Posts tagged: mentoring

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

Easy To Be Hard

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But…

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

Banana Management

I've been ignoring you for too long

Banana Management Is Serious Business

If you have a baby at home, you likely know about banana management. This is the art and science of making sure you have enough ripe bananas on hand for your baby (without running to the store everyday to get new ones). When my kids were little, they loved bananas. It was a job to make sure that I had enough bananas, at all stages of “ripeness” to satisfy their banana needs, not too green (tasteless and too hard) or too brown (too mushy, not to mention the fruit flies). Add to that the fact that my kids went to day care part time so that meant that I couldn’t just keep bananas for home, they had to be ready to go into lunch bag. Are you snickering at this “silly” topic? Then you’ve never had to get kids packed up and out the door!

Bananas Are Just The Start

I haven’t had to deal with banana management for a long time, but it struck me that the business of managing a commodity in everyday life probably takes more time than we imagine. If you run a household, you spend a lot of time juggling all kinds of ‘bananas.’ Toilet paper. Dish washing soap. Milk. If you add children to that, now the ‘banana management’ theory extents to all kinds of stuff like paperwork, homework, lessons, sports, etc. If I don’t sign the permission slip (for my kid’s field trip) today, it might disappear and then what?

If you see someone who has a boring wardrobe? Maybe they are managing a lot of bananas and trying to figure out what to wear in the morning isn’t that important. The stories about Steve Jobs and his black turtle neck or Mark Zuckerberg’s tee shirt tell part of this story. Managing the puts and takes of daily life, especially if you have a family, is a lot of work. If you can simplify any parts of the work, then do it.

Just Say No

There’s always someone who wants you to do one more thing. Can you help here? Can you do this? Would you mind? For today, just say no, I have bananas to manage. They’ll probably never ask you for anything again.

Image credit: CRW_2419  30 cent yellow banana

Outlook: Grime or Prime?

This quote blows me away. It would seem like being miserable would take less work. Just head to the sofa or refrigerator or both and sulk. But when I stopped to think about it, I find that I agree.

I think the key word here is ‘work’. It doesn’t seem like I work at being miserable, it seems like it’s easy. Some other person just does something and I think I’ve been ‘wronged’. But I think the ‘work’ part comes from letting go. From not taking it personally. From thinking how important is this?

Sometimes it is very important. Most of the time it isn’t.

For today, I’m going to focus my energy on becoming strong. Set my intention to be calm and clear. Let go of miserable. Just for today.

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

Lessons From A Navy Seal: Mud & Singing

Seal buds training

“If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.”

Maybe you don’t want or think you can – change the world. I understand. Your little start up, your job, your way of being in the world, doesn’t matter much.

My idea about ‘changing the world’ is only to help one person, on one day, today. That’s it. So if you change your definition to match mine, perhaps you’d be more inclined to join me.

In a wonderful article, “10 Navy Seal Life Lessons You Can Use Every Day,” I found a mountain of inspiration for my world-changing adventure.

What struck me about this, “up to your neck” lesson was the story behind it: “While the (training) group was (sic) up to their necks in mud, one SEAL started singing through the ordeal and others joined him in chorus. It was something that gave them hope.”

I love to sing. I have happy childhood memories singing show tunes in the car with my mother when we went on a long trip. I can still picture the words carefully written out. Singing was a way to pass the time AND bring us together.

The seal story shows one person’s power to change a group’s thoughts and feelings. If not for that one SEAL, would the entire group have made it through? A calm, positive voice… when we are afraid, lost or feel hopeless… can get us through it. Can you be that one voice for someone today?

Photo Credit: Lance Iverson SF Chronicle

Are You Part of the “Other Backward Class”?

I found this homeless man with his dog, he was ever so gentle and loving with man's best friend. Chris told me his dog, Brandy, was all he had in the world. His last dog was taken away from him by the police because he did not have tags or a ...

I read an article about the unexpected death of an Indian politician named, Gopinath Mundie. Mr. Mundie had risen to prominence from, what in India is known as, a low-caste grouping called the “Other Backward Classes.” When I read this, I almost cried. Can you imagine growing up in a country where you, your family and friends are referred to by this derogatory term?

I am not judging the Indian people, their culture or their politics (in fact, we could learn a lesson from them in democracy… if you haven’t seen this Daily Show segment on voter turn out… check it out.)

I am simply asking you to think about your life in America. We have a long way to go in many, many aspects of our young country’s democracy and fairness to our citizens. There are many problems. But one thing we don’t have are Backward Classes. Of course, we have ‘classes’ that ‘we’ consider ‘less than’ – so we all have a lot of work to do on understanding, kindness, sharing, fairness, etc.

Related to this… I hear many people complaining about our economy, but I see the restaurants are full. People complain about fuel prices, but we still drive everywhere. We worry about climate change, yet we leave our lights on, use drive-throughs and in general don’t pay much attention to our individual contribution to the problem.

I’m not blaming anyone… I have many improvements to make in my own life. For today, I am asking you to think about how lucky you are that you live in a country (with all its flaws) where education is universal and opportunities are abundant. The chance to live a life that most people on the planet would give everything to have a chance to experience. So the next time your dry cleaning isn’t ready on time or the grocery store is out of your favorite ice cream, will you stop and be grateful for the abundance that being born American has given you?

P.S. One other item of interest about Mr. Mundie… “His home district of Beed is infamous for female foeticide (where they find out if a fetus is a girl or a boy and then abort it if it is a girl) and given that he has three daughters and no son, he was often hailed as an example for others to follow. One of his daughters, Pankaja Munde-Palve, is a member of the Maharashtra state assembly.” Mr. Mundie.. you will be missed but your legacy lives on.

Photo credit: His Entire World: Homeless Man  Beverly and Pack

Nothing is Certain, But Everything is Possible

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Do you remember stories that were told in your family? In my family, my grandfather used to tell, “Billy the Mountain Goat” stories. Now I was too young to remember any of them but for those who heard and know them, they are treasures.

In this article, “The Storyteller of Marrakech,” the author tells us about the 1,000 year old tradition of story tellers in the public square. The tradition had been dying out due to noise, traffic and the general “busy”ness of modern life. The story has a happy ending (a new home for the story tellers and young people coming to hear them and learn).

But it got me thinking about stories.

In my family there are stories about my kids when they were little. I shared them with them as they got older. Then I shared them with their friends and ‘significant others’/ spouses and now they are having children; so I look forward to sharing them with the next generation. This is an easy tradition and one we all likely follow.

But what about all those stories that are part of our religion, heritage, ethnicity, tradition, neighborhood, town, city, country? Do we work to keep them alive? Do we share the stories that mean the most to us with others? Most importantly, embedded in those stories are the guideposts, pillars, mile markers of our shared journey. If we let them die, we miss giving our children the one thing that might just help them through the dreaded darkness.

Today I ask you to reach out to one person and tell one story. Any story. And remember the power of a story to change a life. So as the Moroccan storyteller says, “Nothing is certain, but everything is possible.”

Photo credit: Think More: A Novel Concept

Listen My Children And You Will Hear…

I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in “A,” “B,” “C” and “D.” Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?Barry Goldwater 1981

I’m not here supporting one political party (I’m an independent) or religion or school of thought. I’m here to ask each of us to look inward. We often say, “they” are wrong, “they” should speak up/be quiet. “The government” should do more/less, defend me, help me, support me, stop them, arrest them, defend them.

But the truth is we are “they.” We are “the government.” This is America; it is up to us to change things we don’t like: vote, participate, read, discuss, listen, ask, accept responsibility. Democracy requires work.

It doesn’t matter what religion we are. What God we believe in. Where we grew up. What political party we support. What matters is that we stop blaming and start figuring out how to participate in solutions. Think you are not part of the problem? Try this.

Find someone whose opinions are radically different than yours.  Pick a topic that you agree you disagree on. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Each of you take 5 minutes to explain your position. The other person takes notes. The listener’s job is to reiterate the speakers key points. That’s it. You don’t have to discuss it further. Now talk about something else. Kids, whatever. What we all need is practice listening to each other.

Each person can then pick one point the other made, and think more about it. I’m not asking you to change your opinion. I am asking you to think about the other person’s point.

Imagine the world if we could teach our children this simple (not easy) skill.

Photo credit: Words As Visuals: Unity