Extraordinary Support – A Dad Less Ordinary

Yesterday was Father’s Day and this year, my thoughts took me well beyond the requisite Hallmark card sentiment of love and thanks to the impact my dad has had, and continues to have, on me.

This winter as I considered leaving my safe and stable corporate life for entrepreneurship I was surrounded by many naysayers. But among all those negative voices, one rose above and kept me afloat.  And it usually began with, “so…I’ve been thinking…” Such simple words yet I’ve learned they carry with them a gift every time they’re uttered.

At a time when my fear of failure outweighed my desire for change, my dad said to me, “so I’ve been thinking…if you work with your clients to take risks and make big changes in their careers and lives, shouldn’t you be willing to do the same thing?” 

I was blown over.  He nailed it.  This from a man that I had hardly given credit to for fully understanding my career as a coach. In one line, he said more to me and did more to boost my confidence in my decision than anyone had in the months leading up to that day.

Weeks later, his positive reinforcement continued. I got a call out of the blue – “so, I’ve been thinking…now is the right time for you to take this risk and see what you can make of it.  There is a lot of negativity out there but if you can help people get back on their feet you will be doing a great thing.  The world needs people like you helping out right now.”  When I enthusiastically agreed and shared my fear of failure, he said confidently, “You can’t fail, you can only learn from this.”  His confidence in me was like a safety net, a security blanket.  I was getting braver.

The week I resigned corresponded with my birthday.  A package arrived from my dad with two books in it. One was Home-Based Business for Dummies and the others was Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, M.D., F.I.C.S.  I immediately understood the Dummies book but was unsure about Psycho-Cybernetics. I assumed it was something “coachy” he found online and thought I would be interested in.

A couple days later he called to see if I’d gotten it.

“So, what do you think about Psycho-Cybernetics?” 

Well, I flipped though it; it seems interesting.

“Did I ever tell you about this book?” 

No. 

“I read this book when I was 22 and it was the most influential book I’d ever read.  Its shaped the way I look at life ever since.  It’s about how your mindset is powerful and helps you be successful.  So I thought that since you were just starting out in your business, it was important for you to remember that.”

I could hardly comprehend what I was hearing. My eyes filled with tears.  Not only had he never mentioned this life altering experience but here he was sharing so simply and eloquently his key to a successful and fulfilling life.

My dad isn’t the kind of guy you’d say had a charmed life.  He grew up making due with what his two deaf parents could provide.  He spent over 30 years working as a repairman for Sears always knowing he was capable of more but too afraid to risk the home and life he was providing for his family.  Yet each day, he saw to it that he found something to enjoy.  A moment with my mom, a catch with my brothers, a chat with me about what I dreamed of becoming one day, a laugh with friends, a walk in nature.  What others may have seen as the life a blue-collar man was the life of a rich man to my dad.  It wasn’t lavish, it most likely wasn’t all he ever dreamed of for himself, but it was all he needed.

Consciously or not, my father taught me these lessons – the importance of my outlook, to trust in myself, to always see the positive and what can be done.   So instead of tickets to the ball game or an off the rack greeting card, this Father’s Day I want to say more than thanks.  I want him to have the acknowledgement he deserves.

As I stepped to the edge and made the leap with his supportive hand in mine, I knew I was not only fulfilling my lifelong dream but part of his as well. More than anyone, he helped make it possible.

A Self-Imposed Sabbatical – Extraordinary Alignment

Inspiration found me at 6am today.  On our daily morning walk, my friend Jane confirmed she’s leaving her job for what she’s calling a “self-imposed sabbatical.”

Layoffs were running rampant at her company and when the news came that they would affect her department, she did the unexpected and welcomed its arrival. Instead of finding a new role, she’s grabbing at the chance of taking a deep breath and finally figuring out how she wants to raise her family and have the life she wants to lead along with a career that fits into and supports her life, not consume it.

Many of you know someone like Jane or maybe you even see yourself in her.  A young, intelligent, rising star that was always full of energy and ideas to change business as usual.  She lit up a room and had the natural grace and insight that drew you in and made you determined to find out her secret.  A quick rise up the corporate ladder, national leadership roles, keynote-speaking engagements and a growing family – nothing seemed to stop her.  Or so it seemed.

About a year ago, her light began to fade. You could see exhaustion in her eyes; hear a bit of forced cheer in her voice.  Restructuring had pushed her into a role she no longer had passion for and the economic downturn seemed to close any door to change. The silent questioning had begun – is this what life is all about?  Does the company I work for support what I value?  Can I really make a difference?

Yet something got in the way of leaving the job before this point.  A “friend “we all know and love – Fear.  Its voice was strong – “you need this job.  You have to pay the bills.  You’re lucky to have a job.  Do you know how many people would kill to have what have?  You’ll never find another job making this much money or flexibility.  You’ve only ever worked at this one company, after more than a decade at one company, you won’t be successful anywhere else. Its too hard to start over.”

When I asked her about what happened and how she found the courage to face the layoff with hope, she shared that the day had simply come and she knew it.  The risk of staying was growing greater than the risk of going. And the risk of jumping into a new job right away was greater than the risk of taking some much-needed self-care. She was burnt out and to continue on the way she was would lead only to more exhaustion.  Taking time to care for herself, to re-evaluate what was most important to her and align her life in a way that honors those values was the way she could find her light again.

When in alignment, the extraordinary is possible.  There is an ease and grace in all you do.  Work becomes an authentic expression of who you are and what you’re passionate about.

Aligning Your Life for Extraordinary Results

What are your top 5 values?

Who are you and what can you accomplish when you are aligned with your values?

Where is your life out of alignment?

What 3 things can you change in your work or life to honor your values?

Less is More Extraordinary – Terminator Salvation

Less is More Extraordinary – Terminator Salvation

 You may be wondering what the movie Terminator Salvation has to do with living an extraordinary life.  It’s simple really, when presented with limited options; our choice can be a gateway to the less than ordinary experience of deep appreciation and greater satisfaction.

My husband and I spent the past week at his family’s lake house in the Adirondack Mountains of NY. It was just the two of us taking some much needed time to recharge our batteries.  We had little plans other than reading, walking, talking, hiking, kayaking, and enjoying the incredible nature and wildlife that surrounded us. But as Friday rolled around, we thought we’d head into town, mingle with other people and see a movie. 

The Strand movie theater in Schroon, NY has one screen.  It plays one movie a week and has 3 showings – Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8pm.  This weekend, it was Terminator Salvation.

I have always had a belief that more possibilities are better.  It helps us to feel less trapped and more in control of where our lives are heading.  But that belief was challenged this week at the movies.  There I was, making the choice to see a movie I otherwise wouldn’t have (summer blockbuster action films are typically not my thing). Yet I can say I was truly happy in the theater watching Terminator Salvation and enjoying myself more than I would have had I had my choice of 16 different movies playing at 5 local theaters, at my choices of at least 100 different show times throughout the day. 

Why was this I wondered?  And then it hit me – sometimes less really is more.  With all those choices typically in front of us, we have to make the perfect choice – that’s what all those options imply is attainable, right?  We can’t be happy unless it’s the right theater, the right time and the right movie. 

But I noticed sitting there at the Strand that night how the limit of choice allowed me to fully appreciate the little things about the experience.  The friendly projectionist who also sold us our tickets, the $1 bottle of water, the restored art deco interior, the old piano up by the screen left over from the days of silent films, the conversations amongst us movie-goers (aka strangers) as we left the film.  And I have to admit, I allowed myself to be entertained by the movie.  Was it great film? Certainly not.  But on that night, it was perfectly extraordinary.  

I walked away with a reminder of a valuable lesson. Seeing possibilities and feeling at choice is not about collecting a laundry list of options and trying to find the perfect combination.  Choice is about seeing what’s in front of us – even if it appears to be an undesirable option – and choosing how to be in relation with it.  Happiness and satisfaction can come to us in the most unexpected of ways if we allow it.   

Bring Less is More to Your Own Life

Where in your life or work are you stuck and feeling like you will never find the perfect choice? 

How can you see the options in front of you with new eyes and appreciate the satisfaction they can bring you?  

 

The Strand

The Strand

Look for Potential, Not Problems

I’ve come to notice that in work and in life, we are often focused on solving problems. That’s what people are asking for when they come to us for advice and it’s how we feel we help them. Yet have you ever noticed how you can help someone resolve an issue only to have it come back over and over again? Or that someone comes asking for help with a problem only to react that that don’t like being ‘told what to do’. 

What if we were to do something out of the ordinary?  Change our approach?  Go one step further, and give the people coming to us something bigger than they knew possible?  Shift our perspective towards looking for potential vs. looking for problems?  It would be a powerful new way to add value.

Let’s start with some definitions from The American Heritage® Dictionary

Problem: Any question or matter involving doubt, uncertainty, or difficulty. Difficult to deal with or control.  

Potential:  Possible, as opposed to actual; the inherent ability or capacity for growth, development, or coming into being.  Something possessing the capacity for growth or development.

Here are two simple ways two can begin looking for potential:

1. Giving An A

In the book, The Art of Possibility, Rosamund Stone Zander & Benjamin Zander share a simple way to shift perceptions that’s borrowed from the life lessons of grading students in class.  What if everyone was an A student?  How would you view them and shift your expectations of them?  

In doing this you find yourself speaking to people not from a place of measuring how they stack up against your standards, but from a place of respect that gives them room to realize themselves.  It gives others a possibility to live into versus an expectation to live up to.  The freely given A expresses a vision of partnership, teamwork and relationship.  Remember, you can’t change people, but you have the power to change the relationship between you.

TO DO:  Every time you interact with people start off by giving them an A in your mind – set aside past interactions and any judgments you might have and credit them with the best intentions.

2.      Listen for and point out the special gifts or talents others bring to their challenging situation.

Most of us just listen for what we need from others.  Or we’re waiting for the opportunity to solve the problem and move on.  This often leads us into seeing others as problems and puts them in a box – they’re wrong, we’re right; they’re broken and we have to fix them. 

On the surface, it feels like solving their problem is what they want, what you should do.  But if you dig deeper you will find that you have robbed them of knowing their power and their gifts. 

TO DO:  First, listen for the strengths the individual brings to the table.  (For example, someone brings a very detailed and thorough approach to their work.)

Then point out these strengths to the person.  (“Wow, it sounds like you have really done your homework and gathered a vast amount details around making this decision.”)

Lastly, reinforce their strengths and empower them to take action on their own.  (“What do you know to be true based on all that you’ve gathered?  What do you think is the best path to choose?  What more, if anything, do you need to consider?”)

The people around us are creative and resourceful.  Help them to know this and you will affect them profoundly in that moment and for much time to come.  They will start to see themselves as potential and not problems.  They will know their value and will become empowered to take ownership.

Your Call To Action: Shift your perspective from problems to potential; Grant an A to everyone you encounter.  Look for and acknowledge their potential and watch what happens!