Music Monday: Growing Leaders

Meet Aishol-pan. She is 13 years old. She’s strong. She’s brave. And, she’s a total natural. But, when the competition ends, the real test begins. It’s about the courage it takes to soar.

That’s a quote from the movie trailer for The Eagle Huntress. This gorgeously-photographed documentary film is about a young Kazakh girl from Mongolia who attempts to become the first female huntress to compete in the eagle festival in Ulgii, Mongolia, established in 1999. The men in her family have been eagle hunters for seven generations which has been the primary source of warm furs for clothing, meat for food, and other essentials from their sparse and frigid landscape. They have highly-developed ways of training eagles to hunt for fox and other game and release the kill on command. Aishol-pan wants to follow in their footsteps. But, she enters into this training against the long-held traditions of her nomadic community where generations of men have, until now, only handed down this skill and knowledge from father to son.

No doubt this is a story of a brave, determined young girl. But like the movie, The Miracle Worker, where the story is not really about Helen Keller but rather about her teacher, Anne Sullivan… this story is not really about Aishol-pan, at least not solely. It’s really about her father, Nurgaiv, who accepts Aishol-pan’s request to train her against the advice and approval of their community and who, in a short amount of time, must have her not only ready for the competition but more importantly for the test of implementing a successful hunt with her own eagle in the frozen and dangerous wilderness.

Nurgaiv believes in his daughter. He is her champion and her teacher. He gives her access to all his knowledge and resources. But, he does not do any of the work for her. From the moment they begin, her father insists that she must develop her own strength to hold the powerful bird. She must fumble through the learning to blindfold the bird’s face so that it learns to respond to only her voice. She must find the courage to scale down a sheer, rocky cliff into an eagle’s nest and select and capture the eaglet which she will raise and train to hunt by her command only. Her father is a leader and teacher who knows instinctively that the only chance Aishol-pan has to truly compete and thrive as a huntress will lie in his ability to guide her to her own potential and strength. In doing so, he reveals her own power and confidence and develops a leader who can think for herself and make her own choices, decisions, and mistakes.

This is the goal of all leadership… to develop people, ourselves included, who find their voice, access their courage, think for themselves, and step into their full potential. It’s the difference between managers and leaders. The purpose of management is not to show people what to do to get things done, which is important, of course. The purpose of leadership is to show people who they need to become in order to do those things on their own. It’s to show them how to be resourceful, creative, self-directed, resilient, and brave so that they can meet and solve the challenges that will come as we are attempting always to move from the status quo and into the future.

The inspirational speaker and brilliant leader, Nido Quebin, once defined leadership as “a process by which management creates an environment where people voluntarily align their efforts to accomplish a common objective.” Leaders know how to inspire their people to become better versions of themselves. They know how to create an environment where people voluntarily align their efforts toward a common goal. They operate, perform, and speak in a way that inspires their people to follow them and learn from them… and then make things even better. Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore some key concepts in becoming a better leader yourself, whatever your position in life or work, and how you can impact your co-workers, clients, and family members in powerful, positive ways.

But for now, consider this… Leadership is not about actions or transactions. It’s about growth and transformation. It’s not about what to do but about who to become. It’s not about doing things for people but about guiding and growing them. It’s not about a better status quo. It’s about a better future.

Click here to view movie trailer.

 Sia – Angel by the Wings
from the movie, The Eage Huntress

“Oh so, your wounds they show
I know you have never felt so alone
But hold on, head up, be strong
Oh hold on, hold on until you hear them come
Here they come, oh

Take an angel by the wings
Beg her now for anything
Beg her now for one more day
Take an angel by the wings
Time to tell her everything
Ask her for the strength to stay

You can, you can do anything, anything
You can do anything
You can, you can do anything, anything
You can do anything

Look up, call to the sky
Oh, look up and don’t ask why, oh

Just take an angel by the wings
Beg her now for anything
Beg her now for one more day
Take an angel by the wings
Time to tell her everything
Ask her for the strength to stay

You can, you can do anything, anything
You can do anything
You can, you can do anything, anything
You can do anything”

 

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Foundations of Leadership

If you walk around New York City, Chicago, or San Diego, it’s a given that you’re going to see a lot of tall buildings. But the only ones which qualify as skyscrapers must be at least 50 stories and over 330 feet tall. Otherwise, you’re just a “super tall” building.

The largest building on the planet today is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai which reaches 2,717 feet. The foundation for this architectural monster is over 200 feet deep. Because otherwise… well, it falls over.

When builders begin to build skyscrapers, or any building for that matter, they don’t build up first… they build down. They must first excavate tons of dirt, rocks, and debris to reach a solid enough place, often bedrock, to begin building the deep foundation that will support a structure that can safely reach for the sky.

The same is true of us. Before we can build companies and teams that reach for the sky, we must first build down to the bedrock foundations that can withstand the winds of change and storms of business. We must strengthen our core so that what the public and our clients see is solid and stable. We must develop and secure our own foundations.

It’s not always easy to do… all that digging. But, it’s worth it. It took the construction team over one year just to secure the foundation of the tallest building. It’s worth some time for all leaders to unearth what they stand for, what’s standing in their way, what their vision is for the future of their company, and what is their “why.” It’s all part of a story structure that, once told well to the people on your team, is repeatable and sustainable for them to communicate to your market and customers.

This week, do some digging. Make sure your team knows and can easily articulate your company’s story of why it started, what drives its efforts, what makes it unique, and what it dreams of accomplishing. Unearth the roadblocks that are in your way and uncover the resources you need to bulldoze through them.

At LionSpeak, we’re here if you need us… ready and willing to help you build a skyscraper of a business with a strong foundation that reaches the stars. Consider attending our Leaders of the Pride workshop in San Diego on March 1-2. We’ll give you $200 off if you register before January 31st. Just use discount code JAN200 at checkout.

And, don’t wait too long. Just like the Burj Khalifa, no one holds a record forever. In April 2013, construction began on a building in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, called the Jeddah Tower that will top out around 3,307 feet sometime around 2020. That’s nearly twice as tall as the One World Trade Center which was North America’s tallest skyscraper and almost 600 feet taller than the current world record.

Don’t let your competition pass you up with a stronger foundation capable of supporting a bigger dream. Do the dirty work first, and then sit back and enjoy the view.


“Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending.
You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.”

~~Saint Augustine

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Loving the Fight

One of the reasons that leaders, trainers, workshop leaders, and managers postpone the introduction of a business initiative or change of direction is their fear concerning the objections and negative reactions with which the proposed change will be met when presented. To be more precise, it’s not actually the reaction they worry about as much as their ability to successfully navigate and manage that reaction in a strong, positive way especially in front of their entire team.

Managing “pushback” as we’ve dubbed it here at LionSpeak is one of my most favorite things to do and to teach at our Train-The-Trainer, Train-the-Speaker, and Train-the-Leader workshops. And, you can learn to love it too.

Part of the reason we avoid pushback is because of the limiting belief most of us hold about conflict and disagreement. We’ve been taught in the past and we currently live in a world that promotes the idea that when people disagree or someone pushes back against your idea… it’s not going to go well. And in many cases, our experience has borne this out. Therefore, we hold the belief that there is only one way this will go… badly. Because of this, we either avoid it altogether or we’ve got our dukes up in anticipation before it even occurs. And when it does show up, we think, “I knew it. I knew this was going to stir things up and cause problems! Here we go…”

But what if it did go well most of the time for us? What if we had a way to navigate these conversations and experience success most of the time? That would change things for us, wouldn’t it?

I’m on the faculty of the Dental Business Institute which is a program run by Henry Schein Dental much like a dental MBA program. Last week, we kicked off a new class. I facilitated a session on vision, mission, and values and the subsequent leadership conversation that owners must have with a team once they have set the vision in place for the business. When we got to the part in the curriculum that addresses potential pushback from the team, I asked for a volunteer to play act like someone on their team who they felt would have a big issue with their newly defined vision so that I could demonstrate a system I teach for managing those conversations. One hand shot up immediately, and she bounced with anticipation in her seat. I had no choice but to call on her because she looked like she’d waited her whole life to ask this question!

Pretending to be her own team member, she said, “I understand that part of your vision, doctor, is that we will all upgrade our skills in certain areas and become a more cohesive team collectively. And, to do that you would expect us to attend educational events that require out-of-town travel and functions which we would do as a team, correct? Well, I don’t think that is fair, and I’m not giving up my personal time for this job. I work hard when I’m here, but I don’t want to work any more than I currently am and truthfully… I don’t mean to be mean about it… but I don’t really want to spend time with the people on my team outside of working hours. I have my own personal friends and don’t need to make any more at work. Work is work, and my personal life is my own.”

You could have heard a pin drop in the room with everyone collectively holding their breath and every head turning in unison as if on a unified swivel to look at me. Inside, I smiled. I felt almost giddy. I know this is not normal. But weird as it is, I believe we can all feel this way when we are looking hostility, conflict, and disagreement in the face. We just need a new frame, a new expected outcome, and a new skill.

I waited for a long moment before responding, smiled, and took a relaxed step forward toward her, pulling a chair along with me and sitting down nearer to her level. Leaning gently forward, I said, “Thank you for sharing that with me. It means a lot to me that you feel comfortable and safe enough to voice what’s on your mind and what is an important concern for you in relation to my vision. I appreciate the courage it takes to speak your truth.” I purposely put a period on that sentence. I paused again and then continued, “I also admire how clear you are about your personal boundaries and personal life vision. It makes it so much easier to determine if you are in or out of alignment with the vision I hold for my business.”

“I’m committed to my vision, and I 100% respect that it may not line up with what some of you want for your personal and/or professional lives. Now that my vision has changed a bit, and I’ve clarified it for myself and the team, for the first time many of you may have more clarity about whether you are a good fit or not for this team. I want each and every one of you to be on this team with me. I value you and the gifts and talents each of you bring to our work. I have given great thought to this vision and the fact that I will see it through to completion is a certainty and is non-negotiable. It is my right, my prerogative, and my responsibility as a business owner to design and implement my vision any way I want as the owner. I would never expect nor want you to compromise your personal standards or values for mine. I will completely understand if this new clarity causes you to rethink your employment here. I would be sad to see you go, but I would respect and admire your decision.”

A smile slowly crept across her face and then mine. I felt, if not heard, the group make an emotional shift and then collectively exhale. I turned to them and said, “Now you see why I love this stuff! I can’t help it. Every time it presents itself, it is an opportunity to practice and remind myself and others that we can honor someone’s position and still stand strong in our own. We can hold the vast majority of people who are reasonable up to the highest light, disagree with them, and leave them whole and empowered.”

We can’t change how others respond to conflict, but we can surely change our own reactions. Step in to this new world of dancing with disagreement. Watch how people blossom right before your eyes when you sincerely appreciate their point of view and truly honor their position and personal power as well as your own.

If you’d like to master this and other important skills, take advantage of some great promotions for our upcoming workshops for trainers, workshop leaders, speakers, leaders, and managers. We’re on a mission to change how the world teaches, inspires, and leads those with whom they work and live. We’d love to have you join us!


“Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it.  That factor is attitude.”
~William James 

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The Purple Pig

Every now and then, you see a piece of art that for some unknown reason, speaks to you. Once in a while, you meet a person that you just know will become a lifelong friend. And once in a blue moon, you have a meal that is unforgettable and a culinary experience that is so exceptional, you know you’ll be back.

Tom and I had that experience last month while visiting Chicago. Jimmy Bannos, Jr.’s restaurant, The Purple Pig, was recommended by a friend who had only heard about it but had not yet dined there. She warned us that she’d heard the restaurant was hard to get in so I went online ahead of time to make a reservation. Turns out they don’t even take them. You just have to wait your turn. But in doing my research, I watch a video interview with Jimmy about his restaurant and his food (link at bottom of this email)… and I was hooked like a fish.

The Purple Pig is a small place, with an unassuming entrance tucked down a weird little alley off the Magnificent Mile, with a bar overlooking the kitchen and communal tables. It was frigidly cold that evening with a bitter Chicago wind blowing off Lake Michigan. When we arrived, before we could even grasp the door handle, it was opened for us by a charming gentleman with a warm, friendly smile who welcomed us in. We were instantly assaulted by bone-warming heat, the collegiate sound of friendly conversation, and the delicious smells of roasting meats, stewing tomatoes and basil, and baking bread.

Our meal was literally mouth-watering. Our service was fabulous. The atmosphere was casual and friendly (a little tight quarters but when you put that JLT in your mouth (watch for it at the end of the video)… all is forgiven.)

And, most fun of all was watching Jimmy work his magic with food and people behind the bar and in and around the kitchen. This, I confess, wasn’t hard to do since he was voted one of the sexiest celebrity chefs by People Magazine (all in the name of good Stretch material, right?). I was even able to grab a moment of his time to thank him personally for the exceptional experience and chat with him about how he did it consistently night after night after night. “One word,” he said, “Love. I love what I do. And, you don’t do something you love halfway.”

There’s much from Jimmy that all of us in business today can learn about creating the extraordinary. Here’s what I took away from his video interview:

  • This is my passion, my driver, and sometimes my pain. This is what I was meant to do.
  • There were some doubters, but I love it when you tell me I can’t do it. That negativity… I channel it and put it into a positive flow.
  • Your energy is important. You can’t be feeling down.
  • We want to be the best we can possibly be so we have to keep evolving.
  • There is no “I can’t” in the vocabulary of The Purple Pig.
  • If you’re not a team player, you won’t even make it a month as line cook.
  • If you wouldn’t serve that to your mother or your grandmother and you don’t love it… you lose.
  • I’m very driven, sometimes obsessive. Some people say I’m crazy.
  • But, I’m having a lot of fun right now.
  • And, I hope it all works out.

Jimmy’s pretty clear: Passion. High Standards. Energy. Fun.

Seems like a perfect game plan for my business and yours.

Cheers to 2018!

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Everything is Energy

The only thing I like better than tasting excellent red wines at a quaint little boutique winery on a Saturday afternoon with good friends is having them poured for me and explained to me by the adorable, passionate, young Argentinean winemaker himself, Anthony Doffo. (https://www.doffowines.com/) Forever diligent and alert for Monday Morning Stretch material, Anthony reminded me of something that I firmly believe but often forget: Everything is energy.

The fermentation of his wines is a chemical energy exchange. The aging of the wines in the barrels or bottles is an energy process. The way in which he markets and speaks of his wines is a personal energy exchange. The growth of his vines in the vineyard is all about energy renewal and conversion. He even spoke of how he plays classical music via outdoor speakers for the vines, noting that (interestingly enough) the vines closest to the speakers were the healthiest, largest, and most prolific producers… Because everything is energy and it’s all about the exchange.

If you struggle with time management, project management, fiscal management, weight management or any other kind of management in your life, I suggest the one that makes all of them easier is “energy management.”

Energy management is about how good we are at maximizing the high-frequency energy available to all of us, all the time. Instead of trying to figure out how to get the impossibly long to-do list done, focus on doing the things, thinking the thoughts, listening to the music, reading the books, participating in the activities, and spending your time with people who actually increase your energy.

In 2010 when I first met Tom, many people commented on how much more alive, energetic, and youthful I seemed, and most chalked it up to being newly in love… and that may have certainly played a role. But, when they asked about any secrets I might be willing to share, this was my list. These are the things that still help me maintain and maximize high-frequency energy and vitality every day in my life… Eat, Pray, Love. Let me explain:

1. Eat: Fill your frig, pantry, car, desk, and plate with healthy, beautiful, delicious food from the “power foods” list:
https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2014/05/the-top-17-foods-for-heart-health-infographic/
http://smallbiztrends.com/2009/10/power-foods-boost-business.html
Celebrate your ability to enjoy a big glass of clean water upon rising, at every meal, and before and after exercising.

2. Pray: Meditate or pray for a few minutes upon rising and as you lay down to sleep at night. Be sure to count your many blessings and give thanks. Remind yourself that everything is working out just as it should … even if you can’t quite see it… and let it go. Remember that how you feel is your point of attraction so those that feel abundant tend to be “luckier” in life.

3. Love: Kiss and hug someone, looking them square in the eyes and being totally present when you do it. You’ve got to give love to get it. Simple as that.

Simple: Eat, Pray, Love. (Corny, I know…) Here’s the rest of the story:

4. Sleep: 8-9 hours of good sleep. Embrace that you’ll never get it all done… that’s not really the point anyway. The same to-do list will be there tomorrow. Let it go. Reset your counters. Rest and refill your bucket.

5. Exercise or be active for at least 20 minutes every day (usually an hour +). Take the stairs. Park at the far side of the parking lot. Try a new activity or sport.

6. Sunshine: Sit or walk in the sunshine for a few minutes. (Walk your dog. Work on your laptop in a sunny room or out by the pool. Roll the window down in the car.)

7. Avoid Toxic People: Limit your exposure to fearful, fretful, hateful people… and for the ones you can’t avoid: send them love, peace, forgiveness and gratitude that you are in different space. Surround yourself with loving, generous, passionate, smiling people.

8. Do What You Love: Constantly question your motivation for doing everything: is it because YOU want, love, or are drawn to do it or is it because you think someone else wants you to, it’s what’s expected or necessary, that’s the way it’s always been done, or you don’t have any other options (rarely true!) I use the “lightness” test: If it feels heavy to me emotionally or intuitively… I generally say “no.”

9. Filter Information: Fill your mind with books, articles, and information that inspire you, uplift you, soothe you, or just flat out make you belly-laugh! If it doesn’t, get rid of it. I haven’t watched the news in almost a year and haven’t missed a thing. I still hear what’s going on and feel lighter and happier than any other time in my life. I believe it was an addiction that has now been replaced with higher-frequency material which gives me so much more energy to manage! Again, use the test: Do you think others expect you to know what’s going on in the world or does knowing it actually inspire you, interest you, and make you feel more energetic? Lighter or heavier? Inspired or depressed? How you feel is your point of attraction… so guard it with all your might!

10. Sing: Listen to music and sing out loud. Research shows that people who whistle, hum, dance, or sing out loud tend to be happier and have more energy overall. Doesn’t matter if they do it well. It only matters that they do it regularly.


“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.
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Music Monday: Fear is a Liar

If you measured your life out on a yardstick, how much is left? I’ve done it and it’s quite sobering.

Today is New Year’s Day. The first day of 2018. The first day of what remains of your life.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.” Fear is the one thing most likely to stop all of us from creating the personal and professional lives of which we dream.

We all have stories that swirl around in our heads about who we are, what limits us, and what we can and can’t accomplish. We’ve all got memories of moments of shame, incompetence, and bad decisions that formed insecurities which weigh us down and hold us back.

I have dreams of places yet to travel, experiences yet to enjoy, and work yet to be accomplished. You do too. And to finally make this the year that some of them get done, I’ll have to slay some internal dragons of fear. You will too.

But, to slay them we must see them. And, to see them we must look for them… often in some dark places. Ewww. Sorry, but, that’s it. That’s what’s called for. Because the alternative is to let fear continue to grow to unnatural proportions and cause us to believe stories about ourselves that are simply no longer true, if they ever were in the first place. Fear paralyzes us and robs us of action and movement in the direction of our dreams.

Fear does that. It gets inside us and convinces us that we can’t make good decisions or survive and learn, even if we do. But, as loud and insistent as fear is … it’s a liar. Anthony Robbins once said, “We are not defined by our past, unless we live there.” Our past does not equal our future. Our past does not predict our future, nor does what others think or say about us.

We must have the courage to bring those old voices of fear out into the light of this new day. The ones that said you’re not good enough or strong enough, not worthy or smart or right. We must look at them squarely and see them for what they are … someone else’s story or a previous version of who we are. When we do this, it’s almost guaranteed that they will shrink in the light of day and lose much of their power.

On this first Music Monday of 2018, I chose Zach William’s Fear is a Liar because these lyrics are so good and so true. Fear does rob our rest, stop us in our steps, and rob our happiness. These wise words are so perfect for what many of us must do now. Slay the internal dragons of fear and get on with the rest of what that short piece of the yardstick represents… the next and best part of our lives.

 Zach Williams – Fear is a Liar

“When he told you you’re not good enough
When he told you you’re not right
When he told you you’re not strong enough
To put up a good fight
When he told you you’re not worthy
When he told you you’re not loved
When he told you you’re not beautiful
That you’ll never be enough

Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
‘Cause fear he is a liar

When he told you were troubled
You’ll forever be alone
When he told you you should run away
You’ll never find a home
When he told you you were dirty
And you should be ashamed
When he told you you could be the one
That grace could never change

Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
‘Cause fear he is a liar
Let Your fire fall and cast out all my fears
Let Your fire fall Your love is all I feel

Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
‘Cause fear is a liar”

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Day After Christmas

My sincere hope is that not one of you is actually reading this on Christmas day but maybe a few will see it on the day after Christmas or in the days that follow. Which brings me to the most perfect message and song for today… Day After Christmas by Matthew West.

And I’ll keep my message short and sweet this week because these lyrics say it all:

“So, take down the stockings, take back the sweaters
Take down the lights and the star and the tree
But don’t let this world take your joy after Christmas
Take joy to the world and just sing
Happy day after Christmas
And merry rest of the year
Even when Christmas is over
The light of the world is still here”

Take your joy to the world and be the light this year in the lives you’re bound to touch: Clients, patients, co-workers, employees, coaches, teachers, vendors, friends, strangers. Give them hope, give them cheer, meet their pessimism with optimism, and live your life as an example of grace, acceptance, and joy.

Happy Day after Christmas and Merry Rest of the Year!

Matthew West: Day After Christmas

“Here comes the letdown, Christmas is over
Here comes the meltdown, there goes the cheer
But before we have a breakdown, let us remember
The light of the world is still here
Happy day after Christmas
And merry rest of the year
Even when Christmas is over
The light of the world is still here
The light of the world
Come January I’m ready for summer
The Super Bowl’s over and I’ll settle for spring
Sometimes we all need a change in the weather
But it won’t change the reason we sing
Happy day after Christmas
And merry rest of the year
Even when Christmas is over
The light of the world is still here
The light of the world
The light of the world
The light of the world
So take down the stockings, take back the sweaters
Take down the lights and the star and the tree
But don’t let this world take your joy after Christmas
Take joy to the world and just sing
Happy day after Christmas
And merry rest of the year
Even when Christmas is over
The light of the world is still here”

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Christmas Keepers

“They’d be a whole lot better if I had the money to buy what everyone really wanted this year.”

That was the response to my question, “Are you enjoying the holidays?” posed to a colleague last week.

What does everyone really want? If you’re a kid, of course, you want toys. And, you want to feel special, loved, and cherished, just like the grown-up versions do.

For the most part, I don’t recall the holiday gifts my boys gave to me over the years. I think there was a coffee pot that automatically ground coffee beans in there somewhere and probably a bathrobe, or two, or three. I vaguely remember some bubble bath sets. But, there were two I will never forget.

One was given to me by my oldest, Hunter, when he was about 7 years old. It was wrapped in paper he’d decorated at school himself and inside was a letter, rolled up and tied with a bow. The letter, written in his own hand, told me all the reasons he was glad that I was the mother that God had chosen for him. Doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

The second was a similar gift from my youngest, Austin, when he was 13 years old. He had saved his money and bought me a heart-shaped necklace which I still have and love to this day. But, what I recall most about that gift was that it was wrapped in tissue paper and tucked inside a card where he had written all the things he appreciated that I do routinely for him throughout the year. In the card he requested that every time I wore the necklace, I would remember that he did notice and that he would remember.

I read about a family whose tradition it was to write notes of love and appreciation to each other, decorate them, and hide them in their Christmas tree to be read by loved ones on Christmas Eve. I bet, years later, those gifts were not forgotten.

know a couple who take their children down to Mexico each year to the same orphanage where they spend a day distributing blankets, clothing, and simple toys and play games with the kids. Their own tradition is to take turns leading and singing Christmas carols all the way down in the car. I suspect they won’t be forgetting those gifts either.

What does everyone really want? Connection, love, appreciation, joy. Over time, they’ll forget the store-bought gifts…. And they’ll forever remember the heart-bought ones.

May the holidays bring you unexpected and unbridled joy… and may you give it in abundance in return.


“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
~Thornton Wilder

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There’s No Such Thing as a Bad One

I’m a bad leader. I’m a bad speaker. I’m a bad communicator. I’m bad at resolving conflict. I have a bad memory. I hear these kinds of statements all the time in my line of work.

They’ve got it all wrong. There’s no such thing as a bad leader or a bad speaker or a bad communicator… only an untrained one.

These are simply stories we tell ourselves, and sometimes they are excuses to not have to do the work required to get better and learn the skill once and for all. If someone is willing to put in the work, sacrifice the time, invest the money, and make some mistakes in order to grow… they can learn these skills. We must simply be willing to step out of one thing and firmly into another.

We must step out of the personal identities that we become weirdly attached to in defining who we are and what we can do. Think about something in which you would describe yourself in a negative way. I’ve always been bad at math. I’m not a good driver. I’ve never been able to remember names. Whatever it is, it only makes sense that it won’t stand a chance of actual improvement unless you’d be willing to never describe yourself that way ever again. Sounds like a no-brainer, but I’ve met many people (including myself) who have worn a label for so long and proclaimed it so many times to the world that they almost don’t know who they are without it. When we take on a new way of viewing and describing ourselves, we begin to naturally seek out the resources to make the necessary changes. But we’ll be less inclined to let go of who we say we are if there is nothing to fill the void when we do.

Once we’re willing to redefine ourselves, the resources are abundant. Coaches, seminars, books, programs, information, successful colleagues, and guides abound to help light the often simple steps necessary to master almost any new skill. If you want to speak more comfortably and effectively, you can. If you want to be a better leader, you can be. If you want to embrace conflict as the gift it is and be known as someone who fosters cooperation, collaboration, and compromise, you can learn to do it. But you must first stop with the story. Stop saying you’re not good at it. Just get to the work of learning and growing the skills you need to be better. Exchange the pleasure of the attention you received from the negative picture you paint for everyone with the pleasure of actually enjoying the benefits of improvement and eventual mastery if that is what you seek.

There’s no such thing as a bad anything, just a person who is secretly enjoying the attention of not being good at it or one who is yet untrained. That’s it.

There are only two options: Make progress or make excuses. It’s really that simple.


“Every excuse I ever heard made perfect sense to the person who made it.”
~~Dr. Daniel T. Drubin

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Music Monday: The Song Within the Silence

Sometimes, when I take a walk with my dog, Sierra, I can tell that she stops to listen to sounds when I hear only silence.

Occasionally, at a crowded, noisy event in the midst of competing stories, laughter, voices, serving dishes, and music, I can hear my own internal voice saying something kind, admonishing, or even sarcastic (and I’m often exceptionally glad that it doesn’t actually find its way out of my mouth).

Once, I swear I heard my mother’s voice, momentary and soft as if it simply brushed right by my ear.  It made me turn and took my breath away for a long moment.

There often is a “song within the silence” and “beauty when there’s nothing there.”  These two favorite lines taken from this week’s featured song, December Prayer, written and performed by the incomparable Idina Menzel, reminds us that in a season fraught with noise and motion… it’s always good to stop even momentarily and listen and just be.

One of the new traditions Tom has brought to me in the last eight years has been a quiet night at home watching White Christmas together.  It’s his all-time favorite Christmas movie and much to his dismay, I had never seen it.  He admittedly had a boyhood crush on Vera-Ellen with her tiny waist, long legs, and cute turned-up nose.  But, he loves the story and knows all the words to all the songs.

What I love most about it is not so much the movie itself but what it has come to represent.  Tom insists that on the night before our guests arrive or we head off to visit them, we have some quiet holiday time for ourselves… no matter what has yet to be accomplished or crossed off the holiday list.  We make a simple dinner and exchange our own gifts.  Then, with only the lights of the tree and a fire in the fireplace, we snuggle up with a warm drink to watch White Christmas.  That tradition of carving out some simple and quiet time has become one of my favorite things to look forward to during the holidays.

There is music in the silence and beauty when there’s nothing there.  As we kick off the month of December and the busy holiday season, I hope you’ll carve out some quiet time for yourself.  Look for ways to simplify.  Look for ways to listen.  Look for ways to simply feel some joy.

Idina Menzel – December Prayer

“In the touch of a friend, in the breath of a child,
In the eyes of a soldier coming home to his mother’s grateful smile,
In the sight of falling snow, and the memories it brings,
In the season when you find some peace, in the simple tender things,
Open your heart and look around, listen, listen
 
Hear the song within the silence,
See the beauty when there’s nothing there,
Sing a song within a silence that hope and love are everywhere,
And when the quiet night is falling watch an angel dancing in the air
To the song, the song within the silence, a December Prayer,
A December Prayer.
 
In the strength of your hand as it holds unto mine,
And the promise that we’re not alone in this place and time,
In the gifts that you give I am humbled and amazed
Far beyond this day and time of year
We are in a state of grace.
Open your heart and look around, listen, listen
 
Hear the song within the silence,
See the beauty when there’s nothing there,
Sing a song within a silence that hope and love are everywhere,
And when the quiet night is falling watch an angel dancing in the air
To the song, the song within the silence a December Prayer,
A December Prayer
Listen, listen
 

Hear the song within the silence,
See the beauty when there’s nothing there,
Sing a song within a silence that hope and love are everywhere,
And when the quiet night is falling watch an angel dancing in the air

To the song, the song within the silence a December Prayer,
A December Prayer”
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