Posts tagged: life changes

Find Your “Zone of Genius”


Do you think you are an interesting person?

In her book, How to Be More Interesting in 10 Steps Jessica Hagy shows us direct ways to enhance our “interestingness” (my word). Here’s my suggestion. Get a piece of paper… rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 (with 1 being no way and 10 being — I’m already doing that every day!) — how comfortable are you with each of these?

1) Talking to strangers

2) Exposing yourself to ridicule, risk and wild ideas

3) Learning an entirely new skill; especially one that interests but intimidates you

4) Embracing your inner weirdness

5) Ignoring the “scolds”

How’d you do?  If you scored above 50, you’re on your way. Below 50? What are you waiting for ? There’s a saying, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears — but you have to be looking! In my experience the teacher is already available – I just haven’t been paying attention.

– Don’t hide your quirks; they are what make you interesting!

–Don’t let the ‘shoulds’ get in your way? When others will criticize you, be prepared. Don’t listen. They’re projecting their fear onto you. Push it back to them.

So this relates to your “Zone of Genius” – a term coined by author Gay Hendricks. Here’s how she describes it:

“Your Zone of Genius is the combination of your innate talent and your greatest passion. Innate talent, for this purpose, is how–not what–you do what you do. Your greatest passion is the activity that you could do for countless hours with unending fulfillment.Finding your zone of genius can be tricky. We’re all blind to many of our own true strengths and weaknesses, so it often helps to find an objective, supportive person to help. Knowing your Zone of Genius also makes you caring, humble, and brave.”

The ‘teacher’ can be anyone… your child, spouse, co-worker, an old friend, a complete stranger. You just need to let go and ask for help. It will be there. Go!

Photo credit: RiÃ?©Kââ??¢


Judgement is Easy, Integrity is Hard


This week I had the privilege of meeting a woman who has battled the forces of judgment and sadness with grace. She also has translated the difficulties of her life into beautiful art. The journey of integrity is often a very lonely road. Principles are expensive;  financially, psychologically and physically.

During our conversation, I was reminded how easy it is to judge others. Often, we’re not conscious of our negative feelings; we don’t deliberately set out to be judgmental or cruel. It’s just that these OTHER people…

– look different from us – It’s no longer just someone’s skin color – now we judge them because they wear a hijab or a turban

– don’t share our ‘values’ or religion. Religions are full of judgements. If someone ‘shares’ our religion we automatically assume they are ok. But the mafia killed people regularly and were ‘good’ Catholics. Just because someone is a different religion than yours, doesn’t automatically make them good or bad. People need to be judged on the content of their character. Hmm… where did we hear that before?

– have different life or work experiences. Maybe they worked only in start-ups or only in one company. Does this make their opinion or their input any less worthy?

It’s much easier to think that these ‘strange’ people are wrong or misguided than try to understand where they are coming from.

Even worse, these ‘different people’ threaten the safety of our ‘little world.’

As the world becomes more connected and collaboration becomes the norm for innovation and customer management (along with most other business functions) we need to closely examine our definition of who’s okay in the world. And it begins with our our private lives. Teach your children well – they learn by what you do, but they are tremendously affected by what you say.

I recommend that we actively seek out diversity in our friends and colleagues. Have lunch with someone who is 30 years your junior/senior. Seek out the people at your organization who are different. Talk to them, learn about what’s important to them. You will be richer for the effort and your organization will reap the benefits for years to come.

Photo credit : Joan of Arc

Long Haired Freaks Need Not Apply (Then), Tatooed Workers Need Not Apply (Now)


In the world of work there is a lot of discrimination. Yup, I said it out loud. Not the kind that can be legislated or regulated against but bad nevertheless. In the 1960′s it was long hair, today, it’s ‘body art.”

In a recent article titled, “Top personal attributes employers hate about you;” piercings and tattoos are listed among several ‘undesirables’. The article states if people have these, employers are less likely to consider them for promotion. Yikes!

I don’t really understand why. Look, I’m a Boomer, I get all the dress for success ‘stuff’ we’ve been raised on and understanding one’s customers is very important. It is never a good idea to appear disrespectful to your clients. However, I believe that most people would continue to ‘buy’ from you whether your IT, HR or sales person has a tattoo or not.

Not considering them for employment or promotion because they look different from you is a big problem.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. admonished us to, ‘judge on the content of a person’s character,” (or in this case, their work output) ” not on the color of their skin,” (or in this case whether or not they have a tattoo or a piercing. ) Let me clarify… if someone is inappropriately dressed for an environment for safety or collegial reasons– then that’s not acceptable. But I don’t think that sneakers, flip flops, jeans, or some tattoos etc. are inappropriate in most environments.

The millennial generation (20 something’s) love their body ink. It nearly a rite of passage for many.  In 2010, nearly four in ten persons age 18 to 29 had at least one tattoo. (Pew Research)

Get used to it folks, it’s here to stay and there’s nothing wrong with it.

Photo credit: Big hand, small hand Xurble

5 Things to Stop Doing – Right Now!

Are you ready to get on with the challenges that you face in your life? Your mouth says yes but your attitude and body language are saying no.

Now let me give you and me credit… we are doing a lot of hard stuff, everyday. Good for us. However, we live better than 95% of the people on the planet so let’s get to the heart of the matter. We’re soft.

If we’re soft… then we’re lousy role models and unimaginative workers/parents/business people/community leaders.

So pick one… any one of these and commit to stop doing it— even just for one day… today.

1) Blaming — what difference does it make who’s fault it is? What are you going to do about it? Sticky wicket relationship? I gotta do my part. Change my attitude. I’m not right. Who cares?

2) Judging – focus on yourself. Let others do what they need to. Live and let live.

3) Tilting at Windmills – when I get all upset over something I can’t change… it slowly dawns on me that I am wasting precious energy. I could be laughing. What the heck?

4) Defending – try listening instead.

5) Being afraid. What’s the worst that can happen? I can tell you that many people have lived through MUCH worse. You can do.

Here’s a good article on 10 things to stop doing. I believe in you.

Photo credit: broken glasses 1   Photographer jfg


Life’s Like a Ten-Speed Bike…

“Life is like a ten-speed bike… most of us have gears we’ve never tried.” Charles Schulz (creator of Charlie Brown comics)

I’ve led a rather colorful life. I had the advantage of growing up in a difficult family environment. Why do I consider that an advantage? Because I can empathize with people — in fact almost everyone. Pushing myself is part of my DNA and my life circumstances.

So what’s that go to do with the 10 speed bike? Well, because I know what it’s like to be hungry and scared… I’ve probably used a few more of my gears than others. Would I wish difficulty on anyone – no. But I can tell you that it made me the person I am and I am happy that I have challenged myself in almost every aspect of life.

So how do we figure out which gears we’ve used and which gears we ought to try?  It’s a matter of understanding where we’re comfortable. Trying a new gear has to do with making a conscious choice to do things differently.

Here are my energy gears:

  1. asleep
  2. before I’ve had my tea BUT I wake up everyday in a great mood. (it’s truly annoying to those around me)
  3. reading, skimming, thinking, meditating
  4. making art in my little studio or creative writing
  5. at work, talking to folks, making sure I’m present in my day
  6. starting something new or pushing through an existing project
  7. talking in front of a small group – less than 50 people
  8. talking to a big group > 50 people – energy needs to be really high
  9. going into a room full of strangers and talking to people (takes everything I’ve got)
  10. Not sure what this is..

This is only one measure of the gears that relate to the amount and kind of energy I need to summon. What are your gears and what pushes you use new ones?

Photo credit: Snowed In Chris Metcalf

Building the Brand of You: Portrait of an Expert

So imagine you are a the only person of your race in a world full of money, power and prestige. Now imagine that through your talent and pure force of will… that you build an impeccable career and reputation. What would it take for you to overcome all the odds against you?

Some reading this, may not know Sidney Poitier. For the rest of us, Mr. Poitier is a movie star who starred in tour de force movies like, In the Heat of the Night . If you haven’t seen this wonderful film, I encourage you to check it out. If you are wondering how to build your personal brand, I suggest you examine the public life of this amazing human being.

He rose to be one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. No rehabs, no scandals, no spin — just a high quality ‘service’ (his acting) delivered with dignity and thoughtfulness. It’s not about being famous… it’s about a sure and steady knowing, inside ourselves, that we have done the job well and conducted ourselves in way that makes us proud.

As I think about my own career, I can say that I have done well on some fronts and could have done better on others. Here’s what I learned from Mr. Poitier…

1) Be myself. I can learn and grow, but don’t take any crap from anyone; particularly those who would exploit or diminish me.

2) Don’t let them judge me by my looks and don’t judge others that way. Remember the words of Martin Luther King …” where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” (Substitute age, race, religion, gender, sexual preference, etc. for color of their skin).

3) When in doubt, don’t do it, say it or type it. Mr. Poitier gained his reputation by making thoughtful choices from words to roles. Did he sacrifice tremendously for those choices? My guess is yes.

If you want to figure out how to build your personal brand… look at those who have done such an amazing job before us. They’ll teach us everything we need to know.

The Beauty of Portion Control…In All Parts of Our Lives

I’m a fan of old movies, particularly black and whites. I love the acting, the clothes and the funny old telephones, no computers etc. But one thing really stands out…

When they’re eating and drinking… the plates and glasses are really SMALL. Compared to what we use now, they look like toys. I’m struck by how we complain about being overweight but we don’t realize how much more (of everything) we consume.

I moved about a year ago and just got around to finally unpacking the last of the boxes. I have a set of family china and when I look at it, it seems so old fashioned. And yet I think if could return to drinking 6 ounces of coffee and one slice of toast instead of 20 ounces and 2 pieces… It would be better for me.

This idea that  “smaller is better” can translate well to the rest of our lives. Can I work out for just 10 minutes a day? Can I get by with two new pairs of shoes this year? Can I be happy with one new suit not three?

Our expectations have swelled along with the size of our plates, cups and waistlines. Simple doesn’t do it anymore. Less isn’t enough. How can we get off this treadmill?

Awareness.. not just of what we eat but how we live. Eat dinner off a small plate instead of a big one. Use a small fork instead of a large one. Drink out of a small glass. And most of all, think of taking small steps towards our goals. You can do it. I believe in you.

Photo credit: Saucy Salad, The china survived the move

Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants – The War is Over

At work, the war between the kids (20 somethings) and the old people (50 somethings) is over. The kids have won.

For those of you who think this isn’t true, let’s consider the facts.

– The workplace is officially  BYOD – Bring Your Own Device… in a short 5 years the IT department has gone from “we don’t support that” to “we’ll help you get your job done on whatever device you need.”

– Bye bye Blackberry– 5 years ago, in “Corporate America” — the Blackberry was  the go-to device. Their market share has fallen from 41% to 10%.  A person no longer needs a big corporation’s network and device to be mobile & productive.

– Letting technology do what it does best is a win/win. When we can use technology to remove distance barriers between people…e.g.  online learning, online petitionsFacebook and collaborative tools like Google docs, dropbox and flickr– we substantially improve productivity and outcomes.

However, we need to keep pushing on the very important HUMAN side of the equation. The things machines can’t do (and likely never will) are the keys to making this new digital, “cyberspacy” world work for all of us.

These include:

- Empathy, Passion, Listening, Respect, Courage.

Listen to Marc Presnsky (who first talked about digital natives and immigrants in 2003) talk about the responsibility of educators in using technology. We can all learn from this.

Photo credit: familymwr -eye of the holder

Yawn, I’m Comfortable With Who I Am

For those of us who have a ‘good’ job; one that we’ve been in for several years – we’re probably feeling a combination of smugness – “well, I haven’t had to go through all that so I must be really good” and relief – “thank goodness I haven’t had to look for a new job, interview, network, change.”

If you are thinking, no, no – that’s not true, I know I how lucky I am. Really?

Whether you have a job or are looking for one… attitude is everything. An honest appraisal of ourselves is required for growth of any kind. There’s a fine line between self-acceptance (I’m OK the way I am) and denial (deep down I know I need to change but it’s too hard so I’m going to just stay the way I am.)

In a terrific short read, “Are You Too Comfortable to Grow? “, the author describes how comfort limits our ability to stretch.  How many times a day do think, “this is so hard?” The harder the challenges, the more we grow.


Photo credit: Irreverant


10 Steps to A Happy Life

These steps are based on my years of experience of doing it wrong; so I have it on excellent authority… my own happiness… that if you follow these steps … you may not be ecstatic..but you will be in a a better place.

1.  Sit quietly for 5 minutes a day

2.  Stop whining (you live in the wealthiest country in the world)

3.  Stop gossiping (including judging other in our own minds or out loud)

4.  Be grateful (write down 5 things you’re grateful for 2x a day, no repeats for 30 days)

5.  Learn new stuff – especially stuff that is hard

6. Find someone to help (outside your family)

7.  Shut up and listen (for a change)

8. Exercise your body and willpower daily

9. Walk tall, smile, be gracious

10.   Be grateful — this is really the key to everything.

At the most difficult time of my life, I kept a gratitude diary. Once a day I wrote down 5 things I was grateful for…and I couldn’t repeat anything. After 3 months I had incorporated gratitude into my daily thinking. That was nearly 20 years ago and I still reflect on all my gifts everyday.

Those tremendously sad years gave me the one thing I needed most – a way to enjoy every day – no matter what is happening around me. The idea and accompanying serenity are yours for the taking.

Photo credit: Partners in Community Development