The right to remain silent

jelly donutIf you’re female, you’ve probably grumbled about your weight at least once in your life. Whether you feel plagued with an extra five pounds or fifty, we all have our number. It’s a girl thing. (I’m sure it occasionally happens with men too, but I’m not a dude, so I’ll keep my assumptions to my own gender.)

You’d think, then, that women would be understanding of each other. Apparently that’s not always the case.

A friend of mine–one who is now 100 pounds lighter and kicking the sh*t out of her goals–recently told me of an incident that happened early in her weight loss journey. She had finally decided to wage war on her sedentary lifestyle and less-than-healthy habits and got herself moving, literally. She started walking on an indoor track, slowly at first because that’s all her body and mind could handle. In fact, she remembers the broom-wielding custodian easily gliding around her has he cleaned the track. Nonetheless, she was moving; that constituted victory all by itself.

Enter one perky soccer mom (PSM), complete with yoga pants and svelte physique, power walking around the track. No biggie, right? There’s room for everyone.

Not so, friends.

As PSM rounded the curve and started to pass my friend, she threw a verbal barb that lodged itself in my friend’s heart.

I’ll bet you wish you hadn’t had that doughnut this morning, huh?

What the heck? WHO SAYS THAT?!

Every time I ponder this story I get angry all over again, for lots of different reasons. I can’t process the unbelievable rudeness of this woman. You can call it fat shaming or whatever the fashionable term of the day happens to be, but I call it rude. It’s just downright mean. Whatever happened to good manners? Decorum? Class? Did degrading someone else make PSM feel superior? Did she think pushing someone down would raise her up? If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

The bigger issue that intrigues me about this incident is the sense of entitlement. I’ve seen it over and over at the gym: fit-looking people with the “right” kind of workout clothes draping the “right” kind of body cast sneers toward the less perfect people huffing and puffing and sweating as they struggle to finish a workout. Their attitude rises from their skin like steam: Look at you! You have no right to be here. You can’t even use this machine right. You’re in my way. I deserve to be here; you don’t.

Excuse me, but isn’t the person who is out of shape exactly the person who should be at the gym? And shouldn’t we applaud those of us–regardless of size, creed, color, or anything else–who take the initiative to do something positive? We should be making way for progress, not impeding it.

Inside or outside the gym, why is it often the people who need something least who feel the most entitled to it?

Think about that.

And the next time you find yourself ready to throw shade on someone doing something good for herself, remember: you have the right to remain silent. Exercise that.

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Intern-al combustion

070622-N-6410J-037It’s intern season in the corporate world, the time of year when college students scramble to find summer employment meaningful to their area of study. Candidates seem to be crawling out of the woodwork; I’ve been approached by more people this year than in the past five years combined. Good for me–I get to be choosy.

Somewhere during this process, I realized that many of these kids (ahem, young adults) need some guidance. Big time. Then a colleague and fellow blogger inspired me. He just started a Things I wish they knew series regarding his area of expertise, and I’ve decided to adapt that idea here–for all the intern candidates out there.

So, potential interns, here’s a list of the top three things I wish you knew. Take a gander; they just might help you get better.

  1. Professionalism counts. Even if I already know you, or know someone who knows you, we’re talking about establishing a professional relationship, not a personal one. Our communications–particularly in written form–should reflect not only mutual respect, but also your ability to communicate on a business level. Even in email, grammar, punctuation, and spelling all count, as well as your tone. This stuff goes into your file, whether you’re hired or not. Consider how you want others to see you.
  2. This is a real job. You may be a college student and this job may be temporary, but you still need to take it seriously. You’re laying the foundation not only for your own work habits, but also your future network of supporters. Besides that, this is job isn’t temporary for me. The things I’m paying you to do count and are very real in my world.
  3. The real lessons aren’t in the work itself. If you’re going to intern for me as, say, a graphic designer, you may or may not get cool design projects. Chances are, you’ll get tons of opportunity to design things in your courses. On the other hand, you probably won’t be taught how to make that stuff actually happen. Tasks such as prepping for production, proofreading, spec’ing materials within a budget, archiving files for future use, conforming to brand standards, and making logistics arrangements aren’t glamor jobs, but they still need to be done–and they rarely teach you those things in school. There’s also a lot to learn about the “real world” simply by operating in an office setting. You’ll be amazed at what you learn, and it won’t be what you expected.

I’m sure I’ll come up with a few more of these over time, but these are the most important. I hope you’ll take them to heart; they can make a big difference.

And for those of you who already have this mastered–thanks.

Inspiring minds

thinkingI have a confession to make. I need to learn from the insights I write as much as anyone–perhaps even more sometimes. Since I draw a lot from others, too, I’ve decided to share some of the sound bites that have occasionally inspired me. Use what works, discard the rest.

When the everyday grind gets tough: You don’t get paid for Sunday [insert your own big event here]; that’s fun. You get paid to get ready for Sunday.–Marv Levy, on football

When pride gets in the way: Apologizing doesn’t always mean that you are wrong and the other person is right. It just means that you value your relationship more than your ego.–Unknown

On the darkest days: We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.–Abraham Lincoln

When you want to hide: Let me remind you, the light doesn’t blind you at all…it just helps you see. -Goo Goo Dolls

Each of these has spoken to me at a particular time. Even so, I am amazed at how quickly I forget their wisdom when circumstances change, regardless of how firmly I try to tuck their simple truth into my heart. Perhaps the secret is this:

It’s simple, but it’s not easy.–Marv Levy

Ducks and horses

The Backstory:

Yesterday a friend and I were discussing the recent NYU-Replyallcalypse and he got stuck on one of the goofy Reply-All messages sent to the giant list of recipients. (Really, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, click the link I provided.) To poke him a little, I whipped off an email response in blog post format. Although it was intended to be a wry attempt at humor, I wondered if it might have real merit when I re-read it this morning. You can decide for yourself.

My Wry-Attempt-At-Humor-But-Hey-Wait-It-Might-Have-Legs Response:

Would you rather fight a 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck? You’re probably laughing at the absurdity of this question, but I’ll bet you find yourself revisiting it throughout the day, however unwillingly. After a while, you’ll realize that you are taking up precious brain power pondering a what-if that has about a zero percent chance of becoming reality.

Even if you don’t think about mutant ducks and horses all day long, I’ll bet you tie up your brain waves pondering scenarios that probably won’t come true. All of us do it—and it’s probably a healthy exercise if we can keep it in check—but when we’re thinking of stuff like that, what AREN’T we thinking of?

When you’re worrying about ducks and horses [insert your favorite diversion here], chances are you’re NOT thinking about your customers and how to help them make their lives better. Or your business and how to do what you do more effectively. Or how to nurture your kids’ talents. Or what to make for dinner. Or, or, or.

Personally, one of my favorite diversions is what-if-I-had-done-this-differently-way-back-when. I ruminate about how my life might look today if I had just answered that one question differently, or chosen a different major in college, or taken a different job. While I’m sure there’s something to be learned in hindsight, I’m sure I spend way too much time on the what-ifs I can’t recapture rather than the ones I can actually make happen today.

The next time you find yourself thinking about ducks and horses, use them to propel yourself into productivity.