keep fighting

Last week I spent several days with leaders at nonprofits from around the world at the LINGOS Global Learning Forum. It was a humbling experience, and I had some of my preconceived notions turned upside down.

In the past I would have imagined (based on my own experiences working in and with nonprofit organizations) that many nonprofits and NGOs are backward at worst and behind the times at best due to limited resources. That may be the case for some, but certainly not for the ones I talked with in Little Rock, Arkansas. There were groups focused on feeding the hungry, teaching people out of poverty, educating women and children in third world countries, providing clean water in Africa, and dozens of other amazing examples of world-changing ideals. What truly surprised me was the level of sophistication of the attendee population.

There were discussions on leading-edge technology, best practices for training and development, and global strategy implementations to reach millions of people. That doesn’t sound like the slate of topics for a group that is whining about how to get a “seat at the table.”

But how? Aren’t they dealing with tough budgets and limited resources? Yes, but because they know they have limits, they use it as fuel for innovation and creative thinking instead of a convenient excuse.

Honestly, I’m not here to beat you up. I’m guilty of using those same excuses. I don’t have time. I don’t have the budget. I don’t have… whatever. But when it comes down to it, there’s usually a way to get it done.

If they can face those same challenges and still feed a family in Peru, then those of us in the private sector need to toughen up just a bit. And remember when you’re supporting charitable organizations that they employ people like us to help them run smoothly and effectively.

Just a few thoughts to start your week of on the right tone.

What charitable organizations do you support? Why?

Today’s post is a personal one about my recent experience quitting caffeine and all of the associated side effects. Not so much about HR, but definitely an interesting look at the experience!

One month ago I quit caffeine. My main delivery method was diet cokes (that’s soda for those of you outside the Southeastern United States). I quit for multiple reasons, and the experience was what I expected in some ways and very much different in others. The thing that hit me since I quit (more on that experience below) was that those of us in the workforce don’t put much of a stigma on drinking caffeine. This experience has helped me to truly see the grip it had on me and the withdrawals were quite… um, intense. I don’t know that I’ll sway you to try quitting yourself, but stick around for the story!

The Background

Those people that know me know that my poison of choice is Diet Mountain Dew. Well, it was, anyway. I haven’t decided if I’ll ever go back to a more moderate intake, but for now I’m trying to live a decaffeinated life. I realized this summer that I was drinking about a two liter a day, and I knew it couldn’t go on forever. I am pretty healthy, eat well, and exercise regularly. But the mental slumps and anguish without caffeine combined with bouts of insomnia helped spur my decision to move away from the green juice.

Like many people, I started drinking caffeine heavily when I was in college. I worked all day, trained for 50-kilometer races in the afternoons, and attended classes at night. I needed something to keep me awake when my mind went fuzzy after a full day. Then I rationalized drinking even more when my kids came along. My joke was that I was short on sleep, and the best bridge for that gap was caffeine. :-)

Now that our third is nearing a year old, I was already going pretty heavy when he was born, so that wasn’t an excuse any more. In addition to that, I had a lingering foot injury from a previous race and poor sleep quality, so I knew I needed to make a decision.

Making the Call

My wife and I were at a funeral for a family member one afternoon and I overheard someone say, “Look at her sister! She’s 92 years old and still fit as can be. If the others had avoided smoking they would still be around too.” In addition, we attended yet another funeral the week prior for a friend of the family with three small children left behind. The death was a result of health complications and I realized how quickly something awful could happen to any of us. It’s amazing how often life events such as these cause us to stop and think about the bigger picture, right?

I decided on a Sunday that I was going to start my taper. I figured cold turkey would probably kill me, so I wanted to ease off and slowly get through the withdrawals with as little pain as possible. I did enough research to know that there were headaches and mental fog to be expected no matter the method used. I wanted to lessen the impact to my work and family, so I planned to taper by a few ounces a day over the course of two weeks.

Thus began my journey.

The first day felt so good that I restricted more than planned. Day two also felt pretty good, so I drank much less than planned (and about a third of my usual intake). I thought, “If this is as bad as it gets, I should have done this a long time ago.”

Then came day three. And boy did it ever. I’m not sure if I’ll always remember the day, because our brain has a setting deep inside that blocks out painful memories to protect our fragile sanity. Suffice to say it was rough.

And why break the cycle? Day four felt terrible. Day five I had back pains and insomnia—seriously. Back pain. That’s what clued me in to the thought that this is more than just something to keep me alert in the early morning hours. It’s affecting my system in ways I can’t even imagine.

One thing that helped was recording the experience. I kept a journal throughout the withdrawal process, noting each day and what I felt.

The most amazing thing is that I can now sit for thirty or forty five minutes at a time without fuzzing out or my thoughts getting hazy. I’ve always had a hard time sitting and focusing for long periods of time, and I attributed that to my naturally high energy. Apparently some of that was due to caffeine! In addition, I can actually recall what people say during those time periods. I’m still a high-energy person and always have been. I just realize now that the caffeine was masking my true energy in a hyper state of random thoughts with no ability to focus. I’m amazed that I have been able to work as a writer and researcher in the past year with this monkey on my back, and I’m glad to say that each day feels better and better in terms of focus.

My sleep is better than ever, and I am falling to sleep at more natural times and waking up feeling more refreshed than any time I can remember.

The Business Take

We freely offer this drug. Heck, we usually pay for employees to consume it. The rationale for many is that caffeinated employees are more productive. Some studies have shown the opposite to be true: when the caffeine “high” and the resulting “low” are balanced out, there isn’t much impact. (Note, I found some of that data while I was quitting as a way to encourage myself, but I can’t for the life of me find the study now that I’m writing this post!).

Anyway, whether it’s a call for wellness or an opportunity to reset your own caffeine clock, I encourage you to try living without it for a month and see how it affects you. It amazed me at the changes I felt weeks later.

Love to hear from some of you! Are you junkies like I was? Are you caffeine free? Why? How do you feel? 

I learned this week that one of my former bosses nominated me for a Young Professional Award for the work I have done over the past few years, both with this site and within the community where I live. I was (and still am) humbled by that support. As far as I can tell, I’m the only HR guy in the running, and I have until July 1st to gather a few votes in the competition. Would you be willing to take 20 seconds to vote for me? Whether you’ve been reading this site for one day or six years, I would sincerely appreciate the support.

No registration is required, and you do not have to vote for anyone else in the other categories if you don’t wish to. Thanks!

Click here to vote

It’s been a whirlwind this past week and I’m just catching my breath for a bit. The site was hacked for the first time in over six years. Lesson learned: choose a strong password and don’t ignore strange activity with your web host.

I was able to scramble and get it working again, but if you happen to run across something that doesn’t look right, please let me know and I’ll address it ASAP.

In the meantime, I’m pumped for a wide variety of reasons. Let’s cover a few seemingly random ones.

  1. I just finished reading a book on my flight today that was very enlightening and insightful. It shared many commonalities with another book I read recently, and I plan to tie them together in an upcoming post. Both were written by CEOs of large organizations, and some of the key pieces of advice that held them through the tough times were very similar, despite one of them being in manufacturing and the other in healthcare. I enjoy seeing similarities like those.
  2. In other non-HR news, the little guy is 7 months old now and is just trying to decide if he wants to crawl a bit. It’s so fun to watch him use his head to prop himself up. That laughter is priceless. My little girls are growing up, too, and it’s so crazy to think that I posted here when they were first born. I still remember my pal Mervyn being awake because although it was late here in the US it was morning time for him in the UK.
  3. I am spending a day in Delray Beach today with the Brandon Hall Group leadership team to talk about my role and what the future holds. I’m excited about the possibilities.
  4. I am talking with a local business leader in a few weeks about how he started his business with Christian principles. This is a passion of mine so it’s really neat to learn about how others are pursing a calling on their own terms. Should be a fun conversation and will share any insights I gather.
  5. I’m still volunteering with my NASHRM chapter. I love seeing the inner workings of a nonprofit serving its members, and as a longstanding introvert, having that natural “in” to start conversations is a great opportunity for me. Being on the board has really helped me to be more outgoing, despite it being against my natural tendency. Any other introverts out there?
  6. I ran two races a week ago on back to back days and am still paying for it. Plantar fascitis in my right foot/heel is AWFUL. In other news, I placed 8th in the 15k mountain race and ~3rd place in the 10 mile trail race, so at least it wasn’t all for naught.
  7. I mentioned last week that I was training a young man to run. It’s been fun to chat with him because high schoolers are often awkward and it reminds me that people who HIRE these workers have additional challenges. Kudos to those of you that do.
  8. Vacation Bible School is this week every night. I am relegated to the outdoors because I am loud and can’t stand still. I’ve led the games for at least five years running. I wonder why…
  9. I had my first Uber ride yesterday. Interesting. There isn’t any need for them where I live, so I won’t be able to try again for a while. Lots of regulation and push back on this industry, and I’m curious to see what happens over time. You can now even get food cooked for you–like Airbnb for your belly.
  10. I haven’t been this busy in a while. I have draft ideas to write about stacking up around my ears, but think I do this every summer. I get done with work and immediately jump into family time with Melanie and the kids at home. I may shift back to once a week until August.
  11. Another tradition Melanie and I have is watching a new TV series over the summer. We love the hero stuff, which includes Arrow and The Flash. I’m trying to decide if we will go for Gotham over the summer. She has been hooked on When Calls the Heart and I’d like to catch up on The 100, but time with the kids is at a premium for us.

Probably nothing enlightening or exciting, but wanted to share a few “tidbits and trivialities,” as my favorite fiction author F. Paul Wilson likes to say. Enjoy your week!

family feudA few weeks ago I received a strange text from my cousin. He wanted to know if I would be interested in trying out for a game show called Family Feud. Of course my instant reply was “YES!” We had to put in some effort up front and submit our interest. We got together and created little jingles for each person to sing to introduce themselves and did some humorous stuff to try to stand out, then we submitted our video and waited.

Within a few weeks we received a note asking us to come and audition in person, and I found myself in beautiful Birmingham, Alabama on a Saturday afternoon surrounded by hundreds of other families hoping for a shot at getting on the Family Feud game show.

As luck would have it, we were one of the first few families to turn in our paperwork, so we quickly had our shot at the practice audition.

As the team captain, I jumped up to introduce my family and then we got into the practice game. Let me tell you this: the practice is much harder than you might think. It is fast-paced, and without a scoreboard you can’t tell what answers have been guessed already. Our two questions were “What sport should you not do if you’re not a good swimmer?” and “Name something people do around the house naked.” Yes, really.

We played two practice rounds against the other family and won both of them. Afterward we left for dinner, hoping that our performance and winning charm were enough to get us an invite onto the actual show. We are still within the notice period to find out if we will be invited, but as I thought about the experience this week I realized there were some interesting lessons I learned that I would like to share.

  • The goal of the producer on site is to make a very quick judgment about the families playing. They want families that will do well on camera, not freeze up, and entertain the audience. Making quick judgments is difficult to do and is often fraught with incorrect decisions, but we often have to do the same with limited information. Bottom line: know where to look for clues and insights, make the call, and move on. No wasting time second guessing or evaluating sunk costs.
  • They were quick to tell everyone that winning in practice didn’t ensure a spot on the show. They were more interested in chemistry and engagement than in results. I thought that was a good argument for focusing not just on the “what” but also on the “how.”
  • As I said, practice was harder than the actual show, because some of the visual cues and timing were completely haywire. This translates to us making our training and “practice” harder than real life so our people can be ready for whatever their day throws at them.
  • Embarrassing but true: the question was, “What sport should someone not do if they are not a good swimmer?” We guessed some really good responses: surfing, triathlons, synchronized swimming, water polo… But not a single one of us said swimming, which was the number one answer. When we have to make snap judgments and quick decisions, the easy stuff is often forgotten in the rush. Don’t overlook simple answers in a rush to be “right” or to be first.

I’m hoping that we can get onto the show so I can share more about that experience, but for now, that’s what I have to offer. :-)

Oh. No.

Did I really just send that? Let me check my sent items.

Yes, I did.

Aaaggghhhhhh.

Maybe they won’t see it.

Who am I kidding? They are looking at it right now.

Sigh.

oops sent emailI may be the only person who accidentally sends emails on a regular basis, but in case I’m not, I have recently started doing something that really helps me to avoid that little problem.

When replying to a message

When I’m replying to someone’s email, I hit “Forward” instead of “Reply.” This empties the “To” field and allows me to write without having to worry about accidentally sending the note prematurely.

[Note: this has always been one of my biggest fears working in HR. The other involves printing sensitive stuff to a public shared printer. Shudder.]

When composing from scratch

When I’m writing an email from scratch, I leave the “To” field blank until I’m finished and happy with the email.

Next time you’re writing an email and you are worried about sending prematurely, just follow the applicable step above.

You’re welcome. :-)

What email tricks do you use to help you get the job done? Have you ever sent an email that wasn’t quite ready to be released into the wild? 

Merry Christmas

Captain Awesome in his new Rudolph threads

From the Eubanks house to yours, we wish you a very merry Christmas!

Whatever reason you have to celebrate this time of the year, enjoy it. I pray that you’re blessed beyond measure and that you take a little time to bless others as well. Any opportunity to bring joy to others in the form of a smile, a gift, or a heartfelt comment is truly worthwhile.

We’ll be back next week with more HR fun. :-)