The Friday Poem ‘After Work’ by John Maloney

It’s Friday and the poem selected to start off this weekend is ‘After Work’ by stonemason and poet John Maloney.

There’s a line of demarcation, even in the 24/7 workplace, where we cross over from the identity we carry @work to perhaps the more authentic persona of how we see ourselves. It’s that transition space in a car stuck in LA on the 405, hanging tight on the subway in NYC or driving a pickup on the backroads of Tennessee. “No one can take away the contentment of the first few miles.”

After Work

They’re heading home with their lights on, dust and wood glue,
yellow dome lights on their metallic long beds: 250s, 2500s—
as much overtime as you want, deadline, dotted line, dazed
through the last few hours, dried primer on their knuckles,
sawdust calf-high on their jeans, scraped boots, the rough
plumbing and electric in, way ahead of the game except for
the check, such a clutter of cans and iced-tea bottles, napkins,
coffee cups, paper plates on the front seat floor with cords
and saws, tired above the eyes, back of the beyond, thirsty.
There’s a parade of them through the two-lane highways,
proudest on their way home, the first turn out of the jobsite,
the first song with the belt off, pure breath of being alone
for now, for now the insight of a full and answerable man.
No one can take away the contentment of the first few miles
and they know they can’t describe it, the black and purple sky.

A new question

On February 2, 2015 ‘Workthoughts’ joined the blogosphere with a question, Why work?

“As children we are open to any work possibility. We haven’t learned the value society places on work and workers. Our exploration of the world of work begins with the folks who keep us safe. We imagine ourselves as those fictional superheroes, donning capes and masks, scaling buildings to save the city or the planet from threat.

Throughout our years of formal education we gain additional information about work and workplace options. By the time we are in high school, our academic performance and test scores have segmented the class into college bound and not.

As we progress through education we acquire the biases of our community and culture, strongly influencing our choice of work.

We begin our careers as interns; apprentices excited about an opportunity to finally realize a long held dream. Along the way we translate that experience into a full time job and begin our careers acquiring skills and learning the culture of the organizations we join.

We become engaged in our communities, raise families and continue our education.

At some point the momentum of our career trajectory outruns our initial dreams and values, and it’s important to ask, why work?”

Other questions emerged over the past three years, but all seemed subsets of the original. This one, posed by writer Meghan Daum, captured the uncertainty of our current workplace moment: “How do we measure fulfillment in work and where do we find it when the traditional channels have given way to a round-the-clock hustle?”

This may be the defining ‘future of work’ career question.

To respond, we need new definitions of success, more inclusive portraits of achievement; focus on the work itself, not the consequences. There are new constructs, locations, timelines and contracts. Relationships and expectations @work are more fluid. Everything is changing.

“We get surprised in real life because we can’t know everything there is to know. For one thing, we’re stuck in our own heads, in a single point of view.” Jincy Willett

As we begin year four, @workthoughts will continue to share the surprises and examine life@work through the lens of current reporting, research, poetry and ‘The Saturday Read’.

 

 

 

 

 

The week@work – ‘I’MPossible, steady job gains, robots, the multi-lingual advantage, and digital addiction

This week@work a South African big wave surfer completed his Atlantic crossing via paddleboard, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 4.7%, research revealed speaking multiple languages restructures our brain, and the time you are spending reading this on your smartphone just may be a symptom of addiction.

What have you been doing @work since December 6, 2016? Chris Bertish, an accomplished surfer, left Morocco on that Tuesday headed for Florida. John Clarke reported ‘Chris Bertish Becomes First to Cross Atlantic by Paddleboard’.

“Bertish left the Agadir Marina in Morocco on Dec. 6. and planned to make the 4,600-mile, open-ocean passage unsupported and unassisted on a 20-foot stand-up paddleboard to Florida in four months.

He changed course south to Antigua because of low pressure systems and volatile weather, completing the 4,050-mile crossing in 93 days, arriving at 8:32 a.m. local time. Bertish averaged 44 miles a day — mostly at night to avoid exposure to the sun — and alternated between resting and paddling every two or three hours.

He made an estimated two million paddle strokes during the journey.”

In other good news, Ana Swanson examined the detail behind the unemployment figures, ‘U.S. added 235,000 jobs in February; unemployment rate dropped to 4.7 percent’.

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“The U.S. economy added a healthy 235,000 jobs in February, according to government data released Friday morning, surpassing economists’ expectations and likely clearing the way for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this month.

The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.7 percent, compared with 4.8 percent in January, and wages rose by 6 cents to $26.09 in February, after a 5-cent increase the month before.”

In a related story, Claire Cain Miller offered strategies on ‘How to Beat the Robots’.

“The problem, at least for now, is not that there isn’t enough work — there is, but it is very different from the kind of work technology is displacing. Manufacturing and warehousing jobs are shrinking, while jobs that provide services (health care, child care, elder care, education, food) are growing.”

A number of elements in combination could establish viable competition with the robots: education that encourages flexibility and life-long learning, guaranteed basic income, profit sharing, and experimenting with non-traditional approaches to work.

Author Gabrielle Hogan-Brun‘s research has found ‘People who speak multiple languages make the best employees for one big reason’.

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“Speaking a different language—whether it’s your grandparents’ tongue or high-school Spanish—fundamentally changes the structure of your brain. Put a bunch of these malleable minds together in a company, and you create the potential for some truly original thinking.

Observations of multi-language work teams show that mixed-language groups have a propensity to find innovative solutions for practical problems. This is because they use a range of communication strategies in flexible and dynamic ways. When speakers from different language backgrounds work together using a common language, they draw on subconscious concepts that lie below the surface of the language they happen to be conversing in.

These findings show that bilingual people may have highly valued employment attributes: analytical thinking, conceptualizing ability, working memory, and dexterity. Clearly, these skills are assets when it comes to rational planning, managing complexity, and problem solving, which are central for executive function.”

Claudia Dreifus interviewed social psychologist, Adam Alter to discover ‘Why We Can’t Look Away From Our Screens’.

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“Why do you claim that many of the new electronic gadgets have fueled behavioral addictions?”

“Well, look at what people are doing. In one survey, 60 percent of the adults said they keep their cellphones next to them when they sleep. In another survey, half the respondents claimed they check their emails during the night.

Moreover, these new gadgets turn out to be the perfect delivery devices for addictive media. If games and social media were once confined to our home computers, portable devices permit us to engage with them everywhere.

Today, we’re checking our social media constantly, which disrupts work and everyday life. We’ve become obsessed with how many “likes” our Instagram photos are getting instead of where we are walking and whom we are talking to.”

In closing this week@work, this morning’s tweet from Chris Bertish:

“As you head into the new week, remember the mantra that got me through 93 days on the Atlantic…Nothing is impossible, unless you believe it to be”

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The Friday Poem ‘To The Indifferent Women’ by Charlotte Anna Perkins Gilman

On the eve of the ‘Women’s March’, the Friday Poem reprises ‘To The Indifferent Women’ by Charlotte Anna Perkins Gilman. I originally posted the poem in July after the first woman in U.S. history accepted her party’s nomination for president.

Sometimes things don’t work out as planned.

Tomorrow, in Washington D.C. and cities around the country, women will join together in a nation that could not ratify an equal rights amendment, or elect the first woman president, and remind those elected that women’s rights are human rights.

“In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”

There is something going on here, as there was in 1911 when Ms. Perkins was writing for the cause of women’s rights.

One of the more stunning stories, in advance of the D.C. march, appears in today’s NY Times and profiles an unlikely activist contingent – ‘From Wall Street to National Mall: Women Overcome Fears to Attend March’.

“They are professionals in trading, public relations, marketing, deal-making, investing and the law. They keep punishing schedules, fear losing business by offending their clients and often feel that in an industry still overwhelmingly populated by men, the less attention drawn to their sex, the better.

But the inauguration of Mr. Trump has prompted a striking number of Wall Street women to overcome their worries about demonstrating in public.”

For those who will march and be questioned why, and for those still without weekend plans – a beautiful question from 1911.

“Do you believe the sorrow of the world
Does not concern you in your little homes?”

To The Indifferent Women

A Sestina

You who are happy in a thousand homes,
Or overworked therein, to a dumb peace;
Whose souls are wholly centered in the life
Of that small group you personally love;
Who told you that you need not know or care
About the sin and sorrow of the world?

Do you believe the sorrow of the world
Does not concern you in your little homes? —
That you are licensed to avoid the care
And toil for human progress, human peace,
And the enlargement of our power of love
Until it covers every field of life?

The one first duty of all human life
Is to promote the progress of the world
In righteousness, in wisdom, truth and love;
And you ignore it, hidden in your homes,
Content to keep them in uncertain peace,
Content to leave all else without your care.

Yet you are mothers! And a mother’s care
Is the first step toward friendly human life.
Life where all nations in untroubled peace
Unite to raise the standard of the world
And make the happiness we seek in homes
Spread everywhere in strong and fruitful love.

You are content to keep that mighty love
In its first steps forever; the crude care
Of animals for mate and young and homes,
Instead of pouring it abroad in life,
Its mighty current feeding all the world
Till every human child can grow in peace.

You cannot keep your small domestic peace
Your little pool of undeveloped love,
While the neglected, starved, unmothered world
Struggles and fights for lack of mother’s care,
And its tempestuous, bitter, broken life
Beats in upon you in your selfish homes.

We all may have our homes in joy and peace
When woman’s life, in its rich power of love
Is joined with man’s to care for all the world.

Charlotte Anna Perkins Gilman ‘Suffrage Songs and Voices’ 1911

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Photo credit: Screen shot from Women’s March LA website

 

On the road again…

I will be crossing the U.S. by car from west to east this week. Follow on Twitter @EileenKohan or @workthoughts. In the interim, some thoughts from Tim Kreider, ‘The Busy Trap’.

“If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are…They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence…

But I would suggest that an ideal human life lies somewhere between my own defiant indolence and the rest of the world’s frenetic hustle. My role is just to be a bad influence, the kid standing outside the classroom window making faces at you at your desk, urging you to just this once make some excuse and get out of there, come outside and play… I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love… Life is too short to be busy.”

workthoughts@one

Happy Groundhog Day! A day immortalized in the 1993 Bill Murray movie, as our national holiday of second chances.

I launched ‘workthoughts’ a year ago, on Groundhog Day, because I believed a blog about work should consider career evolution, lifelong learning and several second chances. It was never meant to be a place to find a job, rather a place to consider choices, share ideas and reconnect with dreams.

‘Workthoughts’ had its origin in a Tuesday afternoon course I taught for college students who were employed as interns for the semester. Most arrived thinking it was a waste of time, an added commitment to an already crowded schedule of classes, commuting and work.

As the semester progressed we dealt with the situations that develop in any workplace: disconnect in expectations, dysfunctional communications, poor leadership, lack of meaningful assignments, and recognition. We also talked about the bigger picture: global trends, leadership, teamwork, generations in the workplace, diversity and gender issues, work/life balance. It was about the humanities and social sciences, and building relationships with mentors, colleagues and clients.

“What would you do if you were stuck in one place and everything was exactly the same and nothing that you did mattered?” (Bill Murray, Groundhog Day)

Success@work begins with a clear understanding of self and a broad knowledge of the world@work. How can you connect the dots if you’re stuck in one place, everything is exactly the same and nothing you do matters?

‘Workthoughts’ provides weekly supplements in the humanities with the ‘Friday Poem’, sampling a variety of lyrical interpretations of work, and ‘The Saturday Read’, a book or long form article recommendation to illuminate the work experience and offer alternate views to problem solving. The ‘week@work’ summarizes selected stories from a variety of journalists and experts. And in-between are the conversations about fun, joy, success, and failure @work.

Work is about relationships. We build them, not on the technical aspects of the work to be accomplished, but on the human connections that grow beyond, in shared interests and experience.

Thank you to all who have connected and shared your ‘workthoughts’ this year. And thank you to all the alumni of MDA 250 – who stay connected, continue to inspire, and know the value of second chances.