Category Archives: Uncategorized

Monday Motivator: Make Amends for Unintended Slights

There are stories on the internet that (and this will shock you) I sometimes doubt are true. And they are not the obvious ‘fake news’ ones. They are the ones that are just a little too sweet, have the moral tied up just a little too tightly. It’s not that I have anything against them. I am an English major; I am a strong believer in the power of literature. So, for me, a fiction can serve as good a purpose as a true story. But as someone who works in a library, I always feel the need to check the facts.

So I’m not going to share this story as if it’s true, although I wish and hope it is. Because true or not, we can all learn to be a bit better from its lesson.

A student was standing in line to pay for his books at a bookstore close to a college campus. There was an elderly woman standing behind him who came up to the counter and said to the clerk, “I want to pay for all his books.”

The student protested. But the woman insisted. She even added some treats.

Grateful to the point of tears, the student leaves. The woman turns to the clerk and says you never know the unintentional wrongs you’ve done in your life. So whenever you have a chance to make up for one of them, you should do so.

There’s more to the story, but, for me, the point was already made. If you are reading this, you are probably try to be a good person every day. But because you’re human, you mess up, and you might not even notice it. There’s the joke that hurts someone’s feelings, but you were too busy laughing. There was the person who really needed help, but you were just too busy that day. Or the friend who could have used encouragement, but “OH MY GOSH, I am slammed under all these projects.”

We’ve all heard about paying it forward, which is a wonderful thing. But sometimes, we need to pay for those little arrows that we shot and didn’t even realize that our aim hit a mark.

Monday Motivator: You Can Say ‘No,’ So Can Others

If you like your self-help gurus with a lot of salty language, Sarah Knight is for you. If not, then I will summarize here. Her latest book is on the art and power of saying no. Basically, you have the right to say now, and she provides many funny and profane ways to do so.

But at the end of the book, she mentioned something that I had not thought of: that other people have just as much right to say no to us.

That includes a lot of people. One group is obvious; it includes our parents when we’re children, our bosses now, and whoever the people are who decide what color we can paint our condo or whether we can turn that condo into an after-hours fight club.

The other group might not be so obvious because it’s so large; it includes everyone else. Yep, everyone in the world can say no to us. This does not make us losers. It’s just a simple fact of life, and to spend an inordinate amount of time focused on the unfairness of being told no is not a good use of our time.

Now, I’m not saying we don’t have options. And if our relationship proportions are way of balance, we have decisions to make. A colleague who always asks for favors but never grants them? Don’t get mad. Learn to say no for yourself. The spouse who thinks that doing one chore a month is 50/50 probably needs a remedial math lesson and to find him/herself without clean underwear one morning.

We have every right to stand up for ourselves and learn to say no. But once we learn that, we also have to learn to understand that everyone else also has that right.

Monday Motivator: Don’t Judge by Appearances

I am surprised that I haven’t been arrested at some point in my past. Not because I have done anything wrong, but because I often behave suspiciously.

Today, for example, I went to a store to buy a gift card. While there, I thought I’d look to see if they had brown mascara. Other pale people know that, at any store, there are tubes and tubes of black mascara, some black-brown, and then the novelty colors for those who are young and/or adventurous. But there are very few just pure brown.

Even in a store known for its browsing, I probably appeared quite odd: a woman going from shelf to shelf, picking up tube after tube and then putting it back, roaming from one end of the store to the other. After a while, I realized just how odd my behavior seemed. So I picked up a way-too expensive tube of mascara and bought it.

I’ve also had to stop watching true-crime shows. Every time someone interviews a police officer who says he pegged the suspect because ‘that’s not how people act,’ I always think, ‘but that’s exactly how I act.’

So from my own vast experience as an oddball, I know that I have to be careful to judge people from appearance alone. The guy who appears gruff might actually be shy. The woman who’s curt might be suffering from heartbreak and is doing everything she can not to cry. Someone might rush past me and not say hello not because he hates me but because he has a stomach virus and has to get to the bathroom.

So let’s not judge just on what we see. Give everyone the same benefit of the doubt that store clerks have given me over the years.

Monday Motivator: Set Up a Successful Environment

Anyone who has read my blog knows that I have a very hard time getting up in the mornings. I am not a morning person at all. While I often have good intentions of going to bed early and waking up naturally at six, it never works out for me. I live in fear that I am going to sleep through the early meetings that are scheduled. (For some reasons, administrators tend to be larks.)

This past Wednesday, our regular 9:45 meeting was rescheduled for 8:30. Tuesday night, I set five alarms. I’m serious. FIVE. One on my iPad. One on my iPhone. And three regular ones, with sounds that varied from gentle bird songs to a jarring fire alarm. (If you are interested, I can give you a detailed history of the alarm clocks that I’ve used and abused during the years.)

The good news is that I made it to the meeting. The bad news is that I have another such meeting this Friday, and I will go through the same anxious procedure. And I’m pretty sure that one day, I won’t make it.

While I have other good habits I need to adopt, being able to get up when the alarm goes off will make the biggest positive difference in my life right now. So when I saw the book Tiny Habits by Stanford behavior scientist, B. J. Fogg, I had to buy it.

First, he made me feel better by stating that motivation alone is not enough. I am extremely motivated to get up on time in the mornings. But for most people, motivation is not enough.  In my case, I have warring motivations: One is to get up on time. The other is to read one more chapter before I go to sleep.

He argues that what we need to consider are the easiest steps we can take to get us on the right track. For me, I needed to make some changes in my environment. And that is what I am doing.

I’ve started with my phone and tablet. At night, I now charge one downstairs and one in the other bedroom. This eliminates the bad habit of just checking my email or the news after I put down my book and before I turn out the light. And Fogg was right. It has been easy to do. And I get to sleep faster.

I’m pretty sure that this night owl is never going to become a lark. But I’m already planning to start adding in reading time so that my bedtime is really sleep time. And I’m even considering to read less-exciting books at night, so I won’t be tempted to keep turning pages.

Setting up your environment for success can really be effective, and it can be used in all sorts of situations (personal habits, work, classrooms).

(And I hope, in a month or two, I’ll have some alarm clocks to give away.)

Monday Motivator: Have A Problem-Solving System

A couple of weeks ago, a biology professor was telling me about one of her students who had turned the semester around after not doing well on the first test.

What did she do? She gave her children an earlier bed time so that she could study an extra hour each night. She then successfully finished the semester, and her professor recommended her as a possible tutor for other students.

What really impressed me about this student was that she looked at her situation, analyzed it, and then solved the correct problem. She understood the lectures. She was doing the readings. She just needed more time each night to go over the material.

If she had not understood the lectures, spending more time on the notes may not have been the answer. The solution might have been going to see her professor during office hours. If she were a procrastinator, then that extra hour might have been spent surfing the web.

It would seem to be an easy proposition to state a problem and then solve it. But in reality, it can be quite hard. Sometimes we can’t state the actual problem. For example, I like to blame my metabolism for my weight, but in my heart of hearts, I know it’s the fact that I often eat more than double the recommended number of calories in a day.

Sometimes we state the actual problem and take action, but it’s not the right action. Once when I was taking physics, I knew quite well that I didn’t understand the material. And I read the chapter repeatedly. But it didn’t help. Probably what would have helped was to see my professor or got to a study session. But that would have required me to admit that I was totally clueless, so I persisted in a totally ineffective way. The only thing that saved me was that the final was multiple choice and graded on a curve.

When it comes to problems, we have to keep in mind two simple steps. First, accurately define the problem. Second, take action that solves the actual problem.

Monday Motivator: Understand the Passion/Pain Ratio

Today I went to Parnassus Books to use a gift card I received for Christmas. I was already in a good mood when I walked in (Books and gift card!). There was an author speaking, and I let his words drift over me as I browsed. But suddenly they stopped drifting. The author was Jon Acuff, a Nashville inspirational speaker who has written several books on setting and achieving goals, a perfect choice for a new year speaker. And he’s also incredibly funny.

He said he once asked a sales clerk at Publix how long she thought most people kept their resolutions. Three weeks, she answered with certainty. He asked how she knew.

“Because that’s when the kale stops selling.”

But he followed that up with a more serious comment. He thinks that we have done the younger generation a disservice by stressing following their passion and not having a fuller discussion about what means. As a result, when things get tedious and/or hard, many think, “This is awful. My passion can’t be awful. This must not be my passion. I’ll find something else.”

But following a passion doesn’t give anyone a pass from the tedious/hard things in life. As Acuff said, for many people, doing the budget brings little happiness.  But if you are going to own your own business or run a household, it has to be done.  When we talk to the young about following passions, we should add the following : When you’re willing to put up with the tedious as well as the fun parts, you’re on the right path.

Monday Motivator: Be Like George

Over the holidays, we lost a colleague. George McIntyre taught in the Music Technology department. He came down with the flu and pneumonia, and the combination proved fatal.

George was one of our friends in the library. He asked Pam to come over and play for his class, and students got experience with a working musician. She usually worked with him once a semester, and the students loved it. He would also stop by the library occasionally to talk music with Pam and joke with the rest of us.

He was the sort of teacher all of us would want: real-world experience, concern for students, humility, and good humor. He was also the colleague all of would want for those very same reasons.

He will be greatly missed, but we can honor him by copying his best qualities when we can:

  • Look for new ways to bring a class to life.
  • Always share a laugh with your colleagues.
  • Be the positive environment that you say you want.
  • Never miss an opportunity to express gratitude.
  • Love your family with your whole heart.

George was one of the good ones. He can’t be replaced. But his example can make our workplace (and maybe our world) a little better.

Monday Motivator: Give Yourself a Gift

In his book, Stillness is the Key, Ryan Holiday tells the story of a world-famous athlete who was inducted into his sport’s hall of fame. His speech, according to Holiday, was basically a list of all the times he’d been overlooked or shortchanged in life.

Now I admit I did not look up his speech on the internet. It just made me sad to think of someone who had such a wonderful career still focused on the times that he had not been noticed or appreciated.

But the story gave me an idea. Since it’s the holiday season, why not give yourself a gift? Give the gift of letting go of one old hurt or grudge that you’ve been carrying around.

This is not about letting anyone off the hook. It’s about not being weighed down by what others have done or didn’t do in the past. It’s about moving on and enjoying life in the present.

It just might be the best gift you ever give yourself.

Happy Holidays!

Monday Motivator: Celebrate Your Victories

Last week, a friend of mine told me some great news; she is going to be inducted into a hall of fame in her home state. She was embarrassed to tell anyone; she didn’t feel worthy. “No one knows who I am,” she said.

But here’s the thing. I have a degree in English. I am an avid reader. Yet, when I eat dinner with my some of my literary friends, they often talk about writers whom I’ve never heard of. I’ll read about inductees to the Country Music or Rock and Roll Hall of Fames and not know some of the names. The world is a mighty big place, and no one is truly world famous.

Seriously, I have a friend who can name every opera in history but had never heard of Beyoncé until I enlightened him.

So it’s a fool’s errand to think you only deserve an award if the whole world knows who you are. If any of your peers think your work is worthy of praise, then don’t worry about whether you deserve it. Say thank you. Show up for the award. And then dance the night away.

Monday Motivator: Take Care of Yourself

The end of the Thanksgiving weekend means one thing to those of us in college. We are careening toward the end of the semester. Students and faculty are under a lot of pressure. There are papers to write and grade. There are tests to make, tests to study for, tests to take, and tests to grade. And all of this has to be done in two weeks. So stress is the order of the day.

So how do we get through such a period? We have to take care of ourselves. And how do we do that? Here are some suggestions:

  • Acknowledge that it’s a stressful time, and it’s unrealistic to expect anything else.
  • Cut back on extraneous activities . Take it from a person who has been in school most of her life; there is nothing more enticing during a busy time than some outside activity. There’s a saying that a person’s house is never cleaner than when she or he is supposed to writing a dissertation. So don’t be distracted by Netflix or a clean house, or that new book that just became available in the library. Stay focused on the task at hand. All of these things will be waiting for you when the job is done.
  • Still, don’t be a martyr. A few treats should be in order. After a few hours of work, watch a YouTube video (don’t binge a series!), eat a snack, or take your dog for a walk.
  • Talk to a classmate or a colleague for support and a quick laugh.
  • And keep in mind, that no matter how stressful this period is, it will be over in two weeks.