The week@work – The Pope on climate change and more, Disney reverses a decision and the importance of staring out the window

This week@work has been spent planning a European adventure. For the next two weeks I will be taking leave of our conversation on work and career. I will continue to share thoughts and articles on Twitter. Please follow @Eileen Kohan or @workthoughts.

Before I go, let’s take a look at the week@work. This week included the major story of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Disney ABC Television reversing a decision on layoffs and the insights we gain from staring out the window.

Elizabeth Kolbert commented on the content of the encyclical in The New Yorker “A Papal Message That Spares No One”:

“…though its focus is on man’s relationship to nature, it also has much to say about man’s relationship to his fellow man and to himself—little of it laudatory. The vision that Pope Francis offers in his encyclical is of a world spiralling toward disaster, in which people are too busy shopping and checking their cell phones to do, or even care, much about it.

“The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes,” the Pope writes. At another point, he says, “Many people will deny doing anything wrong because distractions constantly dull our consciousness of just how limited and finite our world really is.”

According to Francis, the problems of environmental degradation and global poverty are intimately related. Both can be traced to a way of thinking that regards the world as a means, rather than an end. This way of thinking rules the marketplace—“Finance overwhelms the real economy”—and dominates our data-driven culture: “Technology tends to absorb everything into its ironclad logic.”

The Guardian noted: “He says iPhones and all our other gadgets are getting in the way of our relationship with nature.”

“Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature.”

And finally, the pope’s tweet: “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.” Proving you can distill 180 pages into 140 characters.

Variety reported on the decision by Disney executives to keep 35 tech employees who not only been notified that their jobs were being eliminated, but they were expected to train their replacements.

“The Disney ABC Television Group has reversed course on cutting jobs for up to 35 application developers, two weeks after informing the employees that they were being laid off.

But the Disney ABC TV Media Technology and Strategy development team subsequently decided to rescind the layoffs. First reported by Computerworld, Disney ABC spokesman Kevin Brockman confirmed the plans on Wednesday.

When the layoffs were rescinded, some of the affected employees had already started training their Cognizant Technology replacements in what’s dubbed the “knowledge transfer” process.”

For more detail on this story, check the NPR interview with Computerworld senior editor,  Patrick Thibodeau.

The last story this week is from The School of Life on ‘The importance of staring out the window’.

“The point of staring out of a window is, paradoxically, not to find out what is going on outside. It is, rather, an exercise in discovering the contents of our own minds. It’s easy to imagine we know what we think, what we feel and what’s going on in our heads. But we rarely do entirely. There’s a huge amount of what makes us who we are that circulates unexplored and unused. Its potential lies untapped. It is shy and doesn’t emerge under the pressure of direct questioning. If we do it right, staring out the window offers a way for us to listen out for the quieter suggestions and perspectives of our deeper selves.”

“…some of our greatest insights come when we stop trying to be purposeful and instead respect the creative potential of reverie. Window daydreaming is a strategic rebellion against the excessive demands of immediate (but ultimately insignificant) pressures – in favour of the diffuse, but very serious, search for the wisdom of the unexplored deep self.”

The lessons of the week@work – Looking from space we share the same ‘home’ and the responsibility to care for that common home. How? Taking time off, paying attention to nature, disconnecting from technology and reclaiming our humanity.

The Saturday Read – Alain de Botton ‘The Art of Travel’

This week’s ‘Saturday Read’ is ‘The Art of Travel’ by Alain de Botton. It’s not your typical travel guide, although scenes are set in a variety of global locations. We join the author as he navigates the world, his neighborhood and his room. We are accompanied on the journey by artists, explorers, poets and novelists: Wordsworth in The Lake District, Vincent van Gogh in Provence and Alexander von Humboldt in South America.

This wonderful book should be read in small bites, a tapas menu to savor, in advance of any journey you may have planned. It’s a philosophical view of travel and requires us to reflect through the lens of our fellow pilgrims before we rush on to the next chapter.

The book is segmented into four sections: departure, motives, art and return. In each the author is puzzling through why expectations of travel don’t quite live up to promise. We begin to examine our relationship to the distant and familiar as we eavesdrop on Mr. de Botton’s thoughts as he considers his relationship to place.

Early on, he realizes:

“A momentous but until then overlooked fact was making itself apparent: I had inadvertently brought myself with me to the island.”

Place has the potential to transform us, but our fundamental self remains our companion and colors our experience.

“What, then, is a traveling mind-set? Receptivity might be said to be its chief characteristic. Receptive, we approach new places with humility. We carry with us no rigid ideas about what is or is not interesting.

Home, by contrast, finds us more settled in our expectations. We feel assured that we have discovered everything interesting about our neighborhood, primarily by virtue of having lived there a long time. It seems inconceivable that there could be anything new to find in a place where we have been living for a decade or more. We have become habituated and therefore blind to it.”

How we respond to place is limited by the resources we utilize in our process of discovery. Travel companions share critiques and travel guides list the top ten things to see. Our expectations are set through the eyes of others who have gone before.

“Our responses to the world are crucially moulded by the company we keep, for we temper our curiosity to fit in with the expectations of others.”

On a visit to Madrid, the author ventures from his hotel:

“It was a sunny day, and crowds of tourists were stopping to take photographs and listen to guides. And I wondered, with mounting anxiety, What am I supposed to do here? What am I supposed to think?”

“Where guidebooks praised a site, they pressured a visitor to match their authoritative enthusiasm, and where they were silent, pleasure or interest seemed unwarranted.”

“..if my compass of curiosity had been allowed to settle according to its own logic, rather than being swayed by the unexpectedly powerful force field of a small green object by the name of The Michelin Street Guide to Madrid…”

We travel for different reasons. ‘The Art of Travel’ encourages us to trust our ‘compass of curiosity’ and discover our own wonders of the world.

‘Questions of Travel’ a poem by Elizabeth Bishop

It’s summer, and despite all the grim forecasts of the end of vacations, a significant segment of the population will take a break from work. In that interval folks will travel locally, internationally or vicariously through the writings of others. They will record adventures on Instagram, tweet locations and post blogs, sharing their experience along the way. Very few will memorialize their travels in poetry.

The Friday Poem this week is Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘Questions of Travel’

In 2010, author William Boyd travelled to the house in Brazil where poet Elizabeth Bishop lived, and recorded his visit in an article for The Guardian newspaper.

“‘Questions of Travel” is one of the rare Bishop poems that one can easily interpret as autobiographical. Set squarely in the house at Samambaia, it analyses Bishop’s decision to leave America and seek her destiny, whatever that might have been, elsewhere. “Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?”, the poet asks. “Must we dream our dreams / and have them, too?” And then, in the very last lines, it prompts another question: “Should we have stayed at home, / wherever that may be?” The answer we are meant to infer is, I believe, a confident “no”. Bishop – born in Worcester, Massachusetts, a New Englander through and through – was made by her life in Brazil. Brazil became her home – however eccentric, irritating, enthralling, frightening, exotic and perplexing a place it might seem to be, depending on the occasion. When she finally left it in 1971, for the last time, the happiest period of her life was over.”

‘Questions of Travel’

There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams
hurry too rapidly down to the sea,
and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops
makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion,
turning to waterfalls under our very eyes.
–For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains,
aren’t waterfalls yet,
in a quick age or so, as ages go here,
they probably will be.
But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling,
the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships,
slime-hung and barnacled.

Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?

But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
–Not to have had to stop for gas and heard
the sad, two-noted, wooden tune
of disparate wooden clogs
carelessly clacking over
a grease-stained filling-station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pair there would have identical pitch.)
–A pity not to have heard
the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird
who sings above the broken gasoline pump
in a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque:
three towers, five silver crosses.
–Yes, a pity not to have pondered,
blurr’dly and inconclusively,
on what connection can exist for centuries
between the crudest wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden cages.
–Never to have studied history in
the weak calligraphy of songbirds’ cages.
–And never to have had to listen to rain
so much like politicians’ speeches:
two hours of unrelenting oratory
and then a sudden golden silence
in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:

“Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?

Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there . . . No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?”

Elizabeth Bishop, 1965

Are you suffering from ‘work martyr complex’? You may need a vacation.

This one’s for all of you who believe you are truly indispensable at work. It’s also for your employees who are really annoyed that you don’t trust them to carry on in your absence. Breaking news – the world will not end if you take a vacation. If it does, I think welcoming the apocalypse on a beach with a Kaluha Colada is preferable to being crushed in a stampede of office workers headed to the one working elevator in the building.

The syndrome, ‘work martyr complex’, has been recently identified among workers in the U.S.. Entrepreneurs are particularly susceptible.  It’s highly communicable and may result in personal burnout. Long term effects include loss of perspective, sense of humor and anyone who has ever worked for you.

It’s one thing to leave paid vacation time on the table, but it’s taking it to the next level when it’s treated as a badge of honor within organizations. Executives encourage employees to take time off, but many leave a portion of their own vacation time unused. These same executives expect folks to be available even when thousands of miles and multiple time zones separate you.

Good news, the effects of ‘work martyr complex’ are reversible. All it requires is that you remove the Joan of Arc costume and be yourself – you know, yourself – the creative, curious colleague who used to interact with co-workers and leave the office for lunch or a walk around the parking lot.

By the way, your competitors are poaching your best people. How? By offering extended vacation time and gaining the benefit of increased productivity from a refreshed workforce.

Journalist Jack Dickey reported for Time Magazine on this new trend in the retail sector:

“On May 14, billboards went up around Houston and Philadelphia, with H&M advertising careers…and extolling one benefit in particular. Five weeks vacation is possible, the signs read.

H&M’s recruiting campaign says a lot about anxieties in the American workforce. The retailer is trying to crack an unexpectedly hard nut: getting American workers to take more time off.”

Beyond the direct competitor benefit consideration, the research is solid. Stepping away invigorates employee contribution.

Entrepreneur Magazine uncovered ‘The Secret to Increased Productivity: Taking Time Off’.

“There is a lot of research that says we have a limited pool of cognitive resources,” says Allison Gabriel, an assistant professor of management at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies job demands and employee motivation. “When you are constantly draining your resources, you are not being as productive as you can be. If you get depleted, we see performance decline. You’re able to persist less and have trouble solving tasks.”

That’s counterintuitive in a culture programmed to believe that it takes near-nonstop work to get the sale, beat the competitor or do whatever is needed to succeed. For most entrepreneurs, rest is considered the province of lesser mortals, put off for a future that never arrives. It’s as if each day is an Ironman triathlon that requires one to crawl across the finish line on all fours.

Vacations have been shown to lead to significantly higher performance upon return to the job. The energizing ingredients are time away from stressors (you need two weeks to get the recuperative benefits from burnout) and mastery and social experiences while on vacation that build competence and social connection.”

If you don’t give your employees time to think and play, you’re not going to have the creativity you need to succeed,” says Vincent Berk, CEO of FlowTraq.”

Time to redefine vacation as an organizational value, not a benefit.

The ‘deer in the headlights’ interview question: What do you do for fun?

The interview has been going well. You have been ‘on point’ with your answers about education and skills, and then from out of nowhere comes the curve ball question: What do you do for fun?

What? What do I do for fun? Are you kidding me?

No, it’s actually a very serious important question. How you answer demonstrates the added dimensions you will bring to the workplace.

This is my ‘personal favorite’ interview question. My intent is not to ‘catch’ folks off guard. My goal is to determine if you will succeed as part of an organization. Are you a fit with the other members of the team? Do you have the potential to build successful relationships with clients?  It’s one thing to be driven and intense. It’s a totally other thing when you scare colleagues and customers with that intensity.

The ‘perfect resume’, relevant work experience and great references unlock the door to the interview. Once the interview begins It’s critical to let your humanity shine through. Folks will be spending a lot of time with you in the workplace. A sense of humor can go a long way to diffusing tension. A conversation about interests offers a bridge to developing trust.

I am astounded by how many people are totally sidelined by this question – lots of silence before a stammering attempt to come up with the ‘right’ answer.

There is no right answer. This is the question about who you are outside work. This should be the easiest question to answer.

I know I have the right candidate when the question diffuses tension and a smile transforms a previously sober candidate into one who is sharing a passion that may have no perceived relevance to the job description.

And this is where the majority of candidates get it wrong. Your passions outside of work inform and energize your life at work.

Think about your answer – not too much. Your response should be spontaneous, but you shouldn’t be surprised.

The week@work – Apple’s diversity problem, top cities for worker satisfaction, college is not a commodity and AstroSamantha returns to earth

This week@work we welcomed astronaut, Sam Cristoforetti, back to the home planet, and female senior executives at Apple to the Worldwide Developers Conference stage. A former Ivy League president reminded us that college is not a commodity and we learned where we should be living to have the best opportunity for job satisfaction.

Sam Cristoforetti, aka AstroSamantha, returned to earth and the steppes of Kazakhstan on Thursday. Her fan base grew to  558.1K followers on Twitter during her 199 days in space. Now that she has returned, we will miss her end of day wishes: “Buona notte dallo spazio.” Welcome home, Captain Cristoforetti.

The LA Times covered the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, taking note of the participation of senior, female executives:

“Apple Music, new operating systems and a smarter Siri were front and center at Apple Inc.’s Worldwide Developers Conference, but it wasn’t a new product that got people talking — it was women.

During Monday’s keynote presentation, Jennifer Bailey, Apple’s vice president of Internet services, and Susan Prescott, vice president of product marketing, took the stage to announce new developments with Apple Pay and a news reading app. It was the first time that Apple has had female executives on stage at any of its major events since at least the launch of the first iPhone in 2007.”

In an interview with Mashable prior to the meeting, Apple CEO, Tim Cook shared responsibility for the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley:

“Cook doesn’t subscribe to the idea that women just don’t want to be involved in tech — calling that argument a “cop-out.”

“I think it’s our fault — ‘our’ meaning the whole tech community,” he says. “I think in general we haven’t done enough to reach out and show young women that it’s cool to do it and how much fun it can be.”

If you are interested in working for Apple, the good news is San Francisco is at the top of ‘Forbes Top Cities for Employee Satisfaction’.

Topping the list is San Francisco, where a largely tech-focused workforce finds the deepest levels of satisfaction with their work. In fact, several California cities can claim deeply engaged workforces, as San Jose and San Diego round out the top three spots on this ranking.

Many smaller cities fare well for employee satisfaction as well. Salt Lake City, Austin, Raleigh-Durham, and Oklahoma City all make the cut. Major east coast mainstays Boston and Washington, D.C. have satisfied workforces as well, as does the Pacific Northwest’s tech flagship, Seattle.”

Hunter Rawlings, former president of Cornell University and current president of the Association of American Universities disputed the view that college is a commodity.

“A college education, then, if it is a commodity, is no car. The courses the student decides to take (and not take), the amount of work the student does, the intellectual curiosity the student exhibits, her participation in class, his focus and determination — all contribute far more to her educational “outcome” than the college’s overall curriculum, much less its amenities and social life. Yet most public discussion of higher ed today pretends that students simply receive their education from colleges the way a person walks out of Best Buy with a television.

Students need to apply themselves to the daunting task of using their minds, a much harder challenge than most people realize, until they actually try to do it. To write a thoughtful, persuasive argument requires hard thinking and clear, cogent rhetoric. To research any moderately complex topic requires formulating good questions, critically examining lots of evidence, analyzing one’s data, and presenting one’s findings in succinct prose or scientific formulas.”

The Atlantic’s Michael Levitin reflected on ‘The Triumph of Occupy Wall Street’.

“Nearly four years after the precipitous rise of Occupy Wall Street, the movement so many thought had disappeared has instead splintered and regrown into a variety of focused causes. Income inequality is the crisis du jour—a problem that all 2016 presidential candidates must grapple with because they can no longer afford not to. And, in fact, it’s just one of a long list of legislative and political successes for which the Occupy movement can take credit.”

And finally, for all you sports fans, the US Women’s National Team began their quest for soccer’s world cup with a win over Australia and a draw with Sweden.  Caitlyn Kelley, writing in The New Yorker, ‘The Hope Solo Fiasco’, asked the question on the minds of many loyal followers, “Am I going to have to root for Hope Solo if I want to root for Team U.S.A.?”

“This summer it will be sixteen years since the U.S. women last won the World Cup, which was hosted in the United States. The success of the tournament—not just the fact that the American women took home the trophy but that they did it in front of packed stadiums and record millions of television viewers—was an affirmation of the value of Title IX. Thanks to that piece of legislation, we want and expect women to have the same opportunities as men in sports. We should hold women athletes—and their organizations—equally accountable for mistakes, too.”

The Saturday Read -Mark Vanhoenacker ‘Skyfaring’

This week’s ‘Saturday Read’ is for all of you who keep your window sashes up on transcontinental flights. And for those of you who don’t, author and pilot, Mark Vanhoenacker has a link on his website to share a glimpse of what you have been missing. And it’s not the grainy black and white video from the camera mounted underneath those Swiss Air flights.

The ‘Saturday Read’ is ‘Skyfaring: A Journey With A Pilot’.

What do we know of the work lives of pilots? These are the folks we trust to transport us across oceans, continents, cities and deserts. Our only contact through hours of flight is a welcome message, flight status update or a ‘thank you for choosing our airline’.

Turns out, pilots can be very interesting people. And, like many of us, they arrive at their ‘dream job’ after trying out other options. Mark Vanhoenacker’s career began in academia and management consulting. He started his flight training in 2001 after realizing all those plane flights were constant reminders of what he really wanted to do with his life.

Geoff Dyer reviewed the book for The Guardian newspaper:

“There is always something uplifting about people in love with their work, and on becoming an airline pilot Vanhoenacker (now a senior first officer with British Airways) seems to have attained a state of enviable grace. He loves everything about the job: the machinery, the language, the physics, the maps, the weather (always sunny up there above the lid of cloud), his colleagues, the rituals in which multiple layers of safety are embedded and encoded.”

Dwight Gardner‘s review in The New York Times cited “the intellectual and emotional delights of flying…

Mr. Vanhoenacker speaks often in “Skyfaring” about poetry and art and music. In Paris, he heads for the Musée Rodin. He has a well-stocked mind. Cumulus clouds remind him of the ceilings in the New York Public Library or Versailles; the earth’s rotation summons for him a passage from Marilynne Robinson’s novel “Gilead.” He mentions pilots who go to cooking schools or visit botanical gardens wherever they go.

Thus one of the vivid things about this book is that is makes you imagine the men and women who pilot the machines that fly over our heads as a merry band of scholars and aesthetes, rather than glorified bus drivers. It’s as if they’re racing up there to pluck the world’s best cultural fruit, fruit we are too hidebound to seek except rarely.”

And when Mr. Vanhoenacker is not flying the plane:

“One of my favorite things to do as a passenger is put music on and look out at the world. I think airplanes are one of the few places you can zone out. When you fly as a passenger you definitely have this meditative space. I never use Wi-Fi as a passenger.”  

In the first few pages of ‘Lift’, the first section of the book, the author shares three questions people ask when they learn he is a pilot:

“Is flying something I have always wanted to do? Have I ever seen anything “up there” that I cannot explain? And do I remember my first flight? I like these questions. They seem to have arrived, entirely intact, from a time before flying became ordinary and routine. They suggest that even now, when many of us so regularly leave one place on the earth and cross the high blue to another, we are not nearly as accustomed to flying as we think. These questions remind me that while airplanes have overturned many of our older sensibilities, a deeper part of our imagination lingers and still sparks in  the former realm, among ancient, even atavistic, ideas of distance and place, migrations and the sky.”

If this book doesn’t rekindle the wonder of air flight, check to see if you can still fog up a mirror. For those of you still breathing, invest some time this weekend to take flight with Mark Vanhoenacker as your pilot and rediscover the joy of getting lost in the clouds.

‘747 (London-Chicago)’ a poem by Robert Conquest

The Friday poem this week comes from Stanford University historian and poet, Robert Conquest. He is the author of twenty-one books on Soviet history, politics, and international affairs, including the classic ‘The Great Terror’ – which has been translated into twenty languages – and the acclaimed ‘Harvest of Sorrow’ (1986).

In a 2010 profile for the Stanford news he offered this advice to young poets, “Write under a pseudonym, and pretend it’s a translation from the Portuguese.”

The profile also includes observations by his friends:

“As a poet Bob is funny, intensely lyrical and deeply reflective,”(R.S.) Gwynn said. “Whenever I read him I think of how rarely we are allowed to see a mind at work, and what a mind it is.”

“(Christopher) Hitchens, speaking of Conquest’s “devastatingly dry and lethal manner,” also wrote that his was “the softest voice that ever brought down an ideological tyranny.” Naming Conquest among his handful of favorite poets, Hitchens called him not only “the king of the limerick” but also “the dragon slayer of the Stalinoid apologists.”

This poem is for all you ‘dragon slayers @ work’, boarding a flight home.

‘747 (London-Chicago)

After the horrors of Heathrow
A calmness settles in.
A window seat, an ambient glow,
A tonic-weakened gin.

The pale-grey wings, the pale-blue sky,
The tiny sun’s sharp shine,
The engines’ drone, or rather sigh;
A single calm design.

Those great wings flex to altering air.
Ten thousand feet below
We watch the endless miles of glare,
Like slightly lumpy dough.

Below that white all’s grey and grim,
The wrong side of the sky.
Reality’s down in that dim
Old formicary? Why?

What though through years, the same old way,
That world spins on its hub?
The mayfly’s simple summer day
Beats lifetimes as a grub!

A geologic fault, this flight:
Those debts, that former wife,
Make some moraine down out of sight,
Old debris of a life.

(Only one figure, far and clear
Looks upward from that trough
A face still visible from here
-The girl who saw him off.)

The huge machine’s apart, alone.
The yielding hours go by.
We form a culture of our own
Inhabiting the sky.

Too short? Yet every art replies,
Preferring for its praise
To Egypt’s smouldering centuries
The brief Athenian blaze …

That flame-point sun, a blue-set jewel,
Blazed blurredly as it went.
Our arguments run out of fuel.
We dip for our descent.

We drift down from pure white and blue
To what awaits us there
In customs shed and passport queue
-The horrors of O’Hare.

Robert Conquest, 1988

Quit Before You Disappear

It’s Thursday and those thoughts you had about leaving your job earlier in the week have faded, as you anticipate a weekend break from work. Maybe it’s a good time to rethink your position in the workplace, before another week ends and you disappear into world of someone else’s definition.

Researchers with Citizens Advice, a problem solving service in Great Britain found that “workers reach their happiest moment at 6:08 pm on a Friday afternoon, just as they are heading home.”

Inevitably the weekend will come to an end, and along with it the anxiety at the prospect of returning to workplace frustration.

Georgia Graham reported on an interview with Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice in The Telegraph.

“People really don’t like Mondays, as employment woes are at their worst and job stresses kick in after a few days away from the workplace.

Anxieties start building on the eve of returning to work and reach fever pitch by lunchtime on the following day, with more people looking for guidance then than at any other time.”

Jessica Brinton, writing in the Sunday Times, profiled women who took that Monday feeling and quit while they were at the top of their game. Quoting Liv, a marketing agency star, “Then, one Monday morning, I was on my way to a meeting at an industrial park in Slough. Suddenly, it came over me like a cloak of sadness. I thought, “This is not how I want my life to be. It’s heartless.”

Katherine Losse, was Mark Zuckerberg’s copywriter in the early days of Facebook. In her 2012 book, ‘The Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network’ she shared her decision moment:

“It’s a form of crisis. You think ‘I’m smarter than this.’ You think you are working your way up, but, really, you’re just servicing someone else’s vision and it’s making you disappear. I was using all my intelligence to cope with the fact that I was in an environment that had nothing to do with who I was. So I left.” 

Daniel Gulati, a tech entrepreneur based in New York, recounts a Q&A session after a presentation at Parsons School for Design in a Harvard Business Review post. He was asked, ‘What do you most regret about your career?’ The question was a catalyst for additional research. He interviewed a diverse group of professionals and came up with the ‘The Top Five Career Regrets’ as a way to help folks minimize regret in their own career.

Number two on the list:

“I wish I had quit earlier. Almost uniformly, those who had actually quit their jobs to pursue their passions wished they had done so earlier. Variable reinforcement schedules prevalent in large corporations, the visibility of social media, and the desire to log incremental gains are three reasons that the 80% of people dissatisfied with their jobs don’t quit when they know they should. Said one sales executive, “Those years could have been spent working on problems that mattered to me. You can’t ever get those years back.”

Leaving a workplace is a difficult decision. Timing is unique to each situation. Quit when it’s time to move. Don’t wait until you lose yourself in someone else’s career.

Why has it been so hard to shatter the glass ceiling?

Forbes Magazine’s most powerful woman, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was caught in conversation with President Obama yesterday at the G7 Summit. She was not, as the media suggested, auditioning for the lead role in the Sound of Music.

The G7 leaders are dealing with serious economic and political issues that will eventually trickle down to effect us all. But the media focus was on a photograph and a caricature that diminished the accomplishments of the German leader.

The Washington Post headlined “A remarkable photo of President Obama and Angela Merkel” and continued:

“The backdrop to the 41st G7 Summit held in Germany is breathtaking, with its green trees and towering mountains. It makes for great image of German Chancellor Angela Merkel talking and gesturing with a seated President Obama.

It’s made all the better with Merkel’s shruggie pose ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, which also just so happens to look like that one scene from “The Sound of Music.”

Really? Is this journalism? Here is a woman whose leadership skills have kept the European Union together, maintained a dialog with the Russian president in a difficult political climate and has transformed her country since her election in 2005.

And, American journalists covering the summit have likened the German Chancellor to a singing nun.

Bryce Covert, writing in The New York Times on Friday, chronicled “our problem with powerful women”. She described Hillary Clinton being “optimistic about the path of progress toward gender equality. She called the presidency the “highest, hardest glass ceiling.” But she also said that it had “about 18 million cracks in it, and the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.”

In reality, Ms. Covert’s research shows, “Too few women make it into corporate leadership.”

“Progress is not inevitable, though, nor is it fixed. The country has a complicated relationship with powerful women: They have to keep proving themselves over and over again, being twice as good, and dragging one woman through the process doesn’t make it easier for those who follow.

Individual women might hope that their struggles blaze trails for everyone else. Mrs. Clinton must feel optimistic about her chances to win the presidency a second time around. But the reality is that the country hasn’t gotten used to women in charge. A crack in the glass ceiling in one place could very well just reinforce it for everyone else.”

Maybe it was Angela Merkel’s crack in the glass ceiling that has made it so hard for Mrs. Clinton. I might also suggest to the female journalists who enthusiastically broadcast ‘the sound of music photo’ on air last night, you’re not helping. You’re like the Safelight Auto Glass repair guy, making sure you seal up all those cracks and fortify glass ceiling.

Take another look at the photo. I think Chancellor Merkel is asking President Obama, “What’s wrong with you people? What is your problem with powerful women leaders?”