Monday, March 7, 2016

Outlook determines Outcomes

Your outlook of any given situation will, to some degree, determine the outcome of that situation. Whether you are preparing to have an unpleasant meeting with your boss, a challenging conversation with your partner or a difficult pitch to a prospect, your feelings about the situation will shape the result.

Think of everything that changes when you walk into a situation and are expecting a negative outcome. Without a word exchanged, you are already disappointed, you will inevitably pick up on more negative statements than positive, and your responses will naturally be more defensive. Your body language, eye contact and other non-verbal cues will all be tainted by the thoughts you were having before you walked into the room.

Much is made of how important a handshake is when first meeting someone, especially in the context of an interview. But do you really think that a firm handshake is going to leave the desired impact if you have a scowl on your face? Or if your posture gives away your inner fear and anxiety?

Amy Cuddy, Social Psychologist, Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, and author of Presence – Bringing Your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges did a TED Talk in June 2012 titled “Your body language shapes who you are”. In it she talks about power poses, and gives some quick exercises to perform prior to going into an interview. While I believe that your physical state can affect your mental state, the reverse is also very true. When you are disappointed, anxious or just feeling negative, you tend to slump your shoulders, keep your head close to your body and are more likely to fidget with your hands. All of these non-verbal cues are subconsciously picked up by those around you (if they are paying attention, at least).

My suggestion, therefore, is to think positively. Look at every situation and think about the outcome that you want. Even in the most challenging of situations, there is always the potential for a positive outcomes. Let’s take the example of an employee being told that they are being put on probation and will be coached and monitored for the next 6 months. It is obviously normal for this employee to be nervous, anxious and scared. But, if they go into meetings with that attitude, what do you think will happen? They will likely be distracted, focusing on any negative feedback they get, and ultimately not be able to improve their performance and turn the situation around.

Now take that same example, but this time the individual looks at what positive outcomes are possible: This is an opportunity to improve their performance, or simply let others see the hard work they have been putting in all along, and finally get to the bottom of any issues that may exist in the organization. They go into every meeting focusing on this positive outcome with an equally positive outlook. They are able to hear both the praise and the constructive criticism, demonstrate their ability by performing at their absolute best, and ultimately turn the situation around such that they are in a better position than before they were being observed.

The next time you are confronted with a challenging situation, be it a project that you think is going to fail before it starts, a client meeting that you have no faith in, or a challenging conversation with a relative, focus on the positive outcome that you want, and force yourself to have a positive outlook, you’ll be better off for it.

Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 New Year’s Resolutions

It’s 5:38 am, New Year’s eve, and my roommate woke me up about an hour ago when he stepped in, and I haven’t been able to fall back asleep since, so I figured what better time to make New Year’s resolutions than the morning before we all switch calendars.

In 2010 I had one resolution, and it was an utter failure. It was the same one 70% of the population makes: Go to the gym more. This is just an awful, lazy resolution people make. I hate the gym, I know this very well, and I don’t know why I ever bother trying different gyms, or pretend like I enjoy it. Gym fits in somewhere with school in my life. I just don’t like the way it is structured, and I enjoy doing things on my own much more than the planned curriculum. The only reason I made the resolution was that I wasn’t happy with the amount of physical exercise I was getting, and because it was a convenient resolution to make at like 2am on New Year’s day. So this year I’m making my resolutions in advance and making them more realistic. I’m also going to try to keep more than one this year. I figure if I make several, maybe I’ll stick with at least one of them.

  • Blog at least one time a week. In 2010, and most years prior, I’ve been terrible at keeping up this space. I doubt anyone would read this if I didn’t post the links to Facebook each time. I don’t care to build up a huge following, but I do want to write more. The plan is to write a couple of posts whenever I get the urge to write, and then deliver them out once a week, or more if I have a huge cache. My sister is blogging these days, and she puts out one a day. I figure I can do at least one a week.

  • Plan at least 2 meals a week, and make them! Too much ordering in this year, and it would be terribly stupid for me to try to arbitrarily limit my ordering in, so I will do the reverse. Cooking without a plan is a terrible idea, since you won’t shop for anything in particular and will end up with a fridge full of food you can’t combine into anything delicious. So in 2011, I will plan out two meals a week, and prepare them. Hopefully this will also mean less trips to Subway at lunch…I know the guy there will miss me, but he will survive. I hope.

  • Do not step into a gym! Instead, do a fun physical activity at least twice a week. I’ve recently bought skates, and was given a squash racquet. So right away I have no excuse to not do to fun things a week, which will keep me in shape. Because physical fitness is habit forming, as long as I can keep this up for six months, I figure more lofty goals can be accomplished. Baby steps.

  • Maintain and keep a loose budget. I’ve also been interested in tracking my spending, but I’ve never committed to actually keeping a budget. I really like numbers, so the stats that I can glean from this should be fun, and I figure I will learn some interesting things about myself in the process, and save some money for that boat I want.

  • Detach from my cell phone. This is probably the most difficult one to both admit and execute. I’m not sure exactly when this happened, or why, but I’ve started to use my cell phone (and no, I will not refer to it by its name!) as a bit of a social clutch. If I feel uncomfortable in some social situation, or if my mind is wandering, I’ll pop out my cell and do something. It’s just too easy to distract myself from something that is going on, and to not give someone the full attention they deserve. Parts of this are work related, so this resolution also implies that when I am in a social situation, that I am not working. I need to learn to shut off better, and while I know I won’t ever be able to fully turn off my mobile life, I can limit it, and I will.

I can think of a lot more things, but I think this is a good start. Maybe these aren’t really resolutions, but are instead a set of loose goals, either way…the beginning of the New Year is a great time to set some expectations for yourself, and a good starting point for any changes you want to make.

So, watch this space for weekly entries, and I look forward to letting you all know about progress in the New Year.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Feeling the resistance

They came first for my laptop,
and I didn't speak up because it wasn't all that inconvenient

Then they came for my liquids,
and I didn't speak up because I hardly carried any

Then they came for my genitalia,
and I let 'em have it..


I travel. A lot. I've never really complained about the song and dance involved in traveling so much, because I realize that I'm very fortunate to have an amazing job that lets me prance all around the world.

However, I decided today to take a stand against some of the ridiculous policies employed by the TSA. Today I opted out.

What did I opt out of exactly? I opted out of going through the 'back scatter' advanced imaging device. There is plenty of reading you can do on this technology, suffice it to say that it's nickname for those in the know is 'porno scanner'. These machines take fairly graphic images of your entire body, all in the name of security.

My experience opting out wasn't nearly as terrible as this story from a female radio host.

Here's how it went, for me:

Ft Lauderdale Airport (the same one this girl was in, though a different terminal, I suspect), around 6:00pm on a Friday evening (52 minutes ago, to be exact). There was a pretty hefty line to go through security as only one lane open. By the time I got to the back of the line, they decided to open a second line. I go through this second line, and most of the people are simply going through the metal detector. For some reason, when they get to me, they decide to send me through the advanced imaging machine.

I ask the guy if I have an option. He explains to me that this was a harmless and quick procedure, however if I wanted to opt out, I could do so, but it would be uncomfortable, as it involved a full body scan with the back of hands going across all parts of the body, including 'sensitive areas'. Little did I know how many times I would hear that term...

Now they start calling on radios for a 'male assist'. I guess this is the dude whose going to be frisking me. It takes a pretty long time (I have a while before my flight, so I'm not concerned..but I am getting a bit red, because everyone is looking at me, wondering why I'm just standing around). Eventually a woman behind me opens a gate, and I walk with a larger gentleman. Now keep in mind: I have not gone through the x-ray machine either, which I thought was weird.

Now this guy explains that he will be doing a thorough physical examination of my body, including going up my inner thigh (he makes sure to let me know that this is a *NEW* procedure) until he feels resistance. He again informs me that the procedure will involve my 'sensitive' areas.

He starts to give me the hand over and then decides to ask me if I'd like to do this in private. I think this is more for him than me, as I believe he is way more embarrassed about this situation than I am. I decline, and just smile.

So now I'm standing on a little mat, arms out, letting him frisk me. Ok, so far not bad. Lots of people looking at me, wondering what atrocities I must have committed in order to deserve this treatment, when they all got to just go through the metal detector ( I saw one older lady sent through the advanced imaging machine... something I was concerned about as a group of scientists recently released a paper stating that these machines were most dangerous for older women ).

It's clear that this is the first time this guy does this procedure. He's talking to himself going over what he has to do. Now he informs me that he is going to inspect my more 'sensitive areas'. He places his hands on my inner thigh, and swiftly moves up until he hits my pelvic bone. My massage therapist has never gotten so close to my special place. This was..intimate. I started to get a bit more red, for sure.

He continues down my leg, and then asks me to turn around. He now does the inner thigh to pubic bone again, this time from the front. Then he pats my pocket, and asks me to remove my passport and credit cards from my pockets. He then decides that he needs to check my 'sensitive areas' again. Maybe he forgot that he did it once already, or maybe he was just really enamored with my fun bits. I don't know.

Finally the experience was over. It took maybe 10 minutes longer than if I had gone through the machine. It was a bit embarrassing and much more personal than I was comfortable with. However, given how much I fly, I won't have to worry about glowing in the dark anytime soon.

One of the reasons I did this was as a bit of a protest. I realize that if everyone opts out, the lines for security will be impossible. They simply cannot staff the airports enough to handle every single person. They want to make it as unpleasant as possible, because this is the cheaper/faster option, and it gives everyone a warm feeling since they have the impression that everything is secure.

Meanwhile this guy managed to get through security with a fake boarding pass, Osama tshirt, scissors and a knife...still feel safe?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The e-mail that launched my professional career.

I'm a month late in posting this, but three years ago (minus one month and one day) I sent an e-mail to one of my computer science teachers @ Dawson:

Thanks a lot for the link sir.

In other, completely unrelated queries, I was wondering if by chance
you had any job leads? My stage ends in approximately two weeks, and
from the looks of it (aka: the manager told me ), I won't be getting a
contract. Not for lack of trying or lack of performance, matter of
fact he told me he wished he could keep me and any company that got a
hold of me would be lucky, just so happens Pratt And Whitney is less
in the business of luck, and more in the business of ... well engines
I guess.

Point of the matter is that I really don't want to go back to serving
yogurt for the next year plus (I've postponed my acceptances to
university), and would really love to work in the computer field. I
was born to do this stuff, and I love every minute of it of the work
that I do, even when it's drastically complicated for no reason (Ala
Pratt). So...if you happen to come across anything you think I'd be
well suited for, I'm all ears.

(And yes, I know all about the Employment guy at Dawson..but I've
dealt with him from the other end (as a potential employer for
T.C.B.Y., on behalf of my cousin) and I just don't see a lot of
companies running to him when they need someone).

Thanks ever so much,
Benjamin Baril

Following that e-mail my teacher sent me two job leads which were really small time. I pressed him for something more serious and he set me up with an interview at IBM...and the rest is history.

Looking at this in another light: I would be graduating this month, had I decided to go to university instead of directly into the job field. I can't say for sure, and I will never really know, but I think I made the right call.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The last day

I'm in San Jose about 24 hours away from presenting a demo that myself and a great team of my coworkers have spent the last two weeks building. It's been a pretty great ride so far. I got to spend a week in Boston with the team and be in the same building with people I often chat with online or talk to over VOIP.

Here in San Jose I did as I always do: Visit as many American restaurants that I've never been to as I can. Yesterday knocked two off the list:

International House of Pancakes or IHOP - I don't think a breakfast has ever quite left me with a feeling of total defeat quite like the one I felt after visiting my first IHOP. I ordered the country omelet without the sour cream (who needs sour cream on an already quite filling omelet!?). The omelet included hash browns some ham and cheese. It was deliciously light and tasty. It also came with three regular pancakes, though that wasn't quite different enough for me, so I switched them to the strawberry and banana pancakes. Wow. Definitely the best pancakes ever. Bar none. I'm debating going back today to have some more. In case my words didn't make you salivate, here is some photo evidence:

That brings us to our next meal (literally) which was at In-N-Out Burger. I had never heard of this restaurant before and the name alone was enough to make my stomach try to run for cover. Before arriving the guy who was taking me there said to me "You better google the secret menu before you come, otherwise you will have 5 choices, that's it". Puzzled I cracked out my iPhone and searched for the Not-So-Secret Menu. Animal Style? Double Double? What was I getting myself into?! Well it turns out I was getting myself into a taste sensation craze. The place does one thing, and one thing alone: Burgers. Just like my co-worker said, I was presented with a few choices when I walked in (basically burger, burger and fries, burger, fries and a drink). I ordered myself a Double Double Animal Style with fries and a cola (no smoothy...I couldn't imagine telling Britt that I had a smoothy on top of all of this!).

The meal arrived and I was petrified. Wouldn't you be?

But after the first bite, I was in heaven. Now here was a burger with style. Grilled onions, pickles, tomatoes hand-leafed lettuce and a mustard-cooked patty. Yum.

Well, all this writing about food has left me hungry. Only 15 minutes until Ryan gets up and we can get on to our next breakfast adventure.

And oh, as for the demo I'm giving...well I've got 9 hours of work staring me in the face later today, but I'll let ya'll know how it goes.

Monday, January 5, 2009

No son of mines plays Oregon Trail like that.

By far one of the funniest things I've read in quite some time.

Listen, son, we need to have a talk. This isn't going to be easy for either of us. You are not my son. I'm sorry, I know this will come as a blow to you. But the fact is, no son of mine plays Oregon Trail like you do.

Read the rest...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

iPhone 3G Unlocked

Thanks to the wonderful team at the iPhone Dev Team I now have a fully functional iPhone 3G running on the latest firmware that is unlocked, and jailbroken. I can use it to tether to my laptop so while I'm in the US I can have free internet, I can make calls in the US and Canada with my respective SIM cards (once I find / replace my US one) and I can sync it to iTunes regardless what SIM I have in it.

Good job Dev team, and thanks for all the hard work!