Episode Three: Five Signs the Shark has Already Been Jumped

Episode 3

(If you are joining us for the first time, you may want check out Episode One and Episode Two)

Welcome to Episode Three!  At the end of yesterday’s episode, I mentioned that preventing a jump the shark moment takes a certain amount of awareness.  It requires you to really think about your situation and be honest with yourself about what you see happening.  Once you start doing that, you may find yourself wondering if the jump the shark moment has already happened.  To help you in determining the answer to this question, here are:

The Top Five Sign’s You’ve Jumped the Shark.

  1. Your primary responsibility has now become building office furniture. – One of Mark’s first jobs out of college involved working for a think tank.  At one point, Mark was assigned to research and write a paper in support of an issue that the think tank was already in favor of.  However, after doing the research, Mark felt that the information and facts he found did not actually support the think tank’s stance on the issue.  His boss was not happy about this at all.  So his boss assigned Mark’s research and writing projects to other people and started asking Mark to build office furniture instead.  At that moment, Mark knew that the ship had sailed on this job and it was definitely time to move on.  Anytime you are demoted within an organization it’s pretty safe to assume that you’ve jumped the shark and it’s time to move on.
  2. When disagreements no longer happen behind closed doors. – A few years ago, Mark and I were spending the evening with another married couple.  We had known this couple for a while but had recently been sensing a little tension between them.  We didn’t think too much of it, assuming that it was just a phase.  However, we knew we underestimated the problems in their relationship after that evening because they spent the entire night arguing with each other.  They weren’t screaming at each other or throwing things.  But they spent the entire evening pointing out the other’s flaws, taking every opportunity to disagree with each other, and were completely unable to speak to each other without an underlying tone of frustration and disgust.  They split up under a year later.  Most people prefer to argue in private rather than air their dirty laundry in front of the world.  The same is true in a work situation, where most managers would prefer to discipline their employees behind closed office doors rather than during the weekly morning meeting.  So when your boss starts yelling at you every week in front of the entire office, or when you and your significant other can’t stop fighting with each other long enough to spend a fun and peaceful evening out with family or friends, you should consider that a sign that the shark has been jumped.
  3. You must constantly compensate to survive. – Nothing is 100% pleasant, and it’s not abnormal for you or I to compensate a little to deal with things that are difficult.  If I’m having a particularly difficult day, I might distract myself by stopping at Starbucks to splurge on my favorite calorie rich coffee.  We all find ways to compensate some of the time.  The danger sign is when you are compensating all day, every day.  If you find yourself going in to work late, making multiple Starbucks runs throughout the day, taking extra long lunches, and finding every excuse possible to call in sick, it’s probably safe to assume that you’ve jumped the shark at your job.  Other danger signs include significant increases in potentially unhealthy habits, such as smoking more, drinking more, eating more, shopping more…you get the idea.  We all have our methods of coping, and using them occasionally is one thing.  But excessive coping in any fashion is a sign that you are compensating for something.  If whatever situation you are in is so bad that you must do some serious compensating, it could be a sign that you’ve jumped the shark and it’s time to move on.
  4.  Respect is a thing of the past. – Mutual respect is an important part of any relationship, whether work or personal.  Without respect, things can go down hill very quickly.  An acquaintance of mine told me the story of how he started out at a company having a great deal of respect for the management and they showed him a tremendous amount of respect as well.  However, as time went by, it became clear to this person that his managers no longer respected his opinions or his work.  He was clearly upset and hurt by this turn of events, and he began to lose respect for his managers as well.  It only got worse from there.  You won’t always like your boss, the PTA president, or your neighbors.  But a certain amount of respect is essential in making a relationship work.  Once the respect is gone, so is the relationship.
  5.  You feel like you are free falling. – I remember going to Cedar Point as a kid and riding The Demon Drop.  The ride took you up 60 feet then dropped you at a speed so fast that you were back at the bottom in under 3 seconds.  I can still remember the way my stomach felt during those 3 seconds…like it had just jumped from my belly and into my chest.  It’s that same feeling you get on a big roller coaster or when an elevator moves up or down too quickly.  It’s also the same feeling you get after you jump the shark.  You start to feel anxious about going to work and your stomach is constantly tied up in knots.  You can sense that things aren’t going well…that your situation is getting worse instead of better.  You know at some point you will hit the bottom, but you can’t tell where the bottom is or how fast you hit it.  If you are trying to determine whether or not you’ve jumped the shark, stop thinking and start paying attention to how you feel when you are in the situation.  Do you spend eight hours a day at work with your shoulders tense and your head pounding?  Do you come home at night completely wiped out from an entire day spent waiting for the next thing to go wrong?  If so, you’ve probably jumped the shark and now it’s only a matter of time until you hit the bottom.

There you have it…five signs that you’ve jumped the shark.  But what do you do once you figure out that you’ve jumped the shark?  I’m so happy you asked!

To Be Continued…

31 Days of Simple Change {day 28} Intentional Living

31 Days of Simple Change

During the last month or two, Mark and I have been making an effort to create a better budget (not so hard), and then stick with said budget (really, REALLY, hard).  I like being organized, I’m good with numbers, but I hate, hate, HATE, budgets.  And I’ve finally figured out why I hate budgets so much.  It’s because they force me to be intentional about how I spend money.  When I start keeping track of the $4 mochas at Starbucks and the $10 random home décor purchases, I am forced to realize how quickly those small purchases add up to big spending.  I call this the “Target effect”.  Picture it:  I’m walking through Target with a list of items I need:  paper towels, dish soap, dog food…. You get the idea. But who walks through Target and only buys what’s on their list?  Well maybe you do, but I normally don’t.  I walk past the dollar bins and think, I could totally use that random Thanksgiving decoration at my house and it’s only a dollar.  Then I’m walking past the health care items and see a really fun nail polish color and then that goes in the cart too.  Around the store I go, tossing clearance items and other must haves into my cart along side the toilet cleaner and laundry soap.  None of these extra items are particularly expensive, and that’s how I justify it.  Until I get to the checkout and realize that what should’ve only been a $40 trip to Target is not $100 or more trip to Target.  Oops!

Creating the budget is actually pretty easy, but sticking with it in the face of bargains and clearance items is more difficult.  Sticking to the budget forces me to be more intentional.  Which means that I have to stop myself before sticking that light-up pumpkin in the cart and think, do I really need this pumpkin?  And the answer is usually, No, I do not.  Intentional spending forces me to slow down and think about each purchase…each dollar.  It’s hard work but it pays off, literally!  Because when I actually stop and think about each purchase, I usually realize that I don’t need whatever it is and so I put it back.  Less money spent, more money in the bank account.  And I’ve noticed that I don’t actually miss those random items.  We’ve survived perfectly fine without that light-up pumpkin thus far, we can probably make due a little bit longer.  But this type of intentional living takes practice, at least for me. But the more I do it, the easier it gets.

This concept of being intentional is also the reason why dieters who track their eating and exercise habits lose weight.  By holding yourself accountable, you are also forcing yourself to be more intentional about what you are eating and how often you are exercising.  That third cookie becomes less desirable when you have to write it down in your food journal and account for the calories.

My recent attempts at intentional spending have also led me to think about intentional living in general.  How much of our lives do we live on auto-pilot, without much thought or question?  Do we really know how much money we’re spending, how often we exercise, how many hours we spend watching television, or how much time we spend actually listening to our kids when they talk to us?  I’m sure it’s possible to make ourselves crazy if we start paying attention to every detail, every second, of how we live our daily lives.  But I’m starting to think that a little more intention could go a long way to a healthier, and wealthier, life.

Throughout the month of October, I’ll be sharing some ideas for simple changes you can make to improve your life.  Did you miss a day?  Visit the 31 Days Welcome page for links to each day.


31 Days of Simple Change {Day 19} Simple Acts of Kindness

31 Days of Simple Change

I read a moving article a few weeks ago about a teenager named Alyssa Josephine O’Neil.  Alyssa was a teenager living in Erie, PA preparing to begin her freshmen year of college.   On September 3rd, she texted her mom and suggested they plan some time to visit Starbucks together so she could try a Pumpkin Spice Latte for the first time.  But the day after the text, Alyssa passed away from an epileptic seizure.  After her passing, her parents decided to honor their daughter by going to Starbucks and purchasing Pumpkin Spice Lattes for themselves and the next 40 customers.  Alyssa’s parents asked the baristas to write #AJO on the cups of the free drinks and  then explain to the customers why the drinks were free.  What the O’Neils didn’t realize was that their gesture would lead those customers to respond in kind and pay it forward.  According to the article, this act of kindness has spread through their community and to other parts of the country.  What a wonderful way to honor their daughter’s life and use their sorrow and grief  as motivation to show kindness to others!

I love the idea of random acts of kindness and paying it forward.  Performing random acts of kindness is a win-win situation.  When you perform a random act of kindness, it helps you feel like you are doing something that matters.  You are happier because you are doing something to make the world better, even if it’s just a very small part of the world.  And when you receive a random act of kindness, you feel happier too.  People who receive random acts of kindness also report feeling more grateful, and generally more positive overall.

Random acts of kindness don’ t need to be elaborate or expensive.  They can be as simple as dropping off some cookies for your new neighbors, dropping of a meal for a family with a new baby, or visiting an elderly relative.  During this time of year, some neighborhoods practice paying forward random acts of kindness by starting the “You’ve Been BOOED” tradition.  In case you’ve never heard of this before, one family puts together a simple basket containing homemade treats, or small, inexpensive gifts.  They also include BOO instructions and a BOO sign.  They leave the basket on a neighbor’s doorstep anonymously.  That neighbor, upon receiving the BOO, hangs up the sign on their door or in their window that indicates that they’ve been BOOED and then proceeds to BOO someone else.  It’s simple and inexpensive, but it certainly brings some happiness and fun to the people in the neighborhood.

It can be easy to get wrapped up in the difficulties in our own lives and all the bad things happening in the world.  But performing random acts of kindness are an easy way to not only spread happiness to those around you but to also improve your own happiness as well.

Have you ever received or performed a random act of kindness?  Tell me about your experiences in the comments below.  I would love to hear from you!

Throughout the month of October, I’ll be sharing some ideas for simple changes you can make to improve your life.  Did you miss a day?  Visit the 31 Days Welcome page for links to each day.