Shutting Down Station KFKD

“Out of the right speaker in your inner ear will come the endless stream of self-aggrandizement, the recitation of one’s specialness, of how much more open, and gifted and brilliant and knowing and misunderstood and humble one is.

Out of the left speaker will be the rap songs of self-loathing, the lists of all the things one doesn’t do well, of all the mistakes one has made today and over an entire lifetime, the doubt, the assertion that everything one touches turns to s#it, that one doesn’t do relationships well, that one is in every way a fraud, incapable of selfless love, that one has no talent or insight, and on and on and on.”

This is Anne Lamott’s metaphor from her brilliant book on writing called Bird by Bird. Radio station Kf**ked is basically in constant stereo in your head.

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This is not just for writers. This is for any project you might have standing in front of you. From the closet stuffed to the gills with unwearable clothing, the enormous realignment project at work, and that trip to Peru you haven’t really planned out yet. To get it done. Heck, to even get it started. It is imperative you shut down Station KFKD.

Here are some ideas:

Ritual.  When I write; when I start a project, I have a ritual. Actually, this is my daily ritual: write in my gratitude journal, affirmations, meditation, brain teasers and then learning a second language. I do this everyday without fail. I won’t start anything until I have finished my daily ritual. I do this everyday even if I am not writing or working on a project. It sets me up for success. It’s like putting on a cozy robe and soft slippers. It’s familiar. I feel warm, relaxed, and ready to launch. You don’t need this ritual, but it’s nice to have a ritual so the loose ends are tied up before starting your best new work.

Frog.  Eat That Frog. This is a book by Brian Tracy. He espouses that you should start your day with the biggest gnarliest item. So eat that frog. Write that post you have delayed for the last few days. Sign into that online platform you are not familiar with. Buy the damn plane tickets to Peru. Clear out the floor of your closet. When you get that frog; that hurdle out of the way early in your day, the rest of the day is downhill. It’s time to coast because you already ate the frog. The rest of the day is nothing but cherries and whip cream.

Flow.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi asks, “What makes a life worth living?” Noting that money cannot make us happy, he looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of “flow.” Flow happens when you shut down Station KFKD and tap into your creative flow. You aren’t worried about impressing your boss or what that critic will say. It’s all about letting the words, art or lyrics spill out. It’s like opening the dam. Let it spill out without any regulation. Getting into flow shuts out KFKD.

Breathe.  No duh, Cathy, we all have to breathe. The issue is that we frequently don’t pay attention to our bodies. Breathing brings us back into our bodies, out of our heads, and far away from station KFKD. How is your big toe right now? Can you feel the breath through your nostrils? Are you present? It sounds counter intuitive to get back into your body and out of your head when you want to produce your best work. The problem is that your mind is full of land mines and illusions. Listen to your body and breathe.

Wandering.  Thoughts may wander off. You may start thinking about what lunch will be and when you need to head out for that appointment later. Gently. Ever so gently, bring it back to the work at hand. No need to scold or beat yourself up. Sometimes wandering brings you to a wonderful place and magical ideas. Going off the trail can take you places you never thought of going. Embrace the wandering.

I write first thing in the morning for the most part. I feel at my best. I am a lark. I got up this morning at 4 AM and started writing at 6 AM. This may not be for you. I have found my zone for keeping Station KFKD turned down. When do you do your best work?

You Are Good Enough

Have you been waiting to hear those words since say…kindergarten? I have. I generally have stayed uber-focused on my penmanship (horrible), my height (too tall) and my value as a human being (a work-in-progress). This happens to the distraction of my more valuable traits like writing, coaching and being present. I am more worried about the illusive atta-boy (-girl) from my sixth-grade math teacher or my mother finally being happy with the career I have chosen.

Unfortunately, if you go looking for someone to say: “Cathy, you are good enough”, you will be waiting a long time. Your value is not determined by those outside of ourselves. It’s an inside job. It’s between your ears. You need to decide you are good enough. No one is going to do it for you. Decide today. You are worthy. You are good enough. Go ahead. I’ll wait right here.

These might be the reasons holding you back from being enough:

The yardstick of perfection. Anne Lamott wrote brilliantly in Bird by Bird, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life… I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.” It’s OK if my handwriting isn’t that legible. It’s OK if I am taller than the rest. It’s OK if I have honestly wasted half a Saturday getting over vertigo and not writing. I just spent part of the morning criticizing myself for not going to the gym first thing or writing a post. Really? Like the exercise gods and blog gods (or Mothers) are sitting around judging me for recovering from half a day spent getting to the bottom of my vertigo? So what? As Lamott says, you will die anyway. Spending time trying to be perfect is empty and completely unrewarding. You are good enough right now.

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A gold medal won’t change a thing. Lamott famously quotes a 400 pound hasbeen coach, “If you’re not enough before the gold medal, you won’t be enough with it.” Interesting. If you are not enough before you lose 30 pounds, you won’t be enough after. If you are not enough before the big promotion, you won’t be after. If you are not enough before the divorce, you won’t be after. Worthiness is not a line in the sand.  It’s not a point in time. It’s not after the big achievement or disappointment. You are worthy right now. And now. And now. Sit in that. Let it sink in. A gold medal will not make a difference.

You are uniquely you. The mold is busted and there is only one of you and your individual view of life. As Dr. Seuss famously said, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” Even you and your identical twin will have different shortcuts on your desktop. One of you was picked last or first on the soccer team. It has made all the difference. You now fight for the down trodden or represent soccer player’s rights. Neither is better or worse. Just unique. Be you. Own it. Embody it. Be the unique you that you are.

Comparison is futile. Lamott said, “Never compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides.” You have no idea what your neighbor is going through or your coworker or your dog for that matter. You may be jealous of that new car but don’t realize they had to take over payments for their daughter. Your coworker is battling stage 4 colon cancer. Your dog has been barking at that neighbor dog for the last ten years and has yet to get the last word. We really have no idea what is going on for someone else and comparing it to your current situation is a recipe for disaster. Comparing does not make you feel worthy or enough. So stop comparing.

What other people think of me is none of my business. This is a Wayne Dyer quote that stops me cold. You have absolutely no control over what other people think of you. Let it go. I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s not. We’ve spent so much time on worrying about what others think. I remember having 11 different pairs of colored corduroy Levis in high school. It did not increase the number of friends I had. AND I was probably the only one who noticed. If you cannot move the needle on it, don’t bother worrying about it. Besides, you are perfectly good enough right now.

I was the last pick a lot in elementary school. My mother was upset with how I held a pencil in my hand. I didn’t have a ton of friends in high school. It’s OK. Let the past go and move on. It has no impact on my worthiness right now. Let go of the judgments from the past and be enough. You are good enough. And so am I.

How to Start a S#!tty First Draft

I’ve heard this concept for a while and I finally read what I believe is the first reference to a S#!tty First Draft (SFD) in Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Of course, I got stuck on a blank page in Word and was trying to figure out how to start a SFD. Blank white space is intimidating. The last two posts I published, one on my dog and one on creating your reality, have received a bunch of great feedback. I get caught up in the, “How am I going to follow that one up?” When you see hundreds of people across the world have read your post, it can either be emboldening or utterly intimidating. I can be haunted by thoughts like, “How dare I think I can follow that up.”

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So here we go. The how’s and why’s of the SFD:

Percolate.  I think of the old, dust-covered Hamilton Beach Percolator my mother would drag out and clean for bridge club in the mid 1960’s. Even if the end product is unpalatable and bitter, the process of filtering through and rethinking and mulling over is important. I started thinking about the SFD when I read Brene Brown’s book Rising Strong some four months ago. Yesterday, I read about it in Bird by Bird. I made notes. I took a shower. I washed my hair. I digested. I realize that, in retrospect, I do this with most of the topics I write about. Something piques my interest and then I let it sit and percolate. I need a little reflection to put the pieces together. So before you start your SFD, percolate a bit.

Start.  The problem with percolating is that it cannot stop there. Percolating can become ruminating. Obsessing. Procrastination. So sit down, whether it’s 6 AM or, as I sit here on the West Coast, my laptop reads: 9:07 AM PST/12:07 PM EST. Start. Open up a blank document. Start. Spill. Type. Don’t worry about another cup of coffee or if you are at your favorite desk with your fuzzy slippers on. Just start. If you wait for the perfect moment to arrive, it will remain elusive.

Sloppy.  I think we all have a bit of perfectionism inside of us. Some of us more overtly than others. I don’t iron my underwear but I do like a clear counter-top and I have a certain way I like the pillows on my couch. As Jason Lengstorf writes, “But there’s hesitation. What if it’s not exactly right? What if people judge your work too harshly? What if this idea isn’t as good as you thought? Small worries like these can lead to procrastination and unnecessary stress.” We get caught up in perfectionism. It won’t be perfect. It can never be perfect. So go for sloppy. Embrace the wabi-sabi.

Data.  Brene wrote in Rising Strong, “In the absence of data, you’ll make up a story.” Isn’t that the truth? I typically search a few terms like “SFD” or “letting go of perfectionism” to see what other data is out there. Who else has written about this? What are their thoughts? What other insights are out there? When searching SFD, I found a bunch of things on actual writing but this all can be applied to more than just writing. Gather the data on the project you want to start. Gather the data on the new knife set you want to buy. I’m not suggesting you turn this into the dreaded analysis paralysis but gather some data for your SFD.

Look.  Keep an eye out for Quantum Flirts.  I learned about Quantum Flirts at the ORSC training by CRR Global. Is the Universe winking at you? Are they sending an almost imperceptible or more overt “sign” that you need to take in? I have been mulling over starting a book for months…er…. years…maybe a decade. I saw Frances McDormand on the Oscars, when she asked every woman to stand up who was nominated and she said, “We all have stories to tell.” For me, this was a sign. I have a story to tell. Some fifty plus years in the making. I need to start telling that story. The Universe was giving me a sign that I need to start writing my book. I need to tell my story. Thank you, Frances.

End.  As Anne Lamott wrote, you need to have the end in mind before you start. How do you know where you are going unless you know the destination? My destination for this piece is for you, my reader, to get started. Whatever getting started means for you. Get out your sneakers and run for 30 seconds. Take one pile of papers off the end of the dining room table. Start that gnarly project you have been sitting on for months…perhaps years. Think about what the end-result will be, whether it’s feeling in better shape, finally decluttering your home or getting that project complete. It doesn’t have to be perfect or reasonable or perspiration-free. Start…with the end in mind.

I am really fortunate to have an excellent editor that makes my posts come together. Most of my posts are SFD’s with misspellings, grammatical errors and references that are incorrect. I dump on a page and hope my editor can make sense of it. This makes writing a SFD a lot easier because I know that Susan has my back and will fix my mistakes. Just start. Listen to Frances. What story do you want to tell? I know you have one.

Returning to Sonoma County After the Fire

I recently returned to Sonoma County, California about six months after wildfires ravaged some 5,500 buildings and homes. I was apprehensive. Sonoma County was home for my young children and me for ten years. My son was born at Kaiser Hospital in Santa Rosa and my kids went to elementary school at San Miguel in Larkfield. I owned a business for several years, just a stone’s throw from Coffey Park, a neighborhood flattened by the fire. My friends lived in a spectacular home on a hillside in Fountain Grove that was completely destroyed by the fire. To say I was apprehensive is an understatement.

I expected that once I hit the Sonoma County line that all signs of life would be gone. But many towns, from Petaluma to Rohnert Park, were just fine. It’s almost as if nothing had really happened. The scars from the fire aren’t readily apparent for the most part. You must seek out the damage or listen to the stories.

This is what I found:

Displaced.  With the loss of 5,500 structures, there were a bunch of families temporarily or permanently displaced. As a real estate friend reported, there was very little real estate inventory available. Anything that was for sale at the time was either rented out or sold. The loss of thousands of homes caused thousands of families to be in limbo. Many have left. There are those there temporarily to help remove debris and rebuild homes, living in trailers at the county fairground or RVs at local campgrounds. It feels like 20% of the folks are temporary. In transit. Either here for a bit, moved to temporary housing or just given up and left. It was mind boggling to consider the repercussions from that perspective. Just a couple of examples of some of the fallout are teachers given pink slips due to the lack of enrollments as families move on and countless folks untethered from their homes.

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Disoriented.  My friend Heidi took me for a drive through the decimated Fountain Grove neighborhood. She pointed to the area where a favorite restaurant once stood called “Sweet T’s”. It’s strange to have that visceral memory when nothing is there. Outside of a house or two and stop signs and street signs, I had absolutely no idea where I was. A beautiful home on a manicured lawn randomly unscathed by the fire surrounded by hundreds of homes lost. One random survivor. There were no reference points. I could not have found my way. Heidi and several friends reported that they were lost the first few times they drove through. Here once stood a lovely neighborhood with folks walking their dogs and riding their bikes. Now it was completely absent of any reference points. All gone in a matter of hours.

Debris.  There is not much that survives a fire. Heidi told me that a pizza stone was found in her home, along with a metal cross and cast-iron skillet or two.  I figured she could at least use the pizza stone. Not so fast. The amount of chemicals and byproducts that are melted or coated on, or dispersed into the atmosphere, are incalculable. So even if you find something as sturdy as a pizza stone, it’s still debris. There were countless trucks hauling off debris everywhere. All day. Carting off what is now unusable. Most things are unrecognizable. No resemblance to their former glory. I looked down on the pad that once had a hot tub; there was nothing left but slate and concrete.

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Disassembled.  My displaced friends are now in a beautiful rental home some 15 miles from their vanished home. Most everything in their home is there from a rental company. Furniture, sheets, cups and knickknacks. The personal touches of who they were are no longer represented in the same way. All their belongings, gone up in smoke. All their photos on the hard drive of the computer left behind as they fled the fire. Friends have sent pictures of bygone days; something to bring back the memories of what once was. New paintings of pets now hang in the kitchen. This is quite the opposite of my digging through hundreds of items from my recent empty nest and return from the rebuilding post-Hurricane Matthew. All the items, all the memories from a saxophone, to old paint cans and my parent’s video tapes. At least I have something to sort through. I had a choice in what I wanted to discard. They didn’t.

Detached. There is a freedom in detachment. You realize that you don’t need to stay where you are. Especially now that it’s all gone. Why not move on? I remember seeing the first lot for sale on my friend’s block. Wow, I thought. They are giving up. But are they really? Perhaps they are just detaching from the expectation that they must rebuild. They must return. They are set free to move on even if they felt as if they didn’t have a choice. I cannot sit here and judge someone else’s difficult decision. I can see that moving on has a tremendous upside. This thought has stuck with me: Don’t wait for a fire to help you detach from what you’re holding onto and the subsequent beliefs.

The collateral damage from the fire has been enormous. People having to put their pets down who were irreparably traumatized from the experience. Lives lost as they slept through the fire. Jobs lost as victims leave the county. Undrinkable water from plastic pipes melted. Landmarks like the Round Barn burned to ash. In spite of and perhaps because of the displacement, disorientation, and detachment the residents of Sonoma County have faced, the end result was relationships strengthened, appreciation for lives saved, cherished memories and the hope of what is to come.

Stepping onto the Stage

When I was a kid, I dreamed of being an actress or singer. I held the hairbrush up to my mouth while staring into the mirror, imagining the TV show that would be centered around my life or my tour on Broadway. Outside of a camp production of Wizard of Oz and my role as the Scarecrow, I have rarely been onstage. I had the wonderful experience of attending George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan production by Bedlam at Duke University’s new Rubenstein Arts Center. It was a mesmerizing show that, at several points, had us literally sitting on the stage. In fact, there was no real boundary between the stage and the audience. It got me thinking. Isn’t that how life really is? We are all on the stage but just don’t realize it.

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Here are some thoughts about stepping onto the stage:

Disconnect. Part of the experience of attending a play is disconnecting from your device. One of the actors walked across the front of the room with his device and asked that we shut off our devices. I had already turned mine to airplane mode but when you actually turn off your device, it’s not as easy to get connected again. I don’t do this enough. Completely disconnect from the distraction of the latest text or email or Facebook update. There is peace in disconnection. I can’t imagine one of the actor’s pulling out their phone in the middle of the performance. So why should you?

Borderless. There was no border between the action of the actors and the audience. In the second and third acts, there were chairs on what would normally be viewed as the actual stage. But we were all essentially in the same room without any delineation between the actors and the audience. Life is really like that. You never know when you might be the leading woman or the villain. I attended a meditation last week and a woman took the chair I had set out to sit and to meditate in. For a moment, in my mind, she was the villain. At the end of the meditation, she apologized for taking my chair. People walk over our borders and then back out again. Life really has no borders. We try to buffer ourselves with a bumper, a border, a wall. They are all an imaginary construct.

Roles. There were only four actors in the play covering 24 characters. At several points in the first act, three of the actors were swapping roles. It was sort of mind blowing to watch three guys switch accents, body language and chairs. They were exchanging roles like the passing of a baton back and forth. It’s amazing how at work or at home I can get enmeshed in the role of “mother” or “fixer” or “devil’s advocate”. What if I relaxed and let someone else take on that role? What if I found a role that I don’t usually play? Perhaps the heroine or patient listener. Have you switched roles lately?

Presence. There was a point where we were a couple of feet from two of the actors in the play. I was there. In Orleans, feeling Joan of Arc’s passion for the fight against England. I could see her tears on her cheek and the spittle of the antagonist as he called her a heretic. Taping into the actor’s energy and really being present made me feel as if I was there in 1429. I didn’t know what time it was or what the weather was outside. I was busy hoping that Joan could avoid the stake. Rooting for a change in history. Willing a change in destiny for this powerful heroine. What if I brought this presence to the rest of my life? To be there now.

Impact. At the end of the play after Joan of Arc has died, we see the impact she has had on her detractors and supporters. She speaks to each of the characters on her journey and we realize the impact she has had on each of their lives and thereafter. How often do you take stock in the effect you have on the people in your life either past, present or future? I am not the heroine that Joan of Arc is but I know I have had an impact. Taking stock in the clients I have transformed through coaching, teams I have aligned through facilitation and, most importantly, my children that I have supported to achieve their dreams is humbling and fulfilling. Take stock in the impact you have had on others and yourself.

In a life full of screen time, whether it be binge watching The Crown, surfing the internet or obsessing over an unreturned text, all of that takes you off the stage and into the audience. Not at arm’s length. Embrace the experience of being on the stage. Everyday. Show up and be.

How to Act “As If”

I was skeptical. I could get caught up in a negative spiral of waiting: For the other shoe to drop, for the inevitable to happen, for my failure at hand. I was great at worrying, awfulizing and catastrophizing. It’s easy to get sucked into the negative vortex. The “What else could possibly go wrong?” kind of thinking. I’ve been reading about the law of attraction for at least a decade. The law of attraction is basically the belief that if you truly imagine the best outcome, whether it be more money, the love of your life, or spiritual awakening, it will happen. The key is to believe. If you are skeptical, as I was, it won’t happen.

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I am here to tell you I do believe, and it works wonders. I’ve been in a financial stalemate with my home for more than 16 months. I rode the roller coaster of foreclosure, bankruptcy and financial windfall for all of that 16 months. But the key to my success was the belief that I can attract the outcome I want. It wasn’t easy. I fell off the wagon a few times with a negative battle or two with the Universe. In the end, I kept acting “As If.” And I am finally over the financial hurdle that has plagued me for over a year.

Here are some ideas on how to act “As If”:

Affirmations.  I read affirmations every single morning regardless of what country I am in or how early my flight to Atlanta is. It grounds my day. I know I want to continue to be sober, to manifest money and to make a difference in people’s lives. There are affirmations all over the internet but you can start by reading The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. He has free resources on his website. I have been reading his morning affirmations for over a year and keep adding to my list with other programs I have read or listened to. The key to any affirmation is to say it in the present tense so that it is a truth rather than a wish. My affirmation list is now four pages but you can start small! Even one or two sentences will start your day off right.

Gratitude.  I have been writing a gratitude journal for over seven years. There are a lot of ways to write a gratitude journal. I used to write three things at the end of the day. In the last year, I have been writing five things I am grateful for first thing in the morning. I have read you should write more than one word like “bacon.” It’s better to write: “I am grateful for delicious, crispy bacon.” The more detail, the better. It insinuates it into your well-being. I read recently that you should try to be grateful for a different thing for up to 21 days. I have a friend who recently told me she writes down 1,000 things she is grateful for every day. That is a challenge I have not taken on, but I imagine truly gives you a grateful heart. A grateful heart attracts more things to be grateful for.

Act. The biggest shift for me over the last year was investing in my house. This seems a bit crazy, doesn’t it? Why put in a new sidewalk or landscaping if you are expecting the mortgage company to padlock the door? This, above all else, was my biggest leap of faith. I didn’t know where I would find the money or skilled labor but I kept moving forward. The contractor would show up. The money would show up. The mortgage company would make a concession. The Universe wants me in this house. The Universe wants my dog to continue to be in the house she has grown up in. I bought the plants, I hung the pictures, I fixed the dripping sink, and made the bed every day. I act everyday “As If” this will be my forever home and it has been transformative.

Mindful. I participated in the Happiness Program from the Art of Living some nine months ago. I have been doing their meditation daily ever since. I have had several people mention that I seem so much happier. Less stressed out. That’s pretty amazing considering some of the correspondence I have received from the mortgage company. It’s a mindset. Everything will work itself out but enjoy the moment right now. My dog is next to me on the floor next to my desk. I have a wonderful cup of coffee. The sunrise has been spectacular this morning. It’s great right now. And now. And now. Be here right now and take it all in.

I am a work in progress as I assume we all are. I have had intermittent moments of doubt. I can fall into being the devil’s advocate. But when I embrace the law of attraction and act “As If”? The day is brighter, my smile is bigger and I appreciate where I am right now.

You Are The Architect of Your Reality

There is an accident on the way to that critical meeting. You will never make it in time. Well, that deal is lost. Your coworker called in sick. Ugh. That project is stalled yet again. Can we never make a deadline? Your son is not returning your text. He must have been in a car accident. Or abducted by aliens. Or in jail. The one constant in all these situations is your negative bias in the interpretation of events. It’s stressing you out. Believe it or not, you oversee how you view these events. But Cathy! How can I possibly view these things in a different light?

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I just started reading Shawn Achor’s book Before Happiness. Shawn suggests that success is based on being a positive genius. A positive genius is someone who can change their brain patterns to view the world in a positive light; to take in  information and put a positive spin on it rather than wallowing in negativity. Seems hard, doesn’t it? So much easier to succumb to the negativity bias that our brains are seemly hardwired for. You can change it, though. You can overcome your predisposition to view information in a negative light. You can. Really. Imagine all the worry and stress you can let go of if you choose to be the architect of your reality.

Here are Shawn’s three main points in choosing the most valuable reality:

  • Recognize the existence of multiple realities by simply changing the details your brain chooses to focus on. This reminds me of Byron Katie’s The Work. The first question in The Work is “Is it the truth?” I want to look at my son not returning a text as, “He doesn’t love me.” I can ask myself, “Is it the truth?” Let’s see. He drove 13 hours at Christmas to be home with me. He’s been really supportive with recent issues with my house. He sent me flowers for Mother’s Day. Nope. It’s not true. Of course, he loves me. So I need to realize that there are many interpretations of the information I have. So what if it’s been twenty minutes since I texted him. Maybe his phone is dead. Maybe he is working out. Maybe he is sleeping in. Focus on the details in a more positive light. As Mike Dooley says, “Thoughts become things. Choose the good ones.” There are multiple realities at any given time. Decide on which reality to focus on.

 

  • See a greater range of realities by training your brain to see vantage points and see the world from a broader perspective. Shawn quotes a study where a group of people were asked to draw a coffee cup and saucer. EVERY person drew the cup from a side perspective. EVERY LAST ONE. I have to admit, if I am asked to draw a coffee cup or a house (for that matter), I will draw it from the side perspective. But can’t you draw it from a bird’s eye perspective? Are both true?Don’t you look down at your coffee cup in the morning? Isn’t that the perspective you usually see? There are hundreds of vantage points. It’s so easy to get caught up with our status quo perspective. We don’t typically re-frame it. There is a whole range of views. If my coworker is sick and the project might be delayed, maybe there are more resources I haven’t thought about. Maybe this is my chance to step up and own the spotlight. Maybe we need more data before proceeding. Open up your perspective to see more points of view.

 

  • Select the most valuable reality that is both positive and true, using a simple formula called the positive ratio. This is not creating a panacea. Choose data that is true and the most positive. If you constantly seek positive data, the outcomes are better. In companies, a Losada ratio of 3 positives to one negative indicates a more profitable business. So, when you get a seemingly negative data point, look for something positive. Rethink it – the car accident on the way to work, not a big deal? If you had been five minutes earlier that could have been you in that accident. At least you are still on your way to your destination. Be grateful for not being involved in an accident and still on your way. As Achor has advised, “Go out of your way to build employee strengths instead of routinely correcting weaknesses. When you dip below the Losada line, performance quickly suffers.” Look for the good and it will appear.

 

I’ve been trying to live by this over the last week or so. I look to interpret the current reality in a positive light. I’m not saying that my negativity bias doesn’t creep in from time to time, but I am slowly changing my default to looking at what’s right, rather than what’s wrong. Be a positive genius.

My Dog. My Witness.

It has been a tumultuous year. I lived in limbo for seven months following Hurricane Matthew, rebuilt my home, saw my daughter move to the west coast, and some seven months ago, decided to stop numbing out with alcohol. There has been one constant through all of this: my beloved Brittany named Baci. I’ve written about Baci several times in the past but it’s not until you are truly tested that you realize the love of a dog, may be the secret to your success.

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I say success after all this tumult because I am so much better than I was a year ago. I am stronger. Wiser. Complete. Happy. I need to give credit where credit is due. It’s all because of a dog. The best dog I have ever owned. Of course, the Universe conspires when I need inspiration to write a post. Articles on the love of a pet and its health benefits started showing up in my feed this past week. This post on my dog is long overdue.

Here is how Baci has been my witness:

Social lubricant. If it’s the neighbor, the UPS driver, the HVAC guy or the tile setter, Baci is the social lubricant that brings it all together. Sometimes, it’s me allaying fears that she might be a biter (she’s not), or a question about her breed (Brittany), or getting up in someone’s business when they are repairing the house. Baci is the natural ease of social tension if a stranger is walking up to the door or a neighbor is walking their dog. People are naturally curious about Baci or any dog for that matter. She makes awkward interactions so much the better by just wagging her tail and soaking up the attention.

Alarm system. Baci sleeps most of the day. She is nine years old and kicks back most of the day at this point. I live in a larger, older home. There are noises. Unaccounted for noises. A creak here, a sigh there. I know that if it’s something to pay attention to, Baci will be on top of it. Her hearing is a lot better than mine. She can hear a garbage truck or the UPS driver from half a mile away. I know that if it’s something to be concerned about, Baci will let me know. If she is calmly sleeping and the ice maker dumps a load of ice cubes and she doesn’t react? It’s all OK. And she knows it’s her role.

Stress reducer.  As I write this, Baci is sleeping sweetly under a picture window. She looks so calm and relaxed. How could I possibly be uptight about doing my taxes today with such a relaxed dog in the room? As written by Kristen Strut for Huffington Post, “There’s a reason therapy dogs are so effective: Spending just a few minutes with a pet can lower anxiety and blood pressure, and increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, two neurochemicals that play big roles in calm and well-being.” So Baci is my therapy dog and I get to have her everyday, all day.

Heart health. I don’t have high blood pressure. I have a family history of high blood pressure but somehow it’s missed me. Now I realize it’s probably Baci’s doing. As written on WebMD, “Heart attack patients who have pets survive longer than those without, according to several studies. Male pet owners have less signs of heart disease — lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels — than non-owners, researchers say.” Hmmm. The rest of my immediate family doesn’t own a pet. Baci is the secret to my heart health.

Unconditional love.  Baci does not care if my boss is mad at me or if I gained five pounds. She doesn’t care if I put too much lemon in the dish for dinner or if I binge watch Ozark all day. I frequently wake up at 4 AM. Baci doesn’t give a hoot if I wake up at 4 AM. She’s ready to go. No judgement. No admonishments. I am perfectly perfect as far as she is concerned. She even forgives me if I forget to fill the water dish or stash her toys for a few days. She loves me no matter what. And I love her.

Allergy fighter.  I am allergic to multiple things from aspirin to dust mites to various trees and grasses. I was on asthma medication for some fifteen years. I’ve had Baci for the last nine years. I am now off all asthma medication. I can’t say it’s Baci for sure but not having to take asthma medication is terrific. As written on WebMD, “A growing number of studies have suggested that kids growing up in a home with ‘furred animals’ — whether it’s a pet cat or dog, or on a farm and exposed to large animals — will have less risk of allergies and asthma.” I realize this is anecdotal but this is the longest I have ever lived with an inside pet and now I am asthma free.

I have a reason to get home. A reason to get back safely from a trip. A reason to wake up. A reason to stay sober. A reason to get dressed and get to work. A reason to keep my house. A reason to be grateful. A reason to stay the course. Baci gives me purpose. She is there through thick and thin. She is my rock…yes, she is my witness.

When You See Something, Say Something

I had the opportunity and privilege to hear Gretchen Carlson, author of Be Fierce, speak in early February on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. It was a room full of Human Resource professionals. Gretchen apprised us of the fact that what we currently are doing is not moving the needle on workplace harassment. All the training and policies in the world are not having an impact on workplace harassment. In fact, of the one in three women who are harassed in the workplace, only about 29% ever even report it. So the majority of the victims keep it to themselves. They are afraid of retaliation and, worse, being fired.

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Carlson pointed out that victims fall silent and feel helpless. There is this corporate attitude that “we have no reports of any harassment.” This is a delusion. The real reason people don’t report it is that they don’t feel safe and/or they feel like it’s their fault. One of the big takeaways is that we don’t address the bystanders. The guys in the boardroom who don’t step up and shut down the offenders in the room are responsible. Most of the time, this means a man stepping up since 94% of the CEOs are men. It all starts with speaking up. When you see something; say something.

I did some further research after this talk and came up with some points to share that tie in with Gretchen’s talk:

Let your body speak.  As written at the University of Exeter, “Remember, you don’t have to speak to communicate. Sometimes a disapproving look can be far more powerful than words.” This is an easier gateway to doing something without actually speaking up. I think this is great advice if you are in an unfamiliar situation or group. It also might be helpful if you’re dealing with a larger group. If someone is making a joke at someone else’s expense, go silent and let your body speak your disapproval.

Don’t add fuel. I find that typically the reason why women (the usual victim) don’t speak up is because the response from the group was positive; as in everyone laughed when Bob said I was sexy. The “group think” is that if everyone laughed, everyone is in on the joke. Everyone is in agreement. The peer pressure makes you laugh at the joke. In reality, laughing is only adding fuel to the fire. Bob is going to continue because it elicited a laugh from “everyone”. Don’t be everyone. Don’t laugh. Do no harm. Don’t add fuel to the fire.

Bring empathy. Ironically, the empathy is for the harasser. As written at Exeter, empathy prevents someone from distancing themselves from the impact of their actions. So “I hope no one ever talks about you like that” is a great approach. It also prevents the harasser from dehumanizing their targets as well. “What if someone said your girlfriend deserved to be raped, or called your mother a slut?” This is an interesting switch. Instead of coming to the defense of the victim, create empathy in the harasser.

Be a friend. This bolsters your friendship and keeps the harasser from being put on the defensive. I would recommend doing this in private. As written at Exeter, “Hey, Dave. As your friend, I’ve got to tell you that your tee-shirt isn’t doing you any favours, it’s killing your rep with the ladies. Do yourself a favour and don’t wear it again – chuck it out.” I think if you did this in private you would be less likely to get a defensive response. Be a friend and instruct them on their behavior.

Be a distraction. I can remember when my kids were toddlers. If they started to whine or misbehave, I would pick them up and start looking at pictures on the walls. “Oh, look at that pretty tree. I wonder where that tree is. Do you like the tree?” It would almost immediately calm them down. So, interrupt your harassing co-worker with, “Hey Bob, do you know when the budget meeting is?” “How long is the drive to the airport?” Again, a redirect is less likely to get a defensive reaction.

Bystander training. The biggest takeaway from the conference with Carlson, was to start with the top folks in your organization and let them know that the culture starts with them.  Tolerance for misbehaving is in the boardroom. Talk to your CEO and President and let them know that they need to put their foot down when that sexist email is forwarded to them or if they tolerate the racist jokes of their managers. Bystanders, especially those in power, need to step up and speak up.

It starts with you. It starts with each and every one of us. We need to speak up. Whether privately with the offender or with body language or silence or checking in with the victim to find out how you can help. Be careful how you use slang terms that are pejorative of a race, gender or religious group. I know I used to refer to my freckled easily burned skin as “cheap Irish skin.” This belittles me and an entire country and its descendants. Yes, I am part Irish but I don’t get to judge the entire country with less than valuable skin. Be the solution. Not the problem.

Harassment and its collateral damage needs to be addressed by the organization. These suggestions are to help nudge the culture of an organization so that a respectful workplace can be created and maintained. It can’t be addressed by one victim or one Human Resource professional. It takes a village.

Canada. It’s another country.

As I write this, it’s a rainy morning in Vancouver, British Columbia. I am here as an alumni to take the Path portion of ORSC (team and individual coaching), created by CRR Global. It’s been several decades since I have been to Vancouver. I am blessed in that, as a child, we took family trips to Canada and I had visited all the southern provinces of Canada by the time I was nine. As a kid, if everyone spoke the same language as I, I didn’t realize there were cultural differences. I remember the beautiful Butchart Gardens of Victoria and the profound crevasses of Banff National Park. And the adventure of the stretch of highway where there wasn’t gas for some 200 hundred miles and just praying we would make it with our enormous trailer that we were lugging behind us. Thankfully, we did.

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As I order at a restaurant or check in at the hotel, I wonder if I am obviously from the United States. Do they hear an accent? Do I dress funny? Am I clumsy? I say this because it’s hard for me to tell who is a tourist and who is a native. I just went to Starbucks for a coffee and ordered my usual. I assume those working there are Canadians. Are most of their patrons tourists? I have no idea. The differences here are subtle but there are differences that weren’t apparent to my nine-year-old self.

Here they are:

Celsius. Temperature is temperature. Whether or not you relate to it as Celsius or Fahrenheit, it doesn’t really matter, right? The funny thing is that when I found the thermostat in my room, I saw it read 22 degrees. Wow. We could hang meat in here. So of course, I had to google to convert the temperature to Fahrenheit – like it mattered. Why not just sense whether it’s too warm or too cool? The funny thing is that in my class yesterday, which was largely Canadians, someone said, “It must be 25 degrees in here.” She meant that it was hot. I chuckled to myself. I’m glad I knew she was talking Celsius.

Taxis.  Luckily, I happened to research whether or not Lyft or Uber were available in Vancouver. They are not. I’m not sure about the rest of Canada, but in British Columbia, you must take public transit or a taxi. In the last year or so, I have realized that renting a car is an expensive encumbrance when traveling on business. Between parking, gassing up and tolls, it is just one more burden, kind of like an extra suitcase, that you have to take care of and keep track of. Luckily, there wasn’t a language barrier, which is the biggest plus to ridesharing apps. But if you aren’t in a well-populated location, it can be impossible to find a cab. In fact, I didn’t go to a museum I had planned on visiting because I wasn’t sure how I would get back to the hotel.

Currency. The last time I was in Canada, my daughter and I were in Quebec. I was trying not to have any Canadian currency. I try not to have any cash in any foreign country because it’s a mess to exchange back. In fact, like the euros I have from my trip to Paris, they are still clanging around in my wallet. Too minuscule to change and more of a remembrance of a great trip. The last time I was in Canada was a road trip with my daughter four years ago. We were in Montreal and visited the breathtaking Notre-Dame Basilica. I remember they only took cash for entrance and they did take US dollars. The exchange was pretty poor but I didn’t care. As I travel around Vancouver at restaurants and shops, I am careful that they take credit cards so I don’t have to mess with exchange of currency and I keep a few US dollars for tipping.

Language. So we speak the same language but as I said, my class is largely Canadian. I would guess that 95% of the words are exactly the same. It’s only the odd “PROOO-cess” or “Aboot” that crop up in conversation. The other difference, at least compared to Eastern North Carolina, is the diversity. The service jobs in Vancouver seemed to be staffed with people from all walks of life – from an Irish waiter, to a Korean busboy to a Nigerian desk clerk. It feels as cosmopolitan as Manhattan. As I walk down the street, there all sorts of languages being spoken. Again, I’m not sure if I’m in the middle of the tourist district (think Times Square) or if there is an international university nearby. But it feels as if everyone is welcome here, regardless of origin.

Pace.  This is a large city. The thing that strikes me that is vastly different from a city like New York is that the pace is much more relaxed. Considering the blend of diversity and the size, it seems very calm. None of that frenetic buzz that seems to increase your anxiety. There is no rushing to and fro. My walking pace is even slower. For such a large city, it’s very calm.

Hot sauce.  If there is a minus, it’s the hot sauce. No Tabasco. No Texas Pete. No Cholula. There is British Columbian grown-and-produced Verde and Salsa Diablo. I tried it out. It was acidic. I realized after I read the label that besides having Canola Oil in the top three ingredients (re. mayonnaise…yuck) there is lemon juice. I am not a fan. But this is a minor complaint compared to the rest of my experience.

Rain.  I recently traveled to Seattle for Thanksgiving. It rained a lot. It has rained or drizzled almost non-stop since my arrival in Vancouver. The difference it that this is an umbrella city versus a rain jacket city. Seattle is a rain jacket city. More people can fit on a sidewalk if they have a rain jacket on instead of an umbrella. In Vancouver, you have to maneuver down the street to make sure to not crash into someone else’s umbrella. Funny how different cities adapt to similar weather.

I wish I had more free time to investigate Vancouver but maybe next time. Our classroom was on the top floor of the building and was floor-to-ceiling glass facing out. We were suddenly interrupted by five flying bald eagles yesterday. We all stopped to gaze at their majestic flight with snow-capped mountains as a back drop. Uniquely awesome. I will be back.