It is time for me to inspire and enable myself, again…

During my hiatus in 2017, I spent time figuring out me, defining and landing my dream job.  My one critical flaw in all of this though was that I forgot to specify the location.

It has been nearly 2 years since my last blog, and I have I missed it.  I have missed many other things as well; stopping to smell the flowers, inspiring and enabling friends, and relaxing with my family, just to name a few.  I was once again employed; traveling constantly, working 14-hour days, commuting back to NYC on weekends, pouring my heart, sweat and tears into the new company and putting work first.  At least though, it was my dream job, the dream job I had envisioned.

Dream Job

June 1, 2017.  I had just read the book by Hal Elrod, The Miracle Morning. His 30-day Challenge provided me the kick start I needed.  I committed to waking every morning and going through a routine called the Life SAVERS – Silence, Affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, Scribing.  As a result of The Miracle Morning (TMM) and other self-reflection, I figured out that my mission in life is to be the trusted advisor to friends, family, colleagues, strangers; inspiring and enabling them to bring their ideas and desires to reality. That summer I started my blog and the first entry was It is time for me to inspire and enable myself.   Part of that journey was defining and obtaining my dream job.

October 15, 2017.  That was the date that I had set as the day I would start working again.  I wanted to start shortly after returning from my trip to Italy.  When I had left my previous position on January 3, I had given myself 1 year to find my next job.  I set aside the funds to provide the cushion needed to make that happen.  However, in my head, my target start date was October 15.  I worked backwards from that date.  If I wanted to start working on October 15, I would need to be interviewing 2 months before that, start networking 2 months before that, and define my dream job at least a month before that.  Setting goals for each phase of this journey (#thisgirlneedsaplan), I knew I would not be able to land my dream job if I could not define exactly what I was looking for.

It started with defining the type of people I did/did not like working with and why, along with details like work environments, day to day work activities, etc. I combined that with my work experiences and wrote the one pager that would change my life.  I socialized it with other friends, tweaked it and then put it to work.  I read it every day as part of my morning routine, I leveraged it when networking, and I shared it with recruiters.

One of the people that read my ‘dream job’ was an ex-colleague and friend.  ‘Interesting’, he said.  He asked questions, he helped tweak it, he then wished me luck and sent me on my way.  He rang me 3 months later, saying, ‘I think I may have your dream job.’  How would he have known that if I had not clearly written it down and shared it?  This is the Law of Attraction at work.

October 22.  I was back to work.  One week later than I had declared (but months prior to my ‘real date’) I walked into my dream job working for the new CEO of this company as the Chief People Officer.

Dream Job Elevator Pitch: I am looking for an executive position where I can partner with a business leader; a CEO, who is looking to drive change through their organization and realizes that people are key to their success.  I am a seasoned executive that has been described as a nurturing driver.  I get things done through strong employee engagement. 

Be specific

I landed my dream job alright, but it was in Bedford, MA.  For those that may not know, I live in Manhattan, with my husband, Ralph.  That is 220 miles away.  I never stated in my dream job that I wanted it to be in NYC; near my family, friends, home and husband.  This was obviously slightly less than ideal.  Ralph and I talked about it and debated if we should relocate to Bedford, MA or manage it through a ‘commute’.  Since the company had offices in Kentucky, England, India and Australia, I knew I would be traveling elsewhere as well.  It didn’t seem fair to ask Ralph to pick up his day to day life to be isolated in Bedford, when I was traveling.  We agreed, this was my dream job and I couldn’t pass it up.  We would figure it out.

I am thankful for the past 2 years in the role. I learned more than I could even imagine.  I had the opportunity to meet fantastic people, live my core mission, and drive change through an organization.  However, I knew I had to be true to my other core values in life; family, YOLO (you only live once) and inspiring and enabling myself.   I am now back in NYC, restarting the blog, defining my next dream job and ensuring I am as specific as possible.

It works

The 30-day TMM challenge has turned into a daily routine for over 2 years that Ralph and I cannot imagine living without.  It ebbs and flows at times, but it has been a constant that has helped us focus and most importantly affirm and visualize what it is that we want in our lives.

During this time, I have been visualizing the future, my longer term goals; wake up every morning with my husband, practice SAVERS while overlooking water, write my book, serve companies as a Board Member and continue to Inspire and Enable others.  I truly believe, when you can visualize it, you can make it happen.  Now I have the time to get back to basics and reset for the next chapter in my life.  I hope you’ll join me as we continue to explore the realm of possibilities.

“When you visualize, then you materialize” – Denis Waitley

Humility; how not to sweat the small stuff – DSSS Part 6

Think about someone you admire most.  What are the characteristics they possess that draw you to them?  Let me guess, you believe them when they tell you something, you feel they are telling the truth, you know they have your best interest at heart, they listen to you and understand you, they are selfless, self-aware, and appreciate others.  Am I close?  Also, they do not brag or pretend to be more than they really are, right?  Put simply, they are humble.

What is humility?

Webster’s dictionary defines humility as not proud or haughty; not arrogant or assertive.  I like Richard Carlson’s definition in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff, “Being humble means accepting your limitations and making an effort to make the world a better place without wanting to take all the credit.”  Let’s start with the first point, a humble person is self-aware.  They know what they are good at, as well as, their limitations. If a humble person is aware of their limitations, they appreciate other people and their strengths.

I believe the second point is key to why we like and admire humble people; they try to make the world a better place.  This can take so many forms; giving to those less fortunate, building innovative products to improve society or simply brightening someone’s day with a smile or words of thanks or encouragement. Bringing the best out of others can help make this world a better place.

Lastly, Richard stresses doing all this without wanting credit.  This may be one of the hardest things to do.  In truth, we do very little by ourselves.  There are always others contributing, directly and indirectly.  How do you feel when someone else remembers to share the credit with you?  This should motivate us to credit others when we can, because it feels good.

Think back to the person you named when you started reading this blog.  I bet they surround themselves with others and have a passion to make this a better place.  They believe, “the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts”.  Each individual’s contributions will have results, but when accomplished together, 1+1 = 3.  These are the people we are drawn to, the people we want to spend our time with and support.

What is the antithesis of humility? 

Sometimes it is easier to recognize the opposite of humble; the arrogant jerk in the office or the neighbor you can’t relate to.   I am sure you can all quickly name some of these people.  They are quick to cut you off, in traffic or conversation.  Everything revolves around them and what will serve them best.  These are the type of people that I prefer not to spend my time with.  I often ask myself, “What am I getting from this?”  All that I am doing is feeding their egos and feeling empty myself.

I am currently reading How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age, an adaption from the original.  A key take-away regarding humility was, “we all have an innate, unequivocal desire to know we are valued.”  I can tell you, I don’t feel valued when someone continues tooting their own horn and forgets to ask what motivates me or how I am feeling. How can someone make it a better place for all of us if they never ask the question, “what makes the world go-round?” or simply, “How are you and what makes you happy?”  I prefer to spend time with those that appreciate me.

 

What does this all have to do with not sweating the small stuff?

This topic started because of my summary of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson.  One chapter talked about practicing humility and its importance in helping take things in stride.  I called out this one chapter by itself because I strongly believe that humility is a key personality trait to being a good human being and ultimately a strong leader.  At the time, I did not see how it related to all the other key topics until I sat down and thought more about humility.

Here is what Richard Carlson had to say in his book, “Humility and inner peace go hand in hand.  The less compelled you are to try and prove yourself to others, the easier it is to feel peaceful inside.”  Interesting, I hadn’t thought about it in that context before.  I agree, it is easier and less stressful to focus and appreciate others, make it a better place.

He continues, “Proving yourself is a dangerous trap.  It takes an enormous amount of energy to be continually pointing out your accomplishments, bragging, or trying to convince others of your worth as a human being. Bragging actually dilutes the positive feelings you receive from an accomplishment or something you are proud of.  To make matters worse, the more you try to prove yourself, the more others will avoid you, talk behind your back about your insecure need to brag, and perhaps even resent you.”  Now I can see where the stress comes into play.  If you have an inner belief that you are doing the right thing, if you focus on sharing the outcomes, rather on what YOU did, you can enjoy the results and ultimately rewards.  I must go back to my father’s belief which he instilled in me, which I talked about in my blog, 5 steps in the journey of inspiring loyalty, “Don’t worry what others are doing, work hard and do what you believe is right, cream rises to the top.”  He has been teaching me humility for years.

Richard goes on to say, “Ironically, however, the less you care about seeking approval, the more approval you seem to get.  People are drawn to those with a quiet, inner confidence, people who don’t need to make themselves look good, be ‘right’ all the time, or steal the glory. Most people love a person who doesn’t need to brag, a person who shares from his or her heart and not from his or her ego.”  I am not sure I can say it any better. I now better understand how being humble can bring more peace into my life.

I have also realized that humility does go hand in hand with much of what we have already talked about in my blogs discussing Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff; Make Peace with Imperfection, Lighten Up, Live in the Present, and Fill your life with love.  If you practice these (as well as a few others to come soon), humility will come naturally.

Humble does not mean weak

There is a perception that if you are humble, then you are weak.  This could not be further from the truth. I believe it takes more strength, confidence and resolve to be humble and not shout your accomplishments from the mountain tops to gain validation.  You need to look inwards and appreciate what you have accomplished, be grateful for those that helped you accomplish it and highlight the results that everyone will enjoy.  This is true strength.

Mother Teresa was the epitome of humility.   She was dedicated to serving the ‘poorest of the poor’.  Stepping out on her own, she worked hard to make it happen; gained Indian citizenship, petitioned the church to allow her to leave her order and start a new one, obtained medical training, solicited donations, and opened up homes for the dying, providing all her love, devotion and compassion to those in need and those that others did not want to touch.  As a result, 30 years later the Missionaries of Charity had almost 4000 sisters working in 610 foundations, in 450 centers in 123 countries across the six continents. It takes strength and resolve to accomplish all this.  Although she was recognized far and wide for what she accomplished, she remained humble throughout.  When she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, she refused the traditional Nobel honor banquet and requested that the $192,000 budget be allocated to help the poor in India.  When Pope Paul VI came to meet her in 1965 she informed him that she was too busy with her work among the poor to meet with him.  She did appreciate the recognition but she knew that she was not doing this alone, she was supported by God and many others, 4000 sisters in fact.

No one would call Mother Teresa weak and many people aspire to have her courage, dedication and stamina to help others.  I am confident she had peace in her life because of her focus to make this a better place, despite the difficulties.

I think about this in the context of our everyday lives.  There is a fine line between accepting praise and bragging. I have often heard friends and colleagues shrug away from a compliment or dismiss their accomplishments because they don’t want to brag.  I believe this is where the perception of weakness is created.  We would all be better served to accept the praise with, “Thank you, I appreciate it.  It did take a lot of work (or it wasn’t easy).”  Assuming you did not act alone, it is also the perfect moment to give credit to others as well.  Be strong and own it, but, be humble as not to boast and forget the others that contributed.

Leadership

It’s interesting, all this research and discussions on the humility from the past week kept bringing me back to leadership.  Harvard Business Review, Catalyst, Forbes and Washington Post are just a few of the articles that talk about humility being the cornerstone for great leaders.  Next week I will explore more on this topic.

Practicing Humility

In the meantime, may this post inspire us to practice humility by accepting and being grateful for the life we have, admitting we are not the best at everything and striving to bring out the best in others to make this a better place to live in.

 “Humility is the mother of all virtues; purity, charity, and obedience. It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent.” – Mother Teresa

Practice Makes Perfect – DSST Part 5

Getting back to Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson, the next big rock is about becoming what you practice.  We know that practice is the best way to create good habits and perform better.

At the end of the day, there is no magic pill for learning how to live more stress free and find success. It takes hard work, focus, discipline and practice.  Each book, podcast, interview, etc are saying similar things.  For me, the value of reading the different versions or perspectives is the repetition in different formats, the various stories that may resonate when we are in different moods or the words that we understand better.  In a way, I believe this is the value of my blog, looking to find ways to use my stories to inspire and enable you to fulfill your goals.

A picture is worth a thousand words

I will never forget a picture we had in our basement that I would see each day I went to get ready.  It was literally a picture that simply had 1,000 words on it.  The reason that it touches a funny bone for me is the fact that I recall a professional debate I had with a boss years ago.  I was very good at putting my point of view together in a PowerPoint presentation or lengthy word document with lots of words.  He kept asking me to simply create a picture that told the story.  He was trying to coach me on the idea that one picture could get across the message I was trying to articulate.  However, I was not a visual person.  To me, I needed the words.  We seemed to be at a cross roads.

The greatest lesson that I took away from that was that people learn in different ways.  Things stick due to multiple factors, like circumstantial things; time of day, amount of sleep you got, frame of mind, etc. or how they absorb information; visually or verbally, or even how they take feedback; demonstrate what you are doing wrong or highlight the right way to do it.  Now I do try and put a picture together, with the words available as backup.

In my professional career, my team would often hear me share the following advice for sharing information.

  • You need to tell people something 7 times before it will start to stick
  • People absorb things differently in different format – video, writing, storytelling, being hit over the head with a baseball bat, pictures, you name it. No two people are the same.
  • Even if you are telling a story, you might need to tell it in the 1st person and then again in the 3rd person for it to make an ‘ah-ha’ moment for others.

As I continue to read, listen to podcasts, talk to people and ask their perspectives, I keep hearing the same underlying message just shared in different ways.  It is very reassuring, because it means that I don’t have a ton to learn, but rather there is a huge opportunity to hear it in different ways so that a different element might stick and help drive my personal transformation.

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do

For example, I was listening to Christoph Lochhead’s podcast, Legends and Losers with guest Amy Morin this week.  Amy was the author of  13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.  She had written this list years ago during a particularly difficult period in her life and it had gone viral.  According to Amy, mentally strong people have healthy habits. They manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that set them up for success in life. Check out these things that mentally strong people don’t do so that you too can become more mentally strong.

  • 1 – They Don’t Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves

Mentally strong people don’t sit around feeling sorry about their circumstances or how others have treated them. Instead, they take responsibility for their role in life and understand that life isn’t always easy or fair.

  • 2 – They Don’t Give Away Their Power

They don’t allow others to control them, and they don’t give someone else power over them. They don’t say things like, “My boss makes me feel bad,” because they understand that they are in control over their own emotions and they have a choice in how they respond.

  • 3 – They Don’t Shy Away from Change

Mentally strong people don’t try to avoid change. Instead, they welcome positive change and are willing to be flexible. They understand that change is inevitable and believe in their abilities to adapt.

  • 4 – They Don’t Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control

You won’t hear a mentally strong person complaining over lost luggage or traffic jams. Instead, they focus on what they can control in their lives. They recognize that sometimes, the only thing they can control is their attitude.

  • 5 – They Don’t Worry About Pleasing Everyone

Mentally strong people recognize that they don’t need to please everyone all the time. They’re not afraid to say no or speak up when necessary. They strive to be kind and fair, but can handle other people being upset if they didn’t make them happy.

  • 6 – They Don’t Fear Taking Calculated Risks

They don’t take reckless or foolish risks, but don’t mind taking calculated risks. Mentally strong people spend time weighing the risks and benefits before making a big decision, and they’re fully informed of the potential downsides before they take action.

  •  7 – They Don’t Dwell on the Past

Mentally strong people don’t waste time dwelling on the past and wishing things could be different. They acknowledge their past and can say what they’ve learned from it. However, they don’t constantly relive bad experiences or fantasize about the glory days. Instead, they live for the present and plan for the future.

  • 8 – They Don’t Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over

They accept responsibility for their behavior and learn from their past mistakes. As a result, they don’t keep repeating those mistakes over and over. Instead, they move on and make better decisions in the future.

  • 9 – They Don’t Resent Other People’s Success

Mentally strong people can appreciate and celebrate other people’s success in life. They don’t grow jealous or feel cheated when others surpass them. Instead, they recognize that success comes with hard work, and they are willing to work hard for their own chance at success.

  • 10 – They Don’t Give Up After the First Failure

They don’t view failure as a reason to give up. Instead, they use failure as an opportunity to grow and improve. They are willing to keep trying until they get it right.

  • 11 – They Don’t Fear Alone Time

Mentally strong people can tolerate being alone and they don’t fear silence. They aren’t afraid to be alone with their thoughts and they can use downtime to be productive. They enjoy their own company and aren’t dependent on others for companionship and entertainment all the time but instead can be happy alone.

  • 12 – They Don’t Feel the World Owes Them Anything

They don’t feel entitled to things in life. They weren’t born with a mentality that others would take care of them or that the world must give them something. Instead, they look for opportunities based on their own merits.

  • 13 – They Don’t Expect Immediate Results

Whether they are working on improving their health or getting a new business off the ground, mentally strong people don’t expect immediate results. Instead, they apply their skills and time to the best of their ability and understand that real change takes time

Holy cow, Batman. Guess what, nothing here on her list is too different from what I have been writing about for the past 3 months.  There really are only a core set of basic life lessons that can help us all be happier and accomplish more.  The key to all this is finding the way to practice and create the good habits.

Practice makes perfect

I once received advice from someone about habits and the necessity of working to change them.  Think about a tree and its roots.  A root takes time to be nurtured, to grow and become a key support system for the tree.  Now consider that some of these roots are good habits and some are bad.  If you have had a bad habit for a long time, i.e. dwelling in the past, obsessing about the future or having a bad self-image, that root is going to be large and massive.  You can’t just ignore it because it is part of the trees support system.  If you just chop out a bad root and don’t have a strong good root to take over, the tree can fall. You need to ensure you have developed some strong good habit roots to support you as you cut off the bad ones.  And once the good habits become the core support system, they will overcome the bad ones and be what you rely on going forward.

How do you create those strong, good roots then?  Practice. This is a no brainer when we are talking about sports, music, cooking, etc.  No one expects someone to walk onto the soccer field and suddenly score 5 goals, while defending the goal at the same time.  A winning athlete will typically practice hours each day to excel at their sport.  We all know that there are some naturally gifted people, but that number is minimal.  Ask any athlete, musician and successful business woman what their secret to success is and they will say hard work and practice.  Even in the business world, we start with a strong educational background and degrees.  We engage in different enablement sessions throughout our career. We may even spend money to go back to school to get an MBA or certificate or hire a professional coach to help us improve.

Why then, do we not do this for ourselves?  Why don’t we dedicate enough time for ourselves to practice these new skills?  Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff, Richard Carlson talks about, “Becoming what you practice”.  There were many items that I had grouped under this category.

Establishing your own routine

Each morning I begin my day with a series of activities to help me prepare for the day and help me develop the skills to better live in the present and not sweat the small stuff.  Richard talks about quieting the mind, getting up early, scheduling time for inner work, relax, set aside quiet time everyday, develop your own helping rituals.  Richard is not alone here. Amy talks about it in #11 and #13 above; Don’t Fear Alone Time and Don’t Expect Immediate Results.  Other people I have listened to talk about a Power Up and Power Down hour each day.  Whatever the routine, the bottom line is that people are investing in themselves to be mentally strong, happier and accomplished. This takes me back to one of my first blogs where I talked about, Is it ever ok to be Selfish.  This is the epitome of being selfish.  Once you are strong you will be in a better place to help others.

My motivation to get there was Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning approach.  He talks about Life S*A*V*E*R*S.  My husband and I have been getting up an hour earlier every day, Monday through Friday, to practice our Miracle morning.  We committed to doing it for 30 days.  Three months later we, it is now a key element of our lifestyle.  We even managed to train the dog we were watching to respect our 25 minutes of silence.  She would get very excited when my eyes opened after meditation and my earphones came off because then she knew it was time for exercise and she could join in.  Rather than changing our ways of doing things, we knew it was important to hold that sacred and have others (meaning the dog) work around us. (See Reprogramming your belief system for additional items I got from this book).

The hardest part of getting to this point is making the commitment and then creating the strong root that overtakes the bad habits, i.e. sleeping in, wallowing in self-pity, thinking other things are more important. Honestly though, the rewards are there.  Even our money tree is flourishing!

May this motivate you to define a personal routine to ensure you can focus and enable yourself to be happier and more successful.

There is no glory in practice, but without practice there is no glory… – Unknown

Vacation mode, appreciating the small things

On Vacation

Although I am on a ‘garden leave’ from work it doesn’t mean that I can’t take a vacation as well.  It’s a vacation from job hunting, networking, self-development, exercise and focus on the to-do list.  All these items tend to be a full-time job these days.  Sleeping in until 10 am this morning was truly a treat as we typically get up at 6 am to start our morning routine.  I may even take a nap today, ssssh, please don’t tell anyone.

I am writing this blog while sitting in the sun, listening to nature and overlooking a beautiful lake in East Tennessee.  Two years ago, we started planning this trip while on our honeymoon with our dear friends, Team Honeymoon.  We were enjoying the Finger Lakes at the time and looking at the stars when someone called out that the Solar Eclipse would be happening in two years.  We quickly looked at the path and agreed, we should all meet in Nashville to check it out.  This is what I love about my friends.  With that initial seedling of an idea, we all worked together and made it happen.  Just in case the eclipse was a bust, at least we would be in a great town that we have all wanted to visit.  We then decided to tack on a few extra days to check out the Smokey Mountains.

Appreciating what I could see

We traveled all the way to Nashville to see the eclipse. We always knew there was a risk we would not see it due to the weather.  However, if we lived in fear, we would not have seen anything, so we proceeded.  Everything was going perfectly. We got to a great viewing point at a Science Center, had the proper glasses, a few cocktails and each other.  The eclipse started and it was amazing, unbelievable, phenomenal really.  I got goosebumps.  It then started to get dark, the temperature dropped. It was getting close to the total eclipse, just 20 more seconds… Queue the big, ugly black cloud.  Yup, that’s right, right before the diamond and the total eclipse, the cloud blocked everything.  We could have let that ruin it.  However, we did get to experience the bugs and the birds going nuts, the darkness and the awesomeness of the entire event.  I appreciate every minute of it and am so glad we did not miss it.  Isn’t this part of the effort to not sweat the small stuff?

Don’t sweat the small stuff

For the past six weeks, we have been talking about not sweating the small stuff.  While I had some downtime, I thought it would be the right time to recall some of the nuggets I’ve been talking about. This trip has been a true reminder of these items and a chance to test whether I am living them, owning them, and incorporating them into my life.

  • Make Peace with Imperfection
  • Lighten Up – let go of a plan
  • Live in the present (NOW)
  • Fill your life with love; find the extraordinary in ordinary and recall your favorite things

It’s interesting, as I sit here and think about my friends and this trip, I naturally live these things when I am with my friends. They taught me these basics years ago and I only tend to truly embrace them when we are together.  Even with the eclipse, I appreciate what we did get to experience, not what we missed and can look forward to the next opportunity in 2018 (Latin America) and again in 2024 (USA).

Common Denominator

My life changed tremendously when I moved to England and met my colleague and her husband.  She had been helping me find a place to live before I had even arrived.  She invited me to come stay at her place in the country that first weekend to ensure I was not alone.  This was out of my comfort zone; staying in someone’s home that I did not know.  Because I was living in a new country, I knew I had to take the leap of faith and just go with it.  That first night, after some niceties, we walked through the field and I had my first pint in the pub.  Six hours later, she and I were still up talking about anything and everything.  When we woke in the morning, we couldn’t remember exactly what we had discussed but we knew that we had created a lifelong friendship.

Five years later, another American acquaintance had a similar experience. I was visiting England and invited her to meet my England friends.  Many hours and drinks later, as well as conversations, she was brought into the fold and the friendship grew.  This pattern repeated through the years.  Someone would introduce someone into the mix and invite them on a trip with us.  It wouldn’t be unusual for one of us to open our house to a stranger because they were a friend of a friend.  There was always a common denominator.  Everyone is nice and kind and funny (duh, that’s a no brainer), but they would also have an adventurous spirit, a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out), a silliness they were not embarrassed to admit and most importantly an appreciation for the small things (and drink…can’t omit that one).

Appreciating the small things

When my England friends first came to America to welcome me home from my year’s travel abroad, they had a laundry list of things they wanted to do.  There were the obvious things, i.e. Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, etc that they wanted to see.  However, more importantly there were the small things, like, steam from a pothole cover, being dripped on by an air conditioner in NYC, catching a firefly in a jar, seeing a cow.  These simple things could make us smile and laugh uncontrollably.  We worked hard to ‘tick’ the boxes and appreciate all the little things we have seen and done.  As a result, over the past 16 years, we Yanks and Brits have spent hours/days trying to out-do each other on the various vacations we have taken together to find the small things to appreciate about a city, county, state, etc.

When I stop and think, they have taught me so much about living in the present, appreciating the simple things, going with the flow, and lightening up.  We can be happy spending the day overlooking the lake or jumping in a car and being silly in Dollywood the next day.  We have our list of things we would like to do, but then prioritize and ensure we spend quality time together and appreciate the simple things.  Isn’t this what we have been talking about?  I can assure you, I am not sweating the small stuff this week.

Because I am on vacation, I am going to keep it short and share one last thought so that I can go and meditate and spend some quality time with my dear friends and husband, whom I wish a very happy 2nd anniversary to whom.

The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it. – Hubert H. Humphrey

Don’t sweat the small stuff – Part 4a – Fill your life with love

Things I love

Last week I started the topic on filling your life with love and went off on a tangent about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.  Richard Carlson had a number of additional recommendations for mitigating stress in his book, in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff that related to filling your life with love, and making the most of the present.

  • Be happy where you are
  • Be open to “what is”
  • Think of what you have instead of what you want
  • Understand the statement, ‘wherever you go, there you are’
  • Remember that everything has God’s fingerprints on it
  • See the glass as already broken (and everything else too)

Each of these are powerful to me.  I believe each one of them will have a different effect on each one of us.

Love equals your favorite things which equals happiness

One of the thoughts that can always bring a smile to my face is the innocence that a child has when they learn something new. The awe that a child shows when they see their first butterfly take flight, or a lightening bug glow. It fills my heart with love.  It is one of my favorite things.

I start to relax immediately when I hear Maria sing about her favorite things, “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. Brown paper packages tied up with strings.”  Sing with me, “These are a few of my favorite things.” These are the simple things that are worth appreciating and acknowledging.  Walking home today, I watched a child with an ice cream cone that was already starting to melt and although he managed a lick on his tongue, it was all over his face.  He could not have been happier. The key to happiness is enjoying that moment rather than stressing over the mess.  Enjoy the innocence and love within that moment. The clean-up can come later.

Focus on what we have, rather than what we want

If we focus on what we have, rather than what we want, how can we be upset?  I am blessed to still have 2 very healthy, wonderful parents.  I want to have my best friend, Sarah to be alive, but I love that I have the memories of the times we did spend together.  I know she is with me in spirit.  In fact, today because I was sitting and being, an image of a dolphin, Sarah’s favorite animal floated across my mind.  She is reminding me of a business idea we had planned to launch and wants me to get started on it.

“Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels. Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles.”

Walking miles with a friend today, inspiring and enabling the future.  Walking over and giving my husband a kiss and watching him light up.  The endless kisses from the dog when I walk into the house because she has missed me so much.  Waking up at the Mennemeyer’s family home and kibitzing over coffee in the morning, Sunday dinners with my family. These are a few of my favorite things.  When I think of them, they make me smile.  It melts the disappointment from the past or worry about the future. It allows me to appreciate what is here right now.

“Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings. These are a few of my favorite things.”  Don’t you just want to play the soundtrack to Sound of Music and dance around?

 See the glass as already broken

Another phrase that has caused me to pause is, ‘See the glass as already broken’ which is a Buddhist saying to help you find the present moment.  If you don’t worry about what it was before it was broken and you don’t have to worry about it actually breaking, then you can simply appreciate and love it for what it is right now.  We only have one life to live, and we all know that it is way too short.  By filling it with love whenever possible, we can appreciate the little things.  This then overpowers the bigger things.

“Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes. Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes. Silver-white winters that melt into springs, These are a few of my favorite things.”

However, it is the chorus of this song that makes it so powerful.  “When the dog bites. When the bee stings. When I’m feeling sad. I simply remember my favorite things. And then I don’t feel so bad.”

May this inspire you to understand what are your favorite things, appreciate the smaller things and be able to recall those things when you are feeling sad.  Fill your life with love and it can help you to not sweat the small stuff.

My favorite things in life don’t cost any money.  It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” – Steve Jobs

Don’t sweat the small stuff – Part 3 – Living in the Present Moment

Learning to Live in the Present Moment

“Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence.  Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.”  – Eckhart Tolle

Past, present and future.  Any of the self-help books I’ve read, the autobiographies of happy people, most entrepreneur success stories, nearly all the religious beliefs and much research, tells us that we should focus on the present, the NOW.  However, most of us tend to spend a disproportionate amount of time on the past or future, leaving very little time in the present, myself included.

As I have been working through the series on Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff, author Richard Carlson had quite a few tools/insights related to this guiding principle of Living in the Present.

Take a moment and think about these three items as they relate to your life.  What percentage of time/effort/thinking do you spend on each; dwelling in the past, living in the present and stressing about the future? The experts suggest that we should aim to spend most of our time in the present.

Personally, I don’t dwell much in the past. I am an optimist and pride myself on looking forward.  I think about the future often rooted in my constant need for a plan, my fear of missing out (FOMO) and my obsession with lists to get things done.  I believe that my focus on the future leaves me little time in the NOW. What if I spent more time in the NOW, would I appreciate what I have and sweat the small stuff less? I am confident it would.

Value of the Past

As I mentioned previously, I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on the past.  Ideally, I enjoy remembering the past to invoke happy thoughts and reliving memories. For me, it is a database of information to call upon to improve the future and ensure I don’t repeat the past.  I pride myself on not regretting what happened in the past.  The past is past, I cannot change it.  I will often console myself with the belief, “Everything happens for a reason.” I may not know that reason, but I trust that I will either figure it out in the future or it may be a benefit for someone else.  I have had this capacity most of my life. My divorce best demonstrates how I manage to move on and not dwell in the past.

I had every reason to be angry at my ex, hold a grudge and never forgive him.  When I look back now, I appreciate what I gained, rather than the hurt.  I moved into NYC (a great desire of mine), I moved to England, took a year off to travel and met numerous lifelong friends. Oh, and I would be remiss if I don’t recall meeting the most amazing husband years later.  I can’t say for certain none of this would have happened otherwise, but most likely not.  I guess this relates to my ability to put myself in someone else’s shoes, which I discussed in my blog on No One Ever wakes up with Bad Intent. I believe my ex did not wake up with the intent to personally hurt me, he needed a solution to his challenges.  Do I wish that he had gone about it a different way?  Yes, most definitely.  Did I hurt?  Yes, most definitely. However, what value would I get from holding onto my bitterness.

As I look back now, I realize that I had adopted a form of meditation and mindfulness that helped me get through the ordeal.  I recall going to church every day and praying.  It was my way to surrender to something greater than myself.  My prayer that I would recite continuously was, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  I also adopted a chant that many might recall me saying, that I still use to this day, “In with the good, and out with the bad.”  I coupled this with breathing.

This was nearly 20 years ago.  I was not into meditation, I was not overtly religious, but these were tools that I used to cope with the disappointment, the shame, the hurt that I was going through.  One day, I was then able to pull up my bootstraps and move on.  As I discussed in my blog, Fear vs. Freedom, overcoming this in my life, allowed me to focus on the future; knowing that with time, prayer and faith it would all work out.

I also chose not to regret what has happened even though it might have eliminated some pain, I would not have been blessed with the goodness that did exist in the marriage. I wouldn’t have gotten to know my in-laws, owned a house in Farmingdale, etc. just to name a few.  I say the same thing when asked if I regret not leaving my last company earlier.  I look at what I would have missed out on in the process.  I met an amazing group of people in my different roles, learned new responsibilities, and most importantly, even in the worst situations, learned how I did not want to lead, which has now defined my mission in life.  If you look hard enough, you can find good in every situation.  I am a true believer that every glass is half full.  To be fair, I would argue, that I am such the optimist that even if there is just a bit of water in that glass, it is better than none and if there is none, then it is an opportunity to get more.

Future

Let’s jump to the future next.   “Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear” as Tolle points out in his book is where I can get caught up.  I believe this can go in a couple of different directions.  As I discussed in Fear Vs. Freedom blog, I don’t allow fear to keep me from doing something.  I have worked hard not to let my fear of failure, loss, hurt, humiliation, etc. limit me.  However, as discussed in my last blog, Lighten Up, my Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) and need to have a plan, can focus me too much in the future and not enough in the present.

Fortunately, I have a strong belief that with planning, visualization, positive thinking and hard work you can make most things happen.  I am good at getting things done. My process is to visualize the future (or goal) and figure out what I (or anyone for that matter) want.  I then work backwards to figure out what you need to do today, tomorrow and next week to make it happen.  There is the optimist again.

I have been grappling with the concept of getting things done.  Obviously, it is not focused in the past, but where does that fit in?  The future? The present?  The reason this question is pressing for me is because this is where I spend most of my time.  I have my checklists and I am ultra-focused on all the things that are needed to accomplish the future state. I wish I could say that this is part of the present, but I don’t think it is.  I think I spend very little time in the present.  This time off has taught me to stop and smell the roses, spend more time with my parents, and appreciate the time to cook dinner for my husband, but has it really taught me to live in the present?

Living in the NOW

How do you relax?  How much time do you spend by yourself?  In the past, when I needed to relax, I would play a game on my computer, aimlessly channel surf and get lost for a few hours in my new logic puzzles.  I thought this was healthy and something that was helping me.  Truthfully though, I was avoiding quiet time. I have learned I didn’t like spending time with myself and just being.

I had the pleasure of spending a week in Rochester with my husband and his family.  We had a week of minimal activities.  Our “plan” was to relax, enjoy the company and appreciate our surroundings.  I was loving life.  I had finished a book, completed numerous puzzles and even worked on my networking plan. Even in the relaxed state, I was getting things done.  I then had a thought.  I was going to just sit on the back patio, by myself and watch the grass grow for a bit.

Can we talk about being uncomfortable?  Sitting there, my chest was getting tight and I was out of my element.  I was doing nothing.  Can I do nothing?  Apparently, not very well.  But I persevered and kept watching the grass, enjoying the birds singing, noticing the greenness of the grass, the beauty of the trees, and the faint sound of the lawnmower.  I was letting myself think, enjoy, feel.  I am not sure how much time passed, but at the end, I was feeling so much more relaxed. It was a completely different feeling from spending an hour playing a game.

It dawned on me why I had always used the ‘games’ to quiet my mind.  I was scared of being alone with my own thoughts. This was a skill that I had lost.  I had mastered it while going through my divorce by going to church and focusing on building the strength to move into the future.  However, I had stopped living in the present.  It was time to start practicing.

A Plan to Smell the Roses

This concept that I would commit and plan time to practice being in the present seemed counter-intuitive to my therapist.  As he said, the whole point is to just live in the moment and when it hits you, smell the roses.  I couldn’t argue with him. However, I had a problem. I did not know how to be in the present, in the NOW.

Let me share with you, how bad I am at this.  When I am getting a massage, I am focused on the outcome.  Will they hit the right muscle with the right pressure to release all the toxins built up?  Will I be able to relax?   I am completely focused on the outcome, rather than enjoying each touch and each breath, as well as just being.

It then hit me that this may be the reason I cannot recall most of the holes that I have played on a golf course. I love playing golf. Although we don’t get out that often, we will often play the same courses.  Ralph can remind me about each hole, where the tree is situated, the beauty of the next hole, and even how I played it last time. I just look at him in awe.  I have no recollection.  You know why?  I am so focused on the talk track in my head, “How fast we are playing? What club I am going to use? Where are our partners? Can I get a beer? Do I need to pee.”  Holy cow, I am forgetting to enjoy the course and take in all the nuances.  I am focused on the outcome again and not the fun in getting there.  No wonder I sweat the small stuff.

My sister-in-law then recommended reading the book, 10% Happier by Dan Harris. Only half way through, it has opened my eyes to the fact that I am not the only one challenged with this. Living in the present takes practice.  Therefore, I committed to myself that I need to plan to spend more quiet time with my thoughts.  Once it becomes a habit, then I won’t need a plan and I can spend more time appreciating the holes on the golf course and smelling the roses, unplanned.

Breathe

As with most things I have focused on so far, I strongly believe that much of this is about reprogramming your beliefs.  I want to live in the present. I want to enjoy more of what is here, rather than constantly focused on the outcome.  Everyone has their own crosses to bear, their own demons to slay. Hopefully this blog will inspire you to figure out where you spend most of your time today (past, present or future) and how you can reallocate more time tomorrow to NOW.  You can’t enjoy the past because it is already gone and tomorrow is not here yet. NOW is where we can be happy, because NOW is here.

“Breathe. Let go.  And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.” – Oprah Winfrey

My new mantra – Don’t sweat the small stuff – Part 1

Don’t sweat the small stuff

I admit it, I can sometimes sweat the small stuff.  The big stuff? Not so much.  I tend to be okay with the big stuff because there are more defined decision points, pros and cons.  If I am honest, I can lose some major hours in a day worrying about things that in the grand scheme of things do not matter.  I recently read the book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff by Richard Carlson.  This book was recommended as part of a Women Taking the Lead podcast.  I relate well to Jodi Flynn, she is also a Type A female leader, and thus trust her opinion.  I added every book she suggested to my book list.  I am so glad this is one of the first books that became available from my library list.

BTW, did I mention that I *finally* have a library card again?  That’s right, 20 years after moving into NYC, I made the leap. Until recently, I didn’t read very many books.  If necessary, I would buy that random book in the airport or download a book to my kindle.  Now that I am reading and listening constantly, I decided it was time to make the leap and sign up for a library card.  Well, wasn’t I surprised by how easy it was, not to mention how much money I can save. Some of us can be slow learners.

Anyway, back to reading listening to Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.  Apparently, I was late to this rodeo as well.  The book was published in 1996 and as I talk to others about it, I get the look, “duh, you are just reading it now?!?”  I learned a lot in this book and thought it would be of value to share.  It is an interesting and easy read.  There are over 100 short chapters, each with an actionable insight or practice that you could incorporate into your life to help make a difference.

As I was listening though, I often got a feeling of déjà vu.  I felt he was giving the same advice, just in a different way.  This drove me bonkers, probably because I am a type A, organized person, and I obviously sweat the small stuff (yes, I am hearing my own irony here).  To personally get the most out of it and continue to garnish value, I had to summarize the key points and group all the insights and practices accordingly.  Please keep in mind, this is my interpretation of the book.  You may have a very different understanding or method for extracting the most value for yourself.

Let’s call the key points – DSSS (Don’t Sweat Small Stuff) Guiding Principles.  Each week I will focus on a different principle(s) and share my point of view with the same goal as usual, to inspire and enable each of you.

DSSS Guiding Principles

It’s interesting.  I don’t think I read anything new or earth shattering in the book.  However, in some cases, ideas and explanations reinforced things I already believed in, provided new ways to look at things and most importantly highlighted areas where I had true gaps (ahem, opportunities) to work on.  This goes back to the Loyalty blog and being honest with yourself first.  It has provided me more material to work on!

  1. Make peace with imperfection
  2. Lighten up
  3. Learn to live in the present moment
  4. Fill your life with love
  5. Remember that you become what you practice most
  6. Practice humility
  7. Make service an integral part of your life
  8. Praise and blame are all the same
  9. Seek first to understand
  10. Argue for your limitations, and they’re yours
  11. Lower your tolerance to stress

Make peace with imperfection

Here are some of the chapters/insights that fall into this category:

  • Surrender to the fact that life isn’t fair
  • Give up on the idea that “more is better”
  • Repeat to yourself, ‘life isn’t an emergency’, life is a test and only a test

Pulling up your bootstraps and moving on

Let’s start with the facts: Life isn’t fair.  I think we have all had a lesson on this one early on.  When I asked my mother, “Why does Karen (my sister) always get the new bike and I get her hand-me-down?” or “Why does she get to stay up later (despite being 6 years older)?” or “Why didn’t I win the lottery?” or “Why didn’t I get picked for the team?”  or “Why did my husband leave me?”  I could always count on my mother’s advice, “Sometimes life just isn’t fair.  There is not much you can do about it.  Cry if you want to, but move on quickly.”  If I look back now, this was such sound advice that has allowed me to get through many things. For those that know me, you have probably heard me say at least once, “Just pull up your bootstraps and carry on.” This was the start of building mental toughness.

In some situations, these items helped me practice harder so I might make the team next time.  In other cases, I whined for years (wah, wah, wah, Kathy’s never had her own bike) and celebrated the victory when I bought my first new bike with my own money at the age of 35.  I learned that you can’t win the lottery if you don’t play.  Most importantly, I would use these opportunities to learn  I refused to let them define me.  At the end of the day, I learned to recognize that the universe is not out to get me, it is not singling me out.  I believe things happen for a reason (and you may never find out what that reason is).  The quicker you can accept it and move on, the less stress you will have.  The next time something happens that doesn’t seem fair, ask yourself whether it really matters in the scheme of things.  Can I learn something? Change something?  If not, why fret?

Grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence

This is an opportunity for me to work on this philosophy, “more is not always better”.  I suffer from FOMO – Fear of Missing out.  I will save FOMO for another blog, because I have a ton to share on this.  Let me share one story told by Paul Coelho that I love. It helps me put things in perspective when I get caught up in FOMO.

There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village.
As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite a few big fish.
The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”
The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”
“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman was astonished.
“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.
The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”
The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”

The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman.
“I am a PhD in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”

The fisherman continues, “And after that?”
The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”
The fisherman asks, “And after that?”
The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”
The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”

 I often question myself, “why are you going through all this mental anguish? Is the outcome going to provide something much better than what you have today?  I play my positive talk track to override my FOMO – enjoy what you have in front of you. When you finish enjoying that you can move on to the next thing.  I envy the people that naturally do this.  I am going to continue to practice!

Life isn’t an emergency

Life isn’t an emergency, this is a mantra that I also need to keep reminding myself.  Don’t get me wrong, there are sometimes emergencies. However, that typically involves trouble breathing, excessive bleeding or possibly a bad break/sprain.  In these cases, call 9-1-1 and stop reading this blog!  Most other things, however, truly do not constitute an emergency. If you are walking home when it starts pouring and you are not carrying an umbrella, accept it.  You are going to get wet.  As my mother would often tell me, “You will not melt.”  I can attest to the fact that I have yet to melt despite the rain.  Unfortunately, for some reason, which is beyond my understanding, I will often classify something as an emergency in my mind.  Well, maybe not an emergency but a “sky is falling” scenario.  OMG, my parents are coming in 2 hours and we don’t have any food in the apartment!  As Ralph will try and remind me, “this is not a tragedy.”

I had just finished reading this book and my parents were coming in for an early dinner on Friday, 3pm to be exact.   I had planned the menu on Thursday night and was feeling quite proud that I had made a few quick decisions, along with a grocery list and could knock it out easily on Friday morning.  However, the weather on Friday morning did not want to cooperate (yes, still haven’t gotten over my fear that I might melt), nor my need to get a few other things done.  When 1pm rolled around and I still hadn’t left the apartment to go shopping, I started to panic. I could feel the blood pressure rising.  I could hear the pace of my dialogue with Ralph increase and my level of frustration skyrocket.  With the book still fresh in my mind, I started to use some of the techniques to help me not sweat the small stuff.  The main one that I stated over and over was, “Life is not an emergency.”

This is my parents, coming into NYC to visit and catch up.  They were not expecting a gourmet meal (especially not from me!).  I also stopped and recognized that my elevated stress level was having an impact on my time with Ralph.  As I was barking orders, his levels of frustration were rising. Right, one step at a time.  First, go to the store. Success, I was out the door.  While walking, I kept chanting, “this is not an emergency, this is not a big deal.”  My blood pressure slowly began to decrease. I quickly realized that I could buy a rotisserie chicken and sides for less than the cost to purchase the chicken and other ingredients, as well as eliminate the time needed for prep and the craziness that would ensue. I called Ralph and told him we were going with Plan B.  This then came out of my mouth, “this is not a big deal, let’s focus on enjoying the preparations and being in a good mood for when my parents got there.” Ralph in return asked, “Who is this and what did you do with my wife?”  In that one event, I managed to implement multiple strategies to help me enjoy the afternoon, I surrendered to the fact that sometimes life (or the weather) is not fair, I gave up on the idea that “more is better” and I repeatedly told myself that “life isn’t an emergency” and believed it!   Needless to say, we had a lovely afternoon with our family.

Finding Peace

This first DSSS Guiding Principle – Make Peace with Imperfection helps me reset my thinking and remember that I cannot control everything and quite honestly most things are not a big deal.  Each morning, I spend time with my Affirmations and ask myself, what strategies am I going to deploy today to help me not to sweat the small stuff.  Today, I promised to remind myself that life is not fair, nor is it an emergency, and that less is more. I believe if I say it enough times it will become engrained and then the norm.  This will then allow me to make peace with imperfection and leave more time to be happy and enjoy life.

The next time you start to stress, or get caught up trying to make everything perfect, may this scene from my favorite movie, Dirty Dancing, as they arrive in the Catskills help inspire you not to sweat the small stuff:

 

Lisa : “Oh, my God. Look at that! Ma, I should have brought those coral shoes. You said I was taking too much!”                                                                 Mom: “Well, sweetheart, you brought ten pairs.”                                                 Lisa : “But the coral shoes match that dress!”                                                       Dad: “This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham.”                                                                             Baby: “Monks burning themselves in protest.”

5 steps in the journey of inspiring loyalty

I have been thinking about the term loyalty over the past week, probably because I talked about it in my last blog, A book that continues to inspire.  What is the value of loyalty?  I have often seen this quote:

“Respect is earned. Honesty is appreciated. Trust is gained. Loyalty is returned.” 

In my opinion, one cannot simply ask for loyalty (well, I guess it never hurts to ask, but it cannot be simply granted).  Loyalty is returned over time. It is the result of conscious respect, honesty and trust over an extended period of time.  As you build upon each step, you build loyal relationships and enjoy a more peaceful life.

1. Hard work comes first

After reading my sister’s blog this week, It’s my job, I was reminded that there really is a step before you can earn respect: hard work.  In our family, that is simply a given.  You could always hear my father stating, ‘Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Don’t worry what others are doing, work hard, cream rises to the top.’ As my father instilled the values in his daughters, I now watch with pride as my sister is successfully instilling that in her children.  I believe it is through hard work that you gain the respect of your peers, your bosses, your friends, family and even acquaintances.

As a leader, my preference is to have a hard working, dedicated, self-aware team member that may lack experience but makes up for it in determination.  I always found that someone that was willing to learn, take the time to research, ask questions and work hard could learn the material. I don’t believe you can teach hard work later in life.  This is a value that is instilled at a young age and is nurtured as we mature.  I had the pleasure of hearing the stories of my father, who started his career in the mailroom and worked his way up to be the president of his company.  Although this seems like the stuff that movies are made from, my father is not a cornerstone example.

Listening to and reading stories about entrepreneurs, there is a recurring theme.  It all starts with an idea, a vision, a passion – the WHY they are doing something.  Apply a lot of hard work, grit and determination, and hope for a little luck and you will have success like Steve Jobs (Apple) and Phil Knight (Nike).  This also applies to athletes like Michael Jordon, scientists like Stephen Hawking and numerous others.  If you read their biographies, they don’t tell you that it was luck, but that it was hard work.

2. Respect is earned

If you work hard, I have found you will earn the respect of others.  Have you ever heard someone say, ‘I don’t respect her, she works too hard’? Worst case scenario might be that others will be jealous of what you are accomplishing with your hard work. I believe hard work is a symbol of good ethics, good people, strong bones.  Think about the people in your life.  Why do you respect some and perhaps not others?  Are there any that you respect that you do not consider hard workers?  I respect my father and mother or their years of hard work and dedication to their jobs and family.

3. Honesty is appreciated critical

The quote states that honesty is appreciated, but in my opinion, it is critical.  Can you really respect and trust someone that is not honest?  To be build loyalty I believe you need to be honest with yourself, your boss, your peers, your employees, your vendors, your customers, basically everyone.  Would you trust or put your loyalty into someone that was not honest?

First, let’s talk about being honest with yourself.  This is one of the hardest things to do, in my honest opinion.  Self-awareness is a term we tend to throw around lightly, “I know my strengths and weaknesses.”  Unfortunately, this tends to just be a well-prepared set of answers for an interview. The real test is whether you are being truthful with yourself to truly identify your weaknesses and then taking steps to improve and/or surround yourself with people that can fill in your gaps.

In the workplace, as you build a team, the best leaders understand their weaknesses and hire people whose strengths compensate for those weaknesses.  This always sounds easy. However, many people are fearful of exposing their weaknesses because someone might exploit those weaknesses and cause harm.  To be honest, there are times that I do not blame people for feeling that way. It’s happened to me, and it’s hurt, I admit it.  However, in those times, I muster up my father’s mantra, “cream rises to the top.”  He taught me to always do what’s right.  I believe that the more honest you can be about yourself the better you can serve others. Knowing your weaknesses and sharing with others will minimize the need to omit the truth, over promise and fail, thus earning the respect of others.

Honesty with others is equally as important.  Over the years there have been many stories that have helped solidify this in my mind and help set it as a priority in my values.  Honesty can make you vulnerable.  It is scary enough to be honest with yourself, but now to share that with others?  I remember vividly sitting in the partner’s office at Ernst & Young.  I was a first-year auditor, barely out of college a year.  I had made a mistake.  A $1M mistake to be exact.  I didn’t do it on purpose, but I knew I had to come clean. I was scared having to face Jim, a very stern, no-nonsense guy. Would he fire me?  He asked me what happened and I told him honestly that I made a mistake.  I didn’t try to blame someone else. I didn’t try and hide it.  I said, “I am sorry, I screwed up.  I did not know the right thing to do, but I can promise you I will not do it again.  I have learned now.”  He looked back at me and thanked me.  He told me that because I had come forward and told him about the mistake and took ownership for it, then he could control the damage and manage it accordingly.  If I had tried to hide it, it could’ve had much bigger ramifications later.  I can tell you, I learned 2 very important lessons that day, 1 – I never missed an account in an audit again and 2 – always tell the truth as early as possible.

On a side note, that meeting with Jim, also had a profound effect on me for another reason.  Everyone used to be so scared of the “partner”.  He was the big boss, difficult to approach, and scary.  I remember walking into his office, looking at a picture on his desk of him, his wife and 3 kids and thinking, ‘hmmm, he is a dad just like my dad. My dad is a big boss, but he still talks to us, teaches us. He is human.”  Jim was approachable and I think that is the reason it was so easy for me to be honest with him.

I also pride myself on being honest with those I work with; my peers, my team, my stakeholders.  Perhaps a bit too honest sometimes. Most people I have met will admit that they always know where they stand with me – good and bad.  As I often say, “I can’t lie.”  However, this helped them know that when I gave them a compliment, I was being genuine.  They also knew if I provided correcting feedback that I had their best interests at heart and wanted them to grow from the experience, not be punished.  I honestly want everyone to succeed (hence my mission to inspire and enable people to realize their goals).  As if you couldn’t already tell, I value honesty and I am comfortable with the potential vulnerability it creates.  I believe that being honest with myself and others allows me to learn and become a better person to serve my family, friends and colleagues.

4. Trust is then gained

I believe it is easy to trust someone when they work hard, you respect them and they are honest all the time.  However, what if you just met someone. Do you know if they are telling the truth?  Can you trust them?  Are you the type of person that needs to wait for proof before you trust?  Or can you trust them until they prove otherwise?

Years ago, I learned you have a choice; trust until someone crosses you or doubt until someone proves that they are worthy of your trust.  I was part of a team building event with a consulting group, S3 Consulting Solutions.  The lead consultant, Steve educated us on this concept of how different people approach life, relationships, decisions, etc.  Nirvana is when everyone can trust that people are coming from a good place.  I chose to be an optimist and trust people first.  This is a core tenant when I am building a team.  This pairs well with my philosophy of believing that no one wakes up with bad intent (check out my prior blog on this topic).  If you can believe that people are inherently good and mean well, then taking the stance to trust first can prove to quickly build a relationship that can grow stronger from there.  Therefore, as I continue to interact with people, it is not about proving whether trust can be earned, but rather ensuring that it is maintained.  “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”

Trust within a team or relationship is essential and the earlier you can establish it the better. It will eliminate cycles of ‘testing’ or ‘proving’ yourself.  Working from a state of trust, you can speak openly and drive productivity rather than assigning blame.  Steve and team also taught us that it is best to quickly call someone out if you feel that they betrayed your trust, if they did not live up to an agreement.  Rather than reverting to doubt or skepticism, you walk a mile in their moccasins, better understand their intent and remain at a level of trust to move forward.

I have learned that a weakness of mine is not working well with people that come from an initial state of distrust.  Have you ever worked with someone that often second guessed you?  Needed to have the data to back up your statements?  Questioned everything?  To me, that is exhausting.  Because I come from a state of trust first, I struggle to understand where they are coming from. I have since been working to appreciate why someone comes from that place of fear or distrust and do my best to provide them the information and evidence they need to be able to trust.  I am working hard to not take it personally, by walking a mile in their moccasins and appreciating what they need.

5. Loyalty is returned

Just as I felt that we needed to add hard work at the beginning to start a path towards respect, I believe another element critical to building loyalty is being able to articulate the WHY.  When you can share your passion, your vision, your belief system, your values which make up WHY you are doing something, it helps people understand the underlying rationale.  People inherently want to believe in something.  They want to believe in you.  By explaining WHY you are doing it allows people to trust.  It will even help people overlook a mistake, trust even though there is no evidence to support a decision, or accept a gut feel.  When someone can understand WHY you are doing something, trust your intentions, believe you are always honest, and respect your hard work you have laid the foundation of loyalty.

This is why loyalty can take time.  Loyalty will not be returned based upon words alone.  Continuous actions, supporting those words is what builds loyalty.  I believe actions often undercut a person or company’s desire to create a loyal relationship.  If you say honesty is a core principle, but then reward someone for lying, people will quickly know these are only words.  If you tell your child that it is important to always be on time, and then you show up late for soccer practice, it is your actions that will be remembered.

What is the value of loyalty?

My father has another phrase he would say often that sticks in my head, “One ‘aw s**t’ wipes away all the ‘atta boys’.”  I believe that loyalty is when the ‘atta boys’ can override any ‘aw s**t’ that may happen.  There is nothing better than being in a loyal relationship, which is a two-way street.  When trust is in abundance you can spend your time looking forward and making things happen. Otherwise, you spend your time living in fear, waiting for the other shoe to drop, refusing to be open and vulnerable, trying to grab your share before someone else and overall being miserable.  My goal is loyalty all around.

May this inspire you to be loyal to your friends, family and colleagues and receive that loyalty in return.

Loyalty and friendship, which is to me the same, created all the wealth that I’ve ever thought I’d have. – Ernie Banks

A book that continues to inspire

Do you have a book that you read a number of years ago that has stuck with you?  Do you remember the name?  The story? Or, maybe just the feeling you get when you think of the book? For me, it was a book I read over 10 years ago (thank goodness for the old boarding pass bookmark to remind me of the trip).  This is one of the rare books I have packed and unpacked over the years.  Something clicked and I decided that it would be worth my time to re-read it.  This is the first time I have ever re-read a book and what an experience!

The CEO and the Monk by Robert Catell and Kenny Moore with Glenn Rifkin

This book describes the unlikely partnership of a savvy CEO and a former monk who led their company to the top even while embracing a higher set of business standards.  It examines KeySpan’s success from the perspective of Robert Catell and Kenny Moore, who formed an unusual but potent relationship that enabled the company’s rise from a small local utility monopoly to one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing energy providers. It has done so by adopting the values of the community it serves and espousing a management philosophy that brought caring and a sense of soul into the workplace.  The results not only improved the bottom line, but forged a corporate culture with meaning.

I wish I could remember why I bought this book.  Did someone recommend it to me? Was it a top seller?  Was it because it was based upon a New York company?  I don’t remember now. However, I do remember the story.  A CEO that cared about the employees and the company.  A company that was loyal to his employees and customers.  Even back then, I felt that this was unique.  The part that I loved is that the CEO came to rely on Kenny, the ex-monk to help him keep a pulse on the soul of the company, the people.  Kenny was the trusted advisor.  He was empathetic.  He would listen to what people were saying. He would put together programs to thank the employees and encourage the CEO to meet with as many employees as possible.  Kenny ensured that the CEO was not stuck up in the Ivory Tower of management.

Reading the book this time, it makes complete sense why I love the book so much.  I resonate with the monk’s role.  I love being the cheerleader, inspiring the team, but also listening and understanding what motivates them.  My dream job would be that monk’s job.  Be the trusted advisor to the CEO to help him/her to inspire and enable the team to see the vision and enjoy the journey.

 Company Loyalty

However, reading it this time, it struck another cord.  The values that the CEO and monk talk about within a corporation are the same values that I try to live by and those that I crave in any company with which I work  We spend nearly 1/3 of our time at work and most of us treat it as a job, a place to earn money.  Unfortunately, we do not tend to be loyal to the company because the overwhelming feeling is that there is no loyalty returned to us.

Back in my dad’s business heyday, there was loyalty in the business place.  Companies were loyal to their employees and in return the employees were loyal to their companies.  Same with customers – the loyalty flowed both ways.  I believe focused on what was right, rather than what was best for the bottom line.  Companies had a purpose, they knew why they were in business and usually it was tied to the local communities.

Unfortunately, as companies grew, the economy faltered and/or improved efficiencies became priority, the loyalty seemed to fade.   I recall by the time I graduated from college, I already knew my first job would be a stepping stone to the next.  I started with 120 first year employees at Ernst & Young and it was a known fact that less than 20% would remain after 5 years.  However, this was not unique to public accounting firms, it was a common conversation among my friends in various industries that it was important to get our foot in the door, get our experience and move on to get the raises.  By this time pensions were nearly non-existent.  I recall my dad questioning a person’s stability, 3 jobs in less than 2 years?!?  My response, exasperated, ‘Dad, that is the new way of business. Time’s have changed.  Make the move first or you will be moved out.’

I admit it, I was part of the evolving generation.  As a family, we personally learned that despite loyalty dedicated to a company, it may not be reciprocated.  I didn’t believe a company could have a soul. The best you could hope for were good people with good intent and good values. I have been very fortunate over the years to have worked with some amazing people in my career.  It was from my peers and my leaders that I would get the guidance and support I needed to succeed, not the company.

As I think back, there was one company I worked for, a small software company, that provided the best experience.  I ponder whether it was the company itself, or the founder who created the loyalty.  I was employee #61 and the president and his wife knew all our names.  We were invited over for dinner.  He supported my move to England and he encouraged me to make the most of my time there.  I recall him asking, “Kathy, what countries will you visit? You have 52 weekends, that is 52 countries you can visit!’.  Every employee knew why we were working for the firm, we believed in the mission and there was a tremendous amount of loyalty in both directions.  Now, that was a smaller company and I think it is easier to have that passion; that connection with your employees. It gets more difficult as the business grows and you cannot physically know every employee on a personal level.  Does the company lose its soul at that point?

 Difficult, but not impossible

Hence why I loved this book.  It was the first time I had heard of a corporation taking the time to grapple with this dilemma.  This book taught me that just because you get big, it does not mean you must lose that personal connection. As a leader, it is that much more important to recognize the need for that connection and find innovative ways to make it happen, like hiring an ex-monk.

The CEO had a vision, a purpose for the company.  He cared about the community and the employees and refused to succumb to the growing greed in Corporate America.  I loved that he recognized that he needed a ‘spiritual’ leader for the organization.  He knew that he did not have the bandwidth to spend the time needed with individuals, but that it was critical to listen to the employees.  Enter the ex-monk.  He listened, he observed, he walked a mile in the teams’ moccasins.  He could then package his findings and share them with the CEO to make suggestions for improvements.  I guess some of his quirky ideas in the book, like having a ‘funeral’ to mourn the old way of doing business, or sending Valentine Day cards, or hiring an Improv comedian have inspired me over the years.  For those that know me, I have been known to adopt a mascot, Eddie, to build teamwork, as well as adopt a team motto to prepare for battle.

 Cause and Effect

I don’t know which is cause and effect.  Did I love this book because I am a loyal person and I want to see more empathy in the work place, thus my mission to inspire and enable others?  Or, did my mission and my desire to drive more loyalty back into the workplace start to develop because I read this book?

One thing I know for sure, there was a seed somewhere.  You remember the things that you are passionate about.  I am so excited that I re-read this book, because so many ideas that I am forming related to conscious capitalism, empathy in the workplace, striving to partner with a business leader to help them drive employee engagement/loyalty, have all taken on a greater meaning.  It is building on a foundation that was set a number of years ago.

I encourage you to think back to that book that inspired you years ago and re-read it.  You may be surprised that it either re-awakens a dream or desire or reaffirms a core set of beliefs that could use some polishing.

Thanks to this book, this is being added to my positive self-talk track going forward:

“Doing the right thing, being socially responsible, and holding tightly to a core set of values about how to do business and how to treat people will never go out of fashion.” – Robert Catell, CEO of Keyspan, from The CEO and the Monk

Reprogramming your belief system

The Time Off To-Do List

How many of you have that list of things you have always wanted (or needed) to do, but for some reason you never seem to get to it?  If only I had time. I would read books. Finally take a yoga class. Meditate. Spend more time with my family.  Lose weight, oh yeah, that has been on the list for a long time.  When I left my job I thought, well, this is going to be easy now, I have the time. I wrote out a to-do list for my time off.  I went so far as writing everything down. 1 – babysit our new nephew, 2 – lunch at my friend’s burger joint, Joy Burger, 3 – put together the Italy photobook, 4 – redo my resume, 5 – yoga, 6 – mediate, 7 – read a book, and the list went on.  112 items to be exact.

Some items were easy, practical and with a little effort they were checked off the list. I successfully cut our cable bill in half, I sorted out all the medical EOBs (bonus, refund secured). Casino with parents; check, check. I was getting things done!

I was excelling on #7 – read a book.  I got engrossed in reading, listening to podcasts and my first audible book.  Since I knew I was on a journey to discover and define myself, it is not a coincidence that most of my reading/listening has been either self-help or business related.  I became a junky, listening to podcasts while walking to an appointment, stealing 30 minutes at lunch to read or doing sit-ups while listening to a book.  I’ll be honest, these books were motivating for me. Each one with a different impact on my life. (cue the series of blogs to come).

In nearly every inspirational book, entrepreneurial success story, leadership podcast, there are always 2 underlying themes. First, it’s important to understand what makes you happy, what drives you and ultimately where you want to go. Visualize the end goal.  Second, it doesn’t happen by itself.  You must take care of yourself; invest in your future to ensure it happens.

 Motivated but still not ticking items off the list

So, I was motivated, but why was I still not eating right?  The hairy, emotional, complicated items were still sitting out there.  Despite all this freedom, why could I not find the time to learn some yoga moves? Why wasn’t my resume perfected?   It finally dawned on me that my belief system was a bit out of whack.  There was some sort of fear or negative self-talk that was sitting out there, sabotaging me.  I had to change my talk track, I had to reprogram my thinking.

Typically, a good song would become my mantra to drive me into action like, I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor

Did you think I’d crumble?
Did you think I’d lay down and die?
Oh, no, not I!
I will survive.
Oh, as long as I know how to love I know I’ll stay alive.
I’ve got all my life to live.
I’ve got all my love to give.
And I’ll survive,
I will survive.

However, this helped when I had suffered a setback.  I was in a good place right now.  I didn’t need to pull up my bootstraps.  I just had to go from good to great. What was holding me back from being a better person?  The items sitting out there on the to-do list – meditation, yoga, etc.  were things that would make me feel healthier, relax, find peace and take time to dream.  So, what was I afraid of? I may not have figured it all out, but I believe the crux goes back to the selfish question (See Is it OK to be Selfish blog).  I was wired to get things done. Go.go.go. Dreaming didn’t pay the bills.  I was afraid of what I would hear when I slowed down and focused inwardly.  It was time to be selfish.

Changing my talk track

I had to change my talk track. It is ok to slow down.  It is ok to take care of yourself.  It is ok to be successful.  There was a quote that Jodi Flynn would add at the end of each of her podcasts, Woman Taking the Lead, that I was religiously listening to:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. (Marianne Williamson)

I had also read the book by Hal Elrod, The Miracle Morning. His 30-day Challenge provided me the kick start I needed.  I committed to waking every morning and going through a routine called the Life SAVERS – Silence, Affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, Scribing.  Huh, amazing, these were all the things hanging out there on my to-do list.  I had to reprogram my brain.  So, I began by stating 2 paragraphs every morning (Marianne Williamson’s quote) and the following statement.

I am 100% committed to becoming the person I need to be—through daily personal development and living with daily discipline—to easily attract, create and sustain the levels of success that I truly want—and deserve—in my life.

Seven weeks later I am still practicing the SAVERS everyday. I can feel the difference.  They are now a habit that I cannot live without in my life.  Slowly I have come to believe these statements and use them to motivate me.  I don’t HAVE to exercise. I WANT to exercise. This is my gift to me.

I don’t believe in preaching that you HAVE to do this to see success. Everyone needs to figure out what kick starts them. What I do strongly believe is that positive self-talk helps propel you forward.  Negative self-talk seems to only attract that which you are putting out into the universe.

 Give it a try

For a giggle, pick something you have consistently beat yourself up about and spend some time asking yourself what you are afraid of?  Why do you think you really cannot accomplish it? (Reread Fear vs Freedom) Next, create a very positive statement of the opposite.  Repeat that positive statement every morning, out loud for a month.   See how that changes things.

I have witnessed many success stories of people that changed their talk track from negative to positive and achieved amazing things.  I am most proud of my sister, Karen who 3 years ago was hoping to simply lose a few pounds for my wedding but changed her focus and talk track – that she should/could successfully complete a Spartan Race – a mentally and physically grueling challenge.  Not only did my sister complete 1 race, but 4 spartan races.  That is guts, determination and a ton of hard work.  AROO!  (Listen to her positive talk track here)

Reprogramming your fears

I will leave you with this song that is my new anthem that gets me up and going.  May you be inspired to reprogram your fears, one wire at a time.

Fight Song by Rachel Platten

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me