Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Accidental Environmentalist

Yesterday I was at the supermarket, and as I was idling through the aisles ("shopping is my cardio," as first spoken by Carrie Bradshaw) I took special notice of the items in my cart.

Spinach, tomatoes, zucchini, olives, whole wheat bread...

Notice anything?

Now, I don't proclaim to be a health nut. I like my chips and cookies just like the next girl, however, for some reason I kept gravitating toward the healthy foods.

Then came the checkout and the age old question, "Paper, or plastic?" The 'leave the water running while she brushes her teeth' girl inside of me just about died as I shook my head and handed over a large tote for my purchases. She died a little more (in spirit) as I walked out to my Toyota Prius.

That's when I noticed something...

I've become an Accidental Environmentalist!

I didn't mean for it to happen! I've never held any particular view on Global Warming, nor have I been overly concerned with a black bear's disappearing habitat. By the by, did you see that segment on the Today Show this morning? Scary!

I don't wear Birkenstocks, and I don't own anything made from hemp. It just seems as if I'm more aware of waste than I used to be. Not to mention that I cringe a little inside every time I see a Hummer speeding down the highway.

I first noticed these changes when I returned from Europe. And they seem to have snowballed since I purchased the Prius. Now I'm stuck in a downward spiral of conservation and there's little hope of escape.

So I guess I'll start shopping in the organic food store pretty soon. And I'll make sure my glass is separated by color before the recyclables are picked up. Not because I particularly want to, but because it's the next step in this sequence of Earth-saving. I am, after all, an Accidental Environmentalist.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Gone Fishin'

You've heard the Chinese proverb, "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime," right? Well, I find that it's one proverb I like to put into practice as much as possible.

For example, this week is the annual fundraising campaign for a large, national, non-profit organization. This non-profit is an organization we happen to partner with, and therefore we have several projects, speaking engagements, and tours going on throughout the week. It is my job to coordinate these events and make sure staff involved have all the details and resources necessary for success.

Now because I adhere to the above adage, I prefer to give as much information to my coworkers as I possibly can, and then let them worry about coordinating their department and staff as necessary. In this way I feel that I am setting them up for success, but allowing them to take part in the coordinating process (and by "take part," I mean, "take some responsibility).

However, as much as my plan makes sense to me, it sometimes falls by the wayside as I am called, time and again, to help my coworkers with their parts of the project. What I like to call, "spoon feeding," which I abhor. My workload piles up as I am unable to let things go unfinished, because I, ultimately, carry the responsibility for the success of my organization's part in the campaign

I now see just how easy it is to become a Micromanager.

What have I've learned from this experience is...
1. No matter how far in advance you prepare someone - they will lose the information.
2. No matter how much information you give them - it will never be enough
3. No matter how many contigency plans you make - the unknown will still happen
4. No matter how crazy it seems - you just have to grin and bear it

At the end of the day I'm pretty easygoing and able to handle the curveballs as they come (I just like to complain about it). I'm going to keep on fishing, and inviting my colleagues along, in the hopes that they one day make that big catch.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

What it Means to Assume

I’m a painter not a pointer. There, I’ve said it.

When speaking with friends and acquaintances about current issues and such, I find myself defending opinions I don’t necessarily agree with. In many cases when I first bring up a topic, I’m at the beginning of my thought process. In my mind I’m saying, “let’s discuss the different sides of this issue and see where we end up,” whereas the other conversationalist hears me saying, “this is what I think, how ‘bout you?”

This makes for some tense discussions, because while I like to think aloud and talk things through as I go, further cementing an opinion on an issue, I find that others have their opinion already firmly in place. Sometimes I’m eviscerated for taking a stance when, in fact, I’m not taking a stance and am only beginning to work out what my stance would be if, indeed, I decided to have one.

I once read an article on MSN Lifestyle: Relationships about arguing with one’s spouse. The writer stated that she and her husband used to always argue about things, and then her husband would (in her mind) change his tune at the end. Thinking that he was merely placating her, she would either feel guilt about haranguing him into changing his stance or anger at his flip-flop personality.

She then went on to document future arguments and take special notice of her husband’s comments during each. She noticed that he wasn’t purposefully being a flip-flopper, just that he had a different way of thinking through his argument. While she formulized her arguments and opinions internally, he liked to talk through them aloud and receive feedback as he progressed.

I find that my process is similar to this poor schmuck of a husband, and that I also like to talk through my ideas aloud and get input as I go.

From now on I think I shall initiate each conversation with, “One opinion on -insert issue here- is thus, what do you think?” and then take the discussion from there. Then maybe I can have civilized conversations with people on hot-button issues without either side becoming defensive. After all, I can’t help that I like to talk my opinions through aloud and then make a judgment, but maybe I can help the part where I begin talking and the other person believes I’m already stating my steadfast opinion.

Tip to you, dear reader (and to myself): Think before you speak. If you’re not a person who does that naturally, then at least preface your comment with, “this isn’t my opinion, it’s just one side of this issue. What do you think?”

By the way, Bill Gates (a.k.a. Microsoft Word) doesn’t recognize that “preface” can be used as a noun and a verb. What will happen to our children’s grammar ability if they keep being so restricted? I shudder to imagine.