Dealing with being Overwhelmed

We’ve all been in a situation when we are feeling overwhelmed and there are only a few responses I have seen people have: Collapse, Pretend, or Deal.

Collapse People

If you are a collapse person, when the going gets rough you just fall apart. These folks ramp up the activity and appear out of control. Everything is done at warp speed, but not done well. You rush from project to project like someone spinning plates. Inevitably as more is added you cannot keep up with it all and there is a collapse.

Deadlines are missed, other work is turned in on time but is half-finished, and you are physically exhausted.

Pretend People

If you are a pretend person, when the going gets rough you just ignore some of the stuff you have to do. These folks don’t change anything and appear clueless. They don’t change speed or approach, they just stick stuff in a drawer and pretend it wasn’t assigned. They do the things they like and most likely do it well, but completely drop the ball on everything else. Inevitably a deadline is approaching, work hasn’t been started, and this person leaves the office at 4:30 to spend time with friends.

Entire projects are completely ignored, other co-workers are left holding the bag, and you are blissfully unaware of the drama you have left in your wake.

Deal People

If you are a deal person, when the going gets rough you realize that you have probably overcommitted or that this is just a season of business. These folks tend to hit a “pause button” of sorts and create a game plan to maintain organization and triage their task list. They talk to those that are owed work product and provide feedback about timing and the current work load. They negotiate extensions or simply stay later or take work home to complete it.

Projects are completed within the original or newly negotiated time frame. Co-workers appreciate your willingness to roll up your sleeves, and your supervisor is happy you have taken the steps necessary to overcome the obstacle.

Your Choice

I’m a deal person. I haven’t always been a deal person, when I was a kid I was a collapse person, I have trained myself to be a deal person. The best part is that your response to being overwhelmed is completely within your control. 100%. Sometimes you will be overwhelmed. No matter how much you try to avoid it, life has a way of putting you in those situations.

So, choose to be a deal person. Stop making excuses for why you can’t deal, and just deal. Take a minute, look at everything on your plate and choose to deal with it.

What sort of person are you?

America has invented sports trained generations of our citizens to be good at them and then start calling them world championships, all because we are horrible a soccer. Well, all except the USWNT. They have had years of sustained success. What makes that so?

Politics

I’ve been a fairly avid follower of politics ever since I sent a note to Ronald Reagan asking him to have dinner with us at our home in Augusta when I was 6 years old. I don’t know why politics has always been a “thing” for me, but it has. I spent some time reflecting on the role politics plays in our lives and I’ve come to a few conclusions.

It doesn’t really matter

When I look back on major legislation that has passed in my lifetime, all of the bills that were supposed to “ruin the country” didn’t. Even the ones that I was personally convinced were horrible and against everything we stand for in America haven’t really mattered all that much. We are humans, and we adjust. So, I quit caring so much what congress is doing in DC and just try to live my life and adjust when needed.

Update for Clarification:

Thanks to @billygriffin22 for pointing out that I need to dive a bit deeper here. The broader point here is that for the vast majority of people worried about ACA, Immigration, Gay Marriage, and other mostly social issues the sky isn’t falling and everything is going to be just fine. Same for the crowd against Super PACs, Tax Cuts, etc. Those of us that don’t have to worry about roofs over our heads, food to eat, and health care availability can just adjust.

For those that are on the margins of society, national policy shifts are very important and matter. These are the people that get lost in all the cable news shouting.

Thanks again Billy for helping me clarify.

Local is where it’s at

Local politics, however, DO matter. They matter a great deal. Congress isn’t worried about whether or not Ashford-Dunwoody Road gets widened. (It should.) They aren’t concerned about whether or not density should increase along major travel corridors inside the perimeter. (It should.)

Your local politicians care. In fact, a friend and I are typically the youngest people in our city to attend city functions by a wide margin. I believe there are 50,000 people in our city and less than 50 typically attend the most crowded events/hearings. So, these 50 people have an outsized voice in what happens in our community.

Local politicians listen to the people that show up. Quit wasting your time with petitions and form letters. Real people count more than paper and simple emails that take no time or effort. I imagine that my in person opinion is weightier than 100 form emails about the same topic.

Save your voice for important stuff

As important as it is to be there and be heard, it is just as important to save your voice for things you really care about. When people are arguing about how long the public pools should be open, or why the sidewalks haven’t been repaved yet, you should probably stay quiet unless that is your proverbial “hill to die on”.

You don’t need to have an opinion on everything. (Yes, for those of you that know me well…I realize its ironic that I am saying that.) What you need to do is pick a few things that will really matter in the long run and have well thought, well reasoned opinions and beliefs about these things.

This is why I’m so passionate about cities inside of 285 in Atlanta recognizing that they aren’t suburbs anymore. They are part of the city core. Twenty years from now that is what will matter. The choices we make about density today, will impact our ability to function in 20 years. To me, that is choice worth having an opinion about.

Final thoughts

 

As we head into the celebration of our country’s independence, I am more mindful than ever that what we have isn’t perfect. In fact its like a family. My family isn’t perfect, and yours isn’t either, but its the family we have. And I’m so glad I’m a part of this family with all its bumps and lumps and not another family.

I don’t really take politics seriously any more at the national level. I view it as entertainment, a sort of reality show that doesn’t really have a purpose. A bunch of people; famous for being famous. I save my energy for things that really matter.

I live in a constant state of readiness. When an opportunity comes along I don’t have to waste time getting ready. – Austin Lee

Torch Passing

Wednesday I got the call that no grandson ever wants to get. My mom called to tell me that my grandpa was found unresponsive in his home in Chattanooga. My Dad’s, Dad, was dying. I got up from my desk, got in my car and drove to Chattanooga.

Jack Edward Lee was just shy of his 88th birthday. He grew up during the Great Depression, served his country in the Navy during World War II, returned to Chattanooga, went to college, and worked in the steel industry.

Grandpa Lee and I spent a lot of time in the car together in the last few years. I asked him once how he got his start in the steel industry.

“Well, that’s a particularly good story, Austin my boy,” he started, “I graduated from college and the next morning I took the bus downtown. I got off the bus, went to the end of the block, then I looked to the right and saw a company a little ways down the road. I looked to the left and saw another company a little ways in the other direction. The company on the left was closer, so I walked in and asked for a job.”

He stayed at American Steel for 40 years, becoming the company’s vice president. He took 12 sick days in 40 years. 5 of them were for his open heart surgery in 1980. When I asked him how he knew it was time to retire he said, “One day they came in and asked me where I wanted the computer to sit on my desk. And I immediately went to the president of the company and told him I was retiring.”

Grandpa Lee married Louise Underwood on December 17th, 1955 and they were married for almost 60 years when she died in 2010. He is most likely one of the last true gentlemen. A man that didn’t need a blog about how to be a man. He addressed his parents-in-law as Mr. and Mrs. Underwood as long as they were alive. It didn’t sound contrived, it was as effortless as breathing.

He handmade cards for my grandmother for special occasions and doted on her as her rheumatoid arthritis took her ability to stand and walk without assistance. When he retired he became a full-time nurse for his mother-in-law after she had a stroke, and then continued that role as my grandmother needed significant care. He did all of this without ever once complaining.

In 1957, Jack and Louise Lee had a son, Brian. He would be their only child; my dad. He was so proud of my dad. He encouraged my dad through bachelors, masters, and doctorate programs. He was a sounding board for major decisions. Never once did he say, “I told you, so”, when his advice wasn’t heeded.

Grandpa Lee taught my brother and I how to save money. When we were little, he created a bank just for me and my brother. At the end of the year, however much money my brother and I could save, the Bank of Grandpa would double it. (Talk about compound interest!)

He not only taught saving, he was a saver. Grandpa Lee saved 25% of every paycheck he received in his entire working life. Including his pension and social security checks he received after retirement. He also gave 10% of every paycheck to his local church.

This was all before tax. If you take out around 25% for taxes, my Grandpa lived on around 45% of his income. This is the main reason he only had a house note for his first house. After that he paid cash for all his homes, all his cars, everything. In fact, it was difficult for him to get a credit card in 2005 when he got concerned about carrying around lots of cash at the age of 78. He had no credit history.

He got his haircut twice a month, whether he needed it or not. He held doors for women. He gave to those in need. He was generous with his affection. He was as classic a gentleman as you will ever find.

I found a picture of my Grandpa while we were cleaning up at his home. He was sitting around a table with some other men at what looked like a business dinner. He had this look in his eye, like he was up to something. It’s the same look my wife tells me I have when I’m up to something. It’s the same look my dad has when he’s up to something.

I come from good stock, as they say.

I was the first in the family to arrive at the hospital and I made my way back to the tiny room in the emergency department to find him lying in bed, eyes closed. I grabbed his hand, leaned in close and said, “Grandpa, it’s okay. I’m here. You aren’t alone.”

A few minutes later, my dad arrived, and as the doctor was explaining the prognosis I realized that there were three generations of Lee men in the room. We aren’t a wealthy family and no one will write about this transition in the local paper. But in many ways, this is the passing of the torch.

Jack Edward Lee, the Patriarch of the Lee family passed the torch to my Dad. One day, the torch will be passed to me. I hope I am as worthy to receive it as my dad. I hope I’m ready. I have big shoes to fill.

When I was little, I would constantly seek my Grandpa’s approval. He would always, respond, “You did good, boy, you did good.” Rest in peace, Grandpa Lee, you did good.

Jack Edward Lee 1927 – 2015

When it comes to asking for advice don’t hold anything back. Good, bad, or ugly. If you want good advice you have to have provide good information. – Austin Lee

Say Yes

When someone is described as interesting, usually people mean that that person has had interesting experiences. And there is really only one way to have interesting experiences. You have to say, “Yes.”

3 Reasons to Say Yes to a new Experience

  1. You will often find your self outside of your comfort zone.

    I cannot stress enough how important it is to get out of your comfort zone. 100% of your personal growth comes when you are in this area. Much like building muscles requires you to lift a few more pounds and get your body outside its comfort zone.

    When you find yourself not being stretched, lean on your friends. That is why it is so important to have friends that aren’t all exactly like you.

  2. Experiences Bond People

    If you want to strengthen your bond with a friend or significant other, you need to do something that stretches both of you at the same time. You will invariably find that after this experience the relationship is stronger. I’m not a psychologist, but I have noticed in my own life that when I accomplish a major new experience with friends, our relationship grows. This can’t be an accident.

  3. YOLO…Seriously

    I know this has become somewhat of a joke phrase, but you really only live once. We get one shot. I would hate to wait around my whole life being cautious and be the most uninteresting man in the world. When people ask, “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?” I want to have to pause a few seconds and pick one of many. Don’t you?

Mother Knows Best

My mom taught me how to say yes, but she probably doesn’t realize it. When I was a kid she would sometimes leave me with a babysitter, nursery worker at church, or at a friends house. She had two instructions: “Remember you are a Lee.” and “Do whatever the adult says, unless it is immoral or illegal.” Basically, say yes to everything your caretaker says to do.

Basically, in my life that has morphed into: Say yes to every experience you are offered unless it is immoral or illegal. It has opened the door to lots of cool experiences. Some I wouldn’t do again, like the time my wife asked me to go vegan for a month. That was awful. Others I would do again in a heartbeat, like the time my friend Jordan and I drove 12 hours to watch a football game and immediately drove 12 hours back.

Thanks, Mom! I’m sure you never intended for me to take your admonishment so literally, but I’m glad I did.

What will you say yes to this week?

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