When strangers shift our lives…

In her Sunday Paper this week, Maria Shriver talked about the fact that it is almost always a stranger that ends up shifting our lives. I had to think about that for a moment but in the end, I would agree.

The words of strangers can cut thru the fog of what is familiar. And when their words move us, we want to take the conversation deeper.

Certainly, the authors of books and poems that touch us fall into this place of meaning.

Maria’s words brought my thoughts from this past week together.

Have you ever visited somewhere you’ve never been, and immediately it felt like home? The photograph above is of the house where some fellow writers and I lived for a week on Cape Cod last year. It is a rambling old house, originally built in 1858.

It’s an author’s house dedicated to authors.  Each of the six bedrooms is dedicated to a notable writer from New England. Every morning we would gather around an old wooden table.  One of us would represent the author of our given room for the day. We would read, then agree on a writing prompt and do what we came to do – write.

One of those writers was the Pulitzer Prize winning American poet, Mary Oliver. The morning that we read her work was special. I already owned some of her writings but had never delved into them. That changed with that morning’s exercise. Since then her work has shown up frequently in my chosen daily readings.

When I learned this past week that Ms. Oliver had breathed her last breath here on earth it took me back to that time and place. She was extraordinary. Through her seemingly ancient and yet forever young eyes she could see, and then help us to see, the astounding world we live in.

We would all be well-served to follow her advice and instructions for living our own lives.

I’ll be returning this year to that old rambling house in Cape Cod. I’m hoping that this year, Mary Oliver’s room is mine.

In the meantime, I’ll be spending time with her voice in my ear hearing that most important question:

Tell me, just what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?


From Here to There to Anywhere: Living in Resilience

A great deal of my body of work focuses on exploring possibilities. Quite often, we have the drive and desire and certainly the commitment.  But we lack the plan.

We explore the possibilities so that we can craft the best plan.

Focusing on what is truly possible is perhaps one of the most important things we can do in order to live our lives as fully as possible.

Remarkable stories abound of people that defy the odds and go on an incredible journey beyond any boundaries that were imagined.  For all of us, because of the velocity of change in the world today, the skill of being able to fluidly go from here to there is what will in fact take us anywhere we wish to go. This is the true meaning of resilience.

One such story is British author, the late Dick Francis.  Because his later in life season showcased his skill as a superb storyteller, it would be easy to overlook how he came to that place in his journey.

I discovered him many years ago. I was a young single Mom that loved a great story and he certainly delivered. He authored 40+ books and I proudly have them all in my personal library, including those that he began co-authoring with his son, Felix before his death. His stories were full of rich characters, intriguing plots and breath-taking endings, each meticulously researched by he and his wife, Mary. You felt as if you were being taken on a private journey with him through every story.

What bears notice is that this was in fact his second career. His first was as a horseman. A renowned and gifted jockey, he was lauded in those circles for many years.

What brought him from horses to stories? Life. Injuries, age, family – all the things that happen. So how did he do it? All of his stories were set in the world he knew so well. The world of horse-racing. The people, the places, the horses. Those pictures he painted literally came off the pages. But inter-laced were new things. New places. New characters. And always intrigue.

He had always loved a story. He transported himself from the horses to his next place in life through story-telling. It is a wonderful example of how resilience serves us as we migrate through life.

When we go from here to there, we take who we are and what we know. We use it in a different way but it remains with us. There is a comfort in that.  By approaching life from this perspective, we can literally go anywhere.

The video shared below is a clip from the Memorial Service that honored him.  Listen well and hear his story.  Then live your own adventure.  The possibilities are endless.

And never forget that there is always more value from the rest of your own story than you ever dreamed possible.

 

Live today like you want tomorrow to be. Live well.

Seven Books in Seven Days – What was your last challenge?

It seemed like an easy challenge.  A friend tagged me on a social media challenge to post a picture of seven books over seven days. No reviews or explanations – just a picture of the cover of books that had impacted my life and work. With each day’s post we also invited someone from our community to join the challenge.

For me, a lover of all things words, particularly books, this would seem on the surface to be an easy task and yet it turned out that the challenge was in fact challenging.

Things don’t have to look difficult to be hard.

Sometimes, it isn’t the challenge itself that’s tripping us up. Most of the time it’s our own thoughts.

The dilemma? (and hence the challenge…) Which seven books? What’s in and what’s out?

It would have been easier if the number was larger. There was a lesson there for me. It’s a lesson all writers face at some point. Not everything we do has to encompass everything we do. When we sit down to write a book, the editing process is often the most traumatic. What comes out?

I’ve just recently completed a certification course in editing and it was an insightful look into my own processes as a writer. We want to put it all in… but the message is clearer with a bit of editing.

The same is true for our calendars. What if we only chose one thing to be our priority or focus each day for seven days? What I’m learning about myself is that if I give myself all seven on day one, on day seven, none of them are finished. When I tackle them day by day – they get done.

I’m grateful to my friend and colleague Candy Barone for bringing this challenge to my doorstep. There is learning in everything. Now on to the doing and then the leading.

Curious about the seven books? Here they are:

The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

A book I read every year at least once – more if needed. It helps me remember who I am and what matters. As of this past year, the audio version (narrated by Jeremy Irons) is my favorite.

A More Beautiful Question – Warren Berger

The teachings in this book shifted my entire way of thinking about possibilities.

If: Trading Your If Only Regrets for God’s What If Possibilities – Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson first came to my attention as a spiritual mentor and guide with his book The Circle Maker. It shifted my faith walk into something more powerful than I had ever imagined it could be. His writings take up an entire shelf in my library.

Willpower Doesn’t Work – Benjamin Hardy

A new favorite this past year. I heard him speak at a writers’ conference and began reading his posts on Medium. Ben Hardy’s life focus is inspiring. His story is remarkable. His book was a game changer for me, particularly in my health practices.

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done – Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff is why my own book – Adjusted Sails: What does this make possible? is finished. I’ve read a number of his books and participated in his coaching program. He is another favorite for audio. Jon does all of the narration himself. His natural humor and wit will have you laughing your way right to insights that will change you.

The Obstacle is the Way – Ryan Holiday

This is another multi-book author favorite. I started with him with this book and went on to Ego is the Enemy, Daily Stoic and Perennial Seller. He also does his own narration. Sometimes it seemed that there was a master class within each sentence. I’ve gained the most from his writings by listening with the printed book in hand while taking notes.

The Miracles in You – Mark Victor Hansen

All of these books have the capacity to change the reader. This one however marked the most significant change overall in my own life. I was able to spend time with Mark Victor Hansen and talk with him about this book and his thoughts on significance. I don’t know of a single day in my life that shifted my view of my work and influence in the world more than that day.

When was your last challenge? What did you learn along the way?

Jim Rohn taught that we should all aspire to be millionaires. Not for the money – but for the person we would have to become to achieve that challenge.  Well taught and well lived, Mr. Rohn. Message received!

Live today like you want tomorrow to be.  Live well.

 

 

Do you have your finish line in view?

Laughman_Oct 2015_Article 4_Finish line

Back on January 1st, as the calendar rolled over to 2018, I was reminded that time waits for no one. I’m sure you have experienced similar feelings. When we begin our year, we have such grand plans! We claim this year as OUR TIME and we are filled with nearly giddy excitement about all the accomplishments we will be celebrating in the coming months.

All too often though it doesn’t take long for the realities of life to bring us back “down to earth” and what we envisioned starts to fade.

We are now just over six months into 2018 and in many ways, it feels like January 1st again. Time seems to be increasing its velocity – or at least life does. So many things that are true in my life and work today were not even on the radar screen at the beginning of the year. Some goals lost focus and momentum, some new ones appeared, and some came to fruition.

The key remains keeping the finish line in view.

Here are some thoughts I shared in the first post of this year that I still find helpful (perhaps you will too!):


One crucial life lesson is that deciding what we want, even how to get it is only part of getting us to where we want to be.  To be successful there is another element required: Knowing why we are doing what we plan to do. Without that clear motivation– we will lack an essential element we need to sustain us through to success. And one thing that has proven true in every case I know is that when we don’t keep going, we stop going. Knowing why we are doing something is the glue that holds everything together.

But how does motivation work? How do you know it’s going to hold? While there are many illustrations, my experience has shown that it comes down to these 5 essential principals:

  1. Sometimes the work is hard. It’s really that simple. Sometimes the work is hard. And we need to be certain we can stick with it. Jim Rohn taught that when the promise is clear, the price is easy. When the price begins to get hard, the promise is what pulls us through.
  2. Sometimes the work takes time. The emotion of the moment when we committed to something can and will fade over time if we don’t bring it back, even if not at the same sensory level. I was recently reminded that there is very little that is action dependent that does not require some constancy, even daily re-commitment to that action. Whether it’s our health, money, work or relationships. Our motivation (why) is what creates the power we need to keep making the commitment over time.
  3. Sometimes the work needs to change. This is an important one to think about. Sometimes the method we choose to do something doesn’t bring us the result we wanted. That’s not failure. That’s experience. Without knowing why we were doing it in the first place, we don’t have the ultimate creative pool to work from for finding our next strategy and getting it in place. The why keeps us focused in the RIGHT direction, even if we change the vehicle we’re riding to reach the destination.
  4. Sometimes the work requires help. When we are clear about why we are doing something our enthusiasm and passion are evident and infectious. Others will not only respond to requests for help – they will volunteer! There is nothing more binding and bonding than a shared desire to transform something for good. Even if they don’t know, like and trust you yet, if your why is clear and they can align to that, it can actually be the catalyst for the best relationships.
  5. Sometimes the work requires a choice. This point goes beyond the first one where we talked about work being hard at times. This is about sacrifice. This is about choice. If you do THIS (something that honors your why) then you cannot do THAT (something else you really want to do!). It’s called opportunity cost. The promise being clear is still part of the rationale on this but it goes deeper because you are making a conscious choice to not only have something, but also to give something up. If the value equation isn’t clear, those choices can get very difficult.

Having the right motivation makes a difference in getting started but it makes all the difference for staying started. And one thing is certain: We can and will have more than one start along the way.

How to put this to work? Choose one area of your life (health, finances, work, relationships, community) where in the past you have struggled staying on track with your goal and action settings. Go through a series of questions focused on the word why to get to your core reason for what you are doing. That is the promise. Don’t take your first response. Why? Because chances are fairly high that it is not your real reason. Don’t be surprised if it takes you a number of times to get to your true motivator. In the words of Pat Riley, “A champion needs a motivation above and beyond winning.”

You’ll know you are there when you can take that reason and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is this reason strong enough to keep me going when it’s hard?
  2. Is this reason strong enough to keep me going when this takes a long time?
  3. Is this reason strong enough to challenge me to always find a way?
  4. Is this reason strong enough to allow others to see the value in the work?
  5. Is this reason strong enough to support the right choices along the way, even when it means a sacrifice?

When you get to five yeses – you are there! More importantly, you know you’re going to be able to begin and experience the journey to go to your desired place of achievement with joy and ease.

Live today like you want tomorrow to be. Live well!

Who would you choose?

I’m certain you’ve been asked to consider this question before. It’s a simple one.

If you could have a conversation with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose?

The idea of this question being a challenge for anyone living has lost at least some of its difficulty given the access available for everyone to everyone today. After all, there are very few barriers that hold in this age of technology. That is without question one of the most astounding possibilities afforded by social media in this age of connection.

But the challenge for those no longer with us does remain. My typical answer is my Dad. There are times when I truly long for a conversation with him. But there is another person that ranks high on the list for me and that is Eleanor Roosevelt. There is much about her life, contribution and overall philosophies that intrigue and inspire me, even where we disagree. A contemporary of my great-grandmother for whom my company is named, what underscores the enormity of her work is the age and time that she did it. She broke through barriers above, below and all around for those causes and people she championed.

Her last book, Tomorrow is Now was published in 1962. She knew she was dying when she started it and there are some that say she willed herself to stay alive long enough to write it. Its message was that important to her. Imagine a message so compelling, a sense of importance in your work so deep that you will yourself to live every day to see it through.

It’s one of the books I’ve chosen for my summer reading list. I’m finding it to be stunningly relevant yet today. The value of education and the fact that personal responsibility is the only way to achieve greatness never diminishes. I’m certain I will be having some lively imaginary chats with her over the coming weeks and I’m looking forward to the conversation.

How would you answer the question?

If it’s a contemporary, make it happen.

If it’s someone no longer with us, I invite you to think about these possibilities:

  • Why do they interest you? How can you learn more? Are there books available, videos, etc. that you can immerse yourself in to create a sense of connection?
  • Is there someone today that is doing similar work or carrying on their work? How can you connect with them? For example, Zig Ziglar was one of my Dad’s personal heroes and so, by extension, became one of mine. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with his son Tom Ziglar several times and it’s been a treasure.
  • How can you carry on the ideas and inspiration of that person today? How can you create that same sense of importance in your life and work? Sometimes we find our own higher purpose and calling by our resonance with someone else’s.

In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: “It is essential, above all, that in making history we do not forget to learn by history.  It is essential that we cast out fear and face the unknown as our ancestors faced the unknown, with imagination and integrity, with courage and a high heart.”

Learn from yesterday and live today like you want tomorrow to be.

Live well.

 

Windows of Opportunity: Are you grabbing them?

It’s a familiar scene whether we have experienced it personally or just within a movie or television drama. We are told that the patient’s odds for recovery aren’t really known. The next 24 hours will tell the story.

This precipice moment is also familiar in the news. It has been proven over and over that the odds of solving a crime are largely influenced by what happens in the first 48 hours following its commission.

In other words, it is the critical shadow hours after the crisis that are most pivotal to the rest of the story.

Even when what happens to us is far less dramatic than these examples, the same principle applies.

What we do and how we respond immediately following disruptive events does indeed write the rest of the story.

There can be many endings. It is up to us to choose.

What is your follow-up plan for the challenges that will appear?

Here are six thoughts to consider:

F – Faith vs. Fear

What core belief is most vulnerable as a result of what has or is happening? Where do you need to practice faith? This is where trust becomes such a fundamental element as an anecdote to fear. What steps do you need to take in order to handle the war of emotions and remain focused?

O – Opportunity vs. Obstacle

What opportunities are created because of what you are experiencing? What can you do now you could not do before? How can you step back and see the experience from a perspective of possibility? It’s noteworthy that the Chinese symbol for crisis is composed of two characters representing both danger and opportunity. Which will you allow yourself to see?

L – Learning the Lessons

Whatever happens to us, within those experiences is a landscape rich with life lessons. We can and must learn more about ourselves and the world around us. Simply asking ourselves what the lessons are in what is happening allows us to focus on purpose and possibility. It will fundamentally transform the situation into something that brings value vs. obstructing it.

L – Leveraging to Lead

There is very little, if anything that truly happens only to one person. That means that the value we realize is never solely isolated to our own experience. There is a direct or indirect impact to others in the immediate frame and in the future. How we leverage our own experiences in leading and serving others is a key factor in shifting our energy from victim to victor.

O – Options, Options, Options

There are always choices. Even without a crisis we know that. But with the crisis comes an unshackling; a willingness to consider and see options we might not otherwise even consider. It strips us of judgment and any rigidness in our response. This is, in and of itself a gift. This goes beyond just simple opportunity because it goes to the heart of not just what we can do but all of the many ways we can do it. Our brains are stimulated to see past the surface and compel our creative juices to flow.

W – What’s Next?

Nothing re-centers us more readily than a commitment to begin anew. Instead of focusing on what happened, focus on what is next. Taking into account our faith in the possibilities and opportunities, the lessons learned and what that means in terms of serving others and all of the options that are available to us, our energy can fully shift to a forward oriented perspective.

What follows the crisis? Windows of opportunity that we can throw fully open and leap through without fear. But just like our fictional patient or criminal case, that window of opportunity will not remain open forever. It will close. Choose faith that the purpose always has the potential of good. Choose the freedom that comes with knowing it is within our power to fully influence and generate that good.

Live today like you want tomorrow to be.

Live well.