Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Saying So Long to Summer

Classes have officially started.  For some reason I had it in my mind that classes didn't start until after Labor Day. Wishful thinking on my part. I'm glad I decided to check my Gonzaga email yesterday. Class introductions on Blackboard are off my to-do list. I'm kicking-off this semester with a course in organizational leadership. I find it ironically fitting considering the transitional phase I find myself in.

Being focused on the subject of leadership for the next eight weeks is a good thing. After all, a critical election is less than three months away. My mind is made up, but many independent/unaffiliated voters in swing states are still up in the air on if they should throw in the towel with President Obama and give presidential candidate Mitt Romney an opportunity to lead the United States back in time. Even if Obama squeaks out a win, the GOP still has a shot at taking back the Senate. While many pundits and political strategists think Rep. Akin's "legitimate rape" comments make a GOP takeover unlikely, I'm counting him down and not out.

Sunday's season finale of True Blood, the kick-off of the Republican convention this week,  cooler evenings, and back-to-school sales reinforce that it's time to prepare to say so long to summer. Of course summer isn't officially over until September 21, 2012, but I might as well start mentally preparing for the seasonal change and whatever else life holds.

This summer will be a memorable one for me. It won't be because I took a fabulous, exotic vacation. The pride and joy of home ownership has turned vacation funds into home improvement funds. Luckily, Karim and I still managed to take a couple of long weekend getaways. Instead, I'll remember the summer of 2012 as the year when I a chapter in my life closed and I prepared to say good-bye to colleagues I've worked with for the past seven years. Those good-byes have already started and will continue until December 21, 2012. This summer also reminded me that there are No Guarantees in life. My life will be what I make of it, even if I get thrown a curve ball.

This fall will mark a somewhat somber period of time for me. The cool nights become cold nights. I dread the first frost and having to warm my car up in the morning. Since my car is a manual transmission, I don't have the luxury of an automatic car-starter. Fall also begins the last quarter in the year where I begin the process of assessing what goals I accomplished and which ones I didn't.

Friedrich Nietzsche is famous for the quote, "That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger." I believe this notion to be true even though there are times when I find it hard to accept.

I'm still alive, I'm in good health and now I have an opportunity to reinvent myself. Everyday I'm reminded of the possibilities, despite the fact that I face uncertainty in some areas of my life and that I go through periods where I have more questions than answers. I'm not going to stress, not yet anyways.

For now, I'll just say, "So long summer."


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Being My Own CEO and Building My Brand

How do you define brand? A couple of months ago I would have given you a list of products and organizations that reflect a distinct brand in the marketplace.  Today my answer is different. I am my own brand. When I was acting in and/or producing video, film, and theatre projects I was more inclined to think of myself as a brand because I was either pitching a story or auditioning for a part. I needed to sell my skills and ideas. Now that I'm in a transitional employment stage I've been reminded that my individual brand identity and how I promote myself is just as important  today as when I was  acting.

I've been working with a career consultant and have been reading a lot of articles related to the job search process, career development, and resume writing. There has been common threads through all of my research and reading. They include defining goals, focusing on core strengths you bring to your work, and highlighing when and where you've added value to an organization or company. These tactics were reiniforced this weekend as I read Sunday's Hartford Courant Career Builder section. The cover story written by Emily Hughley Quinn was entitled Build A Brand. Even if you're not looking for a job it's worth reading.

Today I came across another positive take away about brand when I read, Revisiting the Chick-fil-A and Chapstick Incidents: The Ethics of Transparency and Authenticity in Social Media. According to Ric Dragon, CEO of Dragon Search Marketing and author of The Dragon Search Online Marketing Manual and Social Marketology, "With the rise of social media, brands have the opportunity to assume that role of an individual with a brand voice and personality, and have one-on-one conversations." Idividuals are also branding themselves and their skills by tapping into social media. Those who are successful at their personal branding have a leg up against their competition. When I was a kid, my mom told me, "That if I don't think much of myself, no one else will." My mama didn't know it then, but she was helping me to recognize and build my brand.

I have also come to realize that confidence is important, but an employer wants to see more than confidence when he/she brings you in for an interview. The interviewer wants you to demonstate how your current professional strengths will be an asset to their organization or company. One must be able to articulate the value he/she brings to a position.

I recently took the Birkman examination, a  personality assessment and a series of related report sets that facilitate team building, career counseling and interpersonal conflict resolution.  It helps to assess an individual's work style, interest, and strengths. I learned that my leadership style is that of a delagator. That is one thing I want to change.  I need to be my own CEO that recognizes my value, knows my strengths, as well as my weaknesses.

Initially, I wasn't excited about having to look for a new job, but as I think about my brand, the job search process presents me with an opportunity to self-assess and think about what I want the next chapter of my life to read.  My brand and how I promote it is up to me.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Final Days of Fasting for a Non-Muslim

I really try not to think about food during Ramadan but it's tough. Tick. Tock. Tick Tock. That is what I hear as I get close to the time when Karim and I can break fast. For seven years I've been fasting Ramadan with him and have acclimated myself to the routine. However, now that its taking place during summer and one of the hottest summers on record, it feels like more of challenge than past fasts.

Ramadan is the most sacred month for Muslims and takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The month of Ramadan is when the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). During the month, Muslims stop eating and drinking from dawn until sunset. They also abstain from sex during the day. The act of fasting is meant to bring one closer to Allah (God) and redirect his/her attention away from the daily worldly focuses to embracing empathy for those who are less fortunate. It also teaches self-discipline, self-control, and encourages charity.

There are some exceptions to fasting. Young children don't fast. One begins to fast when he/she reaches puberty.  Other exemptions to fasting include illness, disabilities, pregnancy, breast-feeding, menstruation, and travel. I suspect that the Muslim athletes at the Summer Games used their travel exemption so that had the energy and strength to compete. Outside of the exemptions, fasting is an obligatory tenet in the religion so long as a person is of age, healthy, sane and able.

Muslims in prayer.

My first day of fasting was rough. I didn't get enough sleep that night before and had a migraine the following day. I've had a few other tough days since, but I manage to make it through each one. I'm at the point that it doesn't bother me to see others eating when I don't. My sense of smell brings me joy. It's the little things. These days the hardest thing for me is breaking up my sleep to wake up at around 3:30 am to eat breakfast before dawn.

However, I am humbled. Somewhere in the world, in this country, in my community is a person who is hungry and it is not their choice. The fact that I have a choice reinforces how blessed I am to not have to worry about where my next meal is coming from.

Although I'm not religious, I have come to appreciate what Ramadan means for my husband and the millions of other Muslims throughout the world that embrace this tenet of their faith. It's an individual sacrifice in honor of Allah. The final days of fasting will soon come to a close. Eid ul-Fitr, "the festivity of breaking fast" will either be this Saturday or Sunday. I have two calendars that claim both days as Eid. I wonder which mathematical calculation will be right.

It will be nice to get back to my old routine of eating and sleeping. It's a routine that I have come to take for granted until I started fasting.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Time for a Refresh and More Summer Olympic Games Chatter

In most cases change is a difficult process, however I was ready for a face lift to In the Mix. Do you like it? Eager to hear your thoughts in the comment section, Facebook, or on Twitter @dirtywater22. I opted to go with an orange design template since it's my signature color. I love orange! It makes me pop and stand out. I'm hoping it works for the blog as well. I do wish Blogger offered more template designs in my signature color that were customizable. I didn't have much to work with. This is one area where WordPress has them beat.

I'm feeling especially upbeat today. Not sure why either. I don't have any really great news to share. I have met a few goals this past week like finalizing my resume, finishing the latest draft of Quarter Year Dilemmas, submitting it to a play competition, and I've finally started reading Harry Belafonte's memoir, My Song. I received it as a holiday gift this past December and just haven't made the time to read it. Glad to make that change.  I'm going to try and finish it in the next two weeks and then hopefully start the The Help. I refuse to watch the film until I read the book.

I don't know about you all but I've enjoyed watching the Summer Olympics, not so much listening to the American commentary. The commentators have really gotten on my nerves this time around. I'm used to the back story highlights they give on athletes but their unnecessary hypotheticals and criticizing comments of athletes when they falter is unnerving.  In my opinion sports commentary for the Olympics has room for improvement. The television commentators should listen to a professional sports journalist like NPR's Mike Pesca. He knows sports and keeps it simple for listeners.

My viewing was much more robust during the first week and has tapered off a bit, but thanks to Google and social media I've stayed in the loop on the main new stories. If you were wondering the United States is in the lead in the overall medal count, but China is head by two in gold medals. I will be sad to see the summer games go and hope to catch the closing ceremony.

Watching the games all these years has made me realize that I need to add attending the Olympic Games to my bucket list. I would love to be at Rio in 2016! My preference is summer, but I'm open to the winter games too. let me know if you know anyone who is also looking to take it off their bucket list.