Posts tagged: strengths

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

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

How The Light Gets In

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Judgement as Separator

It easy to find fault. To judge. To say that others are wrong. It’s harder to see their point of view. It takes commitment, energy, patience, compassion, and strength. If we see the crack as ‘brokeness’, then we’ll forever be trying to ‘fix’ it.

If we see the crack as a way for the light to get in, to help us change and grow, become more accepting, then we may be able to learn something. When I sense there’s something far away from my understanding, I try to make a point to move towards it, to open my mind and not close my heart.

Empathy as My Teacher

This is hard because my way, no matter how painful, is the way I know. It’s easier to blame someone else than really look at myself. For today, I’m going to try to accept my own ‘cracks’ and other people’s different opinions as my teachers. Compassion is never easy, but it is always worthwhile.

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

 

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

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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.

Walk Through The Fire

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“There are times when those eyes inside your brain stare back at you.”
Charles Bukowski, What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire

I don’t know about you, but I spend way too much time in my head. I think about what other people are doing, why they’re doing it. I let their moods, problems, ideas effect me … more than they should. I rationalize that people are the most important thing on the planet so thinking about them is good! I think about the way:

  • they feel
  • they’re treated
  • what happens to them
  • whether they have food, friends, a home
  • how they feel in relation to other people

I was born a white, middle class girl. I know something of what it’s like to be a ‘minority’ because I’m a female and I’ve been put down, ignored, belittled, and shunned… in my personal and professional life.  I have a taste, the tiniest taste of what many people experience on a daily basis, just because they were born.

I’ve had a little taste of the ‘fire’, the pain and sadness. I hope I have walked through with some grace. At this point in my life, I want to see what I can do to help those whose fire is fixable or improved by education, political action, attitude adjustments, and perhaps a bit of magic, love and prayer.

I watched television host Trevor Noah talk about his upbringing and his book, Born A Crime.  Here’s where the title comes from:

“I was born a crime,” Noah said. “I was born to a black South African mother and a white Swiss father during Apartheid in South Africa, so them doing ‘the thing’ was illegal.” Apartheid , the despicable practice of white separatist rule in South Africa, only ended in 1990. Yes, 1990! The fact that Noah was born in 1984 to a black mother and a white father was literally a crime. How’s that for a fire to walk through?

When Noah is asked what he thinks about Americans complaining about our rights being taken away. His answer, “I never judge somebody for thinking their world is tough, because it is tough, to you.” Trevor Noah has walked through the fire and come out a man showing us how to live with the scars… with grace and humor. I tip my hat.