Why You Should Be a Beginner

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Welcome to early winter — of the longest year that I’ve personally experienced.

I’m certain your journey through this year has brought you more than a few twists & turns — impacting both life & work. These moments may have shifted your mindset, caused you to take stock. These moments may have rocked you at the core.

On my end, I’ve noticed some significant changes. I’ve had the desire to write less and think more. To take another look at the world of change management. To reach out & collaborate.

I’ve also noticed a keen interest in the artificial distinction between the idea of “craftsmanship” and our own work. This was largely the by-product of something entirely new for me — a hobby — a life element that I hadn’t previously declared or pursued. I slowly began to see the link between learning a craft, and our day-to-day work. Moreover, that there was something in all of this that we were sorely missing.

The craft I have chosen, photography, is wide & expansive — and because of these attributes, provides rich learning opportunities. One key advantage is there is not an easy path to achieve mastery quickly; requiring significant time served as a novice. I’ve had to become more patient, more open to failure and more appreciative of the time needed to improve. (Yet, thumbing through a book of Steichen’s work, I was happy to start at what Whitney Johnson refers to as “the bottom of the learning curve”.) Yes, beginnings can be frustrating, but also glorious — if the context in which you find yourself aligns with the spirit of the process. In any case, there should be no shame in declaring ourselves as “apprentices”. I am happy to be one.

Why we fail to approach growth at work in this spirit, is more likely due to the pressing needs of organizations, rather than the good of the work or our professional development. Of course, projects must be completed, targets met, goals fulfilled. But still, there are obvious advantages. If we could somehow approach some portion of our work as a craft — creativity, engagement & innovation may get a needed boost. If we could be an “apprentice” within a defined area, the pressure to be perfect, to know it all, to pass the test, to dazzle (or dominate) the room, could lessen.

We might allow ourselves the time & space to expand the horizon of our work, to seek new methods/strategies through new topics or adjacent to existing habits. This in turn could help us become better at what we do. (This strengthens our core and possibly the core of the organizations in which we work.)

During every year we could re-dedicate ourselves to our profession and become a beginner in some regard. To choose an avenue to explore, whether this is carried out in partnership with our employers, independently, with the help of a new contact, or a course of study.

However, the desire to “check the box”— has to be retired. Living in the “apprentice” phase should not be judged or hurried. We should accept that early steps are just the start. That we have much to learn. That this will take time.

Poorly executed photographs aside, I’ve learned much during this uniquely grueling year. Lessons that will stay with me — and could be incorporated into my work going forward. I’ve learned that continuing to feel useful is vital. That adapting to constraints is anything, but glamorous. That growth happens in fits & spurts (and it is often imperceptible), when we face those constraints.

To hone a new craft, we all have to start somewhere.

Even if that somewhere is at the very beginning.

And that’s perfectly alright.

What I’m listening to:

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who focuses on empowering work through the development of a strong foundation. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including the Harvard Business Review, Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.


The Everyday Guide: Do Our Relationships with Social Media Say More Than We Think?

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I seem to have developed the habit of personifying social media outlets.

That may sound a bit off. But trust me, it’s not the first time I’ve engaged in this strategy. As a consultant, I’ve always thought of organizations as having a distinct vibe or personality, separate from the clients that I meet. (Some are depressed. Others frenetic.) Over the years, I’ve developed a strong propensity to craft stories out of disjointed facts, observations and conversations. It may be a bad habit. Yet, it helps me makes sense of things at the start of a project, when there are one million details to consider.

This habit seems to have extended to social media. To be quite honest, I usually find Facebook tedious and bit needy. Instagram often feels fickle & hyped up on pretty places (which I enjoy) & success-oriented quotes. LinkedIn nearly always feels focused & fair (I have more than my share of followers over there, so I am likely biased.). Twitter feels balanced on most days; a bit like my memory of my high school cafeteria at lunchtime. (Except for the realm of politics.) You are clearly aware that all of the various groups are present, but no one really cares if they hang out near you. There is usually enough decorum, to keep the room from devolving into an all-out food fight.

My assessment of a social media definitely impacts my willingness to enter into a relationship with them. My patience can be worn thin, just as I would feel when ready to leave a party where I feel disengaged.

These days, I’m only willing to invest my time and trouble, where I feel understood & loosely accepted. I’ll delete a page willy-nilly, if I have a clear and present sense that their algorithm is on a path to “ostracize” me. (I’m a proud sort. I won’t hang around to feel the sting of the sneers.) When re-starting on Instagram this past May, I haplessly re-shared a random photo of an old structure in London and the photographer reported me to the powers that be. This unfolded even though I had clearly attributed her, took the photo down immediately & tendered an apology. (Turns out she was somewhat of a big deal over there. I explained that my articles are often shared without my direct permission, but if attributed I’m usually ok with it. But, alas this was her foul to call.)

Lesson learned: Don’t share great photos on Instagram? (Know Instagram is a business for many. I now know & respect this.)

If a coaching client were to ask me about this topic, I know how I would respond: Spend time where you feel uplifted. If something feels horrible, stay away. Take a break and then possibly re-engage. But first, look into your heart and find out the “why”. Develop your personal brand, where you feel aligned with the “vibe”.

By now, you’re likely getting the sense that my relationships with social media may bear a striking resemblance to the outcome of a Rorschach assessment. I concur. It is entirely possible that this dynamic has possibly re-ignited my teenage insecurities regarding shifting friend groups. On the other hand, it may simply be a lack of stimulation during the marathon that is this pandemic.

I’m unsure.

You make the call.

Have you ever personified social media?

Share your experiences.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from founding a company — to the perfect office gift. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.


Time, Tide & Usefulness

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So, as the fates would have it, the pandemic is not a sprint — but a grueling marathon. Work (for some of us) is still present, although likely in some morphed form. The pace or tenor may have been revised. Colleagues may have scattered. Yet hopefully, your heart, passion and loyalty are still present, although possibly bruised and battered. A lot has happened. Every day there is more to digest.

Yet fall has still arrived. The days are still becoming shorter (at least here in Michigan) and my garden is still quickly fading. The tide still returns. Soon winter will come. Mother nature hasn’t bothered to blink an eye.

What are we to make of all of it? What comes next?

As as a young college student (pre-major), I drafted a rather depressing, dream-based short story named “The Far Side”. It mused of a dystopian world, where those with a useful profession were transported in the dead of night to an undisclosed location, in an effort to save the world (from itself). Some sort of traumatic event had already occurred — and while traveling through seemingly endless darkness and barren landscapes, there was a palpable sadness among the passengers. Yet, at the same time a resolute calm. A firm sense of determination. All I knew at that moment, was the aching pain of becoming separated from my family. I was unsure of their fate and on which side of the sorting algorithm had I fallen. Was I deemed useful?

At the time, I was a struggling college student on many levels. My parents had just divorced, Microeconomics was proving a relentless challenge and my tiny, insular world seemed to be collapsing. But, I had an inner sense that training to do something useful, was one key to getting past my present.

Feeling useful is important to all of us. It is a vital part of our core as a human being, especially when things are literally going sideways. Whether we are blessed with fame, money or acclaim really does not matter. Striving to be useful, is something of note that we can all achieve.

What matters is that we apply our training, our gifts, empathy and strengths.

That we create a small, but useful ripple, in this vast ocean of a world.

Not simply for the betterment of others, or for the world — but for ourselves.

What does being useful mean to you? Share your perspective with us in comments.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist is a frequent contributor to Live.Work.Think.Play. She focuses on empowering life & work through the development of a strong foundation. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including the Harvard Business Review, Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.


The Power of a Daily Ritual

ellieelien-SZwVtUpsEqU-unsplashPhoto: ellieelien@unsplash

Rituals are the formulas by which harmony is restored.- Terry Tempest Williams

We planted four yellow rose bushes in our backyard garden last summer. They are situated in an area that for some odd reason, everything seems to perish. I have a number of concocted theories as to why this continues to happen. Firstly, our home is well over 70 years old and from what I discern from original plans, a garage once stood near that area. Maybe this contributes. Or there is possibly too much sun. Too little water. Or our 100 pound German Shepard stomps over the plantings when chasing her tennis ball.

I’ve just surveyed the current situation. It’s not looking all that hopeful.

The point is not the roses, but that the ritual of the garden occupies my mind in a manner that frees me for some stretch of time. Small rituals makes us more comfortable, more centered — even when a sense of instability may exist all around us. For you, this may mean walking around the block after dinner, game night, sitting on your balcony in the morning or a quiet cup of coffee before you write a report.

You could call these routines, but somehow these idiosyncratic actions hold more value than that label would imply.

Whatever that ritual is, no matter how small it may seem — it matters. Small rituals help define who we are as individuals. They help align who we are with our surroundings. I feel they likely make us better contributors, as well.

When we get back to our desks, the rest will still be there.

But for that moment, I’m rooting for the roses.

Strategy: Rituals

  • Do you have a small ritual that helps you remain productive right now?
  • Do you feel rituals have become more important during this crisis?
  • Does your organization or team have a ritual that helps them along?

A frequent contributor to LiveWorkThinkPlay, Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who helps people & teams build a stronger work life foundation. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, she has been featured at the Harvard Business Review, Talent Zoo and The Huffington Post.


Why Walking Matters Now More Than Ever


Photo by Etienne Delorieux on Unsplash

Building a life that works for you, not only includes the broader strokes — where you live, where you work, your family unit — but the nuances that round out the entire picture. With all that is going on around us. we can easily neglect the part of our world, where we have a moment to reflect and process. In these times — even though we may be venturing out less, overload remains a real and present concern. This makes “process time” even more important.

I’m reminded of a fascinating post (more on the book Daily Rituals here) discussing how some of the most incredible individuals of the last 400 years spent their time. While their areas of expertise were varied and remarkable, there was one obvious link among many of them: From Milton to Tchaikovsky, many set aside time for a daily walk.

Some ventured alone. One with family.

Walks rock.

Here are a few of the benefits:

  • Digestion. I’m not referring to gastronomy — I’m referring to the all of the information you’ve consumed over the course of the day. It’s difficult to process or notice patterns, when your brain isn’t allowed the time to do so.
  • Fresh air. I love home my office, but a change of scenery does help me feel rested and refreshed. I may not have access to a beach or a handy mountain range to view, as some of my colleagues. But the breeze is just as refreshing here in the mid-west —  and the birds just as vocal.
  • Lowered anxiety. With our current lives, comes our unshakable friend — anxiety. Physical exercise has great way of managing this nagging by-product of uncertainty.
  • Digital reprieve. Not sure how much time you must spend in front of a computer, but the changes in our work lives, have upped our screen time significantly. Balancing this is vital.

Commit just 15 minutes each day to get out and walk.

Observe the birds. Track the progress of the budding trees or your neighbor’s front garden. Feel the breeze.

You can also take a tip from Mozart and keep paper and pencil handy. You never know when inspiration will strike you.

Write me here and let me know what happens.

Want the book? Just click on the visual.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from founding a company — to the perfect office gift. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.


How Work (and Other Things) Might Help Us Cope Right Now.


It is 2020.

We are all struggling to establish a new normal, in times that are anything but normal. I’ll spare you and will refrain from sharing advice about how to work remotely. We are in the midst of history being written. That alone demands that we peel away the layers of the onion.

Many of us simply want to protect ourselves, our families and quite possibly our well-being. Know that psychological resources such as hope, self efficacy and resilience, can be adversely affected as we practice social distancing.

As an alternative track, I’ll share few thoughts on how to stay on a somewhat even keel. (Disclaimer: These are my own. They do not have to be yours.) Not surprisingly, this does include work and seeking a daily measure of joy. Know that I am referring to the type of work, that feeds your soul and occupies your mind. I am also referring to the trusted elements of our lives to which we turn, when feeling unsettled.

What to try now:

  • If possible, continue to do the work you love to do. I’ve just listened to Coldplay’s Chris Martin live streaming an impromptu home-based concert at Instagram (@Coldplay). As a psychologist, I’m thankful that he can continue to share his gift to help others. Try to do the same. Work on topics that bring meaning & value to you.
  • Reach out. Limit feelings of isolation & distance. Technology can obviously work with us here. I couldn’t love Zoom more than I do today, in this very moment. I intend to contact the clients & colleagues, I’ve come to respect over the years. Utilize Facebook video to call friends who are alone (quite reliable) and text your neighbors. I’m hoping this helps in some way.
  • “Lean in” to the things that bring joy. Whether this is music, film, reading, art, walking, observing birds, podcasts, comedy, singing, blogging, or crafting. Do these things when you have a moment. James Altucher just shared his reading list as we self-isolate. Shuttered Broadway performers are singing for us. Museums have shared virtual tours. Improvise. Build these into your daily routine.
  • Complete something. Anything. When we cannot control our circumstances, self-efficacy suffers. This can lead to feelings of helplessness. While you distance, complete smaller projects/tasks that you can pace. Bring feelings of mastery into your “new normal”.

We are all struggling. Share your concerns to someone that you trust.

What are you doing right now to support your psychological foundation?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial & Organizational Psychologist. Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from founding a company — to the perfect office gift. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.


10 Stirring Quotes We’re Turning to Right Now

woman in white and brown floral dress
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I’m not usually a list person. Or a quote person. Or a “jump on the bandwagon” person.
Yet, these are extraordinary times — and I seem to be becoming all of these things.
I suppose that different times, create different needs.

You (and possibly your team), may also require more support to tackle the day with positivity & fortitude. A dose of guidance, from those who you have been through it all, might help us.

So, here goes.
A few quotes of the moment. One from yours truly, at the closing.

  1. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. –  Teddy Roosevelt
  2. Difficulties mastered are opportunities won. – Winston Churchill
  3. The best way out, is always through. – Robert Frost
  4. From caring, comes courage. – Lao Tzu
  5. There is nothing like staying home for real comfort. – Jane Austen
  6. Attempt the impossible to improve your work. – Bette Davis
  7. Wherever a man turns, he can find someone who needs him. – Albert Schweitzer
  8. The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination. – Albert Einstein
  9. If you are going through hell, keep going. – Winston Churchill
  10. Thinking will not overcome fear, but action can. – W. Clement Stone

While our lives may have increasing boundaries —
our minds remain infinite.

Share your stirring favorite in comments.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from founding a company — to the perfect office gift. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.


Three Reads: Our Weekly Picks


Feel the need to read? We’re adding a weekly feature at Live.Work.Think.Play. With so many interesting posts across the web — we felt the need to share what we’ve been reading. Staying true to our mission to expand your perspective, you’ll find the article titles are quite varied. Some titles will be newly published, others newly discovered.


Do you like this feature? Tell us how we’re doing in comments.

  • How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell at Medium. You might feel like you are falling into the proverbial rabbit hole with this one, but stick with it and follow Ms. Odell on this remarkable journey. (Take this post in stages.) Like a slow burn — you’ll won’t even realize that something has awakened within you.
  • Seven Rules for Working at a Coffee Shop, (Put this one on hold.) Brenna Houck at Eater. Picking up my daily coffee, I often pass by the “regulars” who set up shop at the shop. Yet, I never think about what are doing, to earn their right to stay. If you have any doubts about that exchange relationship — this might help you learn the ropes.
  • How to Move From Self-Awareness to Self-Improvement, Jennifer Porter at Harvard Business Review. When it comes down to it, change requires more than being aware — you have to actually change your behavior. Some great ideas to get there.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from founding a company — to the perfect office gift. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.


I’m Worried About a Belief Manifesting. Here Are the Reasons Why.


I’m all in for a great idea that might help us move forward. But rest assured, I’ll put that idea through its paces. We should all take a closer look — breaking things down and exploring how it all works. Where the philosophy of manifesting is concerned, I completely understand its allure. In a sea of self-care trends, it does appear to embrace positivity (let’s be sure not confuse it with mindfulness). Yet, I fear that while it purports to offer many a supportive path when life and work throw become challenging, it falls miserably short in the proof department. Here are my concerns with manifesting — and you may or may not agree with my reasoning. (Read more here.)

Problem #1. For an idea to hold water, “the proof” so to speak “lies in the pudding.” To truly improve our lives I believe that “doing” — actual behavioral change is necessary.  Thoughts may be the starting point to change. Yet thoughts never represent the complete story when it comes to forward progress. We cannot wish for things to develop. We have to act. Without a plan of action, only false hope can follow.
We must act to change our lives. Only our behaviors can truly accomplish this.

Problem #2. Let’s consider the underlying premise of manifesting. When our thoughts are unleashed into the universe, these thoughts somehow create more of the same energy. Logically, this leads me to ask questions such as: “Will my thoughts concerning my difficult client, bring more of the same toward me?” or “Did my friend ghost me because my vibrational energy was low and broadcasted my doubts?” Essentially, this line of reasoning implies that whatever you put out there thought-wise, the universe magically (and inexplicably) slaps it back into your face.
Manifesting shifts our intentions into the great unknown. It professes control, but actually hands off that control to an entity outside of ourselves.

Problem #3. Let’s consider, what all of this implies about any emotions that are not positive. Are we also saying that negative feelings are worthless, that they should be stomped out entirely and ignored? I hold the firm belief that our emotions tell us something. That our sometimes nagging “inner-speak” is alerting us to the work that needs to be done — and this work bring our lives into alignment.
We can acknowledge what is wrong, yet challenge our situation to improve it.

Weighing in on the side of manifesting, I do know that hope matters. Hope leads us to try again and again, to reach for the goals that matter to us. However, while we might fulfill the “hope criterion” with manifesting, we must also take things one step further and build self-efficacy through deliberate action.

Manifest that.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.



Why a Garden is Your Self-Care Champion

Photo by Veronica Reverse on Unsplash

The previous owner of my home — “the gardener” as I call her — clearly possessed a passion for the art of the plant. At every phase of the growing season, there are at least two specimens in bloom. The choreography begins early in spring with rows of fuchsia-hued bleeding hearts and extends into the fall with numerous Rose of Sharon trees and sedum plants. I suspect that some of the plantings are quite old (the house was built in 1948), yet many seem to be recent additions. When we first stood in its muddy, quiet wake 4 years ago, something told us that there was a beautiful story about to unfold and it did not disappoint us.

One of the first springtime arrivals.

If you’ve personally spent time in a garden, you may know of its power to calm you. You may have also noticed that it doesn’t take long for something peculiar to happen. As you dig — or sit or simply admire the blooms — your mind begins to shift and your muscles begin to relax.

With self care emerging as the antidote to our congested lives, horticulture arrives as a super-hero to save us.

At The Verge, author Lewis Gorden shares the burgeoning field of video games attempting to capture the magic of gardening. Personally, I’m not surprised. When it comes to resetting our minds, no place on earth beats the vibe of a tranquil green space. But, not all of us have a garden handy. As luck would have it, you can now visit them virtually. One lovely option, Rosa’s Garden allows you to immerse yourself in the calming sights and sounds of a garden.

“Rosa’s Garden is a calm and poetic flower game about gardening with roses. Dig little holes in the ground, find seeds, plant them and watch how slowly a rose grows. ” – charlottemadelon.com

In a world where we are bombarded with memes and messages, finding a place of refuge to turn down the volume and slow things down is vital. Nature, of course, is a healer which can affect mind, body and soul. Why and how this happens has been the focus of research for years. The essence of this dynamic seems to rest with how our brains process stimuli. This phenomenon was addressed by one of the founders of psychology William James. As discussed in this Atlantic article, James felt that there were two kinds of attention: directed and involuntary. Direct attention required us to focus (even reading this post requites this)  — involuntary attention is passive. The stimuli can be absorbed with little minimal effort.

The multi-layered experience of a garden, is one that is simply absorbed.

So, plant a flower or two in your own dirt or find a local garden near you. Grab someone to take along to share the experience. Be sure to sit for a time, to ensure that you notice the birds and the breeze.

Or simply download Rosa’s Garden.

The choice is yours.

More on the psychology of gardening here:

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from founding a company — to the perfect gift. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.