Face Your Fears

One of my biggest fears is bike rides!
My heart rate increases when I am about to mount, I hate the feeling of being clipped in, I get really nervous when I approach a downhill.
I realize that it is quite normal to experience fear.  We only need to ensure that fear doesn’t become a debilitating factor.  Instead, if we recognize our fear, we can simply face it head on.
I had the pleasure of doing this last weekend. As part of a triathlon (Swim, Bike and Run), I was required to complete a 15 mile hilly (not rolling hills…but hard core HILLS) bike course.  Of course when I signed up for the event (yes, I pay to torture myself), I thought it would be like any triathlon…a couple of rolling hills and maybe one major hill.  When I started to ask around, they all indicated that the bike course was extra challenging. “Great!”, I thought to myself.  Bike is my weakest sport compared to the swim and/or run.  I didn’t get to take my bike out much, let alone practice hills!  I started to freak out.
As soon as I realized that I was slightly in over my head, I starting wishing that the weather would be bad on race day so that I could legitimately excuse myself from doing the bike ride.  The forecast had my back up until the day before Race Day. It was showing thunderstorms. I was relieved. Then, in a sudden turn of events, the forecast turned against me…it was perfect weather for a Tri!  Imagine my disappointment.  If I was going to quit, now, it was only because of ME.  I drove the bike course to get a preview of the experience and to be completely honest that just made me feel WORSE!  This was a beast of a bike course; 5 – 6 challenging inclines, some steep declines and of course some standard rolling hills. Where’s a good thunderstorm when you NEED one??!!
When I was driving up on Race morning with my husband, I felt that I owed it to him to tell him exactly how I felt. I said, “Honey, I really don’t want to do this”.  He was very supportive.  This was my forth TRI and I wasn’t even this nervous for my first TRI. I also knew that the nerves and fear was getting the better of me. Then, my imposter syndrome made a cameo appearance!  I felt like I did not belong…all these athletes looked like they knew exactly what they were doing as opposed to me…I totally wanted to quit.
Finally, I gathered up some courage. I decided to set up my transition area and if after that I was still uncomfortable, I would back out.  Weirdly, as soon as I set up transition, and walked though the transition steps in my head, my mindset started shifting. When it came time for the swim, I got into my wave and starting loosening up by talking to people. Once I completed the swim, I knew that I had to see this through to the end.  Here it was…the DREADED bike course.
On the first turn itself was a major hill! I switched to the lowest gear and kept pedaling. I was feeling good. About five minutes into this, my quads started burning but the hill kept going.  I got off the bike and started walking it up. I wasn’t alone in doing this.  At this point I realized that this course was difficult for more than just me.  I had signed up for something above my current ability but I wasn’t alone. That somehow gave me comfort. From that point it was about handling everything to the best of MY ability and just get to the end of the bike course.  In the process I improved my confidence in uphills, downhills, mounting and riding a bike in general.
It was a huge relief to see the end of the bike course.  I did it!  the worse was over.  I knew I would finish.  I gave it everything I had left in the run and it was AMAZING to cross the finish line.  My husband and daughter were there to cheer me on.  I couldn’t believe I had done it.
On our way home, I told my family about the different things that happened on the bike course and and how I dealt with each situation.  I reflected on how fear had totally consumed me – to the point of almost making me quit the race even before it had started.
We all experience butterflies, anxiety, fear of the unknown.  But if we are willing to give things a shot, we may end up coming out of the experience a much stronger person.  We often don’t give ourselves enough credit. 
What is your fear? Are you willing to face it?
A.K.

The dog ate my homework!

High schoolers, these days, definitely get inundated with homework, assignments and projects. There’s a lot they have to balance.  

  • They manage their time between school, sports and socializing
  • They prioritize their assignments ultimately determining which ones count towards the final grade
  • They deal with that significant shift of transforming into an “adult” and the evolving conflict between the desire for independence vs. the continued need to be nurtured.

With all these things going on, it is no wonder that they have the occasional “The dog ate my homework” moment. In other words, they haven’t totally cultivated the core values that are needed to be successful – Drive, Accountability and Integrity.

Although the phrase “The dog ate my homework” is generally associated with students that are slacking off, there are also, unfortunately, a small number of cases in professional settings where people tend to exhibit similar behavior. Here again, it boils down to the lack of the core values mentioned above.

Let’s take closer look at these elements to understand their importance.

Drive

  • Do you get excited about going into work OR are you there to just “clock-in and clock-out”?  
  • Do you try to bring positive changes to your project OR organization or are you satisfied with status-quo?  
  • Do you like to challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone OR do you prefer to stick to what’s familiar?

If you chose the first option in any of the scenarios above, then you have a high level of drive. A lack of drive doesn’t only result in lower productivity but it also reduces the morale of a team.

Accountability

If you don’t take ownership of your responsibilities either as a student or a professional, your work is most likely to be sub-par. It is also highly unlikely that this performance will get better because disengagement takes away your ability to recognize the potential to be rewarded for high caliber performance..

Taking a vested interest in your work motivates you to put you best work forward. It also benefits people who are depending on you to do your job. When things don’t go according to plan, people with accountability take the time to address the issues rather than ignore them or “pass the buck”.

Integrity

This is probably the MOST important of the three values mentioned here, Without integrity, you are pretty much doomed. Putting up a facade takes more effort than being your genuine self. The expression “The only person you are cheating is yourself” aptly describes the lesson needed for people that lack integrity.

Always plan to “do the right thing”. You can never go wrong with this approach. It may seem like results don’t come soon enough but following the right path is always more meaningful and respectable than taking illegal or questionable short cuts.

Conclusion

If you find yourself making excuses that sound like “The dog ate my homework”, STOP! Ask yourself if you really want to go down that path. Is it worth losing your job, friends or colleagues?  Is it worth tainting your reputation? Will it really give you fulfillment of some sort? If so, then proceed at your own risk!

If you answer the questions honestly though, you will most likely change course for the better. Self reflection and self awareness are essential for every one of us. They enable us to develop and strengthen those basic core values we need as both people and as professionals.

-A.K.

There is no ‘I’ in Team…False!

We have all heard the expression “There is no I in Team”. This is an expression that is used to discourage dysfunctional behavior within teams and encourages better team dynamics. It primarily drives home the point that every team member is working toward a singular goal and therefore it is the unified team that achieves results rather than a particular individual a.k.a the “I”.

Although all the points above are completely valid, I have come to realize that there IS in fact an element of the “I” that is essential for every team to be successful. Without the “I” there could actually be confusion, inefficiency and a complete lack of harmony.

The importance of the “I”

Strengths

Every individual possesses skills that they can consider “Strengths”. If these strengths are not acknowledged at an individual level, this could be a lost opportunity for the team as a whole.

A team that has a homogenous set of strengths may be less likely to be creative or innovative because of the similar mindsets. A team with more diverse skill sets on the other hand will challenge each other to think differently and ultimately open up the possibilities for innovation.

As a team member, start by acknowledging your biggest strength and understand how it can be an asset to the team as a whole.

Roles

Soccer, Basketball, Football are all examples of team sports that need specific roles. These positions are generally not interchangeable. A team cannot function at its best if those roles are not filled. It is important to find people with passion and clarity on how their part fits into the bigger picture. 

When someone signs up to take on a role, it is on them to serve that function to the best of their ability. Unless that individual takes it upon themselves to do their job, there cannot be progress.

It is important to be aware of your role (and what you need to do it well) so that you can complement the rest of the team.

Growth

The definition of “Growth” differs from person to person. This is true for both personal and professional growth. As a team member it is important to understand and potentially express your parameters for “Growth” so that your actions support that goal and become a part of the team dynamic and culture.

For example, if a Developer is looking to move into an Architecture Role, there is an opportunity for both mentoring and learning. If this desired direction is shared with the team, there can be some training and knowledge sharing that can occur.

Be clear on what your desired next steps so that avenues can be created for their fulfillment.

Conclusion

Just as it is important to maintain your individuality in life, it is equally essential to acknowledge and define your sense of “self” in a professional environment. This holds true whether you are a part of a team or an individual contributor.

My response to the expression, “There is no ‘I’ in TEAM” in the famous words of Dwight.K.Schrute is “FALSE!”. 🙂

Without your sense of “I”, you cannot be fully present as a team member.

A.K.

Being a Mom

My Speech today

In a unique way

Will Define a Mom

And then some…

 

It’s not always easy 

There’s ups and downs

It can make you queasy

Between smiles and frowns

 

Let’s ask the question

And see what we find

To confirm the notion

That moms are kind

 

Who is a Mom?

Someone who cares…

Nurtures selflessly

one who wears 

various hats…seamlessly?

That is a mom

She shares and cares

Often endlessly

She’s always aware

And progresses easily

 

Who is a Mom?

One who smiles

Unconditionally?

And comes alive

Nurturing tenderly?

That is a mom

Her child is dear

In many ways

It’s very clear

Make no mistake

 

Who is a Mom?

One that worries

When her child is hurt?

One who scurries

When her child alerts?

That is a mom

Her radar isn’t like any other

She responds with speed

For any mother

It’s an essential need

 

Who is a Mom?

Is she is a mentor

And a friend?

Does she have the rights words

For a child that vents

That is a mom

She’s certainly wise

And listens intently

She gives advice

That’s useful and timely

 

Who is a Mom?

A guide and ally

advocate for their child?

A supporter in times

When things are wild?

That is a Mom

She protects and paves

The way to success

When mistakes are made

She’s there to address

 

Who is a Mom?

One who aches

When her child is in pain?

One who celebrates

When she sees her child gain?

That is a mom

She shows great devotion

And wipes away tears

Connects to emotions

She’s a cheerleader

 

Who is a Mom?

Is she someone who gives

Without needing to take?

Does she only live

for her childrens’ sake?

That is a mom

She is dedicated 

And takes care of her child

Once they’ve graduated

She rediscovers her life.

 

That’s my little story

About being a mom

It’s extremely rewarding

It’s taught me to be calm

 

Toddlers or Teens

With their crazy moods

They still are sweet

My love stays true

 

It starts with a cry 

From a little one

I’ve learned so much

I love being a mom!

 -A.K.

 

Stop that imposter!

In the world of psychology, there are two extremes in how people can perceive themselves and their abilities – Imposter Syndrome and the Dunning-Kruger effect. Needless to say, with all extremes, neither one of these are healthy.

Imposter Syndrome

On one side, we have people of extremely high capability, sometimes referred to as “gifted”, who truly don’t see the gift they possess. They trivialize all their achievements because they somehow are not able to see the extent of their talent and potential. Even if they receive validation from the outside such as close friends and family, their perspective remains unchanged.

People on this end of the spectrum tend to deny themselves opportunities they are more than capable of handling simply because they feel it is beyond their reach. This may sound like a self-confidence or self-esteem issue, but from my experience and observations, it is slightly different. It is more so the inability to acknowledge and recognize one’s academic prowess, talent, skills or brilliance despite all the accomplishments to-date.

If we find ourselves here, how can we get out of that slump?  

The first step would be to reset your self-awareness. It truly has to come down to the point of YOU believing in yourself. A few things that can get you there are:

  1. Being self aware – stop that negative thought before it gets deeply embedded. Negative thoughts simply reinforce your misconceptions. Compounding those thoughts only make the matter worse.
  2. Reflecting on your successes – Looking at the big picture and asking “How many people have done this?”. That provides more accurate weightage to the uniqueness and demands of your wins.
  3. Treating “failure” as stepping stone to success i.e. when things go wrong or off-course, use that example as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than tie it back to your competence or abilities.

It could take years to eliminate the Imposter syndrome, but once you own and recognize the problem, you will progress out of that state at an exponential rate.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

On the other extreme, we have people of low competence (in a specific subject or discipline for example) that truly believe that they are experts! If you are anything like me, you’re first reaction to that would be, “Seriously??!!”. These people unfortunately get less than favorable labels in a corporate situation. Up until a month ago, I did not know there was an identified “Cognitive Bias” that would cause people to behave in such a manner. I chanced upon this concept when watching a documentary on a particular conspiracy theory. Enough said. 🙂

People on this extreme basically overestimate their expertise in relation to others, resulting in the conclusion that THEY are experts. 

So how can this issue be addressed? Here too, it starts with self awareness and additionally self-calibration (or recalibration).

  1. Being self aware – Honestly looking into oneself to assess one’s level of humility and integrity. This will automatically kick-off the recalibration process.
  2. Reflecting on the relativity your successes – Looking at others’ skills or successes to get a relative assessment of your level of expertise. It could affirm that you are in the 99th percentile or, more likely it could give you a realistic view of you stand.
  3. Treating “failure” as stepping stone to success – If we view the concept of “failure” as something that allows us to grow, that will lead to less defensiveness and/or blaming others and a better likelihood for collaboration for better results.

The first step to solving a problem is to acknowledge it. That would probably be the hardest part for people on this end of the spectrum.

Conclusion

Although I have simplified the definitions and potential solutions for these cases, both extremes are issues that in some cases may even warrant professional help. As observers of this behavior, we can help by empathizing with these people, for starters, and seeing how we can help them break out of that way of thinking.

Finally, I leave you with this question: “Where do YOU fall within this cognitive spectrum?”.

A.K.

It all started here…

It all started here…

https://artfulthoughtsbyak.wordpress.com/2019/03/20/it-all-started-here/
— Read on artfulthoughtsbyak.wordpress.com/2019/03/20/it-all-started-here/

Sharing updates to this post on my book release.

It is scary…

Yet exciting

It is a goal…

Yet a purpose

It is an ending…

Yet a whole new beginning!

A.K.