the beauty of cobblestone: uneven paths

When driving, who wouldn’t choose the paved roads, the smooth transitions, the shock absorbers’ gratitude? The initial response may well be likewise when confronted with CobblestonePathpersonal and career decisions, yet is the flat ride always the best?

Instinct may have us attempt to avoid struggling, yet perseverance and character are built upon that self-same struggle and arguably impossible to achieve without it. The twin peaks of satisfaction and contentment are borne from a belief in—and willingness to confront— what lies ahead rather than an escape-at-all-costs mindset that has less substance than a microbe.

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putting it on the line: open doer policy

Why is it that some people are perpetually out and about, causing things to happen, initiating contacts and contracts, and for whom a day without learning or achievement is aopendoer6 wasted day?

On the other side of the door, why is it that some people go through life passively, causing few things to happen, showing little initiative, and for whom a day without television or lots of time at the kitchen table is a wasted day?

There’s a reason why a certain sneaker and apparel company’s catch phrase has become part of the national lexicon—so very simple and yet for some, ever elusive.

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ego in the workplace: a bad knows job

egoSelf-esteem in the workplace can be both healthy and productive, as it points to self-respect and confidence in one’s abilities. Lawyers, for example, having gone to four years of college and three of law school before passing a rigorous bar exam, not only have reason to be confident but in fact must be, given the competition and stakes involved. Doctors require years more training with life and its quality at stake. Executive assistants need to be highly organized and efficient. Insurance salesmen must be well versed in the often-arcane byways of life, home, auto, health and disability. The same parameters of individualized excellence apply to a thousand other professions, which lead to promotions, salary increases, personal fulfillment and positive societal contributions.

Yet why does the ego so often cross the line from benefit to baseness? S. Mark Young, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, points out that “narcissists may do the most damage at the top, but they can disrupt workplaces at all levels. They possess very little empathy and have grandiose views of themselves, leading to feelings of entitlement and a constant need for admiration. Narcissists are cutthroat and scheming; they tend to dominate the conversation and will do just about anything to be the center of attention, even if it’s negative attention.”

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faux support: cup sizes

Starbucks expresses our ounce options in the faux elegance of Short, Tall, Grande, Venti Hot, Venti Cold and Trenta Cold cup sizes. Wawa is cup sizesmuch more utilitarian if no less direct with 12, 16, 20, 24.

How easy it is to lean on this support system when confronted with an endless day of meetings, intense job responsibilities, family obligations and the day-to-day activities that keep our stomachs and bank accounts full.

The support of coffee.

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rising interest: corporate bonds

Cutthroat. Merciless. Fierce. corporate_bond1

Cold-hearted. Brutal. Harsh.

Corporate executives operating with less ruth than an oceanic whitetip shark.

These descriptions may well still be the norm for the Fortune 500s and Russell 2000s out there, yet more and more corporations are demonstrating a rising interest in the opposite approach—offering generous and extended paid parental leave (Netflix), providing free college education (Starbucks), building collegial campuses filled with free gourmet cafeterias, play areas and creative fun (Google), and countless etceteras. These environments yield dedication, gratitude and, to be sure, a willingness to work that much harder.

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making a choice: hard rock

How many times have you found yourself in that crushing space, faced with the dilemma of making a choice between two much-less-than-ideal alternatives? Having to choose HardRockthe lesser of two evils speaks for itself, yet difficult choices are often the most helpful in the long run. Why, then, are they generally looked upon as eagerly as invasive surgery?

But our days are filled with just such decisions. Here is one area of life for which acting dispassionately is inarguably the best course of action. Put the inescapable emotional component into perspective and move forward. Avoiding such decisions only makes them harder to make and accept.

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the freedom of patience: losing wait

Perspective is among the defining aspects of our days and nights, offering myriad ways to endure what cannot be changed. Why is it, then, that some people consistently face the clock with equanimity and acceptance, while others fight reality with the relentlessness of a watch’s hyperactive second hand? LosingWait2

Two people find themselves in stultifying rush-hour traffic, each needing to attend a key meeting, yet it looks like they’ll be late. (Sure, the easy answer is to simply leave earlier, yet so many no-fault things can interfere with that obvious goal.) One of them constantly cuts in and out of traffic, airbrushing cars right and left, and perpetually instigating the seeds of road rage, with all of that activity gaining a whopping quarter-mile “advantage” after half an hour. The other calls ahead to notify colleagues that he’ll be 30 minutes late, and asks whether the meeting can be delayed or promises to do whatever it takes to catch up with what is missed. He then uses the extra time to make hands-free calls that he’d otherwise have to get done while at the office, or listens to an engrossing audio book or language-learning CD. His blood pressure remains within safe levels and his day is that much richer, generally absent of stress-induced barking.

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cutting screen time: embracing turnoffs

Few of us wake up in the morning looking forward to a day of turnoffs.Turn-your-email-off

Yet such days can be filled with the kind of productivity and focus simply not possible without them. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, have demonstrated concrete findings that reveal how removing the nonstop distractions of email during the workday not only reduces stress but enables tangibly sharper focus. “We found that when you remove email from workers’ lives, they multitask less and experience less stress,” said informatics professor Gloria Mark, who coauthored the study, “A Pace Not Dictated by Electrons,” with a UCI project scientist and U.S. Army senior research scientist, funded by the Army and the National Science Foundation.

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moving forward: reading & righting

Arguments. Disagreements. Disputes.

Or perhaps with a bit of floor polish: contretemps.

They have happened every day among friends, lovers, relatives, spouses and business associates since the beginning of time. Must this state of affairs continue unabridged, accepted as the cost of getting up in the morning, as inevitable as stale bread? Or can people learn to read problems in light of the bigger picture by considering the brevity of life and how genuinely good it feels to be generous, to be forgiving, to be proactive in righting the mistakes that each of us inevitably make? Does the ego really need to hold sway as some sort of unchecked emotional dictatorship?

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the meter of daily life: electric company

The refrigerator and stove. ATM and auto-pay. Self-service checkout.20110912170939_Choclectrique

The computer, smartphone and iEverything. Facebook and Twitter. Google and untold others.

Drive-up, drive-through, drop-off everything.

These and all the other accoutrements of daily living can be accomplished with little or no human interaction. But what do our hours mean without meaningful or even passing companionship? In the drive for technological supremacy and efficiency, many tasks can now be accomplished at any hour of day or night, with just a few keystrokes or drops of gas.

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