Tuesday, November 12, 2013

calm, peace/patience, and understanding

Last week, I had to help put on a huge event at work. Usually my events range from simple meetings to employee events to receptions, but there are a few constants: the events are free to attend, and I am involved in all aspects from start to finish. This big event, however, was different. The school I work for partnered with a lobbying group and had 64 life-sized pet sculptures painted by Texas artists, displayed throughout the state, and finally sold off in a combination live and silent auction. I worked with a committee and did not get to see all contracts, had the event offsite (90% of what I do is in my building), and had to count on a lot of people to do their jobs to succeed, rather than being able to do everything myself. That was a big thing for me. I was anxious leading up to the event. Would people come? Would the art fit in the space? Would the auction company I hired deliver as promised? I basically felt that even though it was a team effort, as the only "events person" on the committee, the entire thing rested on me. Tickets were $100 per person so the event had to deliver. And since it wasn't completely in my control, to say I was uneasy was an understatement.

VooDoo Lucky Charm Kitty | The Notorious D.O.G. (designed by a Houston graffiti artist - now that I know that, I see his work everywhere) | He Answers to Chaos

I am pretty naturally high-strung, even more at work. I want to do a good job. I think we all know that feeling, regardless of your field. I feel like I feel it more intensely because a bad event doesn't go unnoticed. So if I failed, everyone was going to know. There was no hiding this.

Is anyone a Seinfeld fan? Even though it was a little before my time, I have seen most of the episodes. There is one where George decides to do the opposite of his first inclination and everything starts going his way. Instead of making up a life for himself, he tells a woman he meets that he is unemployed and living with his parents and she actually wants to go out with him. He orders the opposite of his favorite food at a restaurant. Things like that, and he had good results. So I decided to take that approach on event day. Instead of doing what came naturally to me - trying to control everything, looking over shoulders, being in the middle of the chaos - I chose to step back. I told everyone my motto for the day was "Calm, Patience, and Understanding." I was choosing to be calm all day. I was going to have patience with everyone working on the event and realize we were all on the same team. And if something went wrong, I vowed to be understanding - we are all human and we all make mistakes, so instead of blaming and covering my ass, I was going to come up with a solution first. Patience morphed into peace throughout the day, which worked too (yes, I forgot my own mantra). And it was the best thing I could have done for myself.

People who knew me remarked on how "zen" I seemed (and some asked if I had come by some Xanax... the change in me was that drastic). When there were too many people and too many things happening, I straightened nametags. I hung signs. Instead of getting in the middle of the fray, I let the person who was supposed to be in control of that aspect be in control. Things went wrong and instead of getting annoyed, I got creative. I trusted people to do the jobs they came to do and got out of my own way. It was weird. It was still tiring. I still worked my butt off, but I took more control over my own role in all situations. I worked on going with the flow. And you know what? It all worked out. I can't do it all alone, hard as I might try, and it was much more gratifying at the end to work with a team. Now, I can't say I can promise to continue this pattern in all things in the future, but it was a great exercise in changing my attitude and it actually working for me.

Have you ever tried doing the opposite of what came naturally to you? How did it work?

Glossy Blonde


  1. I love this. Good for you, friend. I know how hard that is. I am also a very high strung anxiety ridden girl (probably why we're friends)! I always feel like I have to be in control of everything. I know exactly which episode you're talking about! My parents used to watch it (and have every season on disc now--so I'm all too familiar with Seinfeld)!

    I did this once. It was actually with the move here to BC. It's in my nature to want to control every little aspect of every little thing (whether I actually can or not). But in the case of the move, I had very little information and even less control. I was also lacking the desire--sobbing my brains on out the daily really took it out of me--and I just couldn't be bothered. It was just about to be crunch time (you know, finding a job, a house, etc) when all of a sudden EVERYTHING just worked out with out me controlling a single part of it. It was the first time I realized that...oh. Maybe I DON'T have to control every little thing.

  2. Um, I "need" to take that approach more often! Glad you were able to zen it up and things turned out well. :)

  3. Sometimes I think "team" is just an excuse for other people to blame one person, even though it's their fault that something went wrong!

    It's interesting that you had a good experience by doing the opposite. I might have to try that sometime.

  4. Congratulations! It sounds like you did an amazing job! Isn't it a wonderful relief when everything comes together? Not to mention when you let yourself be calm and collected. I'm very impressed; I would be a total anxious mess. I should start trying to apply your outlook to everyday life. :)

  5. Awesome story and awesome job, I'm so glad you're event was a success!

    I am constantly doing the opposite of what comes naturally to me when it comes to my anger and my temper. It's not always easy but it's usually worth it in the end.

  6. It is so hard for me to let go sometimes so I cant imagine how challenging yet rewarding it would be if it went right and I didn't freak out about every little thing. Maybe I should try it sometime. I am glad it worked for you!!

  7. having a kid really kicked my ass in terms of needing to control everything because bottom line, when you have a kid, there's a lot that you can't control! you can try and implement a schedule (which is what we do) but in a lot of time, kids will throw up or shit their pants or do something that totally throws a wrench in your plans and you just have to roll with it. so i'd say that having a kid and relinquishing my incessant need to plan and schedule things was my biggest challenge!

    Vodka and Soda

  8. Wow! Go Lauren! Sounds like you did a great job and the event was a success for them and you!
    I am the kind of person that always needs to be in control, have a plan and know what's going on. No one may see it from the outside because I stay so calm, but it's always there on the inside. I need to practice having more peace and zen in my life even if it only benefits me! :)

  9. Kudos to you! It's so hard to go against your own grain. I've done it and it's exhausting!

  10. Great post.

    Hope you had a great weekend.


  11. Good for you! It's definitely hard to go against your instincts. Sounds like the event was a hit!

  12. I love that you chose to stay calm and be creative when things went wrong! I am like you usually are - high strung and like to have control. I should try this sometime. The sculptures are really cool too - I love Notorious DOG!

  13. glad to hear the event went well! do you think you'll take this more zen like approach in your day to day work? ps. love the George reference!

  14. I so want that voodoo lucky charm kitty. Lovely.

  15. Congratulations! It seems like it was a great event.
    I really need to let go more often - be more calm and just let me creativity flow. Gah!

  16. I see that graffiti work everywhere too! I have been wondering about who that was for a while because I've seen that same aesthetic in so many random locations! Very cool to know.

    And man, I am a control freak too and I have no idea how you managed to let go. But good on you! It sounds like the event was a success and that it really changed your perspective. Maybe I should try that sometime too!


I like comments and read them all but I'm not great about responding to them, so please don't be offended. I would much rather visit your blog instead!