problem solving and benchmarking.
facing a problem? search for what's been done before.

I’m not that special.

I feel like I’ve written about this before, but when I’m facing a problem, I tend to believe that someone, somewhere, sometime has faced either my exact same problem or one very similar to it. And that at least one person who has faced and solved this problem – or at least figured out a workaround or a compromise – has written about it (or posted a video about it on youtube).

My first instinct is to search for what they wrote to benchmark best possible solutions.

More often than not, I find some information that helps me. Sometimes in a book, in an article, buried in a comment thread or even on a pinterest board or youtube, I’ve found solutions – or at least ideas – that have helped me in countless situations, from how to change my specific computer’s laptop screen to how to interact with a narcissist to how to have a crucial conversation to…I did say countless situations.

Most of the time, when I research, I get one of four results:

1. I find the exact best solution to my problem.

2. I find a solution that doesn’t quite work for me, but I can modify it a bit to solve my problem.

3. I find a solution that doesn’t work for me at all, but it sparks an idea for something I hadn’t considered before.

4. I find out what DOESN’T or won’t work.

By being patient, doing my research, putting forth extra effort and not giving up easily, I’ve saved money, time and even relationships. Often, after learning how someone else approached a problem, I’ve gotten what I needed, gotten what I wanted and again, even gotten confirmation that a particular approach would NOT be a good idea.

I love learning from other people’s successes – and mistakes.

 

Looking for a Qualified Teacher or Credible Mentor?
4 Things to Consider:

Don't Insulate Yourself from Developmental Feedback (constructive criticism). Be Brave. Seek it out.

Recently, in a post entitled “Want to improve? Give people permission to tell you the truth.”

I wrote:

“As scary as it is, if you REALLY want to improve, seek developmental feedback.

But NOT from just anyone.

Ask people you trust.
Ask people who have experience in your industry or craft – either firsthand or through extensive observation.
Ask people who have no vested interest in the outcome of your decisions…

…Ask for suggestions. Find qualified teachers and credible mentors.”

If you’ve decided to be brave and seek out developmental feedback from “qualified teachers and credible mentors” your first step is to:

1. Define “qualified” and “credible” so you can identify those people.

In my experience, “qualified” can be interpreted to mean that someone has a degree or certification or some sort of credential they’ve earned through a structured educational or training program. But much too often, that degree or certification represents completion in that program and not necessarily COMPETENCE. I’ve personally gotten more than a few clients because the “credentialed” person couldn’t actually DO the work.

(Sometimes a certification is necessary to meet eligibility requirements, but I stopped getting certifications to enhance my credibility a few decades ago when I recognized that, in many cases, anyone could become certified if they paid for it. I chose instead to diligently pursue competence, strive for excellence, demonstrate a strong work ethic and genuinely care about the needs and success of my clients, which resulted in a solid reputation and a client base built by referrals.)

So, if a credential isn’t a dependable measure of qualified or credible, then what should you look for in a mentor?

Someone who is doing what you want to learn to do – and is doing it well.

These are the people you want to emulate. Research their credentials, find out where they obtained their education and training and who their teachers were. Check out their websites, their Linkedin and any other social media presence they may have. Look for articles they’ve written or interviews they’ve given. If you discover they’ve quoted a book, read it. What they’ve done and experienced has helped them get to where they are today and there’s value in that information. After you’ve learned all you can about them on your own, consider reaching out to them personally.

2. In a career search, one way to find good advice would be through something called an Informational Interview.

An informational interview is different than a job interview in that there’s no specific job opportunity available. Rather, the conversation centers around learning about a particular field or career or even a company, so the interviewer can gain a better understanding of best practices and potential pitfalls. Usually, the interviewer comes away from an informational interview with some solid advice from someone who is or has been where they want to go. Approaching someone to interview can be scary, but you would be surprised at how often a complete stranger is willing to give you a few minutes of their time to give you insight into their chosen profession and tell you about their journey.

For more information about how to prepare and conduct an informational interview, check out What Color Is Your Parachute? 2019: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard N. Bolles.

3. Identify good teachers by identifying their students.

Finding a good teacher can be tricky. Forget about advertisements. They are often written by someone about themselves and who would ever say anything negative about themselves when they are advertising their own services? Instead, seek out (a) word of mouth referrals, (b) search for social media comments and reviews by their clients (and former clients) and most importantly (c) look at their students, especially long-time students. You would never intentionally get a haircut from someone if you knew all their clients had terrible haircuts. The same mentality applies when it comes to evaluating a teacher.

For instance, I’ve taken voice lessons on and off for decades. I found my current vocal coach because I heard someone sing and thought “Wow! I want to learn to do THAT!” I was drawn to excellence in a student’s performance and I wanted to know who their teacher was – I NEEDED to know who their teacher was.

If you are considering a teacher and none of their students are doing what you want to learn and doing it well, it could be that none of their students are talented or teachable, but the odds of that are slim. If you can’t find a single student of theirs who is demonstrating excellence, or at least growth, my personal advice is to find another teacher. If you still decide you want to work with them, don’t commit to a long-term student/teacher relationship with them immediately. A few lessons or classes during a trial period should tell you whether you are a good fit.

A Caveat:

If your teacher only ever gives you positive feedback, don’t settle for it. Compliments may make you FEEL better, but it won’t help you GET better. After all, if you were perfect, you wouldn’t need their help. Ask them directly to TELL you what weaknesses they see you struggle with and what you need to work on.

4.

Finally, if your teacher runs out of developmental feedback (constructive criticism), YOU’VE OUTGROWN THEM. It’s time to move on and find another teacher who will challenge you.

Memo to Me: Listen more than you talk.

Memo to Me: Listen more than you talk.

Memo to Me: Listen more than you talk.Remember:

You can learn a lot about and from others.

What they think…
How they feel…
Something they’ve learned…
maybe even what they worry about or struggle with…

when you listen more than you talk.
when you ask questions.
when you let them get a word in edgewise.

If your goal is to #LoveGodLoveOthers, the first step is to pray. Then shut up and LISTEN..

To God and to others.

Ask God to help you see people and circumstances from His perspective

      instead of from your own limited and skewed point of view.

Ask God to help you pay attention to the people He brings into or allows in your day

      instead of blowing through your moments, oblivious to everything
      but your own thoughts
      and to-do list.

Ask God to help you pause…and really listen

      instead of thinking about what you’re going to say next.

Ask God to bless you with wisdom – and empathy – to understand

      instead of trying to navigate and process conversations
      on your own.

Memo to Me: Listen more than you talk.

Want to improve? Give people permission to tell you the truth.
(And don’t punish them for it)

Give the people you trust permission to tell you the truth

Do you want to improve?

To get better at what you do?

If the only feedback you are receiving about the

work you are doing…
the risks you are taking…
the things you are creating…

is positive, consider that for a minute.

Is that what you want? Is that what you need?

How do you tell the difference between someone who’s being nice
and someone who’s telling the truth?

If you NEVER hear negative – or even neutral – feedback how do you know what you need to improve?

If you’ve been the victim of 100% positive feedback…
If you are a member of a group of people pleasing back patters…
If you ask counterfeit questions, like “Wasn’t that GREAT?!” when you ask someone for their opinion…

Consider the possibility that you have a subjective and unrealistic opinion of your finished product – whatever it is.

Consider the statistical improbability that you are doing everything so well what there’s absolutely no room for improvement.

As scary as it is, if you REALLY want to improve, seek developmental feedback.

But NOT from just anyone.

Ask people you trust.
Ask people who have experience in your industry or craft – either firsthand or through extensive observation.
Ask people who have no vested interest in the outcome of your decisions.

If they believe you are sincere in the asking…
If they have the courage to tell you the truth…

and the feedback isn’t 100% affirmation and praise,

DON’T PUNISH THEM FOR IT.

DON’T argue.
DON’T shut down.
DON’T assume they are wrong.
DON’T dismiss them as a credible resource.
DON’T dismiss the feedback.
DON’T ASSUME THEY DON’T LIKE YOU.

Consider. Search their words for all possible truth. If you’re really brave, seek out a second opinion – again – giving them permission to tell you the truth.

Ask for suggestions. Find qualified teachers and credible mentors. Set realistic long and short-term goals for improvement. Work toward them. Consistently.

Improvement is rarely easy. But in the end, the hard is what makes it great.

09/2018 baseline fitness measurement.
indo board, forearm plank and wall squat.

I turned 54 three days ago – another birthday without consistent daily fitness, so I thought I’d find out how far I’ve regressed by taking an indo board lunch break and videotaping it (below).

It had been a few months since I’d been on it. Pretty easy up. Then I needed to find out how long I could STAY up.

While reading. (Not kidding – if I look down, I lose my balance. And reading keeps me from getting bored. results posted below the video)

#GoodStewardofthisBody #fitnessaccountability

First Try:
7 minutes up – serious regression. try again.
4 minutes up – now I was ticked off. try again.
10 minutes up – drifted the board into furniture. try again.
16.25 minutes up – meh. try again LATER.
21 minutes up – acceptable. for now.

of course, then I had to find out:
my current forearm plank time (90 seconds) and
my current wall squat time (1 minute) #iIHATEWallSquats

I need to keep this up.

Did I mention that #iHATEwallsquats?

follow my fitness log HERE

satan hates potential.
if you've got it, he's going to try and sabotage you.

Memo to me: Satan hates potential.

If you find yourself under spiritual attack or facing problems that derail or discourage you from following God’s will and direction for your life, remember two things:

(1) Satan has no need to attack someone who’s not following God. They’re already where he wants them. Comfortably ineffective and stagnant in their faith.

(2) if you have entered into a relationship with Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives IN you and you are equipped by His power.

I’m praying for strength and determination and perseverance and encouragement today. And if you’re reading this, I’m praying the same for you.

(book quote from “the Necessity of an Enemy” by Ron Carpenter Jr.)

my wish for you.

54. today. Little introspective, gotta admit. With all the birthday wishes, combined with the fact that today is the closing show of my daughter’s most professional role to date, I told her, “I wish so many good things for every person in the cast. SO many good things.” and I realized, I wish that for you too. No matter our relationship or how long it’s been since we’ve spoken, I wish GOOD, GOOD things for you. And I found myself thinking of this video I made a few years ago.

I wish you an ABUNDANT LIFE. And I pray you know – or come to know – in the deepest, profoundest way, God LOVES you – I mean jealously, unconditionally, holding nothing back LOVES you – NO. MATTER. WHAT. you’ve done or said or think or…He LOVES. Unlike some of his children who may have hurt you. So. My birthday wish? I wish GOOD things for you.

If you don’t feel like watching, here’s the gist of the video:

Looking back over my life, I gotta say. I’m thankful I haven’t always gotten what would make me “happy.” In some cases, that immediate and temporal happiness would have been a dead end. Because – for me – the disappointment, heartbreak or discontent that’s resulted from turned backs, closed doors and unfulfilled dreams has often been the foundation of motivation and inspiration to look beyond the dream I had for myself and discover God had something greater in mind, and His “greater” hasn’t always been wrapped in a big bow of happiness. Sometimes, in the middle of disappointment, it’s hard to remember is that rejection is redirection, that God is sovereign, that He loves me more than I do and that He has promised to work all things together for good. He’s promised to transform me – to help me see people and circumstances from HIS infinite perspective rather than from my own skewed and limited vantage point, where I am the center of me.

So, my 54 year old birthday wish for you?

Don’t settle for what makes you happy.

Instead, relentlessly pursue your next best step, even if you can’t see where the path you are on ends.

If you are a man or women of faith, pray.

Dig into God’s word – learn what the words originally meant before you apply subjective meaning to your life and circumstance.

Find wise counsel – other men and women of faith – and hold each other accountable.

If you love Jesus, then when you look for your “purpose” in life, remember, smack in the trenches of whatever circumstance, relationship, vocation or ministry, your purpose is to:

Love God. Love Others. Make Disciples.

#seepeople #edify because everybody is #justadifferentkindofbroken

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
C.S. Lewis

It Doesn’t Matter if You CAN. It matters if you DO.


Lots of people CAN do something. Not everyone does. There’s opportunity in that.

If you have a talent, be a good steward of it. Find a teacher. or teachers. Work consistently. Be humble. Be brave. Seek developmental feedback and accept wise instruction. Remind yourself that talent alone isn’t enough. Pray for opportunities to share your talent and be prepared for them.

Luck Favors the Prepared.” Edna Mode

Risk failure. Tell fear to shut up and sit down because it’s YOUR turn.

and remember what Jimmy Dugan said:

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

Who Sent the Stronger Message at the 2018 Tony Awards? De Niro? Orin Wolf? or the Audience?

Some might say De Niro sent the strongest message. From the looks of the internet on June 11th, he got more attention than ANYTHING else that happened at the 2018 Tony Awards the night before.

If you searched “Tonys” on Monday morning, google auto suggested “Tonys De Niro” and if you clicked on google images you were deluged with scowls and fists in the air.

Of course, the images immediately flooded my mind with childhood memories of Burgermeister Meisterburger.
(in the words of Dr. Raymond Stantz, “I couldn’t help it. It just popped in there.”)

De Niro’s words were bleeped in many of the videos and redacted in print,
but I was watching live and I knew what he said the moment he said it:

“Me. Me Me Me Me. ME!!”

Never mind who won a Tony.
Never mind the multiple phenomenal performances by the nominees.
Never mind the talent or music of Bruce Springsteen, whose performance De Niro was on stage to introduce.
Not a single award or performance garnered more internet real estate than Robert De Niro on the the morning of June 11, 2018.

You can’t buy that kind of publicity.

But there were two other messages from the Tony Awards that hit home for me.

It’s been a week and I’m still thinking about

the juxtaposition of this…

The Acceptance Speech by Orin Wolf, Producer of The Band’s Visit
(2018 Tony Award Winner for Best Musical):

“Music gives people hope and makes borders disappear. Although the characters are strangers to each other with great political divides, our show offers a message of unity in a world that more and more seems bent on amplifying our differences. In the end, we are far more alike than different and I’m so proud to be part of a community that chooses to support that message.” [emphasis added]

The response of the audience? 6 Seconds of Spattering Applause

and this:

Robet De Niro, (who was on stage to introduce Bruce Springsteen singing a poignant rendition of My Hometown):

“I’m going to say one thing, F— Trump,” with his fists in the air. “It’s no longer ‘Down with Trump.’ It’s f— Trump.”

The response of the audience? 28 Seconds of applause, cheering, whistling and a sustained standing ovation by nearly every audience member from multiple camera angles.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m thinkin Orin Wolf didn’t hurriedly scribble his acceptance speech in his seat as a response to De Niro hijacking the microphone. I believe Wolf thoughtfully prepared that speech and intentionally wrote those words to express what he believed to be true.

For the most part, the 2018 Tony Awards were a short and welcome reprieve from the bludgeoning of “a world that more and more seems bent on amplifying our differences.” Hosts Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles were clearly focused on honoring excellence in Broadway theatre:

“…our job throughout the night is…to celebrate all the people in that room, who put in all their effort eight times a week and deserve to be there for all the right reasons. We’re focusing on that positive energy and all the ways that theater can bring people together.” Josh Groban

And it appeared they were succeeding.

Until.

What happened in that span of 28 seconds?
Did the applause and cheering of hundreds of people turn Wolf’s gracious words into a crumbled facade and him into a naive idealist patronized by frauds?
or did he expose their duplicity and momentarily shame them into silence?

Both of those possibilities are awful.

I’m thankful for the 1% rule of internet culture and pray that Monday morning’s tsunami of De Niro praising came from the loudest of the 1% and not the remaining 99%. I pray that the majority was silent because words failed them after witnessing people who seemed so gracious and accepting moments before, instantly pivot on a single word of vulgarity and belie their true thoughts and feelings while smiling. and cheering. and whistling. and applauding. on their feet. in support of a hateful polemic.

De Niro’s message was a selfish expression of hate. And it was loud.
Orin Wolf’s message was a call to unity, encouraging us to bridge “great political divides.”

But the message of that 28 second reveal stripped the audience of their credibility like a wizard behind a curtain.

It leaves me wondering who in the Tony’s audience that night is genuinely “part of a community that chooses to support that message” of unity?

and who is just acting?

Cheesy Sausage Pasta (with an Optional Kick)

This has become one of my son’s favorite dishes and I’ve taught him how to make it so I thought I’d document the process with photos for when he wants to make it again on his own. I’m thinking he might actually do it because besides the fact it’s one of his favorite meals, it only took him about a half an hour from start to finish, including gathering the ingredients, prepping them and actually cooking. (I apologize for the quality of the photos, I took them with my phone.)

I’ve broken this post up into four sections:
(click a link below to jump to each section)
1. Ingredients
2. My personal twists on the ingredients.
3. Personal notes to my son about the prep.
4. The cooking instructions.

Here are the Ingredients for those who Prefer Precise Measurements:

(this is for a double recipe because when I made a single recipe there were no leftovers and plenty of sadness)
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ chopped medium onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 (13oz) packages of turkey sausage
4 cups chicken broth
2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes (undrained)
1 cup milk
2 (8oz) boxes of dry uncooked pasta
1 teaspoon pepper
salt to taste
1-2 cups water
8oz shredded cheese (cheddar, cheddar jack, Mexican mix, or your favorite)
¼-½ tsp of Red Pepper Flakes

Now here’s that list again, with my personal twists in parenthesis:
(If you want to skip right to the cooking directions click HERE)

olive oil (a few circles in the pan)

½ chopped medium onion
(I grab a bag of chopped onions from the freezer because I chop them in bulk and flash freeze them,
as shown in my post “5 minute onions in a flash freeze“)

2 tablespoons minced garlic
(We like us some garlic and we buy minced garlic in a jar,
so we tend to just plop a few heaping spoonfuls in,
regardless of what any recipe calls for. We actually ran out
of garlic the last time so we substituted garlic powder.)

2 (13oz) packages of turkey sausage
(I use precooked. Hillshire or Butterball, whatever is BOGO,
sliced lengthwise and then crosswise to make it go further
and be more evenly distributed throughout the dish.)

4 cups chicken broth
(Chicken broth can get expensive, so most of the time, I substitute
1 chicken bullion cube in one cup of water for one cup of chicken broth.)

2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes
(We go for no salt added because the sausage and the broth have plenty.
And we get petite diced, because we’ve discovered that
tomatoes are eaten much more often in this house when they are tiny.)

1 cup milk
(We use skim milk.
and Note to My Son: please use the same measuring cup
for the milk as you used for the chicken broth.)

2 (8oz) boxes of dry pasta
(We like bowtie or penne the best for this recipe
and we stock up on the BOGOs)

1 teaspoon pepper

salt to taste
(we don’t add any extra salt – again, because the chicken broth and sausage add enough.)

1-2 cups water
(I add just enough to cover the pasta because the liquid from the broth, tomatoes and milk isn’t usually enough.)

8oz shredded cheese
(8oz is a bag of shredded cheese and I’ve never used the entire bag.
We’ve used cheddar, cheddar jack, a blended Mexican mix – use your favorite)

Optional Kick – ¼-½ teaspoon of Red Pepper Flakes
(You don’t have to add this at all, but this is probably what makes this dish one of my son’s favorites.
I’ve added an entire teaspoon before, and while my husband and son liked it, the kick was a bit too much for me.

This next section contains Notes to My Son, so feel free to skip it and move on to the directions.

– Do yourself a favor. Gather and prep before you start cooking, it makes things much easier and faster.

– Take the onions out of the freezer so they can begin to thaw out. If we’re out of freezer
onions, use dried minced onions on the rack on the door of the pantry. Or you could actually chop a real onion. (insert Zak and Cody laugh here.)

– Open and crumble 4 bullion cubes in 2 cups of water and let them start melting, you can add the extra two cups of water to the pot later.

– If we’re out of garlic, use garlic powder – and don’t be stingy with it.

– Slice all the sausage. Don’t forget to bend your knuckle so you won’t cut your finger. Love, mom.

– Open the tomatoes before you start cooking. And then let the cat smell the lid when he comes running to prove to him you didn’t actually open a can of tuna.

– Don’t forget to cover the pan (with the correct lid) while it simmers.

Directions:

1. Heat the pan to medium high and swirl it with a few circles of olive oil.
2. Add onions and garlic and saute for about 2 minutes, stirring a few times.
3. Add the sausage and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring a few times (longer if you use uncooked sausage).
4. Add the 4 cups of chicken broth, 2 cans of tomatoes, 1 cup of milk, 1 teaspoon of pepper and the preferred amount red pepper flakes. Stir to mix everything up.
5. Add both boxes of pasta and stir to mix everything up.

After adding enough water to cover pasta.
Not enough liquid to cover pasta.
6. Add only as much water as needed to cover the pasta.
7. Bring to a boil.
8. Reduce heat, COVER and simmer for about 15 minutes or until pasta is cooked. Stir a few times because the pasta tends to stick to the bottom of the pan.
9. Turn off the heat and take the lid off, letting it sit for a few minutes.
10. Add about half the bag of cheese and stir to mix and melt, then add additional cheese to taste.

Enjoy!

A shout out to BudgetSavvyDiva.com for the original recipe that inspired this adaptation! I thank you and my son thanks you!