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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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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being held up: mug shots

The 8:30 a.m. conference at your downtown office will emphatically not wait for being held up in rush-hour traffic, for getting the kids ready for school in time for the bus, for finishing your preparation for the pending presentation, for putting gas in the car, for stopping at the ATM, for… for… for. If only youcoffe-mug could have something to hold you up amidst the stress and lack of sleep that seem to purposely invade each week. Add waiting in line at Starbucks for that shot of espresso that briefly jolts the brain and body.

Why do we put ourselves in such a position? Must we stay up so late answering that enveloping stream of emails, watching and/or reading the end-of-day news, overextending to spouse and children? Well sure, this is contemporary life, when wanting it all comes with an inflationary price that only the weak decline to pay. Let the morning mugs of Colombian coffee be drained, let them be damned, but let them work!

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moving forward: reading & righting

Arguments. Disagreements. Disputes.09a4fd_9ce81ac54c8242e493195c490021b6d6

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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a lack of transparency: stained glass

Why is transparency within the realm of all types of communication—friend-friend, parent-child, husband-wife, manager-employee—so consistently elusive? Why StainedGlassmust the ego so quickly approach the greasy fast-fed drive-thru that values expediency and quick profit over healthy dialogue? Why do so many start with perfection as the baseline, from which there is no room to breathe?

Imagine almost any type of scenario. You’ve borrowed a friend’s or parent’s car and have had an accident that was your fault; does the car’s owner not far more appreciate an immediate admission and pledge to do whatever it takes to right the situation, rather than an elusive answer and possible insurance or courtroom fight? You’ve missed a Friday deadline at work to the detriment of a client relationship; does the client not far more appreciate an immediate call and pledge to work through the entire weekend to right the situation, rather than an elusive excuse and possible contractual fight?

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the brain-body connection: flat tired

storing and accessing mistakes: I cloud

Making mistakes can be a source of true peace.

What a ridiculous statement, no? How could it be so, and why does it never feel that way at the moment?Erasing

For those determined to move ahead tangibly—both personally and professionally—and not just to aspire, the follow-up question, “What can be gleaned from this?” is key. None of us can know at all times where to step and where to avoid, what to do and what to avoid, how to embrace and how to avoid; such a valuable avoidance instinct can only be built up over time, over problems solved, over situations lived through.

As long as we recognize that being perfect is not only unrealistic but impossible, and that freely admitting inevitable mistakes is a sign of strength and self-awareness rather than weakness, we open ourselves to lasting progress and development. The instinct to cover up mistakes or to spin them in a more favorable light is surely natural; who, after all, wants to walk around with errors hanging from the emotional rafters, with slips stuck to public message boards?

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at a minimum: cardboard & character

How easy to take for granted…21437141974_27d3aacbc3_b

…the hundreds of thousands of people—men and women with lives, loves and labors—who are responsible for that cardboard carton carrying everything from beer and books to papers and paraphernalia.

The factory workers, the salespeople, the layers of middle and upper management, the stockholders who provide capital for payroll and expansion, the drivers who long-haul these yet-to-be-filled and already-filled boxes, the cities and states that depend upon the accompanying toll revenues, the highway workers who in turn pave and upkeep those very well-traveled roads, the bricks-and-mortar and online workers who stock, pack and send the boxes, the lawyers and doctors who stack them rafter-high, the paper recyclers alert to these soon-to-be discarded cartons…. All of them spend their earned income on themselves, and their families and friends, which in turn creates sustenance for so many more.

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