Smiling Through Adversity: 4 Lessons From Astronaut Scott Kelly

By Jessica Stillman

scot kelly

American astronaut Scott Kelly recently touched down in Kazakhstan after spending a year at the International Space Station. How did a year cooped up with one other guy in a cramped quarters affect Kelly?

Based on the fact that his first words upon being pulled from his landing capsule was a joke about the weather, clearly not too badly. That’s great news for Kelly, NASA, and the future of manned space flight, but it’s also interesting for the rest of us stuck here on earth amid the usual small hassles and daily annoyances of a planet-bound existence. If Kelly can laugh through adversity, surely we can too, and borrowing some of his tricks for maintaining his sanity can surely help.

1. Humor is powerful medicine.

Kelly’s year in space revealed that he’s a science ninja, a seasoned hand with social media, and a not-half-bad photographer, but it also showed that he’s a pretty good comedian. From chasing his fellow ISS resident around in a gorilla suit to bantering with the President of the United States, one key to Kelly’s resilience was obviously his sense of humor.

So if a guy living inside a giant, high-tech tin can floating in the most hostile environment imaginable for a year can find the funny in his everyday life, certainly most of us can do the same despite our mundane professional challenges and personal annoyances.

2. Gratitude is a mental health workout.

Sure, living in a confined space for a year, missing your family, and dealing with giant urine-acid balls has to be challenging, but on the other hand Kelly was in space! He clearly never forgot to appreciate the extraordinary experience he was having, as well as the large team that made it possible.

Science suggests it’s a strategy that can work for everyone. Counting your blessings, studies show, strengthens your brain’s ability to see the bright side going forward, making it easier to be even more grateful and happier in the future — no matter the challenges you face.

3. Keep your perspective with awe.

How does living in space affect astronauts psychologically? It has its difficulties, sure, but previous manned missions suggest one of the biggest effects is positive.

“Something that can happen to the human mind when it breaches near space. Believers call it the ‘overview effect,'” Fast Company has reported.. In essence, the awe-filled feeling you get when you see our planet glowing below expands your sense of humanity, giving you a stronger sense of connection to your fellow earthlings. Research suggests that awe has a powerful impact on us, boosting kindness and well-being.

Every one of us can try to find opportunities to wonder at the majesty of nature or art in our everyday lives, expanding our horizons and helping us see past our petty individual challenges and constraints.

4. Everyone needs someone to talk to.

Astronaut is one of the toughest jobs to land out there. NASA tests would-be space men and women rigorously not just for physical health but mental toughness as well. And knowing that one’s career hangs in the balance doesn’t exactly encourage an astronaut to speak up about any mental health challenges they might be facing. But even the toughest of the tough need someone to talk to, a fact NASA acknowledges. “Over the past several years, NASA has been funding a group of psychologists to develop a software program astronauts could use, while aboard spacecraft, to help them work through depression and conflicts with their fellow space-goers. Because astronauts are often reluctant to admit to anxiety or depression, out of fear they won’t be allowed to go to space again, the software is designed so nobody can track whether an astronaut uses it,” reports the Pacific Standard.

If badass test pilots and astronauts need an outlet, so do you. No one should white knuckle their way through adversity alone.

What was your favorite moment of Astronaut Kelly’s #YearInSpace?

 Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in Cyprus with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.

Simple steps to successful presentations

By Shannon Atler

Picture this: You’re at a conference, waiting to hear a speaker whose talk you’ve been looking forward to for months. As you sit down, you realize that he appears rattled and is gripping onto the lectern for dear life. He begins to talk, ever so slowly.

You wait a while to see if his talk improves but it becomes decidedly boring. Now you’re dreaming of a coffee break. If this sounds familiar (or if you’ve been in that position), there’s hope. No matter whether you’re presenting to an audience of one or to a crowd of 100, these tried-and-true tips will ensure you’re ready to roll the next time you present.

1.Start with a bang. During last year’s Tropical Storm Isaac, I was rerouted on my less-than-favorite airline. All went smoothly, at least until I emerged from the plane, uh, bitten. I was a little panicked upon discovering that a few sneaky little critters had apparently been my seatmates, and airline personnel were, well, unconcerned. What did this get me? A great opener for future talks on customer service, to be sure. Get started by thinking about the everyday things you do. Grab your audience’s interest with a story, quote or an interesting bit of information at the start and they’ll stay with you for the long run. It works every time.

2.Get focused. You’ve gotta start somewhere, and every plan needs a roadmap. To stay on track, outline, outline, outline. Decide first what your message is, why your audience wants to hear it, and how you will reinforce it. Then determine how you’ll sequence your thoughts: for a 30-minute talk, having four or five main points is ideal. Consider using an outline composed of talking points; jot down keywords as reminders of what you want to discuss. I like to use a whiteboard; it allows me to see all of my ideas at once, giving me a better picture of my story. You can use paper, index cards or your smartphone, but do it.

3.Know your audience. Who are you there to talk to? Whether you’re talking to a potential client, a team of employees or a huge group, knowing what your audience is looking for can make a world of difference.

4.Know your stuff. Unless you’re an expert at improvisation (or your name is Jerry Seinfeld), don’t depend on winging it. Your ship will sink faster than the Titanic if you don’t know your material backwards and forwards. Do your homework and make sure your material is solid before you get in front of the crowd.

5.Weave in examples. Think of examples as the golden thread that will tie your presentation together. People want to learn from your experiences. It’s much more valuable if you can use stories or examples to illustrate and support your points. They want to hear about what has worked and what hasn’t worked. Try it, and see how your topic comes to life!

6.Don’t read. Have you ever seen a presenter read every slide? Nothing can kill a speech or meeting faster than if you read your material. People can do that for themselves. It’s your job to fill in what’s between the lines and tell them the real story.

7.Have a Plan B. When I first spoke overseas, I was at the mercy of my host. He alone had my presentation slides on a CD and he alone was late. He finally arrived and I gleefully popped the CD into my laptop, anticipating my first slide on management. Instead, out came Russian folk music. It’s true; you just can’t make this stuff up. What were my lessons learned? Always carry a duplicate of your presentation. Things can, and do, go sideways at the most inopportune times — a delayed client, a missing audio visual guy, even a power outage. Decide in advance what you’ll do if something does go amiss. No matter whether you’re presenting a proposal for new business or preparing for a panel, having a backup plan pays off.

Shannon Alter is president of Alter Consulting Group where she helps managers and companies succeed by developing the skills they need to provide client solutions. Be sure to join the discussion on Alter’s blog at AlterConsultingGroup.com.

Building Relationships with Youthful Colleagues

Even if you’re the kind of savvy networker who makes a habit of lunching with well-placed colleagues, you may be overlooking some key players at the office: your younger co-workers.

Many midlife professionals make the mistake of gravitating to office friends in their same age group and level of seniority, says Jaime Klein, founder of Inspire Human Resources in New York City. As the folks in your circle retire or move on, however, this can leave you without anyone in a position to help you.

Besides, as Klein notes, “the millennials will be the people we will all be reporting to in the next 20 years.” In other words, those up-and-comers are worth getting to know.

Catch the rising stars

While it’s usually obvious which high-level individuals can help you, you may need to do some detective work to spot tenderfoots with the potential to climb.

Pay attention to the ideas they suggest at meetings to see who’s the most innovative and gaining the most traction. Look for those who might benefit from your guidance but who can also teach you something, whether because they are Pinterest whizzes or have worked overseas.

The ideal relationship “should be an exchange of knowledge and perspective,” says New York career coach Stefanie Smith.

Be cool, but not too cool

If you’re higher up in the food chain, younger co-workers may see you as inaccessible. To make real connections, you’ll want to show you’re approachable. “Lose your ego,” advises Tom Gimbel, CEO of LaSalle Network, a staffing firm in Chicago.

Simply making the effort to chat about last night’s ball game — or learning how to talk with them on IM, if that’s what they use — can go a long way. Don’t go overboard by sending links to memes or trying to use “yolo” in a sentence. You’ll just look silly.

Polish your pickup lines

While getting together outside the office can help build a better relationship, you have to be strategic in how you go about it.

A 55-year-old asking a 28-year-old of the opposite sex for after-work drinks sends the wrong message. Inviting your younger co-worker for coffee or lunch is usually a safer bet. Say something like, “I understand you do digital strategy. I’d like to learn more about what you do day to day.”

If the person seems slow to find the time, don’t persist. “Offer the opportunity — then see who recognizes the value and follows up,” Smith says.

Another option is to ask your new pal to an event where you can both learn, like a lunchtime talk on a career-related topic at your university club. Or organize departmental drinks at a bar, and concentrate on chatting with the brightest young things. Just don’t let your guard down too much. You could be sharing brewskis with your next boss.

Short-Circuit Conflict

By Jessica Stillman

When it comes to conflict, most of us go one of two ways. Some of us avoid disagreement, pushing down our anger and hurt and suffering in silence. Others thrive on conflict, working themselves up into a self-righteous lather that wouldn’t be out of place on a cable news program. It can feel so good to be so right when the rest of the world is obviously full of fools.

But it doesn’t take a lot of self-reflection to see both of these approaches have serious downsides. Repression has solved a grand total of zero business challenges and is murder on your mental and physical health. Self-righteousness has never been a great means to a constructive solution (and, frankly, can be addictive).

So what’s a better way? To get somewhere in an argument you need to stop thinking about how right you are, and spend some time squeezing your metaphorical feet into the other person’s shoes.

Julie Zhuo, a product design director at Facebook, took to Medium to share five hard but incredibly important questions you should ask yourself during an argument. Among them:

Can I fairly articulate the other person’s point of view?

If my first inclination during our disagreement is to call up a friend and begin a rant with, “He’s bat-s**t crazy. I Conflict-resolutionhave no idea why he’d say/do that, clearly he’s smoking something or he maybe he just possesses the IQ of a snail” — it’s a sign I have absolutely zero context on why you’re doing what you’re doing and have not stopped to think about it or ask you. So instead of overdramatizing the 2,395 ways you might be insane, why don’t I try and understand what’s actually making you tick?

Now, there’s a chance that even after more extensive research, the conclusion doesn’t change — said person is, in fact, crazy or low-integrity or possessing of a puny intellect. Fine. Then proceed accordingly, and don’t give up the good fight.

But those are the rare, rare cases. Generally, people are good. And smart. And acting in a totally reasonable way. Most of the time, when you dive in deeper, what you’ll find is that you were lacking their perspective. And had you known what they knew, or seen what they saw, you too might have ended up with their opinion.

You can’t even begin to resolve a conflict unless you understand why the other side thinks the way they do. So put some effort into figuring that out before you start questioning their mental aptitude.

Everyone, in other words, has a perspective, and you’re not going to get anything useful out of a conflict unless you spend some time at least trying to figure out what the other’s person’s is. It’s a point Peter Bregman settles on as well in another insightful post for the HBR Blog Network, noting that the key to a useful discussion about a disagreement is taking the time to acknowledge the other person’s perspective:

Always start the conversation by acknowledging how your actions impacted the other person. Save the discussion about your intentions for later. Much later. Maybe never. Because, in the end, your intentions don’t matter much.

What if you don’t think the other person is right — or justified — in feeling the way they do? It doesn’t matter. Because you’re not striving for agreement. You’re going for understanding…. Your job is to acknowledge their reality — which is critical to maintaining the relationship.

Is doing what Bregman and Zhou are advocating easy? Of course not. “We’re so focused on our own challenges that it’s often hard to acknowledge the challenges of others. Especially if we are their challenge and they are ours. Especially when they lash out at us in anger. Especially when we feel misunderstood,” writes Bregman, who offers a trick to make it easier: “While they’re getting angry at you, imagine, instead, that they’re angry at someone else. Then react as you would in that situation.”

This might sound a bit like something you’d hear from a marriage counselor, but both these posts are from business experts, which hints at why this advice is not just for couples but for small business owners. Your staff, customers and associates may not be as important to you as your spouse, but maintaining good relationships with them is as important to the healthy functioning of your business as maintaining a respectful dialogue with your significant other is for your relationship.

It may feel good to be right when you get in a conflict with someone at your company (hey, you may even be right in the end), but it’s probably much better for your business to spend some of that mental energy figuring out why they’re right in their own eyes.

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.

Will You Leave Your Comfort Zone?

By Suzanne Lucas

Many new business owners rely on past experience to make decisions. How to break that pattern.

I live in Basel, Switzerland, which might have the best public transportation system in the world. It is clean, fast, on time, and can get you where you want to be. In fact, it’s so fabulous that I’ve lived here for four years and still don’t own a car.

So, I was somewhat amused to look out the window of my tram this morning and see at least 100 people, in business attire, with small suitcases, waiting for taxis. (There’s a huge jewelry convention in town.) The woman next to me on the tram noticed too, and we laughed. Those people will be standing there at least an hour waiting for a taxi to get them to their hotels. In the meantime, they’ll get cranky and hot (most were wearing black and it’s in the mid 70s today), and will arrive at their hotels far later than they would if they crossed the street and jumped on a tram.

So, why wait for a taxi when it would be far easier to take public transportation? I think the answer to this is indicative of problems small business owners face as well. Here’s what I think is going through their brains–and your brains–and how to fix it.

What is going through their brains: I know how taxis work. I don’t know how the tram system works. I’d have to ask somebody what tram to take. What if I make a mistake? I don’t speak German. Yes, I see the big information booth, but if I walk over there I will lose my place in the taxi line. Plus everyone else is in the taxi line. They will think I’m cheap and not hip if I take a tram instead of a taxi.

Here’s what goes through the brains of new business owners: I know how my old manager managed me, so I’ll manage people like that. There’s resources to help people like me out, I think, but I’m not quite sure who to ask or what to say and if I say it wrong, people will think I’m stupid. Besides, by asking, people will think I don’t know what I’m doing, so I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing even though it doesn’t seem to be working very well.

Why do we do that? Why don’t we just ask the darn questions? There are resources out there, but sometimes they require us to step outside our comfort zones. Sometimes they require us to say, “Hey, I don’t have a clue what I’m doing here. Can you help me out?” Sometimes it requires that we ask a question of (gasp!) a subordinate who has more knowledge and experience in that particular area.

If you start asking questions, you’ll find that there are fabulous resources. You’ll find that there are (probably) better ways to do whatever it is that you need to do. And if you are lucky enough to find out that you’re doing it the best possible way, you can go forward with confidence.

If those people waiting for the taxis were able to step outside their comfort zone just a little and walk to the information booth, they’d undoubtedly discover that there was information available in a language they speak, their hotel was less than a block away from the tram stop, and that a tram ticket will cost about five francs instead of the 40 to 50 they’ll have to pay for a taxi.

What will you find out if you step outside your comfort zone and ask?

Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. Follow her at Twitter, connect with her at LinkedIn, read her blog, or send her an email.

Setting Boundaries at Work

Today’s post focuses on the importance of finding balance in your work. It’s an excerpt from One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership by Mike Figliuolo.

You are the only one who can protect your time and your interests. You have to establish “the line” you are not willing to cross or allow others to cross. Whether it is the number of hours you work, the work you do (and the work others do), or the physical layout of your workspace, there are things that are or are not comfortable for you. The problem is no one knows where your line is until you tell them they have crossed it. Unless you let others know what your comfort zone is, they will superimpose their own upon you. Nine times out of ten, you will be dissatisfied with their choice. You have to set boundaries to establish those lines.

As you think about defining your lines, take a moment to reflect on times you have felt taken advantage of at work. Think about what boundary was crossed that made you uncomfortable. Were you asked to work late? To miss a family event? To do work well below your skill level? Once you have a sense for where those boundaries are you can begin defining your lines. You need a set of lines you are happy working inside of that define the mix of work you do or do not do and set limits on how long you will work, when you will work and how you will work. They are designed to help you achieve a mix of work you will be excited about doing.

I enjoy being challenged by my work. I also prefer to manage my own tasks, deadlines, and priorities. Obviously I communicate those priorities and agree upon them with my leaders but in general I prefer to have more control over them rather than less. My maxim for defining the lines of my work-style is “I’m going home. You’re doing my job.” Here is the story behind that maxim…

In one role I had, I kept my “to do” list on a big whiteboard across from my desk so I could have all the work I needed to do staring me in the face. It was a good way for me to see everything I had to do at a glance. One day my boss walked into my office and stood facing me with his back to my whiteboard. He started rattling off all the things I should be thinking about, all the projects I should be doing, and all the analyses I should be conducting. Every item he mentioned was already written somewhere on my whiteboard. Several times I tried to interrupt him to explain I was on top of things but I was unable to get a word in edgewise. I was getting extremely frustrated with being micromanaged. I decided it was time to make a statement. I calmly picked up my briefcase, put it on my desk, put my laptop in it, closed it and shut off the light on my desk.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m going home. You’re doing my job so you don’t need me.”

He was confused by my statement. I asked him to turn around and look at my whiteboard. I pointed out all the things he was asking for were already underway and under control. I explained to him I like to manage my tasks and my team’s priorities. I helped him understand I found meaning and excitement in running my organization and he came to realize that a large portion of my job satisfaction was tied to having the space to do my job.

Was my approach to clarifying this point high-risk? Yes. Was it potentially a career-limiting move? Definitely. Was it also a pointed way to define boundaries, responsibilities and preferred management styles? Absolutely. Fortunately I had a great relationship with my boss and he got the point. He apologized for micromanaging and I apologized for being disrespectful. After that incident he gave me a great deal of room to operate and the balance of my work was to my liking.

I take some measure of satisfaction from being competent at my job. I do not enjoy being micromanaged. One way I prevent that from happening is to clearly articulate and agree upon responsibilities and boundaries with my managers. Sharing my maxim is a simple yet effective way to broach that conversation.

You need to define your own lines regarding the work you do or do not do, time spent at work versus time spent away from it, and any other boundaries that make your work and life experiences pleasant ones. These lines will form your maxims. You should be able to rely on them during stressful times to remind you of the behaviors that enable you to achieve balance.

First, define your work balance. Ask yourself the following questions and document your answers:

– What kind of work is required for you to be happy with your job? Which specific tasks or activities do you find the most fulfilling?

– What kind of work or which tasks would you love to eliminate from your daily routine?

– Which characteristics of your job would you like to maintain at all costs (e.g., flexibility, predictability, ambiguity, simplicity, complexity, independence)? In what kind of environment are you most productive?

– What characteristics of your job would you like to eliminate (e.g., flexibility, complexity, etc.)? In which environments are you unproductive or unhappy?

– How do you prefer your coworkers, bosses, and team members to interact with you? How do you prefer they not interact? What pet peeves do you have regarding how others treat you?

– Is there anyone you know who has an outstanding balance of doing work they are thrilled with compared to work they do not enjoy? How do they achieve that mix of work? What can you change about your own approach to work to better emulate them?

– Has there ever been a point in life where you had a good work-life balance? What were the circumstances surrounding that situation that made it work?

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can begin to better define your boundaries at work which should improve your job satisfaction and therefore improve your morale and performance. What are your boundaries at work? Share in the comments below.

Become a Master Networker: 5 Quick Tips

Check out this video for networking advice from Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Media, and Scott Gerber, founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council.

  1. Be seen as a SuperConnector
  2. Look for ways to assist people without an agenda
  3. Do things for others before yourself
  4. Be an asset, not a one-time conversation
  5. Access is everything; maximize what you own!

Leave your best business tips in the comments below.

Taming the Paper Monster

Are your association’s offices being taken over by scraps of paper with messages you can never seem to find when you need them and filing cabinets stuffed to the brink of exploding? If so, you should consider striving for a paperless office.

Bear in mind, you will probably never attain that goal. You still need hard copies of some documents for legal or regulatory reasons. Nevertheless, you should try to cut that paper monster down to size.

Start by using scanners instead of copying machines whenever possible, transmitting electronic faxes instead of paper faxes, storing information electronically instead of in filing cabinets, and sending major documents as e-mail attachments or on CDs instead of in bound folders. By sending this newsletter to you via e-mail, for example, NBC-CAM holds down clutter in hundreds of offices—and maybe saves a tree or two along the way.

If you prefer the portability of paper, why not print out your newsletter or other document on the back side of documents you otherwise would have pitched? And then recycle the paper when you’ve finished reading the newsletter.

Whether you receive the documents electronically or scan them yourself, save them as searchable PDF files that lock documents into records that cannot be altered. You will be able to run flexible searches and find information within seconds rather than spending hours thumbing through files.

For some documents, you may need Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software, which extracts text from images and interprets tables while retaining their original cell structure. Often, viable OCR software comes with the scanner.

Once you have the documents filed, you will also be able to access them if you are away from your office. Plus, you can quickly share the information with others, including vendors, property owners and government officials.

Always remember to back up important files. Saving duplicate files on your hard drive is not good enough, though. If your hard drive crashes, you stand to lose all files. Among backup solutions are second hard drives, DVD-ROMs or other removable storage media. You also may save to the Internet and off-site locations to minimize the risk of data loss from a computer failure.

How much space can you save? Consider that a 250 gigabyte hard drive can store 5.8 million pages; a 4.7 gigabyte DVD-ROM, 105,000 pages; and a 700 megabyte CD-ROM, 16,000 pages.

The savings resulting from a switch to less paper extends well beyond the value of the office space you regain by eliminating massive filing systems. Your association will also notice a substantial reduction in the cost of printing, mailing, and shipping.

If you do not feel up to the task, your association may want to consider hiring the services of an independent consultant or firm to help get you set up. It might be one of the best investments your association ever makes.

Unruly board meetings a problem?

The below Q&A can be found in the Las Vegas Review Journal.  Barbara Holland answers a question about unruly meetings.  Barbara is a certified property manager, broker and supervisory certified association manager, is president and owner of H&L Realty and Management Co.

Q: Our homeowners association meetings have turned into a three-ring circus. We have one homeowner, who is apparently mentally unstable, who shows up at board meetings and makes unfounded allegations against the board and the management company and threats against individual board members. Many homeowners have quit attending the meetings because of his disruptive theatrics. Can such an individual be barred from attending future meetings?

A: Many communities have had this problem. Below, I have included what one association added to its community rules to address a similar situation. It states that a homeowner can be suspended from attending board meetings.

Note, before any HOA includes this rule in its regulations, I highly advise you to have your legal counsel review the issue and the language as he or she may wish to make changes or even advise you not to adopt such a rule.

“The board of directors has the right to establish and enforce reasonable limitations and restrictions on the manner in which members of the association may participate in meetings of the association in order to maintain proper decorum during the meetings of the association.

In addition to the restrictions and limitations recognized in Robert’s Rules of Order, the board of directors shall have the right to impose restrictions and/or limitations and fines on members of the association who engage in disruptive behavior during meetings of the association, including but not limited to, speaking out of order, use of profanity, yelling and/or otherwise being loud and boisterous, etc.

“In the event a member of the association engages in such disruptive behavior during a meeting of the association, the member of the association will be issued a warning letter the first time the member engages in such conduct. Should the member engage in such disruptive behavior a second time, the member may be fined and/or suspended from one meeting by the association depending on the nature, severity and flagrancy of the conduct.

Should the member engage in such disruptive behavior a third time, the member may be fined and/or suspended from two or more meetings by the association depending on the nature, severity and flagrancy of the conduct.”

Do you have something to add?  Has your community done something similar?  Let us know if the comments.

SEO – Search Engine Optimization

JM Internet Group teaches live and video archive training classes in SEO, Social Media Marketing, and AdWords.  NBC-CAM has benefitted greatly from the courses and tools to help optimize our website using Google and other search engine sites.

Recently they released their fall 2012 SEO/Google Toolbook.  The new edition has even more free tools to help you get your business or association to the top of Google’s free listings, using free SEO tools.  The toolbook sells for $25, but they are extending it to NBC-CAM and you for free!

Steps to download the free guide:

Here’s your personal coupon code:  cctb-0c11815d1

1) Click on http://tinyurl.com/9khx75v

2) Download your free copy of the SEO Toolbook, a $25 value.

3) Your coupon code is automatically recorded.  Your friends / associates can just use the COUPON CODE above to download their own free copy.

Let us know how you’re using SEO to increase business and awareness in the comments below.

If you’re having issues download the toolbook, email our Certification Manager, Sara, at sduginske@nbccam.org for a copy.