Posts tagged: strengths

Habits for Excellence – Yawn. Been There.

Creating ‘habits’ for excellence is hot topic. Make your bed as soon as you get up. Put things back in their place when you’re finished with them. Pick up clutter every night. Yawn. Heard it, tried it. Hate it.

One suggestion I do like is… Become Enthusiastic. Why don’t more of us do it? Habit.

“Most people drift through life with their shoulders hunched and wrinkles on their forehead. Be enthusiastic not just about going on vacation, or taking some time off from work… but about everything in life.”

How can we find a way to be more enthusiastic? Work at it. Set it as a goal. Understand its power.

Image result for enthusiasm quotes

We show people we care by listening, so listen with energy. Be verbally supportive. Nod, smile. We demonstrate our priorities by where we put our time. It’s not easy to insert more enthusiasm in our daily lives, but it’s worth the effort. We are often enthusiastic about our kid’s accomplishments but not about our friend’s or colleague’s… or a stranger’s (heaven forbid!)

Enthusiasm doesn’t look the same in every person. Some might stand up, shift their weight from foot to foot; others might get louder. There isn’t a formula. Pay attention to how YOU show enthusiasm and then harness that focus and attention when you want it.

By the way, enthusiasm does not guarantee success, but it’s makes the journey more fun. And while some people might mock us, do we really care?

Develop Unconventional Skills

Beach of maria flour. Paulista. Janga. Pernambuco.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Artur jumping.

I studied French and German as an undergrad. I always thought I wanted to be a French teacher. Once I became a secondary school teacher, I realized I liked the kids, didn’t like ‘school.’ Ok, so now what?

I had worked in the University Library for my work-study money and I loved it. So next thing I knew, I was in a Master’s of Library Science program. I didn’t have any idea what I was going to do with this degree. I didn’t really seem like all the other ‘librarians’, but I loved all the adult learning, bringing order out of chaos, etc.

I moved from Washington, D.C. to Rochester, N.Y. and finished my degree at SUNY Geneseo. Now what?

The point of the story is not… what I did. The point is that it’s surprising and amazing how all the skills I learned along the way, helped me gain my future positions. Whether it was teaching that turned into training, or knowing a foreign language that turned into translating; I had a background that others didn’t. That brought me opportunity. That brought my skills and personality to the attention of people who could help me in my career.

Just when you think your weird/odd range of interests could be of no possible benefit to anyone… suddenly you find that you are the person who can get the job done. Make your career long by doing the following:

  • Constantly be learning
  • Learn different things than other people (stamp collecting? uni-cycling?)
  • Expand your network by deliberately including people of various ages, ethnicities, professions, etc.

Do not be discouraged if you are in a job (or looking) that isn’t exactly what you want or if you feel that your diverse skills aren’t appreciated. Hang in there and never give up. With patience if you come to see where you fit. The world needs you just the way you are.

Photo credit: Somersault Netjer-Lelahell

I Don’t Care

All my life I’ve been torn between caring and not caring.

On the one hand, I care deeply about other people.  I grew up in a difficult family (alcoholics) and so much of what I ‘care’ about has to do with people who have ‘less than.’ I make a conscious effort to be helpful and kind.

On the other hand, I have never really cared about what people think about my choices. Because I grew up quickly and had a lot of responsibility, I learned to be independent. When my choices conflict with what other people think they should be, it causes them discomfort and then they judge me. They are afraid that my ‘differentness’ might rub off on them or challenge their own ideas.

A lot of decisions are made because people are so afraid of what other people will say or think. OR what we imagine they might say or think. The more time we spend thinking about what others think, the less time we spend doing cool, fun or interesting stuff, that we want to do.

This morning I heard an old favorite on the radio. “Make Your Own Kind of Music” by Mama Cass Elliott

Nobody can tell ya
There’s only one song worth singing
They may try and sell ya
Cause it hangs them up
To see someone like you
You gotta make your own kind of music
Sing your own special song
Make your own kind music
Even if nobody else sings along
It takes courage to sing your own song. Most of us want someone to sing along. Realize that to be yourself in the face of criticism, being different, having unique ideas and viewpoints, speaking up, etc. are all hallmarks of strength. And if they don’t like it, well, I just don’t care.
Image credit: RapGenius

Embrace the Mess – A Key to Innovation

Babies on BORSCHT

Do you embrace the mess?

If you want to hear someone interesting talk about problem solving like an artist, thinking like an artist; here is designer Marc Ecko sharing his thoughts on embrace the mess. He believes that the wealth that matters can’t be really be counted. Think about it. He also recommends that each of us be an “un-label.” When you have truly found yourself,  people are not sure how to describe the essence of “you.” They only know that you are true to yourself and encourage others to do so too.

What’s good about the mess?

It’s rare that innovation/learning/joy comes from a completely planned event. It’s the goof ups, the unexpected changes, the learning how to…, that often produces the good stuff. Are you afraid of the mess?

Try finger painting, with food from your refrigerator (not a lot, just a little). Hang around little kids, watch them experiment. What can we learn from them?

When you have a problem to solve, following all the rules, doing the same thing over and over, talking to the same people for advice and then expecting a breakthrough, doesn’t make sense. For today, I give you permission to do the messy thing. Let me know how it goes.

Photo credit: messy baby photographer

The Art and Joy of Self Reliance

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.” Emerson

When we’re kids, we think we’re cool and you know what… we are.

Then we “learn” how to fit in. We lose our uniqueness.

What happens?

The process of becoming a grown up can be brutal. We try to fit in with groups because we feel lost and alone. We think people don’t understand us but the truth is, we don’t understand ourselves.

The good news about being ‘grown’ up is that we, hopefully, come to know ourselves enough to learn to trust and believe in ourselves. To stand on our own, to earn our way.

Do you still look to others for approval? Or do you look in the mirror and think.. yeah. I’m ok. Just the way I am.  Fitting in can feel good but it feels even better to know who we are and believe in ourselves no matter what other people think. Care about ‘them’ less and your uniqueness more. After all, in the end, you’re all you’ve got.

Image credit: Homemade Spidey Costume

Confront Your Shark

In the article, “10 Navy Seal Life Lessons You Can Use Everyday,” Navy Seal Admiral W. H. McRaven shows us how to train like a seal. One of the 10 lessons is to “confront your daily shark.” Wow, really. I don’t want to. That’s why it’s a shark; it’s big, dangerous, mysterious, overwhelming.

In truth, some sharks are overwhelming. But many sharks are sharks – only to us. To others they are simply bosses, bullies, relatives – whoever intimidates and makes us feel smaller than we are.

I can’t tell you what you to do, but I can tell you what I did. I went through a bad, awful, terrible divorce. Specifics aside, I can tell you there were many times when I felt I couldn’t keep going. I wanted to give up and give in. I had grownup with alcoholic parents, was always taking care of other people (mom, little brother, chronically ill older sister) and I had a poor sense of myself as a strong, confident person. So when this ‘challenge’ arose in my life, I was more than shaken to my (already shaky) core.

Here’s what I did:

1) Got a physical and communicated regularly with my doctor

2) Exercised regularly

3) Talked and talked and talked.. thank you to everyone who listened

4) Tried to have fun whenever I could (I wasn’t great at this to begin with and … still not good at it)

5) Worked to change the “tapes” playing in my head that told me, I couldn’t, shouldn’t, wasn’t strong enough, smart enough, etc.

6) I focused on ‘the prize’ – what I wanted as an end result

7) Listened to inspirational (rock n roll songs) like:

Already Gone – Eagles

So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key

You Gotta Be -Des’ree
You gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm
 What are your favorites inspirational songs? Share them and what you’ve done to ‘confront your shark.” Go get ‘em!

Photo Credit: 3D Shark Will Ellis

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

The Creative Journey… What About the Money?

“Art suffers the moment other people start paying for it. The more you need the money, the more people will tell you what to do. The less control you will have. The more bullshit you will have to swallow. The less joy it will bring. Know this and plan accordingly.” Hugh MacLeod

This post is dedicated to my daughter, Jenna aka Jenna Marbles, the YouTuber. (If you know a girl between the ages of 13 and 20, they probably know her.)  Here’s a  NY Times article about her.

Jenna has always been a free spirit who found a way to cope with ‘regular’ life. She made some videos in high school, but she wasn’t a ‘theater kid’ and never had aspirations of ‘fame’ that I know of. So when her video, “How to Trick People Into Thinking You’re Good Looking” (warning language) got 5 million views in its first week, you could say she ‘stumbled’ into making videos for a living.

The fact that she single handedly writes, films, stars in, edits and uploads a new video every week (and has for 4+ year) is amazing. SHE HAS NEVER MISSED A WEEK — that’s 215 video in 215 weeks! 1.5 Billion views. Many people think what she does is easy. Try producing original content every week for 215 weeks. But there’s a story beyond that, that’s even more impressive (besides how much she cares about the people who support her.)

She understands who she is and what she wants. In the quote above, MacLeod talks about how money influences art. Jenna wants creative control and isn’t willing to let the bullshit run her life.

I am immensely proud of her for that.

Are You Cool?

What makes someone cool?

It depends on many things: our stage of life, our interests, etc. For me,  Steve McQueen (the actor in the photo) was Mr. Cool. Fast cars (Bullitt), motorcycles, independent, handsome, tough.

I think that cool relates to 3 things:

  1. Self-awareness – how well do I know myself, my shortcomings and strengths. This takes real effort for most of us. It’s easier just to be oblivious.
  2. Self- asssuredness – this isn’t related to ego, it’s related to believing in our selves long after it’s reasonable (multiple failures!)
  3. Self-compassion – do I know how to make amends to those I hurt and by extension, do I forgive myself when I make a mistake?

These 3 attributes help us lead, follow, be resilient, learn, grow, change and adapt – they help me to be independent. I like to be independent. More importantly and perhaps counter-intuitively, it make more compassionate towards others.

I think people who accept themselves, are cool. I think people who don’t think they’re cool, are often, cool. People who understand that what makes them different from everyone else, cool.

One last thing, I also think accepting responsibility is cool. When I do something that doesn’t reflect well on myself, I hate to admit it. I learned, through much pain, that it’s better to just own it. As quickly as I can. That’s one thing that makes me cool.

Cool can be about they way someone dresses or talks… but really, it’s much more about their attitude; towards themselves and by extension, towards others.

So my friend, what makes someone cool in your eyes?

Photo Credit: Steve McQueen  Barbour

Anything Worthwhile Will Take a Long Time

We live in a hurry-up world so I think it’s discouraging for many of us that the world is not a ‘better’ place.  We feel helpless when we don’t know what to do to fix things.  This is a reflection of how much information we have about the 7 BILLION people who live on our planet. 100 years ago, we knew a lot about our block but not that much about the next city, state or country. Positive change requires effort and patience. To highlight this, think about; “Presence is far more intricate and rewarding … than productivity.” We focus a lot on productivity (I’m all for that) … I’m suggesting we spend time thinking about how we present ourselves in the world.

The reality is we may be limited in our ability to change things quickly, but there are things we can do:

  1. improve our personal awareness (strengths,weaknesses)
  2. establish a personal presence that truly reflects our values and unique perspective (without being rigid)
  3. have faith in ourselves
  4. take small steps towards improving the world – get involved in something!
  5. listen more, talk less
  6. be kind

For today, maybe you could read something that takes some effort and reach out to someone who needs support. Other than being present for those you love, do what you are called to do today. If you’re not sure, you might just need to be quiet and be patient. Two things we are short on in this hurry-up world.

I found the quote in the picture in an article titled,  7 Life Long Learnings from 7 Years of Brain Picking. Check out Brain Pickings.

Do you know Debbie Millman? She’s a writer, educator, artist, brand consultant and host of a radio/podcast show Design Matters. Check her out too.

photo credit: Israel Smith