Music Monday: Coming Clean

One of LionSpeak’s most popular presentations right now is called Courageous Conversations which trains professionals on the leadership skill of having crucial conversations. But, sometimes the most crucial conversations you’ll ever need to have are with a family member or friend. Fortunately, the skill set is the same. For me, mastering this skill was hard won.

On July 20th, my youngest son, Austin, turned 29 years old… which means of course, that one year from now all my children will be over 30! (How the blazes that happened, I’ll never know.) Every parent’s journey with each of their children is different. Every child’s journey with each of their parents is different. Both experiences can’t help but form the person, teaching lessons good and bad, that become some of the most important in our lives. My relationship with Austin has been no exception.

Eight years ago, circumstances forced me to have one of the most important conversations of my life with Austin and because there was so much on the line for him and me… I reached out for coaching to prepare. It was one of my very best decisions.

This particular Monday Morning Stretch is about that conversation and is one I’ve wanted to write for some time. I prayed someday I would be able to write it. To publish it, I had to be patient and certain. The timing had to be just right for me and, more importantly, for Austin. After much conversation and double/triple-checking back and forth between us, I share this story… our story… with Austin’s full permission, encouragement, and unwavering support. To do so, required honesty, vulnerability, and transparency from both of us. We share it in the hopes that our journey will support and uplift some of you or someone you know.

In school, Austin was a great student and an elite athlete. A class leader and competitive motocross racer, he was considered an Amateur Pro (which allowed him to be paid) by the time he was seventeen. But motocross is a dangerous sport and, not unlike many athletes, there is always the possibility of an injury. Sometimes, they can be severe. His was.

After a very bad accident on the racetrack and long hospital stay, Austin was eventually released with a good prognosis, lots of stitches, casts on the all the broken bones, a bruised liver and spleen, and pages of homecare instructions to assist in the long road to recovery. He had a bag full of bandages, salves and creams, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and …. prescription pain medications.

Released to recuperate under the steady care of his parents, we were loving, supportive, and unfortunately … massively ignorant about the enormous dangers lying dormant within the large bottle of opioids we found within the bag. We received no cautionary information other than the paper insert that accompanies every drug bottle with microscopic fine print which we tossed in the trash without bothering to read. I mean, we had the doctor’s instructions after all, right?

We gave him all of the medications according to those instructions. Little did we know that the innocuous-looking little white pills that we were giving him would radically change his life, and ours, forever. The medication that made him feel so much better at the time would be the catalyst for an addiction that would quickly transform this terrific young man with a very bright future into someone we wouldn’t even recognize and would be the beginning of seven long years of a living hell.

I didn’t know a lot about drugs, addiction, or the opioid epidemic in our society back then. But, I do now. More than I ever wanted to know. Turns out that pain pills not only take away physical pain but also emotional and physiological pain as well. And, what teenager doesn’t have a healthy dose of that? Austin found himself behind his competitors now in the race standings. School work was piling up. Girlfriend issues. Arguments with his parents or his brother. And a simple little pill made it all seem better.

When the pills ran out, he found old ones in my medicine cabinet. When those were gone he found them “on the street.” He had a bank account with race earnings and his own money. By the time his money was gone, his previously-blind parents had begun to open their eyes to the fact that something was seriously wrong. He had started to pilfer the money he needed to support his growing habit from family members, friends, and even strangers when he could. He learned quickly how to heat the drugs and inhale the fumes for a quicker, better high. And, eventually, when he could no longer find a way to afford the expensive pill form of the opioids, like so many thousands of users… he turned to the one thing that he swore would be his line in the sand… shooting cheap heroine intravenously. In the blink of an eye, a cruel, relentless, undiscriminating monster had firmly taken up residence within the body and mind of my beautiful, talented, amazing son and there was nothing anyone including his parents could do about it.

It would be seven long, hard years in and out of rehabs, interventions, hospitals, jail cells, relapses, car accidents, courtrooms, specialists, and sober living facilities before he would finally claw his own way out of the nightmare and get and stay clean for any measurable length of time. I’m relieved, grateful, and proud to say that he has been clean and healthy for almost two years.

As he heads towards his third year of sobriety and recovery, we know that in this precarious world of addiction, this is far from any kind of a guarantee. But, it is a current victory that seemed virtually impossible for hundreds of sleepless nights.  And so, here we are. In this fragile state of reclaiming a life almost lost to overdoses, blood-borne diseases, and legal problems, we talk a lot these days about what made the difference for him? What was the turning point?

Austin would tell you that, for him, two things made the difference: 1) a crucial “tough love” conversation I had with him years ago and 2) the realization that he had something to live for, to fight for, to run toward versus something to run from. Over the next two Stretches, with Austin’s guidance and permission, we are going to explore both of these and discover how they can be useful in turning around the most hopeless circumstances or challenging positions in life.

For today though, my message is simple. In ours, as in any relationship, there were two parties with different outcomes at stake but with one shared hope for the future. Austin had to do the hard work of recovery, find his own reasons to fight this fight, and make a personal decision to claim his life. To come out of the dark, there had to be a hope in front of him.

The same was true for me. I had to do the hard work of parenting, find my own reasons to fight this fight, and make a personal decision to not lose my own life trying to save his. To come out of the darkness, there had to be a hope in front of me.

It’s time to come clean. Its healing to take the ghosts out of the closet and watch them lose their power over you. It’s cathartic to help others find their way by sharing what has worked and to watch hope spring up in their tired eyes. Austin inspires me with the strength of his will, honesty, and determination to make a difference with his life. He wonders if he has been spared for a purpose. I have no doubt about that at all.

Austin and I both feel that it’s time to come out of the shadows and into the light with a message of hope and optimism. On this Music Monday (always the first Monday of the month), I chose Hope in Front of Me by Danny Gokey. The lyrics capture the message we both wish to send to you today: No matter what you’ve done, where you’ve been, where you are, what you’ve seen, or what you’ve experienced… there’s hope in front you. As a young man and as a parent, we are living proof that miracles can happen, hard work will pay off, and there’s always a reason to hope and work hard for a better future.

The time feels right for us to spread not only this message, but also some actual skills sets for facing challenging times for yourself or someone you love. Austin and I are developing a program to offer perspectives and tools from both the addict’s and the parent’s viewpoint in the hope that we can inspire, empower, and give courage and hope to those who are struggling with this and other overwhelming challenges. We also hope to be an advocate for dental and medical professionals to recognize and assist patients with addiction issues and to improve their preventive educational conversations when prescribing these dangerous medications. If you are part of an organization that might be interested in our program, as an inspirational keynote, breakout, or interview, please contact us at info@LionSpeak.net and we’ll add you to our list to receive more detailed information when it’s available.

You can listen to a preview here in an interview I did last year about our experience:  Click Here (the actual interview starts about one minute in… )

There is a passage from the book, The Water Giver, that reads, “Parenthood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you’d have. It’s about understanding your child is exactly the person they are supposed to be. And, if you’re lucky, they might be the teacher who turns you in to the person you’re supposed to be.”

More profound words have never been written for me as a parent. Austin, and everything we’ve been through, has been a gift and over time is turning us both into the people we are supposed to be.

Danny Gokey – Hope in Front of Me

“I’ve been running through rain
That I thought would never end
Trying to make it on faith
In a struggle against the wind
I’ve seen the dark and the broken places
But I know in my soul
No matter how bad it gets
I’ll be alright
There’s hope in front of me
There’s a light, I still see it
There’s a hand still holding me
Even when I don’t believe it
I might be down but I’m not dead
There’s better days still up ahead
Even after all I’ve seen
There’s hope in front of me
There’s a place at the end of the storm
You finally find
Where the hurt and the tears and the pain
All fall behind
You open up your eyes and up ahead
There’s a big sun shining
Right then and there you realize
You’ll be alright
There’s hope in front of me
There’s a light, I still see it
There’s a hand still holding me
Even when I don’t believe it
I might be down but I’m not dead
There’s better days still up ahead
Even after all I’ve seen
There’s hope in front of me
There’s a hope still burning
I can feel it rising through the night
And my world’s still turning
I can feel your love here by my side
You’re my hope
You’re the light, I still see it
Your hands are holding me
Even when I don’t believe it
I’ve got to believe
I still have hope
You are my hope”

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Through Another Man’s Eyes

 

It has become a tradition during the weeks we spend at Tom’s summer cabin in the Sierras each year to attend the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival.  They host a Shakespearean comedy every July in a gorgeous venue under the trees and the stars on one of the beaches of Lake Tahoe. On the docket this year was As You Like It from which comes the famous line: “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.” But one of my favorites is “Oh! how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man’s eyes.

This year we had one of Tom’s college buddies visiting and were excited to share our theatrical tradition with her. The next morning at breakfast, we talked about the play and our delightful evening and caught up on the news of our lives. Finding herself in the midst of a major life transition, we talked about how we both believed that we operate within a “current story” which is no more than our singular perspective and only “one truth” … not necessary “the truth.” We agreed that we often speak into existence a future reality which generally matches the story we currently believe to be true and, more importantly, speak about with certainty. Yes, we definitely both agreed.

And then… in almost the next breath, we both showed evidence that one can understand and agree with this concept and not be skilled at all at applying it with consistency.

Lisa asked me how my business was doing and if I was still loving my work. I replied that things were certainly going well, and I did still very much love my work. I told her however that the Fall season this year was going to be a challenging travel schedule, and I had a lot of events coming up for which there was much preparation to be done. I commented that I sometimes wished to find a way, like she had done, to do all my work from home.

Immediately she noticed how my shoulders had tensed, my posture had changed, along with my facial expressions and tone, all of which revealed my “story” about the future: My Fall schedule will be hard and the preparations tedious. And I envied the supposed happiness of someone else’s work and life.
I smiled when she gently pointed it out.

She then proceeded to talk about the idea of moving to San Diego to be closer to her beloved grandmother who is in her nineties and spoke about how she knew, after already losing her mother a few years ago, that losing her grandmother would be devastating and awful. She lamented that she wasn’t as strong or positive a woman as me in handling the inevitable changes that life throws your way. And then, she heard herself. Same trap, different deal.

It was funny to both of us how easy it sounds to conjure and speak about the story that could be and the one you really want rather than the one you dread and how much discipline and commitment it takes to really catch yourself in the moment and be purposeful with your words.

However, this doesn’t mean we have to lie to ourselves. I believe it does not serve us to make something up that isn’t true but rather to speak what is or could be true in the most optimistic way we can. For example, it would not serve Lisa to say, “I know that losing my Grandmother will be a piece of cake” because it simply isn’t rooted in truth for her. On the other hand, I asked her what would be true for her but also more of what she would hope for if she could write the best possible story for this future event. She replied, “My grandmother has lived an amazing life and at 92 is still sharp as a tack, in love with life, and a great support for me. I feel so lucky to have her and maybe her peace with the quality of her life could allow me to feel more gratitude than grief when it finally happens. I could absolutely imagine a joyous celebration of her life rather than a somber passing. I feel better already just imagining that.

The second story is as plausible as the first but still rooted in truth for her and much more positive.

This week, join me in listening and heightening our awareness of the stories we’re creating and speaking into existence about our future. And remember that we can’t be grateful and envious at the same time. It’s impossible to have it both ways. Pay attention to “how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man’s eyes” and simply look into happiness through your own.

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This week we are recycling a favorite MMS . Our new subscribers
will enjoy Katherine’s story and the lessons she took from the experience.
And to all of our MMS readers who have been loyal subscribers from the
beginning… you’ll remember why we love seeing the world of
business and life through the eyes of The Lioness.

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Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
Mahatma Gandhi

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Evolutionary Adventure

I recently heard the term, evolutionary adventure, describing a documentary program about the evolution of carnivorous plants. While I didn’t jump to add that title to my Netflix favorites, the term rattled around in my brain for a few days and I grew to love the idea of applying it to our own adventures in life and business… because they certainly are an evolutionary process.

Webster defines evolution as a process of formation, growth, or gradual development in which something changes from a simple to a more complex or better form; an unfolding. Seems a perfect definition of what has transpired over time for me as a businesswoman, speaker, wife, mother, friend, and citizen.

Leading and living well is like residing in the same home for years. The rooms become more and more familiar the longer you live there but when nighttime and darkness descends, you still have to put your hands out and feel your way through… and even then, sometimes you stumble. Eventually the light always returns and you see more clearly and understand more deeply where the obstacles are and how to master the path between them. It’s an evolution of knowledge and experience; a true unfolding.

There is an Egyptian proverb which says that the archery marksman hits his target partly by pulling and creating tension and partly by releasing and letting go. That’s what personal and professional growth is… a continual process of pulling at goals and ideas, creating the tension of plans and action, steadying your aim and then releasing and letting go. Sometimes we hit the bullseye and sometimes we overshoot the target and miss completely. Either way we are learning and evolving.

The piece I’m working on remembering is that this is an eternal process with no end point. We’ve been evolving since we entered the world and will be long after we’re gone. So, if there’s no perfect place for which we’re striving but only the constant state of evolution then perhaps we could relax into the process more. How much more enjoyable might life and work be if we could remember going in to an effort or new situation that “we never lose… we only win or learn.” We only hit the bullseye or evolve. How much more fun would that game be to play

This week, play the rich game of learning and evolving versus simply winning or losing. Lean into the process with me of unfolding into a more complex and better form in this great big beautiful evolutionary adventure we’re all on together.

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“Life is like a very short visit to a toyshop between birth and death..
~~Desmond Morris, 1991

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Outside Voices

An outside voice can challenge and encourage our inside voice.

“I bet your husband doesn’t have a chance if he gets in an argument with you!” That’s what someone actually said to me after a presentation I gave on mastering crucial conversations. I wasn’t really sure what he was talking about because my husband and I don’t ever have any arguments. And, if you believe that, I’ve got some oceanfront property in Iowa for sale.

A lot of people think that because I am a communications coach that I have a perfect marriage, perfect children, and a perfect team culture at work. Let’s set the record straight: I don’t. None of the above. Just because you understand a concept and teach it to others, does not mean that you have it personally mastered for all time. I am a good communicator most of the time, and I aspire to be a great one. It’s actually a very good thing that I do teach it so often as I need the consistent reminder of the principles as much as anyone.

I’m not always the leader at work that I desire to be. I’ve certainly made mistakes as a parent. And at home, we have a “no coaching” agreement. Truthfully, my husband, nor my grown children, are all that interested in my professional opinions about what would make their communication skills better. Weird.

But, one thing I know is that if you want to get better at something, it’s pretty hard to coach yourself. We all have blind spots, and a pair of qualified outside eyes can be invaluable in helping us handle limiting beliefs, see new possibilities, and gain access to resources we didn’t even know existed. I currently have a business coach, a fitness coach, a marketing coach, and a financial coach. On occasion, I’ve used a parenting coach, a speaking coach, and an image coach with great success. All have proven to me that I need outside counsel from people who have gained a level of success to which I aspire. I consider them to be my personal board of directors.

An outside voice can challenge and encourage our inside voice. You know, the one that tells you that you can’t, won’t, or couldn’t create what you secretly dream of. If you want to accelerate your career path, strengthen your business, and improve your relationships or outcomes, then consider a coach. Do your homework and find someone who has achieved a level of mastery you admire, and then try them out on a short-term basis to see if it will be a good fit. But, one caution… don’t look for someone to tell you how great you already are. Look for someone with whom you can relate and in whom you can trust, and then expect them to push you beyond your comfort zone to attain your goals. I’ve found that the coaching hasn’t really begun until things get a little challenging.

We’re not meant to do this thing called business (or life) alone. At LionSpeak, we will continue to follow our calling to help those who seek to communicate at a higher level, lead from a strong emotional platform, create positive cultures, speak with influence, and train for mastery. We’d love to be a set of outside eyes for you, and we would welcome the opportunity to explore if we might be a good match (because clearly no one’s listening to me at home!). But, whether it’s LionSpeak or someone else, there are lots and lots of options out there. Your job is to find the right one for you. So, stop waiting. Set your sights on a higher version of yourself and get an outside voice to speak to and to elevate your inside voice.


“Each person holds so much power within themselves that needs to be let out.  
Sometimes they just need a little nudge, a little direction, 
a little support, a little coaching, and the greatest things can happen.” 
~~Pete Carroll

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The Hard Thing Rule

I don’t want to exercise in the morning. I feel good when I do it, but I don’t wake up wanting to do it. I like to wake up slowly, drink my coffee, check emails, and start cranking away at my to-do list for the day. I actually prefer it at the end of the day, but my current life doesn’t really support that schedule.

When I was single, I only had one person to please so I could work out any time I liked. But I married a morning person who is ready for lights out by 9:00 p.m. and who really looks forward to evenings together over dinner on the porch. In the give and take of relationships, it just works better to get my exercise out of the way first thing in the morning. So, how do I learn to like it more and change my pattern to actually get it done so I can have both my exercise and an enjoyable evening with my husband? The answer may be in learning the virtue of doing hard things.

Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance submits that there is a great deal of virtue and momentum gained by doing the hard things. In a boatload of research, she found that natural ability had much less to do with success than with what she calls “grit” which she defines as a combination of passion and perseverance in the pursuit of a long-term goal. She cited example after example of students, athletes, actors, and business tycoons who had the “grit” to persevere through the hard things and hard parts of the journey toward their dreams.

One of her earliest studies was with the cadets at West Point where about 20% of the 1000 new cadets each year quit before graduation, most of them before the end of the tough first two-week initiation called, “The Beast.” The initial assessment they took, which gauged their innate ability, did little to predict who would drop out and who would make it for the long haul. Duckworth created her own “grit scale” measuring cadets’ responses to things like, “I finish what I start” or “New ideas and projects sometimes distract me from previous ones.” Cadets that scored the highest on the “grit scale” were the most likely to finish the program regardless of their raw talent.

Duckworth has taken her lessons home to her own family… and this is where we come in. She developed the “Hard Thing Rule.” She, her husband, and their two teenage children commit to one hard thing about which they are passionate and for which they passionately want an outcome. It must also be something that requires daily practice. They agree that they cannot quit until they come to a natural stopping point such as the end of a season. She believes it has taught them follow through, the building of consistency over time, and the virtue of doing hard things. In other words, they’ve developed true grit.

It feels helpful to me to think that by choosing the commitment of getting my exercise done early in the mornings, I’m not just building physical muscle, but I’m also strengthening my “true grit” muscle which may just help me in other areas of life and work for which I passionately desire a particular outcome.

What would you choose this week to which you could apply the “Hard Thing Rule?” Where do you need to develop more “grit” in order to obtain the things you feel most passionate about?

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“True grit is making a decision and standing by it, doing what must be done. No moral man can have peace of mind if he leaves undone what he knows he should have done.
~~John Wayne

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Mindsets, Skillsets, and Toolsets

Last week’s Monday Morning Stretch sure did strike a resonant chord with our subscribers. We were swamped all week with comments, kudos, and questions about the need for developing this high level of dedicated team members and elevated communication skills. I even received this email from my assistant, Kelly Case:

I just got a call from a woman who works for the Education Corporation of America. She said that she’s a long-time follower of your MMS and has heard you speak before and is a fan. She said she loved this week’s MMS so much that she forwarded it to the head at their company who then forwarded it to their entire company. And, because of it, they are having a company-wide training where they will role play how to turn a ‘no’ into a ‘yes.’ She just wanted to call and tell you that. I told her how thrilled you would be to hear it and how much we appreciated her calling to tell us.

We’re thrilled to have stirred the pot a bit on the importance of training your team to understand your commitment to top-notch client service and to make the time to train that level of skill. If you want to make sure that your team can and will interact at this advanced level with clients, I believe you must work on three things: 1) their mindset, 2) their skill set, and 3) their tool set.

Mindset: Mindsets stem from beliefs. Expertly communicating and delivering exceptional client service consistently requires your team to believe that these skills are critically important to your vision, brand, and overall reputation in the marketplace. They must feel that it is not only possible to do but essential. Teams who excel at delivering this level of service often see it as a fun and rewarding game of turning negatives into positives, resolving conflicts, creating raving fans from even the most disgruntled customers, and finding creative ways to create win/wins. These teams are united in their faith in the overall goodness of people, the power of respect and empathy, and the boomerang effect of kindness and generosity.

Skillset: And then… you have to train, train, and train some more. At LionSpeak, we believe in the old adage of “inspect what you expect,” meaning that discussing this is not enough. Mastery comes from learning, observing, practicing, and evaluating. We teach high-level communication skills, and then we demonstrate those skills for our trainees in real time with real issues. We have found this to be one of the most convincing and powerful tools in our training arsenal. Then, we create engaging, safe, and effective ways for the team to practice the new skills with us being right there to guide and correct. We start with the simplest elements, and as mastery takes hold, we begin to layer on real-life complexity so that the team’s confidence grows. Lastly, we recommend ongoing evaluation to cement the learning and maintain the standards. This can include mystery shopper calls, secret shopper visits, or random observations with evaluations and ongoing training.

Toolsets: Communication and client service toolsets might include customized telephone intake sheets, “scenario of the month” discussions at team meetings, easy-to-access cheat-sheets for resolving conflicts, daily reminders at morning meetings, easy-to-follow protocols for certain types of communications, mentoring partnerships, and monthly client service book clubs at work.

Most of us did not learn these high-level communication, conflict resolution, or client service skills at home or at other jobs. We set ourselves up for failure and ongoing frustration if we assume that people will just naturally know how to do this and understand how or when to use these skills… or that once trained, they are masters forever more.

This week discuss your team’s client service and conflict resolution mindset. Take a look at your system for elevating those skills and provide the necessary tools to support your team’s efforts. Lastly, create a method for ongoing support, evaluation, and continued advancement.

If the expert team of coaches at LionSpeak can assist you in any way with implementing high-level mindsets, skillsets, or toolsets for mastering client service or communication… just say the word. We’re standing by, just waiting for your call or email!


“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life,
and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.” 

~~Steve Jobs, CEO Apple


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Spinning the Positive

Every coin has a flipside. Every inside has an outside. Every “No” response has a “Yes” alternative.

At the Disney University, I’ve heard that one of the class assignments is to go out into the theme park and find a few Disney “cast members” and ask a question for which the reasonable answer would be “No” … and listen to the well-trained responses. What Disney knows is what all great communicators, sales professionals, leaders, and customer service representatives know… When faced with a request you cannot grant or to which you cannot agree, a response filled with sincere empathy and a focus on what is possible will always be the better answer and often save the client, sale, online review, and future relationship.

“Can I march in the parade next to Cinderella?” “Oh, how I would love to say yes to that! You’d make a perfect prince charming. What I can do is recommend the best place to sit and watch the parade so you’ll feel like you’re practically in it!”

“I forgot my wallet. Can I take my hamburger and come back in a minute and pay you for it?” “Gosh, don’t you hate it when that happens? So frustrating to wait in line and then realize you can’t pay. Here’s what I’ll do… I’ll put your meal right here where it will stay perfectly warm and when you find your wallet, just come right up to the front of the line and I’ll ring you right up.”

Here’s a real and recent experience that happened to me. Last week, while attending the Speaking Consulting Network annual conference in Anaheim, I enjoyed a truly amazing farm-to-fork meal at a restaurant called The Ranch with three of my favorite colleagues. The service was impeccable, the atmosphere charming, and the healthy, delicious food was perfectly prepared. Throw in rich, meaningful, and funny conversation with good friends and it was a truly lovely evening. Only one problem. In my haste to leave, I left my credit card and receipt and didn’t realize it until I was home a few days later.

I called The Ranch and asked if they had found it. The none-too-friendly gal that answered confirmed that, “Yes, we do have a credit card in your name locked away in our secure vault.” Great news! May I give you my address so you can send it to me? “No, we cannot mail credit cards to people who leave them.” Okay. I don’t live nearby. How about I ask a local friend to stop by and pick it up for me? “No, we can only give the card to the owner with a matching ID.” Hmmmm. Okay. Help me out here. This is a corporate credit card with all kinds of bill payments, subscriptions, and for God sakes, my one-click Amazon account tied to it. (I’m starting to get pretty riled up now!) Not only don’t I live nearby but we are leaving the next day for several weeks of travel. Can you just hold on to it for a month or so until I return and spend the 4 – 5 hours round trip it will take to retrieve it? “No, we destroy the cards after 2 weeks.” Is there a manager I speak with? “No, he won’t be in until after 3 today. I can ask him to call you but I don’t think he’ll be able to do anything. These are our policies.”

No empathy. No solutions. No Bueno.

If I were a communications coach for The Ranch, a business who clearly cares about their patron’s experience, here’s what I would advise as a better trained response:

“Great news, Mrs. Belt, we do have your credit card and we’ve kept it secure in our vault hoping you would call. How can I help reunite you with it? Do you live nearby where you can come in to claim it?” No, I don’t. “I’m so very sorry for the hassle of all this for you. We typically can’t mail it or give it to anyone other than the cardholder but if you’d like, I will speak to my manager to see if there is any other arrangement we can make for you. Worst case, we’ll put a note on your card that you’ll be picking up sometime over the next few months. If you forget, we can certainly give you a courtesy call before we actually destroy it. How would that work, Mrs. Belt?”

You can’t always change your policies. Sometimes, the rules are the rules because, well, attorney’s advice and all. But there are very few events where we cannot focus on what is possible, what we can do, and what will work. And there is never a time when true empathy doesn’t soften the hardest news.

This week reinforce with your team how to meet clients with a positive, can-do, empathic attitude and response. The Golden Rule is a good one. Treat folks the same way you’d like to be treated and give them a reason to stick with you even if the answer is actually, “No.”


“Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next.
Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.”
~Denis Waitley, Author and Motivational Speaker


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Seeking Advice

Have you ever been driving your car, exercising, taking a shower or just drifting off to sleep and suddenly… You feel a brilliant, daring new idea being born within you? I had that moment a few weeks ago and immediately picked up the telephone to call a friend and discuss it.

She listened and, as I had hoped, gave me some advice… just not quite the kind I was expecting. She told me she liked the idea and encouraged me to pursue it, but she also warned me about asking too many people too early for their opinions about this big new idea of mine. Once she sensed my enthusiasm and passion around the idea, her advice was to follow my strong intuition and get a little further down the road with my idea before opening myself up to the well-meaning friends and colleagues who might, in an effort to keep my knees unskinned, raise some personal flags of fear and pessimism.

She was right. After a few stumbles, and the epiphanies and adjustments that accompany them, I already intuitively knew that this was a valuable and worthy idea before I finally presented it to some other folks. Some did try to warn me off the project, which I quickly recognized as an extension of their own fear, but I was already well on my way. Others offered some terrific helpful hints and added valuable ideas that I know will make my final project much better. And I learned an invaluable business lesson in the process.

I want the counsel of people I admire and respect, especially those who have blazed a trail already that is similar to one I want to navigate. I will carefully consider their input and advice. But, it’s helpful to remember that while most people around me are my biggest cheerleaders, their advice can’t help but be filtered through their own fears, prejudices, and limiting beliefs. Many will never be comfortable with the level of risk that I might be willing to take. So, I will be cautious not to seek that counsel too early and let myself be filled with unnecessary fear and pessimism before I give the ideas, about which I am passionate and intuitively confident, a fair start. Conversely, there are likely to also be ideas that I decide are not the direction I wish to pursue… no matter how good it looks on paper or how much my friends say it’s the only way to go. In the end, it has to feel right to me. I will first use my own internal wisdom to allow the idea to blossom and either make my own intuitive cut or not. If it does, then I’ll seek insights from the brightest minds I know to help it grow and prosper.

This week, while Katherine joins fellow speakers and consultants at SCN’s
annual meeting, we are recycling a favorite MMS from a few years ago.
Our new subscribers will enjoy Katherine’s story and the lessons
she took from the experience. And to all of our MMS readers who have been
loyal subscribers from the beginning… you’ll remember why we love seeing the
world of business and life through the eyes of The Lioness.


“Don’t follow any advice, no matter how good, until you feel as
deeply in your spirit as you think in your mind that the counsel is wise.”
~ Joan Rivers


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Music Monday: Catching Your Breath

The month of June signals warmer weather, school vacations, graduations, and lots and lots of birthdays … at least in our family. The biggest reason we love June is it typically signals “Cabin Season” for the Belt family, and next week Tom and I will make the 2-day, 10-hour trek from Southern California to Echo Lakes (just south of Lake Tahoe) to officially re-open his summer family cabin, Silver Firs, for the season.

This is the place that we call home for most of the summer months. After a predictably busy Spring season for my business as well on the Ranch, we’re more than ready to slow down a bit and recharge our batteries. I still work from there but, aided by the peaceful pace of nature and the stripped-down version of cabin life, we use the time to catch our breath before my typically busy Fall season cranks up and the holiday madness envelopes us.

Before I ever met Tom, I would have told you that it would be impossible for me to leave my home and slow down my travel schedule for several months. What I know now is that with intention, creativity, and some great help at home and at the office, I can indeed create this experience every year. And, it’s important that I do. I work hard. I pour my heart and soul into my business, my family, and my friendships, and I’m more capable and resilient when I slow down occasionally and take care of me.

On this Music Monday (always the first Monday of every month), I chose a brand-new song by Jason Mraz called Have It All. Jason describes the song as a toast, a musical greeting card, one meant for sharing with people you love. “May you have auspiciousness and causes of success” was a common greeting in Myanmar that he heard while touring back in 2012.  Have It All is a reset back to the heart; a return to joy; a song with a message of generosity; a blessing disguised as a playful rap song; one meant to be paid-forward and shared.

My favorite lyrics: “May you get to rest, may you catch your breath. And may the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows. And may the road less paved be the road that you follow…”

Tom and I plan to rest, catch our breath, and follow some roads less paved throughout this summer season. I hope you’ll carve out some time to do the same. Taking care of yourself is not selfish. It fills the bucket which will quickly be pouring care, knowledge, ideas, and love into an army of the empty buckets in your world. And… I want you to have it all.


Jason Mraz

Have It All

“May you have auspiciousness and causes of success
May you have the confidence to always do your best
May you take no effort in your being generous
Sharing what you can, nothing more nothing less
May you know the meaning of the word happiness
May you always lead from the beating in your chest
May you be treated like an esteemed guest
May you get to rest, may you catch your breath

And may the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows
And may the road less paved be the road that you follow

Well here’s to the hearts that you’re gonna break
Here’s to the lives that you’re gonna change
Here’s to the infinite possible ways to love you
I want you to have it
Here’s to the good times we’re gonna have
You don’t need money, you got a free pass
Here’s to the fact that I’ll be sad without you
I want you to have it all

Oh! I want you to have it all
I want you to have it
I want you to have it all

May you be as fascinating as a slap bracelet
May you keep the chaos and the clutter off your desk
May you have unquestionable health and less stress
Having no possessions though immeasurable wealth
May you get a gold star on your next test
May your educated guesses always be correct
And may you win prizes shining like diamonds
May you really own it each moment to the next

And may the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows
And may the road less paved be the road that you follow

Well here’s to the hearts that you’re gonna break
Here’s to the lives that you’re gonna change
Here’s to the infinite possible ways to love you
I want you to have it
Here’s to the good times we’re gonna have
You don’t need money, you got a free pass
Here’s to the fact that I’ll be sad without you
I want you to have it all

Oh, I want you to have it all
I want you to have it
I want you to have it all

Oh, I want you to have it all
All you can imagine
All, no matter what your path is
If you believe it then anything can happen
Go, go, go raise your glasses
Go, go, go you can have it all
I toast you

Here’s to the hearts that you’re gonna break
Here’s to the lives that you’re gonna change
Here’s to the infinite possible ways to love you
I want you to have it
Here’s to the good times we’re gonna have
You don’t need money, you got a free pass
Here’s to the fact that I’ll be sad without you
I want you to have it all

Oh, I want you to have it all
I want you to have it
I want you to have it all

Here’s to the good times we’re gonna have
Here’s to you always making me laugh
Here’s to the fact that I’ll be sad without you
I want you to have it all”

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True Heroes

It’s easy to forget what Memorial Day actually means while you’re sitting by the pool and looking ahead at summer vacation—but the day signifies much more than just a three-day weekend. Memorial Day is a solemn day for remembering those who have died serving in the American armed forces. It’s not only easy to forget what Memorial Day is about but also to underestimate the massive collective loss to families, loved ones, and communities as a result of the millions of American soldiers who gave their lives fighting for our country.

One of the most beautifully written pieces about one girl’s awakening to the meaning of Memorial Day is written by Nancy Sullivan Geng who wrote the following article for Guideposts magazine. I hope it inspires you and your family to take a moment today to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we could enjoy our freedom and all that our beautiful country affords us every day.

The Meaning of Memorial Day

I leaned against an oak at the side of the road, wishing I were invisible, keeping my distance from my parents on their lawn chairs and my younger siblings scampering about. I hoped none of my friends saw me there. God forbid they caught me waving one of the small American flags Mom bought at Ben Franklin for a dime. At 16, I was too old and definitely too cool for our small town’s Memorial Day parade. I ought to be at the lake, I brooded. But, no, the all-day festivities were mandatory in my family.

A high school band marched by, the girl in sequins missing her baton as it tumbled from the sky. Firemen blasted sirens in their polished red trucks. The uniforms on the troop of World War II veterans looked too snug on more than one member.

“Here comes Mema,” my father shouted. Five black convertibles lumbered down the boulevard. The mayor was in the first, handing out programs. I didn’t need to look at one. I knew my uncle Bud’s name was printed on it, as it had been every year since he was killed in Italy. Our family’s war hero. And I knew that perched on the backseat of one of the cars, waving and smiling, was Mema, my grandmother. She had a corsage on her lapel and a sign in gold embossed letters on the car door: “Gold Star Mother.”

I hid behind the tree, so I wouldn’t have to meet her gaze. It wasn’t because I didn’t love her or appreciate her. She’d taught me how to sew, to call a strike in baseball. She made great cinnamon rolls, which we always ate after the parade. What embarrassed me was all the attention she got for a son who had died 20 years earlier. With four other children and a dozen grandchildren, why linger over this one long-ago loss?

I peeked out from behind the oak just in time to see Mema wave and blow my family a kiss as the motorcade moved on. The purple ribbon on her hat fluttered in the breeze.

The rest of our Memorial Day ritual was equally scripted. No use trying to get out of it. I followed my family back to Mema’s house, where there was the usual baseball game in the backyard and the same old reminiscing about Uncle Bud in the kitchen. Helping myself to a cinnamon roll, I retreated to the living room and plopped down on an armchair. There I found myself staring at the Army photo of Bud on the bookcase. The uncle I’d never known. I must have looked at him a thousand times—so proud in his crested cap and knotted tie. His uniform was decorated with military emblems that I could never decode.

Funny, he was starting to look younger to me as I got older. Who were you, Uncle Bud? I nearly asked aloud. I picked up the photo and turned it over. Yellowing tape held a prayer card that read: “Lloyd ‘Bud’ Heitzman, 1925-1944. A Great Hero.” Nineteen years old when he died, not much older than I was. But a great hero? How could you be a hero at 19?

The floorboards creaked behind me. I turned to see Mema coming in from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron. I almost hid the photo because I didn’t want to listen to the same stories I’d heard year after year: “Your uncle Bud had this little rat-terrier named Jiggs. Good old Jiggs. How he loved that mutt! He wouldn’t go anywhere without Jiggs. He used to put him in the rumble seat of his Chevy coupe and drive all over town.

“Remember how hard Bud worked after we lost the farm? At haying season, he worked all day, sunrise to sunset, baling for other farmers. Then he brought me all his wages. He’d say, ‘Mama, someday I’m going to buy you a brand-new farm. I promise.’ There wasn’t a better boy in the world!”

Sometimes I wondered about that boy dying alone in a muddy ditch in a foreign country he’d only read about. I thought of the scared kid who jumped out of a foxhole in front of an advancing enemy, only to be downed by a sniper. I couldn’t reconcile the image of the boy and his dog with that of the stalwart soldier.

Mema stood beside me for a while, looking at the photo. From outside came the sharp snap of an American flag flapping in the breeze and the voices of my cousins cheering my brother at bat.

“Mema,” I asked, “what’s a hero?” Without a word she turned and walked down the hall to the back bedroom. I followed.

She opened a bureau drawer and took out a small metal box, then sank down onto the bed. “These are Bud’s things,” she said. “They sent them to us after he died.” She opened the lid and handed me a telegram dated October 13, 1944. “The Secretary of State regrets to inform you that your son, Lloyd Heitzman, was killed in Italy.”

Your son! I imagined Mema reading that sentence for the first time. I didn’t know what I would have done if I’d gotten a telegram like that.
“Here’s Bud’s wallet,” she continued. Even after all those years, it was caked with dried mud. Inside was Bud’s driver’s license with the date of his sixteenth birthday. I compared it with the driver’s license I had just received.

A photo of Bud holding a little spotted dog fell out of the wallet. Jiggs. Bud looked so pleased with his mutt. There were other photos in the wallet: a laughing Bud standing arm in arm with two buddies, photos of my mom and aunt and uncle, another of Mema waving. This was the home Uncle Bud took with him, I thought.

I could see him in a foxhole, taking out these snapshots to remind himself of how much he was loved and missed.

“Who’s this?” I asked, pointing to a shot of a pretty dark-haired girl.

“Marie. Bud dated her in high school. He wanted to marry her when he came home.” A girlfriend? Marriage? How heartbreaking to have a life, plans and hopes for the future, so brutally snuffed out.

Sitting on the bed, Mema and I sifted through the treasures in the box: a gold watch that had never been wound again. A sympathy letter from President Roosevelt, and one from Bud’s commander. A medal shaped like a heart, trimmed with a purple ribbon. And at the very bottom, the deed to Mema’s house.

“Why’s this here?” I asked.

“Because Bud bought this house for me.” She explained how after his death, the U.S. government gave her 10 thousand dollars, and with it she built the house she was still living in.

“He kept his promise all right,” Mema said in a quiet voice I’d never heard before.

For a long while the two of us sat there on the bed. Then we put the wallet, the medal, the letters, the watch, the photos and the deed back into the metal box. I finally understood why it was so important for Mema—and me—to remember Uncle Bud on this day.

If he’d lived longer he might have built that house for Mema or married his high-school girlfriend. There might have been children and grandchildren to remember him by. As it was, there was only that box, the name in the program and the reminiscing around the kitchen table.

“I guess he was a hero because he gave everything for what he believed,” I said carefully.

“Yes, child,” Mema replied, wiping a tear with the back of her hand. “Don’t ever forget that.”

I haven’t. Even today with Mema gone, my husband and I take our lawn chairs to the tree-shaded boulevard on Memorial Day and give our three daughters small American flags that I buy for a quarter at Ben Franklin. I want them to remember that life isn’t just about getting what you want. Sometimes it involves giving up the things you love for what you love even more. That many men and women did the same for their country—that’s what I think when I see the parade pass by now.

And if I close my eyes and imagine, I can still see Mema in her regal purple hat, honoring her son, a true American hero.

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