Broken resolutions and Life Lessons for 2017

The holidays are over, and life is back to normal. For those of you who made New Year’s resolutions, maybe you’ve already broken some of them. I’m not saying this to criticize. At the beginning of January in decades past, making a resolution then breaking it a short time later often caused me some discouragement.

The website, www.timeanddate.com reports, “…according to some studies almost 80 percent of all people who make New Year’s resolutions abandon them sometime during the year.” That’s why, a couple of holidays ago, I made a resolution not to make any more resolutions. Instead, when I need to change something in my life, I try to work on it right away.

This philosophy is coming straight from the keyboard of a former procrastinator. After all, one of the most noteworthy lessons I’ve learned along life’s path is that important tasks that we put off, rarely get done. It’s best to tackle an issue as soon as possible to make sure that it doesn’t get lost in the whirlwind of everyday living. This anti-procrastination principle is more significant than some other beliefs that are part of my life repertoire. For example, I’ve also come to believe that a person should never buy a single pair of socks or gloves. The law of probability ensures that when socks are placed in the dryer, frequently they will disappear into what I refer to as Sock Heaven. Solo socks take this mysterious journey into the unknown never to be seen from again.

This theory holds true when purchasing gloves, too, although I doubt there is a metaphorical heaven for missing mittens. Instead my lost gloves are probably strewn throughout Ohio left in restaurant booths or on roadways. Missing gloves aren’t too high on the life lesson priority list, but keeping in touch with family and friends is crucial. In our hectic-paced world, social isolation becomes a daily challenge.

This means taking time to share more than an occasional Facebook “Love you” post, text, or hurried email. Instead chatting with a true friend or loved one over a meal can be exhilarating. Don’t take your cellphone along, as the constant distraction will frustrate the flow of genuine conversation. When we are with folks who truly care for us, we somehow remember who we really are. The pieces of our life fit better, and we can bask in the camaraderie that comes only from authentic relationships, where we are accepted imperfections and all. Still, getting together can be especially tricky in this geographically mobile society where families and close friends are often separated by countless miles for employment opportunities.

Although speaking of not being perfect, another painful lesson that I’ve learned from life is that people won’t always like you. This can be a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s true. No matter how hard you try, you fall short in their acceptable category. According to clinical psychologist, Dr. Ben Michaelis about 15 percent of folks won’t like you, if you are emotionally healthy. “If 85 percent of the people you meet like you, you are probably doing something right,” writes Michaelis in an archived  Huffington Post blog, “If everybody likes you, you are doing it wrong….you are probably doing too much to get along.”

The experienced psychologist says that when, “You ignore your own needs in favor of others,” it’s not healthy. Of course, they like you, everybody likes a doormat. Unfortunately, a doormat gets worn out and has to be thrown away after too much use. Yet, if more than 15 percent of people don’t like you, you might actually be too difficult to get along with.

Lastly, there is a life lesson that involves “letting go.” It can be a spiritual breakthrough forged in prayer. Or an internal follow your heart and instincts moment that allows a person to sense when it’s time to cut your losses and venture out on a new path. It might be something as substantial as a job change or having the courage to end an emotionally destructive relationship. To let go and embrace change willingly is a challenging life lesson, because by nature most human beings are creatures of habit who hang onto familiar circumstances.

So, for the first month of this New Year, I didn’t make or break any resolutions. Yet, I did celebrate another year of new beginnings, counting my blessings, and reminiscing about all the lessons learned on life’s path.

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com

The Etiquette of Personal Technology 101

Technology warning small fileIf you are young person today, there are probably a lot of things that annoy you. If you are not young, then you have to understand that over the last decade the word, “annoy” has taken on a whole new meaning. At first, I was intrigued by the way a teenager angry at their parents, teacher, or a peer could say, “They are so annoying,” and make it sound like a degrading profanity. If you listen closely, you will find that some teens find most of life’s frustrating circumstances “annoying” like having to do homework, clean their room, or even a bad hair day.

That’s why I thought the word, “annoy” so aptly describes how I felt some years ago when attending a meeting with hundreds of college students, and one very renowned speaker. This man had traveled countless miles to address the group hoping to impart some of the wisdom that he had learned on his life’s journey. Unfortunately, many undergraduates in attendance that day probably didn’t hear a word he said. After all, they were really busy. Earbuds were everywhere, with most students either engaged with an electronic device, or else frantically texting on their cell phones.

It was like a technology zoo in the auditorium that morning and all the battery powered caged animals were running amuck. The seventy-something speaker initially looked confused as he tried without success to gain the attention of his audience. Then I sensed his frustration and irritation realizing that he was being, “dissed.”

“Dissed,” might have just caused your internal spell check to turn code red, but it’s now accepted in mainstream usage. According to the Urban Dictionary “being dissed is the act of being disconnected, by voice or by modem from another party.” Another definition from the same source, says that “dissing someone is showing disrespect to them.”

Bottom-line, an alarming percentage of the learners gathered had opted to listen to another source of technological input, cutting off the speaker’s ability to be heard. The presenter finally seemed “annoyed” himself, and finished his talk rather abruptly and somewhat disheartened. I wondered what happened to the age-old principle to “listen when someone is speaking.” Or what about the etiquette rule of turning off technology when a meeting begins?

6353664 - CopyI was more than annoyed; I was truly heartbroken, concerned that these bright students were a precursor of the future. This topic is personal for me, because I’ve had to battle ongoing distractions as a public speaker for the past two decades. I’ve talked through screaming babies, women filing their nails, teenagers looking bored to death, and ringing cell phones. It’s difficult to explain away distracting phones, yet I have always comforted myself with the knowledge that the mom of the screaming baby or the woman manicuring her nails might need to hear what I’m saying. Same way, with a seemingly uninterested teen, since many times, hurting adolescents are listening intently but have to act bored for fear of being labeled uncool.

My school administrator husband whom I affectionately refer to as “Mr. Rules,” was visibly disappointed when I reported the technology frenzy of that morning’s event. He mumbled the word, “confiscate,” which I have since learned is what most K-12 public school policy dictates when students are using cell phones or technology inappropriately. Sadly, this policy was obviously not in place in the post-secondary gathering which I attended. Since the most distressing part is that the elderly speaker was African American, and his audience was comprised of about 95 percent Caucasian college kids. This eloquent orator had a culturally diverse message that those young people needed to hear. He might think he was disrespected due to his age or race.

But the truth is that many students were just too obsessed with their electronic devices to pay much attention.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Famous civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.”

The problem is that the development of technological devices has rapidly exceeded the rules for their use. Maybe universities could create a course entitled, “The Etiquette of Personal Technology 101,” which we all could benefit from.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaaryanclaypool.com

 

Dangerous Business: Social Media Posting and Electronic Multitasking

Hand on KeyboardSocial media can be a lot like a family gathering gone wrong when a meltdown in communication occurs. Yet, like many people, I enjoy the ability to connect and share information, especially on Facebook. But then I am a Baby Boomer.

Teens don’t seem to be that impressed by Facebook, and are never signing up or leaving the site “at an estimated rate of up to a million a year.” This according to a recent article in The Washington Post by Nico Lang, “…for new [social media] friends like Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.” Lang says that Facebook boasts one billion users, but that it is “highly popular” among Gen Xers, those born from the early 1960s to 1980s, and Baby Boomers (1946-1964). So, we can’t blame adolescents for all the drama that Facebook can elicit.

The site’s purpose can also seem rather ambiguous, since the lines of personal, professional, and even political communication sometimes intersect. I’ve noticed that occasionally connections misinterpret a comment’s intent, or express their opinion without reading it in its entirety too. There are also those acquaintances who are at work, who often comment or “like” a post. How can a person get their job done and still have time to keep updated on Facebook? Of course, you can legitimately justify professional networking sites like LinkedIn.

Still, multitasking might be a potential professional landmine according to an article by Travis Bradberry in Forbes last fall, “Multitasking Damages Your Brain and Career, New Studies Suggest.” Bradberry wrote, “Research conducted at Stanford University found that multitasking is less productive…people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.”

This research debunks the myth that some people excel at multitasking. “The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another,” noted Bradberry. Another study conducted at the University of London cited in the Forbes feature says that “multitasking lowers your IQ” as well.

The Best YesNew York Times best-selling author, Lysa Terkeurst agrees. In her 2014 book, “The Best Yes,” Terkeurst writes, “Checking your email in the middle of creative work momentarily knocks your IQ down 10 points, according to the British Institute of Psychiatry.” Personally, I doubt if checking Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, etc. are going to be much different. In an ethical sense, isn’t this also a form of employee time theft?

As for expressing an online viewpoint, some individuals appear to believe they are skilled writers, despite being oblivious to grammar, punctuation, or correct spelling even with spell check. More importantly, these fast-fingered folks don’t contemplate how their careless words could possibly affect the lives of others like a seasoned journalist would.

After all, it’s easy to hastily pound out an opinion on a keypad and instantly share on social media. Even if you are on your personal time, please think before you post, because it could cost you your job, or negatively impact the life of someone else.

6353664 - CopyChristina Ryan Claypool is an AP/Amy Award winning freelance journalist and former interpersonal communications instructor for Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com

 

 

My Little LinkedIn Experiment

Hand on ComputerI hate deception. That’s why it took sidestepping my core values to create a LinkedIn connections’ list filled with mostly perfect strangers. This is not recommended, since LinkedIn advises that you only connect with individuals you know well. But after doing my research, I wonder if many of the 200 million members follow this advice.

The goal of my project was to see if I could gain 500 plus noteworthy associates. In the LinkedIn world, 500 is the magic figure, because after that your total number of colleagues isn’t visible anyway. My motive: it was entertaining. Besides, isn’t narcissistic visibility what social media is all about?

To name drop, one of my more famous connections is mega-church pastor, Rick Warren. Despite the constant media bashing he endures, I deeply respect this author of The New York Times bestseller, “The Purpose Driven Life,” which has sold more than thirty million copies. Recently, the now Christian classic was re-released in a 10th anniversary edition titled, “What on Earth Am I Here For? The Purpose Driven Life.”

By the way, most best-selling Christian authors sell in the mere thousands. Could jealousy be fueling some of that criticism? Anyway, gaining Warren as a connection was like obtaining the Boardwalk property when I was a kid playing Monopoly.

The minister was a kingpin during my little experiment which began in August 2012. Because I have gleaned a lot from reading his books, when I saw his profile picture on a friend’s connections’ list, I thought, “Why not?” With a just for fun click of the mouse and a pitiful plea to please accept my invitation, I sent the request. Let’s be honest, how could Pastor Warren turn down an invitation from a desperate follower. Besides, we have a lot of connections in common. Even if most of mine were bogusly obtained.

In reality, I would describe myself as a small market journalist and inspirational speaker from the hills of Ohio. Although I have been blessed with a few professional milestones, which I fully exploited on my LinkedIn profile. Creating an impressive profile is of paramount importance. You can make yourself stand out by shamelessly listing the bigger than life moments of your career at the top. An award that you’ve won, being featured on a TV show, etc. Even if you only held a prop it still counts. Then folks who are not sure if “you are somebody” connect to insure they stay in the LinkedIn loop.

Metaphorically stealing another’s connections is the dangerous beauty of LinkedIn. In explanation, if one of your contacts leaves their connections public, once you are connected you can send requests to their connections. Being a colleague of a colleague, is like having an instant recommendation. This is how I gained access to the hundreds of literary agents, authors, publishing house owners and editors that I am now connected to.

It was pretty easy to get them to accept my invitations, after I nabbed a couple celebrity status associates and made a few mutual connections. After decades of book proposal rejections, this part of my research became more than a test. It became a personal vendetta.  To explain, I have published several books, but that’s just the point, I self-published, or as we authors say, I “vanity-pressed” my way into becoming an author. But enough bitter ranting.

Once I hit 500 plus, the invitations starting rolling in. I think most of them are from professional people who want to look successful. In their attempt to climb the LinkedIn ladder, they think that connecting with another 500 plus person like myself, will be of some use down the road. But in my case, I highly doubt that.

Anyway, midway into my research, I sent an invitation to the wrong lady. An executive director of internal affairs for a large organization who replied back about her hesitancy to connect with someone she didn’t know. This stopped me in my tracks for a couple days, because I realized I barely knew anyone on my own list. There were those cautious individuals who initially ignored my requests, but this female director was the only one to question my motivation. Besides, those who ignored me originally, most often jumped on board when my numbers grew.

Unfortunately, some LinkedIn users don’t seem savvy enough to keep their connections’ list private. After you connect there is a privacy setting that can make sure new associations only view mutual associates. At least, I had the decency to employ this tool, so stalkers like myself wouldn’t violate my hard-earned contacts.

On another note, it’s such an honor when a LinkedIn colleague takes time to endorse you for your professional expertise. Unfortunately, when it is someone you have never met, and they send an unsolicited endorsement for your skills, it really makes you wonder. Am I going to endorse them back? No way. I do have my scruples, if loosely.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some great contacts through LinkedIn. It’s an important social media tool for professionals. My little experiment was just to prove how less than ethical individuals can misuse the site for their own promotion. Still, I had to giggle this past February when LinkedIn sent me an email congratulating me for being, “one of the top 5% most viewed LinkedIn profiles for 2012.”

As for social media in general, most people are simply hoping that being a visible presence on the Web will somehow give them a career advantage. And who can blame them? These remain difficult economic days, and most of us can use all the positive public relations we can get.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy Award winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Her website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com She blogs at www.christinaryanclaypool.com/blog1