Category Archives: follow your bliss

SerenDestiny #71: It’s About TIME

It's about TIME!

“The secret of life … is to enjoy the passage of time.” – James Taylor

My friends and I are in Newport Beach for our semi-annual strategic master-mind.

We were walking back on Ocean Blvd. from our morning beach walk and window-shopping.

The above display in a high-end furniture store stopped us in our tracks.

YIKES.

How would you like to sleep in a room that had this HUGE clock looming over you?

It just felt … wrong.

Yet, in a way, that’s how many of us feel every day.

TIME, in capital letters, looms over our every waking moment.

We rush through our days, watching the clock, ever aware of appointments, deadlines, schedules, agendas, checklists.

The faster we go, the behinder we get.

We hurry here, there, everywhere.

Too much to do. Can’t be late. Have a very important date.

For many of us, time runs and ruins our life.

The multi-faceted consequences of this constant time pressure was never more evident than in what happened to a friend of mine.

Sue is a high-level negotiator who mediates contracts between multi-million dollar organizations.

She was doing a rare team-teaching and went to bed early the night before the program so she’d be ready for the big day.

Her team teacher called around 9 pm and Sue’s daughter picked up the phone.

“Can I talk to Sue please? I’ve got some questions about our presentation tomorrow.”

“Actually, my mom went to bed early. She wasn’t feeling well.”

Instead of getting the hint, the team teacher said, “I really need to speak to her.”

Sue’s daughter came back with, “I don’t want to wake her. She needs the sleep.”

Instead of backing down, the team teacher persisted. (She later said it wasn’t like her to insist on talking to someone when diplomatically being told “no” – but somehow she knew this was important.)

Sue’s daughter relented. She went to wake up her mom and discovered she was in a … coma. Sue had had an adverse reaction to a new medication and was unconscious.

Thankfully, Sue’s daughter immediately sprung into action. She called 911 and an ambulance was there in minutes. The EMT’s began emergency procedures to revive Sue on the way to the hospital.

In the middle of all this, Sue was having the out-of-body experience you may have heard about from other people who have “died” and come back.

Sue was “above it all” watching the medical team try to revive her.

Sue experienced the bright light that exuded an all-encompassing love, peace and serenity that transcended description.

She saw her loved ones that had already passed … on the other side of a body of water.

She was given a choice. She could join her loved ones on the other side of the water… or she could come back and take care of her daughter.

Sue chose to come back and take care of her daughter.

When Sue was telling our small group this story over dinner, she said one of the enduring memories of that experience was the ludicrousness of time.

She said, looking back on earth, we all look like ants, frantically rushing to and fro.

Busy, busy, busy. Anxious. Up tight. Angry. Tense. Impatient. Always behind. Always frustrated.

She said, “From that perspective, you see the futility of it all. The silliness of it all. The senselessness of it all. You want to take it back. You want a do-over.

Like Emily in Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town, you just want to go back and take it all in and be in a state of wonder at the bliss, beauty and blessedness of a normal day.

You long for a second chance to enjoy the passage of time instead of obsess over it.”

The good news is, we have a second chance for a do-over … right here, right now.

We can look around and appreciate all we already have instead of operating with the underlying feeling there’s never enough time, we’re always behind, we’ll never get caught up, we’ll never get it all done.

We can integrate James Taylor’s wise words and enjoy the passage of time, appreciate having time.

It really is the secret of life.

SerenDestiny #67: People Can’t Jump on your Bandwagon – If It’s Parked in the Garage

bandwagon_sized

“If you don’t go, you’ll never know.” – Robert De Niro

Many of us operate with the opposite of Robert De Niro’s insight.

If we don’t know; we don’t go.

The problem with that?

By definition, with any new venture, we DON’T KNOW what we’re doing.

If we use “knowing what we’re doing” as a prerequisite for moving forward … we never move forward.

Yikes.

That’s where GTS comes in.

What’s GTS?

Let me explain.

A year after my son Andrew graduated from VA Tech with a business degree, we were having dinner.

Andrew had “lucked out” and found a job as an executive recruiter. He was the envy of his college buddies because he was working in a classy downtown building, making good money and working for a respected, well-connected industry icon who was arranging for him to do neat things like work at events with President Obama and Tony Bennett. Not the normal career trajectory.

Yet, as I looked into Andrew’s eyes that night, there was no spark.

In fact, he used a word I’d never heard him use before. Exhausted.

I asked, “So, are you going down to VA Tech this weekend to see the game?”

“Nah. By the time I’d drive down there, I’d only have a few hours and then I’d have to turn around and come back. I just don’t have the energy. I’m exhausted.”

Exhausted?!? How could that be? How was it that this formerly energetic 20-something was burned out?

I asked, “Andrew, what’s up?”

He said, “Mom, I want to quit. I know I should be grateful for this job, and I am, but sitting at a computer all day researching job openings and making cold calls is not what I was born to do.”

“What do you want to do?”

Andrew immediately became more animated. “I want to start a non-profit.”

I have to admit, this conservative person I didn’t even know existed popped up and almost caused me to blurt out, “Non-profit?! Do you know how many non-profits are going out of business these days because donations have dried up? How are you going to pay bills? What about health insurance?”

Thank heaven a wiser voice prevailed. I thought to myself, “Isn’t this exactly what 20-somethings ought to be doing at this stage of their life? Andrew’s 23. If he doesn’t go for what he wants now, he may never get a chance to later. Good for him for wanting to do work he’s proud of. I should be supporting him, not shutting him down.”

So, I said, “Andrew, you’ve always been resourceful. If you apply yourself, I know you can pull this off.”

You may be thinking, “But how could Andrew pull this off? He’d never run a non-profit before.”

That’s true … and that’s where GTS comes in.

GTS stands for Google that … stuff. (As you can imagine, Millennials sometimes substitute another word for stuff.)

Andrew thanked his boss for giving him that job opportunity right out of college – and then promptly got online and Googled “How can I start a non-profit?”

Up came dozens of resources – all telling Andrew exactly what steps he needed to take to get a license, find a team and get funding.

In the course of one year, Andrew recruited a team of 20 (!) interns and found a collaborative work space at the Affinity Lab in Washington DC.

It was the ideal environment to get other people on his bandwagon. Someone a couple desks over would ask, “Andrew, what are you working on today?”

Andrew would say, “I’m applying for a grant” and they would say, “Oh, I did that last year. You can borrow the proposal I filled out and use it as a template.”

Andrew never had to go it alone as he was surrounded by others who shared his vision and had his back … and front.

The result?

Dreams for Kids – DC – http://dreamsforkids.org/blankman/dc/ – has sponsored dozens of adaptive athletic programs for kids and gotten them off the sidelines and into the games of life. They have sponsored Extreme Recess clinics with the Washington Nationals baseball players, Capitals hockey players, Wizard and Mystic basketball players and United soccer players.

Dreams for Kids – DC has made a positive difference for thousands of young people through their Dream Leader programs in local schools and through their annual Holiday for Hope program at Howard University.

All because Andrew didn’t quit before he started because he “didn’t know what he was doing.”

If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past few years interviewing people about their SerenDestiny – a life where the light is on in your eyes because you’re doing what you love most and do best – it’s that PEOPLE CAN’T JUMP ON YOUR BANDWAGON – IF ITS PARKED IN THE GARAGE.

What do you want to do? What would put the light on in your eyes?

Are you hesitating because you don’t know what to do?

Remember – you don’t have to know to go.

Get online right now. Phrase what you want to do as a question and put it into your favorite search engine. GTS your dream goal – and up will come dozens of resources to help you on your way.

Whether you want to write a book, become a ballroom dancer or launch your own business … those online resources will tell you how to take your first steps.

Do you want this year to be your best ever? Do you want the light on in your eyes?

Don’t wait, initiate.

GTS what you want to do. And then get your bandwagon out of the garage and get moving.

SerenDestiny #65: What You Do When You Procrastinate COULD be the Seed of Your SerenDestiny

“My parents always told me I wouldn’t amount to anything because I procrastinated so much. I told ’em, ‘Just you wait.” – comedian Judy Tenuta

Are you waiting for your destiny to show up?

Are you the kid who was always crystal clear about what you wanted to be when you grew up … or are you still searching for your ideal job – your life-work?

For most of us, clarity about our purpose doesn’t show up all at once. It crystallizes, over time, from a series of experiences that resonate, that feel right.

We notice that when we do this type of work or collaborate with these type of individuals, we feel meaningfully productive. It just fits. It’s a match for who we are and what matters most.

We can sometimes discover our life-work by taking a second look at what we do, naturally, in our free time … when we’re not working.

That is certainly the case with one of my colleagues.

Dana always used to “noodle and doodle.”

In class, instead of listening to her teacher, she would let her imagination run free. Instead of doing her assignments, she’d be filling the margins with what she was seeing in her mind’s eye.

Guess how Dana earns her living – a good living – in every sense of the word?

She’s a graphic facilitator. She is the person you see at conferences and strategic retreats, facilitating the discussion while simultaneously drawing a colorful mural that maps what’s happening in the room with images and highlighted words. http://take-action.com/

Dana loves her work – and it loves her. She has turned her joy into her job.

By the way, that is one of the definitions of SerenDestiny.

Make your joy your job.

So, what do you do when you’re supposed to be doing something else?

What are you drawn to do when you’re supposed to be doing your “real” job?

What do you do in your free time that resonates, feels right, fills you with joy?

Get creative about how you could get paid to teach that or do that for others.

If you do, you’ll never have to “work” another day in your life … because you’ll be in that sublime state of SerenDestiny where you’re earning a good living doing what you love most and do best.

SerenDestiny #64: We Don’t FIND our Calling – We CREATE It

“I’ve had a good life; and the reason is I stayed busy doing the things that mattered to me.” – Sandra Day O’Connor

People talk about “finding” their calling … as if it exists out there somewhere, intact, and all they have to do is look long enough and EUREAKA, there it will be, hiding behind a tree.

I think our calling, as former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor points out, more often EMERGES from doing and pursuing things that matter to us.

That’s certainly been the case with me.

I am doing work I didn’t even know existed when I went to college. I didn’t get a degree in this and I never answered a newspaper ad featuring this as a job description.

The career I love so much is an accumulation of instinctive steps I took along the way. There was no map. I just did my best to honor The Three I’s – Instincts, Interests and Integrity.

I believe the Three I’s are our “Calling Compass.”

When you don’t know what to do, check in with your Three I’s and they’ll point you in the right direction.

When I speak at conventions, people often come up afterwards and say, “It looks like you really love what you do. How can I do what you do?”

Here’s how I got started, and how you can too.

Years ago, I was reading The Washington Post and noticed the word “concentration” was used six times on the front page of the sports section.

Tennis player Chrissie Evert said her ability to concentrate was why she’d been able to ignore the planes flying overhead and win the U.S. Open.

A golfer who’d just lost a tournament by missing a short putt on the last hole said he’d been distracted by the clicking cameras of nearby photographers.

A baseball team had lost its last 7 games. Their manager blamed their slump on his team thinking ahead to the playoffs instead of focusing on that day’s game.

I was intrigued. I thought, “We all wish we could concentrate better – but no one ever teaches us how. I’ve never seen any books on this topic. I’ve never heard any speakers on this topic.”

I decided to research how we could improve our ability to concentrate. I interviewed athletes, artists, executives and entrepreneurs and asked them:

1. How did you learn how to concentrate?
2. What do you do to stay focused despite distractions and interruptions?
3. How do to focus when you don’t feel like it – and how do you regain your concentration if you lose it?
4. Do you have any special techniques you use to s-t-r-e-t-c-h your attention span?”

Based on the insights and action steps I collected and developed; I offered a public program for Open University on HOW TO CONCENTRATE BETTER – ANYTIME, ANYWHERE.

At the end of that workshop, 16 people came up to ask if I would share my techniques with their organization. That one workshop launched a speaking career that has taken me around the world and given me many blessed opportunities to do work I love that matters. It resulted in a book called ConZentrate that Stephen Covey highly recommended as, “Fascinating, thought-provoking and movtivating.”

http://www.amazon.com/ConZentrate-Attention–When-Pressures-Distractions-Priorities/dp/0312270100/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1349029034&sr=8-1&keywords=conzentrate+-+sam+horn

How about you? Do you want more meaningful work? Are you looking for the perfect job or dream career? Just ask yourself,

1. What do I find intriguing?
2. What is something that calls to me that is in alignment with my Three I’s?
3. What is a problem or need that has caught my attention and caused me to think, ‘Somebody should DO something about that?”

YOU’RE AS MUCH A SOMEBODY AS ANYBODY. WHY DON’T YOU DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT?

Who knows? Deciding to research, write and speak about an intriguing topic could be the first step to your SerenDestiny.

Choosing to pursue an opportunity that is alignment with your Three I’s could help you create your calling.

Solving a problem that concerns you could result in a life where the light is on in your eyes.

Remember, you don’t FIND your calling – you CREATE it – by honoring your Three I’s and by getting busy doing and pursuing what matters.

Have you created your calling? Would you please take a few minutes to share the story of how you got started?

Who knows? It could be just the inspiration someone needs to kick-start their calling.

SerenDestiny® #51: Am I Waiting Until I Have All My Ducks in a Row … to Turn My Dream into Reality?

I used to be a “Have to have my ducks in a row to go” kind of person.

I thought it was being responsible.

We wouldn’t want to waste people’s valuable time, right?

I thought it just made sense to think things through before asking or acting. It decreased the risk of mistakes, rejection and failure and increased the likelihood of success.

Then I saw this YouTube Clip.

Who would have guessed a 46 second YouTube clip (now viewed by more than 21 million people) would result in a life-changing new perspective?

I love that clip because it shows we don’t have to have our ducks in a row … to go.

That mama duck and her little ducklings got blown all over the place – but they just picked themselves up, brushed themselves off and proceeded along their way.

No harm, no foul.

Hmmm …

How did I get so locked into the “ducks in a row” mentality?

I think it was a remnant of growing up in the 60’s.

I grew up before Title IX. As women, we were often treated as second class citizens. We had to wait to be asked to the dance.

So, when we graduated from college and finally got our “equal opportunity” to enter the workplace, we felt compelled to prove ourselves and have our act together.

Our goal was to quickly show we could be trusted to work hard, make wise “unemotional” decisions, deliver results … and for God’s sake, never, ever cry.

Thinking back, I now understand my Dad also played a role in my belief that you always do your homework before making a request or recommendation.

During dinner, he would grill us about an issue and play devil’s advocate to develop our ability to debate, think on our feet and back up opinions with facts.

Feelings didn’t count. A passionate belief wasn’t a sufficient cause for action. If I tried to defend a stance with, “Well, that’s how I feel,” or “That’s what I believe,” he would retort, “Not good enough.”

Dad wasn’t being mean. He was simply trying to prepare us to make a strong case for our ideas and win arguments with unassailable logic and irrefutable, thoroughly-thought-out strategies.

That upbringing and training about the importance of due diligence served a very good purpose.

I, (and many boomer women from that “We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby” era) grew up being able to justify every proposed action with evidence and precedence.

We’re logical thinkers and deliverers, and don’t often encounter those pesky “surprises” that result from not preparing for every eventuality.

That strength has served us well up until now. In all likelihood, doing our homework has reduced the number of regrets, false starts, rejections and failures.

But that “Don’t go unless our ducks are in a row” strength has also taken a toll … because it is an extreme.

And any strength taken to an extreme becomes our Achilles Heel. (Our Achilles Hell?)

As a result of that all-or-nothing philosophy … we have missed many opportunities.

And that’s too bad because a hallmark of many SerenDestineers is … they didn’t know what they were doing … and they went ahead and did it anyway.

Many of them saw a problem, need or opportunity and thought, “Somebody should do something about that.”

Then they thought, “I’m as much a somebody as anybody… I’ll do something about it.”

The thing is, many of them had no previous experience with the dream they were going to pursue or the project they were about to launch … but they didn’t let that stop them. They went ahead and learned along the way.

And, like the mama duck and her little ducklings … they often got knocked ass over teakettle.

But they picked themselves up, brushed themselves off and proceeded along their way.

They understood that “getting blown off course” is the natural disruption phase of the discovery process.

By definition, when we do something for the first time, we will get knocked off our feet … it is to be expected.

Our job is to get our bandwagon out of the garage so other people can jump on it.

That’s what Miki Agrawal did.

Miki is a former investment banker and Division 1 soccer player. She told me, “The apartments in New York City are so small, my friends and I used to go out to dinner every night because who wants to stay home? I ended up with digestive problems though because everything I ate at restaurants was bad for me.

After one partcularly painful stomach-ache I thought, ‘Why can’t I find food I like that’s good for me?’

So, I did some research. I Googled “restaurants in NYC” and discovered that pizza accounts for 10% of all food service sales. Everyone loves pizza, but it’s usually made with tons of cheese and other not-so-good-for-you ingredients.

I thought, “Why not open a restaurant that serves a variety of organic pizzas made with fresh, healthy ingredients that taste good and are good?’

Had I ever run a restaurant before? No. Did I have any food and beverage experience? No.

And yes, I had seen all the scary statistics that 90% of all restaurants fail in the first year; and 70% of the remaining restaurants fail in their second year.

So, I knew the odds were against me but I decided to give it a try … and Slice Perfect is the result.”

Not only has Slice Perfect won many awards; it has beat the odds and is now going on its seventh year. Check out their fabulous website – http://sliceperfect.com/ – and stop by next time you’re on Hudson Street in NYC for fabulous food.

Furthermore, Zappos founder Tony Hsieh just asked Miki to open a Slice Perfect in the newly-renovated downtown district in Las Vegas.

Would any of this have happened if Miki had waited until her ducks were in a row?

No.

Did Miki make mistakes and get temporarily blown off her feet?

You bet.

Did she view those as failures; as indications she should quit or shouldn’t have started in the first place?

Nope.

Like that mama duck and her ducklings, she just picked herself up, brushed herself off, learned from her mistakes … and proceeded along her way.

How about you?

What’s your SerenDestiny dream? Do you want to start a non-profit? Launch your own business? Write a book? Train for a half-marathon?

Are you waiting until everything’s perfect and you have all have your ducks in a row?

If so, watch that 46 second video again.

Hopefully, it will inspire you to adopt a new philosophy that goes something like this.

“I will not WAIT until all my ducks are in a row … to go.
I will not WAIT to be asked to the dance.
I will INITIATE on my own behalf.
I will have the CLARITY and COURAGE to get my SerenDestiny® bandwagon out of the garage.
I will LEARN ALONG THE WAY.”

Write this philosophy (or your version of it) on an index card and put it on your refrigerator, mirror, in your wallet and on your laptop.

Posting this pro-active motto where you see it all day, every day, will keep it in-sight, in mind … instead of out of sight, out of mind.

And you might want to mull over this quote from sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke:

“No one can predict the future.
The best we can hope for is the ‘masterful administration of the unforeseen.’
Ride the whirlwind. That’s the most we can do.”

Don’t try to predict and guarantee a successful future .. and don’t try to “masterfully administer” the whirlwind.

That sounds a lot like control – and we know how THAT works out.

Embrace the whirlwind that will happen when you set your SerenDestiny® in motion.

Enjoy it. Appreciate it. Welcome it. It is an indication you’re turning your dream into reality.

And, if the whirlwind of disruption and discovery temporarily blows you off your feet; get up, brush yourself off, adapt, and keep moving forward. Always forward.