Tag Archives: Strength

What I did on my summer vacation

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!


Filed under Leadership

Turn MAY into the month of CAN. Know you can. Kick the can. MAYke it a month of I CAN

Remember being a little kid and asking your parent’s something like, “Can I go to the store?” The retort was probably something like, “I don’t know CAN you?” The moral of that story was the all-too-familiar lesson in manners and asking the right question. So, you probably corrected it to be more appropriate for the request. “May I go to the store?” Lesson learned. Your request might have been more about asking permission? Lesson #304 (give or take) was about who is in charge and who grants permission.

But, maybe you really did mean CAN. This Can Concept is about ability. Can is about having the ability to accomplish something. This is our raw ability or our natural talents and skills. We all have a natural ability for something. We might not understand what it is, or maybe it takes us a while to discover our ability because we’re too busy asking if we MAY do something rather than exploring what we CAN do.

Let’s kick the CAN around a bit.  CAN = to able to, having an ability, power, skill, know how, have the means to, have permission

The Gallup organization has created a huge industry around what we CAN do. They call it Strengthsquest. If you haven’t checked out their work you might be interested in seeing what your top FIVE strengths are. Reading their material you will see that

Strength= Naturally occurring patters of thought, feeling, behaviors (Talent) + ability to perform (Skills) + Facts, lessons, Experience (Knowledge)

But knowing our strengths doesn’t do much for us if we are still stuck on this concept of MAY I over CAN I? What is the CAN I piece?


This psychologist, Dr. Albert Bandura, has studied and written about some pretty cool things. He talks about social learning theory and some thinking/cognitive theory stuff. But for now let’s explore SELF-EFFICACY.


I love the words SELF-EFFICACY. For one reason, it is just plain fun to say. Another reason, in my little mind, is just saying it makes you sound smart. Then if you can use it in a sentence…WHOA.


Efficacy. It’s a $5 word for effectiveness or the quality of being successful or producing what you meant to produce. Throw the word SELF in front of it and it seems a little redundant. But your lawn mower can be effective and do its job too, so maybe self really does help as a descriptor.

So SELF-efficacy can be interpreted to mean that I really CAN go to the store. I have the ABILITY to go to the store. I can do this whether you give me permission or not.

I am ABLE.  Done! Boom! Pow!

Self-efficacy is one’s perception about his/her own ability to perform at a certain level or the ability to influence events. This perception is so powerful that self-efficacy has been shown to be a solid predictor of accomplishments based on previous attainments or knowledge. It has been said that the best predictor or future performance is past performance. Imagine that we do it and therefore we realize we can do it…again. BUT, how do we understand that we can do it to begin with?

Here is the cool part – Dr. Bandura studied this and started a whole bunch of people studying it too. He found out that self-efficacy is based on about FOUR things.

Mastery Experience – The fact that you know yourself and what you can accomplish; this is your ability or abilities. Another cool part here is that if you have done something LIKE the anticipated event/activity you can say, “Since I did that…. I can do this!”

Vicarious Experience – We are all surrounded by others doing things. Sometimes we base our ability on a comparison with others. So we think, “Well if he/she can do it, then no sweat I can do It.” or “We have similar abilities, I got this.”

Social Persuasion – having our own set of cheerleaders, mentors, and friends helps to get the encouragement from others to make something happen.

Emotional Arousal – this might get a little tricky for some of us, if we are in an I CAN mood and/or happy, then emotionally we are probably ready to try. If our pity party is in full swing, then maybe not so much. We have to push through and know that we can try. We might have to try again, but TRY it. It is like that other parental game, “you just have to take one bite to see if you really do like it or not. Just try it.”

I think I can… I think I can…I think I can… Remember the book, The Little Engine That Could. Know that our self-efficacy is based on a recipe of about four things. Four things that are mostly in your control.

Take a bite. What will you try today? You have a whole month to practice giving yourself permission (May, 2014) to see that you Can. Stretch your self-efficacy to the LIMITS.

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Filed under Leadership