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Friday, March 30, 2012

This Post is NOT about Trayvon….


Lost Boys…
I have tried for several weeks not to write this post. This is not a post about Trayvon or George. That's not even his picture.
A few months ago, I wrote a post about another boy. That boy, who you do not remember, also lost his life at the hands of strangers.
There is not much that I can add to that post really, except this-
Many of our children are just being lost. Lost in the schools system, lost in the streets, lost in the war on drugs, lost in their shattered dreams and dysfunctional homes, lost in prisons, lost in jobs they don’t want, just lost and going nowhere. And most of them are male-boys, young men and men- of all colors.
It’s not a popular sentiment, but my heart breaks and my soul grieves for Marcellus and the the boys who killed him, for Trayvon, and for George.
Hate the Lies we learn
It is amazing how an episode like this shines a bright spotlight on the dark heart of who we really are. But you know, I do not think that we have hate crimes and killings because we hate each other. I think we have them because we hate ourselves.
We hate ourselves because “those” people have lighter/ darker skin, and we want to look like them. They have more money/ fewer worries, and if I had that, I’d be much happier, just like they are. They dress better/ look cooler/ are taller/ or thinner/ more talented/ get more breaks/ have it easy/ live rent-free/ live on Park Avenue.

If I just had what they had, my life would be simpler, and happier. I would have such an easier time of things.
It’s all a lie!
Joy, Peace and Happiness
We cannot be happy until we know where our happiness, peace and joy come from. It doesn’t come from Wal-Mart of Best-Buy. It doesn't come from Cartier or Mecedes-Benz. Our happiness does not come from anything outside, but from inside.
The hate will not end until we realize that we are each enough, and that we have enough of what really matters. We have more than enough to share and help and reach out to others.
We are it.
We, who profess to be leaders and world–shakers, we are it!
We are the people that have to get in the trenches and get our hands dirty and start teaching other people that there is a better way to live.
We are all there is.
There is no one else to fix this.
It is in our hands.
What are you doing to help?

Related Post :

Lamentations for all our Lost Boys

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Use Your Words

Sense the conversation
In the last post we started talking about the art of listening actively and authentically. The first step is to become empathic and attentive. Turn off all distractions that you can, turn on your mind, and turn on all of your senses.
Now that you have turned off your self-focus for a moment, and have met this person “where they are,” what do we need to do next?
Use Your Words
We need to show signs of life- with words and actions.
We need to engage them. Engagement, in a general sense, means that we become part of something. If we are engaged to be married, we officially become part of a unified couple. In this sense, we become part of the story, or part of the process of getting the story told.
We engage them with words and actions. With words, not questions.
Words that help move the story along.
Words that comfort and support.
Words that show that we are paying attention.
Words that help them finish the story; not words that finish the story for them.
What do we do when we are interested in something?
We lean in. We face front. We reposition so that our face and body are facing the same direction. We lean in. We reach out. We touch. We close the distance between us and the object or person of interest. We engage physically.
As we are moving to close this distance, we need to check ourselves.

What is your stance? What kind of postural clues are you sending out?

Is your posture open or closed? Are you arms and legs crossed and folded, or are you pretty loose. This is one of my personal issues. Even when I am relaxed, I tend to cross my arms and legs. So I have to make a conscious effort to un-do it when I notice.

Is your stance receptive or repulsive? Are you all boxed-up and physically pushing people away without realizing it? Or, are you receptive? Easy to come up next to?

Is your pose alert, or does it convey the boredom?

There is no specific order to these things and they should come naturally, or at least look natural. If it feels awkward, practice. Just as you are working to become more aware of others, you should get to know your own postural and facial tells and clues as well. You best friends can help you with this.

We give away much more information in the way we do things and the way we move than most of us realize.
So far...

For attentive and authentic listening, we have two things to work on…
Gear up your senses. Actually look at the person you are communicating with. Look at all of them. Truly notice them.
Second, engage with words to help, comfort and move their story-telling forward. Remember, this is their story, not yours!

photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/onkel_wart/557289163/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Monday, March 26, 2012

Just Look


Distraction and Multitasking
We live in a very distracted age. We multi-task without giving much thought to it. Until recently, if you asked any of my friends what I was doing at home in the evening, they would have said- sitting in front of her computer working on something for class or the blog, surrounded by books, tweeting, with the television on in the background. And, until recently, that would have been true. As I am required to do more reading and writing, the TV has not been on much.
But, I am not alone…

Why don’t we just stay home?
Frequently when I go out to eat with friends, I watch as people are either talking on then phone, or staring down at their smart phones instead of interacting with the person sitting across the table from them. Sometimes both people are looking at the phones, and you have to wonder what they bothered to come out together. Why didn’t they just stay home alone and talk to the people they really wanted to be with. Or, my favorite, when one person will move it off to the side, so there is a “semblance of attentiveness.”
And, it’s not just telephones. We are distracted by any and everything that comes into our view. Sometimes we just get lost in our own thoughts.
Much energy and emotion is wasted because we are losing our ability to communicate with people face to face any more. Communication is an art that is fading from our culture. It is much simpler to whip off a quick text, email or tweet.

Listening, being heard and understood are important aspects of our lives.
Job #1 Pay attention….Just look
When people are talking to us, they are usually trying to communicate something of importance to them. It may not be earth shattering, but it is important. Sometimes it’s as simple as having another human being acknowledge and help validate your existence.
When you are having a conversation with someone, turn on all of your senses. We communicate with more than just our voices. Our voices give cues to our emotions through tone, volume or inflection.
But, use your eyes.
Look at the posture. Is it confident or slumped?
Is the breathing quick and anxious or slow and steady?
Are the hands resting, active or wringing?
Look at the facial tells, we all have them.
Most importantly, look into the other person’s eyes.

Connect with them.
Listen with your heart.
Go where they are.
Walk the path with them.

Open your eyes and your hearts to see what you’ve been missing.

What else would you add to listening by observation?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hanging In and Letting Go

Subtitle: Life and Leadership Lessons from White-water Rafting.

White Water Rafting

One of my favorite activities is white-water rafting. I don’t get to go very often any more, but my favorite place is The Gauley River when the dam is open in early October. If you haven’t been, you must put this on your “bucket list”…but I digress.

Cold, bracing air, water as far as the eye can see, trees, eagles, and the rapids! Tons of rapids. You and your paddle. Man, what a rush!! You, and your little paddle, and your helmet and life jacket, in a little rubber raft of strangers.

Rules of engagement

They give a 15 minute drill before you and your boat mates embark on your journey downriver. And, this is a lesson in follow-ship. Yes, follow-ship, not leadership. People die on the river; not often, but it happens. The discussion is about paddle strokes, paddling together, losing your paddle, leaning to shift the weight in the raft so that it doesn't capsize, saving a “man” overboard, being the "man" overboard, and finally, what to do if you are floating away downriver separated from the boat.

When you are surrounded by the roar of the rapids, looking at the next BFR (big freaking rock) that you are heading toward, water splashing everywhere it is very easy to get caught up in the moment. You become so focused on doing your part of the job, moving in rhythm with your mates, and getting the boat down river safely with all of your teammates (and sometimes your children) still inside the boat, that you forget the rules.

The Paddle Doesn't Care

When the paddle gets knocked from your hand, your first response is to quickly get it back. Get it back and get back in sync with everyone else. Become one with the team again, because that’s what good and loyal team members do.

But in that critical moment, as you are reaching well over the side of the boat, starting to feel your feet slip as the whole boat shifts with the unbalanced weight, and the paddle teases you just out of reach of your fingertips…you remember. You remember the rules, and you remember to think.

Is it worth everything?

Is your life worth the paddle that is drifting away of its own accord, unencumbered by your worries?

Is everything that you have invested in a situation worth your sanity, well-being, or even your life?

Sometimes in life, just like on the river, all we can hope to do is figure out how to keep “hanging in and letting go.” Often situations or people are just outside of our reach for “correction,” “fixing,” or making everything alright. It’s a bumpy ride. Its hard work, and sometimes a heart-breaker.

So, what can we do?
  • Stop, and...
  • Breathe.
  • Remember to think outside of the emotional storm.
  • Let go of what you can.
  • Hang in; help where and in ways that you can.
  • In time we will be okay - and safe.

What do you need to let go of to move forward?

You have to have a plan:

What specific step(s) are you going to take to start the process?

photo credit: http://is.gd/b7lx09

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mission and Values First!

Building Blocks of Relationships

We are finishing a short series on making relationships work, the building blocks of relationships. There are four basic elements involved in this process. We have covered three so far:
The last building block to put into place is: PUT THE MISSION and VALUES OF THE “TEAM” FIRST!
Where are you going?
Remember that a team is anything that you do with at least one other person- marriage, club, and church- the whole gamut.
Where is the team going? What is the mission of your team?
We are all headed somewhere in life. Most of us know, to a certain extent, where we want to go, and where we’d like to end up. We can choose to stumble along at the whims and wishes of other people, nature, fate, magic, circumstances, etc. Or we can choose the path we want to travel. It is a choice!
Mission statement
A mission statement tells us what our objectives are. Most companies have them, and they are often written on large plaques hung in the lobby, or on every piece of stationery. If yours is anything like ours, then it sounds like a bunch of gobbledy-gook that no one outside of the organization can understand or explain.
A mission statement should say what we do, where we are headed and how we plan to get there. By doing what….exactly?
With regard to relationships, the point is this…
At some point in our team interaction, we need to make certain things clear.
We need to be sure that we are on the same mission. We need to be sure that we are all trying to get to the same place, reach the same goal. And, if we are a team, that we are going the same “place” together.
I said at the beginning that we need to put mission and values first. So, where do the values come in?
We also need to be sure that we have the same or very similar values that keep us on the same road, and moving in the same direction together.
Our core values speak to who we really are, what we think we are all about, and what is absolutely and vitally important to us. It’s the bottom line for what we choose, and do not choose, to do.
For instance: if the truth is valuable to you, and lying to someone is a line you positively will not cross- then it will be hard to be in a well-functioning team with a person who lies all the time, or is not disturbed by it.

So what's the bottom line?

The same mission
·        Where are we going?
·        What are we trying to accomplish?
·        How are we going to get there?
Same/ very similar values
·        What’s important?
·        What are the boundaries for the things we will not consider?
·        How are we going to stay on this path together?
Does everyone on the team know the mission, and what's important?

Take a look at your mission statement at work. Does it make sense? Could you explain to a non-employee in a few words?
Do you have a mission statement for your life?

For your team? Is it something you should think about?
What are your core values? Does everyone know? Are they all on the same page?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sticking To It

Building blocks
We are half-way through a discussion about the foundation of relationships.

Number one was: Be Boring

Number two was: Own up and step up

The third basic building block is, TENACITY. "Stick-to-it-tive-ness". I’m not sure there is such a word, but you know what I mean.

There is no “I” in Team
We are a member, a part or portion of a team. That team can be your marriage, family (by any definition), project group at work, club members. The team is anywhere that you don’t function alone, or have full authority.
You see, it’s not a team if it’s only you, or me. If you are doing “all” the work, taking all of the credit or getting all of the benefits, then you are not a member of a team. You are a solo act with a supporting cast.

What makes a team good?
In teams there are at least two members. Good teams, including marriages, are made up of people who tend to be similar in many easy, but exactly alike. They may be dissimilar I strength, talent, temperament, activity level, energy, or knowledge. But they each bring something unique to the table, to the group, to the marriage.
These dissimilarities are good if they are complementary. They are bad if we only use them to compete and dominate other members of our team.

Team members are going to screw up, every now and then. We, you and I, are going to screw up sometimes. Some of these will be minor, and easily fixed or swept aside. Some will be major and difficult or costly to correct. And, it will happen more than once.
If we are a team committed to each other and to the “project,” then we must have ego and heart enough to get past these moments. If we are dedicated to our joint success, then there will be some things we have to live with, some things we will have to overlook in a loving manner, some things we will have to correct in a peacekeeping, and non-confrontational manner.
Or, we can decide that we cannot remain a part of this team.
But here's the thinkg... if you abandon your teams often enough, you will be forced to take a look in the mirror. Sooner or later you may have to accept that you have a hand in things not working out. You might be the problem. 

A Daily Chore
Teamwork is a daily task, not a one-time event. Since we must invest in it as a daily activity, there won’t be a lot of applause or accolades. There will be heartaches and heartbreaks, but we will not shrink from them. There will be glimpses of victory along the way. There will be great and small successes to celebrate together. 

What is the preservation of your team worth? 

What methods do you use to get your team through the “rough” spots?

Related posts

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/herbrm/5321602808/sizes/z/in/photostream/

Friday, March 16, 2012

Taking Responsibility

Be Boring
We are spending a little time on the building blocks of good relationships. The first element that we introduced in the last post was, BE BORING. Be who you are all the time. Be authentic.
The second building block is TAKING RESPONSIBILITY. This block has two aspects that are important in relationships.

As adults we live in a society where people tend to shirk their responsibilities, and more of us need to step up and take ownership. We need to take ownership of our responsibilities to our team, and for the outcomes produced by that team. And we need to take ownership of our full potential.
It is often said that many more of us are afraid of success than failure. Are you?
We all lead in some aspect of our lives, even if we only lead ourselves. Often we will find ourselves in positions at work, at home, at church, at club meeting, when we need to stand up for something.
Take responsibility for yourself, your life, the things happening around you (to the extent that you can) and be ready to help move the process forward. By yourself if you must. Because that, my friend, is what responsible adults do. We see problems or issues, and we try to fix them. Or we offer suggestions about how things might be different, or improved.

The second aspect of taking responsibility can be summed up with a simple phrase:
“When you screw up, own up!”
Every idea that we present, every task that we are given, every venture that we set our minds to will not be successful. Accept that! If you make a mess of things, or can’t figure out the next step, ask.

Here are six steps to get through it.
Nothing in this life will ever be solved or resolved by figuring out who is really to blame. So stop blaming.
Take the hit for the team, for your marriage, whatever.
Back your ego down a notch or two.
Take a really deep breath (and cry if you need to).
Figure out how to go forward and…
And, here’s the really hard part: DO IT!

Don’t get stuck in the licking your wounds and self-recrimination part. This serves no one ultimately. Least of all you! So pull up those big girl and big boy panties, take a breath and make the next step.

So far, we have two building blocks in place for the development of good relationships:
1.         Be predictable. Be authentic.
2.         Be responsible: For the team, and for your own actions.

What would you add to being responsible?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Building Blocks of Relationships


We all know what it takes to make relationships work. We have had this knowledge since kindergarten. And if you have siblings, then you knew it before you toddled of to school. We learned to be sociable and to socialize. We figured out, mostly through trial and error, what worked and what didn’t

Recently we have posted a series of articles, quite by accident, on relationships. The first was about domestic assault, and how to help our daughters avoid some of these relationships. We have also talked about what to do when relationships aren’t working. These posts focused primarily on personal relationships, but had points that would have value all of our associations- business, friends, marriage, and church, everywhere.

My question is, why is it that when we become adults, we forget how the world works?

Building Blocks

Today, I want to take a step back and talk about what makes relationships work. What are the building blocks to getting things right?
I believe there are four main elements to helping any relationship run smoothly.
Those are: predictability, responsibility, tenacity, and mission-mindedness.

Be Predictable
The first block is predictability.
We all want to have a little sparkle of spontaneity in us sometimes. We’d like to do things a little bit differently, and out of the ordinary. We’d occasionally like to surprise someone because we are concerned that we will be perceived as dull or boring by our peers.
But here’s the thing. People need an anchor. They need someone on their team, in the home, at their job, in the church meeting, in their corner, who is predictable. They need someone they can count on to be honest, predictable and present.

When things begin to change, and things will change because that is the very nature of life, people need someone there from who they know what to expect. They know what you are going to do, and what you are going to say.
And, it is at this very first building block that we begin to lose our traction in relationships. We acted one way at the job interview or on the first date, and now we want to be someone else. Actually, we want to be who we have always been, because wearing a mask all the time gets tiring.

Situations may change, but people usually do not.

On the contrary, this doesn’t mean that we need to get bogged down in such a rut that we are only known by our resistance to change or to new ideas. But people know fundamentally how we think.
They know that we will evaluate situations clearly and fairly. They know that we will speak truth and life into situations when possible.

Be Boring
Be uninteresting. Be boring. Be predictable. People are counting on you to be who you really are, all the time. Bring your authentic game-face to the table every time.
Be steadfast.
Be the rock.
Be predictable, and...
Be there. 

What do you think?
Is this something solid we can build a relationship on?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Letting Go of the Drowners

Hole in our Hearts
Letting go is hard. Friends and relatives take up residence in our hearts and become part of the very fabric of how we live our lives daily.
We check on them daily. We text and talk to them a couple of times a day or week. We are concerned when we haven’t seen them for a while. This is true for online, as well as offline (face to face) friends.
Letting go of them leaves a hole in our hearts and sometimes a little guilt in our consciousness. Often we try to hold on to them and “fix” what’s wrong long after the relationship has been broken.

Cliff Notes
Abram is old, has no children, and is living in Ur. His brother has died and he takes over responsibility for his nephew Lot. He has also adopted one of his slaves as his son. Abram is called by God to pick up and move. He takes his family, including Lot.
Whenever he is given the the opportunity to make a choice, that affects both their lives, Lot constantly chooses to take what he perceives as the upper hand. He chooses the best land for grazing. He wants to live near the city. He wants to hang out with the pagans, etc., etc.
Abraham is always running behind the scenes trying to save and protect him. He has to save him from being kidnapped by a hostile king.
Sodom and Gomorrah
Abraham negotiates with God to save him from certain death at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot finally gets his family out is Sodom. Despite clear warnings not to do so, Mrs. Lot looks back and is turned to a pillar of salt.
Lot gets is so distraught that he gets drunk and his daughters seduce him to carry on the family name. What???
No matter how tremendously and richly Uncle Abraham’s life was, Lot just could not get in step. He insisted on going his own way, following his own mind and doing his own thing, to his destruction.
I have no doubt that Abraham was heart-broken at what became of Lot. I am sure that as the years passed, he had occasion to think about what he could have done differently to save his nephew.

Letting Go
Sometimes we have to back away from people and the toxic and negative energy they bring into our lives. Sometimes we have to let go of them to keep from drowning ourselves.
This is never easy.
But, the hole will heal…in time

The tears will stop…in time

Comfort will come…in time

We will forgive them…and ourselves….in time.

What do you think?

How do you get through a breakup?

This is a follow-up to a previous post, Torn Underwear.

Friday, March 9, 2012

8 Steps to Getting Your B**t in Gear this Weekend

Silly Songs

Sometimes songs pop into our heads for no apparent reason, and they are hard to shake. I have found recently that writing seems to help bring this to an end.  

My problem song today is, There’s a Hole in the Bucket, Dear Liza. I know, bizarre! This link  is to the lyrics only. I didn’t want you to get stuck with the song. 

As you can see from the lyrics, Liza is stuck in a rut with her beloved Henry.  Actually, Henry’s problem is not the bucket at all. The problem is that he just does not want to do what she asks. 

We often find ourselves in situations where we must make excuses that seem to be perfectly legitimate explanations about why we cannot accomplish a task. But the underlying truth is that we simply do not want to do it. We do not want to go. We do not want to change. We just don’t want it! 

We are sticking with this week’s Biblical super-hero, Moses

Text: Exodus 3:1-4:17

God called out to Moses to go back to Egypt and save his people. Moses just does not want to do this, and he thinks he can get out of it. he offers several "legitimate" excuses...

Who the Heck am I? 

"Who am I?" I am too small, shy, lowly, dis-graced, dis-connected…. God’s answer to Moses was that He would always be with him, as He is with us.  

Many of us try to use or hide behind this excuse. The sad thing is that if you say this negative stuff to yourself long enough, you will begin to believe it!  

We need to focus on the totally opposite belief. We are sufficient and are up to almost any task that we put our minds, hearts, faith and back to.

What am I Going to Say? 

Moses moves on to his next excuse: “What shall I say?” And, we know what he’s really concerned about here. This excuse is just an extension of #1. “I am so small and lowly, that no one will think I know what I am talking about.” God’s answer to him is clear. “I (God) will tell you what to say.” 

This is the real fear that keeps us from speaking up when we know we should. We are not as concerned about what is right or correct, as we are about the possibility of looking foolish or out-of-step. 
But stop for a moment and consider this. 

If you can quietly sit and coherently think of what to say in your mind, and you possess the skills to articulate your thoughts, what is holding you back? Simply stated, if you can think it clearly and logically, then you can say it. You already know what to say. 
And then finally, we come to the heart of the matter…

“Please send someone, anyone else” 

All of the excuses that Moses has used to this point are a smokescreen thrown up in an attempt to hide the fact that he does not want to do this thing. Now that the smokescreen has vanished, God becomes impatient with Moses. The tenor of God’s conversation takes on a different tone, and the request becomes a command. 


We all often say that we’d like for our lives to be different. We want to advance, and make something significant happen at home or on our jobs. Perhaps you have a dream that has been rattling around in your head. 

The Time Is Now 

The time has come to put away your excuses. No one can change your life, except you. Every excuse that you offer to yourself and everyone else is only a smokescreen, a cover-up, a facade. We are called into this life to accomplish things. 


It’s the weekend. 
  1. Make an appointment with yourself for some quiet time.
  2. Search you heart, mind and soul. What have you been called here to do? 
  3. Figure out where you are going.
  4. Pen and paper at hand.
  5. Get some focused time on the computer or, go old school, and head to the library.
  6. Come away from this with at least one real, concrete, do-able thing that you actually plan to do to move yourself forward within the next week.
  7. Actually write it down and do it
  8. Let me know about your progress.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Don’t Get Distracted…

We all have dreams, hopes and destinies we feel we are designed to meet. Keeping dreams alive is hard work. Once we are sold on the dream, we lay the groundwork of preparing ourselves. This may mean more education, networking, physical training, prayer, and whatever else we think it will take to help us move forward.
We put in our hearts and souls, blood and sweat to bring our dreams to fruition.
We meet people along the way who are very helpful to us, but we will also meet a few who will stand in the way, if not actually try to hold us back or block our path.
But we cannot let them…

Our Biblical focus for today’s post is a tiny, but significant moment in the life of that spiritual superhero, Moses.
He was a male Israelite baby who escaped death by floating, literally, into the Egyptian royal first family. Trying to speed up God’s plan on his own, he kills and Egyptian in a fit of anger and must flee the city. He spends time learning to be a shepherd.
Ultimately, God calls him to return to Egypt to collect God’s people and move them forward from slavery and bondage to the Promised Land. During the move, these people spend a lot of time grumbling and complaining.
They have no food, so God supplies manna from heaven on a daily basis. They grow tired and bored of the manna, so God rains down quail on their heads.
Here we see two separate instances where they are complaining about lack of water.
Moses goes to God and gets instruction. But, each set is a little bit different, so read it carefully. It is such a small incident that is often overlooked, but it cost him the one thing he had been working toward.
The second trip, we can imagine that he is getting tired of this. They are talking so much that they cannot hear him, and he can barely think. They are mumbling about wanting to go back to slavery, where life was better. Really?
He wades through the crowd to get their attention. They are chanting. “Go back, go back!” “Water, water, water!”
God’s specific instruction slips away from him. He is pissed off! He takes his rod in hand and strikes the rock…hard. Then he turns and yells at the people, “What more do you want?”
In that moment, Moses gives away his blessing and his potentially greater future. His anger has overrun everything else and it all fades in a heartbeat. In a stroke, he loses his blessing and his calling. He will not be able to lead the people into the Promised Land. 
80 years of preaparation, lost. He has let his anger, which had been a problem in the past, get the best of him and the situation. He has placed himself in authority over the people alongside God.
Destiny and greatness fade away…

Life Application…So what?
There are precious few things in this life that we can actually control.
We cannot change other people or their behavior. Ultimately, the decision to change is a choice that they must make.
The only thing we have full control over is how we respond to the things going on around us.

Have you, or are you letting other people stand between you and your best self?

Does someone else hold the key to your emotions?

Are you in control of you?

What do you do when you feel an emotional outburst coming?

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25619792@N07/4351897480/