Monthly Archives: September 2012

To attain excellence, first learn to recognize it

Describing a skill on your resume in a manner that grabs the reader’s attention means credentials or endorsements. The best endorsements are provided by the most discriminating judges in the discipline. In most fields, the criteria that discriminates top-notch performance from mediocrity is not arbitrary, but well-known and accepted. If it is your ambition to be judged as excellent, expect your performance to be critiqued against those criteria, whether you choose to pay attention to them or even acquaint yourself with them. First, then, learn and competently apply them in assessing your own work and that of others.

In photography, an excellent photo must be sharp where it should be sharp. That means discarding many otherwise interesting shots, including this one of four turtles. Most of the 50 photos I took one afternoon looked OK in the camera viewer, but not full-screen on the computer monitor. I didn’t use a tripod and it shows. The statuette nearby is still life, but not the turtles, especially their heads. Even with a tripod, hundreds of attempts might be needed to obtain one photo presenting four well-focused turtles. My impatience won out. I liked the composition and posted the photo at right on my Flickr page. Does it matter? It does if I want to be taken seriously as a photographer. If my personal brand includes consistent excellence, this photo must be discarded, so I reluctantly deleted it from Flickr. And that is the third lesson. Continue reading

Lesson 2: My camera taught me to be teachable

It was too easy at first. Jump out of bed, grab a quick shot of the beautiful sunrise, post it on Flickr.com and marinade in the compliments. Repeat daily. At first, Mother Nature provided enough variety to ensure that, like snowflakes, the sunrises weren’t exactly identical. But there got to be enough similarity that I needed to do something different. Anyway, I was shooting fish in a barrel. A 10 mile drive to Toronto lake shore changed the perspective and my viewer count surged temporarily. A suggestion from a regular visitor from Scotland jolted me out of my duffer rut. By letting the Toronto skyline remain out of focus, I achieved the result displayed at right. That photo reached 200 views in a couple of days, quadruple my previous high. My Scottish visitor was delighted that I welcomed his advice, apparently something that is rare in his experience. And that is the second lesson. Continue reading

Career Management Lesson 1: Don’t be a Duffer

When your manager asked you to present an important new project to the corporate budget committee, you suggested that she ask Freddie, your extrovert colleague in the next cubicle. You are hands-down more technically knowledgeable and Freddie isn’t actually even a great presenter but he is still better than you. Freddy probably didn’t even prepare but he delivered what was needed, won approval of the project and fended off the threat of layoffs. Everyone is grateful, and you know it could have been you. A couple of promotions are anticipated next quarter and Freddie now looks like a shoe-in and you don’t. So as you sit in your favorite leather chair at your favorite Starbucks nursing your favorite beverage, a Caramel Macchiato, you recognize decision time when you see it. Your presentations on a good day are “not so bad for an introvert” and that is costing you. So will you remain a “duffer” who improves at a glacial pace, even after company-sponsored training? Will you now initiate decisive action for quantum improvements or continue to cede the limelight and the payoffs to the extroverts? When the pain of watching while the Freddies land your dream job becomes sufficiently unbearable, you just might be willing to leave this career-limiting comfort zone. Continue reading