Posts tagged: confidence

Short Skirts and Bra Straps

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Acceptable Dress

I was waiting in line at the grocery store the other day and the 2 women in front of me were wearing shirts with bra straps showing. I was thinking, at what point in the last few years did it become “acceptable” to show your bra straps? I’m old so I remember the days when showing a bra strap was beyond tacky… it was a signal that you were not a “lady”.

But now… these 2 middle-aged women were not only showing their straps… they were at the grocery store where everyone could see them! It made me stop and think about how ideas (as well as fashion) change and become ‘socially acceptable.’

Preconceived Notions vs. Independent Thinking

The idea of whether bra straps show or not is, of course, relatively meaningless. But I hope you see that the same social norm that said, in the 1970’s, that short skirts were ‘unacceptable’ and rebellious, now accepts both short skirts and showing bra straps.

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If we take this idea of what is socially acceptable to broader ideas… it can be useful to monitor our own thinking. What is one idea that you have, that is outdated? or unhelpful? or that everyone around you thinks is okay but you feel is wrong? or that makes you uncomfortable? Are there ideas or norms that you rub you the wrong way? Sometimes we don’t even realize it until we stop and really think about it. The other complicating factor is, how do we acknowledge our own position (that’s different from many others around us), without being judgemental of others?

Here’s My Broader Idea: We’re In This Together

I believe that I have an obligation to give back to the world in tangible ways. That I have a responsibility to:

  • find people to help in a way that fits with what I have to give
  • focus on being grateful for all the gifts I have
  • be aware of the needs of those around me
  • take steps every day to be present for everyone I meet

What’s that got to do with bra straps? I don’t know. Somewhere in my strange brain they’re connected. I have always been someone who doesn’t care much for what other people think. And finding my own way in the world is hard because it’s always easier to follow the crowd. But I’m not good at that. I hope this gives you a chance to stop for a minute and think about… your broader idea. I hope you have the courage and strength to follow through. I believe in you.

Photo credit: bra straps showing    70’s short skirts

 

Picking Your Friends

Perhaps Augustus' inevitable death was part of what motivated his introspection, which could lead easily to improving himself.

Picking Your Friends?

How do you pick your friends? Because I’m old and have had the chance to meet a lot of people, I probably have a big database in my head and heart that tells me who to trust. I’m not saying that my judgement (database) is better than anyone else’s, I’m just saying I’ve had a lot of practice. But honestly, I’ve never really thought about my ‘process’ for picking friends. So, for today, let’s think about how we pick our friends and let’s start with…

Pick Yourself First

I read an article in Quora (a site I love, full of interesting Q’s & A’s), that talked about how the Torah gives us instructions as how to recognize a person’s true nature. Here’s what it says:

[The true nature of] a person is recognized through three things: his ‘cup’ (how he acts after drinking), his ‘wallet’ (his business integrity and how he spends his money), and his ’anger’.

I’m not suggesting that there are no other criteria for evaluating friendships. Of course there are. But let’s take these 3 and let’s apply them first to ourselves.

  • Regarding drink, I come from a long line of alcoholics. Fortunately, I am not one, but we do need to view this particular aspect gently.
  • The second item, the wallet, also needs to be thought of rather gently. I grew up lower middle class in an upper middle-class suburb. The way I saw and still see the world is through a rather skewed lens. I think about the future and want to make sure I have ‘enough’ to take care of the people I love and myself. The one think I do cherish though, is my commitment to helping those less fortunate than myself. I try to put my time and money to use in a world where so many, need so much.
  • Regarding anger, this is a constant struggle for me. I am a woman and women aren’t supposed to get angry. We’re supposed to stuff it down and act calm and sweet. This is not a healthy way to go through life. Finding a way to acknowledge and deal with our anger is, for me, a life long journey.

So I suggest that before we work to ‘recognize’ anyone else’s nature, we examine our own.

My Friend’s True Nature?

Fortunately, most people are pretty generous when it comes to accepting me the way I am. I’m grateful for that. I hope that’s because I’m on a continuous journey to know myself and recognize my own true nature.

Happy Passover!

Image credit: Pinterest

A Walk Before Breakfast

We had a rare rain the other day in So. Cal. Yoshi and I were walking through the park and he went into this puddle. I snapped the pic quickly.

Comfort

Everyday, I test to see how comfortable I am. Seems kind of odd right? I’m human, of course I am looking for comfort. But being fully human means going beyond your own comfort, to do things we may not want to do… for all kinds of reasons. Some of us wait until we are pushed into the discomfort zone, for example, we get an illness that requires us change our diet or medications. We don’t like it, but we do it because we have to.

Discomfort

What if we decided that, everyday, we are going to do something we are not comfortable with, just for practice. I don’t mean at work. That doesn’t count. Each of us are expected to be outside our comfort zone at work.  (It’s often the reason we get paid.) I mean doing the exact thing you hate. Like taking a walk before breakfast. Listen, I love breakfast, it’s my favorite meal and I look forward to it everyday. So the idea of going for a walk, before I do what I want? Sounds stupid. Yet, I do it every day. Here’s why. I knew that I needed to build exercise into my life. Not the, oh I’m going to the gym for 4 months, then I stop, exercise. The kind that I would do day in and day out. So I got a dog that needs to walk, every. day. Regardless of the weather. Regardless of my mood. There are many days when I don’t feel like going out. Too bad. We gotta go. And the last thing I want to do is go for a walk, before my favorite meal of the day. Right?

Change

Getting a dog is a pretty drastic way to get “uncomfortable.”  So what can you do to be, a little less comfortable, every day.

  1. Read something challenging – either to your beliefs or your intellect. This will take work because most of us have a set of sources we read. Certain news sources, authors, etc. We talk to people who agree with us. Find one source of discomfort and spend 5 minutes a day.
  2. Don’t complain – Complaining seems to be a regular way of life. There’s a difference between relaying information and complaining. You know the difference, especially when you are on the receiving end of listening to someone else. One is stating the facts, the other is laced with “poor me” and how could this happen to me? Catch yourself before you complain. Just. don’t. do. it.
  3. Do something for someone else that they don’t expect – This will also take work. It will require you to think about someone else long enough to imagine what they would like. I don’t mean making your kid’s lunch or your spouse’s dinner. I mean something unexpected. Something that actually takes effort on your part.

Like all habits, they take energy and focus to cultivate. But when I’ve managed to make it part of my mindset, it’s like… walking before breakfast.

Photo Credit: Reflection of Wee Westie

The Case for “Abby Normal”

Image result for if you are always trying to normal maya angelou

Who is Abby Normal?

In one of my favorite movies, Young Frankenstein, the lab assistant (Igor), has to steal a brain from another lab (for Frankenstein’s monster). Igor makes a mistake and takes a jar marked.. ‘abnormal’ brain. When confronted, Igor says that the name on the jar was, Abby Normal. Watch the clip

Normal is Overrated

I have a split personality. Part of me wants to be abby normal. I have always said I am, “too weird for the normal people and to normal for the weird people.” I meant this as partly reality, partly to justify why I am happy and proud to not care what people think. The other part of me is desperate to be normal. Growing up with limited parenting, I often had to guess at what was ‘normal’. The truth is, I still have to guess, more often that I would like to admit.

The amount of energy I have spent to appear ‘normal’ is well, crazy. Had a listened to Maya Angelou (quote above), I would have stopped trying to be what other people think is “normal”. I would have embraced my inner weirdo and been proud. Instead, I spent years looking to ‘fit in’ or be someone that people think is okay. Why? Right now, I’m not sure I know. There is human/biological need to belong. Could that be part of it? But really, reflecting on this, I don’t understand … why did I feel this was necessary?

Breaking the “Normal” Mold

It’s good to be normal, AND there’s nothing wrong with being weird. If you’re like me and feel a little too weird for the normal people, then I ask you to love yourself. We are big tribe!

Image credit: Zero Dean

Destination = A New Way of Seeing

“One’s destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things.” Henry Miller

Where Am I Going?

Many people see life as a series of destinations. Go to school, get married, have kids… like items on a checklist, we move on to the next destination without thinking much about the alternatives. In fact, you might be thinking, there are alternatives? What are they?

  • Don’t Go To “School” – I’m not recommending that people NOT go to school. What I’m suggesting is that we think about choices. If someone decides not to get a ‘formal’ education… do we think ‘less’ of them? Do we wonder about their intelligence? their ambition? Probably, because we are programmed to check off the items on the list. I have the good fortune to have relatives and friends who have formal educations and others that, for all kinds of reasons, chose not to. Both of these ‘categories’ of people in my life are the same. They love me, they teach me, they see me, they inspire me. Level of education doesn’t factor into it.
  • Don’t Get Married – This idea, fortunately, has changed since I was young. In my early years, an unmarried 40 year old woman (not a man) was see as an ‘old maid’, unlovable, broken, unattractive. Our culture is geared towards couples. If you are single woman… after a certain age, you are considered strange. In 1900, if you were 22 and unmarried you were lost forever, a spinster. (note that there is no male equivalent for this word.) In 2017, being a single woman is more acceptable, but we are still viewed less favorably than women in relationships.

Life as a Series of Lens Changes

Another way to look at life, is to think of it as a series of ‘lens’ changes – the way we see the world. The goal then becomes, seeing myself, other people, poverty, politics, my home town, my job, my friends… everything… in a new way. Imagine if you set the goal to re-evaluate your world view and all it’s component parts every 5 years. Not, did I hit the societal norm milestone, but did I grow? Did I change? Do I understand my responsibility to the world in a new way? Have I worked to make the world a better place in my own way?

Some of us have this way of looking at the world pushed on us by circumstances. Some of us; the artists, the change makers, the thinkers, the poets, the philosophers… accept that this is how we’ll live. Some of us are afraid to not be ‘normal.’ Afraid that we will be alone and lost.

Not everyone can be an artist. But everyone can shift their perception just a bit. Practice it. Make it a priority. Look for role models. Let me know how it goes.

Photo credit: Never a Place

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)

Never Try to Up Sell an Unhappy Customer

But I’m Not Wrong!

So, you’ve had a problem with someone. Your spouse, your customer, your kids… anyone. And now you need something from them. But you don’t want to apologize because:

  1. You didn’t do anything wrong
  2. You don’t like to apologize
  3. You’re sick and tired of taking other people’s crap
  4. The other person was wrong
  5. On and on and on…

There are 1001 and reasons why you shouldn’t have to say you’re sorry. All of them perfectly justified in your mind. So I’ll ask you this one question.

Do you want to be RIGHT? Or do you want to be HAPPY?

Some people will say, well, if I’m right, then I’m happy because I know I’m right. Oookaaay. If that’s how you feel, then you are all set. Or maybe you have a great example of how being ‘right’ is more important than being happy. I’m sure there are some. My point is that when we have conflict with someone, it may be because … we want to be right.

Is the Customer Always Right?

Of course the customer is NOT always right. But the customer is ‘righter’ than we are, because we need them. They are the lifeline to our business. They have the power to influence others, positively and negatively. The same goes for our friends, loved ones, co-workers. Every day we have a choice to be ‘right’. Every day we have a choice to graciously acknowledge that other people have a right to their positions.

Trying to convince them that their point of view is wrong… is, well, wrong. Even worse, trying to convince them that we are right (the up sell), is even worse. The best we can do is to listen and see if we can find a way to bridge the gap. We can maintain our dignity (no doormats allowed), and show that we are open to hearing something different.

I wish it were easier. I wish this was a skill we were taught in school, but like many important skills, we are on our own.

Image Credit: Steve  Steve Snodgrass

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.

Image credit: Image

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