The Radical Request I Made of My Daughter

Posted by on Aug 4, 2013 in Business, Education, Relationships | 1 comment

I clicked on the link of Susan Werner’s YouTube video, “Hazy Winter,” and went back to cooking my fish. I listened to the piano introduction, intrigued when the deep voice of a cello entered and the tempo changed. “Time, time, time,” Susan began to sing. I put down the spatula to take a closer look at the screen. This was Susan Werner? How had I never heard this woman’s voice before? If her voice were a food, it would be chocolate mousse. Sweet, rich, firm, decadent. I emailed my response to the invitation I received. “Yes, yes, yes,” I typed. “I look forward to going to this concert with you! Grateful that it is only a few weeks away!” I looked at my daughter. An hour ago, I had shared an offer someone had made for her benefit and growth. She had shaken her head and politely told me no before knowing any of the details. “Sweets, I want to make a radical request of you. Are you up for that?” “Uh, sure, I guess,” she said, with a half-smile that let me know it was okay to continue. “Here’s the deal. I don’t mind, when you are talking with me, if you answer, “No way!” before you know what I’m talking about. Okay, maybe I mind a little, but it’s okay. I know your body has a finely tuned, really sensitive alarm system. It works overtime to keep you safe. When you say, “No way!” before you know much about a situation, I know it’s your brain and body working really hard to keep you safe. My radical request isn’t about that. “My radical request is about when you leave these four walls, or the comfort of our car, and are hanging out with people who are not your dad or me. When you are in those situations and you are presented with new information that makes your brain say, ‘NO WAY!’ I would like to request that what actually comes out of your mouth is, ‘Hmmm….let me think about that.'” She was still in the conversation, taking in everything. “You know that song I just played? When I first received the invitation to go hear that woman sing in a few weeks, my own safety system sent up several versions of ‘No way’: ‘The tickets are expensive; I’ve never heard of this woman before; I don’t know if I’m free that night; Do I know and like the other people who are going?’ Yet, because I know how my alarm system works, I just answered, ‘Let me check my schedule and think about that.’ “Now that I’ve heard the YouTube clip, my whole perspective has changed. The...

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Where’s Your Oxygen Mask?

Posted by on Jul 28, 2013 in Business, Relationships | 0 comments

Most parents have heard the advice given on airplanes before each flight. “In the event of an emergency, please secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” While the instructions may counter our natural instincts, the logic is sound; if you pass out, you won’t be of much use to the person sitting next to you. This is particularly sound advice for those of us who work closely with others as part of our business model as well. Our ability to lead, facilitate, and listen directly correlates with how centered and grounded we are for each interaction within each relationship. The people with whom we work feel the difference when we are centered versus overextended. When our own energy wains, our efficacy in helping another person see clearly through a situation may be compromised. Taking a break–an hour, a day, or a week–is one part of our work. While it may feel counterintuitive to step away from work when the pace and intensity is increasing, the choice we make to hit the ‘pause’ button can make the difference in the degree to which we are able to assist the people around us. Scheduling breaks and honoring them also sends an important message to the people around us. Through our actions, we communicate our commitment to both ourselves and others. Would you rather work with someone who is constantly stressed, overworked, and overwhelmed or with someone who is happy, rested, and productive? Knowing how to reach for our own oxygen mask assures others that we are well enough to assist them if and when they need our help. Where do you go for a bit of oxygen? I find small breaths in my morning meditation and through swimming, biking, and running. For a deep breath, I head for the beach. Even a couple of hours of listening to the ocean waves restores my perspective, clears my mind, and restores me to center. Before big events, I listen to music, and I sing–literally moving the air in and out of my body. Knowing where your oxygen mask is stored is the first step. Choosing to put it on–even when it goes against your instincts–can make the difference in how able you are to assist the ones you want most to...

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Take Time to Celebrate

Posted by on Jul 14, 2013 in Business, Education, Relationships | 0 comments

One of my clients experienced a notable milestone this week. Weeks of hard work and intentional preparation culminated in a successful event that unfolded nearly exactly like his envisioned ‘optimal’ outcome. During a quick check-in call after the event, he identified for me the many pieces of both the process and the outcome that had gone well. Then he shared that he was not sure yet where to focus next. “Take a moment to celebrate,” I offered. “Stand in the place you are and capture everything there is to notice about this moment. Write down what went well and what you want to change for next time. Bring as much intention to your process of celebration and reflection as you did to your preparation.” This client is up to big things in the world. His recent event was an entry point to the greater goals he has and larger contributions he will likely make on his path. By capturing the clarity he has at this moment in time, he creates a reference point to review when he prepares for another event in a month or a year from now. The next time you reach a milestone, consider savoring and celebrating the moment with the same level of intentionality you invested in preparation. Before looking to see what is next, honor the value of celebration as an act of completion. Allow yourself time to reflect and record all that comes through. In taking the time to complete through celebration, you effectively clear space to allow the next new adventure to emerge with clarity and alignment. Enjoy!  ...

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Can You Take a Compliment?

Posted by on Jun 30, 2013 in Relationships, Writing and Speaking | 0 comments

For much of my life, I wrote for myself. I journaled extensively, wrote poems occasionally, and tried my hand at short stories and essays as well. Then I tucked them away in a safe place like the back of my closet or in the file cabinet under ‘work in progress.’ When I began sharing my writing, people I knew and loved complimented me on both content and style and were affirming. They spoke freely about what they liked. I, however, had a hard time hearing it. Outwardly, I smiled and thanked them for their kind words. Sometimes, I even let what they said soak in a little. Yet, within an hour or two, I would still discount them in my mind. “She just said that because she likes me,” I would tell myself. “He doesn’t know much about writing; if he did, he wouldn’t like mine!” In the absence of confidence and in the presence of intense vulnerability, I could not take a compliment. I was aware of my own challenges in this area. I would note how long it took, upon hearing a compliment, before my brain would reject it, resist it, or downplay it. One thing I completely missed, though, was the impact I had on others when I did this. Years ago, while I was in graduate school training to become a teacher, my mentor teacher remarked on the glowing evaluation the director of the program gave me after observing the lesson I led with a group of students. With youthful arrogance and naiveté, I spoke freely to my mentor teacher. “She just likes me,” I said. “I could have delivered a horrible lesson, and she still would have been complimentary.” I was fortunate. My mentor teacher embodied a powerful blend of compassion and firmness, and taught me lessons that were never covered in our graduate classes. She reminded me of the professionalism, experience, and objectivity of the person who had just evaluated me. She helped me see how far I had overstepped with the comment I had made and how, in my inability to take a compliment, I had actually disrespected and undermined the director of the program and all that was involved in evaluating me. Many more years passed before I understood that, even when we politely accept a compliment, smiling and nodding on the outside, we commit the same offense if we internally discount it. When we dismiss what another person has said to us, we are effectively rendering their opinion invalid. We are not hearing or seeing who they are, and we are rejecting the gift that they offer to us. Rather than acknowledging the vulnerability they have walked through to express...

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Father’s Day Poem

Posted by on Jun 16, 2013 in Relationships, Writing and Speaking | 0 comments

The school my daughters attend has a beautiful graduation tradition. Teachers stand at the lectern, one at a time, and read a poem to each graduate. The poem begins and ends with the graduate’s name, and contains snippets and memories that encapsulate the experience the faculty have had of that student through his or her years attending the school. This artistic acknowledgement is a vehicle for teachers to share with the community the growth and uniqueness of each graduate. The students listen and soak in the experience of being seen and celebrated. Holidays and birthdays are often when we think most about creating gifts that acknowledge and celebrate loved ones. A few words delivered from the heart, though, can make a powerful impression any day of the year. In my recent article, Y Smile, I talked about what this can feel and look like when we deliver a spoken acknowledgment to someone. Today’s post, in honor of Father’s Day, is an acknowledgement in the form the teachers at my daughters’ school use at graduation. If you choose to write one of these for someone special in your life, consider reading it out loud to them when you present it. The cadence, tone, and emotion in your voice will be an additional gift to the one who receives your acknowledgement. Dad. One long step for every three of my tiny ones. I stood on a chair to see what our kitchen looked like from your 6’2″ perspective. Racing me around the perimeter of the house, assuring me that, yes, you ran your fastest when I won. Hundreds of games of checkers, never letting me win until the day I finally did. Mix tapes you made for me that soothed me to sleep many angsty nights. Transporting the cat and cleaning up the aftermath. Teaching me to drive the truck, a stick, and parking on hills two days before the test. Late-night car repairs in the freezing cold, under the lamp of the mall parking lot. Always coming when I called. Wednesday night pizza and flute lessons for years and years and years. Leaving the decision in my fourteen-year-old hands to decide to fly or stay home, knowing there are no guarantees in life, only choices. Two quotes, spoken at different times, that lasted a lifetime: “That’s one thing I admire about you, Sarah. You never take the easy way out,” and “I trust you.” Our journey to Maryland in a fully loaded van, leaving at 3:02 a.m. Journey to Baltimore, building a shower, more car repairs. Always coming when I called. Holding our newborn babies in your white-suited arms. Gifting your granddaughters tool boxes with real tools. Walking and talking...

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Being Radically Responsible

Posted by on May 26, 2013 in Business, Relationships | 0 comments

“I’m not connecting well with this person,” I said to a friend. “I need to get a handle on it because I can tell it is affecting how I show up and interact during meetings and in casual interactions. I am opting for less and less contact and, while I am not being rude, I am also not being particularly friendly.” My friend listened for a while, allowing me the space to sort out what was at the root of the issue, and then spoke. “You have to talk with this person. You know that, right?” Not the answer I wanted to hear. Yes, of course, I knew that. I train other people in situations like this. I am also human and sometimes do find myself wanting to just be ‘right’ rather than ‘responsible.’ I sighed. “Yes, I know that. I’m still resisting it though. If I stop making this about how the other person is showing up, I will have to be responsible for doing the work that is mine to do!” My friend laughed. “Yup. That’s how it works.” I laughed too. After hearing myself speak all this out loud and working through the situation with someone equally trained in effective communication, I began shifting from resistant to responsible. I take time to do pre-work before I reach out. What stories am I telling myself about this person? In what ways am I blaming the other person for what is not working in our relationship? If I were to tell the whole truth about this process, I would say the pre-work is the ‘not-so-pretty’ part. It is not easy to look at all the ways that 1) I have been finding fault in someone else and 2) I have been defending, justifying, explaining my own actions. Taking a look at all of this is uncomfortable, albeit necessary. Being responsible means being brave enough to speak with authenticity and not defend or protect oneself in the process. Being responsible means being ready to listen and receive information without taking it personally or adding new meaning to what is being said. Being responsible calls us to set aside the instinct to say, “I don’t even know what is wrong here; I’m just confused and don’t like what I’m feeling!” Instead, we do our own work until we say, “Ah, I do know what is wrong here and here’s my part in it.” Being responsible means reaching out with a sincere openness and willingness to connect and create, free of expectation or agenda. What we can experience when we are willing to take this leap is tremendous, but it does require courage. Like a skydiver packing a parachute, I do...

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