Category: personal development

Strength is Elastic (Not Steel)

Do you equate strength with the following?

  • Loud
  • Brusque
  • Aggressive
  • Reluctance to “give in”
  • Authoritative
  • Fast talking/Quick witted
  • Unemotional

If you do, I ask you to think carefully about your definition of strength.

Real strength has flexibility and resilience. Think of the power of water… it is powerful in it’s own way. Think of people who have changed the world for the better. Seldom are they the loudest people in the room. They may have an unrelenting drive… like water… but they don’t have to bully and belittle. They know that building up others, leading with self awareness and grace, are a more powerful force than any muscle flex or shouted order.

“Strength begins with unwavering resilience, not brittle aggression.” Seth Godin

Image credit: Bands 3

Skeptic or Cynic?

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We are “in dire need of stewardship and protection from cynicism. The best defense against it is vigorous, intelligent, sincere hope, bolstered by critical thinking that is clear-headed.” Maria Popova

With our presidential election weeks away, I hear people talk about how they hate the two party candidates… that they are not going to vote, that the country is a mess, that they don’t see how this election could possibly turn out okay.

I understand. This will be my 12th national election. Most years, I didn’t like my choices either.

It’s much easier to be cynical than to commit to a personal effort to change things. Does the cynic serve a purpose? I don’t believe that the cynic does much to improve things. He or she may feel righteous, but nothing really gets better. Skepticism, on the other hand, can help us be discerning. So skepticism is useful, cynicism isn’t.

But what I see going on these days is beyond skeptical… it is surrender, a complete abdication of responsibility to think through what is good for our nation and neighbors. And this, I do not understand. If you are young and cynical to the point of inaction, then I feel sorry for you. If you are old, then I am ashamed of you. It is our responsibility to help the young understand that life is full of ups and downs. The downs don’t push us to whine and moan. They push us to look at ourselves and to figure out how to contribute to the common good.

“In its passivity and resignation, cynicism is a hardening, hope is a stretching of its ligaments, a limber reach for something greater.”

If you haven’t read  Maria Popova‘s 2016 commencement address, I hope you’ll take a minute. Her message is inspiring.

Walk Through The Fire

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“There are times when those eyes inside your brain stare back at you.”
Charles Bukowski, What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire

I don’t know about you, but I spend way too much time in my head. I think about what other people are doing, why they’re doing it. I let their moods, problems, ideas effect me … more than they should. I rationalize that people are the most important thing on the planet so thinking about them is good! I think about the way:

  • they feel
  • they’re treated
  • what happens to them
  • whether they have food, friends, a home
  • how they feel in relation to other people

I was born a white, middle class girl. I know something of what it’s like to be a ‘minority’ because I’m a female and I’ve been put down, ignored, belittled, and shunned… in my personal and professional life.  I have a taste, the tiniest taste of what many people experience on a daily basis, just because they were born.

I’ve had a little taste of the ‘fire’, the pain and sadness. I hope I have walked through with some grace. At this point in my life, I want to see what I can do to help those whose fire is fixable or improved by education, political action, attitude adjustments, and perhaps a bit of magic, love and prayer.

I watched television host Trevor Noah talk about his upbringing and his book, Born A Crime.  Here’s where the title comes from:

“I was born a crime,” Noah said. “I was born to a black South African mother and a white Swiss father during Apartheid in South Africa, so them doing ‘the thing’ was illegal.” Apartheid , the despicable practice of white separatist rule in South Africa, only ended in 1990. Yes, 1990! The fact that Noah was born in 1984 to a black mother and a white father was literally a crime. How’s that for a fire to walk through?

When Noah is asked what he thinks about Americans complaining about our rights being taken away. His answer, “I never judge somebody for thinking their world is tough, because it is tough, to you.” Trevor Noah has walked through the fire and come out a man showing us how to live with the scars… with grace and humor. I tip my hat.

Change Sucks

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“The best way out is always through.” Robert Frost

Change Sucks

Ok, so I’m going along in my life… things are okay, not terrible. Then all of a sudden (well it’s seems sudden), things fall apart. What the heck happened. I didn’t change! They did! I didn’t do anything wrong, they did! Why did they have to________? (fill in the blank) Why is __________happening to me? How come they always __________? If they would just listen to me about __________, none of this would have happened! I don’t want to change!

The Best Way to Cope With Change…

The best way to cope with change is to create it. This sucks too because it requires a lot of work. Ugh. It means I have to look at myself and figure out what my part is in creating this new reality. Then I have to figure out why I’m resisting it and THEN actually make the transition. It’s so much easier to just leave things as they are.

The problem is that life (your life, my life, everyone’s life) is in the middle of change, all the time. It’s just the way it is. We are creatures of habit. It takes energy and strength to create something new.

Looking for Role Models

As I look around for people who go with the “storm” rather than resist it, guess who does it best? Young people. Teens. Not only are the excited by change, they embrace it, they long for it, they see it as a positive force. Yes, there is a lot of emotion that spill out of them, but change is messy and hard. It’s normal for a lot of feelings to emerge from the chaos. Granted, many have not yet developed the sophisticated (cough, cough) coping mechanism that we ‘adults’ have.

Watch them. See how they love the new music, new technology, new places? Look at the world through their eyes. It’s real gift.

The Sugar In My Gum

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How Sweet It Is

When you put a new piece of gum in your mouth, the sugar is so delicious, right? After a while, the gum gets stiff and the flavor dulls but we love how sweet the sugar tastes in that first minute.

Chasing the Sweetness

We spend a lot of our lives chasing that first chewy minute of yummy. Whether it is new love, a new job, or new experiences… we are willing to sacrifice a lot in order to recapture it. We get bored with what we’re used to and sometimes this leads to bad decisions. Think about it for a minute. When was the last time you “chased the sugar”? Do you understand why you chased it? Were people in your life telling you that it wasn’t a good idea? Did you keep doing it anyway? Yeah, we all have.

Looking For A Sugar Substitute

If chasing sugar gets us in “trouble”, then we need to find a way to get something sweet, without all the ‘bad.” This is why sugarless gum was invented.

The job of a grownup is to find the sugarless gum in life. We still get the sweet but without the bad stuff. Sometimes we chase a dream… looking for the sugar… and it’s good. We learn and grow. Sometimes we chase a dream… and it’s bad. We crash, we burn. I am at a point in my life where lots of sugar isn’t necessary; an occasional dish of ice cream goes a long way.

I Hate Networking

 - Taken at 7:42 PM on May 05, 2007 - cameraphone upload by ShoZu

Strangers are Strange

If I never attend another networking event in my life, I’d be happy. But modern living (and working) requires meeting people. Why do I hate networking? Is it because…

  • I don’t like people? No, I like people.
  • I have to make ‘small’ talk? No, I figured out that if you ask a few questions, the other person will start talking and I won’t have to say much.
  • I have to enter a room full of strangers and pretend to feel comfortable? Now we’re getting warmer.

Make a Plan, Work the Plan

Ok, so I know I have to go and do it. The plan I have is to:

  • Go to the venue and pretend that I’m happy to be there
  • Meet 3 people. If after I meet 3 people I want to leave, I can
  • Make sure I hand out business cards to those 3 unless it seems inappropriate
  • If there’s a pre-event sign up list, I review the list. Is there anyone going to the event that I will know? Is there someone from a company or organization that I would like to meet? If so, I write down the name and go to LinkedIn and look for their photo.

Work the Plan

I’m there, I’m talking to 3 people. Here’s what I have on my mind:

  • Practice active listening. Learning to listen – really hear what someone is saying is one of the most important life and business skills in our toolkits. If you learn to really listen to your family and friends; I predict you will find it immensely rewarding.
  • See how I can help someone. Sometimes the best gift you can give someone is just to listen. Sometimes, I can help in other ways. Do they know of a job opening? Maybe I know a candidate.
  • Learn something. Everyone has something to teach us, if we have an open mind.

The Reward

Most of the time, I meet someone pleasant and interesting. I find I can offer a something of interest to someone. Bottom line, I have had a much better time than I expected. I’ve attended 100’s of networking events and 95% of the time, it was far better than I anticipated. Either way, ice cream when I get home makes it all worthwhile.

Image credit: Glen and Al

Crashes and Rebounds

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The Crash

On Tuesday, I flew from my home in NY to Los Angeles, on the way there, my computer hard drive crashed. So now I’m away from home, with a dead computer. I’m not going home for 3 weeks. The first thing is not to panic. Right after I panicked…I started making phone calls…to Apple, to my computer backup company, to anyone who would answer my call.

When I worked at a big company… these things got ‘handled.’ Now that I’m work in a small business, these things are all “do-it-yourself.” I’m not complaining, I’m just reminded that we often think that the other person’s situation is better. Working in a big company has ‘support’ so you don’t have to deal with problems like this. In a little company, you have to rely on yourself and your ingenuity (and hopefully planning) to solve problems.

The Rebound

Life is full of crashes and we can’t predict when they’ll come or how we’ll deal with it when it does. I try to think of the crash like water. When a river meets an obstacle, it finds a way to flow. When we are crashing, after we calm down, we learn to rebound. And it is in the rebounding that we learn what we’re made of. We also learn our most valuable lessons. Ones that stay with us. Ones that make us who we are.

As for my computer, it’s is dead. My new computer is wonderful; smaller, lighter, easier. The transition wasn’t fun, but the outcome is cool. If it’s been a while since you’ve crashed, get ready because surely one is coming. If you’re in the middle of a crash, whatever form that crash might take, know that I am cheering for you. You can do it!

Image Credit: Car crash

Discipline is Freedom

“There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no independence quite so important, as living within your means”  Calvin Coolidge

Modern Living

Living within your means… in other words… not spending more than you earn… is important. Many of us don’t live this way. If we did, we wouldn’t have statistics like this. Source: Value Penguin

  • Average American Household Debt: $5,700. Average for balance-carrying households: $16,048
  • Total Outstanding U.S. Consumer Debt: $3.4 trillion. Total revolving debt: $929 billion

Unfortunately, there are plenty of people, who, for a variety of reasons, find themselves in debt. I grew up in a middle lower income household to a single mother. I know what financial struggle feels like. This isn’t for those people.

I’m talking to those who feel that getting more stuff, a bigger house, more clothes, etc. is not only a good idea, but necessary to feel ok.

Retail Therapy

I get the appeal of stuff; when we get something new, we feel special. When we are feeling down or our self esteem is low; many of us shop. The problem occurs when we rely on “getting “stuff” to make us feel whole or special. . The truth is that buying stuff will never really make us feel better. The little “boost” we feel from that getting something new fades quickly. Trying to have as nice a car or house or clothes or vacations as our neighbors or celebrities is a path to sadness.

In times of transition, what we used before to give ourselves a little boost, may not work anymore. We may need to eat, drink, shop, smoke, whatever we’ve used… even more. The transition feels overwhelming, we have trouble adjusting, so we do more and then even more.

Building From Within

There are a few things that work for me, work. None are sexy. None cost much. All of them feed my spirit. When I live within my means, when I am disciplined with my money and don’t look for “stuff” to make me feel better, I win.

  • A walk in the woods or a visit to water
  • Helping someone else
  • Sitting quietly
  • Listening to music
  • Looking at or making art

I hope you have things that help you find peace and feed your sense of well-being. Please share them.

Inspiration for this post goes to Charles Tijou

Image credit: Mary Lynn – Coins

Ignorance is a Choice

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Calvin and Hobbes on Ignorance - Bill Watterson

The Ugh-ly Truth

We live in interesting times. We have to work hard to keep up with the way the world is changing. Some of it we like. Some of it we don’t. We may have very good reasons why we won’t accept this change or that different way of thinking, doing or being. But we do have a choice.

We can open our minds to what others think and be tolerant and accepting. Or we can choose to shut down, get angry or refuse to listen to anyone who doesn’t agree with us. The former requires us to change, personally. The latter is merely reacting.

The Kids Are Watching

Worse yet, whether or not we accept others points of view becomes a generational tendency. As parents, if we are unwilling to work to change, then that’s what we teach our kids. They don’t do what we say, they do what we do. We are role models. Ignorance is choice.

Image Credit:  Bill Watterson

Easy To Be Hard

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I’ve come to realize that it’s actually easier to be hard and cynical, than it is to be helpful and thoughtful. When I have a new idea, I’ve learned not to share it with many people because I know the kind of reaction I’m going to get, especially from those who don’t like risk. They’ll tell me it’s a good idea but… The “but” always gets me. It’s often accompanied with a wide array of ‘reasons’ why my idea will never work or why I shouldn’t try something. No matter what I try or how hard I work… it’s gonna flop.

This is what young people and dreamers face everyday.

Just Listen, Without Judgement

It’s easy to be hard, to criticize, to put someone else down. It’s hard to support, with your time and energy, people who are trying to take a risk. Listen to yourself when you talk to teens, young people and those trying something new. Do you offer to help? Do you listen and support unconditionally, without judgement? I encourage each of us to do this, not only for others, but also for and to ourselves.

It’s easy to be hard on ourselves. It’s easy to question, criticize and find fault, mostly because we think we know what we … coulda, shoulda, woulda done. Let’s all lighten up on ourselves and others. Shut off the critical voice.  Show some compassion to everyone you meet. We all need it.

Image credit: It’s Awfully Easy