The Art of War

For Women by Chin-ning Chu.

Read it. You need it.

And, you don’t even know what you’re missing. I recently saw somewhere that CEO’s read an average of 60 books a year. So, of course, yours truly just joined a couple of book clubs and realized that it was time to stop binge watching Netflix and get smart in my downtime.

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I’m working for a Chinese based company and.holy.cow.  

What a cultural wake up call. The East and the West are like Yin and Yang, the sun and the moon, black and white. Think of every polar opposite that you can and that’s what I’m working with. You can’t have one without the other, opposites attract, even Paula Abdul got it down. You can learn something from your opposite.

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Just like I remember her.

It became very clear, very quickly that things in China are run very differently than they are in America.  Starting with; the method of communication, to the relationship structures, to the basic foundation of the culture within a company and family style. Put it this way, food and sleep are for the weak.  American’s talk too much. We put in too much detail, about everything. American’s like conflict.

The Chinese like to prepare.

They like to plan and meticulously navigate through every decision in their life. They do show emotion. They don’t like to show weakness in any way. Women do not smile in pictures.  And, when they tell you to do something, don’t say a word.  Just do it. Do it their way.

You are not an individual.

You are part of the greater good. It is what’s best for the company, family, and country as a whole. We’re all part of a team. Your opinion is important when you’ve proven yourself, but, a nice side note is that the managers in China do it backwards. You are perfect until you prove them wrong, in America you have to prove yourself first.

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There has been zero touching, but you get the idea.

So, as I said before, I decided that it was time to learn the Art of War (and I don’t mean in Mr. Timm’s AP English class at Hoppy High) this is different. Right on the cover it says, “it is not about war, it is about the art.” So, it was time for me to learn about the art of not being Western and tune into my chi, become one with myself.  It was time to learn everything I could about myself before I could learn about my enemy or everyone else around me.

Take a few minutes to meditate throughout the day.

Starting with first thing in the morning.   Feel your own breaths (I haven’t gotten to the point where I’m doing that but that’s not what the book recommends). Trust your intuition.  In other words, trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, step back and wait. Prepare, and wait, until it does feel right.

 

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Timing is everything.

“Don’t become your own worst enemy. Use your instincts to determine when the time is right to set your plans in motion.” As Master Sun put it, you control your destiny so don’t get too excited too fast and make impulsive decisions. As in, don’t be too American.

The best part of working for an international company is learning different cultural styles. Different ways of thinking and certainly different ways of operating. The Art of War for Women has taught me to slow down and process before speaking. It has taught me to think like a chess player, and to wait for the right time to present anything or submit something.

Most importantly, it has taught me to trust myself, get to know me, for who I am, and accept and enjoy that woman, as opposed to battling with myself.

Read it. You’ll thank me. 

 

 

You’re not supposed to go through life…

“Thinking that you’re not where you’re supposed to be. Just remember, you’re not a finished product. You may have some weaknesses, and have areas you want to improve, but that will not help you move forward.Joel Osteen (no matter how you feel about him, that’s good advice).  You’re not supposed to go through life feeling defeated.

You must accept yourself right where you are.  As my mother always says, bloom where you are planted, if you will.

I’m obsessed with houseplants right now. So you’ll see a lot of them.
That was the last thing I expected to write about today.  As you know, we’re in this together. Fifty-two blog posts are coming your way. That’s five. two. Fifty-two times I get to escape from the world of HVAC, Google Translate, and swimming in SEO world. This was a little run in I had with Google this weekend:

Google Translate. Go home. You’re drunk.
So, together, we’ll make this happen.

I’ve written about how there is no perfect partner. And, then of course, my best friend from High School met the female version of himself. They like science, tide pools, and eating ice cream. They both have dogs, she loves cats, and he loves her. It’s like two peas in a pod. It’s awesome. So, I won’t bore you with that love story.

I’ve written about love lost, poor decisions, and, moving on. But, apparently, today I’m going to write about being happy right where you are. It’s not always the dream life, the way you envisioned it when you were young, but it’s right where you’re supposed to be right now.

For everyone born in the 80’s someone you know had this van. Photo Credit: The New York Times
This sounds so weird today, but I thought I’d have a minivan and five kids by now.  I thought I’d be cutting oranges for soccer games, and teaching swim lessons to my little bambino’s. But, apparently as of today, that’s not in my cards.

I’m married to my work. 

Literally.  I’ve always wanted to start a business and a wonderful opportunity fell into my lap. They’re starting a subsidiary of the parent company located in Shanghi – so we have their support we’re just starting the North American company here. I have a great boss and am psyched to make it happen.  We get to start a company and literally do every single detail of it. It’s not a Case Study at UNH, it’s real life. And, I’m so grateful that my girlfriends, family,  and boyfriend are so supportive because I’m literally never around.  I am swimming in work and loving every minute of it.

My sister and Molly Bean help keep the house clean, my roommate reminds me to eat, and I just work. Agh, I sound like a 60 year old man who can’t retire, but you get the idea.

Enough about me. I’m proud to be blooming where I am planted.  And, today I’m feeling nostalgic and asking you to do the same thing. Just for today.

Remember that you’re not supposed to go through life feeling less than.

Just for today, remember that you’re future will be brighter than your past.

Sitting on the stone wall

I met one of the nicest group of people I’ve ever met in my life. 

Not just any stonewall. A wall in downtown Concord, NH.

Every Thursday I have a standing hair appointment. It sounds so basic, I know. But my Grandmother was grey at a young age and I’m not ready to go there quite yet. These ladies know just how I like my color, that I don’t need a massage, but that I love to visit and catch up. We eat, we laugh, we visit, hear about each others lives. Regular coffee talk. Minus the coffee.

Anyway.

On my way there I see the same group of people sitting outside the Clock Tower as I always do. We exchange pleasantries, say hello, and go about our day.

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The regular view from the stonewall

It’s on my way home the magic happens. 

My buddy Kevin plays the guitar. He yells “HI KATIE!” to me from across the street. He waves and smiles like I’m the only person he has seen all day.  And, every time I see him, he moves over on that stonewall and makes a seat for me.  I sit down, I visit, he and his buddies fill me in on what’s going on in town. We talk about the small things and the seemingly big things, which are of course all relative.

Today he was right in front of the State House, depending on the time of day and what’s going on in town is a pretty normal occurrence.  There were dogs, and families, new bikes, old bikes, and per usual, he moved over, made me a seat and we sat down and talked.  There was a ceremony on the State House steps and men in uniform walked by and saluted him and thanked him for his service. Today, Kevin was decked out in his military clothes. I also thanked him for his service.

And, he told me it was an honor to serve his country.

He told me about combat and where he was in the world, what he saw, and the kind of friends he made. He told me about how he left everything behind and when he came home nothing was as he remembered it. He’s a pretty private person and will only give little tidbits at a time about his life but I love hearing it and he knows everyone in town and their story too.

These guys stick together. They know where each other are most of the time. If someone’s missing, it’s because this or that. They care about each other and are proud to call Concord home.

When it got way too busy, the Introvert in me took over, and I said my goodbyes and he told me to be safe. We don’t even high five. It’s just an understanding, thanks for being here, nice to see you, hope to see you again next time.

With a wave and a big smile that was it. Until, we meet again my friend. 

The Office

Is a joke.

Oh Susan, please tell me more about your life, I’ll smile and pretend to care about your craft projects, or guys you’ve slept with, and how your night was.

Actually, let’s call a spade a spade. Not so much.

I hear that people have a hard time working from home; that there is too much that needs to be done around the house, and that there are other things going on, etc…coming from someone with a very high level of energy and a serious case of ADHD working from home for me is a miracle.

I can get more done in 5 hours than I ever could in an office. It’s time management at its finest.

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Take a Look at Ragged Edge’

Perhaps it’s not for everyone, but for me, working from home is a blessing. I can get my work done, meet my deadlines, not have to hear about Susan’s date last night, or any other useless drama that goes along with small talk in the office. It’s like the Monday morning quarter back, water cooler talk, blah, blah, blah, which to me are a huge waste of time.

If you trusted me enough to go to college, I can self manage. Trust me. 

There is a mentality in our country that you must be at the office by a certain time, be watched, micromanaged, and babysat the entire time you’re there. And, for me that just doesn’t fly. I know how to self manage. I know how to hit deadlines, I don’t need someone looking over my shoulder telling what to do. Give me a deadline and an idea of what you need, and I’ll make it happen.

In order to get a job in this country a Bachelor’s degree is expected, and then you get it, and you go right back to being in high school. It’s bizarre.  Working from home should not be earned, it should be expected. I build budgets, I pay you to work, I don’t want to pay to babysit your every move too.

While I was at UNH no one cared if I showed up to class, no one cared how I did on my exams, but, I only had three exams a semester per class my Freshman and Sophomore year so I better be damn sure I passed them with a B (any grade above a C was mandatory) if I wanted to stay in the Business School or on the Crew team. Which, obviously, I did.

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I spent hours and hours at the Thompson Library at UNH. Photo curtesy of UNH.

My experience at college was a lot of drinking, a lot of eating, a lot of studying, and a ton of time figuring out how to adult.  I knew what I needed to get done, when it was due, and how to manage a project.

Even if you didn’t go to UNH if you have any kind common sense, you get the point. 

Time management is crucial in any part of your life, whether you’re a mom, a professional, or juggling a ton of other projects. If you can’t be trusted to work alone, why keep that job?

I say that because I was just promoted and sixteen hours into the promotion an Executive in the company decided that our entire department needed to report back to the office because his son can’t be trusted to work from home. I’ll avoid the entire subject of nepotism for the sake of my own sanity,  but you get the point.

Hmmmmm….on that note, check please.

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So to wrap this up, I want to end with the fact that in my experience, adults don’t need to be babysat. They need to be trusted, empowered, and enabled to make their own decisions with the right guidance to get a job done correctly.

If you’re one of the managers that thinks anyone likes their hand held there are lots of books on the subject. 

My advice to you is to be a good leader, be a good role model, and make your employees happy. It may not be easy, but it’s the most economical, financially fiscal, and time efficient way to succeed.

Growing up as your parents grow older.

Talk about a walk down memory lane. Adulting if you will. 

My parents are downsizing and selling our childhood home. The 5 year old in me wants to have a complete temper tantrum and stomp my feet and the adult in me wants to remember that this is for the best.  For them.

My parents can finally retire and be free of their responsibilities. No more stairs. Close to their grandchildren.  Fun money to live the American dream.

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I’ll periodically add pictures of the house for sentimental value.

But, I can tell you, that walk down memory lane as we cleaned out our old bedrooms was tough. It was bitter sweet.

Emphasis on bitter. Not to be dramatic. 

There were pictures from High School, when life was so easy, all we had to do was study, practice, and hang out. My mom cooked, my dad cleaned, and we had it made. I found pictures of friends that through the years I’ve lost touch with or who are no longer with us and I can remember the exact moment that picture was taken.

My sister killed it in Cross Country and every time I found a trophy or an award for something I did was reminded that the team won it and I just got one.

Those were the funny parts. 

There were tears. There were smiles. There were giggles. There was an entire spectrum of emotions and I can’t tell you which ones were the best and which ones were the worst. It was a sad day in the Putnam house but my parents are excited, so I’m trying to jump on the bandwagon with them.

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The kitchen my dad made us breakfast in every morning and my mom made us dinner for years.

When you never think it’ll happen to you. 

Obviously, I’ve heard of other people going through this, when their parents need to downsize and when parents decide that they don’t want to clean the whole house anymore or go up and down the stairs. I just never thought it would happen in my world.   I thought a lot of things would never happen to me, but I guess that’s just part of growing up.

So, for anyone else going through this, I feel your pain.

I know what it’s like to see pictures, trophies, memories, that you think are so insignificant and then suddenly you’re holding it and floods of that time in your life come rushing back.

It can’t be that bad, it’s just a new adventure, it’s a new start. It’s for the best for everyone, and it’s just a part of growing up.