Tag Archives: Leadership

Superpowers: Motivation

I was in an airport and I needed coffee. I was with colleagues and I walked up to the coffee stand. In my mind I saw the Starbucks symbol and I was approaching. I never look at the menu I always get the same thing – medium (I don’t do the grande, tall stuff) room for cream. I see the same type of breakfast sandwiches in the cooler. I order. I ask, “Do you take this?” handing her my my Starbuck reward card. She said, “No we don’t take that.” So I am still thinking I am at a Starbucks, some airport or mall kiosks don’t take them. Then my friend says, “you really want this to be Starbucks.”  I didn’t really, I just had it in my mind that was where I was. It was my perception….
Cat: Where are you going?
Alice: Which way should I go? Continue reading

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The Alpha Dog in the mirror


There is a student development theory that we call Challenge and Support (by Nevitt Sanford). The balance between too much challenge and not enough was just as important as the balance between too much (and not enough) support. There is a fine – imaginary – line between the two and sometimes the application of each/both is an art…or well maybe a guessing game.

One of my favorite careers was as the Greek Leadership Coordinator on a college campus, about 15 years ago. I worked with a fraternity and sorority community of ~700 students. Continue reading

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Eliminate the Negative to Accentuate the Positive

While we are working on being the best at being me it is important to remember one mantra: No negative self talk. At the beginning of this school year I was introducing myself to a new group of students. I was discussing how difficult grad school can be at times. Throughout the process there will be times you want to give up on this. I asked them to refrain from negative self talk. The “I can’t do this” and “I am so stupid” (this is one of the most detrimental).  It is dangerous to put those thoughts in your head. They just sit in the corners of your mind and grow, like mold. It is a dark warm place hidden away from the lighter parts of your brain. Before you know it this mold has creeped into your outlook on life. Danger! Danger! Red Alert…Move away…  Recently a student pulled me to the side and told me how important that message (No negative self talk) was to her. She showed me where she wrote it in her journal. She uses it with her kids and her own students. There are enough negative messages out there, we don’t need to create more. Continue reading

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Just Trying to Be the Best Me I Can Be

I was chatting with a friend the other day. Our conversation was a mix of a mutual project and we eventually turned towards life in general. We started to chat about the characteristics we inherited from our parents. Some of those characteristics are things we would rather not have, and of course we acknowledged the fact that we got some good too. Why is it so much easier to focus on the critical?

At one point she said, “I am just trying to be the best me I can be.” I thought, “That makes sense.” But…my brain took over. Continue reading

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Objects in mirror

“How did you go to get here?” “What route did you take?” These are common questions upon arriving at a destination or meeting point with friends. As one of the new members of the Southern California driving set this is a common question of mine as well. My goal is to see if there was a better route. A more direct route. Or, if there is some super secret shortcut that nobody told me about. A friend here in Los Angeles told me I need to watch the movie LA Story now that I am part of the culture.

Speaking of culture… the SoCal way Continue reading

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Jokers’ Wild or Jokers Worthwhile

JokerWe 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

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A glowing excursion

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.

It burns!
Snorkeling was fun, and a new experience. Continue reading


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Glorious Change: Celebrate movement

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

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The metamega energy we all contribute

Spotlights on blue velvet cinema curtains

I love the curtain call of play (any production); it sends a chill down my spine every time. I have to catch my breath, and at times even tears well up. I can feel the energy, exhilaration, and pride from the cast. Their faces penetrate the atmosphere of the theatre. When someone is doing something out of love and enthusiasm, they exude self-confidence. Multiply that times the number of people in the cast (and crew) and you have critical mass…or a whole lot of energy exploding from that stage. It is so cool when they acknowledge the orchestra and the crew that you can’t see. These off stage members create the invisible, the music, the ambience, and the feelings that your brain absorbs with neural networks galore. The beauty of the show, and the curtain call, is the metacommunication transporting you in time and space. Meta – some old Greek word that means “along with” and when added to another word it analyzes or explains that word at a higher level, in a more abstract form. That synergy, hard work, choreography, and mutual support add a positive charge to the whole environment. It took a team. It took an ensemble. It took the soloist (or 2) to bring the story alive. Within the whole are parts/people who are passionate about their role – those on and off the stage.

Over the weekend, I was at an SGI-USA Buddhist event. We were celebrating anniversaries of the largest lay Buddhist organization in the world. It was commemorating 40 years for the international organization, 55 years of President Ikeda’s leadership, and 85 years of the overall organization (Soka Gakkai). They named the street in front of the Chicago center Daisaku Ikeda Way. While standing in the snow listening and participating in this historic event, I was overwhelmed with emotion and moved to tears. I could feel the excitement of the street naming and the day from the stage and the crowd. It was hot…even at 33-degrees F.

So what is my correlation? Why do I have empathy? I was a Camp Director for many years, at a few different camps, and these same feelings hit me at the end of a campfire, a session week, and the whole summer. My satisfaction was pride in my staff and their accomplishments. Our curtain call was a vicarious thrill; at camp I was part of the action. Our camaraderie made the feelings even more intense. Like the stage cast/crew, my group bonded, took responsibility and performed a job that not just anyone can handle. These were special people. The typical staff member is a high school or college student looking for a ‘fun’ job for the summer. The groups I have worked with over the years have included men and women from 18 to 70 with varied camp experience from which to draw. A Camp Director has a vital role in child (and adult) development while supervising the overall facility. This was a dynamic position for me because I trained, supported, and counseled staffers through significant life/growth periods.

These, all of these, are examples of leadership and ability. Leadership is from among, within, the front, and the back. It takes a lot of people to make things happen. Those holding the space, and providing behind the scenes support, have as much ability as the speaker, soloist, and the lead on the project. Think of the Oscars and all of the people they name that we don’t know/recognize. Sit in a dark movie theatre at the end while the list of people scroll by on the screen. Wow. Have you ever known someone on a movie? I am guessing you sat there waiting for his or her name? When it rolled by….how did it feel? There was some essence of 15-minutes of fame in moving along in front of you. The leadership and ability for each of us comes in many forms and delivery styles.

On an exhibit wall in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art there was a quote by Keith Haring: “Every time I create something, I think of the people who will look at it. And every time I look at something I think of its creator.”

This is how I live my life. I love to think and learn about stuff. I want positively contribute to relationships I enter, with a desire for mutual benefit. When I write one of these blogs, I send it to a few friends as my “pilot blog.” They respond with comments, suggestions, and edits. It’s validating and encouraging. As life’s student, I look at something and wonder how the author, inventor, or creator put their thoughts together to achieve such unique beauty in it’s own right.

What is your passion? How do your leadership and your ability contribute to your organization and spheres of influence? We all have them. We don’t notice them because; it’s just a natural for each of us.

Meta is mega

The “meta” of our contributions is mega…but they seem so trivial because we think…It’s who I am, it’s what I do. What’s the metamega you need to acknowledge for you?Mega 3d Word Large Letters Big Huge Enormous Deal

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As the ice melts

Glass Ice & WaterThere I was watching ice melt in a glass of water. I noticed something. As the ice melts the level of the water didn’t really change. I guess I knew this already. I mean this seems like something from middle school science as we talk about displacement. Or maybe it was from the “Eureka!” story about some naked guy jumping out of a bathtub in ancient Greece (Archimedes the mathematician).

But I digress…but what doesn’t catch your attention in a story more than seeing how the word naked is being used to teach something, eh?

Back to water, and ice and the like. I was driving down Lakeshore Drive in Chicago yesterday and there was this lake (Michigan to be exact) and ice. It gets cold here. The level of the lake doesn’t change much either from the summer to the winter. That frozen lake I was walking on in Wisconsin on New Year’s Day was the same way. The level in the glass or these lakes with or without ice was the same.

So what?

I have been working on my resume and helping a few people with their resumes lately. This task is tedious. It is hard to say what you need to say to show how you know what you are doing, and that you have accomplished. BUT…we are so conditioned to not be too boastful. However, we don’t do a little boasting who will? I wasn’t looked at for one job because I wasn’t explicit enough about my experience in business and on-campus (with students). I assumed the people on the committee would look at my resume and see both types of activities together and make the connection that I could combine them; bad assumption on my part.

Lesson one in job search. Help connect those dots, create a nice picture of you, and not worry about the boastful part. I think we can call this confidence – he says in an almost confident manner J.

Another thought about the experience timeline and all of the jobs that we have completed in the past may at some point look completely disassociated. Or maybe after writing and revising so much we forget what attracted us to a position and how it fits in with our talents, strengths, expertise, and follows some line of reason. It must work this way though; the common denominator would be us… right?

Back to this glass of water thing, I started with. There is a method to my madness here; it wasn’t just to get your attention. Think for a minute that each one of us is the glass of water. It can be half full, half empty, or fully full…or something we just need some water in there to start. The half-full/empty thing is a whole other blog post all together. Into this glass put some ice. You can use cubes, ellipses, half moons, crescents, or even crushed for this example.

The water (in the glass) is you. The ice in the water in the glass is your experience or the different jobs that you have completed in your life. The ice is suspended in the water. At first, we can see the ice in the water. We notice there are some experiences floating around in the water. We can see some shape. We can see the edges. Perhaps those edges show some limits to our experience. I mean, as good as we are there hopefully is some limit to what we know (or what we are willing to admit we don’t know) and time and experience helps us expand our knowledge and our edges might get soften a bit as we build more capacity.

Ice melts

Melting might seem like a bad thing. But in my example, and story here, ice melting IS the example. When the ice is melted it is all water. We are still us, but now we have new experience that has become us. We have grown in our ability and how we approach things. We look the same – water is still water – but we are different. We have experience. When we add more ice (more experience or a new job) we can see those chunks of experience again. Now we also have the addition of a new understanding. Our water is different, but we may not look any different.


This is a German word for form or structure. It is the whole. A gestalt is the summation of its component parts. It is impossible for us to refreeze the chunks of ice in our class in the exact way that we added them to the water. It is a little different from a similar word, synergy. With synergy, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Meaning together we can accomplish even more. Gestalt is a whole it is a unified whole – like our resume. I mean like our glass of water.

Why water?

You might be thinking WATER?! I want to be juice or something (did someone say gin and tonic?) a little more spicy than water. I use water for a reason. Ice in water is more water. Ice in any other beverage will dilute the experience. Our resume and our experience aren’t diluted over time in any way. Even experiences that weren’t perfect help us grow in a positive direction. We know what we don’t want to do, or how to not do that again. Besides, water is in everything. H2O makes up so much of us, the earth, the atmosphere, everything. It just makes sense to use water in the example.


When we have ice in water a lot of the time, we get some condensation on the outside of the glass. This happens in learning, experiences, and jobs too. There are things that we don’t need from many of our experiences. We can just let those go. We can shed those – if you will.

Leadership is about the accumulation of abilities and the derivation of learning from our experiences. Our leadership can be tied back to our chunks of ice in the water. Our leadership insight (or one of my favorite words – acumen) comes from the experience of being a leader and even of being a follower and participating in some way in the leadership experience. It might be vicarious, but we can still learn from the experience.

Think about your chunks of experience. Can you pull out the direct lessons from those chunks? Are you a different person now after having been exposed to the new ice chunks floating around in your glass of water?

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