Wednesday, January 13, 2016

20 Things to Master Before my 40th Birthday Part 1

I recently read a few articles that focus on things a woman should do before she turns 40. I'm not sure why 40 is such a magic number, but since that's my next milestone birthday, they caught my attention.

This one in particular stuck out from the others I read because it didn't list frivolous things like, kiss a stranger, and wear sexy underwear. The things it lists, with the exception of #9's How Not to Embarrass Yourself at Karaoke, are things that are useful to anyone, regardless of gender or age. They are signs of maturity and made me reflect on myself. It's a long list so I am only going to tackle 1-5 in this post, and I'll tackle 6-10 in next week's post.

Some of these reflections might be TMI, but if my honesty can be helpful to one reader, it was worth the personal exposure. 

1. How to Delegate
What a relief it is when I delegate! As a mom, I delegate chores to my daughter all the time. But, it's not so easy to apply to work and other life situations. I used to be scared to delegate. Who was I to tell someone else what to do? What was wrong with me that I couldn't do it myself? I would probably do it better anyway. These were all the excuses that fear put in my psyche. They are all B.S. Delegating is not a sigh of bossiness or weakness. It is a necessary part of success. No one reaches success on their own. If you look at some of the most successful people in the world, there are always others who helped them. That help most likely came from delegation. From there, perhaps a partnership was formed as they began working together towards a common goal.

There are times when I take on too much and delegation is necessary for a better outcome. It is akin to asking for help, something I am not good at. However, when I trust myself enough to delegate, I find that I am usually pleased with the results. Often I learn something from how the person chooses to complete the task, and almost always it relieves me of the stress of trying to do everything on my own. Delegation can be a lifesaver, and it is a skill I am still working on in all aspects of my life.

2. How to Comfort Someone
I'll be the first to admit that this is an area in which I am lacking. With the exception of my family and closest friends, I get extremely uncomfortable when someone is upset and the expectation is that I comfort them. I remember running into a woman who had just been let go at one of the companies I worked for. She was coming from HR, which was between me and the ladies room. I had worked a project with her, and sat with her in the cafeteria once or twice and listened to her talk about her boys and their hectic sports schedules. She was about 12 years older than I was. She looked up at me and her face began to crumple. 

I immediately knew what happened. I was the only person in the hallway, and most of our co-workers had left for the day. How could I pretend not to have seen her? We made eye contact. I saw the pain in her eyes. But, I stood there for what felt like too long, although it might have been a few seconds. I didn't know what to do. Finally, I walked up to her and put my hand on her shoulder. When she began to tremble I silently led her to the bathroom. I handed her some toilet paper for her tears. She didn't look up at me as she cried. I stood by her, giving her some space, but rubbing her arm every now and then, wondering if I should say something. I didn't know what to say. Instinct told me not to leave, even though I really wanted to. 

When she calmed down, she looked up at me and half smiled. She made a joke about becoming a full time chauffeur and cheerleader for her boys. I agreed with her and smiled bigger than was probably necessary. A few minutes later she got her composure and I gave her a quick hug. She thanked me. She didn't specify what she was thanking me for, but I imagine it was for not leaving her side. It was a relief when it was all over and she left the room. I hadn't done much, but I was proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and comforting her. My first desire had been to mind my business, but that would have been thoughtless. I never saw that woman again. However, that day serves as a lesson to me about comforting others that I have referred back to many times, especially in those moments when others have comforted me. I learned the value of being there, even if words allude you, or you don't know what to say to make the situation better. Being present is a comfort in itself.

3. How to Have More Fun Having Sex
In respect to my family who read this, I am going to refrain from elaboration on this point, however, if you are nearly 40 and haven't found a way to enjoy sex, I highly recommend you look into that.

4. How to Spot a Good Opportunity
Ashton Kutcher said that opportunity often looks like work. I agree. Despite what television and movies would like you to believe, opportunities of a lifetime rarely fall in your lap. Opportunity comes from placing yourself in the right situations, and then having the courage to turn the situation into an opportunity. In order for opportunities to be realized you have to work on several factors. For starters, you have to make yourself memorable. When you build and promote your personal brand, you make it easier for people to think of you when opportunities arise. 
  • Be reliable: Be on time and do what you say you are going to do, when you say you will do it.
  • Do more than expected: You'll often get more than expected, and it leaves a great impression on others
  • Greet everyone with a firm handshake, eye contact and a smile: Sincerity and interest in others goes a long way.
  • Remember people's names: Make it a point to recall who you meet. 
  • Offer sincere compliments: Who doesn't like a compliment? As long as it's sincere.
  • Volunteer to do what others don't want to do, or are too afraid to try: Even if you fail, you leave an impression that you tried what others would not. That goes a long way. 
  • Pretend you aren't afraid of failure until you really aren't: Fear is the number one reason people stop themselves from achieving their greatest potential. Don't be that person!
These are all things I have done as I moved through life. They opened doors for me that led to opportunities for education, travel, and career advancements. All of that takes conscious effort and work, but the rewards can be more than you imagined when those opportunities begin presenting themselves.

5. How to Make Conversation at Parties
I'm not a party person unless it involves family and friends. I'd much rather use that time to be in my pajamas with a book and some coffee. However, remember that personal brand I mention in #4? It gets built in public, not at home. I force myself to go to networking events, gatherings of different types of groups, etc. I have met some of the most interesting people, and in the end am usually happy that I resisted the urge to stay home.

Having pre-determined topics to talk about usually helps me. I like asking people if they have hobbies. That usually gets them excited to talk, or if they do not, they return the question and I usually say what hobbies I would like to have. That gives me the opportunity to ask them what they would like to try. That almost always leads to a longer conversation, and learning cool things about people. It also helps me recall names, adding to #4.

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