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What I Learned During My Summer Vacation

June through August, when I was young, entailed family trips around the state. In September, when asked about my vacation, I would say brightly, "I visited Mexico, Paris and Lebanon," and then in a quieter voice, "without ever leaving Missouri." Although my family didn’t go far, we were always learning. The show-me state attitude instilled at an early age, while riding in the back of a Buick Riviera, resurfaces each year around this time.

June through August, when I was young, entailed family trips around the state. In September, when asked about my vacation, I would say brightly, “I visited Mexico, Paris and Lebanon,” and then in a quieter voice, “without ever leaving Missouri.” Although my family didn’t go far, we were always learning. The show-me state attitude instilled at an early age, while riding in the back of a Buick Riviera, resurfaces each year around this time.

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Because I took leave from my writing responsibilities this summer, it seems fitting I should return with a report on a few things I learned while away.

Faces Age More Than Connections
I didn’t go back for my 25th high school reunion but I connected on Facebook with people I hadn’t had face-time with in years. I renewed a friendship I’ve always regretted losing, I swapped updates with the fellow who gave me my first kiss (circa second grade), I caught up with a classmate who has since appeared in blockbuster films, and I watched my music teacher (now the Mayor of recently flood ravaged Clarksville) talk to reporters with style. Prior to this parallel reunion, most of my social network was comprised of family and people I know through the learning, technology, and social media fields. The relationships I’ve rekindled with childhood pals has drawn me to think about online community in more intimate terms, coaxing me to revise my profile and bring more of myself to this space.

Good Graphics Tell Compelling Stories
When my husband left his corporate career, he walked out with enough vendor-hawked t-shirts to last him decades. As the sole booth-visiting member of the family now, I focus my attention on squeezy chotchkies for boy wonder and the ease with which the booth itself can teach me something so I don’t need to bond with the demodude. This summer’s winning booth was from Vivisimo, an enterprise search and clustering utility that wouldn’t have grabbed my attention had it not been for their stellar artwork and informative decor. This otherwise commoditized vendor did more than any t-shirt could. It drew me in, taught me a few things, and may even lead to sales.

Feel Indicates Workplace Performance
I helped Doug Newburg and Jim Clawson with their forthcoming book based on Doug’s groundbreaking look at what makes the world’s most successful people extraordinary. After interviewing 500+ world-class performers in fields including sports, business, medicine and music, Doug learned that how they feel is the most consistent indicator of how they perform. The better they became, the more they felt how they wanted to feel, which drove them to continue and excel. This rattles common HR practices identifying feel as a taboo topic best left in the parking lot. After asking myself, “How do I want to feel?” I began challenging leaders I work with to ask themselves (and their people) the same question, then consider actively working to remove obstacles making them feel like ___.

Generational Demographics Go 2.0
For the past year I’ve toyed with closing my generation-focused learning firm, missing the brain-bending challenges I recalled from my big-company days. Then, within a few weeks time, I received a flurry of calls from organizations asking how to get wider engagement and a bottom-line bounce from social media initiatives digital natives installed. I hadn’t realized I was one of only a few people speaking out on how social means something different to millennials, gen-Xers, baby boomers and an older/wiser crowd. Usage stats become background when you consider the diversity in how and why people of different ages use Twitter, enterprise communities or even Skype.

Technology Occasionally Knows Better
In the olden days, when I crafted long emails to convey a point I didn’t want to broach in person, a string of borderline pieces eaten by the Internet cloud caused me to reflect then reword. More recently, several 140-character soapboxes summonsed the fail-whale which spurred me to reconsider my venue. But when our local area lost electricity last night, twelve hundred miles away from hurricane Ike, just as Tina Fey was to channel Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live, rather than grouse in the dark I thanked technology for offering me welcome assistance and I sought out some much-needed sleep, appreciating whatever force was looking out for me after a long enlightening summer.

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Marcia Conner >> www.marciaconner.com

About the author

Marcia Conner works with ordinary people doing ingenious work and mediocre organizations realizing their employees can work in inspiring ways. She features stories of both in her upcoming book on ingenuity.

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