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Opportunities and Incoveniences

I was only out of college a couple of years when I had a boss that had a favorite saying that drove me nuts. I would go into his office with a “crisis” that was going on with a vendor, customer or prospect and he would say, “We have opportunities and inconveniences.” Then he would stare at me standing there. That’s it. No more. In other words, “Figure it out.” I immediately would think of what my mother would say to my siblings and me when we would come to her and say, “I can’t (do something).” She would consistently “remind” us that “can’t” was a word that really meant nothing to her and we would need to come up with a better option before we came back to her with our dilemma.

Fast forward many years and I reflect on how fortunate I feel now that I was given the opportunity (aka: forced) to “figure it out”. Time and again, I've seen leaders, managers, parents and teachers do their best to control situations and never give the people they serve the chance to correct/manage/lead their “inconvenience” without attaching some fear of getting busted for doing it “wrong”. I wouldn't be able to notice that in others if I wasn't also guilty as charged. How much talent is being squashed in our collective personal or professional environments every day because of thoughts like “what will happen if I don’t do it right, don’t know how, am afraid to ask for direction, etc.” for fear of some (usually unspoken) retribution? How very unproductive and unfortunate to have this victim mentality so prevalent in our cultures with all the talent, wisdom and experiences we have available among us.

What I’ve come to notice in true leaders is the consistent theme of self-responsibility. I don’t mean leaders by title alone as many of them still play the blame game. True leaders know that the only really effective place to point a finger is in the mirror. They also know that the way to change the status quo is to take some committed action to eliminate, alleviate, rectify, improve or reinvent situations that are not working ideally. They don’t wait for it to miraculously “evolve” on its own to something better. Leaders allow and even encourage the people around them to do the same. This reminds me of the saying, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” Be the solution.

As life happens, I get to practice what I preach. Again. My landlord recently called to inform me that he is selling the house I live in with my daughter. My original intent was to live where I do until she graduates from high school, which isn’t until the summer of next year. Being someone who grew up on a farm, meaning moving wasn’t even on one’s radar screen, then living in my past home for over 20 years, the simple thought of physically moving is nauseating to me at best. In my world, this “inconvenience” falls into the understatement category. Yet, as in a Chinese dialect, the word symbol for “crisis” is the same as “opportunity”. As with the conversations with my mom, I can simply have my initial little Mount Vesuvius reaction, get over myself and figure it out, knowing that whatever solution I come up with is significantly better than “victim speak”.

We all play in the movies of our own lives. What some of us fail to understand is that we are the writers, directors, producers and actors/actresses. Whatever the circumstances are, have been or will be in our lives are a result of every single choice we have made (or not) or idea we have had up to this moment. There isn’t something “out there” that created our health, financial, relational or other status without our input at some level. What if your movie isn't a script you like anymore?  Change your mind, take some committed action, and change your life. Your inconveniences can lead to tremendous opportunities.

Genius, Dr. Seuss, in his book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” talks about the “Waiting Place” – where people are just waiting – whether for a Better Break or Another Chance, people are just waiting. Is that you? Will you find Opportunity in your Waiting Place? Will you deal with your Inconveniences there? Is the factor that “caused” an inconvenience in your life to “happen to you” going to some how fix itself without doing anything differently? Not likely. It’s up to you. Period. As living beings, we are no different than any other organic part of nature that experiences either growth or decay at any given time – not both. If something is not growing, it’s dying…there is no static state. Stagnation, inaction and waiting are counterintuitive to leaders. Growth, movement and being generative are magic keys to fulfillment, happiness and peace. When you have peace in your heart and life, all of us prosper. Whenever you step up as a leader in your own life, there is less victim mentality in our world as large. Thank you! To paraphrase this book again, “So…….you’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting…get on your way!”

In gratitude…



Of Leaders and Lemmings

It is said there is a very fine veil between what might be considered “genius” and what one might deem as “crazy”. The common denominator is that neither is typically steeped in the context of main stream thinking.

I have a quote hanging in my office by Ramtha that states, “The reason someone is a genius and knows things you do not know is because he has opened his mind to contemplate the ‘what if’s’, the outrageous thoughts, the thoughts of brilliance that go beyond the limited thinking of man. He has allowed himself to entertain and reason with these thoughts, whereas you have rejected them. It is very simple to be a genius. All you have to do is think for yourself.”

If that be the case, what I find myself fortunate to attract into my life is a fair number of geniuses. These fascinating and talented folks, bent on making a difference in our world, have strange and delightful ideas. Their time and energy is not spent marinating in an ongoing dose of CNN, the doom of the current economy and the drama of “what’s wrong” with this, that or the other.

Once I learned the distinction that there is more power in taking a stand for something one believes in (vs. wasting energy on what’s not working), it was easier for me to recognize wise leaders, the genius among us.

Being a mom, I’ve had more than my share of times my darlings have said, “Mom, you’re weird.” My response, “You get weird or boring for a mother. Pick one.” To date, they haven’t voted on “boring”. I’m also intending that that my “take a stand for something” will simmer on the back burners of their brains. I’m currently holding the belief that standing for change vs. whining about what’s wrong actually is becoming more mainstream, even if forced by the current state of affairs in our world.

Last week, a friend was talking about a futurist he had learned from who talked about looking to those who think on “the fringe” or the “outer edge” of main stream thought. The belief was that is the place where things start. New ideas, inventions, capability thinking and creative energy is birthed “on the edge”. I have always been intrigued with non-traditional thinkers, the ones on the peripheral…the visionaries, leaders and breakthrough crazy people who can hold the context for a new paradigm. By nature, these masters of their convictions live in possibility thinking vs. lemming thinking. They also can bring the new consciousness to the masses.

If you are unfamiliar with what I’m referring to as “Lemming Thought”, a great visual of this concept was done in 1985, when Apple ran a Superbowl ad called “Lemmings”. You can see it at this link www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYP1Tjgt1Ao if you can’t remember (or weren’t born yet). It reminds me of the famous saying of parents in response to how unfair we are because “...all of my friends get to (insert what you’re bad or unfair about here)!”

Inasmuch as thinking for oneself is a quality of a great leader, it’s crucial to not create a state of operating in a vacuum, being right or Lone Rangership. The best leaders in organizations are usually smart enough to hire others with better skills than the leader or visionary has in different domains. They are fabulous coaches, teachers, mentors and story tellers. They have the ability to move people to action. As much as they understand that they guide the ship, they know they are not likely to get where they choose to be in the time they intend to get there if they row alone.

Numerologically, 2009 is a “2” year – a year of partnership, collaboration and alliances. Is the genius called “You” connecting with other fringe thinkers to make something spectacular happen in the world? Is your network all about “knowing more people” or are you intending to build relationships with those you know? Can you allow yourself to think beyond “what someone might say” if you didn’t follow the masses when you know it to be fruitless for creating what you say matters in your life? Being a lemming is easy. Being a genius is easy. Being both is not.

Be careful. If you stick your toe into the water on the peripheral of main stream thinking, you might find it very enticing to find new and interesting things and ideas there. You may not choose to look back at what “the masses” are doing. It can even be lonely for awhile…ask any pioneer. What if you would have to give up the idea that those you love or work with may join you? They may or they may not. The most important thing for you to feel fulfilled, brilliant and alive is to bring forth your brilliance and be the genius you are in this lifetime.

Yet there will be times for miracles to be brought to your awareness. Even though your non-traditional thought might be weird or crazy to many, someday you’ll be heard – and you may even be an inspiration! As an example, just last week, my Aries child, who will soon be legal in all states for all things, called to ask me a question about astrology. “Mom, is Aries a fire sign? What does that mean?” (insert giant smile here) Please understand a question like that coming from this child is like getting a tree to rake leaves. Uh oh...I might just need to move closer to the edge…

Come there with me and be inspired!



Willingness and Change

My daughter in high school has several friends with strong musical talent. At dinner tonight she said, “You know what I like about musicians? They are committed to something until they 'get it'…that’s why they’re so good”. We then got to talking about dedicated athletes and others who perfect or excel in a skill, trade or interest. There is something about the ongoing practice and dedication necessary to make something difficult look effortless that is exciting, inviting and inspiring.

I told her what I like about those types of people is their willingness to be taught and/or coached. Self-discipline required in order to repetitively learn and embody traits, responses, and habits. The student/learner needs to be open to direction, alternative ideas and feedback in order to alter what is necessary to obtain the results they seek.

Earlier today I was talking to another friend about how our kids (now in teens and twenties) adapt faster than our generation. Ok, he still has “dial-up” at his office (which I didn’t know still existed) so some of us may be dragging a little more than the rest of us. His daughter wanted to teach him to use Skype today – just the thought of moving from dial-up and adding a camera to his computer was a bit over the top for him. I’m holding to the idea that progress is still possible there.

Our topic expanded to how there is a continual shift in upbringing from generation to generation. Like my parents, I went to a small school in a rural area; change in environment was very limited. We always knew who was going to be in our class the next year because there was only one 2nd grade or 5th grade class in my school. It was odd for a new student to join my grade school or high school as most farms and small businesses stayed in the family. In contrast, my children went to school in a large suburban district expecting to have different kids in their classes or on their sports teams each year. It would be unusual to have several of the same kids moving with the same group into the next grade or possibly even the same sports team, from one year to the next. When I consider adding this change in friends and classmates to the ever changing technology, diversity and globalization that Gen X and Gen Y are immersed in, their position becomes almost enviable.

The exposure to learning online, their “expectation” of inevitable change, along with willingness to continually embrace it and adapt quickly, gives younger generations a distinct advantage over my Baby Boomer peers. As a slow adapter and the Queen of Resistance (you haven’t seen that blog post yet), I am at last on board with needing to think more like my kids’ generation, especially now around the social networking arenas.

For example, my son started writing a blog about a week ago. Actually, I find it pretty amusing….see www.givingitstraight.com for a laugh or two and maybe some insight! My point is, he was excited to show me his [amazing] stats tonight on how many hits he was getting from, yes, most states in the U.S. plus some countries in Europe and S. America – all in about a week! I asked him how he did that so quickly. He mentioned he sent out an email to about 60 friends, then said, “Mom, keep in mind I have 637 friends on Facebook.” Of course he does. So do all of his peers - and they use the system.

Like my other kids and their friends, expecting change is a way of life. Access to information and a willingness to adapt to “what is” faster than those stuck in “what we wish it still was” gets them faster, more effective results. What that generation has to say…their individual dedications to be a voice, a dreamer, an athlete, a dancer, a contributor, a musician, an artist, a difference…is truly exciting, inviting, and inspiring.

Plus, they’re having a blast!

Where is your willingness to be committed to something until you "get it"…so you can be "that good"?

Be inspired!



Half of a Joke

Yesterday I had lunch with my dear friend, Peter. He characteristically started to tell me something, then decided he’d save it for later. One thing I’ve learned about Peter is that “later” in that context rarely ever happens.

I’ve known Peter since 1986, when he became the insurance buyer at a company I handled the insurance for, and despite my exit from that industry years ago, we remain in contact. Not only have we done business together for at least 15 years, we’ve gone through his transition to ownership of his company, my leaving commercial insurance after 22 years, life stages of our growing children, etc. Peter is very private, stoic and grew up as a strong Minnesota farm boy with several brothers. Not overly emotive is an understatement.

Being a talker, writer and story teller myself, one thing that gets me crazy is when only part of a story is told and it really has no ending. Peter often had the wonderful habit of starting to tell me something, then saying, “Aw, never mind” before he would conclude. His smirking didn’t help. I was continuously left hanging. It was no different than being told a joke without the point or the punch line. Good grief! Something similar to when my English teacher would bust me on sentences with a “dangling participle”. Come on!

What do you think I got “trained” to do after several years of listening to a first part of a story, joke, thought or opinion Peter was giving me? You’re right, like Pavlov’s dog, I trained myself into expecting that I wasn’t going to get the end of the story. It soon became like the “crying wolf” concept…I began not listening or giving the story much credence in the first place. With a brain like mine always on hyper-drive, I didn’t need more “stuff” up there bouncing around. For Pete’s sake, (no pun intended) I hardly remember full jokes, much less incomplete ones.

Peter’s need to express (being a rather guarded person) and my need to understand (wanting full disclosure) often set us up to be like ships in the night. It wasn’t until recent years in our friendship that I had a revelation to get over myself. All those many, many times that he was saying something of value (to him) and I was habitated (is that a word?) to miss, discount or ignore his half-stories, was truly a loss for both of us. It took this many years for Peter to express himself to me in the way that worked for him. I missed that in his world, the act of expression (despite my need for “complete expression”) was of value to him.

Coincidentally, another friend and I were talking about this concept and he recently posted an article called Nail the Sale, Seal the Deal which talks about the “Compulsion for Closure”. You can find the full article at www.grayfoxpartners.wordpress.com. Conceptually, most highly successful people have a drive to complete things.

Leaving conversations, tasks, arguments, stories, follow-ups, projects and the like incomplete causes brain static. The little voices in our heads (no, you are not immune) start to accumulate all kinds of “I should finish this, I need to get back to him on that, I have to get research more, this has dragged on so long that I’m losing sight of the point of it all, I didn’t apologize yet, etc." Whew! Our brains are similar to listening to an AM radio station in a thunderstorm!

Here’s a thought for you. Take a moment to write down nine things in your life that are open-ended right now. Make them things you can complete in less than one hour. Starting today and for the following eight consecutive days (no skipping days, it’s a feng shui thing), finish and cross of one of your items each day. After nine days, I promise some of the static will subside. Heck, you might not only get rid of the storm, you could tune into a clear FM station in your head!

Now I need to remember one of Peter’s half jokes so I can call him for another punch line…


Nice Idea or No Kidding?

Last week I received a call to speak to an organization that works with people in some stage of transition in their careers. We discussed what they wanted me to address their people about in the current economic climate.  One of the many items addressed was motivation.  That later got me thinking about one of the “distinctions” I addressed in my last post.

I located an article based on the above title I had published several years ago on this point.  The current economic state is cycling a bit differently know, yet the message remains. Here’s my slightly updated version which may be of interest to you if you are in business and/or transition.

We are soon to be completing the first quarter of what is for many, their fiscal year. If you’re still bent on listening to the doom and gloom of the media on an hourly basis, I’m guessing you’re not expecting much in the way of stellar results for your company or yourself. Yes, “if only”. "If only the economy was better, our sales team would amp it up, we could get a handle on our expenses, our leadership team wouldn’t be so secretive about what they are doing, I had more vacation time, blah, blah, blah. Yup, any of these things change and it’ll be a stellar year ahead! Something “out there” will shift and everything will be fabulous!"

Here’s the bad news. There is no “out there”…..your fabulous year ahead is an internal job.

Often times around the turn of the calendar year there are articles published as (or similar to) “New Year, New You”.  A few years ago, I addressed this topic as a speaker to a group in January and realized the content was not that far off from one of the topics I speak about: “Nice Idea vs. No Kidding”. One particular time I was addressing a job transition group about this concept and had the strangest experience.  It was similar to a movie that everything seemed to happen in slow motion.  Some of these brilliant, talented people were at another of the weekly meetings they were attending and I could tell they either were falling into or already ingrained in “wish mode”. It’s not that these well-deserving people weren’t competent to find new work environments. They were simply blinded to the fact that their efforts were more of a nice idea, than a clearly directed “I’ll-do-whatever-it-takes – no kidding” job search. Some of them admitted it was difficult to remember what day of the week it was, didn't bother to get up and dress "as if" their "job" that day was to find a job.  How about shaving?...that could be a place to start! It was rather easy to fall into the trap of “more or better sameness” because something different must occur to have a different result.

Nothing will change if the basis of your choices aren’t effective. Three major components of effective choices are the conversation you have with yourself, your commitment and the timing involved.

It’s easy to conceptualize how to react to someone when you’re not in dialogue; how to not drink/smoke/gamble when you’re in the shower; how to address your 2 year old throwing a fit in Target when he’s sleeping in his bed; how to tell your boss the project is unraveling when you’re on vacation. That’s nice idea thinking. The way to have a no-kidding difference in your life is to remember that you are creating your experience by the choices you are making moment by moment by moment WHEN you are in the thick of experiencing the thing in which you are expecting a different result. You are responsible in ‘real time’.

Choice is also difficult when self-talk doesn’t sound right. There is often value in re-wiring how you listen to yourself in order to stimulate ongoing action. Not long ago one of my clients and I were talking about being disciplined. I referenced the old saying, “We all face pains in life…either the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” This person understood the value of ongoing practices in order to achieve something different and, to her, the word “discipline” meant something oppressive, hard or involved suffering. We rewired the saying to be, “….the wisdom of practices or the pain of regret.” This seemingly small shift has helped her keep on track to create something new.

Lastly, you are always committed to something – either your results or your excuses of why you don’t have the results you say matter. Consider getting a partner (boss, co-worker, coach or friend) who will be a commitment to the commitment YOU say you want. Make your choices in real time on an ongoing basis and you will be on your way to more business success, happier relationships and inspired life for yourself!  No kidding.