Simplest Way to Improve Your Life

By John R. Nocero, Jennifer Rawley, Molly Downhour & Patricia Graham

 “What’s The Simplest Way To Improve Your Life?

John: The simplest way to improve your life is to change your perspective and do something different. That’s it. You need to have a willingness to walk away from anything that does not suit you or your terms. That sounds selfish, but it is part defense mechanism, and partly because I don’t ever want to devalue myself. I am old enough where I should work with the best people and roll with the best people, in both my professional and personal life. If you are not the best to me, then you can roll with someone else. People are like seasons. Sometimes they leave and that’s okay – they leave room for something better to come. Sometimes they come back and your relationship is even better than before. That’s fantastic. I see myself as the driver of my own fun bus. If you want to jump on, great, you can ride with me. if not, that’s great too. If I can’t give you love, then I need to move it along. Either way, I still win. This is the absolute simplest way I know to make my life better.

Jen:  For me, improving my life simply was not always simple because I didn’t believe it possible. I had to first learn and implement some fundamental principles and then the floodgates opened for me. Regardless of the situation, expressing gratitude daily and serving others is life changing for me. Doing these two things results in immediate fulfillment like nothing else.  Whenever I feel down or upset about something, I seek out opportunities to find someone to thank, give a compliment, or ask if i can help them with something. Sometimes, when larger scale service opportunities are presented I am inclined to excuse myself as being “too busy”, and sometimes I do turn them down. However, I can honestly say each and every time that I have participated in a service venture, I leave wondering how I could ever have considered not going. I have energy, enthusiasm, and feel genuinely good about myself and the recipients.

“Regardless of the situation, expressing gratitude daily

and serving others is life changing …”

Some of my best memories and life-changing moments happened while providing service. My favorite was after Hurricane Katrina, while I was a pharmacy student in Atlanta, there was an opportunity to serve the thousands of displaced families from the areas hit. I worked with a team to temporarily set up a disaster clinic in a shopping center parking lot. We put hundreds of fold out tables and thousands of chairs all over and provided immediate medical screenings and prescriptions. Not only was it fascinating to see the work of many produce life changing (and even potentially life-saving) help, I was able to practice pharmacy in a way I haven’t since. Declaration of disaster laws allowed pharmacists and other medical professionals to practice at the height of our skill-set and beyond what our licensure typically allows. I learned so much in those few days. I went back and forth from doing patient screenings and prescriptions to running into the Kroger pharmacy and filling them. We provided all the services for free and several businesses, including Kroger who was my employer at the time, helped pay the bill. I also recall Chick-fil-a providing meals for everyone. That’s the great thing about service and thankfulness, they are endless as each prompts the other and can cause a domino effect. My few hours working as a pharmacist intern allowed me to serve others, better learn my craft, receive kindness from others such as the food, and thanks from those I helped. There is no feeling in the world like when I handed a mother of a small child anti-seizure medications they had left without, seeing the relief in her eyes and hearing her tearful heartfelt thanks. It made me feel like I changed her world, and it changed mine. If this isn’t life changing at its best and most simple, I don’t know what is.

Molly:  I love the topic “simplest way to improve your life” (as if it was ever that simple.) We all have responsibilities and basic needs that need to be satisfied for survival. With that in mind, my recommendation to improve your life is to surround yourself with positive people and minimize toxicity. For me, that means working with people that share my passion and support me as a colleague and friend. One of the core values in my company is locking arms to achieve goals together. I love that we are there for each other, even if we’ve never met. Just hearing the heart-filled stories about co-workers showing up for each other in times of need can give me the boost I didn’t know I needed. I look forward to our company newsletters to read and see pictures of my co-workers locking arms with each other and the community over and over again. When you work full time, work culture is everything. To improve your life, do a double check to make sure your work environment is the right fit for you and a positive one.

Trish:    I have an ongoing war with my brain trying to figure out just how to improve my life. I’ve been convinced…for a good while now…that if I can simplify my life, it will be a grand show of blissful happiness. My epiphany occurred several years ago when I was working on writing a thank you note and I trashed several versions because I was trying too hard to convey just the right message. I know we’ve all trashed a few thank you note versions, but I take my gorgeous must-be-monogrammed-stationary seriously and messing up even one piece ticks me off! Okay, so, back to the epiphany. My significant other was watching yet another one of my complicate-all-things-in-life-scenarios and he said, “Trish! Just write something simple-stupid!” With that, I knocked out a simple and effective thank you message and didn’t waste one more piece of my precious stationary! I remembered that “simple-stupid” came from a mentor of my significant other. The mentor said that leaders should approach every easy and difficult situation with simplicity in mind. He called the technique “simple-stupid” to remind himself that it is stupid to approach any situation without simplicity first.

As “simple-stupid” as this sounds, I find it hard to remind myself to approach daily life with simplicity. Instead of working hard to remind myself, I made a metallic gold sign that says, “Keep Life Simple” and hung it in my kitchen. I look at this sign daily and it helps remind me that I am not alone in my quest to improve my life and we all struggle with over complicating things. From writing thank you notes, having discussions with poor-performing subordinates, making sure the kids have everything they need for school, to finding time in your own schedule to just breathe for a moment, we must find ways to remind ourselves daily to simplify. Hmmm. Maybe I should ditch the fancy monogrammed stationary for a cute pack of dollar store thank you notes. It’s the simple and meaningful message that counts, right?


No Negativity- Negative Trash

Originally published on LinkedIN on September 10, 2018 by the “Four Friends”

By John R. Nocero, Jennifer RawleyMolly Downhour and Patricia Graham

This week’s Topic: Negative Trash

John: Hating your work or your relationship doesn’t mean you suck. Everyone has positive and negative aspects to their day. This is normal. It just means that you have not found the right job or the right girlfriend (or boyfriend). It’s likely that you are the one holding yourself back. Sorry, yes, it’s true. When you change yourself, the right person will come into your life and those that are not meant to be there, will leave. When you want to change jobs, you focus on the jobs you want and the right job will be there when it is time. But don’t assume that all this is happening because you are an awful person. Yes, sometimes, we make poor choices, either getting into a relationship that is not good for us or making mistakes in our spending or working for the wrong employer, and it is painful, now we have to deal with the consequences. Emotions are very tricky like that. And what also makes it worse is that you don’t even know you have gotten in your own way. You are your own roadblock.

Question for my three friends and this may sting a bit but someone may be wondering this, so here goes: What do you do when your head is full of negative trash?

Jen:  When my head is swimming with negativity, trash or otherwise, I first try to slow down or stop digging the hole of self-pity any deeper. Once I gather myself, I will allocate a reasonable amount of time to continue worrying (aka stressing, explaining, dissecting, figuring out why…et al.). Once the time has passed, I force myself to snap out of it. It’s much easier said than done, but the alternative is to continue on in negative thoughts that are not going to improve my situation. I agree with John, for the most part we are a product of our own actions and living the consequences of our own decisions. In the professional world, this is very true in many aspects, especially in the US where we have freedom to move from or to any job as we please. We may think we lack this freedom, but that is our own minds working against us. For example, who doesn’t know someone that abhors their job? Yet they continue working at it with no obvious plans to make a change. They complain about their lot, but will cite any number of excuses to quit such as finances, location, schedules and more. It’s much easier to find an excuse or way out of doing something difficult than it is to strategize around the barriers. Herein lies the roadblock John mentions- we literally do it to ourselves.

For argument’s sake, I’m not lumping everyone into this category. I understand fully there are people struggling to get by, choosing to pay power bills over buying food or in similar situations where changing a job could be detrimental due to a lapse in pay. Rather, I’m speaking of the types of professionals I work with every day, that incorrectly lump themselves into that category. They theoretically could make it a month or two without pay if they had to, if the sacrifice of doing so could give them a better opportunity. I’m also not advocating for knee-jerk decisions or pulling a movie-worthy walkout. It’s okay to plan it out or strategize, in fact that’s the smartest thing to do, but you must have plans in place to take eventual action. Like so many other things, this comes down to self-control- if you cannot control your own thoughts or actions then the world will control them for you.

Molly: Negative trash is an evil villain that requires a variety of superheroes to conquer. Picture the Justice League or the Avengers. My group of superheroes include my husband, family, work friends, girlfriends, and mom friends. These superheroes provide honest feedback, perspective, advice, time to vent, and/or solutions to attack the evil perils of negative mind trash. Having a variety of superheroes in your village is key in order to customize the counter attack. For example, after a terrible work meeting I informed a colleague of how bad the meeting went and it was even worse since I was missing my youngest’s kindergarten holiday performance at school. My negative trash was telling me that not only was I bad at my job, but I was bad at my job and a bad mom. In true superhero fashion she simply asked what time was the performance. When I said in 15 minutes, she said you can make it. Just go. And I did. Not only did I get to watch my baby perform something resembling a festive tune (mostly adorably waving at me), I also got the needed distance from the stressful work meeting consuming way too much brain matter. The time traveling to and from the school was enough to give me the perspective on what I could have done differently and whether or not I owned the problem (which I did not). I came back to work with pictures/videos and a clear head to take on the next challenge. Negative mind trash is a worthy opponent looking to take and keep you down, but my superheroes have my back and I have theirs.

Trish:  What is negative trash? To me, negative trash is the many bad, evil, ugly, undesirable, harmful, destructive, and nasty things that we encounter on a daily basis. As I sift through the negative trash that I encounter each day, I recognize that there is some trash I choose to address and make better, and some I just leave in the trash bin and ignore. One important item on the daily negative trash list that seems to do the most damage is a negative thought that intrudes my thinking, planning and creative processes. Out of alllllllll the negative trash out there that we sift through in our daily lives, we can only control our own negative trash, right? So, what do I do to handle my negative thoughts? For one, I try to take a deep breath, consider the negative thought and quickly figure a way to minimize or narrow it down. I then move to looking at the possibilities of what can be done with the issue. How can I solve it quickly? What are my alternatives? I also take some time to reconsider the negativity. If I create a solution, was it as negative as I initially thought? I may even try to move toward putting a better spin on my issue or negativity. Maybe my issue would be solved if I worked with someone else to solve it. Maybe I would gain experience by working with someone that I haven’t worked with in the past. Sometimes, I even take a moment to consider what the people I most respect would think or how they would handle my negative trash issue. Ultimately, I ask myself am I holding myself to an insanely high standard and is that why I am allowing negative trash to intrude my thinking, planning and creative process? I am working to free myself of trying to achieve perfection by recognizing that my successes and positivity have come from my willingness to mess up, learn, and move on.

Tears of Joy

Originally published on LinkedIN on 7/12/18 see it here

By John R. Nocero and Jennifer Rawley

John; At a meeting yesterday, Jen and I were talking about dealing with drama. As managers, we both are besieged with it, be it in the form of scope creep or missed deadlines. Maybe the most significant though is hurt feelings.

Not ours, although they could be. No, we are talking about managing the hurt feelings of our direct reports. These come in a variety of forms, often, in the form of tears. We discussed strategies of dealing with tears. Jen had witnessed it most recently so our discussion turned to some of her experiences which she describes below.

Jen: As my leadership responsibilities have grown, so too have the frequency and extent of tense conversations. While this is not unexpected, I am still surprised by the number of incidences. Most events take on a similar pattern, but periodically a display of borderline histrionics ensues. When these occasions arise, my goal first and foremost is always to do everything in my power to not exacerbate the situation. Even if the event is brought on by disciplinary action, I will typically halt that conversation. Personally, I have never had success messaging feedback or discipline once the team member has lost control of their emotions.

In my experience, most of these tearful events fall into one of the below categories and I take a slightly different approach with each;

1.      True/Legitimate Crises: Thankfully, these are the rarest, but also the most difficult on both my end and the employee’s. This is a situation when something unforeseen or beyond anyone’s control has occurred and tears shed are from true sorrow. It can be due to loss of a loved one, serious diagnoses including the employee’s own physical or mental health,  genuine mistakes or medical errors,and other situations of similar gravity. Most people have personally been affected by this, including me.

When these occur, I remain supportive and adjust what this support ultimately looks like to each individual person. Some want to sit quietly and collect themselves, others want to cry on my shoulder or verbalize all their anguish. I let these situations take a natural course and offer any and every resource available to help. Prioritizing the employee’s personal needs above work is key as is messaging it to them in a way that they trust and believe me. I often have to be the voice of reason and insist its ok for them to take bereavement, a personal leave, or adjust their work schedule.

2.      Consequence of Poor Choices: These are usually my younger and less mature staff. Occasionally it’s a tenured employee who has managed to squeak by for too long. Situations that come to mind include those who push the limits of rules or policies and wind up terminated or have patterns of behavior that do not reflect our organization’s core values.

In the past, I terminated a young employee who was in many ways a stellar team member who worked as a registrar. However, she lacked the maturity and/or willingness to comply with the attendance policy. This resulted in an initial disciplinary warning to be issued during her new hire probation. Shortly thereafter, she had a rude exchange in the presence of a patient. The attendance issue early in her employment placed her in a final warning situation and she was terminated for the behavioral incident. During the term meeting, as the finality of the situation hit her, she broke down in my office and cried for almost an hour.

In these cases, I offer support to a point. For instance, in the above situation I offered some contacts of local staffing agencies that she could reach out to for expedited employment while she looked for another full time position. I retrieved a bottle of water and some Kleenex. I offered her to stay in my office until she felt comfortable to leave. No matter the reason, I always believe terminated employees deserve to be treated with compassion. I allow them time to calm down and any visible signs of crying to subside. I frequently offer to gather their personal belongings if they prefer to leave directly from my office rather than return to their work area in front of coworkers.

3.      Drama Royals: Queens, kings, princesses, jesters- call them whatever you like, they love drama. And I can always tell who is going to fall into this crowd because the first time we meet, they will tell me in their elevator pitch how much they abhor drama.  These are the individuals who either blatantly wreak havoc, or who I call “spoons” since they stir the pot amongst the team. They are often good at theatrics and can get away with nonsense for a while. Upon confrontation, they either lie, or when presented with undeniable evidence, may have a crying meltdown to gain sympathy. My tolerance level for this is slightly above 0.01% and the human in me wants to debate with them and play my own role – something like “Judge Judy” would fit for most scenarios. Nonetheless, I hold to my plan and try not to make the situation any worse. This is sometimes the hardest part of my job

The only way I know to deal with these is to maintain calmness and avoid provoking them. Once they misstep (which they all eventually do) enough to warrant serious repercussions then I take further action.  When these incidents are at a level that is more trivial, I employ a firmer stance. I will provide constructive feedback and “tough love” in the hopes that the employee will step up and do the right thing moving forward. If not, many of them come to realize they need to pursue a different career trajectory. Occasionally, if the scene continues beyond a reasonable time frame I will stand up and begin physically gathering my things for “my next meeting that I am late for.” This is a time management strategy I learned from a book years ago that has served me well in a variety of situations where I need to end conversations happening in my own office.

On a personal level, my only real meltdown at work was following a significant medication error. As a clinical pharmacist, I profiled a methylprednisolone infusion for a COPD patient who required a preservative-free brand. This forced me to use a different NDC and manual entry from a 500mg vial for a 60mg dose. Ultimately, the computer system auto-populated the dose to 500mg and I failed to notice and change it back to 60mg. The patient received three infusions, eight hours apart each, before a nurse noticed the mistake. Aside from minor hyperglycemia, the patient was unharmed and – surprise surprise- breathing quite well. I was a newly graduated pharmacist and the gravity of the situation hit me hard. I went into a bathroom and tearfully shook for several minutes. After calming down, I realized how blessed I (and especially the patient) was that if I had to pick one drug to dose a patient over 10x the ordered dose, I would have picked this drug.

It didn’t happen in the presence of my supervisor, but I imagine if he had been there it easily could have. I would have needed him to listen to me and remind me everything was alright. To live and learn and move forward. I am sure that’s exactly how he would have handled it. Unfortunately, I have had other supervisors over the years that would have taken the opportunity to belittle and lecture me on my lack of attention to detail and patient safety. Such an event could have been a game-changer in my professional path. Instead of learning from my mistake and becoming a better pharmacist and healthcare leader, I might have lost my sense of self-confidence, and who knows what I would be doing today.

No matter what type of scenario and tears shed, as leaders and colleagues we have an opportunity to raise others up and support them. A wise CEO once told me to live by the rule “do the right thing.” Even when others aren’t – such as drama royals – we still have an opportunity to do the right thing and react with thoughtfulness.

John: The joy comes when you are able to implement advice this this immediately. All of us have feelings, and whether we admit it or not, we can be ruled by them if not dealt with appropriately. Treat employees like people. Our organizations and patients, depend on it.

Make Ship Happen

By John R. Nocero & Jennifer S. Rawley

John: Something bad just happened in your life. You wrecked your car. You lost your job. The dog ran away. Your spouse left you for her old high-school flame she hit up on Facebook that she was catching-up with. What do you do?

You are the captain of your own ship. Unless you have got 50-plus feet of fiberglass underneath you, you’re not immune. Sooner or later, you’re going to get caught in high winds, big seas or both. Accept it, and do something about it. Make ship happen.

“You are the captain of your own ship.”

You can’t control the circumstances that the ocean we call life tosses at you, but you can control your bearings and your own compass. This concept it not new. But it not one that everyone accepts. With the advent of social media – and people only posting the good moments in their lives – we tend to assume that those people who have the money, job, career accolades and many of the things that we (that means you) want, that they must have gotten it through nefarious means, or networked better than you, had better breaks, fell into a job with the right perks, or grew up rich and could afford to make mistakes because the family had enough money to bail them out.

You call them lucky? Lady luck is a fickle mistress. She really doesn’t do anything for you. She simply opens a door. You need to walk through it. Sometimes you don’t see it as an opportunity, until you miss it.

Jen: Moving from passive thinking to active doing is often the most difficult step, especially when we feel broken. Regardless of circumstance, most of us naturally lean towards being either ‘thinkers’ or ‘doers.’ In reality, we should try to find a balance of both qualities. John and I only recently began working together, but compared to one another, it’s obvious he is more of a ‘doer’ and I am more a ‘thinker’. Fortunately, we understand this about ourselves and can use this knowledge to complement and synergize projects. Knowing your natural tendencies and then strategizing around them is key.

When situations beyond our control turn negative, we risk slipping into endless contemplation or feeling sorry for ourselves. At times, I am guilty of perseverating on negative situations, especially I feel victimized by circumstances. In actuality, it’s merely a less obvious method of procrastination delaying resolution of problems.

To move away from this tendency, I had to adjust my mindset. I suddenly realized having a justifiable reason or a right to excessively think or complain about something does not mean I should complain or worry. Wow – major revelation! Absurdly simple, but it has been a game-changer for me. Since my day of epiphany I have been able to take action to improve my circumstances faster and with more clarity than in the past when I allowed myself to overthink far too much.

“We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”

Many of us have heard popular motivational quotes about sails and wind. One of my favorites is from Thomas S. Monson who said, “We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” The cynical side of me sometimes creeps up to argue “what if there isn’t any wind?” I remind myself there are always choices and this is no different. I can worry about the lack of wind but ultimately do nothing or I can choose to stay positive, float with the current and hope wind will come. However, if I want to make real progress, I might instead tear down the sail and make a paddle.

John: This is who we are, where we are and we are doing something about it. If you are not there yet, seek to understand the reason(s) why and resolve it. You might not have the experience you want, connections you wish for, a dream job, or resources you think you need. Don’t allow these nuances to hold you back. Adjust your sail and find a place where the wind is blowing. If that’s impossible, make a paddle. Just make the ship happen.

Originally published on LinkedIN on 7/16/18 see it here

The Wolf Is Scratching At The Door

Originally published on LinkedIN 8/4/18 see it here

By John R. Nocero and Jennifer S. Rawley

John: I first heard the metaphor “The wolf is always scratching at the door,” from my favorite actor and role model Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Amid all his success, he let the world know that his struggle has been real and he didn’t get to the top alone. He and his family were evicted from his home by age 14, and flat broke shortly thereafter. But that didn’t deter him from transforming his dreams into becoming his reality. “Every day I wake up as if that eviction notice is right around the corner waiting for me.. which is why I always say, ‘the wolf is always scratchin’ at the door,’” he said. “He’s scratchin’ cause he’s hungry and never satisfied. We embrace and respect our past, but we never let it define our future. Let’s stay hungry and chase that greatness.”

My wolf returned this week. To me, that metaphor means I am sad, my demon of depression has returned. I have battled depression probably since my mid-teens, and no one knows self-loathing like I do. However, within the past year or so, I’ve flipped the script on it, and embraced the wolf coming with with open arms. I had a bout of sadness this week. Jen e-mailed me at one point and said, “I noticed something was up, but didn’t know what.” I really didn’t want to tell her or anyone about it, just wanted to chill with my wolf. I realize now that you can’t look away from it, or bury it in destructive habits, you have to own it and welcome those feelings or sadness, anguish or pain. Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away. You really have to feel it to heal it, address what is wrong, or at least acknowledge it, and then it makes it easier when he returns. Because he will.

The metaphor works for your career too. The path to the top is wrought with struggle, tears, hardships. If it were that easy all of us will be millionaires. How do you focus on living the life you are proud of when it seems the walls are crashing down?

Jen: Even those among us who don’t suffer from clinical depression have likely experienced intermittent depressed moods or situational stress. It causes the sadness, anguish and/or pain that John is mentioning.

For me, situational stress or anxiety has the greatest impact. Too many times I let my mind race trying to rationalize or understand what I am dealing with. This can lead to an onslaught of negativity, fatigue and hopelessness. It can consume me and bleed over into my work and relationships – if I let it.

Fortunately, I’ve learned what triggers this cascade of anguish and self-doubt. I allow myself a reasonable time to think or wallow in self pity. This could range from five minutes to a day or more, depending on the situation. Then once the time passes I force myself to snap out of it. Sometimes the snap is best done with a physical change. For instance, I might jump up out of my seat, take a shower, or go for a walk. I push back any tendency to allow the thoughts to come back and remind myself I’ve already lost x amount of time on it and refuse to spend any more.

Another thing I’ve learned is that the busier I am, the less prone I am to fall into letting much bother me for more than a brief moment. I’m not advocating for a life of non-stop busyness. Rather, I realized that things might not be so bad if they would have gone unnoticed on a busier day or week for instance.

Perseverance is the ultimate quality to strive for. Without it, not much will get accomplished in the long run. Likewise, lasting joy, fulfillment, and happiness cannot come without persistence. Victor Hugo said of it, “perseverance, secret of all triumphs.”

John & Jen: We have accepted dealing with heartbreak and now we are never lonely. Even if no one will sit with us in the light, the wolf is there to sit with us in the dark. We are grateful for his accountability. Next time, he shows up, I will be sure to kiss him on the mouth, hug his neck, and say “hello, my old friend. I’m glad you’ve come to see me again.” Maybe he won’t bite me then. Maybe he will look at me with empathy, and protect me, as alpha wolvess protect their pack. Greatness is never achieved alone. Surround yourself with hungry, brilliant wolves who not only buy into your philosophy, but who are all willing to work just as hard as you. Power of teamwork. And don’t ever forget where you came from.