Disrupt the humdrum and go creative at the coffee machine!

You know the drill. You get to the office, leave your stuff at your desk, grab your coffee cup and head to the coffee machine. Then the conversation begins.

  • Hey Charles! How are you?
  • Oh, you know, busy usual.

Or:

  • Hey Laurence! How are you today!
  • Not bad, you?

Or:

  • Good morning, Simon! How are you this morning?
  • Uhhh… fine thanks, you?

Woah, woah, woah! How can we dress up these dry pieces of toast? Where’s the jam? Where’s the honey?

There are so many ways to dress up your answer – unless of course, you don’t feel like talking! In that case, let me suggest you not even go to the coffee machine! The coffee machine is THE place to chill and chat with your local office fauna.

Let’s look at some ways you could add some pizazz to keep the conversation going!

Response A. Oh, you know, busy as usual.

  • I’m swamped.
  • I’m in over my head!
  • I’ve got a long going on at the moment.
  • I’ve got a few things to handle today!
  • Let’s just say I won’t be bored!

 Response B. Not bad, you?

  • Thanks for asking. Is it just me or is the rain getting to everyone?
  • Good question! How are you doing?
  • Actually, I have felt better. But hey, how are you?
  • You know what? Not that great. Can we talk about it?
  • Not too sure, this morning. Tell me joke. It might cheer me up!

Response C. Fine, thank you, and you?

  • Great! I was listening to the radio on the way in. You know what I heard?
  • Fine! That was a great game last night. Did you see it?
  • Terrific! Did you see that sunshine this morning?
  • I am so excited. I got some really good news last night.
  • I’m doing well. What’s new in your life?

These are just some examples of answers you can use. They’re sure to help you connect better with your co-workers. After all, what’s a workday like without some real conversation?

So, which one will you try out tomorrow morning? Maybe you’ve even got some good answers yourself. What do you like to say?

  • Claire :O)

[Photo credit: qvasimodo art/Shutterstock]

Do you always need to have the last word?

Here’s one fancy way to do just that: use an epiphonema!

What in the world is that?

So glad you asked!  According to Dictionary.com, an epiphonema is, and I quote, “a sentence that is an exclamation, a general or striking comment, or a succinct summary of what has previously been said“.  In other word, it’s a fancy way to have the last word!

For an example, listen in to the following conversation:

Dan: I got my bike out yesterday, and it’s already at the bike shop.

Lise: What? How come?

Dan: Well, I cleaned it all up, tuned the brakes and the gears, checked and pumped up the tires. I figured I’d go for a ride before supper, but then my phone rang. So I left my bike there and went into the house. Came back out and what do you know? My son hit my bike with his car!

Lise: Oh no! Not for real!

Dan: Yup, the best laid plans of mice and men!  

Did you notice the epiphonema?

Exactly! The last comment: the best laid plans of mice of men – refers to English poet Robert Burn’s poem To A Mouse, where he writes:  

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/gang aft a-gley.

(Modern translation: The best prepared plans of a human often go wrong.)

Shall we try another example?

Anna: Hey, Laurence! I finally submitted my application for the Master’s program.

Laurence: At long last! Alia iecta est!

In this example, Laurence ends the conversation saying alia iecta est (meaning, the die is cast, or we’ll just have to see what happens), apparently said by Seutonius to Julius Caesar as they crossed the Rubicon River to begin battle against Pompey.

There you have it! Can you think of any epiphonemas you used lately, or heard someone else use?

Have a great day, and keep learning! (Wait! Was that an epiphonema?!)

  • Claire :o)    

[Sources: https://rhetconcepts.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/epiphonema-overview/; https://www.dictionary.com/browse/the-best-laid-plans-of-mice-and-men-often-go-awry; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alea_iacta_est]

Do you believe in what you’re doing?

Why does it matter? More like: why doesn’t it matter?

I was having a conversation with one of my adult sons about personal work choices. I suppose he was trying to figure out my mindset. 

It got me thinking. I realized that at some point I made a decision to only do work that I believed in. Why?

Well, show me someone who believes in what they’re doing. Then show me someone who doesn’t believe in what they’re doing. Here’s what I came up with.

A person who believes in what they’re doing feels energized, excited, passionate, perseverant, part of something bigger than them, and positive about the future.

On the other hand, a person who doesn’t, will probably feel drained, tired, unmotivated, disconnected, anxious, overwhelmed and responsibility-bound.

Okay, then, so how do you know you’re doing what you believe in (other than how you feel)? I think you could consider these questions:

Does your work:

  • Reflect your deepest convictions?
  • Match your dearest personal values?
  • Utilize your key strengths (if you don’t know what they are, I encourage you to do the survey at the following link: https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/testcenter. Scroll down to the Via Survey of Character Strengths.)
  • Let you contribute to a mission you really care about?
  • Make you feel like you’re inching closer to your dream?

I have already been in a work situation where I thought I was doing all those things, but realized after assessing my physical and psychological well-being, that I was definitely off track. I left and have no regrets.

Life is short. It seems there isn’t enough time to do anything but what you really care about for those you really care about. In any case, how can either employee, employer or clientele benefit from a situation where a square peg is trying to fit into a round hole?

What’s your take on this: how do you know you’re doing the right job?  

Have a great week!

Cheers!

Claire :o)

[Photo credit: Shutterstock/Scott Norris Photography]

In Honour of Father’s Day

How many ways do you know how to say father in English? Three?  Five? More?!

I thought it would be à propos on this Father’s Day (note that it is Father’s, the day of father, as opposed to Fathers, plural, the day of/for fathers) to write a post on that precise question, and perhaps provide a bit of insight for English language learners who may be a bit confused at the nuances of difference.

I was amazed to find 16 synonyms listed! Just have a look at this:

ancestor                begetter                padre                    sire

dad                        daddy                    papa                     source

parent                    origin                      pop                        forebearer

predecessor          pa                          progenitor             procreator

Obviously, some are more stilted (read, formal or scientific) than others! If we are talking about ‘Dad at home’, then let’s remove ancestor, predecessor, begetter, origin, progenitor, sire, source, forebearer and procreator right away!   

That leaves us with dad, daddy, pa, padre, papa and pop. Let me explain where you would probably see them used.

Dad – that’s usually the teen or adult’s way of addressing their father. 

Daddy – we’ll leave this one for the kids!

Pa – this is another way most young people call their dad, though there may be some adults too, who still prefer using it as a particularly affectionately way of speaking of their father.

Padre – I was a little surprised to see this one here, but since I know Spanish, I suppose you would see this one in families with Hispanic roots. Correct me, any of you out there who beg to differ!

Pop – that’s a familiar way many teens and young adults refer to their fathers.   

And let’s not forget father, which is a more formal way of referring to one’s Dad.

Around my home, we called our father, Dad (daddy, when we were young). He was a great man: energetic, intelligent (often pulling out the encyclopedia to answer our questions at the dinner table), interested in us (he bought me books to satisfy my inquisitive mind as I went through phases of interest in geology, wild flowers, archaeology…), disciplined and stern (there was no point in arguing when he laid down the law!)

I miss him dearly (he passed away of cancer in 2009) and think of him most often in two specific places. One is at work, since he was an electrical engineer who worked on the first flight simulators ever at CAE in Montreal, and I teach English to employees working in high tech. The other is in the garden, when I’m pulling out the weeds, pruning the hedges or tending my flowerbed. Dad loved to garden!

I am thankful to carry his name as his adopted daughter. I wouldn’t be what I am or have what I have today if it wasn’t for his patience, love and guidance.

So, on this Father’s Day, 2019, I pay him homage. Thanks, Harold E. Ford, for giving me a name and a future.   

Whatever the name you call your own father, I hope that you, readers, had an opportunity to thank him for his input in your life. I am well-aware that some people had experiences much less than ideal growing up, and I am so sorry for you. However, I invite you to look for the blessings in the input your male parent did give you: a life, opportunities, the possibility to change the past and do better.

I leave you with one question: What’s your favourite name for your father (or father figure, if such is the case)?

  • Claire :o)

From Arrested Development to Attested Development: 3 Simple Ways to Get Back on Track

“You come to the gym more than the average member”, the gym employee commented.

“Wow! Really? Thanks for the encouragement!”, I responded, feeling dissatisfied with myself all the same.   

“I guess the problem”, I thought, as I drove home,” is that I’m not seeing any progress”. In fact, after a very cold winter which made venturing out in the dark after dinner even less motivating, and a busy schedule that just kind of crowded out the time to go the gym, I feel like I’ve arrived at summer in a stodgier and heavier state than in previous years.

In fact, I like I’ve hit a state of arrested development. I’ve plateaued. So, what to do about it?

A video I saw recently came to mind. Angela Duckworth, a world expert in the area of grit, was giving a conference on deliberate practice.

She explained the following theory:

Talent X Effort = Skill 

                                             Skill X Effort = Achievement

What does that mean? If you have talent and make no effort, you won’t develop skill. For example, if you have a talent for music, but don’t practice, you won’t develop any skill. Also, even if you do have skill, you won’t achieve new heights unless you keep making an effort to develop that skill. You just won’t get to that state of attested development!

Okay, so to go back to my initial question: what do you do when you hit that plane of no progress?

The answer, according to Angela Duckworth, is simple: deliberate practice*. It’s the only way to break the curse of the flatline; you’ve just got to get up and get going! If you don’t practice speaking, you won’t make any progress. If I don’t go to the gym, I’ll become more and more passive.  

Here’s Angela’s advice:

#1.  Set your goals.

What are your goals? Be specific. Do you want to learn 5 new words this week? Do I want to go to the gym 4 times this week instead of 3? Whatever, the case, make sure your goals are challenging, too. If you consistently practice and make an effort, you will still hit that flatline. You need to intentionally increase that goal just a bit, so that it is just that bit further or more. Do you see what’s happening? You’re making progress.  

#2. Find your focus.  

When you are 100% focused, you’re engaged. You’re not doing anything else but working on developing a specific skill. Set aside 15 minutes of time alone to read an article in English or watch a short video. In my case of exercise, scheduling in time for specific workouts ensure that I am setting aside time when I am completely immersed in my physical activity. I can’t be doing anything- else! Picture being on a stationary bicycle and checking your social media on your phone, to get the idea! Whatever you’re working on, concentrate on that body, soul and spirit!  

#3. Get your feedback.

Ah, feedback. Correction. Yes, like you, I see a frowning parent, a nagging teacher, a never-satisfied coach. Maybe that was then, but this is now. Choose a friend or colleague (or in my case, a coach at the gym) to nudge you along and let you know how you can be just that little bit better. Would the Saint- Louis Blues have won the Stanley Cup this weekend without the guidance of Craig Bérubé? Would the Raptors have grabbed the NBA championship title without Nick Nurse advising them all season long?  

This week’s going to be a great week. I’ve got some objectives (specific and challenging), I’ve blocked off time (three of them to be exact!) and I’m going to enlist the aid of a personal trainer (at least for a consultation to begin with!)

How about you? What are your secrets to keeping off the arrested development plateau? – Claire :o)

*https://www.coursera.org/lecture/positive-psychology-project/3-3-deliberate-practice-fhwtq

Need a shot of chutzpah?

I’m thinking I sure do!

Chutzpah is that zingy Hebrew word that means gall, effrontery and sometimes outrageous audacity. It’s the stuff that entrepreneurs, politicians and every-day go-getters have loads of.

What does it look like? How about not taking no for an answer, daring to ask why when everyone else is frozen in stunned silence or anxious passivity, or thinking ‘what the hell, why not?’ and jumping into a situation without any guarantee of the results – but being without-a-shadow-of-a-doubt sure of what you’re aiming for. 

Chutzpah is just one of the concepts illustrated in the numerous stories of entrepreneurial success described in the book Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, by Dan Senor and Saul Singer (M&S, 2009). The tour guide on my recent trip to Israel and Jordan highly recommended it as a resource for getting a better grasp of the innovative Israeli mindset and culture.

He was so right. Not only is it enlightening, but it is inspiring. Wix, Waze, Teva… these are just three examples of Israeli start-ups. When considering the fact that Israel boasts the highest per-capita density of start-ups in the world, you can’t but help be intrigued by the success of this New-Jersey sized newborn state.

So how does chutzpah play out? What can a language teacher or student learn from it?

#1. Chutzpah means asking questions.

Senor and Singer explain that Israelis learn from the get-go that ‘assertiveness is the norm, reticence something that risks your being left behind’ (p. 31). This means that whether it be at home, school, in business or the army, they are taught to ask questions.

To me, the practical application is a gentle reminder to forget being shy and speak up when a question is warranted. What do you want? What do you need to know? Ask. Don’t be shy!

#2. Chutzpah means taking the initiative.

Soldiers in the Israeli military are trained to act with the understanding that all performance is value-neutral, meaning that whether positive or negative outcomes are treated equally. The priority is to learn from the ‘errors’ and to take risks intelligently.

So, speaking up in class, possibly making all kinds of syntactic errors is no big deal. What can you learn from it? Or, as a teacher – or writer, trying out a new activity or form of writing and seeing it fall flat, does not mean you are not made to be a teacher or writer, but that you have something to learn. Learn from it and do better next time!

#3. Chutzpah means arguing when necessary.

 Four guys are standing on a street corner…

An American, a Russian, A Chinese man, and an Israeli…

A reporter comes up to the group and says to them:

‘Excuse me… What’s your opinion on the meat shortage?’

The American says: What’s a shortage?

The Russian says: What’s meat?

The Chinese man says: What’s an opinion?

The Israeli says: What’s ‘Excuse me’?

  • Mike Leigh, Two Thousand Years (p. 23, Senor & Singer)

That Israeli guy had some chutzpah! And you know that a debate probably ensued. That guy was ready to defend his opinion.

Elsewhere, the authors of Start-Up Nation quip that when you have two Israelis, you are most likely to have three opinions! My own personal thought when I was in Israel, upon observing the way questions were asked and debating was welcomed, “It’s no wonder there are so many Jewish lawyers and business-men!”

If you believe in your idea, either as student or teacher, defend it – calmly, logically and creatively. The entire class will benefit from the discussion!

Final Shot

I’ll leave the final thought with Alan Alda.

Nothing important was ever accomplished without chutzpah. Columbus had chutzpah. The signers of the Declaration of Independence had chutzpah. Don't ever aim doubt at yourself. Laugh at yourself, but don't doubt yourself. - Alan Alda

Shabbat Shalom! Have a great weekend! – Claire

When you’re aiming for the moon…

Beresheet may have crashed, but for a moment we raised our eyes to the heavens.

The headline of the Times of Israel article  (first in links below) couldn’t help but grab my attention. I wondered what the article would say about ‘raising our eyes to the heavens’ and began to read.

I was so glad I did. Quite frankly, I was blown away.  Five big life lessons jumped out at me, lessons that if applied consistently and wholeheartedly, have the power to change a life, a community, even the world.

#1. Look beyond. – There is so much more to life than our own little existence and circumstances. In fact, there are infinite possibilities if we look for them.  When LunarX held a contest to land an unmanned spaceship on the moon (with a twenty million dollar prize for success), Israel seized the vision.  Though SpaceIl’s efforts were unsuccessful, and the project closed in 2018, the scientists kept working.

#2. Aim for the moon. – Dreaming and imagination is limitless, and it’s included in the package deal of being a human being. Why not go for it? The dream took root in 2010, when three friends dreamed of making Israel the fourth country to have a space craft land on the moon. As the flag in the widely published photos of the Beresheet craft nearing landing proclaims: Small country, big dreams. Why not?

#3. Invest in your dreams. – If we want to see dreams come true, then our ideas require action, and action requires means. Put your money where your mouth is. It took over 100 million dollars to finance the TeamSpace IL dream.

#4. Expect the unexpected. –  Life happens and it can be messy sometimes. We can’t always prevent the upsets, but we can learn from them and work better. The Beresheet space craft landed on the moon, but certainly not in the gentle fashion the team had planned.

#5. Failure means you tried. – As the saying goes: It is better to have tried and failed, than to have failed to try.  Journalist Melanie Lidman concluded that perhaps the greatest lesson of all was that the space endeavour united millions of people around the world in a collective dream to reach the moon. Although they failed within 150 meters of the moon’s surface, Buzz Aldrin (1969 US Apollo astronaut) tweeted the TeamSpace IL team, saying: ‘Your hard work, team work and innovation are inspiring to all – never lose hope‘. Indeed!

Five huge life lessons from an apparent disaster. I had just learned about constructive journalism this week, and so it was amazing to come across a piece that so effectively explained and exemplified how an apparent failure can be reframed into a powerful and uplifting life lesson.

Instead of taking a victim mindset and describing at great lengths the heartbreaking failure, disappointment, and loss of so much work and so many millions of dollars, the journalist focused on the lessons learned and left the readers feeling hopeful, not devastated.

Recently re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared: ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try again. We’ll try again, and next time we’ll just try it more gently.’

Optimism  – and humour – to boot!

It got me thinking: which is more important in the pursuit of dreams: the process or the final product?    

What do you think? I’d love to hear your ideas on this in the Comments.

Sweet dreams!

– Claire  :o)

 

LINKS: https://www.timesofisrael.com/beresheet-may-have-crashed-but-for-a-moment-we-raised-our-eyes-to-the-heavens; https://www.timesofisrael.com/buzz-aldrin-to-inspiring-beresheet-team-after-moon-crash-never-lose-hope/; https://nationalpost.com/news/world/israel-lands-on-the-moon-but-not-in-the-way-we-wanted-to-as-spacecraft-crashes-in-history-making-journey.
[Photo: Shutterstock/Ruslan Ivanslov]