Away for a few days and Blast from the Past

For the next five days, I will be caught in a whirlwind of training sessions, meetings, ferry rides between New York and New Jersey, and hopefully some good food in the middle of it all somewhere.

I’ve been toying with the idea of guest bloggers on my site while I’m away, and decided Yes! This is a grand idea! Let’s do it!

Then, the genius idea developed even more as I thought to myself, Wait, I can be my own guest blogger!

Ta-daaaa!

Huh, you say?

This week, you will have the immense pleasure and privilege (ahem) to RE-READ posts I wrote long, long ago, and in return I promise promise promise to take a few pictures and show them to you once I’m back home.

Deal?
Deal.

Please take care of yourselves, love each other, and join me as I ask the universe to be gentle to my boys and their dad while I am away from them and unable to kiss them good night.

Here is a post from almost 2 years ago – hard to believe my boy has grown so much since then!

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Preschooler Car Talk II

“Mama! Today we learn about crops.”

Looking in rearview mirror, brow furrowed, POSITIVE that I had heard him wrong, “Huh? Crocs?!?!”

“NO! Croooooops!”
“Oh! Crops!” Eyebrows raised, thinking he must’ve heard the word and have NO idea what it means.

“Well, then, who picks the crops from the field?” (Hah! Take that, Mr. Think-You’re-So-Smart! I threw in an extra word, too!)

“Pffffffffft.” Impatiently, and MUCH too prematurely for his age, blowing air out of his mouth and rolling his eyes.

“Mama! Crops, FARMER! You know???”

“Um. Ooookaaay.”

Silence.

“Mama?” Calmer now, after having contemplated the reasons for his mama’s sorry state of ignorance.

“Yes?”

“You go’ed to school today?”

*sigh* He’s already worried about what to fill in for ‘Mother’s Highest Level of Education’

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Recap of What Motivates You

A few posts ago, I asked you What Motivates You.

This was your answer.

Overall, the most votes went to Contribution and making a difference, which indicates that about two-thirds of you (67%) are out there doing what you’re doing in order to make the world a better place!

Are you?

If not, why aren’t you?

Is it because you “don’t have enough time”, or you “don’t know where to start”, or you “just don’t know enough” about something to make a difference?

Because all of that, all of the above, is untrue.

You are remarkable, you do have what it takes, and you can make a difference. Start by being true to who you are, and letting your true self shine through in everything that you do. That, in and of itself, will make a difference.

Set a goal, and achieve it. Do you find it hard to make time to achieve your personal goals after setting them? Then tell someone else about them. Be accountable.

Do you know who Bassam Tarazi is? He is the creator of a movement that has, at its core, accountability to others as the driver to achieving your goals. A fabulous concept that I highly recommend learning more about.

Read more about it here. It’s a fast read, I PROMISE.

Want to feel better about yourself? Read on!

Have you ever felt a little bit isolated from the rest of the world?

Have you ever felt, oh, maybe just a little bit too caught up in your own daily grind?

Have you ever started to wonder about how to deliver on the promise you made to yourself to make a difference in the world, then proceeded to put that plan on the back burner once more because you simply have no clue how or where to start?

I’m here to help.

Friends, meet Kiva.

If you don’t already know about this amazing social entrepreneurship venture, take a couple of minutes to watch this video. You won’t regret it.

Need I say more? Genius.

These days, it’s hard to let go of your precious, hard-earned dollars. I know how that feels.

But isn’t it worth it to be a part of something bigger than yourself, something that will actually drive someone’s livelihood, enable them to become self-sustaining, and potentially give you your investment back?

When you do get your money back, what will you do with that it? You could withdraw it, effectively ensuring a $0 loss.

Or, you could become a serial investor, re-investing that money again, and again, and again, and watching your investment help people all around the world, effectively ensuring a much, much richer life than you could have imagined possible with just $25 and an internet connection.

Spread the love.

Keeping it classy

I am on my way to recovery from a nasty bout of food poisoning which left me doubled over in pain in my bathroom, not sure which end my lunch was going to come out of, and trying to strategize on how to cause the least damage to the bathroom floor and my pride.

Not so cute.

So, I’ve had a couple of posts in mind for you all, including a roundup of my half marathon experience (I finished! You were all so supportive!), as well as a food/recipe post and a post about a great website I found that helps teach Arabic to children through games.

Please come back and visit, as I will be back in business soon, and can’t wait to connect with you all again!

Hoping you are keeping your lunch where it’s supposed to be! Eat safe!

SLC Half Marathon

This is where I’ll be tomorrow morning:


NOT hitting a PR (personal best).

NOT beating myself up about it.

Focusing on the beauty of connecting to others with a passion for pounding the pavement, and the sense of community that comes from sharing a common goal: To finish.

Wish me luck (and plenty of carbs at the finish line!)

(If you’ve been following my posts since February, you’re familiar with my tumultuous, sometimes painful, persistent, sometimes dramatic, sometimes victorious journey of training for this event.)

Good night!

Currently Reading: Purple Cow

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, by Seth Godin.

Read this book.

 Even if you don’t currently have your own business.

 Even if you don’t think you will have your own business, this book will change the  way you think about being remarkable in your daily life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because don’t we all deserve that? To be remarkable? To be the best version of  ourselves we can possibly be? To reach for the stars?

Read it.

Identifying passion

If you’re anything like me, you have trouble answering the questions “What is it that you love to do? What is your passion?”

Part of the difficulty in answering this question lies in the fear of commitment.
By saying that you are passionate about writing software, or teaching, or fashion, or human resource management, or LOLcats, are you suddenly and forever branded?
What if you change your mind 6 months, 1 year, or even 10 years from now? What if your interests change?

Perhaps indicative of some form of Attention Deficit Disorder, I always felt torn (and defeated) when asked to identify what it is I am most passionate about doing. I constantly berated myself for not knowing, as others seem to know, what it is that I want to do, and who it is that I want to be.
It kept me up at night, and kept me wondering about my future.

– Would I ever be extraordinary if all I ever did was stick to what I knew I could do well (or at least well enough to keep making an income)?
(Side note: That strategy – only doing what I know I can do well – is precisely what keeps me from ever trying to play computer games with my family, thus missing out on all the fun and laughter I see them experiencing when they play together. Perfectionism and the need to do well – and WIN – have held me back from living life to the fullest.)

– How would I ever know what I was meant to do if I never gave myself the chance to explore, to try new things, to take a chance?

Ironically, worrying about being held back from exploring has, in effect, held me back from exploring. It has held me back from finding my own truth, my purpose, and my authentic voice.

In that regard, the past few days have been a revelation to me.
I had the opportunity, through a couple of separate events, to be surrounded by inspirational people who love what they do, and do what they love.
It helped me realize that in order to take the next step and make the leap from good to great, I need to get over my fears of commitment, of imperfection, and of making the wrong choices.

The secret to finding my passion is not locked away in some obscure formula that I haven’t yet found. It is not neatly tucked away in some magical place of employment or custom-tailored job position that I just haven’t discovered yet.

The answer is right here, staring me in the face, asking me to acknowledge it. The answer lies in the common thread between all the different things I am interested in, and it has been there all along. The answer is versatile enough for me to be able to apply it no matter where I am.

I am excited about the possibilities that lie ahead, and realize that at the very least, recognizing what it is I love to do will give me a purpose for each of my interactions moving forward.

That purpose will be to bring people who have a common goal together, to help them realize their full potential, even beyond what they envision for themselves.
I believe people underestimate their abilities, and I want to inspire them to reach higher, push harder, and challenge themselves to do more.

I have some ideas about how to manifest this passion, but I realize that it might take some time to execute those ideas. And guess what?

That’s perfectly okay with me.

Cheesy? Maybe.
Real and from the heart? Totally.

Motivation, animated

You guys have to watch this video. I read Dan Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us a few months ago, and recently was directed to this animation that summarizes the main concepts discussed in his book.
I’d never seen anything by RSA Animate before today, but I’m definitely going to be watching some more of these videos – what an innovative way to spread thoughts, ideas, and information!

What do you think? What’s your main motivator when doing the things you do?

On becoming Agile

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

Are you confused yet?
Are you struggling to guess what the connection between being Agile and a quote by Mahatmi Gandhi could possibly be?

Let me explain.

Bear with me as I go through a brief background of how Agile became an evolving part of my life and a framework which I hope will become a defining characteristic of my career.
(And for those of you who have no interest in any of this, my apologies in advance. Truth is, this stuff excites me – nerd alert! – so be prepared for more to come!)

The word Agile is so heavily loaded with preconceptions of what it is or isn’t that I find it necessary to clarify what it means to me, and how I relate to it as a concept.

These days, Agile is used in many instances as a branded, highly marketed way of communicating that you (and/or your organization) follows one of the many Agile methodologies/processes for executing projects.
It’s typically used in the context of software development projects, although as a concept it is really a set of values (guided by a number of principles) that, when translated into a way of being, determine how an organization gets things done.
A number of different methodologies (most famously Scrum, eXtreme Programming, and Lean, although there are so many others) advocate certain practices that result in agility, but being agile is so much more than simply following the guidelines of one or the other of these methodologies.

(More detail regarding Agile’s set of values and principles can be found at agilemanifesto.org.)

People will argue about the pros and cons of any one particular Agile methodology, but what matters most is realizing that it doesn’t have to be the same for everyone.
To me, the most important result that comes out of adopting agility as a concept is learning the best ways to achieve effectiveness, adaptability, and how to respond to change.

If you read that again you’ll notice that I said Effectiveness.

NOT Efficiency.

Effectiveness.

This is a big shift in mindset for those of us that have had to deal with processes whose main objective has been to ensure that we achieve a predefined result (one that usually ends up not being what the customer needs or wants by the end of the project), by some predefined deadline, in the most efficient way possible.
Learning how to get results in the best way possible (effectiveness) has, over time, trumped my natural tendencies to want to blaze forward and just get things done as fast as possible and with as little overhead as possible (efficiency).
Now, I believe that if I’m going to get things done, they better be done right.

For years I thought that one of the most important (and marketable) skills I had to advertise to any employer was my perceived ability to multi-task.
Like, seriously, multi-task. I thought I was so clever to be able to follow 6 instant messaging discussions at the same time as taking notes on a conference call that I was leading/facilitating, while maybe shopping for shoes online in the background.
(Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I obviously would NEVER shop for shoes while on the job, and it may have been more like 9 instant messaging discussions but who’s counting.)

The problem: Which one of those things was I doing really well, to the best of my ability, resulting in a better end-result for myself as well as those I was working with?
Honest answer: None.
(Ok maybe the shoe-shopping one because seriously I could do that well even in my sleep. Just sayin’.)

If you haven’t heard about or read the latest studies that indicate that actually, we’re not so good at multitasking, then let me be the first to tell you:
Actually, we’re not so good at multitasking.

I am certain that I could have gotten more high-quality work done by focusing on one task, even one project, at a time instead of agreeing to take on as many projects as my bosses would throw my way in an attempt to appear to be a high-output project management machine.

I know better now.

Multitasking just meant I was switching between too many things way too quickly, and not giving any one of those things enough focus and attention to really be executed properly. The overhead of having to context switch (a fancy way of saying switching between tasks, but taking into account the need to save into memory the information/thoughts/state of being of the current task and preparing yourself mentally to enter a new task) was not worth the gains in getting more than one thing done at once.

Realizing this led me to investigate the idea of focusing on one thing at a time, which led to reading more about mindfulness, and subsequently setting the intention to be more mindful in every aspect of my life, including but not limited to the way I work.

So I started working on myself and changing the way I approached and did things, until I had a major realization.

I could set my intentions on being effective, focusing on one thing at a time, and managing projects in an agile way until I was blue in the face, but it didn’t matter one bit the second I went back to working on 3 projects at the same time, while also cranking out side pet projects for the bosses in my ‘spare time’, and adopting the expected status reporting/push-people-to-get-things-done type relationship with the software development teams in the organization.

Agility, focus, and effectiveness just flew out the window, and I have just failed at living and promoting these values and finding better ways of doing what we’re doing.

Unless
I actually live by my beliefs and do something about it.

Enter Mahatma Gandhi’s quote.

I had to come to the belief that actually, I am not powerless in the face of corporate culture. I can make a difference by standing for what I believe in and by demonstrating how to live by those values, thereby teaching others how to do so as well.

The best way to create change is to live that change.
By doing so, you give people permission to be different, to go against the grain, and to have the courage to be authentic.

So nowadays, I say ‘No’ more.
I am more willing to turn down (or at least resist) requests (of myself as well as the teams with which I work) to do 30 things at once by explaining the tradeoffs in the quality of the outputs and the resulting risks.
I am more committed to convincing an end user tester that yes, they DO want to test multiple times in the lifecycle of the development of their product and its features, in order to ensure that they get what they truly want in the end-product, and to give them a chance to evolve their own ideas of what it is they really want and need.
I am more willing to state my discomfort with a pre-determined deadline of non-negotiable feature sets, and promote the empowerment of teams to determine what can be delivered when.

In related news, in a couple of days I am going to attend a Certified Scrum Master training course offered by CollabNet. I met the instructor at an event held by our local PMI chapter last year, and found him to be an inspiration in his personal commitment to the message of Agile.

I am so excited to brush up on my Scrum knowledge and skills, and hopefully continue on the path towards being an agent of change for organizations and teams that have the desire to develop and evolve their practices.

Cinnamon Rolls

Friends, it is the weekend.

And weekends call for all manner of things that don’t usually happen on a typical day.

Things like baking. Things like the smell of cinnamon dancing out of your oven and caressing the noses of everyone in your house, torturing them for the duration of your baking endeavor.

I’ve been wanting to make cinnamon rolls for a while, and for some reason last weekend just felt like The Weekend for Cinnamon Rolls. Every now and then, I get the need to knead, y’all.

Here are some images of the work in progress:


Cinnamon Rolls Recipe (adapted from the Smitten Kitchen):

Dough
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise or instant yeast (from 1 envelope yeast)
1 teaspoon salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray

Filling
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Pinch of salt

For dough: Combine milk and butter in glass measuring cup. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed to 120°F to 130°F, about 30 to 45 seconds. Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat on low speed 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add additional 2 1/2 cups flour. Beat on low until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. Form into ball.

Lightly oil large bowl with nonstick spray. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

For filling: Mix brown sugar, cinnamon and pinch of salt in medium bowl.

Press down dough. Transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 15×11-inch rectangle. Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle cinnamon mixture evenly over butter. Starting at the longer side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. With seam side down, trim ends straight if they are uneven cut remaining dough crosswise with thin sharp knife (a good serrated worked well here) into 18 equal slices (each about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide).

Lightly grease two baking pans or sheets. Divide rolls between baking dishes, arranging cut side up (there will be almost no space between rolls). Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes.
(The double-rising process is important, don’t skip it!)

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack. Cool 10 minutes. Turn rolls right side up and EAT.

(Note: You can find many versions of cinnamon roll frostings and glazes on the Internet, but we opted for none of the above since we prefer our sweets not too sweet.)

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