Life in Snow Stages

SnowdayStage 1:  JOY

I’m not doing any homework tonight.

Let’s pack up our skates and head to the ice rink.    Maybe a boy will pull my scarf…

Wake me up IF we have school tomorrow.

I’ve got some cafeteria trays – meet you at The Hill.

Stage 2:  WORRYwarning 1

Will I get a ticket if caught driving to work during a State of Emergency?

Is it foolish to go? It doesn’t matter – I have to.

Will Daycare be open if the schools are closed?

Where did I put the super-secret code to shut down the Call Center and route the calls to the California operation?

Do we have boots to fit the kids this year?

Where are the candles?

Stage 3:  WARMTHscotch

Do we have scotch?

Which book should I start?

I wonder how my son’s golf game went today.

I’m glad my daughter’s commute is on her own two feet.

Maybe we’ll shovel out tomorrow.

It’s the worry that makes the warmth all the more appreciated.

Posted in Musings | 1 Comment

Reflections on 2013

ReflectionsI love a new calendar.  It documents connections – people to see.  It presents opportunities – things to do and learn.  It portrays full days and down days.  But before I go crazy on my 2014 catalogue of life I spent some time today reviewing  2013.

Have you ever heard of the feedback or performance review exercise of Start, Stop and Stay the Course? It is a very effective way to give someone (including yourself) your opinion on how they are doing, and it’s as simple as it sounds.  Stop doing X, Start doing Y and Keep doing Z.  It’s a great question to ask:  what do you want me to stop doing, start doing and keep doing?  Ask your boss, your spouse, your partner.  You’ll get some really interesting input if folks play along.

But before I step into 2014 with Starts and Stops, I want to think a bit about 2013 – from my own perspective.  What has changed for me in the past year? I had fun filling in the blanks below.  And in this process, I found the things I want to “start doing” .  Here’s some of my 2013 “doings”.

I learned….about the craft of writing.

I organized… gatherings – girlfriends, college friends, new friends, best friends, and lots and lots of family.

I experienced… my spiritual side stirring from a firm hard shaking of my belief tree.

I connected…the dots – I was alert to connections between seemingly separate things.  Things that tied together and offered meaning to me – connections with ideas, with writings, with old friends.  Things that made me go HMMMMMMM.

I gave… oooohhh this one is difficult to admit.  I want to say I gave, and I did – but I gave what was easy to give.  So here’s a “start” in2014 for me – I want to give something more meaningful than cash, to an organization that I really believe in.  I’ll need to take some time to figure that out but I hope when I read this a year from now – I am fully engaged in a regular giving project.

I experienced the power of ….social media, of relationships, of Facebook.   I am fully aware that social media is only the medium of connecting – but without it I would not have reacquainted myself with lots of “old” friends, I would not have gained new connections and my business- which has grown almost entirely from Facebook connections – would not be where it is today.

So as you are reading this – take a minute – perhaps print the following list, or write it down (if you are a paper and pen person like me) – carry it with you as you start your crazy first real week of 2014 and spend a few minutes each day thinking about last year – and by next weekend – when we all feel like we are well in to the new year – you can start thinking about what you want to Start Doing, Stop Doing and Keep Doing in 2014.

I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

As I look back on 2013

I learned: _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I experienced:

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I gave:

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I celebrated:

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I organized:

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I explored:

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I… _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Posted in The Change Series | Leave a comment

Happy New Year!

There’s a little bit of a story behind my newfound connections to Neil Gaiman.  He has appeared in my life a few times over the past few months.  One of which was a great quote from him about New Year’s wishes.  Thought I would share his elegant words and inspiration and wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2014.

My New Year Wish

Posted by Neil Gaiman at 8:58 AM

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.
...I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.
And for this year, my wish for each of us is small and very simple.
And it’s this.
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

 

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A Really Simple Christmas

Real SimpleI simplified my life by cancelling my magazine subscriptions.  It not only reduced the clutter of the unread, it eliminated the stress of a pile of “should read”.  Now, once in awhile, when a cover at the checkout line catches my eye and I am in the mood to peruse, flip, and douse myself in pop culture,  I treat myself to a magazine.

Just the other day I picked up the Christmas edition of REAL SIMPLE (tag line:  Life Made Easier).  The cover was so red and baubled, it called to me to get ready for the holidays.  And as I flipped through the pages, my irritation ballooned.  The magazine was full of strategies to manage Christmas stress (see “Your Essential Guide to Holiday Survival” on page 170).  Tips like having your older kids iron your holiday linens or ways to “cut your Chief Schedule Enforcer job in half by uploading a shared digital calendar to include every party, cookie swap and caroling event”.

The deeper I got in to the magazine I realized it is these magazines that create the stress-inducing Perfect Holiday Image.  Sprinkled in between the “tips” were articles like “Why settle for a standard wreath when you can make holiday magic?”  (Check out the video at realsimple.com/wreaths for you DIYers).  I didn’t buy Martha Stewart’s Living magazine for a reason – I want to love my standard store-bought wreath.

Then there was “Embellish your Story: simply add low effort high drama hair and jewelry to become utterly fantastical”.  I don’t believe that low effort and high drama go together when you are talking about hair.

And my personal favorite, “Gift Wrap:  pretty, witty papers and complementary frills are a cut above the seasonal standbys.  Get on a roll and make a magical holiday present-ation”.

And all this from a magazine whose tag line is “Life Made Easier”.

For those of us who buy 3 rolls of wrapping paper every time we are at the supermarket check-out, whose calendars don’t include cookie swaps and caroling,  those of us who are perfectly satisfied with a wreathless door and wrinkles in our holiday linens – I hope we all have fun getting ready for a really simple Christmas.  And I sure hope there aren’t any magazine subscriptions wrapped up in a “witty paper with a complementary frill” under the tree!

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Focus

focusThroughout our careers there are maybe just a few conversations that replay in our minds.  They are words from people we respect.  They tell us something we carry with us every day.  They stick because they offer direction about how we want to live our life.  And they replay because we really listened.

Too many years ago to mention, when I got the first promotion I really, really wanted, the big guy called me in.  This talk was different than all the others.  This time he was doing the talking.  And to this day I remember his words.  Control your time.  Focus on what is important.  Don’t let the day get away from you.

He offered this insight well before the information age began bombarding us.  Distractions aren’t new and they are everywhere and ever endless.  His advice – it is easy to be busy all day yet not accomplish one important thing.  Manage your day, take control of what is important for you to be involved in, otherwise the day will control you.

Though I wasn’t always (or often) successful – his words often surfaced.  Focus on the important – not the urgent.  Do not be lured by cheap easy distractions of quick work.  A recent article reminded me of this again.   HBR:  The Focused Leader .   Daniel Goleman (of Emotional Intelligence fame) describes a triad of focus; you, others and the wider world.  Think about your day today.  What did you do that was important in each category?

And plan for tomorrow.

Posted in Leadership | 3 Comments

Average is Your Path to Richness

imagesIt wasn’t that long ago that my best friend and I made a secret pact.  What we whispered to each other we didn’t dare share with anyone else.  We couldn’t let on that what we fought so hard for was no longer in our sights.  When we started out we bought the 1980s American Woman’s Dream but somewhere along the way started thinking about a refund – or at least a discount.  Back then we rocked our navy blue suits.  We pumped the pumps, fought the good fight, burped our babies, parented our parents, supported our spouses, etc., etc.   We were also breaking.  We slumped  in to bed  with exhausting to-do lists simmering in a pot that would boil over every night at 3 AM.

I can’t remember who said it first, Lisa (my best friend) or I.  But the other quickly agreed.  “I think we need to strive to be average.”  What a big, fat, disappointing life moment.  After all the battles, successes, joys and failures, our AHA was so anti-climactic.  But the words fell on us with a comfortable sigh.  There was a twinkling idea that average effort could perhaps magically translate in to more.  So we made our pact to strive for average.

I’m not sure about Lisa (perhaps she’ll post her thoughts here) but I tiptoed in to this new idea.  I started with work boundaries.  I decided to “sneak” in to work an hour later than usual and leave promptly at 5:15.  The first day it felt as if a spotlight followed me down the hall and only clicked off once I turned on my computer.  But I did it, and kept doing it.  After a while it didn’t feel like sneaking.  I began to actually feel better – not racing in and not racing home.  I started to think that maybe there was something to this average idea.

So I expanded my averageness.  I skipped a meeting.  I left everything at work on Friday.   I missed my son’s baseball game.  I gave up attempting to commune with my at-home Mom neighbors.   I let voice mail do some of my dirty work.  I accepted the results.

And as I snuck around, dodging demands here and there, something miraculous happened.  No one noticed.  I don’t mean that no one noticed that something miraculous happened.  I mean that all these brave new boundaries I forged went by completely unnoticed.  My secret, my bold new way of living was of no consequence to those around me.  The earth kept spinning.

I realized I defined exceptional in a warped way.  My definition incorporated a meaningless idea of contribution from time and touch points.  Spreading myself thin, being everywhere, for everyone, did nothing to enrich what I wanted to give to my many worlds.

My new efforts striving for average  actually reflected budding intentionality.  I learned to choose what got my all and what got my “eh- that’s good enough”.

A few days ago, Lisa sent me an article on the twelve things that successful women do differently (12 Things).   Number 2:  “They don’t expect perfection — of themselves or those around them.”   So our secret pact is now public domain.  Shout it from the rooftops.   “Strive for good enough, where good enough is good enough.”

I hope you all enjoy this holiday season with intentional exceptional moments and lots and lots of “good enough”.

Posted in Leadership, The Change Series, Women and Work | 3 Comments

Business Lessons from a Masked Man

maskA masked man had me pinned down.  He pulled and plucked at me, his eyes intent on his purposeful movements.  His helper lurked behind me, ready for the next command.   I was unable to speak. How had I gotten myself in to this all too familiar situation?  Easy – I made an appointment with my dentist.

I love going to my dentist.  I’m not a masochist nor do I have an oral fixation or anything weird.  I just really enjoy the people there and I appreciate the way my dentist does business.  Many of us are in the business building stage, or the career building phase.  We succeed by offering value and solving problems.  We learn about problems and value by knowing our contacts, customers, and networks.  And I’ve learned a few things about all of this from the way my dentist does business.

Here are the most important things I’ve learned from the Masked Man:

Take notes and use them.  When you meet someone new, note something special about them.  Where you met, something they said that was interesting, write it down.  (Back of a business card is the easiest for me.)  Refer back to it when you are contacting them again. My dentist writes a lot of notes in my file.  I hope most of them are about my teeth.  But the one that convinced me he had my best interests at heart was the one about my horseshoe.   For some long forgotten reason I told my dentist that my father used to say that I was born with a horseshoe up my, let’s say “bum”.  My dentist loved that expression, wrote it down and the next time I came in he asked me about my horseshoe.  Now that is creating connection.

Respect other’s time.  I am prompt for my dental appointments.  He is prompt seeing me.  It’s not difficult but it’s also not common.  Build the unforeseen in to your schedule.  It makes everyone’s day move along easier.  Respect your connections’ time in other ways by ensuring your phone calls and emails are meaningful and succinct.

Be holistic.  My dentist takes my blood pressure and asks about my health.  He is interested in the whole me – not just my teeth.  You will meet people for very specific reasons – build relationships with them based on their whole.

Lastly, when people tell you what they want or don’t want – remember it.   Don’t make the same offer once it has been refused.  I have a deal with my dentist.  I will keep coming every 6 months as long as he and his hygienist don’t tell me to floss, because I’m just not gonna.  They never mention the F word and I’ll see them in six months.

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Intentions VS. Ideals

wideBalance is out.  After years of trying to convince women that work/life balance is the ideal, there’s growing recognition that most “ideals” aren’t goals. (Think Barbie).  Contemporary women like Sheryl Sandberg, Anne Marie Slaughter, and Debora Spar dispel the balance myth.  Women live wide[1], across a broad spectrum of life, assuming many roles.  It’s messy, it’s tiring, and it’s complicated.  And it is definitely not balanced.  But when done with intention, it is rewarding, exhilarating and joyful.   Trade ideals for intentions.

Trust me, you really don’t want balance.  You want to laugh, to be proud, to complete a project, to be an enthusiastic voice at your kid’s event, to deliver a strong and steady voice in a meeting, to have an engaged ear to your kid’s banter, to soak in a deeper conversation with your partner, to know a job well-done, to smile.

How to go from exhausted to invigorated? From sick to fit? From guilty to accepting?  From stuck to strong?  Intentions and choices.  “Throw open the windows and doors of the musty old mind-sets  we live in [ideals, balance, Barbie, fairy tales],  shake the dust out of the covers we wrap around our bodies, and in a thousand old and new ways… show up and pay attention to a fresh experience of being human.”[2]  Here’s where to start.

Step 1 – Often the hardest step

Think small. Find the single, right word.  What is it you really want to do or feel?  Do you want to feel fit? To wake up excited about the day? To limit distractions or interruptions? To regain lost confidence?  To have alone time? To have together time?  To control your schedule?  What would really change your day or your week?

Today is the day to “shake the dust off the covers” and step out from the impossible ideal box.  To be intentional about how you go through your day.  Turn off the radio/IPOD on your way home from work, take a 22 minute walk, create an opportunity to think about your word or phrase.   And don’t use a big, broad, umbrella word like time, happiness, balance, quiet.  Nouns may be part of the process of identifying what you want, but they won’t help you get it.  Try and identify your intention with verbs.  Remember the old adage “actions speak louder than words”?   How about “verbs speak louder than nouns”?  What’s your word?

Change your intentions from “I want_____”    to    “I want to_______”.   This will get you started.  And if you are having trouble with this sentence, call me.  We will complete it together.

 

 

 

Posted in The Change Series, Women and Work | Leave a comment

30 Day Challenges continued….

NovemberFlipping the calendar.  Do we all ask the same two questions:  “where did last month go?”  And  “what’s up next?”  We rarely stop and say “what did I accomplish last month?”  But when you take on a 30 day challenge, you do ask yourself this question.  You are mindful, attentive to what you accomplished.  I re-read my October challenge and I am proud to say I fared well.  And a writing routine is beginning to settle.  I guess I need 60 days instead of 30 to imbed a new habit in to my days.

And now it is November, and I am still energized by 30 day challenges.  This month, I will continue to build on my previous writing challenges.  I want to learn more from and about LinkedIn.  Can it be as engaging and viral as Facebook?  Can I create meaningful posts for my colleagues?  When I share my thoughts there – who will show up in my life?  Three posts a week.  At some point thought, a challenge becomes a routine and I’m close.  So it is time to commit to something completely different.

It needs to be simple, to be scaled in reality and if a day is missed, it is easy to start anew the next day.  Join me! Here are some ideas to get your November challenge ideas flowing.

Listen to a new song, every day

Say Hello to a stranger, every day

Listen to a podcast instead of the news, every day

Say good morning and good night to your staff, every day

Hug/kiss your family good morning and good night, every day

Empty your sink and dish drain, every day

Do 30 sit-ups, every day

What can be so hard about 30 sit-ups for 30 days?  We’ll see.  What will you do?

Posted in The Change Series | 1 Comment

Intuitive Design? I Need to Understand!

oct19October 19, 2013 is a day that does not exist in my digital world.  All because of intuitive design.  I blame Seagate.  Or maybe Season Two of Homeland.

Twenty-five years ago I was excited about having a personal computer.  We were working hard and able to afford one, and they were very expensive back then.  I went to a one-day DOS class to learn the basics.  Remember C:\DOS? In order to use my PC effectively I had to UNDERSTAND the basic operations.  Alone, I installed our AOL Dial-up network card and became a comfortable tinkerer.

So what would be so hard about backing up my files now, cleaning up my laptop and being able to stream Homeland without the little hiccups that occur while watching?   October 19, 2013 I pulled out our Seagate external hard drive and like a good girl, I backed up all my files, pictures, emails, etc.  I restored my operating system to a day in February when it worked well.   That was enough for one day.

A few days later I was ready to restore my files.  I plugged in the external hard drive and fixed a cup of coffee.  When I sat back down again, I saw the “easy to use” external hard drive had backed up my files all over again.  It replaced 10/19 with everything from 10/23.  Automatic backup was not what I wanted, but the “easy, intuitive design” jumped way ahead of me.

To make a long story short, the 10/23 files did not have any emails from February till October 23rd.  This was now my backup file.  Nine months’ worth of emails, connections, contacts, networking, receipts, etc.  missing.  It was time to dig deep.  I could do this.  I used to know DOS!  I spent the day googling for instructions, youtubing recovery examples, rooting around in root files, trying to find my lost .pst files.  At the end of the day I went for a walk.

While breathing deep and putting one foot in front of the other, a little birdie told me that Seagate had installed a Dashboard on my desktop.  Of course!  I didn’t have to understand how to recover files, an easy and intuitive way already existed.  DUH! I just had to tell the system what I wanted.

Well, the dashboard was much easier to use, but my files are still gone.  I have nowhere to turn.  And I am bitter about intuitive, easy-to-use design.  Then I found this blogpost:

“So-called intuitive gestures are a poor substitute for a clearly explained alternative…  Seriously, would you have picked up an iPhone with Google Maps loaded and thought to yourself, “I can pinch this glass screen to enlarge the whole image”? Of course not. Nothing in real life–from newspaper print to a magnifying glass–works like that. But it’s amazing because it simply feels fantastic, requiring minimal effort while provoking a response from the interface that is perfectly predictable. And once you go through the motions, you’ll never forget them again” (http://www.fastcodesign.com/1672172/why-intuitive-interface-is-a-myth)

I know I’ll never forget how to control the backup of my files again and I’ll work through the Dashboard.  And I won’t use Outlook as my storage location for important information – even though that was easy and intuitive FOR ME!

Posted in Musings, Perceptiveness | Leave a comment