We meet people throughout our lives. We make impressions on others by what we say, do, act, and react. Some people we see or know for a short time, and others we just click with and feel a bond. Some years ago I taught a freshman year experience (FYE) class. The experience was a class with a special theme or topic, mine was leadership (of course). Throughout the class we would take field trips around the city, ride the El, and integrate study skills and resources for the students. It helps with the transition into college. Wouldn’t life be grand if we had FYE for many things that happen to us? But, I digress. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Action
A few weeks ago I visited Puerto Rico with my cousin’s family, it was a trip of a lifetime. It was the celebration of their 30th wedding anniversary. We had a blast. Puerto Rico is an amazing place with some of the nicest people I’ve encountered. Most of the time we could use English, there were a few times we had to resort to Spanish. It was fun to see how much of my high school Spanish came back to me, so now I have a new New Year’s resolution (I know, I know it’s May). We took the usual tourist trips around the island – Old San Juan, the Bacardi distillery, Costco, Snorkeling, museums and the Bioluminescent Bay.
Snorkeling was fun, and a new experience. Continue reading
This summer, as you may recall, my mom spent some time in the hospital and in a nursing facility. The following story happened while we were in the hospital. It was a funny story at the time and I immediately knew that it would somehow end up in my blog. It is just too good to pass up. At the time it didn’t occur to me how this event had anything to do with our ability, leadership, or that sometimes we just have to give in to the universe and let…. well…. let nature take it’s course – so to speak. Continue reading
When I was in grad school one of my professors said to me, “You need to move from your head to your heart.”
My response, “I don’t even know what you mean.” He told me to just, “Sit with that for a while.”
And so, I’ve been sitting and wondering for a decade now: Continue reading
It is holiday time. This time of year is ripe for various rituals and traditions among the best of us. I am Swedish and in my family we have all grown up with my grandma’s Swedish rye bread at every holiday… if we were lucky, it would just appear at other times of the year. The traditions had to be passed on through the years. My mom also made it and passed it on to a few cousins and me. We compare notes and techniques with every baking.
The secret recipe
It isn’t really a “secret.” The recipe is available to anyone who has a Garden Club cookbook (page 71 to be exact). Actually, my Gram didn’t create the original recipe. We recently found Esther Hideen’s recipe from back in the day, Gram just made it long enough to make it her own. It probably helped that Esther was a long time ago, and somewhere in the Midwest. My grandma did add a few distinct nuances to the bread that don’t show up in the old recipe. Her various variations (I meant to write that) were the addition of anise extract or caraway seeds in some batches. The most distinct thing about Ruby’s bread was the cylindrical shape to the bread. She used old juice cans (the tall tomato or grapefruit juice cans). You see she would make about 5 loaves in a batch. I would guess that she didn’t have enough loaf pans, and juice cans were cheaper to buy. Recycle, reuse, repurpose…or just plain economics. So to keep the tradition you HAVE to make it in juice cans.
That aint right
Recently my cousin made a batch and her “yeast went crazy.” She ran out of juice cans and had to put the extra into a loaf pan, she text me a picture of the final product. I text back, “nice! But that one isn’t going to taste right.” She text back, “I know right! I thought of that too!:)” We have friendly disagreements that it aint right if you don’t mix the dough by hand. You cannot use an electric mixer. To be true SRB you have to follow the recipe to the letter and method. That is just crazy right?
Don’t get all-wild and change anything
Change is a scary thing. It creates a new process. It modernizes things. It questions the status quo…it just…well…it just changes things. Why is it that as people, systems and organizations we have a problem changing things? I mean, if it aint broke don’t break it, but there are times when we might want to question, improve and change things. There are times we might just want to break it too.
What is change?
The word change comes from an Old French word changier that means alter, exchange, or switch. I also found the Latin word, transformare, which is to change the shape. In theory, the idea of change seems to be a natural go-to when we are looking at strategic planning or long-term goals. Change is something that an organization wants to happen. The people in the organization might agree that the new person, or the leader (sometimes called a manager, and vice versa) should instigate a change process. How will we change as an organization and/or as a person? Or better yet, how do you envision change and approach the management of change? It is a great interview question, eh?
“We do not describe the world we see, we see the world we can describe”
That heading is a quote by Rene Descartes. It make sense right? We see the world we can describe. Our description has some limits – our worldview, our experience, and the vocabulary words. This change concept can meet some dissent, at times A LOT of opposition. It is something we (the collective) might agree should happen; in fact, evidence may provide some metrics to say it has to happen. The how, when, why might come from different points of view. But, how do we move the CHANGE concept into a world we can see from a unified front? I have been involved with, or watched a few strategic planning processes as they unfold. They seem to follow a typical pattern. Definition about the overall goals followed by a schedule of events to gather data, analyze and present the plan. Some participate in the process, some ignore it, and some miss the message. Regardless, the plan is in motion.
Stop – Wait for it – Start
I have written before about Bridges and his comments on change – (1) you have to stop the old first. (2) Then, outlast the confusion and neutral zone before you can (3) Re-start and re-establish the change. Another guy, Kurt Lewin, has three similar phases. He says you have to UNFREEZE, then TRANSITION, and finally (RE)FREEZE. It is that big thaw at the start that seems to start the slippery slope (pun intended…of course). Then the transition time can be more like whitewater and the rapids in a river, depending of course on the amount of change. And then we refreeze, re norm, or we find a new normal. After a while, the refrozen becomes the glacier of “it has always been that way.” Just ask Esther Hideen about that little phenomenon. J
Change and Change Management are connected to leadership and the act of being a leader. To change a company, a department or a system really has to start with the people within. To guide this process we often look to the leader of the group as the change agent, instigator, and project manager. The rate at which this process occurs is how we rate or evaluate that person’s effectiveness. Every journey is a series of small steps and incremental change. Every journey! If the scenery isn’t changing you probably are not moving. There is a foundational book, Leading Change, by Harvard Management professor John Kotter. He presents his eight steps that include some sense of urgency, proper communication, celebrating the small steps, and establishing anchors.
The leadership is about HOW we approach the changes. Leadership is what we do WITH people to create or recreate. Management is keeping the steps in order, maintaining the communications, planning the work, and working the plan. We have the ability to change, it just takes a little bit to understand the WHY we need change, WHAT the change will provide, and HOW to approach the changes.
Really?! Does practice make really make perfect? Or is that line of reasoning just something we have come to say/accept rather than question its use? Let’s think for a minute if our practice has a flaw or we don’t have the correct form, then our results will be perfectly flawed rather than miraculously perfect.
Now, you do not have to change your holiday traditions. Those are like comfort food and memories. But what could you change to make things a little easier for yourself, your team, or your company? What could you UNFREEZE?
The cycle continues this week with the autumnal equinox marking the end of the summer season. My summer plans started out fairly consistent with previous summers – teaching summer school, hitting selected Chicago street festivals, a trip or 2, and hanging out with friends. I headed west to Reno for some family time and a couple of weddings. What I did on my summer vacation turn out much different than anticipated, it lasted 54 days in total.
Wedding plans were right on schedule. Those ‘save the date’ cards actually work. I even went to a bonus wedding for a high school friend. I celebrated a few birthdays out west as well, mine included. There was a great reunion with some friends that included a going away party for their daughter as she moved to Portland, OR. And, the unexpected…I attended two funerals while I was home. The first was for my aunt’s sister. Finally, the biggest event of my whole summer was the funeral for my mom.
Yeah, how is that for a speed bump? This was moving along so smoothly too. When last we met I told a couple of stories about being with my mom over the summer. However, the fog from her Alzheimer’s disease turned from her state of confusion and a stunted life trajectory to mine. But, I don’t want to go there, at the moment. I want to wander through a few things I realized about my mom, my family, and me over the summer. It has been a month since we were surrounding her with love and support as she made her final transition. I have to believe she is in a better “frame of mind” now than she had been in for the last few years of her life, and definitely her last month.
Let’s start with gratitude. Speed bump number two, or yet another 90-degree turn on this little journey I am leading you through. It gives me extreme peace to know that she is not struggling anymore. Her final words to me were “Good night, Rich.” This didn’t occur on the night she died, but it was this summer. Nevertheless, she told me good night AND she said my name. Metaphorically I look at this interaction as her goodbye and a verbal hug acknowledging our relationship. The more heartbreaking of our visits was just after that good night during some alone time between us. I was talking; she was nonverbal for the last month. THEN… she looked at me with a smile in her eyes, she was smiling, her energy was just like so many of the great times we had throughout my life – we were together and we were smiling. That 3-seconds was fleeting. She started to cry. It wasn’t just tears, it was a sad upset crying. It was an “I think I am leaving,” crying. Thankfully that turned quickly to blank again and then I was the one crying. When I think of her death, those 6-seconds help to remind me she is not hurting. Back to gratitude – I spent most of the summer with her and working on her behalf. I got to be there to do my part to help my dad and brothers as the family administrator guy. I got to spend time with mom. I had 3 amazing (all things are relative) moments with my mom. I miss her so damn much. I am not sure how or when this “fog” I am in will lift…but they tell me it gets easier.
There are many great stories I could share. These help us remember what the treasure my Mom is…I guess I should say was now, but I think I’ll keep the present tense for now. In my world she is a treasure. One I will treasure in real time forever. Over the summer I had many conversations with people about her. I started to keep a list of what was said. In a quick, quasi qualitative research approach I noticed themes – kindest, sweetest, nicest, a lovely lady, a special bond between us, warm, talented, classical grandma, loving, laughing, patient, special lady, the word favorite is often attributed to her… Someone told me that she was a gentle giant, the person that never really jumped to the lead role (although she could do it, and she did lead) she was always the one you could count on to be there and provide support. Her Karma bank was always overflowing with simplicity, love and a smile. There are a couple of books, Quiet and Quiet Influence, about the leadership qualities of the introvert. My mom was in her own class. She was an extroverted Introvert or the introverted Extrovert; loved to be with people and part of the action. She was on the quiet side. In Emergenetics© terms (I never tested her, damn!) she had to be a second third Expressive and a first third Assertive. I am sure she was a third third flexible, holy decisions batman. Her leadership style was that of an influencer with a quiet determination.
In my earlier research on leadership one of the themes we found was – Legacy/Lasting Difference. The interviewed leaders said this legacy piece was something that one didn’t set out to do, but it was nice when you are remembered for something. When I stood at the funeral to give the eulogy I looked at the church. It was packed, people were standing in the back, and they were in the entryway. Through tears I said my mom was such an understated woman that she would be surprised that so many turned out to honor and celebrate her life and legacy. It was overwhelming and comforting. A recent daily encouragement from my Soka Gakkai Nichiren Buddhist practice said this: “Ultimately, people only die as they have lived.” To die happily is therefore extremely difficult. And since death is the final settlement of accounts for one’s life, it is when our true self comes to the fore…” (Daisaku Ikeda). A packed house honoring her true self seemed appropriate. She was the gentle, quiet leader that was there to provide giant support for others. A legacy of love, support, and care among those she touched in her 70 short (too short) years.
Ability: “Talents, skills, Power or capacity to do.” We all have the ability to lead from the front, the middle, or behind. We all have the ability to leave a legacy and to make a difference for someone/everyone. I knew my mom was an amazing woman that made great (quiet) contributions for the good. What I did on my summer vacation was be there for her, with her, and to see life and purpose through her. Even in her final days and hours she taught me the power of connections and community. Hmmmmm…when the student is ready the teacher arrives. Thanks mom!
When is a balloon really a balloon? You buy a package of balloons and you have a little bag of lifeless colorful containers. What you really have is a bag of potential. These plastic, rubber, or Mylar envelopes are just waiting to become something; they’re balloons in waiting.
That balloon will get big and round or perhaps it is a longer tubular shape. You cannot really tell until you put some air in them, quite a bit of air actually. The air on the inside keeps stretching the colorful skins into big beautiful balloons. If it pops it makes a loud sound and explosion. So we can tell there is a lot of air (or helium) inside exerting quite a bit of pressure.
A balloon isn’t really a balloon, until it is tested. Those balloons you get with your singing telegram or for your birthday are probably expendable. Move to a reusable balloon now. Have you ever gone ballooning, taken a ride in a hot air balloon, or been to the balloon races (Head to Reno in early September)? The balloon is constantly tested, and retested over an over again.
The concept of RE is an important idea to chat about for a minute. But, I want to start at the opposite end of RE first.
In life and leadership, we need to understand and think about RESILIENCE. Resilience is generally a topic we go to after some sort of Rejection, Refusal, Rebuff, Refutation, Revoke, or repeal. Not so much fun eh? Just reading these words can probably cut deep and we can instantly think of a time (probably more like a whole bunch of times) that this happened to us.
REvising, RElearning, REbuilding, REfocusing, REflecting, REset, REplay
We need to REFRAME any rejection that happens to us. When do we learn? I didn’t ask how do we learn (that was the last blog post). WHEN do we learn? When does learning happen? There is no NEW learning; there is RElearning (there is that RE- word again).
We learn when we make mistakes. We learn when we fall down. Yeah, yeah we learn at other times too. BUT when do we remember the lesson? I am guessing that after a little sting, the learning is more of apparent, or it has a little more import. This is why video games have a REset button. This is why we have instant REplay. It is why we have REwind on the TiVo and DVR. It’s the do over of life.
REsilience, REjoice, REcreate, REbuild, REmodel, REstore, REmake
Just like that balloon we are resilient. We can bounce back and we can rebuild and rejoice while we are taking what we learned from that situation or experience. I am not the first one to say this (I think I first read it in Steven Covey’s 7 Habits book over twenty years ago). Failure isn’t fatal & People don’t fail they quit. I sold life insurance for a number of years. The chance for “rejection” occurred a few times in that sales/service process.
I have studied leadership and identity for a number of years now. Resilience is part of this building of our leadership ability and capacity. I found a book entitled, Rejection (1982) by John White. In the book he tells stories and reports on people who were rejected a time (or lots of times). He has the typical stories about Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and others that have been told and REtold repeatedly. I love his THREE THINGS ABOUT REJECTION –
1. Rejection is not the same as failure.
2. It is 2-way – while we are facing rejection, we are also doing some rejecting.
3. Rejection is necessary. Lack of it would be disastrous.
Read #3 again – REJECTION IS NECESSARY. What?! Why is that? How could that be? When we are rejected, we REvise and REsubmit. Rejection re-energizes us to win and to create victory. It helps us to see things in a different light. Think about that guy or girl you may have been rejected by…chances are 50/50 that rejection can be seen as, “whoa, I dodged a bullet on that one.” Without REverse on the gearshift, we would still be sitting in the same parking space.
There is a great song that says it best – Tubthumping by Chumbawumba – I actually thought the song was called, I get knocked down.
I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never going to keep me down
In another verse, it goes on….
He sings the songs that remind him Of the good times
He sings the songs that remind him Of the better times
Don’t cry for me
Next door neighbor
I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never going to keep me down
We’ll be singing When we’re winning We’ll be singing
When was your last bout of REsilience?
Notice the question…it wasn’t directed at the rejection (where I would submit a lot of us tend to focus the energy). When was the last time you got knocked down? When was the last time you got up again?
How big can you inflate the balloon that encompasses your capacity? When were you last stretched and tested? You might get knocked down…but ya gotta get up again, and again, and again. We have to get up one more time than we feel knocked down.
2 quotes – The first I have heard over and over. The second, I think I am going to have this one tattooed… or maybe just printed and framed next to my front door.
“That which doesn’t kill me will make me stronger.” -Nietzsche
“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” -Joseph Campbell
Tubthumping — do you need to be reminded of it?
My grandma had a saying for everything; I guess that comes with being a grandparent eh? Some of them were just funny (funny ha-ha and funny quirky). She was quite the performer too. She could tell a story, dress up, do a skit, and perform at a moments notice for those at the dinner table or a crowd of a hundred. She could pull up a prop and get into character at the drop of a…well a napkin, let’s go with that. When she was waiting for something she would say, “It won’t be long now, said the monkey when the train ran over it’s tail.” When you asked if she would like to more to eat her response was classic, “Oh, I have had an elegant sufficiency, anymore would be superfluity.” Yep superfluity is a word, (noun, superabundant, excessive amount). Now I don’t know if all of these sayings were original, or if she borrowed them from somewhere else. In my world, she is a God. Oh, she would not like that analogy at all, well at least a Minor God, or maybe just a Saint. Suffice it to say she was/is pretty important to me so if she said it, then she gets the byline on life’s references page.
One of the things she would say is, “I can do anything I want to do.” As kids we would challenge her, “Ok, fly!” Her response was simply, “I don’t want to.” With this great laugh that I can hear to this day, and a twinkle in her bright blue eyes. Ah, to be with my Gram again! As kids, my brothers and cousins, we would just laugh. She was grandma and said funny stuff all of the time. As I grew older and started to think more about this, she was really teaching us something very important. We CAN do anything we want to do. We do have the ability to set our attention and intention to make things happen. She certainly did this in her own work as a seamstress/decorator. Her customers would come to her and describe a room setting, or whatever they wanted created in their homes. She would draw a picture of the description, which is amazing as a story already. THEN, she would make the vision without a pattern. Her customers would say the picture was better than they had imagined, and the final product was more than perfect. She could do anything she wanted to do. She said it. She believed it. She did it.
Recently I heard a presentation by Dr. Vincent Harding, a friend and confidante of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was talking about a book that he wrote with Daisaku Ikeda, America will be! The title comes from a Langston Hughes poem. Dr. Harding said, “Our dreams are only a fraction of what we can do. Our lifetimes are only a fraction of what we can dream.” I tried to find if he was quoting Hughes again. I couldn’t find a poem that used these lines. But, this line reminded me of my gram’s “I can do anything” axiom. The truth is, our ability is largely untapped. If you could do anything you set your mind to, what would it be? What have you created and completed from just your thoughts? Truly, the answer to that is EVERYTHING, since all of our actions were thoughts first then carried out. We do have the ability to do anything we want. What do you want to do? When will you start?
I will leave you with two Langston Hughes poems I did find.
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
And, this one reminds us to live NOW.
“Life is for the living.
Death is for the dead.
Let life be like music.
And death a note unsaid.”
Plain and simple….I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe that everything happens for a reason and IF we look into the situation at hand we can learn something it. Before I go on, let me soothe any that might have a Pollyanna (this-is-too-much-positivity-for-me) alert going off right about now. I don’t believe that EVERYTHING that happens has epiphany status nor do I think we will have major discoveries every single day. Simply put, our lives are both the sum total and the result of the energy generated by our thoughts and work
But…As I said…I don’t believe in coincidence. By coincidence, I mean a fluke, an accident, or just dumb luck (I realize that dumb luck is highly scientific, forgive my pompous use of technical terms). Having said all of this, let’s look at coincidence from a different perspective.
Co – (according to my favorite app of all – dictionary.com) is a prefix that when attached to a word it is can be an “auxiliary subsidiary.” It complements (which is to say it accompanies or harmonizes with) the first word. I like this CO thing so far.
Incident – Aptly (or perhaps App-ley) speaking this is an individual occurrence or an event. This episode or a piece of the action somehow fits into the story of our lives. An incident occurs in connection with something else, or somehow pertains to an event or a series of events. The family tree of the word incident has quite a history. In 1412 incident occurred casually with some thing else. 1462 it was an event viewed as a separate condition. Jumping to 1925 it came to be used to say, “by the way.” As in, by the way I don’t believe in coincidence.
So now, we have the Co to the incident that makes the party of the first part (i.e., Co-) somehow influencing the party of the second part (i.e., incident). Wait, wait, wait, that probably confuses things even more. J Maybe a diagram will help. Coincident Pic
The solid line connects CO with the INCIDENT showing that to which we refer as the EVENT. The dotted line shows the other incident that was viewed as a separate condition (a la 1462) that has some energy or impact on the complementary event. Thus (b) could be the precipitating event that has some meaning for the main event.
Our actions create energy and have an impact on our lives and those we interact with every day. What we think about has an impact on our actions. We are what we think about. We are what we give attention and energy. I read somewhere (a long time ago) that it takes 7 years to make an overnight success. Our success doesn’t happen through coincidence, it happens by focus and creating a series of events in our lives. Our inner ability drives our momentum.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.” -Mahatma Gandhi
The Chinese character for LUCK is the COmbination of opportunity and preparation. The CO-incidence of how we prepare and focus complements opportunity. Chinese LUCK Symbol
The incidents we create and insert in our way complement the present and the future events that will happen by CO-incidence. Some state lottery slogan is, “ya gotta play to win.” The incidents we create every day are those complementary auxiliary subsidiary events that will influence more events. Karma is action, it’s cause and effect. What effect have you caused? For yourself? For others? How’s that working for you? I hope it is working well…..