Success?

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A couple weeks ago something cool job-related happened to my husband.  I was happy for him, for us– and yet it has made me really contemplate what I use to measure success.  When I was working in the corporate world, success was assessed by quantitative and qualitative measures.  More sales, higher profit margins, increased customer acquisition, happier customers or easier navigation.  It’s easy for that mindset of more, more and more or good, better, best to bleed into my ideal of a successful life.

Before I go on, let me just say I do not think there is anything wrong with having more, buying things or making money.  No, no no.  I believe these can all be very good things.

These things, however, are not how I want to measure success in my life.

I want success to be measured by being transformed more like Christ.

Yikes.

I feel like a failure a lot.  A few nights ago my husband and I were arguing, loudly.  Very loudly.  I think our landlord probably heard us (we share a wall with him), which is incredibly embarrassing and I could only think how grateful I was that Maya was sleeping.  We ended the argument late, feeling stupid and immature yet falling asleep in each other’s arms.  The next morning we felt like complete failures.  How is it that we can do the church thing and read that big ole bible and say our prayers and teach our little girl the bible stories and still fail so miserably?!

I want to have a successful marriage.

Read: I want my marriage to be transformed more like Christ.

I want to have a successful job.

Read: I want to be transformed more like Christ where I work.

I want to have a successful life.

Read: I want to be transformed more like Christ every day.

Every day.

Every day?

Every day?!

Yet this is his will, no?

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. ~2 Corinthians 3:18

I will fail, yes.  I will probably fail a little bit every day most likely.  Yet ever increasing glory from the LORD is mine the scripture says!  And if it is from the Lord, He can do it and He will.  When I am tempted to give in to whatever it is, He will provide a way to succeed!

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. ~1 Corinthians 10:13

I want to let go of my ideas that success looks like a gourmet meal on my “spring” table, a perfectly decorated and organized house, a little girl with a strategically placed pretty bow just on the right spot on her wavy hair saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, or a husband who brings home flowers and starbucks and lingerie.  All of those things are nice, and I would love to have even one of them (not to mention all of them at once!  That would be a dream!) but alone, a successful life (by my definition) they do not make.

How freeing it is to embrace life with this outlook.  How overwhelming it is at the same time!  May I seek Him always, Him first and let the rest fall into His lap with each choice I face today.

May His grace abound.

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Do Something Already

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Every time I had a run in with him, I called her.  My business hero, my career mentor, my friend.  She always gave me great advice.  She made recommendations that actually worked!  She listened to my sob stories.  She was my shoulder to lean on.  She gave me confidence that I could handle whatever he threw my way.

“He” was someone at work who couldn’t stand me.  He looked for me to make mistakes and seemed to love to let everyone know about them.  He watched for opportunities to let me fail and gave me a piece of his mind every chance he had.  He complained.  He argued. He justified.  He drained me.  And I was his manager.

I would call her, and she would make it better.  She would give me pointers for things to say and do to encourage a better working relationship and performance.  She coached me, she held me accountable, she made me better.  She listened so well.

The one day, she said it.  It was a long time coming but it was still hard to hear:

“I’m done with the (insert name) situation,” she said.  “You need to either do something permanent about this, or stop talking about it.  I’m so over you about him.  Do something already!

Because I trusted and respected her, I didn’t get offended.  I received her words with a knot in my stomach knowing she was right.  I had to stop talking about it.  I had to stop complaining about him.  I had to quit my bad habit.  It was time to do something about it.

I guess I got lucky, because the very next week he quit.  He walked into my office and said it would be his last day.  End of story.

I was reminded of this particularly awkward time in my work history when I was journaling last week.  I wrote “I’ve been talking to you about this for years, Lord.  When are you going to show up?!  When are you going to do what I know is within your will and is what I believe you are calling me to do?  Why won’t you act?!”  And suddenly as soon as the words had hit the paper I realized that this thing that I’ve prayed for what seems like forever was suddenly like that person that I used to stress out about at work.  And maybe God was just like her, telling me to stop whining and talking about it and to just DO something already.

Sometimes God sweeps in, rescues by fire or wind or the parting of the red sea– and sometimes He gives us the authority to swim across the river.  It’s as if He’s whispering, “Do something already!”

There are some things in life that are not a mystery.  It is not a mystery that God wants you to tell the truth, remain faithful in your marriage (aka don’t cheat!), be generous, love your neighbor, etc…  The list can go on and on.  These are not mysteries.  These are God’s will. We can compare our SWAT analyses and we will always come back to the same result: these are God’s will.

Do something already.

Sometimes I pray and pray and pray, ask and ask and ask and I am like that man in that fable that is asking to be rescued.  The man looks up to heaven, seeing the rain pouring down and asks the Lord to save him from this horrible flood.  A fireman comes to the door and says he’s there to help evacuate the neighborhood, and would the man please let him escort him out.  The man replies, “I am waiting for the Lord to rescue me.”  So the fireman leaves, the man crawls up the roof as the water rises higher and higher, and a boat comes along to save him, but he tells the captain of the ship “the Lord’s a comin’!  He’s going to rescue me!”  A little while later, a helicopter comes and drops a ladder!  Again, the man looks up to the pilot and says, “The Lord is coming to rescue me!  Go on!”  Finally, the man drowns and he meets God in heaven and asks him, “Why didn’t you rescue me?”  God just chuckles and says “what did you think the fireman, the boat and the helicopter were?!”

DO SOMETHING ALREADY!

Get on that boat, climb up the ladder and go with that fireman.  Do something!

I get it, Lord.

I know you want me to do something!

Now, please… In all honesty…  WHAT is it you want me to do?!

I am annoying myself just writing this post!  I’m impossible!  I pray God doesn’t give up on me and roll his eyes in frustration.  But I’m serious… I know He’s calling me to act but I’m not exactly sure where or how or what I should be doing.

I feel like that fourth grade girl playing softball at shortstop.  The ball flew my way and I knew I had to do something with it but I just didn’t know where to throw it.  If I threw it to home plate I could get a runner out possibly, but maybe I should just throw it to first base and get the hitter out.  Or maybe throw it to third?  So I did what any fourth grade girl who isn’t good at softball does.  I threw it at the fence and played it off like it slipped out of my hands in the wrong direction!

I knew I had to do something with that dang ball.  I heard people telling me to throw it to first, to home, to third!  I knew I had to do something already!  I just didn’t know exactly what was the best move so I threw the ball AT THE FENCE!

Lord God I do not want to keep throwing balls at the fence.  Oh please protect me from throwing my life at the proverbial fence!

Do something already, but please…  Not the fence.

When I am faced with the knowledge that I’ve got to get moving but I’m not sure what to do, I know I should do the thing in front of me so that at all costs I can avoid throwing my ball at the fence.  But it’s hard, I’m not gonna lie!

Do something already!

But what?! 🙂

Have you ever felt similar?  Have you ever felt called to act but not sure exactly what you should do?

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For all You Workhorses…

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This snow we get in the northeast is kicking my butt!

There was a week where I didn’t leave the house for four days.  Four days!  I needed to grocery shop but I refused to greet 3 degree air so I became ultra creative with chips, broccoli, cheese and tuna.  Ew, I’m grossing myself out just thinking about it!  The snow has been a complete thorn in my side because twice now I’ve canceled trips to the city to visit Krista because of this darn cold weather.  And I’ll admit, I’m a baby.  If it’s below freezing, I’m staying in.  With my jacket on ha!

My hubs has had a snow day or two during this awful polar vortex too.  I thought it would be fun, that we’d be like kids who couldn’t go to school.  Unfortunately the business world still functions when there is snow, go figure?!  He was seriously on the phone or on his computer the entire snow day.  They say Vegas is the city that never sleeps, but I think New York, New Jersey and Connecticut must be the same because people burn the midnight oil working out here.  It’s gotten me thinking back to when I was working out of the home (because we all know being home with a toddler is work too!).  I was career minded; focused on working hard and smart.  I was driven– working my way up, albeit tripping a few times as I took each step.  I loved the working life until I took on too much.

A few years ago, I was drowning in my job.

As I mentioned before, I’m not one to slack off; I always always always work hard.  That’s one of my strengths.  That strength can be my biggest vice, though.  At the time, that workhorse within me took on a little too much and I felt completely worn out, overworked and overwhelmed.  I was drowning, and even this strong swimmer didn’t know how to get herself to shore safely!  My career was always extremely important to me and I feared I would look bad to executive management if I didn’t man up and just take it all in stride.  Inside, however, I wanted to quit.  I was ready.  I couldn’t take it anymore.

I eventually did talk to my boss and he let me hire help.  Thank goodness!  I hired two additional people to my staff and immediately I experienced the reprieve that delegation can offer.  I was motivated again and excited to take on more.  But then I got pregnant and moved to New Jersey and now stay at home with my baby– oh the irony!

As I’ve watched the fast paced career world out here spin well into the wee hours of the night (and yes, I know, east coasters aren’t the only ones who work long hours or have crazy deadlines.  But there is something different about the working world out here, I can’t explain it!), I’ve realized there are universal things I’ve learned from my experience managing projects, people, deadlines and budgets.  Whether you work in suburbia or in the big city, I think there are some  things that just “work”.  Here’s my go-to list for project management for all you workhorses!  This list isn’t by any means all-encompassing, but are things I’ve learned that have worked for me. 🙂

1.  Create a project brief.

Creating a project brief can be a lot of work, but if it’s done well it can really add a ton of value to the project as a whole.  The brief (document, outline, etc…) is just an overview of what the project is and it’s major components.  These may include the goal for completing it, how much it’s going to  cost, the schedule, the team members involved, and the impact to the customer (the customer could be five year olds if your project is a birthday party!!!).  Once your brief is complete and approved (many times executive management will want to sign off on things like this) you are ready to meet with your project team to review the brief and answer any questions, which leads me to my next point…

2.  Clearly communicate roles.

During your overview of the project brief, it’s important you lay out basic roles at this point.  Sure, details will change and tasks will be added or taken away, but responsibility and accountability should not.  Who is ultimately in charge?  Who approves things?  Who is the liaison with vendors, who is the one implementing?  Defining roles from the beginning ensures there’s no confusion on who is accountable to what.  This has proven me to be a huge success factor to getting the people involved in the project on board and supportive as they understand their role and commitment level.

3.  Establish a budget and a schedule.

Knowing how much the project should cost and what the implementation/planning schedule is critical to a successful launch.  For some projects, if you implemented flawlessly and on time but were over budget it’s a failure.  To others, the timeline is more critical.  Make sure you understand what the costs are going to be and plan accordingly when creating your budget.  Picking a number out of thin air won’t do you any good; do your research and figure out a number that makes sense for the schedule and the pieces that need to be knit together.  Also, understand your schedule and when you are ahead or behind.  You won’t understand the impact of your decisions unless you can tie them to how they will affect the schedule and/or budget of the project.

4.  Keep an up-to-date issues list.

Many projects require testing or approval prior to implementation.  Keeping an issues list will help you keep track of what currently needs attention and can aid you in knowing what action to take next.  Keep your vendors, team and management aware of any significant issues and the progress you’re making.  Designate one team member to update it so you don’t have multiple people duplicating issues or adding or deleting things.  This also helps to eliminate millions of little emails flying back and forth.

5.  Never assume…  EVER.  Did I say never assume?  I meant NEVER.  EVER.  ASSUME…!!!

One project I managed was coordinating the switch of one web host to another (I know, boring!!!!).  This meant copying every single URL, image, landing page, blah blah blah from the current host to the new web host.  I wasn’t the one copying over any of it, I was simply managing the moving pieces.  Work with one vendor, then the corporate team, then our new web team…  The thing is I don’t speak web lingo.  Drop that file where?  HTML code whaaaaat?  Link this source to fdalkfdsalfmjdk is what it all meant to me.  I assumed one group knew what the other group knew because I sure as heck didn’t know.  Wrong.  Don’t ever assume someone knows what’s going on.  Keep people informed and ask questions about the things you’re unsure of.  Get everyone in a room so there’s no “I thought… He said… She said…”

6.  Establish an implementation strategy.

As you are moving closer to the date you go live with your project (or event, or product for that matter) understand how you are going to implement it.  Write it down.  Collaborate with your team and management (keeping in mind to maintain clear roles and responsibilities!) to define how you are going to get this done.  This part of project management goes hand in hand with laying out an appropriate schedule.  Are you going to have a daily conference call to track the progress?  Or are you going to manage it by email or spreadsheets?  However you decide, be certain you and your team understand how the implementation should go which means planning way ahead before the actual live date.  What testing needs to be completed, at what point can you expose part of the project to management or others to gain feedback, etc…  Define a strategy for how you plan to get your product, event and/or project on the road with smooth sailing.  On implementation day the last thing you need is for someone to say “I can’t…”  You should be thinking of those things now and also preparing to ensure everyone can.

7.  Debrief, then move on.

After you’ve finished the project, take some time to sit down with your team and debrief.  Talk about what went well, what could have gone smoother, some ideas for next time and evaluate each piece.  Without a legitimate debrief it’s hard to go back and remember what exactly was done successfully.  The next time you go to plan a launch of an event, product or project you’ll have a clear idea of what was completed before, and the victories as well as the pain points to avoid for next time.

All in all, project management is fun.  I enjoy knitting together moving pieces to create something better than what was there before.  But it is stressful.  It doesn’t have to be perfect though.  Or maybe it does (depending on who you work for!).  Thankfully I’ve worked with a very forgiving teams!  Distinguishing between what’s critical to going live and what are pleasantries that would be nice to have is important.  Don’t aim for perfection.  Someone will always find a flaw in your work!  Have fun, drink lots of starbucks and breathe.  If you’ve followed the steps above, you’ll be on your way to a successful project!

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