How Is It Already the End of the Year?

I feel like we drove this year like we stole it. Image description: Red race car driving on a racetrack. Photo by Daniel from Pexels

I feel like I blinked, and we went from September to the end of December. This is extra weird because there have been whole weeks when we finished Tuesday, and it felt like it should be Friday night already. If there ever was proof that time is relative, 2021 is it.

That’s one reason I build in rituals to close out the end of the year. Remote work can make you feel like your home-life and work-life bleed into each other in unfortunate ways if you aren’t careful. In a year where many of us experienced lockdowns or restrictions in one way or another, it’s doubly important that we find ways to signal the passing of time.

Here are a few things I do to mark the end of the calendar year. Perhaps one of these rituals will work for you.

Ritual One: Clean Something

I like to end the year with a clean desk. Right now, I’m surrounded by a pile of books to read, yarn from the various secret presents I’m knitting, thread for the anniversary gown I’m going to sew, chocolate, tiny pots for succulents I need to transplant, and notes for my book-in-progress. The weekly cleanup isn’t making much of a dent in the physical manifestation of my to-do list. But come December 30th, I will wipe the slate clean one way or another. I like to wake up to a clean desk in the new year.

Now that the kids are old enough this year, I’m giving them a new task for the end of the year. They’re going to clean all the walls in our house. This is only fair since they leave 99% of the grime in the house. Incidentally, I figured out that my eldest sometimes reads my blog. Child, if you see this, surprise! I love you.

I love the meta-message behind cleaning the year off the walls.

Ritual Two: Set Fire to Your Inbox

On Twitter a while back, a few editors I follow confessed that they periodically erase their email backlog. They weren’t getting to all of the emails, they knew they never would, so they just reset their inbox to email zero.

This sounds terrible. How could you erase those messages if you haven’t even read them? I think it’s genius. But then, at one point in my professional life, I would get roughly one hundred emails a day. There is no way a person can read that many emails and do anything else during the day. Think of it as radical candour. If you know that you will never get to all those emails, then in some ways, they have already been erased. Your inbox is Schrodinger’s kitten, and you need to lift the lid and let the cat move on.

I archive the majority of my inbox once a month. There are only so many New York Times newsletters I will read in my lifetime. I keep some emails until the next month and try to answer them–I get a lot of reports and studies from different PR groups that I try to follow up on if they’re on topic. But if I didn’t open the email from that person three months ago, it’s unlikely I’ll open it now.

Like Magellan in the new world, burn those ships and move into 2022 without any dead weight.

Ritual Three: End on Gratitude

The Atlantic had a fantastic article on the difference between toxic positivity and tragic optimism. Tragic optimism “involves the search for meaning amid the inevitable tragedies of human existence, something far more practical and realistic during these trying times.” This was a term coined by existential-humanistic psychologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl. 

Meditating on what we are genuinely grateful for helps our mental health and stress levels. This is how I’m currently dealing with the latest round of restrictions in British Columbia. Read the article and consider giving a gratitude practice a go. This could be as simple as reflecting on the fact that you live in a warm place. Or sending a colleague an email to tell them that they’re great.

Do you have year-end rituals you engage in? I’d love to hear about them. Feel free to comment or send me a message.

What’s that Douglas Up To?

Baby, it’s cold outside. As I type this, it’s -14 Celcius/ 7 Fahrenheit in Vancouver, with a wind chill that makes it feel like -21c / 6f. This isn’t normal. The kids have outgrown their snow clothes, so we’re spending winter break playing video games, reading, and catching up on Avengers movies.

There’s so. Much. Yarn. Everywhere. I am up to my EYEBALLS in it. Family Party (aka my anniversary) is coming on January 4th, and we always hold a party with cake and presents with the kids. It seems only fair. They put up with us all year long just as much as my husband and I put up with each other. The husband and I will go out to dinner alone that night (Omicron willing), but before then, our house will look like a kids’ birthday party.

I have two presents knitted, which is pretty amazing considering that I have to knit while the kids aren’t looking, and two to go.

My literary audio podcast is currently on break, but I’m gearing up for season two, which starts in late January. I have a couple of guests already lined up, and we’re working on getting episodes recorded. Check out season one if you like listening to stories with a hopeful edge. Each week, an author reads their work, followed by a behind-the-scenes episode where we break down the story/poem.

I’m also reading ‘Save the Cat Writes a Novel’ by Jessica Brody and ‘The Heroine’s Journey’ by Gail Carriger. I recommend them both for people who like to nerd out about story structure. After getting halfway through both books, I started watching Captain Marvel, and I nearly shouted ‘Buddy Cop story!’ at the screen after the first 20 minutes. Fortunately, my entire family has already seen this movie, so they didn’t mind my comments. Much.

Ending on a Note of Gratitude

This will be my last blog post for the year. I couldn’t enter 2022 without saying how much I appreciate you for reading what I write. We writers send out our words into the ether, but the magic doesn’t truly happen until someone else interacts with it. You are all my magic makers. Rock on with your bad self.

I’ll see you in 2022!

We Need Tougher Consequences for Toxic Bosses

Pictured: A football referee calling time out (presumably so the players can think about what they’re done.) Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

On Friday, December 10th, the board of directors for announced that CEO Vishal Garg would be “taking time off effective immediately” after the controversial way he laid off 900 employees over Zoom. 

On the face of it, this sounds like good news. A person in power is being held accountable for disrespecting employees in a, particularly vulnerable moment. That’s precisely what should happen. But when you take a second read of how the board of directors handled this situation, the outlook isn’t as clear-cut. 

The board didn’t fire Garg. They sent him on what amounts to a time-out. Additionally, they delayed the close of their $7.7 billion reverse merger. This smells like an attempt at damage control. Theoretically, the board could use the CEO’s time out to set up a more humane employee experience. Or they might wait for the news cycle to move to a different target and then bring Garg back and proceed with the status quo. If you read through the various news articles about Vishal Garg, he has a hostile behaviour pattern dating back to at least 2019. He should have been fired when he threatened to burn his business partner alive.

This time, the only thing that’s different is the increased public scrutiny due to the reverse merger.

Follow the Money

I was talking about this story with someone close to me, and the person said, “How does a guy like that keep his job?” To that, I say, follow the money. People like Garg get results by burning through people. If your overriding goal is year-over-year profits or shareholder value, then it’s hard to make the case to fire the Gargs of the world. They deliver the results demanded of them.

In business school, you learn a lot about incentives. Are you incentivizing people correctly? How should you set up incentives to reach business goals without driving people to unethical or criminal behaviour? Most companies say that they value a respectful work environment. But if a leader’s performance isn’t tied (at least partially) to delivering a healthy work culture, then those are empty words with no teeth behind them. 

It shouldn’t take public scrutiny around a 7.7 billion dollar deal to oust a toxic boss. Robbing employees of their dignity should come with the same sort of consequences as misappropriating investor funds. You can make the argument that the consequences should be more severe. You can give back the money. 

Business leaders (and investors) need to do better. Otherwise, the abuse will never stop.