A Letter to my 10-Year-Old Self

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Dear 10-year-old self,

Hi there. It’s me. You. I’ve been challenged to write a letter to my ten-year-old self, so here I am. And here you are. And this is what we do. And here is what I know:

You’re going to be an awkward kid. Bad bangs, weird last name, more sensitive than most. You’ll soon be plucked from a place you love, and thrust into the alien north where you’ll be the only one sporting cowgirl boots and a seriously heavy accent. While the other students spend half the year making fun of the way you pronounce “pen,” you’ll spend it trying to convince yourself they’re just really into school supplies as you seek refuge between the covers of cherished books.

You’re going to be tall your whole dang life. Pants are never going to fit you quite right, so you might as well start getting used to it now. Whatever you do, don’t shrink away from who you are or shrink away from opportunity. Promise you’ll always remember that any person who asks you to be less than you are is no one you want in your heart or your life. (And just so you know, on that fateful Halloween a year or so from now, when that old lady accuses you of being “too old to trick-or-treat” just because you’re the tallest of your friends, you’ve got my support. Go ahead and flip her the bird, because you’re really going to want to do it.)

The 90s will be chock full of life lessons. (And you’ll get to relive them all over again when the 90s become retro-cool sometime in the 2010s.) What it really comes down to is this: Lunchables are horrible. No matter how deprived you may feel at the moment, you’re really not missing out. Stock up on Clearly Canadian, though, because it’s set to go extinct. And Britney and Christina from the Mickey Mouse Club? You’ll be hearing from them again.

I’m not gonna lie. Things are going to get rocky in junior high. Puberty is going to be a train wreck. Growing boobs will traumatize you. Starting your period will traumatize you. Changing for gym class will traumatize you. Being asked to dance will traumatize you. (Believe it or not, you’ll turn down an invitation at the seventh grade dance, and residual feelings of lingering guilt will bubble up any time Toni Braxton comes on the radio throughout the duration of your adult life.)

High school will be fun. You should try harder in your classes than you will, but you’re going to learn way too early that you can do just fine with minimal effort, which will free you up to focus on fun. (And that’s something you’ll never regret.) Everything – and I do mean everything – with your friends is going to feel like the center of and end of the world. Zero percent of it will matter in the long run. But those friends are still your friends today.

Little self, stand up. Stand up for yourself. Stand for something. Take a stand. You’ve got opinions and a voice – use them at your discretion and to your detriment.

Don’t ever miss a chance to take a midnight swim or splash in the ocean. The universe doesn’t care how you look in a swimsuit, and you shouldn’t miss a single opportunity to revel in creation and all His glory.

Say yes more than you say no. Accept the invitations that come your way as often as you can. A decade from now, you’ll look back and long for just one more country drive, one more night at the park, one more conversation, one more night at Burnham, one more Italian soda at Maxwell’s. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Wring every last drop you can from your marvelous existence.

You’ll be bad at being bad – and that’s never going to change. The things (and parents) you’re going to push against will keep you out of so much trouble. And you’ll be so grateful for that one day. Trust me.

Sometime around 1998 your friends are going to take a lunchtime vote. They’ll decide you’re going to be the first to marry because you’re that much of a romantic. They couldn’t be more wrong. You’ll still be holding out at 33 – because you’re that much of a romantic. Stay hopeful. Stay patient.

Spend less time writing code names for boys in secret notebooks. Spend more time telling them how you really feel. Be vulnerable. Be brave. I know it’s scary.

That DIY dye job the day before senior pictures? It’s a bad idea that’s going to make a great story.

No matter what anyone tells you, a Manhattan isn’t a good starter drink. But that’s a lesson you’re going to have to learn the hard way.

Take sensory snapshots and file them away, because change is coming and it’s just a couple years away. Memorize the beauty of red dirt, the song of cicadas and the smell of mesquite trees on a hot Texas day. Soak up the sun from your little world of inner tubes, sunscreen and chlorine. You won’t want to go, but you’ll know you can’t say. And one day you’ll look back to realize your first love wasn’t a person – but a place.

Eventually you’re going to begin to realize you hit the family jackpot. The years and the miles will try to pull the ties that bind apart the seams. Don’t let them. Weddings and funerals will fling you back together from far corners from time to time over the years. And when you find yourself in same room once again, you’re going to quietly marvel that these are your people. And they are such wonderful people. Really.

You will make mistakes. You will have regrets. You will hurt people. You will hurt yourself. Challenge yourself to find a solution. To learn a lesson. To apologize and mean it. To forgive and let go.

Let the seed of faith grow. It really is the root of everything.

Pet all the dogs you meet. Be happy. Have fun. Go barefoot. Refuse to let the world tame you. Say a prayer of thanks every night as your head hits the pillow. Get up early enough to welcome each new day.

Never lose sight of who you are, little self. And I promise to do the same.

See you soon,
33-year-old You

 

Why the Future of the Workplace is No Workplace at All

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Lately, I have been sifting through an endless stream of posts about the things that influence workplace happiness and theories about what employees really want. From the perks of good coffee to the merits of standing desks to the endless debate about whether open offices are amazing or awful (I tend to be in the latter camp on that one), there are a lot of studies and a lot of opinions floating around.

Niceties are nice, but at the core, I think this entire conversation is spiraling and sidestepping a much larger reality. We’re standing on the edge of a huge and inevitable cultural shift; a shift I believe will have at least as large an impact on American culture as women forgoing stay-at-home motherhood in favor of entering the workforce.

Quality of life is no longer limited to a simple matter of income. For years we’ve been told to strive for a work/life balance, but people are finally waking up. They’re realizing that balance is bullshit, and life shouldn’t take a backseat to their jobs. The result?  A slow and steady  workplace evolution is taking place to match the shifting priorities of the talent companies are looking to hire and keep.

The single value that’s driving it all? Autonomy.

This is the part where I tell you I’m clearly biased on this topic. I work for an agency that grants me the ability to work remotely from 500 miles away. They put their full trust in me — and I do my best to show my gratitude by working hard and doing everything I can to make sure I never give them a reason to doubt our arrangement. (But I’ll save the lessons and learnings on remote employment for  another post.)

Over the last couple years of remote employment, I have learned it’s a topic that currently gives a lot of people (primarily people in leadership positions) serious indigestion. How does that work? How do they know you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing? And while there are many parts and pieces to the logistics (from Skype meetings to workflow systems), the crux of those polite inquiries really boils down to this: How can I have a 100% guarantee that a remote employee is doing what they’re supposed to be doing? 

The bad news is: you can’t. The good news? That reality is nothing new or different.

From a recent post on Quartz:

“We have this factory model, and we think someone’s working if they show up in the morning and they’re not drunk, they don’t sleep at their desks, they leave at the right time. But that has so little to do with what you create. And we all know people who create a lot without fitting into those norms.”

Research indicates employees greatly value autonomy. This is part of what’s driving millennials to leave traditional offices and go out on their own. “It’s a cultural phenomenon,” says Alex Abelin, co-founder of Liquid Talent.“Everything is pointing in that direction. We care more about mobility and independence.”

As my dear friend Heather Whaling once said, if you can’t trust people to work without you standing over their shoulder, you’ve hired the wrong people. That’s a people problem, not a process problem. So, that nervous feeling you’re getting in your gut as you read this? In the wise words of a tundra princess, let it go. That thing you’re fighting against is already happening and it’s happening fast. You’ve only got two choices: embrace it and thrive or push back and find yourself way behind the curve five years down the road. (Remember all those people who once claimed the internet was just a fad and email would never catch on? Yeah, nobody wants to be those guys. And nobody wants to work for that company.)

Don’t worry. I’m not going to leave you feeling exposed in the harsh light of a new dawn. I’ve put together a few thoughts on why this is all really a good thing for business:

Remote allows you to tap into a bigger, better bucket of talent.
Hiring is hard. Finding that perfect person who is a great cultural fit with the just-right skill set is hard, hard, hard. When you do find that person, the chances they’ll live locally are rather slim, which leaves you with a couple options. You can try to woo them and pay for relocation expenses or you can settle for whoever you can find locally.

In many instances, embracing job relocation isn’t as simple as saying “yes” to a great offer. The reality of spouses, children and home ownership all factor into the equation for job candidates. And rightfully so, these things often take precedence over a new job.

I do not believe geography should be the determining factor when it comes to new hires. If I’m a client, I don’t care where my designer or copywriter sits — I care about the creative talent they bring to the table. Whether they are bringing it from Baltimore, Bakersfield or Bangladesh makes no difference to me.

By offering employees a more flexible working arrangement — the ability to work from anywhere — you open yourself up to welcoming new and stronger talent onto your team. Instead of just hiring people who can get to your office, you’re suddenly able to hire people who get you and want to be a part of what you’re doing.  You’re building a better, stronger company, not just a “based-in-wherever” company.

Early adopters will become the winningest brands.
Times are changing — fast. The companies currently getting cultural and technological infrastructure in place to support the forthcoming era of the “mobile workplace” will have first dibs at the best talent. I predict the autonomy offered by the mobile workplace will be a part of the culture of all brands on the Top 100 list within the next few years. Why? Because it’s a perk that is going to appeal to top talent. And top talent is what drives the creativity and innovation behind top brands.

More people in more places means more new business opportunities.
Your employees are some of your best ambassadors. They’re a living, walking, breathing extension of your brand. Whether they’re volunteering in the community, chitchatting on a cross-country flight, attending a gallery opening or striking up conversation in the grocery store line, they carrying your brand’s message out into the world every day.

Local has become a big thing — even beyond the riveting land of local kale. Many brands are now placing a high priority on partnering with agencies who have people in their local community. That becomes a problem when all your people are located in one city — and your client is across the country. A remote workforce expands the number of locations where the message spreads simply by increasing the number of pinpoints your people dot on a map. When you’ve got team members embedded in Houston, Omaha, Bismarck, Columbus, Portland and Charlotte, you can cover a heck of a lot more local ground. More people in more places = more opportunities to start the local conversations that lead to new business opportunities.

Remote teams reduce overhead costs.
The thought of centralized offices going extinct is a big pill for many to swallow. But in reality, as the workforce decentralizes, the expense of retaining and maintaining space for exclusive use is going to make less and less sense. Energy costs will likely continue to climb, and leases in desirable areas will keep rising. With the advent of technologies that allow incoming calls to be seamlessly forwarded to mobile lines, even ease of communication is no longer a compelling argument in defense of a permanent office.

Having said that, the need for employees to gather and meet as a team (or with clients) will endure. If I had a big chunk of change to invest, I go all in with coworking spaces in creative communities. Not only do these spaces provide affordable place to gather and groove, they offer the ability to collaborate and connect with people beyond your team. Win-win-win.

What are your thoughts? When it comes to the remote workplace are you eager to adopt or hesitant to embrace? If you’re a remote employee, what do you like about it? If you’re an employer, what are the pros and cons in your mind? 

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