7 Secrets to Center Your Self at Work [video]

It’s one of the most underrated ways of doing work.

In the course of a day, we tend to chase appreciation and approval of our work, and avoid confrontation and criticism. Problem is, it’s almost impossible to feel secure and grounded when these things come from outside of our selves.

We need ways to feel more centered in the workplace. Webster’s dictionary defines being “centered” as being “emotionally stable and secure.”

What does that mean?

Alicia Graf Mack has an answer. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Company dancer was recently interviewed by William C. Rhoden about the dancer as athlete (video below), and along with Gia Kourlas’s interview in TimeOut New York, we see an outline of Mack’s insight about how to be more emotionally stable and secure on the job.

Here are the dancer’s 7 secrets to center your self at work:

1. You can tolerate pain. Writes Kourlas:

[Mack] suffers from an autoimmune disorder classified as reactive arthritis, which led to swelling and pain in her joints … [She] began teaching dance… What happens when you start teaching? You start dancing again.

Alicia Graf Mack loves to dance so much, she willfully works through her physical pain to do so. Really, for what kind of work would you accept physical pain?

2. You can’t tolerate pain. Read more

Angry Colleague? Here’s How to Respond.

by Susan Shearouse

We’re grateful to be joined by Susan Shearouse, conflict resolution expert and author of Conflict 101: A Manager’s Guide to Solving Problems. In this post she examines a new angle on managing anger in the workplace — when it originates in someone else. -HC

You might not know what started it. Maybe it was something you said.  Or something someone else said.  Or something you didn’t say – and should have.  It might have been a conversation that went from bad to worse.  Maybe it’s been building up for a long time, and you are the last to know.   Whatever it might be, it’s your problem now.

This person is suddenly in your face, angry at you and quite vocal about it. Everybody up and down the corridor knows that you are getting the full dose of their fury.

Or – and sometimes this is even harder to face – they won’t speak to you at all.  They won’t return your calls any more.  If you pass in the hall, they look the other way, even if the other way is nothing but a blank wall.

What can you do?  How do you keep your cool?  You can turn a potential argument into a discussion if you can hold on to your own sense of calm and keep a strong determination not to be sucked into their negative energy.

  • First, know and understand your own responses to anger, your defensiveness, hot buttons. This is the first step in developing empathy for others.  It also helps you to be aware of, and less likely to be caught by, your own triggers.  If you can avoid responding in kind, you have gone a long way in changing direction. Read more

How to Put Your Dreams to Work

It used to be that sleep was for resting. Now research indicates that sleep is for working! More specifically, sleep is for dreaming which can help with problem solving.

Friedrich August Kekule dreamed up the structure of benzene while asleep, and Otto Loewi was catching some zzzs when he concocted an experiment that won a Nobel Peace Prize in medicine.

Deirdre Barrett recently wrote in Scientific American Mind about the kind of inspiration that can strike during sleep. Check this out:

Dreams may seem bizarre or nonsensical because the chemistry of the sleeping brain affects how we perceive our own thoughts, but we nonetheless continue focusing on all the same issues that concern us while we are awake. This unusual state of consciousness is often a blessing for problem solving–it helps us find solutions outside our normal patterns of thought.

We love to sleep! And now in addition to getting needed rest, we can be productive at 3:00am.


Barrett proposes that:

In a short amount of time, people can learn to focus their dreams on minor problems and often solve them [while asleep].


Sleeping for a while after learning something new results in much better recall than after spending the same amount of time awake.

In the fast-paced world we all promote, and with so much work we feel the need to do, sometimes sleep can seem like wasted time. Yet in addition to reminding us that we’re mammals with undeniable physiological needs, slumber has these fruitful purposes.  The task is to learn how to leverage our unconscious problem solving abilities in service of our projects.

Concretely, Barrett suggests briefly writing down a problem on a piece of paper and leaving it next to your bed.  Tell yourself you want to dream about it. Then when you awake, lie still and see if you can remember any part of your dreams. If yes, write down the details. You may find a solution right before your eyes.

So… get to work.

Meaning, go to bed!

Image via

Mayim Bialik Brings Whole Self to Work

Mayim Bialik is quite popular these days. How do we know? “Mayim Bialik” is one of the top search queries leading readers to WWW.

Evidently fantasizing about her is also popular.

Bialik’s fame makes sense; she stars in the TV show “The Big Bang Theory,” she blogs at both TODAYMoms and at Kveller.com, and she’s written a book about attachment parenting called Beyond the Sling.

Which is how the actor with a doctorate in neuroscience brings her whole self to work. How specifically does she do it? She wrote about the tribulations of working outside and inside the home in her first post at Kveller:

As a mom, my first focus is truly on my kids, even when I am filming or teaching.

Her priorities are obvious:  mother first, professional second. She speaks this unapologetically and publicly, so she’s clearly confident in her decision to live this way.

She continues:

The house is not as clean as it ought to be, but if it were, I wouldn’t have time to brush my teeth or prep for teaching. You get the picture: I can’t do it all; if I could I would have it all. So instead I do what I can. And I lower my expectations for what “has” to get done every day and I try to be gentle with myself.

It reads like an afternoon breeze. How do you balance work and family? You don’t. Bialik details the nature of the imbalance, and it feels reassuring that she, too, lets go of some obligations. So in accepting her limitations, she helps others do the same. The former “Blossom” star shares one more set of wise words:

Here is one thing I must remember to drop everything to do, and that is to be as perfectly imperfect as I can be.

Right. On. Ultimately she raises 3 important questions for parents with careers to consider:

  1. Are you OK with prioritizing parenting work over professional work?
  2. How do you feel about letting some responsibilities at home slip? Are there ways you can go easier on yourself?
  3. What does “perfectly imperfect” look like for you?

OK, that was 4; nobody’s perfect. While she doesn’t go into finding ways to ease up at work, perhaps that’s something we’ll explore in a future post.

By discussing the intersection of her acting, science teaching, writing, and parenting, Bialik effectively brings her whole self to work, and promotes herself. Quite a winning combination.

Image via

How to Bring Whimsy Back [video]

Oy, work can be so serious sometimes. We’re guilty of looking at the sober side of things — well, because we take work seriously, too.

Just as Joseph Herscher does, and yet the product of his efforts brings about serious smiles.

Herscher is a kinetic artist who creates Rube Goldberg machines, contraptions that delight viewers with their silly premises and whimsical movements.

His work was recently featured in the Daily Mail, where you can see still shots of “Page Turner,” an installation that–you guessed it–turns a newspaper page. By tapping into his sense of whimsy, he’s created a complicated machine that prompts viewers to experience wonder, joy, and exhilaration.

And he’s wildly popular. The Internet has played “Page Turner” about 5 million times and counting. Herscher has attracted significant media attention, which will likely lead to more commissioned work. To be sure, this artist’s star is rising.

What would result if you were to reveal and engage the extent of your whimsical nature in the workplace? At least, you might bring some levity to your surroundings. And levity, wonderment, joy, and exhilaration are all things that can lead to increased engagement and productivity.

What are you waiting for? You, too, can help bring whimsy back to the workplace.

Watch his very watchable work below:

Image by Fletcher Lawrence via

Come Out at Work: As a Student [video]

Unless you’re still pursuing your formal education, you’re probably thinking “my student days are over!”

Oh, but they aren’t.

Our student days die only when we do, so you may as well come out at work as a lifelong learner.

President Obama agrees.

In a recent interview with ABC News‘s Diane Sawyer, he spoke about his experience at work:

There’re always things that you’re learning in the job. And I have no doubt that I’m a better president now than the day I took office just because you get more experience.

He came out at work as a student! We’re all learning as we go along at work–about our selves, our colleagues, our task, the world. That the highest executive in the United States’ government openly owns his learning process on the job might inspire the rest of us to do the same.

Yet we know that hurdles abound. Read more

What Sheryl Sandberg Didn’t Say at Davos [video]

Facebook Inc.’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg recently spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and related important ideas about women in the workplace. She said we need to be mindful of how we’re socializing boys and girls at home, and called on chief executives to implement equal maternity and paternity leave policies.

Great stuff, right? And yet we’re totally disappointed in her.

Facebook recently filed for an initial public offering (IPO) that’s expected to raise up to $10bn this spring, and which could compensate Sandberg $1.6bn, solidifying her place among the most powerful executives in America.

Because of her newfound perch at the top, when she speaks about her professional trajectory and gender equality, it’s time she acknowledges the full range of dynamics that have helped her get there.

What dynamics?

That her Whiteness has played a role in her success.

Ay, that was hard to write. And we don’t mean to target the newest billionaire simply because she’s a woman. We’re critical of representations of White male leadership, too.

Sandberg’s story goes like this:  Read more