Archive for July, 2009

For everything you have missed, you gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else” [Ralph Waldo Emerson].

A few weeks ago, I was having lunch with my friend and neighbor, Karen. We were eagerly using up our daily allotment of calories by splurging on burritos (with sour cream and guacamole, of course) from Chipotle.

I love getting together with Karen. She has the best stories, knows the most interesting people, and has gathered a wealth of information which she generously shares with me. On this particular day, I was discussing a new project that had recently presented itself. I explained that although I could see potential in this opportunity, moving forward didn’t feel right.

I had stumbled upon one of life’s multiple choice questions. It was time to break out the No. 2 Pencil and show my work. I reviewed the options with Karen, but remained unsure. The correct answer could be A or B or C or, even, A+B, or B+C. Yikes! I could feel sweat forming on my brow and my pulse quicken.

Tests in college were never this difficult! Tom Bodett explains it this way, “The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches a lesson.”

Trying to decide the best answer was stressing me out! On one hand, I didn’t want to waste a great opportunity I would later regret. On the other, I certainly didn’t want to get myself into a situation that might entangle my time and resources and be difficult to get out from under.

An endless parade of options and answers and consequences churned around in my mind. My test paper became covered with equations and lists and arrows and question marks. Is it just me, or can anyone else relate to a life filled with unanswered questions as the test clock quickly counts down?

To be honest, I suffered a mini-panic attack right there, during lunch at Chipotle. Although if you were to ask Karen about my breakdown, I’m sure she would deny it ever happened — Karen’s a good friend. She’s got my back.

Karen stopped the insanity by asking me where the fear was coming from. I thought about her question for a minute. Simply stated, the fear originated from my belief that if I “wasted” this opportunity, even though it really wasn’t “right” for me, I would be left with nothing. My future would be empty. Others would point at my foolishness and sadly shake their heads.

Then she said, “Who says this will be your only opportunity? If you pass on this one, another opportunity will come around. You passed on previous offers and this one still presented itself.”

Of course she was right! My fear was irrational. Maybe the correct answer all along was D: None of the above. Just because the situation had potential, does not mean it was the right opportunity for me or that I needed to act upon it.

We must carefully choose the path for our life. To be available for those “yes” moments, we’ll have had to say “no” at some point. Be willing to choose “none of the above,” even if it creates fear, or disapproval, or regret for a time. Do the research, show your work, confidently mark your answer, move on, look for the next opportunity.

“A door that seems to stand open must be of a man’s size, or it is not the door that providence means for him” [Henry Ward Beecher].

Whatever you are, be a good one!


Read Full Post »

Think about it.

What does it mean to you?

I’m interested in hearing your answer.

Whatever you are, be a good one!


Read Full Post »

. . . There are rules that every artist must abide by. You will never succeed if you break them” [Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel].

I’m currently reading the biography of Dr. Seuss. I enjoy learning the life stories of people who inspire me. I want to know about the path they have traveled, those who have influenced their decisions, and the challenges they have overcome.

How did they do it? Why did they do it? I’m intrigued to understand how their family or education or experiences conspired for or against them. I look for sparks of inspiration that I can claim and use in my own life. Which brings me to Dr. Seuss.

As a child, I wasn’t aware of his drawings or the unbelievable adventures of The Cat in the Hat. Fortunately, as an adult, I have come to thoroughly enjoy his work and extraordinary talent.

Two years ago I was introduced to Dr. Seuss, the artist, while visiting Stephen Clayton Galleries on Coronado Island during a visit to San Diego with my sister, Dawn. There were so many unique and unusual Seuss paintings and sketches, I became infatuated. I truly felt like a kid in a candy store — with the candy being the colorful and untamed imagination of an incredible story teller.

The story of Dr. Seuss’s life is quite interesting, and filled with unexpected twists and turns. The quote I used to begin this post was uttered by his high school art teacher, as he was struggling to find inspiration in a vase filled with “tired old daises.” Seuss had simply turned his tablet upside down to draw from a different angle. (Oh, the horror!)

Obviously, in her mind there were rules that should apply to everyone. These rules were meant to create conformity, comfort, and a means to a certain end. Perhaps this art teacher felt uncomfortable coloring outside the lines, so she prohibited anyone else from straying beyond what she deemed unacceptable.

“My goodness, whatever will people think,” she probably thought to herself, “if I allow my students the freedom to express themselves in ART CLASS?” (Do you hear the absurdity in that question?)

Ever encounter people like this? You can identify them by their comments: “We’ve always done it this way,” or “We can’t just allow our employees the freedom to do ______________ (fill in the blank) — it’s too dangerous or not prudent or who knows where it will lead?”

So small-minded, fearful people, make extravagant and unnecessary rules which demand compliance and destroy commitment, while employee creativity, satisfaction, and enthusiasm is swept to the floor like useless eraser crumbs.

Be aware that others aren’t the only ones who have a way of minimizing our contribution. We often sabotage our own efforts by establishing ridiculous rules for ourselves. Don’t let your fear, or concern about what others may think, create limitations that choke your brilliance and imagination.

We set boundaries for safety.
From fear. Because of habit.
Test them. See why you drew them.
Push against them.
Break through them.
Feel the exhilaration.

~ Patrick Lindsay

Take a step outside the line. Use all the colored pencils in the box. Speak out. Step up. Find the resources. Use the good paper. Discover a new way. Show your very best work. Take a risk. Turn the drawing pad upside down.

Don’t keep your ideas and dreams and songs and colors penned up inside — let them run around off their leashes! Who cares if the neighbors get nervous?

Whatever you are, be a good one!


Read Full Post »

A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives” [Jackie Robinson].

Greg’s grandmother, a little firecracker of a woman, passed away last week. Phoebe was a month shy of 97 years old, and for most of her life, she lived in Dagsboro, a little town about 10 miles from Bethany Beach on the Delaware Coast.

Both of Greg’s parents grew up in Dagsboro (population less than 600), and he has many fond childhood memories of spending his summers bouncing between the homes of his MomMom Phoebe and MomMom Alice. As a young married couple, Greg and I continued the tradition of spending our summer vacations with Phoebe, using Dagsboro as home base as we visited family members and relaxed at area beaches.

Phoebe insisted on preparing eggs and scrapple for us every morning (Except for Fridays, when she cleaned and ironed for a neighbor up the street.), and a rich delicious dinner every evening. (I can’t prove it, but I think all of her recipes called for 1 cup of lard and a cast iron skillet.)

It was a welcome tradition for Phoebe to take us crabbing sometime during the week, and then she would spend the afternoon preparing a sumptuous feast of fresh crab cakes for our evening meal. At least once during our visit, we would treat her to Grotto Pizza (her favorite).

Phoebe was a no-nonsense, not particular, not interested in the frills or ruffles, kind-hearted, and generous friend and grandmother. She never forgot to send birthday cards signed “love, MomMom” with a $20 check tucked inside. (And while Greg was in college, she also included several postal stamps as a gentle reminder that he should write to her.)

A while back, Greg called MomMom, she was in her 80’s at the time, and asked what she was up to. “I’ve been taking old people to the doctor,” she replied, and then continued with a litany of which of her friends needed to go where and why. Phoebe lived a simple life, where you worked hard, you didn’t spend your money on things you didn’t need, you took care of what you had, and if your friends had a need you helped them.

Phoebe was the second-youngest of 12, had worked hard all of her life, and had no tolerance for the dim-witted. (“Dumb as a brick” was a favorite saying.) Nor was she impressed by the latest invention. (“What they don’t think of that you just don’t need,” was another.) It was not uncommon for her elder sisters to spend their final years living at her house (most all of them lived well into their 90’s), under her constant care.

Many years ago, shortly after Uncle George purchased a VCR for MomMom, he rented the movie, Apollo 13, that had just been released. Phoebe and her sisters gathered in the living room to watch. Several minutes into the movie, the girls became restless and expressed their displeasure at the subject matter. “You don’t like the movie?” George asked. “No,” came the reply, “we already saw this.”

“But this movie just came out this week,” George responded. “When did you see it?” One of the sisters responded, “We saw it the first time, when it originally happened.” They had lived through and experienced the real Apollo 13 event in 1970, and were not impressed with Hollywood’s recreation.

One of my favorite stories about “the girls” had to do with Aunt Audra, who regularly spent winters in Florida. One of the sisters convinced Audra that she should pack and ship the clothing she would need, rather than use her suitcases. The argument was that all this back-and-forth travel would wear out the handles on the cases. (At the time of this discussion, I believe the women were in their 70’s. Did I mention this family was frugal?)

Taking this “wise” advice for one of her last winter trips, Audra did, indeed, pack and ship her clothing. When the box arrived in Dagsboro, ahead of Audra’s return, Phoebe and her sisters opened the package, each selecting their favorite outfit. When Audra’s plane landed later that week, she was greeted by the girls, each attired in the clothing she had shipped. (Hey, at least Audra didn’t needlessly worry about those suitcase handles.)

Less than 15 minutes away from tiny Dagsboro is the small town of Selbyville (population less than 2,000), where Phoebe’s mother-in-law, Stella, lived. Stella was a tough old bird, who was likely to meet you at the back door with a rifle in hand, wearing a housecoat and slippers. (Wise guests knew to call and announce their visit before stopping by.) Stella wasn’t known for her kindness and she didn’t play around. Yet Phoebe was an attentive daughter-in-law, helping out where she could, regularly bringing groceries and running errands for a woman who rarely left the house.

It was such an awesome experience to have known Phoebe and to meet Stella. The heritage and fullness that extended family members can bring to one’s life is immeasurable and something my own family was unable to provide. I am so grateful for the time I spent with MomMom Phoebe — she was a treasure and impacted me in ways I am still discovering.

Whatever you are, be a good one!


Read Full Post »

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now” [Chinese Proverb].

I really like this proverb. It is a reprieve for all of us who didn’t take advantage of the “best time.” Sure, we should have planted the tree, planned for retirement, focused in on the dream, and developed our potential 5, 10, maybe even 20 years ago.

But for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. So what? What’s your next step?

Mark Strand said, “The future is always beginning now.” Isn’t that refreshing? We didn’t miss the deadline for creating our future! Every day brings with it the next best time — the opportunity to begin anew.

The way I look at it you have three choices.

  1. You can live with the regret of what might have been — berating yourself for past failures and missed opportunities. Wasting time and energy.
  2. You can allow current circumstances to continue to steal your time and dilute your focus. Riding the merry-go-round of your daily schedule, falling into bed exhausted, failing to make the time to “plant a tree” again today.
  3. You can take advantage of the next best time — today — and begin putting your plans, ideas, and dreams into motion!

Think about this: In 20 years, TODAY will have been the best time to take action. July 27, 2010 and 2019 and 2029 are coming. Will you look back with a sense of pride and accomplishment at how your tree has grown? Or with regret that you let another year or ten years pass by, wishing you had taken advantage of today — right now — the next best time?

You are the one who will decide what your future becomes, and you decide it by your actions today. “Everyone has it within his power to say, this I am today, and that I shall be tomorrow” [Louis L’Amour].

The future is a place that is created —
created first in the mind and will,
created next in activity.
The future is not some place we are going to,
but one we are creating.

Yesterday is over. Last week is a memory. Today is the next best time to begin creating the future.

“My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there” [Charles F. Kettering].

Whatever you are, be a good one!


Read Full Post »

“Slow down and enjoy life. Its not only the scenery you miss by going too fast — you also miss the sense of where you are going and why” [Eddie Cantor].

“Where are you going in such a hurry?” If I’ve heard that question asked once, I’ve heard it asked a hundred times. It’s usually asked by an older person and directed to a younger person who is racing around, busy, Busy, BUSY.

Imagine a Toddler running around the Dining Room table, not really watching where she is going, and not really getting anywhere. But she’s moving fast.

Or the young adult who blows into the house like a tornado, picking up food, clothing, heading to his room. Only to exit minutes later with the money, tickets, or change of outfit needed to get on with the next exciting chapter.

Or you. Take you for example. Racing around, getting up early, working through lunch, frantically rushing to the next appointment, moving fast and faster toward the next big thing, but are you really getting anywhere? Or maybe the more applicable question is, “Are you enjoying the trip?”

Have you stopped lately to make sure you’re on the right road (or any road for that matter) or have you been deceived into believing that activity translates into accomplishment? Have you bought into the assumption that because you are so busy, that your life is meaningful and rewarding and important?

Sometimes it feels like we’re living life in the Express Lane — 15 items or less only! In an effort to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible, we grab a minimum number of items off the shelves to get us through, so we can utilize the Express Lane. Or, better yet, we skip the grocery altogether and stop at the convenience store on the corner.

Think about the times we forego a more satisfying experience, broader selection, better quality, or lower price, simply because we need to be some where else . . . in a hurry. In the blink of an eye, we have willingly exchanged the meaningful for the expedient — because we are SO BUSY.

“Where you are going is more important than how fast you are going”

What’s with all the rushing around again today? Why accept the inferior product, or experience, or anything, simply so that you can mark it off your list today and get on with your real life? Isn’t today a part of your “real life”? And if so, why are rushing through it, willing to minimize its importance? What is so appealing over there that you can’t justify taking the time to fully experience the right now?

“The only way to live is to accept each minute as an unrepeatable miracle, which is exactly what it is: a miracle and unrepeatable” [Storm Jameson].

Whatever you are, be a good one!


Read Full Post »

If it’s not fun, you’re not doing it right” [Bob Basso].

Why not inject a little fun into your day? Look for opportunities to turn the mundane, boring, or ordinary into a reason to laugh, share a giggle, and have a good time?

A while back, I worked in an office that had a kitchen area with a large Formica countertop. Even though we had purchased a cutting board, it was apparent that not everyone felt compelled to use it when slicing their bagels in the morning or their fruit at lunch. Long pale gashes marked the dark laminate. What to do?

We would have loved to install a hidden camera to catch the offenders, but, alas, our small budget barely covered the cost of a cutting board. There was no way we could justify an “eye in the sky.”

After some heated debate during our monthly staff meeting, and several options being discussed and tossed, we decided to post a sign to remind folks of their thoughtless, lazy, and damaging behavior. For whatever reason, I was elected to take lead on creating the sign. (Could it have been my keen wit that propelled me to project manager?) Regardless, here is the sign that appeared in the kitchen later that day:Be Responsible.

We made our point, without forcing the issue, creating ridiculous rules, or initiating a ton of unnecessary communication to announce the problem, outline the issue, detail the consequences, and threaten action.

We had some fun with the absurdity of employee behavior, and the countertop abuse stopped.

Problem solved.

I recently found another great example of someone having fun while creating a perfunctory document. The following text appears on a form employees sign when they are given keys to the office. It reads:

  • I will not loan the key(s) to anyone.
  • I will not use the key(s) as a toy.
  • I will not let my children or pets play with the key(s).
  • I will not lose the key(s).
  • I will not use the key(s) as a screwdriver, chisel, or lever.
  • I promise to guard the key(s) with my very life.

If I fall short on any of the above, the Company may lay claim to any of my children, pets, or prized possessions, (but only one from only one category).

Obviously, someone with a sense of humor took the time to craft a document that took a “by-the-book-legal-said-we-must-have-this-form-on-file” into something that was entertaining and humorous. Don’t you want to be associated with an organization that looks for ways to manufacture fun? I know I do! Why not make a commitment to create that kind of culture — at work and at home.

We’re all so busy with the deadlines and details and corporate dysfunction that organizations breed, we often convince ourselves that there is absolutely NO TIME FOR FUN. Are you serious? Don’t take your boring attitude to work one more day! Today’s the day to break open the can of good times you were saving for your birthday, or the weekend, or the next holiday, or whatever, and use it all up!

Isn’t it time you shared a funny story, turned boring into fun, and mundane into hysterical? Look for the humorous, play a practical joke, post a comic in the break room, mix some merriment into your day. “If you never did you should. These things are fun and fun is good” [Dr. Seuss].

Do you know what time it is? It’s time to put the fun back into dysfunctional [Mary Engelbreit].

Whatever you are, be a good one!


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »