Posts tagged: Change

Small Things, Great Things

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All Things, Great and Small

When we are young, we are told that the decisions we make on things like, getting good grades or which college we go to, are the biggest decisions of our lives. The pressure to make the “right decision” is tremendous. Certainly in light of the cost of college and the associated debt, there is merit to this. But the truth is, the really important decisions are, small and occur daily.

Did I eat healthy food and rest enough? Did I talk to someone I love today? Did I get a hug? Did I remember to be grateful for my senses? My ability to walk and talk? For the beauty of the world around me? These may seem like ‘small’ things. But fortunately for many of us – they are huge, free and easily accessible. Yet, we take them for granted. We don’t see that these ‘small’ things are, in fact, ‘big’ and ‘great’.

Do I Hold On to Pain?

Some sadness and difficulty is part of every person’s life. How we take that burden and then grow (wallow) or shrink from it, is what separates those living fully, from those who are stuck. Modern living encourages quick solutions, instant information and self-gratification. If we can figure out how to harness the power of discomfort and/or learn to let go gracefully, then we can learn how the small things; a tweak to my attitude, a short conversation with someone I love, admitting I’m wrong, reaching out to someone else instead of thinking of myself, are the most important decisions we will make today.

Be Bold And Great Forces Will Come to Your Aid

I wrote a post in 2012 with this title. I remember the first time I heard it. It blew me away. Being bold seems like something someone else does… they take chances, they seem to get over failure easier than I do. They seem to be able to fight the ‘good fight’ and be a role model. I am here to tell you that you can too. You just need to find your way. Don’t do it because someone else is… do it because you believe it’s right.  Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s counterproductive. Be happy in failure, humble in success, joyful in our shared humanity.

Image credit: Life Hacks

Belonging

Rick Medina, right, a Yaqui Apache whose tribe is centered in Arizona, and his son, Miles Medina. They were among the participants at a Colorado Springs Native American Inter Tribal Powwow and festival in that central Colorado city

Where Do I Belong?

Belonging… as humans, we have an innate desire to belong, to be a part of something. And yet many of us don’t like to be part of a group. For whatever reason: the need for independence, the fear of rejection.. we find it difficult to assimilate.

There are origin stories… stories of our family, our town, our country, our history, etc. that remind us that we are part of something larger than ourselves, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Some of those stories are happy and make us proud. Some are shocking, sad and even brutal. Each of us probably has a little of each in our background.

How Do We Belong?

If you stop for a minute and think about the idea of where (and to whom) you belong, you may think of it in a few different ways. Family may the first thing you think of. But if you have a family story like mine, the story may be filled with sadness, so I need to find another way to feel like I belong.

Religion may be another way that we can feel that belong. We identify ourselves as a Christian or a Jew, a Muslim or a Sikh. Even being an atheist is a way to belong to a group that sees the world through the same lens.

Race is an important way that we find identity. Whether we are aware of it or not, it shapes our daily life.

Location can be one of the least understood and respected form of belonging. There are national and local identities. In many places in the world, the village where a person is born defines a great deal about their sense of belonging. Here in the US, with our ability to (relatively) easily relocate, we take for granted the ability to be American and keep that identity regardless of where, in the country, we live. Think about your “place/location.” I moved over 20 times before I was 22.

We Belong to Each Other

It’s important to understand how we define ourselves so that we can clearly see ourselves in relation to others. Regardless of our beliefs, country, skin color… we are all one, human. We love our children, we want to work and have meaning in our lives. Think about the things that make you feel a part of something and understand how that either joins or separates you from others. Let’s talk about this more in the future.

 

Image credit: Rick Medina, Yaqui Apache & son  Carol Highsmith (via the Library of Congress)

The Whys Have It

Strobist: Shoot-through umbrella 430ex at 1/4 power up and to my left about 2 to 3 feet from subjects. The cousins get together for a photo shoot at Grandma's house. There was very little cooperation. Note to self: Bribery works better than ...

But Why?

I am visiting my 2 year old (soon to be 3) granddaughter. If you have kids, you know what happens around their third birthday… everything becomes, why? And not just single, why is that? but a continuing stream of whys. Once I answer the first why, it is often followed by 4,5, or even 6 why questions in a row.

The Power of Why

If I become even slightly impatient with the steady stream of questions, I remember that asking why is one important way to learn. It’s unfortunate that we, as adults, stop asking why. We assume that we know the answer… so we don’t ask why. Or we’re afraid to look silly or worse, not all knowing. Somehow, by virtue of our age, we’re suddenly supposed to know ‘everything.’

Growing – Personally and Professionally

On a personal level, we can ask why of people we love to better understand their thoughts and feelings. This requires us to listen to the answer. If we just ask why and don’t work to understand the answer, we are missing an opportunity to connect to those we care most about.

Professionally, have you ever heard of root cause analysis (also known as the 5 whys) ? In this problem solving exercise, a series of why questions are asked in order to get at the ‘root’ of the problem. When there is an issue, we can keep asking why (of the people who best know the answer, i.e. maybe not the manager, but the worker) until we get some at the root.

Ask Humbly

When we ask why, we have to defer to the other person’s knowledge. This is not easy for those of us who think we’re smart and know a lot. I have to practice humility, daily. I have to remind myself that things change, often. Remind myself that other people know a lot, that they see things differently from me. And that is good. Every day, I look with gratitude at the people in my life, at the work I have the privilege to be engaged in, at the beauty of the world around me.

I don’t have to ask why nature is beautiful and powerful, I just know it is. It’s there everyday, unchanged in it’s power. There are other things that don’t require a why, but not that many. ‘Why’, fills in the blanks, updates the database in our heads, changes the way we interact with people in the world.

 

Photo Credit: The Three Hams  Make Less Noise

Holidays, Vacations, Life as We Know It

Holidays and Vacations

I took a vacation from the blog. Not on purpose, it just happened. I’ve been writing this blog off and on since 2008. So when one week turned into two turned into six… I realized that in addition to I celebrating the holidays, I was also taking a vacation; from my regular life, my regular responsibilities, my old self. As I celebrated a ‘speed limit’ birthday this month, I realized that there are all kinds of vacations. This particular vacation was very important to me.

Life As We know It

Every once in a while, I hope that you are able to take that same kind of vacation. It’s not like Disneyland, the beach or the mountains. It is the kind that allows us to look up at the clouds and take a long look at how we’re living. This isn’t easy. Who wants to question all the ways and reasons for the choices we’ve made? No one. And yet the importance of looking at our life – straight into it’s face – is important. Because there’s a big difference between living and surviving. If you choose to survive, because it’s easier… I understand. If you choose to live, even though it’s harder, much harder… I understand. You have my blessings to do either. It’s your life.

Photo credit: Cumulus Blue  Scott Robinson

If I’m Talking, I’m Not Learning

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“But there ain’t no point in talking when there’s nobody listening…” Rod Stewart

Listening as Learning

I need to remind myself that learning to listen to others is one of the keys to a happy life. It’s a skill I have never ‘mastered’ and never will. The act of making the effort to learn to improve my ability to listen openly, is worthwhile.

The power of listening to the people we love is boundless. If we are able to listen without judging or thinking about what we’re going to say… we give a priceless and rare gift. It takes intention, practice and self-discipline. If that sounds like a lot of work, you’re right, it is.

When we stop talking, stop telling our side of the story, reminding people of how smart we are, then we actually can learn; about other people, about their world, their problems and their joys.

But I Don’t Like What They’re Saying!

Part of the reason we don’t listen is that we don’t want to hear others because we don’t agree with their opinion or point of view. If I disagree with someone, why would I want listen to them? They’re wrong! This is a natural reaction, an emotional reaction, a dangerous reaction.

Modern living and the short news cycle, reinforce that those who “talk”, especially on television or on social media… have influence. We listen only to those people who reinforce our current thinking or point of view. When this happens, it strengthens the negative ‘we’ vs. ‘them’ thinking. We are called sheep by politicians and we don’t prove them wrong, because no matter what, we follow along. We avoid listening and thinking for ourselves because it’s easier.

Getting Started

First, I have to admit that I’m not right. My point of view isn’t correct.  Whether the person is someone in my house or my neighborhood or where I work, each person has a right to the way they feel. I don’t have to agree with them, but if I can honestly listen to them, I might learn what they are afraid of, what motivates them; not what separates us but what binds us together.

If you are sincere in your desire to learn to listen better, here are some resources:

TED Talk –  5 Ways to Listen Better

Listening Skills- The 10 Principles of Listening

Image credit: Quote Fancy

How The Light Gets In

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Judgement as Separator

It easy to find fault. To judge. To say that others are wrong. It’s harder to see their point of view. It takes commitment, energy, patience, compassion, and strength. If we see the crack as ‘brokeness’, then we’ll forever be trying to ‘fix’ it.

If we see the crack as a way for the light to get in, to help us change and grow, become more accepting, then we may be able to learn something. When I sense there’s something far away from my understanding, I try to make a point to move towards it, to open my mind and not close my heart.

Empathy as My Teacher

This is hard because my way, no matter how painful, is the way I know. It’s easier to blame someone else than really look at myself. For today, I’m going to try to accept my own ‘cracks’ and other people’s different opinions as my teachers. Compassion is never easy, but it is always worthwhile.

The Case for Doing Nothing

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Plans for the Weekend?

When someone asks me what my plans are for the weekend, I often answer.. nothing. In fact, my goal is to have nothing to do. My other answer is… “my goal is to do less, and then do less than that.”

The Cult of Productivity

If this doesn’t make sense to you, I understand. We live in a world where doing is more important that being.

“Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living.” Brain Pickings Newsletter

The Case for Stillness

Are you a human being or a human “doing?” Learning to just be took practice for me.

We each have so many gifts; a unique way of looking at the world. We need that. We need you to be you. If all we do is, well… do…then we don’t take the time to know ourselves. To hear our own voice. To cultivate our own thoughts, to pay attention to our feelings, to remember what is important.

For today, can you stop doing so much? Can you sit in a chair and look out the window? Can you take a 5 minute walk? Can you step outside and look at the trees and the birds? Try it and let me know how it goes.

Image Credit: To Do List

Irritation: A First World Problem

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“Irritation is a privilege. It’s the least useful emotion and… it’s a choice.” Seth Godin

Heebie Geebies

I  have been irritable lately. I noticed that I was being short with people, interrupting them, feeling jumpy… but I didn’t know why. I read this excellent blog post from Seth Godin “On Being Irritated,” and I made a decision to immediately take action to get off the crabby bus.

Honestly, I did know why I was feeling irritable … but I wasn’t sure what to do about it. I was obsessively thinking about things. I was not taking good care of myself. I was taking on too much. This is a familiar pattern for me and I thought I had defeated this demon. Wrong! Bad habits and negative thoughts/behaviors can sneak up on me.

Don’t Try Harder, Try Different

For me, when I’m irritable… it may be because I’m hungry, angry, lonely or tired. So I look first at these 4 things  to see how I can fix them. Then it may be that I am expecting something from someone and they are not coming through. Now my job is to make sure that I have made it clear what I expect, need, or want. The other person is free to say no, ignore me, or suggest something else. My job is make sure that I have been clear, with myself and them. Then I can deal with the situation from a position of clarity. I may be upset but at least I know what I need.

Caution: Feeling Irritable May Be Habit-Forming

There is huge difference between irritable and depressed/lost/hopeless. Irritation is minor, these other feelings are not. Look beneath your ‘irritableness.’ If you are feeling lost or hopeless or if there are people in your life telling you that ‘something is wrong’… then most likely ‘something is wrong.’ Pay close(r) attention. If you’re just crabby, because you’re crabby, then please take good care of yourself. The world needs you at your best.

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A Reputation Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

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First Impressions Matter: In Person? Online?

  • Your reputation has as much impact on your life as what you actually do.
  • Early assumptions about you are sticky and are difficult to change.
  • The single best way to maintain your reputation is to do things you’re proud ofSeth Godin

Modern Living and Your Reputation

You may not like how everything is ‘online’ these days. Corporations know too much about us, information that we don’t want to be available to everyone… is, in fact, available to anyone who chooses to search for it.

“Your reputation isn’t merely based on your work, it’s often the result of biases and expectations that existed before you even showed up.” Seth Godin

You can think this is unfair, not right, needs to change… but the truth is… this is modern life. Aside from going off the grid… this is the way it is and fighting it, being mad about it, and complaining about it, is not going to change the facts.

What You Can Do

There’s a lot of talk about authenticity these days. Here’s a definition.  “Authenticity” = the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures.” Wikipedia

Those external pressures are big, looming, 300-pound gorillas that tell us to be the way society wants us to be. It is not easy to fight against the money, prestige, acceptance, or status that may come with ‘playing along.’ No one but you really knows the price you might have paid for the trade off of protecting your reputation with ‘going along/fitting in.’

None of this is easy. Understanding the ramifications of online information, doing the right thing when no one is looking, speaking out against bigotry or ignorance — these are hard. And they are the most important things we can do. What we do, (not what we say), is what we model for our children. It’s how people know who we are. Love boldly. Live boldly. Great forces will come to your aid. I’m standing with you.

Famous Entrepreneur Quotes: Warren Buffett

The Return on Investment of Reading

My summer reading pile. From top to bottom: "Rhode Island Notebook" - Gabe Gudding "Freakonomics" - Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner "How to be Alone" - Jonathan Frazen "A Handbook of ...

Why Should I Read Books?

In the age of Twitter (and I love Twitter), the time and energy for reading books is shrinking. Especially the kind of books that help us grow our businesses. Isn’t it easier to read ‘articles’, blog posts (yeah, like this one!) or your favorite business news source?

Here’s what goes on in my head…. Reading a book… ugh. It’ll take a long time. Not only do I not have a couple of hours to read a book, I don’t have the mental energy it takes to concentrate on a business book. My days are just too busy.

But often, the smartest person in the room, the one with a good perspective and ideas,  is the one who reads books. If you ask them what is the most recent business book they read, they’ll have a ready answer. We read books in school, but once we get out, we think it’s either not necessary or a luxury we can’t afford.

Skill Building

“In medical school, an ongoing lesson is that there will be ongoing lessons. You’re never done. Surgeons and internists are expected to keep studying for their entire career—in fact, it’s required to keep a license valid.” He continues, “knowledge workers, though, the people who” manage, market, and do accounting— “often act as if they’re fully baked, that more training and learning is not just unnecessary but a distraction. The average knowledge worker reads fewer than one business book a year.”  Seth Godin

When I read a book, one that requires me to actually think, as opposed to my favorite mysteries, I have to focus 100% on the page. It’s one of the few times during the day (or evening) that I do only one thing at a time. I get to concentrate on just one thing and I build skills, knowledge, and perspective.

Finding The “Right” Investment

One of the hardest things for me is to figure out is ‘what’ to read. There are so many books! A quick search indicates there are some 11,000 business books published every year. How in the world can I sift through all that noise to find something that will actually give me some return for my precious time?

Here’s how I try to figure out what to read. I think about:

  1. An author, is this someone who has written something that I learned from before?
  2. A general business book that brings a big picture into focus (as opposed to ‘marketing’ or ‘finance’ or some other sub topic.)
  3. Bigger ideas or technology trends… not just specific companies or individual technologies.
  4. Books where the author has done research. The research means that the author had a hypothesis and then tested it.

Some of My  Favorites

  1. Anything by Chris Anderson, Amy Cuddy, Brene Brown, Daniel Gilbert, Josh Bernoff, Charlene Li, Seth Godin.
  2. Traditional favorites like: Warren Bennis on Leadership, Michael Gerber on Entrepreneurship and my all time favorite – Peter Drucker on anything he ever wrote about.

I’d love to hear how you select what books you will read and who your favorite authors are. Thanks!

Photo Credit: Summer reading list