Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Knowing yourself? Not as tricky as you think....

Assessment #1 (DiSC):
D – Dominant – confident, controlling, adept at dealing with issues
I – Influencer – communicative, convincing, magnetic, enthusiastic, warm
S – Steadiness – secure, stable, calm, possessive, undramatic
C – Conscientious – rule-abiding, regulated, structured, cautious, neat, accurate

Assessment #2 (True Colors)
Orange – playful, assertive, independent, rebellious, quick-tempered
Green – inquisitive, wordy, logical, independent, uneasy with emotions
Blue – compassionate, idealistic, empathetic, nurturing, passive, generous, sentimental, non-confrontational
Gold – consistent, traditional, realistic, responsible, rule-follower, conservative, obsessive

Assessment #3:
Red – leader, promoter: decisive, persistent, problem-solving, authoritative, self-reliant
Yellow – creator, performer: optimistic, enthusiastic, articulate, cooperative
Green – helper, supporter: loyal, agreeable, consistent, attentive, personal
Blue – organizer: logical, orderly, disciplined, precise, thorough, analytical

I’m pretty sure you can see the trends here….

Now, for the new-agers out there, add this one in:
Fire – bright, strong, controlling, confident, authoritative, emotionless
(Sag, Leo, Aries)
Air – talkative, communicative, articulate, idea-heavy, social, objective
(Aquarius, Gemini, Libra)
Water – conforming, emotional, sensitive, personal, trusting, stable, consistent, low-drama
(Cancer, Pisces, Scorpio)
Earth – stable, consistent, practical, accurate, routine, conventional
(Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Oprah's Idea of Assessing Happiness

Two happiness quizzes from

(What? We all know I find myself on her site from time to time... don't you?!)

The First One

The Second One

Saturday, March 24, 2012

how to know when an idea is good

I'm pretty obsessed with lifestyle design and the decision-making process that defines it, for good or bad. As such, I'm pretty obsessed with the factors that drive our decisions as well as how decisions - both good and bad - come about. I have recently reflected on how to decipher between the two of these, and offer you my thoughts:

1. Good decisions feel easy.
You don't have to think about it very long to decide to do something that's a good idea. It just seems obvious - even if only to you.

I once put the entire deposit down for a 3-bedroom apartment before even having roommates lined up. It felt incredibly easy to make that decision, I was so sure of the apartment. I stayed sure about that decision for every one of the very happy 365 days I lived there (with the two roommates I did, in fact, ultimately find.)

2. Bad decisions feel "sticky."
The horrible decisions feel obviously not good. If the very process of even having to consider the decision makes you unhappy - if weighing your options feels off - leaning toward the outcome that would create a change won't be good.

On the other hand, maybe a decision does not immediately make you feel exactly ill at ease, and yet there's something about it that just sticks around. You can't say for sure yes or no, and something about it is poking you in the ribs a little bit. Maybe you want to like a certain outcome (say, accepting a job) but the decision feels... sticky. Not easy. Not horrible, but not obvious. Don't accept this job.

 3. Good decisions feel take little imagination
If you can immediately see yourself on the other end of a decision, it's a good one. If you can envision yourself waking up every two hours to bottle-feed a newborn, maybe you're ready to have one. If, on the other hand, you have a hard time envisioning yourself burping a baby, maybe you're not. Because...

4. Bad decisions seem foggy.
If you can't easily visualize yourself working with the team that just interviewed you, maybe you shouldn't accept the offer. If you walk around a city without feeling "at home," maybe you shouldn't move there. If the idea of starting a bakery seems like a cake deal on paper, but you're not clearly sure where you see yourself in the mix of the everyday business, it's probably not for you.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Making of a Horrible Manager

If you’re ever in a position of power and want to ensure that everyone on your team loses respect for you, simply follow these six easy steps:

1. Refuse to actually “manage.”

I know, I know. This one probably comes as a shocker to some – I mean, you would assume that when you accepted the role of “manager,” someone, somewhere, probably expected you to actually “manage.” Never mind all that… after all, the whole thrill of being a manager is the kick-ass title, pay raise, and bigger desk, right? Right. The fastest way to break down a team's perspective of you is to outright reject your responsibilities, particulary the most important. Does the concept of not managing sound a little crazy to you? Not as crazy as it’ll seem to your team when you fail to function as they foresaw. Fail to lead your team, and, over time, they will fail to follow.

2. When possible, answer all questions with ambiguity

An especially effective move with new hires, this step actually takes some sophistication to sustain. In short, every time an employee asks a question, give them a round-about answer, talk through it – largely to yourself – with no distinct conclusion, or, if you really want to knock their socks off, simply answer: “that’s just the way it is.” (As an aside, if the opportunity ever presents itself, don’t overlook the infinitely detrimental effect of simply laughing in response to an intelligent or insightful inquiry.)

3. Embody double standards.

If you really want to break down rapport with your employees, foster a double standard for all seemingly insignificant things – the pettier, the better – within your reach. If at all possible, try to target certain individuals in this quest.

Imagine, for example, telling a single employee that it’s inappropriate to wear the color green to work. Weird, maybe… but really no biggie, right? Maybe not at first… after all, they’ve got a closet full of other colors, and green’s not that great anyway. But now imagine the effect if, on the following week, your entire team – short the singled-out soul – is sporting the said “unsuitable” shade. And imagine their confusion when everybody remains blissfully unaware of the consequence of the color – except, of course, for them.

Moves like these are priceless.
And, while on that note...

4. Play favorites. Then give in to gossip.
We all know that you already have pet employees. Just make it really, uncomfortably, blatantly apparent - especially to those outside of the chosen few. Let them have a little too much say in decisions that are just a little too big - major points for letting a single team member decide how a peer will fare in a performance review or whether they'll even be around come next year. There's nothing like a little subjectivism to disrupt a team's morale.

5. Don’t follow through on promises

This one really goes without explanation, because it’s so stupidly simple. Tell your team you’ll do something, and then fail to actually do it. While this can be effective with small statements, they’ll take longer to accomplish your task. To really get a group galled, do it with big, important promises.

6. …Especially those promises you made in direct response to their concerns

To really make your charade worthwhile, focus on failing to follow-through on the promises you make in the moments when colleagues have made themselves vulnerable. Whether or not you realize the amount of effort and nerve it takes for employees to approach you to communicate their well-constructed concerns is largely irrelevant; all you need to do is receive this message with what they perceive as sincerity, and subsequently leave them hanging. Do this just once or twice and you’ll forever sabotage your standing in seniority.

So, there you have it: six easy steps to guide you in the making of a horrible manager!
Embody enough of these, and you’ll forever undermine your credibility as a captain.

Happy Inadequacy! Enjoy your sabotage of an entire team’s career satisfaction!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Basics don't cost six digits

Where would you rank yourself in the following statements?

a. I can't even afford the basics
b. I can barely afford the basics and nothing else
c. I can afford the basics plus some extras
d. I can afford the basics and the extras, and I'm able to save, too.

I think most of the people I know - especially those with whom I interact on a regular basis - would probably fall in category "c." I would even go as far as to say that a lot of folks - myself included - could even slot themselves into category "d."

I recently read an article that referenced a study done by WSL Strategic Retail stating that in order to rank as letter "d," you need to be earning at least $150,000 per year.


I don't know what kind of garbage survey this was, but I feel pretty confident that I sit comfortably in the "d" sort of range - affording "the basics," extras," and "saving - and I definitely know for certain that, as much as I'd like to say my annual income is in a six-digit range, I can honestly say it isn't.

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one in that position.

So here's my thought on that "research," the "facts" that our buddies over at WSL/Strategic Retail collected, and the viewpoints held by those they surveyed:

You folks need a major reality check in how you define either "basics," "extras" or both. If your definitions of "basic" are this dramatically skewed, you don't need to occupy Wallstreet to resolve it. You need to join the real world and stop looking at it through a gilded lens.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Why Credit Card "Rewards" are Ridiculous

I have talked before about how much I hate the misleading "rewards" programs touted by credit cards. in short, I think they're absolute garbage.

As much as I would've loved to never hold another, I had to take one out for the business travel now warranted by the new job. This being said, I wanted "the best" travel rewards credit card and, after some research, I had found it - the Capital One Venture was, according to several sources, my best bet.

After nearly $14,000 of business travel, I have 36,400 rewards.

Neat, huh?

It might seem neat, until you consider how those "rewards" translate...
As it turns out, 100 travel rewards miles = $1

So those 35,000+ miles earn me $350 to redeem for travel.

And you might say, "hey, now, KG - that's $350 of free! Everybody likes freeness! How can you possibly complain? You're so ungrateful."

And yea, I might agree... but I'm just a little less than impressed by the rest of the translation equation...

Dollars spent: $14,000
Miles earned: 35,000 miles
Dollars "rewarded": $350

Want to know the effective reward ratio? 0.025
2.5%! Two-and-a-half-percent.

Would you get excited about a 2.5% discount on anything else?!

(Would you go through any effort to save 12 (and a half) cents on a $5 sandwich?) Of course not. This is how laughable it is to get excited over a free $500 flight after spending $20,000... You're better off just setting that money aside as you go!

This is the garbage of the rewards programs - even those regarded as "the best" are designed to mislead.

So next time you're feeling hot to trot and frenzied to flash the plastic, just remember that your "rewards" are effectively saving you $0.625  (that's, um, less than two-thirds of a penny...) on your coffee.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rescue the Drowning

I, of course, mean this literally.
But, more importantly, I mean it figuratively.

I will forever be an advocate of nurturing a personal list of priorities in any order that suits us – we can put our careers before our health, our health before our families… our quest for knowledge over our need for creativity – but there should always be room, at the very top of our priorities, to – at a moment’s notice – drop everything to help those in immediate need, in front of us.

It doesn’t happen nearly as much as it should. We get caught up in our daily lives and become distracted with the energy we devote to accomplishing whatever tasks it is that we’ve set ourselves to. Ambition is admirable. But only if we retain our human capacity for compassion when its most critical.

I was once reading a magazine advice column and came across a letter written by a woman who explained, with obvious desperation and remorse, that she had hit a dog with her car just a few weeks earlier.

And left it.

She was on her way to an interview, she explained.
She said this simply, as though all of the world reading would automatically understand this rationale, accept it as justification, and commiserate with her decision.

I didn’t. I was reeling.
It didn’t help that she then went on to explain that she drove the same route the next day and saw the dog “curled up against a building.”

Curled up against a building.
That line makes my skin crawl as much now as it did when I first read it.
Each time I dwell on it, I feel emotion clawing at the inside of my throat.

Why? Look at that line straight on: that detail means that the dog didn’t die instantly, as this woman may have initially convinced herself. It died slowly. It died in a process drawn out long enough for the poor creature to move over to a wall and curl up against it.

This imagery absolutely shook me.
How could someone knowingly cause such harm and then walk away? How could they not only do it once, but twice? (You tell me: who’s to say the dog wasn’t still alive the second day? Here she had a second chance to turn back. And still she didn’t.)

I felt disgusted that I was associated with this woman by merit of species. I felt disgusted that human beings are capable of doing such ugly things and then, in their reluctance to accept responsibility for their actions, instead write to an advice columnist in an obvious plea for forgiveness – for someone to tell them, “hey, sweetie. It could’ve happened to anyone. It’s okay.”

“Please help me,” she wrote. “I feel so guilty.”
The advice columnist’s reply? “Maybe you could volunteer at a dog shelter to feel better.”
In short: this is easily resolved. And it’s okay.

It’s not okay.
(I wrote to the magazine - and the advice columnist - telling them so. I never heard back.)


I didn't understand how someone could adhere to priorities this blindly - how she could harbor such a distorted sense of what's important and, what's worse, feel that people will actually relate to and sympathize with it?

She wanted to feel reassured that other people would’ve done the same.
I want to live my life believing we wouldn’t.

I remember thinking: "I would never, ever choose the job interview over the dog. I know I would stop. I know a lot of other people who would, too. I cannot fathom how someone couldn’t."

What's more, I would still go to the interview afterwards. If a company looks down on you for that decision, they are garbage – not you. And you shouldn’t want to work with them if that’s the side of the moral fence on which they stand.

If we all defended our natural instincts rather than our socially-instilled priorities, maybe this woman wouldn't have had to write to an advice columnist with her (naturally-occurring) regret...


More than a year later, with the story of the dog tucked away somewhere inside me but not at all forgotten, I was reading Rachel Carson’s biography. It painted the image of a woman with such a strong love of the natural world, she pursued a career in marine biology - and eventually became one of the most respected scientists in the field.

Carson spent the middle of her career as the editor in chief of all USFWS industry publications. She embraced the role with tremendous seriousness, and was apparently a tyrant in the office, accepting no excuses and nothing short of excellence from her team.

Once, however, she came in to the office late – something that never happened for a woman who ruled it with an iron fist - with her work blouse covered in dried blood.

As it turns out, Carson had seen a dog, recently hit, on the side of the road that morning, and had pulled her car over and scooped the animal up, taking it the nearest vet and paying for its treatment.

When she was later asked about this, she explained, simply: “I always abide by Thoreau's 'Rescue the Drowning.'”

She later went on to write “Silent Spring,” the book that spurred the creation of the EPA and ended the use of DDT as a pesticide in the US.

So, it probably goes without saying that she was certainly not a woman of small accomplishments.
(And, presumably, she too was a woman who still took her interviews seriously.)

From whose shoes would you like to look back on your decisions in life?

Maintain larger-than-life ambition regarding your life purpose, and organize your priorities as you see fit…
But always, always: rescue the drowning.