Nan S. Russell
Author & Speaker
 
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Her name is Mallory. At least it is for now. She’s the amateur sleuth in my new cozy mystery — or technically I should say my first cozy mystery. While I’ve written non-fiction books on leadership, trust, and self-development topics, and hope to write more, I’ve started a few mysteries over the years but never finished them.

Mallory’s story might just be read by me. Who knows? But, I’m at a point that to acknowledge her presence in my life is a step in learning more about her and her voice. These days, becoming a mystery writer is something I’m actively involved in doing. The operative word here is becoming.

I think of it like my oldest granddaughter becoming more educated. Her “Continuation Ceremony” in June marked a move from elementary school to middle school. I’m doing my own continuation of sorts, comprised of studying, practicing, learning, and evolving new skills to include fiction writing, specifically mysteries. As author T. Harv Eker put it, “You will live into your story.” While I’ve been learning the craft of fiction writing for a couple years now, at the beginning of this year I decided (continue reading →)

In the Scheme of Things, Life 

Last week, I ordered an item from the world’s largest retailer. While it arrived quickly, its contents were not as expected. The plastic that held the toe protectors was taped, the items stretched, and the gel-lined fabric dirty. How did such a used product get resold as new?

I expect occasional quality issues when I buy online at an auction or estate site for my vintage shops, but not from the world’s biggest retailer. My expectation is people who work for that organization are engaged enough to notice dirty toe protectors and empowered enough to decide they can’t be resold. I also expect it’s an outlier and won’t happen again.

But expectations are funny things. They’re beliefs about what should happen, how it should happen, or that it will or won’t happen. We all have them about everything from food and movies to places and people. We’re influenced by what we expect to find. If we think online retailers sell junk, we won’t be disappointed if that’s what we get. Expect terrible bosses, difficult spouses, or untrustworthy people and you’ll find them; expect engaged, compassionate, and wonderful people and you’ll find them.

Some believe if you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed. Others say (continue reading →)

In the Scheme of Things 

Maybe you read on Facebook that Dollar General Stores were celebrating their anniversary by giving out $150 shopping coupons to those who liked and shared their posts, or maybe you received an email seeking applicants as paid mystery shoppers in your area. Maybe you heard that theaters used subliminal advertising to increase sales of popcorn and soft drinks, or saw a “send old shoes, get a new one free” promotion that caught your attention. Or maybe you read about the discovery that disease can be cured by drinking four glasses of water every morning.

The fact that these are all false didn’t stop thousands of people from forwarding, liking, retweeting, repeating, or believing them. One even made it into the top 50 “hottest urban legends” on snopes.com.

Likewise, the fact that office grapevines are filled with false information, speculation, innuendo, and gossip doesn’t stop people from using rumor to fuel distrust, reinforce silo building, or enhance “us” versus “them” thinking, either. This workplace ladder fuel can devastate motivation and destroy work cultures as quickly as nature’s fuel of underbrush, branches, leaves, and vegetation can cause a ground fire to scale trees and devour forests.

A few years ago a forest fire came within a half-mile of our remote cabin, engulfing (continue reading →)

Winning at Working 

I felt the malice immediately, arriving without warning via my website, with no return email. Her poisoned-laced words were intended to sting, and they did, although perhaps not in the way she intended. Mostly my heart ached with sadness for her long held pain.

At the bottom of the message was the name of an old friend I’d lost contact with years before. Her message accused me of betraying her trust decades ago. But despite the venom released at me, there was no mention or explanation of what it was that I did in my twenties that caused her to reach that conclusion, or why she held onto her anger all these years. All I knew was someone I still cared about saw me responsible for something that upset her.

The message haunted me, not because of what it said, but because I never knew I hurt her. I never knew there was festering pain attributed to my words or actions. Certainly, there are people I know I’ve hurt, but this was different. Am I accountable when someone feels slighted or wounded by something I did or said, or didn’t do or didn’t say, and I never knew it? How we perceive another’s actions, motives or intentions is subject to our interpretation.

I’m reminded of how inaccurate my own assumptions have been. I remember feeling (continue reading →)

In the Scheme of Things 

It was the first day of spring break for our elementary school-aged granddaughters, occurring on the Friday before their week off. We’d invited them to spend the day with us since their parents were working, promising we’d do something “different” together.

The girls questioned us about what was in store, even offering guesses for some far-fetched outings. “No, we’re not flying to Disney World,” we explained. While some of their excitement was in the not-knowing, we did decide to manage their expectations, clarifying that “something different” didn’t mean “something big.” We even outlined what they might wear and bring for the day.

We picked them up early that morning, explaining on the way to their favorite restaurant that we’d talk about the day’s happenings during breakfast. Over eggs for some and chocolate chip pancakes for others, my husband and I told them: “It’s a mandatory fun day,” defining what that meant and outlining the morning adventure.

Their unenthusiastic reaction to what we told them surprised us. The oldest was noticeably quiet while her sister pushed back, not liking the suggested activity or the concept. “Do we have to?” she asked. “Yes. You have to have fun today,” we said.

When their parents arrived in the evening to retrieve them, their (continue reading →)

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Download a chapter of It’s Not About Time here.

It's Not About Time, Quotes  Leave a comment

I once worked for a boss who was never wrong, never made a mistake or a bad decision. All you had to do was ask him. To his staff he was Teflon-man. Nothing stuck to him and everything came sliding toward us.

Accountability was not a concept he practiced unless things turned out well and then, he claimed the credit. But if they didn’t, he immediately embarked on endeavors to identify someone responsible. Being called to his office typically meant he was looking for information and trying to decide whom to blame.

Justify. Justify. Justify. Like a battle cry, he commissioned reports, graphs, charts and enhanced documentation whenever his boss questioned him. He found it easier to dig his heels into a position than admit he might have been wrong or change his mind. Working for someone I couldn’t respect eventually led me to transfer departments.

But it still baffles me. People do make mistakes, they do trip up sometimes and they do, on occasion, speak or act in error. And while there’s nothing that says we should be happy about it when we do it ourselves, trying to act (continue reading →)

Winning at Working 

My husband gave me a card at the beginning of 2018 that’s been standing on my dresser ever since. I see its message when I wake up or wander into the bedroom. There’s a picture of an early sunrise on a distant horizon, its light spreading across an ocean with no land in sight. A figure on the deck of a sailboat watches the emerging colors in the sky.

Across the card, in large elegant font, are these words — simplistic on one level; profound on another — “Every day is a gift.” The card serves as a reminder and a nudge to me: a reminder of no promised tomorrows for any of us, and a nudge to consciously use well the time I have.

I do want to live that way. Most mornings I read the words, deciding that, yes, every day is a gift and my best use of this day should reflect that gratitude and understanding. Yet, more often than I’d like, that’s not what happens.

I’m guilty of losing perspective or numbing out to the preciousness of these non-renewable days, until something tragic, or frightening, or significant happens to shake me awake for a time. I’m guilty of routinely applying habits for getting things done, or getting caught up in the “doing,” without self-awareness about what I’m doing or who I’m “becoming” or “being” in the process. And I’m guilty of (continue reading →)

In the Scheme of Things, Life 

The reality is, effective people are highly productive. Part of that stems from enhanced self-managing skills, but a significant contributor is the way these people think about and use their time. They’re judicious and thoughtful about its use.

As Charles Duhigg, author of Smarter Faster Better puts it, “‘Productivity’ means different things to different people, but at it’s core, it’s about thinking a little more deeply about the choices we make every day.”

To that end, here are some time management and productivity tips to spark your thinking about your own time-use. One of my tips happens to be #18.

26 Helpful Time Management Tips and Techniques

It's Not About Time, Tips 

This week, I found myself spending a day with strangers when a scheduled flight was cancelled because our pilot became ill with food poisoning. As the news began to spread; the reactions were mixed: Anger, Frustration, Sadness, Excitement, Joy … and on and on. Since I was traveling alone, I started people watching an activity I love to do especially in airports.

One of the first things I noticed was the noise level had increased exponentially, then nearly everyone was on their cell phone and a long line was forming at the departure counter where the airline representative was trying to tell us next steps over the loud speaker. It was one of those and then “life happens” moments. Each of us had expectations, plans and others depending on us at the other end. Now what?

A quote popped into my head, by Randy Pausch author of The Last Lecture, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, only how we play the hand.” It seemed fitting for my current situation. Fast forward an hour or so. And, I and several fellow passengers were at a nearby hotel* in bathing suits sitting poolside with cold beverages watching the sunset. At the same time, others were demanding a full-refund for their inconvenience. While we all thought we would be flying then many of us made a choice to enjoy the unexpected delay. How do you react in those “life happens” moments?

Until next time take good care and be safe out there.

beth

* The airline paid for our hotel and food vouchers.

Life