avoiding the ordinary: canned goods

What do you bring to the table? Be it a job interview, a brainstorming session or interaction with a loved one, are your responses built on expected words, conventional notions,canned goods ingrained thought processes?

Almost every sphere of human activity can benefit from original ideas, and they hardly need be limited to symphony or skyscraper, to palate or painting, to e-this or i-that. Cause a few sparks—by going above and beyond, by living without fear of others’ responses, by acting from true conviction.

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the rules we live by: spare keys

For myriad reasons both secular and spiritual, we strive to live by a set of rules, a group of key tenets, that will best serve the overall good.SpareKey-150x150

But what of the less obvious of these behaviors? What of the aspects of daily life that are not generally seen, obviously recognized or otherwise reinforced? These can be equally if not more important for lives of integrity and productivity.

Do thoughts and self-regard remain humble in the wake of praise? Is gratitude present no matter how hard the work, how deserved the reward? Is conduct that recognizes and embraces others a natural part of every day, of each interaction?

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confronting consequences: the glass sealing

Perhaps the report doesn’t need those few extra pages, or the annual checkup can wait a few more months, or you’re sure the car can go a few thousand 09a4fd_0f0a2073753647d59411cee7ef7be828.jpgmore miles before its oil change, or the complicated home project is almost good enough, or… or… or.

It’s not unusual to become tired in what can be a difficult economy or with the kaleidoscopic range of daily obligations, to feel that just making it through the most urgent priorities is enough, to leave uncompromising thoroughness for another, more doable day.

And yet there are always consequences.

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traditional gender roles: malebox

Traditional gender roles are as outdated as last year’s calendar. Sure, men will always provide the seed, and women will always bear children, but beyond those natural facts, maleboxlimitations simply don’t (or shouldn’t) exist.

Choose any profession, from prime minister and secretary of state to scientist and professor. From CEO and entrepreneur to concert pianist and composer. From… to…. From… to…. Women can be dominating and abrasive; men can be sensitive and nurturing. And mothers can be breadwinners while stay-at-home fathers can take care of home and hearth. Read about one country’s struggles and how corrosive it can be to remain bogged down in suffocating norms.

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doing well by doing good: value added

You’ve worked hard. You’ve attained a level of career success that transcends the vagaries of the economy. You deeply value your significant other and nurture your children or Value added business stamp isolated on a white background.other family members. There is no better time to become a mentor, to volunteer your time, to become a board member or to donate to a nonprofit organization for which you feel closely connected. Here’s how one couple has found much satisfaction giving back by working on community-service projects.

The resulting fulfillment—quiet and personal—goes a long way toward mitigating the inevitable stresses of responsibility and accountability, those entrenched and ultimately positive aspects of our culture. Beyond these significant benefits, the giving of time and/or money can readily expand your sphere of contacts and influence. The resulting genuine goodwill opens doors, creates opportunities, and allows for an extra level of direct involvement with both organizations and individuals.

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give or take: the conventional root

You’ve decided. It’s perfect for you. It represents a direct way to self-fulfillment, and you have so much to offer. You’ve studied hard, worked hard. The way to make a real contribution has presented itself. What lies at the root of conventional responses, of a course of action widely followed by your competition? So then how to distinguish yourself?

Demonstrate your uncompromising commitment by word and action. Volunteer time, if not money, for a related nonprofit. Here’s how a grassroots social enterprise in New Orleans, for one, serves those on both sides of the so-called divide. Write personal cards to all involved, not just email acknowledgements. Research people, places and events. Become deeply informed. Find out all you can about its mission, its past achievements, its future goals. Be direct, allow your integrity to guide the process, and conduct yourself without fear or hesitance. Write an op-ed piece on a relevant topic. Submit an article to a trade publication. Offer to speak to a community group with common objectives.

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the result of inaction: heavy brainfall

HeavyBrainfallThe consequences of a lack of exercise are swift and severe, especially as the calendar continues its relentless passage. With an abundance of physical activity, though, the benefits are equally extreme and measurable. Low cholesterol. Strong heart. Vibrant bones and muscles. Little excess body fat. Increased creativity and stamina.

But society works against all that in the name of “ease of use.” The country as a whole no longer directly reaps the fields or catches animals and fish, instead sitting in offices day in and day out and ordering in. While passing through any thoroughfare in any town in any county in any state, one need not even get out of the car to load up on carbs and saturated fat, a circumstance ushered in by the glorious drive-thru window.

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tireless preparation: personal kneads

Twenty-three thousand overachieving students apply to gain admittance to Harvard’s freshman class of less than 2100. Three hundred highly qualified people apply for one job at IBM. The success rate for ambitious musicians to play at either Carnegie Hall or Madison Square Garden is far smaller. The list will always continue… Calendar

So many exceptionally qualified people find themselves in places not quite what their talents would otherwise suggest. Those less ambitious can simply chalk up such statistics to our highly competitive world and leave it at that, while others will plug away year after year in what will turn out to be a vain attempt to reach the loftier levels of human attainment.

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key perspectives: picture frame

Do you have a clear plan about where you’re going? pictureframe

Picture your ideal job; what does it look like? What is its focus, and with whom would you be working and interacting? Is your productivity and efficiency all it could be? If not, what must be done to ensure those twin aspects of valued employment?

These questions hold true whether you’re an undergraduate or graduate student, new to the job market or otherwise ensconced in a less-than-ideal job. Plan ahead. Act systematically. Are you going into an interview or meeting? Then formulate an agenda even if one is not provided. Reticence has no place within the job market, so carefully consider all chosen paths, then act decisively.

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using time wisely: autumn leaves

In just a few months, autumn leaves and we brace for winter. How many of us remember the start of 2019 asusing time wisely though it took place a mere few months ago? Then multiply that feeling by 10 and a decade has passed. How easy it is to forego an extra hour for Law & Order, a further hour for Judge Judy, confident that the time could well be made up tomorrow, next month, next year…. Fill in the blanks for any activity that stretches a bit too far and the hours add up like credit-card interest, unable to be recouped and ultimately a waste.

To be sure, those few extra hours in bed or relaxing in front of the browser, cup of tea in hand while nursing a cold, or that two-week vacation in Paris or Prague after an intense and productive period of work, are both wise and rejuvenating. Yet day to day, this extra 10 minutes here or that 15 minutes there can add up to hours each day, dozens each week and hundreds beyond.

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