Tag Archives: focus

5 Friday Faves – St. Patrick’s Day, Beauty and the Beast Guitar Arrangement, Tenacity, Manliness, and Embracing the Life You Have

Happy Friday! Hope this week was kind to you. Here are my 5 most favorite finds of the week for you.

1) St. Patrick’s DayLá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit! Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Wearing green. Corned beef and cabbage…and my family background is Scottish. Still love celebrating this day a bit. Photo Credit: Flickr

Also planning to watch the David Kidd documentary Patrick. A friend who heard David Kidd speak recently shared the following with me via email this morning – notes from his talk on the real Patrick (legends removed):

  • He was born in 396 AD and died in 471 AD.
  • Patrick was a man brought up on a Romano British Christian home somewhere in southwest Britain (his father was a deacon and grandfather a priest).
  • He was kidnapped at 16 (he said he didn’t really know God at that time), trafficked, and taken to the West Coast of Ireland where he worked as a shepherd and learned Irish.
  • As a slave, Patrick came to see the hand of God in his troubles. God broke through his defenses, and Patrick faced his unbelief and pride. Later he described how he turned to God whom he realized had been watching over him all the time. He became aware of God’s protection, and he discovered that God loved him as a father loves his son.
  • Before this, he had ‘sinned’ – something that ‘lasted an hour’ and he believed that God punished him.
  • God spoke to him in a dream about a ship to take him home. At 22, he managed to escape slavery.
  • At home, he had another dream of the people in Ireland calling him back.
  • He was obedient to the Spirit and went back to West Ireland (the ends of the earth at that time).
  • He was beaten, harassed by thieves and robbers, admonished by his British superiors, but his work grew and he remained humble.
  • He protested against injustice, esteemed women highly, and identified himself as Irish.
  • His legacy was a vibrant Christianity which lasted hundreds of years while Britain and Europe fell into the Dark Ages.

What we can do to honor Patrick’s memory?

  • The Past: Remember a humble man who had been mistreated, heard from God, obeyed, loved his enemies, lived his life for Jesus, and made a significant difference – not just in Ireland, but much of Europe.
  • The Present: Use Patrick’s life to help people focus on what really matters.
  • The Future: Be as faithful as Patrick and live for Jesus and His Kingdom – making a difference in this world with fruit that lasts.

2) Beauty and the Beast Guitar Arrangement – Yesterday the live action Disney film Beauty and the Beast debuted in the US. Articles abound about the production – its beauty and grand scenes. Other articles raise the question of whether it is as family-friendly as the Disney animated classic by the same name. Everyone will have to decide for themselves about whether to watch this film and how often. One very easy decision would be watching the just-released classical guitar arrangement by Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar).

It is beautiful, even with less-grand scenes, and its own Belle and wee beast. It is definitely family-friendly and the music is lovely. Enjoy!

3) TenacityFirst Round posted the fascinating story – Lessons in Tenacity – of how entrepreneur Dennis Crowley, co-founder of Foursquare, built his business. He saw tenacity at work in the growing and thriving of his location technology company.

Tenacity is that characteristic in a person or group that keeps her/them moving forward – persistence, resolve, determination.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Read the article for examples Crowley gives, and here’s his illuminating summary:

Tenacity has many manifestations for founders and their startups. At the beginning, it’s often deeply tied to identity. Giving up one’s idea feels like giving up on oneself. After hitting early milestones, tenacity is confidence. But it’s best tempered with humility, so as to avoid flying too high on early wins. As a company scales, tenacity is focus. There will be accompanying growing pains as customers sign up, headcount grows and the market responds. Anchor and orient yourself by asking: what is this supposed to be when it grows up? When the going gets tough, tenacity is grit. Don’t look externally to others to build what you need — you’ll be waiting longer than you want. Do it yourself. Lastly, tenacity is culture and a private truth. Tenacity at scale will both involve and elude people. What guides the team isn’t always accurately reflected in the public’s perception. An informed, committed team around you is the best way to drown out the noise and to march toward achieving your biggest goals.

“These different facets of tenacity are important insofar as invoking them keeps your legs moving and charging forward. Growing a company is an impossibly hard endeavor — many wouldn’t start if they knew just how difficult it is,” Crowley says. “But the early stories of most successful companies are often those in which no one thought it could be done. In fact, if you asked them, those founders probably didn’t know if they could do it either. But if you can get there — if you stick to what you set out to do — it can put you in an amazingly powerful and defensible position.

4) Manliness – We should affirm, empower, and let loose women to fulfill their callings, giftings, and places in the world. Not being sexist, the same is true for men, of course. That’s why I appreciate the website/podcast the Art of ManlinessThe Art of Manliness aims to encourage our readers to be better husbands, fathers, brothers, citizens — a new generation of great men (the About page).

I don’t go with everything on this website but some of the content is fascinating and extremely helpful. I hope never to have to jump from a speeding car but knowing it’s possible to walk away from such a situation made me interested in reading about it.

Photo Credit: Art of Manliness

This information isn’t just for men, but some of the entries are male-specific. We women write volumes about how to be “better women”. I’m glad there are men (and women) are writing for men in this way.

10 Tests, Exercises, and games to Heighten Your Senses and Situational Awareness – Brett & Kate McKay – Art of Manliness

5) Embracing the Life You Have – We have all experienced losses. We grieve…and grieve again. As time goes by, the grief changes, but that doesn’t mean it has to change us. At least not in an unhealthy way. John Piper speaks about this so eloquently and tenderly:

Embrace the Life God Has Given You

Piper: “Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.”

Posted by Desiring God on Saturday, March 11, 2017

I have in mind two kinds of losses: those who had something precious and lost it, and those who hoped for something precious and never had it. It works both ways. Sixty years go by, and forty years on you think, “I’ve come to terms with that,” and then one morning it breaks over you, and you weep about a 40-year old loss, or a 40-year “never have,” and my counsel is, yes, go ahead, embrace that moment. Weep.

But then, say to your weeping after a season, “No. You will not define me, sorrow, because my God has said, ‘No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly’ (Psalm 84:11). Therefore, even though it was good in one sense, and I miss it in one sense, I trust my God, and he has not withheld anything that is good for me.” Yes, let there be weeping in those seasons — feel the losses. Then wash your face, trust God, and embrace the life he’s given you. – John Piper

As one who struggles with waves of grief out of nowhere…thank you, Dr. Piper.

Principal Financial Group has been running a series of commercials with the theme Life Doesn’t Always Go According to Plan. Three of their commercials follow. Sweet messaging…

Be gentle with yourself and each other. Serve somebody, and be safe out there. [Oh, and please share in Comments your favorites of the week. Thanks!]

Bonuses

Who are the Refugees? Which are their Host Countries? Take a Guess.

Who hosts the most refugees?

10 countries host 50% of the world's refugees. These countries are hosting the most.

Posted by Al Jazeera English on Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Granny Pod – Ingenious and honoring idea.

What do you think of these Granny Pods?

Posted by Earthables on Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mom Truths

Mom Truths: Why moms are so tired

"You know what we do all day? EVERYTHING." Thanks, Cat & Nat, for sharing this #MomTruth Friday with us! More: http://on.today.com/2m2cNCD

Posted by Today Show on Friday, March 3, 2017

Monday Morning Moment – Neuroplasticity – Resetting Your Brain for Success at Work and Life

Photo Credit: Pixabay

You know that shocking experience when you are driving to a known destination and then get lost in your thoughts? At some point, you snap back to attention and wonder, “How did I get here, I wasn’t even thinking about it?!” That is neuroplasticity or brain plasticity. It is an amazing capability we all have and can be nurtured and utilized throughout our lives. Yes, “old dogs CAN learn new tricks“.

What is this phenomenon?

Mike Torres, of Refocuser, gives an excellent definition, as well as an explanation of function, in his piece Neuroplasticity: Your Brain’s Amazing Ability to Form New Habits.

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to restructure itself after training or practice. An example of how neuroplasticity works: when you view the brains of people who frequently practice playing the violin under fMRI (functional MRI) they appear to have developed a larger area of their brain devoted to mapping their fingers.  Photo Credit: Wikipedia

This change is directly related to the quantity and the quality of the practice they’re performing – their brains are adapting in very real and tangible ways unbeknownst to them... The more practice you accumulate, the more ingrained or grooved the pathways become.  Of course the inverse happens as well: if those pathways aren’t utilized, the space will be used by other pathways needing room to grow. Use it or lose it! …Your brain can change based on repeated experience…People of any age have the ability to learn new things and form new habits. Mike Torres, Refocuser

Watching Nathan play intricate, complicated runs on his classical guitar boggles my mind. How can he think that fast? It’s lots of practice that causes the brain to connect to the hands, and those difficult pieces get “under his fingers” almost without thinking.

Years ago a friend gave us this book Never Too Late by John Holt. In his “musical life story”, Holt describes how he learned to play the cello in his 40s. We were encouraged by this during a time we moved to Egypt and learned Arabic in mid-life…when language-learning is supposed to be especially difficult.

I love neuroplasticity but it gives me hope, in getting older, of keeping skills and developing new ones, even as an aging person…unless I give in to dumbed-down practices excusing myself for the same reasons of “getting too old”.

When my older brother suffered a stroke, it was neuroplasticity and the repeated efforts of his medical and therapy team that got him back on his feet. He finally “repeatedly practiced” his way back to independence. The personality changes seemed more ingrained, however, they changed, too, as he exchanged his anger and bitterness for a hopefulness and longing for healthy, loving relationships. As he refused to give into anger and chose soft responses, his personality seriously changed over time…with conscious that eventually turned unconscious practice.

How does all this apply to us in the workplace and life, in general? We are confronted at times with a situation that confounds us – a new uncomfortable skillset, an unpredictable relationship, or an unfamiliar decision-making process. Neuroplasticity helps us to not just give up on mastering either a new work process or a complicated interpersonal situation.

Debbie Hampton has written an excellent summary piece on this that will help kick-start any new habit formation necessary for us to continue to do excellently in our work. She was influenced by Dr. Michael Merzenich’s work published in his book Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life. I have listed below Merzenich’s 10 elements of how we can rewire our brain. You will find Hampton’s summary on each very instructive. [I comment briefly on each but don’t miss what she says in her article.]

10 Core Principles for Remodeling Your Brain

1. Change is mostly limited to  those situations in which the brain is in the mood for it. We have to want to learn and change. If we give up, stay resigned to the status quo, or remain fed-up, change will not happen. Want change!

2. The harder you try, the more you’re motivated, the more alert you are, and the better (or worse)  the potential outcome, the bigger the brain change. Focus and persistence or key to mastery.

3. What actually changes in the brain are the strengths of the connections of neurons that are engaged together, moment by moment, in time. Practice strengthens pathways for behavior. Whether it’s learning a new computer system or developing a different way of communicating with a boss…practice hard-wires.

4. Learning-driven changes in connections increase cell-to cell cooperation, which is crucial for increasing reliability. I see this in musicians who live-stream and can read listener chats, respond to them, and continue playing all at the same time. Crazy.

5. The brain also strengthens its connections between teams of neurons representing separate moments of successive things that reliably occur in serial time. This is definitely the mechanism that gets us to our destination when we stop thinking about where we’re going.

6. Initial changes are temporary. Habit formation takes time, and somehow the brain interprets whether the change is vital. Amazing.

7. The brain is changed by internal mental rehearsal in the same ways and involving precisely the same processes that control changes achieved through interactions with the external world. At the simplest level, this is the mechanism of how we “talk ourselves through” a situation. Or when an athlete goes through his routine in his mind before he’s back out on the track or in the pool.

8. Memory guides and controls most learning. Our brain actually helps us to remember what we did well and discards what we didn’t.

9. Every movement of learning provides a moment of opportunity for the brain to stabilize — and reduce the disruptive power of — potentially interfering backgrounds or “noise.” The more we practice, either a physical skill or a way of thinking through a problem, we actually get better at it because somehow the brain reduces the background noise (which can include insecurity, fear of failure or self-doubt).

10. Brain plasticity is a two-way street; it is just as easy to generate negative changes as it is positive ones. Dr. Merzenich warns us, as we get older that we “use it or lose it” by our own decisions to stop learning and mastering new skills and behaviors.

Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia

How are you using neuroplasticity to help you continue to grow in your work and personal life? Trevor Blake encourages us to set the tone of the day positively and don’t defect from that. Using self-defeating language can blur our focus and mental capacity for mastery. Read more of his excellent counsel here.

As we age, or give in to “what is” at the moment (tracks greased by depression sometimes, or perceived lack of ability or opportunity), we may not realize the great positive effects of neuroplasticity. However, the good news is that we can keep learning and changing and mastering what work and life and relationships bring our way. It’s never too late.

 

Neuroplasticity: Your Brain’s Amazing Ability to Form New Habits – Mike Torres

How to Rewire Your Brain for Success – Trevor Blake

Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life – Trevor Blake

Brain HQ Website

How Does Neuroplasticity Work – an Infographic

Never Too Late: My Musical Life Story – John Holt

Deadly: Brain on Multitasking – Bukunmi Adewumi

Toxic Thoughts – Dr. Caroline Leaf

Monday Morning Moment – Roadmap to Achieving Your Goals in Real Time and Regular Life – 10 Sure Turns

Photo Credit: edX

Life happens. Whatever our hopes, goals or dreams, we go after them in real time and regular life. The challenge is to not lose sight of them in the course of working your day-job, whatever that might be. Jon  Acuff’s book Do Over came out at a very timely place of transition in my life. The recurring theme of his book was to do what it takes to get where you hope to go – not finding yourself at the end of your career realizing you just clocked in and out of “someone else’s job”…for decades. The daily of our lives can snuff out or overshadow where we knew in our hearts we wanted to go…in work, relationships, and vision. Mark that and take positive steps through it.

I’ve read ever so much more about goal-setting than I’ve actually used. In thinking of goals and action plans, I can actually feel an eye twitch coming on…and all I want to do is eat junk food and check Facebook. Alas…goal-setting is a challenge…but a worthy one.

Roadmaps are helpful for me. Not only with finding the destination but also with marking progress, checking for more scenic routes, noting markers which teach us stuff, and pointing to rest stops.

After reading the articles linked below, a roadmap for decision-making has emerged that makes sense to me…and hopefully will be helpful to you. We need goals or we are never fixed on a mark toward which we launch our best efforts. The key, however, is not just in deriving the goal but, setting a course that aligns with our relationships and responsibilities. That way, when setbacks come, they don’t put us off-course. We just deal…and get back on course.

So here we go:

10 Sure Turns Toward Achieving Our Goals

  1. Listen to the Longing – As we get older, our goals change in life. Still at a heart level, we have longings for a life of deep purpose and genuine achievement. Those longings may be as unique as we all are as people. We are never too old or our lives too far-spent to tune into that longing. It’s never too late.
  2. Tell Those Closest to You – Don’t keep to yourself what you would love to pursue. Tell those who care for you so much that they will pour into your vision and your goals. Fear of failure or disappointment won’t diminish your hopes if others share them with you…because they love you and believe in you.
  3. Set Goals and Then Revisit Them With “Why’s?” – This is actually some of the hardest work of moving forward and stymies some of the best of us. Serge Popovic breaks this down in a helpful way by looking at the systems (or commitments) that help us get to goal. The goal is our destination but we daily make decisions and take action toward that goal. These rhythms are part of the discipline of achieving our goals. They also inform our direction as we revisit our goals and ask the necessary “why’s”.Photo Credit: Dreams Procrastinated
  4. Consider the Costs and Work Them into Your Plan – In setting course to meet life goals, there are givens we must consider. Taking care of our family is an obvious one. Managing our time around other responsibilities. Not missing our children as we strive toward that goal that can stretch years ahead. The costs don’t have to alter our course, but we must reckon with them.
  5. Organize Your Life – Why is this important? Organization can have a huge impact on recouping the costs (in #4) and in freeing us up to potentially getting to goal faster. Do be careful what you organize OUT of your life…especially relationships. Make wise decisions here… It’s one thing to get rid of stuff or downsize time-wasters, and another thing to neglect relationships.Photo Credit: Paul Sohn
  6. Choose and Develop Your Team and Expand Your Network –
    Speaking of relationships, this is one of those circles that can pay huge dividends for all involved. Rarely do we make goals that don’t include the investment of others. Think through the people you know and who of those would be a great support to your future. They could be idea-generators, mentors, investors, content experts…and some could be family who mostly cheer you on and pray for you in the battles.
  7. Take Action or Execute Your Plan – What? Taking action is point 7 on a 10-point roadmap?! We have clearly taken action in multiple ways already, but those preparatory functions have set the stage for a strong start to execution. Even through Steps 1-6, we may have already re-framed what the plan looks like. Being proactive before we set the plan in motion greases the tracks for achievement. The action plan will be revisited often…which actually makes it less stressful for me to develop. Melanie Curtin even writes about journaling our goals and action plans, giving us a daily view of progress.
  8. Deal With the Drag of the Past – This is a preemptive strike against those emotions that form barriers to reaching our goals. That dull sense of foreboding, the failures of the past, the gnawing insecurity, the temptation to blame…. None of these keep us from reaching our goals, unless we empower them to do so. Lighten the load by cutting the ropes on the past. One caveat: the “drag of the past” doesn’t include wisdom we’ve gained – Remember that part of the past always.
  9. Allow for Respites and Setbacks – Again, life happens. I have had to sideline some goals in recent months because of health and family issues. They are not gone from my mind or my habits…but they are sidelined for the moment for real life things of more urgent need. However…these kinds of things can become normative if we aren’t careful. You don’t want to lose momentum …keep moving toward your goal if at all possible…even if it’s ever so slowly. At some point, sooner than later, revisit and reset goals…and rest when that’s the greatest need.Photo Credit: Bloom to Fit
  10. Celebrate and Express Thanks All Along the Way – no explanation needed here. This isn’t just for the finish line but for every step along the way. For every barrier that we turned into a door. For every problem we forged into an opportunity. For every God-orchestrated appointment and “per chance” meeting. Celebrate. Show gratitude. Widen the circle – your achievement is enjoyed by many!Photo Credit: Morning Business Chat

Hopefully, you found this helpful. The resources below informed this piece and are all rapid reads if you want to go deeper in a direction. I hope your main-takeaway is that you can achieve and starting today is not too late…starting is the point. You’ve got this!

Achieve Your Goals – Is Your Roadmap the Right Way Up??? – Wendy Tomlinson

Goals vs. Commitments: A Simple System for Long-term SuccessSrdjan “Serge” Popovic​

10 Quotes That Will Radically Reshape Your Idea of Calling – Paul Sohn

50 Goal Quotes that Will Inspire and Motivate You – Marelisa Fabrega

When It’s Good to Be Bad – The Road to Excellence Is Paved With a Few Lapses On the Way – Cody Delistraty

6 Ways You Are Making Life Harder Than It Has to Be – Paul Angone

How to Crush Your Goals in 2017 – Travis Bradberry

Crushing Your Goals…God’s Way – Stephen Altrogge

Want to Improve Your Focus and Lower Stress in 2017 – Take Up This One Simple Habit – Melanie Curtin

YouTube Video – A Tale of Two Brains (“The Nothing Box”) – Mark Gungor

Photo Credit: AllGroanUp

Situational Awareness – It Could Save Your Life…or Someone Else’s

BLog - Situational awareness - preppersillustratedPhoto Credit: Preppers Illustrated

We moved from East Tennessee when our children were still small. Taking a job abroad, we were excited at all the possibilities of living in a different culture. Still we wanted to be wise in living as expats – in a country where neither we nor our children understood the subtle signs of threat, unrest or possibly even danger. We wanted our children to be prepared for the unexpected but not afraid. Living quietly and confidently aware of our surroundings can have a strong positive influence on engaging a new culture, and even our home culture.

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Situational awareness is a discipline of being tuned into your surroundings in such a way that you can be alert to a threat or crisis before it actually happens. It is not complicated but does take practice and discipline. Brett and Kate McKay blog extensively  on this and define it as:

“a skill that can and should be developed for reasons outside of personal defense and safety. Situational awareness is really just another word for mindfulness, and developing mine has made me more cognizant of what’s going on around me and more present in my daily activities, which in turn has helped me make better decisions in all aspects of my life.”

It’s not to instill fear (especially in teaching our children) but rather it can actually create calm and confidence. Where we want to be, in assessing our surroundings, is in a “yellow zone”, and we want that for our children as well – alert and calm, as a normal life pattern.Blog - Situational Awareness - Cooper's Color Code - domestic preparednessPhoto Credit: Domestic Preparedness

The links below are extremely helpful in terms of learning situational awareness and applying it to child safety, personal protection, and, in general, responding to a threatening situation.Blog - Situational Awareness - slidesharePhoto Credit: Slideshare

In The Tao of Boyd – How to Master the OODA Loop, another blog by the McKay’s, they talk about military strategist John Boyd’s OODA Loop – Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. This can be used in dealing with uncertainty in any situation – whether a personal threat or a business transaction. I just wanted to mention it here as a rapid process we go through in situational awareness when we train ourselves to respond proactively, rather than in a panic.

Blog - Situational Awareness - Observe, Orient, Decide, Act - gsbPhoto Credit: Stanford Business

In the first McKay blog on situational awareness, they encourage parents to teach it to children as a game. You don’t even have to raise the issues of safety or security. It just becomes a game of being “in the moment”, observing your surroundings (while taking a trip across town, or eating in a restaurant, or playing in a park). When you alert your kids that the game is on, they know that, as part of that experience, to be especially observant. Then you ask questions later: “Can you describe the people sitting next to us in the restaurant?” or “How would you describe the adults closest to us in the park?” or “What do you remember about the people around us in the subway?” “What did we do to safely cross that huge street?” It doesn’t have to be a scary thing for children to learn to be more observant…instead of being zoned out or into their electronics or playing with your phone.

The same is true, of course, for us adults. The discipline part of situational awareness is practicing it often enough that it becomes a part of your every day life. In the old days, before smart phones, I was a people watcher…just taking in the people around me (in a “fascinated by them”, not “stalking” sort of way as we think today).

Too often, people tend to guard their own privacy, by looking down or not making eye contact some other way. We don’t survey where we are and who surrounds us, like we might should. Not because there is evil everywhere…that would be weird to think like that…but as a discipline…for our sake and for those around us.

There may be a time we can actually avoid or possibly defuse a situation, if we are focused. After the 9/11 bombings, and until situational awareness became “a thing” in my life, I would tend to kind of stay in a bubble around strangers…like on a subway or bus, or walking on a crowded street. One of the practices in situational awareness is to train your peripheral vision. It’s amazing what you can note if you learn to widen your view. [Use the image below to give it a try.]Blog - Situational Awareness bubble - modernsurvivalblogPhoto Credit: Modern Survival Blog

Today, I just wanted to introduce situational awareness. In a world that seems to be more and more violent, with stranger-on-stranger attacks, we may be vulnerable without even knowing it. Rather than being victims, there are steps we can take to become more aware and savvy. This can work toward our own safety and that of our family, but it can also be a means to help others more vulnerable than we are.

[Sidebar: Please don’t hear me say we need to be super-vigilant, like there is a bad guy coming through every door. Situational awareness is a discipline that we can use in many positive ways – both socially and in the workplace. It’s a skill in our toolbox.]

I am reminded of times, both overseas and here in the States, when a local friend or stranger stepped in and moved us to a safer place, or intervened when I didn’t know what to do in a new situation. Soon, I want to write again about this and will post some of our stories. Nothing really dramatic, thankfully, but definitely remarkable for us in negotiating new cities and situations. It would be wonderful if you shared some of your stories where you were situationally aware…or where it might have been helpful. Please comment below.

Check out the links. Very practical. Be safe out there…and help make it safer for those around you.

How to Develop the Situational Awareness of Jason Bourne – Brett & Kate McKay – Excellent overview and practical helps – Must Read

The Tao of Boyd – How to Master the OODA Loop – Brett & Kate McKay – Indepth article on OODA – Observe, Orient, Decide, Act

10 Ways to Improve Your Situational Awareness – Sergeant Survival

50 Things You Can Do To Make Your Kids Street Smart – Chonce Maddox

Situational Awareness: Staying Safe When Life Gets Dangerous – The Survival Mom

5 Drills for Situational Awareness – Ken Jorgustin

A Practical Guide to Situational Awareness – Scott Stewart

10 Basic Safety Tips for Women – Mom With a Prep

I Do This Every Single Day But After This Warning I’ll Definitely Be Thinking Twice – Video

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Monday Morning Moment – How Are We Doing on Forming 5 Simple Habits that Lead to Success/Effectiveness?

Blog - Habits - CGInternationalincPhoto Credit: CGInternational

Habits. Daily routine. These are things we wrestle with. Fortunately the more we wrestle and stay on them, the more successful we are, and (hurrah!), the more our lives are positively effects. Ben Slater has posted a very doable routine in his piece 5 Simple Daily Habits That Lead to Ultimate Success. They are:

  1. Wake up early. Slater is not talking waking up early enough to just get to work on time. He’s talking 5ish. To wake up that early requires going to bed early…not just napping on the couch (guilty), but habitually, getting to bed early to get up early. This is determined by how much sleep you need…whether you’re a morning person or night person, that amount of time is pretty much set. “Sleeping in” – that weekend luxury – can derive negative gains. Is it worth it? Just asking the question he raises.Blog - Wake Up Early - Monday Morning - thefemalenetworkPhoto Credit: The Female Network
  2. Exercise regularly. OK, so nothing new, right? This is not about staying in shape, physique-wise. That could be a benefit of exercise, but the goal is to sweat! We know the great benefits to regular exercise, many of which are mental. Feeling happier is one. It’s making exercise a habit that’s key here – for all its physical, mental, emotional, and even vocational benefits.Blog - Exercise - breatheryPhoto Credit: Beamery
  3. Focus, don’t multitask. I have actually prided myself for years on the ability to multitask. No more. It’s possible it wreaked havoc on my memory and probably on the quality of my work and relationships. Slater talks about the importance of a daily routine of planning, execution, review and starting a plan for the next day. “Work out the 3-5 things that you need to accomplish over the course of the day and focus on them first.” Focus is key. I’m learning.Blog - Focus vs. Multitasking - massolutionsPhoto Credit: Massolutions
  4. Learn from mistakes.  When our day doesn’t go quite how we hoped, we too often default to blaming (too many meetings, interruptions, demanding bosses, time-wasters and trust-busters). We make mistakes in our decision-making and assessments; what’s important is that we deal with them humbly and proactively. Refuse to blame others. Learn from the mistake and move on. Sidebar: If it’s someone else’s mistake or poor judgment or questionable character, then learn from their mistakes as well. Don’t get muddled up, fuming about another, when your own life is at stake. You have it in you to control that.Blog - Learn from your mistakes - ultrapreneursayingsPhoto Credit: UltrapreneurSayings
  5. Make personal investments. What habits have you put in place to continue to grow and develop? Habits, not just hopes or goals set somewhere in the distant future. Slater observes: “The world’s most successful people are always prepared to invest time and resources in their own personal development. If you stripped someone like Bill Gates of his assets and dumped him on the street I’d be willing to bet he’d be ok – he’s constantly invested in himself and built up huge reserves of human capital, major companies would be falling over themselves to offer him a job.”  This is where weekly goals come in, and maybe a mentor…someone you trust who will help you stay accountable to your goals. Don’t miss this valuable habit…I definitely need more discipline in this area.Blog - Investing in yourself - salestrainingsolutionsPhoto Credit: SalesTrainingSolutions

I’ve written a lot in Monday Morning Moments about habit formation (see links below). There are so many great resources online about this important professional life skill. Slater’s article on these 5 simple daily habits reminded me again of how possible it is to know success/effectiveness if we do the work of putting these habits into our daily routine. I’m on it…once again. [Like with New Year’s Resolutions, we may not be successful over the long-haul with every one, but we move closer to goal every time we push in that direction.]

What are habits you have seen make a difference in your personal and professional day-to-day life? What habits would you like to make part of your daily routine? Please share in Comments.

15 Critical Habits of Mentally Strong People – Travis Bradberry

Habits of Successful People Who Always Reach Their Goals – SlideShare

Creating a Lasting Early Morning Routine – The Two Most Overlooked Aspects – Joel Gascoigne

Defend Your Research: The Early Bird really Does Get the Worm – Christoph Randler

Focus on Multi-Finishing Instead of MultiTasking – Dave Mastovich

Monday Morning Moment – Notes on Chris Bailey’s Life of Productivity – DebMillsWriter

Monday Morning Moment – Make Your Bed Every Morning and Be Ready to Change the World – DebMillsWriter

Monday Morning Moment – Screen Time – Give It a Rest – DebMillsWriter

Monday Morning Moment – Understanding True Habit Change and Rocking Your New Year’s Resolutions – DebMillsWriter

Monday Morning Moment – Picking a Lane – It’s Never Too Late

Blog - Picking a Lane - speakerlauncherPhoto Credit: Speaker Launcher

“Pick a lane”. That phrase comes to mind literally when dealing with another driver on the highway who weaves back and forth, for whatever reasons. We get agitated at him, don’t trust her movements, and want to get as clear from them as possible.

In our careers, picking a lane is hugely important. There probably won’t be the same negative emotions (as above) about someone who is all over the place, but we are wise to set a straight course. Sometimes, especially across a lifetime, we have to re-set our course. The key is to do the work of that reset – pick a lane again. Being a generalist, a “jack-of-all-trades”, can make us quite useful to our employers, but there is no distinction in that. I’m not talking about significance here. I’m talking about what makes us the “go-to person”, that person whose passion, determination, and honed skill gives her voice in an organization…where she can make a difference. It’s something to consider…

Here’s a quick story of an incredibly successful young man who “picked a lane”. I did not know the person Lin-Manuel Miranda until a funny video crossed my Facebook newsfeed just a few days ago. The video was Broadway Carpool Karaoke and Miranda was one of the performers in it. The video was produced to usher in the 2016 Tony Awards ceremony. Blog - Lin-Manuel Miranda - Pick a LanePhoto Credit: Broadway

Miranda is a playwright, composer, and actor. He already won a Tony for the musical In The Heights, and now has won several Tony awards for his current Broadway show Hamilton. Blog - Picking a Lane - Hamilton - The TennesseanPhoto Credit: Joan Marcus, The Tennessean

Hamilton was birthed while Miranda, then in his 20’s, was on vacation in Mexico and picked up Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton. He was enthralled by the story of Hamilton’s life and was amazed the story wasn’t already written as a musical. [Hopefully you non-theater folks are still with me. This is such an incredible story.]

Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote/composed the musical Hamilton, and from what I’ve seen of it, it is mesmerizing. So what goes into such a young man’s pursuit of such all-encompassing excellence in his craft?

Charlie Rose of CBS’ 60 Minutes interviewed Miranda about his life and Hamilton’s. [The full transcript is here.] Lin-Manuel Miranda – this playwright, composer, lyricist, and actor – talked about how he got to where he is today.

At five, Miranda tested into Hunter College Elementary, a school for highly gifted children, where he told us sometimes, he felt like he did not belong.

Lin-Manuel Miranda: You know, I went to a school where everyone was smarter than me. And I’m not blowin’ smoke, I was surrounded by genius, genius kids. What’s interesting about growing up in a culture like that is you go, “All right, I gotta figure out what my thing is. Because I’m not smarter than these kids. I’m not funnier than half of them, so I better figure out what it is I wanna do and work really hard at that because intellectually I’m treading water to, to be here.”

Charlie Rose: So why do you think I’m sitting here talking to you and not sitting here talking to one of your classmates?

Lin-Manuel Miranda: ‘Cause I picked a lane and I started running ahead of everybody else. So I, that’s the honest answer. It was like, I was like, “All right THIS.”

“This” was theater.*

Blog - Pick a lane - liveyourlegendPhoto Credit: Live Your Legend

Miranda laid out very simply what framed his life of distinction: “I picked a lane.” We all do that across our careers, to some degree or another. Early in my professional life, I chose to carve out a niche in the care and counsel of cancer patients and their families. That was the focus and direction of my life for almost 20 years. Then, married with children, I would pick a very different lane – focusing on that little circle and those we shared life with in our community.

When we lived overseas for another almost 20 years, my lane was a merging of family, cross-cultural living, teaching English, and serving women (local and expat.) and their families. I loved those days of constant traffic in and out of our home. I miss those days. It’s quite possible, however, that those years marked a season where I was weaving in and out of traffic. You might need to ask my husband and children about that.

Now we’ve been back in the US for sometime. Picking a lane became a huge need for me as clearly my moorings of cherished overseas life were gone and I was a bit adrift. When the opportunity to came to test my skills as a communications strategist for a new and innovative work team, I jumped at it. That was a great time of learning and growing and a thrilling adventure which fueled a deep passion of mine. Alas, short-lived though. It only lasted a couple of years and that work went the way of an organizational down-sizing.

What followed has been a protracted season of being “a warm body” and “filling a hole/need” in whatever came along in life and community. Don’t hear me deny the importance of such serving, because there are times when helping in this way is exactly the right thing to do. Still, it’s not how we are meant to frame our lives over the long-haul.

A few months ago, I wrote a series of blogs on Jon Acuff’s book Do Over. He writes in such a liberating way about, essentially, picking a lane. His book is a “how-to” in getting back your life and getting on with it.

Picking a lane isn’t about just operating out of your strengths, abhorring any task or process that doesn’t show off your abilities. Picking a lane is about honing your craft, building your expertise, showing up in your giftings. It’s not about being a knower but being an insatiable life-long learner.

If the job you loved is gone or forever altered, pick another lane.

Don’t allow your current work/life situation reduce you to something other….to someone you are not and never were. Don’t let age, opportunity, personality squash your passion. We do not have to be side-lined (or defined) by getting older, being an introvert (just for instance), having a hard boss or a confusing work situation. Since this recent cancer diagnosis, I have more clarity, hope, and optimism about finishing strong… Hearing Lin-Manual Miranda’s story has heightened my resolve all the more.

Lin-Manuel Miranda: Here’s the thing about Hamilton. I think Hamilton was ready to die from the time he was 14 years old. I think what he has is what I have, which is that thing of, “Tomorrow’s not promised. I gotta get as much done as I can.”

Charlie Rose: It’s not only good acting. It’s not only good music. People are saying it’s transformative.

Lin-Manuel Miranda: It’s certainly changed my life. But I think it’s because when great people cross our path, and I’m talking about Hamilton here, it forces us to reckon with what we’re doing with our lives, you know? At my age, Hamilton was treasury secretary and creating our financial system from scratch.

Charlie Rose: And building a country?

Lin-Manuel Miranda: Yeah. I wrote two plays.*

Picking a lane…that’s what I’m doing. More to come…down the pike.

*Hamilton – Charlie Rose Interview Transcript with Lin-Manuel Miranda on CBS’ 60 Minutes

Like Hamilton, Miranda, Pick a Lane to Channel Your Strengths – Chris Steinberg, The Tennessean

Do You Want to Be More Focused and Productive? Then Pick a Lane – Reen Rose, LinkedIn

Our Most Challenging Choice: 6 Steps to Ensure You Don’t Pick the Wrong Path – Scott Dinsmore

Pick a Lane – Philip Kim

The Upstairs and Downstairs of Modern Housewifery – Mrs. Gore’s Diary – Pick a Lane

YouTube Video – “Hamilton”: A Founding Father Takes to the Stage

Monday Morning Moment – Are You Engaged at Work? It Matters that YOU Show Up

Blog - Engagement - idonethis blogPhoto Credit: IDoneThis.com

In the pre-dawn light of this Monday morning, my husband and I sat briefly together. Over our first cup of coffee, we were talking about employee engagement, of all things. I had just read the most excellent blog (by Corinne Rogero) on being engaged, and it inspired a rare early morning conversation. Be encouraged.

This beautiful young woman, Corinne, tantalizes the reader with a blog seemingly about engagement to be married:

“I want to be engaged, but it’s probably not what you think. I’m as single as a slice of American cheese right now, which is perfect for me and I prefer it that way. But when I say I want to be engaged, I don’t mean I’m looking for a fiancé. I mean I want to be engaged in the sense that I’m mindful of the people and surroundings and culture and the spiritual warfare around me. I want to establish meaningful connections with the person on the other side of my coffee mug or in the booth across from me at dinner or in the passenger seat of my car. I want to lean in and connect with the stories being told. I want to actively console the sorrows being shared. I don’t want to go through conversations absentmindedly anymore.” – Corinne Rogero, I Should Be Engaged

This state of mindfulness and staying in the present are crucial to being engaged…no matter the environment or work circumstance.

Employee engagement is a property of the relationship between an organization and its employees. An “engaged employee” is one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests.

When we become discouraged or demoralized with work, our tendency is to lose our bearings, almost become disoriented. We move to being defensive (reactionary), rather than offensive (proactive or forward-thinking). We lose focus and the best problem-solvers, highest producers among us can seem to lose their way…shifting focus to lesser goals and more easily achievable ends.

What I loved most about Rogero’s blog on being engaged was the personal intentionality of it. Her chief desires were clear and she was resolved to clear the way for them…in her day-to-day present.

I loved that and am inspired, empowered, and energized by that. I want to communicate and model that in my own workspace.

Tom Muha wrote a great piece entitled Achieving Happiness: Leadership Styles: Multipliers vs. Diminishers. I didn’t see how it related to achieving happiness but it did give an excellent summation of Liz Wiseman’s book Multipliers: How the Best leaders Make Everybody Smarter. Read her book for sure; Muha’s article will whet your appetite to read it.

I refer you to the concept of “multipliers vs. diminishers” because employee engagement is incredibly impacted by what kind of supervisor we have. Some supervisors maximize their team’s work experience (multipliers) while others maximize their own perceived importance to the organization rather than empowering their employees (diminishers).

We may not easily see how we can alter our situation with our boss (other than losing ourselves trying to please him/her, disengaging, or quitting altogether), but I see possibilities. It is possible, we can make a difference with our boss…if we don’t give up. It is also possible to make a difference for peers to help each other stay engaged or to re-engage. I loved Corinne Rogero’s quote below:

You will not find the warrior, the poet, the philosopher or the Christian by staring into his eyes as if he were your mistress: better to fight beside him, read with him, argue with him, pray with him.C. S. Lewis

It is hard sometimes…harder than we could imagine it would be sometimes…but whatever it takes to stay in the battle is better than disengaging ourselves from it.

Disengagement is very isolating. The disengaged just get quieter and focused elsewhere. Or, at its worst, disengagement gathers together a company of the miserable. No judging here…I just grieve the loss of what can be – not just product or service, but the continuing growth, joy, satisfaction of real, valued people at work.

Whatever our work situation or challenge, staying engaged is worth every effort, moment by moment. Hopefully your organization understands and is building in processes for ongoing employee engagement. Speak into that, if given opportunity. Speak into it anyway.

BLog - Employee engagement - management study guide

Photo Credit: ManagementStudyGuide.com

Hear one last word from Corinne Rogero on being engaged in life in the present:

“I want to be locked and loaded with an arsenal of grace and truth and boldness to bring the good news of hope into the lives that intersect mine. I want to be fully aware of God’s presence in every moment and not as much like Jacob who woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I didn’t know it!”Corinne Rogero

No matter our situation at work – a team at odds with itself, a difficult culture, a boss who I don’t understand – no matter our situation, we can determine to be engaged. There is an undeniable emotional component to engagement, but it is larger than emotion. We can do the personal work of being “locked and loaded” – alone or with a few others who share our same vision and stewardship (belief/ethics). Our work lives are too precious to waste in disengagement… It may take some time for our circumstances to change, but our hearts, resolve, and focus can be sharpened in the fire of whatever difficulty faces us at work…if we don’t give up*.

What challenge are you facing at work that steals away your joy, drive, or confidence? What has helped you stay engaged? What are you doing to turn perceived walls, barriers or bottlenecks into doorways? Let us learn from you in comments below, please.

I Should Be Engaged – Corinne Rogero

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everybody Smarter by Liz Wiseman and Greg Mckeown

Gallup – Five Ways to Improve Employee Engagement

Best Practice Advice on Employee Engagement and Organization Development

*Galatians 6:9

Monday Morning Moment – Mission Drift – 12 Quotes on Being True to Our Mission

  Blog - Mission DriftPhoto Credit: Peter K. Greer, President & CEO of Hope International

[From the Archives]

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:13-14, 16

Peter Greer and Chris Horst (with Anna Haggard) wrote an incredible little book entitled Mission Drift. The book’s byline is “The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches”. I enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone who has invested their lives in a faith-based organization, or Christ-centered business, or Christian charity. In fact, if you haven’t already read it, and you’re a Christ-follower, please make it a priority.

Mission drift is the slow and insidious shift away from the original mission, purpose, and identity of an organization. Greer and Horst have done extensive research on organizations who have either remained “mission true” or have fallen sadly away from their mission. The stories are fascinating and compelling. They lay a foundation that can help all of us prevent mission drift in our own lives and in our spheres of influence.

12 quotes from the book follow. These are just to whet your appetite. Mission Drift is an easy read and the truths resonate with our desire to be faithful and true stewards.

“Mission Drift…is pervasive and affects faith-based organizations of all varieties – nonprofits, churches, denominations, businesses, foundations, and schools. ..be optimistic…that drift is not inevitable.” (pp. 19, 22)

Mission True organizations know why they exist and protect their core at all costs. They remain faithful to what they believe God has entrusted them to do. They define what is immutable: their values and purposes, their DNA, their heart and soul…To remain Mission True is to adapt and grow, so long as that adaptation and growth does not alter the core identity.” (p. 27)

Mission True organizations know who they are and actively safeguard, reinforce, and celebrate their DNA. Leaders constantly push toward higher levels of clarity about their mission and even more intentionality about protecting it.” (p. 51)

Leaders often first ask what, then move to how, and finally transition to why. ..Great innovators…start with why. The ordering really matters. Everything flows from why. Not only does it motivate others to join you, it also guides what you do – and often more important – what you don’t do.” (pp. 71-72)

The gravitational pull of secularism is felt perhaps most acutely in hiring…Mission True leaders hire carefully, intentionally, and prayerfully. They approach each hiring decision seriously, recognizing that each staff member represents the mission of the organization. ” (pp. 103, 107)

“Mission True organizations recruit and engage Mission True donors.” (p. 115)

You are what you measure…Our highest goal is to remain faithful to our Christ-centered identity and mission. Because of our identity, we must pursue excellence. Metrics can be self-serving. We need to be clear why we pursue them. Seeing God for who He is clarifies our role: We are stewards. Metrics help us to remain accountable for the work that God has placed in our hands.”  (pp. 131, 133, 136)

“Slapping an ichthus (the Christian fish symbol of the early church) on product packaging does not mean it honors God. Christian shoddy is still shoddy. In Mission True organizations, quality must be nonnegotiable.” (p. 139)

“‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast.’  Mission True organizations get this. They focus on the little things. They understand how important practices and norms are to the living and breathing cultures of their organizations. The small decision each and every day may seem inconsequential, perhaps even trivial, but these little things protect against Mission Drift…Beyond policies, Mission True organizations recognize that culture is composed of all the ‘little things’.” (pp. 148-149, 155)

“Clear language reinforces identity and also leads to accountability. Being clear with your plans and identity enables people to keep you on mission. If you regularly talk about who you are, you invite scrutiny and accountability. Publicly proclaiming who you are strengthens your identity and empowers people to point out inconsistencies.” (p. 163)

“Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” – Luke 12:8-9

“For organizations who desire to protect against Mission Drift, one of the most powerful anchors is the local church…Wisdom lies in anchoring ourselves to the church as the church is anchored to Christ. Across time and culture and trends, the church remains.” (pp. 167, 173)

“Courageous Mission True leaders…have stood unwaveringly upon the Truth of the Gospel. In all areas, they have demonstrated intentionality and clarity in retaining Christian distinctiveness. They are committed to Christ, first and foremost.” (pp. 180-181)

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One organization very dear to me keeps its mission before its personnel and donors in regular, consistent, creative and winsome ways. We know what we are about. There is never a doubt what we’re to be about. What safeguards does that beloved faith-based organization of yours have in place to hold back mission drift?

Peter K. Greer Blog

Chris Horst Blog

The Subtle Danger of Mission Drift

Living in the Moment – It is All We Have

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I want to learn more to live in the moment.  Little guys seem to know how to do that intuitively, like they have no sense of what’s down the road.  Just the joy of the “right now” – a dinosaur pancake on a Saturday morning is splendid enough.

I’ll never forget the time that I walked up on our first-born Christie, when she was not even 2, and happily coloring on the hallway wall.  As soon as I appeared, her reverie stopped abruptly, causing her to even startle and catch herself, with the guilty crayon held still in mid-air.

She knew she was in trouble.  Her eyes went wide and her little mouth froze open.  Of course, I didn’t discipline her, but I didn’t take a picture of her crayon drawing either.  We grownups too often are  bound to the future, and the proper raising of children, rather than focusing in on what we have right in front of us.  A beautiful little girl who had lost herself in a white wall with a crayon in her hand.

That little girl is all grown up now, a teacher of little ones herself.2014 June Christie's 3rd grade class 024When I hear her talk about her childhood, there’s so much lovely detail.  She has a great memory, and I thoroughly enjoy her recaps of times gone by. I have lost too many of these details that are so vivid to her, and I’m thinking there are at least two reasons why.  One reason, of course, is that the memories are hers.  Those things happened to her.  I was a bystander, usually an interested one, but too often, a distracted one. Then there’s a second reason – life itself bombards us with so much to notice.  It’s like the experience of a baseball fan whose attention is drawn from the game by what’s happening on the big screen, or by the antics of some crazy person down the row from you, or by a hawker with just the snack you were watching for. There’s so much going on, you miss huge chunks of the baseball game…if you’re like me.

Life happens at many levels all the time.  We choose where we focus our minds…our attention.

As a parent with small children, attending to their needs was an in-and-out mental work.  I could hone in when I needed to be fully there to meet their needs.  Learning to quickly discern if they were wet, hungry, tired, hurt, mad.  And I would, at times, just be fully involved from the sheer joy of having them in my life.  Their babytalk, their discoveries, their accomplishments, their wonder at the world around them, their work and play, their sleeping times.n7607486_31797847_6155[1] Then there were other moments, however, when they were content with their cereal, or toys, or Daddy, and I would focus out – to a radio program, a phone call, or an idea or problem I was working on silently in my head.

This being my reality, there are details I don’t remember, or don’t remember well, because, in a way, I really wasn’t there.  Not that there is a moral issue necessarily at work here. It’s a reality of having the capacity of both attending to the needs before us, and thinking of other needs, or desires, not yet before us.  It’s one of the dichotomies that come to mind when I hear women who want to be stay-at-home moms because they don’t want to miss their children.  We can still miss our children, even when they’re hanging on our hips, or taking ballet right in front of us, or reading their first books to us, or playing those soccer games.  We can be talking to other moms, thinking about what’s on the schedule tomorrow, or sorting out how to deal with a conflicted relationship.  We can mentally be very absent from our children.

I don’t want to miss the people right in front of me anymore.  I want to learn to be in the moment…the moments ahead will take care of themselves.

A Bit of Instructions on How to Live a Good Life – Pay Attention. Be Astonished. Tell About It.

One Thing Well (the multi-tasking trap)

How to Miss a Childhood

How to Miss a Moment

P.S. My children were little, a couple of decades ago, before the internet or cell phones were our constant companions. Our lives were quiet compared to today’s assault on the senses. This is the culture in which they will raise their children. I write this for them…not to encourage them to focus on their children in an unhealthy, child-centered way, but to be all there with them. And when they must attend to other responsibilities or relationships, to teach their children that others matter, too. We can, joyfully, live in the moment – focused, intentional, generous, and aware.