How to Do Impossible Things

49 hours and 17 minutes ago, 13 of my peers and I were beginning a challenge that was physically and mentally impossible. Broken into teams of 2, 7 on each team, we were to follow orders and perform various dreadful movements at the command of Navy Seal Special Ops Veterans. We had all trained hard for 8 weeks prior. Nobody knew what we were up against, yet we all showed. Much of the event was hush hush leading up to the big day. I can only speak for myself, but the secrecy caused much anxiety, fear, diminished excitement and possible night-before-bed-wetting. Not my picture-perfect Saturday morning, but I had made a commitment and I was going with a great group of people. I was not going to let them down by bailing out. They were counting on me. I was counting on them.  

The week leading up to the event was filled with office chatter about the upcoming “death race.” Were we really prepared for whatever torture was going to be thrown our way? Was the secrecy really just mental manipulation to cause confusion and destabilize the group?  Was this really worth it, just to spend a day with the same people I see every other day?   

To sum it up:  

  • Maybe (no one died). 
  • Hell no (had I known, I probably would have stayed in bed). 
  • You’re damn right it was! 

I walked into this scared I wouldn’t be able to do what was expected. Feared getting hurt. Dreaded letting my team down. After the first 100 squats, mile and a half run, 80 push-ups, and two trips up the hill, I was sure my fears were a reality. I looked around and saw the same misery on everyone else’s faces.  

But we were in this together, and darn it, we were going to live by the “no man left behind” rule.  

We all made it through army crawls, sandbags, “sugar cookies” (no, not the kind you get at snack time) and many other brutal tasks. But no one did it alone. This event was teamwork in its truest form. All animosities, any personal feelings toward one another were put aside to simply make it through. Not to mention the promise of cold beer at the end helped tremendously.  

Here are the three things I learned from a Special Ops Super Saturday Smack Down: 

1. Courage: I was scared. I think we all were, even if the tough guys won’t admit it. Doing new things is scary, worth it, but sometimes terrifying. The fear lived inside me, but I was able to overcome that and face the challenge. Courage is not the lack of fear but rather the act of continuing to move forward and face it.  

The next time you are faced with a project or task you feel is out of your league, embrace the fear and use it for strength.   

2. Trust: I know my coworkers pretty well. I spend 40+ hours a week with them. I like their Facebook posts and sing Happy Birthday to them. But until we were faced with carrying a 200lb pipe up a hill while being exhausted, sandy and wet, I couldn’t have told you that I trusted all of them. I had no choice but to trust that we would look out for each other, that we would all give 100% of what we had left. Someone could have gotten hurt or maybe even have fallen off a cliff (cough, The Video Guy), but we trusted in our team to make the right choices and use our strengths (and weaknesses) to protect each other and get the job done.  

Trust those that are invested in the same goals as you. If they fail you, they will fail themselves. It can be hard to let go and let others have a stake in the success, but some missions are too big to run solo.  

3. Teamwork: I always preached teamwork and I thought I understood it, but I was wrong. Not until I was nose deep in the lake with a 50 lb. sandbag on my shoulders could I have understood just how much my team mattered to me. I have a problem asking for help and that’s my personal demon, but at this point, the 50lbs was turning into a wet 75lbs quick. I can’t give enough thanks to my teammate who literally took the weight off my shoulders when we hit dry land.  

Even when you think you can conquer it all and work through the pain, let a willing pal take some of the work off your back. Even if only temporarily, it will give you the time you need to recover and come back even stronger.  

As Monday rolled around, we were still bonding. The synchronized groans, the war stories, the differing perspectives. We went to hell and back with each other and are a little closer because of it.  

The difficult things at work or in life are just that: hard, challenging, or even impossible. But from personal experience, I can tell you that when you arm yourself with a team, those victorious steps feel that much sweeter.

Trudging through Lake Michigan with a 50lb sandbag taking on water fast, it occurred to The Siren of Support that without her team, Siren or not, she’d be toast. That day, Sari was stronger with the company she shared, and she ponders, aren’t we all? Share your thoughts below or message Sari directly. 

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (A New Employee)

Babies are tiny, cute little miracles. They are innocent and adorable. But they’re not very smart. They have no experience; they haven’t learned yet. They are truly entry-level humans. They are fresh and new and need nurturing to develop. It is the responsibility of the parents, teachers, and community to teach. From ABCs to SATs, from kindergarten to college graduation, we train these ignorant babies with hopes they will succeed in life (or really just to be able to move out of our basement before they turn 35).

When bringing on a new employee, especially one that is entry-level or lacks previous job experience, it is your responsibility as their employer to provide the opportunity for them to learn and grow into the role. The ability to train, retain, and foster productive and knowledgeable employees has benefits that stretch beyond the company’s profitability and productivity. Employee satisfaction, fulfillment, and dedication will increase when an employee feels competent and secure, just as a baby needs shelter, food, and love.

Include these tips into your onboarding and training process and your newbie failure rate will decrease (as sharply as your shut-eye with a newborn):

TOOLS: Give your new guy or gal the tools to succeed. Make sure they have the right access to information and that it is easy to get to. Present instruction in a clear and concise format and make sure the newbie really “gets” it before turning them loose. Taking the training wheels off too soon only leads to bloody knees and tears.

COHESIVENESS: Everyone likes friends. We learn best when we are comfortable. Think of Algebra: class was more enjoyable when your friends helped you study. Create an environment that is friendly and open. Clear any animosity surrounding the position prior to the start date. There is no room for someone to be angry with this person simply because they didn’t get the job. Make the new addition feel like they are wanted. Celebrate their arrival*. *Flowers and pink or blue balloons not required.

EXPECTATIONS: Set realistic goals that are measurable. Your new employee needs to know when they shine and when they fall short. Give feedback regularly, and not just when improvement is needed. If the guy is doing a great job, TELL HIM! If the newbie isn’t learning, evaluate why. Maybe it’s your training that is failing and not the new guy. Learning new skills is a process and must be taught in an order that makes sense. You cannot teach the tot to run before they can walk.

While babies are cute, and newbies are exciting, there’s a lot to learn—and prepare for. You don’t go home from the hospital without diapers stocked, nor should you onboard a new employee without a plan setting them up for success. It’s the success of your team and your work on the line, after all. So, eagerly anticipate the arrival of your newbie—maybe even throw them a party—but ready yourself as best you can, which is arguably more than you can do for a baby. Give them tools, present them with a strong team, and set your expectations from day one.

Oh, and don’t be discouraged if you get the “bad seed” that just doesn’t want to follow direction. There’s one in every family.

Babies: they’re cute and sweet. What’s not to love, asks the Siren of Support? Babies are a little dumb. And the newest new person on a team often falls into the same category – but there’s a lot you can do to support those new to your work life. How do you successfully onboard? Share your thoughts below or message Sari directly. 

Tones: Do You Hear Them or Fear Them?

It could have been the worst day.

My day started out normal. Dogs out. Coffee. Start the Sunday cleaning. Kids up. Off to the gym. Same old, same old.

A text comes in. I don’t see it. I’m living life. I’ve got not a care in the world unless it pertains to not falling on my a$$ during Zumba (thanks, Reman Runner). We are finally done sweating and stumbling when I head to the locker room and check my phone.

My heart drops as I see a text from my husband, who’s on duty: “I love you and give the kids a hug and a kiss from me.”

In this moment, my biggest fear has come true in my mind. I have no clue if the one I depend on, the one I need to be ok actually is ok.

He and the Milwaukee Fire Department had been on site at a devastating condo fire. The family that was inside that burning building is actually not ok, and likely never will be. My husband was part of the rescue, or rather, recovery teams. He was on a burning ladder engulfed in flames, risking his life for one of their own who wasn’t responding.

As a firefighter, the sound of the tones going off is a signal: get ready, head out to the site, and hope for the best.

When your “tones” go off, how do you respond?

My versions come in the form of calls, requests, emails, alarms, or alerts. When a call comes in for the Product Support Team, the worst thing I’m going to hear is yelling, possible profanity, and a couple dirty jokes.

I can relate a lot of what is seen in our industry to what those in public service see. There’s hand holding, a plethora of problem-solving, and a giant serving of empathy and patience. As the head of my team, I get the screamers, the ones that threaten, the criers. Is it always easy? No. But how I do it is simple: perception. In my job, it’s not life or death.

When a job you’ve done hasn’t gone according to plan, whether it be a major delay, an immediate failure, an unreasonable vehicle owner; whether the order is late….and I mean really late—the carrier routed the unit wrong, or heck dropped it off the back of the truck—it’s not catastrophic. It’s a problem that needs solving.

To my fellow service providers, do you freak out in the face of an issue? Do you hide behind excuses or pass the buck? If you do, stop. Think. Take a breather. No one is going to keel over or lose a limb (probably) at your hands. In reality, your action is going to solve a problem and give you the chance to make someone’s day.

In our jobs, most of us get the opportunity to make it right, even if we don’t hit the mark the first time. My advice is to suit up, keep calm, and respond accordingly with the best intentions.

The Siren of Support is no stranger to the sounds of rings, tones, and… sirens because urgency and emergencies happen. But it’s all about how you handle it. How do you keep calm and carry on? Share your thoughts below or message Sari directly. 


The Dog Days of Service

Let me start by making it clear that I AM NOT a Yelp-er. I do not write bad reviews about a slow server, a rude cashier, or even when I find out the hard way my salad was spiked with avocado. Unless it is a life threatening or devastating experience, I do not let one negative occurrence sway my ultimate opinion on a business, service, or person. However, when a business, service, or person continuously fails me and has no redeeming quality, it’s time to move on.

Throughout this year, I have received damaged, incomplete, and just plain wrong orders from a very large well known online company that I once trusted for buying both necessary items and impulse buys. There’s just something about seeing that box on your front porch. With the click of a button and two-day free shipping, it’s like it’s my birthday. Lately, though, I haven’t felt that same excitement.

With one dog in our house (and a new puppy joining our family soon), I needed a new collar. I read reviews, found one that looked like it would help with “heel” training, selected the correct 18’ size, and pushed “complete order.” 48 hours later, I opened the box – and found a 16’ collar. I called the company’s Customer Service Department, explained the mistake, and a nice rep promised I’d have the correct item in two more days.

A few days later, the new box arrived. Inside? Another 16’ collar. I called again – and boy, was I mad. As it turned out, the item was listed incorrectly. To make matters worse, the supplier didn’t even offer the size I ordered at all. The rep kept calm, told me everything that she could for me, listened to my grumbling, and apologized.  But, I was definitely not satisfied. I was left with a full refund (of a whopping $7.28), two dog collars in the wrong size, and a chip on my shoulder. I hung up angry, swearing I would never purchase anything again from them.

The most important factor in continuing to give my hard-earned cash to this company is not that I expect my transactions to be problem free, but rather their approach to finding a solution when there is an issue. They not only broke my trust in orders showing up and in good condition, but they didn’t solve my problem.

Fast forward two weeks, I needed toilet paper and wasp traps. Still not happy about being unable to walk my dog, I swore this was a one-time exception to my “never again” declaration. So, I hit the magic button. And, everything showed up as expected.

Why do customers continue to purchase goods from a company that has fallen short multiple times? Trust. I may doubt the accuracy of the packagers, the condition of the merchandise, or the reliability of their chosen carriers, but I do trust that they want to (and will) fix their mistakes.

As a customer, it’s easy to condemn a business or product when they have a rough time meeting expectations and aren’t wowing you with reasons to stay. The best way to judge a company, however, is not by how they behave when sales are up and no one is yelling, but rather when there is a hurdle. Do they stand behind you and the product? Do they make it easy? How’s their attitude while doing it? Does it seem like they truly want to help and make you a priority? If the answer to all of these is yes, hunker down and withstand the storm. In the long run, despite some bumps in the road, you’ll be happier knowing you’ve given your business to one with its focus on you.


P.S. In case you’re curious, I have another dog collar on order – and, it should be here tomorrow (fingers crossed).

The Siren of Support is generally forgiving of bad service. Until it’s bad. And bad again. What keeps her ordering anyways? Trust. Why do you? Share your thoughts below or message Sari directly. 


Forrest Gump Was Right


You bought a new pair of pants. It’s that special day and whoops! You gained five pounds- and they don’t fit anymore.

You bought a new fridge and by golly, it’s a ½ inch too big.

You bought a transmission – and the install didn’t go as planned.

Forrest Gump said it best: “S%!t happens.”  It happens to all of us.

When it happens to me, sometimes I am just as guilty as the next person. I find someone to blame. It wasn’t my fault that the boss brought in bagels. The measuring tape must have been off. After spewing some sailor words or smashing something semi-valuable, I pick up the phone or head to my keyboard to find a solution.

It is very hard to swallow when you spend X number of dollars on anything and get it home to find out that for some reason, it failed to meet or exceed your expectations. You wonder, “What did I do wrong? What could I have done different? What am I missing? Who am I angry with?” If you’re anything like me, there could even be one more question: “Who can I can holler at?”

Sometimes, bad things happen. Anyone who has not lived in a climate-controlled bubble knows this. Your reaction to an unfortunate series of events is what changes the entire experience.

Having spent the last two years on the other end of the phone, I can almost guarantee you that the person you are calling for help actually wants to help. You are not just another call, another customer, another problem. You are someone that has invested in a product, in a company. You are someone seeking a resolution.

Whether you’re the giver of help or the receiver, screaming, yelling, insults, and profanity won’t get anyone anywhere.

Here are my rules for surviving when stuff happens:

  • Play nice.
  • Treat others how you would like to be treated.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Be open to suggestion.
  • Help me help you.

I expect anyone who has ever been on the other side of the counter, phone, or desk to be nodding along with me right now. The point is to take a step back and look at the whole picture. Ask yourself:

How much can my response change the whole experience? What is out of my control? What can we do together to make everyone feel whole?

When there is a problem, you have choices. Take a time out when you need it, collect yourself, and put yourself in a solution-seeking mindset. When you’re on the fixing end, there is truly nothing more satisfying than a genuine “thank you” or the feeling you get when you have solved a mystery.

photo credit: © Africa Studio / Dollar Photo Club

AVA_WhiteBG_SRivera In her very first Reman U article, the Siren of Support shares why Forrest Gump was right. Spoiler: this lesson has nothing to do with chocolates or boxes. Like what Sari has to say? Be cool and comment below!