December 30, 2010

Year in review

In response to this #YearInReview blog post by Seth Godin, I've made a list of what I shipped in 2010.

As Seth defines it, 'shipping' is about what you make happen, what you deliver.  In particular, what scares you, that you do anyway.

Often, we have great ideas but don't take the steps to make them happen.  It is the making them happen that matters.

I took on shipping this year, because I read Seth's book Linchpin in 2010.  And I took on fear, too, and the power of the reminder on my favourite mug.
My list isn't nearly as impressive as Seth's.  For me, though, some of these things were a big stretch at the time. Now, maybe not so much.
  • public speaking - Joined toastmasters. Gave a keynote speech. Moderated a panel. 
  • blog - Published 43 blog posts.  Took on delivering short, clear messages.
  • newsletter - Shipped 12 newsletters. 
  • twitter - transitioned from awkward to useful on twitter. Now, relish its structure for concise and clear communication.
  • supplier lists and supply arrangements - 30 or so proposals written in 2010 mean I am now on a total of seven pre-qualified lists or supply arrangements to provide my services. 
  • adventure - A 5,000 km road trip to the Oregon sand dunes, San Francisco, Disney and Los Angeles with my two boys.
  • experience - Spent two weeks in small town Mexico, living simply and working remotely.
  • event - Led a team to make the first open government conference in British Columbia happen.
  • relationships - along the way, I have built a set of amazing new relationships with inspiring people.

    I have already been thinking about what I will be shipping in 2011.

    Thanks Seth, for suggesting we take on making our own list.

    Have you thought about what you shipped in 2010?  I bet it's a good list.

    creating an experience

    I have been reflecting on our trip to Disneyland this past summer.  I want to share the article I wrote for my newsletter while at the Happiest Place on Earth.

    There are two things that are really striking about the experience here. 
    First, that every person working within the gates of Disney is committed to a common purpose:  creating an extra-ordinary experience for the visitor.  Every person – they are not staff, but rather ‘cast’ or ‘crew’ members – without fail holds to that commitment.  Grumpy doesn’t exist.  There is an invitation offered everywhere to have a wonderful time.  They thank you for coming as you enter the park.  It is really quite amazing, to be in an environment where the customer experience is held above all else. 
    Second, that Walt Disney created this amazing park with only his own vision.  He is quoted as stating: "We did it in the knowledge that most of the people I talked to thought it would be a financial disaster - closed and forgotten within the first year."  Most everyone around him believed his idea would not be successful, and told him so.  Yet he proceeded anyway.  At significant financial and personal cost. 
    Opinions are an interesting thing.  We surround ourselves with people who are important to us.  Friends, family, partners, mentors.  For the most part, we care about what the people in our lives think.  We don’t do a good job of separating our care, respect and trust for the person, from what we expect ourselves to do with the opinion they offer us.  Often, we and they both tend to have an expectation that the opinion will alter our course of action in some way. 
    What if it doesn’t, and what if that doesn’t mean anything?  Opinions are just opinions:  a particular way of thinking based on a collection of thoughts such as our own personal past experience, the past experience of others close to us, our beliefs, what we have read or heard.  They also contain our own fears.  We offer them up to others freely and sometimes, carelessly. 
    Walt Disney was surrounded by people important to him, and their freely offered opinions told him his theme park was a bad idea.  He proceeded anyway, and we have The Happiest Place on Earth as a result. 
    Disneyland is a good reminder of what’s possible. 

    December 27, 2010

    what are you creating for 2011?

    This is often the time of year for reflection.  Looking back, and looking forward.  Those who find new year's resolutions help them to focus on changes they want to make are busy thinking of resolutions for the new year.
    I am not a new year's resolution type.  However, I believe we move towards what we think about, and that having goals to steer the course is essential.  So I am spending some time thinking about what I want for the upcoming year.
    What's on my list so far? Creating 'home', not merely a house. Calm. Gratitude. Connections. Lots of writing.  Sharing. Fun. Stretching myself to do things I think I cannot do. Less second guessing, more doing. Promising that I will check in often with myself, to adjust course if necessary.
    What about you?  Are you developing goals or resolutions for the coming year?  Have you thought about what you want to make happen in 2011?
    photo from http://www.sxc.hu/

    December 25, 2010

    the best of times

    It's Christmas Day.  I am thinking back, over the year behind me.
    Over the past couple of days, air travelers in Europe have been struggling with weather issues.  Freezing temperatures, snow, and shortages of antifreeze.  I have read the articles, including one that said (of the people stuck in the Paris airport, flights cancelled) that 'their Christmas was ruined'.
    Really?
    Those travellers have a story to tell, over and over.  About the Christmas morning they spent at the airport.  And how the airport staff arranged for Father Christmas to visit, and for small gifts for all, and breakfast to be served.
    These travelers now have a story to share, for their whole lives.  About the adventure they had.  Different than what they expected.
    How anything that happens in our lives occurs - and how it lives on, in our stories - is up to us.  Some circumstances could suggest an occasion or event is ruined. Or not.
    It is completely up to us as to how we choose to view it.  And that is an amazingly powerful choice, isn't it?

    December 13, 2010

    A Time for Increased Collaboration

    Below is another an article from my newsletter, this time from vol. 1 no. 7. It seems even more timely to me now.
    As we prepare to enter a new year, that this could be the perfect time for each of us to actively seek opportunities to collaborate more with others.
    Several times lately, a passage in a book by Nathaniel Branden has popped into my mind that states, in essence, “…and what else can I do?”
     No matter how much effort we have expended on something, no matter how difficult or insurmountable a particular challenge or relationship or business problem may seem, it is always possible to do more. We are intelligent, capable, resourceful, committed individuals. We can be the ones who continue to look for solutions when others become resigned or give up.
    I think about the continued challenges faced by government friends with severely constrained budgets and expectations placed on them to continue to move good initiatives forward. I think about the forest sector, and the challenges faced by those trying to reinvent it for the future. I think about the provincial economy as a whole, and the talented and committed people who want to do their part to put B.C. on the map as a place where great things happen.
    Is it possible to do more together than we can do individually? I believe so. The old fiefdom-based, knowledge-is-power culture is fading, albeit more slowly in some areas than others. In the circles I touch, varying degrees of collaboration are in use. People working together to solve problems, sharing ideas, sharing successes so that others can benefit from what has been done already. Acknowledgement and understanding of the benefits for all if ‘the group’ – whoever that group may be in the particular instance – succeeds.
    Collaboration is possible even between businesses in a competitive environment. There are always areas where the results possible from collaboration exceed what is possible independently. Where a common effort to solve problems or raise awareness or improve relationships and reputations collectively benefits the larger group. The rewards are there. The challenge is identifying those opportunities. And that takes courage and creativity.
    What if you took on seeking more opportunities to work with others, as you head into this new year?

    Photo from stock.xchng

    December 11, 2010

    Transforming Meetings

    I will periodically be posting some articles from my newsletter on my blog.  Here is one from Vol 1 No. 6.
    How is it our concept of a ‘meeting’ is so negative?  We rarely speak of meetings with enthusiasm.   For most of us they are seen as something to be endured, time mostly wasted that gets in the way of getting ‘real work’ done.  I even looked for a quote about meetings for this article and couldn’t find a single positive one.  
    It is possible to transform meetings.  What would it be like if people came to know you as someone who called and held productive meetings that were a good use of everyone’s time?
    I googled the word ‘meeting’ and came up with this great graphic from the site, www.visualthesaurus.com.  There is no connotation of ‘waste of time’. 
    Being responsible for great meetings is an art as well as a science.  The first clue is in the phrase ‘being responsible’.  The person who calls the meeting IS responsible:  for the time to be well spent.  That means responsibility for many things, such as:
    ·    being clear about what the intentions are of the meeting (a way to harness collective intelligence?  Brainstorming?  A key decision needs to be made?);
    ·    being mindful and respectful of the cost (if you invite 5 people making $50 an hour; a two hour meeting just cost your organization $500);
    ·    ensuring the right people are invited and able to attend (how many meetings have you been to where a key player wasn’t in the room, thus requiring another meeting?);
    ·    ensuring you have only invited the people who need to be there, and limit the information to what is relevant for the people who are there;
    ·    ensuring that the objectives are communicated ahead of time to the participants.  Send out a clear agenda (people need to know how to prepare, and those with a preference for introversion may need time to think about the material beforehand);
    ·    if you want to be able to participate yourself, have someone else facilitate the meeting;
    ·    start when you said you would.  Don’t waste the time of the people who honoured you by arriving on time to wait for those who are late; and
    ·    follow up with whatever commitments you make in the meeting (notes, action lists).
    Taking responsibility for that one or two hour meeting means some prep beforehand and may mean some follow up afterwards.  But these few suggestions could make your meetings be seen as more valuable by the people who work with you.  

    November 16, 2010

    Goal setting through


    Have you ever worked long and hard at something, had it come together successfully, and then fallen flat afterwards?
    What happens?
    Forward momentum is as a result of goals.  We move towards what we think about, whether we realize we are setting goals or not.  Being more deliberate about the process results in more clearly defined goals, and a higher likelihood of getting what we really want.  
    When defining a goal, it seems to be human nature to stop at the goal.  We rarely think beyond the big event:  running the race, holding the conference, delivering the baby.
    And so, the source of the flattening after the goal occurs.  We got there.  We made it happen.  Now what?  Often, 'now what' is a period of deflation and lack of focus, until you realize what is going on (or not) and set new goals.
    Consider trying a different approach.  Next time you set a goal for yourself, think beyond the big event to what comes next. And define the next goal before you close in on the first one.

    October 8, 2010

    how do you connect with others?

    I have several different ways to connect with people.
    I have my newsletter.  I just finished the seventeenth edition. I have been writing it long enough now that it feels comfortable, a known thing.  I look forward to newsletter day, and the opportunity to reconnect with many of the relationships in my life. I send it out to the people who I 'know'.  They are a deeper set of relationships.  I am thinking of them as I write it.  What would be interesting for them? What do they want to hear about?
    There is twitter.  Twitter is fascinating and, after 450 tweets, I am getting the hang of it.  I do not know some of my followers.  Of what I am about, what would be of interest, a contribution to them?  When people choose to follow me on twitter, they have an expectation of some sort, and I don't know what it is.  All there is to do is to offer up my insights and thoughts, and people will either follow me or not.

    I have this blog. It is a little like twitter.  I don't know who will read it, and what they are looking for.  Again, I think about what I have to offer, what insights and perspective. And I write about that and hope that my readers find value for themselves.
    My favourite means of connection is face-to-face.  I love getting together with people and catching up, having a conversation.  Over food or drink is best.  Since taking on the OpenGovWest BC conference, I have greatly increased both my coffee consumption and my meetings with new people.  The conference, and what its theme (open government) represents to each of us, is the link that draws us together.
    What is your favourite way to connect with other people?

    September 25, 2010

    A gift a day

    My neighbours are building a house. And they are giving me wood.
    They are in their late 60s.  There is a wife and a husband, and I don't know them well.  I have lived in my house for three years, and for most of that time, they had their little old house next door rented.
    But then they decided to tear down the old house, rebuild, and live in the new place.  I can tell it's exciting for them.  They have a contractor doing the construction with a few men.  The husband comes every day too and works alongside.  The whole project fascinates me, because I have never built a house and it seems amazing to me how they know, always, what the next step is.
    I have learned that there is a lot of scrap lumber when you build a house.  And every day, the husband cuts the scraps of lumber into pieces and piles it in my carport for me. Pieces small enough to fit in my wood stove.  Most days, when I look out, I have gifts waiting for me as the pile has gotten a little bigger.
    I know that they don't have to do this.  I am touched that they do.  With me, they are creating a bank account of goodwill that will last a long time.
    In business, as in other areas of life, gifts for no reason are priceless.  Seth Godin speaks of this.  My neighbours and my woodpile remind me of this daily.  What have I given away today?  Who could benefit from something that I know or can do?
    Each of us has something of value that can be contributed freely.  What gifts do you give away?

    September 10, 2010

    One sure way to kill a conversation (and how to avoid it)

    Your friend has a great business idea.  He's been thinking about it for awhile and he has put some things in place to make it happen. He is excited about it.

    He is meeting you for dinner and decides to share his idea with you.  The idea is precious and he doesn't want to share it with just anyone. He has known you for a long time and trusts you. He values your thoughts, and is looking forward to hearing what you think. He also wants your support.

    You get together. You chat about different things, and then the perfect time comes to talk about The Great Idea.

    He shares it with you. As he is talking, you remember something similar from your experience. You feel compelled to tell him about it.  The moment he pauses, you burst in.  He will know you were really listening, that you 'get' what he is talking about. You say 'Hey!  You should go and check out [so and so] on [x] street. They are doing exactly what you are talking about.  It's great.'

    Suddenly, the energy in the conversation has changed. It drains away. Your friend stops talking and looks tired.  Conversation dwindles. You say your good nights, after a few more words, and head out. It's time to go home.

    What happened there?

    Your brain linked his idea to something you already knew. It's natural; as human beings, we do it all the time. We are constantly looking to link new information, to see the patterns.

    However, the last thing your friend needed to hear about his new, unique, brilliant business idea was that someone else had already thought of it and was doing it, successfully or not. There is power in the bubble of belief with a idea, and the power needs to be there to propel the person forward.  Your friend does need to know what else is out there in his market niche, but you don't need to be sure he knows it the first time he talks to you about it. And you don't even know for sure that business is in the same niche.  In fact, you weren't really listening to him because you were busy linking what he was saying to something else. You also don't know what makes your friend's idea remarkable compared to what else is out there.

    So what could you do differently? Notice when those thoughts come into your head. Resist the urge to blurt them out. Practice listening to him instead (I put some thoughts here about that). Be curious.  Ask lots of questions. Maybe your questions will help him identify some things he needs to think about.  He will leave the conversation feeling heard, and grateful that he had the good judgement to share something important with you.

    August 21, 2010

    The power of group

    I am involved with organizing a conference for November.
    The experience is reminding me about the power of group energy.  We are a team of people working to make it happen.  Everyone brings something different to the group.  Most folks I didn't know very well or even at all before this project.  We haven't put a lot of constraints in place around who is on the team; if you are passionate, committed to the project and have something to contribute, we welcome you.
    It is amazing to see the energy we are generating so far.  It is a great reminder for me of the power of group, and also the power of something organic.  Magic is possible if you don't try to control everything, and instead allow something to develop naturally.

    The conference is on Open Government, and we will be continuing to post information here about it as it unfolds.

    August 11, 2010

    One simple way to be more productive

    My mood impacts my effectiveness.  I would prefer to be one of those stalwart, and possibly completely fictional, characters who soldier on at high capacity regardless of emotional state of mind.  However, instead I occasionally wallow in despair, frustration, sadness or fear, and my productivity and effectiveness suffer too.
    Most of the time, I feel compelled to be as productive as possible.  So I have come up with some techniques to shift my mood and fast. Here's my favourite one to share with you.  It's simple.
    Get thankful.
    Spending a few moments feeling thankful is a great way to boost your mood.  Make time every day to get in touch with what you are thankful for. It doesn't take very long and like exercising a muscle, it gets easier the more you do it.  It's about noon as I write this and I can easily rattle off several things I am thankful for so far today:  my orchid blooming right now, living in a beautiful part of the world, being a Canadian, free wifi, the friendly barista who made my great cup of coffee, the opportunity to spend time with bright people who are up to something with their lives....you get the picture.  By the end of the day, my list will be long and rich with the special things that I am thankful for.
    The impact on my state is an immediate connection to what matters and why I love being alive.  How can I possibly be anxious, fearful, sad, upset, or angry in the face of that? And it's something I don't need anyone or anything else to make happen.
    The next time you notice your mood is low, try this.  See what it brings you.  

    August 5, 2010

    How to repair a relationship in one simple step

    Are there people in your life who you care about and you don't talk to anymore?
    Maybe words were said, or something hurtful happened, or a commitment wasn't kept.  Or you didn't call when you were going to, and as months or years went by it seemed more and more difficult to get in touch.  At some point, you become embarrassed because so much time has passed.  You don't know how you would start a conversation.
    Have you ever thought about what it would take to repair the relationship?  Consider for a moment that it could be repaired with one simple action on your part.
    It can begin with one phone call.  Or even a letter, if a call seems too hard.  You could apologize for your part in the conflict, if there was one.  Or apologize for being out of touch. You can let them know that they are important to you.  That you miss having them in your life.
    It is possible that taking an action such as this would make no difference.  If that is the case, you are no further ahead or behind in that relationship than you are right now.  And you would know that you have taken an action to resolve something that was important to you.
    Who could you get in touch with who matters to you?  Will you give them a call? I would love to hear how it goes for you.

    July 27, 2010

    Six words no one should ever say

    "It's all on the website but...".

    Have you ever said these words?
    If you ever hear yourself saying them when someone - a client, a customer, a colleague - asks you for information, it's time to take a vacation.
    Those words have nothing to do with providing service.  They have a lot to do with other things. They make the person wrong for not finding the information already. They presume that the person would rather go away and read material on a website than talk to you.  They make it clear that you, at any rate, would rather that they go away than talk to you.  In fact, you're irritated that they would bother you with a question that you have already provided an answer to somewhere else.  Even if it's the first time they have asked you for that information.
    What are you committed to?  If you are committed to helping others, to sharing your knowledge and expertise, then do that. Willingly. And be thankful that someone is interested enough to ask.

    July 21, 2010

    who are you for others?

    We have direct influence over a fair number of people in our lives.  Employees, coworkers, children, partners. Beyond, everyone within our circle, everyone who knows us or even, knows of us.
    When you have a few moments, make a list of who is in your circle.  The people who know you.  You may be surprised to see how large your circle is.  I would bet that in less than five minutes, you can easily generate a list of over 100 people.
    When we think about what direct influence is, we typically think about what we have to say.  Advice, opinion, discussions, conversations. It is easy to see how our words directly influence others.  There is also the influence of our actions, what we do.  Yet there is another way we influence that is less obvious. It is very powerful.  It is the influence of who we are.
    Think of someone you admire.  Who is that person for you?  Perhaps you like how calm they are in a crisis, or how they are always cheerful no matter what is going on in their life. Or perhaps you like that you can count on them to do what they said they would do.
    If members of your circle did this exercise, what would they say about you?  Who are you for the people in your life?  Think about it for a bit.  Then go ahead, ask a few people.  And pay attention to what they say.  Because who you are for others is where you are having a tremendous impact in your life.

    July 15, 2010

    choosing

    My neighbours beside me are tearing down their house and building a new one.  They contacted me a few weeks ago.  They told me there was a possibility my large fir tree adjacent to their property might be damaged but they would try their best to save it.  They asked me to write a letter indicating I wouldn't sue them if the tree died as a result of the construction.
    I wrote the letter.  A week later, they contacted me again to tell me the arborist recommended the tree be cut now, as it was otherwise very likely to fall on my house.
    The second piece of information arrived the day I left for my holiday.  I felt manipulated; there was a big difference for me between my tree might die (the circumstances under which I wrote my letter) and my tree needs to be cut down now.
    I spent time suffering, being upset.  Then, through a conversation with someone who doesn't like to see me suffering, I got a different perspective.  I have a choice.  My choices are:  keep the tree, and accept the high risk that it will fall on my house, or have it cut down.  The decision became very simple.  I gave approval to have it cut. They took it down yesterday before I arrived back home.
    The suffering is gone.  I have a bit of grieving but it is minor.  My yard is very different.  I have a view of the Olympic mountains.  There is a lot more sunshine on my deck.
    We experience situations like this every day.  Often, we choose to suffer, complain, and feel hard done by or affronted by the actions of someone else that have impacted us.  We can get a lot of mileage talking to others about it.  No matter how much sympathy we get, however, at the end of the day we don't feel powerful. We feel like victims.
    In almost all situations, we have a choice.  Making the choice gives us power and frankly, feels a lot better.  Who wants to suffer and feel victimized?  Far better to embrace the change, and move on to what's next.

    July 10, 2010

    developing muscle

    I am three-quarters of the way through a 2.5 week road trip with my kids.  We have camped, driven the Oregon coast, ridden ATVs on sand dunes, driven through the Avenue of the Giants redwood forest, experienced Disneyland, and now are in L.A.  It's been busy.  Busy, not so much in an intellectually challenging way as in a logistics and planning the next step ahead kind of way.
    I haven't blogged since we started the trip.  I notice how my creative cells are occupied with the survival aspect; keeping me and two kids organized and safe while away from home.
    I am committed to posting on my blog regularly.  Yet it takes effort to make it happen.  My default, when I am occupied by other things, is to not do it.
    This is the case with most things outside of what's required to keep our lives going.  They take effort and conscious choice.  You can develop muscle at doing them, establishing a habit or routine, putting some sort of structure in place to make it happen.  And then it takes less effort.  Even then, sometimes it slips and you realize one day you haven't done something for weeks, even longer.
    All there is to do once you notice, is to decide if you really are committed to it.  If you are, consciously choose to set up the structure again to make it happen.

    a few photos from the road







    June 28, 2010

    feeling prepared

    Each of us has a different level of comfort with how much time we have to prepare for something.
    It is good to be aware of what our experience of this is, because sometimes, we believe that we aren't ready when we are.  Sometimes it is possible to hold ourselves back from doing things because we don't feel ready, when we will never feel ready.  
    In regular day to day life, however, there are those of us who prefer to be prepared ahead of time, and those of us who thrive on leaping in.  Both approaches are valid and have strengths that shine in different situations.  There is nothing wrong with someone whose approach differs than yours.  They do not need fixing, talking to or remediation.  
    In terms of understanding and honouring the relationships in our lives, it is good to remember this. A little acceptance goes a long way. 

    June 22, 2010

    do you floss?

    Do you floss your teeth?
    We know it is 'good' to floss.  It makes our dental hygienist happy and dental cleanings less painful.  More than one of us has staggered, gums bleeding, from our dental office.  It is also about looking after yourself. 
    Knowing that something is good for you is often not enough to make you do it.
    Creating a habit of flossing is about more than healthy gums.  It's about integrity.  With yourself.  About whether you can give your word to yourself that you are going to do something and then do it.  Every day.
    There is a tendency to think that our word to ourselves doesn't matter much.  No one else knows what you promised.  Only you do. 
    It does matter. When you break your word with someone else, they begin to lose trust in you.  Break it a few times and they start to make up a story about who you are.  That you are always late.  Or that you don't pay back money they loan you.  Or that you are someone who cancels plans at the last minute.  
    When you break your word to yourself, you make up the same stories.  And you believe them.  You believe the stories and your belief limits what you take on.  You won't take on things that don't mesh with the person you know yourself to be.
    How many broken promises are you carrying around?  It can be a heavy burden.  The good news is, you can start to rebuild trust with yourself at any time.  Start with one thing.  A small thing.  Floss your teeth. 

    June 20, 2010

    the power of a relationship

    A business that pays attention to the relationship that customers develop with employees has a tremendous advantage.
    We can be drawn to the products or services of a business for many reasons.  Sometimes the brand attracts us, often word of mouth from friends.  Once hooked to try it, however, it is usually the person that we as customers relate to, not the company.  When we make a decision about returning to a store or a restaurant or re-engaging the services of someone, we think of the person we interacted with.  That experience can make it or break it.
    If the product is at least good, the experience with the employee can make the difference in setting that business apart from all the others providing 'good' products.  If the product is exceptional, leveraging the customer relationship can knock it out of the park.
    Businesses have multiple points of contact with their customers.  As customers, our impression is formed from every interaction.  The cashier, receptionist, shelf-stocker, hostess, waitress, maid, maintenance person, security guard.  Every single interaction matters.
    For any of us, this presents a huge opportunity.  Creating a good relationship with customers is entirely within our control.  It is aided by a little mindfulness.  How do you want your customers or clients to feel, and what are you doing to create that?

    June 13, 2010

    three things to remember

    I participated in a Change Camp (vcc2010) on Saturday.
    The energy was infectious. Participants were from a broad range of careers and pathways. Drawn to be there, from a collective sense of passion and commitment to causing a difference.
    Topics ranged from creating meaningful online public engagement to generating crowdfunding for social change projects to the culture of permission within large organizations. If you are interested, you can find notes from the sessions here.
    I will share three things I left with. That I didn't have - or at least, wasn't present to - when the day began.
    One:  it doesn't have to be a lot of work to bring people together to share ideas.  The thought of organizing people seems daunting.  However, it's mostly the thinking about it that is daunting. As Elijah, one of the organizers of this event, stated if you create the space and let people know, they will come.
    Two:  forums for gathering collective intelligence are powerful and regenerating.  The energy generated can carry any idea far.  Being able to harness that kind of energy is gold.
    Three:  groups is the way to get things done. I know this, yet I forget.  One of my favourite quotes, from Margaret Mead, reads "never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.'' Her quote isn't about one person.  It's about group.
    Any time I am trying hard by myself to make something happen, and feeling powerless and isolated, then it is good for me to remember these things.  Find others to help.  Bring them together. Make change happen.

    June 9, 2010

    power in a photo

    Music, and its lyrics, has tremendous power to shift emotion, move, inspire.  Quotations, for me, have a similar power.
    I have only recently become aware of the power in pieces of art, and in photos.
    All stir emotion.  Emotion can have great influence over what we do.  Whether we do what we say we are committed to.  Whether we hold ourselves back for some reason; maybe because we aren't feeling powerful.
    I wanted to share this photo I took, from a recent trip to San Francisco.  I like what it expresses, that at any time, we can choose to be different than before.  And I like that the sign is hanging there on the street, to have its impact on all who pass by.

    May 28, 2010

    a work in progress

    Do you wait until you are ready before you launch into something new or big?
    It's in our nature to wait until we are fully prepared.  Until we have it figured out, until we know what we are doing, until we are sure.  We worry that others will be able to tell we aren't 100 percent confident.  Or we worry about failing.  I don't think there's a person walking among us who doesn't, at least sometimes, have a little voice that tells them they don't know what they are doing.
    Self doubt is big inhibitor.  It gets in the way of us offering up the best of ourselves, of contributing what we have to push projects along.  And, the self doubt isn't going to go away.  We all have it, and resisting it or trying to overcome it gets us nowhere.  Instead, try a different approach.  Just acknowledge it's there, and then proceed anyhow.  Because life is short and that self-doubt can have us be paralyzed in inaction, while the days and weeks and months tick away.
    What's one thing you say you want to do?  What's holding you back?  Can you just be with whatever holds you back, and then move forward on it anyhow?

    May 18, 2010

    the stories of others

    In any one day, each of us has multiple interactions with other human beings. Unless we live alone, stay in the house and don't answer the phone, email or use any technology, it is inevitable.
    Some of these interactions are neutral and quickly forgotten. Some are nasty and leave us with an unpleasant aftertaste that, if bad enough, can linger for days, weeks, months, forever.  
    Some of the interactions are positive and warm, and affect us as much as the nasty ones, the only difference being the flavour of the aftertaste.
    Both nasty and positive interactions can be transforming. Who we were before the interaction, and who we are afterwards, is altered. The connection with the other person has changed who we are in some way: our perspective, attitude, direction.
    We know this is true because of the stories we tell others about the experience. The stories can last for decades.
    If we look at it from the other side - our own impact -  there is a huge opportunity. Each of us is powerful in the interactions we are a part of. Each day, every day. What is it that you want to contribute to the people you see or talk to today? Your interaction could become part of their life story. How do you want that to go?

    May 11, 2010

    be grateful for the seers

    Another's perspective often holds a key to break through things that are holding us back.  Someone who is willing to offer up something that we can't (or won't) see for ourselves.
    Each of us has someone in our life who 'sees' more than the average person.  Far more.  They make us uncomfortable at times.  We can't hide in their presence.  They know, better than we know ourselves, what stops us. And they notice when what we say we want and what we do aren't in line.  Or when we dance away from something we don't want to look at or think about by changing the topic.
    I am not talking about the Dreamcrushers.  The people who tell you you can't do something, or that you don't have the skills for something, or that you ARE a certain way.  We can sometimes mistake Dreamcrushers for these other people.
    I am going to call them Seers.  They are wise.  They have the interest to really listen to us.  The insight to clearly see something, perhaps in our attitude, that is holding us back.  They have the willingness and the courage to share that.  To hold us accountable.  So that our lives can rock. They believe in us.  And it takes courage, a lot of courage, because many of us shrink from that kind of feedback, instead of seeing it as the opportunity that it represents.  So we don't exactly express gratitude to them when they share.
    Sometimes, we find what they have to say painful to hear. Yet something fundamentally shifts for us as a result of them sharing with us.
    Seers give us gifts.
    Are you willing to accept the gift?  Do you give these people the permission to be direct with you?

    May 6, 2010

    supporting local to thrive

    These days, more of us are becoming aware of the importance of supporting local business.  Maybe you have been paying attention to this where you can.  You choose the hardware store a few blocks from your house over the big box store.  You buy your groceries from the local market, or the store that buys local first.  You get your coffee from the locally owned coffee shop.  You choose the local service provider when it makes sense.
    So what else can you do?  What else does support include?
    Supporting is also about giving feedback.  Both positive, which is often easy to deliver, and negative, which is not.
    Feedback helps businesses (and people) to thrive.  Yet many of us find it difficult to give feedback.  Particularly negative feedback.  It is more comfortable to walk away and not say anything.  Studies show 96 percent of unhappy customers don't complain.  They just don't go back.  That's the default.
    The problem is that if no one gives feedback, the business owner might not know.  The coffee shop owner might not be aware that the new barista makes weak americanos.  Or that the cashier doesn't smile, nor appear to care.  Meanwhile, a few dozen customers choose not to return.
    No local business can afford to have anything going on for any length of time that turns off customers.  Every person matters.  Loyalty matters.  Over time, one lost customer can mean the loss of thousands in revenue.  A few of those can make or break a small company.
    So if you want your local businesses to thrive, help them out.  Give them the feedback about that disengaged cashier or weak americano.  Give them the chance to make things right.  And thrive.

    May 2, 2010

    how good a judge of you are you?

    Do you think you have a good sense of what you are capable of, and what you are not?
    I'm not talking about the things you already are good at.  Each of us has skills we have achieved a level of mastery at.  Most of us stay there, in that zone.  The comfortable zone, where we continue to do the things we already know we are good at.
    I am talking about capability.  What are you capable of?  Do you know?
    Mostly our tendency is to not be a good judge of our own capabilities.  It has something to do with survival; our natural wiring is to keep ourselves safe.  The impact of this is that we hold ourselves back.  From opportunities to take on something new.  To contribute to something different, and possibly, in a way that is critically important to that project or initiative.  And what if your contribution is the one thing that transforms everything?
    All there is to do is to notice situations and circumstances where you are inclined to hold yourself back.  And then choose to act anyhow.  Because the world needs more of us to have that attitude.

    April 30, 2010

    checking in

    How often do you check in with yourself to see if what you are spending your time doing is taking you to where you want to go?
    Life tends to catch you up in its flow.  Your time is consumed by the immediate and the urgent.  Often someone else's immediate and urgent.
    You may have clear goals for where you want your life to be going right now.  Or you may not, and it may simply be about what you value.  The activities, experiences or people in your life that most matter to you.
    Pause for a moment and look at what you spent your time on in the past week.  Write it down.  Did you choose what occupied your time, or did someone else choose?  How well does how you spent your time mesh with what you would choose?  How do you feel about it?
    If your list correlates well to your choice, then kudos to you.  You are probably feeling quite satisfied at the moment.  If it doesn't, then consider who is steering your ship.  If you don't choose, then someone else will choose for you.

    April 24, 2010

    authenticity


    Authenticity is a desireable state of being.  Most people can sense at some level if what they are experiencing of you is authentic.  Some people have very keen spidey sense for it.  Authenticity is attractive.  It creates trust.  It creates respect; people who are willing to be in their own skin are worthy of respect.  Many of us wish for the ability to be authentically ourselves, at all times and in all circumstances.
    The easiest situations to bring your authentic self to are when you are comfortable.  Situations where you know the topic, or the people, or the skill well.  It requires more courage to be authentic when you pushing the limits of what is comfortable for you.  It seems to me, using my favourite model for learning from Maslow (which I have taken some liberties with below), that the greatest challenge for being authentic lies in the zones from Conscious Incompetence to Conscious Competence.  



    In those zones, you are pushing yourself.  You are required to stretch.  Quite often there is fear:  of making mistakes, of appearing incompetent, of being judged. 
    There is the temptation to pretend.  Don't.  It's okay to make mistakes, it's okay to not always know what you are doing.  People respect you for your efforts and your courage, when you are bringing your authentic self along with you. 

    "The highest courage is to dare to appear to be what one is." John Lancaster Spalding

    April 18, 2010

    de nada

    How many times have you gone into a store, or called someone needing some information, and had the experience that you were inconveniencing them by asking for something?
    In Mexico nothing is too much trouble. If you order bacon in a restaurant and they don't have any, they send someone to get some from the market a block away.  And then they cook it for you.  And the whole thing takes hardly any time at all.
    And then there's the experience of being in a shop and asking for something they don't have.  Pedro the shopkeeper sends an assistant to the other shops in the vicinity, and she returns with the item. How much was the item? About 8 dollars.
    In Mexico, they respond to your 'gracias' (thank you) with 'de nada', which roughly translates to 'from nothing'.  And they mean it; they mean that they consider what they have done is little and they do it willingly.  Contrast that to the language we use:  'you're welcome'.  This is polite, but doesn't convey the same message, does it?  
    What would it be like if we instead brought the grace of nothing is too much trouble to the work that we do for others?

    April 17, 2010

    being okay with not being okay

    I am not always happy. Sometimes I am anxious or stressed. Unhappy, annoyed, and cranky are also in my repertoire of emotional states.
    When I am in a 'good' state, I am happy to just be. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it.
    However, I have noticed that when I am in a 'bad' emotional state - defined as any of the ones mentioned above, plus a few others - I do spend time thinking about it.  Mostly I am berating myself for it.  Asking why I am spending time being cranky/unhappy/annoyed, what could I possibly have to complain about.  I often spend time trying to 'snap' myself out of it.  Or worrying about the effect my emotions might have on the others in my life.
    Does this sound familiar to anyone?
    What is the outcome?  How successful is this approach at shaking the state of mind?  Not very.
    I have recently discovered something that does make a difference.  Just letting myself be with it.  This week, for example, I have felt anxious.  I have many friends who work for an organization that has been having to lay off employees and another round of this just occurred.  They are public servants, they work hard to contribute to make the world a better place, and they are going through a tough time.
    I noticed my anxiety.  I spent a fair bit of time trying to not be anxious.  After all, me being anxious doesn't help anyone.
    Then I tried something different.  I just let myself be anxious.
    The first thing I noticed was relief.  It was okay; I could just be with how I was feeling.  Then I noticed, after a bit, that it started to lift, dissipate.  In a short time, I felt a great deal lighter.  Calm.
    It turns out the best way through it is to just be with it.

    April 16, 2010

    how things have to be

    I am sitting in the warmth at a patio table with my coffee and my laptop.  It is early morning, the sun is out, the birds are chirping, and there's quiet, just perfect for writing a blog post.
    But wait.  There's no quiet.  Actually, someone appears to be tearing an outbuilding apart in the yard beside me. There's a large family, about 20 or so, chattering cheerily in another language as some of them prepare breakfast 15 feet away.  A dog is barking frantically on the street.
    This isn't perfect at all. How can I possibly write?
    This gets me thinking.  What do I not do, because things are not perfect?  I have this idea of how things have to be in order to [fill in the blank].  
    This shows up everywhere in my life.  Which I realize limits what I accomplish.  Particularly what I create, because it seems to matter most when I am trying to create something.
    Somehow I have linked my circumstances to my effectiveness, to my creativity.  What would be possible if I gave that up?
    How many of us hold ourselves back because we are waiting for that perfect set of circumstances to make our special contribution?

    April 13, 2010

    the time for a new kind of politics

    When I watched Obama's campaign unfold in 2008  I was struck by the absence of negative politics.  It allowed me to distinguish something important and valuable that I hadn't before.  I haven't been able to listen to politicians in the same way since.
    For me, politicians - the ones that belong to the party in power, and the ones that belong to the party not-in-power - are there to make a difference.  They probably wouldn't be in politics if they weren't, because it isn't an easy career choice.  Always in the public eye, every decision critiqued and found wanting by one segment of the population or another.
    If you want to make a difference, is the best approach to criticize what someone else has done?  Everything I know tells me not.  Yet it seems to be the approach politicians choose.
    I see lost opportunities in every newspaper article I read that ends with a comment from the Opposition critic.  I can't think of one where something meaningful was said.  In most cases, there's mud slinging along with the pointing out of the flaws in whatever the particular action was.  No other possibilities suggested.  No independent thought.
    The voice in my head says:  Actually SAY something.  Don't just criticize the decision.  What about being part of a solution?
    What would it be like if our politicians said 'Well, I appreciate that was a tough decision.  I think they could have looked at some different options.  What about [this], did they take a look at it to see if there were some opportunities there....' Or, 'if it were us, we would have...'.
    You get the picture.  I, for one, would have a lot more respect for them as leaders.

    April 12, 2010

    the living document of everything

    In January, I moved my blog over to google (blogspot) from dreamhost.  I moved my older posts over too. I lost my comments, which somehow got lost in translation.

    And today, I updated the look of my blog.  I like the new look; clean and easy to read.  And with links to my other things:  my twitter feed, my company site, my linkedin profile.  My intention is to have more connection between all the pieces.

    Next on the list...updating my company website content.

    Everything is a living document.  Isn't that cool.

    April 11, 2010

    other people's rating systems

    I am staying in a wonderful little hotel right now.  Which is quite likely not in any AA ratings list of good places to stay, or possibly in any ratings listing.  Which is a shame, because it is a family-owned and operated hotel.  The people are incredibly friendly.  It is bright and cheerful and tidy.  It is very affordable.  It is cleaner than many 4 star hotels I have stayed in. And I have watched the cleaning staff. They actually care about the cleaning.  Like they get what a difference they are making, they get the contribution their job of cleaning is to the bigger picture.  This place is clean enough for me to sit on the floor.  Which I am doing right now.  How many places are that clean?
    It makes me wonder.  What are we losing out on by allowing ourselves to be guided by someone else’s rating system?
    I understand why rating systems develop.  It is a convenience thing. A way of making meaning of things that simplifies it.  It creates a sense of trust, perhaps, that someone else has thought about it and made an assessment.  How many of us know what the assessments are based on?  I certainly haven't thought about it much, until now.  Turns out that it is often based on things like whether there's an elevator.  And how big the rooms are.  Whether there is a restaurant onsite.  Go figure.  
    The systems limit what’s possible.  Experiences forgone, because of a filter based on things that may not actually be important to you. And you don’t even know what you are missing out on.
    What will I do differently after this experience?  Take rating systems with a grain of salt.  Check out what they are making their decisions based on, and look for systems based on information that I would choose as important.  Or collect my own data.
    What would my system look for?  Cleanliness. Friendliness. Care. Attitude. Authenticity. Opportunity to interact with the culture rather than be isolated from it. And an opportunity for me to contribute to the local economy through supporting a business run by a local person or family.  


    April 10, 2010

    how long does it take, really

    Writing a blog post really doesn't take that long.  I have lots of thoughts a day that would make a perfectly good blog post.  And yet here I look and it has been over a month since I posted anything.  Yes, I have been busy, yet I could easily have spared the 15 or 30 minutes a couple of times a week that it would have taken me to write down some thoughts.
    Some people are naturally good at fitting things in.  I think they are the ones who accomplish a lot in a day, because they just do it.  They don't do what I do, which is think about it and figure out how much time it might take and make sure there is a good safety margin on either side of it and something else that needs to be done so things don't run overtime or make me late for something.
    Over the past five years or so, I have moved myself from someone who couldn't fit anything in between appointments to someone who is able to fit things in.  And, with practice, I have lost a great deal of the anxiety that used to go along with it.  Yet I know it is possible to get better at this.  Far better to fit the things in than be anxious about how much there is to do and that there isn't enough time to get it all done.  It is possible to fit a lot into your day, do an excellent job, and be calm.

    March 7, 2010

    honey and vinegar

    I had an encounter with a cyclist yesterday.

    I like cyclists.  I have a lot of cyclist friends.  I admire them.  Most of them cycle from either a commitment to fitness and health, or a commitment to the environment, or both.  They cycle through wind and rain and snow and hail and darkness and their consistency and persistence has me see in them a strength I wish for always in myself.

    I give cyclists room on the road.  Usually a wide berth, as much as I am able while being safe for them and without overly impeding the flow of traffic.  I think maintaining the flow to the extent possible is the safest option for both the bicycles and the cars on the road.  We can co-exist, in peace.  It can all work, and well.

    The cyclist yesterday was an angry one, and he wasn't the first angry cyclist I have met, and each encounter has taken something out of me.  I have even had another cyclist curse at me as I was cycling myself.  I wasn't doing anything wrong.  I just didn't speed up or slow down enough for him and he directed his own brand of road rage at me.

    Most of my encounters have been with me in my car and them on their bike.  I don't crowd cyclists but I do get frustrated when their behaviour precludes the flow of traffic, such as when they ride in the middle of a lane, so you can't actually swing around them and keep the flow, but instead have to wait for an opportunity and move entirely into the other lane.   And in reality if they are travelling well below the speed limit on a major road, they are actually significantly impeding the traffic.  Which I think is dangerous.  Anytime drivers get frustrated they tend to take more chances.

    The cyclist yesterday was screaming and swearing at the top of his lungs, on a residential street.  He didn't like the berth we gave him.  If he had been in a car, I would have taken his plate number.  He was definitely a candidate for anger management courses.

    I think about the number of cyclists and the number of cars and the need for us all to be cooperative with one another to make it work.  I think that no one deserves to think themselves as above another person based on what they do or don't do.  I am not less than that cyclist because I drive a car and he cycles.  Being on a bicycle doesn't make road rage any more ok than being in a car.  And if he wants people in cars to continue to share the road in a spirit of goodwill, he could consider changing his attitude.

    Our grandmothers said 'you get more flies with honey than with vinegar' for a good reason.

    February 28, 2010

    owning the podium

    The controversy that the own the podium initiative in the Olympics apparently stirred up among us Canadians is interesting.  I just read an article that linked the program to being impolite and un-Canadian.
    If you don't set a goal, you won't achieve anything.  Owning the Podium was a vision.  If you want to achieve, you must have goals and vision and you have to see yourself succeeding at what it is that you set out to do.  Underselling yourself won't get you there.  Being polite if it means forsaking your vision and your courage won't get you there.  Only a strong belief that you are the best in the world - at whatever it is that you are up to - will get you there.
    I say kudos to the Canadian Olympic Committee for the vision that helped our Canadian athletes to win.  And there is a lesson in there for all of us.

    February 6, 2010

    spring!

    I heard the robins for the first time this morning.  I gather they do go somewhere for awhile every winter.  Some birds surprise me and hang around for our winters, like the hummingbirds who somehow manage to find enough to keep them going even through the frosty spells.  All winter I have regularly seen one at my rosemary bush, and yesterday my son saw one flitting along the branches of our Douglas-firs.

    So the robins are back.  Spring is on its way.  I am glad. Technically speaking the season should have little to do with what I am up to.  For me, though, excitement comes with the spring.  It is far easier to generate enthusiasm and excitement and I am inclined to leap from bed in the morning; a contrast to the dark, slow, sleepy mornings of winter.  I guess someone was thinking about that when they named the season 'spring'.

    Being enthusiastic is a great state to be in.  I have watched the impact on the people in my life when I am enthusiastic about something.  Being in that state has the potential to be a contribution to everyone around me, as the energy spills over. And I also know how it is for me, when I am not feeling enthusiastic, to be around someone who is.  It brings my energy level up too.  Sometimes I don't realize the positive impact they were having on me until they aren't around.

    Which brings me to thinking about the impact that enthusiastic people have on workplaces.  They bring more energy and productivity to their own work.  And their enthusiasm can spill over, having an impact on each of us. It feels good and it makes our work better.  I suppose that is what Emerson was thinking when he wrote 'Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm'.

    D.

    January 27, 2010

    information overload

    I haven't been posting much on my blog.  You might have noticed this.  I think about doing a post every day and in fact I have about six draft posts in various states of completion.  Having a post partially completed though is the same as no post from your perspective.  I get that.

    It has been bothering me that I am not posting as often as I would like.  I committed to myself that if I started a blog, I would post two or three times a week.  During December and January I have not been achieving this.

    There's any number of reasons.  Reasons of course make little difference; either there's a new post, or there's no new post.

    I finally bought myself a copy of the 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss.  My sweetie has been recommending I read it since we met.  It got to be the right time for me and I bought it.  The book is amazing and it will change my life.

    One of the things Tim talks about is being careful with what you spend your time doing, and that includes what you spend your time reading.  What this has had me become acutely aware of is the massive amount of information that I take in every day.  And most - probably 90% - of this information is not useful to me.  It takes time to read that I can't then spend reading or doing something else.  It doesn't move me closer to my goals.  Or make me better able to accomplish the things that I am up to.  It doesn't offer me a new perspective that causes me to think differently about things.

    Thinking about this has had me take some immediate actions.  For one, I have gone through my subscriptions in google reader and unsubscribed from three quarters of my feeds.  I am going to be very deliberate about anything I add in.

    It also has had me think about my blog posts, and what I intend my blog to be for.  Short, easy to read posts that might possibly have you think slightly differently about something in a way that makes a difference for you.  Maybe it's in how you feel about your day.  Or your relationship with someone.  Maybe it has you be just a little bit happier or more content with your life.  Maybe it has you get in touch with someone you haven't talked to for awhile.  Maybe (in the case of this post), it has you make a little change in what you are up to every day that brings you greater satisfaction, or creates some space in your day to contribute to someone or something else.

    That's what I intend.  And I will keep being deliberate about my posts.  The number of posts doesn't matter; what matters is whether the post is what I want my blog to be for people.  It's cool to see that.

    January 12, 2010

    more on big rocks

    In October I shared some thoughts about creating the space in our lives for the big rocks first.  A great quote was shared with me yesterday that ties to this.  The quote is by Robert Heinlein.

    In the absence of clearly defined goals we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.

    This is such a great reminder for me.  I choose to keep my goals present for myself, because daily trivia isn't what I am up to in this life. Making a difference is.

    January 10, 2010

    your story

    My iGoogle home page gives me three quotes every day.  I like this.  I like reflecting on the quotes and what they mean for me.

    One of today's quotes is from Kathy Sierra. She says "the more you try to compete, the less competitive you really are". Brilliant.

    I had a recent experience in a fireplace shop that illustrated these words.  The salesperson spent the first few minutes of his interaction with us dissing the competition.

    This resulted in a few outcomes.  One, it took the focus of the conversation in a negative direction.  We were directed to look at what was wrong with the other providers.  It was an easy leap from there to wondering what was wrong with the provider in front of us.  Two, his words created a sense of unease.  If he could be saying these things about the competition, what was he capable of saying about his customers?  Three, that valuable first impression time was taken up with something other than what his company stood for.

    I wanted to know about what his shop valued.  Maybe that customer satisfaction was important, that I would be happy with a purchase and feel well looked after.  Or that they were proud of the products they carried, used them in their own homes, and had excellent success with them.

    When a customer comes to you, everything that you say and do becomes a part of the story they make up about you.  What is the story that you want them to have?

    I don't think you want your story to be about how much worse the competition is.  You want them to write it about you:  what you offer, what your promises are, what you care about.

    Customers can and will draw their own conclusions.  Their story about you is what will have them choose you.  Or not.

    January 1, 2010

    every passing moment

    Today is the first day of a new year. And the first day of a new decade.

    2009 was a challenging and interesting year for me. I have been looking forward to 2010, eager to apply all that I have learned over the past 12 months to a new year. Somehow the date on the calendar was significant, representing something different, an opportunity.

    Yet I think about one of my favourite quotes, which is 'every passing moment is a chance to turn it all around.'   I don't need to wait for a new year to do things differently or create something new. I can do it at any time, in any moment.  I find it a comforting thought.

    It is good for me to remember this as I move into 2010.