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It’s been a while… 

Sometimes there are no straight lines in life. Looking back at the last time I posted, I was so passionate about my purpose. How could I not be? I LOVED my career and the HR practice.

Seeing my first blog post to this site from 2 years ago again today (thanks Facebook time app), I found myself oddly envious of that person. The one who was so linear in her focus to contribute to the greater good of the industry and connect to others with equal excitement.  So what happened?

I changed jobs. I bought a new home. I brought an amazing son into the world. None of which I would have expected to throw me off that focus. But reality is, it did. My focal point shifted, and the person who wrote that initial blog became blurry in the background.

For many of us, sometimes exciting life events or even tragic events can have that kind of impact. Before we realize it, we are hurling in a direction while looking at the world speed past us, heading there but looking at the fringes wondering where we will land.

The good news is, we do, eventually. We may be a little dizzy and disoriented. But the picture once again becomes crisp. Our feet once again become sturdy beneath us. Our strength is magnified from muscle memory paired with new powerful bursts of energy.

Today, thanks to these latest life events, I have an amazing new son, a warm place with my family to call our home, a job that I am celebrating a year anniversary at and still – a passion for HR and my career. My linear focus has broadened and my passion has magnified because I have more to love than just my career.  The person I used to be? I finally realize, I haven’t lost her. Tonight, strolling my 14 month old while answering emails and pointing at birds, cooking dinner with him playing at my feet and my laptop open next to the stove, having dinner with my husband and then writing this post… I find her. I get to spend time with her. She is whole. And I love that.

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Back to Basics

It is so true, and often so forgotten.

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Trophies of Triumph

I read an article recently about self-awareness written by Douglas LaBier, Ph.D (ProgressiveImpact.org). In one of his recommendations for enhancing self awareness, he suggests that we “Learn from our Personal Timeline”.  This got me thinking, and so I spent some time reflecting on what my own personal “failure resume” has been. Yes, all of the positive thought people would suggest to focus on only the opposite (successes), which I would agree helps… however there is something to be said about knowing where you went wrong, and hopefully having learned from those times.

In this exercise, I was able to list 5 major failures. These are the massive, holy-heck moments that have completely changed my direction in life, how I viewed the world, and how I felt about my own journey. Some took years to recover from, and some still lurk in the shadows of the past, peeking out of my subconscious every so often. Most of these were professional, although one was personal and as early as my pre-teen years when I wanted to grow up and be a dancer. I pulled a muscle in a recital and never pushed myself to recover properly, so I never dance again. My choice, my consequence. I couldn’t go to Orlando Magic games and watch the dancers at half-time without tearing up in self-disappointment for years.

Writing these experiences down was intensely difficult. I’m used to writing goals, measurable and actionable items, progressive, forward thinking…. so how does one do this in reverse without much pain, regret, and intense thought?

I suppose that was the entire point. Realization and a refreshing acceptance followed. The result was a list of 15 items I learned from these Big 5 Failures… what I now call my Trophies of Triumph:

1. Always seek truth, not evidence, to support your position. Evidence can be wrong.

2. You must stand strong; but you can’t ever fly with your feet on the ground.

3. If everyone likes you, you are either not standing for something or lying to many.

4. Those who complain about the heat are the ones dripping gasoline on the fire.

5. Life will not be all that it should be, until you are willing to let go of what should not be.

6. If it means having what you have, there are chances someone will do what you won’t do to replace you.

7. It may be life-saving and life-changing, but it can still be useless to many. Make it as meaningful as possible, at least from the core of yourself.  

8. Much comes from being assertive and persistent, but wisdom comes from knowing what you can – and can’t – be.

9. Between the time you think you know and the time you actually know – you could be wrong.

10. Many are prepared for battle, most are confused at who the enemy is.

11. You must see yourself and be honest with what you see – anything less is imagination.

12. Though it may be most valuable to you, that doesn’t mean it is valuable to anybody else.

13. Often times, what seems like coincidence – is often failure to connect the dots.

14. A win that provides no value is a waste of time. A loss, the same.

15. I would rather be crushed by a monumental failure than defeated by making an excuse.

What would your personal timeline experience reveal about you? 

For the full self-awareness experience, here is what Douglas recommends in-full:

Learn From Your Personal Time-Line: Describe key turning points in both your career and personal life, with an eye to what shaped your values, attitudes and behavior; how your career decisions and experiences have affected your personal development. Identify the consequences, both positive and negative. What does this knowledge point you towards, in terms of reclaiming and growing dormant or neglected parts of yourself?

The Capacities-Gap Exercise: List what you believe are your most positive personal strengths, qualities and personality capacities. Describe how each one has become stunted, blocked or deformed in their expression, in daily life. It happens to everyone. For each gap, describe what steps you could commit to taking, to enlarge those capacities and reduce the gaps in your role as a leader as well as in your overall life.

Identify Your Personal Vulnerabilities: All of us tend to develop a “cover story” along the course of our lives – what I called the narrower, “false” self in a previous post – beneath which is our “secret plot” – the real story, including our emotional blind spots, fears and pockets of dysfunctional behavior that can become hidden drivers of our lives. How can you rectify and grow through them?

Look inside >
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Take the Plunge Into a Successful Career

This is a baby elephant’s first time seeing the ocean.

If you saw your job the way you did the first day, talked to your coworkers the way you did the first week, responded to customers the way you did the first encounter, how different would you be? We tend to let our guards down, let the luster diminish, and start focusing on the difficult times after we have been “around for a while”.

Tomorrow, be the excited elephant meeting the sea for the first time. Find joy in the experience… even if it means having a face full of sand. After all, when its new, everything is a blast right?

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Keep Going….

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Nearing the Finish

“Every man is free to rise as far as he’s able or willing, but it’s only the degree to which he thinks that determines the degree to which he’ll rise.” (Quote from Atlas Shrugged).

At some point, my husband and I decided to run our first marathon. To prepare, we had an extremely targeted training plan. Our miles were mapped out in front of us, right there on the kitchen table, scrawled on paper calendars that were to taunt us from the fridge for the next 8 months. Each day had a number, and they slowly graduated to double digits that started with a 2 (which caused me to make me sweat, just looking at them).

The thought of a marathon never sounded like a good one, mainly because I loathed running. At the onset, I think I was just enjoying us spending time together… not really sure this whole marathon thing would ever happen. Surely some major plan would interfere at some point… a family reunion out of nowhere that same weekend, busy times at work that interrupted training time, some minor injury that would leave me in a cast and shrugging “oops, maybe next year”…

Running the first mile was a joke. So was my third. My fifth, too. I thought I was going to faint, puke, pass out, or croak right there wearing my nifty marathon belt filled with tiny bottles of expensive gel from the fitness store. What a façade…. I was no runner. People passed me constantly… older, younger, some with knee braces, some with strollers, others with dogs.  All of whom seemed more fit to accomplish reaching the next block without stopping, where I lagged behind watching every step of theirs as the gap between us became more and more distant …

Eventually I noticed how often my husband and I got to swipe big slashes across the calendar days as complete. The miles we completed carried various emotions… fear, exhaustion, excitement, anger, accomplishment… all wrapped into one event.

Competing in a half-marathon was a milestone in our training plan. Nearing that finish line, I wanted to find the first trash can so I could throw up. As I came closer, I frantically looked through the legs of numerous runners zipping by me to make my path. Within 20 seconds near running under the FINISH banner, something shifted inside. I felt light as air, an energy spurt as if I just left my front door, and I was so overwhelmed with reaching the goal that I was wiping tears from my eyes, pretending they were sweat. The trash can was forgotten.

Three months later, 26.2 long and painful miles behind me, I crossed another finish line. This time, I didn’t hold back the tears. I limped for a good long month, my hips won’t ever feel the same when I walk down a set of stairs, I have a half-used tube of BioFreeze under my bathroom cabinet and a big shiny medal hanging on my wall. While I wouldn’t exactly do it again in a heartbeat (or 26.2 miles of racing heartbeats), I certainly would never take it back.

Some days I hated what I was doing, wondered how I would make it, or why I even started to try…. but I did it because I had already set the bar.

I often reflect upon this time in my professional life.

“Every man is free to rise as far as he’s able or willing, but it’s only the degree to which he thinks that determines the degree to which he’ll rise.”

Had the goal never been set, I would still be the girl who never ran more than a mile.

“Every man is free to rise as far as he’s able or willing, but it’s only the degree to which he thinks that determines the degree to which he’ll rise.”

The lesson I learned is to set the bar high, because wherever we set the bar – somehow our subconscious begins to take root that it may actually be possible. Whatever we tell ourselves we are supposed to do, our minds become open to reaching.

“Every man is free to rise as far as he’s able or willing, but it’s only the degree to which he thinks that determines the degree to which he’ll rise.”

To this I ask…. what degree are you willing to rise?

A great linked-in article from one of my favorite influencers, Bernard Marr, outlines how some of our society’s most  notable leaders also set the bar high and rose to meet it, regardless how difficult the journey:

Henry Ford – the pioneer of modern business entrepreneurs and the founder of the Ford Motor Company failed a number of times on his route to success. His first venture to build a motor car got dissolved a year and a half after it was started because the stockholders lost confidence in Henry Ford. Ford was able to gather enough capital to start again but a year later pressure from the financiers forced him out of the company again. Despite the fact that the entire motor industry had lost faith in him he managed to find another investor to start the Ford Motor Company – and the rest is history.

Walt Disney – one of the greatest business leaders who created the global Disney empire of film studios, theme parks and consumer products didn’t start off successful. Before the great success came a number of failures. Believe it or not, Walt was fired from an early job at the Kansas City Star Newspaper because he was not creative enough! In 1922 he started his first company called Laugh-O-Gram. The Kansas based business would produce cartoons and short advertising films. In 1923, the business went bankrupt. Walt didn’t give up, he packed up, went to Hollywood and started The Walt Disney Company.

Richard Branson – He is undoubtedly a successful entrepreneur with many successful ventures to his name including Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Music and Virgin Active. However, when he was 16 he dropped out of school to start a student magazine that didn’t do as well as he hoped. He then set up a mail-order record business which did so well that he opened his own record shop called Virgin. Along the way to success came many other failed ventures including Virgin Cola, Virgin Vodka, Virgin Clothes, Virgin Vie, Virgin cards, etc.

Oprah Winfrey – who ranks No 1 in the Forbes celebrity list and is recognized as the queen of entertainment based on an amazing career as iconic talk show host, media proprietor, actress and producer. In her earlier career she had numerous set-backs, which included getting fired from her job as a reporter because she was ‘unfit for television’, getting fired as co-anchor for the 6 O’clock weekday news on WJZ-TV and being demoted to morning TV.

J.K. Rowling – who wrote the Harry Potter books selling over 400 million copies and making it one of the most successful and lucrative book and film series ever. However, like so many writers she received endless rejections from publishers. Many rejected her manuscript outright for reasons like ‘it was far too long for a children’s book’ or because ‘children books never make any money’. J.K. Rowling’s story is even more inspiring because when she started she was a divorced single mum on welfare.

Bill Gates -co-founder and chairman of Microsoft set up a business called Traf-O-Data. The partnership between him, Paul Allen and Paul Gilbert was based on a good idea (to read data from roadway traffic counters and create automated reports on traffic flows) but a flawed business model that left the company with few customers. The company ran up losses between 1974 and 1980 before it was closed. However, Bill Gates and Paul Allen took what they learned and avoided those mistakes when they created the Microsoft empire.

Bernard’s full post can be found here:

http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130715085900-64875646-the-one-thing-successful-people-never-do?trk=tod-posts-art-

There is a story of  a seven-year old Brother pushing his sister off of her bunk bed. She is 5 years old at the time of this fall. As Brother peers over the bunk bed to see what damage he’s done to his befallen little Sister, he watches her face cringe in pain and her lip quiver in what is sure to be a screaming wail. Fearful of what his parents will say if they realize what just occurred, especially since they asked him to take good care of her, he did the first thing that came to mind. He said “Look, Sister! No human being can fall that far and land on all fours! Look at what you just did! You must be a magical unicorn!”

…and his Sister’s face went from pre-scream to contemplation about this new found super power she just might have. The pain tempered away and she climbed back on the bunk bed to keep playing like any magical unicorn would do.

(To watch this fabulous story told by the Brother, watch this Ted Talk by Shawn Acor, click here:  http://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work.html)

The  point of this story is that with positive thinking, we truly can change any outcome. It isn’t just hocus pocus. Think about this. If you have a bad morning, a bad meeting, a bad failure on a massive project, some might feel powerless to change those outcomes. Your brain has two paths to take: succumb to the part that sucks, or rise up to the top bunk like a magical unicorn.

In Shawn Acor’s Ted Talk, he reminds us how to train our minds to create lasting positive change. These ideas aren’t new, but they are a great reminder that if you’re in that slump – you can pull yourself out and it doesn’t require anything around you externally to go “better”. It comes from within, and requires you to focus on thinking differently so you can see the better outcome. What could be more empowering than knowing you can do that if only you choose to?

In this Ted Talk, here are the ways Shawn suggests we can create lasting positive change for ourselves, regardless how far the fall has been:

  • 3 Gratitudes (Emmons & McCulough, 2003) – Start your day finding three parts about your life that you are grateful for.
  • Journaling (Slatcher & Pennebaker, 2006) – At the end of your day, journal about something that went awesome. Even if it’s only a sentence or two.
  • Exercise (Babyak et all, 2000) – Healthy body means healthy mind, and the chemical reaction your brain has from exercise helps.
  • Meditation (Dwek, 2007) – Thoughts become more clear when you allow yourself just 10 minutes a day to stop, and allow yourself to just simply be. Without judgement.
  • Random Acts of Kindness (Lyubomirsky, 2005) – Paying it forward is not just some cosmic investment bank that one day gives back 10-fold (although I still believe this truly happens). Random acts of kindness bring you back to the positive spirit of life, connecting to other humans in a way that is totally outside of your own self. I challenge you to complete a random act of kindness and not feel the warm and fuzzies. It’s impossible.
  • Believe you are a magical unicorn (Shawn Acor, and well… me too, 2013). Seriously. After something goes wrong, tell yourself that you are a magical unicorn. If it doesn’t actually change the outcome, at least it will give you a laugh.

Ever wonder what puts the “extra” in extraordinary bosses? Read on for 10 big ideas:

http://m.inc.com/?incid=49940

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