The Power of Routine

After I was downsized from one of my past jobs, I discovered a very important thing: having a daily ritual really helped keep me grounded. I was now unemployed, at home, and suddenly with a lot of free time on my hands. It started with just a desire to get out of the house, heading to the local Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts every morning for some coffee, either hanging out there with my laptop for a bit, or taking it back home. As I continued doing this on a consistent basis, however, I realized the real and positive effect it was having on me, beyond the morning caffeine jolt, of course! I was re-establishing some semblance of a routine, restoring some degree of structure that I had had when I was working. It seemed kind of silly at first that it could be anything more than just grabbing coffee, but I soon realized there was something to this. Part of it might just have been the fact that I’m an introvert, and introverts in general tend to prefer knowing what to expect.

Whether an introvert or extrovert, however, being laid off can make us feel isolated and do a number on our self-esteem. If we have something to do, preferably something that will consistently get us out of the house for a bit, to look forward to and make us feel like we still have something to do on a day-to-day basis, that can definitely help improve our mental state.

These days, in the midst of a health pandemic, it can of course be more complicated and challenging as our options are a little more limited outside the house. But even if coffee shops don’t have in-house service, many are now offering grab-n-go, drive-thru, or socially-distanced outdoor seating. If coffee isn’t your thing, think of another (socially-distanced) activity that you will get you out of the house and honor your comfort level at the same time.

With all of this said, virtual events and “outings”, especially now, is an equally valid path to follow, and may turn out to be the more appealing option to some people anyway (especially for the introverts among us!) It may come down to just testing it out, striking the right balance and seeing what combination works best for each of us.

Momentum has never been as important as now

The protests that have recently ensued in the wake of George Floyd’s murder have been a source of hope and inspiration for me. It feels that this is sort of a tipping point, not only because of the global protests, but also because of the innumerable conversations now happening everywhere around racial injustice and inequality, and white privilege. This is especially significant since engaging in these kinds of topics is uncomfortable, often painful, but critical to confront nonetheless. As with so many things in life, maintaining momentum is key to positive change. The typical pattern with past tragedies has has been a determined effort to make change followed by political inaction. I often LA_protesttell myself after, for example, a school shooting, an incident of police brutality, or any other act of senseless violence, that surely this will be the thing that effects change. But I’m often left disappointed and disillusioned. One notable exception is the formation of Black Lives Matter as a result of the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer in 2013.

Of course time will tell, but this time it feels different. It feels like the momentum is there, and only getting stronger, to create meaningful and positive change. Peaceful protesting, continued conversations, education, many people speaking out, legislation – these are just a few of the key ingredients to help bring about a fairer and more equitable society. There are thankfully a ton of resources for people to access on the subject. Here’s but one to learn more. 

 

“Black shopping basket, please.”

Now this is an idea I can get behind. There’s a Sephora store in Europe (specific location unknown) that started using color-coded shopping baskets for those who want a salesperson to approach/assist them…and for those who don’t. I almost always fall into the latter camp, and would be reaching for the black shopping basket.

Now if this idea could make its way to the US, and at stores that I actually shop in, then I’d be really excited, especially with the holiday shopping season almost upon us. But it’s a start! A dream come true, at least for this introvert!

shoppingbaskets

 

Hey, What About Me?

I’m more than happy to help my fellow networkers however I can – when it’s a 2-way street. Good karma is alive and well when it comes to effective networking! It requires a certain mindset as well. Effective networking is not really about finding our next job, but making meaningful connections and establishing mutually beneficial professional relationships.

One size does not fit all – ask any introvert

I saw an article online recently with the headline, “How to Overcome Being an Introvert”. Overcome?! Really? This is exactly the kind of attitude that perpetuates misunderstanding and confusion. I don’t see it as something I need, or want to fix. And even if I wanted to, trying to reverse something hard-wired into my brain is most likely impossible anyway.

Hammer and Qubes4no textLet’s face it – we introverts face certain challenges. In Susan Cain’s article, The Rise of the New Groupthink, she discusses how introverts tend to be very creative thinkers, but face a serious challenge in a culture that constantly emphasizes group activity and teamwork in the workplace. She goes on to explain that introverts welcome collaboration, but need sufficient alone-time to gather our thoughts and formulate ideas to then bring them to the group for discussion. Cain cites Apple Computer’s Steve Wozniak, an example of a famous introvert, as someone who fits this mold and whose greatest ideas were developed solo. And we all know how well that turned out!

In the end, both introverts and extroverts are capable of bringing value to the workplace, but that it’s critical we understand each other’s work style and accept the fact that one size does not fit all. And this is one time where there is (or ought to be) an “I” in “Team”.

– JR

The Early Morning Introvert

I’ve considered myself to be a night owl for a long time, but recent circumstances have necessitated me becoming a morning person (shudder the thought)! We adopted a rescue dog several months ago and, as things have just worked out, I take Timmy on his first walk of the day, which is usually around 6:15-6:30am on weekdays, give or take. An unexpected benefit that I soon discovered was that this “early morning dog walk duty” offers one big advantage, particularly for an introvert like me.

The early morning hours are usually very quiet, where my mind is (relatively) quiet as well. This quiet time has opened up some “me time” before the hustle and bustle of the day begins, fullsizeoutput_11a0which, for an introvert, can be more valuable than gold. It might involve being super-productive during this time, or not being productive at all. I guess that’s kind of the point – it’s my time to do with what I want. I just wish there was more of it!

Beyond this newfound quiet time, there are definitely significant fringe benefits like the roughly 2,000 steps I take before 7am, and of course a little quality time with the pooch.

But there are downsides too. So I like my neighbors and all, and I don’t know if it’s part of some implied social contract, but the last thing I want to do first thing in the morning is make small talk with other “dog parents” walking their dogs. It’s always the same “conversation”, which I’ve had at least a hundred times. And as many introverts will tell you, small talk can get very tiresome, very quickly.

The other downside is that winter-time early-morning dog walks are quite a different story than walks other times of the year (brrr, chill), and there might need to be some renegotiation of duties! But in the meantime, I’ll be grateful for the benefits that come with this new routine of mine.

– JR

The Introverted (& Grateful) Traveler, 2019 Edition

There’s a great quote that goes, “You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.” I’m wondering if Robbie’s and my recently cancelled flight to Portugal somehow saved us from even worse luck. I’d like to think so, but even if that’s not the case, there were actually a few good things that came out of this two-day delay. It turns out there were a few things that I had initially forgotten to pack, and it gave me time to reconsider a couple clothing choices. Small details, yes, but still things that could make for a smoother-running trip. I’m also using one less vacation day due to the shift in trip dates, but on the flip side, we were penalized the cost of one night at the hotel due to the last-minute change. After considering the above, plus a few other logistical changes, I remain grateful – mostly because we have the opportunity to go to Portugal in the first place!

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Sunset view of Lisbon

Fast forward a week later. On a scale from 1 to 10, I’d give this trip a solid 8. I can also safely say, even though it was very enjoyable, and Lisbon and the neighboring towns of Sintra and Cascais are worth the time to visit, I probably wouldn’t put Portugal back on my list of places to revisit anytime soon, partly because there are so many other places I’ve yet to see. But let’s just say, the secret is out about Portugal. As with most travel destinations that gain in popularity over time, so does the “touristy factor”: restaurant waiters, store owners, street vendors and tour guides persistently, and at times aggressively, competing for the tourist dollar (or in this case, euro), and nearly impossible to get a window seat on “Tram 28” unless you go right at the crack of dawn. Sintra, which was once the home of Portuguese royalty and the site of a Moorish castle, among other notable sites, is beautiful. But it’s also where you’ll see one tour bus after another, long lines (some of the longest I’ve ever seen), and crowds of people (and we were there in the “off season”). As we walked around, we couldn’t help but imagine this town the way it was before it was “discovered”: a quaint, sleepy, picturesque village. The locals are probably at the same time mortified by their town being overrun with us tourists, and grateful for the economic boom we help create.

Now on my Introvert Scale, I’d give the overall trip a 6, mainly due to the crowds and the numerous hectic and hot days of traipsing around the city, seeing the sites and crossing things off our list. Our hotel had a very nice rooftop pool/restaurant, and lots of different areas to just hang out and lounge around. Our last full day was dedicated to just that: hanging out, lounging, and swimming on the rooftop: a nice change of pace and scenery, but more importantly my chance to recharge and come home a little more relaxed.

In closing, I’d definitely recommend Portugal to anyone looking for ideas for where to go on their next vacation: a lot of fun, interesting history, beautiful scenery, nice people. For our next trip, however, I’m thinking a slightly quieter, maybe less “discovered” place where recharging my introvert battery may not even be necessary, and where I can raise the “introvert score” a couple of points at least!

– JR

Words to Live By: Some Note-Worthy “Introvert” Quotes

We’re halfway through the week, and I thought it would be a good time to share some profound and thought-provoking quotes. (Actually, anytime is a good time)! It’s difficult to narrow it down to a Top-10 List, but here are some notable introvert quotes, in no particular order…

  1. “In a gentle way, you can shake the world” – Mahatma Gandhi
  2. “Introverts dislike small talk, but are fluent in the language of ideas and dreams.” – Michaela Chung
  3. “People inspire you or they drain you – pick them wisely.” – Hans Hansen
  4. “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” – Anne Lamott
  5. “Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again.” – Anais Nin
  6. “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” – Susan Cain
  7. “What a lovely surprise to discover how unlonely being alone can be.” – Ellen Burstyn
  8. “Quiet people have the loudest minds.” – Stephen Hawking
  9. “I’m indecisive because I see eight sides to everything.” – April Kepne
  10. “Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” – Plato

 

Eat Smarter, Work Better

Just to change things up every once in awhile, Stephen and I will do a blog post that’s “off-topic”. Today, it’s about employee wellness. When I worked at Bloomberg, the company provided free breakfast, lunch, and snacks to their employees all day, 5 days a week, which I happily partook in on a consistent basis. I definitely saved a lot of money on food, but at the same time I undeniably put on a few pounds in the process. After all, those chocolate chip cookies were not going to eat themselves. Yes, there was a decent selection of healthy food, but just as many things that could be considered junk food.

HealthyEatingTrue, there is something to be said for an occasional quick sugar rush during the workday to help us get through whatever task we need to get through. However, the laws of physics inevitably take over and what goes up, must come down, for example eating a high-carb lunch, followed by the “3pm slump”.

Eating healthier has real benefits for both employees and organizations, including sustained energy throughout the day, higher productivity, reduced absenteeism, and lower health care costs.  It’s not only good nutrition, but other factors, like increased physical activity, meditation, and adequate sleep also play a part in producing more positive outcomes in the workplace.

Need ideas for what to eat? Well, I get my quinoa salad at Costco, enough for about three or four days of lunches. If you don’t have a Costco near you, here’s a recipe that looks pretty good. Sushi, anyone? Yes, please! (not for everyone, I know). If quinoa or sushi don’t do it for you, here’s a list of 30 foods for all-day energy.

– JR