The Power of the Reset Button

I’m a tennis enthusiast and a big fan of certain professional players, for not only their talent on the court, but also for the example they are off the court. Sir Andy Murray is a vocal advocate of gender equality, mental health, and climate change awareness. The G.O.A.T Serena Williams is someone I also look up to for her authenticity, commitment, and sheer determination over a 25-year (and counting) professional tennis career.

I’m also a fan of Stan Wawrinka, who has managed to win a few Grand Slams in the Federer-Nadal era. After an early loss to a lower-ranked player in this year’s Australian Open, a match that he was an inch from winning, he posted this to his Instagram soon after. After an initial chuckle, I was then able to see the deeper value. Think about it: these players commit to long arduous hours of practice and physical conditioning to prepare for these tournaments, and after what I’m sure was a heartbreaking loss, he was able to bounce back and hit the reset button, with a good sense of humor about it, to boot. It goes to show how mentally tough these players have to be, not only during a match but also right after, knowing that tomorrow is another day and another chance to produce a better result. For me, it’s a great reminder that we’re all human and will fail on occasion, but to view failure with a sort of gratitude because it’s an opportunity to learn from past mistakes, above all else.

I feel that a positive attitude is rooted in gratitude anyway – for Stan, I’m sure he’s thankful to be able to compete at a high level, especially in light of the long climb back up the rankings after a knee injury. Being able to move past failure and hit the reset button is admittedly easier when we can look at it from a place of gratitude, and see all the good things we have in our lives, both big and small. Personal and professional setbacks are a part of life. It’s how we view and react to these defeats that help determine future victories.

Sitting still to get a jump on the day

Doing whatever we can to maintain our mental health, especially in these stressful and uncertain times, is important, maybe the most important thing. As part of my morning ritual, I sit for a 10-minute meditation. For me, it’s a great way to set a positive tone and help keep me grounded and centered for the upcoming steady stream of Zoom calls and other job-related tasks. But all mornings are not created equal. Some mornings I can stay in the present moment more effectively than others.

And that’s really the overall goal when meditating – to try to stay present. As an introvert, it’s not surprising that I tend to think…a lot. My mind goes back and forth, from the past to the future to my to-do lists, etc., etc. But the beauty of meditation is that it’s totally okay to lose focus, no matter how many times, as long as we catch ourselves when it happens to come back to the breath. Completely judgment-free.

So, on those mornings when my mind is in overdrive and it seems like I’m not getting anything out of my mediation practice, I really am. I’m able to bring myself back from my thoughts, every time. But also, there are fringe benefits that can’t be discounted: I’m sitting still, breathing deeply, with no technology/social media distractions. Nowadays especially, any time I can see the positives and be grateful for them is a good day, indeed.

Creating Space for What Matters

As Stephen Covey pointed out, ” The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Continuing to work from home (until further notice) has motivated me to clarify my priorities and creating space for what matters (hint: it’s not all about work).

Surprisingly, work-life balance, at least during the early stages of the pandemic proved a bit challenging. When working from home (WFH) full-time, it’s all too easy for the workday to blur into me-time. So, I had to set an intention to draw a clearer boundary between work-time and down-time for greater work-life balance. On the other hand, being commute-free now, I have more time to pursue my personal endeavors.

Having those outlets at the end of the day is super important, especially on those stressful and frustrating days. With that said, doing something fun or creative or athletic or mindful first thing in the morning is a great way to set a positive tone and mindset for the day, not to mention increase clarity and decrease reactivity. I’ve recently started a “10-10-10” routine each morning: 10 minutes of meditation, followed by 10 minutes of standing yoga (or stretching), followed by a 10-minute cycling class in the newly-created home gym. Mind, body, and spirit! I also make evert effort to end the workday right at 6pm so I can shift my focus onto other things like taking a walk, writing a blog post, journaling, catching up on my TV shows or the current book I’m reading, trimming the shrubs in the front yard, whatever it might be.

Work-life balance has always been a top priority for me. Not uncommon for an introvert, especially to have quality time for myself and away from the steady stream of meetings and co-worker interaction. WFH has presented both challenges and opportunities to achieve it. It’s been an education for sure!

I recently read an article entitled, “Microsoft Thinks You’ve Been Missing Your Commute in Lockdown“. After my initial chuckle (my commute is the last thing I miss), I read through the article and realized that the company is aiming to enhance work-life balance (via new features in Microsoft Teams) and encourage clearer boundaries between the workday and down-time. I give them credit for initiative and intention, but the bottom line is that since it means using technology, it kind of defeats the purpose of disconnecting, at least for me.

Another noteworthy article talks about Feierbend, the German word describing the time period immediately following the end of a workday until bedtime. In Germany, this time period is typically reserved for leisure activities to help create disconnection and a clear distinction between the workday and down-time. The article goes on to describe how certain working professionals are handling and adjusting Feierbend in the age of WFH, where, as many of us know all too well, the lines can blur all too easily.

Taking the high road after messing up

We all try to do our best on-the-job and to keep errors and poor judgment to a minimum. That’s good! But somewhere along the line I think some of us let our egos get in the way, forget that we’re human and mistakes happen. Often, however, it’s not as much about the mistake itself, but more about how we handle it afterwards.

I think everyone at some point has tried to cover up, or at least downplay a mistake at work. Very early on in my professional career, I was guilty of this on occasion. I quickly learned three valuable lessons: 1. Your manager and colleagues will usually respect you more for admitting your error up front and accepting responsibility for it. 2. You won’t have to live with the stress or fear of having your mistake discovered. And 3. Your mistake will almost always be discovered. I know it can be difficult admitting a mistake, so I like to take the “ripping the band-aid off” approach: painful for a couple seconds, but then it’s behind us. Taking the high road almost always wins the day. When we don’t take the high road, it only compounds the problem.

I saw this play out the other night on TV. I was watching the US Open and saw Novak Djokovic being defaulted out of the tournament for hitting a tennis ball (between points), which struck a lineswoman square in the throat. The rules clearly state that this kind of behavior results in immediate disqualification. The primary concern of course is the health of the lineswoman, who after a few tense moments was able to leave the court on her own power. Djokovic initially ran over to check on her, but then it kind of went downhill from there and his concern moved onto himself. He pleaded his case with the tournament officials, essentially arguing that the situation didn’t warrant disqualification since she didn’t have to be sent to the hospital, as well as implying that since he’s Novak Djokovic (the number one-ranked men’s player in the world), he should be allowed to continue playing. (At least that was my interpretation). After the final decision was made, he left the court and the grounds, bypassing the mandatory post-match press conference that all players have to do, regardless. He later tweeted an apology and said he’s going to take this opportunity to examine himself and improve as a person, which, in light of everything, just seemed really disingenuous.

To me, he took the low road pretty much the whole way. The mere fact that he tried to argue any case at all vs. just automatically accepting the consequences of his actions is a bad look. And he did himself no favors in the eyes of fans and his fellow players. Taking the high road would probably have allowed him to move on from this much quicker, but now it will most follow him for quite awhile and further damage his image and reputation. Granted, I was no fan of Djokovic (either on or off the court) before this incident, and sadly this further confirms my own negative view of him.

So in the end, we all make mistakes. But, taking the high road, being genuine and accepting responsibility for the mistakes we make are key to moving forward and real growth no matter what profession we happen to be in!

Life in Spain vs. the US: Quarantine Edition

I recently spoke with my friend, Leonid, who I know from DC, and who recently relocated to Sitges, Spain. Below are photos from his library of his new hometown. If I didn’t like him, I’d hate him for living in such a beautiful city! 🙂

Anyway, in this podcast we compare and contrast the quarantine situation between Spain and the US, and how we’re both handling it, not only on an individual level, but also from a national perspective.

In the next podcast, we’ll be “traveling” to Germany to visit with friends to see how they’re doing in the face of the pandemic.