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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dig a Little Deeper

Dig A Little Deeper In The Well
Dig dig a little deeper in the well boys
Dig a little deeper in the well
If you want a good cool drink of water
You gotta dig a little deeper in the well.

My daddy used to tell me don't be fooled by what you see
If you want to get to the heart of things you gotta look way down deep...

...Life is what you make it sometimes a livin' hell
If you want to find that promised land dig a little deeper in the well.

Not only do Flatt and Scruggs tote the benefits of digging deeper in the well,
most of us know the value of working hard. Whether for creating something of value for our future or for the present, pay off happens when we do what it takes for the sake of discovery.

We are the richer, the more refreshed, the more aware and atune to what life has to offer. Yet digging deeper presents its challenges, especially in solidifying relationships.

With everyday conversation, the most enjoyable reward stems not from sharing, not from listening, not from observing and not from avoiding. But from the sole action full of the intention of digging deeper. The most enjoyable conversation experiences come as a result of asking good questions.

Many among us are good at this. They are articulate enough to word questions with specific focus as well as poignant address. They consider wide scope of perspective. They ask in order to uncover open-ended response.

Not everyone, however, is good at this, nor are they willing to put themselves in a vulnerable position to ask things that may generate differences of thinking.
Yet, those who do, discover great meaning in daily life and these conversational moments.

How do we begin if we aren't comfortable digging deeper? Well in 1985 Gregory Stock, Ph.D, generated a collection of philosophical questions that move and enlighten those who use them. Stock wrote The Book of Questions whether his readers want a tool for self-discovery or as a provocative way to stimulate conversation.

My English, speech and drama students sometimes ended class or often began them with 10-15 minutes of this conversational tool while the entire room of students sat in rapt attention at the answers shared.

We asked questions which, well apart from the trivial, led to examining and interpreting our past, to projecting ourselves into hypothetical situations, to facing difficult dilemmas and to making painful choices. Yet when we explored our own responses in the presence of others, it led to great stimulation.

Digging deeper in the well confirms the notion that the steeper, richer and more meaningful we want our relationships to be, the deeper our roots must grow. Like when building high-rises that will endure, foundations of many fathoms must be secured. So the case with our attention to creating trusting, committed relationships. The deeper we are willing to go, the higher the relationship elevates and richer we become as a result.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How "community" is community involvement?

Consider your boss suggesting you add community involvement as one of your goals this year. What comes to mind? United Way, American Cancer Society, YM/WCA, Boys & Girls' Club, school board membership, church fundraisers, etc?

The usual involvement in community is volunteering for a local non-profit group that needs help, especially those where rubbing elbows with the elite members can pay off big time in more business. Otherwise, why would the boss suggest it?

But what if you had the chance to give back just for the good of it? People do things like this. And in doing so, you gain on a personal level. Better yet, so do others. And what if you Create a community in the process?

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, community is defined in a number of ways: pertaining to location, similar interests as well as participation.
Our community may be who we live around, who also likes research, knitting, book studies or who else, other than us, has a particular professional focus and participation.

This final definition, regarding professional participation, is what led me to develop a new service I'm offering in my business. On the outside it sounds like it's for business development, yet I lose money by offering it. I am positioning it for those who can't usually afford yet really want help. What I gain is tremendous insight, trust, time around people who, like me, struggle in business. We will come together with the intent to get assistance, yet the majority of the focus is in helping others.

I could go more into it here, yet that defeats my point. The point is to be held accountable to paying it forward. For the good of it. To help and be helped, emotionally, professionally and to build community as a result. To build community as a result, as opposed to going to a community to build business.

Does anyone feel the need to pay it forward?

Monday, January 25, 2010

When it Pours

I'm seeing red. And it's a beautiful sight.

It's not the means to the end. The means is hard work, focused activity. Centered on staying out of my comfort zone with cold, hard, long hours of desperation. The activities that drain my energies.

Entrepreneurship is a glorious enterprise. Freedom to create, freedom to decide, freedom to structure, to plan, to witness the rewards firsthand. But it's not all that. It takes having a focus when you're on a mission, inspired. It takes trial and error and error and error and error and error and more trial and error. The error rains hard, rains often and comes down on you like relentless thunder. And just when you're looking for the rainbow, for signs of potential, hidden next to the weeds and the beaten-down path a bud peeks through.

It takes only one bud to turn my hurt from muddy relentless downpours to an upswing of a smile. Simple possibility. And I'm on my way, back to the means. Awaiting the day that my focused activity, activity that is meaningful, productive and desired pours forth and in response the prairie turns green. The day when I will really know what it means to work hard.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Divine Inspiration

I cry when truly inspired. I see something, hear something or experience a moment that is so engaging, so bone-chilling or uplifting that all I can do is accept the fact that my tear ducts are full and my heart is pounding. It's all I can do, aside from breathing with air fresher than moments before.

This happened when I for the very first time watched the movie Oliver and held my breath when the cute young hero of the film approached his master of the orphanage with open hands and empty bowl simply to say,
Please sir, I want some more.
I knew what the result would be, and probably, so did our fine young friend. Yet, despite the ridicule, despite even the illogical request, he chose to act from desperation in ways others around him had no courage to do.

Again this outpouring of the spirit within gushes forth from me when I see folks manage themselves admirably in the face of danger, perhaps simply by not losing control. Or when they demonstrate physical agility in uncommon ways. Such as in the case of a performer I saw this morning. Chris Bliss, a masterful juggler, tickles my nerves as he performs not only this talented skill, but
phenomenally to the Beatles' incredible song, Carry That Weight.

Chris's focus, his technique and his interpretation of the music builds and builds in just over 4 masterful minutes. Astounding! And better even than that is the audience's immediate reactions. There is nothing like moments of uplifted spirit.

Unless it moves us into action. To begin, check out Chris Bliss's You-Tube video by clicking on my title up above. See what it does to you.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Undeniably - the most classic benefit of getting out of our comfort zones (leaving the house, having an appointment, stepping in front of a group or seeking input) is getting affirmation, recognition and/or appreciation of our efforts. Yes!

As individuals we generate opinions about our own ideas and strengths, yet until we see their impact on others, we question our own potential. And the longer we stay in our comfort zones, the longer we cherish our own thinking. But that moment is short-lived. Seeds of doubt enter our mind, ready to devastate us. Soon we scratch our head around how to handle objjections. This leads to questioning our decision to get out with our ideas, and then avoiding the public promotion at all.

Unless we are ready to completely give up on our own ideas and thinking, there is only one option that gets us out of this dilemma. Get out.

Get in front of others, and although the diarhea attacks take root, push on through. Find out what it's like to stand on your own two feet and deliver your message. Especially when you're prepared. And you're excited. There is nothing like seeing a sea of faces in front of you, connecting with one at a time and sharing what you have.

Maybe it's about helping those with you. Or about gathering information, discovering value fulfilling a duty. Without a doubt, it will lead you to the next step. Without it, there is nothing but a wall. But when we step up, step out and step forward the view looks different.

Before you were seeing things through your logic. Now you're seeing through your spirit. What a lift.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Back against the Wall

It's another one of those days. You've been here before, you don't like it, because everything around you is shutting down, closing you off and you're sure you can't survive.

Doubt surrounds you. The voice in your head is screaming, "What is the matter with you?!"

You look for signs of hope, possibility, and all you see is the wall. Closing in.

You close your eyes and images of ridicule and sarcasm stream into view. Your friend who turned away, the boss shaking his head, and even your own face in the mirror.

It's an ugly world. Do you open your eyes and look for the crack in the wall or keep them shut and simply learn to take it?

These are the only questions that make any sense to you, and so far the answers are on the other side of the wall. How do you get there?

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Case for Boundaries

This morning I am ready to hit the ground running - even though it's Monday.

Over the weekend I got away from my usual workaholic manner and focused on pleasure reading, friends and a great roadtrip. I was able to clear my mind. Additionally, I ate more than usual and found I really wanted to get to the gym this morning.

So I had several things going for me - desire to get to the gym for much-needed carb-reduction and a clear focus for my work week.

There are often weekends when I work on research or writing projects simply because of the freedom to accomplish things uninterrupted. And because I'm on Facebook for both business and pleasure, my mind tends to stay engaged for business, constantly making mental notes of follow-up, creating new ideas to explore and staying "ON". When that happens, when my weekend feels like the rest of my week, Monday rolls around and I'm already exhausted.

The gym routine helps, because it helps my motabolism adjust and boost energy levels, yet when I've been ON all weekend, I don't want to get out of bed. I begin with a negative attitude and I wonder if I can last all week committing to the plans I've made for myself.

However, when I actually am OFF - when I wait until Sunday evening to cross that line in the sand to review upcoming plans for the week and what I need to do to prepare, then I've put the necessary boundaries in place. I've demonstrated faith in self. I remember there is enough time in my upcoming week to focus on and prepare well for meetings, presentations and clients. And what is needed now is a mind clearing. I've demonstrated faith in outside forces to lift me up, to give me the needed boost outside of mental exercises. To make me laugh, love, get other perspective.

So when it comes to Monday, that great day of honest labor and creativity, I come to the experience fully charged. Tuesday builds from it and Wednesday opens up even wider with potential to not only accomplish, but also support key people around me. Thursday then takes on a feeling of pride for all the great focus and commitment already experienced without cashing in the week. For there is so much more to follow through on before the next week comes into focus. And then Friday is about tying up loose ends, wishing others well and sealing the deals for next week before shifting gears and getting prepared for the biggest, most important part of the week - the week end.

Those lines in the sand are not permanent. They are easily washed over, re-drawn and muddied. Yet we must persist in creating the lines and keeping those boundaries. It's for the good of our spirit, those of others we support and influence and the higher power of valueing peace. Keep me accountable. Help me draw those lines. And you'll get the same support back.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Weekends Prove Who We Are

This weekend we got out. Starting with Friday night and ending Sunday morning, we reconnected with friends. Sounds like a fairly common behavior, doesn't it? Not usually for me.

What usually happens is driven by my "cave" mentality. Although I may be outdoors, time is usually spent in isolation, reflection, domestic tasks and low-key entertainment. Penny conscious and refueled by alone time, I usually spend the majority of my weekend reading, doing mindless work and resting.

It has dawned on me that our weekend time is our freedom to be ourselves, the time we have to do what all week long we have looked forward to doing. And yet, most times the weekend comes and goes with little thought. It is my time to take off the 8-5 weekday hat (or most often, the 10-hour day hat in whatever configuration works) and see who I really am - what most is important outside of my professional focus.

In looking at how I generally spend my time, I see a fairly selfish focus. It's all about me and my needs. Is this what I meant when I chose to live my past 49 years of weekends the way I have? Talk about communicating what's important to me. What I do with my free time proves what I value.

Goodness sakes. I could be reaching out to friends, volunteering in the community, reconnecting with family or taking on some other noble activity. Because it is why we are here. And yet I spend so much time, my free time, in thoughtless, mindless ways.

If weekends prove who we are, what will my upcoming weekend plans be? And who am I proving anything to?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Getting out of the Rut

This morning I saw a glimpse of a news story on the national news featuring four young guys who were traveling around the country to complete items on their Bucket List of things to do before they die. In so doing, each time they check off an item, they turn to the community around them to assist someone else in doing the same.

It occurs to me that most of us are buried alive (in their words) by our mindset. For instance, about 7 or 8 years ago I went through an extensive leadership training which forced us each to write out and share our dreams and desires in life. Almost simultaneously, my minister asked several of us the same question. In each case, I was at a loss.

I hadn't spent my life focusing on what I wanted. I spent my life focusing on how to make good where I was. Opening the lens to consider other options or extensions beyond me took a lot of effort. However, once there, the energies within began churning. Sure, I realized I was confined by several factors, yet much of the joy of life is in negotiating the challenges we face.

Through my coaching experiences of helping others become what they hope for, I constantly run into the expression, "But I can't." Excuses then roll out, either around money, time, priority, natural talents, etc. Just as how I felt back when I shifted gears from teaching to coaching.

"But Merri, you are half-way to retirment. It's not logical."
"What do you know about business, Merri?"

Logic and black and white circumstances work on paper. They simply don't fuel our motivation and sense of well-being.

The young boys in the morning broadcast seem to feel a vocation won't appeal to their purpose. Or perhaps it's just the reverse - a vocation may come out of it. Let's say that's the case. Nonetheless, they are taking a risk of being ridiculed for playing around with their life instead of growing up or disappointing someone for not entering the work force. What they are gaining is a sense of self. And until any of us has a sense of value, none of us will see our own purpose in life.

We may punch a time-clock, yet our attitude and spirit will stay in a rut, muddied by life and the negativity we attract.

Our hope is that instances of dreams we had early in life will resurface. My early dreams were of getting on a stage. Although I studied theatre, performed community and local college theatre, the biggest experiences of living my purpose come when helping others perform. Maybe that's when I make presentations on confidence building, on handling tough conversations, or on connecting well with others. Maybe it's when I'm face to face with someone who needs a boost, who is reconnecting to their spirit and is learning that logic isn't all that matters.

Define what you desire and then examine how important it is to OTHERS that you work towards it. Without that perspective, our appeal to self-sacrifice will talk us out of it, and our rut will deepen.

The day I put away the chalk and gradebook I felt fear, yet I never felt more spirit and support. It is so worth getting out of the rut, even if it takes letting others help us.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Fun of the Seasaw

Remember the fun of the seesaw? Dig up those playground experiences for a moment and recall what it was like for you to sit on one end while someone else was on the other. For me the pleasure is in staying on while getting to go up and also getting to come back down and watching the other person hang on. And if you're more adventurous, enjoying the bumps.

It took a risk for me to get on, as I recall, trying to find balance with the person on the other end, getting ready when the "bumping" started and negotiating when to get off. It takes mental preparation to enjoy the seesaw.

Now I remind myself that someone who weighs more doesn't get the joy of being suspended in the air. Someone who weighs less doesn't get the thrill of control. Yet somehow, it's important to reach the ground and get back up, tottering back and forth.

Dealing with life's tough conversations is like getting on the seesaw. It requires mentally preparing to find the balance between two key things: intention and relationship.

Perhaps we want someone to know how their actions have affected us, or we want them to be informed of a decision we've come to. Quite often we plunge right into the talk, similar to hoisting them in the air without any advance notice. Worse yet, we resolve a change in plans as a result.

"You always leave the seat up." (startling them into a hoisted position)
"Use the kids' bathroom from now on."(plunking straight down)

The weight of that message leaves no room for negotiation, for a 2-way conversation. It seems the intent is to create pain. Even if it isn't, that's the message that comes across.

A testing of the balance between relationship and message would have helped.
"Honey, I know you aren't trying to anger me, but when you leave the seat up I get frustrated. Would you please pay attention to this habit for me?"
This gently lifts them off the ground and also gives them a safe landing.

I had a friend back on that playground that I trusted. When we seesawed, we would get to the point when our faces began to give away our willingness to get more adventurous. That's when we telegraphed our intention to bump. Our eyes would expand and our smiles would widen into grins. It was the signal to hang on and brace our behinds for impact.

In good fun, we saw how long we could withstand the pranks of jolting each other. Conversation is much the same. When we know each other well enough to distinguish between sarcasm and fun, we focus on agreed-upon areas for humor, not letting instances of the past become fair game for mockery.

Relationship and intention are the two focal points that keep conversation fun, adventurous and enjoyable. When we teeter around without focus on relationship, or before we have decided our intention, we heavily weight the moment for failure.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Surprised? Skeptical?

Introverts and people-focused people have a lot to learn - literally. While handling everyday conversation we tend to overlook one key step: Ask for more information.

Whether we want to appear thoughtful, intelligent or simply are at a loss for words, when conversation brings us to the point of frustration or shock, we tend to get silent. And this does us nor those we're talking with any good.

A book I'm currently reading, Negotiation Genius by Deepak Malhotra and Max H. Bazerman shares an example of this that I'll greatly paraphrase. It seems 2 companies were working on a deal to come to terms with placing a product in the marketplace. Company A wanted exclusive rights to it and was willing to pay the price. Yet Company B wouldn't deal in those terms. Negotiations came to a standstill.

In comes a genius negotiator to work on the relationships and outcome of the deal, and within 30 minutes, a contract was completely agreed upon by both parties. How did he do it? He simply asked Company B, "Why?" meaning, why won't you give Company A exclusive rights?

"My cousin wants 250 per month of the product, so I can't agree to this deal with Company A."

When Company A heard this, they knew they could work through it, allowed for a contingency clause of "...aside from (cousin), we get exclusive rights..." and the deal was signed.

Why didn't they ask the same question the genius asked? They, as many of us do, probably assumed Company B wouldn't share the answer. Yet unless we ask questions, we are fairly certain we won't get the information that is important to understand whatever has just made us surprised, skeptical or otherwise emotional.

Next time we feel shock, surprise, frustration or anger - we will benefit by asking questions.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mistaken Identity

This morning James shared a provocative message he titled
Solidarity, Identity and Action
He focused on an excerpt from the book, The Patron Saint of Liars, a piece that sent me in a tailspin. It alludes to our desire to be set apart from others who behave in offensive ways, as though we don't.

I'm thinking of times someone walks in late to a meeting, runs a red light, drives too slowly in our lane ahead of us, piles on the groceries and then beats us to the 11 items or under lane. Not necessarily are these the offensive behaviors, yet they are things we will confess to eventhough when we see others do them, we are still peeved.

But those bigger issues, like not taking responsibility, shifting blame, avoiding conflict, or even causing pain or harm we usually isolate ourselves from. We claim our values (honesty, openness, respect, etc.) yet the demonstration of them suffers.

For instance, somebody we've delegated tasks to falls short. It is so easy to point out their flaws, to resolve next time to do the job ourselves. Yet we fail to remember the process we went through when taking on someone else's tasks and also falling short. We're too busy thinking about how well we historically have handled that particular task to relate to the other individual.

Our humanity has shifted from caring and weak to rigid and inhuman. Our true self, the one which can so easily communicate to someone who has made a mistake, is over-ruled. We mistakenly believe we are someone completely different.

Consider those moments of authority when we can really make a difference. Perhaps someone is making a mistake in how they are processing a task, or maybe they are hedging out of dislike or frustration of an action. Can we relate to these things in a broad sense? Without a doubt we can. Yet we claim another identity - one of perfection and inhuman nature. What we communicate to those who need assistance is unattractive. It isn't making a difference. It is aggravating and pointless. We are behaving from a mistaken identity - forgetting who we are and where we came from.

What can we, now in retrospect, do differently next time? What is the importance of doing things differently? For one, without identifying with someone, we don't connect. And without a connection we can never make a difference. Yet making a difference leads to actions and relationships beyond our comprehension.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Habits Determine Our Future

If I told you I could spend a week with you and at the end, prophecy your future, would you believe me?

Most people think that's a bit bold, maybe even unrealistic. Yet Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Les Hewitt can prove me right. (not that I need to be right) In their book The Power of Focus, they lay out strategies and techniques that help shape the course set before us in life. Simply put, they help us understand how our daily habits shape our future. Strategy 1, in their book, is called Your Habits Will Determine Your Future.

One of my short term goals is to have the material for a book. With that in mind, last October I started writing a blog, creating a pattern for putting thoughts on "paper", determining my tone, and discovering my subject matter. My goal was to have enough written within three months that I could simply review my posts and arrange them in a way that an overall message becomes clear.

It hasn't happened. Are you with me on this? You probably understand that to accomplish goals, sacrifice happens. Well, I haven't been sacrificing - only having fun. One of my favorite blog writers posts every day. And in one post she mentioned the toll it took on her to get to the laptap and follow through. At the time I thought, Why?

Now I understand. Just doing things when we're in the mood leaves nothing to be discovered. We can't tell how good we are at something until we're put to the test. And although I enjoy blogging, I haven't put myself to the test. Check out the most recent date (Dec. 24) and you'll find it's been over two weeks. Don't give me any breaks on this - my plan was to write 3 times a week. 3 times weekly in 3 months time would give me 36 posts.

How many do I have? 33. And 2 weeks have gone by. So that's 9 posts I'm behind. Had you followed me around for a week lately, knowing my desire to write a book, you'd notice my habits don't support it. Procrastination is the mother of all bad habits. That and avoidance. And lacking discipline.

There. You now know my goal for the next 3 months and can keep me accountable. Once we have accountability we have added motivation to follow through, even when it's a sacrifice. We know on the other end of our goal it will so be worth it.

I'm now on track. Keep me there. It will determine my future.