Learn from the Little People

(On Tuesdays, we would like to take the time to remind the big companies that all their highly paid executives are not worth one good line level employee).

The inspiration for this series comes from an experience I had a few years ago. I was at an event and the speaker was telling us how her mentor refused to listen to her ideas because she was broke. That statement stayed with me for years. As the speech progressed, the point was that we must remain teachable. Then we heard how we have nothing to contribute because we don’t have any success. Later we found out said mentor stole her company right from under her.

The story underscores an interesting dynamic.  Many CEO’s and high level management executives refuse to listen to those that actually deal with the public. They spend thousands of dollars on studies and market analysis and they rarely use the one resource that has more than enough information for them, the line employee. Today, I will use the example of the retail store, especially since they seem to be disappearing by the hour these days.

You walk into the store looking for something and someone like me says hello and asks if I can help  you. Two seconds into the conversation, I know we don’t have what you want. I know the discount store in the corner has what you need and I can even tell you where it is in said store. The average manager frowns on that behavior. They think the better option is to try to sell them something else. So does upper management. I happened to talk to customers all day long (in one of my past lifes). I know that if they see me as a problem solver, they will always come to me first and then I can make sure that we have what they need. I also shoot an email to let management know what the customer wants in store (they don’t want to wait for it to arrive in the mail because they need it the same day). Said email goes ignored because the VP of (Insert ridiculous title here) has a study that says that customers are willing to wait two to five days for most items.

The study is wrong. For people like me who order most things online, waiting for an item is what we are willing to put up with, not what we would like. If I go to the trouble of getting dressed, starting my car and driving to your location, I want the item now.  Seems simple enough. It is, as they say, common sense. It is not common sense to these executives.

So, if you are the store management, what is the solution? For every survey that to send to a customer, how many surveys are you sending to your employees? Incentivize  it as you wish if you want more of them to answer. Offer them a raffle where the winner gets a $25 gift card to the coffee shop of their choice. Better yet, give them a $25 gift card to your store so that you get your money back. You can get so much more and better information if you ask your sales staff what does the public want. It will cost you very little and the earnings based on that advice more than cover the price of a few gift cards.

If you are wondering what any of this has to do with the story of the speaker I first mentioned, it is this. Rarely do people in high places take into account the knowledge of the little people. The point of her story was that only successful people have good ideas. I disagree. There are many reasons why we should always listen to all kinds of people. They might have been successful and then lost it all. Maybe they never found the way to do it. Perhaps the reason why they are talking to the CEO is because they want a partner to make their dream a reality. The important thing is to acknowledge that good ideas are not only deposited in the brains of already successful people. Unless they inherited it, most people started from the bottom and built their way to the top. Great ideas are everywhere if you are willing to put your ego aside and learn from the little people.

If you have a story about a different industry where you see how management is missing a great opportunity to improve their company, leave us your story below.

The Life Saving, Soul Crushing Power of a Job

(This is a first of a series of posts that will concentrate on the topic of depression and mental illness. I am not a mental health expert or a doctor. This is not meant as advice. These are observations I have made during my life as a lifelong survivor of depression. I cannot be called an expert because I don’t have a degree on the topic. I consider myself an expert on my own depression since I’ve been living with it for almost 40 years. I hope if nothing else, reading these every Monday will remind you that you are not alone and there is no reason why you can’t start your own blog, write a book, get a great job or start your own company while dealing with any type of mental illness).

This message is for you, beautiful, creative and tortured soul. It is important that we talk about work and how it helps us stay alive, even on days when we don’t want to get out of bed.

J.O.B. or Just Over Broke is what you do in the hopes of paying the bills so that you can spend your spare time doing the things that you truly love. If you are an artist or enjoy any type of creative activity, the job often pays for your “hobby”. I write hobby that way because you and I both know it is much more than that.

People who live with depression and have to get a job face an interesting challenge that those around us don’t understand. You need a job to pay your bills. Your craft, whichever form it takes, keeps you alive. The dilemma with having a job is that while it is a soul crushing endeavor that makes you regret getting out of bed in the morning, it is the one normal thing in your life that you can count on. For people like you and me, a job is a little bit of certainty and structure in an uncertain world. We can go to work and fake contentment for the 8 to 10 hours we are there. We are often tired when we get off work because of all the energy we spent pretending to be “normal”. In fact, more often than not, our friends and family don’t even know that we live with depression and/or anxiety, because we make it look like everything is alright.

The energy we spend and then need to recoup, causes us another dilemma. When do we do what we love when we are always so tired? If you are like me, sometimes it takes months. Take this blog. It is a labor of love for me. On this blog I talk about living your dreams, your next chapter, your goals, all those things that make me happy. Writing makes me happy. Look at the date on the last post. It has been two months since I wrote a post. I had a project I was working on and I had no energy for anything else. So how do we deal with that?

If you are one of those lucky people who can handle your depression with the perfect dose of medicine, diet and exercise, congratulations. If you are like me and medications make you even more anxious or depressed or your doctor has not found the perfect combination of medications, or you just don’t like medications, I will share what works for me most of the time. Now keep in mind, I am not consistent. Sometimes I do the right things and sometimes it defeats me for a moment. This is a reality of life that we must understand. Even with medications, depressions and anxiety are sometimes hard to avoid. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you fall. It is OK. Just make sure that you get back up.

1) Exercise – even when you are tired. This is one of the hardest things for me to do. I admit that when I do it, it might not end depression, it does take the edge off. Experts believe it is because of the endorphins. I honestly don’t care why it works. When I go for a walk, most of the time reluctantly, I feel more energy after. It might not make me happy in and off itself. It does give me the energy to tackle other tasks during the day and maybe even indulge in doing the things I love.

2) Eating – whether you are a vegan, a carnivore or anything in between. There are certain foods that give you energy and there are some foods that give you a temporary high. Stay away from the temporary high because the lows are much deeper when you yo-yo like that. In my case, I love fruits. Some people think that is too much sugar. I personally believe there is a difference between sugar that already exists in the food and sugar that we make for candy and other goodies. My downfall? Ice cream and chocolate. Some chocolate is good, especially if it is dark. Too much of a good thing and we go back to that yo-yo thing. Find those foods that keep you even-tempered, those that give you energy and stick to more of those. Take the foods that make you feel bloated and tired an avoid those.

3) Sleep – not too much, avoid not enough. I do have this bad habit of taking naps that last too long and then I feel like the day is wasted. I discovered a while back that a 20 minute nap is ideal for me. It lets my eyes rest and recover and I don’t wake up groggy and in a bad mood. Find what works for you.

4) Study your patterns. I have spent too many years living with this condition. One of the good things about not been able to depend on medication is that I can figure out the patterns of behavior. What I mean by this is that I can sense when depression is beginning. Now, if you are on medication, this might be a little harder. Then again, if you are on medication, you should not have severe depression and if you do, you might want to let your doctor know. Knowing when depression is starting does not make me immune to it. It does help me deal with it more effectively and I have noticed that they don’t last as long.

5) Have a group that has your back. This group does not have to be big. Two or more people is a group. The important thing is that one or more of your friends are the kind of people who you can vent to. This is the whole point of support groups. If you don’t trust any of your friends, join a support group in your area or online. In my case, I have learned recently that everyone around me needs to know what I am going through. I spent too many years been called lazy or unfocused. My personal favorite is unmotivated. Interestingly enough, the worst insults come from people who live with depression themselves. It’s what I call the bully mentality. You are feeling crappy so your recourse is to make someone around you feel as bad as you. Pay attention on social media to the trolls and you will see it. Rarely does a happy person call someone else fat, ugly or anything else. They might debate points of view but they never get personal. This does not happen with bullies and trolls. The first thing they will resort to is name calling. Don’t take it personally. This is a function of their own self-esteem. Always look for people who will lift you up.

6) Volunteer – I know you are tired after spending 20 to 40 hours surrounded by people. That was necessary. What I am telling you is to find a non-profit that works in something you believe in, like rescuing animals, or an abuse shelter or feeding the poor. Spend a couple of hours helping somebody else. It will not cure you. It will help you feel how important you truly are and how much we need you here on this Earth right now.

These are just some suggestions of what you can do to improve your symptoms. Common sense dictates that you should go to your doctor and not follow any suggestions without consulting the experts. If you do something that makes you feel better, leave it in the comments below so that we can help someone else.

I found this cartoon on Facebook this weekend and it is a great visual. Unfortunately, I have no idea who did it so that I can give them credit. If you know, leave it in the comments below so that I can correct this last statement.