Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

My father used to always say, "People in love think they are invisible."

I've seen enough couples making out in the airport to know this is true.  When I see these people all super- powered with mutual infatuation, I feel torn.  Part of me wants to tell them, "GET A ROOM ALREADY!"
Okay, well sometimes I do say that.  I have no filter.  It's a gift.

The point is, I waver between feeling sincere happiness that there is still such love in the world and jealousy that sits just below the surface of judgment.

Schmoopie and Luv Muffin couldn't care less what I think.   They are happy.

My wish for you this Thanksgiving Day is that you love and appreciate life with pure joy.  Surround yourself with a protective, happy glow.   Be your complete, authentic self without censorship for the sake of others' (or your own) judgment.  

Be happy. 






PS:  This goes double to the pooping rainbow guy.


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Sunday, November 20, 2011

"I'm Not Here to Make Friends"

It seems that every time I mention “Reality TV", I get an overwhelmingly negative response. Humans from a wide range of religious, political and socioeconomic backgrounds seem universally united in their hatred of this genre of television.

However, it’s simply not possible that my viewership is singularly responsible for the sustainability of shows like Top Chef, Project Runway, Survivor and American Idol.

I'm convinced that some of you out there are closet reality fans.   You know too much to deny it.  Oh, I can hear it now:
     “I just saw that one episode.”
     “I've only seen it because my partner watches.”
     “I just watch it for the girls in bikinis.”

Even folks who (quote, unquote) “hate” reality TV must be familiar with the recurrent phrase, I’m not here to make friends.”

Sadly, there is now a long tradition of this ridiculous sentiment.  When I hear it, my reaction can only be a heartfelt, "Oh no they di'n't!"

Saying the "friends" line is the kiss of death.  A one way ticket for the aufiderzein bus.  Pack your tools and your knives.  Sing your last song and dance your last dance.  Burn your buff (and your ego), and go.  Buh. Bye.

If you're "not here to make friends," you're not likely to win.

This is true in life as well, both personally and professionally.

I've often written about my three steps towards reaching your life balance goals:

1. Internal:
thoughts, feelings, words

2. External:
actions in line with goals

3. Support:
help, accountability, encouragement

The essence of step three is that you'll be much more successful by having other people in your corner. 

There are a lot of reasons why any reality show contestant normal person might not want to be part of a team or rely on others for help.   

Personally, I had a childhood that required a great amount of independence.   Growing up, I became unwilling and/or unable to let others close enough to help, even when it was there for the taking.

(Fellow control freaks everywhere are nodding in empathy.)

That said, it's something I have worked hard to overcome.  At this point in my life, I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am always better for having the help and support of others.  I try to say "thank you" early and often each day for the many wonderful people in my life.  Friends.

In return for being so blessed, I make it a point to extend as much positive energy as possible.  Yeah, I know sometimes it makes me look like the crazy lady who smiles and says "hi" to everyone as she walks down the street or the airplane aisle.  Sometimes the toll booth guy thinks I'm flirting with him.  The folks at my kids' school are just waiting for me to stop the "life is great" act and pull a nutty.  Well, that could happen; especially if Dunkin' Donuts continues to get my coffee wrong at least once a week.

I do have my moments.

The life balance lesson being beamed to you today is quite simply, be nice

Be here to make friends.





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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Is (Insert Stressor) a Matter of Life & Death?

Talking to some friends last night, I was reminded of a lesson I learned during my "carnival" days (as fellow blogger Bruce refers to the trade show biz).  Back then, I was a workaholic ball of stress most of the time.  I would have laughed at anyone who even suggested the idea of life balance.  Bah!  

One day I was at a team meeting to discuss a new pricing model.  I was not happy with most of the decisions being made.  Frustrated and fatigued, I kinda freaked out. Angst and argument emanated from me like the world might actually end if this (clearly faulty) pricing model passed into reality.

Later on, my boss AD met with me in the hallway.  In a Tim Gunn tone he said, "Charlene, I'm worried about you." 

I vented.  He listened then continued, "What we're doing here... it's not life and death you know."

He was right of course.  I heard the words and agreed.  On an intellectual level anyway; enough to temporarily get my knickers out of a twist.

A few weeks later, a fellow carny friend and I were taking a break, strolling the back streets of Cannes, France.  Our path became blocked by a crowd of people in an unlikely spot.  I stepped around a tall, thin lady holding a rat-sized dog.

Nestled between road and curb was a body; neck and limbs twisted in unnatural positions.  His mangled scooter was several yards back near an only slightly dented car.

When the SAMU ambulance arrived, AD's words rang in my mind even more loudly than the sirens,  "Life and death. Life and death. Life and death."  Over and over.  Life and death.

I stared at the wedding ring on the man's bloody left hand and pictured his wife receiving the news of his tenuous state.   Did he have kids?  I wondered painfully.  

Of course I've experienced death and the pain of loss before. However, up until this moment I'd never actually seen the black scythe swing down right in front of me.

My friend tugged at my arm for us to move on as tears for a man I didn't know rolled down my cheeks.

We walked in silence back to the other carny folk waiting for us at the Palais des Festivals.  The words life and death continued to drill into my core.

To this day I wonder on which side of the deal the "man in Cannes" ended up.  It didn't look promising. Still, I try to imagine a happy ending to the story as if I could somehow will it to be so, even after the fact.

Now, anytime I find myself freaking out about something at work or the bills or the laundry (or whatever), the words which rang in that awful memory act as an instant reality check.

Is it a matter of life and death?

Enjoy each moment...

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Leading with Confidence

"A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader; a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves."  
- Eleanor Roosevelt

This is one of those memorable quotes that profoundly resonates with me in both personal and professional ways.

The business application might be more obvious.

I've had the great pleasure of working for a few people whom I admired and respected for their own success, wisdom and experience.

The one who stands out in a most positive and singular way is the one who convinced me that it was reciprocal.    Even more, I left every conversation with this leader having more confidence in myself and a more invigorated sense of my own capabilities.  I'd be charged up.  Ready to take on any challenge.  Ready to make our business and him more successful as well.  Smart guy.  Also, a good friend to this day.

Compare that to other leaders who also commanded respect in their own right.  And yet, there was always that question mark in my mind about how much they valued me and my contribution to the business.   In large part, I met my goals only because I found ways to light my own spark.  It wasn't always easy. 

When you think of which business will be more successful, will it be the one where people are mustering up their own sense of worth and creating individualized motivation? Or will it be the one that is charged with reciprocal inspiration and an energized rally cry of mutual confidence?

Just askin'.

I've been pondering this idea that we can be great leaders in our personal lives too. 

For example, parents have a unique opportunity to inspire energy and confidence in their children.  I used to think my job was to protect my kids at all times. Demand respect and be worthy of it. Make their lives easy enough with a bond strong enough that we could conquer anything, even puberty!    

When my father passed away last year, I realised that one of the greatest gifts he left was my belief in myself.  I'm sure there are things he would have spared me, but I also remember times when he very intentionally stepped back and let me figure things out on my own.   Through his intentions, words and deeds he made me admire and respect him while also inspiring that same confidence within me.    He was a great father.

Sometimes this dynamic is difficult to create with the people in our lives for one simple reason:  judgment.

Especially with siblings and friends, sometimes it's hard for us to be as supportive and encouraging as we can (or should) be because we are trying to measure up to something ourselves.  Protective walls are made higher by implicit expectations or fear of not being "as good."

In some cases, we just assume they know how much we value them.  It simply doesn't occur to us to try to inspire them. 

The same way perhaps your boss assumes you know, or doesn't realise that a little proactive feedback would help you, and the business, in dramatic ways.

The lesson, I think, is not only to be someone worthy of admiration but to openly admire others.  Let them know.  Put forth words and actions that breed confidence.

With this intent, I recently added these words to my vision board:
 Inspire and motivate others. Feel inspired and motivated.  

Love you all!


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