Day 102. The Smiling Daffodil almost went up in flames…until she employed some Dale Carnegie principles….

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 102.  Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Everyone was on my last nerve today. 

I tried. I took a deep breath. I prayed. I listened to my favorite song again and again. I prayed some more. I immersed myself in my work.  And something must’ve worked.  Picture Niagara Falls turning into a tranquil, peaceful lake.  I was calm.

Don't be fooled by the calm... I see dark clouds coming!

Until the next set of interruptions….

“Smiling Daffodil, when is this event? What prize is next week? I need all the paperwork for XYZ by this Friday. I also don’t want any last minute requests from you Smiling Daffodil— I have a very busy month in August.” – said, several associates.

I’m a horrible person—because my thought process went like this:  It’s not about what you want.  Speak in terms of what interests me, silly!  Surely you have heard of Dale Carnegie. Use it on me! (I did not say these words out loud)

Disclaimer:  My reaction did not follow the Carnegie rules.   To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, people are who they are.  We would be the same if we were in their circumstances.  Plus Dale Carnegie said we can’t expect people to change.  All we can do is change ourselves.

Just light a match and the office would have exploded because of my frustration.

I tried to calm down.  I prayed. I felt my heart pounding.  I think my face was red.  I repeated one of my favorite Dale Carnegie principles—expect ingratitude. Expect ingratitude.  EXPECT INGRATITUDE!

I even repeated just one line from the “Our Father” prayer:  “give us this day, our daily bread.”  I reminded myself that I should be grateful for my daily bread.  (also known as burritos and Starbucks).  I shouldn’t complain I don’t have a giant warehouse of food/money.  I have enough to sustain me.  There are people that would gladly take my job and not utter one complaint. 

I decided to immerse myself in my work… because frankly I was enjoying my work.  Today I was working on one of the greatest contests in the history of contests. (my opinion of course!)  Just thinking about it shifted my focus from irritation to happiness….

This blog will be a bit unconventional. I’d like to tell you that once I focused on working on my contest that my workday ended with roses, rainbows and butterflies.  But I’m a very stubborn individual.  I might have a small frame but I tend to behave like an immovable mountain.

I continued to pray on the drive home.  I even sang my heart out while being stuck in traffic on the highway.  I did my best to pull myself out of my box of frustration—telling myself that tomorrow will be better. There are ups and downs to life. 

I got home, ate my burritos and have since calmed down from a very long day at work.  I am not really certain if I can claim I succeeded at applying Dale Carnegie principles.  What I do know—thank God I have the Dale Carnegie principles to lean on when I have frustrating days at work or in life in general.  Bad days do happen—it’s just part of life—but having the right tools to make these days a little easier is quite a blessing. 

I am a stickler for following the rules to my own blog—so let’s pin me down on some principles I employed:

From Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:
Do the best you can.
Analyze your own mistakes and criticize yourself.

I do think I did the best I could dealing with the 101 interruptions/requests today.  Unfortunately I fell a bit short… well maybe a lot short.  With more practice I might be able to handle these types of days a little better.  (I aim for incremental improvement—it’s an easier pill to swallow). 

If nothing else—I am profiting from my losses by sharing my struggles and how I deal with them with you my readers.  You’ll either think I’m nuts and find humor in it—or perhaps it will give you some perspective on areas in your life that you can appreciate more or even improve on. 

I am certain that we all have that tipping point where the day just goes from bad to worse.  Know that you are not alone in that experience.  Know that it is worth trying the techniques I used—prayer, doing the best you can, analyzing your own mistakes.  When you do this—your emotions and thoughts take a different, more constructive path.  I knew I was irritated—but I was also doing my best to find a creative and constructive way to calm myself down so that I would not lash out on anyone.  It took me awhile—but here I am… a nice, tranquil, peaceful pond… until tomorrow. Ha!

Housekeeping / Notes
Thank you everyone for reading my blog.  A special note of thanks to “Michelin Man’s Mom” I had no idea you were reading.  I am thrilled.  😉

Day 90. This story almost had an unhappy ending until I figured out how to make lemonade from lemons…

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 90.  Friday, June 24, 2011

I had a story about letting someone save face on Thursday—but decided to post a different blog topic.  In retrospect the “saving face” story was meant to be told today….

I was talking to an associate on Thursday.  His face looked green—he seemed absolutely sick.  It turns out he made an expensive, careless mistake. 

Before taking the Dale Carnegie course I would have let the person save face.  But in my mind I would have been thinking… you careless fool!  Hope you learned your lesson.

Fortunately, I have taken the Dale Carnegie course and I handled the circumstance differently.  I let my associate save face—and I didn’t think anything ill of him.  I empathized with him and tried to come up with solutions to this expensive blunder. 

Friday was going really well—by the afternoon I had finished my primary task for the day and I was really proud of the results. I was confident—perhaps a little bold in thinking I had done a profoundly good job.  What a great day… I might have to revisit Mcdonald’s for a strawberry lemonade to celebrate.  (You might remember last Friday was horrible)

By the end of the day I had a list of blog topics that I felt were pretty stellar—and they were all very positive.  I didn’t have to make lemonade from lemons today!

Before I went home I analyzed some reports and realized one of my marketing campaigns did not do well.  Let’s be honest—by my calculations the campaign bombed.  It crashed.  It burned. 

I felt dejected as I drove home.  I worked hard on the campaign.  This was my baby.  My heart was in this campaign. 

Since it was my campaign—I felt completely responsible.  I felt sick the entire drive home.

 I tried to remember 99 percent of this day was great—but that darn 1 percent.  It made the entire day sour.  And now I’m facing the weekend.  I know I will chew on this failure the entire weekend. 

I knew I had to take quick action against my thought process.  I tried.  But I just wanted to crawl in a hole and hide for an extended period of time—perhaps a week…maybe a month…

I decided to review the facts.  Did I do my best?  Yes.  And I wasn’t trying to fool myself.  I really did. My team and I put extra effort into this campaign.  I went through each of the features we added to make this campaign something we were proud of.  I kept telling myself—I did my best.  I did my best.

Then I remembered Thursday’s events.  I did not point out, mock or criticize my associate for his expensive mistake.  Although he admitted he did not do his best—I did not participate in making him feel worse than he already did. 

Somehow I was able to piece together two isolated events to find my peace.

Whereas my associate was honestly able to admit he had not done his best—an honest analysis of my work does indicate my team and I really did do our best on the marketing campaign. 

Fight for your happiness. Work hard to gain a new perspective.

I smiled as I drove in to McDonald’s for dinner.  After all, today just wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t have my hard earned strawberry lemonade.

The Dale Carnegie principles I used are from How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
Live in “day-tight compartments.”
Decide just how much anxiety a thing may be worth and refuse to give it more.
Analyze your own mistakes and criticize yourself.
Do the very best you can.

I knew the potential disaster of me bearing the burden of a failure for the entire weekend.  I knew this was an occasion that I would have to fight for my happiness and not let circumstances beyond my control drag me down.  In the big picture—yes, it’s a shame the campaign did not do stellar.  But it doesn’t mean I have to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders or spend an entire evening or weekend dwelling on the matter.  If we slapped this project together without any thought, care or effort—then yes I would have reason to be disappointed in myself—but even then it’s not worth an entire weekend of feeling regret or dejection.

So, my lesson to you—always do your best.  It is true your best might not produce the results you had expected.  But I assure you that doing your best and falling short of success is easier to deal with than doing a mediocre job and living with the regret that you were too disinterested, distracted, lazy, etc to put effort into a task that you can be proud of.

Day 83. My eyes betrayed me….

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 83.  Thursday, June 16, 2011
I was working with some associates on a big presentation today. My role was minimal—I was the director / team leader / advisor, of sorts.  I describe my role as minimal because the bulk of the preparation and work for the presentation was technically impossible for me to handle.   Instead the work was the responsibility of one individual—named “Evelyn.”

Evelyn was stressed today.  In fact, she was stressed all day yesterday trying to prepare for today.  Evelyn and I didn’t talk much yesterday.  My perception of things—it wasn’t my role to be involved—there was technically no “work” that I could help her with.  It was her vision that she had to bring to life. 

When Evelyn and I met this morning I did my best to break the ice and begin in a friendly way.  Understand that I am not exactly a perky individual in the morning.  And I could feel tension and stress between us—even though I felt there was no logical reason for it. 

Evelyn began to go through each step in the presentation.  She was nervous and stressed—and as a result she didn’t seem quite as polished or prepared as she would have liked to have been.

My eyes have been betraying me for years....

It was at this point I learned something about myself.  I can intimidate.  For those of you who know me, surely this surprises you!  I think I’m a lovable, soft spoken, kind hearted individual.  But today I realized I inadvertently come off as a bear who is never happy and I can make people feel inadequate. 

Realizing I was causing Evelyn to be stressed and intimidated… I softened my approach.  I listened to her presentation with interest.  I gave encouragement.  I gave gentle guidance and suggestions.  Once I did this—it was as if the weight of the world was lifted from Evelyn.  Instead, this became more of a team effort.  She looked at me for guidance and help and in fact, it was at this point that she became her normal self.  Her words flowed a lot better because she was at ease. 

I guess the best way to describe what happened is that the burden—the yoke of responsibility that was absolutely all hers—now was being shared.  I helped to carry her burden. 

I recognized the value of praising her here and there—with words of encouragement like “that was good”. Or “this was a good choice of colors for this project.”  “Maybe you should also mention the following key points.”

It was an exhausting day for Evelyn but she seemed to really become enthusiastic.  She even suggested doing extra work to make the presentation better.  I encouraged her to go for it—and she did. 

The filming of this project took the entire day and by the time we finished the entire team was ready to go home. 

I said to Evelyn, “while this was a lot of work—I think the extra effort paid off.”

Evelyn:  “I completely agree.  This was one of our best.”

The Dale Carnegie principles that I used today were subtle yet very challenging for me.   From How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 1.  Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
Principle 18.  Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
Principle 26. Let the other person save face.

From How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:
Analyze your own mistakes and criticize yourself.

I work very hard and the standards I place on myself are very high.  I think others see this and they get intimidated because they think they don’t measure up in my eyes.  One problem is—I think my eyes were betraying me.  I was criticizing and condemning Evelyn with the look in my eyes.  My eyes were sending the message:  this is not my responsibility so I’m going to let you carry the burden Evelyn.  While technically it was a fact that this wasn’t my burden, Evelyn also needed encouragement.  Encouragement really is a very sweet nectar that absolutely everyone craves more than the finest foods.  Everyone is capable of serving it up in a sincere way.

The method I took to encourage—I listened with interest while being sympathetic to Evelyn’s feelings and ideas.  I helped carry the burden of this task so that it was more of a team effort.  Once I did this—the presentation and workflow went a lot smoother.  There was no longer tension between Evelyn and me.

I learned a humbling lesson today about my eyes and I got to see firsthand the positive effects of softening my approach.  So remember, if there is tension between you and someone else that you cannot explain—stop and consider that your eyes may be criticizing and condemning the other person.  Soften your approach with some encouragement and you’ll discover the positive effect it will have on the other person.

Day 47. The pen that broke the camel’s back…

365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 47.  Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ketchup... the new red pen?

I use red pens for a living.  Not blue.  Not black.  Not green.  Not pink.  Red.

Somehow all my red pens have walked off—it’s part of life—like missing socks, missing forks, missing pocket change.  It’s something you accept and don’t bother to question. 

I placed an order for more red pens for my associate and me.  I was in my associate’s office when an office assistant handed my associate one red pen. 

I hope my readers understand that I’ve been trying REALLY hard to apply the Dale Carnegie principles daily.  Sometimes it’s easy.  Sometimes it’s a thrilling experience.  But for whatever reason, today the subject of red pens broke me. 

My associate must have seen the turmoil in my mind.  The look in my eyes said, “really, one lousy, red pen is all my associate gets?” while my mind was trying desperately to come up with a Dale Carnegie principle to diffuse the absurdity of what I was feeling.

 All I could muster was a weak, “oh.”

I went back to my desk, chewing on the matter far more than I should have.  I thought of Abraham Lincoln’s quote I referenced earlier this week, “Don’t criticize them; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances.”

I thought about how people want to feel important.  And perhaps controlling office supplies makes people feel important.  Who am I to judge?  I like to feel important.  Heck, I want an overflowing box of red pens… perhaps I derive importance from have plenty of red pens on hand. 

At the end of the day I surrendered my one new red pen to my associate—saying she deserved to have it.  Now she has two red pens.  We both chuckled. 

I was tempted to purchase all the pens...

I had to go to three different stores this evening before I could find red pens.  Apparently there’s a shortage.  When I did find them I forked over a whopping five dollar bill for my own stash of precious red pens. 

The Dale Carnegie principles I should have applied immediately is from How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:
Don’t fuss about trifles.
Analyze your own mistakes and criticize yourself.

I regret letting silly red pens—of all objects—create such an absurd irritation.  I should have chuckled it off immediately. 

The freezer seemed like the safest place to control inventory levels of my personal stash of red pens.

Remember, sometimes the smallest of events in a day at just the right time have potential to create havoc.  But you have control over how you will react.  You can determine whether or not a minor circumstance will affect you or not.  When you recognize you have this level of control you will be ready to handle anything that comes your way.  Yes, even silly red pens.