Archives-Thoughtful Thursdays

Dec 2018

 Canada:  Opportunity's Home

As another year comes to a close there are a million thoughts racing through my mind.  Living in close proximity to the United States it would be extremely easy to get caught up in their narrative of divisiveness and greatness.   They are our  wealthy relatives.  You know the ones who show up during the holidays in their new car and lavish expensive gifts on everyone.  They try to mesmerize everyone with their stories of greatness and what a wonderful life they live.  But as we set our table it's not the size or splendour of the setting that brings us joy,  it's the closeness of the people who sit around it. 






A Canadian Story


 I have always felt extremely lucky to have been born in Canada.   In September 1959 I was born to a young girl who was not equipped to be a mother.  At that moment in my life there was great uncertainty about my future.  What would become of me? There were all sorts of things stacked against me, however, there was a beacon of hope.  I was born in Canada. 


 In 1959, Canada already had excellent adoption programs to ensure the health and welfare of it's most vulnerable citizens.  Through such a program I found my parents and the beginning of a lifelong love story.  I often thought my family life very much like the Canadian way of life.  We were not the richest, nor did we need to flaunt what we had.  Instead, we invited everyone in to share.   At times that might have meant thinning out the stew so it stretched a little further but everyone's belly was full.   



Canadian Values


While no country is perfect there are some values that should be non negotiable.   In Canada it means supporting our youth by giving them an opportunity to live a life as good as, or better than the generations that came before them.  That means fair wages, a clean environment, equal opportunity and accessible health care.  It also speaks to the way we live those values, through a sense of tolerance, diversity and inclusiveness.   It is with this mindset that we create opportunity for those born in this country and those individuals seeking a country to call home.   


 With Arms Wide Open


So how do we embrace the new year? Hopefully with arms wide open to the vast opportunities that each of us have at our disposal.  So let's think of 2018 as the year of opportunity in Canada.  Each of us has been given the opportunity to create amazing change in our world.   When we look around the corner and see our future how can we create new opportunities?  Let's use our unique gifts to expand our reach to the most vulnerable.   Our most vulnerable don't always have a strong voice.  It would be easy to turn away and focus our attention on the strength of the majority but that's not the Canadian way.  When we face the challenges of an aging population, new immigrants, safe communities and global unrest we need to discover new opportunities to support each other.   It's not easy to do, but definitely not insurmountable.     This is my greatest hope for 2018, not to make anything "Great" but to create a culture of opportunity for everyone.  





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Nov 9, 2017

 The Legacy of Silence


 2017 has been a very difficult year to find the silver lining amidst the storm clouds that constantly loom over our horizon.  As a writer it presents a very different challenge particularly when your company is centred around "Positive Solutions".   Lately however, I have seen a call to action that has gripped the world.  Women from all walks of life are finally speaking out about the harassment they have faced in the workplace. 






We've Worn Blinders Too Long


Having spent part of my career as a union representative and later in management I was often privy to the closed door conversations that "others shouldn't hear".  Incidents where employees were devastated by a manager's relentless bullying, even situations where co-workers alienated a member of their team because they were different.    If you could imagine it, I likely heard it.  What most people didn't hear was a level of accountability when bad behaviour happened.  Instead, someone would say sorry, take a course and all would be swept under the carpet until it happened again.  




You're Making a Mountain Out of A Mole Hill


The worst situations occurred with serial offenders who would make small repeated actions towards another individual.  In isolation, it never appeared bad, however, to the person on the receiving end it was like being sliced and diced with meticulous precision, over and over with an inability to heal.   These were the bullies, or harassers that flew under the radar.  Nothing ever went into their personnel files.   Of course, there was always someone who knew.  As a union rep, I knew the numerous incidents that involved the same individual, just as the HR manager knew.   While I would request transfers for employees for their safety and mental health, I was advised I was "Making a Mountain out of a Mole Hill".    This inaction is what has contributed to a legacy of bullying and harassment that has filled our workplaces. 


 Silent No More


 This past week I heard some news about a former peer who was being promoted in the organization.  This was an individual who had methodically sliced and diced numerous people in the organization under the guise of performance management and righting all the neglected wrongs she came across.   Unfortunately, this individual also demonstrated a dangerous personality type that lured people in via friendship then used that to demoralize them.    We should be aware of leaders who find a path to the top by stepping on the lifeless employees they have broken along the way.      But what if these leaders were part of those closed door conversations where only a few people knew the truth?   On first glance they appear charismatic,  a team player, focused on doing their best.   This is the person we want to believe we see when we don't know better.   Unfortunately, our past silences just perpetuate the culture of bullying.   This week I spoke up and broke the silence.   I have nothing to gain personally or professionally from this action except gaining a sense of solidarity with everyone who has been speaking up.   The times are changing and it's time we all used our voices.  It doesn't matter if it was a man or woman who harassed or bullied we need to take a part in making it stop.   .   





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Sep 7, 2017

 Going Home


Over the last several weeks we have witnessed a barrage of natural disasters that have left countless people homeless.   Close to home, over 6000 homes experienced extensive damage due to flooding during the same time the Southern United States saw the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  

In each case, we are shaken to our core as that place we call home is unavailable or completely gone






Staggering Statistics


In 2016 over 24 million people were displaced as a result of natural disasters.  That means that every second of everyday someone is displaced in our world.   I can't begin to imagine what that experience would be like.   For me, home is the place where I am free to be me.  I feel safe and protected in a way that is different from anywhere else I might find myself.  


Rebuilding Our Centre


I read an article about a man in Oakland California that reclaims building materials and turns them into portable shelters for the homeless.  The article went on to describe how a homeless woman felt when she was able to lock her door and safely rest in her shelter.  It is something that we all deserve.   So this week, think about how you might be able to contribute to making someone feel safe.  It might be making a donation to the many organizations sending aid to the hurricane victims.  It might be helping a neighbour or friend who is still cleaning up after a flood.   It might mean building a portable shelter for someone who needs it most or it might mean opening your door to someone in need.   Whatever it means there is an opportunity to assist someone in feeling safe.   At the end of a long day it's everyone's right to say "It's good to be home".    



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June 1, 2017

 Great Expectations


Today I  found myself contemplating the relationship between Grade 3 EQAO testing and the job requirements listed for a Human Resource Manager.   What struck me was that both put enormous expectations on individuals with 5 years experience.   In the case of a Grade 3 student they are finishing up their 5th year as students.   To mark this milestone we subject these students to a full week of testing on math and language arts.  At  the other end of the spectrum, the job requirements for the Human Resource Manager with 5 years experience listed almost every conceivable HR function in the field, something that only a seasoned professional would likely have experienced in an entire career in HR. 






Give Them Time To Be Broken In..... Don't Break Them.


 Standardized testing may have had a purpose in the past but I'm not sure what the value of the collected data does for today's students.  I like to think that any competent teacher worthy of their title should accurately be able to evaluate a student against a standard criteria.   Instead of putting young students through a barrage of additional testing why aren't we putting more time into evaluating teachers, their student evaluations and continued development.   If we did random audits of teacher's testing, marks and performance we should be able to identify areas of development.  

 We also owe it to new hires to be a little more realistic about job requirements.   In many cases job requirements are written based on a level of mastery of a particular discipline.   On average mastery takes 7 years to achieve and is specific to a particular skill or competency.   We need to define the level of expertise that we are looking for when seeking candidates. 


 Capacity and Desire..... So Often Overlooked

 Teachers will often describe their favourite students as those individuals who work hard.   They have a genuine desire to learn.  When they see that in a student something special happens.   We can also see it in the work world.  If we are looking for someone fully equipped  we might miss the candidate that is a keen learner and has the capacity and desire to master whatever comes their way.

 How exciting it is to watch someone develop into a strong performer.  Employers don't become 'Top 100 Employers' by hiring fully competent employees, they become a top employer by knowing how to develop their employees.  

Young students don't learn from taking standardized tests, they learn by being taught.   I will finish this week's article with a quote from a young teacher I know quite well.  She shared with me a statement made by one of her grade 3 students. "Mrs B.  I don't like EQAO testing."  The Teacher replied.  "neither do I,  I love to teach and for a whole week I don't get that chance".   



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May 25, 2017

 Coming Up For Air


For the past several months I have been immersed in research for my next book.   Whenever I dive into a subject I end up going deeper and deeper looking for hidden treasures of information.   In a way, I become like a deep sea diver that has stretched themselves to the limits of their equipment hovering well below the surface for a prolonged period.   Of course, I can't stay in the deep for too long as I need to resurface occasionally. 






 Depressurizing


 Decompression sickness or Caisson's Disease, as it was originally called, occurs when a diver goes deep into the water and upon ascent bubbled gases form in the tissue.   This condition was very prevalent at the end of the 19th century during bridge building when compression divers built the caissons for famous bridges such as the Brooklyn Bridge.  

 Today modern science provides divers with the necessary charts outlining how long they should stay at a particular depth and how long they should take to return to the surface.   Unfortunately such a chart doesn't exist when one finds themselves deeply immersed in a project or activity.   At some point we all need to return to our normal routines in a way where we are fully effective.



 Letting Go Of The Treasure


 There is a comfort when you are alone in the silence of deep thought and introspection.  It allows you to reshape ideas and concepts in a way that doesn't always happen when you are in 'regular' mode.  It might also significantly change you depending on what you've discovered.  When you are alone with your thoughts there is an insulation from the opinions of others.  The challenge emerges when you share your treasure with the world around you.  Whenever you do something that goes beyond personal gain you tap into a greater purpose.  For me that purpose is to use my words to positively impact my family, community and world.  So this week, I will slowly ascent to the surface and once again start sharing my words with those around me.  In the process, I hope to provide, insight, humour and something positive for the world around me. 






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March 10, 2017

 The Winds of Change


Yesterday, Southwestern Ontario was hit with gusting winds up to 100km/hr.   This wasn't just an hour of intense weather it lasted over 8 hours.   I couldn't help but think how fitting that "Mother Nature"  was making a big statement on International Women's Day.   Perhaps these winds meant change was coming?






 What Blew Away


 A pessimist experiencing yesterday's wind might focus on the damage it caused, but I'd like to propose an alternate perspective.  Since yesterday was garbage day and recycle day in my neighbourhood, the first thing the wind took care of was the garbage.  It just blew away completely out of sight.  What if the first thing we achieve for women is to blow away the garbage.  Think about the patriarchal laws and behaviours that have become a garbage in our world.  The garbage that doesn't give women the same rights as men.    The next thing to blow away was the recycled items.  While it's great to recycle for our environment, women have lived for too long in a society where men try to recycle a model of the world that no longer fits.   We aren't living in the 50's of our parent's world, we're living in the 21st century.   


 Starting Fresh


 What is always comforting is the calm after the storm.   This morning as I look around there's a peacefulness and resolve to start over.  For women, every day is an opportunity to step forward.   International Women's Day blew in with a mighty force yesterday but we need to call upon our individual resolve every day to make a difference.   Mother Nature has cleared a path for us as only she can do.  It's up to us to continue to march on.   That might mean something different for everyone, a letter to your elected representative,  a story read to a child, marching shoulder to shoulder with other women or writing an article that causes someone to take pause.  


 It's A Movement, Not A Fight

 

 I've always preferred the phrase Women's Movement.  When I hear it, I can't help but think about something propelling us forward.  The words "fight and war" are masculine and feed their spirit, not mine.  There is a divine grace in the female spirit that should be cherished.  It shows up in the laughter among women, the embrace of a friend and the hope that builds bridges not walls.  So today, the day after International Women's Day, ask yourself if you have felt the wind.  


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March 2, 2017

 When I'm 64


 The Beatles recorded a song in 1967 called "When I'm 64".  It was written many years prior by Paul McCartney and released when his father turned 64.   One of the most famous lines in the song goes "Will you still be sending me a valentine, birthday greeting, bottle of wine?"  I suppose 50 years ago 64 seemed pretty old.   Right now, being a few years shy of that age myself, I'd like to think I'm just a kid.  In fact, today my mother celebrates her 89th birthday and I'm sure she looks at any 64 year old as a young "whippersnapper".     






Changing The Lyrics


 So if we paid homage to someone at 64 today, how might we change the lyrics?  Consider this option. 


It's not getting older  that did in my hair

I shaved it off myself

Wanted to look tougher so I got me some ink

a full arm sleeve before I even blinked


My wife's still at work but if she's home before 8

we'll share a nice merlot

I'll tell her I love her

and she'll soon discover

Some magic at 64



 It's All Relative


Relatively speaking, 64 is the new 40.   We are all living longer and in better health than any generation before us.  Gone are the days when 64 meant the best years of our lives are over.   I'd like to think the 25 years my mom has lived between 64 and 89 have been some of her best.  


Just Live


 In the brilliant words of my mother who when asked, how she stays so vibrant simply replies, "oh I don't know , I just try to take care of myself and keep moving."   There's no secret recipe or magic pill to take.  There's just a great outlook that keeps her thankful for every day that she inhabits this world.  That's pretty outstanding. 


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February 23, 2017

Depth Perception


 The clinical definition of depth perception is the ability to judge the distance of objects and the spatial relationships of objects at different distances.   In layperson's terms, it's our ability to see in three dimension.   In my neighbourhood there is a consistency in the size of buildings relative to lot size that makes depth perception fairly easy particularly when estimating size and distance.  This isn't always the case when I go elsewhere.   I remember one of the first times I went to  Las Vegas and thought about walking down the strip.   When I asked directions to a particular hotel someone would generally point at the building and say it was just a couple blocks away.  Of course, my concept of a few blocks is much different than in Vegas.   Everything is so much larger there, that although things appear to be close, they are quite a distance away.   My depth perception was definitely skewed.   






Beyond Surface Exploring


 I've also discovered that there is a different type of depth perception that inhabits our lives.  It's our  often overlooked desire to seek a deeper understanding about ourselves.   It's easy to become a surface explorer that focuses energy on the past and the future without taking a deep dive into the present.   When this happens we might not give ourselves the time or attention that the present moment deserves.    Surface exploring takes away our opportunity to become aware of who we are.  We shift our focus to the past where we judge our choices as if we have the power to change them.  When we're not doing that, we look to the future demanding better, sometimes fearing that the worst case scenario will strangle the life out of us.


Exploring Our Depths 


 Living in the moment is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves.  It is a space without judgment or fear.  If I am really present in the moment my full attention allows me to explore new depths.  Think about a time when you were so absorbed in what you were doing that you lost all track of time.  It was likely a time when you weren't focused on creating a means to an end.  There wasn't a motivator like money, prestige, power or winning driving your actions.  You were doing something that brought you fully alive.  That's the type of depth perception that becomes priceless in our lives.  Getting there just takes a bit of practice and a reminder that right now is the most important moment of all.  

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February 16, 2017

 Beyond 300


The other day as I was working on a separate project I came to the realization that I had just published my 300th article on this website.  Cumulatively that is well over 100,000 words spanning 3.5 years.    If I had to guess what the common themes were throughout these articles I would no doubt find the word 'journey'.   Several years ago as I was doing an exercise around my 'niche market' I was tasked to review my website and determine who I was targeting.   When I read my past articles I quickly discovered that a lot of them were written to me chronicling my journey. 






Messages To Myself


 Perhaps the truest message we can provide is the one we share with ourselves.  I also realize, that my journey has many parallels to the people I encounter in my work life.   While it is easy to believe we are alone in so many situations, the reality is that we mostly have common needs.  The need to be safe, to provide for ourselves and our family, to feel our value, and to do meaningful work.   These are the threads that bind us together.  


  Just Like The Spartans


Since I am fond of quoting movies and songs in these articles I will use a quote from the movie '300'  "The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do".   Along our individual journeys we will face the naysayers that want to keep us in line.  These might be well intentioned individuals who believe some risks are not worth the reward.   We might even be the loudest cheerleader shouting that message in an attempt to convince ourselves to step carefully.   But like the Spartans doing the impossible creates heroes.  I hope some of these articles inspired you to do something you didn't believe possible.  Sometimes, it's the smallest achievements that make us feel invincible. 


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February 9, 2017

 Roll Out The Red Carpet


 From January through March each year, the public gets a bird's eye view of the rich and famous during entertainment's award season.  Starting with the Golden Globes, each weekend we get to see our favourite stars on display in their most dazzling outfits.  It's a time when everyone looks their best.  What we see as they walk down the red carpet is the culmination of waxing, fasting, padding, scrunching, spandex, fish wire, double sided tape and glitter.  No wonder we're in awe. 






Being At Your Best


 What I enjoy most about the awards is when the underdog wins.   We see the winner weave their way to the stage from a remote seat in the back of the audience, certainly wearing their Sunday best but paling in look to the frontrunners near the stage.    These are the individuals who put their best into their work and let it speak for itself.  Often they are so humbled by the award that they have a difficult time finding the words to thank everyone.  They may not be the best dressed but they have excelled at what matters and were recognized by their peers. 


 Don't Just Look The Part


It can become easy to just dress the part of success and forget the work that goes into making success.  Sometimes we need to create the substance that becomes the foundation.   That means putting in the hard work, time and commitment.  Anything else is like wearing a costume that might malfunction at any moment and leave you exposed for the fraud that you are.  So as you watch the awards over the next few weeks remember it's everything that happened leading up to that moment that really matters.  The awards are just an extra pat on the back wrapped in gold leaf and shined up.  What leaves an indelible mark in our memory is the work.


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February 2, 2017

 The Wisest Words


 I read a phrase the other day that literally jumped off the page, "This too shall pass".  The author used this phrase to talk about the emotions that we feel in the best of times and in the worst of times.  As we're experiencing them it can seem impossible that they will ever fade or disappear from the grip they have on our lives.  We soar with the joy and plummet with the grief that infiltrates our world when these emotions hold us hostage.






Socks In The Dryer


 Emotions are like the socks we find in the bottom of the dryer.  Without fabric softener, they cling to each other, oftentimes requiring effort to separate them.  Throughout our lives we experience a catalogue of emotions.  If we're lucky we're able to take the painful ones and tuck them away in the back of our sock drawer.   Some, we wear like a good luck charm afraid to take them off for fear they won't fit the same in the future.   Like a mother's advice to put on clean underwear everyday so too should we refresh our emotions. 


 It's Okay To Feel


The moments that trigger emotions are snippets of time.  It's up to us to remember that the pain that comes from feeling certain emotions comes from our agreement to allow them to persist.  It's easy to stay angry if we're not open to feeling a different emotion.   As a mature woman, I've discovered that much of my youthful anger has been replaced with outrage.  If I had simply held on to anger the outrage I feel about inequities in the world would not spur me to constructive action.  Sometimes sadness is the sock that's too tight and cuts off the circulation in our leg restricting our mobility.  How healthy would it be to remove that sock and replace it with something else.   




Where You Lead I Will Follow


 As emotional beings we are unique in the universe.  Being self aware of the emotions we experience greatly impacts our interpersonal relationships, our decision making and how we handle stress.  It's important that we build a usable catalogue of emotions as we experience them.  When we keep experiencing the same emotions we stifle how we interact with the world.  Sometimes we have to look at the subtle differences in our emotions.  Consider the subtle difference between anger and outrage.  If we are only experiencing anger then we might lack the motivation to take action that usually accompanies outrage.  The key is to find an emotion you get stuck in and move slowly away from it each day.  The subtle changes will have a huge impact in how you view the world.  Watch what happens to you.  How did you experience the day?  What about the people you interacted with, and the decisions you made?  Maybe these slight shifts will change your perception and allow you to see things completely different.  After all, a change of perspective might just be a change of socks away. 




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January 19, 2017

 Ready For 2017


 If you're like me, the beginning of 2017 left me feeling a bit uncertain about the future.  Generally, the start of the year ushers in a period of goal setting and personal challenges, but this year, things felt very different.  Perhaps it was the political climate that seemed more shaky than in past years or perhaps it was just me feeling the ever present hand of time on my shoulder.  Whatever it was, it caused me to take a few extra days before writing this article.  I didn't want to be another person who created a sense of doubt, because doubt, like worry, leaves us all unsure.    






Time To Pay Attention


 Never one to wallow in negativity, I started to search for positivity in what I saw, experienced and read.   When I purposely looked for it, guess what? I found it.   Lately I've found it in the wonderful speeches given by the Obamas as their tenure as President and First Lady comes to a close.  Their words were just a small part of the positive emotion that they shared with everyone who watched and listened.    How could you not feel the kindness, compassion, and love these individuals have for the people around them and the world in general. 

 Then I started to hear what other people said about the impact they have made on their lives.   A young woman who believes her future is limitless,  a father whose daughter eats her vegetables and others who have risen to new heights because of their impact. 



 They're Not At Their Pinnacle


What amazed me the most about Michelle and Barack Obama, is that at no time did they convey a sense that the roles they were leaving were the pinnacle of their life.   They both talked about the future, doing more, staying involved and continuing to lead the work that is important to them.   For some people, they are defined by their title and when that disappears so too does their sense of purpose.  What the Obamas demonstrated better than most is a sense of being that transcends time and role.  I have no doubt that had I met them 25 years ago I would have felt that same energy.  If we're lucky enough and pay attention we'll likely see it demonstrated  25 years from now. 




 Stepping Into Your Energy


 More than anything else, the words that resonated strongest these last few days were the call to action for every person.   It doesn't matter what age, gender, race, religion or any other characteristic used to describe a person, we can all do something positive to make a difference.   In some small way we can challenge each other to be the best that we can be.  It might be spending time with a friend, volunteering our services, showing up at work every day, hugging our children, respecting our spouse or righting a wrong.  Whatever it is, invest your energy in something that makes you better, the people around you better and the world better.  That's the energy worth expending.  So this year, look beyond your role and watch the difference your authentic self will make.  


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December 15, 2016

 The Pain of Loss


 Over the last 48 hours my extended family lost two of its members.   The first individual had been suffering for a prolonged period and his death was expected.  The other's death was not even on the radar.   In each situation both families are grieving the loss of their loved one.   In the case of a prolonged illness we often hear people say that death is a relief, they're in a better place or at least they're not suffering any longer.   While these phrases easily roll off the tongue, it in no way lessens the sense of loss that an individual feels. 






No Loss is Greater Than Another


 It would be ludicrous to compare one person's loss to another, yet our words may inadvertently convey that message.   How many times have you heard someone say that their relative or friend went through something that seemed worse.   You might have even said words like, "It could have been worse, they may have suffered for months"  Demonstrating empathy at a time of loss is the most important thing we can give to someone.  That means recognizing and noticing someone's emotion.  Next we need to acknowledge them and show compassion.  Finally, put yourself out there and ask how you might help?  What might they need? 



 A Time of Heightened Emotions


The holiday season is already a time of heightened emotions.  It is when family and friends get together to celebrate.   During this time remember those individuals who are experiencing loss and be with them as they see fit.  Don't force feed the joy of the season if they're not ready to receive it.  Sometimes it's just enough to check in and bring them some food.  It doesn't mean requiring their presence at the family table when all they can see is an empty chair where their loved one used to sit.  Showing them our love means supporting them in the good times and the difficult times.  This Christmas remember to respect the needs of everyone.  Sometimes sharing a tear is as powerful as sharing a smile.  .




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December 1, 2016

 Input and Output


I was speaking with a friend this morning about what we require to work at a level that we consider reasonable.  First, we talked about what we considered 'reasonable'.  If I dissected what I did everyday would I ever ask someone else to do the same thing?  Some days I am happy to say yes, but there are still those days when I participate in life at warp speed.  When those days occur it is like the visual image of the  Star Trek Enterprise travelling through the cosmos at light speed.  where everything is blurred except what's lies directly in front.  






Wisely Using My Energy




I think I am able to work at warp speed from time to time, however as my biological clock ticks, I've discovered warp speed is for short bursts only.   I say that because my recovery period from sustained exposure is much longer.   The pace of yesterday rarely gets duplicated today, potentially considered tomorrow but likely a probability the next day.   I also, don't think I'm alone in this respect.  When we create a frenzied pace in our lives we often overlook those things we need to refresh, our input requirements. 


 Honouring Your Input Requirements


  There are times I spend so much of my time on creating an  abundance of output that I neglect those things that I need to refresh and rejuvenate.   They aren't very complicated and are in abundance if I open myself to receive them.   On my list are things like music, a conversation with a friend, a favourite food, a car ride with a family member, a glass of wine with family and friends, a hug, a warm bath, a good book, a funny joke and a soaring golf shot.   Whatever is on your input list, take some time to honour it.  We often take medicine that is prescribed 'when needed'.  It's time to consider these special things as our tonic that keeps us happy and healthy.




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November 24, 2016

 Before The Parade Passes By


Today is the American Thanksgiving and that has always meant a day of parades.  When I was in school I coincidentally felt ill each year on the third Thursday of November so that I could recover while watching the Macy's Day Parade.   Being ill meant a cozy bed was made on the couch in front of our only television.  Even in black and white the parade was  always a spectacle with dozens of marching bands, floats and inflatables.  It definitely expedited my recovery from my annual illness and became an event I didn't want to miss






Some Great Lyrics




There is a song in the musical "Hello Dolly" that goes as follows:

 Before the parade passes by

Before it goes on, and only I'm left

Before the parade passes by

I've got to get in step while there's still time left

I'm ready to move out in front

Life without life has no reason or rhyme left

with the rest of them

with the best of them

I wanna hold my head up high

I need a goal again

I need a drive again

I wanna feel my heart coming alive again

I've gotta go and taste Saturday's high life

I've gotta get some life back into my life


 Through the eyes of a child watching a parade is a life affirming event.  Everything is larger than life and exciting.  As we experience life we discover different ways to step into our own parade.  It means going beyond being a spectator on the sidelines.  The view from the inside is much different than from the outside yet no less powerful.  So this year it's time to create your own marching band.  Find the rhythm that excites you, a route that inspires you and an audience that feels your joy.  When you have those things you'll definitely get some life back in your life.   

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November 10, 2016

 In Need of An "Uptown Funk"


I don't know about you but the 24 hours directly after the US election sent me into a funk.   I mean the type of funk that requires the smooth taste of ice cream to soothe the heart and the crunch of potato chips to appease the anger.   As I dwelled in my sweet and salty world I realized the funk I was feeling was depressive.  Lingering in that world too long has never served me well.  That's when I discovered the other definition of 'funk'.  It is a style of popular dance music of US black origin with elements of blues and soul.  It has a strong rhythm that accentuates the first beat in the bar.  I thought about that strong beat on the first bar and what it does to you.  It gets you moving.  It makes you stand up and participate.    






The Beat That Transcends Time




I have seen several video versions of Uptown Funk with contemporary dancing on the downtown streets of today as well as classic dance numbers from the 20's through the 50's.   This was a funk that worked for the likes of Fred Astaire, Bojangles Robinson, Rita Hayworth, Judy Garland, the Nicholas Brothers and Shirley Temple.   In fact, Shirley Temple's movies of the 30's elevated the lives of North Americans that were dealing with the impact of the great depression.   If others could dance when the world around them was filled with gloom what's stopping us from doing the same.   


Start With Tapping Your Foot


Whatever beat is your "Funk" find it and crank it up.  Start with a toe tap then progress to a finger snap, hand clap, shoulder sway, hip swing and then full out funk frenzy.   Dancing gives you a feeling of joy like nothing else.   When you take the time to add a little of that funk into your world the other type of funk might not seem as inviting.   It worked for generations before us why not now? 


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November 3, 2016

 The Victorious Need Not Win


 Like millions of other people, I stayed up late to watch the Chicago Cubs become World Series Champions for 2016.   The headlines today are filled with stories about the end of their 108 year drought since winning the title in 1908.    What I marvelled at last night wasn't the moment they won it was what made them victorious.  






A 17 Minute Rain Delay




Last night's seesaw battle was one for the record books.  It had suspense, excitement and an ending that was anything but decided until the last out.  After the 9th inning there was a 17 minute rain delay.   The score was tied at 6-6 and it looked like the momentum had shifted back to the Cleveland Indians.   What the Cubs showed during those 17 minutes was what made them victorious.   During that brief time they held a meeting and talked about how they supported each other throughout the season, picking each other up and doing what they needed to do regardless as to the outcome.   It was in that meeting that being victorious rose above event itself.   The dictionary provides a definition for victorious which states "characteristic of or expressing a sense of victory or fulfillment."   That meeting became their victory anthem.  


There's More Than Winning


What great competition often shows us is that the end result is just an asterisk on what transpired.  When competition is keen there is a winner but not always a loser.   When both teams are playing their best the outcome shouldn't define them.   For Chicago it had been 108 years without a World Series Championship but during that time they were victorious.  All you have to do is remember the likes of Ron Santos, Ernie Banks, Sammy Sosa, and Roger Hornsby to realize that greatness filled that team.  The Chicago fans always knew it now the world does too.    


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October 27, 2016

 I'm Full Of CRAP


I have been told this many times in my life, usually when I'm trying to tease someone into believing something that is utterly ridiculous.  While I occasionally  amuse myself with this pastime I discovered that lately I have been full of CRAP






A Different Acronym




In terms of diet, CRAP stands for carbonated drinks, Refined Sugar, Artificial Sweeteners and Processed Foods.  That makes up the components of this dietary acronym.   Now how did this CRAP re-infiltrate my life when I had set up guard posts on high alert to keep them at bay?   Basically, I became complacent believing that I was more powerful than they were.   What would a single can of a carbonated drink do?   I can quit at any time, I would tell myself.  I felt the same about refined sugars, artificial sweeteners and processed foods but they are a formidable enemy.   Once they infiltrate an inch they take a mile.   They are the terrorists of healthy eating.  They literally can strike anywhere at anytime they are that prevalent in our world


 Don't Negotiate With This Terrorist


 What I've come to realize is that there is no negotiating with this terrorist.  I will not welcome them into my world and especially my table.   I won't break bread with them, their favourite, or toast with their brand of bubbly.   So this week it's time to go cold turkey........again.   It won't be the first time for me but hopefully I can finally flush this CRAP out of my life for once and for all. 


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October 20, 2016

Understanding Myself


I like to think I'm fairly self aware and have a good handle on who I am and what makes me tick.  In essence, I'm an open book.  That's what I thought until I attended an amazing conference on Tuesday with keynote speaker, Shirzad Chamine.   His presentation felt like I was uncovering the research notes for several chapters of my personal story that had been stored away in the microfiche of time.  Now for those of you who aren't familiar with microfiche it's how old information was retrieved before personal computers brought us search engines.  






It's Not What You Know, It's What You Do About It




He spoke about the thoughts that we develop in our childhood that shape and form our future thoughts.  What he differentiated, however, is that as children, our thoughts are based on the basic need to survive.   In adulthood, it's not about surviving it's about thriving.    What served us well as children is sabotaging us as adults.  The problem is that we have become less conscious of their impact in our lives.  In particular, I readily recognize that I have a strong thought process that focuses on pleasing, controlling and achieving.   I have convinced myself that taking care of others is more important than taking care of myself.  I often believe if I don't take the lead then who will and finally what's wrong with setting goals and achieving them?   Many of you might be saying there's nothing wrong with that, however, what if there was more? 

 I thought about the times I neglected my own needs in service of others.  While focusing on achievement might provide a brief reason to celebrate it isn't sustainable over time.  Sometimes I control the situation and people that seek independence the most.  So how do I quiet those saboteur thoughts that are ever present?  I focus on them one at a time. 




Questioning My Thoughts


Over the past several years I have worked hard at being less of a pleaser.  That means focusing more of my time and energy on myself.  It is not easy as those deep seated thoughts are constantly present.   Recently a friend's response to an action I had taken helped me understand things more clearly.   If I am doing something I need to ask myself am I seeking reciprocity.  This might be reciprocity of emotion, feeling or attention.   If I can honestly answer I want nothing in return then I'm okay with selfless acts of kindness.  If I'm looking for something else then it's my pleaser saboteur that's directing my thoughts.   Every day I also like to spend some time focusing on myself, filling my mind, body and spirit with personal attention.   So whenever a pleaser thought enters my consciousness I will attribute it to my pleaser brain not my whole brain.   So this week if you're looking for a way to learn more about yourself I suggest you take a look at Shirzad Chamine's book 'Positive Intelligence'  It might be illuminating for you in ways you didn't think possible.  Of course if you don't want to that's fine too.  


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October 13, 2016

 Failure, The Final Frontier


Yesterday morning as I was working with my trainer she kept repeating the following phrase, "push to failure".   As I heard her say this, my mind and body drew their swords in a fight to the finish.  My mind was appalled at the concept of failure as something   distasteful and unwanted.  My muscles, on the other hand were begging me to stop as they were systematically shutting down with each additional rep on the machine.   Eventually my body won and I reached failure.   Surprisingly, I didn't collapse, only pausing long enough to rehydrate and start again.  Was it possible my mind might be wrong about failure?






Stepping Into Failure




At some point we all deserve to experience failure, without it, we might never experience our own resilience.  Ask any student who has received a failing grade and they will likely describe an onslaught of negative emotions such as anger, sadness, defeat, embarrassment, shame and disappointment.  In fact, there's a potential Pandora's box of negative emotions that can crop up with failure.  Getting past these negative emotions takes self compassion.  Factors such as self-kindness, our common humanity and mindfulness help us rediscover our learning mindset.  Failure becomes a catalyst for us to learn from it and motivates us to try again.   




 Failure Need Not Be a Lonely Place


 I have often heard the expression  "Laugh, and the world laughs with you.... Cry, and you cry alone."  I have a feeling that failure is much the same.   We want to share our successes but hide our failures.   When we step away from others we lose the opportunity to reconnect with people who want to show us compassion and help us find our own self compassion.   Failure is part of the human experience and burying it away keeps it in the shadows.  When we share our failures with others we strip it of its power to hurt us. 


Just Like A Video Game Failure







 The best video games have a strong failure component built into them.  Players will tell you that without a sense of failure winning doesn't seem nearly as satisfying.     In traditional  three-act story structure, the hero fails twice: once during the inciting event, and then a second time during a climactic confrontation in the second act.  Each loss catalyzes the hero's growth.  In fact, early video games punished failure with "Game Over".  Now, failure requires you to slow down and rethink your actions so the next encounter is more successful.    So why shouldn't our own life include failure?  I have to think that the billions of dollars spent on video games are telling us something about our resilience to failure...... why limit failure to  just video games when there is so much more in our lives?








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October 6, 2016

The Micro or Macro of Your Impact


I received an email from a friend and former colleague the other night that I hadn't heard from for a bit of time.   It was an unexpected treat particularly when I discovered some important work she had been involved in was published in an HR magazine.  The article outlined the Leadership Development Model for a mid size employer that crystallized years of work.  Someone from the outside looking in might dismiss the amount of work required to breathe life into a program of this magnitude, however that would be a gross understatement.   To have a "macro" impact oftentimes takes lots of blood, sweat and tears. 

At the opposite end of the spectrum I thought about the work that I am involved in on a daily basis as a coach.  Sometimes I have a single coaching session with a client that results in a positive change for them and no further intervention is required.   At best I would characterize this as having a "micro" impact.






It Doesn't Matter




Whether your work has a micro or macro impact shouldn't be a determining factor about its importance.  I have seen individuals who have sacrificed their time and energies in pursuit of an important cause.  These individuals are the ones who push to gain traction and support of their programs when others have dismissed them as being too lofty, or not quite good enough.  Along the way they might even question their convictions as no one is saying thank you.   When they finally achieve their goal and launch their program it should be with crashing cymbals and fanfare to make up for the silent solitude of the months or years they have toiled.   In contrast I have also seen individuals whose impact is one person at a time.  They are the ones that receive the quiet thank you from multiple individuals.  There is no loud roar but a continuous gentle wave of positive energy. 




 The Biggest Impact


 What makes the difference is never letting go of your convictions and the importance of your role.  Some of us make a micro impact while others make an impact at a much larger scale.  What makes each special is their drive to move forward.  So this week you might not hear any cymbals crashing or hear a subtle thank you but you'll hear your heart come alive because  you believe in what you do.  It is that love that has the biggest impact of all. 

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Sep 29, 2016

 Coming Of Age


I love it when I read something that sparks my imagination.  This morning it was a post from a friend on facebook about the construct of time.  What it said was that time has no meaning.  We have developed constructs related to the rotation of the earth and the orbit of the earth around the sun that have dictated our actions.   Of course this got me thinking about different constructs and how it would impact our perception of age.  Imagine, what if there were 26 hours in a day and 375 days in a year?  Instead of being 57 years old I would only be 51 years old.  Then again, what if there were 22 hours in a day and 355 days in a year?  I'd be almost 64 years old.  That's an interesting thought considering how we celebrate birthdays and the impact that our age has on our life. 






Birthdays:  A Modern Construct




I have had the pleasure to celebrate my birthday 57 times.  Every year at the beginning of September I am reminded of the day I breathed air into my lungs for the first time.  This hasn't always been the case, in fact, birthday celebrations were originally thought to be a pagan ritual and not supported by early Christianity.  Even Egyptian society limited celebrations to their Pharaohs.  Common man didn't get into the act until centuries later.   What we saw instead were 'coming of age' celebrations.  When a boy transforms into a man and a girl into a woman.  These are still done in numerous cultures.  What a different perspective to mark a transformation vs an age on a calendar. 


Some Milestone Transformations Worth Celebrating


I would love to toss aside my birthday in favour of more life affirming celebrations.  I can imagine my life's celebrations as:

  •  my birth
  • beginning my formal education
  • riding a bike
  • joining a team
  •  completing my formal education
  •  puberty
  •   losing my virginity
  •  demonstrating my citizenship by voting
  •  mastering a skill
  •  committing my love to someone
  •  building a family
  •  living with purpose
  •  parenthood
  •  sharing wisdom
  •  grandparenthood
  •  becoming the wisest elder
  •  death

 For some of these there is a physiological link to when they would occur, but for others, they happen when you are ready to make them happen in your life.   How satisfying it is to be celebrated for those events in our life that make us the unique individual that we are.   Sometimes it's easy to celebrate once a year, after all, it's the same day every year and doesn't require us to pay attention to the other days.  What an impact it might have if we put birthdays aside and paid attention to the events and milestones in our lives that weren't bound by a calendar date.   They would be uniquely ours and come throughout our lives, not just once a year.    So this week, think about the things that are worth celebrating in your life and share them with the ones you love.  It's definitely worth baking a cake. 




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Sep 15, 2016

 The Hinge Between "Not Now" and "Not Ever"


There is a doorway in our mind we travel through when we decide that "not now" has become "not ever".   For some of us this phenomena can appear like a revolving door as we age and opportunities of youth have been lost or cast aside.   We bring the threshold into sight when we choose to use the phrases, "maybe in the future",  "perhaps another time" or "when I'm better prepared".   Sometimes we don't even realize what we're pushing aside, it just appears to be the path of least resistance at the time. 






What We Might Miss




Every time we put someone or something aside we miss an opportunity.  This is especially true when what we push aside is because of fear.  We  might be afraid of failure when we put  something aside, or fear of rejection when we put someone aside.    What's funny is we can rationalize every decision we make.   "There's not enough time" or,   "It's not my priority right now".   However we convince ourselves, we have to accept we've lost an opportunity.   As our bodies age we can't recapture the speed or endurance of our youth.   As our mind becomes fuller we can't recapture our youthful innocence.    As the clock ticks we can't step back in time.   I am acutely aware of conversations I've missed,  of faces i haven't seen, and of plans not completed.   The more I think about some of them, the closer I sometimes feel to stepping through the doorway to "not ever"


Lubricating the Hinges


 Now that I'm firmly entrenched in my "Third Age" it's easy to believe that "not ever" will become more of my reality and a larger percentage of my world.  While I get that, I'm not ready to accept it.  What if the "not evers" in my life moved into a new category of "what's next".  Yes, physically I may not have the speed or endurance I once had, however, I can focus my energies to get physically stronger.  I have the luxury of available time that was much more elusive in my youth.  Combine that with my life experience and I can find a way to successfully face any physical challenge.  While I might not have a youthful innocence I can feel that same excitement when I share time with a young person.  There is nothing more contagious than hearing a child's laughter and seeing their smile.  When it comes from a place of pure joy there's no way I can't be swept up in the feeling.  I'd like to think there will be an endless supply of "what's next" in my life.  That's the doorway that beckons me.  I hope you find the same doorway in your life. 




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Sep 8, 2016

 Resetting To Factory Default


This afternoon, I had the joy of setting up a SMART TV in my house.   Now unlike some people I know, I prefer to read the manual before I start to hook up connections and turn the TV on.   One of the things I particularly like is when the factory automatically optimizes certain settings before they ship your TV.  That doesn't mean you have to stay with the factory settings, but taking into account their expertise it's a wonderful starting point.  In some cases I do a little tweaking and customizing to get things just Goldilocks perfect for me.   






How Much Is Too Much Tweaking? 




While I'm happy with my new TV's settings I found myself thinking about other things I've tweaked that may have gone a bit too far.  I didn't have to think too long before I remembered cutting my bangs.  Often I've had the best intention to just cut off a bit only to have them become too short in my quest for perfection.   Then there's the recipes that I've added a little more chocolate to because why wouldn't more chocolate be a good thing?  The problem happens when we tweak so much we forget the factory default.   In our quest to make something better we venture further and further from the original, until it is lost.  While this isn't always bad it can cause us to lose our way from time to time. 


Enough Is Enough


 It's important that we keep track of our starting point, our origin.  Think of it as our factory default setting.  It holds valuable information that is important.  Oftentimes it provides us the reason for our actions.  When we lose sight of that, we might also lose sight of when to stop.  Since perfection is elusive you need to set some parameters.  Maybe it's setting a time limit for completion of an activity.  Maybe it's limiting the number of versions you create before "final".  Maybe it's trusting your instincts that something is good enough.  There are a lot of maybes that might change if we keep our starting point close by and always remember to reset to the factory default when needed.    


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 August 11, 2016

 Having A Heat Wave


It's barely 8 am and the temperature outside is already 80 degrees Fahrenheit.   That's a bit scary when the forecast has the mercury topping out at almost 95 today.   While I know we all longed for the heat of summer during the past winter, I'm pretty sure we didn't want it quite this warm.   It's just not healthy.  






Cramping My Style




Usually, I spend a fair amount of time outside in the summer in my garden, out for a bike ride or a nice long walk.   These are the activities I crave.  Lately this heat wave has changed my desire to be outside.  In fact, I limit my outdoor activities to between 5am and 8am daily when the temperature is still acceptable.   After that, I search out the floor registers in my house and perch myself above them so the cool air blows up my shorts.  Sorry, I know that's a visual that might burn into your retina. 


It's So Hot

 While this heat wave has been occurring I took the liberty to make a few observations


  • It's so hot that all the bread in my house is toast.
  • It's so hot that all the Pokémon Go have gone
  • it's so hot that the toilet water is hot enough to cause condensation on your butt if you sit too long
  • it's so hot I saw a roasted turkey walk by
  • It's so hot that a snowball moved his family to hell to cool off


 Take Time to Cool Down




 While it's hot outside we can all do things to help us cool down.  First, it's incredibly important to stay hydrated.  That means lots of water.  During this weather try a cup every hour.  Supplement this with fun cooling treats like a popsicle which is basically just sugared water frozen on a stick.  It will remind you of being a kid again.  Next, monitor your activity.  Your body will be using an abundance of it's energy to maintain a safe body temperature.  If you overexert yourself you risk heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  Keeping our lifts off and drapes closed will help keep your house cooler instead of taxing your air conditioners to work harder.  While I don't anticipate this heat wave to last much longer I am prepared.  Hopefully you are as well.  Stay cool.   


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August 4, 2016

 In Need of a Trim

 Have you ever woken up, looked in the mirror and immediately decided your hair required a cut?  What looked perfect the day before has suddenly become unruly and too, too long.  When this situation occurs I call my hair stylist in a desperate attempt to get an immediate appointment for this emergency.  Usually, what happens is that I have to wait several days for an available appointment.  In the meantime I consciously watch the mutated growth of every strand of hair on my head.  When the appointment arrives and I'm settled into my stylist's chair the first words out of his mouth are "So what are we doing today?"  I then proceed to say, "I just need a trim, to reshape and refresh the cut".   After about 25 minutes when I look down on the floor there's not an abundance of hair to suggest a massive overhaul.  There's only a small amount of strategically cut hair to achieve the optimal results. 






Sometimes That's All We Need




Getting that trim always makes me feel rejuvenated.  I'm not looking for others to stop and stare at my "bold new do" I'm just looking to step up my game.   This can be said for a lot of things in life.  So many times we make drastic changes in a desperate attempt to shake things up, only to realize we might have been able to achieve the same results with a slight adjustment.   It's a matter of how we look at what grows from those adjustments.   When we get our hair trimmed we know it's going to grow back.  When we make other changes in our life the growth we experience requires us to notice.  Wholesale changes get the press because they're often impossible to miss.  The subtle changes need our attention. 


 Monitoring Growth


 Just like everyone's hair grows differently, so do other attributes in our life.  What about the young person who made a slight change in her resume and grew more confident in her job searching.   What about the couple who watch their love continue to grow after they commit  sitting down at the dinner table together 3 nights a week.  What about the student who studies 15 more minutes for each test and grows perseverance.  There is an endless list of growth that is there with even the slightest adjustment.  So the next time you are tempted to shave your head remember you might get what you want from just a trim.  




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July 29, 2016

 Stuck In The Weeds


 A great deal of my time gardening is spent weeding.  I have tried all sorts of methods to remove those pesky weeds, but I will admit they often get the best of me as they re-sprout at a rate that far surpasses my ability to pull them out.  Once their roots have latched into the soil they spread like wildfire.  What is amazing is that they require very little to grow and thrive.  The rest of my garden requires the perfect combination of water, nutrient rich soil and appropriate amounts of sunshine to stand a chance of surviving.      






When The Weeds Spread




 Weeds, like some ideas, latch into the collective consciousness and spread at an alarming rate without much effort.  How many times have you seen something distasteful or negative go viral.   It's as if we want to look away, but can't.   These become the weeds that travel just below the surface sending out shoots that re-root and go deep.  To kill this type of weed not only do we have to get rid of the deep tap root we have to also eliminate it's runners. 


Stopping The Weeds From Spreading


 In gardening, it's suggested that to choke out the weeds in your lawn you need to make sure you plant extra grass seed in the fall to eliminate the weeds' seeds from germinating.   In essence,  we need to fill our world with positive thoughts and ideas to choke out the negativity before it latches in.   While there's a mechanical means of doing that in a garden, we have to take a more cerebral method for negative thoughts and ideas.  When you see or hear something distasteful don't give it too much attention.  The more attention you give it the more likely it is to take root.  Next,  don't share negativity with anyone else.  When you share, no matter how innocent, it's like allowing a runner to spread under the surface waiting for an opportunity to send in a deep tap root.  Finally, it's always important to tend to your garden.  Give attention to the thoughts and ideas that beautify your world.  Fertilize them with kindness, curiosity and love.  When we tend to those things whatever weeds still exist are much less noticeable.    


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July 22, 2016

 Life's Simple Pleasures


Sometimes I long for the times when life was simpler and work meant doing something physical that made me sweat.  Nowadays, we look for ways to reduce the amount of sweat equity we have to put into work and end up clogging our minds and arteries.  Maybe that's why I purchased an old fashioned reel lawn mower at a sale 2 weeks ago.  For those of you unfamiliar with the product it is an ingenious device that cuts the grass using nothing but physical force.  You have to push the handles to turn the wheels which simultaneously move the blades.   It is a simple design that requires nothing more than my physical effort.  I don't need to have a full tank of gas.  I don't need to wait till 9am because of the noise.  I don't need anything but me.






What! A Foot Powered Washing Machine?




Imagine my excitement when I saw a video about a portable washing machine that used foot power to clean clothes.  All that was required was a little soap, water and my ability to pump my foot for 5-10 minutes.   I might even be able to do some colouring in my adult colouring book while washing my clothes.  Both activities require only my input.    


What Might You Simplify?


While not everyone wants to cut the lawn with a reel mower or use a foot powered washing machine maybe there are a few activities you could remove from a dependency on energy.  Why not try these:

  • Instead of sending an email, why not write a note
  • Instead of using the electric can opener, what if you used a manual opener.
  • Instead of driving a car to the corner store, what if you rode your bike
  • Instead of turning on the air conditioner what if you opened the windows
  • Instead of listening to music, what if you sang a song

While this is a small list I'm sure you can think of dozens of other things you could do to simplify your life.  This week, take the opportunity to use a little sweat equity and watch how you feel when your effort is what makes the difference.    


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July 15, 2016

 Recovery Time


Every Wednesday morning I work with my personal trainer who pushes me beyond the comfort of my regular workout routine.   It's sometimes a form of physical torture that assaults my muscles in a way that means every Thursday and Friday I feel pain and tightness.   Ideally I should give those muscles a couple of days to recover before I assault them again, however I'm not always the most astute individual when it comes to my recovery.   Why not keep pushing forward? 






What Requires Recovery




 In today's world we are surrounded by more than physical trauma.   Lately it appears that catastrophic events are assaulting our emotions on a daily basis.   All we have to do is look at the recent events in Orlando, Dallas or a Detroit courtroom to feel the emotional trauma of these situations.  So how do we recover?    


When The Media Beats Us Up


When we experience emotional trauma we will often re-experience the event that caused it in our minds compounding the trauma.  This is something that is usually associated to events that we experience first hand.   Unfortunately, the media, in all it's forms, is force feeding the re-experiencing of events putting us up close and person.  They are also doing it  at a frequency that we've never seen before.  When this happens I wonder what impact it has on people.  Does it de-sensitize us?  Does it cause a hyper arousal?  


Some Things Should Only Be Seen Once


I'd like to think there are some horrific events that should only be seen once and preferably, not at all.  When you see such an event, your emotions will respond in a way that aligns with your values.  Give yourself time to process those emotions before you re-experience the event.  Those first emotions are the ones that you need to attend to  and develop your recovery plan.  Down the road you might be able to watch the horror again but seeing it over and over again might spur a desire to avoid any action we need to take to recover.  


 Black Lives Matter vs All Lives Matter


 The events that have sparked the Black Lives Matter campaign require our attention.    Unfortunately, when the media exposes us to other horrific events that they piggyback on top of the original incident it's easy for us to dilute our attention or generalize.  Who doesn't believe that all lives matter but it's not where we need to focus our attention.  It's time to remove ourselves from the media frenzy that surrounds these events and put our energies to recovering from what's most important.  




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July 7, 2016

 Lost and Found 


 Yesterday I felt the sudden adrenalin rush that comes when you realize you've left your purse on a chair and left the building.  In my case, I had been meeting with a client in a public place and after the meeting got in my car and drove home.  As I got out of the car I instinctively reached for my purse but it wasn't there.     Sheer panic took over.   I put my car in reverse and hastily drove back to the meeting place.  Luckily, my purse was exactly where I left it and everything was intact.   The rest of the day I thought about what I would have lost had my purse gone missing.  I'm sure this has happened to many people but it would have been a first for me.







What We Lose




 There are items that we commonly lose all the time.  I have no idea where my socks go or my Tupperware containers.  I like to think the house elves from Harry Potter fame are behind these mysteries but I discovered there are many more items that are lost each year.  Subway riders consistently leave behind clothes, dishware, bicycles and cellphones.   There are also unique items like dentures that get sent to the lost and found department.   Perhaps whoever loses their dentures might not want to face the customer service rep when they have to claim them.  We also lose a sense of independence when something under our care is lost.  That is something that is not as easy to reclaim. 


 What I'd Rather Lose


Given the choice there are some things worth losing when the opportunity arises

  • an argument
  • taste for expensive things
  • track of time
  • weight

 When we lose these things we often find something in return.   Losing an argument might mean finding an ally.  Losing a taste for expensive things might mean finding pleasure in the simple things.  Losing track of time might mean enjoying the moment.  Losing weight might mean finding a healthier lifestyle. 


 Let Lost and Found Be a Treasure


 Instead of beating yourself up when you lose something think about the thousands of people your misfortune might benefit.  After a while your lost item might find its way into the hands of someone who could really use it.  Your lost umbrella might come in handy to a person who requires shelter.  Your lost book might ignite the imagination of someone who has lost their spark.  Whatever happens at the moment you lose something you choose how long you remain lost about it.  Hopefully, it's a brief encounter before you find something better to replace it with.  




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June 30, 2016

 Still Adjusting


Yesterday I got a brand new pair of foot orthotics to support my ongoing need to have fluidity in my movements.   Now I'm not looking to run a marathon or enter "So You Think You Can Dance", I simply want to reduce my foot fatigue at the end of the day and eliminate any knee pain.   To the naked eye these orthotics are less than 1/4 inch thick which seems quite small but their effect is enormous.  Like any change in life even the small ones pack a big punch






 When Willie Was Up To Bat




Just like watching former Detroit Tiger, Willie Horton, when he was up to bat,  his below the belt adjustment was made for all the world to see.  No matter how many times you have done something before, there is never a guarantee that it will be exactly the same.  We need to pay attention to subtle changes and make adjustments.   As a golfer when I stand in the tee box I am looking for a spot that appears flat.   That will allow me to replicate the swing I make at a practice range.  I do, however, recognize that there are slight variations in my footing, the impact of the wind, mosquitos and a slew of other variables that will require adjustment.   


Don't Duplicate, Refine


The minute you seek to duplicate something, is the minute you lose your edge.   While scientists often look to duplicate prior research findings, it is rarely with exact precision.    Instead they recognize the slight variations and report out on those changes to either confirm or refute an hypothesis.  In life, we excel when we embrace the adjustments that we need to make every day.   Perhaps we need to adjust our bed time to feel more rested.  We might adjust what we eat to get healthier.  When I hear someone say "I've done the same thing, the same way for years and it's worked out okay" I wonder how they define "same".  Chances are there have been adjustments made they've just become invisible because they don't look for them. 


 Embrace Your Adjustments

 This week watch out for the subtle adjustments that are part of your life.   What are the small changes that have crept into your world?  How are they working for you?   Remember a good adjustment at the right time might be the homerun you were looking for.   It worked for Willie, watch it work for you


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June 23, 2016

 Durable Life In Business


I read a job description the other day for a temporary position that was looking for a candidate they described as "passionate about building organizational capability, highly innovative and pushes the envelope while being politically astute"  They then went on to say "If you are creative, adaptable, have a great sense of humour, are organizationally savvy and have a love for a good challenge this is the job for you".   The position was temporary lasting till the end of 2017.   In essence, they are looking for a pre-packaged individual with a shelf life of about 18 months. 






What Does "Best Before" Mean?




In the pre-packaged food world, "best before" means the anticipated amount of time that an unopened food product, when stored under appropriate conditions, will retain its, freshness, taste, nutritional value or any other qualities claimed by the manufacturer.  As I pondered whether I should eat a yogurt that was 3 days past a best before day I wondered how this concept might apply to  new employees?  How do we maintain their passion, motivation, creativity, adaptability, humour and organizational savvy when we store them in less than optimal conditions?   Innovation might appear tasteless when eaten by individuals who are afraid to take big bites and merely nibble the outer edges.   Creativity becomes colourless when it never moves from design to implementation.  Adaptability, like a multi-vitamin is flushed through the body as waste when not called into action.  So how do we extend a new employee's durable life?  


 Defining "Use" In the Real World


 Organizations need to do a better job of describing the conditions of work that a new employee is entering, starting at the first point of contact.   This means preparing the potential employee for what they will experience, so they can determine if they have the interest or desire to  withstand the environmental factors.   When an organization looks for someone highly innovative, they need to outline what that means.  Why not write "we are looking for a highly innovative individual who is willing to push the envelope in an environment where change and innovation have historically, been incremental".   Why not describe politically astute as knowing what the organization values most when faced with tough decisions.   Every organization has a hierarchy of who comes first.  It might be your customers, shareholders, employees, or other stakeholders.  This is important information for a new employee's durable life. 


 Beyond Their "Best Before" Date


 It's interesting that, like food, employees continue to remain long after their "best before" date.   In the pre-packaged food industry there is a list of products that have a shelf life >90 days that do not require a "best before date".   In organizations these are the individuals who put in the time,  reach minimum expectations and get their 25 year service badge.  At one point in their career they may have been those innovative, creative and adaptable individuals but slowly, those qualities were chipped away by an organization that became too comfortable in its own skin.  New employees deserve better, especially in a marketplace where we are looking for the "complete package" up front.   So, this is a call to organizations out there to be transparent about the environment they are inviting new employees into.   While there is no "perfect" environment, everyone deserves to have the necessary information to determine where they want to spend their days.  After all, why not extend an employee's best before date so that everyone enjoys the sweet taste of a job well done. 


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June 16, 2016

 A Little Dignity, Please


I like to think that the majority of things that happen in my life are within my control, however, I am occasionally faced with circumstances that I have no control over.  Sometimes these circumstances dramatically change my world and I am faced with a new reality that I hadn't anticipated.   I don't think I'm alone in this concept as our world is becoming more and more volatile and uncertain.  This morning I was reminded of this volatility as a dear friend's world was shifted.   What stood out in our conversation was the importance of dignity.






What Does It Mean To You?




 There is often confusion between the concept of respect and dignity.   Dignity is our inherent value and worth as human beings.  In essence, it is something we are all born with.  Respect, on the other hand, is earned.  It is an important distinction, as dignity is a basic human right  we all have.  When there is a loss of dignity, it is generally because someone has decided to stop honouring this basic human right.   We might see this lack of honour in the treatment of our aging population, who are marginalized and discarded as no longer useful.   We might see this in the treatment of individuals suffering from mental illness who are misunderstood and isolated.  We might see this in an employee whose service is no longer required as they are walked out of the building.


 Who Is Undignified?

 

 Each of us has the ability to retain our dignity simply by treating those around us with dignity.   In fact, if I don't treat someone with dignity, it is not them, but me who becomes undignified.   We can all do a better job with this.  When we are with the sick and aging we need to remember that they are still a person we should honour.  Although their physical bodies are deteriorating, we have no place in diminishing their spirit by dishonouring their value.  When we interact with individuals suffering from mental illness, we need to help them find the resources to support them through their illness, not shut them away because of their illness.   When an employee's service is no longer required we need to surround them with support, not hasten their walk to the door.   It is our responsibility as humans to honour each other's dignity regardless as to someone's social, economic, gender or ethnic background.   When we do this, we not only reinforce their dignity, we gain their respect.  In conclusion, while my friend's world has shifted, I am confident her dignity remains intact.  I know this because she has always honoured the dignity of those around her, and in turn, gained a mountain of respect. 


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June 9, 2016

 The Place We Call Home


I read an article on facebook the other day that reminded me of all the incredible things that make Windsor special.   In a time where most journalists would rather bash and trash the city, this article stood up for the place that over 200,000 people call home.   While the author provided his top 10 list for Windsor, his words inspired me to uncover what it means to feel at home in Windsor.






A Memorable Quote




 Paul Mercier, in his story "Night Train to Lisbon" wrote the following:  "We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away.  And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there,"  I thought about the people from Windsor's past that have come before us and left a piece of themselves behind creating Windsor's collective spirit.  In some cases, these individuals never ventured beyond the city boundaries, while others travelled the world before returning to Windsor.  Whatever their story this is what they left behind.


From The Beginning


 Canada has only fought one war at home and it started here in 1812.  The soldiers involved left behind their brave spirit in order to forge  a new country called Canada.   We have also left behind the power to move people.  From North America's first streetcar to our moniker as  the Automotive Capital of Canada, Windsorites have mobilized the masses.  The sweat, long hours and aching muscles of thousands of factory workers laid the groundwork for a burgeoning new industry.     We see the remnants of prohibition along our riverfront in Hiram Walker and imagine the daring escapades of the few brave individuals who couriered illicit spirits across a frozen river.  We've welcomed millions of visitors to our country through North America's busiest international crossing and made them feel safe on our streets.    We are generations of families that enjoy a Sunday drive along Riverside Drive where no highway dares to obstruct the view.   We are a community of backyard pools that keep us home in the summer rather than venture away.  We willingly divide our allegiance to both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens as we've never had an NHL team of our own.  We enjoy the abundance of fresh tomatoes and corn that fill our plates every summer until we can't eat another bite.   We have always found a reason to celebrate, from our local festivals to North America's premier international fireworks display.  We are a community where six degrees of separation is enormous and three degrees more the norm.  We are Windsorites

 

 What Will You Leave Behind?

 

 Windsor is our  home and,  as our home, a place of pride.    For those of us who live here, it has become our "Goldilocks Spot", not too big, not too small, just right.   While our history has left an amazing legacy, it is our future that inspires our dreams.  That future holds a spot for people whose families have lived here for generations as well as new people who come from all over the world.  When you have  pride in your home you want to share it with the world.    Let's invite new people, who have yet to walk our streets and welcome back the people that might need to rediscover something special that they left behind.   




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June 2, 2016


 A Season Of Commencements


June is an important month for many people as it often marks a milestone, someone's graduation.  I have had the pleasure of seeing both my children graduate from university and watched with pride as they embark on the next stage in their life.  There are several moments during the ceremony that always impact me.  The first is the commencement speech and the second is the moment the graduate is handed their diploma.   In each of those moments the graduate is receiving something invaluable that has the ability to impact their lives forever. 






Take It All In




 A commencement speech is an opportunity for someone to share their experience, values and advice with the graduates.  Oftentimes it is delivered by an individual who has achieved a level of public success that others might aspire to duplicate.   It is also a moment where possibilities are limitless.  When done well, the commencement speech becomes a departure point for graduates on a journey with unlimited fuel.  They can go wherever they dream.   Each generation has earned the right to experience that feeling of unlimited possibility as they mold their future. 


But What Happens Down The Road?

 

As a mature people looking at a group of graduates we can't help but recognize the naivete that accompanies youth.    While we want them to be successful, our life experience has chipped away at that feeling of unlimited possibility.  We've replaced it with protecting the status quo or, at best,  guarded optimism.  We so much want to shield these graduates from making the same mistakes  we did, that instead of opening doors for them, we close them and turn the locks.   We've forgotten how to believe in the message of unlimited possibilities. 


We All Need A Commencement Speech


 Perhaps we need more opportunities to harness the energy bestowed upon those graduates at other points in our lives.  What if we called upon our leaders to focus on unlimited possibilities in the speeches they make to us.   These might take place in our workplace, at family gatherings, community events or any place where people come together for a common cause.  We all need to be reminded that we can do anything and that we have unlimited possibilities that are not restricted to new graduates.  Those are the words that people need to be reminded about whether they're 20 or 85.  While realists will say that people need to hear the truth, the dreamers are the ones that discover new truths.  It is as simple as the difference between can't and won't.  Throughout your life continue to believe you can and decide that you will.   If you haven't heard that message in a while maybe it's time you shared it with someone else.  Every time you believe in your unlimited possibilities you make a difference in everyone's tomorrow.   


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May 26, 2016

 Home Court Advantage


The NBA Eastern Conference Finals have been in full swing the past week and an interesting phenomenon has emerged.  The home team is destroying the other team.   When Cleveland is at home they elevate their game and the same is true for the Raptors.   The series is now 3-2 for the Cavaliers with the next game in Toronto.   I started to do a bit of research into the impact of home court advantage and winning.  Surprisingly, the effects are strongest in basketball.  Studies have attributed the advantage to rest, familiarity of the playing surface and the fans, however, there is no distinct winner.  What is it that might make the difference.






As Simple As Sleeping In Your Own Bed




 As someone who spent a fair amount of time on the road, I can attest to the difference in my sleeping when I'm in my own bed.  The pillow is the right softness, the blankets the right weight, the temperature set to my preference and the mattress supports me where I need it most.  All this creates the optimum environment to lull me to sleep.  Is that the differentiator of success at home? 

 As much as rest can assist a player it's not enough to make the difference.  It's my opinion that home court advantage is directly tied to energy, specifically the energy that the fans give to their players.   In Toronto the fans are electric and transmit that current to the team.  The same thing happens in Cleveland.   It's impossible to not get excited from that energy and funnel it into your own performance. 



Super Charging Your Energy

 

 So what can a team of twelve players and a support staff of approximately twenty others do when faced with 20,000 fans cheering for the other team?  That's a big challenge, however, in a world filled with technological marvels maybe there is a solution.  What would happen if the visiting team got to listen to their own fans before the game, at half time and when they're on the bench.  Perhaps that might be the shot of adrenalin they need.  In Toronto, there is an area called Jurassic Park that is filled with fans.  These fans are loud, rambunctious and infectious.  What if there was a feed from that area directly to the players.  If they were outfitted with an ear piece they could listen to before the game, when they are sitting on the bench taking a break and at half time.   When they go back into the game they might play with more intensity because they feel the energy.


 May The Best Team Win

 Perhaps we will be treated to an incredible game 7 where both teams bring their A-game regardless of the location.  I love it when a team wins.  Often in sports, it's not so much that a team won as much as the other team lost, they didn't play at their best.  So let's hope that this Sunday the Eastern Conference final goes to the 7th game and at the end it's decided by a shot at the buzzer.  Now that's worth cheering for. 




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May 19, 2016

 Pay Attention....Why?  I Have An App For That

 Sometimes an old telephone number randomly pops into my head.  I'm not sure what precipitates that happening but a specific 7 digit number that belonged to me or someone else I knew, shows up front and centre.  Now there may be some of you that will never experience this phenomenon because you've never taken the time to manually dial a person's number.  You've relied on the contact list within your phone to do the work for you.  Several years ago there was a movie called "Walk of Shame".   In the movie the main character loses her phone and needs to call someone for help.  The only phone numbers she remembers are her own and her parents.   Imagine her dilemma.  This is just one example of things we've stopped paying attention to in our lives.  






What Else Has Been Lost?




  • When we went for a drive we used to pay attention to the landmarks along the way, now we use a GPS instead. 
  •  When you wanted to find something to do to match your mood you'd talk to friends, now there's an app called GRAVY
  •  When I want to find out the new price of a discounted item I'd use my calculator, now I can use an app called SOULVER
  •  When I want to focus on writing without being distracted I can use an app called iAWRITER that keeps my page clear so I'm not tempted to start editing
  •  When I need to exercise I don't have to listen to my body I can use an app that will tell me to get up


 But Aren't These Apps Saving Time?

 

 There is no question that these apps have the wonderful ability to free up some time, however, I'm not convinced that all their benefits outweigh the impact on some of our cognitive abilities.  Perhaps there's a direct correlation to the decline in brain functioning  and our use of apps.  Maybe that's why "Lumosity" has become so popular, it's an app to help  keep our brain sharp, somewhat ironic isn't it?  I applaud any technological breakthrough that helps people but are we putting to sleep certain brain functions before they've had an opportunity to fully develop? 


 Compromising Our Accountability

 

 I like to feel like I have control over most of the decisions I make every day.  If I replace part of the decision making process with an app, what might I be compromising?  When I rely on an app I am letting it decide and relinquishing my personal accountability.  If I get lost while driving, it's the GPS's fault.   If I don't know someone's phone number, it's not in my phone.  If I don't exercise enough it's because my Fitbit didn't tell me to get up. 


 Use It Or Lose It

 

 Before considering any app to simplify your life, ask yourself the question, "If the app didn't exist, would I be able to take the action I need for success?"  This simple question is like a safety net for our brain ensuring we have a back up plan.  If the technology failed would I be able to get to my destination, make decisions, know where to eat and when to exercise?  These are the decisions I need to feel comfortable with before giving them over to a device to coordinate. Why?  Because there are moments when we have to rely on our individual skills, knowledge and abilities.  Moments when technology might not be available.  Knowing we can count on our knowledge skills and abilities makes us invaluable 24/7 without a charger.


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May 12, 2016

 Too Sexy


 This morning I was watching the sports highlights when Max Sherzer, a pitcher for the Washington Nationals, described his 20 strikeout performance as "sexy".  I thought to myself, have we become so sex obsessed that we describe anything that's desirable as "sexy" or , have we gotten too lazy to consider other adjectives? 


   







What Is Sexy?




Before going into a big critique about using the word sexy inappropriately, I thought I'd look up the current meaning.   What I found were three very distinct definitions. 

  • an adjective used to describe a sexually appealing person or thing
  • being erotically attractive to another
  • sexually appealing, attractive or exciting; having interesting or appealing qualities

 Considering the definitions, maybe Max was on to something when he described the 20 strikeouts as sexy.  Achieving that must have been attractive, exciting and  definitely with appealing qualities.  If that's the case, perhaps I need to widen my view of what's sexy. 

 

 My New List of "Sexy"

 I started to dissect my world to discover some new items I may have short changed in how I describe them.  Maybe elevating them to sexy status might change the way I perceive them.  Let's try. 

  • ROCKS;  They come in all shapes, colours,  sizes and textures.  Some are smooth, others jagged but all unique and attractive.  For years I've heard the expression "get your rocks off" and interpreted that meaning a particular way.  Maybe, just maybe it simply means rocks are sexy.
  • A  NEW APPLIANCE;  Imagine the excitement you feel when you open up the manual for your new appliance and discover all that it can do.    Haven't you just wanted to pull it to your bosom and give it a big hug.  It gives appliances a whole new sexy dimension beyond a washer's spin cycle.
  • CHOCOLATE;  This is one of life's pure joys.  From the moment you unwrap this treat and inhale the aroma to the feel of it on your tongue chocolate is an erotic adventure.  It probably always has been on my "sexy" list but I'd hate to leave it out.  






 Discover Your New Sexy

 

 While I'm having a little fun with the word "sexy" it speaks to the perception of the individual.   We all have a different opinion and description of what is sexy.  That's terrific.  Embrace what works for you and have fun with it.   I heard a radio show from Mobile Alabama that  interviewed men to discover what they thought sexy was.  The answer that brought a huge smile to my face was a young man who said "a woman with a big butt, thick legs and a great smile".   That's his view and I'm sure when he finds what he's looking for he'll be  a happy man.   So this week it's time to find your sexy and have some fun.  

 

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May 5, 2016

 The Dimensions of Mom


Over the past several years I have gotten into the habit of using my last Thoughtful Thursday article before Mother's Day to reflect on the Mothers in our lives.  Who are these incredible beings and what significance do they have in our lives?  To say they are any less important than the air we breathe, or the water we drink would be a gross understatement.  They are present at the beginning of our lives, from the first time they hold us, until the last breath they take.  They are a potent force in our continued development.   But who else are they, beyond the label of "Mom"? 






"Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom"




When children are young they have an interesting way of getting their mother's attention.  They launch into a song with a single lyric that loops over and over again.  You may have heard it "mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy", or the male version "maaawm, maaawm,  maaawm, maaawm, maaawm".  They're both a catchy tune that immediately grabs a mother's attention.   Perhaps it's a way of reinforcing a woman's identity as a mother, just in case she momentarily forgets.  That's humorous because of all the identities that a woman forges in her life, when motherhood becomes one, it is the trump card over everything else. 




 Do The Kids Know Who You Are? 

 

 In the minds of young children a Mom is a Mom.  They really don't comprehend us as having other roles or responsibilities.   When we leave for work in the morning, I'm sure they think we"re only on loan till we return home in the evening.    What else could we be doing?  Some societies handcuff women's options by limiting maternity leaves and turning a blind eye to pay equity issues under the guise of "A Mother's Place Is In the Home"  Yet is that the reality of today's world?  For many women just being a "mother" isn't an option.    Instead they take on other roles to pay the bills and keep food on the table.   Women have earned the right to have a  multi-dimensional life.     As my children matured I felt it was important that they discover who I was beyond being their Mom.  What made me tick.  Who was I when I wasn't being their Mom?  That's kind of a weird way to put it, because as long as we both exist I will be their Mom.  What I wanted them to realize was that I had other dimensions to my life that made me who I am.  


  What They Might Discover

 

 Wouldn't it be great if your children got to know all of you, not just the part that they see as your children.  What a legacy we leave them when they discover:

  • you are a great friend who makes the people around you laugh
  • you're not afraid to take a dare
  • you didn't always do what you were told
  • you like to raise hell every now and then
  • you are brilliant
  • you are kind to people
  • you stand up for what you believe in
  • you're sexy
  • you still have dreams you want to fulfill
  • you are respected for your contributions
  • every now and again you like to be cared for
  • you're not perfect

  Every mother has a list that is as unique as they are.  Sharing these dimensions with your children is just another lesson we give them.  Too many times our children don't discover who we are until we're gone.  They hear the stories from friends at funerals and wonder why they didn't know.   So this Mother's Day let's take a few minutes to recognize the women who are mothers in their entirety.  While they will always be your greeting card  "Best Mom" wouldn't it be great to appreciate the entire impact they make in the world around you?  Mothers,  open your world to allow your children to discover your multi dimensions.  It is an important gift we give our children.  When they see all our dimensions it helps them discover different dimensions that might become part of their life.   After all, seeing our children evolve and grow into their best self is the best Mother's Day gift of all.  

 

  Happy Mother's Day









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April 28, 2016

 April 28- National Day of Mourning


Since 1991, April 28th has been dedicated to remembering those who have lost their lives or suffered injury or illness on the job as a result of a work-related tragedy.  Having worked many years for an organization dedicated to restoring the lives of injured and ill workers this is a subject near and dear to my heart.  The most recent statistics from 2014 confirmed there were 919 deaths in Canada which equates to 2.5 every single day.  






What Makes Those Numbers Acceptable? 




I thought about what the families, friends and co-workers who have dealt with such a loss must go through.  We often hear about the stages of grief that people experience from denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance and I wonder what emotion we are collectively experiencing as a society.   Is it possible that we have cycled past the other emotions too quickly and landed into a place of acceptance?  After all, it's only 919 deaths.  In a population the size of Canada it barely measures in the 3/10000th of a percentage point.   Add to that our massive geographical footprint and we might easily miss these tragic events.


 Time To Get Angry

 

 As a society we haven't become outraged enough about these tragedies.   The media spends more time focused on random acts of violence perpetrated by terrorists, than they do on the health and safety of workers in our country.   As an average individual I may be limited in dealing with terrorism but I am limitless in dealing with my own health and safety.   Each of us has a responsibility to ensure we do everything within our power to make our workplaces safe.  So get angry when you see someone working unsafely.  Use that anger to take action and report it to the proper authorities in your area.  This might be the health and safety committee at your workplace, the Ministry of Labour or Safety Association.  The bottom line is don't accept unsafe practices  as the cost of doing business.  No life is worth losing in the workplace. 


 What Might Have Been


 When we lose someone through tragedy we never realize the full potential of their lives.  All the possibilities that resided within them are lost.  What isn't lost, is the catalyst for change that they inspire.  Today, instead of just remembering and mourning those individuals let's all work together in the most important way, safely.   


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April 21, 2016

 What's The Difference?


 Have you ever had someone say something to you that caused you to cringe because it made no sense whatsoever?  That's happened to me on occasions and my reaction might range from disbelief to total hysteria.  Generally these are fairly intelligent people who make an all too common mistake of using a word that sounds similar but has a completely different meaning.   We call this malapropisms. 






Did You Hear That?




Imagine the impact of saying "I'd like to illiterate that person from my memory".  You might have intended to say "obliterate" but what came out was "close enough"

 What about something that doesn't "jive" with another.  We meant to say "jibe" but we got the Dancing with the Stars interpretation instead. 

 I particularly enjoy hearing someone say "for all intensive purposes" when they mean to say for all intents and purposes.  It makes it sound like a segment of dialogue from Gray's Anatomy. 








Go Beyond Spell Check


 What makes the use of malapropisms a bit dangerous is that they bypass the spell check functions on our computers.  They do this because in most cases they are real words.  Next time you're writing something important take the time to have someone read it for meaning not just spelling.  You'd be surprised at what might slip through. 

 This week I will leave you with one last thought.  Writing clearly is sometimes an illusion especially when the writer is delusional about the correct choice of their words. 



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April 14, 2016

 This Is Your Masterpiece


I love this line.  It is from an Andy Grammer song that I listen to often.  In the song he talks about creating a life that starts with a blank canvas and it is up to us to use our mind to fill it with the colours of the universe.  The song also emphasizes "not settling".   In fact, he repeats the line "Don't settle till it's beautiful" as a key message.  Imagine not settling until it is beautiful.






So Much Beauty




Spring is the perfect time of year to remind us of the colours in the universe.  It is a period of renewal when the dullness of winter makes way for the bright  shoots of colour that emerge from the ground.   As each bulb breaks through the soil we eagerly look for signs of its companions.  The robins return and life begins again.  It is a period when our connection with nature is strong.  The universe is telling us "I'm making a comeback"







We All Have Comebacks


 Nature sets a wonderful example for all of us about the cycle of life.  It is forever renewing and rebuilding itself.   The strongest tree in my yard hasn't always been that way.  It has faced droughts, hail, straight line winds and harsh winters and has persevered.  It hasn't always been beautiful but it has had moments when it is breathtaking.  Some of our favourite bushes over the years have felt the ravages of living and we had to severely cut them back to give them a chance to survive.  Amazingly they sent out new growth and started the rebuilding process.  Today they soar beyond their prior size.   Think about if we gave ourselves the same opportunity to renew with the seasons. 


 Very Few Direct Paths



 Somewhere along the way we started hearing the message that there was a shortcut to the perfect life.  The fame and fortune frenzy that fuels this concept doesn't create a space for pausing or regrouping.  In fact, we might give up and stop before our life is beautiful.  What lies around the next curve is worth seeing.  What sits at the bottom of the ocean might be inconceivably beautiful.  There are a multitude of moments  when the universe is whispering to us to keep going, to take what is offered and make it into something better, more beautiful.  So this week, go out and watch the colour of nature burst through the spring soil and find a way for you to feel renewed once again.  

 

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April 7, 2016

 "Busy", The New Four Letter Word


Like many of you, I have my favourite four letter words that I use from time to time.  While decorum will not have me list them, I'm pretty sure you're aware of North America's most popular.  When used sparingly these "offensive" words might help convey emotion or bring humour to a delicate situation.  When used in excess they might incite anger, hatred or violence.  We hear them often in the conversations that invade our world because they're easy to use and readily available.  The one size fits all vocabulary.  It's hard to determine the exact moment when a word evolves into common profanity but I believe "busy" is knocking on profanity's doorstep.  People are obsessed with it's use.






Defending My Case




Profanity simply means language that is considered offensive.  What makes "busy" offensive is that it implies an excuse.  If I were to introduce someone as the King and Queen of Busy, I would expect nothing from them.  The King and Queen of Busy are language lazy. They use the word "busy" as  a catchall for everything.  Just uttering the word under your breath has magical powers to repel.  Throw  an additional adjective in front of "busy" and we are inundated with "I'm extra busy", "super busy", "especially busy" or "exceptionally busy".   The kingdom of that King and Queen is most unwelcoming.  The burden the word implies is offensive.  Why would we use such an offensive word to describe our lives? 







In The Beginning


 Busy is both a desire and a curse.  It's like the teenager who longs to go to their first bar and has no idea what happened when they discover they're drunk.  It's a strength as well as a weakness.  Busy is a word that can mean anything and everything.  We hear other four letter words used as adjectives, nouns,  and verbs all the time.  Has busy transcended into that same space?  When we look at someone who's spinning like a whirling dervish will we say "you're busied"? Or better yet, when someone has that glazed over dilated pupil look, will we respond "you're busied up"?


 Busy's Partner In Crime


Busy also buddies up with "finding time".  While 2016 is a  leap year providing us with an extra day, we all have the same number of hours, minutes and seconds available to us.  The 1440 minutes that make up each day are for our specific use.  When I hear someone say "I can't find the time" I wonder where their extra time is kept.  Time is not found, we take and use time.  We make choices that require time.  Author Elizabeth Gilbert suggests that we  can always take time for the things we want if we think about it like an affair.  Two people involved in an  affair will do anything to create a few minutes together.  I'm pretty sure neither party is saying "I'm busy".  While I'm not recommending an extramarital affair to help your time management I am suggesting a different perspective.  Instead of saying "I can't I'm busy", wouldn't it be better to say "I've chosen to fill my time with (........)".   By changing my language I might uncover new insight into my world.  Imagine saying "I choose to use an hour every day to attend a meeting"  Since I'm "choosing" to use an hour for that meeting I'm going to make good and sure it's worth it. 

 

 Stop Short Changing Yourself and Others


 Every time you say "I'm busy" others might hear:

  •  get away
  •  your time isn't valuable
  • You're not important
  •  You can't keep up

 You might feel:

  •  I just want to say no
  •  When did I lose control?
  •  How do I make it better?

 Whether we intend to or not "busy" is offensive to us and others when it is all we say to describe our life. 

 

 My Commitment to "Find and Replace" 

 

 Hopefully, this article represents one of the last times I will use this particular four letter word.  My promise is to consciously use a less offensive word.  So when someone asks if I'm busy, my reply will be "my schedule is what I've chosen for myself".

 We have an opportunity to shift our focus away from this unwelcome word and state of being.  When it tries to show up in our words it's time to replace it with something that tells a better story.  There's always time for that.



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March 31, 2016

 Guiding Our Way


March 31st  marks the anniversary of the opening of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.  Since 1889 it has been synonymous with Paris and France.  It is difficult for me to think of Paris without also thinking of this important landmark that has become so deeply embedded into the fabric of that city.   Like any landmark it has become a means of navigation drawing people to it like a powerful magnet.  For strangers, it is what fuels an adventure and for others it is what beckons us home.    






The Role of Landmarks




Man has created incredible landmarks over the years that have become symbols of the civilizations that forged them.  When they are at their best they unite people and create a sense of inclusion.   We can imagine the pride of citizenship as people stood looking at the Colosseum in Rome, the Taj Mahal, or Christ the Redeemer in Rio De Janiero.  I have yet to see these in person, however I have seen other beautiful landmarks.  For years, as I drove into Toronto,  I always felt a huge sense of pride as the CN Tower came into view from the QEW.   At the time of their construction, not everyone was as enamoured with their presence as we are now.   Reviews of the Eiffel Tower were mixed with some scholars noting "it's a gigantic factory chimney whose form will disfigure the architectural harmony of the city".   It truly is a rare combination of spectacle and miracle that creates a landmark that endures through time.







 Bringing Me Home


 While the world is full of spectacular landmarks, there are some more subtle landmarks that we all look for.  When I was younger, our return home from vacation generally took a fairly predictable route.  We would drive down the 401 until we reach the Manning Rd exit.  When we turned off Manning Rd onto County Rd 42 we were always greeted by a  glorious neon sign for a local motel.  I knew the moment I saw that sign home was only minutes away.  I considered it my personal landmark.  Today, when my travels take me east, the landmarks that beckon me home are the huge wind turbines that dot the landscape in Essex/Kent County.   





 Safety In Landmarks

 

 This morning the robins reminded me that we all search for landmarks that make us feel safe.  Each year a pair of robins return to the same spot on our garage to build their nest.  It is a crook in the eavestrough where they are protected and sheltered from the elements and other predators.  There are likely a myriad of landmarks that bring them back to this same spot year after year.  I can't help but believe the several springs for these robins equate to centuries in human life.   Humans and animals are drawn to those places that make us feel most safe.  When we see the landmarks that we associate with home they become sacred.  Perhaps that's why the peregrine falcons nest in the spires of the Brooklyn Bridge, a dual function as a landmark and home.   This week take some extra time to look at the landmarks that are significant to you.  What happens when you see them?  How do they make you feel?  If they signify home then they are the most magnificent of all.  














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March 24, 2016

 Becoming A Learner


 I began to explore this article after a conversation with a friend who expressed concerns about today's post secondary students.   As I listened to her words the concept of student versus learner kept filling my thoughts.    Had we focused too long on creating model students that we forgot what it meant to be a learner? 






When The Student Becomes A Learner




 I thought about my formal education as a student.  I took great pride in getting good marks.  In fact, that was an important measurement that was the focus of teachers, parents and my fellow students.  I distinctly remember a seating chart from grade 5 that grouped students according to their grades.  It was a status symbol to be at the table with the "A+" students.  Did it mean I was smarter than the other kids in my class?  Likely not, however, I developed a skill in test taking and focusing on the "now" of what needed to be regurgitated.   I continued on this path of being a "good student" until high school.  I think it was in grade 12 when I started to become curious about different things that weren't part of the curriculum.   I would start reading outside of the classroom.  In fact, I sometimes became so obsessed with a subject that I became an explorer searching for information.  You have to remember that back in the 70's this was no small feat.  There weren't personal computers or the internet to help.  It took physical action to go to the library and search through the card catalogue to find obscure books or reference material.  That experience started my shift to a learner.    




 When The Institution Creates The Conflict


As a university student, I was severely disappointed in my education the first two years.   The promise of the institution to develop learners was drastically compromised by the "nose bleed" class sizes where reading the text and writing multiple choice tests  was standard operating procedure.   In fact,  I deliberately boycotted a sociology lab one year when the teaching assistant was unable to communicate effectively to the students.  What does that do for someone who wants to develop as a learner?  It reinforces the negative elements of being a student.  While I successfully passed the course, I felt as if I learned nothing.   It was the classic example of the question "What do you call the person who graduates last in their medical school class?"  The answer is "doctor".   Was I destined to be a university graduate because I paid the tuition and went through the motions? 


Finding Your Shift


For me the shift happened during the summer between 2nd and 3rd year.  That summer I went out west and took a part time job for a less than perfect employer.  Honestly, if there was a modern version of Scrooge the person I worked for would have been type cast.  I stuck it out for the entire summer but learned an extremely valuable lesson.  I needed to take control of my own learning, to ensure I never had to work for someone like that again.   When I returned to school that fall I looked for courses that interested me.  I became curious.  It didn't matter whether the course fulfilled my degree requirements, I needed courses to fuel my curiosity to learn more.  In the end, I spent 5 years at the university taking an abundance of courses that helped me mesh multiple ideas and concepts that were uniquely mine.  While my degree was in Communication studies, I interlaced that with philosophy and business.  It has been a combination that established the cornerstone to my further learning.  


 What Will You Do? 

 

 Perhaps we need to ask today's students what they want to learn instead of what they need to do to get their degree.  What if every program allowed an individual to take a deeper dive into learning something completely different, something of their choice that engaged their curiosity?  In the end, I would rather be surrounded by individuals who are curious and wanting to learn than an A student who put in their time with no passion or purpose.  So let's change our vocabulary.  Remove the word student and replace it with learner.  Next, remove the word teacher and replace it with Master Learner.  After all what better way to develop learners than to master it ourselves.  





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March 17, 2016

 Let's Play


A friend of mine sent me a lovely picture of her daughter the other day with the caption "Play date at the ROM".   As I looked at it I couldn't help but smile as the picture perfectly captured the fun this delightful 3 year old was experiencing.   I thought about the words "play date" and wondered when was the last time I scheduled a play date?






 What We Play?




 As children, play was an important part of our world.  It allowed us to use our imagination, be social and discover the world around us.  It was the most natural thing for us to do.   Parents would tell us to  "go play".   They didn't tell us to play anything specific, their directive was as open as the possibilities before us.  I can't think of the last time anyone told me to go play.   Instead when I think of play, I automatically associate it with a specific activity.   I go play golf.   I play games.   I play music.  




 Play, The Ultimate Choice


 What differentiates play from work is that it is a choice.   We are not obliged to "play".  When we decide to play we do it willingly.  It becomes a state of mind.   Unfortunately, adults  think of play in terms of levels rather than an ultimate way of being.  We do things with a playful nature.   To say the word "play" seems a bit unnatural, perhaps an inappropriate use of our time.  I'd like to change that and suggest there are ways to insert "play" into our vocabulary. 


 It's Play..... Not Work


 When you make a choice to do something why not refer to it as play.  Instead of saying "I'm going to work in the garden" try "I'm going to play in the garden".  Instead of saying "I'm going to meet some friends after work" say "I'm going to play with some friends after work".   Just inserting the word "play" lightens the mood and creates an anticipation of fun.   We can all use more of that in our lives.  So this week insert a bit of play into your world and watch what happens.   


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March 10, 2016

 Challenging Fiction's Destiny


Last night I finally got around to watching Mad Max Fury Road with my family.   I am a huge fan of science fiction,  and after the Academy Awards I put this movie on my list of "must" watches.   While the action was fast paced it replayed a recurring storyline that has become all to familiar, the destruction of humanity and survival in a post apocalyptic world. 






 Why Such Doom and Gloom? 


 As a society, why are we so fixated on the worst case scenario for our future?  Our storytellers, through blockbuster movies, constantly remind us that:

  •  aliens want to destroy us and take over the planet.
  •  Only the most evil of humans will lead in the post apocalyptic future, and
  •  as soon as artificial intelligence becomes aware, humans will no longer be required.

 If those are our only choices, our future doesn't appear very bright.  Are these movies meant to be our wake up call, an opportunity to make changes today to ensure a better future?   


 An Alternate Future


What if aliens don't want to take over our planet?  What if their purpose is to help us survive and thrive?   What if there was never an apocalypse, but instead, a time of world peace?  What if artificial intelligence found the answers to assist humans in finding cures for our illnesses?   That's a more optimistic future.    It is sometimes very easy  to go to that "worst case scenario" in the movie of our lives.  Think about how you perceive the events around you

  •  my boss wants to see me......"I must have screwed up"
  • my teenage son didn't come home last night......"he must have been drinking"
  • "I don't know why I work so hard, it doesn't make a difference" 

 These are doom and gloom phrases that used often enough turn a tiny fissure into a massive canyon.  The more we use them the easier it is for our mind to lose hope.  What if we anticipate a different outcome?  What if the reason your boss wants to see you is to recognize your excellent work?  Your son didn't come home last night because he made sure all his friends got home safely?  Finally, in a true George Bailey epiphany, your hard work absolutely makes a difference to the people around you.   So this week, instead of going to the doom and gloom scenario in your world focus on the alternative.  It might be just the amount of hope that makes your future the best possible.  



 



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March 3, 2016

 Time For A Course Correction


 Have you ever found yourself going down a path that you knew wasn't good for you?  While you wanted to change direction the voice in your head convinced you that to step off the path was admitting defeat.  It's a bit like a gamblers dilemma.  After a series of losing bets they continue to bet because they are sure  their luck will eventually change.   While you may not be a gambler, you may have experienced a situation where the thought of changing course was the ultimate failure. 




 The Building Blocks Of A Dead End


 Like any really good horror movie there is a moment when the main character finds themselves at a dead end with no way out.  As a viewer it's sometimes humorous the sequence of decisions that were made to lead to that point.  In real life there are decisions we make and actions we take that put us in that position of a potential dead end.  Consider the following:

  • only considering one option
  • refusing to admit defeat
  • never asking for help
  • believing money solves all problems
  • not valuing ourselves
  • giving in to what is "first"




 Showing Our Resilience


 As humans we have been created to show resilience.  It is what allows us to become like the phoenix and rise from the ashes.   When we find ourselves at a potential dead end, it is the McGyver in all of us that we can tap into.  Sometimes this means thinking about our world, or ourselves, in a different way.  When we course correct we aren't just turning away from something, we're turning toward something.   It's not an admission of defeat as much as it's an admission of growth.   If we leave ourselves in a dead end, we might find the walls closing in on us.  Finding our way out is powerful.     So this week look at the direction you have been heading.  What are the reasons you are continuing down that path?  If the path aligns to your values and feels right then continue on.   If the path has become worn and no longer works, consider a course correction.  


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 February 25, 2016

  Getting To Your "Net" 


This is the week I have decided to look adversity in the eye and start to do my tax return.  It is , by and far, my least favourite activity to do.  Every year I generally put it off until I find it necessary to hole myself up for a few days before emerging with a set of completed documents.  The entire process  is an act of getting to the magical number of my net income.  That number dictates many things, the amount of tax I must pay, the government programs I am eligible for, and my value, on paper. 


 Programmed To Deduct


What's interesting about doing taxes is that we are excited when we are able to find allowable deductions.  In fact, on paper it's preferable to be in a deficit.   This deduction mentality also permeates the way we calculate net in other areas.   Think about how we calculate an employee's worth.   We start with a salary range within an industry and deduct based on lack of experience, training etc.  That calculation might become their starting wage.   What about when we give people demerit points each time they do something wrong.  What is the message we're sending?  What we often neglect is to look at net from a contribution perspective.  What is the value you have added in your work and life? 


Starting From Zero


What if we reset our calculators to zero at the start of every year and looked at the contributions we make to the world around us.  For each act of kindness we add value.  For each person whose life we enhance we add value.   At work, each project you complete or each satisfied customer adds value.  Think about how that might shift your perspective?  It's the gold star system of our youth re-commissioned for our adult lives. 

 

What's Your Net Worth? 

 

 This week let's try an experiment.   For the first 3 days of the week  start noticing everything you  somewhat "screw up".  The deductions from the "should haves" that we all run across.   Maybe you didn't get to a meeting on time, forgot to pick up something for supper.   You get the idea.  Total them up after 3 days.   Deduct this number from 100 and consider that your net worth.   How do you feel? 

 The next 3 days start noticing everything where you add value.   Perhaps it's the conversation with someone that made them feel better, or the report you handed in on time.  Notice them all.  At the end of three days tally them all up.  This new number might even be less than the first number but ask yourself how it makes you feel?  If you're like most people, even if the second number is lower, you feel surprisingly better.  When you start  noticing your contributions it's a strong driver to continue contributing.  If you did this for another three days your number will likely grow higher and higher.  The reality is there is no cap.  When we go the other way, zero is always looming on the horizon.  So this week, it's time to ask yourself what direction you'll take and watch when you choose to move up. 



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February 18, 2016

 Historical Fiction

 Each week as I prepare for these articles I visit several websites.  There are a few that provide historical references about the events and people that are associated with the date.    It sometimes provides inspiration for my article but lately I started noticing a disturbing trend.   For every 10 men that are mentioned in history there is only one woman.   Before jumping to conclusions and trying to confirm this bias I started reading other sites and I wasn't mistaken.  There is a huge gap in what is readily available regarding historical women versus men.  Now before you start suggesting alternate sites the key here is "readily" available.   I like to think of it as the "Coles Notes" version of history


 Who Are Our Role Models?




What I was finding, in my first level searches, were references to the "exceptional women" in ancient history and then to female golfers in most recent history.    So unless you were either Joan of Arc or Kathy Whitworth chances are you're just a footnote.  This isn't just limited to history sites.  It also permeates other media.  I recently was searching for a woman that was significant in their 50's and 60's in pop culture.   It was incredibly difficult to find someone.  We have a few women now like Oprah, and Diane Sawyer but from the  60's, 70's and 80's strong women were under 35.   In fact, the one woman I thought about that came close was Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke who was in her 40's.  


 Time To Look Elsewhere


Since pop culture and historical sites weren't really helping my cause I started to look around a bit closer to home.  I have had the luxury of having two strong female role models in my life, my mother and my grandmother.  My grandmother was 60 years old when I was born and lived to 88.  During that time I saw a woman who was constantly filled with joy.   She's not in any history books yet she will always be remembered by the people that knew her.   My mom will be 88 in a few weeks.   I have seen her overcome all sorts of obstacles in her life and continue to persevere.   Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely woman named Kathy at an event I attended.  This woman was in her mid 70's and had recently buried her husband after 55 years of marriage.  She got married at 17 and for 55 years she cared for her husband and children.   When I saw her yesterday she was doing something for herself.   A lifetime of caring for others was finally being put aside and she was spending time on herself.   These are the real heroines in history.  The women who led lives of strong service to others and set examples for all of us to follow.   Their place in the world are as the great enablers. 

 

 Who Were Your Great Enablers?


 When I use the term "enablers" I am referring to individuals who allow you to fly, not those individuals that create an environment where you perpetuate bad behaviours.  I have know quite a few of the former.  They are the leaders who selflessly give you opportunities to take on new tasks.  They are the people who believe you "can" when you are convinced you "can't".  They put other's needs before their own because they see the greater good.  When you look at this list in your history I'm sure you'll find a lot of strong women included.  So this week it's time to think about your history and the people who made a difference in your life.  They are the most important chapters in your history and worth applauding.   


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February 11, 2016

 One Token = One Ride


Anyone who rides public transit is familiar with the fact that one token equals one ride.  The much preferred method of frequent use is to obtain a monthly or yearly pass that grants the rider unlimited use of the transit system.   It is like an all access pass.   This concept is not just limited to public transit.  We still live in a world where certain individuals are considered tokens and just get one ride.   Consider what's occurring with this year's Academy Awards and the US Presidential election.  


 What's A Token?




 The dictionary defines token as a member of a group that is included within a large group.   There is also a parenthesis to suggest "member of a group" generally refers to a minority.   We have a history in North America that creates a token environment instead of an all access system.   Consider the election of Barack Obama,   the first black man elected as president.   If we look at the candidates currently vying for President we would be hard pressed to find another black man that anyone would consider a front runner.    After all, why should we look for another when they've elected their token?   Then there's Hillary Clinton.  Is she the token female?   Is it wise to elect two different tokens back to back?   This might be unsettling to the masses.   In terms of the Academy Awards, the controversy is that two years straight there have been no black actors nominated for the top acting awards.   Why would they be considered?   They've already filled their token quota, remember Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, Halle Berry and Jennifer Hudson?


 Time To Eliminate Tokens


We have a responsibility to eliminate the concept of token individuals from our world.  When we look around we live in a rainbow world that is full of exciting ideas and individuals who bring them to life.   That's the message that we should be encouraging.   Instead we hear the chatter that promotes fear from individuals who are different and don't think the same way as the majority.  Every morning when I turn on the news I hear about a shooting.  The media would like nothing more than to identify the shooter as an extremist, someone different that the rest of the population, because that feeds the token system.  If we are exposed to messages that an entire group are violent then there might only be one token in that group that is not violent.  If we want to believe that women are irresponsible then we might focus on someone's email use instead of their important messages. 


 Stop Being A Token

 

 Those of us who have been treated as tokens have a responsibility to stand up and be heard.  The more we get our peers involved the larger our pool becomes.   It's interesting that perception is very individualized.  I recently read an article by Lynne Everett regarding the consulting group McKinsey.  They have a token 11% of women in senior leadership positions.   This is an enormous company that has their hands in the major organizations of the world.  The last time I checked I was pretty sure that women represented more than 11% of the global population.   I also read that Barack Obama has hired McKinsey to help define his post presidential work.   Interesting how certain things are perpetuated when we're not looking.    


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February 4, 2016

 In This Hand.... A Paint Brush


This winter I made a conscious decision to brighten up the dark days with new paint in my house.   While this began as a remodel of the mudroom and kitchen it has morphed into a never ending mission to brighten my interior spaces.  There is something special about the transformation that occurs as a result of a fresh coat of paint.   Not only do you change the colour of the walls, your furniture and decorations take on a new life.  


 What I've Noticed




Throughout my home are pictures my husband and I have collected over the years.   Some we've had for a short period of time while others we've had for decades.   Their position on the wall remains unchanged however, with a fresh coat of paint what I see in them shifts.    A missed element in the picture now jumps out at me demanding attention due to the change in background colour.   It's not just the impact of the wall colour, the crisp white of the trim creates the perfect frame for each room.   Together the room is reborn.

 

 A Domino Effect


There are 18 distinct rooms in my home that could be painted.   I started by focusing on two.   As of this morning, I have finished 8 spaces and continue on the 9th.   The impact is like a row of dominos when one falls down it topples the next until they are all done.   While I may not paint every room in my home this winter, I'm pretty sure there is one more that will be tackled before the blooms in my garden call me outdoors.



 What Will You Freshen Up?

 

So here is a challenge for you to help brighten up your world.  Go to your local home improvement store, or hardware, and look in their paint "mistakes" area.   This is the area where a paint colour didn't turn out the way the customer wanted.  The result is a nice colour at a great price.   Find one that will work for you and paint a wall.   Start with one wall as a feature wall in a room.   It doesn't take a lot of time or work but the results will brighten up more than your walls.   


 

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January 28, 2016

 Deep Listening

One of the perks of being a Leadership and Life Coach is that I've been working with my own coach for a couple of years.  It is the ultimate example of practicing what I preach, or in the case of coaching, really being heard.   In fact, there is something special that happens when your coach uses their ability to deeply listen in a way that stops you in your tracks.   That happened to me the other day.

 

 Need Versus Want




There is an ebb and flow in my work and in my personal life that is comfortable.  Unfortunately I'm not always the most astute individual when it comes to understanding my capacity.   What that means is I sometimes keep piling things on my plate until I become physically exhausted and realize I "need" to step back.   This was a strong theme in my last coaching session.   I kept saying  I need, I need and I need.   As I was creating this list of things I needed to do I didn't realize that the word, need, was so prevalent in my statements.   When my coach used a backtracking technique I realized that at no point did I "want" to do what I was professing.  Imagine how that stopped me and caused me to take stock of what I wanted.


Wanting is Personal


What I realized during that coaching session was how to differentiate my wants from my needs.   For me the distinction was the very intimate feeling of ownership that comes from my wants.  They come from deep within me.   Now I'm not talking about the lower level  needs of survival or safety as laid out by Maslow, I'm going into the realm of self actualization.    For me the word "want" became a catalyst to discover what is most important to me.   While I may need to have balance in my life, what I want is to be able to do the things that fulfill me.    



 What Are Your Wants?


 While most of you don't work with a coach, you can all start to listen to your language.   What do you feel when you use the word "need" and the word "want"?  What is the word that inspires you to take action?  This week listen to how you use both words.   What word do you hear yourself saying the most?  Are they just words with no action or are they the words that lead to action?  What word are you afraid to say?  What action is long overdue?  Hopefully this simple exercise will be something you "want" to do..... not something you "need" to do.  


 

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January 21, 2016

 The Role of Expectations

Working as a consultant I am often asked how to improve performance.  This question is generally posed by an employer who is looking for a quick fix to improve performance, in the same way people look for a magic pill to lose weight.   Unfortunately there is no magic pill, instead there's a simple formula that starts with setting expectations.     Every employee, regardless as to their role needs to know what is expected of them.   What should their performance look like?   This is a basic discussion that often finds its way into the world of assumptions where we hear people say "They should know what they're supposed to do!"  or "How much more do I have to spell it out?"   When I hear these statements or ones similar to them I'm fairly confident that expectations  are as clear as mud


 Expectations....A Two Way Street




What I've also discovered is that expectations are not the exclusive domain of employers.   Employees also have expectations of their employers.   Every day employees expect to go to work in a safe environment.  They expect to be treated fairly and receive the pay that has been promised to them.   They expect to receive the benefits that are part of their employment contract.  This builds a sense of trust between employer and employee that positively impacts productivity.     When there is a clear understanding of expectations from both the employer and employee perspective there is a greater likelihood of increased productivity. 



 But This Is A Special Circumstance!


What I've also heard is that the Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA) of today's business world has created an environment of special circumstances that disregard the expectations that are the cornerstone of trust between employer and employees.  Too many times employers change the playing field for employees based on their perception of a "special circumstance"   It's as if they are invoking the "Emergency Measures Act" .  If you're a Canadian this authorizes the taking of special temporary measures to ensure safety and security during national emergencies.  It also states that any temporary laws under the Act are subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.    Have we become stuck in a perpetual state of emergency, constantly changing expectations?  



 Expectations Are Your Charter Of Rights and Freedoms

 

If you consider expectations as your organization's Charter of Rights and Freedoms you might also consider the impact they have on productivity when they are changed or removed.  Let's look at an expectation such as vacation.   Recently research conducted in the United States determined the impact of vacation on employee productivity.  What they found was that employees who took their full allotment of vacation were substantially more productive at work.   A few years back this was a catalyst for change in vacation accrual policies across North America.  The days when employees could endlessly accrue vacation were gone as too many employees were not taking their vacation.  Perhaps they thought it was too busy or there would be a better time in the future.   Now employers either limit rollover or have a " use it or lose it" policy because taking vacation has a direct impact on productivity.  Employees have an expectation to take vacation and employers have an expectation that you will come back from vacation re-invigorated and ready to be productive.  But what happens when a "special circumstance" interrupts this situation?  You might see an employer change the rules around vacation perhaps limiting when someone can take vacation.   An employee might also decide that it's too busy to take vacation.   Both employer and employees are making decisions that will impact the overall productivity of the organization.   The mental health of the employee will deteriorate if vacation is deferred.  Trust may erode as this "special circumstance" generally begets another one and the expectations that were once fairly clear have now become cloudy.


 VUCA Is A Part Of Reality


 Organizations need to understand that volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity will surround their world on an ongoing basis.   What they need to remember is that there are certain Rights and Freedoms within every organization that should be unflinching and not subject to change.   What are your organization's fundamental Rights and Freedoms?  These are the  expectations that should be non-negotiable.   Why not start with ensuring the mental and physical health of your employees above all else.   Why not  come from a place of giving versus taking?  Why not come from a place of "best place to work" versus "you've got a job, be thankful"   When they become your expectations why would you ever want to change them?


 

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January 14, 2016

 A New Moonshot?

Living in close proximity to the United States I often have greater exposure to US news than I do to Canadian news.  Two nights ago the President gave his State of the Union address and part of his speech made me pause.   "Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer.  Last month he worked with this Congress to give scientists at National Institute for Health the strongest resources they've had in over a decade.  Tonight I'm announcing a new national effort to get it done.  And because he's gone to the mat for all of us, on so many issues over the past forty years, I'm putting Joe in charge of mission control."

Just like Kennedy had challenged the United States to be the first country to put a man on the moon, this was a much more far reaching challenge 


 Not Just A Cure



What I found interesting was that the biggest challenge for the US might not be in finding a cure but in making the cure accessible to everyone.   As I thought about the devastation that happens when the diagnosis of cancer enters someone's life I realized that it wasn't just physical and emotional, it's also financially devastating especially for the millions of Americans who have lived with this diagnosis.  Cancer treatment has become big business for the health care industry in the United States.  Pharmaceutical companies and hospitals make large profit margins on cancer treatment.  In fact, it is estimated that one year of life increased from $139,100 in 2005 to $207,000 in  2013.    Those are staggering numbers.   Canada is also not immune to high costs for medication that is not covered outside of hospital. 



 We Are All Stakeholders 


There is a huge cost as a result of cancer in terms of loss of life and productivity which is estimated to account for 1.5 percent of global gross domestic product.   In the US more than  half a million Americans die of cancer every year.   In curing cancer we only change these statistics if treatment is available and accessible to everyone.   We have to look at this beyond the profit and loss statements in our shareholder reports.   Ask yourself what return on investment you are willing to live with to create a world where people aren't devastated by this terrible illness. 



 A Small Step For Man, A Giant Step for Mankind

 

 When the dust settles and the first announcement is made about the cure for cancer may it consist of those elements readily available to us all.  Perhaps the cure is as abundant as the grains of sand that cushion our feet.  That is the hope that will help all of us take a giant step for mankind. 

 

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January 7, 2016

 A Selfless Act of Kindness


As a facebook subscriber I often see images of people performing incredible acts of kindness.  I've seen pictures of soldiers rescuing kittens, people assisting the elderly or disabled, neighbours helping neighbours and strangers feeding the hungry.   These selfless acts of kindness are everywhere if we take the time and look for them.   What I don't always see is the kindness we should show to ourselves.   I am one of the worst offenders when it comes to being kind to myself.   The voice in my head  has created a mindset where it is much more important to serve others than to serve myself. 


 Time To Shift My Intent




Somewhere along the way I decided that focusing on myself was a low priority.   I had family responsibilities, work responsibilities and community responsibilities.  If and only if those were taken care of would I take the time or energy to focus on myself.    Perhaps many of you have had a similar experience in your lives when you finally had a moment to focus on yourself only to find your energy depleted.  We reassure ourselves that there will come a time when we won't have to focus so much of our energy on others but we've developed a caretaker mindset.   In order to be kinder to ourselves we have to start  by shifting some of our energy away from others and to ourselves.  It becomes a discovery in loving yourself

 

If It Were Someone Else


If we saw a friend being hard on themselves we might take them aside and suggest making some changes?  Think about the times when you've been unsuccessful in achieving a goal.  Did you beat yourself up?  If we saw a friend do this we'd help them see the positives.  There was a scene in the movie "Love and Other Drugs"  where Anne Hathaway's character asks "Jake Gyllenhall's character to name 4 things about himself that he's proud of.   The character wasn't able to find four things readily available.   What if this same question was posed to you?   Would you be able to name four things? 


 Taking The First Steps


 I read an anonymous quote that I thought fitting, 

 

Eat like you love yourself.

 Move like you love yourself. 

Speak like you love yourself. 

Act like you love yourself. 

 Within this quote are several great places to take those first steps.  If you eat food that is good for you, tastes great and allows you to savour different flavours, it is a gift we give to ourselves.   When we move our bodies to make them strong it allows us to climb mountains or comfortably sit on the ground like a child and explore our world.  When we use positive words to describe ourselves our vocabulary breathes possibility into our imagination.  So as we start a new year discover yourself in a new way.   Create a wonderful collage of selfies showing random acts of kindness to yourself.  What a beautiful way to start loving yourself. 



 

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December 17, 2015

 What's Next To Learn?


As this is my last article for 2015 it generally means a time of reflection and looking forward to what awaits in 2016.   I read a wonderful quote yesterday that said "the windshield of a car is so much larger than the rear view mirror because you need to spend more time looking forward than looking backwards".   What a wonderful way to think about life and how we should live, a definite call to action.    As I thought about the windshield of my life I realized how much more I wanted to see.   It's as if a huge highway was at my fingertips waiting for me to take the wheel. 


 Windshield Wipers and Sponges


 Anyone who has driven a car knows that in order to ensure your view is unobstructed you occasionally have to use your windshield wipers.  If the windshield is dry, the wipers have limited effect, only moving debris aside.  To optimize their usefulness you have to add windshield washer fluid.  Through this combination of movement and moisture we clear our line of sight to see what lies ahead.  Throughout life, we are like sponges continually absorbing moisture as we learn.  Our usefulness is optimized when we stay moist and absorbent.   If we stop learning we tend to dry up and become ineffective.





Getting Drenched


This is the time of my life when I want to drench myself in learning and become the most absorbent sponge around.   That means exposing myself to as much moisture as I can find.   Luckily, it is everywhere I look.   It's in my conversations, what I read, where I go, and what I do.   We are living in an age where so much is available to us at our fingertips.   I've always wanted to play the piano..... perhaps this will be the year.   I've always wanted to learn Italian..... perhaps this will be the year.   Whatever I've always wanted is ready for NOW.   Join me and make 2016 the year of learning.   Have a wonderful Holiday Season and  I'll see you in 2016

 

 Patti


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December 10, 2015

 Power Versus Precision

As football is coming to the end of the regular season I find myself wondering what is more valuable,  is it the power of the linebackers to protect their quarterback or is it the precision of the quarterback?  Both are necessary for success .  Who hasn't marvelled at the skill of a quarterback  who meticulously threads the football between the outstretched hands of defenders until it magically finds his receiver?  Then there are the linebackers who unflinchingly hold defenders at bay ensuring their quarterback is treated as delicately as a hard boiled egg.  If they don't give him enough time he'll splatter all over, definitely not something anyone wants.  The debate between power and precision takes place in other sports, but it's also evident in other aspects of our lives.   Do we throw our weight around to get what we want or do we carve out our way using surgical precision in our choice of words and actions?  


 When To Be A Bull....Not In A China Shop!


 When you think about a bull there is no mistaking the power they wield.  They cut a wide swath when they enter a room and knock everyone and everything out of the way.  If you've never seen a bull up close just imagine watching a bulldozer and you'll get my drift.  For some people the actions of a bull might appear completely distasteful in any aspect of their life, however,  you might want to reconsider.   When we think about our safety and the safety of others we sometimes need to take a bull's approach and leave nothing unturned.  Being a bull can also help us start over and create a complete refresh.   If you've been stuck and tried to unsuccessfully pick your way out of a situation it might be time to make a complete overhaul.  What about living life like a bull.   Instead of plotting out every step you take put your head down and see what you bump into.  Who knows you might experience things in a totally new way. 





The Need For Precision


Precision is what makes us dig deeper and find the treasures along the way.  We require precision in the things we build in our lives so that they will endure long after our lives have ended.  The masons knew this centuries ago as they discovered the precise measurements for keystones, arches and columns to support the mass structures that have become the architectural history of our world.  Precision also opens our world to discovery.  Each mirror and magnifying lens in the Hubble Telescope requires precise measurements and angles to do it's job and allow us to see the universe.  When we miss the details we can't always build the full story. 


 Always Balancing




 Whether we act like bulls or meticulous surgeons requires us to reflect on the situation that is presenting itself and the outcome we want to achieve.   We will find times to use each along the way.  We run into trouble when we default to the same behaviour over and over again, regardless as to the situation.   So this week challenge yourself to consider the opposite of what you "always" do, you'll be surprised at how your perspective might change, that's definitely not full of bull.    


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December 3, 2015

 It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like.....


It wouldn't be a surprise if you started to hum the melody to a specific tune as you read the title of this week's article.  In fact, you likely finished the sentence with the word "Christmas".   After all it is December and we are just weeks away from an event that a lot of us anticipate every year.   Part of that anticipation is heightened by the cues that bombard our senses everywhere we look.  It becomes inescapable.  We hear the songs on the radio, the lights on buildings, the decorations in stores and the Christmas trees lighting the windows of our homes.  


 Less Than Obvious




While the proximity of Christmas is obvious to most people there are other cues that people discover that trigger different feelings.   Humans are creatures that look for patterns among the randomness that fill our days.   Sometimes in our quest for patterns we may see things that aren't there.   Perhaps you've watched someone's expression and thought you saw disappointment.   Later you may have heard their words and felt less valued.   With each subsequent interaction we begin to look for the cues to confirm what we believe to be true.   In essence, we create our own "it's beginning to look a lot like" beliefs


Time to Step Back


It's easy to become caught up in confirming our beliefs.  Unfortunately our beliefs aren't facts.   We've all had the experience of believing someone doesn't like us, or are excluding us from things.   When that feeling starts to appear take a step back and objectively look at what occurred to make you feel that way.   What are you reading into the words that are said, or the words that are missing?   What would someone else think if asked for their opinion.   So before you start singing a new "it's beginning to look a lot like" song remember that believing is seeing this time of year but for the rest of the time make sure you really see it before you believe it. 


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November 26, 2015

 After You

As a young girl I remember hearing these words spoken by the gentlemen in my life as they made way for the women in their world to go first.   Sometimes, it was as they held a door open,  or when  several people were jockeying for a position in a line and the woman was allowed to go first.  In recent years, I must confess that the use of this phrase has found a different place in my consciousness.  It is now said to me as a catalyst to take action. 


Being Fearless


 Over the years I have taken great pride in being  the person that others count on for going first.  Whether  I was the first person to raise  my hand to pose a question, or the first to try something new I was the trailblazer that others counted on.   This has migrated to other aspects of my life as well.   I am generally the person who generates contact with others, keeps up the correspondence and coordinates family events.   While I enjoy this a lot, a part of me yearns for someone else to go  first every now and then. 

What Are You Expected To Do?


You might have a similar habit of either going first or always deferring to someone else to take the lead.   Whenever your behaviour falls into the "always" category perhaps it's time to consider a little shake up.    If  you always go first,  start by remaining silent during situations where people always expect you to lead.   By  remaining silent you give someone else the opportunity to step up and take the lead.  Watch how the  energy in the room changes when you start observing what others do.   You might find a brilliant idea that didn't come from you.   You might also find that you gain some additional time and energy.   If you always defer to someone else to take the lead imagine the joy you might feel by being the first to put words to your thoughts and share them with others.  Whatever the case it might be good practice to shake things up.   Why not try it..... I'll let you go first.


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November 19, 2015

 Pulling An "All Nighter"

There was a time when this expression meant staying up all night to get something accomplished or partying with friends until the sun came up signalling the end of an epic night.  Last night, I experienced a much different definition of the term as I sat with my mother in the emergency ward at Windsor Regional Hospital


The Fortitude to Work The Grave Yard Shift


 Our arrival and departure in the emergency department coincided with the  shift change of a large majority of the staff.  Everywhere I looked there were hard working staff that seemed oblivious to the night sky and the time of day that was repeatedly registering in my brain.   Scientists have found that individuals who work this shift do so at a cost to their health and well being.  Brain science has shown that prolonged exposure to this shift causes deficits in cognition.  It is a shift that is both physically and mentally depleting.   For most of us we are able to avoid this challenge to our systems, however there are a group of people who must show up at their best to provide essential services to the rest of us. 



Who Are These Unsung Heroes?


These heroes are just like you and I except we see them in hospitals, police officer uniforms, snow plows, public works departments, emergency medical departments, fire fighter uniforms,  on the line in factories or anywhere else that requires 24/7 service.  


 Time to Say Thank You






 It is easy for us to take for granted the people who make our daytime lives much easier.  When you walk into a grocery store and see fully stocked shelves, it's likely the result of someone working midnights to refill those shelves.  We also have truck drivers who travel for hours at all times of the day to deliver the goods we depend on.  The list is endless.  This week why not take some time to thank those individuals who start their day as you are ending yours.  They are sacrificing a lot to create the world we live in.  I will start with a special thank you to the night shift at Windsor Regional Hospital.  Throughout our stay there we felt incredibly cared for, whether it was the security guard asking about changing the television station,  the nurse calmly reassuring an elderly woman, was or the cleaning staff  who efficiently kept the patient rooms clean everyone was professional and grounded in care and compassion.  Thank you.


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November 12, 2015

 Because I Am A Girl

I decided to write this article after a conversation with an earnest young woman from Plan Canada.   This is an organization I have given financial support to for quite some time and they occasionally check in and provide me progress updates on their work.   One of their initiatives is a program called "Because I am a Girl".   As a woman, I have always been keenly aware of the obstacles that we face as a gender.   I have also, been extremely thankful that I was born at a time and in a place that has afforded me opportunities that don't exist everywhere in our world. 


Happy Birthday Elizabeth Cady Stanton




As I was researching this article I discovered that today was the birthday of Elizabeth Cady Stanton b 1815, who was one of the leading figures in the early women's rights movement in the United States.   In fact, she authored a document in 1848 entitled the Declaration of Sentiments that is as powerful today as it was when it was first published.   


It Takes Too Much Time


It took 72 years between the emergence of the Declaration of Sentiments and when the United States gave women the right to vote.  Historically there were just a few European countries like Finland, Sweden and Iceland that gave the women the right to vote in the late 19th century and countries such as France, Italy, Greece and Switzerland didn't do this until after 1944.    Perhaps I'm naïve in thinking that it should be easy to give women the same rights as men wherever they live in our world.   I have this belief because I have had the luxury of education available to me and choices in my life that have allowed me to live a full life.   As the mother of a grown daughter I was adamant about instilling that sense of value in her.   We still have a ways to go.   While I was thrilled that Prime Minister Trudeau appointed a gender equal cabinet I was equally disappointed in the comments of Donald Trump, a Republican Candidate for President in the United States, in not understanding the significance of this action. 


 The Numbers Are Staggering







 



  Take A Step To Make a Difference

 

As we approach the holiday season and shift our focus to giving, perhaps it is time to take additional action to support the cause of women on our planet.  Take a look at the work that is being done through "because I am a girl".  There might be a way you can help make a difference.   I will close with a quote from Elizabeth Cady Stanton,  "To live for a principle, for the triumph of some reform by which all mankind are to be lifted up, to be wedded to an idea may be, after all, the holiest and happiest of marriages". 

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October 29, 2015

 Stronger Than Ever


One year ago yesterday I was in a hospital bed having just had abdominal surgery.   If you've ever had that type of surgery you realize how compromised your mobility is, particularly your core.   The simple act of trying to sit up was extremely painful and I felt my strength was completely depleted.  That was October 28, 2014.   On October 29, 2014, while my physical strength was still weak I called upon an inner strength to work through the pain and focus on my recovery.   It started with the simple act of moving my legs back and forth while I lay in the hospital bed.   The first day I was home I walked around my kitchen island 10 times before becoming fatigued, two days later I walked to the mailbox down the street.  It took me 45 minutes but I continued. 


The Ebb and Flow Of Strength




What that period of time in my life showed me is that I have a tremendous reserve of strength.  When required I can work through any problem.  My strength keeps me moving towards a future that I envision for myself.   That future is a combination of mental and physical challenges that charge my batteries.   Several months after my surgery I gingerly started to build my abdominal strength.  That meant doing a couple of sit ups on an exercise ball.   Every few weeks I would add something new to my routine.  Now a year later I am happy to say that I can plank for 2 minutes, do multiple sets of inverted sit ups and have a strength in my core that I haven't had for a long time.   I continue to challenge my mind with new learning and share this with my clients. 


Find Your Strength


The interesting thing about strength is that it requires work to acquire  and to maintain it.  What a shame it is if we let our strengths atrophy from neglect or disuse.   We live in a world where we focus so much on our weaknesses and not enough on our strength.  This week it's time to take inventory of your strengths and take them out for some exercise.  Maybe you've gotten a little rusty but with a little focused attention you'll be stronger than ever.   As a famous duo on Saturday Night Live, Hans and Franz used to say, "pump it up".  


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October 22, 2015

 When The Stars Align


This week a dear friend referenced the phrase "when the stars align" in an email she sent me.  To me, the phrase means finally achieving something that seems impossible.  It also represents hope.  A hope that we all have, within us,  the power to move symbolic celestial bodies and make the impossible happen.   In some cases it's as simple as finding time to get together with a friend. 


Continuing  Your Story




Maya Angelou has a wonderful quote that goes :  "People won't remember what you said or what you did but they will always remember how you made them feel"   This feeling is what we all search for as humans.   Brain research has confirmed that we  focus on our social self immediately after we complete transactional work.   It is what drives us as humans.  When we connect with people it allows us to continue our story.   Every time I have the opportunity to spend time with friends and family it adds another chapter to a favourite story.       I like to think I have a library of unfinished stories waiting for new chapters to be added.


 What Stories Will You Continue?


One of my greatest regrets in life are the stories I haven't continued.   When time or circumstances have gotten in the way I've sometimes discarded relationships into a pile of unfinished manuscripts.  It's not that the stories were boring, in fact, they've often been filled with incredible characters that  have wonderful adventures.   I just let them slip away.    Maybe too much time  has gone by and the feeling that we once shared has started to fade.   When that happens, we might fear that the words to fill new pages will be dull or lack the excitement and intensity of feeling that filled the first part of our story.  


Connecting With Our Muses


The most incredible thing happens when we connect with the people that share our stories, they immediately become our muse.  While we might rehash some of our history together,  it is only to set the stage for our continued story.  Each time we connect we regenerate the feeling that we have for that person.  It becomes impossible to not continue a beautiful story.  So this week, find one of your stories that you've temporarily put aside and reconnect.  Watch the magic that infuses into the words you share, but more importantly, to the way you feel when you're together. 

 

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October 15, 2015

 Babies and Baseball?


 As the baseball playoffs move into high gear I find myself baffled by the presence of babies at the ballpark.  Last night as I watched the Blue Jays game I saw several mothers holding young babies and shielding them from beer cans being thrown about the stadium.   This, however, wasn't the first time babies have been on display at the ballpark this year.   About a month ago, there was a father holding his young baby in one arm while trying to catch a foul ball with the other.   While doing this the baby was held in a rather precarious position.   What has happened to entice these people to bring their babies to the ballpark?   I decided to research this further


 Blame It On The Babe




One of the legends of baseball is "Babe Ruth"   Anyone who knows anything about baseball will recognize the contribution he made to the game.  I can't help but think that his name has become a calling card to babies everywhere to come to the ballpark.  Most of the stadiums in North America have also become very "baby friendly".   In fact,  some stadiums will issue a "First Game" certificate to the baby that can be placed with all the other "firsts" in their life.   Perhaps the most important part of bringing a baby is that they get in free...... FREE.......FREE.     That's pretty enticing considering how expensive sporting events have become for the family to attend.  Most ballparks admit children under 36" tall for free as long as they sit on the laps of their parent.    



Now That We're Here


So now that you've got baby at the ballpark what do you do with them, or more importantly, how do you keep them safe?  Consider this, the average sound at a baseball game is between 80 to 114 decibels.   The high range is likely when there is a full crowd and  sustained banging and cheering.   Last night's Blue Jays game would definitely have been at the top range.   This level of noise is just a few decibels less than standing 25 feet from a jet engine.   Somehow, little ears might not quite be able to handle that volume of noise.   First level of remediation,  Ear muffs.   Next, we have to consider the flying objects at a ballpark.   We definitely have baseballs, peanuts, beer cans and lots of other items that fly through the air at varying velocity.   Since a baby's head is most fragile I'd suggest a bike helmet might work well at the ballpark.   In addition, we might want to protect the rest of their body with additional protective gear.   Think about a miniature chest protector for baby.    Next, we have to consider what Mom or Dad do when holding baby.  Multi tasking with baby in hand is a definite no, no.   We could provide a plug in tether under the seat that restricts the movement of the parent so that they can't dangle over the edge with baby  or throw baby up in the air in joy when their team scores the go ahead run. 


 Once In A Lifetime

 Sports fans can easily get wrapped up in a "once in a lifetime" frenzy when teams are competing for a championship.   For some sports teams the time between championships is huge.  Last night in Toronto, an entire generation was seeing the Blue Jays compete for the division title for the first time.  If you're a Maple  Leafs fan, that hasn't happened since 1967.  Bringing baby to the ballpark might be their only opportunity to say "I was there".  That's unfortunate as they won't even remember.  Instead, let's cheer our teams in the good times and the bad.  A trip to the ballpark through the years is remembered as a great family event, one that fills our youth, our young adulthood and our senior years.  Each time we go, we layer on new memories that are priceless.  We may not remember the scores but we will remember the great times we had together. 

 

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October 8, 2015

 A Tale of Support

 There are days when my need for humour is overwhelming.  It provides a lightness that frees my spirit.  Today, is definitely a day in need of humour.  So indulge me as I have a little fun with the concept of support.   As a woman, the need for support is everywhere.  The mere act of getting dressing requires the appropriate selection of undergarments to make sure that every part of my anatomy is in the position it was intended to be in.  This morning at the gym, as I was working with my trainer, I was doing a jumping exercise to strengthen my ankles and Achilles tendons.  After the first set, my trainer asked me where I felt it most?  My response, was "in my chest" as the simple motion of jumping up and down clearly showed I hadn't made the correct choice of support when dressing at 5:15am.




 Naming Support




 In today's world it is hard to find a company that does not have a support area.  If you are having a problem just go to any company's support site.  When you virtually arrive there why not start a support chat.  It's easy, all you have to do is ask a support question.  From this question you'll be directed to the inner workings of the support world.  You might even have the opportunity of talking with a support staff who is always sorry to hear about your problem, however, can definitely help you with that.    When you're done they would appreciate it if you completed one of their support surveys. 



 Bouncing In Virtual Support World


While part of my anatomy bounces when I don't wear the right support it is easily remedied by stopping the action.  When I seek virtual support I find myself in a perpetual state of bounce.  I sometimes feel like a ball in a pinball machine and the game is on autoplay.  There is no one directing me where to go, I am trying to navigate a sea of questions that might help but , then again, might not.  By the time I finally get human support I feel like I've been beaten and bruised.   If you've ever had physical trauma, the art of conversation afterwards is not the best. 

 



 If Virtual Support Was Like A Jock Strap


 As a consumer, we use virtual support when we have a hurdle to overcome.  We need to face it and clear it without injury to ourselves.  If I was male instead of female, the role of a jock strap would become very important to my anatomy when trying to jump a hurdle.  My lack of support wouldn't cause bouncing but potentially irreparable damage to a most valued piece of anatomy.  So I issue a challenge to corporate support sites.  Don't leave us dangling with no support.  Don't give us a level of support that bounces us all over your site.  Give us a level of support that is comfortable, reliable and easy to use,  after all, even a dumb jock knows how to wear a jock strap.  

 


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October 1, 2015

 Time to Redistribute

 Have you ever woken up and realized that it was time to shake things up?  I have, more times than I thought possible as a young person and as I get older I find the need to shake up the status quo becomes more frequent.  So what does redistribute have to do with shaking things up?  At this point in my life it isn't about acquiring more, it is about redistributing what I already have. 

 

 What's Available?





Redistribute, by definition, means to spread to other areas.   What may be in abundance in one area is totally lacking in another.  Economists often talk about a redistribution of wealth but my thought is much more personal and actionable by anyone.  Let's start with redistributing time.  It is fairly easy for me to become comfortable in spending my time in a set pattern.  Often these patterns over-emphasize one aspect of my life more than others.   While this might go unnoticed for a short period of time there is always a reckoning that occurs requiring me to redistribute my time.   It's not that other areas are forgotten it's just that they become slightly ignored in the day to day allocation of my time.  


 Checking In Before My Day of Reckoning




Wouldn't it be amazing if I checked in with myself every week and looked at how I distributed my time.  Maybe I might notice some patterns that are a bit lopsided and be able to make some adjustments before the wheels totally fall off.  It might be as easy as keeping a time log for a week to see where my time is spent.   




 Searching For Balance


 Balance is an elusive concept in our lives.  It is seldom linear, where we have to find the midpoint between two extremes.  That would make life easier.  If I had to describe balance in life, it would be similar to electrons orbiting an atom.  Each electron has its own trajectory and coexists with other electrons aligned to the same atom.  All of them function without colliding.  Distributing time in our life requires us to give an adequate amount of time to all the different elements that make up our world.  Each of those elements functions like an electron orbiting around us.  The more time we allocate to something the faster the orbit.  When we neglect something, there is no energy to support that element orbiting our world and through atrophy it dies.  The most powerful atoms have many electrons working harmoniously in a balance where energy is dispersed to them all.  This week think about redistributing your time to ensure the things that are most important to you receive the energy to help you soar. 


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September 24, 2015

 Committing to the Global Goals



Tomorrow is an important day in the future of our planet.  On September 25, 2015,  193 world leaders will be coming together to commit to the Global Goals.   The purpose of these goals is simple,  to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice and fix climate change, in the next 15 years.   In essence, we are giving civilization one generation to fix these problems.  Imagine being born after September 25, 2030 and only having a historical understanding of extreme poverty, inequality and injustice.  A world  where climate change is restorative instead of destructive.  These are the possibilities for a future generation.   


 Embracing Your Emotional Intelligence






 Within Emotional Intelligence is a group of interpersonal  competencies that include interpersonal relationships, empathy and social responsibility.   In order to be successful in today's world we need to continue to develop these competencies.  Interpersonal relationships refers to the skill of developing and maintaining mutually satisfying relationships that are characterized by trust and compassion.  Empathy is recognizing, understanding and appreciating how other people feel.  Empathy involves being able to articulate your understanding of another's perspective and behaving in a way that respects others' feelings.  Social Responsibility is willingly contributing to society, to one's social groups, and generally to the welfare of others.  Social responsibility involves acting responsibly, having social consciousness, and showing concern for the greater community.   As individuals if we start demonstrating these competencies we create an environment that supports achieving the global goals.  We can't end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice or fix climate change if we don't build trusting relationships, have compassion for our fellow human beings,   and really understand what they are facing in their lives.  It requires a commitment to look beyond the comfort of our own lives for a greater good. 


 Start By Sharing The Message



There are 17 Global Goals. 

1.  No poverty

2.  Zero hunger

3.  Good Health and Well-Being

4.  Quality Education

5.  Gender Equality

6.  Clean Water and Sanitation

7.  Affordable and Clean Energy

8.  Decent Work and Economic Growth

9.  Industry Innovation and Infrastructure

10.  Reduced Inequalities

11.  Sustainable cities and communities

12.  Responsible Consumption and production

13.  Climate Action

14.  Life Below Water

15.  Life on Land

16.  Peace and Justice Strong Institutions

17.  Partnership for Goals


To find out more about the global goals and how you or your organization can get involved visit www.globalgoals.org



Don't Leave It To Someone Else


 The United Nations has been part of our world for multiple generations starting in October 1945.  It is no coincidence that it came into existence alongside the baby boomer generation.   Since then it has co-existed along with the Gen Xers, Gen Y's, and now the Gen Z's or Millennials.    Its  Charter set out four main purposes: Maintaining worldwide peace and security. Developing relations among nations. Fostering cooperation between nations in order to solve economic, social, cultural or humanitarian international problems.  While there have been many successes through this organization, there are still many problems that the global goals will address.  It is time for every person on the planet, regardless of generation, to take part in this initiative.  The time for thinking about the perfect solution is long overdue,  these problems deserve action.  If we each take a small step together we become a dynamic force that can positively shape the future for all generations.  Who knows, maybe the generation born after September 25, 2030 will be called the "world together generation"  to symbolize one planet and one people working together.   

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September 17, 2015

 What Did I Miss?


 Late last night I got home after a wonderful week in Boston and Cape Cod and found myself wondering "What did I miss?     Since Monday I had been soaking up the sights and sounds of a historic city,  seeing the place where the pilgrims landed and enjoying the breathtaking ocean views, yet  shortly after setting my bags down that was the phrase that came to mind.  Why was I instantly preoccupied by what I missed?   Was there something more important going on that needed my immediate attention and call to duty? 


Resetting My "On-Off" Switch




Since my vacation was steeped in history, I started to wonder whether my house had been built on an ancient ruin that emitted an undetectable  energy signal causing my brain  to instantaneously reset to  my pre-vacation reality as I stepped over the threshold.  While that might be an interesting idea for a new Dan Brown novel I'm pretty sure my behaviour stems from something else. 

I have often talked about the many roles we all have in our lives and how we are required to wear different hats throughout our lives.   As an individual who works from home, the challenges of turning work on and off are ongoing.   In some respects my home has become synonymous with turning on my work persona.  While space and distance had provided a buffer from the day to day work in the past, that has slowly disappeared as more and more of my time at home is focused on work



Getting A Dimmer Switch


So what is an admitted workaholic supposed to do?   If I reflect back on the history of my home it is a place for family, friends and fun first and foremost.  It is only in recent years that  work has infiltrated it's walls.   As my historical landmark, it is the former purpose that would cause me to want to visit not the latter.  On my "home's brochure" would be the bright pictures that highlight the important events that have taken place here.  If I can remember those things and dim the light on the elements of my home that showcase my "work"  then I might gain a different perspective. 


 My Only Souvenir Was A Hat


 It seems rather ironic that the only souvenir I brought back from Boston was a hat.  I've always had a difficult time finding a hat that would fit my rather large head.  On this trip I finally found one.   Perhaps it's a subtle message to remind me that vacation is a state of mind, not just a place you visit.  So if you see me wearing a hat while sitting in my living room, it just might be my way of reminding me that I can be on vacation at any time or any place. 


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September 10, 2015


 The Longest Reign


Yesterday marked a significant day in British history.  Queen Elizabeth II surpassed Queen Victoria as the longest reigning Monarch in British history.   She has been in her role for over 63 years.   If we compared that to CEOs in the business world the closest competitor would be Roger Penske at about 45 years.   If you factor in today's average CEO tenure Queen Elizabeth is unparalleled.


The Worst Day To Start A New Job


For most of us the achievement of the role of CEO is filled with pride, joy and promise.   It is a day to be heralded.   In the case of Queen Elizabeth, stepping into her role as Queen meant her father had died.   I can't think of a worse scenario to take on any role.   Years ago I had received a promotion at work and would be starting my new role in 3 weeks.  Between that notice and starting my new role my father died.   It was a bittersweet period.  After my bereavement I spent a few days in my former role before moving forward.  That allowed me a sense of continuity before taking on new responsibilities.  Queen Elizabeth had no such opportunity


To Serve


 In her coronation speech Queen Elizabeth stated:  "I have in sincerity pledged myself to your service, as so many of you are pledged to mine."  This focus on service has been a cornerstone of her reign.  Some people go through their lives in search of power and fame believing it is what makes great leaders.   Instead, why not look for people to serve?   There are millions of people in the world that can benefit from someone who serves them.   It is this mindset that defines leaders with lasting power.  Arthur Ashe has a famous quote that goes " True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.   It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost."   For Queen Elizabeth it was a high cost to serve others but in the end she's done a magnificent job. 



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September 3, 2015

 Loving Yourself

 This past week the world lost one of the pioneers in the field of motivation and self help,  Wayne Dyer.   During his career he published 30 books and his words inspired many people to live their best life.   One of  his quotes that resonates strongest with me is "When you're at peace with yourself and love yourself it is virtually impossible to do things to yourself that are destructive".   Such a simple statement but built on a need to be at peace with yourself and love yourself.


Why Is It So Hard?


What is it about humans that causes us to be so harsh in how we see ourselves?  Sometimes we're just not good enough and we continue on a quest to rise above the mediocrity that we've convinced ourselves is surrounding our life.   It's hard to be at peace when we don't pause long enough to breathe it in.   It's become a scent in the air whose source is elusive.   We don't know where it comes from.




Finding Your Moment


There are hundreds of quotes about finding inner peace and loving yourself.   I've chosen a few that might spark you into discovering how amazing you already are.  These are the moments you'll find inner peace and a means of loving yourself

  • The moment you stop comparing yourself to others because it undermines your worth
  • The moment  you live your dreams
  • The moment you realize that the love you feel today will only grow tomorrow
  • The moment you let go of the past and forgive yourself
  • The moment you realize at this second you are happy
  • The moment you realize you can't let yourself down only learn and move on

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August 20, 2015

 Not Left Unsaid


There are special times in each of our lives when we have a responsibility to share our words out loud.   In those times we might find ourselves struggling with different emotions that try to redirect us to silence.   We hear ourselves say, "they know how I feel" or they'll understand if I'm not able to speak."   I find myself in this situation as I get ready for my daughter's wedding.   Without a doubt, it will be a day filled with extreme emotions of joy, pride, and reminiscing.   In the middle of all those emotions is my desire to pull words directly from my heart and hear them spoken.  


Wearing Our Emotions As A Symbol of Love


Somewhere along the line I convinced myself that showing my emotions was a sign of weakness.   I should be able to control my emotions and be more stoic in situations that require it.   What I've discovered, however, is that my emotions need to show as they are first and foremost a symbol of my love.   If I didn't care, it would be easy to show a "Vulcan" persona that is devoid of emotion, but I do care.   Born from that caring is the love that drives me to feel deeply and completely.   Its voice needs to be heard




The Eloquence of Emotion


Over the next 10 days I will be practicing a speech that is one of the most important I will ever give.   I am sure that the words will be interspersed with tears and laughter.   Hopefully, this combination of emotions will give eloquence to my words in a way that will resonate with the listeners.   So if you find yourself hesitant to say those special words for fear of the emotions they unleash remember that it is better to say words that flow from the heart than to keep them locked up and not shared with those that should hear them most.  


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August 13, 2015

 Digging Deeper


Over the past several weeks I have been working with a personal trainer to re-invigorate my physical fitness.   Prior to doing this I thought I was in pretty good shape.   I religiously have been going to the gym every day for 2 years.  I have a regular exercise regimen of cardio and consistently do strength training that has provided some good results.   Imagine my surprise when after the first few sessions I rediscovered muscles that had been hidden deep within me.  These weren't the muscles that lie close to the surface, no, these were those stabilizing muscles that  really impact how we function.  


It's Not About What Shows


What I have discovered is that to really make a significant difference in my overall health I had to activate specific muscles.  Really understanding how the muscle activates with different movement and isolating that during the exercise optimizes the impact.   In essence I'm working my muscles from the inside out.    




More Than Exercise


This philosophy of working from the inside out and going deeper is an invaluable tool in other aspects of my life.   When I pull weeds in my garden it is imperative to get the entire root, anything less and the weed reappears.   The health of my hair looks and feels best when I take care of the roots.   I  can solve more problems when I get to the root cause as opposed to just handling the symptoms.


It's Hard Work

 

One of the lessons I've learned these past few weeks with my trainer is that I can push myself to a new level.    It takes hard work, focus and intestinal fortitude.   Each and every time I push myself I feel an enormous sense of pride in my accomplishment.   So whatever you face this week, dig a little deeper and push yourself.   When you look back at what you achieved you'll feel great. 


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August 6, 2015


 Caught Between A Rock and A Hard Place


This expression came to mind this week as current activities and past events  merged together.   First, my husband and I love looking for rocks for our landscaping.   When a new subdivision started construction several months ago the bulldozing and digging in the farmers' fields usually unearths a crop of new boulders.   This has been the case this past week as the construction crew has graciously supplied us with lots of beautiful specimens for our front yard.     Next, the events of 70 years ago reminded us all of  the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.    At the time President Truman made the decision to bomb Hiroshima I'm sure he felt between a rock and a hard place. 


Two Equally Unwelcome Options


Historians of World War II have always debated the need to deploy the atomic weapons and there is likely no "right" in any scenario.   The expression "Caught between a rock and a hard place"  is defined as being faced with two equally unwelcome options.  Imagine being responsible for the loss of 129,000 lives as a result of Hiroshima on one hand or continuing the conflict in the Pacific and  adding to the total loss of lives that have been estimated at over 25 million people.    




Limited Options


Whenever we limit our options we potentially find ourselves facing an unwelcome decision.   This sometimes happens when we look to the black and white when making choices.   It's as if "yes" can only be countered with "no", love countered with hatred, gluttony countered with starvation.   When we reach between those points or beyond those scales we welcome new ideas and welcome options


Shake Things Up

 

 An interesting technique I discovered years ago is to look for inspiration outside of the usual categories.  If I was looking for an idea related to home décor I might look to fashion.   If I was building a team I might look at a flower garden and watch for patterns in nature.   What makes certain plants thrive when planted close to others?  The idea is to look all around you to consider new and different information and options.  If your days are predictable and your exposure to events and people remain unchanged, so will your repository of ideas.  When you only have two options you might find yourself between a rock and a hard place.   When you have multiple options you might find yourself in a rock garden, and that's beautiful.  





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 July 30, 2015

 The Look of Confidence
 
 This week has been unbearably hot with the thermostat topping out around 90 degrees Fahrenheit or 32 degrees Celsius.  When it gets that hot there are only limited wardrobe options that allow you to be comfortable.   If we lived in California the girls might be wearing "Daisy Dukes" with bikinis on top ala Katy Perry while most of the guys would be parading around shirtless in their favourite jeans.  Interestingly, as I look around, that's not what I see. 



The Young Guy With Swagger


 What I did see this afternoon was a thin young teenage boy confidently walking shirtless down the street.  I've seen his type before, comfortable in his own skin.   There was absolutely nothing about his walk that could be perceived as self conscious.   I started to think about the people I knew that were completely comfortable in their skin and the list was pretty small.   What happened to those confident teenaged boys that seemed to be everywhere when I was growing up?  






Our Critical Eyes


Perhaps Lasik vision correction has improved our visual acuity so much that we are unable to overlook our minute flaws.  What prior generations missed due to their aging eyesight is now front and centre.  Have we surrounded ourselves with mirrors so much that it's become impossible to not see our reflection?     There isn't just one mirror, mirror on the wall they are everywhere.  


A Day Long Dare


 What would happen to you if you spent a day without looking at yourself in the mirror.  I'm sure you could still manage your daily grooming in a way to be presentable.   Without a mirror there would be no second checking all the small details that represent a chink in our armor, instead we'd have to just put ourselves out there.   Imagine how liberating that might be.  Your entire focus would be outward and not on yourself.  Maybe that was the secret the teenage boy knew better than any of us.   Sometimes you've got to just get up and get going.  There's a lot more excitement outside than there ever could be looking in the mirror.    So this week take a day and forget about the mirror you just might get your confidence back.

 


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  July 23, 2015

 Fooled by the Forecast


 Each weekday morning for decades I have turned on the local news to get the weather forecast.  This little bit of information has been important in determining what I wear, when I leave for work and what I might expect throughout the day.   While it is helpful in most situations, it is not perfect.  I have often found myself carrying an umbrella when it hasn't rained, worn snow boots that have stayed dry and put on extra layers to stay warm and ended up boiling. 




The Reliability of Forecasts

Science has helped us create increased reliability when it comes to weather forecasts.  In fact, short term weather forecasts are extremely reliable.  It is only when we go beyond 2 days that reliability significantly drops.  We are also inundated with other forecasts that impact the world we live in.  Financial forecasts hint to the amount of inflation, the value of our dollar, interest rates and company profits.  When we hear a forecast that warns of falling interest rates and increasing costs we batten down the hatches and prepare for the worst. 



Self Fulfilling Prophecies


 Interestingly forecasts or predictions have a way of changing behaviour.  In some cases, they predict worst case scenarios that become real because

 people start to behave as it they have already occurred.  The stock market crash of 1929 is a classic example of how predictions of the worst case scenario help manifest the prophecy.  We have also experienced predictions that have been completely wrong.  We only need to look back to the forecasts related to Y2K.  People were convinced that technology would collapse and our way of life would be negatively impacted as we entered the new millennium.   People took action to increase emergency preparedness, liquefy their assets and ready for the return of an agricultural economy.   When the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2000 none of that occurred but millions of people spent limited time and money preparing for a reality that never happened. 





Fighting Forecasts

 

 It is unlikely that forecasts will disappear from the landscape.  The reality is we'll continue to be exposed to more and more.  What we choose to do about them is up to each of us.   We have a responsibility to look at the science behind the opinions that inform these forecasts.  Who is the expert?  What makes their forecast reliable?  A study was recently released that evaluated the stock returns chosen by some of the world's leading experts vs stocks chosen by random selection.  The results didn't show any significant different, and in some cases, the random selection performed slightly better.  It is difficult to disregard past behaviour when looking to the future, however, what makes us human is the fact we are complex and not always predictable.  If we remember this simple fact, then our reaction to forecasts might be a bit more sunny. 







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July 16,  2015

Bucking The Trend


Life is about choices.   in some cases, those choices determine if we go along with the crowd or whether we buck the trend and do something significantly different.   Both choices have their up and down sides.   No two choices are identical in every aspect because no two moments in time present the exact same variables to us.  


The Curse of Experience


Experience gives us an insight into probabilities more than anything else.  When we are faced with choices we dip into the well of our experiences searching for a pattern of familiarity.   How is this new choice similar to what occurred before?   When we feel a strong enough sense of similarity we'll often pull the trigger on our decision and push the repeat button.   This creates a comfort for all of us and is often the farthest from "bucking a trend".   Bucking a trend takes a conscious choice to be significantly different. 


 What Significantly Different Looks Like


Significantly different looks like:

  •  the high school student that wears the funny clothes and sits alone.
  •  the lonely nights writing a new algorithm for a social network
  •  a singer who gyrates his hips inappropriately in front of young girls
  •  a young man whose body has become an artist's canvas
  •  a company who gave away their software for free
  •  a video streaming service that existed before the technology was made


Dare To Buck the Trend


 In each case, being significantly different takes personal courage.  The courage to stand alone in some cases and not fold under the pressure to conform.  That's a difficult assignment for anyone.  When you choose to believe in something that bucks the trend you are releasing your brilliance and giving yourself an opportunity to glow.   It's not easy but so worth it.   




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July 9, 2015


 On Rainy Days
 

 When I looked outside early this morning the first expression that came to mind was...."It's raining cats and dogs".  To me this means a level of rain that quickly saturates everything in sight.  This point was solidified as the steady raindrops decided to intensify for the brief 30 seconds it took me to run from my door to my car.   As I checked my appearance in the rear view mirror I thought of another small animal who is often described as "drowned", perhaps you know the one I mean.  Suffice it to say the weather has a remarkable power to impact our day.


At Least It's Not Snow


The optimist in me immediately thought about the fact it's warm outside and that 6 months earlier we'd be dealing with mountains of snow instead of puddles.   Of course, I am grateful for the rain as I planted some grass seed on Monday in anticipation of the forecasted rain this week.   This time of year rainy days become the excuse for us to focus on those inside tasks that we regret having to do on beautiful days.   Rainy Days have the ability to be the most productive days we can have.   Think of the possibilities:

  • catch up on your correspondence
  • fix something that's been broken inside
  • re-organize your office
  • finally finish some paperwork
  • Revise your "to do list" and scratch some items off

 Rainy Days also have the ability to be the most therapeutic and revitalizing days.   Think about the things you can do for yourself on rainy days: 

  • spend some extra time at the gym
  • relax in a warm Epsom salt bath
  • fix a fantastic meal of your favourite comfort food
  • light a "summer fire" in the fireplace and curl up with a good book
  • pour yourself a favourite beverage and sit on a covered porch and listen to the raindrops fall
  • have a quiet conversation with your best friend


 The Whether of Weather


 Whether you celebrate the rain or feel victimized by the weather it's up to you.   We all have the ability to be bright, on the inside, even when the weather is at its worst.  So this week, enjoy something special for yourself no matter Mother Nature throws your way.   


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July 2, 2015

 What a Table!


 Last weekend my daughter and I took a road trip together.  On one of our stops in St Jacobs, Ontario, we visited an incredible woodworking store.  Around every corner my eye discovered a new treasure.   Whether it was a custom cabinet, a free style coffee table or a bathtub surround everything was infused with handmade craftsmanship and beauty.  The crown jewel in this amazing collection was a 12 foot long dining room table.  It was the most breathtaking table I had ever seen.  The top was fabricated from reclaimed pine flooring planks from a turn of the century building that measured a robust 6 inches thick.  The grain and crevices in the wood were enhanced by a lustrous smooth finish that fused age with beauty.   Holding everything up were two giant pedestals combining carved detail with strength.   I imagined the delicious meals I would serve on this table and the fascinating conversations that would take place around it's magnificence. 




But Wait...... What Did Goldilocks Say?


In less than a minute my imagination returned to reality.  First,  I don't have a room in my house big enough to encompass such a huge piece of furniture.  Second, who am I kidding, my cooking would never match the grandeur of the environment this table would create.   Talk about not meeting expectations!   Then I started to look around the table and noticed at least 8 different chair styles positioned around the sides and ends.   Anyone who has sat for prolonged periods knows the importance of the right chair.   While the table needs to fit,  the chair has to be comfortable.  I have found myself in many environments where 20 minutes into a meal my butt has fallen asleep or my legs are dangling unable to touch the floor.  Neither of these situations was the right fit.  They looked beautiful but I felt uncomfortable.


Finding the Right Fit


We all aspire to finding an environment that works for us.   We find homes that fit our lifestyle and allow us to be our true selves.  It's not always as easy to find a work environment that does the same.   I read a quote from Carla Harris who eloquently said "Part of being authentic is choosing a working environment or a job that lets you be you.  It may not be the natural part of you, but you need to pick a seat where you can bring all of who you are to the table."   How many times have we been mesmerized by the grandeur and opulence of a beautiful table only to find that sitting at it is cold and unwelcoming.  It might be the people around the table or the conversation that leaves an unpleasant taste.  When this happens you need to decide what's more important, having a seat at the beautiful table or having a seat at a table where you want to come back to over and over again.  



Defining Your Comfort

 

 I have had the luxury of sitting at many tables in my life.   One that comes to mind was incredibly comfortable.  I was able to bring my entire self.  The chairs were strong enough to support the vibrations from my laughter when good humour let loose.  The chairs were also adjustable allowing me to see eye to eye with everyone.  The casters under the legs allowed me to move in close when I needed to exchange a whisper or move further away when someone's voice became too loud.  Finally, what made it most comfortable was there was no head at the table.  Everyone sat where they felt most comfortable.  

 A friend of mine recently remodelled her kitchen and spent a good deal of time searching for a perfect table.  It was important to find a table that would allow a free flow of conversation back and forth between everyone who pulled up a chair.  While I haven't seen this table in person I'm confident that the chairs encourage guests to sit and stay a while.

 This week spend some time focusing on the comfort of your chairs.  Hopefully, you are bringing all of you up to the table, after all, it makes the perfect setting. 


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June 25, 2015

 The Other Right


This past week has been riddled with stories and events that have focused on people's rights.   First, we saw the horrific display of violence in a South Carolina church and secondly we saw the Supreme Court ruling allowing for same sex marriage.   Both of these examples should cause us all to stop and think about our mindset as it relates to our rights as human beings. 


We Have No Divine Right


When I think about my rights as a human being I try to remember that I am no better or worse than any other person on this planet.   At the moment of my birth the first breath I need to survive is the same first breath of every other person.  There is no hierarchy  regarding this right.  That first breath and every subsequent breath confirms our survival, but our rights need to go beyond survival,   It should go to what makes us thrive as humans.   As humans we need to thrive together.   We can't do that when our "rights" fly in the face of thriving.   I doubt if I would ever be convinced that a "right" to bear arms helps me thrive.  If I held anything with power in my hand I would hope it would be another person's hand and not a piece of cold steel. 


How Will We Right Our Wrongs? 


The Supreme Court decision in the United States was a first step in righting a wrong.   What is historical, is that the United States in dragging its heels on this type of decision, has wasted decades in helping its citizens thrive.   Imagine the energy that can now be focused on thriving? 


 What if we started a thriving campaign in North America at a grassroots level to shift our focus from surviving to thriving.  Imagine the possibilities. 

1.  Hold someone's hand not a gun

2.  Plant a garden, not seeds of hatred

3.  Don't spend money on educating voters, spend money on educating people

4.  Encourage everyone to ask questions

5.  Open all our borders, not just the borders that separate countries but the borders that separate families, ideas and the monopoly of wealth in North America. 


 It Starts With One Simple Act of Acceptance


 Every time you accept someone new into your world you are helping them thrive.  This week wherever you find yourself take a few minutes to welcome someone.  Maybe it's a new neighbour, a new co-worker or the special gift of a new baby, when you welcome them into your world just watch them thrive.  




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June 18, 2015


 Grab What?


Anyone who knows me well will have no problem imagining my reaction to the following statement issued by a keynote speaker at my son's university graduation:  " Sometimes you have to grab life by the balls and squeeze hard".  


A Noticeable Shift


In less than a second I burst out laughing at the speaker's graphic choice of words.  I also noticed as the men in the Chancellor's party shifted in their seats in unison upon registering the words.  While people's first reaction was laughter or physical discomfort I thought how appropriate these words were for the 2015 graduating class.  Adding this action to their emerging tool kits might serve the graduates well as they build their future. 


 Translation Please!


Perhaps what the speaker meant in using that phrase might be translated into the following key points

1. " Grab life by the balls"  might challenge each and everyone of us to do what is required to get someone's attention.   Think about it, when you grab someone's balls I'm pretty certain you have their attention. 

2.  "And Squeeze Hard"   It's not enough to just get someone's attention.   When you have their attention ensure as much effort goes into keeping it as getting it.   We can't always hold  things like fragile objects, sometimes we need to squeeze hard to get every last drop out of the lemon for the recipe to taste perfect.

3.   Don't be afraid to get personal with people.  On paper we all may look similar.  What separates us from the pack are the relationships we build.  There will be a need for close relationships.   Don't be afraid to reach in and make those close relationships.

 4.  Finally, it is the balance of power and vulnerability that makes us whole.  Any man sensing a pending blow to the mid section instinctively protects that vulnerable part of his anatomy.   Under different circumstances that same man will try to convince you of the immense power and potency he possesses related to that part of his anatomy.   When there is balance we are most like each other.  When we overuse either our vulnerability or our power we might become walking cliché's unable to adapt and connect with others. 

 

 While the only person who really knows the intent of the phrase was the speaker, I'd like to think there's some credibility in my interpretation.  Of course, I do have an alternate interpretation but that's a different kind of article.   Congratulations Class of 2015, time to start grabbing!


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June 11, 2015

 A Journey To My Centre


Several months ago I wrote about reaching 1 million steps in my daily activities.   It was a special milestone that had my mind imagining where I might have travelled to had I set out in a straight line.   This week, as I approach the one year mark of using my Vivofit, I have logged over 5 million steps.   When I translated this into miles I was amazed at where my steps might have taken me.  As I sat in my chair I realized that this past year hasn't been about looking outward, it's been about looking inside.  


Looking Inside


When I was younger, I spent many Saturday afternoons watching movies.   One of my favourites was the 1959 classic, Journey to the Centre of the Earth.  The movie tells the story of a scientist, played by James Mason, who journeys through a volcanic opening in Iceland towards the earth's core.  Along the way he must face challenges in the form of prehistoric monsters and rival scientists.  The quest to the earth's core was full of promise of unimaginable power and secrets waiting to be unlocked.  It was an enticing destination.   Of course, James Mason's voice was hypnotic and I think I might have followed him anywhere.   The distance to the earth's core is about 10 million steps or twice what I have travelled this past year. 


 Navigating To My Core


 I read a quote about navigation by Megan Garber that said "the story of navigation is also one of gradual knowledge and readjustment, of looking to the constant objects of the physical world--the sun, the moon, the stars--and using them to understand ever more precisely, how to find our way in the world". 


In my journey to my core the constant objects of my physical world are my family and friends.  When I start with them in full sight they are like the sun in my universe.  Without them, I wouldn't have anything to orbit around.   Objects like money have very little navigational pull in my world.  Don't get me wrong, there is a comfortable amount of money I need, but anything more becomes a gold bar in a satchel that weighs me down in my journey.   Its weight quickly becomes a burden.

 

 What I know for sure is that my journey has been incremental and is definitely not a straight line.   I have had occasional moments of going off course where I've felt my ship run aground.  When this happens it is generally because I have pushed both my physical and mental limits beyond their capacity.  Luckily, getting stuck reminds me that the forces in the universe are to be respected and not challenged.  When I give into my humanity and pause, the wind generally shifts and the tide comes in allowing me to restart my journey.     


 What's At Your Core? 


Like all explorers we are enticed by a sense of discovery.   Some of us enjoy the novelty of new adventures and what is still undiscovered in the universe.   My greatest adventure still lies within me.   What will I unlock as I continue to find my core?  I'd like to think that my next 5 million steps will bring me closer to it.  I will keep my navigational objects close by and imagine James Mason's voice encouraging me to go deeper and deeper.   I might never get to my final destination but I'm going to enjoy the journey




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June 4, 2015

 Who's That Girl?


Every morning when I look in the mirror I see the same person I have seen for many decades.   Same eyes, same teeth, same nose, slightly different hair, since it doesn't stop growing, yet there are some days when I feel anonymous to the rest of the world.  Anyone who has gone to their high school reunion , after several decades, has likely felt this sense of anonymity.    Have I become unrecognizable to people who knew me so well?    


Returning to The Scene of The Crime


It's been many years since I've gone to a high school reunion but this week I did return to my former workplace to drop off some forms.   As I walked through the parking lot several people I knew  looked my way but failed to recognize me.  Perhaps I've developed a super power that has given me stealth capability.  If that's the case, I could be deployed as Canada's newest secret weapon.  Now that's silly, Canada doesn't have enemies, or more importantly, the budget for secret weapons.  While I gest, I started to wonder how long it takes someone to fade from memory, especially people that were part of our daily lives?  


 What Goes First


 Since it's impossible for any of us to remain unchanged over time I believe the first thing we forget is the silhouette of an individual.  When that changes, even in the slightest, it doesn't register in our memory.   We can't attach a new silhouette to any memory so it goes unrecognized.   After that, we forget the mannerisms of the person.  The way they held themselves as they moved or held their ground.  Next, is the sound of their voice, specifically their choice of words and tone.  The last thing to disappear are their ideals.  The words that they used to convey their  passion or to quiet someone's fear.   None of this happens overnight but left unchecked it progresses much like a chronic illness that doesn't kill you, just makes you weak. 


 Bringing Someone Back


 What I also believe is  that you don't have to let go.  What resides in all of us is a pilot light of recognition.  Just like a fireplace, there is a constant low flame that just needs a spark to come to life.  For me, that spark is how someone always made me feel.  That is the most recognizable part of a person.  If I start with that, everything else comes into focus, their ideals reappear, their voice becomes clear, the pattern of their mannerisms materialize and finally their silhouette.  There is a palpable energy between people that glows like the Olympic flame, forever burning in our hearts.  So while some people might not recognize me it may be because they only saw me from the outside.  Those people who knew me from the inside will always recognize me.  I'll keep my heart light on for them.  


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May 28, 2015


 It's Not Always About You



The past week has reminded me on several occasions how important it is to look beyond ourselves.    At times it's easy to get caught up in our own little world.   We become the sun in our universe with everyone and everything orbiting around our magnificence.   How misguided that perception of the world can be if left unchecked.  


Reflecting the Light


Like material that absorbs most of the light shining on it we become dull and devoid of colour when we take and fail to reflect back the light we receive from others.   The expression "tis better to give than receive" is very true.   When we give to others we are reflecting back the light we have within us and sharing it with others.   They experience a joy that spreads  like a ball in a pinball machine as it bounces from person to person. 


 Turn on Your Heart Light


 Of all the light that we share the light that comes from our heart is the brightest and most powerful.   It is, without a doubt, pure and perpetual in supply.   Each time we do something out of kindness, love and generosity we not only spread the light, we recharge our own batteries.   It's as if the "EverReady Bunny" receives a jolt of extra power.    This week as I worked with my daughter's future mother-in-law to create a beautiful shower my heart light expanded.   I felt the light bounce from my daughter to all her guests.   What a wonderful experience that will forever light my days.  I hope you find something to turn on your heart light. 


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 May 21, 2015


 If At First You Don't Succeed.....


 Today is the anniversary of an auspicious event in daytime television history.   In 1999,  Susan Lucci, won a Daytime Emmy for her performance on All My Children.   What made it auspicious was that she had been nominated 19 times previously and never won.  I can't imagine what that experience was like to come up empty year after year after year.   When Susan Lucci finally won she joined an illustrious list of people who faced adversity before finding success.    


You're a Failure


 I've known people who have gone through life with the perennial "horseshoe up their ass" gliding from one success to another.  You've likely met someone who has never failed at anything.   Wouldn't life be great if we never failed?  I beg to differ.   Failure is a necessity of life.   We learn and grow more from our failures than from our successes, generally, because our failures open the door to a different future.   History is filled with famous people who failed before reaching success.  Here's a short list

  • Albert Einstein
  • Charles Darwin
  • Henry Ford
  • Soichiro Honda
  • Harland Sanders
  • Walt Disney
  • Orville and Wilbur Wright
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Lucille Ball


 I'd be thrilled to be included in this group of failures.   We recognize them now for their success but they achieved it after failure.   They had a tenacity to continue, to not be derailed.  


 Accepting Failure


 There is a stigma that comes with failure in our society.   It's as if a single failure is viral  and will spread through everything else we do.  We develop the opposite of "Midas' Touch" .   How might we shift this perception to be more accepting of failure?   Perhaps we need to think like scientists who are looking for cures to disease.   They can spend a lifetime on a particular path only to find that their hypothesis cannot be supported.   When this happens their work still has significance because it redirects other research.   It narrows the playing field for others.   The same can be said with our failures.   Failure has caused me to:

  • dig deeper
  • win the next time
  • practice more
  • learn differently
  • remember what's important

 In the end it's not what happens when you fail, it's what you do next.  

 



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 May 14, 2015


 The Last Time

I somewhat pride myself on being a keen observer of life, especially the moments that shape who we become.   I like to think of them as moments of significance or a rite of passage.   The dictionary defines a rite of passage as any important act or event that serves to mark a passage from one stage of life to another.   In my work, I see first hand the movement of people as they move through the stages in their life.   One of the concepts that drives this movement in our lives is  the concept of "last time". 


Anticipating  The Last Time


We all have events in our life that we anticipate with enthusiasm and happiness.   Think about the last day of school before summer vacation, your last exam or the last payment you make on your mortgage.   Each of those "lasts" have a placeholder in the calendars of our life and we attach a significance to them.   When they finally arrive we have positioned ourselves to move onward with great momentum.   We also have "lasts" that represent endings to moments we cherish.   How many of you felt a heaviness in your heart as you stood with friends at your high school or university graduation?   Or what about the feelings that you felt as you worked your last day before you retired?  I even remember watching the last episode of Seinfeld on this date in 1998 and realizing that was over.   Surprisingly, even a television show about nothing impacts us when it doesn't continue.


The Elusiveness of "Lasts"

 

There are also moments in our lives that we have no warning about that become last times.  We have no way of knowing that when we say goodbye to someone it might be the  last time.  We have no way of knowing that when we raise our voice in anger it might be the last thing we say to someone.   We have no way of knowing that when we choose  to work late we miss the last game our child will play.   We have no way of knowing that when we tuck a child into bed at night and scare the monsters away it might be the last time.  


Cherishing the Moments


It is so easy to get caught up in the pace of our lives that we pass through moments not noticing their significance.  This week I have seen a friend go through an incredibly difficult time as someone comes to their last moment.  What I've seen is a purposeful slowing to be there, to focus on the people who's lives are linked to each other.   While life is not always easy there is an abundance of beauty in the most difficult lasts.   When we no longer have certain people in our lives we can remember the special lasts we shared with them.  The last time we felt their hug.  The last time we said "I love you".  The last time we shared a laugh or held their hand.   Those lasts live with us forever because we chose to be with them at their last.  







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May 7, 2015

 Unlimited Capacity


As this is the last Thoughtful Thursday article before Mother's Day I felt it appropriate to reflect on a lesson from motherhood. 

In today's world of limits, quotas, bandwidths, data overages and busyness it is easy to become obsessed with scarcity.   There never seems to be enough time or resources.  We function in a world that focuses on what we don't have versus what we do have.   The media magnifies these issues and challenges us to change our ways, or else.   We only have to look as recent as the drought in California and their water restrictions to be reminded about scarcity.   The message impacts us all.


Focusing on Scarcity


What happens to people when they focus on scarcity?   History paints a bleak picture of the actions of man to control scarce resources.   Wars have been fought and lives lost all for the sake of controlling "scarcity".   Scientists have been trying to discover the secret for perpetual motion to defy the principle of scarcity but it has been elusive.   What isn't elusive, is what we have in unlimited abundance, if we only look. 


 And Then There Were Two

 

What we have in abundance, is an unlimited capacity to love.  When I was expecting my second child two thoughts entered my mind.   I worried that I might not be able to love another child as much as I loved my daughter or that I would love my daughter less after my son was born.   What I discovered was that my capacity to love grew.   I not only loved my daughter more, I had an abundance of love for my son.   There wasn't a balance sheet that said to increase your love for one person required you to  love someone else less.  Instead, our unlimited capacity to love was like perpetual motion.   All we had to do was  open our heart and the capacity was there.  


Not Just For Mothers


I'm pretty sure that Mothers aren't the only people who have experienced this in their lives.   I have seen the love grow in relationships all around me.   I have also seen the hesitancy in both myself and others to use the word love.  It is as if it should be protected and only given out in special circumstances, like a scarce resource.   Perhaps we're afraid to share our love in fear that it won't be returned.   Maybe we've been convinced that our hearts are too fragile.   Whatever the case, we all have the need to love and be loved.  The love we have for someone doesn't need to be  balanced against the love they have for us.  What is important is that we show them how special they are by sharing our love.  As we celebrate Mother's Day this weekend I challenge each and everyone of us to open our hearts to the abundance of love around us.   Share it with the people in your lives and continue to solicit new people to add to your loving community.   After all we've got more than enough love to go around.







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April 30, 2015

 When Words Aren't Enough


I started my day by reading a facebook post from a friend who is battling  breast cancer.   In her post she thanked an incredible support group that consisted of family and friends for helping her get through two rounds of chemotherapy.   My response to her was the catalyst for this article  and what occurs between the "hello and goodbye" of our words.  


Just a Beginning


As someone who makes a living using words I am also a realist in recognizing the role they play in our lives.   I like to think of words as opening the door and inviting someone in.   When words are sincere, purposeful and kind they can become a springboard for many things.   They can't, however, replace the actions that make them powerful and fill our lives.


 What We Say...... What We Do

 

When we say:

  • "I love you"   its power is found in holding a hand,  sharing a hug,  laughing and crying together,  caring for someone who's sick, tucking in a child, washing their face, helping them dress, cleaning their mess and being with them.
  • "You're my friend" its power is found in shared moments, being a witness to their world, shopping together, picking them up when they need a ride, supporting their work, their choices and their causes.
  • "I'll make time"  its power is found in the flowers you took time to plant,  the suppers you made for your family, the games you attended with your children,  and the trips to the gym


Living Our Words


We all have a choice about the legacy we want to leave in this world.   Is it a legacy built on words or is it a legacy built from our actions?   Both have a place in the world but when combined they are unstoppable.   I think this is the force that has buoyed Dianne forward in her personal challenge.   She had people who gave her words but also the actions to support her in ways that made a difference


Getting In The Last Word

 

 I think it only appropriate to end this Thoughtful Thursday article with the words, Thank you.  Whenever I find myself saying these words it is always in response to something someone has said or done.  As you go through the next week take time to notice the "thank yous" that show up in your world.  Hopefully they will inspire you to say or do something that elicits a thank you from someone else.  What a great finish to any conversation. 

 








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April 23, 2015

 The People Who Shape and Share Our Lives

There are certain events in our lives that cause us to pause and reflect.   This week, as my son finished his undergraduate degree, I found myself thinking about the impact I have had on his life so far.   How have I shaped his life and the man he has become?  Who else has played an instrumental role?   It started me thinking about the people that shaped my life.  



 Knock Knock, Who's There?


 When I was young the first people who shaped my life were my parents.   They were always there.  They gave and received my smiles while ensuring I was safe and surrounded by love.   They also set the stage for how I spoke, what I said and what I did.   This didn't mean that they were dictatorial, it meant they shared their words with me encouraging me to use mine and praised me as each new word found its way into my vocabulary, well most of them.   They also watched what excited me and gave me an opportunity to develop it further.   Whether it was education, dance or sports they found a means of making it happen.  

 

When I went to school, my world grew and I found myself being shaped by teachers and fellow students.  I always look to those individuals that had a spark of creativity and genuine caring.  Those were the people that eventually shaped my love of learning, music and writing.  I couldn't help wanting to be around them, because I wanted to be like them. 


My world continued to grow through the decades and I found more people who shaped the person I was becoming.  What became interesting was that I didn't always have to look up for someone older to shape my world.   There were people of every age that shared their time with me.   When my children were born their tiny presence became the largest chisel in sculpting who I have become.

 


Mirror, Mirror


It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and this is certainly true when it comes to children.   What I do, and how I do it has been imitated by my children.   While we all have bad days, children help us find the best in ourselves because we want them to find the best in themselves.   I often find myself smiling when someone comments that my daughter is "just like me" or my son is kind and talented.  I also know, that there are certain characteristics that I demonstrate that my children have consciously chosen to avoid.  That's a good thing.    


Being Present


The common denominator for all the people who have shaped my life is that they were present in my day to day world.  They shared themselves with me.  They shared their time, their wisdom, their laughter, their spirit and their passions.   In today's world it is easy to aspire to people that live on the periphery.   Heck,  I wanted to be Mary Tyler Moore when I was young, me and a million other girls.   The danger in letting non-present people shape your life is that you don't always see the whole person.   When someone is with you

 there is a genuineness that comes through.   That's not to say there isn't a place for "Facebook friends"  or "Twitter friends" etc, however, they can never replace the people we share time with in-person. 


   The Shape Of Things To Come


 I like to think that as much as my children have shaped my life, I've played an instrumental role in shaping theirs.   In fact, the evidence is sometimes overwhelming.   What the future holds is still an adventure waiting to happen.   I will continue to share my world with people and hope they do the same in return,  after all the best is yet to come.   





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April 16, 2015

A Journey of Self Discovery


I have lived a rather charmed life in comparison to other people I have met.   I was not born in poverty.  I had the opportunity to receive an education, vote and become the person I could imagine for myself.   All this took place in loving environments, first, with my parents and then with my husband and my own children.   I lived by the motto to never squander  the opportunities that were presented throughout my life.    Discovering my own unique gifts, developing them and then sharing them became a way of being.  It was a purpose I felt very proud of.


 Tick Tick


Somewhere along the way a clock appeared.   This clock created an urgency in my mind where the path from discovery to sharing needed to be compressed with each gift.   If something took 6 months to develop the first time I should be able to do something comparable in 5 months the next time.   There was a voice in my head that was always urging me to accelerate, to push the pedal to the metal and drive forward creating my own personal G-force.  


Shifting Gears


Just as our bodies become accustomed to the earth's gravitational pull our minds become accustomed to a constant pace of performance.   When that pace accelerates to a frenetic level we might experience a situation comparable to what jet pilots experience with too much positive g-force.  They experience loss of peripheral vision, and loss of colour perception.   What if we lost our ability to see the world around us and the beauty that colour provides because we haven't stopped long enough to look around?

Had that happened to me?  

 

Start With Giving Yourself Permission


Yesterday, my coach asked me what was stopping me from giving myself permission to relax?  It was a question that somewhat stopped me in my tracks.   I started to wonder if I was afraid.   Would I be less of me if I slowed down from time to time?  At the time I couldn't find an answer, then later that evening I heard an interesting quote from Maya Angelou "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time".   I thought about this in relation to myself.  How am I showing up to myself?   Who do I believe myself to be?  


 Back To The Beginning


Discovering my own unique gifts, developing them and sharing them continues to be my passion.   Somewhere along my journey I became comfortable with a frenetic pace.   What I will give myself permission is to develop a slowness that allows me to experience a deeper understanding of the world around me and the person I present to the world.   I don't want to have quick conversations when there is an opportunity for a long conversation.   I don't want to rush from one place to another when I haven't seen everything I set out to see.   I don't want to fill every waking minute with activity I want breathe deeply through every minute.   That is the permission I will give to myself.   So if we ever run into each other let's take more than a few minutes to catch up or say hello.  





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April 9, 2015

Aspiring to Mastery and Beauty


Today is a very important date on my calendar, it's the first day of The Masters.  For those of you who may be unfamiliar with The Masters, it is the first major golf championship of the year set at Augusta National Golf Course.   As an avid golfer I have been enthralled with this tournament ever since I first saw it broadcast in colour back in the 70's.   It is a rare combination of history, skill and beauty that is unlike any other tournament in golf.   


Augusta's Corner Office


In order to qualify for the  Masters you have to earn your way  through victory or excellent play.

  • Masters Tournament Champions (lifetime invitation)
  • US Open Champions, after 5 years
  • British Open Champions, after 5 years
  • PGA Champions, after 5 years
  • Winners of the Players Championship, 3 years
  • All current Amateur Champions from US, Britain, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, Public Links and Mid-Amateur Champ
  • First 12 players and ties from previous year's Masters
  • First 4 players and ties from 3 other major championships
  • Winners of PGA tour events from previous year
  • Those qualifying for previous year's season ending Tour Championship
  • 50 leaders on previous calendar year official world golf ranking and for the week prior to current Masters Tournament


If you meet one of the above criteria then you have the luxury of a corner office surrounded by beauty for 4 days during the tournament.   Imagine coming into work and being surrounded by pristine grass, blooming azaleas and the scent of pine in the air.  No matter where you turn there is something of beauty that attracts the eye.   Players are driven to elevate their game to match the environment where they are performing.  It's what happens at the Masters.

 

Surrounded by Beauty


Each of the holes at Augusta National are named for the flower or tree that surrounds it.   Names like Tea Olive, Golden Bell, Firethorn and Redbud greet each golfer at the tee box.   As they walk along the fairway they are continually reminded of the hole's namesake with each spectacular bloom that delights the senses.   While I might never have the luxury of playing at Augusta National I have had the luxury of working in environments that are filled with a different type of beauty.    I have walked into meetings where I am surrounded by the smiles of colleagues that radiate from their eyes.   I have also heard the laughter of friends who have shared a common story that reminds me of the power of collaboration.   I have walked through hallways where warm "hellos" greet me and infuse me with beautiful warmth.   I have seen beauty at it's most resplendent and as it develops.


When It All Comes Together

 

When our environment is beautiful we are inspired to perform at our best.   This is true at the Masters and it is true in other work environments.   No matter where you find yourself look for the beauty around you.   If you can't see it, start creating it in your world.   Beauty creates the inspiration that changes the world.   When both beauty and mastery come together it is worth celebrating.


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April 2, 2015

The Crossing and Bending in Life


I read a quote the other day from Neil Galman's "The Sandman Book of Dreams" that goes "Rules and responsibilities:  these are the ties that bind us.  We do what we do, because of who we are.   If we did otherwise, we would not be ourselves.  I will do what I have to do.  And I will do what I must."   As these words banged around in my mind it was as if they were pulling me in two directions;  one facing towards a sense of belonging and the other facing a desire for individuality.    When faced with these choices in our life we might have to cross lines we hadn't anticipated and bend some of the rules that present themselves.   The difficult question is when do we go too far and when do we become aware of going too far?   


Shades of Grey


I recently read some of Dan Ariely's research around behavioural economics and the honesty of people.   One of the elements that stood out for me was that it doesn't take much for people to behave "slightly" dishonestly when the dishonest behaviour is removed from a "monetary" attachment.   We wouldn't steal someone's money.....that would be wrong but we'll think differently if we steal their ideas or items that we don't perceive the same way as money.    He sighted numerous examples where people readily cheated.  The percentage was larger than I would have anticipated and what made it more astounding was that it appeared to take place below our conscious moral compass.  

 

What's Your Cheat?


Think about some of those things that you don't give a second thought.

  •   The item the sales clerk puts in your bag that wasn't rung up,
  •   The extra discount incorrectly applied
  •   rounding up 
  •   lying to your physician about your adherence to treatment

There's likely a fairly decent list if we stop long enough to think about it.   I don't think there's too many people who don't have an item on their list, but what happens when our list starts to grow larger and larger?


Putting On The Brakes


Every once in a while stop and check whether your actions feel right to you, not just in the moment but down the road.   What is the impact of the little "cheats" that have become part of your life?   If you stop to think about that perhaps you might make different choices next time.   I like to think the eyes that are watching us most closely aren't those associated with "Big Brother" but the eyes of children who are learning from our examples.   If they see us do something chances are they'll imitate our behaviour.  What better reason to do the right thing.  


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March 26, 2015



Time to Focus on Energy Management


When I started working, many years ago,  there was a lot of research on time management.   How can we be most efficient in how we work?   This was something that was flouted as an important competency that differentiated those marginal employees from exemplary employees.  If you had the ability to manage your time you were the gold standard.   Organizations saw this as the "be all, end all" of success.   While this may have been true in the 80's, 90's and early 00's there has been a discernible shift rendering time management "passe".


Clinging To The Past


In the 80's we had far more control over how information came to us.   People brought information in person, via telephone or in writing.   There were some primitive computer programs in use, however, they had not evolved into the intrusive technology we see today.   Shift to today's world and we are bombarded with information from a myriad of sources.   We have smart phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, e mail, instant messaging, facebook, vines, instagram, and countless other technologies for receiving information.   Add this to the systems we use at work and the dings, bells and whistles to grab our attention are endless.   We are a species that is in a state of constant interruption.  

 

The Impact of Constant Interruptions


It is extremely hard to maintain focus when we are constantly being interrupted.  It also takes substantially more time to return to your prior task once an interruption has occurred.   Working in this environment takes more than just time management it takes energy management.   We need to optimize our energy to meet these heavy demands.   Now that doesn't mean plastering our butts to the chair and putting our heads down.  That's absolutely IMBECILIC.   Now that's a strong word that I hope gets your attention because if that's what you think enhances productivity you are doing more harm than good.   


Honouring our Rhythms


I recently participated in a workshop where Carlos Davidovich, M.D. spoke about two key rhythms that impact our energy, our circadian rhythm and our ultradian rhythm.   With the circadian rhythm we have determined that we have 2 cycles.   We  start out with higher energy in the morning that gradually decreases throughout the day until hitting it's lowest levels between 1-3pm in the afternoon before increasing again.   We also know that our ultradian rhythm works in 90 and 20 minute cycles.   What this means is that our ability to focus on a task is maximized at 90 minutes before we need to change activities to allow our brains to store information.   When we try to push past this time frame it's like we're driving a race car at 40 miles per hour when it has the capacity to drive at 150mph.   The system slows down and our effectiveness is compromised.  


 But We Value Face Time


 How counter productive is a work culture where we value those individuals who put in  long hours when science is now telling us that face time does not equal output or quality.   Think about the people in your organizations who deal with customer service inquiries.  They get call after call after call.   As their energy wanes if they are still on a phone queue their ability to listen, maintain positivity and  provide exemplary service is compromised.   If we use science we should cap that time on a queue at 90 minutes and allow people to regain their energy.   If we think of our stored energy as an elastic band we should stretch it for 90 minutes and let it rest.   If we keep stretching it eventually it will break and become useless.  





 Find Your Rhythm and Work Within It

 

Each of us knows when we are at our best.   For me it's early morning.   I generally write these articles after I return from the gym when I am most energized.   My morning then consists of a single task that I do for 90 minutes before getting up and stretching my legs.   This might be a short 20 minute walk.   When I come back I'm ready to continue what I was doing before or start something fresh.   I have found this works best for me.   Your rhythm might be completely different.   Watch for the signs of fatigue.   You'll notice less focus and easy distraction.   Take this as a sign to change your activity.   When you maximize your energy watch what happens to your productivity.  



 

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March 19, 2015

The Comfort and Joy of the Status Quo


I enjoy watching sports this time of year specifically, March Madness when the 64 best college basketball teams in the US vie for the national title.   It never fails to provide exciting entertainment.   This week that tournament with all it's hype gets underway alongside the final charge of the NHL teams to make the playoffs.   As is the case in many recent years Toronto Maple Leafs are hopelessly mired in 9th position for a wild card berth.   It would be highly unlikely that a miracle will happen and they'll make the playoffs.


Does It Matter Where You Win?


The Maple Leafs have an interesting franchise.   They are the most profitable NHL franchise in the sport.   Regardless as to their performance they continue to sell out their home games.   Their tickets are also the most expensive in the league.  None of that has impacted their financial success.   Teams in other markets,  with similar records, experience a different financial outcome.  So the question begs, what's the bigger win, on the ice or in the shareholder report?  

 

If It Ain't Broke......


For the Toronto Maple Leafs it's hard to inspire a winning team when the financial impact from a losing season is negligible.  Both Toronto and Montreal enjoy an enviable position in the NHL.   For Toronto, there was hope at the beginning of the season when they hired Brendan Shanahan and made some other changes.  Was this going to be the year?  Not too long after an initial flurry of success they fell into a familiar pattern of mediocrity.   Is someone suggesting that winning might be too greedy?  Perhaps they have enough.  After all if it ain't broke don't fix it.  


Enter the Game Changer


An interesting event is taking place off the ice that will impact the Toronto Maple Leafs and other Canadian teams. our falling dollar.  Since players are paid in US funds the drop in the Canadian dollar has a serious impact.  There are also other financial implications related to the salary cap that will impact the league.   The predictions related to the drop in the Canadian dollar did not come close to the drop that is occurring.   The status quo has been given a wake up call.   



 Time To Win

 

During this off season it's time for the Maple Leafs to re-examine their team's performance on the ice.  It's easy for a player to lace up his skates, show up, put in his ice time,  and know he is getting paid regardless as to his performance.   We see that in other organizations.   It's when there is something important on the line that performance changes.


 What makes the Road to the Final Four exciting in College Basketball is the freshness of the players every year.   Every year teams need to reinvent themselves to remain competitive.   It's not enough for a player to wear the jersey it's more important to wear a winning team's jersey.    We all need a wake up call from time to time to shake off the status quo.   Find out what you need to up your game and then send a suggestion to the Maple Leafs...... they need all the help they can get.  



 

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March 12, 2015

Giving Birth


This week my world was pleasantly interrupted by a birth announcement.   A friend had given birth to a beautiful baby girl.  As I looked at the picture I felt enormous joy for their family and an overwhelming sense of potential.   This newborn is joining a world where her future is full of endless possibilities. 


A Period of Rapid Growth


Over the next 12 months this newborn will experience exponential change as she physically grows, learns to communicate,  discover  herself and interact with the people and the world around her.   It is truly miraculous.  It is also infused with prolonged periods of rest and refueling.   Anyone who's had the pleasure of being around a young baby knows that babies eat and sleep a lot.   It's what helps them grow.  

 

Multiple Births


The joy of birth and the subsequent growth that follows that event doesn't have to be the exclusive domain of newborns.   In fact,  throughout our lives we have the opportunity to give birth to a variety of things.   When we take an idea and bring it to life we are giving birth.   The process of nurturing that idea and letting it develop is like a parent who is the guardian and protector of their child. While we'd love a manual to guide our actions much of what we do is learned on the job.   That means we'll stumble and make mistakes.  It also means we'll have many victories and moments of great joy.   It is the ebb and flow of breathing life into something.  


Sending It Out Into The World


As a parent there comes a time when we have to send our children out into the world.  It becomes their time.   We can't hold on to them forever as that is a sure way of  curtailing their growth.   Our ideas also need the opportunity to experience the world around them.  We can't keep them locked in our minds they need to be set free.   Treat them like a newborn,  they are beautiful and unspoiled.  When people see them they will be amazed and excited at the potential they possess.  After all,  an idea, like a child, comes from the best of us.   They are both created with passion and love, a perfect start.



 

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March 5, 2015

Deciding Isn't Doing


Working as a life and leadership coach I am honoured to be part of my clients' decisions to change something in their lives and take action.   There is often a palpable shift during a coaching session when that distance between deciding and taking action is reduced to its smallest measure.  When I leave the coaching session the action is completely in the hands of my client. 

This week I had the pleasure of running into a client who had just put her decision into action.  The exhilaration she demonstrated was incredible.   She had crossed that short space from deciding and entered the world of "doing".  


 Decisions Don't Create Progress


I have worked in several environments where I was charged with making a lot of decisions.   It was easy to be lulled into a sense of progress based on the decisions that I was making, but was it a false sense of progress?  Until I implemented a decision and released it to action it was unable to change anything.   The reality of my life had not changed nor had the world around me. 

 

Creating Ripples In Our Life


When I take action I create a ripple in the world around me.   Sometimes my actions create a small wave while other times my actions  impact my world like a tsunami.  If we consider our actions as the current in the river of our lives then we can harness that  energy to propel us to new destinations.   It doesn't matter how fast we get there just that we continue to move forward.  We need to acquire the habit of doing what we have in our mind to do.  


 Removing "I Should"


Changing ourselves doesn't start with the phrase "I should".  Instead it starts with action.   How many times have you heard yourself say the following?

  • I should eat better
  • I should exercise every day
  • I should be nicer to my family
  • I should spend more time with my friends
  • I should take a vacation
  • I should, I should, I should.........



 Removing The Fear Of Change

 

Change creates an environment of fear for us as we have a preference for the status quo.   It is where we are most comfortable.   We can, however, outsmart our fear response.   If we make small changes every day then we minimize the fear.   Take the example of eating better.   Considering a wholesale change is overwhelming and likely not sustainable.  By starting with adding one vegetable at dinner  it becomes a small change that is easy to implement.   If every day we add a small action we eventually achieve a large change. 

There is never a perfect time only the time that exists right now.  Some other time has a different reality that might not be conducive to taking action.   It's your time to become a person of action.  It's the most important thing you can do for yourself.  

 

  

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February 26, 2015

Time For Change or Changing Time

 

In the 1970's as I was coming of age I never considered a life that didn't have a career.  In the late 60's and early 70's the women's liberation movement had paved the way for my generation to have no excuses to "have it all".   In fact choosing not to work really meant you were doing less than what was expected of you.   So like many women my age after I graduated from university I joined the workforce.  In fact, I have always loved the contributions I have made through my work.   I have also loved the contributions I've made through my family, first as a wife and then as a mother. 


 Having It All


 Living the life of a working woman, mother and wife requires numerous hats.   The demands on our time are incredible, particularly when there is such pressure to do it all well.   As a child I remember the amount of time I spent playing with my friends, without any adult supervision.   In fact, my interaction with my parents was present but not constant.   Somewhere between my childhood years and the years of being a parent there was a shift.   I had to spend more time with my children.   There was soccer coaching, Brownies and school councils.   There was cleaning, cooking, gardening, learning and leading.   I wasn't wearing one hat at a time but wearing all of them.  No wonder my head hurt at times.

 

Eliminating Role Overload


A report called the "Work-Life Conflict in Canada in the New Millennium" sponsored by Health Canada found that nearly 90 percent of workers and working families reported moderate to high levels of "role overload"- meaning they were trying to do too many things at once to meet the demands of both work and life.  We have become a society obsessed with "fitting more things in".  With a growing knowledge economy we have put in place mechanisms that feed the growing demands on us all.   More and more workers are "salaried" employees.    While your salary may have been calculated on a 40 hour paid work week,  chances are you are working 50 plus hours per week.   If you do the math it becomes much more illuminating.


Salary: $1000 per week based on 40 hour work week= $25 per hour

If you work an extra 10 hours per week to "keep up" your hourly rate is now $20.00 per hour

Those extra 10 hours per week equate to approximately 500 hours per year.   In 4 years you would have worked an extra year's worth of work " unpaid"

 

 We have also been sold a lifestyle that would suggest we can have it all.   We can be a rising star at work, the perfect wife, mother, husband or father we just need to manage our time better.   This has been one of the greatest myths of the late 20th century and now the 21st century.   As a result  we sometimes get stuck in a quagmire of guilt.  We feel guilty about everything we miss  and perceive we should be capable of doing better.  


 Time to Take Back Our Lives


 We are at a tipping point in our ability to maintain the pace of life that we have created.   We can continue to pretend that it's acceptable or we can start making some changes ourselves.  

  •  It might be  saying "no" instead of always saying yes. 
  • It might be scheduling 45 minute meetings to give you 15 minutes to recharge before the next meeting
  • It might be taking "all" your vacation
  • It might be reducing "unpaid" work time
  • It might be taking 15 minutes for yourself everyday
  • It might be living for purpose, not profit


 When No One's Left To Take Care Of Us

 

The most startling trend is the diminishing birth rate this overload has contributed to.   While there was always an expectation that a new generation will be there for us as we age that's no longer guaranteed.   You see, people aren't able to take the time to have children anymore.   It's just one more thing to fit into an already overloaded schedule.   



 


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February 19, 2015

Becoming My Best Future Self

 

I received a message from a dear friend a few minutes ago that said "I wish I could be more like you".   As I read these words, I thought about the times I had thought the same thing.  We are all on a journey of transformation.   From the time we are born till the time we die we are always changing and evolving.   Each experience in our life leaves an imprint on the person we become.  This is particularly evident in the connections we have with people.  Some people shape our lives in meaningful ways as we aspire to be more like them.  Sometimes we are fortunate  to walk side by side these people and experience their authentic self in a way that inspires us to become our best future self.   

 

Inspired By Love

 

What I have discovered is that the spark to inspire comes from a place of love.  Each person who has inspired me has demonstrated a profound love that they are passionate about.   I have walked beside people who profoundly love their family and demonstrate it through their words and actions every day.   As a result, I was inspired to show more care and kindness to my family.   I have walked beside people whose love for friends is constant and has inspired me to hold friends as close as possible for as long as possible.   I have walked beside people whose love of laughter has inspired me to find a smile in even the saddest of times.   I have walked beside people whose love of learning has inspired me to remain curious.   

 

It's Within All Of Us

 

The inspiration I have felt from people has ignited the spark of change within me.  Each of us has developed a  set of core  values that defines who we are.  As we walk side by side inspirational people they help us unlock positive behaviours that give life to our values.  When we model their behaviours, our values  become visible to ourselves and others.  


 Who Will You Walk Beside?


I am grateful that I am able to walk beside a wonderful group of inspirational people.   Some, I have the pleasure of being with every day, others only occasionally.   No matter how long we share a walk their impact is unforgettable.   As I face tomorrow I am confident that I will continue to meet people that will inspire me in new and different ways.   I need only look to the love they demonstrate.

 So the next time someone says they wish they could be more like you, remind them, they already are.


 

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February 12, 2015

A World Of Convenience

 

The past few days I've been replaying a phrase in my head, "only if it's not too inconvenient".  An important person in my life said this to me when she asked me if I had time to take her to Walmart.   At the time I didn't think too much about the request that came from my 86 year old mother but as the day progressed I started to wonder if I was sending out "busy" signals.    Since Monday morning the concept of convenience has been front and centre. in particular, how it has shaped so much of our lives. 


Do I Default to Convenience?

 

I thought about the things I do, the people I interact with and the general rhythm of my life.  What percentage of my life had become driven by convenience?   Living in the country for 30 years has had a huge impact on the availability of convenient services.  First, if I want to go shopping, to the bank or to the closest town I either have to drive or walk 3.5 miles each way.   This has somewhat limited my exposure to convenient services however I do willingly make use of drive thru lanes at the bank and Timmys.   When it comes to convenience related to service I'm thrilled when a business opens that is more accessible and saves me time, effort or energy.   


Convenient Relationships


What got me thinking most is the effort I put into my relationships.   Research from the field of social psychology confirms that the most significant factor that contributes to relationships is physical proximity.   It's based on the proximity principle that suggests that we form close relationships with those who are geographically near us.   As I thought about this I thought about the relationships that I've developed over the years that emerged via school,  my career and my neighbourhood.   I definitely began many relationships through people I met from school as well as my coworkers and neighbours.    That has always been easy for me.   What is always more challenging is how you maintain relationships when you aren't in close physical proximity. 


 Taking Time and Energy To Build and Strengthen Relationships


 It's very easy to maintain relationships when you see people every day.  There are opportunities to interact that seamlessly fit into our day.   The challenge comes when you have to find time, energy and make an additional effort to connect.  When it's an important relationship the return is far greater than the output.  Yesterday, as I was driving home from the gym I saw a grandfather walking his grandchildren across the street to safely get on the school bus.  It was a cold and snowy day, definitely not the kind of day where you want to be outside.  It would have been more convenient to watch the children from the window but not nearly as rewarding to know they were safe.      It's easy to put people aside because it's not convenient.  I've used all the excuses like:

  •  I don't have the time. 
  • They're probably busy.
  • I don't want to disturb them.
  • I'm tired
  • I'll do it tomorrow

 

There's Never Been More Options


One of the benefits of living in the 21st century is the abundance of methods for connecting.  If I can't see someone in person there are dozens of other ways to connect.  Think about it.  There's email, twitter, instagram, facebook, Skype, facetime, text messaging, bbms, blogs, the telephone and even a message in an article.   

When someone reaches out to you consider your options.  Instead of saying "can't" why not try "how about".   There are always options if you're willing to consider them.  I will finish with a wonderful phrase "True friendship isn't about being there when it's convenient.  It's about being there when it's not".   


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February 5, 2015

Worth Waiting For

 

When I was young my mother would often recite the phrase "patience is a virtue possess it if you can, seldom found in woman never found in man".   When she said it I felt rather proud to be in the "woman" category as if I was in an exclusive club.  What I failed to realize at that young age is that we are sometimes required to wait a long time.   The concept of time is somewhat finite when we're young and  waiting a day, week or month seems like forever.   Anything beyond that would be unimaginable.


Waiting 30 Years for Justice

 

I was reminded about the role of patience today as it marks the anniversary of the conviction of Byron De La Beckwith for the murder of Medgar Evers.   For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Medgar Evers was a civil rights activist in the 60's.   On June 12, 1963 he was shot in the back.   After stumbling 30 feet before collapsing he was taken to the local hospital in Mississippi where he was denied admittance due to his race.   After discovering who he was he was eventually admitted only to die 50 minutes later.   Two trials took place in 1964 with predominately white male jurors that resulted in a deadlock.   It was not until Feb 5, 1994 after a new trial that Byron De La Beckwith was finally found guilty of murder.   For the Evers family that is a long time to wait for justice, but of all the things worth waiting for perhaps that should be at the top of our list. 


While We Wait


We each likely have our own personal list of those things or goals worth waiting for.   When they finally happen it's as if time momentarily stops.   As our life evolves towards those moments we continue to live, persevere and drive to our goals.   It takes enormous strength of character to wait and remain focused.  


 

What's Worth Waiting For?

 

  • A cure for illness or disease as it resides in a loved one
  • An end to conflict that keeps people apart
  • An education, a lifetime in the making
  • A child for the childless whose heart is full
  • A home for the homeless
  • A family for every child because they deserve to feel love
  • Finding food for the hungry
  • equal opportunity for every person
  • a world where right and justice are part of our fabric

This is a small portion of a large list that touches our lives from time to time.   It is a hope that with each passing day an item gets checked off and becomes a reality.   Whatever you are waiting for may you continue to have the patience and perseverance to see it to the end.  


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January 29, 2015

The Art of Conversation

 

This is the third time the theme of conversations has emerged in my writing and perhaps this will be the "charm".   Last weekend a quote from a fairly powerful individual caught my attention and it seemed like divine intervention that I should focus on conversations once more.  The quote was from  Pope Francis who said:  " The great challenge today is to learn once again how to talk to one another; not simply how to generate and consume information".   When I read this quote something really powerful resonated within me.  There is nothing I find more satisfying than a good conversation.  It's an incredible feeling when you make a deep connection with another human being.   A conversation is a garden of words that we share  and cultivate.    As it grows it becomes a place of inspiration and  thought.      


Building Connections With An Introduction

 

We all have opportunities to introduce people we are with to others.   If we don't give it much thought we might easily default to their title or role.   I've heard myself introduce people this way.   If we take a bit of extra time we might find a different way to introduce them by combining their name with why they are relevant.  Simply put, what do they mean to you.   Imagine the difference from introducing someone as "my colleague" versus "this is my colleague who was instrumental in supporting me on the project we just finished"  I'm pretty sure the latter would be more meaningful and a catalyst for an engaging conversation.  


Creating Intimacy Through Conversation  


There are levels of intimacy we are able to ascend within a conversation.   When we are starting a conversation with someone new it's generally best to share common courtesies.   We can build beyond that by trading information, trading opinion and then trading feelings.   It's an excellent way to build trust through conversation.  It's important to remember that directness is a privilege of intimacy that has been built from trust and should never be used casually.  When we haven't established trust directness can be abrasive and caustic.  It would be like drinking hot sauce  from the bottle.   It can burn and be somewhat unpleasant.  If we temper it with a pot of other ingredients that have been placed together to create balance it is a perfect addition.  

 


"But I Talk To You Everyday" 

 

There are people we talk with everyday.   We interact with our family, friends, and coworkers in a predictable pattern.  Sometimes these patterns create surface conversations that merely exchange words.   We potentially fall into a rut with these conversations.   Think about the times we have defaulted to logistics or common topics like the weather in our conversations.   If we do this often enough we might forget about finding deeper truly satisfying topics to discuss.  When we  discuss deeper topics we gain understanding of other person's thoughts and feelings.    When we combine deep listening with a genuine curiosity we begin to demonstrate empathy.  Sometimes that is the single thing we crave most, an opportunity to be heard and understood without judgment.   Perhaps this is what Pope Francis was referring to in his quote; a desire to hear and be heard, to understand and be understood.   Sounds like a great topic for a conversation.  Why don't you try it? 



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January 22, 2015

Matchmaker, Matchmaker Make Me a Match

 

I recently spent the last several days reviewing Reverse Mentoring and the role of a coach in finding a productive relationship for both parties.   In a way I started to feel as if I were on a reality show like Millionaire Matchmaker.   I would find out about the individual parties and place people together.   A coach definitely has an advantage in discovering those elements that would create a productive relationship between two people, especially two people that are likely at different points in their careers


What Is Reverse Mentoring? 

 

Reverse mentoring is a learning relationship between a mentor who is young and exceptionally literate in a new aspect of technology or social behaviour and a protégé who has more life experience but is not as familiar with a new technology or social behaviour.   These can be life altering relationships where one person shares their wealth of life experience and the other younger individual shares their skills in both cutting-edge technologies and , more importantly, the social behaviours and attitudes that these technologies create.   Currently very few organizations take advantage of reverse mentoring


What's Stopping You?  


Whether you are at the start, middle or nearing the end of your career you might benefit from participating in a reverse mentoring relationship.   In today's work environment there is a desperate need to balance both competence and confidence.   Reverse mentoring targets both of these elements.   Organizations often support employees through peer to peer relationships but this limits the exposure of employees who want to look beyond their immediate environment.   


Are You Ready? 

 

Desire to participate is the ideal first step but there are other elements to consider such as:

  • you are willing to contribute the time and energy to someone else's growth
  • you are willing to share your knowledge and experiences with new technologies and the attitudes associated with success or failure
  • a desire to develop connections with different generations based on a mutual respect
  • an ability and organizational support for developing others


 Coaching as a Prelude


A fundamental principle within coaching is to suspend judgment and have a genuine curiosity in the client and their goals.  This mindset is a shift for many individuals who often find themselves in roles where they are evaluating individuals against specific standards.   Mentoring is about development in individuals not about measuring their performance.  It involves deeply listening to one another and trusting the other's intent.   If your organization doesn't have a formal mentor program perhaps it's time to start one.   Start by providing your leaders with a coach so they can discover the personal benefits of being coached in terms of their personal effectiveness.   Next,  provide them with an opportunity to coach someone else.   This might be a direct report or someone completely removed from day to day interactions.   Once you have this piece start looking at the talent that is new and exciting in your organization.   Create opportunity for them to shine and grow through reverse mentoring.   External coaches are readily available to provide a starting point for your organization in this terrific development opportunity.   What are you waiting for? 





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January 15, 2015

Mind The Gap

 

I was speaking with a colleague from London, England the other day and was reminded of a phrase I heard several times while vacationing there several years ago;  "mind the gap".   This phrase refers to the space between the subway car and the platform.  Throughout the entire subway network this phrase is a constant reminder to passengers.  


A Different Meaning For Gap

 

How interesting the parallels are between this physical gap and the other gaps in our lives.   When I think about gaps they are the space between my current state and a desired future state.   These gaps have appeared in a variety of different aspects in my life from my health, fitness, relationships, career and education.  Sometimes they are small and short lived while other times they are large and require an extensive plan to eliminate so that I can achieve my desired future state.  When I perceive forward momentum in my life it generally means I am closing a gap.  


Ignoring the Gap


For some people, the gaps in their lives have become invisible, especially when they have minimal impact on their day to day lives.  Just like the  London subway riders whose daily commute habitually has them stepping across the gap, they've stopped paying attention.  They can mind the gap as it isn't getting in the way of their daily destination. 


Neglect Breeds Atrophy

 

When we ignore or neglect our gaps it's like a muscle that isn't being worked.  Eventually it will weaken and become atrophied.     Over time the gap that was easy to ignore becomes wider and eventually insurmountable as we no longer have the capabilities to make it across.  


 Finding Your Goldilocks Gap


We owe it to ourselves to consider our own development as a work in progress.   When we convince ourselves that we are perfectly equipped for the future we potentially widen an overlooked gap.   The future is changing exponentially and we deserve to experience it to the fullest.  Each time we develop a new skill, enhance a relationship or improve our health and fitness we are closing a gap.   When we close one gap we find ourselves in a different space that allows us to see new possibilities.  The view from this space might help you achieve greater joy, excitement or fulfillment in your life.  Take time to look to a desired future state that fits just right for your own personal development.   Some of you might like lofty long term goals while others feel more comfortable with quick easily accomplished goals that incrementally grow over time.   Whatever works for you, taking action to close those gaps will provide you with a huge sense of accomplishment.   





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January 8, 2015

A Garden of Relationships

 

As I sit down to type this article the thermometer is reading a temperature that sends shivers through my body; -14 Celsius or as our American friends would say 6 degrees Fahrenheit.   That's without the wind chill factored in.   How ironic that my thoughts have turned to my garden at a time when it is covered with snow and frost.  You see I have been an avid gardener for the large part of my life.   As a young girl I remember working with my father in the backyard, planting flowers, cutting grass and creating beauty.   It was a joy that has stayed with me for many years and I have been fortunate to build a beautiful garden with my husband these past several decades.   As I look around at the half acre that is my backyard there are different themed planting beds where plants and flowers are clustered based on their colour, blooming season, needs and resilience to the elements.  Each planting bed brings a unique beauty that I helped cultivate into a paradise.


Creating the Architecture

 

When we bought our home there were only a few trees on the property.  We immediately set out to create shaded areas by adding 3 Dawn Redwoods and several Sunburst Locusts.   Both these type of trees create shade, however their leaves are featherlike allowing the breeze to travel through.  They now tower 40 plus feet in the sky majestically shielding the plants that sit below and watching over them.   Each year I bring home new plants and add it to our garden.   This has meant adding new planting beds and integrating the old with the new in a way that they all thrive.   There are now 10 distinct gardens in the backyard all co-existing and blending together.


Finding a Harmonious Balance


With a garden so large it is important to find a balance of plants that can thrive with less care and those special plants that require more attention.   Both my husband and I have a preference for perennials as they reappear every year.  As their roots are well established they often require minimal attention consisting of sunshine and water.   Annuals grace our gardens every year but only in small amounts as they are substantially more high maintenance.  Their roots don't reach deeply in the soil  the same way as perennials and require more water and care.   There is always a place for both types in my garden.  We also need to ensure that we weed our garden on a regular basis so they  don't choke out the flowers. Perennials also require thinning to stay strong every so many years.   All of this takes time and care but when it is done out of love it is never work. 


What Kind of Flower Are You? 

 

Each of us is like a flower in a garden.   Some of us are ever blooming while others bloom brightly only for a short period.   Our friends and family are our gardeners.   When they afford us the perfect balance of dependence and autonomy we thrive.   Sometimes we may be planted in an area that receives too much sunshine and we might become scorched and burnt out.   When this happens we might need to move elsewhere or under the protective canopy of a large tree.   We can also suffocate from too much attention.   Over watering a plant is as dangerous as not watering it at all.   Mother Nature plays a key role in our development but that sometimes isn't enough.   The most beautiful gardens are the ones that surprise the eye wherever you look.   As I walk through my garden I see different flowers that have come together in a unique pattern.   While an individual flower is beautiful the combinations that have been put together are breathtaking.   Like our families, friends or coworkers we find ourselves in different gardens.   Our interdependence and unique requirements allow us to grow together at a specific time and place.   Some of us bloom early in the year others wait later to show their colours, we all contribute to the whole.   


 Allowing Your Garden To Grow


 This week two plants in my garden needed distinctly different attention.   One plant was a cutting I had transplanted about a year ago that needed some additional care.  As I had been the primary gardener for this plant it made sense that I tended to it .   The other was a plant that I thought was ready to be separated as we often do with hostas.  The main part stays in the existing garden while a  smaller part is transplanted into a different part of the garden.   I discovered that this plant might not be ready for transplanting just yet.   It needs more time to thrive in its current garden before sectioning itself off to supplement other gardens.   At the end of the day it's important that both plants thrive and bloom as only they can.   As one of their gardeners I will check in as needed and make sure they have exactly what they need. 


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December 18, 2014

Are You A Grinch?

 

Consider an interesting fact, in 1966 "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" was broadcast on TV for the first time.   For many of us we can't remember a time when the word "Grinch" wasn't a part of our vocabulary.   It became part of our world when Dr Seuss first published the story in 1957.   Since that time we define a Grinch as a person or thing that spoils or dampens the pleasure of others. 


Synonyms to Consider

 

While the character in the story set out to spoil the pleasure of others, a miraculous thing occurred, his heart grew.  He started to care about the people around him.  Sometimes we might encounter individuals that we describe as a complainer, dampener, doomsdayer, grouch, moaner, partypooper, pessimist, prophet of doom, stick in the mud, wet blanket or whiner.   These individuals always present a challenge.  While they might be synonymous with a Grinch they have a fundamental difference.  We might not expect these individuals will change.   


Call Me A Grinch


We all have situations where we are not at our best.   We might even have been labeled a pessimist, stick in the mud or whiner.   Whatever  trigger precedes this unwanted behaviour start to  think about yourself as a "Grinch".  When you do, it might be enough to convince you that your behaviour is temporary and will improve. It's a subtle shift in perception that might make a difference. 


Find Your "Cindy Lou Who"

 

Just as the story How the Grinch Stole Christmas had "Cindy Lou Who"  we all benefit from someone who makes us better.    These people are all around us.  We just need to look for them and take notice.   So this holiday season remember that a Grinch is only a temporary condition and that if you surround yourself with the right people your "Whoville" will be wonderful.   


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December 11, 2014

Preserving Abundance

 

I just returned home from a trip that had me temporarily flying over the Atlantic ocean.   Even though I live in an area surrounded by the great lakes I am always in awe of the size and magnitude of the ocean.   When I look at it, I am amazed at the abundance of resources that live below the surface.   For hundreds of years mankind has fished in these vast waters arrogantly thinking that there was a limitless supply of fish to feed the world.   Luckily we discovered our arrogance was flawed and we started looking into ways to preserve the resources that were crucial to our survival.  The struggle to establish fishing quotas continues today in the hope of ensuring resources for future generations.  When countries believe they have a greater right to resources due to capability they potentially become a bully in the playground who won't share with others.   This is true for natural resources as well as intellectual resources..  


Catching and Releasing Ideas

 

You may have heard the term "catch and release" used by fisherman who release the fish they've caught back into the wild without harming them.   This simple idea was designed as a conservation effort.   Something that could be adopted and put into practice by anyone.   When we release the fish back in the wild it doesn't stay still it swims away and interacts with other fish.   It potentially expands the fish population exponentially, all because someone caught it and released it.  What if we applied this principle to intellectual property and the sharing of ideas and concepts?


What Will You Catch? 


A catch and release philosophy would create a well stocked pond of ideas and concepts.  Anyone would be able to cast a rod in and catch a new idea.   After experiencing the exhilaration of the catch, they too release the idea back into the pond without harming it.  Interestingly the longer the idea or concept survives the more it grows.   It becomes strong and capable in the wild as it develops unique survival skills.   Those ideas and concepts that are weak gradually sink to the bottom.  


When Nurturing Becomes Protecting


Those of you who have given birth to ideas and concepts have a natural tendency to want to protect them, to keep them safe and watch them develop   This instinct, while honourable sometimes evolves to a protectionism that isolates and controls.   As parents this is a fine line with children and so it is with our ideas and concepts.   Sometimes we have to let them go to watch them grow.  



  Letting Go to Watch Them Grow


 Whatever idea or concept you are holding onto it might be time to ask yourself if it's time to release it into the greater world.   More and more we are seeing "open source" resources made available to the public.   When this happens the opportunity to create abundance shifts.   It shifts from a few to unimaginable numbers.   It shifts from a single purpose to multiple purposes that haven't been envisioned.   The important thing is that it builds abundance.   Maybe it's time to catch and release some of your ideas. 


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December 4, 2014
Embracing My Ignorance

 

When I was a teenager I was pretty sure I knew everything that was required to be successful.   I definitely knew more than my parents and a good number of my teachers.   I was unstoppable.   Of course, that was back in the seventies before computers, the internet and the exponential growth of information in our world.   Today my perspective has dramatically shifted from my teenage reality.   A funny thing happened on the way to my maturity, I discovered I didn't know very much.   Why that's preposterous you might say, especially for someone who is a learning and performance consultant.  I disagree.   In fact,  quite some time ago I shifted from being a comfortable expert to being a lifelong learner.  


How We Learn

 

There are several stages we go through as learners.  The first stage is unconscious incompetence.  This is where we don't know what we don't know.  The second stage is conscious incompetence where we know what we don't know.  We follow this with conscious competence where we have to put conscious effort into what is new and with practice we eventually achieve unconscious competence.   As I was thinking about these stages I felt something was missing.  I would like to call it conscious curiosity.   It is what propels us to move beyond the status quo and to find out more.   Those individuals with conscious curiosity navigate from conscious incompetence through the use of questions.  


Curiosity The New Salt of The Earth


Curiosity is defined as a need, thirst or desire for knowledge.  Think of it as the salt in our diet that creates an insatiable thirst.   When we start on a journey of curiosity we are similar to the explorers of the past who set out on uncharted journeys.   With each question we move forward, sideways, backwards, inside-out or upside down.   It is not always predictable but it feeds a new question.   While we find some answers along the way, we often only stay long enough to take on supplies to continue our journey.   The wind in our sails comes from the next question we ask.


Curiosity Didn't Kill The Cat


Curiosity has been given a bad name over the years.   In fact the phrase, curiosity killed the cat, originated as care killed the cat.  Even religious doctrine discouraged the inquisitive and preferred blind faith.   As humans we are hard wired to ask questions.  It is fundamental to how we learn.  When we are children our communication is loaded with questions, however, the number tapers off as we get older.   We stop asking questions and focus on answers.  As a result we have killed curiosity.



  Re-Discovering Questions


 Questions are incredibly powerful, especially when they come from a place of genuine curiosity versus judgment.  A young child has the power of silencing a room of adults with the innocence of a question.   They aren't afraid to ask as they have no shame in not knowing.   They would rather ask to satisfy a need as they haven't discovered the vulnerability of showing some ignorance.   I believe that curiosity should change how we perceive ignorance.  When the two elements are intertwined they become a powerful catalyst for change.  


 What Questions Do You Have


It is time to start asking questions.    Everyday if we take the time to ask 3 questions we might be amazed at what we discover.   What question will you start with today?


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November 27, 2014

You First

 

Recently there have been numerous reports in the news regarding Gordie Howe's ailing health.   For those of you who grew up in the Windsor/Detroit area Gordie Howe's name is synonymous with hockey.  On Saturday nights during the 60's and 70's Gordie Howe's name was constantly being said to describe a great play.   In fact, Gordie Howe was the first NHL player to achieve 1000 points in his career.   This was a monumental achievement at the time and is still considered amazing.   It will always be remembered, however, as the first. 


First Things First

 

We have a variety of opportunities to achieve "firsts" in our lives.   From a very young age the importance of being first surrounds our world.   Whether it's being first in line, a first born, or first in your class, there has always been a prestige associated with being first. 

Through innovation we establish firsts that require risk, creativity, talent and daring.   Longevity also establishes "firsts" when our dedication, focus and perseverance outlasts our contemporaries.  We also have a lifetime of "firsts" that we can create for ourselves that are not subject to comparison with anyone else. 


 "Firsts" That Last


 Our own firsts are often those memorable moments in our life that define who we are.   Who doesn't remember their first day of school, their first date, first kiss or first roller coaster ride.   These memories, whether, good, bad, or indifferent stay with us a long time.   They are woven into the fabric of our lives.   As we get older, it becomes easy to forget about new "firsts" in our lives and simply surround ourselves in our memories.   Who of us hasn't gone to a high school reunion and spent a few minutes with the high school jock whose best years have long past.   I'd like to think that my best years are still ahead and there are thousands of firsts waiting for me.  While I had great "firsts" in my past I am not ready to hang up my skates just yet. 

 

My "Firsts" List

 

I don't want to confuse this list with a "bucket list".   Those lists are often huge in scope and precipitated by a feeling of limited time.  Instead I'd like to think of my "firsts" list as a way of noticing those items that are my personal firsts. These items don't require me to jump out of plane or travel to exotic locales to feel special.   They make me feel special because I experienced something that is unique to me.     Consider these:

  •  the first time I saw my daughter try on a wedding gown
  • The first time I ran into a bear in the wilderness
  • The first time I went tubing
  • the first time I hit a hole in one
  • the first time I walked 29,000 steps in a day
  • the first time I climbed 200 stories on the stairmaster
  • the first 100 articles written on my website


 While some of these would never make it onto a "bucket list" they are all on my "firsts" list.   Each one is special and worth noticing and remembering.   By focusing on these experiences as "firsts" I am consciously living in the moment.  Tomorrow I will experience numerous firsts.   I have never experienced November 28, 2014 before and can't wait to experience it all.   


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November 20, 2014


World Toilet Day?

 

I have to tell you I was absolutely flush with excitement when I found out today was World Toilet Day.   In fact I was bowled over thinking about the possibilities.   After all, I have never shied away from bastardizing a concept to cement an idea in someone's mind.   So with nothing but a title I decided to plunge right in.


Our Efficient System

 

The human body is an incredible machine.   To survive, we need to take in a combination of food and water, remove the important nutrients and discard the waste.   For most of us this process is efficient and works like a charm.  Physiologically, we are on "auto pilot" when it comes to discarding waste.  We don't have to think about it, our body knows what to store and what to discard.   It's not so easy when it comes to the our minds, or specifically, our thoughts and feelings.  

 

When "Waste" Backs Up Our System


 How might we define wasted thoughts and feelings in our lives?   I'd like to think they are the thoughts and feelings that distract us from our purpose.   They clog and fog our ability to focus on what's most important.   Consider it the ultimate constipation of our mind, and if left to fester, will eventually result in an obstruction where there is no surgical intervention.  

 

  Time To Flush

 

Just as our body needs time to digest, so too do our thoughts and feelings.   When negative thoughts and feelings persist too long we need to identify them and flush them away.   Just as there is a dual flush mechanism on most toilets sometimes we need to put more energy into a flush to rid ourselves of the waste.   It's up to you to decide how long to hang onto negativity before it becomes toxic.  When it starts to permeate  every waking moment, it's time to flush. 


Flush Away


  • When anger has lasted too long, it's time to flush away
  • When jealousy rears it's head, it's time to flush away
  • When your thinking becomes biased, it's time to flush away
  • When you can't see new alternatives, it's time to flush away
  • When you repeat your story over and over again, it's time to flush away
  • When you forget the best part of your day and focus on the worst, it's time to flush away
  • When the last time you laughed wasn't today, it's time to flush away
  • When apathy is your new best friend, it's time to flush away
  • When worry fills your day, it's time to flush away


You know yourself better than anyone else.   When you look in the mirror and don't recognize the person looking back perhaps it's time to flush away.  You deserve to experience your best.   Every moment in our lives is a new starting point.  No matter what has happened in the past you don't have to carry it around with you, instead, start fresh and flush the rest away.   You'll be glad you did



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November 13, 2014

Are You Certain?

 

In 1789 Ben Franklin wrote "Nothing is certain but Death and Taxes".   In writing these famous words Ben likely didn't realize the importance that being certain has in our lives.   In fact,  for many people it is more important to feel right about something than to be right.  What research has discovered is that feeling certain brings a sense of calm to the tension that exists when we don't know. 


Our Evolution

 

Being certain was an important survival technique for our ancient ancestors.   The world of our ancient ancestors required speedy thinking.  Even the most minute delay could mean death when eluding a wild animal.   Second guessing our decisions resulted in you becoming lunch instead of hunting for lunch.  This was an era of black and white decisions where there were only a couple of options.  In today's world we are faced with unprecedented complexity with options that sometimes appear limitless. 

 

The Stress of Uncertainty

 

Living with uncertainty increases an individual's stress.  As a result there is a need to make "quick" decisions and to create an internal calm.   The problem arises when the rush to decision doesn't result in the "best" decision.  One way to deal with this is to consider the decisions we make as a "provisional truth".  If we approach decisions as an hypothesis where we are open to consider new information to support or refute the prior decision we might be able to trick our brain into feeling calm while still working the problem. 


  What I'm Certain Of

 

 I am certain that I know more today than I did yesterday.

 I am certain that each day I get older.

 I am certain that the amount of knowledge in the universe is growing every second

 I am certain that as new words are added to the English language the percentage of words I use gets smaller.

 I am certain that the person I am today will be slightly different everyday. 

 I am certain that time stands still for no one.

 

The rest I'll put in the category of uncertainty where I get to be an explorer looking to discover a multitude of possibilities.   


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November 6, 2014

An Anniversary of Thanksgiving

 

Today marks the anniversary of the first Thanksgiving Day in Canada, November 6, 1879.  At the time Thanksgiving was an opportunity to give thanks for a plentiful harvest and for the year that had transpired.   Since that time most North Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day with food, family and friends.   Canadians celebrate it on the second Monday in October while Americans celebrate it on the third Thursday in November.  

 

Evolving Beyond the Harvest

 

As society has changed we have evolved from an agricultural, to industrial, to information, and now an emerging purpose economy.   These changes have had dramatic impacts on our lives.    Imagine if the first Thanksgiving celebration took place now?   What messages of thankfulness would we be sharing with each other?   

 

What's Still At Our Core

 

While our daily activities have evolved over the last 135 years there is a fundamental core that remains unchanged.   We continue to be thankful for health, happiness, for the love of family and friends.  For many of us there is not the dirt under our fingernails from working the land.  There's not likely the grease on our clothes from working on heavy machines.   There might be a tenderness in our fingers and wrists from exchanging information everyday and a lightness in our hearts from helping others.   Whatever role we have in life we can be thankful that we have had a choice in our own destiny.   A choice that enables us to grow and develop every day and to live our purpose.   

 

Take Thanksgiving Beyond the Day

 

Instead of celebrating Thanksgiving one day a year encourage the people around you to celebrate every day.   Find that one thing that stands out for you each day and celebrate that.   Perhaps it's something that's shared at the dinner table or at a Board room table.   Whatever the location there's so much worth being thankful for and celebrating.    

 

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October 23, 2014

Measuring Milestones

 

Every morning I have certain rituals to start my day.    I get up, throw on my workout clothes and head for the gym.   I have been doing this for well over a year now.   It is part of a commitment I made to myself to take better care of my mind, body and spirit.   Of course, as I am an extremely driven individual I set a milestone for myself and today I reached that milestone.   I''ve lost 100lbs.   It's interesting how I originally set the milestone.   It needed to be something that I perceived as "lofty".   Something that would be awe inspiring and make me feel a sense of accomplishment.   Since early September I have been close to achieving this holy grail of milestones only to sit on a precarious edge never quite making it to the other side.   For a while I thought my body was conspiring against me but  I persevered. 

 

A Funny Thing Happened When I achieved It

 

After I shared my success with my husband  I smiled, sent a message out on facebook and then realized that it's time to move on .   I didn't feel significantly different perhaps just satisfied.   What I know is that achieving this milestone took many seconds, minutes, hours and days.   It didn't manifest itself today without discipline and hard work.   Today was a temporary check in point  in the marathon of my life.    

 

My Next "Big" Milestone

 

My next big milestone has been set and I purposely set a target that was different.  It's a number that's significant only to me in that it is bigger than the number that preceded it.   I am also hoping to achieve it before the end of the year.    What I also know is that everyday I continue to move forward.   The joy and satisfaction I feel comes from the care and attention I am giving myself.   The other day I climbed 202 stories on the stairmaster and that was glorious.   When I started doing interval running on the treadmill I remembered how good it felt to be light footed and free to run.   These are the daily milestones that fuel my momentum.  

 

If I Can Do It So Can You

 

What has made me feel special is the inspiration I might provide others.   When I look in the mirror I only see me.   I don't really look at the packaging but others have noticed the change.   They have shared that seeing my transformation has positively impacted them.   That's a bonus in so many ways.   No matter what faces you in life you have the power to change it for the better.   I'm still finding my way you will too. 


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October 16, 2014
 

How Contagious Are You?

 

Recently the news has been inundated with stories of Ebola and how contagious it is.   From my perspective, what is more worrisome is how these stories spread fear faster than any disease could reproduce.  We have become a society obsessed with a "worst case scenario" mentality.   How did fear become so contagious?  

 

The Paralysis of Fear

 

I read a report about post traumatic growth and the impact of the unknown on people.   In a study people were given a choice to find out whether they would develop a terminal illness in 10 years or continue to live unaware of their future.   The results confirmed people who knew their future were happier than those people who lived with the fear of the unknown.  This included those people who knew they were going to die.  Even when we face death, people have an incredible capacity to thrive and be happy.  That's what needs to be contagious

 

Catch Something Positive and Spread It Around

 

If we think about spreading happiness it is easy to see how it occurs.

It happens when you smile

It happens when you say hello

It happens with a hug

It happens with music

It happens after sadness when a friend is near

It happens in unexpected places. 

It happens when you seek it out. 

 

Life Turns On A Dime

 

We will all face temporary setbacks in our lives.  Some may be life altering.   The difference between sadness and fear is that sadness has a way of working itself out of our system.  Fear lingers like a rash just below the surface that flares when the unknown returns.  If the worst case scenario happens we no longer have to fear the unknown.  It is then when we have to look straight ahead.   Life might not always be what we expected but it will always be what we make of it. 

 

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October 9, 2014
 

The Power of Prefixes and Suffixes

 

There are some lessons from grade school that we remember for a long time.   One of them for me is related to the use of a prefix or a suffix.   In particular, a prefix is a word placed before another word  that alters the meaning.    Some of the most common prefixes are:  anti-, fore-, inter-, over-, under, super and un.   By themselves they appear to be rather benign words yet we have become dependent on them in our desire to emphasize a point. 

 

 The World of "Under" and "Over"

 

When we look in the mirror who do we see?   If you've been exposed to television or social media you might see someone who is either underweight or overweight.   When you hand in an assignment for work or school do you feel like an underachiever or an overachiever? Do you feel the organization you work for is under-resourced or over-resourced?  Do you have a budget that is underspent or overspent?  Are you undervalued or overvalued?  

 

When A Prefix Becomes A Label

 

Some of the examples I just gave have become synonymous with a stereotype or label.   Imagine the impact to someone who hears themselves being referred to as an underachiever.   When we rely on labels we can never be sure that our definition is the same as everyone else's.   I might consider someone overweight who is 25lbs or more above their ideal weight.  Someone else might define overweight as someone who is 50lbs above their ideal weight.    We both have a mental picture in our minds that is significantly different.    

 

Don't Leave a Prefix All Alone

 

When you use some of those labelling  prefixes create some additional context.   If you're going to define someone as an  underachiever why not give some concrete examples.   When you do this you help ensure the person you're communicating with has the same mental picture in their mind as you.

 

The Best Endings 

Finally, like any good conversation it's not always how you start but how you end.  One of the most common suffixes is -able.   By itself, able is an incredibly strong word.  When you add it to the end of other words you create:

  •  moments that are unforgettable,
  • words that are quotable
  • stories that are believable
  • friendships that are comfortable
  • actions that are noticeable
 
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October 2, 2014
 

Solid Or Veneer? 

 

I am a huge fan of home renovation shows like Love It or List It.  As a person who has lived in the same home for 29 years I am somewhat biased towards the Love It result having survived 3 major home renovations.  It is always interesting to watch the drama unfold as each spouse takes a side in the debate, passionately arguing and dealing with unforeseen challenges before reaching their final decision.   This week one of the last projects I had to tackle in our recent renovation was the "man" door for our garage.   It was an eyesore.  The veneer was peeling off and there were multiple paint colours bleeding through.  It was completely out of place with everything else on our property.  In fact, last Christmas, my mother-in-law put money in a card and suggested we use it to replace the door. 

 

 My Love It or List It Decision

 

As I took a closer inspection of the door I realized that other than the veneer peeling it was a perfectly good "solid core" door.   Instead of replacing it I decided to rehab it.  I pulled off all the veneer to ensure the surface was even.   I then applied a solid tongue and groove pine.  After some caulking and two coats of paint I had a perfectly good and functional door.   Not bad for a $20  investment in materials  and my time.   A new door would have cost between $600 and $800 installed.  

 

Loving Or Listing People

 

Just like houses we need to look at people and determine if they are worth rehabing or in need of replacement.  Maybe they've been around a while and aren't as shiny and interesting as someone new.  If we've not invested in them for a while we may have forgotten what their foundation is made of, is it solid or simply veneer.   Any builder will tell you that if the foundation is solid you always have the ability to rehab.   It's the same with people.    

 

Veneer Doesn't Last

 

Sometimes when we replace people we end up with layers of veneer that look good now but don't stand up to the test of time.  Veneer becomes  an affordable alternative to fill an immediate need but in the end we have to replace it sooner than anticipated as it just doesn't hold up. 

 

Surround Yourself with "Solid" People

 

Decide what makes a solid foundation for the people in your life.   Is it strength, knowledge, trust, honesty or any number of characteristics that fuse together?   Will they stand the test of time, or will they only be around for the short term when things are going well ?    The people with the solid foundation are the ones who stand strongest when things get difficult.   Their unique combination of characteristics aren't only on the surface they have developed from the inside, their core.   Love the solid core people they are always worth keeping.

 

 

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September 25, 2014
 

Have You Got the Goods For Durability?

 

This week as I drove my 2008 Malibu to Toronto for the umpteenth time I applauded the durability of this vehicle as its odometer seamlessly crossed over 210,000 km.   It shifted my thinking about other goods or people that have demonstrated great durability and what it takes to make that happen. 

 

What It Takes

 

First and foremost it takes quality.   Whether you are a durable individual or a product with longevity it won't exist without quality.   A durable individual might also be described as a quality person.  The quality emerges from delivering what is promised, striving to do our best and turning our gaze outwards and in the direction of others.   Next is a sense of appreciation for the circumstances that have enabled them to live the life they are.   Finally there is strength,  both physical strength and a strength of spirit when coupled together create durability. 

 

Channeling Lou Gehrig

 

 We only need to think back to the famous New York Yankee, Lou Gehrig, to see these  characteristics in life.   Lou Gehrig set a record for the most consecutive games played at 2130 that stood for 56 years.   He also set numerous records in hitting that put him at the top of the game during his playing years.   Although he is  often remembered for the disease that killed him baseball historians rank him as a "player of the century" for his contribution on the field.   When we look around us we can see evidence of great durability.  Who would challenge the durability of the Rolling Stones or the Roman Pantheon whose solid concrete dome has stood for centuries.  

 

Everyday Durability

 

It's time we start applauding those people who we encounter in our everyday lives that bring that combination of quality, appreciation and strength to their world.   Watch for the co-worker who shows up every day and works hard to make a difference.  Remember the snow plow driver who navigates through the "worst" of a snow storm so we can make it safely to our destinations.  Smile when you see the elderly couple who still hold hands after 50 years of marriage.  Sometimes it's easy to roll over and hit the snooze button when the alarm goes off..... durable people don't even consider that.   This week take a look around you and recognize the durable people in your lives.   You'll be glad you did.

 
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September 18, 2014
 

The Power of Cathedrals

 

There have been a lot of news stories lately about domestic violence in the NFL.   As I was following some of the stories I couldn't help but think about the parallels to the "cathedral of football" and the catholic church.   In particular what happens to an organization when the focus shifts to protecting the organization vs the people it serves.   Several years ago the catholic church became embroiled in controversy over priests who had broken the law but were protected by the power of the church.   In a way the NFL finds itself in a similar situation trying to protect the interests of the NFL vs  it's players and the families that are dealing with potential abuse. 

 

How We Worship

 

Every Sunday millions of people tune into the NFL and watch their heroes play a game at the highest level.   We commend them for their performance on the field.   They become our heroes.   What we don't see is what happens to an individual along the way to becoming the best.   If their lives have focused on getting into the NFL perhaps they've missed some of the other fundamental lessons of humanity.  This is not  exclusive to the NFL.   We see it in business as well where individuals start caring more about perpetuating the business or their position vs their families,  customers or coworkers.    GM ran into this situation with delayed recalls on vehicles that potentially resulted in loss of lives to customers.    

 

 

Focusing on People

 

The moment we shift our focus away from the people we serve we start down a slippery slope.   The issues in the NFL are not new,  they've likely been evident for quite some time.   The crisis is not when someone gets caught on a videotape beating their girlfriend, the crisis is when hitting someone entered the realm of possibility in this player's life. 

 

Hard Choices

 

Each of us have choices we make in our lives.  In business we can choose to make decisions that make money with no thought about people or we can make decisions that put people first.   This week, ask yourself a simple question, who or what am I worshipping? Your answer might surprise you.  Hopefully, it helps us all get back on the right track.

 
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September 11, 2014

"Having Fun Yet?"

 

When was the last time you looked back at your day and said "today was fun"?  One of life's most rewarding experiences is "fun".  It is described as enjoyment, amusement or lighthearted pleasure. 

 

Creating a Path To Fun

 

Fun does not require us to forget the serious issues that we deal with everyday.   It is not an "all or nothing" concept.   When we integrate fun into the important and serious work we do  we increase our capacity to enjoy.  We've all heard the expression "time flies when you're having fun", it's true.   It engages us. 

 

 

Re-Defining F.U.N

 

Try thinking of the following acronym for FUN.... Finding Unending Novelty.   Novelty is a state or quality of being new, novel or unique.   It creates interest and excitement.   Even the every day can become fun if we look at it from a different perspective.   How many times have you watched a movie only to find something new that you missed?   What happens when you take a family member to your favourite restaurant for the first time?  Whatever the experience look for the novelty, it's always there waiting to be discovered.   

 

Be A Fun Progenitor

A progenitor is a person who thinks of something and causes it to happen.   We all can be fun progenitors.   It takes some daring action sometimes but well worth the results.

  • start smiling more each day
  • stop defining yourself by how busy you are
  • start appreciating yourself for who you are
  • stop trying to be someone you're not
  • start a quest
  • stop creating rules for everything
  • start taking chances that surprise you

Fun is almost as contagious as a yawn.   When you're having fun other people want to join in.   This week when you ask yourself If you had fun I hope your answer is a resounding yes

 
 
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August 28, 2014

The Long and Winding Road

When we are children we imagine what life will be like when we achieve certain milestones.  Our vision focuses on the end state and seldom do we anticipate what we might experience along the path.   I was reminded of this last week as I traversed mountain roads that I hadn't anticipated.  

 

Quite a Surprise

 

Several months ago I booked a cabin at a beautiful resort in western North Carolina.  I saw incredible pictures of the cabin, club house, lake, golf course and hiking trails and anticipated everything available at my fingertips.   Imagine the shift that occurred when we started the final ascent up the mountain and discovered 100 plus hairpin turns on narrow roads rising to 3500 feet elevation.  Add physical exhaustion from already driving 11 hours to the mix and my stress level was pretty high. While I didn't anticipate this I was required to tackle this drive to get to our final destination.

Remind You of Anything?

 

Perhaps you've found yourself on a similar journey  in your personal life or career where suddenly you had to navigate twists and turns you didn't anticipate.   What is amazing is our capacity to be successful.  We somehow summon up the courage and intestinal fortitude to move forward.   In fact,  what was difficult and overwhelming the first time becomes easier with practice.  Over the course of 6 days I went up and down the mountain about 20 times.  Each time demanded skill and focus but resulted in less stress.  As we descended down the mountain the last time and reached the foothills I let out a huge sigh.  I was ready to return to the flat land of Essex County.  

 

 Don't Be Afraid To Challenge Yourself

 

Sometimes we don't anticipate the twists and turns in our lives.  In other cases we may need to make choices that put us front and centre facing twists, turns and obstacles.  In either case feel confident that you will be successful.  Expose yourself to situations that challenge you in proportions that are tolerable.   Like the mountain I climbed the view from the top was incredible,  each time you navigate those twists and turns your view will be amazing.      

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August 14, 2014

Finding Adventure Around Every Corner

Nothing gets my pulse pumping quite like the anticipation of adventure.  Now you might be asking yourself who is Patti Sproat?  Is she a modern day Evel Knievel or the female version of Indiana Jones?   I am neither,  however I share their adventurous spirit.  With this spirit I am constantly looking to discover something new or find the novelty in the every day occurrences of life.   In fact, I have seen and experienced many incredible things in my life.   It is these experiences that feed my spirit and charge my batteries.

 

Taking a Road Trip

 

Some of the best times I've had in my life happen on our family road trips.  You know those vacations when you load everyone and everything in your vehicle and take off for a destination.   My husband and I have been taking these trips for over 30 years.  in the early days we navigated through North America without GPS or mapquest.  We had to unfold a map and depend on road signs to find our way.   We sometimes took an unexpected detour but never felt short changed from what we discovered.  We've visited waterfalls, caves, mountains, lakes, oceans and seen nature up close and personal.   I recently read a quote that says "the contented person enjoys the scenery of a detour".   I couldn't agree more.

 

Standing In Their Footsteps

 

There is something amazing about standing in the same place where great battles were fought, where gangsters ruled cities and where dinosaurs roamed the land.   Out west we stood in the Redwood forest and felt like ants in nature's family.  Wherever we've travelled we know we are not the first to tread on that piece of earth,   Countless other people have shared a memory in the same location.  

 

Get Lost

 

This week we as we get ready to embark on another family road trip I am looking forward to getting lost.   I want to get lost at the top of a beautiful mountain trail.  I want to get lost in the mist of a lake as my canoe's paddle gently caresses the water.  I want to get lost on a golf course where the sound of a golf club hitting a golf ball is masked by the chirping of birds.  I want to get lost in what I can't even anticipate.  So I encourage you to find the adventurer in each of you,  who knows we might bump into each other .  


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August 7, 2014

A Million Steps

I recently hit a milestone in my health and fitness program, "a million steps".  I'm sure I've hit a million steps many times before in my life  but this time I was consciously aware of the milestone.   A lot of different thoughts raced through my mind as the meaning of those steps started taking shape.  

 

In it's most simplest form the word "step" symbolizes moving forward.   I thought about my destination and realized that  those million steps equated to 450 miles.   I could have travelled to dozens of different cities like Chicago, Toronto, Cleveland, Cincinnatti, Washington even Ottawa but then I realized I'd already been to those cities and the places in between.  Where I was destined wasn't a place but a state of being that was building my strength, endurance and well being.  

I Reached Out From The Inside

 

Peter Gabriel has a line in one of his songs that says "I reached out from the inside".   I heard this song yesterday and it really cemented the feeling I've been immersed in during my journey.   With each step I was connecting with an inner strength to propel me forward.   I was disconnected from the "information highway" and exclusively connected to the highway beneath my feet.   It's funny as a diehard extrovert this journey has given me a bounty of time to think deeply and long about many things.   Within the 48 days it took me to reach a million steps, I spent 2.5 days alone.    That's significantly different for me as I was reaching out from the inside pulling from my core sense of self and setting a path.   I wasn't just craving the walking from a physical sense but from enjoying my own company.  

 

A Closer Look At Steps

 

One of the thoughts that kept bubbling to the surface during my journey is how the word "Step" is so pervasive in our society.  

We have a multitude of phrases that are a part of our everyday conversation.   I am blessed to have the physical capability to walk a million steps, however I've also stepped forward in other ways.  There have been times when I stepped up to do the right thing.  I've always tried to take a step in the right direction.   My learning has been a step by step process.  When I've faced obstacles in life I've often taken one step forward and two steps back.   I also know how it feels to step up to the plate when asked to do something difficult that others have turned away from.   I am not alone in the steps I've taken.  We are all on a similar journey to experience our best life.

 

A First Step

 

In closing as I look back at my recent journey and see the journey of those around me I am reminded that they all start by taking the first step.   That has always been the hardest.   Physics tells us that there is more energy exerted in that first movement than required to sustain the movement.   If we add the element of fear and failure to that initial step it can sometimes seem overwhelming.   As humans we have an insatiable desire to control our own destiny so we do take that first step., sometimes blindly, sometimes with a lot of thought.   Whatever the situation a special congratulations to those of you  who started a new journey and continue to move forward.   Remember we're with each other every step of the way.


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July 31, 2014

What's Your Mouse?

Based on the title you might think I'm referring to the type of mouse you use for your computer, but I'm not.  What I'm referring to is your dream.   You see Walt Disney's dream started with a mouse 86 years ago this week.   As a result our world is different.   In today's world of practicality it's easy to put aside the dreamer that resides in each of us.   Our day to day interactions often require a laser-like focus on the here and now.   Opportunity for dreaming about the future, while important, diminishes as we focus our time and resources on the immediacy of current situations.  

 

When Everything Was In Front of Us

 

When we are young the large portion of our lives resides in the future.  We have a world of possibility.   Ask many five year olds what they want to be when they grow up and their answers are only limited by their imagination.   As we get older we sometimes see a shift away from our future and become nostalgic for the past.  We might believe our best years are behind us and the time to dream is over.   We are also surrounded by a generation who has the battle cry "Live for the moment".   Does this mean we shouldn't dream?

 

A Famous Speech

 

Martin Luther King Jr became synonymous with the line "I have a dream" in a speech he gave that mobilized a nation.   It was social media before there was social media.   It became a viral statement for believing that things could change and we have the power to make that change.   The power of that belief in dreams in 1965 has not changed in 2014.   We need to dream big, to believe in all possibilities even those that are hard to describe.   It is that dreaming that accelerates change in our world and in ourselves.   Somehow we've become accustomed to incremental change.   Don't move too quickly you'll disrupt the status quo but sometimes we need to knock people out of their socks to create the wow factor.  

 

 Partnering Dreams with Planning and Benevolent Critique

 

Dreaming big doesn't mean living in a dream world.   Each of us can call upon the other facets of our personality and partner with our dreamer.   For every dream we need to pull on our internal planner to help create a path.   We also need to pull out that benevolent critic that we carry around with us and look at the what ifs.    It is the total partnership that is inherent in all of us that brings our dreams to life.   What then is your mouse?   Let it lose and fill your thoughts with the biggest dream you can imagine and make it possible.

 

 

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July 24, 2014

What It Takes To Win

Several elements came together to build the theme for this week's article.   First, there was the ongoing coverage of the Tour De France cycling race.  It is also the anniversary of Lance Armstrong's 7th victory in the Tour De France and finally I received an update from a friend whose daughter's soccer team won their third tournament championship in less than a month.   All of this got me to think about what it takes to win or, more simply, what it takes to be successful

 

Start By Believing

 

As a life coach I often work with individuals who are trying to set a new path for themselves, to experience their best.   In some cases people will often get in the way of their own success because they haven't taken the time to see themselves as successful.   They get caught up in a quagmire of capabilities and get stuck.    A powerful question to ask yourself is who will you be when you are successful?   How will you impact the world around you?   When you shift the focus to this higher level you breathe possibility into your future success.   You gain understanding about why this success is important to you?   Once that becomes clear it's easier to look at how we make it possible and what we need to do.

 

The Power of Visual Imagery

 

We are all aware of people who seem to go from success to success.   What is it that makes it so easy for them when others have never experienced success.   What has made a soccer team have such repeatable success?   Part of the answer lies in knowing what success feels like, having experienced it before.  For individuals who are searching for that initial success or breakthrough win try a simple visualization exercise.   Close your eyes and imagine the situation.   See yourself going through the motions.   What are you doing?  How are people reacting?  What are you feeling?   See yourself being successful.   Create a videotape of this image in your mind and replay it over and over.  

 

 Building Key Habits

 

The other part of building your success is to create key habits that become second nature.   What is the preparation that is required,  or the practice,  When we practice things enough and in sequence they become instinctive.   In sports we gain muscle memory, our body just knows how to react in a particular situation.   We can do the same with words.   When we are asked a question what is our response?   What habits have we developed to deal with specific situations as they arise?  

 

There Are No Short Cuts to Enduring Success

 

At the start of this article I briefly eluded to Lance Armstrong.  In 2012 he was stripped of his Tour De France titles.   While  I have no doubt that part of his success came from a belief that he was a winner  and building key habits, he also took an unfair advantage that people sometimes look for to maintain their edge.  In sports we see performance enhancing drugs,  in finance we see insider trading.   These unfair advantages always have a way of  backfiring at some point.   Success takes hard work,  winning takes hard work and continuing to try takes more hard work,  grit and determination.   If you use the elements of visual imagery, establishing key habits and wrap them in hard work you will always experience your best.  

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July 17, 2014

 Deconstructing Camelot

If you are like a lot of people you have a fascination with the legend of Camelot.  Its' story is based on magic, Knights of the Round Table and a world where a greater purpose serves everyone.   As a child the legend captured my attention in movies and continued to be reinvented in the world around me.   I remember reporters referring to the Kennedy administration as Camelot, a magical time.  I have also experienced working on teams where the feeling of "Camelot" was alive and well.   The mere mention of the word "Camelot" is aspirational.

 

 

The Genesis of Camelot


 In my experience creating Camelot is a combination of many things.   First and foremost there needs to be a well defined purpose for people to believe in and  embrace.   If this purpose is aligned to  core values that are important to everyone it gains huge traction.   An example of this was the leadership of Paul O'Neill at Alcoa in the 80's and 90's.   When he took over the company his vision was clear.  He wanted to eliminate workplace injuries and create a safe workplace for employees.   This vision was something that everyone could rally behind and they did.   As a result Alcoa had unprecedented growth during O'Neill's tenure.

 

Another  important element of creating Camelot is bringing together diverse personalities and skills.   The uniqueness of people allows us to redefine problems and look for creative solutions.   As an Insights Discovery Licenced practitioner I have seen the strength in combining an Introverted Thinker with an Extraverted Feeler.   When you pool these diverse preferences and recognize the value of everyone's differences it's a game changer.  

 

There are also elements of perseverance and personal sacrifice in creating Camelot.   When you are serving a greater purpose than personal gain you are readily giving all that you have.   You're not holding anything back.   Perseverance comes in the form of re-configuring, making mistakes and continuing to move forward.   It also means a willingness to receive feedback from others who aren't ready to become part of the experience.   Sometimes this can mean isolation.

 

From the Outside Looking In

 

As in the legend, there are forces within our worlds that are threatened by success.   It might stem from jealousy, lack of understanding or fear.   When this happens in the corporate world we often see the disbanding of teams.   They must be doing something against policy or procedure to achieve their results.   In the most dire of environments I have seen teams disbanded because it makes the rest of the organization look too bad.   Better to have everyone exist in mediocrity than have a pocket of success.   How tragic is this action.  

 

Camelot is More Than One Person

 

King Arthur was an important figure in the legend of Camelot however he himself was not solely responsible for the world that was created.   Leaders play a significant role in building purpose and vision but recreating a new Camelot requires more than a strong leader.   It's like starting a fire.   You need many pieces of kindling that are lit simultaneously to light the larger logs.   A single piece of kindling while it can burn hot for a while doesn't have enough staying power to build a sustainable fire.   When we deconstruct teams and spread the people around we are sometimes putting them into an environment as a single piece of kindling.   The huge log they are trying to light has been soaked with water and not as receptive to the spark of a single person.   It takes time and energy.  In some cases their fire burns out and they become like the water soaked logs they are now surrounded by.   So when you're thinking of a new Camelot hold some of the kindling together.   When there is a strong nucleus of several people they will ignite the fire in others.  

 

 

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July 10, 2014

 Breathing Through Hard Decisions


Every day we make hundreds of decisions in our lives.   Some of them out of habit, some after thoughtful deliberation, and still others as a reaction to specific situations.   If we are lucky our decision making skills have developed parallel to our own maturity,  In essence, we only required skills that matched the type of decisions we were faced with.     As a child this generally meant making decisions between right and wrong.   During these situations my parents had an uncanny ability to embed their voice into my head,  a not-so-subtle compass.   Like most adolescents I was often visited by the devil who sat on my shoulder encouraging me to take risks and make the "popular" decision not necessarily the "right" decision.    As I reflect back to those years I realize that I had a charmed life.  Through my parents and other role models I was able to build a core set of values that guided my decision making.   I also was sheltered from having to make "hard decisions" when I was less prepared to make them.  

 

 

The Hard Decisions

 

Not everything in life is a black or white decision.   Sometimes we are faced with decisions where there is no best case scenario.   No matter what decision is made someone is  negatively impacted.   Other hard decisions are when we are faced with devastating loss.  Making a Do Not Resuscitate decision for a loved one, while a necessary decision, is one of the hardest decisions we can make.   Several months ago I saw a television interview with Condoleeza Rice describing 15 tormented minutes she experienced as Secretary of State on 9-11.  She had given the order for all  non-responding aircraft to be shot down on Sep 11, 2001 after the first two planes hit the World Trade Centre.  There was a plane filled with innocent people heading towards the White House that disappeared from radar.   During that brief period she didn't know if it was her order that killed the passengers or something else. While we might not face the same type of decisions as a Secretary of State we will encounter decisions that  fly in the face of our values.  

 

Too Young To Make Hard Decisions

 

While I was fortunate to be buffered from hard decisions for a good part of my life more and more of our youth are faced with hard decisions that no child should have to make.   Many of these decisions are for survival.   When faced with these situations the most primitive part of our brain responds to either fight or flight.  These decisions don't take place after deliberation they are instinctive.   These instinctive decisions aren't exclusive to young people.   Unrelenting stress in our lives causes us to replace deliberation with reactive decisions.   In fact, the more stress we are under the more limited our ability to physiologically "return to safety".  When this happens our decision making suffers as we are constantly in survival mode.  


Just Breathe

 

When we are under stress our heart rate escalates and our breathing becomes rapid.  This rapid breathing depletes the body of needed CO2 and creates a vicious ciycle that perpetuates our stress.  Unlike an increased heart rate from exercise we have the ability to reduce our heart rate when under stress through deep breathing.   Inhale deeply and slowly while counting to 10 and exhale slowly expelling all your breath.   As you do this watch how your diaphragm enlarges and settles.   Do this for several minutes and feel yourself calm down..... physiologically returning you to safety.  Now you are ready to deliberate in your decision making.


 Measuring the Breaths You Keep or Take Away


 Finally, as you think about those hard decisions consider the following as an important decision making criteria :  how many breaths have you allowed people to take vs the number you have taken away.    Last week I sat with some dear friends and talked about our week.  One friend recounted the horrific week she had as several people in her organization were unceremoniously let go.   As she tried to understand the rationale for the decision it was as if the air was removed from her lungs.  While she was not let go several people who were high performers no longer had a job.   These situations  seem to be a sign of the times and are often made to appease a balance sheet and keep salaries in line for stockholder reports.   How have we become so detached from the human impact of our decisions?  When I hear executives say "If you don't do it I'll get someone else who will "  my blood boils.  What makes it worse is that the ultimate decision maker is generally not the person who has to implement the decision.  They don't have to deal with the human impact.  These executives aren't making hard decisions, they're making survival decisions.  In fact, they are making decisions to ensure their survival.  While they continue to breathe, the air that they expel is toxic.  After a while they are the only ones who can survive in that environment.  Kudos to those leaders who not only make hard decisions but take the time to communicate them with dignity and respect.   This is the sign of a true leader.  While not everyone will agree with the decision at least they'll understand it.  


 A Better Place


 No matter if we are the decision maker or someone who has been impacted by a decision, humans have an incredible capacity to hope.  Hope allows us to move forward, set goals and create a new path to achieve happiness.   So with every breath you take remember the resilience of the human spirit.   Make decisions that create breath in others and yourself.  



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July 3, 2014

6:42

 

This morning I woke up at an unheard of time,  6:42 in the morning.   For many people this might be early, however I haven't slept in that late for years.   Generally I'm out of the house either at the gym or on my way home from the gym at that time.   I had a choice this morning about how I would react to this late wake up time.   I could choose to feel behind on my schedule or I could choose something better

 

 

This is Going to Be the Best Day of My Life

 

What I chose this morning was to embrace the day as it unfolds.   The first thing I felt was a great sense of restfulness.   When I woke I felt refreshed from a deep sleep.   Until 6:42 I was aware of nothing around me.   I'm pretty sure if a bomb had gone off I might have slept through it.   When I arrived at the gym all my favourite machines were open.   I had my choice so I chose the stairmaster.   After about 5 minutes on the machine the song "The Best Day of My Life"  started playing on my ipod.  It was at that moment I started to formulate my thoughts for this week's article.  What if every morning we started the day believing that it was going to be the best day of our life?

 

How Do We Make It the Best Day?

 

First you must really believe that the day before you has the ability to be the best day.   If you don't believe that you will spend your time looking backwards instead of being present in the moment.   Start with a few deep breaths.   Ultimately our ability to breathe creates potential.   When we slow down our breathing we help ground ourselves.   It opens our senses.  

 

Using Our Senses

 

How wonderful is the smell of coffee as you hold a freshly brewed cup under your nose and inhale the magic? That first sip is enhanced by the anticipation that comes from the smell.   With every bite of food we take we can choose to appreciate the varied tastes or we can shovel it into our body as fuel to a furnace.   We can use our voice to sing, laugh and speak with care and consideration.   Not only does this feel good for others it makes us feel good when we hear ourselves.  We can choose to look with eyes that seek to find the positive instead of pointing out the flaws.  

 

My Day So Far

 

So far my day has been filled with wonder.   I read a beautiful e mail from a friend,  had loving conversations with my entire family,  got some important work completed and put an awesome pot of soup on the stove for my son, his favourite.   My workout challenged my physical strength and recharged my batteries.  Shortly as I step outside for an hour to cut the grass I will revel in the beauty of the gardens that surround my world.   How great is the smell of freshly mown grass?  Later,  I will surrender myself to all the possibilities and joy that are waiting.  Like an explorer, when I look for riches I am sure to find them.  

 

At The End of The Day

 

At the end of every day, usually after 960 waking minutes,   I end my day with daily gratitudes.   What was I grateful for that took place during the day.   Right now I have lots to choose from but the day's only half over.   I can't wait for what the next  half has in store for me, my best day.  

 

 

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June 26,2014

"Old MacDonald" Has a New Song

 

Last week I had the privilege of attending an International Coaching Federation (ICF) chapter meeting with a terrific guest speaker, Lynne Everatt whose business card described her as a "Fitness Evangelist".   I purposely drove 340km up the 401 last Wednesday to participate in this meeting because it felt truly aligned to the current beat of my heart.  The topic was "The Joy of Sweat".

 

The beat I am speaking about is the one I've created these past 12 months through daily exercise.  It has become a symphony of different rhythms in my life, my daily rock concert.   If you've ever attended a rock concert there is a feeling that infiltrates your being when the pounding of the bass drum synchronizes with your heart beat.   It is exhilarating and transcending.  

 

 

Going Up?

 

Prior to this change in my life I was very content with the melody of my heart.  It was as if I was on a perpetual elevator ride where the consistent "Muzak" played.   Elevator music is generally set to a very simple melody so it can seamlessly loop back to the beginning, over and over again.   It doesn't have highs or lows.   In fact,  the psychological effect makes people slow down.   I became so comfortable with my "Muzak" world that I forgot what the highs from exercise felt like.   If I was only travelling at one speed why would I need to add exercise?   I was still able to get to my destination.

 

Stepping Off the Elevator

 

The  routine predictability of our lives sometimes makes it easy for us to stay on the elevator.  It is convenient.   In fact,  we have become a society of convenience.   If I thought about the devices that have conspired to permanently affix my buttocks to a seat the list would start with  the remote control, portable phone, drive thru restaurants, drive thru banking, drive thru pharmacies and the personal computer.   What makes us look beyond convenience is sometimes as simple as leather seats in a convertible during a sunny day.  It's no longer wise or comfortable to sit.    Sometimes we just have to recognize we've been on the elevator too long.

 

Choose Exercise Over Convenience

 

If exercise were a pill it would be prescribed for the following:

  • antidepressant
  • stress relief
  • anti-anxiety
  • creativity stimulator
  • lowers blood pressure
  • lowers blood sugar
  • improves sleep
  • improves sex life
  • improves stamina

This is just a partial list.   I will save the most compelling benefit  for last.  The transcendent benefits from exercise are like comparing an elevator ride to a ride on the space shuttle.   As my heart races with every mile I log my ability to focus increases.   Things that were obstacles before have become opportunities.   In fact,  there is nothing I won't tackle   My heart is beating to all kinds of music.  There are magnificent highs and, when necessary, there is still the Muzak.   I consciously choose exercise everyday, not because it is convenient but because it supports me like a best friend.  

 

I promised to leave the best benefit for last.   It is called Exercise Induced Orgasm.   It occurs in approximately 5% of people.   While I will admit not having experienced this phenomena to date..... I am incredibly aspirational.   So someday if you see me jogging down the street and I'm singing Old MacDonald had a farm E I E I  ooooh you'll know I've found the perfect exercise..... absolutely transcendent.

 

 

 

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June 19, 2014

  Everyone is Replaceable........Not
 Today I had the luxury of spending 4 hours alone in my car with my thoughts.   That's sometimes a very dangerous thing for someone like me whose mind seems to travel the world in a blink of an eye.   Since I had spent the past 24 hours in Toronto with some former colleagues, the thought that seemed to surface most was around relationships.   You see it was approximately a year ago when I had to make a decision that very much impacted the direction of my career.   As I thought about my decision and what has transpired over the past 11 months  I remembered a phrase that I've heard many times:  "remember we're all replaceable" .  We've all heard this phrase used for a variety of reasons.   Sometimes leaders use it to challenge their direct reports to ratchet up their performance.    Sometimes we use the phrase to make someone's departure less personal and more corporate driven.   Whatever the reason for using the phrase is it really true?   Have we become a society of "Who's next "?
Positions Are Replaceable People Aren't  
The more I thought about that phrase the more I was convinced that even saying it sends the wrong message.   People come in and out of our lives all the time.  Some of them leave an indelible mark on us.   Who doesn't remember their first "best friend"?   Or how about that teacher that inspired us to take a course we didn't feel ready for?  When these people exit our day to day interactions we have a choice in how we honour them.  Spending our energy looking to replace them shouldn't be an option.  We can honour them by living the values that they shared with us in their interactions.   Yesterday, as I sat at a table with 3 wonderful people I felt their values of dedication, family, support, professionalism, independence and development.   Someone looking at us without such a discerning eye might have just seen 4 friends sharing a lunch.   I like my perspective much better.  
Honouring Our Past To Build Our Future
 I am also reminded that time stands still for no one.   A lot has transpired in the past 11 months.   No one is immune to change, it is inevitable.   I like to think that change is best when it is an evolution.   Evolutionary processes honour those characteristics that first ensure our survival and second make us stronger.   Honouring our past and the people that shaped us is a thank you card that is written in perpetuity.  So how do we thank those people?  Sometimes it's in a conversation, an e mail or even in a Thoughtful Thursday article.  
 

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June 12, 2014

A View From Up High or Pressures From Below


 While you are reading this I am on my way to Chicago.  As I was contemplating this trip I couldn't help but think of Chicago as the birthplace of the "skyscraper" .  When I was 14 I remember the first time I looked down from the top of a skyscraper at the world that stood below.   It was a completely different perspective.   I was still the same size but everything else was miniaturized.  An entire neighborhood was visible at once yet individual elements were unrecognizable.    


There's a Reason We Don't Stay at the Summit Too Long


 While the view can be breathtaking from higher elevations it can get lonely.  It's hard to hold a conversation with someone who's thousands of feet below us.   We can't read their emotional responses or understand subtleties that we so readily perceive when we're side by side.   Mountain climbers understand what happens to them if they stay at high elevations too long.   They get altitude sickness.  In some cases, this can be fatal.   Might it also be fatal to our relationships if we spend too much time in the clouds?  


 There is Pressure Below the Surface


 Just as our perspective is changed when we are at high altitudes our view becomes compromised when we go below the surface in water.   At 3 metres we lose 50% or more of the detail before us.   In fact the deeper we go the more we plunge into darkness and feel the pressure on our lungs.  


 A Perfect Metaphor

 

I thought this a wonderful metaphor for the perspective we have in our lives.   As humans we have evolved to function best at surface level.  If we ascend or descend too rapidly it affects our perspective and our health.   Think about your interactions with people.   Are you a surface rider, bottom feeder or cloud junkie?   You might be a bottom feeder if you've retreated into your own little world where you don't solicit input from others.  Your world is very small and visibility is limited to what's in front of you.   When you have to venture outside your small world the pressure is enormous.   In fact,  there is pressure all the time.  

As a surface dweller you are readily equipped to see clearly and interact with others.  You can dip below the surface or jettison upwards when called upon but always find your way back to the surface.  This is where you see things most clearly and feel the energy of others around you.   A cloud junkie might have a distorted view of reality by only seeing the big picture.   The world looks beautiful from outerspace however there is a lot going on at surface level.   The beauty and grandeur are enticing features from up high that have seduced many people.  


 Visit Often but Always Come Home


The benchmark for a great vacation is the desire to return.   There is beauty from way up high and down below the surface.  While my trip to Chicago is for 4 days it will provide a different perspective that will expand my world.  When I return home sharing my experiences with family and friends gives them an opportunity to consider Chicago as their next destination.  The practice of sharing our experiences with others is the true value of different perspectives.  So the next time you ascend to new heights or venture below the surface return home and share the view with others.  

 

 

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June 5, 2014

 Let It Go


 Unless you've been holed up in a shelter with no contact with the outside world you have likely heard this song hundreds of times.   The lyrics share a strong message that has been sung by young and old.


            "It's funny how some distance makes everything seem small

             and the fears that once controlled me

             Can't get to me at all


             It's time to see what I can do

             To test the limits and break through

             No right, no wrong, no rules for me

             I'm free


             Let it go, let it go

             I am one with the wind and sky

             Let it go, let it go

             You'll never see me cry

              Here I stand and here I'll stay

             Let the storm rage on"


 Letting Go and a State of Flow


In our work or personal lives we sometimes find ourselves in a state of flow.   When this occurs we become focused on what we are doing and it's as if time stands still.   Our level of accomplishment is beyond what we might imagine.   When we're in the state of flow we need to let go of our awareness of others and ourselves.   If we start to think about what others might think of us it detracts us from flow.   We all have an inner critic that potentially stops us from reaching our full potential.  Consciously let that go and remain in the moment.


 Letting Go of the Outcome


 Sometimes you might want something so badly it sabotages your ability to be at your best.   When you put your hopes on a specific outcome you take yourself out of the present.   When you aren't fully present you miss opportunities to shine in the moment.   Instead, put your best self forward and be in the moment.   As a coach that happens when we deeply listen to our clients and allow the dialogue to take shape naturally.   Preparation allows you to anticipate a variety of scenarios, and interact at your best.   Preparation loses it's magic when it isolates options to a single outcome.  


 When You Let it Go You'll Never Be Frozen


  Wherever you are and whatever you are doing hold on to what's important and let go of everything else.   Imagine the freedom of movement and discovery you will be capable of when you are not overburdened by the baggage of the past.   Like a snowflake that falls to the ground the journey along the way is fantastic.  

 


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If Business Was Like Pop Culture


My world is surrounded by music.  When music is playing it feeds my soul.   In fact,  I am one of those individuals who likes to think there is a soundtrack to my life.   From those songs of youth that fueled summer fun to the songs that played at my wedding, the birth of my children and even a parent's funeral, they all have significant meaning.   Throughout the years I have been privileged to attend numerous concerts with a variety of artists and have introduced this love of music to my children.   In fact, my son is an aspiring musician who is constantly introducing me to new music and artists.   Recently he put a post on facebook about a new artist from Britain named  Sam Smith.   This artist has an amazing talent and will likely have a huge impact on the direction of music. There has always been "that artist" who has symbolized a generation, creating a new style or sound that defies prior tradition.  



 The Power of Youth in Music


I can't think of another industry where the power of youth is so profound as it is in the music industry.   History has lit a bright path through the youthful music of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Supremes, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Eminem, Madonna, Jayz, Beyonce and countless others.   They each brought a new and refreshing talent to the music industry that captured the population.  They became pop culture idols.  In most cases their success came in their 20s or younger.      


Imagine if traditional business idolized the youth in the same way as our musical idols.   Instead of CEOs such as Warren Buffet, and Rupert Murdoch at the helm we would see more of the Mark Zuckerbergs and Marissa Mayers leading the way.   They wouldn't just be the exception they would be the norm.  


 Breaking Down the "Pay Your Dues" Bias


 I have witnessed business leaders question the tenure of direct reports when they ask questions.   It's as if questions are only worthwhile if posed by someone with experience or a long history in an organization.   While this may have served organizations in the past it is counter productive to the rapid pace of change that current organizations face.  


The music industry embraces freshness, creativity and hard work.  Today's young musicians also have a deep respect for those that came before them and are often inspired by their work.   While they don't replicate their predecessors they are able to carve out elements, themes and nuances of the past and embed it in their new songs.   This is a powerful combination.  


 Listening to "New Work"


 Social media such as youtube, Vines, Instagram, and  itunes have made it easy for people to find and create new music.   There are no complicated approval processes or contracts to be signed.  Music has truly become open sourced.  If we brought an open source mindset to the work environment it would mean creating an environment to share our past stories and encouraging our youngest employees to find their voice.  



   What's Playing in the Background at Your Organization?


 Think about a song that describes your organization.  Perhaps it's the Stones' "Satisfaction", or the Beatles' "Long and Winding Road"  Share your thoughts with someone and use music to generate a different discussion.   When you look to the future what song would you like people to think about?   Maybe it's Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better" or it might be a mix of many things.   Find the youngest person you know in your organization and tap into their ideas.   Maybe they have a melody playing in their head that you haven't heard.   When they describe the characteristics  of their melody it might generate ideas that are game changers.  After all music soothes the savage beast and within organizations it's never good to see savagery.  


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May 22, 2014

The Myth of Importance

A myth is a story that may or may not be true.   We have encountered them throughout our lives in our studies about Greek Mythology as well as the urban myths that populate the internet.   Like any good story a myth is enhanced by the setting where it takes place.   When we think about the myth of importance we sometimes see a very specific setting.   It might be a large office, expensive clothes, a prestigious address, luxury cars and a title.   These all build the illusion of importance however how might you tell if the individual's importance is fact or fiction?

 


A Tale of Two People

 

The first important person walks by your side,  listens to your opinions and solicits your input as a natural way of being.   They may have a large office but often prefer meeting others in a comfortable location such as a coffee shop or in your office.   They are comfortable with whoever they meet, or more specifically, they make whoever they meet comfortable.   They are absorbent, resilient and dynamic when they need to be and quiet and reserved when the situation calls for it.   When people describe them it is a combination of the person and their actions.  

 

The second important person walks ahead.   They are the first and last person to speak.   The input of others while heard may not be understood and might be considered "noise".   They are the decision maker and pride themselves on their decisiveness.   They hold the power position through a title that is readily wielded when interacting with others.  Their vocabulary is sprinkled with words such as power brokers,  strategy, budget oversight, span of control, the burden of leadership, and making the hard decisions.   All of which are reminders of their importance.  

 

History's Impact on Importance

 

In the moment it is possible that both scenarios describe an important person.   The litmus test for an important person is whether their actions and opinions strongly influence the course of events.   There is an argument that even an individual "posing" as an important person may influence the course of events particularly when people redirect themselves away from them.    What history  establishes is the depth and breadth of influence that an important person has generated.   When you think of important people you may be drawn to their compassion,  their ingenuity and their dogged determination to make a difference.  You might see a humility that is derived from a belief in the importance of doing based on their values.  


Be Important to Somebody

 

Not everyone is destined to be considered an "important person" in future history books but we all have the ability to be an important person to somebody.   Find people and walk by their side.   Maybe those people are your family, friends or coworkers.   Every minute you spend compassionately engaged with other people you become important.   Your influence might manifest itself through the generations when someone tells a story about you.   When that happens the myth of your importance will be based on the truth.  

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May 15, 2014

The Human Limits to Progress


 What is it that drives us to constantly look for ways to raise the bar?    As we look through history it is easy to pull out examples of the progress we have made.   When my children were young one of their favourite Christmas gifts was the annual edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.  Every year someone set a record that was unimaginable a few years prior.   The news also reports every incremental improvement to world records and we idolize these heroes.  We have become a culture obsessed with pushing our limits.  


 Historical Progress

 

What we can do with the human body is amazing.  The fastest man can now travel 100 metres in 9.58 seconds.   Earliest recorded records in 1891 were 10.8 seconds.  Imagine it took racers 110 years to trim off 1.22 seconds.  


Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile in May 1954 and the current record is now 3.43.13.   Marathoners have also trimmed almost 52 minutes off the time to complete this event in 2:03:23.  


This progress has been assisted dramatically by measurement that has become more sophisticated and able to break time into smaller components.  Even a 100th of a second matters now.  


We are pushing ourselves physically more than we've done before.   This push, however, has it's impacts.  


 At What Cost?

 

In the world of sports we have seen the impact of steroid use and what it has done to the human body.   We have lost sight of all else in a quest to be better.  Those athletes using the banned substances have seen their records stripped and their careers plummet in disgrace.   But what about the regular population who push themselves to constantly raise the bar?   These people may see their family lives impacted as they stay longer and longer at work trying to beat last month's quota.   They lose contact with their friends because they become obsessed with measuring up.  They risk isolating themselves for a single purpose and lose sight of the other people and things around them.  For some people they become trapped in a vicious circle where their own success builds greater expectations for their future.    


 Henry Ford Knew Something in 1924


 What Henry Ford implemented back in the 1920s was the 40 hour work week.   At the time it was groundbreaking and was based on the premise that every worker deserved time to be at home with their family.   It was conceived as a measure to improve productivity and it was highly successful.   In fact,  the 40 hour work week continues to be a magic number in most places of employment.   It is, however, only conducive to productivity when it is adhered to by organizations.   We have all been guilty of putting in extra time to get things done.   We may have a tight deadline or a pending vacation that precipitates a "push".   While these occasional "pushes" are not detrimental when they become the norm they result in what researchers have termed "undertime".   We work less effectively when we try to do more for prolonged periods.  


Even world class athletes pace themselves in their training so that they hit their peak at race time.   We aren't doing that in our work lives.   We are running a race every week and it's not resulting in improved outcomes.  


 Time to Protect Your Most Valuable Asset


 This weekend is the Victoria Day holiday in Canada.   It means Monday is a holiday for many of us.   Instead of pushing today and tomorrow to make up for the lost day on Monday prepare for a different race.   This race is about readying yourself to enjoy the weekend.   Leave work at the regular time and practice shifting your focus to your family and friends.  Turn off your smart phones and connect to what's important after all that's the race worth winning.



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May 8, 2014

Finding Your Inner "Mom"


As Sunday is Mother's Day I thought it only appropriate to use today's article to salute motherhood or more importantly those qualities that we attribute to that incredibly important person in our life.   Mothers have impacted every single person on the planet.  After all, without a mother none of us would be here.  When we think of motherhood though, it's important to separate the act of giving birth to true motherhood.   I have seen acts of motherhood performed by all sorts of people.  I see it at the gym in the morning when a male bodybuilder has a conversation with a 75 year old woman to ensure she is okay and  encourage her with kind words of support.  I see it when my son helps a friend who needs some advice.   I see it in my daughter as she teaches a young student and patiently listens as they discover an answer to a problem.  It is present wherever you look.  


 A Common Quality


If there is one quality that stands out when we think about motherhood it is selflessness.  So much of a mother's energy is directed outward.  It is only after everyone else is taken care of that a mother takes the time for themselves.   Mothers are the epitome of servant leadership.   I have heard individuals in leadership positions derogatorily say "I'm not your mother" when speaking to their direct reports.  When this occurs I always give thanks.  There is no way I'd want them to be my mother.  What they fail to grasp is the qualities of motherhood that would make a difference in their leadership.   They generally are looking to take care of themselves first before their employees.  They have also failed to understand the evolution of motherhood.  As children mature so too does the relationship.  This isn't much different from other leadership positions where relationships evolve as employees mature.  


The Best Inventory

 

If we took inventory of the qualities that best describe motherhood we'd have an A-Z listing.  Let's look:

 A- Accepting

B- Benevolent

C- Caring

D- Dedicated

E- Energetic

F- Faithful

G- Gracious

H- Helpful

I- Involved

J- Just

K- Kind

L- Loving

M- Motivating

N- Nurturing

O- Open-minded

P- Patient

Q- Quizzical

R- Resilient

S-  Strong

T- Thoughtful

U- Unconditional

V- Vibrant

W- Welcoming

X- Xtremely protective

Y-  Youthful

Z- Zestful


 I'm sure there are hundreds more qualities when you think of the "mothers" in your life.   As you look through the list find the qualities that also describe you.  When you do, you'll find your "Inner Mom".  Give a special thank you to that wonderful  part of yourself and share it with all you meet.  


Finally, a special Mother's Day message to my mother, who at 86, has numerous qualities I continue to aspire to include in my life. She is feisty, proud, spiritual and above all else loving.  She is also one of my best friends.   Have a wonderful Mother's Day everyone.  


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May 1, 2014  

What's In a Title

 

Today is May 1, 2014 and for all intents and purposes we should be firmly entrenched in spring.   On March 21st as we ushered in spring the title created an anticipation of many things, warmer weather, receding snow, greening grass and emerging foliage.  However, even though we were told it was spring the evidence to support what should be happening was severely lacking.   We continued to get snow.  We were forced to scrape windshields every morning for weeks and the sound of snow plows continued to invade our world.  In our hearts although the calendar said "Spring" we were still in the winter of our discontent    

 

What Title Do You Have?

 

We all have a title that we use to identify ourselves.   Along with that title come expectations of behaviours that we should demonstrate.   We can do this either authentically or artificially.   When we are authentic we have a consistency in our behaviour that is observable by people.   We might not demonstrate perfection in our behaviours, however there is a desire to be the best example of our title that we can be.  

 

When Your Title is  Manager

 

When you find yourself in the role of manager,  authenticity is demonstrated through several characteristics such as humility, partnership, respect and curiosity.  When we authentically demonstrate humility we don't need to have all the answers.  Our imperfections are part of our character.  Being able to sincerely apologize when we make mistakes that impact others is crucial.  Our ability to forge partnerships is enhanced by the dialogue we create with others.  Finding common ground that enables everyone to move forward is important .  Whenever I think of respect I am reminded of a phrase that I learned in 8th grade.  Respect is realizing each single person is equal creative and talented.  While there are other definitions of respect this one has stood the test of time.   Finally curiosity is that keen interest in the world around you.  What are the ideas, thoughts and actions that inspire you to continue learning.  When you authentically demonstrate these characteristics you become more than a manager, you become a leader.  


 Building an Organization of Authentic Leaders


 In today's business world an organization's ability to attract and retain talent depends on the evidence that is gathered to support a culture of authentic leadership.   Competitions such as Canada's Top 100 Employers look for that evidence through a variety of means .  The key is authenticity.   It is not enough to initiate programs, and processes if they are not embedded in the culture of an organization.   That requires authentic leadership.  Stop looking around you and start looking inside you for your authentic  self.   When you find it ask yourself if it's built with humility, partnership, respect and curiosity.   It will redefine you.    


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April 24, 2014

"Singing In the Rain"

 

For those of you  who have had the pleasure to watch the movie, Singing In the Rain,  you were treated to an uplifting experience.   The combination of Gene Kelly's athletic dancing, Donald O'Connor's comedic timing and Debbie Reynold's spirited performance was pure enjoyment.    Every time I hear the "Do, do, do, do",  as Gene Kelly introduces the title song of the movie, I feel such a sense of possibility.  

 

On Rainy Days

 

We all have rainy days in our lives.   Yesterday was one of those days for me.    From the moment I woke up till the time I went to bed it was as if a different person was inhabiting my body.    In terms of precipitation it was a steady rain on a day that generated lots of fog.  Luckily, I proceeded with caution and navigated through my day with no long term impacts from the "rain".    Perhaps you've had days where you've felt like you were navigating in a fog.    Those days when you go through the motions, mostly from habit, as opposed to conscious choice create the conditions where bad weather flourishes.   When this occurs we crave sunshine but have become desensitized to finding it.  

 

What Makes You "SING"?

 

Try using the acronym "SING" to change your forecast.   Everyday find someone or something that "Surprises" you.   Find someone or something that "Inspires" you.   Find someone or something that made you take "Notice" and finally, how did you "Grow"?  If you consciously look for these things each and everyday you will change your forecast, in fact you'll make it brighter.  

 

I'm Singing

 

As I sit here in my office typing this article I reflect back on how even on a rainy day like yesterday I had something to sing about.

I was surprised by the power of a dream to impact a day

I was inspired by a colleague who advanced a cause I hold dear

I noticed the appreciation of my daughter from a simple act of kindness

and finally I grew from developmental feedback i received that reinforced my desire to keep learning

 

So what does today's forecast look like?   It is sunny, warm and going to be a great day.    In fact,  I think I'll sing all day long. 
 
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April 17, 2014

Timing Is Everything

 

Today on April 17, 2014  if I asked someone to describe the similarities between  Nelson Mandela and the Ford Mustang they might respond by saying "they are both icons".   In fact,  at his funeral the following was said in regards to Nelson Mandela:  "It is the end of 95 glorious years of a freedom fighter, a dedicated and humble servant of the people of South Africa, a fountain of wisdom, a pillar of strength, and a beacon of hope to all those fighting for just and equitable world order".   These are powerful words to describe an iconic man.    In describing the Ford Mustang it has been said that no other American car has ever made its way into popular culture with such speed and depth.   

 

A Different Trajectory

 

Fifty years ago today the Ford Mustang was introduced to an American market that was hungry for something new in an automobile.  Ford Motor Company saw potential in the young driver's market  knowing that 76 million people had been born between 1946 and 1964.   The popularity of the Mustang grew exponentially and was part of shaping a new America.  

 

Fifty years ago today Nelson Mandela, on the other hand, was imprisoned for his beliefs.   He wasn't embraced the same way as the Mustang.   There wasn't a readiness of the people to take the steps necessary to change, especially a fundamental change that was being professed by Nelson Mandela.  

 

The Fortitude to Persevere

 

What Nelson Mandela demonstrated to the world was a commitment to his values and a fortitude to persevere even in the most dire circumstances.   How many of us are willing to risk our security when it comes to standing up for what we believe in.   Think of the situations when you reluctantly raise your hand in a vote because you don't want to be the only dissenting opinion in the room.  Or what about our treatment of someone who does express a different opinion?  Do we appreciate their opinion and solicit additional information from them or do we shut them down? 

 

Hold Strong to Your Values

 

There are people who are ahead of their time.   Their vision not only looks forward, they look beyond the range of current capabilities.   If the human eye can see clearly with 20/20 vision these individuals see beyond our current expectations.   In some cases they have to wait for others to catch up.   Sometimes this involves tremendous upheaval and uncertainty.   Change is not always easy and the status quo is so comfortable and familiar.   What is incredible is the undying spirit of people who live their  values because the cost to do differently is never acceptable.    

 

What Values Will You Stand For?

 

For the past 40 years the Baby Boomers have had a huge impact on the shape of North American business.   We have witnessed the growth of industry and commerce during this time and a work ethic that has defined a generation.    I believe we are now at a crossroad as a new generation pushes back on the status quo.   The Gen Xers, Gen Ys and Millennials are redefining what work looks like.   They have an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for living that goes beyond 9-5.   They are not defined by who they work for but by the work they do.   It's time to listen to them and support them much the same way as the Mustang was supported by the public in 1964.   It's time to start listening and embracing what they have to say.   Let's not shut them away too long, that part of history is never worth repeating. 

 

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 April 10, 2014
Redefining HST

As a business person HST has become an essential component of the financial part of my business.   As I was thinking about the acronym I couldn't help but focus on the first word "harmonized" and how we might reposition the acronym in other aspects of our work.   What if we created a new HST that meant "Harmonized Support Tax"
 
 What Are Supportive Services? 
In most organizations there are those divisions which provide an essential behind the scenes support that ensure the organization moves forward in achieving their strategic goals.   Human Resources is a prime example of a fundamental support service.   If we think of organizations in terms of family members Human Resources is like " Mom" who often nurtures the development of the family and ensures they stay on the straight and narrow.  Unfortunately Moms need to be aware of everything that's going on to maintain the "harmony" in the family
 
How Might We Integrate Support With Other Divisions?
 
 When we commence work on HR initiatives we identify the  interdependencies with other divisions within scope documents and project charters however these interdependencies don't have a fluidity throughout the life of an initiative or project.  Sometimes we stop at the identification of interdependencies and lose sight of the interactions as everyone's work evolves.   This becomes crucial as each division has priorities that they must execute outside of what Human Resources is implementing.
 Assessing and Evaluating Ongoing Support 
Gauging ongoing support is a combination of  the push and pull of information throughout the organization.   As a division it is not enough for Human Resources to let leaders know what is coming they need to pull from the business what is occurring in their area.   They also need to share this information at front line levels.   It is never enough to let the leadership team know what's going on.  It is imperative that front line employees are provided an opportunity to contribute to the discussion as implementation directly impacts their effectiveness.   So what might this look like? 
 
  Creating a New "What's Happening" Site 
Start by creating a new calendar that is open for all employees to view and populate.   Each project lead has responsibility to update information in the calendar.   As this information is populated a cross functional team works together to identify areas where there is a lack of harmony that might impact implementation.   They would then make recommendations to adjust timelines to ensure optimization of implementation.   While this is often considered a senior leadership decision bringing in frontline employees as part of the cross functional team provides a tactical perspective and buy-in at a crucial level in the organization.   Whenever you provide an opportunity for employees to be heard and then understood you enhance their engagement.   In the end,  seeking harmony across divisions is never easy but essential.   Look at impacts often and communicate even more.
 **********************************************************************************************************************************************************  April 3, 2014 The Currency of Speed
 The phrase "as soon as possible" has an ever changing standard as technology pushes our ability to exchange information.  For those of us from the "Baby Boomer" era getting information to other people used to take days, sometimes weeks.  That was because we dealt in a hard copy that physically had to be transported.  Even exchanging our ideas with someone else required a physical presence.  That is no longer the case.  I am reminded that as humans our desire to seek and exchange information is not new.  In 1860 the Pony Express was founded to transport goods and information across 1800 miles in the fastest manner possible using a series of 150 riders and fresh horses to maximize speed.  It was the quickest way possible to get information.  For those lucky individuals who were able to afford this expedited service they often held a position of power as they exclusively held information not available to others.  This gave them advantages that were used to maintain their status, wealth and position.   The edge that some individuals had in exclusive information used to be days or weeks.  Now it is a matter of nano seconds as information changes constantly and is available to everyone willing to look for it.   
Why Do We Continue to Hoard Information?
 If we know that information is plentiful and readily available to all who look for it why is there still such a propensity to hoard information?  Is there still such a desire to create an environment of "Have and Have Nots"?   When this happens within organizations what purpose is it serving?  Is there fear of leakage to outside parties?  Is there fear of reprisal for incomplete direction?  Is there insecurity in the leadership team?  Whatever is driving this action might benefit from a reframing exercise. 
 Time to Withhold Information Should Equal The Time It Takes to Formulate Message 
In today's VUCA world we are surrounded by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.  As a result there is no ideal combination of words that will create a perfect message.  What may have appeared perfect a minute ago becomes irrelevant when conditions change.  Waiting for perfection feeds the beast of fear within organizations.  It's time to create a blogger's communication style in organizations.   Consider how current a blogger's information is and how accessible it is to people.  Take it a step further and tweet what's going on.   People want to know when you know.
 Make Communication Your Daily Priority 
The time has ended when a monthly newsletter meets the needs of the masses.  This method of communication has had its day and it's time to move on.   If you are a leader in any organization you do a disservice to your employees when you fail to communicate with them daily.   Your power to move your organization forward is not derived from the information you hoard..... it's derived from the information your employees have and use in their daily activities.   ******************************************************************************************************************************************************  March 27, 2014  Risk and Reward from Pharmaceuticals to Business
Last week, March 20th was declared as International Day of Happiness but I bet 16 years ago today many people felt there was cause for celebration as the FDA approved Viagra.   In homage to this historical event I started to think about risk and reward.   In the pharmaceutical industry we are inundated with information about the risks associated with taking medication.   We are reminded to take it as prescribed otherwise the potential side effects may be lethal.   Yet even with all the information about the dangers we are willing to take the risk with medications that, although tested, may not have any long term data on them.   Are the rewards so great that we are willing to risk potential death?  Perhaps in the case of Viagra I would get a lot of nodding heads.   "Yes the reward is that great".   We even have weight loss medication that can cause anal leakage that people take because the reward is perceived as so great.  If we are willing to take these type of risks in our personal life what happens in the business environment.  If we compared our risk tolerance in some organizations to the use of pharmaceuticals we wouldn't consider taking a medication if it caused a temporary bloating.   Unless we are 100% certain that the risk can be mitigated we won't move forward.   Why is this happening?   What environment has developed to curb such a distaste of risk? 
 Celebrating Your Risk Taking
 
In our personal lives we often share our risk taking with others as a badge of courage.   Just recall those individuals who celebrate bungee jumping, sky diving or mountain climbing.   They were taking a risk and they celebrate it by sharing their stories.   In the corporate world why should it be different?   When you take a risk are you ushered to the door with box in hand?    
 Time to Take a Little Blue Pill at Work 

Sometimes we need a little confidence and courage to take a risk at work.   Why not try creating a trigger when you want to step up and take a risk.   Find a little blue pill, maybe a "Smartie" and take it before you plunge forward.   Who knows the reward may last longer than 4 hours and instead of you saluting others they may be saluting you.   

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March 20, 2014
How Have You Contributed to the International Day of Happiness?
 March 20th has been declared as the International Day of Happiness by the United Nations.   How fitting that those of us living in the northern hemispheres are able to celebrate this day along with the onset of spring.  What is amazing about this day is that it is to be celebrated worldwide where there is such a diverse definition of happiness.   In some parts of the world having basic items for survival is enough to create happiness.   Others, living in a more affluent environment continue to search for happiness.  Is that because they need or want more?  
Celebratory days like today become stronger when our actions contribute to someone else's happiness.   While we can't make someone happy we certainly can gain understanding of the things that bring our friends and family happiness. What we notice when we look beyond our small corner of the world is that we are all interconnected.   When we see a mother hug their child we feel their happiness.   Watch as a child rides a bike for the first time.  Watch as someone books their vacation online.   Watch as a friend takes that first bite of their favourite chocolate.   It is happiness.  
 Watch and Learn 

When we watch this happiness around us we have a responsibility to support it.   If our actions interrupt the happiness of others then what is our intent?   Today take a few minutes to determine how you contributed to someone's happiness.   Were you there for them when they needed you?   Was your smile the catalyst for someone else's smile?   Did your words make a difference?   Did your presence make a difference?   


 Time for a "Do Over"


If you missed your opportunity today to support someone's happiness then it's time for a "do over".    Ask for forgiveness and take the time to contribute.  If you don't think or feel you have the time for such "foolishness" then you've missed more than International Day of Happiness...... you've missed the part of your DNA that makes you human.   When we take people away from those things that bring them happiness we are asking them to pay a huge toll.   When we do this repeatedly without regard for their individual happiness we are asking too much.  We can disguise our motives as for the greater good and for a larger purpose but sometimes that's just a weak excuse.   It is time to stand up and pay attention to people's happiness.  It's never too late.


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March 13, 2014

Realizing There's No Such Thing As Total Control


 Prior to yesterday I had a completely different article ready for today's Thoughtful Thursday.  The events of yesterday, however, dramatically shifted my perspective.  Yesterday I was facilitating a 1/2 day program in Essex, Ontario.  For those of you unfamiliar with this area it was right in the middle of what forecasters were predicting as the most heavily hit area for the pending storm.  On Tuesday as the weather forecast was predicting heavy snow there were several discussions around rescheduling the program to another day however the start time was adjusted as the best resolve.   Getting to the venue was not problematic.  It was snowing in a manner very similar to what we've experienced in this area many times this year.  


The content of my facilitation was about different personalities and how each of us have specific personality preferences that we lead with during our interactions.  One of my strongest preferences is characterized as demonstrating drive, boldness and control.  The irony of the events that transpired yesterday between 1:30- 6:40pm  were directly impacted by my drive, boldness and control .


First my drive and boldness caused me not even to hesitate to get in my car immediately after finishing and head home.   There was no sense of heightened caution.   I knew how to control my vehicle in bad conditions and my destination was home.  I wasn't travelling faster than 40km/h the whole time but I had forward momentum.   As I turned from a North South artery onto an East West artery I encountered a total whiteout, not for a few seconds but sustained.  There were no visual markers available to me.  

I was also on a fairly busy artery crossing the county in a rural area.  I stopped my vehicle, opened the door and got out to get my bearings.  I realized I was partly off the road and needed to move to the left to get back on the road.   Just to my right was a large ditch filled with water and covered with snow and ice.  When I tried to correct I realized I was stuck in a snow drift.   There was no ability to move.  Part of my car was on the road part on the shoulder.  I also drive a white car which was even less visible in the whiteout.   I had two choices, stay in my vehicle and hope not to get hit by a transport or find a house and hope someone would let me in.   I decided to boldly leave my car and found a house about 150 yards east.  I was extremely lucky that the woman was home and let me in.   What I realized from the moment I stepped out of my car  was I was no longer in control of what would happen.  


 Does It Take A Major Storm to Relinquish Control?


 The fact I am able to write this article today is evidence that I made it home safe 'n sound.  That was in spite of some of the decisions I made.   Drive, boldness and control are wonderful characteristics  when they are tempered with other characteristics such as trust, patience, positivity and objectivity.  In combination they all help me navigate through my life.   What yesterday taught me was that I need to trust that things will work out when I don't have "control".    Letting go and trusting in other people, even strangers, provided a powerful message.   The kindness of people was demonstrated over and over to me yesterday.  I also saw the resourcefulness of people when faced with harsh conditions, the patience of drivers to allow disabled vehicles to get back on the road and the support of family and friends to stay in touch while all this was going on.  In closing I encourage you to look for opportunities to relinquish control.  Watch what happens around you when you do.   Don't wait for another snow storm to make it happen.    


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March 6, 2014

 "Being Heard.......Feeling Valued"


 Imagine walking into work, sitting at your desk and going about your day without the use of your voice.   While this might be appealing to professional singers who need to rest their vocal chords from time to time, it definitely has a different impact on employees.   We are living in a world of knowledge workers.   Inherent in every employee is a level of expertise that is developing and looking for an opportunity to be shared.


As a learning and performance consultant and professional coach I have observed the impact on employees when they do not feel heard.   These employees have voices and are searching for someone to listen to them.   When leaders do not recognize this fundamental desire , or do not create an opportunity for employees to be heard we potentially, lose many things.  


We might lose motivation, commitment and or an employee's engagement.   As leaders we need to create an environment where employees are heard.   What does this look like for many employees?   First, it is important that leaders understand the views and opinions of their employees and why it is important to them.  We do this by giving them a forum to be heard.   Having regular 1:1 meetings or in team meetings where everyone is asked to contribute are some options.   During these interactions ask questions to seek understanding.  Avoid questions that are to judge what is being shared.  


 Employees as Consultants


 Numerous organizations depend on external consultants and spend considerable amounts  of money for their services.  As a result they not only listen to their opinions, they often implement programs that are a direct result of their input.   What if we started to think of our employees in the same way that we perceive consultants?   Instead of employees coming to leaders, leaders would come to the employees.  In essence, when you reach the top you ensure you stay there by taking the escalator down to your employees as often as possible.  Solicit their thoughts and ideas, firsthand  


If this occurred in the work environment we might see a shift around the "value" of our human resources.   We might stop inviting people to meetings to be silent observers.   We might stop dismissing opinions if they don't come from the top ranking individual in the room.   We might stop postponing new programs.   We might stop missing what has been in front of us all along.  


In conclusion, I invite you to read this article out loud so you're able to listen and discover the value.  


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February 28, 2014

"Coming Home To Work"

 

This Thoughtful Thursday is coming to you on a Friday this week for a very special reason.  Last night I held my inaugural workshop for the Windsor community called "Building Leaders" .  It symbolized a formal launch of Patti Sproat Positive Solutions and the beginning of my commitment to help support local business and individuals to "Experience Your Best".


Over the years I have facilitated 100's of learning programs or workshops but they were very different from last night.   It wasn't the content or the participants that made it different, it was a sense of "Coming Home"


For many of us there is a distinct line between work and family.  This has been readily evident in my work history, which until very recently, required me to not just go to an office each day but to go to a different city.  While my family somewhat knew what I did in my work there was always a distinct separation.   It seemed to make sense to compartmentalize my life so that I could fully focus on what stood before me.   When I was with my family they had my attention..... at work my attention was there.  


Last night every member of my family participated in the workshop and gained a unique perspective of who I am.  It was a complete blending of work and family.  As I reflected on this I thought about several of the participants who had family businesses and the pride they had in the work they did and the people they worked with, their family.  


 Is the Family Business Making a Comeback?

 

Years ago, before the industrial revolution, families worked together.  Their identity was forged from the combination of work and family.  They were not separate entities.   As we enter the second machine age is it possible that a new family business is emerging?


There are several factors to consider in a renaissance of "family business"

  • as technology has become more advanced we have become a mobile workforce
  • there are fewer workers required by larger companies
  • the marketplace has expanded beyond geographical boundaries
  • people are defining themselves with multiple or slash careers

 Not only are we a mobile workforce we have become a diverse workforce.  We are combining our skills in ways that weren't considered before.  We are innovating in ways that recombine technologies that once were exclusive to a discipline.and discovering ways to colour outside the lines.   We don't enter an office, we enter a way of thinking, sharing and generating ideas.  We do this from the safety of our home base.
We have seen a downsizing of corporations that has been profoundly impacted by technology and how goods and services are used in today's world.   Kodak is a classic example of what has occurred.   Not too long ago Kodak was synonymous with picture taking.  In its heyday they employed over 145,000 employees predominately in Rochester New York.   In recent times they have filed for bankruptcy, not because people take less pictures but because they take them differently.   Billions of pictures are shared via social media platforms that no longer require massive numbers of employees.  Facebook, who purchased instagram several years ago employs less than 5000 people.    
In the next few years the rest of the world will be logging on to the internet.  That means an additional 5 billion people from around the world who will be a click away from connecting with you.   They aren't just searching for knowledge, they are searching to make connections.... to people.  
We are also many things in our lives.  My children's generation will likely have 5 or more careers in their work lives, some of them simultaneously.   In order to feed their soul as well as their bank account they will require a keenly entrepreneurial spirit in their work.  
 Everything Old is Renewed Again
 
 Consider a renewed family business, one where there isn't a patriarchal dependency but an interdependency.   Discover the unique talents within your family and leverage them in a way that supports each other.  Last night my family did that for me and I see great possibilities to do more of that in the future.    Our work family can be whoever we want it to be.  Why not consider the people who mean the most to us and whose success is profoundly important.  

Finally, a special thank you to my family.  To my husband for providing order and a taskmaster's precision in setting up and tearing down after events.   To my daughter whose inspiring words and participation bring passion and warmth to her interactions.  To my son whose music lifts the spirit of all who encounter him.   What a great team and family business.  
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The Gift of Words

 

 Of all that makes us human perhaps the most powerful gift is our ability to communicate.  Through the use of words we connect with people and the world around us.   I have had a love of words for most of my life.   I have seen the emotions that they evoke, from pure joy when a baby says their first word to unthinkable sadness  when someone tells you a loved one has died.  


 We are surrounded by words in our lives.  Words that embrace music become memorable song lyrics, while words in a movie script become a tale of intrigue, drama or comedy.    We cannot escape the words that infiltrate our lives.  Even as we formulate thoughts in our mind we build structure with our words.   When we express words either verbally or in writing we create our legacy.  I was reminded of the legacy of words the other day when I watched the movie Monuments Men.   There is a line in the movie when George Clooney's character states "when we are gone, if the artifacts of our lives are gone, it is as if we never existed".  While he may have been speaking about art, in the movie, I believe it is also true for our words.  


I have several dear friends that I don't get to see in person as often as I'd like,  luckily I am able to send them e mails or text messages that travel across the country.   It allows me to stay connected with the people that mean a lot to me and share words that I hope are inspiring and life affirming.  Every time I send a message I feel the gift of the words.  Like all great gifts they expand when they are shared.  How true the saying "tis better to give than receive" when speaking or writing our thoughts.


 Finding Your Voice with Words


While technology allows us to create artifacts in many different mediums we need to pay attention to the choice of words we use.

 There are currently over 1 million words in the English language.   If we look at the 100 most commonly used words they are reminiscent of a primary school reader.  Without an expanded vocabulary we are limited in how we can express ourselves.    Perhaps that is why there is such an increase in the use of profanity.   Has profanity become our "go to" vocabulary?  Often when I hear people in conversation they have replaced adjectives, verbs and nouns with a single word of profanity.   What a limiting practice this has become.  


  What Words Describe You Best?


 Creating your expanded vocabulary might start with the adjectives that you would like to be part of your legacy.   How would someone describe you?  Write down those words that you believe are part of your "best self".   What do they mean to you?  What are some synonyms for those words?   Practice using these words whenever an opportunity arises.  Watch how they become your "marker words".   People have marker words that are very meaningful for them and use them with frequency and intensity in conversation.  When they are based on values or behaviours that we aspire to demonstrate they paint a beautiful portrait of our legacy.  


  A Few Last Words


 It is important to remember we are a compilation of all the thoughts, words and stories we have shared in our lifetime.  Not everything we say or write will be a work of art.  It is much better to be a work in progress that continues to evolve each day.  What is important is that we share our words when we have an opportunity.  Thanks for allowing me to share a few with you.

 

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February 13, 2014

Are You Motivated by Change?


 Several weeks ago I wrote about VUCA as the group of adjectives that describe today's work environment;  volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.   This is the ongoing environment of business that we find ourselves living in.  Although the environment is unpredictable humans are creatures of habit.   In particular, we have habitual ways of inputting, sorting and filtering our world.  They are our typical patterns and strategies or thinking styles.   In psychology they are identified as meta programs.   They edit and shape what we allow to come in from the outside world.  They also mould what comes from inside ourselves as we communicate and behave in the world.  


When it comes to change it's important to know how a person reacts to change and what frequency of change is needed?  Does their motivation come from a search for "difference" or "sameness"


The Impact of "All Stop" Orders


Over 100 years ago the Captain of the Titanic made the decision to "stop and reverse engines" as an iceberg lay dead ahead.  In hindsight many historians believe that order sealed the fate of the ship.  Had that order not happened the damage might have been less severe and history would have been re written.  

 

As organizations steer towards major change initiatives they may repeat the "all stop" order and put a hold on employee movement with the intent of minimizing the impact of the pending change.   What might be the impact of this order?  

 

Statistically 5% of the population is motivated by sameness meaning they like things to stay the same and will provoke change only every 15- 25 years.


A large percentage, 65%, are motivated by sameness with exception .  They prefer situations to evolve over time.  They want major change about every 5-7 years.  


20% are motivated by difference.  They want change to be constant and drastic.  They will initiate change every 1 to 2 years.  


The final group are individuals who are motivated by both evolution and revolution.  They seek major change every 3 to 4 years and are 10% of the population.  


Based on these statistics the "all stop order" directly impacts 30% of the population and those individuals that generally play the role of change agents within an organization.      


If you work in an organization where there is limited staff movement, in essence, a preference for external hiring to internal promotion you perpetuate a "sameness" environment.   When you are looking for change agents your search becomes hampered by your actions. You may have disengaged your change agents .  


 Promote "Organic" Employee Movement


Consider  the amount of energy it takes to move forward from an "all stop" position.   Keep change moving within your organization by continuing to promote internal employee movement.   These individuals, who seek change are more likely to step up as your change agents as their personal change is an internal motivator.  


Finally, seek clarification as to whether your employees perceive your pending change as "evolutionary" or "revolutionary".  Promoting technological or process changes as "evolutionary" vs  "revolutionary"  will be perceived as more motivational to a larger percentage of your employees.   Remember  VUCA is not a single iceberg in calm waters   It represents a  sea of icebergs that require forward motion to navigate.   Maintaining and promoting ongoing employee movement allows you to steer through VUCA with the ease of a nimble personal water craft.    


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February 6, 2014
 Discovering and Understanding Communication Habits
 
As human beings we strive to connect with other people.  Even in this technology driven world the messages we send out are more about connecting with people than they are about seeking information.  It is what defines us as humans.  When we successfully communicate with people it is powerful.  We have the power to mobilize people, to improve our existence and to give and receive love.  When we aren't successful communicating we are left feeling frustrated, ineffective and resentful to the individual or people who are challenging our message.  How might our perception change if we gained additional understanding about people's communication habits.  How might we feel?
 Matching and Mismatching

 Whenever we have a new idea to share with someone we have a fifty fifty chance of someone cheering with us or jeering at us.  In essence, when you say black some people see the black while others see white.  What the person is doing is based on habit.  People have a tendency to either match or mismatch in their communication.  It is not based on who is communicating and should not be perceived as a personal attack.  It is their habit, and how they naturally respond.   If we know that about someone we can anticipate their response and not be offended by it.

 Defining Freedom

 We also know that some people move toward things while others move away.   If you are fond of goal setting and creating, chances are you come from a "move toward" perspective.   Other people who often like to solve problems might have a "move away from" perspective.  If you think about what freedom means you may define it differently.

  Moving Toward Perspective
  •  freedom to choose
  • freedom to create
  • freedom to relax

 Moving Away From Perspective
  •  freedom from hunger
  • freedom from pain
  • freedom from fear
 
When you listen for these subtle differences you can adjust your wording to make a stronger connection with another person.  This additional insight can assist you in leveraging strengths of individuals when assigning work.  An individual who has a move toward perspective might find greater satisfaction is achieving objectives whereas an individual with a moving away from perspective might find their satisfaction in solving problems and troubleshooting.  
The key is how we listen.  When we discover these communication habits in ourselves and others we create an enhanced opportunity for successful communication.
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January 30, 2014
 Synthesize.....The New Exercise for Your Brain
 
Tomorrow I will be attending a Leadership Symposium that is being hosted by the Odette School of Business of the University of Windsor.  As a learning and performance consultant who specializes in leadership development a few people have asked me what benefit I'll get from the symposium?  What they're really saying is "shouldn't you already know all this"?  The simple answer is that there will be information provided that will form bridges.  Building information bridges are an essential part of leadership success.
We are living in an era where information is more readily available to us than at any other time in history.   Just do a search on Google or any other search engine and you won't find 10 sources, you'll find 100,000 sources.  With so much information readily available many people have chosen to be specialists in a particular field.  Their knowledge goes deep, however, there is not a lot of breadth of knowledge.  Sometimes this results in a disconnection with other people outside of their area of specialization.  We are slowly emerging from a decision making style that deconstructs large problems into smaller chunks and instead, we are starting to look at how things fit together.  
 A New Puzzle Builder is Emerging
 
As work has become specialized it has resulted in organizational silos.  While this may work for robotic assembly lines it severely limits performance in organizations that provide a service.  These organizations require complex decision making where the interrelationships of people throughout the organization drive productivity and quality.  Individuals who can see past their expertise and expand their knowledge to include other disciplines have a definite advantage.  They are able to fit pieces together differently and in some cases are able to shape missing pieces when required.
 Build New Expertise From Your Passion
 
If you want to see new connections start to look at things that fuel your passion.  Sometimes in our quest to be employable we develop knowledge in areas that are only a stone's throw away from our "core" expertise.  Look around the corner to where your passions reside.  Perhaps you are passionate about fitness.  In your research to improve your fitness you stumble upon a training methodology that might be modified for a team meeting.  You aren't suggesting the team do jumping jacks at the next meeting but there is something about how a team builds momentum prior to the playoffs that you feel might be inspiring to an approaching deadline.  When you do this, every bit of information is perceived as a possible bridge to other information.  It's power becomes magnified.  
Kevin Bacon became synonymous with six degrees of separation in Hollywood.  How about starting to think of information as having less than six degrees of separation and see what happens when you build bridges.  So the next time you are brainstorming and someone makes a "radical" suggestion maybe they've already built a bridge and are just waiting for you to cross over to join them.  
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January 23, 2014
 How Are You Doing?
 
This question or one of its cousins, how are you?, or how's it going? might be one of the most overused questions we are exposed to everyday.
As a result we tend to answer it with a stock of adjectives such as "fine", "good" and "okay".   I like to call these responses a "deviation to the mean".  If we created a scale from worst day to best day ever, these responses fall smack dab in the middle.  They are the "popular" responses and have become the acceptable norm.  The underlying feeling or more accurate response is what we are internalizing.  It becomes so much easier to use these responses rather than to expose ourselves by answering differently.  
I went through a period where the people around me decided "fine" was a new 4 letter word synonymous with a more descriptive 4 letter word that begins with the same letter.  The people who knew me well felt there was incongruity between the words I used, my tone and body language.  Considering that less than 10% of our message is transmitted via the words we use this was not a huge leap on their part, it was clearly visible.  
 What's Holding Us Back?
 
What impact would our response have if we responded with our "true feelings".  If we're feeling great why not be descriptive about it?  "I'm having a great day.   I had a terrific conversation with a peer.  I completed a draft of an important document and I'm in a really good place."  The same can be said with a not so great day.  "I'm feeling overwhelmed with the work on my plate today.  I stayed u late working on a proposal so I'm tapped out today.  There's not much energy left".  
If we share this information with people we trust we potentially give and receive more.   When we share our joy it becomes contagious.  We certainly expel more joy when we expand on our "good" day response.   When we share our bad day we create an opportunity for our peers to demonstrate empathy and offer assistance.  It also helps us identify the impacts of work assignments in creating a productive work environment.  If someone is overworked then we can identify it early and determine what action we can take to assist an employee and meet deliverables.
 Create an Environment Where We Are Open to Share Our Feelings

 The next time you hear the answer "good" to the question "How are you doing?" be ready to ask a follow up question, particularly if you sense it's a filler response.  Try asking "I'm curious, what's good like for you?"  When you come from a place of curiosity people are more likely to open up.  
Also, pause for a second before responding "good" when you're asked the question.  Is the person asking someone who you trust to give more information? If they are open up.  
Consider the change in the work environment when we spread joy and demonstrate empathy.  If we want to improve our emotional intelligence why not start with our emotional self expression and empathy.  

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 January 16, 2014

 Are You Ready to Be Less Than Perfect?

 Every now and then I come across a book or a research paper that resonates so strongly with me that I am compelled to share the message with as many people as possible.

This week I had the pleasure to embrace the words of Brene Brown in her book "The Gifts of Imperfection".  I  say embrace because they so eloquently wrapped me with a sense of understanding that had eluded me in many respects.  Like the author, I was raised that if you work hard you will have a fulfilling life.  As a baby boomer I also grew up in an era where an entire generation was encouraged to aspire to a lifestyle better than the previous generation.  Our generation was challenged to change the world.  Goal setting was a yearly occurrence both in my personal life as well as my professional life and as the years went by I continued to raise the bar and the goals became more lofty.

 The Symbols of Success

 The symbols of success are escalating and we are reminded of them everyday.  Wherever we turn the symbols are everywhere.  Television, newspapers, social media and the physical world shine a bight light on what we should own and who we should be.  Look at any new subdivision and generally the houses are larger and more appointed than the previous year's model.  An undergraduate degree is now a bare minimum and a Master's or PD is a symbol of "arrival".  We are reminded to eat the "right" food, wear certain clothes, and look a particular way.  If we work less than 60 hours a week we're not dedicated.  Our plates are full but somehow we always make room to pile on more.  

 The Need to Please, Perform and Perfect

 It became easy to convince ourselves to please, perform and perfect our lives.  Consumption was once a word that defined a wasting away of the body from tuberculosis, however, we were now being driven by a different consumption:  to please, perform and be perfect.
 Thank Goodness for Cracks

 Just as there are symbols of success all around us there are also messages that infiltrate our world reminding us that we have choices.  Sometimes these messages come from a level of exhaustion that force us to shut down.  Sometimes they come from the tiniest voices that whisper in our ear as we exchange a goodnight hug.  Others stare us in the eye as we look at the calendar and wonder where time went.  When these messages finally crack our tough exterior it can inspire us to make changes that help us focus on how we feel vs what people might think.

 Living a Wholehearted Life

 Living a wholehearted life begins with loving yourself.  Embrace your imperfections and accept that you are "good enough".   Brene Brown writes "wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness.  It means cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, no matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.  It's going to bed at night thinking, Yes I'm imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn't change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging."

Imagine how empowering it is to exhale and know that you are enough.  The energy that you previously put into the 3P's can now be redeployed.  You become the owner of your own joy.  With every future moment surround yourself with trust, gratitude, inspiration and faith.  
 A New "TGIF"

 Instead of relishing it's Friday what if you asked yourself everyday:   how have I demonstrated Trust?, what am I Grateful for?,  what has Inspired me? and finally, how am I practicing my Faith or connection with others?

 Just Pause

 If you see a piece of yourself in any part of this article I encourage you to read "The Gifts of Imperfection".  It may be the start of a new journey or a continuation of a journey you've already embraced.  If you pause and listen you may find what you've been looking for.  

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January 9, 2014
 Developing Leaders for Conscious Capitalism
 
 I recently came across a research article in Human Relations by Jeremy Fykes and Patrice Buzzanell titled"The Ethics of Conscious Capitalism: Wicked Problems Leading Change and Changing Leaders".  It presented the challenges facing a consulting company that was working with a large organization to develop leaders that would thrive in a conscious capital environment.  
 What is Conscious Capitalism?
 
Conscious Capitalism is a re-appraisal of capitalism and the way business is done.  We don't have to look too far to be reminded of the scandals of Enron leaders or Bernie Madoff and the stock market excesses recently depicted in the movie "The Wolf of Wall Street" to recognize a growing impetus that the way business is done is not sustainable.  Leaders need to re-think why their organizations exist and acknowledge their organization's role in an interdependent marketplace.
 Finding Leaders for a New Organizational Culture
 
A conscious capital culture is captured by the acronym TACTILET-trustA-authenticityC-caringT-transparencyI-IntegrityL-learningE- empowerment
What a wonderful combination of values for any organization.  In fact,  when evident within an organization there is heightened success.  Why is it then so difficult to find leaders to support, develop and live symbiotically within this culture?  As I looked at the list I couldn't help but think that these values extend beyond the workplace and into our personal lives.  Those of us who embrace these values in our lives cherish the relationships that thrive as a result.  If you are a parent these are likely the values you hope to instill in your children and hope they take root.  It is an essential part of their development as strong citizens.  Parents are children's first leaders and through their communication with their children and modelling the values of trust, authenticity, caring, transparency, integrity and empowerment they set the stage for all future interactions.  
 What Makes it Okay to Lead Differently at Work?

 Conscious Capitalism requires a self-effacing servant leadership mindset and a different orientation than profit maximization.   It needs to balance a desire to keep the culture alive and serve its stakeholders.  This can often be at odds with short term outcomes that challenge TACTILE values.
So start by asking yourself the following questions.
  1. How do I demonstrate that moving the organization forward is more important than moving myself forward?
  2. How have I shared information through the organization to ensure transparency?
  3. What percentage of my time is seeking rewards and recognition vs giving rewards and recognition to others?
  4. How do I demonstrate trust?  What are the barriers to demonstrating trust?  

 Find the "Flow" in Competition not the "Win"

 As leaders we might have a tendency to want to showcase our skills or separate ourselves from the pack.  When we compete to win we are consciously making a choice for someone to lose.  If we are all part of the same organization why would we want a loser?  When we compete to get in a state of "flow" we use the energy from the competition to heighten everyone's game.  Winning or losing isn't an outcome it's producing greater results by all participants that matters.  Be aware of your motives in competition.  Budget, resources and title are an enticing aphrodisiac for some leaders that cause them to lose sight of the "greater good".

 There is No "Situational Ethics" in Business

 Ethics, or valus are those uncompromising drivers for each of us.  If those TACTILE values are followed there is no grey area in how we lead in business.  When a situation occurs the minute we compromise any of those values we chip away at the fabric of our culture.  A hairline crack becomes a flaw that weakens the entire system as one discretion begets another and so on and so on.  

 Be Congruent in All Leadership Aspects of Your Life

 How much happier we would all be if we had congruency in our lives.  Although we wear different hats throughout the day if we are grounded in the same values at home, work and at play our life becomes more balanced.  

So here is the challenge.  
If you lead a life of TACTILE values at home but leave those behind at work..... shame on you.  Eventually the impact of your work actions will manifest themselves in your personal life.
If you lead a life of TACTILE values at home but are surrounded by leaders who don't share these values how will you survive?  What strategies will you employ to stay true to you values and support those around you?
If you don't comprehend TACTILE values or have the ability of demonstrating them "STOP BEING A LEADER" or "LEARN TO BECOME A LEADER"
At the end of the day ask what legacy you want to be remembered for..... hopefully TACTILE values readily comes to mind.
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December 19, 2013
 Defining Your Sense of Urgency
 
As one year ends and another one is just around the corner I find myself thinking about the time that fills the middle.  How do we live our lives so that we achieve our desires and we are aligned to our values?  Jim Rohn states " Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value".  
In exploring the term urgency the first thought that leaped into my head was "Chicken Little".  There is so much that we are tasked to do that is masked as urgent we can feel as if the sky is falling.  When this happens we might be tempted to disengage.  
Think of those individuals who show up every day but have stopped "being present" a long time ago.  These might be the people that fill the "middle" with postponements, waiting for the next big thing or a laissez-faire attitude that leads to a less than fulfilling life.  
What if we defined urgency as living each moment to accomplish something and move forward, as if our time was limited?   How might that change our perspective?  Tim McGraw sang a song several years ago about "living like you were dying".  The message was simple and eloquent.  Don't put off doing those things that are important.  There are no guarantees about tomorow.  
Create an urgency for the things that matter to you.  Be in those moments.   When you are at work be present and active in the work.  Take it forward in a way that matters.  Don't put aside things that you can do today.  
In your personal life don't wait for a crisis to have a conversation with someone.  Talk with them now.  Share your thoughts and feelings.  Don't wait for a better time.  That time is now.  
We all have elements within our life that are important to us.  They should be the nucleus of our sense of urgency and be how we lead.  So I challenge each of us today to act with a sense of urgency in our lives.  
In that regard, my sense of urgency over this holiday season will be on family and friends.  My next update will appear January 9, 2014.  Until then enjoy every day with a sense of urgency and live it to the fullest
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December 12, 2013
 "Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?"
 
A large percentage of my work lately has been on leadership development.  It seems to be the focus for many organizations as they ready themselves for 2014.  Yesterday, as I was putting some notes together I heard the groundbreaking news of Mary Barra's appointment as CEO of General Motors.  As a woman I felt a great sense of pride and also a sense of responsibility.   Let me explain.
Mary Barra has been on a personal journey for many years.  She didn't just arrive as the leader of GM, she has been a leader for quite some time.  Whatever her personal goals, she has proven herself in every role she has had leading up to this moment.  Her effectiveness comes from her authenticity as "Mary Barra".  
When announcements like this occur they are usually accompanied by leadership development programs that promise to create "more Mary Barras", carbon copies..... using slogans like "If she can do it.... so can you".  
The question every potential leader should be asking is "Why should anyone be led by me?"  Don't look to replicate Mary Barra, develop your own authentic leadership style.  This takes time, commitment and hard work.   It starts with knowing yourself.  What are  your strengths and weaknesses?  What values drive you?  Next,  be curious and spend time with people.  Being connected with people allows yo to develop a strong intuition on when to take action.  Learn to lead with empathy that balances passion for people with a passion for the work.  Finally, reveal your uniqueness.  Great leaders often have a quality that separates them from the pack, a "je ne sais quoi".
So over the next months I commit to ensue that we don't create a "Mary Barra" formula.   Instead we'll focus on developing authentic leaders that stand the test of time.  Leaders that you would want to be led by.  When someone requests a 2 day leadership program because they don't feel their leaders will be compliant in attending something longer maybe they should ask "Why Should Anyone Be Led by Them?" 


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December 5, 2013
 "No Ceilings Required:  Creating Your Personal Vision"
 
As I sit down to write this week's Thoughtful Thursday I am acutely aware of the date on the calendar.  Somehow, over 11 months of this year have passed in the blink of an eye and I find my attention turning to 2014.  If you are like me, the end of the year also becomes a personal balance sheet of what I did, what I didn't do and what I still need to do before the end of the year.  
This year has also been a time of transformation for me not dissimilar to so many people I have encountered.  While a small portion of 2013 has been in reflection, the majority has been looking forward to the future.  As a result,  I recently spent some time participating in a personal visioning exercise.   Creating a compelling vision is an arena where I thrive.  This time, however, something interesting occurred.  Without the restrictions within a corporate environment I experienced an explosion of personal discovery in a way that was different from past visioning exercises.  My future success was 100% within my control.  Facing me in the mirror was the reality that I am completely accountable for everything I experience, everything I do, don't do and how I respond to things.
 Realizing 100% Responsibility is Not New
 
As I thought about this revelation I realized that I've always had 100% responsibility for my success.  As an entrepreneur this sometimes becomes more self evident but it exists for all of us.   Once we believe that fact we are able to take full control of our future.  Your vision is open to whatever you want.  
As my vision came to life I moved to the next stage of making it a reality.  
 Who do I need to become to successfully achieve my vision?
 
I recently read the following: "Success is something you attract by the person you become".  When you visualize your future who have you become?  What characteristics have you enhanced or suppressed to achieve your vision?  Every moment we are evolving and changing in some small way.  Being consciously aware of that "future self" helps focus our attention on the changes that will support achieving our vision.  
 Aligning Values and Building Capabilities

 I recently posed a question to a good friend to gain clarity around this concept.  I asked her to identify three people she admired that she would like to have in her inner circle.  The people she chose all demonstrated drive, strategic perspective, a heightened sense of purpose, courage and a belief in possibilities.   She saw her future self as having each of these attributes at 10/10 while she currently rated herself at 6/10.  Taking the steps to move from 6 to 10 easily aligned to her core values.  She was even able to articulate the first steps she would take to build these capabilities.  

Finally, we all need to create a starting point.  Success rarely happens overnight.  It takes hard work and lots of incremental steps along the way.  Every morning I wake up and decide how I will move forward toward my vision.  Some days I may feel as if I'm moving backwards while on other days it's full speed ahead.  I am able to gauge my progress because I know where I'm going.   Watch for updates in Thoughtful Thursdays as my vision evolves.  I'm looking forward to the person I will become and the wonderful people I will meet along the way.  
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November 28,2013
 The ROI from Positivity
 
A working career spans more than 7500 days for most of us.  During that time we will experience good days, bad days and hopefully, great days.  Your attitude, or more specifically, your positivity or happiness directly impacts your ratio of good days to bad days.  In the business world a good day is generally synonymous with growth, productivity and profit.
 The Chicken and Egg of Positivity and Productivity

 As you look around the employment landscape you will find leaders who firmly believe that productivity, growth and profit lead to happiness and positivity.  Show them the data to support these elements and they will definitely be positive.  However, current research now tells us that happiness/positivity drives growth and in essence productivity and profit.

Let's look at two leaders in comparable organizations.  Both leaders have a mandate to bring their organization into the 21st century through major transformation of how they do business.  Leader "A" arrives at work everyday with coffee in hand, newspaper firmly tucked under his/her arm and eyes focused on the most direct path to their office.  There is little or no personal interaction.  Photos of this leader show flawless skin with no visible crinkles around the eyes from frequent smiling.  
Leader "B" arrives at work with coffee in hand smiling and greeting people as he/she makes their way to their office.  There is frequent conversation with smiles and small laughter.  Photos of this leader show multiple laugh lines near the eyes.  
Research confirms that leadership is a contagion down the organization.  Leader "A" is spreading nervousness and fear.  When this occurs it impacts employee's peripheral perspective.  People put their heads down and have a very narrow 30 degree focus.  Leader "B" is spreading positivity and happiness.  This causes employees to be more open and relaxed promoting creativity and a much wider perspective at 180 degrees.  Since both leaders are working with a transformation mandate who is likely to be more successful?  
What we also know is 20% of people who are happy are at least 30% more productive.  The question becomes what if you're just not a happy person?
 Three Factors Influence Happiness

 Our level of happiness is determined by three factors:
  • genetics 50%
  • life events 10%
  • choices we make 40%
That means that we have a 40% impact on our own level of happiness.
 Upping Your Level of Happiness
 
There are some simple things you can do to improve happiness.  Consider the ratio of positive to negative comments you make.  As humans we take negative comments twice as serious as positive comments.  If you are using a ratio of 1:1 you are leaving people feeling negative.  Instead, look at a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative.  In fact, in one of your most important relationships, marriage, a 5:1 ratio is the magic number.  A great practice is by starting with "YES AND".  This simple act creates positivity in an interaction.
Our interactions are also influenced by our beliefs.  When we encounter individuals that we deem as difficult, unproductive, negative etc.  we look for actions and behaviours to confirm those beliefs.  Instead, try writing down one thing every day for 30 days that you observed about this individual.  Look for something that impressed you or stood out in some small way.  Look at what happens to your relationship when you start looking for the positive.
 We all have choices that drive our level of happiness.  When I look in the mirror I am thrilled with the laugh lines by my eyes.  That means that I've spent a good part of my days smiling.  I'll leave you with one final suggestion for those of you who need additional assistance.  Just prior to an important meeting spend a minute doing the following.
  • hold a pencil in front of your face parallel to the ground
  • place the pencil between your teeth and hold it for one minute

This simple action is mimicking a smile and your brain is releasing chemicals that help you feel good "happy".  Enjoy the feeling and share it.  
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November 21, 2013
Building Relationships as Leaders 
 Over the course of the past week we have been inundated with stories and documentaries related to John F Kennedy and his assassination.   On the eve of the 50th anniversary of this terrible moment in history  I began to reflect on John F Kennedy as a leader and communicator.   Whether you are a Kennedy supporter or detractor there is no doubting the incredible skill he demonstrated in communicating with people.  As the first president to be born in the 20th century he spoke to a new generation and mobilized them to follow his vision.  Whether volunteering for the Peace Corps or committing to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade you wanted to be part of his vision.  He was strategic at showing us glimpses of his family life and who he was as a person.   In our work lives we are incredibly lucky if we have had the opportunity to work with leaders who are able to build relationships and communicate their vision in a way where we want to learn more and be a part of the team.  These leaders have developed their emotional intelligence in areas of self perception, self expression and interpersonal relationships that enable them to optimize their collaboration with others.  They are adept at sharing parts of themselves with others to build momentum for collaboration.   Unfortunately this isn't the case with all leaders.  When leaders don't have the communication skills or the self awareness their attempts at building collaboration by sharing a part of themselves with others can end up doing more harm than good.  In some cases resulting in distrust, hindering teamwork, alienating employees and negatively impacting relationships.   How aware you are of your values, emotions and competencies, how you express them and how they are perceived by others are fundamental to your success.
 What You Might See from Less Effective Leaders
 In a recent Harvard Business Review article by Lisa Rosh and Lynn Offerman they describe the following 5 types of leaders whose lack of self awareness or lack of communication skills create barriers to self disclosure and collaboration.  
  1. Oblivious Leaders         These are the leaders who will tell you things like....."I have an open door policy".  "Don't be afraid to make mistakes, we learn best from them"  " I   don't have all the answers"  This however, is contradictory to their actions where they aren't available.  They not only focus on mistakes they are quick to point them out and they have the only "right" answer and yours better be aligned to theirs.  Employees may label this type of leader as phony or clueless
  2. Bumblers    These leaders have a better understanding of who they are but are not adept at picking up co-worker  cues. When they first introduce themselves they may give you an entire history of their pets, marital issues and behavioural challenges.   If they stopped to look around during their dialogue they would see people turning away, feeling embarrassed for them and wanting to leave.
  3. Open Books   These are leaders who talk about everything with everyone and have no filters.  They create an atmosphere of "no trust"  Nothing is sacred to these individuals
  4. Inscrutable  Leaders   These leaders have a difficult time sharing anything about themselves.  You will often hear them say "I'm here to do a job..... not be your friend".  They speak exclusively about work and don't seek or share personal information.  These leaders may be perceived as remote and inaccessible.
  5. Social Engineers   These leaders profess the value of self-disclosure to build collaboration and relationships but do it through engineered activities.   If you've ever been on a "team building event" where this is the only time there is self disclosure then you are interacting with this type of leader.  It feels and is artificial.

Taking the Steps to Enhance Self Disclosure and Build Collaboration

 

Whatever your current state you have the ability to enhance your emotional intelligence resulting in greater effectiveness at self disclosure and building collaborative relationships.  Consider the following steps:

 

1.  Build a foundation of Self Knowledge.  Use 360 feedback and assessment tools to gain information that will help your self awareness and build your development.  Remember the higher up you are in the organization the more difficult it is for you to get candid feedback.  360 assessments when done with strong instruments like EQ360 or Insights Discovery Full Circle provide a wealth of usable information specific to the individual anonymously.  Consider using a coach to gain deeper insight into building these competencies. 

 

2.  Disclose information relevant to the task.   Instead of randomly disclosing information about yourself think about scenarios you have encountered that are applicable to the work you are doing.  Perhaps you are stalled in a current project and the team's morale is low.  Disclosing how you had similar feelings in a past scenario brings an appropriate level of disclosure to the group.

 

3.  Keep your revelations genuine.  Whatever you do don't make something up to fit the situation.  People know when it's real and when it's not. 

 

4.  Understand the organizational and cultural context.   If your employee engagement survey points to the importance of demonstrating empathy and a "family atmosphere" your behaviours should be aligned to support that culture. 

 

5.  Delay or avoid very personal disclosures.  Day 1 with your team is not the time to tell them your most heart wrenching story.  In most cases you might never disclose that level of information and be very successful with your team. 

 

In closing I will slightly alter John F Kennedy's famous line "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country" with "Ask not what your team can do for you but what you can do for your team"......Start with a little self awareness and disclosure

 

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 November 14, 2013 VUCA Facing VUCA
 Current business literature is filled with the acronym VUCA.  Taken from the military VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and AmbiguityEverywhere we turn the media remind us that VUCA are the important adjectives describing today's business climate.   If we want to be successful we better be equipped to deal with them.   What I'd like to suggest is that none of these things are new.  The term volatility is defined as "a sense of readily changing".   This definition is derived from the 1640's and has been a part of our vocabulary for centuries.   I'd also suggest that anyone who has ever raised a teenager is familiar with the term.  Uncertainty is the "sure thing".  We've all heard the expression "the only thing certain in life is death and taxes".  Complexity is a direct result of human interaction.  When the human element is added to our issues and problems we must find unique solutions.  As we have not evolved into a "Cyborg Future"  human interactions continue to drive and challenge us.  Finally ambiguity is an interesting by-product of communication.   How can we ever be sure that we all receive and interpret information in the same way?  
 So How Do We Combat VUCA?
 
First, embedded in almost every word in VUCA is another acronym that drives all business.... ITY...... "It Takes You"
 Every person has the ability to face VUCA with VUCA..... "Values/Vision and an Unwavering Commitment to Action"
 
Our personal values inform our personal vision and how we lead our lives.  If we stay unwavering in our commitment to those values and our vision it defines and informs the action we take.   The same can be said for organizations whose Vision is shaped by corporate values.  Every employee has a responsibility to commit to the vision and take the necessary actions to bring that Vision to life.  
If we do this on a personal and organizational level we lessen the impact of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.  We are able to drive forward and feel a sense of progress.   We have a clear line of sight on our destination.  
That's why as an organization it's imperative that we clearly communicate our Vision and Values we stand behind.  Whether that's providing excellent customer service, quality products or improving the lives of our citizens it's an essential "Action" that cannot be discounted.  
In closing I leave you with the following quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower  "If you want total security go to prison.   There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on...... The only thing lacking is freedom".

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 November 7, 2013


 Lean Manufacturing Your Relationships

 

We all have different roles we take on in our lives.  Sometimes I'm a consultant, coach, mentor, wife, mother, daughter or friend.  Whatever hat I put on impacts my behaviour and activities.  Like most of us I believe I'm a fairly intelligent individual who has a good grasp on what activities and behaviours I should demonstrate as I change hats.   I recently read something from author Amanda Lang in "The Power of Why" that challenged one of my assumptions.


In Lean Manufacturing, businesses look for what customers need and determine how to produce it more cheaply and effectively.  This sometimes results in removing steps that are redundant or not necessary to achieving what the customer wants.  


What if we used this philosophy in our relationships?  Like most of us, I equated more effectively and cheaply with saving time.  Saving time is the new gold standard in today's society so I decided to ask my customers what they wanted from me.  


The first customer I asked was my husband of 28 years.  Since I was no longer commuting to Toronto every week for work I thought this an ideal starting point,  a refresh.   What he told me was somewhat different than what I expected.   Since being home I was putting effort and time into fixing meals and doing bigger projects around the home.  I was a combination Carol Brady and Tim the Toolman for those of you familiar with TV sitcoms.  


To my husband these were "nice to have" but not the things that really mattered.  What did matter to him was completing my projects.  Now in my own defense I felt I was completing things I started but he pointed out I always left little things for him to organize.  Things like putting the screwdriver back in the right drawer.  The fact that I had used the screwdriver to put up a huge structure that took 3 hours was not what he saw.   He just wanted me to do that final inspection and return things to their rightful home.  


During that conversation I regained a sense of what was important to him, "my customer".   I also recognized where I was expending energy on things that didn't mean the same thing to him as they did to me.  As a result I was able to adjust my schedule and gain some additional flexibility.  


While this is just one example it creates an opportunity for each of us to check in with our customers, those people in our lives that we interact with on a daily basis.  Instead of assuming we know what they want from us check in and ask.  Think about what you both might gain by having this conversation.