Tag Archives: character

Being Greatful

If you ever get the chance to hear Dr. Gary Krahn speak, take it. Not only is he a great speaker, he inspires greatness. In fact, his vision as head of La Jolla Country Day School is to “inspire greatness for a better world.”

The first time I heard Dr. Krahn speak was at an education conference this spring. I was riveted. It was no yawner of a lecture. He asked us to think about the world and what was important in it. He shared his experiences building a university in Afghanistan and his experiences with the challenges women face in attaining an education there. He talked to us about how the brain is wired to see what it wants to see and challenged us to check our biases and be more watchful of what information we are taking in.

This was a conference on K-12 education. Dr. Krahn raised it from an ordinary, acceptable experience to a great one. He tends to do that.

He talked about greatness more recently at a Town Hall Meeting at La Jolla Country Day School. In unveiling the new strategic direction of the school, he explained that greatness does not come by accident. You have to be deliberate in your choices and actions to be great.

In Dr. Krahn’s words:

Research has shown that the most successful people on the planet were not smarter than their counterparts in their field. They did, however, have four distinctions.


  • They encountered advantages along the way in the form of access and mentors.
  • They were raised in an environment to question “what is” and challenge the norm.


  • They had a stronger work ethic.
  • They were people of character.

Two things stand out to me here. First, you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room to be great. Second, it takes hard work to be great. Not only does it require a strong work ethic, but it involves being a person of character. That means doing the right thing and not being lazy and slipping up—also hard.

For many of us, greatness in the big sense is too much work and sacrifice. And that’s okay! But we can endeavor to be the best that we can be and strive for greatness in our own way. Being great doesn’t necessarily mean being one of the most successful people on the planet. It can take the form of being a great parent or boss, or being a great programmer or team player, or even a great friend.

In the coming weeks, you will hear a lot about being grateful. I challenge you to be greatful.

The Art of Turning Someone Down

disappointmentDo you agree with this? It’s harder to turn someone down than to be turned down.

By the way people communicate these days, it certainly seems true. Take, for example, the number of times you’ve emailed someone and they’ve failed to reply. Have you done that to people too? Face it: it’s easier to say nothing than to say “No thank you.”

But how does it feel to be ignored?

Not good. When you’re ignored you don’t know why. Is it that the person is really busy? Did they not get your message? Were you not important enough for them to even read it? Did they consider it and decide not to reply? Did they consider it and forget to reply? Continue reading The Art of Turning Someone Down

Tough Love for Millennials

tough loveDear Millennials,

You’re not the only ones who’ve tried to get jobs in a recession. You’re not the only ones who’ve had college loans to pay off. You’re not the only ones to want to live in a fancier apartment than you can afford and have a better job than you can get.

The difference is you’re blaming your problems on everyone else instead of taking responsibility to fix them.

So what if it’s not your fault. People are born and raised with all sorts of disadvantages. Being privileged is hardly heartrending.

Stop whining and work. No more excuses. Just do it.

Find a job and take it. Even if it’s not the job you dreamed of. Even if it’s boring. Get out there and earn some money and start paying off your college loans. And while you’re at it, live an affordable lifestyle. Budget yourself so you can pay for your expenses and make loan payments at the same time.

Don’t live above your means. You can’t eat caviar on a beef jerky budget. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

I really do love you!


The Wisdom of Wisdom: 4 Ways for You to Wise Up

The Thinker“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” –William Shakespeare, As You Like It

  • You don’t need to be smart to be wise. In fact, some of the best wisdom I have received is from people who I wouldn’t call particularly intelligent. Similarly, some of the most intelligent people I know lack wisdom.

“If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” –Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan wasn’t known for his intelligence. It was his talent that made him a superstar. His wisdom came from years and years of practicing and from both his successes and failures. Michael Jordan played a total of 1,072 games in his 15 NBA seasons, not including the playoffs. He won 706 and lost 366. Michael Jordan knew about overcoming obstacles.

  • You don’t need to be old to have wisdom, although older people tend to have more wisdom than younger ones. Some young people are surprisingly wise and some older ones are remarkably unaware.

One day I was in a karate lesson. I was feeling a little blue and it showed. The 20-year-old instructor asked me what was wrong. I said that everyone was making New Year’s resolutions and I didn’t have any that I felt passionate about making. He reflected for a moment and said, “Perhaps what you need is not a resolution, but a resolve.” He took me completely by surprise because he was right on the mark—and he was only half my age!

  • Wise people have the gift of knowing what is outside of their control. That in itself is worth paying attention to. No matter how smart or talented you are, if it’s outside your control, you can’t control it.

“It is our attitude toward events, not events themselves, which we can control. Nothing is by its own nature calamitous — even death is terrible only if we fear it.” –Epictetus

In his book Being Mortal, Atul Gawande imparts innumerable pieces of wisdom about what is in and outside of our control as we age. In fact, it is precisely control that is most important to us as we age. We want control over our freedom to choose. Current methods of attending to aging people tend to take that away. No, we don’t have control over aging and dying, but we may be able to control to a certain degree how we live as we age and die.

“The reason many people in our society are miserable, sick, and highly stressed is because of an unhealthy attachment to things they have no control over.” –Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

  • Don’t ignore wisdom. Have you ever heard the expression “history repeats itself?” Sadly it’s true and it’s mostly because we ignore the wisdom of people who warn us not to.

We like to think it won’t happen to us or we’re smarter, more capable than the people who tried and failed before us. While that may be true, if we don’t listen to the reasons why things turned out the way they did before, we won’t learn and do it differently.

“There are times when the world is rearranging itself, and at times like that, the right words can change the world.” –Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game

Trying Something New? Deal with the Discomfort

uncomfortable business peopleExperiencing the discomfort of trying something new is not fun. Surely you can think of numerous times you have avoided doing something because you didn’t want to feel the discomfort. For example, it is not easy to fire someone. It’s heart wrenching to discipline your child. It’s scary to go away to college. We sometimes find ways around doing what we ought to do to avoid the discomfort.

We ignore bad behavior, invite others along to accompany us, or decide we didn’t really want to do it anyway. We conclude the person’s performance wasn’t really that bad or choose to go to college closer to home. By doing this, we limit ourselves (and others) to being dependent and accomplishing less.

It takes courage to break through the discomfort. Bill Treasurer describes three primary types of courage in his book, Courageous Leadership. One of them is particularly important in this context: “try courage” (Treasurer 2011). We need courage to try new things. It may be scary, but we need to be brave to be independent.

“Courage is acting on what is right, despite being afraid or uncomfortable, when facing situations involving pain, risk, uncertainty, opportunity, or intimidation.”  —Bill Treasurer

How do you develop the courage to try new things? I know a child who is afraid to try new foods. She’s more afraid than the average person. She will avoid it if at all possible, even if it means missing out on a treat or a meal. When the consequences get so grave or the incentives so great, she might venture out to taste something new. She starts by portioning off the smallest morsel she can possibly get onto a fork without it falling through the cracks. Then she sniffs it. She slowly counts to ten, makes sure no one is looking, and trepidatiously puts it in her mouth. She then chews for what seems like an immeasurable number of times before swallowing. It is certainly a sight to see. The fear and discomfort she experiences from trying a new food are impressive. It’s easy to see why she avoids it. Yet if she doesn’t try new foods she’ll have to live in a very small and lonely world.

For some people, trying new things is invigorating. That’s probably why the Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans jelly beans from the Harry Potter series have been successful. There’s always someone who is willing to try the earwax flavor. There is a point, however, where we all experience a certain level of discomfort. There is no easy way around it. Get used to it.

The first step to building independence is to get out of your comfort zone. If you are used to being taken care of by someone (parents, manager, spouse, etc.), that will mean to start taking risks and making decisions on your own. When you feel yourself staying inside your comfort zone, ask yourself what you can do to get out of it.

How I’ve Kept It REAL

Joanie speaking at book release party smaller

Someone asked me the other day how I maintain confidence and treat others so respectfully at the same time. She didn’t say it exactly like that, but the gist of the message was how come I’m not an arrogant snob? Without even thinking, I blurted out, “I work hard at staying true to my values.” Fortunately, one of my values is authenticity, so speaking without thinking didn’t trip me up.

But it’s true. To the best of my ability, I embody the values I teach others. Fortunately, being aware of my imperfections is one of those values. I in no way pretend to be perfect at any of the REAL Life values, but I strive to do the best I can. And that’s all any of us can do.


Someone else said to me just this week that I seem perfect. That shocked me on several levels. First is because it is so far from the truth that I didn’t even know how to respond. The second was that I was so curious how she could have that impression of me. What air was I giving off?

The only thing I could think of was that my resilience was showing through. At least to her, I was staying engaged and maintaining a positive attitude. Then again, she hasn’t seen me at 6:30 in the morning, or when I have really gotten frustrated or down. I haven’t known her that long and I don’t see her that often.

All this is to say that things aren’t always what they seem. Keeping it REAL is hard work, every day. I don’t pretend it’s easy. I have been through the test on all four components of REAL Life over the past several months (not to mention my whole life) as I published my first book. Trust me, I’ve had to overcome numerous obstacles, receive countless corrections, flex in more ways than I had ever conceived of, and work independently as a writer and promoter of my book. It is no easy task.

But that is the whole point: real life is not easy. We need to be resilient, empowered, authentic, and limber to succeed in life, no matter what we do.

9 Success Factors at Work

man with business cardA college education is important, but learning from real life experiences is more.

Fifty executives at a large pharmaceutical company went through an assessment center to help the company develop its talent pipeline. They were assessed on sixteen competencies, or success factors. “Technical expertise” (what you learn in college) was just one factor; being socially agile, building strategic relationships, influencing others, maintaining composure under pressure, and driving change were among the fifteen other critical factors that are not taught in college.

Here are nine real life factors that typically contribute to an employee’s success in a job.

  • Leadership, courage, and decision-making ability
  • Social agility, being a team player, and building relationships
  • Communication and influence
  • Creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurialism
  • Planning and execution
  • Facilitating and adapting to change; resilience
  • Drive for results
  • Self-awareness and self-development
  • Integrity and organizational values

Joanie teaching at NU 3How do we learn these skills, if not in college? By taking on responsibility, venturing into unchartered ground, and taking time out to reflect.

What are some actions that you are taking to develop these skills? I’d love to hear your comments.

man on computerThe factor I’m learning the most on right now is communication and influence. I’ve broadened my reach to social networking. Learning how to communicate on the internet and how to be heard are two important skills that I certainly didn’t learn in college!

New Year New Book!

Flying without a Helicopter Book Cover finalQuestions and Answers from Joanie Connell

When is the book coming out?

While copies of Flying without a Helicopter: How to Prepare Young People for Work and Life are currently available on Amazon, the book will be officially released on Friday, January 23rd at a Book Release Celebration in San Diego. The social media book launch will kick off the week of February 23rd. A free webinar will be held as a part of that launch. If you would like to join the book launch, please sign up.

What motivated you to write the book?

People often ask me why I wrote the book. The answer is I wrote Flying without a Helicopter because it needed to be written. Managers kept coming to me with frustrations about how to handle the new generation of workers. At the same time, many of them had 20-something kids moving back home because they couldn’t make it their own. The connection had to be made: raising children in overprotected and over-structured environments creates adults who rely on others to solve their problems and keep them happy. Ask anyone who’s been there and they will tell you it’s not a good place to be.

What is the main message and who should read it?

The main message of the book is that parents need to let kids develop independence and resilience to make it in the real world. The book is for parents, managers, educators, and youth themselves. It focuses on developing resilience, independence, creativity, and communication skills and is written from the perspective of the workplace.

What is a book release celebration?

The Book Release Celebration is a party to celebrate the completion of the book and thank everyone who helped make it happen. There will be live music and a photography exhibit, as well as food, wine, and beer. Of course, there will be books for sale, as well as signing, but the main focus of the evening is to have fun. There will be raffles for door prizes throughout the evening. The event is free, but, to reduce waste, we are asking people to bring a cup for wine or beer or support Kill the Cup by purchasing a reusable cup for only $5. Please join us at 3rd Space on Friday, January 23rd, from 6:30-9:30 p.m. for an enjoyable evening with a celebratory vibe. RSVP on Face Book or contact us at Flexible Work Solutions.

What is a social media book launch?

A social media book launch can be many things, but in this instance it is an intense week of promoting the book across social media platforms and online stores. There will be many blogs, articles, and book reviews shared throughout the week, and many promotions will be offered to encourage book sales, shares, tweets, blogs, and so on. It is definitely a week to stay tuned for chances to win prizes, get deals on books, coaching and speaking engagements, and learn useful ways to build resilience, creativity and other workplace skills.

Generation 2 Nice?

By Joanie Connellsmiling young woman

In the recent New York Times article titled Generation Nice, author Sam Tanenhaus talks about how nice the Millennial generation is. While I agree, I simultaneously wonder if we all might suffer from the Millennials being too nice. In other words, might we be better off if they toughened up a bit?


The movement to use culturally inclusive and gender-neutral language (a.k.a. “PC movement”) started at about the time of the Millennials. A huge amount of good has come out of being inclusive. But, like so many trends in the U.S., people seem to think “if a little is good, a lot must be better.” We’ve gone from avoiding discrimination to encouraging fragility.

Banning words like “stupid” at school, including gossip as a bullying behavior that can result in a call to Child Protective Services, and suspension for pointing a finger like a gun are, well, stupid.

I in no way condone hurtful behaviors and am in complete agreement that action needs to be taken when life threatening orfragile extreme cases occur. But mild bullying starts right at home—with siblings—and continues through school to work, to international politics. Recent accounts of Putin and Kim Jong-un’s bullying are prime examples. If we protect our kids by banning any and all bullyish behaviors entirely in schools, our kids will grow into fragile, helpless adults. And where does that leave our nation in a few years? Do we really want softies competing for global market share and standing up to nuclear threats?


Obviously, we want a nation full of do-gooders. But people don’t always have the opportunity to reject corporate life and “riskily pursue their own ventures” by “working out of their parents’ basement.” Thesmiling selfie Millennials—or more precisely the middle class Millennials—choose where to shop and work because they can. They have cushions (i.e. parents) to fall back on if they opt out of a job offer from a profitable enterprise. They have parents to subsidize their sustainable, organic, local vegetarian eating habits. It’s great to force business in America to be socially responsible. I am all for that. But I wonder if allowing the Millennials to choose to be socially responsible by living off their parents is the right way to go. I mean, how socially responsible is that really?

LESS IS BETTERstrong compassionate man

It’s great to be nice, but too nice can be a detriment. It may hinder not only the Millennials, but also the rest of our society as Millennials move into leadership positions. It might be better for Millennials to strive to be a strong and compassionate generation.