee alive.

In all seriousness, bees are something we should dedicate more time to saving. Due to all the pesticides, chemicals, and crap we pour into the environment, they are disappearing faster than we can save them. While I do not know too much about the topic, it is one I want to continue to research. How naive I have been. Study up, otherwise your produce department might turn into a ghost town.

A few articles on the topic:

A World Without Bees

List of Foods We Will Lose if We Don’t Save the Bees

Are you a nitpick?

Are you a nitpick? I am.

This article from The Washington Post titled: “Carolyn Hax: A wife who gets things done is judged by a nitpicking husband.” I am the nitpick wife. Is it my dad’s fault? He ingrained in me to do it right the first time.

Why am I a nitpick? I make quick decisions often based on my intuition, but also based on the facts I have. I completely relate to the very first line of this article, the only difference is 9 times out of 10 Chris and I both believe that if it is worth doing it is worth doing right. A house project, a work initiative, a trip, whatever it might be, we focus on the plan, and put time into selecting the right options.

“My wife and I live by two different schools of thought. I believe that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right, and put lots of time, energy and resources into things I plan.”

We like to make sure we are both on the same page. If one of us researches, then we show the other our findings, sharing pricing, timing, likes/dislikes, and what we think the next steps are for the project. Yes, in essence we project manage our life, but it means there is no miscommunication. Take a weekend. Yes, this might sound sterile, but often I will coordinate all the different errands we need to do (and the list is usually long) and orchestrate where we need to go and when. It feels slightly militaristic, and yet what it actually does is allow for us to get shit done and the rest of the time is for relaxing. If we did not coordinate, we would probably not get what we needed done, and potentially never find any downtime.

I love the ending of the article too:

“As a person on the receiving end of this constant oversight, I can tell you the drip drip drip of disapproval is eroding your wife’s affection for you. I can appreciate my husband’s careful ways (we got a great mortgage rate!), but he has no appreciation for someone like me who knows when it’s just time to pull the trigger and buy some damn sheets instead of endlessly researching thread count. You’ve been warned, husband. Find a way to appreciate her ability to get things done or someday she will leave you.”

I agree with the author. I would never leave Chris and often I want him to decide on the damn sheets, but that is just a little conversation we have to move the decision along. We need someone in the marriage that reads the fine print, watches out for where we might be screwed, and keeps us on our toes. Maybe we are both nitpicks. Either way, I like us just the way we are.