All Work No Federal Holi-Play

As many employees are enjoying Martin Luther King, Jr. Day from their comfort of their homes I will be sitting in the cubicled walls of my work environment and it makes me recall the way I viewed this holiday as an elementary age child.  I asked my grandmother if I could stay home that Monday because it was Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday and I’ll never recall the quick response that ended the conversation: “he fought so that we all could have the opportunity to go to work and school not to give you a day off”.  That settled it.  One single sentence from Grandma nipped the whole idea of a day at home catching up on the Young and the Restless (yep, I was a fan even back then). 

 Years later, I have worked in environments that follow the federal calendar and those that seem to follow no calendar whatsoever -nothing like working on New Years Eve in a outbound sales environment- and I value the words that my grandmother said.  She had never worked outside of the home but she had obviously grown up at a time where she saw the impact of not being allowed to engage in a career of your choosing or pursuing that career but having no opportunity to practice.  She understood the value of earning an honest wage for your family without daily impediment or worries.

 Those words stood out so significantly to me that I have never used MLK day as a vacation day.  When it has been given to me as a federal holiday I’ve used it to participate in a service project or attend a local educational event with my children.  On the chance that it hasn’t been offered to me as an official holiday I’ve gone to work with the appreciation for all of the people that paved the way and put in the hard and often dangerous work of protesting, sit-ins, and simply standing for what they believe.  I remind myself that the sacrifice of my ancestors and those of other races that believed in equality is more than enough reason for me to ALWAYS strive to be number one and put my best foot forward.

 So, regardless of the color of your skin, many of us are experiencing success today that required the sacrifice and hard work of others yesterday.  With this in mind I enjoy the unimpeded opportunity to take care of my family, relish the comfort that I am afforded and work hard as a gesture of gratitude to my predecessors.

Happy MLK Day.

Be Like Vegas


I had the opportunity to travel to Vegas on business this week in a whirlwind two-day adventure.  I literally flew in, covered a trade show (in heels), ate a decadent expensive meal–or two, pulled the arm of a slot machine and caught a red-eye out the following night….and I LOVED IT.

I’m a native New Yorker so non-stop environments are nothing new to me but Vegas has a special quality that is inherent only to its lit up strips, clock less casinos and business shamelessly meets pleasure atmosphere.  After I cleared my head from the plane rides and rinsed myself of the crudity of the Philadelphia layover (seriously Terminal F gets an “F-minus), I was able to see that personally being like Vegas wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

I sleep about 3 to 4 hours a night and often am reminded of how necessary sleep is.  I tend to disagree on how much sleep is necessary and after feeling the push of Vegas I will continue to disagree.

From this point forward, when it comes to my career, my intention is to be more like Vegas in several respects:

1) Pay less attention to the clock and more attention to the mission .  I worked at the Taj Mahal when I was much younger and I recall my immediate fascination (in a cell free environment) with the fact that there were no clocks readily available.  In the offices where clocks mattered they were prominently featured on the wall but as most of you know they weren’t visible (or available) anywhere in the eye of the “spending” customer.  My natural intention is to work toward the mission but this was a reminder to keep my eye on the prize and not the time as long as I am working efficiently.

2) It’s okay to mix business and pleasure.  When people enjoy what they’re doing they work harder and are easily more passionate about it.  In Vegas I had the opportunity to witness people who have a zest for life even in the moments that it’s consumed with business.   I watched individuals that represented several companies decide that deals were best done over a well organized meal with drinks on the table or that wooing a client could be accomplished by incorporating a trip to a live show (or two).

Additionally my belief that “liking” your colleagues and having like-minded vision or focus makes business infinitely more enjoyable and fun.  Sure, there are always the necessary office mechanics, the operational inner workings that move you toward the big close but even that can be done in a manner that is less stress and more “enjoyable goal achievement”.  If the team has a strategy session to work up prior to a client presentation what could be so wrong with identifying everyone’s favorite snacks, queuing up the best Itunes tracks and pulling an all nighter that feels like a GNO (or coed lock in with professional barriers) as opposed to a visit to the dentist.

Also, taking business outside of the office is an ironically easy way to grow your internal relationships.  Being in a less structured environment gave me a new perspective of my co-worker and proved that, while we expressed it differently, we had similar personalities, work behaviors and professional outlooks.  This was probably the part of my trip that would be most beneficial to our interoffice success.

3) Smile through the pain.  Watch a Vegas cocktail waitress work a massive room and it’s a study of smiling through the pain.  I used this reminder after I decided to wear a 5.5″ heel for an 8 hour stint at a 3 floor trade show in the Mandalay.  While my two colleagues, both smartly outfitted in flats, may have known that six and half hours in I was ready for the same, I got tons of compliments from women that said “I love your shoes, you are so brave”!  I strutted as though I was walking on air, smiled, made eye contact and gained many new acquaintances in the industry along the way.  My intent was to look good and work the room so I focused on my intentions and whenever I found a strategically placed chair that seemed as though I was taking a minute to focus on a vendor brochure rather than rub my ankles, I used that moment to meet someone else taking a break–I met an interesting manufacturer rep who was an ex-pat Canadian living in Australian while working for an American company, as well as a beautiful woman in product development that grew up in the MidWest, had lived in Brooklyn and was now in California–both during a brief shoe break turned to productivity moment.

In another example, my colleague and I got off the redeye that landed in Richmond about 11am.  Every portion of my body was yelling that I should go home, jump in the shower and get in bed but somehow I overestimated (or correctly pegged) my ability to persist and she did the same.  We never discussed going home, just went to the office.  I’d seen her in action at the office, a consummate head down, get it done kind of girl, her ability to bully through gave me an extra push as well.  My boss was kind enough to suggest that I go home but I stayed and prepped for a 2pm conference call that helped obtain a face to face meeting with a hot prospect–and an upcoming trip to San Antonio!  My smile through the pain was definitely genuine at that point.

4. Never meet a stranger.  Every Vegas employee feels like an old friend the minute you step off the plane.  From the airport employees to the taxi drivers, the valet to the front counter employees, “welcome” is prevalent.  Whether it is affected or not doesn’t matter when it comes across as genuine.  People buy what you put forth and make believable.  The young man at the front desk of my hotel seemed genuinely interested in engaging with us and built the kind of rapport that took any sting off of the early morning flight, straight to work environment.

Whenever I eat out with my children they cringe at the amount of service workers that know me.  I choose to engage at every outing, in every restaurant and whether I’m a regular or not it’s important that the people there remember me favorably.  My gift of gab creates a friend everywhere I go and while my cynical teenagers shake their heads at the servers and managers that kiss my cheek or ask “where have you been?” they love the perks of complimentary appetizers and quick seating.

5) Take a risk but know your odds.  Every great gambler knows their odds.  The consistent winners at the poker tables assess every game before they even place their first bets.  Tournaments are full of individuals that have studied their odds of winning based on their opponents, recent streaks, superstitions, you name it.  So while the experienced gambler knows there is risk involved they cushion that with in-depth knowledge of the odds, understanding of the win/loss ratio and they go for it!

In some ways it’s surprising that I pursued sales as a career.  When I was younger the only part of me that would have made sense as a salesperson was my desire to be financially successful, however, I would have been classified as outwardly risk averse.  With more experience I realized that I had the heart of an entrepreneur which could also fit into a career world if I chose, it was my discovery “nothing ventured nothing gained” perspective that pushed me.  Now, I know the risk of taking time to pursue any prospect, the odds of success based on certain variables and it allows me to prioritize them as needed.  I don’t use odds as a reason not to do something, I view them as a means of inclusion.

So while I didn’t sit at the one-armed bandit and strike it big I left with an emotional push without monetary value and I didn’t even pay for the plane ride in.


The first day of 2013 is coming to a close and I have no strong desire to reflect on 2012.  The thing that were supposed to happen did, whether I could control them or not.  Were there things I could have done better or been more committed to doing? Sure! But you and I both know the old “spilt milk” cliché.

So sitting in my bed, surrounded by books both light and heavy (i.e. J.R. Ward and Steve Jobs), a glass of chilled water and the two gummy worms that I’m allowing myself as I wean away from my sugar addiction, Rihanna’s vocals are blaring from my bluetooth stereo and I am just as unapologetic as she is.  I am unapologetically resolved not to resolve.  I refuse to create a resolution.

The definition of resolution has always presented somewhat of an issue for me: A firm decision to do or not do something.  I have complete control over my behaviors so it seems that I should just put resolutions in place and move forward but what I’ve found is that the firm decision to “not do something” is the part that always gets me.  When I resolve firmly not to do something I feel a significant amount of disappointment when I have a minor flub (enjoy the moment, readers, I’m admitting a flaw, not a fatal one but a flaw nonetheless).  “Slip ups” surrounding New Year’s Resolutions create a sense of defeat for me.  I become mired in the monumental feeling of failing at a FIRM DECISION.

Rather, I’ve decided to apply an aspect of my professional nature this year in a personal sense.  Putting aside resolutions that have no room for adjustment or review, I am setting goals; goals that are immutable at the end game but flexible and fluid as I travel toward them.  The implementation of various “checkpoints”, reviewed and adjusted as necessary, will be the way that I stay goal focused daily.  No crying in my soup the first time that I break a resolution (which is bound to happen if it includes giving up Starbucks or working out everyday), instead I’m going to celebrate the small victories on the path to an overall win.

I came to this conclusion when I compared my successes in my professional life to some recent “misses” on the personal side and the bottom line is if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.  In the sales world, I set goals and put measures in place to achieve those goals.  The goals are attainable if I work hard or smart enough and  I conduct a weekly (and sometimes daily) review of where I am on the way to accomplishing the mission, including what I’ve done well, and what I need to revamp.   The review doesn’t give me the opportunity to waffle and downside adjust the endgame but it does offer me the chance to perform an honest self evaluation which ultimately leads to editing based on which actions were successful and what I need to change.

My experience has been that people, self included, are more motivated to stay on course with a plan when there are smaller celebrations in the midst of it all.  I guess that’s the only resolution that I would make in all of this, FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE and find ways to stay excited enough to work toward the goal.

Bottom line, I love the feeling of accomplishing a goal but am much more successful when I focus on how to get there, tracking my progress and rewarding myself as I hit milestones along the way. Find a way to make your mission enjoyable and you are more likely to stick with it!