Posts tagged: inspiration

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

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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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

 

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.

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.

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

Do What You Say

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Short Rant

I must be getting old. I notice more and more that people say they’ll do things and then they don’t do them. Argh.

When I was younger, I ran myself ragged trying to do all the things I said I would. Then I got older and had more responsibilities and I still ran ragged. All because I didn’t know how to say no or I volunteered too much. My fault. But somehow, many adults feel it’s ok to agree to do something and then just — never do it!

I am more aware today that when someone asks me for help and then they never follow up. Or worse, we set up a meeting and then they forget. Last time I checked, grown-ups are supposed to remember their commitments. Especially when they are asking for someone’s time.

We’re All Given the Same Amount of Time

This came up because I upgraded the software on my computer and thought I lost my calendar. I tried not to panic as I realized that I had lots of meetings and commitments that I might miss. I was mortified. So I started reaching out to people that I could remember I had appointments with and asking them to confirm our date/time. In the meantime, I recovered my calendar but it was really interesting to see who had remembered to mark their calendar and who hadn’t.

Today I am examining my own behavior. How often do I say I will do something and not do it? I don’t think it’s very often but I decided if I’m going to rant, I’d better be certain that I’m not guilty of the same thing. What do I do with the precious time I’ve been given? Do I have balance between what I need, what I want, what my family needs, earning money, charitable giving (time and money)? Keep track of your time for 2 weeks and see where… it all goes.

Say What You Need to Say

John Meyer song, “Say What You Need To Say” is playing in my head. “It’s better to say too much, than never to say what you need to say… Even if your hands are shakin’ and your faith is broken… do it with a heart wide open.”It’s straightforward but not easy.

I remember being expected to:  say what I mean, mean what I say and do what I say.

Looking in the Mirror

I’m convinced that successful people are more likely to do what they say they will than unsuccessful people. Here’s “Ten Steps to Actually Doing What You Say You Will.” Good reading. I’m going to follow these steps and then repeat #10, forgive myself when I don’t do what I said I would, and commit to worker harder.

Oh, and I meant to tell all of you who read my blog, thank you. Thank you for your support, your kind words, your smiles.

Image credit: Jar of Quotes

Five Things

Pick 5

If you could pick 5 things… right this minute… that you would like to have… right this minute… what would they be? Quick, write them down.

Be sure you write them down since having them in your head doesn’t count. Why? Because it’s easy to lose the lesson if you don’t. Do it. Write them down.

What Did You Pick

Let’s look at your list objectively. Did you put down ‘things’? Did you put down abstract concepts like love? Did you wish for things that would benefit someone else or just yourself? Look at your list. When you’re done, put it in a drawer, take it out next week.

My Picks

I am fortunate to work at home these days. When the weather is good, I’m lucky. When it’s not good, I’m lucky. I get to be out in it. This morning the temperature was perfect 70 degrees. Soft breeze blowing, lots of birds singing and swooping, my dog is pulling on her leash as we stroll the neighborhood.

When I thought of this question… I knew my answer immediately. I want my 5 senses. That’s it. I know I already have them but I don’t want to take them for granted, for one second, of one day.

  • Take a look at your hand and marvel at the wonder of all you can accomplish. Wiggle your fingers. Jump up and down.
  • Put a piece of bread in the toaster and smell the sweetness.
  • Look out your window and see, whatever you see. Revel in the miracle of sight.
  • Listen, really listen to the voice of someone you love. Can you hear the feelings behind the words? How often do you really hear their voice?
  • Yeah, ok, go get the chocolate or coffee or beer or whatever… really taste it.

You get the idea. Pay attention to your senses today.

Image credit: Five  Woodley Wonder