Taking the long way around

I slammed into a brick wall this week. In October, I committed to making a career change and plenty of roadblocks have arisen since then. Through this process I have developed all kinds of strategies for getting around them (read this earlier post about one of them), the actual collision will always be a source of frustration.

This week’s challenge is not entirely surprising: Using What Color Is Your Parachute as my guide, I long ago completed the Flower Exercise, then I moved on to spiffing up my online presence, and most recently, I have begun to conduct informational interviews with folks who work in the three fields that intrigue me most: Education-Based or Educational Travel, Expat Coaching and Teen Mentoring. I have made tremendous progress, learning about myself, about the tremendous value of goal-setting, and what it’s like to work in those three fields.

The brick wall? I am beginning to chase my own tail. While I’m talking with different people almost daily, I find I’m having the same conversation over and over again, but am still in need of new information. I’ve been stuck before, so it’s a familiar experience, but that does not make it any less infuriating. The experience has some common threads: First, I spin my wheels before really being able to identify my stuck-ness. Then, I stop whatever forward motion I have developed before I have to pause to catch my breath, which is kind of like finding the space between inhaling and exhaling. And then, the problem-solving begins.

Often, the solutions or strategies I create are not head-on responses to my stuck-ness, and just this afternoon, it occurred to me that my favorite method of side-stepping these challenges is directly connected to a concept Dr. Lorely French, one of my college professors, once spent some time teaching to my classmates and me.

As a Modern Languages major, I developed fluency in Spanish, and also studied German, Japanese and French. In my German class, Dr. French talked about circumlocution, which Webster’s defines as “the use of many words to say something that could be said more clearly and directly by using fewer words.” Normally, I’m a believe in all things efficient, effective, and logical, but what if, in the case of language (and this was the point that Dr. French was making), the speaker doesn’t know the word needed to communicate an idea, but she does know how to explain the thing instead? For example, if I didn’t know the word chair in English, but I did have the words “the thing that you sit on, sometimes at a table or a desk” the speaker would be able to successfully communicate, even if it wasn’t the most efficient, effective and logical way to do it.

While I’ve learned a lot in the months I have dedicated to making a career change, right now I don’t  have the most efficient, effective and logical way around my current brick wall experience. What I do have is the awareness that if I step back and focus on figuring out how to get around this current challenge, it’ll soon recede in my rearview mirror.

Come to think of it, I’m reminded of one of my favorite camp songs: Going on a Bear Hunt

#circumlocution #dickbolles #whatcolorisyourparachute #careerchange #goingonabearhunt






Relax. Nothing is under control.

Pulling onto the freeway on a recent drizzly day, I was in a rush again and working hard to calm down as I simultaneously hustled to get where I needed to go. I spotted “Relax.”  on a bumper sticker affixed to a late model Ford pickup, but I couldn’t make out the rest of the message. Accelerating and changing lanes, I pulled up next to the truck, and sighed as I made out “…Nothing is under control.” What a relief!

Stepping Out and Looking Up


I just came across an older New York Times blog post by Frank Bruni in which he explores what it means to travel the world accompanied by all the devices we now carry with us. Without belaboring it, Bruni’s point is that we can travel thousands of miles from home, and still miss the experiences that inspired us to travel in the first place.

I love technology as much as the next person, and its uses particularly while traveling. No matter where I am, I’m able to broaden my professional network through the magic of LinkedIn, connect with old friends on Facebook, stay up-to-the minute on everything via Twitter, reserve affordable lodging on AirBnB, explore what dabbin’ (the dance!) is so I understand what my kids are up to, etc. But taken to its extreme, I could also make the mistake of insulating myself from all the bumps and wrinkles that arise through travel by tethering myself so closely to my iPhone that I miss the point of the trip in the first place.

I am so grateful to have studied abroad before the internet made it possible to be in frequent and low-cost contact with friends and family at home. Instead, when I left for a semester in Ecuador and a subsequent one in Spain, I knew could anticipate letters and a phone call or two from those nearest and dearest to me, but that otherwise, it was up to me to get up and go. In the most wonderful and necessary way, this un-tethering forced me  to explore my surroundings and to make a life for myself. As a result, I got up and went, making friends, getting lost, seeing sights I would have missed otherwise.

Tell me how you un-tether at home and while traveling. It isn’t as easy as it sounds!

Education-Based Travel: An exploration

Travel. Why do we do it? At its worst, travel is expensive, stressful, confusing and exhausting. That wicked combination can bring even the most seasoned traveler to her knees, particularly when combined with hunger, jet-lag, and inevitable (yet always unexpected) delays. While on the road and away from home, lessons abound.

Once, while in Granada, Spain, before ATMs adorned every street corner, I waited in line at a bank for 45 minutes, only to have the teller close his window for a cigarette break, which he took while seated directly in front of me just as I reached the front of the line. Another time, while in Tel Aviv, my young children became furious on our family’s first night in Israel because my husband and I were unwilling to ask for catsup to go with the fries that accompanied their falafel. In Bangkok, I jumped out of a (slowly) moving taxi because a local couple I did not know crammed themselves into the cab just as we pulled away from the curb. On a road trip through part of Mexico, my husband and I convinced ourselves that the gas gauge on our rented car was broken, and that a Pemex attendant had attempted to swindle us. Everyone who has traveled, on both domestic and international trips, can offer similarly frustrating anecdotes, and worse. And, every traveler often laughs as she tells you what she learned from those times of adversity.

My takeaway from waiting in line at the bank? Getting angry won’t change the experience, so I might as well find the patience to endure it, or leave. And the lesson for my children when they didn’t get the catsup? That was a twofer lesson: first, they can survive catsup-less fries, and second, sometimes, you just have to roll with the punches. After bailing on the taxi in Thailand, I realized that because I didn’t speak Thai, there was no way for me to know if I had actually been in danger, but that I needed to follow my gut anyway. And the moral of the gas gauge story? Just because the system is unfamiliar (in Mexico, only gas station attendants are allowed to pump gas) doesn’t mean that everyone is trying to pull a fast one. By definition, travel is educational.

But what happens when we make the connection explicit, and put experienced educators in charge of travel programs? It is an educator’s paradise, and participants of all ages enjoy a more rich experience, returning home with greater knowledge in both expected and unexpected areas. This is not just travel, but Educational Travel or Education-Based Travel, and magic happens here.

Read a recent post from Holbrook Travel, a boutique travel company that customizes every single trip they plan. Notice the connection to measurable classroom learning. Or how about the offerings from EF Tours? Their WeShare program, encourages participants to anticipate, experience, and then reflect on both the lessons of travel and the content learning they came away with. Watch this video from Road Scholar, a company offering educational adventures for participants of all ages, and try to convince me you aren’t inspired.

Comment to tell me what you think about Educational Travel / Education-Based Travel. Feel free to share similar programs that explicitly connect travel and education.



“LinkedIn” appeared in the Outcomes section of my weekly planning worksheet for three consecutive weeks. Nothing happened. It disappeared from the worksheet for the following three consecutive weeks. Again, nothing. It then reappeared for two more consecutive weeks. And still, nothing.

When I saw that action item reappear, it was clear there was a problem. It was time for an honest conversation with myself. You see, a number of months ago, I set myself on a path of discovery that will lead to a career change. Failing to work on my LinkedIn profile was not an option, and after two months of zero progress, it was evident that moving forward the way I had intended wasn’t working.

I’m a processor, so the only option I could think of was a heart-to-heart conversation with myself. My internal dialogue went something like this: – So this isn’t working, and you actually have to make progress on this action item.I know. It’s awful…and embarrassing. I’m usually better at getting things done. – So what’s holding you up? – (sigh) It’s just so hard! And, I don’t know if I can live with anything short of perfect.Huh. Perfection sure can get in the way of progress.

I was smacked upside the head (Remember the book A Whack on the Side of the Head?) with a revelation: all I had to do was shift away from my pursuit of perfection. A simple shift in word choice would suffice. The next week, the action item I had come to dread writing most looked like this:

  • write 3 shitty sentences for LinkedIn profile

And the next week?

  • write 3 more shitty sentences

Pretty? Nope! Eloquent? Not a chance? Specific, actionable, and liberating? You bet!

My revelation is an important one: The pursuit of perfection can stop us cold.

Voltaire said, “The best is the enemy of the good.” which, no surprise, is far more eloquent than my restated action item. Sometimes forward progress is just about incremental progress, which may lead to big steps, and which may also lead to smaller steps forward.

In her book, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, author Wendy Mogel talks about the importance of striving to be “good enough” as a parent, leaving behind the pursuit of perfection. What freedom! How different would life be if we all pursued good enough, and let the rest fall away? I have a sneaking suspicion the world would continue to spin on its axis, and we would all breathe a little more easily.

Examples abound, yet it seems that lessons are best learned when we connect them to personal experience. Do a Google search to discover just how many others have done the same or written about it. Oh, and my LinkedIn profile? It’s far from perfect, but I did publish it and it is available for all to see.

I am confident that writing this blog will provide me with many more opportunities to keep my revelation fresh, just as this career change process does on a daily basis. I’ll do my best, or at least good enough.

Comment below to share your thoughts on this subject.