Beyond the Zone

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If you want something you’ve never had, you’ll most likely have to do something you’ve never done. That’s the way it works.

Nothing great ever occurs in the comfort zone.

Great things happen because we are courageous. We decide our dreams are bigger than our fears. We bite the bullet and do something that causes a tremor in our gut and sets us squarely on the edge of fear.

We were not made to sit in our comfort zone waiting for life’s great adventures and joys to seek us out. We were made to be courageous and to step out in faith.

If you want to live an outrageously real life, get comfortable being uncomfortable. For when you step beyond your zone, you will find the life you are destined to live.

The Visible Cracks of a Digital Life

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I’m always taken a back by the bi-polar posts of many on social media. One moment you see someone posting bible verses and words of encouragement; the next is an unflattering post or comment that can best be described as a thinly-veiled attack on another.

Why are we so determined to let our inner aggressions and unresolved issues take center stage online?

I’ll be the first to admit that I, too, can be guilty of “acting without thinking,” when I carelessly use my Facebook page or Twitter account. It can be easy to fire off a quick comment that may make sense in the moment that, in hindsight, was better left unsaid. Whatever temporary satisfaction we think we are gaining is quickly overshadowed by the reality of true self’s conscience. Even the edits or quick deletes do not undo the damage of our actions.

Sadly, those “immediate gratification” remarks reveal the true color of our heart and provide a window to the cracks and pockmarks in need of repair. They show the hurt, the ignorance and the suffering of our soul. They are the tell-tale signs of an imperfect life.

Living unfiltered in today’s digital world is becoming more and more of a norm. It is not a case of right vs. wrong; it is the evidence of the amplified reach of today’s electronically social world. Like it or not, the same cracks and pockmarks so loudly evident in the everlasting reach of the Internet are not new. Those hurts, wounds and lack of knowing have long-lived in mans’ hearts and in the relationships we have with others.

What differs today is how permanent and viral our actions have become.

Judging others by their cracks is wrong. Using the one-dimensional words or actions of others to decide the status of their heart or the true emotions they feel is a sin. I pray forgiveness for all who piously decide the worthiness of another by the digital personification we have ascribed to them.

When was the last time you actually spoke to the ones you judge? That old classmate who is too afraid to share the struggles and challenges they silently battle? You know that friend, the one who carefully shares their joys and faith, yet shields the reality of the pained existence they live. Do you pick up the phone to call when you see those cracks emerge, or do you continue to judge and gossip?

Shame on all of us who hide behind the seemingly protective shield of the Internet. Whether we live a digital persona that is conflict with our inner self, or are simply too afraid to challenge our own erroneous thinking by reaching out to those – we call friends – who are clearly hurting, we are slowly eroding our civil society. It is fundamentally wrong to judge others, based on their carefully crafted-posts and the ignorant comments of others.

As we approach this season of gratitude and Thanksgiving, I pray you will look deeply at the relationships you have with others. Examine your heart for the cracks and pockmarks you are so carefully trying to hide and set about repairing them. Build real friendships and relationships with the people in your life, not the shallow and impersonal versions you will find online.

Life is ugly. It has cracks and warts. Some wounds run deep and wide. But ignoring them – sometimes out loud and poorly – will neither bring joy nor repair.

Life Moguls

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Hit the slopes of happiness loaded down by the baggage of life and I’ll lay money you will wipeout often. Life moguls, those darn obstacles we must all navigate with finesse, cannot be avoided.

Fill your pack with the weight of anger, jealousy, bitterness and the like, and your great run will be detoured often. The more you stop to judge, criticize and treat others with disrespect, the harder the descent into the valley.

Successfully navigating life’s moguls is a skill we must all learn. Just like on the ski slopes, we have to focus not on those horrible mountains before us, but on the paths in between. If all we can see is one obstacle after another, it will be a harrowing run.

Rather, when we ignore the gossip, the withheld mercy and unforgiveness others have built in our way, we can find our way to the valley.

Do not allow the moguls others have erected in your path to deter you. Those mountains are the monuments of discontent others have built; they are not yours to conquer or dismantle.

See through the moguls of life and focus on the path at your feet. In the journey to an outrageously wonderful life, nothing else matters.

Belonging Versus Fitting In

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 6.01.16 AMThere’s something really magical about you.  Yes, Y-O-U! The world really, desperately, needs that special something that only you can give. It is your uniquely special reason for being and never – ever, please! – let anyone tell you that you need to hide it. If the people you’re around cannot appreciate what makes you YOU, then you are hanging around the wrong folks.

We’ve all been in situations where we so desperately wanted to fit in. In school, we tried to dress like the popular girls so that they’d see us as one of them. We cut our hair like everyone else, listened to music we weren’t crazy about, tried to tell stories and jokes that sounded like the stories and jokes others told. But in the midst of all that, we stuffed our own self in a box. We were so desperate to fit in that it seemingly didn’t matter.

But it does matter.

We all need to have a place where not only belong, but where we truly fit in. Where we are free to display our quirky, amazing selves. Where we can laugh, sing and embrace our miraculously wonderful individualism. Where our personalities shine and we are surrounded with unconditional love and acceptance. When we are immersed in that world, we are who God intended and that sense of belonging empowers us and brings us peace and contentment.

In her book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown shares the difference between fitting in and belonging. Created by a list of eighth graders, the wisdom is profound:

  • Belonging is being somewhere you want to be, and they want you. Fitting in is being somewhere you really want to be, but they don’t care one way or the other.
  • Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else.
  • I get to be me if I belong, I have to be like you to fit in.

As parents, we must do everything we can to cultivate a home where I children feel like they belong. Where we embrace their talents – as different from ours as they may be – and celebrate their uniqueness. Yes, it is hard to set aside the hopes and dreams we’ve built in our minds to embrace the ones God has set upon our children’s hearts. But to not do so would be setting our own children aside; empathy and acceptance give them a sense of belonging.

As leaders, we build loyalty and a culture of performance when we are able to accept the talents and uniqueness of our team and peers. Everyone will bring their own brand of skills and opinions to the team; as a leader, we must ensure each is respected and heard. When the people we lead know they are respected and their individual ideas are welcome, teams will flourish. Be the leader that creates a culture of openness and mutual respect.

Not fitting in is a miserable existence. I’ve worked in jobs and had relationships where I felt like I compromised much of my sense of self to fit in. Trust me when I say the price of admission is not worth the ride. Life is too short – and the blessings available too many – to willingly accept the compromises necessary to fit in. Choosing to fit in is a conscious decision. Making the decision to find a place where you belong takes courage and bravery. But do it! For when you find that place where you truly belong, you will find the very best of yourself come alive.

The outrageously wonderful life flourishes where we know we belong. Don’t stop until you find it!

Old Dog and New Tricks

848401f3a7d5328e7676797dd0bda3cfDo it again. Do it again. Do it again…

For the past few weeks, that’s what the voice in my head has been saying. Sometimes it comes as gentle encouragement, “hey, that time was pretty good, but let’s do it one more time to get it just right” and other times, I hear “Seriously? You still can’t get it?  Come on, let’s go through it again.” Yes, this old dog has been busy trying to learn a new trick and, in the end, look like she’s been doing it forever.

Deep down, it is unrealistic. No one can put on a pair of skis for the first time and hit the slopes like Bode Miller. That’s nuts! To believe I can test drive a new skill with the finesse of a master is a silly expectation I’ve hung on myself. But come hell or high water, I am going practice, practice, practice until I get it!

I have to admit, it has been a while since I had to get serious about learning something new that really mattered. Enter a new role and new responsibilities, and I am a student once again. In the process of challenging myself to learn a new tool well enough to demo it like a pro, I’ve been humbled, enlightened and positively challenged.

The lessons that have emerged are ones I believe are worth sharing…

You Are Your Own Worse Critic. The self-imposed pressure I am putting on myself to be a master is silly. No one honestly expects me to have the same skills and finesse of others who have finely honed theirs over years of experience. Be kind to yourself and speak encouragement to yourself, for the knowledge will come.

Ask Questions. I have asked more questions, despite how silly some of them sound to me, in the last few weeks than I feel like I have ever asked in my life. I remind myself that the only stupid question is the one I am afraid to ask, so I am learning to check my ego at the door and let others share their experience and insight. In the long run, I am getting to the goal more quickly and really developing a strong sense of insight on the ways in which I can leverage and deploy the capabilities of my team in new ways.

Be Open to New Approaches. I am a skilled presenter and love to get up in front of the room and dazzle the audience. I’ve been fortunate to use this skill often and love the energy and rhythm I can bring to a meeting. My style is uniquely mine. As I interject myself into new situations, I must be open to the ways of others and give reason for them to be accepting of my ways; owning that the latter comes as others see the entirety of what I contribute. Earning the trust of others happens best when I accept their approach while I am adapting my own. The right for change comes with time and experience.

Be Hungry to Learn. As frustrating as it feels at times, I am loving the challenge learning brings. I like to push myself to try new skills and open myself up to the knowledge that awaits. I have to make it fun for myself and reward myself in simple ways as I progress along the curve. Having that inner hunger to try new things and grow is critical and must be fed.

Practice. Practice. Practice. Nothing can replace the experience that practice brings. Hour after hour, I have worked to hone and tighten my skills. I have recorded myself and others, made pages of copious notes and pushed myself toward improvement. In the end, these efforts will pay off handsomely. There is no substitute for focused practice.  None.

This old dog has lots of life left! It is exhilarating — and humbling — to know I have to start at square one and learn new skills. I am grateful for the willing instruction of others and am leaning in to absorb all I can quickly. I am giving myself permission to start at the level of being “good” and not “great,” for the latter will come with time.

In this season, I am learning in more ways than I can count. And I love it!

 

The Importance of Showing Up

presenttowinWoody Allen said “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” For those of us who have been at the game of Life for a while understand the importance of being there. Really being there.

Opportunities that come knocking at your door require you to be there to open it. You’ll never know your proverbial ship has arrived if you are spending all of your time at the airport. Life requires us to show up and be there – engaged – to seize the opportunities that are ours for the taking.

Today’s world is different and for the young men and women who are entering the world, it brings new challenges that as leaders, parents and teachers we must emulate. The immediacy of digital everything makes some of what is needed to thrive in life today a big challenge. The 24/7 availability of information and the constant barrage of communication can be our friend or our foe. Our challenge is to harness it all properly and use it to help us be focused, available and on top of the details necessary to build a successful life.

The idea of showing up can take on many forms.  Here’s a few key facets of what it means to me:

Be there  physically. It is easy today with Face Time, Skype, WebEx and the other digital communication tools to connect with friends, family and colleagues. And while no one can argue the convenience, cost-effectiveness and accessibility these tools offer, the smart folks will also agree that there are times when they simply are not appropriate. Critical moments require the human element; the touch of another human, the clarity that comes with looking someone in the eye, the body language that signals emotions and buying signals that are hard to replicate in the digital world. Know when it makes sense to be there and when literally showing up will enable you to achieve the results required.

Be there wholeheartedly. I am as guilty as the next person for allowing the modern world to barrage me with distracting messages. The constant noise that comes from texts, the television, even music, at times, stands in the way of me giving my attention completely in some conversations. I remember the uninterrupted meals, meetings and family time of a decade ago, where it was unthinkable to take a phone call in the middle of a discussion with another. The ability to listen intently and ensure the other party feels my completely and undivided attention is impossible when I am monitoring my iPhone. Learning when to turn it off, or leave it out of sight, is a skill we all need to develop.

Be there ready to go when the starting bell sounds. There is no excuse today for anyone to be late for meetings or miss appointments. A quick “Ask Suri” can ensure your alarm clock is set, your coffee pot is brewing and you are out the door –with the briefcase you reminded yourself to grab — to your scheduled commitments with a few simple commands. Regardless of how much of a Jetson-like life you seek, the reality of today’s world is that there are few surprises and not being where you said you’d be – when you said you’d be there – is inexcusable. Human kindness and courtesy dictates nothing less. Unexpected delays require, at a minimum, a quick call or text to explain the circumstance and not leave others hanging.

Be informed. I am curious by nature and find that I can get the answer to just about anything, in a matter of minutes, with a few quick Google searches. Beyond the e-commerce and instantaneous news at my fingertips, I use my search engine capabilities often for some of the most bizarre or curious of reasons. Driving over a bridge that has memorialized someone makes me want to know who they were and why the bridge has been named in their honor. An impromptu meeting with a new colleague will go better if I take a few moments to check them out on LinkedIn and see what areas of common interests we share. My blog can be strengthened by a search on a quote or idea that can help me unearth materials and ideas that enable me to better communicate my ideas with you. When I show up — in print, in person or wherever — I always try to take the time to do a little research and be informed. The dividends are measurable!

Showing up is more than occupying a chair or dialing into a conference call.  It is being an active participant, an active listener and someone who comes ready with ideas, knowledge and a willingness to participate.

And when you really show up, success is sure to follow.

 

 

Finding Hope in the Randomness of Life

 

 

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A pretty darn good list I cannot help but share. The message, of course, is that all around us there is beauty, opportunity, hidden diamonds and bright tomorrows awaiting to be discovered. We must only cling to faith, hope and never stop believing in love.

The Winning Power of Positive Thinking

arcade-claw-2We blew off a little steam yesterday at Dave & Busters. My daughter wanted to go have some silly fun and we added a few hours of arcade games to our long list of Saturday errands.

I’m not much of an arcade aficionado. Since the beginning, my parents instilled into me the importance of a dollar and I have never quite been able to reconcile the idea of blowing $75 on tokens to win enough tickets to buy a $10 prize. That said, the entertainment value of the “midway” is likely worth the investment and as I watch my daughter have fun, I know it is money well spent.

So, while my husband and daughter battled out an extended gun battle with zombies, I found myself utterly fascinated by the activities taking place at the “claw” machine a few feet away.  A line of young boys were anxiously awaiting their turn to drop the claw into the prize pit and score a big prize. As expected, the machine was loaded with precariously placed stuffed animals, basketballs and the occasional iPad. Time after time, they dropped their tokens into the machine and tried to drop the claw at just the perfect spot to score a winner. No one was winning.

Out of seemingly nowhere, a pint-sized little guy stepped up to take his turn. He was so little, he had to jump up to look over the machine’s decorative edge to peer inside. Clearly, there was something in there he wanted and he took several good looks over the side before positioning himself in front of the controls.

As he dropped his token into the machine and took hold of the joystick, I heard him repeat over and over “Be the Ball…Be the Ball…Be the Ball.” The claw left its perch and with steeled focus, he continued his quiet mantra with fervor. The 45-second timer on the machine counted down as he positioned the claw in the exact spot over his target. “Be the Ball…Be the Ball” continued.  All at once, he dropped the claw and held firm; the words continued. As the claw emerged from below, clenched firmly in its arms was a brightly decorated basketball.  I wanted to cheer! He had his prize!

As he walked away, I heard the older kids who were watching him go silent. The could not believe what they had just witnessed. I wanted to go grab the little winner and give him a high-five! He totally owned his outcome with the power of his positive self-talk and focus.

How many times do you go into situations convincing yourself you will win? Do you fuel your outcomes with the positive thoughts and affirmations that will guide you to victory? Or, do you let your mind convince you that you will lose before you take even the first step?

Don’t let negative thoughts stand in your way. Learn the lessons from the little arcade master that I saw in action:

1. Focus on your goal.  When you know what you want, and are ready to “go for it,” don’t let anything stand in your way. My little clawmaster took several looks into that pile of prizes and knew exactly where he needed to aim his efforts.

2. Ignore the distractions around you. I’m sure that little guy didn’t even notice – or pay attention – to the bigger kids all around him as he worked the joystick to guide the claw toward his prize. The fact that they had all tried repeatedly to win, unsuccessfully, did not deter him. He knew what he needed to do and tuned out the chaos and noise all around as he stepped up to take his turn.

3. Talk positively to yourself.  Each time he muttered the words, “Be the Ball” under his breath, I could feel his energy and resolve. He was his own cheerleader, quietly cheering himself with each step toward the goal.

4. Visualize success. While I don’t know what was going through that little guy’s mind, but I was convinced that the claw would emerge up from the pit with a ball in its clutch. Just watching him focus and listening to his words caused me to will that unseen ball to be his prize. I can only imagine that he saw it even more clearly as he pictured his success.

Positive thinking is powerful thinking. Some will scoff and dismiss the benefits as nonsense. I beg to differ. Talking kindly to me and seeing myself in the situation I want to be in only fuels my resolve toward a successful outcome. Talk kindly to yourself as you grab the joystick on your life. You are the one in control and the words you tell yourself, and the focus you give to the game, will only increase the prizes you clutch in the claw.  

In the words of my little muse, “Be the Ball.”

 

Let Them See You Glisten

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Remember that old Dry Idea commercial that used the likes or Carol Burnett and Lauren Hutton to deliver their tag line: “Never Let Them See You Sweat?” The advice was to be on your game, be smart, be charming, but – no matter what! – never let the boys see you sweat. I say bull-cocky! Let them see you glisten!

What’s wrong with a little sweat?  Hard work.  Passion.  A contagious fervor of motivation that fuels you through the most challenging of days.  In my world, I say

Let them see you glisten with the passion of your heart!

There is nothing wrong in today’s world with letting your clients, your colleagues and your team see your passion at work!  The sweat of a committed leader is inspiring and pushes everyone to work harder to give their very best! In the purest sense of the word, a little sweat is your body’s way of self-cooling.  In the heat of the moment, a little perspiration can be your best friend – just ask any athlete who pushes him/herself to the brink! That moment of near-breaking turns adversity into opportunity.

The idea of not sweating the pressure you are under is akin to the term “effortless perfection” that was coined in a landmark Duke University study in 2002.  The constant pressure felt by college women to be “smart, accomplished, fit, beautiful and popular,” all without “visible effort.” The price of such a lofty goal, however, has far-reaching (and sometimes devastating) consequences. And here’s the truth: effortless perfection just isn’t real.

Being able to let your team see you sweat the appropriately challenging opportunities and tasks that come your way make you an approachable leader. Someone so confident in his/her ability that you aren’t afraid to share the stress of the big deals. You let others see your passion, your determination and your willingness to push through and win.

To the average team member, that is inspiring and brings people along to root with you, roll up their sleeves along side of you and work together to win. What could be  better than that?