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.


The many returns of the day, Part 3- What is your ROR?

Return on RelationshipsIn this post we are returning to our series focused on achieving a positive rate of return on our investments outside of a purely financial measurement.

We are exploring the idea that where our money goes in and of itself is not really the indicator of what our future is going to look like. Our priorities and choices in every part of our life are a factor.

In this conversation we’re talking about ROR or Return on Relationships.

Are you strategic in your relationships? Remember that being strategic is simply beginning with the end in mind. We all have relationships. It is our perspective about their value and our respective roles in them where we begin to understand the idea of a return from our investment in them.

I’m sharing these thoughts just after I’ve returned from spending a full day with one of my master mind groups. These relationships have given me the priceless gift of hope. I learn from each of our members every time we meet. They have validated my gifts and inspired me to invest them more fully. It is just one example of how our relationships can be intentional and create a return.

Here are five things I would offer for you to consider to take these thoughts further:

1–Just as with learning, the first way to be certain you are getting a maximum return is to honestly assess whether or not you are investing in your relationships. We should always check ourselves first and be certain that we are doing our part.

Consider who is on your calendar more than what. Where are you intentionally building and investing in relationships that represent your values and your vision?

2- The second place we need to check is our expectation or intention. What is the purpose of the relationship? Are you clear about that? Is the other party clear about it as well? Clarity in relationships is crucial. So many times we are not getting what we need because we aren’t being clear about that with ourselves and the other person or people. This is most often where dissatisfaction begins: a lack of communication around our mutual needs.

This is a lesson I have seen demonstrated very clearly within our master mind. In this last meeting, Kyle Wilson, our mentor and leader started our day by asking us to meditate around our intention for the day in terms of what we wanted to receive first and then what we wanted to give. A powerful part of how we achieve maximum results is knowing the result we seek.

3- Next is reciprocity. This is not about keeping score. It’s about balance, harmony, give and take. What does the other person need from you? Are you actively engaged in meeting their needs? As Ralph Waldo Emerson stated: “It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

This could really have been 2a and 2b on the list but it’s important to highlight both sides of this particular coin. And there’s a reason that they are shown in the order they are. Many (most) of us are givers. That’s a good thing. Reciprocity is how you make certain you achieve balance. It is about giving AND taking. Review where you are on this point, even if you need to engage in a specific conversation about it.

Remember, it’s not for keeping score – it is about creating harmony and mutual value.

4- That brings us to what I call the “E” factor: Emotional and Energy returns. How do you feel about yourself in the relationship? How does the other person feel? Is your energy lifted or drained? In our next segment we will be talking about ROE or Return on Energy in more depth but it’s a clear factor specific to relationships.

I am a natural introvert. My energy comes from solitude and my personal creative processes. So this is a critical point for me. For my extrovert friends, being around others can almost always generate energy just because that is how they are wired. But for all of us, whether introvert or extrovert, the element of positive energy merits discussion. When we are invested in the right relationships our synergies make our time together empowering.  

#5- The final point is the horizon check: what’s changing for you? For them? What does that make possible for you and your relationship? What might need to shift in the relationship for it to hold and increase its value through those changes?

All of us go through transitions in our lives. Sometimes that is a natural course of changing seasons. Other times it comes from decisions about our work. The key is placing a value on core relationships within those changes.

When my work focus shifted it mandated a complete change in my personal network circles. I was not prepared for that. I had not nurtured or even developed relationships away from my work. This became a recognized value for me after that. Rather than starting with the work and seeing what relationships develop, seek the relationships and see what opportunities appear. A very different perspective and one that allows you to have agility within your personal and professional circles for growth in every area.

Five considerations to think about for driving positive investment actions in our relationships.

Remember that we are not meant to stay where we are. We are meant to grow. As Charlie Tremendous Jones taught – “Where we are in five years compared to where we are now is going to be determined by the books we read and the people we meet.” When we are strategic, those people will bring a positive influence and opportunities for all of us.

What makes these particular ideas valuable is that no matter what relationship we’re talking about, the same principles apply.

Whether it is our relationships within our family, with friends, colleagues or customers – we need to honestly review our investment, intentions, balance, energy responses and commitment to value them.

Following these guidelines can deliver confidence that the investments we make in others and our relationship with them is going to give both of us the highest possible return – a positive sense of self, who we are and our value in the world. How? Because we are creating a foundation that fosters and promotes that with every exchange.

Live (invest) today like you want tomorrow to be. Live (invest) well!


What Questions Would You Ask?

QuestionsLong ago in a land far away when I was a teenager, my favorite part about the Sunday newspaper was an insert about a particular celebrity.

The article answered a standard series of questions about them and their lives. It somehow made them more human, more like me.

All was revealed: their favorite movie, book, song, even words; all things that gave us insight to who they really were.

Even in those pre-social media days, those articles influenced the economy and industry. The books they liked became the books we bought. The moves and songs they claimed as favorites influenced our own cultural choices. These weren’t paid endorsements like commercials. We believed, albeit some might say naively that this was indeed who they were. And we believed our lives could be more like theirs, if we were more like them.

A similar kind of insight can be found today watching interviews on Inside the Actor’s Studio. This television show has a similar premise. The host (James Lipton) asks a series of questions of famous people. It would seem to be a format that has been and continues to be incredibly successful.

Why is this interesting to us? Why do we care? What if it is more than just wanting to be like them? What if at the core we really all just want to connect? These platforms both then and now bring that person into our realm. It allows the connection.

There is of course risk with this. You may find you like someone better, or perhaps not as much. But always you feel as if you now have insider information. You’ve been brought into their inner circle. While it can be argued (and should be) that in fact we do not really know them, there does seem to be some insight into the “why” of their life. The bond created in many cases converts us from mere fans to advocates of their personal causes. Especially today.

This is an interesting idea when we expand it to think about our connection to those within our daily lives. What if we allowed that same level of curiosity to come into play about the humanity of those we interact with everyday in our own communities, at home and at work? When was the last time you asked someone about a book they have read that left an impression? Or what movie has recently touched their heart? Do you know your child’s favorite word? Their favorite sound? What if we allowed ourselves to peer in a bit to learn what we could to better connect with them inside their world?

What questions would you ask?  How can you make certain that you continuously gain personal insights for those in your daily circles? What knowledge would help you create more value?

We all know that questions are a powerful tool.  They can change our perspective as well as those answering. In changing our perspectives, in the end we have the opportunity to change everything.

Not sure where to begin? What do you think they would like you to know?  Maybe just start there. Ask them that.

Live (Connect) today like you want tomorrow to be. Live (Connect) well.


Are You Living in “Grand” Time?

Female Multl Generation Family Walking Along Autumn PathThe advantages of reaching what I now call my “wisdom years” are many. But without question for me, one of the most delightful of those is being a grandmother.

There is something uniquely gratifying about holding the hand of your child’s child.

There is something profoundly meaningful about creating a value in their lives that no one but you can create.

I’m not sure I ever really thought about or completely embraced the idea of legacy until the moment I first looked into my oldest granddaughter’s face as a newborn. What a startling moment that was! A life circle unfolding right in front of my eyes.

I’m asked often about my company name, Mackenzie Circle. Its true genesis moment was meeting my first granddaughter. I reflected back to my own mother, grandmother and her mother before her, Molly Mackenzie. It was then natural to shift that vision forward to my own daughter; her daughters following her. A circle that is ever growing, widening, deepening, ebbing and flowing. And so Mackenzie Circle was born: a company that celebrates life every day in a way that builds a stronger tomorrow for all.

Over the past 15 years as a grandmother there have been many lessons along the way. Perhaps the most compelling thing I can share is that being a grandmother is the most enriching and the most revealing relationship I believe I have experienced. We see the world differently because of the lens they bring us. And we see ourselves differently because of the lens we are able to bring to them.

I recently met a woman that was about to meet her first grand-child. Her anticipation was palpable as you might expect. There was also some trepidation along with the excitement. She asked me what advice I could offer to her and quite frankly, it gave me pause for a moment. But then I realized how truly simple this is. It comes down to three basic things – our calendar, their causes and a focus on creating memories that will sustain them long after we are no longer physically with them.

Your Calendar

If you want to know what you truly value, check your calendar. It was easier when we were the parent. Having our children on our calendar was a matter of routine. We had physical responsibilities that mandated time. As a grandparent, we need to reflect time with our children and grandchildren as a choice. Isn’t it wonderful when you know someone is choosing time with you? And that doesn’t always have to be in person or even voice to voice. Video cards are great. And so is that old stand-by: personal mail. Those hand-written cards and letters are memory box items they will treasure. The key is that they know they are valued because they are on your calendar by choice.

Their Causes

Another area where as grandparents we play a crucial role is by hearing our grandchildren and championing their causes and ideas. Those first fresh personal insights one day grow into their own belief system. These are often borne in the conversations and early reflections we are privileged to share. As we learn to hear them clearly and accept them without judgment (or fear of their judgment of us!), we can grow together by caring together. We are able to help them see beyond themselves to a greater purpose and good by sharing our own causes and introducing them to those ideas. My granddaughter and I take particular delight in sharing books and even music with each other that we’ve found knowing they will appeal to the other. We feel heard and seen when someone reflects back to us what we are projecting to the world in a positive way.

Shared Creations

And last but of course never least is the creation of memories. The best way to create memories for and with each other is to create with each other. Whether that is art, music or even learning something together. Having a reference point for the relationship is what allows them to carry our light with them long after the torch is passed. It is so important to remember that we do not leave a legacy; we live it every day with every encounter.

So here is to those next generations providing us the opportunity (and privilege) to truly live “grand”!

It gives new meaning to living today like you want tomorrow to be.

Within this light, we live today like we want their tomorrow to be.

And that will always be to live well.


A new world of chain reactions

Paying it ForwardOne of the ideas that has intrigued me recently is how we as a society have adopted and are participating in activities designed to create a chain reaction. It’s really not a new concept but for a very long time, unless we were talking about a domino game it wasn’t something we intentionally set out to create.

And yet today we do.

Whether it’s paying it forward at a Starbucks window, taking on an ice water bucket challenge in support of ALS awareness or inviting friends and families to create gratitude posts on Facebook as examples, we as a society are actively looking for ways to join with a cause and make our world a better place.

What is creating this force of good? From what I have observed, it stems from three fundamental shifts that have impacted all of us. First is the  increased recognition that regardless of how different we may be, as a human race, we universally share the same hopes and dreams, and yes, even fears. Technology has created more than a global economy. It has also created a global neighborhood.  Instead of being limited to watching life go by from our front porches we are seeing it from the pages and screens of social media platforms and digital communities. This brings us together in ways we might never have imagined and allows us to appeal to each other’s basic humanity in ways we would never have dreamed possible.

The second part of this is that we’re able to readily see and share what happens when we take those steps to join in. That serves to fuel the fire for more. Imagine that if you just paid it forward at the Starbucks window and never found out you were number 498 in an ultimate line of over 700 as happened recently in St. Petersburg, Florida. You would still take satisfaction from having contributed to that one person but now you can know that you didn’t just impact one person, you were part of a movement in a single day that touched over 700 lives. That can be some pretty heady and “hearty” stuff. It also means that the next time you pull up, you might even be number 1 in an ultimate line of over 700 instead of number 498. We like being a part of good things.

The third component of this is that it gives legs to our hope that there is good in our world. The news is filled with so much heartache.  We need to know about that, too because we are a part of that as well. But when we have the chance to catch sight of that flame of hope for the good in all of us, it is rejuvenating. We can pause amidst the clutter and chaos and take in a moment that is really just about doing some good. Those moments can even serve to stop the chain reaction of some of the heartache.

How incredibly powerful it is to know that we can create good with such simple acts not just in the moment, but within the moments to come as our actions and examples create the genesis of so many more. The video in today’s post is a story board of this. As each person witnesses a kindness, they are inspired to create one of their own. And in the end, the world is a better place. All because someone cared enough to drop the first domino.

How about it? Let’s start some chain reactions in our lives and with our lives beginning today.

Live today like you want tomorrow to be.

Live well.