Sunday, December 11, 2011
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Thursday, November 17, 2011
"If you farm," says author Wil Shipley, "you’ll have to purchase seed up-front, and work on it for a season before you see any profits. And every season you’ll plow most the profits (literally) back into the land and salaries and your mortgage. You husband the soil to ensure that it’ll keep providing for you for years and years. If you’re lucky, and if you do a good job, you’ll gather a following, sales will increase, and eventually you may make a tidy living. But every season, no matter how rich you get, you’re going to be back out there, breaking your back and working with the soil. When you finally retire, if you’ve done a good job, the soil is as good as when you first got it, and your farm will live on."
"Or," he continues, "you could mine; you’ll need some initial money to lease mining equipment, and to hire some people to work the mine. Then, bam: profit. You’re making money. You tear a giant hole in the ground and eke every last bit of metal out as quickly as possible; there’s nothing to preserve, there’s no soil to keep in condition. You’ll make a big score, then the land will be spent, and you move on, leaving an unusable crater."
Monday, November 14, 2011
What do we have that they should want?
We have a wall to work upon!
We have work and they have none
And our work is never done
My children, my children
And the war is never won
The enemy is poverty
And the wall keeps out the enemy
And we build the wall to keep us free
That's why we build the wall
We build the wall to keep us free
And it makes me wonder -- where in our lives do we build these walls? Walls that seem to be keeping out an enemy and providing us with freedom but that are still closing in on us and keeping us small. Walls that give us something to focus on and something to keep ourselves busy, but walls that, in the end, don't get us what we really want.
I'm thinking of a friend of mine who works six bajillion hours a week. The "enemy" in this case is failure or disappointment, and working endless hours at his job (the "wall" in this case, too) is what keeps the enemy at bay. But even if he builds that wall, failure will be patiently waiting on the other side of it, looking for the smallest crack to climb inside.
I'm also thinking of myself -- in my case sometimes the enemy is "feeling too much" and shutting down those feelings so I don't have to be overwhelmed by them is my wall. It seems like the smart thing to do -- manage emotion so it can be tamed or mastered, but in truth, the more I try to sweep my feelings under the rug, the more they become protesters at Occupy Kate's Wall Street.*
If what we want is endless work with no payoff, we can have that. There will always be more fear. There will always be more walls to build. But what does it take to knock down the wall and start giving up the war in the first place? Acceptance. Recognizing that whatever's on the other side of the wall -- poverty, fear, disappointment, too many feelings -- it's always going to be there. And we can't pretend it away. So why not start to accept it so that we can let go of the concept of it being an enemy?
Easier said than done, I realize. But worth a shot -- unless you want to move to Hadestown, that is.
*I know, sorry, I couldn't resist.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Ever notice how, when you buy something, all of a sudden you see that same thing all over the place? Those new shoes? Even the nuns on the subway are wearing them. That recent bestseller? You can’t get out of the coffee shop without seeing six fellow readers. I call this phenomenon “Hondas, Hondas Everywhere” because I first noticed it after buying my first car – a Honda – at age 16. All of a sudden, every car in every parking lot was a Honda. Every commercial was for Hondas. I could even swear Honda debuted a breakfast cereal that year. (Ok, no, not really.)
But that’s the power of attention. What you focus on can take over your whole awareness. And this is great, if what you’re focusing on is positive, uplifting, exciting, or even just neutral. But my experience has been that it tends to be only charged things that swoop in and take over our focus. Things we want, but don’t have. Things that piss us off. Things that stir up something restless inside of us.
I met a guy once who only saw happy couples. Everywhere he turned there was another couple, making out, buying milk together, holding hands, laughing. How dare they?! Hogging up the grocery aisles, giggling in the park, there was no safe haven from the onslaught of perpetually smiling twosomes! And these couples infuriated him, because he wanted to be one of them and wasn’t.
It can be the same thing with our bodies. It’s easy to see the flaws, focus in on them, and overlook what’s great about the way we look. One poochy bit, and all of a sudden we think we’re the Stay-Puft Marshmallow
Bellies, Bellies Everywhere!
So what do you do if you’re stuck in this spiral of negative focus? Try focusing on something else. Focus on nature, on smiling, on being in the moment. Feel the sun on your cheek. Hear the rustling of the leaves or the faraway rumble of the subway. The more our minds are focusing on what’s really happening in front of us (instead of the constant yammering of our inner voices) the less we’re likely to be trapped by the neverending train of chatter.
Truth is, there were the same number of Hondas before as there were after.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
If you can’t see or hear the video, I’ll break down for you what
First, in his years of studying children, fun, and play (he is the President of Worldwide Consumer Insights at Mattel) he has come to understand fun as having ten different aspects. Each one is an important, but different, piece of the puzzle.
This is any unstructured, voluntary activity that a child engages in. It’s essentially running around. There are few constraints and there is an immediacy to the fun. It’s about living in the moment.
2. I Dream
This is imaginative play in which children come up with possibilities and enjoy pretending. This kind of play can improve our language and social skills, and is also linked to resilience and delayed gratification.
3. I’m Special
This is the kind of play that is about luck or have the rules suspended in your favor. Staying up late, getting an extra ice cream cone, or otherwise getting some privilege is what this kind of fun is all about.
4. I Belong
This is all about acceptance into a larger group and cooperative play among kids.
5. I’m Wacky
Kids love being wacky! This is about delight, vitality, and goofiness. Shore says that the best way to make a toy wacky is by having it burp or fart. If it’s a pet, make it poop or pee. Wacky!
6. I Know
This is about exploration, accomplishment learning, and gaining mastery and control.
7. I’m Cozy
Even kids like to kick back, relax, and snuggle in. This is just about being comfortable and lazing around.
8. I’m Proud
This is about benevolence, defending others, nurturing others, and protecting one another.
9. I Stand Out
As kids get older they enjoy performing and expressing themselves more. This kind of fun is about identity, performance, and creativity.
10. I Dare
Shore says this is the kind of fun that kids would have a lot more of if there weren’t such a thing as consequences and getting caught. This is bold, defiant fun. It could be mischief, shenanigans or any other rule breaking.
In looking at all these different kinds of fun, I have to admit, they all sound pretty good to me. I’ve been trying to come up with the essential elements of fun for myself – what has to be in place for me to have fun? – and I’ve discovered that the biggest factor is willingness. Am I willing to have a good time? And if not, what do I need to get out of the way so that I can be willing to have fun?
Another TED presenter I listened to, Dr. Stuart Brown, says that if you’re feeling down, just get up and wiggle your body around. Jump up and down. Flail around. This kind of body play can really prep the mind for being able to have more fun. (So forgive me if I have more typos as I’m flinging myself around while I write this.)
One thing that seems to be missing for me in Shore’s list of 10 is the element of connection – not just belonging to a group, but really connecting to someone else on a very human level. Maybe it’s a little bit of all of them, or maybe it’s something that’s less important to kids. Or maybe it’s implied in the connection between the kid and the toy. But fun for me is hard to have without connection, either to my surroundings, someone else, or myself.
Think about things that you do that are fun: which elements are involved? Let’s say you love shopping. Is it the ability to go to whatever store you want and try on whatever you want that is fun? (Freedom) Is it imagining yourself at the ball wearing the gown you’re trying on that makes you smile? (I Dream) Or is it finding that chartreuse-and-puce argyle sweater that makes you squeal with joy? (I Stand Out or I’m Wacky)
If you’re down and not having fun, first, start wiggling, and then pick an aspect and try to live it up. Start dreaming. Join a group. Snuggle up with a good book. And see what happens.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
1. Do I have to be a runner to participate?
- Stress Management/Balance
- Personal Growth/Self-Care
- Time Management/Organization
Friday, October 7, 2011
Last month I attended the “I Can Do It” conference sponsored by Hay House publishers, and there were tons of great presenters –Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, Cheryl Richardson, and my absolute favorite, Robert Holden.
Wayne Dyer kicked off the conference, and the idea that struck me the most out of all of the ideas he presented is that we should spend the last five minutes of our days thinking about the fulfillment of the dreams and wishes we have for our lives.
Think about the last five minutes of your day, as you’ve climbed into bed and ready to pass out for the night. What do you do in that time? Do you start to worry about all the things you didn’t get done today? Or think about how you screwed up today? Or dread getting up tomorrow morning and doing it all over? If so, that’s pretty natural. Many of us don’t pay attention to the way we send ourselves off to sleep.
But think about it for a minute. Our subconscious is the most powerful processor in our brain. But it doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and what’s imaginary, so if we soak it in frustrations or agitations before going to bed, it could very well process them as if they really happened.
Enter your good friends, Toss and Turn.
If we take the last five minutes of the day, when we’re cozy in bed, comfortable, relaxed, and have the most peace we’re likely to see all day, and we focus on what it would feel like if our wishes came true, it allows your subconscious to marinate in what you want – not what you don’t want. Remember that it’s all about attention – what you focus on is what you’re likely to see more of in your life. So focus on what you did well during the day, what it would feel like to be 25 pounds lighter, how nice it would be to snuggle up with that somebody you’ve been longing for, or how terrific it would feel to wake up to a clean house.
So Wayne Dyer may be a spiritual teacher for the ages, but my mother knew this idea instinctively. When we were little, she would read to us in bed, and then end the bedtime process by telling us the Nice Day.
“We had a nice day. We got up, and went to school. There was a hard test in math, and we did our best. We had a fight with Sherri on the bus, but it’s over now. We practiced the piano and had a good dinner with the family, and then we watched some tv, and now it’s time to go to sleep.”
Simple. Focus on the things that happened, release the stressful or the negative, focus on the positive, and let your brain go to sleep thinking about the good stuff.
My nephew is now 13 months old and, while he talks a lot, none of it is quite English yet. But my mom suggested recently to my sister that he’s old enough now for the Nice Day. And I love the thought of my sister being able to help him form a habit that will serve him for the rest of his life.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
The idea is big, but Robert Maurer’s book is quite small. “Kaizen” is Japanese for “improvement,” and it’s the philosophy that taking small steps is the best way to make continual improvement.
Or as I once told a client, “Baby steps only go forwards.”
Think of the last time you set out to make a major change. What did you feel? Exhilaration? Exhaustion? Excitement? Trepidation? Most people, when faced with change, will feel at least some element of fear. And very often that fear can get in the way of actually making the change. The idea of kaizen is to take make such small changes that your brain doesn’t even know you’re changing, and therefore, doesn’t get in the way.
It’s kind of genius.
There are six strategies in Maurer’s book:
1. Asking small questions
2. Thinking small thoughts
3. Taking small actions
4. Solving small problems
5. Giving small rewards
6. Recognizing small moments
Let’s take a quick look at each of these.
1. Asking small questions
Your brain loves questions. Just look at how many people are drawn to crosswords and Sudoku and jigsaw puzzles. But instead of overwhelming yourself with big questions (“How can I lose 25 pounds?” “How will I ever get a job in this economy?”) focus on the small questions instead (“If health were my first priority, what would I do differently today?” “What little step could I take today towards my ideal job?”).
Watch out, though, for negative questions. We get more of what we focus on, so if you’re tempted to ask yourself “Why does this always happen to me?” or “What’s wrong with me?” your brain will be delighted to work on those questions, too. In a judgmental, awful, negative way.
2. Thinking small thoughts
This is all about visualization, or what Maurer calls “mind sculpture.” Mentally practice a task using all five of your senses, and you are much more likely to develop the skills it takes to actually engage in that task in the real world. But this isn’t about 30 minutes of meditation on a task. It’s about how many seconds a day you’re willing to devote to the effort. The idea is to make it simple, habitual, and fun. And nobody can say they don’t have an extra 45 seconds a day, right?
3. Taking small actions
If you want to clean your house, you can go into the most awful room and start trying to rid it of its clutter, but for some of us, that’s just too big an idea. And so we avoid it. Instead, if you clean your house the kaizen way, it becomes about going into that room and cleaning up for five minutes. Or removing five pieces of clutter every day. Big, bold actions often get us initial results, but don’t take into account things like lack of time, exhaustion, fear, or resistance. The smaller steps get us to the goal because they can be so easily incorporated into daily life.
Here are some suggestions for small actions you can take:
If you want to stop overspending, remove one item from your cart before checking out.
If you want to start exercising, go – just go – to the gym three times a week.
If you want to get more sleep, go to sleep one minute earlier or sleep one minute later each day.
They may not seem like much, but for anyone who is really resistant to change, these are cracks of light in an otherwise dark room.
4. Solving small problems
The key to solving small problems is catching them when they’re still small. And if you miss that window, the trick is to solve small problems in the face of really large problems. Some of this step involves trusting your gut and listening to what your instincts tell you about things – so you can prevent small problems from becoming bigger ones. Maurer has a great exercise for helping to spot the warning signs.
5. Give small rewards
Small rewards serve us best as recognition of a job well done. They can be little treats and pleasures, or simply a verbal acknowledgement of taking the small action you set out to take. A few key things to remember:
The reward should be appropriate to the goal – that is, don’t reward yourself with chocolate if your goal is to lose weight
The reward should be appropriate to the person – I, for example, would not particularly enjoy the reward of watching a football game and drinking a beer as a reward for a day of hard work, but I know plenty of people who would.
The reward should be free or inexpensive – if not, rewarding yourself for all your small steps could become a financial burden, which would subvert the whole kaizen
6. Recognizing small moments
This is all about paying attention to what’s going on around you and what opportunities for change naturally arise. A couple of the examples Maurer shares are:
A flight attendant noticed that passengers weren’t eating the olives in their five-item
salads. A the time, five-item salads cost far more than four-item salads. When the fifth item (olives) was dropped from the salad, the company saved half a million dollars a year.
George de Mestral, a Swiss engineer, noticed that when he took his dog out for a walk, the dog came back covered in burrs. His attention to this small moment led to the invention of Velcro.
Having this curiosity and awareness about life allowed the opportunities for innovation and enhancement to present themselves. Combining these six steps yields a very powerful philosophy, especially for anyone who has ever been afraid, stressed, or overwhelmed by change.
And because the book is so little (and only took me a day to read), it’s the perfect first small step!
Friday, September 30, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
1. Be Aware
"Creativity - like human life itself - begins in darkness." -- Julia Cameron -- author
"Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way." -- Edward de Bono -- psychologist
"Creativity is a natural extension of our enthusiasm." -- Earl Nightingale - entertainer
"Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better." -- John Updike -- author
"I lived in solitude in the country and noticed how the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind." -- Albert Einstein -- physicist
2. Be Courageous
"An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail." -- Edwin Land -- inventor
"The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." -- Sylvia Plath -- author
"Artistic temperament sometimes seems a battleground, a dark angel of destruction and a bright angel of creativity wrestling." -- Madeleine L'Engle -- author
"Creativity can be described as letting go of certainties." -- Gail Sheehy -- author
"But out of limitations comes creativity." -- Debbie Allen -- actress
“When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap.” – Cynthia Heimel -- writer
3. Be Expressive
"A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something." -- Frank Capra -- director
"Anxiety is part of creativity, the need to get something out, the need to be rid of something or to get in touch with something within." -- David Duchovny -- actor
“Every moment of your life is infinitely creative and the universe is endlessly bountiful. Just put forth a clear enough request, and everything your heart desires must come to you.” -- Mahatma Gandhi -- philosopher
“What is Art? It is the response of man's creative soul to the call of the Real.” – Rabindranath Tagore – poet
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
So, it's fall in NYC, and there are boatloads of runners out there training for the marathon. They're fit, athletic, don't bounce in a lot of the same places I bounce, and in general, they look like they enjoy sweating. Part of me envies them. The other part is exhausted just thinking about it.
But they've inspired me, and in an effort to be even remotely like them, I've decided to prep for a marathon, too. Except mine doesn't involve running (or really, sweating in any way). Instead, it's a coaching marathon. So like those runners, I have a goal -- I am offering 26.2 hours of pro bono life coaching before November 6th. But unlike those runners, I don't have to get up off the couch. (Phew!)
That said, I'm looking for someone running the marathon for charity who wants to partner with me. Because instead of paying me for these 26.2 hours of coaching, my “marathon clients” will donate to the charity of a runner partner. (That's right, I have a conscience!)
All I ask for in exchange is that my runner help me publicize my coaching marathon.
While my runner is pounding the pavement, I will be helping people get unstuck and find new ways to make the most out of their lives. Not too shabby, eh?
My ideal partner in this project is someone who would make the most of working together – helping me to spread the word and introducing me to people who are interested in or curious about coaching.
Is that runner you? Is it your brother/sister/mother/cousin/milkman/coworker/dogwalker/cable guy? Because without a runner, the project can't go forward -- and if you're interested in getting some coaching for a tax-deductible donation to a good cause, you need a runner just as badly as I do.
So, if you're interested, or know someone else who might be, please contact me right away!
Friday, September 16, 2011
August was the month of “smarts, ideas for the sake of ideas, connection, words, and learning.” Qualities I condensed for the sake of brevity into the category of Mind. And by putting my mind on Mind, a very interesting thing happened in the universe around me.
I’ve always said that my ideal mate will be Smart, Funny, and Self-Aware. These are my dealbreakers. If you’re not smart, funny, and able to display a modicum of self-awareness, we’re not a match. And smart has meant a variety of different things over the years. Book smart, street smart, dorky, nerdy, incredible at whatever it is you do, brilliant, genius… any of these would be lovely. I don’t have a baseline requirement for smarts (no minimum IQ or SAT score) but I know smart when I talk to it.
During August, I met a couple of incredibly smart men. One was book smart and in the top of his field, one was a super-brainiac and a top percentile IQ/MENSA type, one was quick-witted and sharp. And yet not one of them was right.
My interaction with these men made me realize a couple of things:
First, any time someone makes a conversation out of how smart he is, that makes me wonder how smart he actually is. This was a good reminder, as I have periodically found myself making mention of dorky things I’ve done or smartypants facts about myself. (“I threw the curve on the freshman year vocabulary test!” “I did second year calculus in high school!”) Turns out? Totally unattractive! We know smart when we see it, not when we’re told all about it. It’s one thing to drop an accomplishment or two into the conversation, but if we’re talking about your application to MENSA and just how many tests you had to ace to get in, I might have to fall asleep a little.
Second, balance is key. Being on a date with someone who is smart without being funny is like going to a really long, boring lecture where the professor may or may not try to kiss you at the end. Similarly, going out with someone who is smart without being self-aware is like listening to a recording of Stephen Hawking – fascinating, but after a while you want to turn the documentary off and talk about something stupid like Spongebob Squarepants or farts.
People – especially people we date and don’t choose – are excellent mirrors for us. I learned from these dates how important it is to also be modest, to listen well, to revel in what makes you happy (even if that’s nerdiness) but to always make sure you’re reaching out to the other person. Making a connection. Because you can only date alone in your mind.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Monday, June 27, 2011
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.- Naguib Mahfouz
A short saying often contains much wisdom.- Sophocles (very meta, that Sophocles.)
By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest. - Confucius
Monday, May 23, 2011
Sunday, May 15, 2011
The dictionary defines wisdom as "knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action." I like that because it combines a way of knowing with a way of being. It tells me that a wise person doesn't just sit up on a mountaintop thinking wise thoughts. She makes wise decisions and lives through wise actions.
Join me next Sunday, May 22nd at 4pm for a discussion on wisdom! Just call 712.775.7100 and use the participant passcode of 500681# to join.