Noses, Degrees, Percents

One percent; one nose; one degree

You may be wondering what each of these things has in common.

The answer is really very simple: It is all about the effort.  What if you were training for a race? Could you go one extra minute? One tenth of a mile faster or further? Most runners would say that they could.  And what if the runner did that over time? That extra effort will most certainly result in better results at the finish line, right?

by a nose
Turallure, left, is passed Court Vision at the finish line at the 2011 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, and from recruitingblogs.com)

Jockeys know how it feels to win a horse race by a nose – or how it feels to lose by the same amount.  And so do those who bet on one of those horses, too.  One percent more effort in the training and in the moment of the race, may be all the difference in whether the horse wins first or second. Big payoff for the owner and jockey, or not so much of a payoff, can be reduced to a nose.

A third example is temperature. What makes water boil? Your high school science teacher told you that it is heat applied to water. But it is also one degree.  211 degrees, you have very hot water. 212 degrees and it’s boiling. Boiling water creates steam, which powers engines, makes electricity, creates motion, and, well, you get the idea.  There is a great video that explains the importance of that one degree. It is only 212 seconds (cute, huh) and worth your time: http://www.givemore.com/212-video/

So what if you applied that one extra degree or percent of effort this week, and next, and next?  One second, one percent, one degree is so insignificant – unremarkable, unnoticeable, really.  But in a year’s time, think what a difference it could make!  I know you can pay 1% more attention to your work this week.

And you know it, too.

So here is my challenge: Every day when you get to work, ask yourself, “What I could do better today than I did yesterday?” And then do it. (Ask it in your home life, too, by the way. It will work there, too.) I promise you will notice a difference. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but over time, certainly. And when you do, I hope you will share your 1% stories with me.

I leave you with this Quote from writer and photographer James Clear:  “Most of the significant things in life aren’t stand-alone events, but rather the sum of all the moments when we chose to do things 1 percent better or 1 percent worse.”

My garden surprises

110I love walking around my yard this time of year. The flowers are beautiful, of course. And watching the tomatoes ripen, the cucumbers grow, and the broccoli sprout fills me with anticipation about the wonderful meals soon to come.

But I like the unexpected surprises the most, I think. This week I discovered a tiny birds nest in my hedge row, empty now. The house wrens, I suspect, since they are sure upset when my cats are nearby. While checking on my rose bushes, I spied a praying mantis waiting for his next meal. Then I snatched one last blueberry from the bush, and wondered aloud how it escaped the birds’ foraging.

Nature’s surprises are all over, just waiting to be discovered.

Joyful Childhood

Our neighbors have four beautiful girls, ranging in ages of 12 to 2. Blonde, thin, athletic, and cute as cute can be.

Today I happened to be outside to witness a wonderful event. Their grandmother lives some 70 miles or so away and visits fairly often. She usually spends a night or two, which is what she did this weekend. . As she was leaving, the girls, all four of them, ran behind the car yelling, ‘Bye, Grandma, we love you,’ as she drove away. The joyful young voices make me stop my gardening just to watch, listen, and enjoy. As Grandma drove out of sight, the girls gave one final call, the loudest of all, and in unison!

What an adorable tradition they have. I have been lucky enough to witness it several times, and hope today was not the last.

What family traditions do you have?

Outside my window

Outside the window in my third floor office is a tree. I just moved to this office this winter, so it has always been naked and bare in my experience.

There is a ragged old bird’s nest in the crook of two branches. One day I noticed a pair of mourning doves checking it out. Before long they were crooning and courting, and Mama Dove began settling in. Papa sat on a branch keeping watch, occasionally flying in to check on things.

Suddenly, the doves scattered as a hawk landed in the tree. I was so excited, thinking I might see a bit of natural selection right outside my window. But the hawk left and eventually the doves returned to their routine. It was a bit distracting, waiting for the hawk to swoop in. More than once I lost concentration during a meeting when I saw fluttering at the nest. I expected – hoped, actually – to see the hawk devouring a dove.

Then the weekend came and went. On Monday, the doves were gone. I found myself sad, thinking that the hawk had had one, or both, for dinner. Just a few days before, I was watching for that very outcome. Now it made me sad.

By Wednesday, Papa Dove returned, then Mama. Or was it a replacement dove? That two-timing avian! He sure didn’t mourn long for a mourning dove, did he! The new pair is nesting, and I’ve forgiven Papa Dove already.

But Friday is coming, and I bet the hawk is getting hungry.

Nostalgia

We got rid of our land line a few months ago. It was a decision we delayed for too long, but it just seemed too weird not to have a phone. We rarely got personal calls. More likely, they were from political pollsters, or someone trying to sell us something or get us to donate to something.

Now we are (almost) ready to cancel our daily paper delivery. This is another tradition that will be hard to leave behind. For as long as I can remember, my family has been getting the daily paper – twice a day when there was still an afternoon paper. I remember both my Uncle and my Dad reading the paper each afternoon before dinner, and my Aunt working all the puzzles after the dishes were washed and put away. Fond memories, for sure, but time move on. The daily newspaper ritual will soon end.

When I was growing up, my Aunt and Uncle owned a small motel, frequented primarily by traveling salesmen. There was an ice box from which the guests got their ice. Every few days, the iceman delivered a huge block of ice, placing it in the box. One had to use an ice pick to chip away at the block of ice. I cannot imagine having such a dangerous implement as an ice pick for all to share today. As a child, there was nothing better than chipping off a big piece of ice on a hot summer day. Then one day, the icebox was replaced by an ice maker. My Uncle must have experienced a bit of sadness as the icebox was carted away.

But I sure was fascinated by that new ice maker!

That feeling is not unlike how I felt when we got our first cell phone. My husband and I shared it for the first couple of years, with the person who was traveling the greatest distance, or having the most compelling need, getting possession of the phone for the day. Now I cannot imagine going anywhere without my phone, or sending any of my family members out in the world without theirs.

I cannot help but get a little sad and nostalgic as these rituals and traditions go by the wayside. I imagine that our ancestors had the same feelings as the milk man lost out to the supermarket or the streetcar gave way to the automobile. (Less nostalgia is presumed from electrification or the advent of indoor plumbing from early in the 20th century.)

I love technology and all that means for our society, but my heart goes out for that old icebox.

What do you miss from times gone by?

Gratitude

I have a friend – a professional acquaintance, actually – who I have known for probably 15 years. We’ve always been friendly but not particularly close. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to use his services for my organization. It helped my organization, he made some money, and he even provided a discount, as I recall. During the engagement, I introduced him to another colleague, who arranges the kind of business he provides for a statewide group. They hit it off, and he got a lot of business from that one introduction.  It was a good introduction for him.

And good for me, too, it turns out.

He has never forgotten that kindness. He will call every few months with the offer of his UK Football or Basketball season tickets to a game he can’t attend.  Tickets that are in high demand. My favorite team. And he never fails to mention how much he appreciates my introduction several years before. I did so little, what anyone would have done, but he continues to show me how important it was for him.

It’s not really the ‘pay it forward’ concept, but just a nice gesture for someone results in a nice outcome for me. It sure is great reinforcement of my concept that one should try to open doors for others when you can. It doesn’t always result in UK tickets, certainly, but sometimes it does, and that makes it worth doing. The other thing that makes it worth doing is how good it makes me feel when a successful connection has been made.

What connections are you making? And are you showing gratitude for others who make good connections that help you?

Decisions 101

Even though I have been in management for most of my professional career, I rarely write about such topics. Perhaps it is too close to home, or simply too much like work for me to enjoy writing about it on my blog. Today is different. I have been thinking of things that help organizations make better decisions and want to share them.

1. When you bring problems to you’re supervisor/manager/director be sure that you have also thought about potential solutions. Bursting in to the boss’s office with an urgent “the sky is falling” message is much better received if you have considered the problem from different angles and have some solutions or responses ready to suggest.

2. Do not hesitate to give your opinion about issues that arise in your work. Nothing riles me more than when I am trying to have a discussion with an employee and I get the silent, blank stare. What I want is opinions, ideas, information, even arguments. Ken Blanchard is famous for saying, and I am known for repeating, “All of us are smarter than some of us.” We almost always make better decisions when we make them together and employees often have the most important perspectives.

3. When faced with a crisis, problem, or tough decision, put on you asbestos britches and just get to work. No whining, no blaming, no procrastinating. Just do it. And never, ever try to hide it, whatever the ‘it’ is for you. If I know what I am dealing with I am much more inclined to be forgiving than when I have been blindsided because someone was afraid to speak up.

4. Nothing can be declared finished until the paperwork is done. The documentation, reports, publicity, thank you letters, financial accounting, etc. cannot be ignored. If you do, it always comes to haunt you – and it is always worse the second time around.

That’s my list. Call it accountability, call it follow through, call it common sense, or something else, but a person who heeds this advice will have great success.

What would you add to the list?