In Notes on November 24, 2015 at 12:05 am

Work Stew is a collection of original essays and in-depth interviews. To learn more, please visit the FAQ.

New essays and interviews will be added regularly, so please check in often. Or you can sign up to receive email notifications of new contentlook for the button at the bottom right of the site.

Also, Work Stew now has its very own Facebook page; if you ‘like’ it, you’ll be able to see periodic updates in your news feed. You can also receive notices of new content via Twitter.


A brief history:

The site was launched in January 2011, when I published “Random Acts of Business,” an essay about extraordinarily long hot dogs, True Believers, and my lifelong quest for flow. Since then more than 70 other essays have been added to the mix.

You can view a complete list of contributors here. To date, the Top Ten Readers’ Favorites* are (in alphabetical order):

Molly Bishop Shadel A law professor writes about juggling her wide-ranging legal career with a personal life

Gerald Casale A founding member of the ground-breaking and enduring band Devo reflects on what constitutes “work.” 

Samantha Cole A prep school grad embraces her “inner laborer.” 

Ronald J. Granieri An historian pulls back the ivy to reveal what life in academia is really like.  

Tasha Huebner A self-employed Wharton grad takes a hammer to the old chestnut, “Do what you love, and the money will come.” 

Meg Heimovics Kumin A software developer reboots after three babies and two family crises and emerges as a photographer

Gopi Kallayil A Googler ponders the power of intention after an idea scribbled on a piece of paper almost immediately springs to life. 

Lindsay Moran Following the Abbottabad raid, an ex-spy reflects on her decision to leave the CIA

Rhino A soldier describes what it’s like to come home, including what goes through his mind when someone says to him, “Thank you for your service.” 

Terri Rowe A longtime factory worker reveals the secret identity that has sustained her since she was four years old. 

If you’re interested in submitting an essay of your own, please write to me at I’d love to hear your story.


Kate Gace Walton
Editor, Work Stew

*Note: ‘Readers’ Favorite’ is a pretty subjective designation based on page views, shares, comments, and the volume of love/hate mail each essay has so far inspired. So, read all the essays; as they say, your mileage may vary.

Ten Pearls of Hard-Earned, Work-Related Wisdom

In Contests on November 21, 2015 at 11:33 am

357aaf4c9a3494ed5c4aaedd1ff379b1.250x240x1Thank you to all who sent in their pearls for the latest Work Stew contest. Your hard-earned wisdom arrived in a variety of formats: aphorisms, short stories, poems. Below are the ten I chose to showcase, with a brief explanation of why (see my note in italics, below each entry).

1. Submitted by Ellen Denton

My father had severe dementia, to the point of being dangerous. When he wasn’t doing something with fire or knives that could get someone killed, he would talk to imaginary people or look around with a puzzled expression on his face.

One day, I dropped some papers on the floor, and he returned to the present, helped pick them up, and had the first normal conversation he’d had in months. If simple work could return even someone in my father’s condition, however briefly, to sanity, imagine what it could do, and is doing, for the rest of us.

Work is so often seen as nothing but an imposition; I love this depiction of work as an activity that can heal.

2. Submitted by Linda Quiroz

I did the job as if my life depended on it. I ate, slept, and drank my work. When weekends came, I hated to leave. Often, I went in on Saturdays. I devoted my waking thoughts, life, and all my dreams to the job. The years passed by, and sometimes, I would get an exceptional review or a certificate. My family languished. I read books and took seminars on juggling my life. The struggle to know when and how to move on was visceral. Finally, I did it. I left my beloved job.

Without a hitch, the job went on.

I especially liked this one in juxtaposition with the first: as important as a job can seem—and be—it rarely needs us as much as we might think.

3. Submitted by Tania Soucie

Trust that you have the ability to meet life’s challenges every 24 hours as they come. In doing so, the pressure of the past and the future disappears. All your energy becomes free for right now.

Anxiety is so debilitating; this just struck me as a wise way to manage one’s energy.

4. Submitted by Daniel Hopewell

It is always better to fail at something you want to do than succeed at something you don’t.

So true! And so hard to live by…

5. Submitted by Simone Pasquini

Some call it the ‘no asshole rule.’ People sometimes forget they have the power to fire their employers…and if they work for themselves, they also have the power to fire their clients. Life is too short.

Indeed it is. This is another one that’s hard to practice 100% of the time—but it’s sound advice nonetheless.

6. Submitted by Anonymous

Care about things that matter and don’t care about things that don’t. It sounds trite, but it is an underlying theme of everything our company does. So long as people are producing high quality results when and how the company needs them, almost nothing else matters. We dress casuallyvirtually no rules on dress codebecause our effort to dictate how people dress does not make a difference in the quality of their work product. Same principle applies to work location (i.e. telecommuting or working from the office) and work hours (i.e. starting early or coming in late).

Agreed, and good news: more and more workplaces, especially those competing for scarce skill sets, understand this and operate in the same way.

7. Submitted by Michael T. Heath

If you’re going to call out the boss,
the principle better be worth it
Be ready to empty your cubicle
Have something else lined up

If you’re speaking truth to power,
think about it twice, first
Make plans for your escape
Maybe you’ll be O.K.

I’ve been there myself:
couldn’t let it slide
Had to say something
Derailed my own train to do it

My soul isn’t very good at barter

I chose this one as a valuable check on the perspective above: of course not *all* workplaces are enlightened and those that aren’t exact a toll. In those cases, wisdom lies in knowing the costs—both of leaving and of staying.

8. Submitted by Charlotte Jackson

Don’t listen only to the words, listen for what is meant.

Yes! This is so hard to do—but those who manage it tend to be enormously effective.

9. Submitted by Rebecca Kerr

Want to get ahead in your career? You’re going to need tentacles. Not the hentai kind (don’t Google that)…helpful tentacles.

One tentacle is offering collateral help to the sales team. Another is helping the product team plan their next launch. Still another is beak-deep in operations, mapping out email drips for overdue invoices.

The more branches of the company you can serve simultaneously, the more invaluable you are to the company as a whole–helpfully filling holes all over the place. So yes, maybe it’s a little like the hentai kind.

Seriously: DON’T google that. Just know that this is eminently practical advice: when job security is a concern (and when isn’t it?), finding multiple ways to be helpful is just plain smart.

10. Submitted by Paula Richey

The one I learned from my dad: “When you start losing your tools, it’s time to take a nap.”

Paula Richey herself provides the best explanation: “My dad has two speeds–full throttle and outta gas. He doesn’t realize he’s tired until he can’t function. Know your self-care signals.”

Gratitude for Being Fired and the Five Practices that Helped Me Get There

In Essays on November 1, 2015 at 2:38 pm

By Jen Wewers
JWewers professional smallAt the beginning of this year, I was invited to raise money and awareness for communities I’m passionate about—those who are homeless, folks with mental illness, good people struggling to make ends meet who need quality health care, and students, lots of students. Perfect fit.

I’ve worked at incredible organizations both in Kansas City and NYC, but this one—well, it was and is special. I met staff members doing life saving work on small budgets, chaplains who reminded me why tending to the spiritual life is so essential for health, and when I would walk around this nonprofit, the beautiful diversity of Kansas City was all in one place.

I’m writing all this to make a point. I entered this job with an incredible commitment to the mission and an excitement to help this organization thrive.

And then? At the end of my three-month probation period, I was fired. Now, I can’t share details for obvious reasons. But I can share how I felt. Misunderstood. Betrayed. Angry. Confused. Shocked. Sad. Incredibly sad.

For those who know me personally or have read my personal blog, you know I have experienced a lot of loss over the past few years. Grief has been riding shotgun with me since 2011.

Being fired was just another experience of the ground underneath me giving way. Yet another loss. In a sense it was another life of possibility that left me too soon. And I didn’t know what to do. What could I do? Well, as with most transformational experiences, the answer is not in the doing but rather in the being.

Here are five things that helped me. They continue to be essential in maintaining where I am today – loving my life even if it is less financially stable than the one I had before.

I hope they help you too.

  1. Take some time off. No, I didn’t have the money to do this. I’m a single mom without much of a net, but I needed some time to process the experience. I needed to own what was mine in the firing and let go of the vast majority of it that wasn’t. Doing that takes time.

2. Call in your troops.The troops of support and honesty. The colleagues who worked with you for years. Talk to previous supervisors you respect—those who know you and know the quality of your work. Let them be a mirror and reflect back to you who you really are when it’s hard for you to see it. Their vision and experience of you can be an anchor during this time.

3. After giving yourself some breathing room, either pull yourself up by your bootstraps and/or put on your big girl or boy panties and do some honest reflection. Abrupt experiences like this are a gift in that they have the potential to wake us up (not to say I didn’t take a lot of naps during those first weeks…I did). But in that liminal space of being betwixt and between, it’s a good time to ask questions and be open to unexpected answers.

4. As a culture, we support a process of being fired or laid off that is dehumanizing. One week you are being heralded for all the great skills you bring to bear, and then suddenly you can feel a target on your back. It may not have shifted that quickly for you, but sometimes it does. So during the process, try to remember: you are more than a job. Go look at photos of you at a time when you felt the most alive—those times when you were open to life and life seemed open to you. Remember what that felt like. Feel it. Is there one small thing you could do to bring that feeling into the present moment? Write a poem, run a 5K, visit a museum, play in a toy store, take a long walk, finger paint, watch a movie that makes you cry from laughing, go sky diving, etc. If so, do it. Now.

5. Separate who you are and what you are called to do from making money. As a Catholic school kid for 12 years, I was encouraged to discern my vocation. I was told I had a calling, special gifts I had been given to share with the world. I just turned 47 and am finally letting go of the idea that who I am called to be may not be how I make the money that pays for me to live on this earth. My values need to be in alignment but they are not necessarily one and the same. I’m not going to lie: I am a bit embarrassed to admit this fact, but here I was living in middle age with the vocational construct of an eight-year-old girl. This has been the most liberating part of both being fired and then allowing that experience to inform my next steps.

I know it’s hard. Trust me. I know. You aren’t alone. Hang in there. I hold all of you who are on this path with me in my heart. One final suggestion: get a mantra you can repeat to yourself whenever you need to remember to slow down, breathe and remember who you are. Here is mine…feel free to use it.

“All shall be well.
All shall be well.
All manner of things shall be well.”
— Julian of Norwich, 14th century Christian mystic

Jen Wewers, M.Div., is a writer and nonprofit fundraising consultant. Based in Kansas City, she can be contacted via LinkedIn and her website,


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