Monthly Archives: August 2016

Little Things

Prompt: Little Things. 8 minutes. No editing. No stopping. No worrying.

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The first thing that comes to mind is my little Clifford. Little Clifford came with a Big Clifford, but Big Clifford didn’t have the same appeal that the little one did.

He used to have three or so hairs that stuck out of his head but they got cut when I went through the hair-cutting phase that every child seems to go through at some point. There is something about little stuffed animals, Beanie Baby size, that you can just hold perfectly when you’re little, they fit in the crook of your neck and under your arm and as you grow up they still kind of fit in those places.

Little Clifford was given to me by the only person close to me in my life who died before they were supposed to. I don’t remember him giving them to me but I remember being told he was the one who gave them to me so real or not Little Clifford will always remind me of Doug Chase.

He was the strongest man I knew. My dad was strong too but Doug was taller than dad and worked with his hands building houses so that seemed to make him automatically the strongest person I knew. He took us on rafting trips and made sure we felt safe. He always kind of had calloused hands and he could eat lots of donuts for breakfast because of his fast metabolism. These are the kinds of things that feel important when you’re a little kid. He also liked dogs like I liked dogs. Even though he was so big and I was so small I felt like he was my friend and we were equal.

He was tall and strong and always around in the time in my life when I was little and it was comforting to have someone around who was tall and strong. He seemed to be my dad’s best friend and that made me love him even more because I liked that my dad had a best friend and I got to hang out with him and my dad at the same time and we’d go camping and fishing and even though I really hated fishing after the first time I did it I still kind of liked the idea and I liked that him and my dad would catch really big fish that I would refuse to look at because they scared me–mind you this wasn’t necessarily when I was little because dead fish still scare me. The eyes, ew.

So this man, who had always been so strong and tall was diagnosed with cancer one day. And he was still strong and tall for quite a while but then one day, laying in a bed he seemed very small, very pale but even then he was so brave and strong to me and while I was sad then seeing him leave us and while I’m sad now as I write this when I think about Doug I feel those feelings of feeling safe and brave because he was always so strong and tall and when I was around him I felt like I was too.

It’s hard to remember specific memories, it just feels like he always there as I grew up.

And over a year ago when I got married I felt he was there. I had always imagined he would be at the important days in my life and he was. There are few things I have felt as strongly as feeling his presence in that moment in a day that was full of nervousness and new life changes and a decision almost as scary as catching a fish, he was there, helping me feel brave, which leads me to believe he’s always there. Maybe even more so than he could be if he was still alive.

Dumbledore got it right, those we love never truly leave us.

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Billboards.

8 minutes, no stopping, little thinking, billboards.

Oh man, when I think about billboards all I can think about is all those Cavalia ones. Did you know that billboards stay up until there is a new one to replace it, I mean, it makes sense, they don’t want a bunch of blank billboards and it’s more effort than it’s worth, but that means that we may see those Cavalia billboards for a long time despite the fact that it’s moved on to Portland and maybe even on past that.

We used to visit Utah a lot growing up because my dad’s family lived here and my mom’s parents lived in Wyoming. I remember the first time I saw I-15 I was actually sort of enchanted by the all the billboards, which is amazing because most people, including myself sometimes, find them so ugly. We didn’t have as many billboards where I grew up, too many trees I guess.

So seeing all the billboards was exciting. I wanted to read them all. I love criticizing their advertising techniques. Whether they make sense or whether they have too much information to process as you speed past.

It reminds me of Fahrenheit 451 where they’ve increased the speed limit so much that they have to stretch out the billboards so they can be read. That book is crazy. I haven’t read it in a long time.

When I came to school at BYU I remember the drive from SLC to Provo and all the billboards. They sort of added to the excitement of a new beginning. Provo looks nothing like my hometown, where I had lived my whole life up to that point.

Now, having been here for more or less eight years give-or-take some summers, a mission, and a study abroad, I miss trees. I miss them a lot. But because of my initial feelings towards billboards I still love them. The drive from Provo to SLC is justifiably one of the ugliest commutes and also one that according to the traffic signs seems to be fairly deadly but it is still something I like. It reminds me of some place that was new and exciting but is also a second home.

I Don’t Remember

“Day 2: “I don’t remember” : Same rules as last time. Write “I don’t remember” at the top of your page. Eight minutes, no stopping, don’t think about it too much–let yourself go and whatever shows up on the page shows up. No censoring or editing.”

Prompt via anndeeellis.com

I don’t remember a lot of things. I try and think about being five years old and I don’t know. I remember my mom throwing me a circus themed birthday party but I can’t remember which birthday it was exactly.

My dad juggled apples. He would take a bite out of them while he was juggling and I thought it was super funny. We made masks out of paper plates. Tigers, lions, and elephants. When I was little I always wanted to be an animal instead of a person when I played or when it came time to pick a costume for Halloween.

I feel like I have one memory from each year at school but it’s harder to keep track of memories before school.

First grade I remember our teacher was sweet and always smelled like creamy coffee. I remember I threw up and she rubbed my back for me until my mom came. I remember one time someone someone stole lunch boxes and we had to figure out who it was. I had a hand-me-down Duck Tales lunch box and my friend had a Lion King one and I was sort of jealous but not that jealous because Lion King was/is my favorite  movie but her lunch box had some sappy image from the Can You Feel the Love Tonight scene. Our teacher would give us fireball candies and we always wanted to do whatever it took to earn them but then they’d be too hot for us so we would run them under water until they turned white (because the red candy coating would come off) I’m sure it was a huge sticky mess.

In second grade I was put in a special reading group with two other people. Because we were better readers and they didn’t really have a program for it, so we were supposed to go off by ourselves and read a book and write down any words we didn’t understand so we could talk about it later. We giggled as we discussed writing “buttocks” on the list to see if they would tell us what it means. We were reading some book where someone got shot in the buttocks with an arrow.

In third grade our class hamster died. I met my first new best friend Hillary. All my other friends had been since school started so there was something special about making a new best friend. When our hamster died we each put on a rubber glove and got to pet him one last time before we buried him in the courtyard. Can you imagine who came up with the idea of letting us pet him one last time but they were worried that the newly dead hamster had already collected enough diseases that we needed a glove to do it.

Our student teacher liked Elmo and had really long fake nails that would sometimes scratch on the chalkboard if the chalk she was using was to short. I was in a special group for math but it was bigger than just two other people. I really liked doing timed tests for multiplication. I really liked math.

At some point in school I was told I couldn’t draw in the margins of my paper. I’m still not sure what margins are for then.

Fourth grade we drew our own Pokemon cards. Our elementary school was a hospital at one point and it was more tall than it was wide so each year you got to move higher up in the building, except for third grade when we were in the basement. It flooded one time and we had to hop over the water. The bathroom had penguins painted in it but was still kind of scary to me.

Fifth grade we were on the top floor. Our teacher was an artist. My mom made sure I got her because my brother had had her before, I think. She taught us how to draw a hummingbird. You draw the eye and then connect the beak. We had to walk up and down so many stairs to get to lunch or the library or recess.

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What Training My Dog Taught Me About Managing People

We have been training our dog, Ru, with the trainers at Maligator Kennels for a few months now and I’ve learned a lot about working with and motivating dogs. In doing so I’ve learned many things that I think apply to working with and motivating humans.

First, I’ll talk about the most obvious one to me: If you reward people when they do good things, they will want to keep doing good things. When I’m teaching my dog to heel I am dropping treats down her throat (she’s not much for chewing when it’s good stuff) every few steps that she walks alongside me. I’m telling her in a happy voice how amazing she is the whole time. As the dog gets used to the task you don’t have to give treats as often.

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Now, if someone gave me a Starburst and a compliment every time I did something they wanted, I would be more likely to keep doing the same thing. I would also enjoy being around that person immensely. Once this person gives me a Starburst I will continue to remember that even if the Starburst don’t come every time. I recently worked as an assistant for someone who told me every time we parted ways, “thanks for all your work today.” I felt good about what I had accomplished that day and motivated to come back each day.

With my dog I will sometimes reach like I’m going for a treat and she gets excited enough to keep behaving even if I don’t actually give her something. I do not recommend that with humans, they will almost certainly turn against you.

The Maligator Code, for dog training, is:

1. Honor the hierarchy
2. Maintain order
3. Obey the rules

Honor the Hierarchy

Film sets have taught me to love hierarchy. Things work so well when everyone knows who to report to and who has the final say. This does not mean bosses should be bossy and make all the decisions all of the time. Part of the hierarchy is delegation. When teaching your dog to “heel” the idea is that they will walk on a loose leash next to you. Forcing them next to you on a tight leash only teaches them to walk close when forced into it. The goal is to train them so they will walk next to you whether there is a leash or not. You have to motivate, not force, them to follow you. With humans, part of that is trusting them to do their job without being micromanaged. If you don’t trust them, figure out why and resolve that concern. If you are a leader you have to trust that the people you work with can follow you without you dragging them along. If you aren’t the leader, you want to trust your leader is capable and that they trust you.

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Maintain Order

When Ru sees another dog she wants to play with we essentially lose all control. Her brain goes into “get candy, get candy, get candy” mode and she can’t be stopped. The only way we can compete is to be infinitely more entertaining or rewarding than the dog she wants to play with. What incentives are you giving people to stay with you? Is their job engaging? Are they being treated fairly?

Are you clear? Does everyone receive the same kind of treatment? Are some people allowed to do what every they want while others are punished for every little thing they do wrong? Are you paying people different amounts to do the same job? Is it obvious in meetings some people’s opinions are valued over other peoples?

“In those situations the employees believe they are being treated unfairly. So, they only perform the duties they are contractually obligated to perform. Teachers arrive exactly when they are required to and leave as soon as they are able. They do not engage in extracurricular activities or stay late to help struggling students. The community suffers, because the teachers have gone from treating the workplace as a neighborhood to treating it as a collection of strangers.

That is why it is so important to think about fairness. When the morale of an organization suffers, it is important for leaders to think about things they may have done that would push employees from thinking themselves as neighbors to thinking of themselves as strangers. At those times, it is important for leaders to hold out an olive branch and to do what they can to welcome disgruntled employees back into the neighborhood.” (read more here).

Dogs are known for their loyalty but they are not above leaving you for the owner across the field who has better treats. If given the choice between our bed and her bed Ru will always choose our bed. Work isn’t always a super-fun party but if you don’t give your employees a reason to stay they won’t stick around.We had to figure out what motivated Ru, was it toys? Treats? Ultimately we realized that as much as she loves food, she loves playing with other dogs more and letting her loose to play is the best reward we can give her. It’s not just being able to pay the highest salary, it’s providing opportunities to be creative or to grow and learn skills. (See also: 10 Things Employees Want More Than a Raise).

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Obey the Rules

The dogs job is obey, but they can’t obey if they don’t know the rules.

Have you ever showed up to a new (or old) job and have no idea what they expect from you or if they even like what you’re doing? Most jobs I’ve worked have been pretty autonomous and there have been times where I did my job, got paid, and never heard from a supervisor. Having the healthy ego that I do, I just assumed they were loving my work but there was no way to know and at times the lack of feedback made me very anxious.

Positive reenforcement is huge and I think it’s far more motivating to people than anything negative. However, course-correction is also important when things start getting off-track. “No” can be a good word if it helps set boundaries. Boundaries are actually really great. They keep everyone on the same page and can help people do their job better. Example: I like cuddling with my dog. I do not like cuddling with my dog when she spreads out and gets her paws all up in my face. By telling her to move or go to her own bed when she’s taking up too much space our relationship stays free of scratched faces and dogs getting unkindly shoved off of the bed. Again, I do not recommend this one on humans because telling someone who wants to cuddle with you to go away and get their own bed will probably not go over well. However, established boundaries that are clearly explained are important in any relationship.
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Everyone Has Their Limits

If it is too hot outside, Ru will find shade, lie down, and not get up again. At that point, she is done and will not be productive again until she cools off. Mike Scully, showrunner for Simpsons, Parks and Rec etc. talked about how he would send his writers home by 6 so they could be home with their families, have experiences that could inspire their writing, and come back refreshed. Many  writers rooms work for 12+ hours straight to get more work done but there becomes a point where productivity slows down. Give people breaks. When we let Ru loose to play with her best-dog-friend before class she would be better behaved, more relaxed, and ready to focus.

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Learn How to Understand Individuals

Ru was three years old when we got her from Rescue Rovers Adoptions. We knew that we don’t know everything she’s been through and it’s been a process learning about her. Example: slippery floors freak her out. We figured that one out easily enough when we first walked into our building. Everyone is unique and what comes naturally to some people doesn’t to other. It’s easy to say, “I have no problem walking through our hallway, so why does she?” But if you pay attention you can see that stepping into the hallway strikes fear in Ru’s tiny heart. Hopefully, if you’re an employer, you’re employing people with different backgrounds and experience and part of that is learning people’s strengths and weaknesses and putting them in situations where they will be able to perform well.

Every company does things a little bit differently, so even if you hire someone who is an expert in your field, you have to help them understand how things work at your company. Help them understand workflow and procedures or you’ll be continually frustrated that they aren’t doing things “the right way.” Sometimes we assume someone is bad at their job when they just don’t know what we want from them.

Part of this is also understanding that, most of the time, no one person will have everything you’re looking for.

Ru is very smart when it comes to learning new tricks and very dumb when it comes to barking at her own reflection as if it is another dog. But I don’t care that she tries to play with her reflection because she does so much for me and her weird quirks are worth it. Even the geniuses of the world struggle at something in their life. The only perfect person I know of is Jesus and he’s not applying to be your salesperson any time soon. We can’t expect people to do it all and never make mistakes. Create teams that balance out strengths and weakness and everyone will succeed.

I really believe that if we see people for what they give instead of what they don’t do or can’t do, we will be happier. We will love and respect more and the people around us will thrive under our compassion and understanding.