Monday, December 31, 2012

The Risk of Not Planning

 Here's an adaption of a post I wrote on year end goal-setting for my personal blog exactly a year ago.

“I was lucky enough to take part in the very first "Reboot Your Life" weekend retreat offered by The Sabbatical Sisters.  I was on the second leg of a train trip around the country, arriving in Santa Fe from Los Angeles.  Eight of us converged on Cathy Allen's beautiful home for a wide variety of discussions and exercises designed to make us rethink the use of our time.  The best of the exercises is one on setting and tracking achievable annual goals.

(You can read exactly how to undertake the "goals circle exercise" in the book written by the four Sabbatical Sisters -- Catherine Allen, Nancy Bearg, Rita Foley, and Jaye Smith -- titled Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career & Life by Taking a Break available on amazon. com.)

Since 2009, I've taken time to look at the prior year's circle and then to make adjustments when I make a new one, often because I've learned something about myself from the review.  Here's how you would proceed:

Make a circle and divide it into six to eight pie slices, which you then label with aspects of your life.  I use six slices, and they are labeled “health,” “creativity,” “ books,” “ financial,” “ career,” and “personal.”

The next step is to identify five goals for the new year in each category.  This can take longer than one sitting; and indeed you'll find that some of the pie slices change from year to year because of projects you might undertake. 

Once you've completed this portion of the exercise, then pick out the goal in each category that is most important to you.  Make a new circle with only a single goal in each slice, and keep it with you to remind yourself and review progress during the year.

All of the slices are designed to have equal weight so that you have begun to balance your time more evenly across these aspects of life."

I'm still experimenting with multiple roles in my work -- consultant, speaker, teacher, and author.  Even as we solved problems for clients, we managed a major update of the website this past fall, and there's more still to come.  ASA published a second book in February.  Having taught one course last spring and preparing to teach two courses in winter quarter, I can honestly say that I thrive on teaching graduate students at the University of Washington.  And I'm still determined to enhance the amount of physical exercise and training I accomplish.

 “A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” -- Francis Bacon, The Essays

Thursday, December 27, 2012

End of year travel

I'll be flying next week, hoping to avoid both the bad weather currently blanketing the East Coast and the hordes of travelers as well.  I've mapped the trip out as best I can to avoid problems, but was nonetheless interested to find this Wall Street Journal article, which imagines some of the improvements we might see in 2013airline travel.  For me, the highest risk is always of getting sick -- I've stocked up on Quantum's SuperLysine+ and will take my nasal irrigation stuff as well as antibacterial hand wipes to get rid of germs attached to airplane surfaces. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

The arc of grief

Of all the painful images we have absorbed since Friday morning, this one, from children in Karachi, Pakistan, brings me close to mental paralysis.  We are not, in this country, subject to daily drone attacks that unfortunately kill good people along with the targets.  That these children are shaken by the events in Sandy Hook reminds us that all children feel and think and, as my friend Tracy said this morning, have voices that must also be heard.

Of all the risks we face in life, grief is perhaps the most debilitating.  It paralyzes us.  It disrupts our lives and routines.  It's hard to sleep.  It reminds us to care more obviously for those we love.

Moving forward, we can stay stuck in our grief or we can decide exactly what we are going to do to make it harder for something like this to happen again.  Even if we have never written a letter to a member of Congress, the Internet makes it easy to figure out how to do it.  We can check in with our local schools to understand what safety precautions are already in place, and perhaps volunteer our time to help shape new processes and procedures.  We can speak out in favorite of better identification and mental health support for those on the edges of society.  We might also want to understand what safety protocols are in place in large gathering spaces other than schools -- churches, meeting halls, shopping malls, theaters, for instance.

The fact of the matter is that this is our country and our voices can make a difference. Let's not let this discussion fade from memory in another month.  Let's move toward the light.  Let's make our grief count for something this time.  Even if the best we can do is put better definition and process around background checks and require that all sales have background checks, we will have mitigated some of the risk around gun ownership and moved a range of discussions down the road.

In the meantime, the world watches as we bury these small children. A friend asked why I bothered to watch TV and I answered, "to bear witness."  From the tangible grief we all feel, we can shape a trajectory -- what Dr. King called "the arc of the universe"* -- that is not made by bullets, but from an understanding, finally, that there are some things up with which we will not put, and that it's better late than never.

*I believe Dr. King was actually paraphrasing another minister, Theodore Parker, when he said "The Arc of the Universe Is Long But It Bends Towards Justice."

Saturday, December 15, 2012

After yesterday's violence...

In the wee, small hours of the morning just before it's light, knowing others will have more well thought out conclusions, here's advice from a risk detective:

-Love your children completely. Be generous with your time and your own thoughts. Be fully present and prepared to explain yourself. You are their first teacher.

-By personal example and in discussion, make clear that life is a seri
es of choices between right and wrong, and that it is the grey areas we should be talking about most.

-Show them the world. My father had my sister and I reading at least the "People in the News" section of the Des Moines Register from the time we started school. Our reading expanded as we got older, and every night at the dinner table we discussed both the news and what we had done in school.

-Teach them how to make their own decisions. In those dinnertime discussions, my father also taught us how there were at least two sides to every question or issue, and that it was important to identify the "pros" and "cons" of every position. You could say that he grew his own conversationalists.

-To these pieces of advice, I think my husband would add "tell them many stories." You want them to know where they come from and have a rich range of references that include how and why decisions were made.

All this is to say that your job is not really to wield power, but rather to help a young child grow into themselves without making them afraid of the world outside their home. This is particularly difficult right now, when the natural tendency will be to pull back, to hold them close, to know that the world is often a scary place. But here is a place where the advice holds up -- listen to them and talk with them. Help them try to put this horrible event into context even as you are, yourself, trying to do so.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Using location services on a smartphone

Here's a great article covering the risks and benefits of using location services on a smartphone, produced by Microsoft Security.   Take a look and perhaps look also at other holiday tips from this group about how to manage other online risks.

I'll be posting more frequently in the next week or so, as I begin to revisit the first edition of Advice From A Risk Detective.  We're working on a second edition, which will refresh certain pieces of advice or information.   And we're adding at least one chapter -- "At School."  If you have other items you'd like us to cover in the book, please drop me a note at

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Procrastinating? Time for that flu shot!

The Center for Disease Control is tracking outbreaks of the flu and finding that more folks are sick earlier in the season than usual.  Here is a story on what can be known at this time.

From my own research on types of pandemics, I know that those who have regular flu shots are in a much better position when a truly awful strain comes along and sweeps across the globe.

The shots are prevalent.  No need to go to your doctor's office -- a pharmacist and often even grocers can administer the shot without fuss and reduce your risk of illness at the same time.

Do it as soon as you can.