The Best Advice

A college professor friend of mine recently asked for the best piece of advice we had ever received as we started our careers.  I have gotten a lot of really great advice over the years, but there is one piece of advice from early in my career that was by far the best piece of advice I ever received.

Get over yourself – Be confident, focused, humble & grateful, not cocky and entitled. Yes, you have worked hard and are probably very smart and talented, but there is a fine line before you cross over from being sure of yourself into appearing obnoxiously overconfident.  Remember you have a lot to learn about your job, yourself and the world around you.   Make sure your employer and your new coworkers know that you realize that and you are open to being taught.   No job or request is too small for you. If you are asked to make copies or get coffee, do it.  Everyone who is really successful did their time doing the the shitty work too.  Embrace it and learn from it.

Most importantly, treat EVERYONE – from the CEO to your co-workers to the janitor to the person at the coffee shop – the same – as if they and their contributions are valuable and you have something to learn from them.

Your attitude and work ethics will get you as far, sometimes farther, then the results you produce.

 

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Do We Have the NFL Domestic Violence Situation Wrong?

I want to start out being very clear about a couple of  things.  I think the NFL has handled these recent situations poorly.  I think if there is clear evidence, and there has not been any yet, of a coverup or an intentional lack of action, then there needs to be consequences for everyone involved.   I also abhor what the accused abusers have done.   That being said, I have questions if the overall reaction to the situation is actually productive.  These are just questions I am pondering.  I don’t proclaim to have the right or wrong answer.  As a prior victim of physical and emotional domestic violence, I just am not sure the public flogging is actually a solution or a deterrent.

 All over the internet, on my Facebook wall and in my Twitter stream, I am seeing people placing blame on the NFL.  I have lost count of the number of people who have now vowed to no longer watch the NFL.  Major corporations like Budweiser are calling out the NFL to get its house in order.   While everyone is entitled to their opinion and to take the action that their moral compass calls them to take, again, I am left wondering if the reaction is really productive to the underlying problem.

 My first question is why does it take professional football players getting caught and/or accused of domestic violence to get everyone in an uproar.  Do people really believe that the only perpetrators of domestic violence are professional athletes?  As a domestic violence victim, I can tell you it is more likely to be your next door neighbor, the guy or gal that serves your coffee or your accountant.  So why is it that so many of the people who are throwing stones at the NFL and the accused players now, are the same ones who will look away at a parent screaming at their child in the store or avert their eyes and not ask any questions when a coworker or employee flinches when you get too close or has “walked into a door” or “fallen down the steps” way too often?

My second question is why do we want to punish the NFL (NOTE: disclaimer above re: a cover-up).  They are an employer, just like every other business out there.  Why do we not hold the local grocery store or major tech giant to the same standard?  Why are we not creating an outcry that they also have a domestic violence policy and strictly enforce it?  Are we holding the NFL, and athletes in general, to a higher moral standard then we would hold any other company and its employees?   Why is it ok for any other business/employer to not do anything, but not the NFL?  What about the NHL, the MLB or any other professional sports organization?  What about any business or non-profit or school or religious organization?  Are we going to boycott any organization or business that does not have a domestic violence policy or does not enforce it?  Are we going to hold a business responsible when one of its employees hits his wife or spanks his child? 

I have worked for a lot of companies, large and small.  I have been an upper level manager at most of them. None of them has ever had a specific domestic violence policy.  Some of them have had ethics and moral clauses in the work agreements.  Some of them have had voluntary counseling programs.  I have had to have discussions with HR departments about employees that I was confident were being abused or being abusers.  Other than intentionally vaguely worded discussions about counseling that was available if there might be a situation where they felt they needed help, nothing was ever done and my hands were tied from doing anything more.  So why are we holding the NFL to a different standard then we would hold any other large corporation?  And don’t delude yourself into believing it is anything more than a corporation.   It is a business entity that employees thousands of people.  Boycotting the NFL will have limited impact on the individual players who are abusers.  They will be individually impacted by their suspensions, dismissals from teams, loss of endorsements and appropriate legal action.  Causing the NFL to have a reduction in income will have a lot of impact on hundreds of innocent people who rely on it for their livelihoods.  Are we then going to hold the NFL responsible for the coach or locker room janitor that also hits his wife?  Or is the high profile of the players the only “job” worthy of blaming their “employer”?   Yes, the NFL needs to do some serious self-examination and likely make some changes.  It needs to start looking very closely at its processes, procedures and policies to allow for early intervention in even suspected cases.   But if we expect that of the NFL, shouldn’t we expect the same thing of all businesses?

It is good thing that the conversation about domestic violence has once again rose to prominence, but why does it take situations like these to make that happen?  Why is it not an everyday discussion?  The reality is that we will not wipe domestic violence, or any form of violence, from the face of the earth.  It is a sad reality, but it is the reality.  I would be a hypocrite if I did not admit that I spanked my kids when they were little.  I can count on one hand how many times. I also had very strict self-imposed guidelines for when they were spanked.  It was always only with my bare hand, over clothing or diapers and always with fair warning that if the behavior that was getting them in trouble  continued, that would be the consequences.  That quick light swat across their bottoms got their attention when nothing else would. I rarely ever had to do it.   Would I do it again under the same circumstances?  Probably not, but I am also older and wiser and it is easy to say that in hindsight.

 The only thing we can do is to educate men and women from the earliest age that hitting out of anger or frustration or mentally abusing anyone, especially the ones you love, is NEVER an option.  That message has to come from everyone a child comes in contact with – parents, teachers, coaches, friends, family, the media, role models and society in general,  but especially their parents.  Domestic violence will not be reduced or “solved” until the messages are directed at individuals, not businesses, that there are other options and there is help available.

As a side note and just out of curiosity, does anyone know if Radisson, Nike or Budweiser or any of the other companies who have cancelled endorsement deals, sponsorships or partnerships have domestic violence policies, what they are and how strictly they are enforced?

It is just so easy to like it… My Facebook experiment

We all know how it is…that little “Like” button is right there…just waiting to be clicked.  Easily allowing us to send an acknowledgement to the poster that we saw their post – whether we agreed with it or not, whether we actually read it or not, whether we are saddened or overjoyed by the news, the photo, the link… it is just right there, so easy to click on that little “Like” then move on to the next thing.

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But have we really given much thought to what that like means?  Or what it does to what the Facebook algorithm allows us to see.

On September 1st, I started an unscientific Facebook experiment.  I am both pleased and a bit surprised to say that in 7 short days, I have seen dramatic results.  There are some really smart people who have written about the technical aspects of the Facebook algorithm and how it works.  For now, I will leave those details to them.  This was simply my own personal experiment to see if a change in my behavior could change what appeared in my timeline.

 I stopped “liking” things.  I made a decision to share only those things I was really moved by.  I even kept my comments to a minimum.  I went through the full list of pages I had “liked”.  It shocked me to learn that there were 737 of them!  (Have you looked at yours lately?)  I took a hard look at each of those likes and unliked 537 of them.  I now have that list down to 200 people/places/things/businesses that I actually LIKE.  I kept the ones that are meaningful to me.   I did the same with my Friends list.  Because I have always been cautious about who I connect with, there were only a few that got the unfriend button.

 My Facebook account is now composed solely of the people/place/things/businesses that I really care about and want to communicate with.   All of the random likes because someone had asked me to, the likes to enter a contest, the likes because something random came across my timeline and it momentarily amused me, they were gone.  Now my likes and friends were really Likes and Friends.

 So what changed?  I actually Like (yeah, I know you see what I did there…) my timeline again.  I am seeing posts from friends I have not heard from in ages.  There are very few ads or “buy my stuff” type posts in my timeline.  The news and ads that are turning up in the right sidebar are actually things I might be interested in.  The Suggested Posts, Sponsored Posts and People You May Know recommendations are actually relevant.  I am no longer only getting the same people over and over in my feed.

 Compared to my Facebook timeline a week ago, it is a dramatic difference! I was about to give up on Facebook because I was tired of the irrelevant content, the constant ads and the posts from the same people over and over and over (because I had liked a lot of their posts).  Now I enjoy it.  It is a good mix of people, topics and things I actually want to see.  Is it perfect?  Not by any means.  Are there still changes I would like to see to what and when I see things?  Yes, but it is much better than it was 7 days ago. Much Better!

What did this little experiment teach me?  What lessons did I learn?

 Can I alter the Facebook algorithm to “force” what I want to see in my feed?   Yes and No.  Yes, I can make a difference by being more selective, but, no, I can not completely control it.  That’s ok, I’ll take the improvement.

 It is a good reminder that it is MY responsibility to control my social media.  I have to accept some of the “blame” and not place it all on a digital algorithm, if I am not seeing what I want to see.  In this world where everyone with an internet connection or a cell phone can be a content creator and try to draw our attention, it is our responsibility to decide what we do or don’t want to see.  That means being aware of how we “educate” the algorithm by what we like, comment on, share, and favorite and being deliberate in not only those choices, but in our privacy settings.

 There was another interesting side effect to this experiment. I found myself being more aware of my interactions – likes, comments, shares, favorites not only on Facebook but on all my social media accounts.  Forcing myself to be more vigilant actually changed my behavior on other social media platforms. My favorites, likes, follows, etc…  became more authentic and sincere.

 It has always been so easy to click Like, to ReTweet, to follow, to friend, to click the little heart on Instagram.  But how often do we really stop and think about whether or not we really “Like” it or are we just acknowledging it?  How often do we give it a click because we like the person, because we feel we should or out of a sense of obligation?  Had you asked me before this experiment if I ever did that, I would have emphatically said NO.  As I discovered during my experiment, Yeah, I did it…probably a lot.   Making the decision to share something or comment on something takes more effort.  It makes me really stop and consider my feelings about a post and have to compose something intelligent, witty, or at least coherent.  It has also stopped me from “liking” things that I really don’t like – such as bad news from a friend or something I don’t really agree with.  –

Side note – Hey Facebook – how about a “Support” button so we can show support without “liking” something.

Will I continue my experiment?  Yes, for a while at least.  I am curious to see if the results remain the same long term.    Will you conduct your own? Are you ready to take back “control” of your social media?

In the meantime… Watch out Twitter and Instagram, I am coming for you next…

 

Release your inner Superhero

There is a Superhero inside all of us.  

Yes, all of us.

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The problem is that we often forget that we have superpowers.   We go through life dealing with our day to day lives, occasionally having moments of what we, or society, consider greatness and ignoring that everything we do when we positively impact someone else or the world is the act of a Superhero.

We forget that the greatest superpower anyone can possess is the ability to help those around us.  Sometimes we do those things in big ways, most often they are in small ones.

There is a running joke among my friends that my “superpower” is connecting people.  It took a while for that to sink in as a reality, but once it did, I was blown away.  I am able to impact the lives of those around me and, sometimes through those connections and what they produce, impact the world.  That really is a superpower and I feel incredibly blessed that it is mine.  I am fortunate, it comes naturally, without a second thought and with no expectation of anything in return.   There are a lot of things I am good at, but this, this one thing, this ability to see the hidden connections between people and bring them into the light and together… that is a superpower.

So what is yours?  What is the one thing that comes naturally, almost without thought, that makes a positive impact on the world around you?  Are you a writer whose words spur people to be better or gives them a respite from everyday life by entertaining them?  Are you a baker whose cookies put a smile on the face of all those around you?  Are you a photographer whose pictures show others the wonder in our world?   Are you the one who mows his elderly neighbor’s grass?  The one who leads a Girl/Boy Scout troop helping guide our young people?  Are you a teacher, a nurse, a firefighter, a police officer, a service member – Now there are some real Superheroes! Or are you just you?  Perfectly imperfect you who does his/her best every day to make the world a slightly better place.

At the end of the day, whatever “costume” we put on, that is who we are.  And inside You is a Superhero.  Inside you is a superpower with the ability to change the world.  Sometimes we have to dig deep or rely on those around us to help us find it, but it is there.  So what is your superpower?

 

Photo credit:  Thanks Vocus for the shirt! 
What a great reminder to nurture my inner Superhero!

Musings as I head into my 50th year…

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Yes, I turn 49 on October 4th…yes, this is the beginning of my 50th year of life… now that the space time continuum question is out of the way… on to my random musings.

As the last month of my 49th year begins, I find myself pensive and thoughtful.  I look back on the last 49 years. Those years are a road of high hills and deep valleys, superfast freeways and country dirt roads.   IMG_1937

While there are many emotions that go through me thinking back on these years, the overwhelming emotion is thankfulness for every moment.  No, they were not all good, and at times, neither was I, but I can say overall, it has been and continues to be a life well-lived.

There are so many things I am thankful for that I can never list them all, but these…these are the things at the top of my mind as I let my mind wander through the last 49 years…

– The 2 greatest blessings in my life, my sons. From their entry into this world till this moment, they have been the one thing that makes me know there is a God who loves us because He entrusted me with these two miracles.  I have not been a perfect mother, a lot of times not even a good one, but the unconditional love and the joy of being a parent to these amazing young men are the greatest gifts and biggest lessons I have ever been given.  DSC04778

– Having experienced deep, broken to the core heartache because it allowed me to finally learn what true love, commitment, forgiveness, passion & partnership are really all about.  As I venture once more into the chasm of risking my heart, it is with a gladness that I have learned these lessons, experienced this sadness and despite it all have not closed my heart to the potential of love.

– My family who has always been there, often when I least deserved it and despite my distancing myself from them for years. It is only now, as I get older, that I truly appreciate the lessons learned in this wonderfully dysfunctional, crazy, full of love & laughter big family of mine.

– Learning courage…it took almost 40 years to really learn courage and another 7+ to learn how to appropriately apply & direct it constructively instead of selfishly & short-sightedly. The courage to take risks and build a life that I wanted and to be the person I know was in there but was afraid to show the world.

Landmark and Amy who persistently nudged me to experience it.  The transformation I experienced was so profound it goes beyond words, other then to say, I finally learned how to be comfortable in my own skin and to be the fullest, truest, most authentic version of myself.  Other then my children, possibly the greatest gift I have ever been given.

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– My friends…if I tried to list you all and all the things you have brought and  continue to bring into my life, I might crash the internet.  Most of you are like      family. Many of you are my own personal board of directors (and you probably don’t  even know it). Some of you are merely people who have crossed my path  momentarily. All of you left a lasting imprint on my life.

Because I have received the incredible blessing of so many wonderful people In my  life, I have decided that each day, from October 1st until my 50th birthday on Oct 4,  2015, I am going to publicly say Thank You to a person or group of people who I am honored to call my friends.

– My superpower – connecting people. I can not remember who it was that first coined this as my superpower, but it is such a blessing that it can not be something naturally occurring.  I feel so blessed and grateful every day that I am able to help others by connecting them with someone who can help or enrich their lives.

– Rediscovering the written word.  I had lost my words for a long time… the ability and time to read for both work and pleasure; the joy and release of taking the words that swirl in my head and put them to paper or keyboard.  I have finally rediscovered my words, have made time to read, am slowly putting my thoughts to paper…it feels good to have found my words again.

Now, as my 50th year starts…I’m ready to walk in the sunshine and write the next chapter…

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To the 1980’s Students of Zama High School…

Maybe it is that moving constantly has taught us to cram more – fun, laughter, friendship, love, affection and heartbreak…  into a short period of time…
Maybe it is that distance and time can really make the heart grow fonder…
Maybe it is the comfort of finally being around other people who understand our nomadic, yet oh so, structured life…

Maybe it is that military life reinforces for us how short life can really be and there is no room or time to continue through life with anger, grudges & cliques…
Maybe it was just magic…some kindly old witch saw the promise in us and cast a spell to bind us together always…

Maybe it was something in the water … or the greasy burgers at the Roach Coach…

Or maybe, just maybe, it is just that we were blessed to be in the right place at the right time, with the most wonderful people…

Every Woman Should…

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE

A set of screwdrivers

A cordless drill and

A black lace bra

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE

One friend who always make her laugh

And one who lets her cry

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE

A good piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in her family

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE

Eight matching plates,

Wine glasses with stems

And a recipe for a meal that will make her guests feel honored

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE

A feeling of control over her destiny

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW

How to fall in love … without losing herself

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW

When to try harder … And When to Walk Away

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW

How to quit a job

Break up with a lover

And confront a friend without ruining the friendship

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW

That she can’t change…

The length of her calves

The width of her hips or

The nature of her parents…

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW

That her childhood may not have been perfect but it is over

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW

What she Would and Wouldn’t Do for love or more

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW

How to live alone, even if she Doesn’t like it

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW

Whom she can trust

Whom she can’t and

Why she shouldn’t take it personally

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW

Where to go…

Be it her best friend’s kitchen table

Or a charming inn in the woods

When her soul needs soothing

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW

What she can and can’t accomplish

In a day

In a month

And in a year…

 

** I do not remember where I heard this the first time, so if anyone knows who wrote it, please speak up.

Celebrating Mother’s Day

This is not your typical hearts and flowers and sappy poetry Mother’s Day post.  This is MY celebration of being a Mother.  It is a message to my sons.

 

 

Thank you for being my greatest gifts and the greatest gifts I have given to the world.

Thank you for always being yourselves.  Whether it was while you were always moving, always talking toddlers or the kind, compassionate, inquisitive young men you have become, I am constantly amazed by you and could not be prouder to be your mother.  I consider it an honor and a privilege to be your Mom.

I am celebrating this Mother’s Day by sharing some words of advice as you continue to grow into amazing men.  You have heard most of these, in one way or another, most of your lives, but on this Mother’s Day, my gift to you is to share them again.

  • Don’t wait for someone/something to make you happy.  Happiness can be found in every moment – good or bad – it is all in your desire to see it.
  • Always look for the silver lining – be realistic, but be open to the good and joy found everywhere.
  • Do your best.  Sometimes it will be perfect, sometimes just good enough, sometimes not.  The only thing that matters is that it is your best.
  • Know your limits, then ignore them.
  • Listen to what others have to say, consider it, but only keep the things that ring truest to you.
  • Behave in ways that allow you to sleep at night and look yourself in the mirror.  Sometimes this will mean making hard choices.
  • Seize every moment.  Especially those moments that allow you to be kind, helpful, thoughtful, compassionate and tolerant.  Tomorrow is not promised, so seize today.
  • Count your blessings – Every Day.  It is easy to get lost in the struggles. Make sure you take time to remember and relish the good things too.
  • Life is not fair.  Do not expect it to be. Be prepared to roll with whatever life brings your way.
  • Be cautious, not anxious.  Be adventurous, not reckless. Be brave. Always be brave.
  • Feel fear, but do it anyway.
  • A well-lived life will be full of ups, downs, twists and turns.  Throw your hands in the air, laugh, scream and enjoy the ride.
  • There is a time and place in life for every emotion.  Feel them fully. Express them.  Laugh, smile, cry, be angry and feel sadness.
  • Live a full life.  Experience as much as possible.  Find a way to learn and grow every day.
  • Forgive, always and quickly. Especially yourself.
  • Listen to your head, but follow your heart.

And the best advice I can give you –

Love – deeply, truly, often and always. 

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Photo by Alexander

 

And one last thing to remember.  You do not have to be a parent to love, guide and care for a child.  There will be children who come through your life, some for moments, some for a lifetime, remember always that the example you give, the caring you show, the wisdom you share will mean more then you may ever know.   Parents are not just those who biologically give life to a child.  Parents are the caring, loving people who choose to be a positive force in a child’s life.  I will always be eternally grateful for the multitudes of “parents” who helped raise you and guide you into the wonderful adults you have become.   Don’t forget to also acknowledge and say Thank You to them this Mother’s Day.   I love you!

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Rest…

For the last 7 days, there has been a lovely surprise in my inbox.  Uneeka Jay has been sending me love notes.  Well, not just me, hundreds (probably thousands!) of people have been receiving love notes as part of her Love Rewrite, 7 Day Self-Love Challenge.  Each day has contained a message and a challenge about learning to love yourself.  Every one of them has been full of wisdom and plenty to make you stop and think about how you treat yourself.  Having recently moved half way across the country to start a new chapter in my life, ended my engagement and being involved in a long, occasionally frustrating job hunt, boy am I having trouble loving myself sometimes. Her messages came just at the right time.  For that I send her many, many Thanks!

This mornings challenge was simple.  A single word.  Rest.  Rest

Wow, did that really hit home.  I read it.  I read the accompanying message (partially quoted below)  I realized how I had done exactly this to myself and how, unconsciously, it and the need to stop doing it had played a huge part in my decision to uproot my life.  Even more, I saw so many of the wonderful people in my life in this message.  People I care about deeply. People who have been not only my friends, but my mentors, fellow instigators, greatest cheerleaders and kindest critics.  So, in the spirit of Uneeka’s sharing,  I am sharing her message in the hopes that it may speak to them also.

Are you busy?  Always running around? Live by your schedule? Constantly connected to social media?  If so, you may not be demonstrating self-love.  Being busy is a way to avoid dealing with how we feel about our lives and ourselves.  The busier we are the less time we have to truly think about where we are and where we want to go.  Being busy also gives the perception that we are happy and fulfilled when we are really drained.  A true badge of honor is your ability to rest..

Thank you Uneeka.  Your message was what I needed to hear.  Hopefully it is what someone else needs to hear also.  Now I am off to rest, take a long walk and enjoy the sunshine!

Words and the Superbowl

Yes, the Superbowl last night was lackluster and with few exceptions (RadioShack, Budweiser’s Puppy Love, Coca-Cola and Cheerios were my favorites) the ads were meh.  As usual, my Twitter stream was probably the most interesting thing I was watching.  Usually quiet during a sporting event, even my Facebook wall seemed to be actively following both the game and the ads.  Then I started to get disgusted.  Early in the game a ton of memes, tweets and posts started showing up making fun and saying some pretty nasty things about Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

Yes, it is a sporting event and yes, some good natured ribbing and trash talking will happen. The problem for me is that some of the comments were just downright petty, mean and derogatory.  Yes, Peyton and the Broncos had a bad night, a really bad night, but the fact is they got to the Superbowl.  There is a certain amount of respect due to players who work incredibly hard to reach the pinnacle of their profession.  And yet, here we were, we armchair quarterbacks, saying and publicly posting some really nasty stuff because they were having a bad night.

At one point I posted this on Twitter and Facebook

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I got several responses, most of them private, essentially telling me to lighten up, it is just sports, it is just entertainment.

That was when I got really disgusted.  It is not just sports.  It is the example we give our kids.  Coaches teach child athletes sportsmanship.  Or at least they are supposed to. But what about the non-athletes or the kids who are only ok? What message are we sending to them?  That if someone is not good enough or is having an off day, it is ok to make fun of them?

Kids learn what they hear and observe, not always what we say. They learn how to think and behave based on what the adults around them do and say.  Whether it is making fun of Peyton Manning because he is having a bad ballgame or the racist tirades that were happening over the Coca-Cola or Cheerios ads (that is a rant for another day), kids will copy what they see and hear us doing.

We think that our little memes, jokes and comments, whether it is about sports, the color of someones skin, their ethnicity, sexuality, female or male bashing, whatever, are just “harmless entertainment”. We forget that kids are observing and listening and thinking that kind of behavior is acceptable.

We are all guilty of it, myself included, at one point or another.   I just wish we would all start being more conscious of how our words and actions are observed by and reflected in the young people around us.

What are we teaching kids about sportsmanship and life in general? That you make fun of the ones who are not as good or are having an off day or are different?