Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Car Trouble

If any of you live near me, work with me, or generally hang out with me know that my car has been frustratingly out of commission. It seems that I generally have terrible luck with vehicles. I have been known to attempt to fix it myself (with a little help) and have been successful in the past. Because of this recent ordeal and of my past “issues” I thought I should write a car-related post. This specific issue has taught me a few things, but I will draw in from past experiences.

Firstly, I am a girl. I get treated as such by most people. That means that when I have a car issue one of two things happens. I either get GREAT service and extra help (very seldom) or I get taken advantage of (most of the time). The first tip I have is to KNOW YOUR CAR. Generally, (not always) the ladies don’t always know how their car works, where things are, what are easy fixes and hard fixes and how much those things should cost (at a fair price). Because of that, we tend to get taken “for a ride” when trying to fix issues.

Case in point: One of my issues was that I had a bad ignition switch. I looked online and saw people pay upwards of $300 for that to be fixed. I also looked online and saw I could buy the exact part for $26 including shipping. Why on earth would it be $300?! With some help, I replaced the ignition switch on my own. Help being my boyfriend’s tools and online resources. 

Another example is that the dealer wanted to charge me $165 for a new battery. Batteries tend to cost about $50-70. Why would labor cost $100 when you only have to disconnect a few wires? There are plenty of online resources to help you to understand what is fair and unfair, and you can also compare prices at places like Walmart, Autozone, etc. Be sure that you research the cost before just throwing money at a problem. 

Another recommendation is to have roadside assistance and know your plan. My issue this time was that my car would not start and sat in my apartment parking spot for a long time because I didn’t know that my roadside assistance plan included towing. I also misunderstood how much my plan would cover. It ended up only costing me $16 for the tow. Even if you are handy, having that in case of an emergency is necessary. My personal recommendation would be AAA or AT&T Roadside Assistance. I have had amazing experiences with both. 

The last thing I have learned is that I use my car far too much. I live in a Southern city where mass transit isn’t utilized as much as it could be (and I feel vulnerable when on a train alone). In addition, it almost is a symbol of status to drive to places rather than walk. I work in an area with TONS of food options for lunch that I can easily walk to. It’s even rather nice to walk to places and have that time to yourself, rather than driving there. I also live in an area where I can walk to the grocery store to get a few things and walk home. I discovered I rather liked walking rather than the headache of driving. If it’s close, I’ll try and walk (as long as I know it’s safe).  

This week I have a few challenges for you. 1. Research your car online for an hour. 2. Figure out a few places/times/days that you can walk or use your car less. For the first challenge, you may be surprised to find out that people share the same problems your car had/is having or you may find out some things to look out for. I mean it IS Google's 13th birthday today; use it!  For the second challenge, I think that you may be surprised as to how often you can cut down on driving and how much you like not driving. You may not have these predicted results, but hey, it’s always nice to try something new!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

If we could just win out

"... But we were all refined, good girls from good families, and we realized somehow that we weren't going to college just for ourselves, but for all the girls who would follow after us - if we could just win out." -Bettie Locke

If you have read my last blog, you know I had recently attended my sorority’s (Kappa Alpha Theta) recent fall recruitment. The above quote was featured on a PowerPoint that was played for the girls under the theme “Picture Yourself Here,” where there was a scrapbook like presentation of the accomplishments, social events, etc. that the chapter (Zeta Upsilon) participated in that year. This quote gives me chills every time I read it, and I think that if more of us viewed the world and our actions like the founder of this sorority, we can build things to be better and better over time.

During the time Bettie Locke was in school, she and her friends (Hannah Fitch Shaw, Alice Allen Brant and Bettie Tipton Lindsey) struggled through a variety of situations. The reason the sorority was started was because fraternity men would let them wear their pins, (a symbol of membership) but not divulge what all of the symbology meant. This means that everything that defines a group means something to them. It is often said that ritual (the group’s customs and symbols) bind the group together. Bettie Locke felt that if she wasn’t “cool enough” to know their secrets, then she shouldn’t be wearing their symbols. 

They FOUGHT for and pioneered something that is still in use today, almost 150 years after the fact. It wasn’t a sure thing that they would be successful. These women were often ridiculed in school for their ideas. While thinking about this struggle, I think about other struggles that people are experiencing in the present day. How they are fighting for something that they believe in and that would make it easier for the generations to come. 

Sometimes I feel like we, as a whole, have lost some of that pioneering thinking and relentless execution. It could be because our forefathers (and mothers) fought so hard to make things TOO easy for us. This is obviously a generalization, and does not apply to everyone, but I still think that the majority of us are rather apathetic. Now, I’m not talking about starting a huge revolution, (unless we should) but I am talking about attempting to change things for the better or for our children and so on. 

Conforming to some things isn’t really a huge problem. Things like being mindful of others or being respectful. Conforming to other things can be a problem. I try to distinguish these two sets of things in understanding WHY we do these things. Can anyone tell me WHY we are on business casual dress? (Have no idea why it’s lasted this long)  Or why we work 5 day, 8 hour workdays? (Historically, linked to farming and manufacturing at least 100 years ago). Why do we have to be at work at all times to be seen as productive? (Because its easier to look busy than actually be busy) These types of things, while rocking the boat just a little, should be understood. If it just because “that’s how it has always been done,” that is conforming for conformity’s sake; out of convenience. 

Questioning things that make little to no sense is what pioneers and thought leaders do. But not ONLY questioning and identifying a need is enough. Coming up with a plan and actually changing that issue is the hard part. I think if we don’t fall into the apathetic boat, we fall into the “problem identifier” boat. Identifying problems is not displaying any sort of mental prowess or innovation. Changing them does.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What Sorority Recruitment has Taught Me About Life.

I recently attended my chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta’s fall recruitment process as an alumnus. While I have been an alumni for 4 years now, this year was a little different as my little sister (biological, ha) was an integral part of the executive recruitment board who is in charge of planning and executing this large task. My sister asked that I help in a few steps of the process to get the chapter up to speed on what to expect and how to deal with any unforeseen difficulties. I got to attend a mock recruitment day where the active girls got to actually practice talking to strangers (the alumni) in the recruitment setting. In addition, I got to attend one of the recruitment days and got to see the girls work together to make the experience special for the potential new members. I also heard ALL about any issues from my sister so I had a good feel as to what was going on during the entire planning and implementing process. I had been saying to the girls all along that a lot of these skills have helped me later in life, but it’s hard to see how when you are still an active member.  So here is my wrap up of what exactly helped me:

  • Stress tolerance: When planning a huge event, there are many loose ends, many coordinating efforts and an overall inundation of multiple things. This normally occurred while school was in session and girls had to learn to manage classes, jobs, finances and this big event. While it seems impossible as an active, this really helped later for me in graduate school and even onto the workplace. When things seem crazy, I know that they are not impossible and I learned how to cope with stress effectively through recruitment directly.
  • “Playing with others:” While I have not mastered this completely, being forced to work with a large group of girls, and some that, frankly, you just really couldn’t stand helped me to work better in groups. It could be a personality issue, performance issue (not doing the work) or some other issue. What it came down to is that even if you LOATHED a girl or another group, you were forced to “make it work.”
  • Staying positive: I am definitely not an optimist, and I consider myself a realist. In any large, complex event, things will and do go wrong. How you react to it is everything. I’m sure many Greek girls will sympathize when I say that the PowerPoint or video will magically REFUSE to work when it needs to. Lights go off, decorations fall down and speeches are muddled. Girls don’t join a group based upon the event planning; they join it based upon the personality of the chapter. Being negative and not solving the issue does not accomplish anything other than making you or those around you feel bad.
  • Delegation: I am the type of person who likes to do things themselves if I know what I want done and how. If you have ever been in a leadership position for a large task, you know that you HAVE GOT TO delegate to individuals on the team. This can range from simply handing off the task or mentoring and training an individual in how to do it. Learning how to effectively delegate and set people up for success is necessary to succeed in any leadership position. In addition, recognizing that people will shirk responsibilities and how to deal with that is also important.
  •  Networking: This is probably obvious, but I wanted to cover it anyway. Learning how to find common ground with ANY individual is necessary to be successful in any job, position, role or organization. Meeting new girls and making them feel comfortable is a skill that can be used over and over in a variety of situations.
  • Becoming self-aware: When working with such a large group on such a large task, your weaknesses REALLY come to light. Maybe you aren’t the best at time management, delegation or communication. In addition your strengths really begin to shine under this type of pressure. Using these types of situations to figure out what you are good at, struggle with and developing ways to leverage your strengths while still developing your weaknesses is necessary to succeed in any function.

  • Gaining a voice: Learning to not be afraid of confrontation and learning how to confront negative behavior in the right way is integral to being a successful leader and peer. While difficult to develop, this really helped me to interact better with those that I felt were slacking on a task or just being difficult.
While I could go on and on about things that I learned and have used in graduate school and the workplace, I wanted to end it here. These were the things I found MOST important and I hope that some others can comment on things that they learned. This is only one experience, so I’m sure many others have many different experiences on what is important to take away from learning experiences such as this. Comments are definitely welcome!