Posts tagged: listening

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

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.

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

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

You’ll Understand (When You’re Older)

i wish it was summer already :\

 It Doesn’t Make Sense To You Now

Remember when people said this to you? “I can’t explain it to you, you’ll understand when you’re older.” That answer is infuriating, isn’t it? In some ways it’s true and in other ways, it’s bullsh*t. I am acutely aware of how we “older people” talk to younger people. I don’t mean little kids necessarily, but even with them, we don’t give them a ‘straight’ answer. We say, “Eat because children in Africa are hungry.” We don’t say, ” There are children who live 2 miles from us that are hungry.” We don’t drive them over to this neighborhood and show them how to help others. Look, this isn’t a lecture. Each of us has to raise our children the way we see fit.

They Know the Truth

What I’m pointing out is that I’d like each of us to consider how we talk to our children and not just those that live in our houses, but all young people. They know the truth. Much more than we want to admit. Kids are very sophisticated these days. We can argue about whether this is good or bad but there’s no turning back. They have a computer in a phone, they have way too much stimulation and are aware of what is good and bad in the world beyond where they probably should. Denying that there are problems doesn’t serve them. Acting as if they have no power is useless. It takes courage to be a good parent, good citizen, good role model. And it takes hard work. With so many things in the world to worry about, how do we tell them the truth without causing them undue worry and harm?

I’m Older and I Still Don’t Understand

Even though my next birthday will be a ‘speed limit’ (65), I am dumbfounded at how much I don’t understand the world. My goal is to take action, to do what I can to change what I can and I pray to know the difference between what I need to accept and what I can do something about.

Image Credit: Sophie in Red Hat  Mike DelGaudio 

With Walls of Purest White  Erin MC Hammer

The Case for Silly

What Ever Happened to Silly?

If you’re fortunate enough to be around kids under the age of 10, you know you’re going to get into the sillies. One kid says something and then soon everyone is giggling and carrying on. I love this. I live for this.

Younger kids aren’t all judgy. They might try to one up each other in the silly department, but mostly, everyone settles in for a good snort.

Something happens to us when we become teenagers. Most of us become silly-averse. We decide we need to act ‘grown up’ and our silly days are behind us. We get cynical, ‘cool’, and generally stuck up. The disintegration into hilarity rarely happens any more. What the heck happens to us?

Even as parents, we seem to forget to encourage the sillies. We’re so busy ‘teaching’ our kids to talk, read,  study, practice, whatever (all very important duties!), we seem to forget that laughing, and laughing in most basic way, is key to a happy life.

Let’s Revive the Silly Tree

I have the great good fortune to have 7 grandchildren, several of whom live in the same city as me and all of whom are under the age of 9. My ability to get to some silliness is pretty easy. But what if you are one of those people who doesn’t have access to little ones, you have to improvise. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Remember what’s it’s like to be kid, find a kid to hang around, volunteer around kids, etc. The fastest way to get there is to go to those who are closest to the source. Laughing is really good. If you need some hints, ask people what they do.
  2. Making people laugh is the purest form of ‘pay it forward.’  Watch this Ted talk on the power of laughter to save lives. (It starts off slow but it’s worth it if you can stick with it).
  3. Laughter yoga?  You exercise your body and your mind (and hopefully your spirit), but do you know how to exercise your silly muscle?
  4. Here’s what the world renowned Mayo Clinic says about laughing.
  5. Go to the library or the bookstore (remember those buildings that house real books?), go to the humor section. Read the joke books. Read funny authors. I happen to like Dave Barry, Steve Martin, Jim Gaffigan, and a raft of kids books like Amelia Bedelia. Don’t forget the movies! I’ll recommend a few of my favorite but what I think is funny may not be your cup of tea. Anything by Monty Python, Airplane!, The Jerk.

But I Want to Be Grumpy

I understand. Being overworked, under appreciated, running around, busy all the time, leaves us very little time for silly. But somehow, I hope we’ll all, just for a minute, today, pretend that there is nothing more important than seeing the silly in the world.

Q: What did one toilet say to the other? A: You look a bit flushed.

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Photo credit: Typical Riley Pose  peasap

Be Coachable — At Any Age

But I Haven’t Got the Talent

Sometimes I hear people giving up on their goal. That can be ok. Sometimes surrender is the right thing to do. But sometimes, giving up is a very bad thing. We act as if changing ourselves or working harder wouldn’t make a difference. In our hearts, we know changing could make the difference, but we’re lazy.

Be Coachable

Because I can be stubborn, I think I missed a lot of opportunities. One of the most important was, that I didn’t take advantage of finding mentors who could guide me. I didn’t know how important they can be. I did have one. He met me, helped me get out of a dead end job and move into a job that opened a lot of doors for me. He was a very smart but difficult person. Many people didn’t like him. That was because he, unwittingly, tested people and if they couldn’t stand up to him, he would lose respect for them. People didn’t like that.

I had my chance to stand up to him. One day he snapped at me. I looked him in the eye and said, “Bob, do you have a problem with me?” He stammered, “No, why?” I replied, “Well, you just spoke harshly to me and it made me uncomfortable. I’d like to avoid exchanges like that in the future.” He apologized and said it wouldn’t happen again. And it didn’t.

I think what would happen with others, although I never saw it, was that he would snap or challenge them and because he was abrasive (not tactful), they would shrink from him. If someone is trying to toughen you up, so you can face the world… then they need to challenge you. Instead of taking it personally, see it as an opportunity. If you are an entrepreneur, this is even more important because you’ll need multiple mentors and coaches to succeed.

The Coachable Mentee

I wish I had been more open, less dogmatic. Now that I’m in my sixties, I still work to be a more approachable and “influenceable” person. What does it look like? Here are few keys:

  • Good listener
  • Able to summarize and feedback the other person’s point of view
  • Strong but pliable

Being coachable doesn’t require talent… it requires awareness… and work. Got a story about being coachable?

Image credit: Banksy on Twitter


When I was young, my dysfunctional family made daily life very chaotic. While I wouldn’t wish that type of churning nuttiness on anyone, it did several positive things for me. One was that it made me adaptable. I certainly wasn’t going to have things my way, so I had to learn to go along and get along.

I remember reading this:

Creating Change Makes It Easier to Manage

I knew that the best thing I could do, was always be ready to change. To always be looking for a way to improve and create something better. This way, change wasn’t thrust upon me. I noticed that when change happened TO me, I was resentful. But if I was part of the change process, I was ok, even joyful at the chance to try something different. I learned to be somewhat of a ‘victim’ from some people in my family. It’s a most unattractive and problematic position to be in. The victim doesn’t have to do anything, the victim can just blame someone else. But even true victims need to be responsible for taking actions towards their own healing.

Turn and Face The Strain

If you’re out of practice with creating change, try these:

  1. Practice daily gratitude. I kept a gratitude journal for about a year. Everyday I wrote down 5 things I was grateful for. The habit of focusing on all the positive things in my life (my eye sight, ability to walk, breathe, laugh) became second nature.
  2. Find a way to meet new people. I know, I hate this idea but when I do, I learn so many things about myself. The easiest way for me to meet new people is by volunteering.
  3. Stop acting and being so grown up. If you have a chance to be around small children, do it. If not, look at things the way a small child would. Stop being all “judgy” and prissy. Act like a fool. Who care if someone sees you? They’ll just be jealous anyway.

What are your favorite ways to help create change in your life? Look out you rock n’ rollers…

Image Credit: David Bowie Masayoshi Sukita

The Power of Asking

Sales Stinks

When I work with entrepreneurs, the most significant skill they lack is very often in sales. And sales is all about understanding the customer’s need and then asking for their business. It’s that simple. Ask good questions, listen to the answer, match their need with what you have to offer. If you can’t give them value with your offering, then offer to help them in some other way. A contact, a resource, a smile and an open mind. You’d be surprised what you have to offer.

What If They Say No

The down side of asking is… what if they say, the dreaded, “NO.” Well, it’s likely that they will. Not every person you ask to help you, buy something, share something, etc. will be willing. But you will get nothing if you don’t ask.

Be Yourself. But Ask.

The other down side is that people often feel that there’s a formula for asking. That pushy people get ‘better’ results than the more mild mannered. This is simply not true. The person who offers value, is the one who wins the business or the relationship. There is no one way to ask. I can guarantee though that if you are authentic to your own style… you will do significantly better than if you act like you think you should. The difference between the successful entrepreneur and those that are not, is that one learned to ask, the other didn’t.

How do you ask? Try something like this. “I’m trying to grow my business and I’m wondering if you would have any need for ‘xyz'”.  If they say “No, thanks.” You could try, “I appreciate your time. If you know of someone else who might benefit from my xyz. I hope you’ll pass along my name.”

Simple. No one is offended. No one was pushy or aggressive. Just a simple ask. Practice in your personal life. Let me know how it goes.


Image credit: Jules Renard