Tag Archives: creativity

Monday Morning Moment – Leadership, Criticism, and the Man (or Woman) in the Arena

Photo Credit: YouTube

Monday’s are exceptional days of the week. You may enter it with one focus or resolve and then discover a golden nugget that takes you a very different direction. It happened to me this morning.

My temptation was to vent frustration over a situation where leadership leans toward being restrictive, exclusive, and narrow in focus. Aren’t you glad I am not writing about that today?!

[I’ve written previously about negativity and how to turn it around – here, here, and here. No matter how consequential the issue, criticism won’t get us where we want to go.]

As I pondered how to address the topic in a positive, redemptive way, I came across a wise friend’s Facebook post that pointed me to an edited video of a talk given by author and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown.

She was addressing an audience of young “creatives”.  She encouraged them to “show up and be seen”, but in so doing, there is a consequence. We will, at times, get our behinds busted, so to speak.

She referenced a riveting speech that President Theodore Roosevelt gave in 1910, shortly after he left office. I do not remember ever hearing this speech until today. Below is the excerpt that Brown quoted:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

I was deeply humbled by the wisdom of that speech.

Our leaders all have their own arenas. You have yours. I have mine. It is not my desire to exit the place where I am called to serve, to create, to fight battles meant for me…just to become a critical or negative spectator in another’s arena.

There are times when our battle is made harder by another…by one who could alter our circumstance, who could provide assistance, who could hear our cry for help…and doesn’t heed. It happens.

Yet…it doesn’t take away the cause I’m meant to hold dear…and the one for which I am to fight. It certainly doesn’t warrant me leaving my battle to judge his or hers.

Brené Brown gave a strong warning to both the unengaged leader and the critical employee:

“If you’re in the cheap seats, not putting yourself on the line, and just talking about how I could do it better, I’m in no way interested in your feedback.”Brené Brown

Scorching, right?

This Monday my thinking and life direction went a different way than at first it was headed. Are there times when we speak to leaders, imploring them to consider another way? Of course…but never so much that we take our eyes off our own work…our own arena.

Let’s get after it!

YouTube Video – Brené Brown – The Man in the Arena Speech (edited)

YouTube Video – Brené Brown – Why Your Critics Aren’t the Ones Who Count

“Citizenship in a Republic” – Theodore Roosevelt speech, April 23, 1910

Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” – Erin McCarthy

Monday Morning Moment – Overthinking – Handicap or Superpower?

Photo Credit: Confessions of an Overthinker

A blog on overthinking has been on my radar for weeks now, but I keep overthinking it!

How about a definition to start? Overthinking: “Something is on your mind and you continuously think about it, the thought gets deeper and you start thinking about circumstances, events and possibilities that could be…” I like this definition because it feels normal rather than obsessive, anxiety-provoking, or neurotic…with the resultant analysis paralysis.

My husband is a deep thinker but he is not an overthinker. He is adept at compartmentalizing and seems to know what each issue requires in terms of his own decision-making and personal responsibility.

For me, thinking through things is much more fuzzy-boundaried. I can be crystal clear about solutions – what needs to be done to take us (whomever “us” might be) to the next level of operation or relationship. Where I get muddled up is when a decision or a direction doesn’t make sense. Overthinking the why’s and “what happened?” goes into overdrive.

Being an overthinker is a new revelation for me. The “aha” moment came recently during a conversation with a brilliant young woman, a friend of mine who considers herself an incorrigible overthinker. We have deep conversations on just about everything. Total ease and transparency. No judging. It dawned on me as we talked that evening that we agreed on how much of life required some measure of overthinking. It’s just not that simple…life.

As I have processed this whole overthinking thing, it seemed a good solution might be to have a support group…along the lines of overthinkers anonymous. After a quick online search, a plethora of such blogs, websites, and Facebook pages popped up – with the goal of helping those of us who overthink.Photo Credit: Breadbin, Ken Breadner, Will Farrell

If you have a bent toward overthinking but you find it uncomfortable, then you have all sorts of resources to recognize it and turn it around. Below are just a few of those postings. [Scroll past them if you don’t want to be “fixed” for some happier news.]

Stop Overthinking and Live in the Present! – Darius Foroux

Overthinkers Anonymous

Rule 33 – If It Exists, I Have Overthought It – Ken Breadner

Overthinkers Anonymous – the 12 Steps – Thirsk Counseling

Are You an Overthinker? You’ve Been Poisoned.

Science Says This Is What Happens to You When You Overthink Everything – Amy Morin

What if…let’s just say…overthinking is a positive thing? What if we overthinkers bring certain strengths to the table that could prove valuable to a work team or family/friend group? What if overthinking, when disciplined and matured, could be like a regular superpower?!Photo Credit: Pinterest

The links below are all about overthinking is a positive (or potentially positive) character trait. The authors list out several strengths found in overthinkers. They include creativity, tact, self-awareness, eye for detail, memory/recall, intuition, life-long learning, empathy, compassion, careful decision-making, and a commitment to doing what’s right.

Overthinking Is Not as Bad as They Told You: 3 Good Reasons Why It Might Be a Real Superpower

12 Hidden Benefits of Being an Over-Thinker That You Need to Realise – Katie Adcock

Overthinking Is Actually a Good Thing – Holly Riordan

5 Exceptional Personality Traits of an Over-Thinker

6 Reasons Why Overthinking Could Be Good – Javannah Melissa Evans

Overthinking has to be trained and tooled toward positive outcomes. Since beginning to see my own bent toward overthinking, I no longer view it as a weakness. Others might, but hopefully not forever.

Overthinkers are sometimes criticized for “beating a dead horse“. It is very hard for us to give up on something that we feel strongly about. Here’s what might help, those of you who have us on your team or in your organization…to harness our problem-solving and decision-making capabilities:

Just trust that we mean “good and not evil“. Reason with us rather than just diagnosing us as bothersome. If we feel like something seems murky, if not downright wrong, consider the possibility. Entrust us with a meaningful project or body of work…we will apply ourselves probably more than is necessary, but you will reap the good of it, if you can endure the discomfort of our overthinking. We get that it is just easier to make that decision without a lot of extra input, but it’s possible the overthinker has thought of something you haven’t.

Just sayin’.

[I’d love to hear your thoughts on overthinking – in the Comments below. This overthinker has just scratched the surface of this topic and would love a chance to dialogue about all the positives and negatives.]

Monday Morning Moment – Teach Your Children Well…12 Essential Lessons of Life

Photo Credit: Pixabay

[Adapted from the Archives]

Parenting is a job…almost a vocation. Feeding, clothing, and protecting children are all crucial…but what do we teach them? What are the essential lessons of life?

Two old songs come to mind when I think of the serious nature of teaching our children what they must learn for life. The old folk/rock group Crosby, Stills, and Nash & Young wrote and performed Teach Your Children. Graham Nash wrote the lyrics out of his painful relationship with an absent, sometimes imprisoned, father. Nash’s message is that we have to teach our children to make a better life…if not better world.

You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught is the other deeply emotional song out of the musical South Pacific. This song points to racial prejudice and cultural bias, and how hatred must be taught to children when they are young. Mandy Patinkin‘s version of this song communicates its meaning powerfully.

Although hatred or bias can be taught, even from an early age, such dreadful things can also be caught over time in culture. Things like entitlement, dishonesty, greed, and irresponsibility. We as parents (teachers and employers) have a huge role in guiding children and young people to mature into caring and responsible adults…even in a culture that may cut across the grain of our own values.

I’d like to explore what we must teach our children. Intentionally, with meaningful purpose. Catching those teachable moments and seasons. Some things are more “caught than taught”, as the saying goes. Kids will catch some values living in close proximity to us and others. That makes the case, as well, for how we choose to live and what companions we seek for ourselves and our children.

More Is Caught Than Taught – Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni

When our children were young, we taught them a set of rules which we honored in our home. The 21 Rules of This House by Gregg and Joshua Harris. These rules were, in ways, simplistic but also comprehensive enough to help us create a safe, orderly, and loving home, where children AND parents had the same expectations. Photo Credit: Choosing HomeSchool Curriculum

Our children are grown now, out on their own. Two of them are already in the season of small ones and will establish their own essentials for teaching their children.

This is a reminder to them of their own family values…I hope it’s also a help to you. These are 12 lessons of life. They are not comprehensive, and you may not agree with all of them. I would love to hear what you think should have been there as well, in the Comments section below. Thanks.

1) Love God – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” – Jesus – Matthew 22:37-38 If you are reading this and don’t share a faith in one God, then this won’t have meaning for you. Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandments of the law (in that day, they were burdened by the weight of over 600 laws). His answer? Love God with everything in your being.  Parents can model and teach this kind of love from the time children are tiny.

2) Love others – You shall love your neighbor as yourself.– Jesus – Matthew 22:39  Jesus didn’t stop at the greatest commandment. He added this one as just second to the most important. Love others. Not just your buddies. Not just those like you…but whomever neighbor is…the nobody, the every man. Jesus was clear in his instruction in “as yourself”. However it is we would serve ourselves, we give of ourselves to those around us. Wow! Great wisdom to teach our children.

[Jesus even went further in his teaching on loving others. Before his crucifixion, he encouraged his disciples to love others even as He loved them – a love that lays down its own life for others (John 13:34).]

3) Be obedient (honoring) – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” – Ephesians 6:1-3 What a struggle it is for us to teach our children to obey! What a developmental milestone when they get it! Not after we count to 3, or 10…or whatever other enticement to obey comes to mind. Immediate obedience – in attitude and action.

Raising our children in huge cities made it crucial for them to obey the instant they heard us speak to them, especially over the noise of the city. One thing we did was a bird call (a whistle sounding “bob, bobwhite”. When they heard they looked up and started heading in our direction immediately. I still marvel when even today, that will still get their big grown-up attention.

More on obedience can be found here.

Photo Credit: Flickr

4) Be grateful. – Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18  God’s Word is filled with examples and encouragements toward being grateful (here are just a few). Jesus’ life was a testament of thankfulness to God the Father, and He taught us to pray with thanksgiving. Our kids grew up with The Thankful Song (from the Veggie Tales Madame Blueberry video) – “A grateful heart is a happy heart; that’s why we say thanks everyday.”

The Power of Gratitude – 21 Verses of Thanks to God – Debbie McDaniel

Avoid Raising an Entitled Child – 5 Strategies That Really Work – Amy McCready

5) Speak the truth. – Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight. – Proverbs 12:22 The worst offense in our home was lying. Jesus spoke of Satan as being the father of lies (John 8:44). Telling the truth is something we model and something, I hope, our children value highly in their adult lives. No spin, no deception…straight-up truth. Truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

6) Work with diligence and excellence. – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.Colossians 3:23   In grasping this lesson, children learn perseverance, patience, and an understanding of the value of work. Our youngest struggled with academics and he would say, about homework, “I just want to get it done!” As he matured, he moved his lament to more of a charge of “get it done and done well”. Watching him grow in that continues to make us so proud of him.

12 Ways to Glorify God at Work – Jose Etter

7) Seek joy. – Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, persistent in prayer. – (Romans 12:12) Grumbling, discontent, and whining are such a part of human nature. When we count our situation joy, whatever it is, everyone wins. Other verses here.

8) Seek peace. – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:9) Sometimes we crave peace, and we’ll do anything to get it. Our children don’t need to learn how to be peace-keepers but to be peace-makers. It’s not about giving way to the one causing trouble, for instance. It’s developing relational skills to bring peace to a situation, resolving the conflict. More verses here on peace.

9) Be forgiving. – Bear with each other and forgive any complaint you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.Colossians 3:13 Holding grudges and distancing ourselves from others in un-forgiveness is no way to live. Forgiving because we are forgiven carries with it a deep loving perspective. Helping our children understand how to forgive, especially little ones who have been gravely hurt by others, is huge. More on forgiveness.

10) See beauty; create beauty. – He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 My children tease me sometimes because they say I think everyone out there is handsome/pretty. God has given me eyes to see, maybe as He sees. He creates beauty and He means for us to see and appreciate it…and create beautiful things ourselves.Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

Our children are all musicians (one professionally) or writers . They create beauty as we all can…in some way or another.

Nathan Mills -Beyond The Guitar

Top 10 Bible Verses about Art with Commentary

Saying Beautifully as a Way of Seeing Beauty – John Piper

11) Be kind. – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – (Ephesians 4:32) Again, years ago, when our kids were very young, they participated in a Vacation Bible School and learned a little song on kindness. “K-I-N-D, Love Is Kind”. I couldn’t find it anywhere for today’s blog, but the message stuck in all our heads. One of the simplest ways to show love is to be kind – to be generous and caring in our consideration of others. The Scripture points often to kindness in loving each other.

Be Kind to One Another – John Piper

12) Serve others. – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.Hebrews 13:16 This lesson of serving others is one I actually struggled to teach well. I fell into the excuse (like many in America do) that they had so much homework, so many assignments to complete, that they should just have fun when they had the time. Serving could have totally been a “fun” way of life. I hope our children do better with teaching serving than I did. More on serving here.Photo Credit: Niagara

In closing, I’ve left off many things. Critical thinking is one. Modesty and physical purity are others. In fact, do you remember that little song, “Be Careful Little Eyes What You See.”? Our kids learned that in English and Arabic.

Still probably the greatest lesson across the years of childhood (which goes along with the two greatest commandments Jesus taught) is the one Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, taught us.

Let (your) heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.

We want to teach our children to do right, for for the sake of others and for themselves, and to stand up for what is right.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6

Let Your Heart Be Broken – Jeremiah 8, 9 – Rick Ezell

Bible Verses on Injustice

Teach Your Children Well…12 Essential Lessons of Life

Photo Credit: Pixabay

I married late in life, and the children came even later. Parenting wasn’t an instinctual process for me. Fortunately, mentors came along at pivotal times, as did parents whom I did not want to be like. Between the two, I found my way.

Feeding, clothing, and protecting children are all crucial…but what do we teach them? What are the essential lessons of life?

Two old songs come to mind when I think of the sober nature of teaching our children what they must learn for life. The old folk/rock group Crosby, Stills, and Nash & Young wrote and performed Teach Your Children. Graham Nash wrote the lyrics out of his painful relationship with an absent, sometimes imprisoned, father. Nash’s message is that we have to teach our children to make a better life…if not better world.

You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught is the other deeply emotional song out of the musical South Pacific. This song points to racial prejudice and cultural bias, and how hatred must be taught to children when they are young. Mandy Patinkin‘s version of this song communicates its meaning powerfully.

Although hatred or bias can be taught, even from an early age, such dreadful things can also be caught over time in culture. Things like entitlement, dishonesty, greed, and irresponsibility. We as parents (teachers and employers also) have a huge role in guiding children and young people to mature into caring and responsible adults…even in a culture that may cut across the grain of our own values.

I’d like to explore what we must teach our children. Intentionally, with meaningful purpose. Catching those teachable moments and seasons. Some things are more “caught than taught”, as the saying goes. Kids will catch some values living in close proximity to us and others. That makes the case, as well, for how we choose to live and what companions we seek for ourselves and our children.

More Is Caught Than Taught – Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni

When our children were young, we taught them a set of rules which we honored in our home. The 21 Rules of This House by Gregg and Joshua Harris. These rules were, in ways, simplistic but also comprehensive enough to help us create a safe, orderly, and loving home, where children AND parents had the same expectations. Photo Credit: Choosing HomeSchool Curriculum

Our children are grown now, out on their own. Two of them are already in the season of small ones and will establish their own essentials for teaching their children.

This is a reminder to them of their own family values…I hope it’s also a help to you. These are 12 essential lessons of life. They are not comprehensive. I would love to hear what you think should have been there as well, in the Comments section below. Thanks.

1) Love God – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” – Jesus – Matthew 22:37-38 If you are reading this and don’t share a faith in one God, then this won’t have meaning for you. Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandments of the law (in that day, they were burdened by the weight of over 600 laws). His answer? Love God with everything in your being. Clearly it’s good for us to do and something parents can model and teach from the time children are tiny.

2) Love others – You shall love your neighbor as yourself.– Jesus – Matthew 22:39  Jesus didn’t stop at the greatest commandment. He added this one as just second to the most important. Love others. Not just your buddies. Not just those like you…but whomever neighbor is…the nobody, the every man. Jesus was clear in his instruction in “as yourself”. However it is we would serve ourselves, we give of ourselves to those around us. Wow! Great wisdom to teach our children.

3) Be obedient (honoring) – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” – Ephesians 6:1-3 What a struggle it is for us to teach our children to obey! What a developmental milestone when they get it! Not after we count to 3, or 10…or whatever other enticement to obey comes to mind. Immediate obedience – in attitude and action.

Raising in our children in huge cities made it crucial for them to obey the instant they heard us speak to them, especially over the noise of the city. One thing we did was a bird call (a whistle sounding “bob, bobwhite”. When they heard they looked up and started heading in our direction immediately. I still marvel when even today, that still gets their big grown-up attention.

More on obedience can be found here.

Photo Credit: Flickr

4) Be grateful. – Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18  God’s Word is filled with examples and encouragements toward being grateful (here are just a few). Jesus’ life was a testament of thankfulness to God the Father, and He taught us to pray with thanksgiving. Our kids grew up with The Thankful Song (from the Veggie Tales Madame Blueberry video) – “A grateful heart is a happy heart; that’s why we say thanks everyday.”

The Power of Gratitude – 21 Verses of Thanks to God – Debbie McDaniel

Avoid Raising an Entitled Child – 5 Strategies That Really Work – Amy McCready

5) Speak the truth. – Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight. – Proverbs 12:22 The worst offense in our home was lying. Jesus spoke of Satan as being the father of lies (John 8:44). Telling the truth is something we model and something, I hope, our children value highly in their adult lives. No spin, no deception…straight-up truth. Truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

6) Work with diligence and excellence. – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.Colossians 3:23   In grasping this lesson, children learn perseverance, patience, and an understanding of the value of work. Our youngest struggled with academics and he would say, about homework, “I just want to get it done!” As he matured, he moved his lament to more of a charge of “get it done and done well”. Watching him grow in that continues to make us so proud of him.

12 Ways to Glorify God at Work – Jose Etter

7) Seek joy. – Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, persistent in prayer. – (Romans 12:12) Grumbling, discontent, and whining are such a part of human nature. When we count our situation joy, whatever it is, everyone wins. Other verses here.

8) Seek peace. – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:9) Sometimes we crave peace, and we’ll do anything to get it. Our children don’t need to learn how to be peace-keepers but to be peace-makers. It’s not about giving way to the one causing trouble, for instance. It’s developing relational skills to bring peace to a situation, resolving the conflict. More verses here on peace.

9) Be forgiving. – Bear with each other and forgive any complaint you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.Colossians 3:13 Holding grudges and distancing ourselves from others in un-forgiveness is no way to live. Forgiving because we are forgiven carries with it a deep loving perspective. Helping our children understand how to forgive, especially little ones who have been gravely hurt by others, is huge. More on forgiveness.

10) See beauty; create beauty. – He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 My children tease me sometimes because they say I think everyone out there is handsome/pretty. God has given me eyes to see, maybe as He sees. He creates beauty and He means for us to see and appreciate it…and create beautiful things ourselves.Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

Our children are all musicians (one professionally) or writers . They create beauty as we all can…in some way or another.

Nathan Mills -Beyond The Guitar

Top 10 Bible Verses about Art with Commentary

Saying Beautifully as a Way of Seeing Beauty – John Piper

11) Be kind. – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – (Ephesians 4:32) Again, years ago, when our kids were very young, they participated in a Vacation Bible School and learned a little song on kindness. “K-I-N-D, Love Is Kind”. I couldn’t find it anywhere for today’s blog, but the message stuck in all our heads. One of the simplest ways to show love is to be kind – to be generous and caring in our consideration of others. The Scripture points often to kindness in loving each other.

Be Kind to One Another – John Piper

12) Serve others. – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.Hebrews 13:16 This lesson of serving others is one I actually struggled to teach well. I fell into the excuse (like many in America do) that they had so much homework, so many assignments to complete, that they should just have fun when they had the time. Serving could have totally been a “fun” way of life. I hope our children do better with teaching serving than I did. More on serving here.Photo Credit: Niagara

In closing, I’ve left off many things. Critical thinking is one. Physical purity another. In fact, do you remember that little song, “Be Careful Little Eyes What You See.” Our kids knew that in English and Arabic.

Still probably the greatest lesson across the years of childhood (which goes along with the two greatest commandments Jesus taught) is the one Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, taught us.

Let (your) heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.

We want to teach our children to do right, for for the sake of others and for themselves, and to stand up for what is right.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6

Let Your Heart Be Broken – Jeremiah 8, 9 – Rick Ezell

Bible Verses on Injustice

Monday Morning Moment – Empathy – Key to Creativity and Innovation – What?!

Photo Credit: Andy Orin, Lifehacker

Empathy is no soft skill. In fact, it can be a rare commodity in today’s workplace where we are competing for jobs, customers, time with the boss…pushing for that edge which makes us stand out over the guy down the hall.

We have seen empathy in corporate culture. Amazon immediately comes to mind, as does Apple. These companies have studied the wants and needs of their customers and they have put that research into play in their service and products. Customer loyalty is a huge outcome of feeling understood and valued.

Empathy and sympathy are two very different human experiences and expressions. To sum up the differences between the most commonly used meanings of these two terms: sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters, while empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another. [read more at Dictionary.com]

Our neighborhood is in the middle of a huge engineering project being done by our local electric company. The wires are being put underground thereby keeping our service from being interrupted by windstorms. Various technicians and contractors have come to each of our front doors to let us know, courteously and apologetically, what disruptions must happen to eventually provide this service. The sub-contractors, moving throughout the neighborhood, have worked quickly and quietly, keeping disturbance at a minimum. Their work will all be completed soon with 1) only what disruption was absolutely necessary and 2) with a high expression of empathy for their presence on our streets and in our yards.

Disruption devoid of empathy is no business process anyone wants in their workplace…no matter what the outcome or benefit. Unfortunately, when it happens (and it does), we put up with it for what comes out of it, and because we have no other choice… If we are not careful our own empathy for one another suffers. Mark that.

Photo Credit: Lifehacker

For years, the word and process of empathy had become so common, it became almost without meaning. Something just ordinary. Nothing special. Now, it’s rising in favor again…probably, seriously, because of how competitive businesses have become. Too often, we err in business with putting innovation and technology as goals and standards without considering the customer or colleague. Decision-making proceeding ahead of information-gathering and analyzing impact on those most affected is not the way up.

Marla Gottschalk says it well in her piece Disrupting Organizations With Empathy, Forward thinking organizations hold great empathy for their potential customers. They design products that not only appeal to our emotions and senses, but address the problems we wrestle with in our daily lives. In each product, process or service — there is a little of us represented.

As long as we have empathy, I believe we’ll have innovation.

The same truth applies to the developing frameworks that support our employees. With empathy, we can achieve significant advances not only the way we work, but how we ultimately feel about our work lives. Whether we are considering leadership (See how empathy affects perceived leadership here), feedback, career development or work spaces — empathy matters.

Viewing work life from another’s perspective, can reap powerful results. We need to follow behind our employees and support their journey...Measuring our workplace problems is simply not enough to encourage healthy workplaces.” – Marla Gottschalk

Photo Credit: Brian Solis

I watched an episode of Chase Jarvis Live where Jarvis interviews Brian Solis – author of What’s the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences and X: The Experience When Business Meets Design. Brian Solis is one incredibly smart individual, and what captivated me the most in that 45-minute interview? What he said about empathy: “What do you want somebody to feel after they’re done with you in every moment of truth?…Who am I really trying to reach? What’s a day in the life of their world? What could I do to have an impact in their world?…What does a relationship really mean? When you see the world outside [from their side], then you see the role you’re going to play…Empathy unlocks a whole new level of perspective…It’s not good enough to be good enough…or the best. You have to now understand the impact you want to have and the role you want to play in someone’s life and then who that person is and design for that. It’s so inspiring.” – Brian Solis

Marcel Schwantes lists empathy is one of the 10 leadership habits found in the world’s best leaders. Empathy is a discipline. It is hard skill that every leader and every person equipping themselves to lead must see and seek as valuable to leading well. Otherwise, the lack of empathy will eventually have a pervasive effect on the workplace and the service and product. Don’t let this happen to you or your team.

Finally, I want to close on a much-loved classic TV show episode. It is Star Trek, The Original Series. This episode is titled The Empath.Blog - EmpathyPhoto Credit: tos.trekcore.com

In the YouTube video of one of the episode’s scenes, Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy and Spock are in captivity. The humanoid woman Gem is with them. She is unable to speak but has extraordinary empathic powers. She can feel the pain of another and take it into herself, thereby healing the other person, at a cost to herself. She is also learning from these three what genuine care and self-sacrifice are.

YouTube Video – “Empath” Episode – Star Trek – The Original Series

The Empath Episode – Plot summary, quotes, & other Trekkie details via Memory Alpha

Not the sort of topic we often toss around in our conference rooms or strategy meetings. Still…if we want to offer the best and be the best in our organizations, the lessons are clear…as are the warnings.

Empathy is Actually a Choice – Daryl Cameron, Michael Inzlicht, and William A. Cunningham

Why Genuine Empathy is Good For Business – Jeff Booth

The Importance of Empathy in Everyday Life – Video – Andy Orin

The Key to Creativity and Innovation is Empathy – Brian Solis [Video from CreativeLive – Chase Jarvis Live]

YouTube Video – Brené Brown on Empathy

These 10 Leadership Habits Have Been Found in the World’s Best Leaders – Marcel Schwantes

The Invention of Empathy: Rilke, Rodin, and the Art of “Inseeing” – Maria Popova

Monday Morning Moment – Elevating Our Work – with John Burke and Benjamin Hardy

Photo Credit: Benjamin P. Hardy (l), John Burke (r)

On the weekend, I was catching up with a bunch of friends who gather occasionally to keep relationships up-to-date. The question around the table was “So what’s new and exciting?” That usually elicits baby news, job changes, latest relationship, and emotional or situational struggles. I was completely engaged in what they were all saying…and then it was my turn.

I had nothing.

After stammering over what I could add, I pretty much just confessed to the mundane nature of my life. Vanilla was the only flavor that came to mind.

On the drive home, clarity prevailed and the largeness of the past year’s events filled my mind’s eye like watching an action film on the big screen. More “new and exciting” than I imagined could happen in a year – a grandson’s birth, a cancer diagnosis, my father’s illness and death were just some of the scenes of the last several months.

Then, right there, in the dark car, I was filled with gratitude that a merciful God filled all of that with His presence. Sometimes I forget to say out loud how incredibly good God is to be in our lives…and to never leave us alone in the hard.

Today’s “new and exciting” is that I am cancer-free right now, that darling baby is the star of his own music video, and acute grief in losing our dad is shifting to savoring memories of all our years together.

There’s more though…
Later in the weekend, I read this enlightening piece written by Benjamin P. Hardy. He interviewed composer and pianist John Burke about how he pushes himself to create.
Burke listed out four strategies that he regularly uses to “elevate” his work.

1. Always Work on Something You’ve Never Done Before

2. Map It All Out From the Beginning

3. Apply More Layers of External Pressure Immediately

4. Put Creation Time On Your Daily Schedule

Read Hardy’s piece for the particulars of Burke’s creative habits.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Burke’s approach to work, in general, and creating music, in specific resonated with me for two big reasons. The first, is that I had seen his system for creating in the habits of our composer/guitarist son, Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar). The second reason is that I see what the “new and exciting” had done to my own creative habits.

I had settled into a sameness, a smallness, that had become a prolonged recovery time for me. Healing was imperative, but there comes a time when we gather ourselves up and get back into life. The Hebrew King David’s example came sharply to mind – after praying and fasting for his terribly ill son – 2 Samuel 12:18-20 – at the news the child died, David rose up, washed and dressed, worshiped God, and ate.

The “new and exciting” for this Monday is to take John Burke’s strategies to heart. When a person gets her life back after a cancer diagnosis, and recovery is behind her, the best medicine is to get on with life…with a renewed passion and intentionality.

Thank you, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Hardy.

My husband has described this “elevating our work” with the phrase “Shifting to the next gear”. That’s what I want for this next chapter of my work life. I’ve been driving the service roads, and now it’s time to get back out on the highway. To adjust my life to a greater difficulty and higher speed.

Elevating our work requires adjusting our thinking in that direction as well. [See links below.]

I’m ready to take the next gear.

How about you?

John Burke: 4 Strategies to Continually Elevate Your Work – Benjamin P. Hardy

Persevere – My Interview with Grammy-Nominated Pianist and Composer, John Burke – Podcast – Katy Galli

John Burke – YouTube Channel

10 Steps to Successful Thought Leadership to Elevate Your Career and Your Organization – Glenn Llopis

A Health Blog – 10 Proven Ways to Help Boost Creative Thinking

Elevate Your Leadership – Marlene Chism

To Expand Your Influence, Elevate Your Capacity to Think – John Maxwell

Critical Thinking Exercises: 9 Facts and How They Elevate Your Mind – Katrina Manning

Monday Morning Moment – Getting Outside and Taking a Real Breather From Work

blog-taking-a-break-from-work-youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

Some weekends are meant for lots of play mixed with Fall clean-ups…this was one of those. Then Monday comes around.  You pull your tired body out of bed, try to stretch those shoulders out and loosen up your knees again. In a matter of minutes, you settle that frame in your desk chair, and expect your brain to be on task with new work-week vigor. Right?

Maybe. Whether it’s Monday or any other day, our workspaces (especially if it’s cubicle life) can, over the course of the day, do a number on our creative thinking and problem-solving. Our minds and bodies cry out for stretch breaks…and not just to hit the restroom and pour the next cup of coffee. A change in location – i.e., to the next meeting – isn’t the recipe for clearing our heads either.

Getting outside…now that’s a grand solution.

My husband works on an incredibly beautiful street in our city. He is in meetings inside, of course, much of the day. When not in meetings, he’s at his desk. Eating his apple and bag of nuts, at lunchtime…right there. At his desk.

While this is going on outside…

blog-work-break-in-fall-monument-ave-flickriverPhoto Credit: FlickRiver

I don’t take advantage of being outside myself, so no shaming here. Still, the individual worker and the work itself would certainly profit from a breather…a step away from the desk or conference room table…a few minutes on the outside.blog-work-break-foster-school-of-businessPhoto Credit: University of Washington

“Brain breaks can make a big difference in your ability to be productive, creative, and innovative. The paradox is that doing less often allows you to do more.” – Jeff Stibel

In Courtney Seiter’s article The Science of Taking Breaks at Work: How to Be More Productive by Changing the Way You Think About Downtime, she gives support to the broad benefits of taking breaks. Taking your coffee, outside, for a walk around the block are some of my favorites tips of hers.blog-break-at-work-open-bufferPhoto Credit: Open.Buffer

Walking into an office building and around the folks smoking, I think, “Hey, nice they [have to] go outside…just that alone probably counters some of the impact of smoking on their health.”

Hopefully, you didn’t use up your break reading the blog today…unless you’re reading it while you’re sitting outside in the sun.

I love Philip Terman’s poem Some Days about the replenishing affect of the quietening out-of-doors. Here’s a portion:

Some days you have to turn off the news
and listen to the bird or truck…
You have to close all the books and open
all the windows so that whatever swirls
inside can leave and whatever flutters
against the glass can enter. Some days
you have to unplug the phone and step
out to the porch and…allow the sun to tell you what to do.
Philip Terman, Our Portion: New and Selected Poems

blog-work-break-daily-mailPhoto Credit: Daily Mail

Take that breather…clear your head…and stretch your legs. Either with someone or all alone. It’s worth the trouble…

The Science of Taking Breaks at Work: How to Be More Productive by Changing the Way You Think About Downtime – Courtney Seiter

The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor

5 Ways to Give your Brain a Break Right Now – Jeff Stibel

3 Easy Ways to Give Your Brain a Break During Your Workday– Jacquelyn Smith

Monday Morning Moment – Creativity in Community – the Skill of the Future

Blog - Creativity - creativeskillsforlifePhoto Credit: Creative Skills for Life

When you hear the word “creatives”, you might immediately think of 20- or 30-somethings. They are classed as young “color-outside-the-lines” right-brain “think-outside-the-box” sorts of folks…who sometimes make the rest of us nuts. You might think of the artists, writers, and musicians out there. However, in truth, creatives include all those people who solves problems, including the ones who set up problems and then solve them. They are the inventors, the entrepreneurs, the designers, the planners who have the capacity to make our lives better…to even make the world better.

Hanneke Siebelink (of LeadershipWatch) just wrote a piece on the top skills of the future. She pointed to a graphic from the World Economic Forum which showed, over the course of 5 years, how creativity will jump from #10 to #3 in a Top 10 Skills List.Blog - Creativity - weforumPhoto Credit: WEForum.org

What does that sort of creativity entail? Is creativity alone enough?

Richard Florida wrote extensively on this in his book The Rise of the Creative Class. He defines the Creative Class as “people in science and engineering, architecture and design, education, arts, music and entertainment whose economic function is to create new ideas, new technology, and new creative content.”Business Insider

Writer Jeff Goins also defines “creatives”:

A creative is an artist. Not just a painter or musician or writer. She is someone who sees the world a little differently than others.

A creative is an individual. He is unique, someone who doesn’t quite fit into any box. Some think of creatives as iconoclasts; others see them as rebels. Both are quite apt.

A creative is a thought leader. He influences people not necessarily through personality but through his innate gifts and talents.

As fascinating as Florida’s writing is, I disagree with his premise that creatives are their own class of people, because I believe it’s within any of us to develop our capacity for creativity. Those of us who might be suspect of Florida’s promotion of the Creative Class would do well to read the critiques of his thinking (this and also this are excellent).

When people in our communities or workplaces class themselves as distinctively creative, they tend to operate in a tribal fashion. These tribes may even be quite diverse, but too often, I believe, they operate to satisfy their own needs and desires rather than that of the larger workplace or community. Thus in the workplace, decision-making is made by the few like-minded thinkers, that tribe of influential creatives. And communities? Where such a population of creative, expansive thinkers could enhance the appeal and value of a neighborhood, too often, , and communities can steer in the direction of gentrification, becoming less inclusive, making housing less accessible even for those who were there before.

Blog - Creativity & Community Leadership - azquotesPhoto Credit: AZQuotes

My bias in how creatives work best is in community – not just a tribe of creatives, but in a community of folks with other giftings,  other strengths,and other history.

However, all that being said, I do love the increasing view that creatives add value to any enterprise. My husband, for many years, was a research chemist who developed new products and was awarded several patents for his company. Even today, outside the chemical industry, he continues to be creative in thinking through new pathways toward solving problems, getting to goal, and developing personnel.

Even Florida in his revised and updated book recommends a compact dealing with creatives. His first (of 6 principles) is: Invest in Developing the Full Human Potential and Creative Capabilities of Every Single Human Being. It’s somewhat grandiose but it’s a worthy goal. Having this principle in play would promote a workforce where employees are encouraged to always be thinking and engaged in both today’s work and what changes must be made for the future.

Along these same lines, I love Howard Gardner’s Five Minds for the Future:Blog - Creativity - slidesharePhoto Credit: Slideshare

As creatives are sought after more and more in our workplaces (om both private and public sectors), I hope we also encourage them to build strengths in other areas of their thinking (or mindfulness). For those colleagues of ours who might not consider themselves creative, we need to communicate across organizations as to their value as well. This would include our creatives to gain from what other bring to the table.

I would like to think that I’m a creative…in ways, maybe, born out of time. Early on in my career, I had the privilege of working as a team with other colleagues in developing and implementing cancer care in a small town in the Southeast. It was thrilling for me to be part of such an innovative and comprehensive system of care where we could actually plan and dream for the future.

Three of us, in particular, worked as creatives in community. I was a content specialist and idea person. Kay was the nurse manager who brought vision and authority to the task. Kathy was a clinician with steely resolve and the determination to take the ideas to completion. We were a force to be reckoned with…just saying.

We all have different giftings and strengths. My influence was helpful but Kay’s authority settled matters. My ideas were large and lofty (sometimes), and Kathy’s keenness for how to make those ideas work were what brought them into reality.

That’s how creatives work in community. I think of top skills for the future that “in community” piece would be essential for creatives who want to make a lasting difference…not just for their own purposes at work but for the benefit of the larger community.

A hugely successful example of this is the work culture and philosophy of Pixar & Disney Animation which I wrote about here.

Daan Roosegaarde in Siebelink’s article talks about creativity in community: There are two ways to turn an idea into reality. You can play bowling, or you can play ping pong. The old way, at least that is what I think, is bowling. You have that ball in your hand and it’s so big, it is so heavy, it shines so beautifully. Then you throw that bowling ball and pray it will hit target.

I no longer believe this is a good way to create and innovate. I believe in playing ping pong: you take a tiny little ball, not expensive, and there you go: poek poek poek poek … and you create something together. And THAT is nice, this is how I create, this is how I learn.”

Bring on these kinds of creatives any day!

Skills of the Future: The Best Expert Advice on Creativity

The Rise of the Creative Class — Revisited (Revised and Expanded) by Richard Florida

The Creative Compact – Richard Florida – Huffington Post

Creativity – the Unique Soft Skill – Slideshare

6 Ways to Make Your Leadership and Workplace Fun Again

Creativity, Inc. – Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

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5 Friday Faves – New Boomer Website, Creativity Burnout, Blake Mycoski’s Why (TOMS Shoes), Epiphany, and Community

Blog - Friday Faves

It’s Friday again. How does that happen so rapidly every week? For those of you who can’t wait until Friday, I celebrate with you. For those of us who see life zooming by, taking account on Fridays of what we learned and what we savored seems to slow down time just a bit. Hope you enjoy my 5 favorites of this week. What were some of yours?

1) New Website for Us Boomers (well, everyone really)   Blog - Baby boomers (2)Photo Credit: LivingWellLivingStrong.com

Membree.com launched this week. Quoting the creators of the website, we older folks (i.e. “Baby-boomers“), as well as other generations, have 2 common desires: to serve and to share:

     1.    SERVE –a desire to live life to the full, by serving those around us;

     2.    SHARE –a desire to pass on our life experiences, wisdom and legacy to our loved ones.

“Membree answers those two major life pursuits by inspiring its members to perform random acts of kindness and by capturing life memories in both print and digital form, so these memories can be shared broadly.”Blog - MembreePhoto Credit: Membree.com

2) Creativity Burnout – In this week’s blog on BeyondtheGuitar.com, guitarist/arranger Nathan Mills tells a bit of his story about almost leaving music altogether after burning out on years of work. His re-entry seemed a bit unorthodox to me, but as I read the connection of emotion and creative work became clear. Glad that season of burnout is behind him.Nathan at guitar

3) Blake Mycoski’s Why (TOMS Shoes) – OK, so I’ve never bought a pair of TOMS shoes, and until this Harvard Business Review article I couldn’t have told you who in the world is Blake Mycoski. After reading his story and the history of his company, I’m inspired. His honesty and transparency are compelling. Take the time to read this article for the details of his journey and his rediscovering the “why” of his business. One book he mentioned was Simon Sinek’s Start With Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. That book is now on my 2016 “to-read” list. To give you a sweet teaser about Blake Mycoski’s return to his “why”, here’s a quote from the HBR article:

People follow you, buy from you, when they believe what you believe. The more I thought about this idea, the more I realized that TOMS had veered away from its “why.” In the early days we always led with our story: We weren’t selling shoes; we were selling the promise that each purchase would directly and tangibly benefit a child who needed shoes. But our desire to sustain the company’s hypergrowth had pushed us away from that mission and into competing on the “what” and “how,” just as every other shoe company does…Our marketing increasingly felt product-focused rather than purpose-focused. And as the leader of TOMS, I was ultimately accountable for those mistakes. That was a tough pill to swallow.” – Blake Mycoski, Founder of TOMS ShoesBlog - Blake Mycoski - TOMS Shoes - tinyspark.orgPhoto Credit: tinyspark.org

4) Epiphany – This week’s marks the formal end of the Christmas season. Epiphany – January 6 – the day of celebration of God’s revelation of Christ, especially to the Gentiles (or all who are not Jews). It is also known as Three Kings’ Day. I love how it gives us twelve more days to celebrate such a God. The David Crowder Band refers to these 12 Days of Christmas in the intro to their song Carol of the Bells/Christmas Eve from the album Oh For Joy. [Crowder’s lounge piano intro is hilarious. Don’t miss it either.] Because of Epiphany and our sweet memories of many Christmases in Egypt (celebrated on January 7), I will finally ring out (or rock out, rather) the season with this amazing song:

 

5) Community – When you Google search the definition of the word community, this is what pops up:

com·mu·ni·ty
kəˈmyo͞onədē/
noun
1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
2. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
This week, I have been reminded all over again of the great value of community. Our neighbors are such a joy to us. So extraordinary in how they take time for each other and really seem to care for each other. We are blessed to live in this tiny part of Richmond, Virginia.

Blog - CommunityBlog - Community 3

Then there is this bunch of folks who make up our community group (so far). We are joined by living near to each other, our partnership in Movement Church, and our love for Jesus and each other. Just this week as an old friend became a new part of our group, we were reminded of the kindness of God in community. Encouraging each other, praying for each other, loving each other…right where we are in life. Works in progress. God’s magnificent works in progress. Seemingly ordinary, but oh, not so! Community.Blog - 2015 December - Community Group

Today Is The Day the Crayons Came Home and Two Other Worthy Reads

Blog - Great Books Cover

Book-lovers are divided into three kinds of people – those who borrow books from the library, those who buy electronic versions to read on tablets of some sort, and people like me. I buy books. Usually online. Two days later they arrive and I love tearing open the cardboard box, and turning the pages of those anticipated books.

I might read one book right away, or save it for a plane trip, or file it into the stack of “next reads”. Today my pre-ordered copy of the just out The Day the Crayons Came Home arrived in that cardboard box.

This children’s story, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, is that best sort of book both kids and adults enjoy together. Its best-selling predecessor, The Day the Crayons Quit, is my current favorite children’s story. It sits on the bookshelf to the right of my work desk as my inspiration for the day I write such a book.

Both books tell the woes of various crayons in the possession of young Duncan. So funny, and so human…for crayons. Jeffers’ illustrations are the perfect match for Daywalt’s writing. You want to buy these books for your children, or yourself. Of course, you can borrow them from the library. Not me, but you can.Blog - Great Books - Crayons

Two other great books came in today’s cardboard box…

Thanks for the Feedback is written by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. They also authored the book Difficult Conversations, with Bruce Patton. I heard Sheila Heen speak about feedback at the Global Leadership Summit recently. It seems feedback is something we all want at work…until we get it. Stone and Heen talk about learning how to receive feedback well. My husband will read this book before me, but I look forward to tackling this subject and growing through it.

The third book that arrived today was Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc. It is a manual for managers who want to merge creativity and excellence. Catmull, one of the founders of Pixar Animation, and the president of Disney Animation Studios, was also a speaker at this year’s Global Leadership Summit. I’m excited to read Creativity, Inc. to apply his principles in my work and life among creative. I am also intrigued by his many stories of how he keeps the culture and operations so user-friendly for the artists and designers. Looking forward to learning more from him in this book.

This day delivered on great books. I may review them later, but for now I’m just looking forward to reading them myself. For the joy and for the empowering that come with good books.

What books are you reading these days? Would love to hear about them. Maybe I’ll order them, too.

Coming Soon [Today]…The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

Global Leadership Summit – 7 Take-Aways from Day One of #GLS15

Creativity, Inc. Quotes at Good Reads

The Pixar Way: 37 Quotes on Developing and Maintaining a Creative Company

Global Leadership Summit – 6 Take-Aways from Day 2 of #GLS15

Thanks for the Feedback Quotes at Good Reads

Slideshare – How to Give and Receive Feedback – The Triad Consulting Group – Sheila Heen & Douglas Stone (authors of Thanks for the Feedback)