Why Having Hobbies Makes Us Better Employees

Why Having Hobbies Makes Us Better Employees

Do you have a life outside of work? You should. The hobbies we pursue on our own time teach us skills that make us better, more well-rounded employees. For example, running has taught me to be disciplined, mentally tough, and patient—three valuable tools for excelling in the workforce. Writing a top Miami lifestyle blog has helped me develop advanced communication skills that are critical for the presentations and media interviews I give as part of my “day job”.

Our hobbies can also make us into more open-minded employees by working different parts of our brains and exposing us to new perspectives. “When your job defines you, your world becomes very narrow,” asserts Ray Williams, author of Eye of the Storm: How Mindful Leaders Can Transform Chaotic Workplaces. Each hat we wear broadens the way we see the world. I know I am a more efficient problem solver and connect better with others because I see the world from different angles: as an environmental professional, as a writer, as a runner, as a scuba diver, as a dancer (thanks, Vixen Workout!), as an amateur photographer, and so on and so forth.

Last but not least, hobbies make us happier employees. Beyond their ability to calm our minds—I turn to running and Vixen when I need to burn off stress—they offer us a sense of fulfillment, of belonging, of purpose. Yes, we can get these from our jobs but as the saying goes, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. It is good to diversify where we get our happiness so when one source goes awry (a bad day at the office, a subpar workout, whatever), we have other sources of happiness on which we can depend.

Whether our hobbies make us more well-rounded, more open-minded, happier or all three, fostering a life outside of the office has a resounding impact in the office. Think of your hobbies. What are they? How does each one make you a better person, a better employee?

And now, for your quote of the day:

“Find three hobbies you love: one to make you money, one to keep you in shape, and one to keep you creative.” —Anonymous

It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

“Devastating”,”monster hurricane”, “most catastrophic storm ever”, “apocalyptic storm”, “like a lawnmower from the sky”. Those are some of the words the media used to describe Hurricane Irma, the Category 4 storm passing over Miami as I write this. How do those words make you feel? Based on the mass exodus, gas shortages, long lines at the supermarket and violence over plywood and gas, I’m going to guess they make you feel panicked. It’s not your fault—those terms are designed to put you on alert.

Saying “the storm that, according to the models, may cause devastation in Florida” is not quite as attention grabbing as “the storm that swallows Florida in the latest forecast”. The former also doesn’t move us to take action, to prepare with the same urgency. I calmly traveled to Iowa two days before Hurricane Irma “made its way toward south Florida”. I changed my flight back to Miami and started preparing when Hurricane Irma became “the hurricane that will make Florida disappear from the map”.

Most people don’t think twice about the words they use when they communicate but word choice matters. Not only can it spur emotion like it was intended to do pre-storm, but it can also prevent miscommunication. (And, based on these ten examples, even seemingly small miscommunications can have massive consequences.) It is a tool that when properly used, can vastly improve the understanding of what you want to convey. And, if you take it one step further, can even get others to do what you want.

During my quarantine, I watched this George Carlin skit about saving the planet and was blown away by the effectiveness of his word choices in communicating his message. At one point he claims the human race will go extinct by referring to us as an “evolutionary cul-de-sac”. Let that visual sink in for a second. Isn’t it the perfect metaphor given the configuration of the tree of life? (In case you forgot your high school biology, I’ve included an example of a tree of life below.) It helped me really feel the finality that the end of our species would entail.

Tree of LIfe

This week pay extra attention to the words used by others when they talk to you. What were words and phrases others used that conveyed a clear, concise message? Which were ambiguous or confusing? The nuances you pick up when you’re on the listening end can help you be more effective when you’re on the communicating end.

Also, pay careful attention to the words you use when you talk to others. These 25 tips will help you make better choices. They’re intended for writers but are just as applicable for verbal communication—plus, the author’s examples of poor word choice are hilarious. In the end, I am confident you will find they’ll help you become a better communicator.

And now, for your quote of the day:

“Words are free. It’s how you use them that will cost you.” —Unknown

Why Great Employees Don’t Always Make The Best Bosses (And What To Do About It)

Why Great Employees Don’t Always Make The Best Bosses (And What To Do About It)

Have you ever noticed that most people in leadership positions are where they are because they excelled in technical roles and were given opportunities for advancement? Take inventory in your office. What do the careers of the middle and upper managers look like? In the places I’ve worked, the majority of my colleagues have climbed the corporate ladder for exceeding expectations in past positions.

That has certainly been the case for me. My meteoric rise to department director has culminated from a promising performance record, a series of fortunate circumstances, and supervisors who have put their faith in me. If you look at my resume before this position, it left a lot to be desired in terms of experience beyond technical work. It has been up to me to sink or swim these last few months. Motivated by the desire to see our team and its members succeed, as well as to show my supervisors that they made the right choice, I have Michael Phelps-ed my way through it.

This Harvard Business Review article for new managers points out that, “just because you were a terrific producer before you were promoted it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be a terrific boss.” You see, “for most newly appointed managers…the skills and qualities that earned them the promotion are very different from those that will serve them well as a leader, and they’re often left to figure it out on their own…” It is up to us—those lucky enough to be entrusted with leadership positions—to be conscious of this disparity and prepare ourselves for our new roles by acquiring (or refining) management, leadership and business administration skills required to be successful.

It has taken a village to get me in “boss” shape. It would have been so much easier to default back to my comfort zone: doing the technical work that I’m good at and got me my promotion. Instead, I have relied heavily on the wisdom of my mentors, my supervisors, my friends, my family, the experts at Dale Carnegie, books, and articles to foster the skills with which I am less comfortable. It’s going to continue to take all of these resources and a few life lessons (read, mistakes) to refine them as I move forward in my career. Nevertheless, I’m headed in the right direction.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are three Harvard Business Review articles I found particularly helpful in approaching my role as a new manager like a seasoned pro:

And now, for your quote of the day:

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” —Alexander Graham Bell

Why Your Stereotypes About Millennials Are Unfair And Potentially Damaging

Why Your Stereotypes About Millennials Are Unfair And Potentially Damaging

On Monday morning, the CBS This Morning team was talking to a financial expert when one of the anchors insinuated all millennials live in their parents’ basement. The discussion, stemming from this CBS Money Watch article that alludes to the same stereotype, made my blood boil. I am a millennial and I have been living on my own for over 10 years. I have never, nor do I ever plan, on living in my parents’ basement. Moreover, I have been financially independent my entire adult life and I am more financially stable than most people in older generations. How dare they undermine all of my hard work!

Do I know millennials that are not financially independent or do not live on their own by circumstance or by choice? Definitely—but I also know Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers who are in the same shoes. It’s not a millennial thing. It’s a human being thing.

If you know me, you know I rarely write about contentious topics. It’s not because I don’t have strong opinions—I’m a Type A Virgo so you know I do—but because I find little benefit to being openly outraged about most topics. I’m a firm believer that you accomplish more by listening to other perspectives than criticizing, condemning or complaining about them.

But, that’s the thing about the older generations’ overwhelming perspective on millennials: it’s an unfair generalization that can impact our professional careers. You may think your bias is benign, but psychologists have proven your prejudices—no matter how well-intentioned, no matter how subconscious—affect your behavior toward us. They can cause you to overlook us for positions, for promotions or for growth opportunities, the very metrics you use to judge our success (or lack thereof, in your mind).

I am writing this to respectfully ask that you consider the idea that not all millennials are lazy or entitled. We can do better to balance the conversation. We can do better to stop dismissing a group of individuals, whose time of birth—not their traits—brand them as millennials. We can do better to show that, like you, we may not be perfect but we have a lot to offer in the workforce.

Next time you want to gripe about how much time we spend on our phones, pull up this article in Financial Fluency from my colleague Vania, who is in her 20s. She is religious about her credit score and uses her phone time judiciously to keep it in check. Next time you want to complain about how we’re not serious about saving, read this article on personal finance from Man Repeller, a blog started by 28-year-old Leandra Medine that leveraged its captive millennial audience to promote the importance of saving money. Millennials like Vania, Leandra, and I are not as rare as you may think. Please don’t water down our accomplishments with your preconceived notions about our generation.

(Just like not all millennials are the same, I recognize not all non-millennials feel this way about us. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge you for not perpetuating the worn-out stereotypes. Heck, some of you even sing us praises, like Sanjeev Agrawal in this Forbes article. My sincerest thank you to you for giving us a fighting chance in world that tends to think millennials are the worst.)

And now, for your quote of the day:

“Young people are not perfect. We don’t know everything, sometimes we try to move too fast, and in some cases our ideals are at odds with reality. Instead of antagonizing us, listen to us, collaborate with us, and invest in our ideas.” —Tony Weaver, Jr., Forbes, June 7, 2017