Recent Articles That Are Influencing My Thoughts on Work

I’m taking my first vacation of the year right now. It’s the first time this year I’ve taken off more than a day of work. And, trust me, that’s not bragging. I admit that it isn’t a good thing.

But, I’m sitting here at a friend’s beautiful home in Los Angeles, writing to you while looking at this…

It’s just fun. And it’s given me some good down time to let my brain think about a few things.

Like, why is it that we so often wait until late in the year—after we’re already exhausted and feel like we desperately need a break—in order to take one? Why aren’t vacations a more frequent part of our yearly rituals? It’s one thing if you simply can’t afford it or if travel and vacation aren’t things you have as much access to. But I’m talking about those of us who have paid time off, have the resources necessary, and have easy access to travel or vacation and still don’t take it or wait until we’re actually sick to take it (and then can’t enjoy it).

But enough of that…It’s not the main point of this week’s blog. I know it sounds counterintuitive because I’m on vacation, but all of this time off has given me a lot of space to think about “work”—especially how I want my work to look over the next few months. And a few articles are getting me to ask myself some great questions or giving me ideas to toy with, including how I want myself and my team to shift how we work moving forward.

Here are the top articles molding my thinking along with the questions they have me asking:

The Workplace Is Killing People and Nobody Cares

Read the article here.
Brandi on our team sent me this article a few months back. It’s worth its weight in gold. The article’s main premise is that work is actually to blame for a massive portion of our current healthcare crisis. Most people in developed parts of the world are dying from chronic diseases, which are often caused by overeating or under-exercising, which are most often caused by stress. And, stress—you will probably guess—is most often caused by our work lives. In other words, some people are making strong (well-researched) claims that Our Current Work Environments = Our Current Healthcare Problems.

The article goes on to discuss how, though companies have made major strides around what kinds of things are now “impermissible” (like dumping toxins into our water), they’ve largely ignored a whole host of other things that are harming our employees. We’ve come to be okay with being in an office for at least eight hours a day (and often more), sitting in chairs, and barely moving. But, yoga classes and nap rooms won’t help solve these underlying problems because they’re treating the symptoms and not the cause.

Questions it has me asking:

  • What does it mean for us to physically move at work?
  • Is there a way for us to move around more times throughout the day than we do right now?
  • And, how can the GAN team find ways to do this together since we’re such a close-knit team?


Being Outside Can Improve Memory, Fight Depression, and Lower Blood Pressure…

Read the article here.
You can guess what this article is about from the title. But there’s one study it mentions that drastically changed how I have worked, and will continue to work going forward. Its claim is that being outside “improves your ability to focus.” Since reading it, I’ve been having most of my conversations with startups while walking in a park next to our office, or have even been taking startups on a walk around a park with me. For instance, I was in Norway last month and had each company pitch to me while on a walk around the park nearby. The reason: It actually helps me focus so much more on the company. And a big bonus? I could remember a lot more details about the companies after talking with them. That makes sense, given that the article also mentions that “walking in nature could improve short-term memory.”

Questions it has me asking:

  • How can we get outside and still do work?
  • Can Reilly and I have our weekly partner meeting outside, near our office?
  • What work, in general, doesn’t actually have to be done at a computer or desk?


The Culture Factor

Read the article here.
It’s the most interesting article on culture that I’ve seen in years. My biggest takeaway: Each type of culture has a trade-off, but the important thing is to know what kind of culture you actually have. Our team has a culture of purpose and caring. But Dani just took over running our day-to-day and bends toward results. So we’ve been working on what it means to hold one another accountable while also being focused on purpose and caring, our biggest culture drivers.

Questions it has me asking:

  • What does it mean to hold a focus on results and caring?
  • How do we keep those values and culture as we grow and change?
  • What trade-offs are we making with our culture and how does this affect the way I manage the team?


How to Succeed in Business? Do Less

Read the article here.
I loved this article because it takes a look at 5,000 workers of all types—from CEOs to casino dealers—to see what separated the top performers from everyone else. The answer: “Top performers mastered selectivity. Whenever they could, they carefully selected which priorities, tasks, meetings, customers, ideas or steps to undertake and which to let go.” Said another way, they prioritized like crazy and focused only on a few specific items that were most important to their businesses.

I remember sitting in a room with President George W. Bush a few years ago. He was talking about how there were an unlimited amount of demands that came across his desk every day, and that his main role as Commander-in-Chief was to know which demands to tackle and which to save for later. So, as I’m increasingly taking on leadership roles in my life, I’m going to try to zoom in on only what’s most important and necessary. Not because I don’t want to have my hands in everything (which I really want to). But because I need to use my mental energy for those decisions that require me the most. Not only does it mean I’m more effective in what I do choose to focus on, but it also encourages my team to develop their own decision-making capabilities.

Questions it has me asking:

  • What’s actually important at this very moment?
  • What do I need to let go of? Or, what am I best at and where are my skills and leadership most needed?
  • How can I use new levels of focus to help the team build up their best skills?


The Lonely American Man

Listen to the podcast here.
I was at my neighbor’s house on Saturday night and he shared this with me. The premise is that so few guys, especially American men, have good friends. And it reminded me of something we talked a lot about in my undergrad classes. When you ask guys who their best friends are, they mention their wives (90% of the time). And when you ask women who their best friends are, they overwhelmingly name a female friend. (And, of course, I know this is not accounting for trans individuals or gender non-conforming folks but was looking specifically at cis men and women.)

All of this is to say: We have a lonely group of men out there. I haven’t had a ton of time to act on this article, but it’s just a reminder to me how important it is to be in community with other people who I can share the struggles related to family and work.

Questions it has me asking:

  • Who in my life supports me in a way that keeps me grounded?
  • What kinds of relationships do I need to build up so that I’m supported in key times of my work and life?
  • Who do I show up well for or need do a better job supporting than I am today?


The Secrets of Resilience

Read the article here.
And finally, I keep coming back to this article. What I loved most about it was this point: “Coping with stress is a lot like exercise: We become stronger with practice.” University of Nebraska psychologist Richard Dienstbier explains how this works with his “toughness model,” first published in 1989 in Psychological Review. Dr. Dienstbier gathered evidence from a wide range of human and animal studies demonstrating that exposure to intermittent stressors, such as cold temperatures and aerobic exercise, made individuals physiologically “tougher.”

What I love about this idea is that most of us look at stress as bad. Instead, I’ve been trying to look at difficulties that come my way as “exercise”—situations that help me grow as a human if I embrace the struggle. And, not surprisingly, I’m getting a lot stronger…at least mentally.

Questions it has me asking:

  • Am I preparing my mind for the difficulties that will come my way today?
  • The second a stressor comes my way, what thoughts do my mind go to?
  • How is our team finding ways to be individually and collectively resilient?
  • How do our team members deal with stress and what are ways I can encourage them to either work well within stress or disengage when stress actually becomes unhealthy?