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‘I’m Sorry, I’m Busy’: A Chaotic Schedule and Added Stress of Those Who Don’t Understand

Published December 13, 2014 by harleyquinnly

I am not writing this blog to sound pretentious or as a ‘look at me! I’m so important because I’m so busy!’ I am writing it because I have been under an immense amount of stress from grad school requirements but additional stress has been added by ‘friends’ that do not understand the work it takes and why I am unavailable for long periods of time. I constantly tell them ‘thank you, but I have to work on my paper’ and send them pictures of the piles of papers/books taking over my house, and yet every time I have a due date, I am bombarded with guilt trip text messages (“you could make time if you wanted to”) or people that flat out refuse to speak to me. I am tired, and tired of it. So here is a look at my typical week’s schedule. This is why I am unavailable and why someday I’ll be called doctor.

(Side note: I am eternally grateful for the wonderful friends I have that understand my schedule, never complain at me, and appreciate when I am able to see them. Thank you.)

This is literally my home office. And I'm normally a super clean person.

This is literally my home office. And I’m normally a super clean person.

I will gladly acknowledge that it is not the easiest to be my friend. I have to check out for weeks at a time when due dates come up. I am not always available for a hangout. Sometimes I have to go months without seeing people. I could remember to check up on people more often. But I do not deserve the added stress just because I am an extremely busy person.

Just one pile of books.

Just one pile of books.

The Schedule

Weekdays: 

8 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Work

Yes, I am a full time student and I have a full time job. I don’t choose to have this life, it was what I was dealt. I am financially unable to only attend school without working and I happen to like food and shelter. I am also unwilling to take out tens of thousands of dollars of student loans I will never be able pay off. There are next to no jobs for history Ph.D.s and those that do exist often do not pay enough to survive on, much less added loan payments. Excuse me for being financially responsible. (I am not throwing shade at those who have students. You do what you have to do. I’m meaning the unnecessary ones).

6 to 7:30 p.m.: Workout then Dinner

The commute home takes me an hour due to traffic, idiocy, and a lack of infrastructure for growing populations. I workout for half an hour (just because I’m busy doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be healthy). I make dinner quickly and watch whatever is on tv at the time, usually a rerun of “The Big Bang Theory.”

I love Sheldon. And feel like a villain the more I'm in school.

I love Sheldon. And feel like a villain the more I’m in school.

7:30 to ~11 p.m. Schoolwork

I spend every evening of every single workday working on schoolwork. This month I have large essays due that require a lot of incorporated reading. I literally do not leave my ‘command center’ I’ve set up on my kitchen table every. single. evening. Therefore, I do not have time to do anything else.

My "command center" on my kitchen table. I live here.

My “command center” on my kitchen table. I live here.

Me in my favorite recliner.

Me in my favorite recliner.

My One Free Day

I usually allow myself one evening a week for free time. Think about if you were working from 8 a.m. until ~10 p.m. without a break. What would you feel like doing on your rare break? Sometimes I get free movie tickets and go see a movie with a friend/date. Other times I just want to veg out on my couch with my non-judgmental friend, Netflix. I apologize for not instantly running to you for your social needs. Also, with only one night out a week, I can only see so many people in that limited amount of time.

Weekends

Hey, it’s the weekend so I have all this free time, right? Nope. Because I work during the weekday, weekends are the only time I get to get work done for long spans of time. When I have papers due, these are the days that I write them.

9 to 10 a.m. Breakfast and Wake Up Time

I usually let myself sleep in until 9 a.m. This is catch-up sleep for me. I get up, make my eggs and tea, and relax for an hour on my couch. I am human and need a little relax time interspersed.

10 to 10:30 a.m. Shower

After breakfast, I shower. Unless I have to see something or do something outside my house, I don’t do hair or makeup and stay in yoga pants.

10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. or sometimes until 4 a.m.

I work on schoolwork the entire day, taking about an hour for lunch and dinner. I sometimes stay up until 4 a.m. because I have a due date and it’s okay if I’m completely sleep-deprived at home rather than at work. These are full days working on schoolwork. I understand people don’t get that I have so much of a workload I have to work this long on weekend. I do.

My dinners usually look like this.

My dinners usually look like this.

So, in conclusion, I have taken time out of my study schedule to detail my schedule. Hopefully it inspires further understanding but I’ve done all I can do. This is my life, please understand or at least respect it.

Why Am I Doing This? A Dangerous Question During Exam Time for Graduate Students

Published August 17, 2014 by harleyquinnly

9a9ec-existentialcrisis

I am a Ph.D. student in History. I am having an existential crisis. This can apply to people in any type of situation when it gets tough and makes you ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Sometimes you don’t have an answer. 

To earn a Ph.D. in history at my university, you must take so many semesters/credit hours of coursework, earning a grade no lower than a B. That is not enough to prove your worth, however. You must take three, six hour long exams over three days, known as comprehensive exams (comps). The three exams are your general field (US history), secondary field (American West), and a minor field (Public History). 

Why are these so daunting? For me personally, I am not good at tests. Sure, I know the information inside and out but when I am handed an exam I can’t even remember what name to put at the top of the page. I will do reviews, projects, or write you a frickin’ book but don’t give me a test. In addition, I am aware that the exam can ask anything that happened in the United States from 1492 until the 1980s. That’s roughly five hundred years of stuff. And you must know what every historian has written about each era as well. 

scream

Yes, I’m aware it’s a form of academic hazing. It’s weeding out the lesser, supposed to be humbling, etc. As if taking (and acing) history courses for about ten years isn’t good enough. And humbling? What about surviving the professors that routinely made your colleagues cry and whose classes required multiple all-nighters (not from procrastination either). 

What I’m getting at, besides being whiney, is today after I found out I must also submit a dissertation proposal during the exact same time as I’m supposed to be studying (and getting signatures from my committee is like herding cats). I made the mistake of asking myself, “Why am I doing this to myself? Why am I even getting my Ph.D.?”

exist crisis

Most people go to graduate school to get degrees required for higher jobs. I went for my Ph.D. because I had just gone through a divorce, wanted to avoid a personal life, and only knew of adulthood through the lens of a college student. I genuinely love the classroom and reading, any academic pursuit really. If I had unlimited scholarships I would be happy doing nothing but being a perpetual student. 

But then there’s real life. The place where I had to quit my dream job I went to graduate school for in the first place because it didn’t pay enough for me to survive on. The place where I work a horrid 40+ hours a week job with a verbally abusive boss before going home to stress over these exams. I’m proud to say that through hard work, scholarships, help, and luck I have no student loans, but I’ve paid dearly for that in other ways. Because I work, I am unable to dedicate myself to publishing (which is the only means to employment, if you can even find it). So why am I doing this?

i-dont-know-who-i-am-any-more

In addition, where I live, having higher education makes you more unemployable than a felon. I often lie and leave off my higher education on resumes or I don’t receive interviews or are flat out told I am over-educated, over-qualified, etc. Smart people need to eat too. (I’m serious about the felon part-I know of a registered sex offender that has a job that pays three times as much as mine)

tumblr_m2uy2sPqIr1qff4v2o1_500

I wish I could end this post with an enlightened, ‘This is what I reminded myself of why I’m doing what I’m doing’ but I’m not there yet. I don’t have an answer. Maybe I’m doing this because I’ve already worked for three years to get this far into the Ph.D. Maybe because school was the only thing I felt I was ever good at and base my sense of worth upon it. 

Perhaps this is why you seldom see sober Ph.D. students when they’re studying for comps.

exist 3

Working as an Assistant…and Slowly Losing What’s Left of My Self Esteem

Published August 2, 2014 by harleyquinnly

Everyone has had a job in high school, during college, etc. that totally sucked (like fast food or retail) and was meant just to pay the bills or buy booze on the weekends. However, there’s always the dream ( *cough* expectation *cough*) that after college we will never have to do those jobs again because we can use whatever degree we’ve earned to do our dream job. Then you get to the real world…and yeah, it gets a little depressing…time for a shot of tequila.

Original post here.

desperate

I was actually a very lucky person to get my dream job right out of college. However, after working said dream job for about four years, budget cuts and inflation meant I could no longer pay my bills or buy food on that never-changing salary. After my family scraped together to help me pay a few bills and cutting down to eating only twice I day, I said goodbye to my dream job and looked for a job doing whatever that would enable me to buy food.

zooey

So I became a legal assistant. I was ecstatic. I could pay my bills for the first time in a long time working only one job and I had always had an interest in law (my degree is in history) so at least it would be somewhat interesting. Man, was I wrong. I’ve worked there for only three months now and I think each day I’ve lost a little piece of self esteem and my soul.

kill me

I found this great excerpt from Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse by Alida Nugent that I think accurately describes a little of what I experience each day:

“After a few weeks of working at an office, I realized I was becoming the kind of person who was finding joy in the little things-and by little things, I mean meaningless, stupid distractions from my shitty job. A reprieve of going to the copy machine and getting the pleasure of mindlessly staring at the wall for five minutes was magical. Trips to the bathroom were a joyous urination break where I washed my hands until they became pruney. And don’t forget about the absolute thrill of lunch . . . On the occasions that I went out beyond the office doors to buy a salad, you’d think I was being let out of prison after a twenty-year sentence . . . .”

It hit me yesterday, after being called varying forms of stupid and being cursed at all day long by someone less educated than myself, that I can’t continue to do this job much longer and remain sane. Like Alida Nugent, I’ve been taking breaks to hide in the stairwell on varying floors in my building to get away from it. I go to the restroom on different floors each time so my boss can’t send someone in to tell me he needs me at that absolute moment because he can’t walk to the break room to get his own f*^&%ing Diet Pepsi.

eyeroll

I’m not sure what the purpose of this post is, other than venting. But if you are in a job like this, working for a narcissistic, insecure, asshat that thinks of himself as a special little snowflake, know you’re not alone. Tell yourself every single morning before your shift begins and when you leave that you are intelligent, you are a good worker, etc. I find this experience similar to being in an emotionally/verbally abusive relationship. I’ve found myself in social situations where someone politely asks what I do and I simply say, “I’m just an assistant” despite the fact that I’m halfway through a Ph.D. (though a useless one) and am really excited about original research I will begin soon. The person I was with began inputting what I was doing with school and it made me realize that it’s sad another person has to speak up for my accomplishments and that it was a sign that I am slowly beginning to believe I am useless and stupid. That’s not healthy. There’s no reprieve since I work at a small place with no HR department and well paying jobs (aka I make enough to pay my bills) are rare.

sad

Just remember, “You is smart, you is kind, you is important.” And you are much better than these types of people, regardless of how much money they have. Rich white men put their pants on every morning the exact same we do: one leg at a time. Remember that when you become a supervisor.

kind smart im

via Working as an Assistant…and Slowly Losing What’s Left of My Self Esteem.

Twenty-One Things Academics Hate

Published February 11, 2013 by harleyquinnly

‘Professor, why are we doing this?’

While every job has their annoyances, this post includes those specifically encountered by graduate students and those working in academia. Unless you actually work in this field, do not automatically assume we all have cushy, easy jobs and just like to complain about the lack of coffee packages for our Kurigs. Like others, we also face extreme high unemployment and debt, low salaries, and underappreciation. There have been several articles released lately on how Ph.D.’s are facing reliance on foodstamps due to unemployment or low salaries despite earning four college degrees. So why do we endure this craziness and suffering? Because we love it…and we are slightly masochistic.

Madison Moore, “21 Things Academics Hate,” Thought Catalog, January 13, 2013 (accessed February 11, 2013).

1) Being unemployed. Not that other people don’t hate being unemployed, too. But unless you’re a lucky person who has already secured that coveted mirage of a tenure-track job — and even then you’ve only got six years to get it together — being in academia means that, at some point, you could be an unemployed person with a lot of degrees!

2) REVISIONS. (Everything that is done must be redone at least twenty times before it comes close to being good enough)

3) Ratchet departmental politics. There are always office politics in any career. But in academia, everybody’s heard the story about how so-in-so didn’t get tenure because the department chair kind of hates her or thinks her research is silly. Or has been on a search committee where somebody thinks a candidate who works on anything after 1832 is totally irrelevant. Or how about why we can’t have the department holiday party at Stephanie’s house because Stephanie and Blake do NOT get along.

4) Being in debt — credit card debt — from all those broke ass years in graduate school.

5) “The Administration,” because it seems like they get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to make things as complicated as possible, for everyone, at all times.

6) The “heterosexual matrix” and/or patriarchy.

7) When people ask how the dissertation/book manuscript/article is coming along and you honestly don’t know because you haven’t touched it.

8) Formatting academic articles to the exact specifications the journal requires. And you thought academia was just about ideas — HA!

9) When Word freezes when you’re in the middle of a streak of brilliance and you forgot to save your stuff.

10) Feeling anxious about every interaction with a senior scholar, because senior scholars are the GATEKEEPERS. Do they like me? OMG do they think I’m an idiot?

11) When someone asks a long-winded question during the Q+A that has absolutely nothing to do with what your talk was on, so now you have to maintain your composure, smile and respond WITHOUT seeming like an A-hole.

12) When student papers begin with sweeping claim like “since the beginning of man.”

13) Going on the job market.

14) Tenure reviews.

15) Being underpaid for the amount of work you do. You’re teaching four classes a semester, plus you’re on 12 committees and you have a book manuscript to work on. And if you don’t find the time to finish that, you’re gonna get fired!

16) Overly negative reviews from blind, peer review publications. Because the reviewers don’t know who you are, that means they get to be even meaner.

17) When students email you about the grade they got at the end of the semester, instead of putting the work in DURING it.

18) Anxiety and the diverse medical issues associated with it.

19) When someone has ripped several key pages out of a library book.

20) If someone says that academia isn’t a “real” job.

21) BEING TOLD THEY HAVE THE #1 LEAST STRESSFUL JOB IN THE COUNTRY.

I am working on my fourth degree, have a professional job, and still eat ramen at least once a day

Common Myths about Adult ADHD

Published January 30, 2013 by harleyquinnly

Image

I have noticed several articles lately that have painted those with ADHD in a poor light and furthered false stereotypes. Contrary to these articles, all of us are not running around stealing everything we can get our hands on and spending the majority of our lives unemployed or in prison. Also, the disorder affects people differently. There are two types of adult ADHD: hyperactive where the person is more physically impulsive and inattentive: where we just can’t pay attention and the disorder is more about internalized chaos.

 In this post I simply hope to raise awareness, foster understanding, and counter the recent articles that imply we are all hopeless and will always be a menace to society. The following myths are ones I’ve encountered, heard in conversations, and read in articles. I have cited the sources and recent myth-busting articles after the text.

 Myths

 -ADHD is not a real disorder

I’d really like to smack someone every time someone says this-I hear it often in my presence as I don’t have a neon blinking light on my forehead that I suffer from it. Several medical studies consider it a biological disorder, meaning that it’s connected to genes often passed through offspring. Recent studies have shown that kids with ADHD have genes that their more attentive counterparts don’t have (see Note 1). ADHD has been recognized as a legitimate diagnosis by major medical, psychological, and educational organizations, including the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Education. The American Psychiatric Society recognizes ADHD as a medical disorder in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – the official mental health “bible” used by psychologists and psychiatrists. You could read these articles, or you could just observe me or anyone else suffering try to work a desk job without any medication.

 -ADHD only occurs in children    

ADHD does not magically disappear once you turn eighteen. Several American health insurance companies seem to think so in their coverage of treatment for children and cutoff of treatment once that person has turned eighteen. The symptoms do appear differently in adulthood, such as less hyperactivity and more inattention. In a way, ADHD can be more debilitation for adults because children are expected to have shorter attention spans and be hyper while adults are expected to deal calmly with all the still, boring, and minute details of life. For adults, sitting down to do bills (as an example) is fine for a short amount of time but once that person has reached their limit they get an insatiable mental itch to get up, do something else, be more active. Or perhaps that person has already been distracted by absolutely anything and has now forgotten what they originally sat down to do.

 -All adults with ADHD are hyperactive and bouncing off the walls

I personally do not always have the urge to randomly start running a marathon (although sometimes I do). I once described it to my boyfriend: I drew up a picture from several cartoons that show miniature versions of that person inside their brain running its operation-I said that sometimes having ADHD is like having all those little people running around with their heads on fire. While hyperactivity is and can be part of it, the less visible and more common component is inattentive. In the inattentive type, the person is more likely to struggle with distractions, forgetfulness, poor time management, disorganization, etc. For example, we are notorious for losing our car keys, even if we just had our hands on them and/or they are in our pockets.

spongebob-brain-fire

 -People on stimulant medications are addicts

Ok, first of all I want to say that yes some medications are overprescribed. However, this does not mean that absolutely every single person taking them does not need them and only does so under the advice of drug-happy doctors or because of an addiction. This medication does help people that need it. As someone who needs the medication, I greatly envy those who can make it through a day without it. For myself and many others, getting through a single day is a panic-inducing struggle without help. It is true that if quitting a medication, such as Adderall, the person must step down slowly so not to experience withdrawals, but that is more from chemical issues rather than personal ones. Some do get addicted to these medications, but those are more often illegal users and not what this article is focused on.

 -People with ADHD are drug or alcohol abusers

I have read/heard a couple of times that people with ADHD are more likely to be addicts because they take medication. Actually people who are not medicated or do not receive help with the disorder are the ones more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs (see Note 2).

 -“Everyone” has ADHD these days

Yes technology and our fast-paced lives have decreased our society’s attention span but that does not mean that absolutely every single person has ADHD. Those with the actual disorder have it much worse than being distracted by Facebook or a text message and suffer in their everyday lives. Everyone has problems focusing at some point or other but those with the disorder have it every day. For example, if you’ve ever been sad for a short amount of time that does not mean that you have clinical depression.

 -People with ADHD don’t want to focus and are lazy and/or stupid

I would loooove to be able to sit still, not take medication, not forget things, etc. It’s not that we don’t want to focus, it’s that we can’t. We simply do not have the ability. Some people have said that those with ADHD just need to try harder: would you tell someone with poor eyesight to just see better?

People with ADHD are of above-average intelligence, recent studies show. They certainly aren’t lazy. In fact, many well-known, high-achieving individuals from the past are thought to have had ADHD, including Mozart, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, George Bernard Shaw, and Salvador Dali. The list of high-achieving ADDers in business today includes top executives, such as David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue Airways, and Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinko’s. People with ADHD tend to be higher in intelligence than a lot of the average public. ADHD has nothing to do with intelligence. It is a disorder of regulating attention, and affects how well you can sit there and get stuff done.

 -ADHD isn’t a big deal

People with ADHD struggle in all areas in their lives: professionally, personally, and everything in between. ADHD is also very tough on relationships because of inattention during communication, irritability from having to sit still, frustration with conditions, miscommunication, and/or a lack of experience with or understanding of the disorder.

I’m sure I’m missing some myths-feel free to include them in the comments. Have you had a hard time dispelling these myths? Have you never heard of these?

 Notes and Further Reading

1. A study published in Molecular Psychiatry in 2009 identifying specific ADHD genes: http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/v14/n5/abs/4002139a.html.

2. A study on substance abuse amongst those with ADHD: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18316421.

3. Margarita Tartakovsy, “Nine Myths, Misconceptions, and Stereotypes about ADHD,” Psych Central, http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/06/24/9-myths-misconceptions-and-stereotypes-about-adhd/ (accessed January 30, 2013).

4. “Seven Myths about ADHD Debunked!” ADDitude, http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/873.html (accessed January 30, 2013).

Facts about First Ladies

Published November 1, 2012 by harleyquinnly

Marriage is a partnership between two people. First ladies have provided advice and insight to the Commanders in Chief throughout the entire history of the country. I thought I’d post some fun facts about the first ladies while we’re all so tired of political campaigning and ready for the election to be finished.

Photo of Jackie Kennedy

Abigail Adams

1,200: Number of letters John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, throughout their marriage, often seeking her political insight.
1: Number of months into his presidency that he wrote to her: “I can do nothing without you.” His critics seemed to agree, calling Abigail “Mrs. President.”

1,200: Number of letters John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, throughout their marriage, often seeking her political insight.
1: Number of months into his presidency that he wrote to her: “I can do nothing without you.” His critics seemed to agree, calling Abigail “Mrs. President.”
Martha “Patsy” Jefferson
29:Age of Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph when she began serving as her father’s unofficial First Lady in 1801. Thomas Jefferson’s wife had died 19 years earlier, and he promised her he would never remarry. Patsy’s son was the first baby born in the White House.2:Number of years Andrew Jackson and his wife, Rachel, accidentally lived as bigamists. (Her first husband apparently had permission to file for divorce in 1790 but didn’t.) The Jacksons quietly remarried when her divorce was final in 1794, but their initial illegal marriage became a scandal leading up to the 1828 presidential campaign.20: Days after her husband’s win that Rachel Jackson died. She was buried on Christmas Eve in the white dress she’d bought for the upcoming 1829 inauguration.
Harriet Lane
11: Age at which Harriet Lane was orphaned and requested to be left in the custody of her uncle, Senator James Buchanan. When Buchanan, a bachelor, became president in 1857, the then 26-year-old Lane served as his First Lady.2.5:Inches Lane had her seamstress lower the neckline of her gown for Buchanan’s inauguration. Historians compare her fashion influence to that of Jacqueline Kennedy.
Mary Lincoln
1818:Year Mary Ann Todd was born. As a child, she allegedly declared that she would marry a man who would become president.18:Months after Abraham Lincoln broke off his engagement to Todd that the pair reunited and married. His reason for the break: He didn’t think he was worthy of her.$7,000: Amount that Mary Todd Lincoln went over the White House decorating budget in 1861
Frances Folsom Cleveland
22:First Lady Frances Folsom Cleveland’s age when she married President Grover Cleveland at the White House in 1886. Twenty-seven years her senior, Cleveland had been a longtime friend of her father and had purchased a baby carriage for her shortly after she was born.1886: Approximate year Frances’s image was used in ads without her consent and devoted fans began adopting her clothing and hairstyle. One detractor of President Cleveland quipped: “I detest him so much that I don’t even think his wife is beautiful.”
Eleanor Roosevelt
400,000:Approximate number of troops Eleanor Roosevelt visited on bases and in hospitals in the South Pacific during World War II. She famously said: “A woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water.” Both Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton later paraphrased her quote.5′11″: Eleanor Roosevelt’s height; she’s tied with Michelle Obama for tallest First Lady.
Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson
1:Number of dates Claudia “Lady Bird” Taylor and Lyndon Johnson had been on when he proposed to her in 1934. 10: Number of weeks of courtship conducted almost entirely by letter, telegram, and phone later that Lady Bird agreed to marry Johnson.$10,000: Amount of her inheritance that Lady Bird used to fund her husband’s last-minute congressional campaign in 1937, beginning his political career.
Jacqueline Kennedy
1951:Year that Jacqueline Lee Bouvier worked as the “Inquiring Camera Girl” for the Washington Times-Herald newspaper, photographing and interviewing interesting people on the street. One of her subjects was Richard Nixon.9: Years later that as Jacqueline Kennedy, she took another newspaper gig, writing the syndicated column “Campaign Wife.” Kennedy was pregnant and on doctor’s orders to stay home as her husband campaigned. “I decided one way to keep from feeling left out was to talk through this column to the friendly people all over the country,” she wrote.
Pat Nixon
40: Number of states Pat Nixon traveled to during her husband’s presidency. She also visited an active combat zone in Vietnam.
Betty Ford
2:Number of months into her husband’s presidency that Elizabeth “Betty” Ford learned she had breast cancer and had a mastectomy. She invited journalists to photograph her in her hospital bed, saying, “Maybe if I, as First Lady, could talk about it candidly and without embarrassment, many other people would be able to as well.”55,800:Number of thank-you and get-well cards she received.1975: Year that Ford told McCall’s magazine that journalists had asked her just about everything except for how often she and the president had sex. “And if they’d asked me that I would have told them…as often as possible,” she said. Pro-choice, pro-psychiatry, and pro-face-lift, she was referred to as “No Lady” by more-conservative Republicans, but Ford had a 75 percent approval rating.
Nancy Reagan
12:Number of films actress Nancy Davis appeared in. In Hellcats of the Navy in 1957, she costarred with her husband of five years, Ronald Reagan, the former president of the Screen Actors Guild.1981:Year Nancy Reagan hired celebrity decorator Ted Graber to give the White House family quarters an estimated $1 million makeover.$822,000: Amount of that money that came from tax-deductible donations.
Barbara Bush
1992: Year that a campaign button featuring the faces of First Lady Barbara Bush and Marilyn Quayle read: “Faith, Family, Future.” A Democratic button the same year read: “Washington wants Hillary’s Husband for President.”
Hillary Clinton
20: Estimated number of major news publications that compared Hillary Clinton to Lady Macbeth in 1992.
Michelle Obama
2009:Year Michelle Obama wore a sleeveless dress to her husband’s first congressional address, sparking some controversy and more praise.1,872: Approximate number of workouts, with a nine-minute arm routine each time, that Obama did between 1997 and 2009, according to her personal trainer.

Photo by: Condé Nast Archive

The Eleven Leadership Secrets You’ve Never Heard About

Published October 22, 2012 by harleyquinnly

I have always had conflicting views regarding leadership. I never believed in leadership programs in school (high school or college) as I thought it was something you could not just teach someone, you had to just have “it.” Leadership was a natural talent that someone is born with and can hone and develop as they grow as a person. I also wondered if everyone is a leader, then what is the point? You must have followers to support a leader as no one can do everything on their own.

To me, there are also different types of leaders. The loudest (and sometimes most obnoxious) person in a situation does not automatically mean they are a leader. Sure, there are plenty of extra-extraverted leaders but I have quite a bit of admiration for the quiet leaders. Those quiet leaders take the ego out of it, not boisterously bossing anyone around but stepping up and providing direction, organization, and charisma to solve a problem.

I found this article quite a while ago but found it’s concept fascinating: “great followers follow by leading.” It also features various characteristics that are admirable regardless of leader/follower designation. What do you think?

August Turak, “The 11 Leadership Secrets You’ve Never Heard About,” Forbes Magazine http://www.forbes.com/sites/augustturak/2012/07/17/the-11-leadership-secrets-you-never-heard-about/ (accessed October 22, 2012). The old distinctions between leaders and followers are gone. Great followers follow by leading. Here’s 11 ways to make sure you do just that.

In 1982 I left a great job at MTV: Music Television for what is now the A&E Network for one reason: to work for Jim Collins. A highly successful executive, Collins poured wisdom into my head by the bucket while keeping me in stitches with his big-hearted Irish sense of humor. One day he said:

“Remember Augie, everybody got a boss. The vice president reports to the president and the president reports to the CEO. The CEO reports to the chairman of the board and the chairman reports to his wife. All God’s children got a boss. If you want to be a great leader you must also be a great follower.”

According to Louis Mobley, my mentor and the director of the IBM Executive School, Albert Einstein did far more than reinvent physics. Human beings are no longer just passive cogs in Newton’s mechanistic machine inexorably driven by the iron wheel of cause and effect. Instead we are all conscious agents, thinking for ourselves, just as capable of causing change as being driven by it. Einstein’s universe is a fluid place of feedback loops where cause and effect are interchangeable and often indistinguishable. Does the media lead public opinion or merely reflect it? Do parents produce children or children produce parents? Are consumers hapless victims of marketing or are marketing folks just hapless victims of a fickle consumer?

For leadership, Einstein’s revolution means that the old, neat distinction between leaders and followers no longer exists. Those bright lines between kings and subjects, nobles and serfs, bosses and “workers” are gone. We often switch between leader and follower many times in a single day, and success depends just as much on being a great follower as it does on being a great leader. Great followers follow by leading and here are 11 ways to do just that.

1) Great Followers Seize the Initiative: The days of leaders saying “Jump!” and subordinates asking “How high?” are over. Today’s leader desperately needs followers that bring fresh ideas not passive worker bees waiting to be told what to do. Great followers say, “This is what I think we should do.” not “What do you want me to do?”

2) Great Followers Create their Own Job: Collins taught me a model for every new job I took. Moving quickly I’d identify a quantifiable goal that I could achieve in a reasonably short amount of time. I would then write up a plan for achieving that goal along with a weekly reporting process. But most importantly, I always presented my plan before my boss asked for it. In this way I demonstrated that I could lead myself. The side benefit of creating my own job was getting the autonomy that turns work into fun.

3) Great Followers are Coachable: One time Collins shared a “secret” with me. Rather than lug around a notebook, he folded a sheet of paper into thirds and put it into the breast pocket of his jacket for notes. I faithfully imitated him, but the first thing I did after leaving the company was stop carrying that damn sheet of paper. It may seem that I was just playing the phony to ingratiate myself, but I had a nobler objective. I wanted to demonstrate to Collins that I was coachable. I used a little thing to signal that I was coachable on the big ones.

4) Great Followers Anticipate: One of the most humorous bits from the TV series M*A*S*H is Cpl. “Radar” O’Reilly consistently anticipating Col. Blake and later Col. Potter. They can barely open their mouths before Radar finishes their sentence by assuring them that whatever they are looking for is already done. Like Radar, great followers stay a step ahead of their boss by proactively asking: “If I were my boss what would I want next?” My 23- year -old sales assistant at MTV, Sheri Gottlieb was so good that within weeks 90% of the work that hit my in-box went straight to my out-box with only “Sheri, please handle” for instruction. Soon and without being asked, like Radar, she was intercepting most of my office work before it even hit my desk. Sheri, unsurprisingly, quickly rose from “lowly secretary” to vice president.

5) Great Followers are Great Communicators: If your boss ever has to ask for a status report, you are failing as a follower. Great leaders are great worriers. Great followers preempt worry by proactively communicating in writing. If you do not communicate your boss will naturally worry that you are hiding bad news. Besides, unbidden information is treated far more credibly than information demanded. Poor communicators consistently find themselves on the defensive and perpetually wondering why.

6) Great Followers are Goal Driven: Leaders are busy. The last thing they want to do is “supervise.” Great followers reason backwards: they use future goals to prioritize today’s “activity.” Poor followers reason forward: They react to their in-box and email in the forlorn hope that just staying busy will magically produce results somewhere “down the road.” Your boss is not paying you to “stay busy” or even to “work hard.” He is paying you to strategically deliver on clearly defined goals that materially impact the mission. This is true no matter where you are on the corporate ladder as my assistant Sheri repeatedly demonstrated.

7) Great Followers Show Don’t Tell: I am coaching a young MBA student. At our first meeting I began groping for a quote, and this young man quietly pulled out a neatly tabbed binder with everything I had ever written and quickly pulled out the quote. His preparation demonstrated seriousness far more convincingly than an impassioned speech ever could. I am now investing far more in him. Human beings are wired to value action and discount verbiage, use this trait to your advantage.

8) Great Followers Earn Trust: My number one goal upon taking a new job was getting my boss to relax. The sooner I earned his trust, the quicker he would spend his most valuable asset, time, worrying about something other than me. Louis Mobley said trust relies on promise and fulfillment. People who keep promises can be trusted. Those who don’t cannot. Great followers keep promises. It is critical, especially early in your relationship with your boss, that you deliver on every commitment no matter how trivial.

9) Great Followers Offer Solutions: Any damn fool can turn his problems into problems for his boss. Great followers solve problems. If they cannot they always offer their boss solutions along with the problem.

10) Great Followers are Compassionate: Often referred to as “managing your boss,” great followers are sympathetic to the enormous pressure that leaders must endure. For example, leaders may wait too long to make a change or fill a position. Then they spend months and many thousands of dollars recruiting while Rome burns around them. Once they fill the position they still spend sleepless nights haunted by the chance that they hired the wrong person. If they have, not only must they go through the agonizing process again, but answer to their own unsympathetic boss about their poor decision. Examples like this are the ordinary lot of leadership, and great followers not only empathize but look for ways to reassure their boss that at least one person understands his pain and can be counted on to alleviate it.

11) Great Followers are Loyal: If I could not, in clear conscience, back my boss to the hilt then it was time to change jobs or take an unpaid sabbatical. Great followers take pride in making their boss “look good.” Even if I disagreed in private, it was still my job to present a united front once the decision had been made. I never undermined my boss to curry favor with my own people or played politics at his expense. I only went over his head to let his superiors know how great he was, and I constantly looked for reasons to do just that.

As I hope you’ve noticed, many of the same traits I ascribe to great followers apply to great leaders. Great leaders not only acquire these traits as followers, but model them for their own subordinates. But most importantly their interchangeable nature makes my point: Just as the distinction between noble and serf is a thing of the past so are the distinctions between leaders and followers. Everybody got a boss and I was fortunate to have the privilege of avidly following a number of great teachers and business leaders like Jim Collins. And my efforts to become the best follower I could possibly be paid off handsomely when I finally found myself leading my own company… What do you think makes a great leader?

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