Archive for the ‘Articles by Brenda Bernstein’ Category

How I Messed Up On My First Job—and What You Can Learn From My Mistakes!

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askAsking “Why?”

This is a question asked by children incessantly all over the world. “Why” is an essential inquiry into how the world works. It seems some “why” questions are acceptable signs of curiosity, whereas others are met with “Because I said so.” As adults, it’s the same way. We are encouraged to get to the source of the “why” in science, for instance, but when we are given a task by a supervisor, we are often discouraged from asking why; managers can see the question as an affront to their authority.

Do you get offended when someone asks you why? Are you afraid to ask because you might be considered recalcitrant? Consider this story.

My First Job

As a high school student, I got my first “real” job as a cashier at Carrot Top Pastries, a small bakery known for making the best carrot cake in New York City. After receiving brief instructions on how to use the register, I set out on my first day of work. Very quickly, I determined that it would be much faster to hit the “no sale” button to eject the cash drawer, rather than to enter in the amount of every purchase and go through all that extra work! After all, I was a math whiz at the Bronx High School of Science and knew how to make change! I didn’t need the cash register to tell me what to do!

Things went on like this for several days before the owner of the bakery discovered she had no record of what had been sold at the end of each day, and no way to balance the accounting.

Oops.

From this experience, I took away that I am fallible, often in the moments when I thought I was being most impressive. That hurt. I also learned that not understanding the “why” behind a task greatly increases the possibility of error.

Carrot Top laid me off after a couple of weeks, not due to my erroneous ways but because of a strike at the telephone company across the street—the source of most of the bakery’s business. Still, I left that job with a humility I had not experienced before.

Good Managers Explain Why

Later in life, I became a manager (in a role that kept me at a safe distance from cash registers). I learned that when employees understand the big picture—the “why”—of what they are doing, they are more motivated, loyal, and productive than when they are simply given a task to do. If the Carrot Top manager had told me from the get-go that entering amounts on the cash register was how they tracked their sales and balanced their books, I would not have made the mistake I made.

When I am managing, or even editing, I make a concerted effort to explain the why behind my instructions and what value the task at hand will bring to the project, client and/or organization.

In March, I was in charge of putting materials together to distribute at a workshop. Part of the work my assistants were doing included cutting some of the materials. I explained to them the importance of presentation, what the materials were for, and when they would be handed out. I also stood there while the assistants started the project to do quality control. The results were beautiful!

What If It’s “Obvious?”

Admittedly, explaining “why” is often easier said than done. In my role, often the reason for an instruction is so obvious to me that I can’t even conceive someone else would not automatically understand. It’s often when I skip over a “why” that mistakes get made. That’s what happened with my manager at Carrot Top.

I would assert that as the person doing a task we have some responsibility too. Now, when someone gives me instructions that don’t make sense to me, or when I think I have a better idea of how something should be done, my first response is to ask “Why?” Sadly, this question is not always met with enthusiasm, as some people like to have their instructions followed unquestioningly.

While I understand that perspective, as a manager I would always prefer people to ask me why they are doing something before they go ahead and do it their way—or before doing it my way but resenting it. I encourage all of you to ask and answer the question “Why?” when it will create communication flow and/or prevent unplanned, potentially dangerous system changes!

A Tragic Note

In writing this article, I did a Google search for Carrot Top Pastries and discovered that the owner committed suicide a couple of years ago. From what I could gather, she was feeling desperation in the face of a landlord dispute for the store she had owned for 30 years. This ending truly has me asking “Why?”

5 Great Ways to Solve Problems and Spark Your Creativity

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ideaA few weeks ago I was working on the paperback version of How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile, and I was feeling stuck. Here was my problem: The e-book version contains hundreds of hyperlinks leading to various references, web pages and articles—and a mere click of a mouse makes it easy to go to the linked material. The names of pages are nice and neat, with hyperlinks hidden to the viewer.

I had not considered how I would handle this situation in a hard copy of the book! How was I to present all these pages and hyperlinks in print?

My book designer had simply made titles of articles blue. But without a link, these would be useless to the reader. The next option, inserting long URLs into the body of the text, would be distracting and messy. I asked my assistant to put her head together with the book designer and figure out something. And I went for a swim.

Light Bulb Moment…

In the shower after my swim, a light bulb went off: Why not use footnotes for all the URLs in the book? We could then create an appendix with all the links. That way there would not be distracting links in the body of the book, and any readers industrious enough could go to the appendix and explore the “extras”!

I called my assistant as soon as I was dry enough to convey my idea. Problem solved!

Perhaps I would have thought of this solution without going for my swim. But it’s not an infrequent occurrence for me to have creative sparks ignite when doing “mindless” laps in the pool, or shortly thereafter. I’ve come up with some great “roasts” for family occasions while losing track of what lap I’m on!

It’s Not a Random Occurrence!

Last summer, I was at a week-long leadership training and a similar thing happened. I knew there was a talent show at the end of the week but I had no idea what, if anything, I would contribute to it. In the middle of the week, I left campus for a day to take care of some business commitments. On the drive home, my creative juices started flowing and a skit to the music of “Summer Lovin’” from Grease was born. That skit turned into the most talked-about event of the training.

These two incidents point to some ideas about what sparks creativity. Not all of us have teams of people to speak and collaborate with to generate new ideas. So we’re left to structure our lives in a way that creativity can arise. There are some simple ways to minimize the chance of getting stuck in a rut.

5 Ways to Solve Problems and Spark Creativity

  1. Exercise. Do something to get into your body and out of your default brain! For me, swimming and yoga provide welcome time to let my mind drift and do its magic. For some, it’s walking or running. Find the exercise that works best for you!
  2. Travel. If you can, take your business on the road for a week (or even a year!). A change of scenery can have a surprising impact on your thought process. I personally notice my energy waning if I stay in one place for too long, and I am fortunate to be able to carry my business with me.
  3. Meditate. Quieting the mind for even 10 minutes a day can produce new thoughts you never expected at random times of the day. This worked for me during the brief time I had a daily meditation practice!
  4. Read. I’ll tell you a secret: Many of my blog ideas come from reading Success Magazine – including this one! What’s your focus? Where would you like a spark of creativity? Find something related to that topic of area to read!
  5. Do something different. Something as simple as brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand can interrupt your brain waves and give you new ideas! So can speaking in a different language or driving a new route to work!

Do you have other tried and true ways to unstick yourself when you’re stuck, to generate new ideas and get moving on an idea or project? Please share them below—or share how you have used the 5 methods above to create results in your life!

WIN a $25 Amazon Gift Card! Answer a 3-Question Survey about The Essay Expert’s Blog – or Refer a Friend!

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25-Amazon-Gift-CardRight now I have approximately 1800 blog subscribers—and a year ago, I had… approximately 1800 blog subscribers.

While I am thrilled to have close to 2000 readers, I aspire to have a lot more—and to keep growing! I do my best to write content that makes a difference for people, and I want more people to benefit from my offerings. My goal is 2500 by the end of May.

An idea sparked…

Fairly frequently I attend a networking event and someone (often someone I have never spoken with before) comes up to me and says, “Brenda, I so appreciated your blog article this week! You know, you are one of the few blogs where I actually open it and read it instead of deleting it.” Just as often, this person tells me she or he has forwarded my articles to a friend or family member.

At an ActionCOACH business planning workday this week, I had this experience and it sparked an idea: Why not ask for my readers (that’s you) to help me grow my blog audience?

To that end, I have created a short survey which I would love for you to complete. It’s just 3 questions!

Create your own user feedback survey

WIN a $25 Amazon Gift Card!!

I would be grateful if you would complete the survey above and also think about who in your life would appreciate my writing and coaching.

Everyone who completes the survey will be entered into a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card!

And everyone who refers someone who signs up for my blog or e-lists between now and the end of May will also be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift card!! Just email my assistant at TeeSupport@TheEssayExpert.com and let us know who you referred.

Here are the links to sign up for my blog and other lists. Choose the topic that speaks to you or the person you refer!

I look forward to reporting progress on my goals in the coming weeks. Thank you for reading and for providing feedback on what messages make a difference for you and your connections.

2 Easy Ways to Coach Yourself into Happiness and Success

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coachingA lot of people nowadays are hiring life coaches to provide them with accountability and structure in creating a fulfilling life. It’s easy to get complacent, and we are often not our own best coaches.

But not everyone can afford a life coach, and even those who can might get coaching for a year then go back to being “self-coached.”

In this month’s Success Magazine, an inspiring article about self-coaching (Be Your Own Life Coach) offered two exercises that will help you coach yourself—if you put them into action, of course. Both options were suggested by coach Marshall Goldsmith, Ph.D.

Option #1: Did I do my best to…

Here’s the first exercise: Ask yourself each day: Did I do my best to…

  • Set clear goals?
  • Make progress toward goal achievement?
  • Be happy?
  • Find meaning?
  • Build positive relationships?
  • Be fully engaged?

When I read this list, I liked it so much that I put it on my calendar to complete at 9pm every night. I am on day 3 and grateful for the ritual! I have shared the exercise with friends as well, and they have enjoyed going through the list for themselves at the end of a day.

I encourage you to join me and try answering these questions every day for two weeks. At the end of those two weeks, ask yourself in how many areas you are seeing improvement. I’d love to hear a report!

Option #2: Daily Question Process

With this exercise, your first project is to come up with 20 to 30 questions relating to your goals and who you want to be. The questions must have either yes/no or number answers. Keep them short and easily answered. And spin them toward the positive! For instance, “How much do I weigh?” “How many minutes did I meditate today?” “Did I treat my employees well?” “Did I make time to spend with my family?” (You would not write questions like, “Did I eat too much today?” “Was I stressed out?” Notice how much your energy dropped just reading those questions!)

Put your positively-framed questions in the first column of a spreadsheet, then write the days of the week in the next 6 columns. Although not specified in the description offered, I would put a final column for a rating of your quality of life for the week, with a scale from 1 to 10 (I can’t bring myself to suggest a 0 as another person suggested in describing a self-coaching journal!)

Once you create your spreadsheet for the week, you will have a scorecard that will reveal, over time, what activities lead you toward fulfillment and the life you want. Of course you can change your questions over time as you meet certain goals and have others change.

Here’s the rub…

If you were hoping there would be a self-coaching technique that would not require your thinking or writing about something every day, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. As much as I wish I could have a single thought and change my life, I must accept that it’s daily check-ins and accountability that truly create change.

Since human beings are notoriously unaccountable to ourselves, I suggest putting a system into place and having someone to whom you report on your daily self-coaching activities. I put my “Did I do my best to…” exercise on my calendar, and I have a friend I talk to at least once/week about how I’m doing. Consider creating a dinner-time ritual with your family to discuss how you’re doing, or even a check-in at the office! You can create a life-coaching group for yourself!

There are many possibilities of how to stay honest as you take on self-coaching. What are your ideas of how to do this? Will you take on one of the exercises offered here? Please share below!

22 Top Career Marketing Communication Strategies for 2015

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GCBD1-optimizedThe long-awaited Findings of 2014 Global Career Brainstorming Day: Trends for the New & the Next in Careers has been released by the Career Thought Leaders Consortium! This report summarizes the findings of a November 14, 2014 meeting of 150 career professionals from six countries who brainstormed “best practices, innovations, trends, new programs, new processes, and other observations that are currently impacting, and are projected to impact, global employment, job search, and career management.”

The section that most interests me in the report is “Career Marketing Communications,” which includes resumes, cover letters, social media profiles and other career marketing communications. Here are some of the findings and advice you’ll want to keep in mind:

Content

  1. Powerful, consistent branding is essential in resumes and across all job search messages and materials. Taglines with a candidate’s USP (Unique Selling Proposition) are becoming more common.
  2. Great resumes tell stories with testimonials and other unique information that “connects the dots” for readers.
  3. Keep resumes short and snappy, with smart, strategic use of SEO/keywords!
  4. Infographics, hyperlinks, graphs and charts are all fair game on resumes!
  5. Resume content may evolve to address behavioral questions.
  6. Mailing addresses may be omitted from electronic resumes (this reduces the risk of identity theft)—but consider including them on paper versions.
  7. Short, half-page cover letters are most frequently submitted in the form of an email. Use a punchy subject line to capture interest!
  8. LinkedIn profiles should almost always be written in the first person.
  9. Make sure your resume is readable on mobile devices.
  10. Craft your job marketing messages with an organization’s culture in mind. Is the organization conservative/traditional? Casual? Dynamic?

Strategy

  1. Send your resume by snail mail to stand out – especially with older hiring managers.
  2. Don’t skip the thank you letter! It will make you stand out. Send a thank you email (it’s fast) and follow up with snail mail to make an impression.
  3. LinkedIn Premium is not recommended except to human resources professionals and recruiters. (I would add that anyone wanting to pursue leads from those who view their profile would also benefit.)
  4. The portfolio approach for career marketing documents is valuable, in particular for technology and engineering fields.
  5. 30/60/90 plans will be requested by more and more employers.
  6. Applying to jobs on job boards is discouraged. Instead, identify the jobs on the job boards, then go to LinkedIn or the company’s website to network with key decision-makers.
  7. Networking and referrals are still king for getting into a company. 80% of jobs are found by networking!
  8. Apply to jobs if you meet at least 75% of their requirements. 100% is not required.

Company Context

  1. Companies understand a LinkedIn profile is an essential networking tool. Employees can be less afraid of their companies’ becoming suspicious when they update their profiles.
  2. Companies are sourcing candidates directly from LinkedIn, and using recruiters less.
  3. A large network on LinkedIn is attractive to many companies.
  4. Resumes are still important documents, distinct from LinkedIn profiles!

If you are engaged in a job search, take this report to heart and create your career success!

To read more about the New and the Next in Video Bios, Web Portfolios; Job Search & Job Boards, Networking, Interviews & Hiring, Career Planning & Management, Personal Branding, and other important career topics, see Findings of 2014 Global Career Brainstorming Day: Trends for the New & the Next in Careers.

 

How to Use Your Anger to Make a Difference

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angerI grew up thinking anger was bad. If I ever got angry, my parents would send me to my room and close the door, instructing me not to come out until I had calmed down.

I fairly quickly learned not to express my anger directly.

As an adult, I found myself getting angry easily at little things. I would yell at tech support people, but never at people I actually cared about. Sometimes I would express my rage in dreams, waking up feeling somehow cleansed.

I often doubted my sanity because I felt angry so much of the time but did not know how to use it to any advantage.

Productive Anger

In more recent years, I have learned to express my anger more productively, and my previously pent up anger does not have much power. I’m discovering that most people can handle it when I express my anger to them! Not a single one of them has “sent me to my room.” In fact, many people take action when I express my anger that they might not have taken otherwise. They actually want to satisfy me!

Anger can be fuel for a project or a cause. It can lead to career and business success. It can be channeled into creative endeavors or physical challenges. And it can make a difference in relationships.

Anger Can Equal Caring

This week, I expressed my anger to a friend over the way he was not fighting for himself, and he had a huge revelation about his life and how he can choose a different way of acting and being.

I’ve heard it said that anger means you care. We are so quick to express anger to a child who starts crossing the street dangerously – we want to protect that child. But we often hold back when an adult is heading down a destructive path.

A scene in the movie Good Will Hunting epitomizes the use of anger to take a stand and make a difference for someone you care about when the person is not fulfilling his or her potential:

This is how I want to be with the people in my life. I want to care so much that I will threaten harm if they do not live big. I want to care so much that I order them to get their lives moving in the right direction, even if it’s at my own expense.

Who do you know who could be doing more with their lives? Their creativity? Their relationships? Their careers? Are you willing to step up and fight for them so they are inspired to fight for themselves? I hope Ben Affleck gives you the kick in the butt you need.

What color is that dress? Check your perception.

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The Blue-Black / White-Gold Debate

There is a debate raging across the internet about the color of the dress in the photo to the right.

Is it blue and black? Or white and gold?

I read about this debate and was skeptical. Was this some big scam? When I look at the picture I see blue and black and can’t imagine it would be anything else.

I decided to test this proposition my self. I was surrounded by people this past weekend at a family event, so carried around my laptop asking my relatives what color they thought the dress was.

Reality Check?

Of my first three subjects, my mom saw blue and black. So did my cousin Michael. But my cousin Carol saw white and gold. The more people I asked, the more I realized that this is for real. People see the colors in this dress differently — and each person is completely convinced about the “rightness” of his or her view.

My cousin Michael was an interesting case. I showed him the picture a second time in different lighting, and he saw it as white and gold. But a minute later, he was saying it was back to black and blue.

He still insisted he was right and I was playing tricks on him with the lighting on my computer.

Wow.

Being Right

Do you think you “know” things like what color that dress is? I know I do. My brain does not even want to consider that someone else really and truly sees it as a different color. That dress is black and blue! But many people I know and trust were right there saying with complete conviction, “White and gold.”

This reminds me of another exercise where one person is looking at a mug from the handle side, and another is looking from the non-handle side. To one person, there is no handle. To the other, it’s clearly a handled mug.

Here’s the rub: Both people are right!! And they are both stuck in a perspective.

The Gift of Perspective

If we could get this about other issues – religion, the cleanliness of our kitchens, what it means to leave on time, [insert your issue here], imagine how much better our relationships could be. Imagine how much less we would fight over the not-important things. We could be curious instead of “right.” We could truly be “over there” with the people in our lives, listening to them accurately.

How does this principle apply to writing? Whatever we write, whether it’s a blog article, an e-mail message, a book, or a resume, one person might read it one way and another person might read it completely differently. The same resume can be loved by one hiring manager and hated by another. I notice it with my e-book too: People rate How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile everywhere from 5 stars to 1.

It’s rare to find any topic on which people agree 100%. If we can take that as a gift instead of as a point of contention, we can all grow and expand as we explore each other’s perspectives.

I challenge you to try this at home. Make someone right today who you are totally convinced is wrong. Who knows what might emerge from there?

How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile Raffle Drawing!

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How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile Raffle Drawing!

Did you know that last week (February 9-15, 2015) was International Random Acts of Kindness Week? Neither did I, until a woman named Ann Terry Gilman from Germany purchased my LinkedIn e-book—3 times! I wrote to Terry to find out whether she intended to purchase the book in triplicate, and she responded that no she did not, but would I please give away the two extra books to an organization in need—in honor of RAK week!

Terry took the message of RAK to heart and I am happy to announce that The Essay Expert will be holding a drawing on March 1 for an organization to receive a free lifetime subscription to the PDF version of How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile.

If you know a job club or an educational institution that would benefit from the information in the 11th edition of How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile, please send the following information to teesupport@theessayexpert.com:

  1. Name of contact person
  2. Name of organization/institution
  3. Description of the mission of the organization/institution
  4. Email address the book (and lifetime updates!) will go to

We will hold a drawing for 2 winners on March 1, 2015 and the winners will be announced through my e-list!

Random Acts of Kindness Life

Of course now that I know last week was RAK week, I’m thinking about whether I do enough RAKs in my life. Last week, one day I brought a smoothie to a friend who is a nurse and would miss dinner that day due to working long hours. I tried a new salmon recipe. I drove to Chicago to see people in my class person instead of attending, as I usually do, on the phone. I made 50 phone calls for people to assist on the Transform Training while the other people in my group were making 15-20 calls each. I brought my teddy bear to yoga class and talked to people I would not normally have talked to.

I did all these things without knowing it was RAK week! Did you perform random acts of kindness last week too? Here are some ideas:

Kindness Ideas for Random Acts of Kindness Week

Feel free to take these ideas and run with them on any day or week of the year! When recently have you put a smile on someone’s face or contributed to a good cause? Please share about it below!

And if you know of an organization who would benefit from a lifetime subscription to How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile, remember to send their name, organization name, organization mission, and e-mail address to teesupport@theessayexpert.com!

Losada Colada: The Power of Positive Thought and Action

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3to1

The Losada Ratio

As part of a project to put together a weekend training in March, I have been given a leadership assignment: Losada Colada!

“Losada Colada”? Whatever is that? In the terms it was given to me, my assignment is to communicate 3 positive things for every critical one. Let me explain:

The Losada ratio is defined (see The Power of Positivity, in Moderation) as the sum of the positivity in a system divided by the sum of its negativity. Amit Amin, in the above-referenced article on happierhuman.com, reported that a ratio of 3.0 to 6.0 is highly correlated with high performance in multiple areas of life. The ratio predicts divorce rates with 90% accuracy and is also highly predictive of the profitability and satisfaction of teams in organizations. College students with a positivity score of 3.0 or above exhibited higher emotional and social health.

While there are known issues with the mathematics of how Losada ratios have been calculated, the basic premise is indisputable: As long as you are not unreasonably positive/optimistic in a way that could be harmful to your well-being, more positive thinking—and communication—will make you a more productive person with better relationships and a more fulfilling life.

The Positivity Challenge

Why then, even knowing this, do I find myself often focusing on the negative?

I had a lot of training growing up on doling out criticism, and in my adult life I have even given myself a job where it is my job to find what’s wrong with someone’s writing and fix it. This is a very comfortable activity and attitude for me. I do make an effort to provide positive feedback in addition to the negative: When making comments on a document I often insert, “Love this word!” “Nice phrasing here!” “Yes YOU come through so much more now!” But somehow I almost always feel like I’ve pointed out more wrong than right, especially when editing the work of my writers.

As project manager for this upcoming weekend workshop www.transformweekendtraining.com, I am being trained to create group enthusiasm. My assignment of Losada Colada is intended to make me better at doing that with a team of people who, like me, are doing this work not as a paid job but for their personal growth. Without their buy-in, our project will likely struggle.

And so I keep my instructions in mind: 3:1 ratio positive:negative.

The Impact of Positivity

Even before this assignment, I trained myself to say at least one positive thing before saying a negative one; saying three is taking extra focus. I like it because it is allowing me to see more of the strengths in the people around me than I normally see.

I’m not doing a perfect job with this assignment. For instance, one of my team members (I’ll call him Ron) was holding two roles and not doing either of them 100%. I called him to relieve him of one of the roles, thinking he would be happy that some responsibility was being taken off his shoulders; but he was clearly hurt. I looked at how I had communicated. Had a done my Losada Colada assignment?

Nope.

I called Ron back, told him I had messed up and not done my assignment, then appreciated him for 3 things. He responded much better to that communication. And when I told our group about the change in leadership, I made sure to appreciate Ron for all he had done well.

Ron took more action on his other role than he had in the 3 weeks before this communication! It worked.

LinkedIn Losada

As LinkedIn members and networkers, we can all practice Losada Colada. I received the following note in my inbox a few days ago:

“Thanks for connecting with me Brenda, and more importantly the wonderful tips. I love them :-) I will definitely will spread the word about what a wonderful person and incredible resources you offer. I just signed up for mailers :-) YES!”

This note made me feel great! It even got me to investigate further into the website this connection was promoting. He was practicing what he preached! I’m going to keep doing my Losada Colada assignment for the rest of my life. I will probably get more out of it than a I would from a sweet drink on the beach, though I do enjoy pineapple and coconut (non-alcoholic) beverages!

How do you envision bringing Losada Colada into your relationships, both at home and at work? What do you think the impact might be? If you try it and see results, please share your stories!

A Fool-Proof Way to Achieve Any Goal – And That’s a Promise

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The Temptation of Giving Up

A friend of mine set out to make croissants for the first time. For those of you unfamiliar with the art of French baking, these pastries require several stages of preparation over 2-3 days. On the second day of his first attempt, when the batter got too thin and sticky, my friend got frustrated and threw the dough into a bread pan instead of finishing the croissant-making process. I protested that he was giving up too soon, but to no avail. He ended up with some cross between biscuits and croissants, and a learning experience for the next attempt.

The Art of Perseverance – A Lesson from Mouse Tales

My tendency is not to give up on almost anything until absolutely all options have been exhausted. Part of that philosophy was hammered into me as a child through multiple readings of the book Mouse Tales, by Arnold Lobel. I did not realize it at the time, but I think I learned some of my most important life lessons from that book.

In one story, The Journey, a mouse ventures out in his car on a road trip to his mother’s house. After driving for some time, he encounters a slight problem: The car, sadly, falls apart. But, thankfully, just at the right moment, there is someone selling roller skates at the side of the road. The mouse purchases a pair and rolls and rolls until, guess what? The wheels fall off of the roller skates. As luck would have it, there is a person selling boots at the side of the road! The mouse wears through the soles of the boots, and then through a pair of sneakers, and then, would you believe, though a pair of feet. When his feet get too tired to walk, amazingly enough, there is a person by the side of the road selling feet! The mouse makes it to his mother’s house wearing his brand new pair of feet.

Excuses, Excuses

Many of us in the mouse’s situation would never have made it to our mother’s house with all these breakdowns. Do any of these laments sound familiar?

  • My car broke down! Now I have to take it to the shop. Sorry mom.
  • I tried! I even tried getting there on roller skates! But everything just keeps falling apart.
  • It wasn’t meant to be.
  • My hands are tied.
  • Bad things are always happening to me.
  • No one is there to help me. I have to do everything alone!
  • I can’t let my mother know that my car is so old and broken down.
  • I don’t have time for this.

These excuses keep us from being creative, from keeping our eye on the prize, and from noticing that person who shows up just at the right time to help us. They keep us from prioritizing our relationships. And they have us tossing in the towel long before the game is truly over.

The Magic Formula for Achieving Any Goal

Setting aside all judgment about how important our mother would feel if we gave up on our journey, what this Mouse Tale has to teach us is something about persistence and perseverance. This mouse was not about to give up no matter what. He understood that his commitment to his goal was beyond any limitation on how he would achieve it. And at every juncture where he could have thrown up his paws and said “I can’t” or “It’s impossible” or “It’s too hard,” he found an alternative and went with it.

My friend Seth and I, some time ago, identified a surefire and quite simple way to reliably achieve any goal: “Don’t give up until you achieve it.” You will either achieve that goal or you will die trying. Whether it’s making croissants, getting a new job, or making a visit to mom, the rule always applies.

That’s the rule the mouse followed. He reached his goal, he could feel proud of himself, and his mother was very very happy.

[By the way, my croissant-making friend did try again. Things did not go perfectly the second time either, but he pressed on until actual croissants, albeit dense ones, came out of the oven. Perhaps the third time will be the charm.]