Choose Your Destiny

This week I had the joy of speaking with a prospective client in the Gulf Standard Time Zone, a half a world away.  In preparation for the call, I did a little research about this country, their culture, business etiquette and more.  I wanted to be respectful in every way that I could and not offend the person with whom I would be speaking.

During our Skype call, I was fascinated with their command of the English language and knowledge of western culture.  I later learned that years ago, they obtained their master’s degree here in the U.S.  What really touched me the most was when they described the area in which they now live.  They mentioned that there were Hindu temples, Islamic temples, Jewish synagogues and Christian Churches in their enclave.  They described their culture as one in which everybody gets along.  While people in their culture disagree with each other, they have found a way to be respectful and tolerant of other’s beliefs and they don’t struggle with religious or political extremism. 

I had to admit I felt a little sad.  At one time in my life I would have had said the same about our culture in general.  I am reminded of a favorite quote from either Frank Outlaw or Mahatma Gandhi, “Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny”.

When we speak hate, we engage in hateful actions which become habits.  We become hateful.  I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want a destiny filled with hate.

On the other hand, if we exercise intentionality in our words and actions and seek first to understand.  We may become curious and inquisitive.  We may become known as someone who does not judge others immediately based on actions but strive to understand their intentions.  And our legacy may be one of tolerance, understanding and love.

We don’t get a repeat on our life. Choose wisely!

Bullied No More

My heart is heavy as I’ve learned that bullying was at the root of the violent fight that claimed the life of a 5th grader in a South Carolina school.  The victim’s mother, as I understand, complained that her daughter was being bullied for more than a year, and now her daughter “has her angel wings” as she stated on Facebook.

I am on a quest to spread the word about the dangers of bullying.  My book, Right of Passage is a reminder that bullying has no place in any child’s (or adult’s) rite of passage.  I’m not really into self-promotion – any of you that know me at all, know that’s not my style.  However, I am begging any of you that have children who have been bullied at school, share my name and contact information with school principals, superintendents, school board members, PTO leaders.  If you know of companies that condone bullying, please share my contact information with their leaders.  Bullying is not acceptable, it’s not appropriate in a civilized society.  Bullying can have a devastating impact on victims and upstanders.  How many more school shootings, suicides and acts of violence in schools and work settings will we endure?

Are You Curious Enough?

In the past month, all the technology in my office and my home changed. In theory, it should have been a smooth transition, but it wasn’t.  However, through the process I tried to remain curious.  Technology is changing and I don’t want to become a dinosaur who refuses to learn new things.  What I learned in a short month was a great deal about 2G and 5G networks, interference and more.  I even purchased a new router, satellites and installed them and paired them on my own with the help of an app that I downloaded by scanning a box.  Because of my desire to learn and not be held hostage due to technology, I was able to use wonderment and interest (curiosity) to tackle something that was otherwise frustrating me – technology not working properly.

I was having a discussion with someone recently who was making comments about Millennials.  “They just don’t put in the hours like we do”.  I’ve been doing research on generations for more than 15 years, so I have an unfair advantage.  I’m curious.  Here’s a thought for those who find themselves in this same camp, or perhaps have made judgements about others (political, religious, just to name a few). Sit down and have a conversation.  Ask questions, be interested and inquisitive. You don’t have to come across as nosy and intrusive.  While you may have grown up hearing the phrase ‘curiosity killed the cat’, I believe closed-mindedness killed the cat more quickly! 

Fill Your Own Tank

Unless you’re driving a Tesla, you know what would happen if you failed to fill your gas tank. Donald O. Clifton and Tom Rath suggested in the short read, How Full is Your Bucket, that we each have an emotional bank account which requires regular fill-ups. We can rely on others to fill our emotional bank account or, we can fill ours by expressing genuine appreciation and gratitude toward others.

There’s another step that I’ve been using for years. It’s called a “win” file or a “kudos” file. Every time you get a pat-on-the-back via email or a written note, either store it in an electronic file or make a copy and keep a hard file. When someone gives you verbal praise or an expression of gratitude, jot it down and put it in your file.

Why? Because we all have days when we feel depleted, discouraged or dejected. At work, home, school – anywhere, people can steal our joy and evaporate our emotional bank account. It is on those days that you need to lift your own spirits. Look at what you’ve kept in your “win” or “kudos” file and remind yourself that you are a good person and you’ve done things that others have appreciated.

Just this week, I received perhaps one of the kindest emails from a keynote speaker/actor that I had the pleasure of stage managing at a recent conference. His comments were totally unexpected and so very kind. That’s an email that will go in my “kudos” file. When I’m having a day that causes me to doubt what I’m doing, I’ll happily read that email and I can guarantee it will lift my spirits again.

Sometimes others will fill your emotional tank, sometimes you’ll need to fill up on your own!

What Do You Need to Break Through?

As a leadership coach, it’s rather ironic how we are often challenged to practice what we preach. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of filling in at the last minute for a breakout speaker at a World Language Educators annual conference. I was very familiar with the location of the hotel, parking etc. I arrived downtown a full 90 minutes before my presentation. The first two parking lots I ventured into were full. It was a beautiful day, so I parked about ½ mile away and walked to my destination. 

I got to the hotel, located the area in which the conference registration and tradeshow were taking place. I found a conference attendee who was sitting on a bench by himself.  He informed me that the registration desk had closed about 30 minutes ago. Hmm, that wasn’t indicated on the organization’s website, but I figured I’d just go to the breakout room and get mentally ready to deliver my presentation. This same gentleman was kind enough to hand me a catalog of the breakouts and knew exactly where my room was located. I realized it was across the street in the convention center. I thanked him, proceeded up two levels to the skywalk which connected the hotel to the convention center above a very busy street. So far, I’d overcome a barrier regarding parking and another regarding registration. However, I honestly was not prepared for what was about to happen. 

 I have a fear of heights, I don’t like bridges and I’m a bit claustrophobic. As I approached the skywalk, fear, panic and terror overcame me. I found myself taking baby steps while I was carrying two bulky cases; one containing my laptop, the other my projector, my purse and a bag of stress balls. I kept looking down in order to avoid stepping on the end of the milky glass panels. Because in my head, that was a weak spot and if I stepped on it in the wrong place, I would surely fall to my death.

At this point, the skywalk looked a mile long and I found myself in the middle of a panic attack. Rather ironic that I was carrying stress balls huh? At one point, I thought about turning back and going down to the hotel lobby, walking across the street and getting to my room via an escalator. Instead, I started my own self-talk in my head. Mind you, fear, panic and terror must have been clearly visible on my face as people passing me during my deliberately slow and careful trajectory kept giving me strange looks. To be honest, at the mid-point of the skywalk, I considered dropping to my knees and crawling across. You see, that’s exactly what I did when visiting the Royal Gorge in Colorado, 30 years ago. 

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hearing several phenomenal keynote speakers: Mark Whitacre, Michael Allosso, Kevin Brown, Jim Morris and Brian Biro. Brian is known as the Breakthrough Coach. I remembered some of the points Brian touched on during his keynote and I knew I had to push through. I made it to the other side, started deep breathing and hugged the wall outside my breakout room for about 40 minutes. By the time the session ahead of mine had finished, I’d calmed down. 

Here’s the moral of my story. When confronted with a fear-based barrier, the choices we most often consider are:

1.      Run from it

2.      Consider an alternate approach

3.      Confront it and break through

I’m glad I pushed through and I was able to use my story in my presentation. What are you running from? What barrier, if you made the choice to break through, would yield breakthrough results for you? Confronting our fears is tough, but the payoff is stunning!