Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Year Ahead - 2013

Ah, the end of the year.  Time to make your resolutions or not...

How about not?

How about just asking yourself what are one or two things you have learned about yourself and the world this year?

I don’t want to make resolutions for the new year.  I am tired of goals and plans because, in an odd way, it reinforces that concept that I can control things.

So, this is what I learned this year:

I can’t control things.  Again, I can’t control things.  Life is uncertain.  That is just a fact.

This is a hard fact for me to swallow because I like believing I can control things.  But, what I have learned is that there is a sense of relief in learning this fact once and for all.

If I really can’t control things, then expectations become silly.  And, when those expectations become silly, life becomes extremely interesting.  It fascinates me how oddly well life can turn out when you have no expectations of what “should” happen.

They say you can’t fight the waves, you should swim with them and not against them. I have been doing that and it’s not so bad.  In fact, it’s pretty good.  Nothing this year has turned out for me the way I thought it would.  Some things were excruciating and painful, almost more than I could bear.  Some things were wonderful beyond my wildest dreams.  My only part in all of this was how I reacted to those things.

So, one of the things that I have learned is to take it easy and learn to swim with the waves and keep my eyes open for any and all opportunities for growth as a person.

The other thing I have learned is patience.  Patience in how life works and how thinking you can plan out the path is an exercise in futility.

What I can do is have a vision for my life.  I can have values and dreams about what means the most to me.  I have had to examine those parts of my life that must exist.  For me, that is love and friendship and, most importantly, making a difference for other people.  Having a purpose and knowing what makes me feel alive has been key.  How I get there and the way the journey winds along the way has been less in my control.

So, I would challenge you to not make resolutions for 2013, but think about what you have learned in 2012 and how you will incorporate it into the year ahead to make you the best person you can be.


Happy New Year!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Do it Anyway: Creating a Life of Passionate Action

I had such a good time earlier this year taking the Continuing Education class at Stanford called "Do it Anyway:  Creating a Life of Passionate Action" that I had to let you know it is being offered again.  It is being offered at Stanford January 15th - February 19th in the evenings.

I am a huge fan of Professor John Krumboltz and Ryan Babineaux who are teaching the course.  

When I took the class this year, I met some wonderful people, took some chances, and had a lot of fun.  Most importantly, the class helped me shift how I look at life.

You can get more info here:  "Do It Anyway" or at Stanford Continuing Studies.

If you live anywhere near Stanford, I highly recommend taking this course.  It changed my life in many ways!


Friday, November 02, 2012

Reframing The Problem

I am really enjoying the online class on Creativity from Tina Seelig and Stanford.

If you have 3 minutes, you can get a taste of the class with this week's video.

"Reframing The Problem"


Sunday, October 07, 2012

What’s New in Online Learning

There is an explosion of change in the world of learning these days.  It is in online education.

I have been spending some extra time down at Stanford these days and because of being on campus, I have been exposed to what is happening online.

Many universities are stepping into this new universe.  One of the best sites to visit to explore this new world is Coursera.

Coursera was founded by two Stanford computer science professors, Professor Daphne Koller and Professor Andrew Ng.

Coursera has compiled amazing courses from universities all over the world. This fall, I will be taking “Think Again: How to Reason and Argue” by two professors at Duke University.  

In the past, online learning has been predominantly oriented towards math and science courses, but now more humanities and other liberal arts’ subjects are available. 
The way courses are being taught online is revolutionary and Coursera is one of the reasons for those changes.

An online course that is near and dear to my heart is called “A Crash Course on Creativity”.  It’s being taught by Professor Tina Seelig, one of my favorite professors at Stanford. Tina is beyond energizing in her teaching style.  I love her in the classroom and now you can have a chance to experience her as well.

“A Crash Course on Creativity”  is free (as are all these courses).  It is offered through the  “ Stanford Technology Ventures” program.

I think this is a wonderful opportunity to find out more about a subject that touches all of our lives and also to experience a class that, up until now, was only for Stanford students.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

How We See LIfe

I hope you have missed me...I am trying to live the life I write about these days and it leaves a little less time for my blog.

I am fortunate enough to be able to take a “sanity retreat”, as my close friend calls it, every year.   I go overseas for a week or two and travel alone.  It always allows me to understand myself better, grow as a person, and to remember the many things I have for which to be grateful.

I always take a book to make me think.  This time it was “Something More:  Excavating Your Authentic Self” by Sarah Ban Breathnach.  She wrote “Simple Abundance” and if you enjoyed that book, I know you will find this book very helpful and thoughtful.

I had an experience on my trip this time that reminded me of how important it is to look at life with an open mind and heart.

I had been traveling for about two weeks and I was very tired (though exhilarated) when I landed in my last stop which was Paris.  I am not a shopper for and perfumes are my weak spot.  Being 4’11 makes shopping a real pain, so it’s never been my first love.  But, I was in Paris and I wanted to buy just one or two things to bring home.  I mean, it was Paris for goodness’ sakes.

So, I headed out to an amazing specialty department store and I wandered.  I was tired and more eager to find gifts to bring home for friends and family than find something for myself.  I found nothing which is ridiculous if you have ever shopped in Paris.  The clothes are art work.  I saw no colors, no shapes, nothing.  I just sat down and decided to skip it.

Two days later after wandering Paris and just enjoying the sheer beauty of that city, I decided to go back to the same place and try again...same store, same clothes, different day and attitude.  

It was the most bizarre thing.  I saw beautiful clothes and lingerie everywhere I looked.  It was the exact same store with the exact same clothes, but everything was different.  Of course, I could still only afford to buy one or two things, but I was so taken aback by how the experience was like night and day.  I was rested, I was not in a hurry and I was open to everything around me.  

It reminded me that life really is like my little shopping experience.  It sounds like a cliche and it is because it’s true.  Every experience in life changes depending on how we go into it and what we expect.  I think that is such a hopeful sign because it means we have much more control over life than we think.  It is our attitude that is the game changer.  We all know that, but for me, it was good to be reminded of it.  That’s why I love travel so much.  It’s like each day, I get a lesson on how to live my life better and make the most of each minute.


Saturday, July 07, 2012

Where The Magic Happens

Venn diagram with two disjoint circles: a small one labelled "Your comfort zone" and a larger one labelled "Where the magic happens"

Where the magic happens.  In the last decade, every single time I have stretched myself and left the comfort zone, magic has happened.  I am not saying it was easy or comfortable, but magic happened.  In relationships, in jobs, no matter what, the experience was consistent.  Opening myself up to possibilities and taking chances has turned “existing” into really “living”.  
Over the years, I have written many times about leaving my comfort zone.  I think that is because as you reach mid-life, it is easier to ask the question, “why not?”.  If not now, when?
I am most surprised that I can be extremely brave in some aspects of my life and totally fearful in others.  It doesn’t even occur to me to be frightened in certain things I do and then in others, I can’t stop worrying about what taking a chance will mean.
I just know that the leaps and bounds I make in growing as a person are always in the circle on the left.  The circle on the right is just a holding pattern or, many times, a place to go backwards.
I love the image and the words above for two reasons.  First, the circles don’t meet.  There is no in between. Second, I am drawn to the emotions that I feel when I read the words that describe not being in your comfort zone.  It’s not just that it’s good for you to stretch yourself.  It’s not just that it helps you grow as a person.  It’s “where magic happens”.  I love that because I may be afraid to leave my comfort zone, but I am never too scared to go where magic happens.
Think back on your own life and experiences.  Did magic ever happen while you were in  your comfort zone?  When has magic happened?  Just thoughts that might make your days just a little bit better or a little less comfortable.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Start-Up of You

I just finished a new book which I highly recommend:
What if you ran your career or your life as if it were a start-up?  Not everyone wants to be or should be an entrepreneur, but everyone can live their life with the mindset and the skill set of an entrepreneur.
The very first words on the inside cover of this book are:  "Permanent Beta, noun:  To always be starting and to forever be a work in progress".   This is the wave of the future.
Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha have done an inspiring job of reminding us that the career path is not linear.  Most people will change jobs and careers many times in the years to come and that "adaptability creates stability".  It doesn't mean there is no planning, it just means that "you prioritize plans that offer the best chance at learning about yourself and the world".
The book goes into detail about taking intelligent risk, using flexible planning, and always presuming there will be change.  You can't avoid risk or change, the authors point out, but you can manage it.
I loved this book and I recommend it to any one just starting their career path or making changes along the way, which means just about everyone.
According to the authors, this is the most quoted sentence in the book,
“The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.”  That sentence alone is enough to guide you.
You can find more information on this website: 

Monday, March 05, 2012

“Not So Dirty” Dancing

A few months ago, I took a Continuing Education class at Stanford called, “Do It Anyway: Creating a Life of Passionate Action”.   It was a fantastic class and I will write more about it in my next post.  
For our homework each week, we were asked to do something we had never done before.
The woman sitting next to me in class had told me she loved ballroom dancing.  It made me think that was something I would love to do for my homework.  I mentioned it to her and she gave me a list of local places to go to and the courage to try it.  She turned out to be a wonderful friend and mentor in my new adventure.
One night in January, I decided to venture out on my own and see what would happen.  The theme of the Stanford class was to “just do it anyway” and I took that to heart.
There was a dance class before each “dance party”, so I had a chance to “get my feet wet” before the music really started.  It wasn’t that hard to follow along and I found I was really enjoying myself. 
What I really found was not just a place to dance, but an entire underground world that I didn’t know about.  First, it seemed if you loved ballroom dancing, you REALLY loved it and many people had been doing it for years.  The age span was varied and there were singles and well as couples.
I took the classes in Palo Alto, but I felt as if I had been dropped somewhere generations ago.  The women and men were exceedingly kind.  The men were very polite and followed by a number of rules that I was not used to.  First, men lead ALWAYS.  That one took a while for me to get the hang of, but I began to really enjoy it.  Second, if a mistake is made, it’s always the man’s fault because he is the leader.  I liked that one too.  Third, if a woman asks a man to dance, he must say “yes”.  So far, so good.
As I listened to the music and I watched and danced myself, I felt like I was transported to another world.  The waltz made me feel as if I was gliding across the dance floor in a movie.  The cha cha and the samba definitely brought out the latent Latin rhythm that was hiding inside me for the last decade or so.
The patience of the men I danced with and their kindness in teaching me steps that I didn’t know was consistent.  The feeling in the room was infectious and it was obvious how much fun everyone was having.  There seemed to be no feeling of competition whatsoever.  Each couple dancing was enjoying themselves in their own world.
One of the most interesting things I discovered was how many people who attended the dance worked with numbers or computers during the day.  The majority of the people seemed to be engineers, accountants, or those involved in other less people oriented careers.  Yet, at night, they turned into the most animated, beautiful dancers.  It was if there was a part of their personality that needed to be allowed out and this is where they were free to be someone other than they were during the day.

Well, needless to say, I am hooked.  I bought my dancing shoes a few weeks ago and I am thoroughly enjoying my “not so dirty” dancing.
Most importantly, it reminds me that trying new things is a very fun way to spice up your life.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Be Able to Walk Away

I haven’t written for a while...I have been doing a little more living and a little less writing.  I will fill you in on that at a later time.
In the meantime, I read a post from a great blog called, “” written by Leo Babauta.
I love this piece because it applies to so many areas of one’s life.  If you can master it, you will be on your way.  It eradicates fear and gives you a tremendous sense of confidence.

In any kind of negotiation, your ability to walk away is your strongest tool.
Those who can walk away from the negotiation — legitimately walk away, not just make a show of it — are in the strongest position. Those who are convinced they need to make the deal are in the weakest position.
This is true of negotiating when you’re buying a car, closing the sale of your new home, haggling in a foreign flea market, or trying to get a raise.
It’s also true of anything in life.
Know that there’s almost nothing you can’t walk away from.
If you are convinced you need a nice house with a walk-in closet and hardwood floors and a huge kitchen, you now have a weakness. You will give away precious life hours and savings to get it. Someone else who knows that those things aren’t absolutely necessary can walk away, and not need to spend so much money (and thus work hours) on that kind of house.
If you are convinced that you need Starbucks grande lattes every day, or an iPhone or iPad, or an SUV or Cooper Mini or BMW … you are in the weak position, because you can’t give it up. Someone else might know that those aren’t essential to happiness, and can walk away.
If you know that the man who is treating you badly (but who you just know will change someday, because, you know, he loves you) isn’t necessary for you to be happy, you can walk away. If you know that you can be happy alone, and that you need no one to make you happy, you can walk away.
If you know that there’s almost nothing you can’t walk away from, you can save yourself tons of money. Years of time. Mountains of headaches and heartaches. Boatloads of suffering.
You don’t need to walk away from everything, but you should know that you can. And when the cost of the deal is too great, too dear … walk away.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

How to Flow Through 2012

I have tried and done a lousy job in years past to make resolutions and follow-up on them.  I take that back.  I did an OK job.  One of my resolutions last year was not to be so hard on myself.
Anyway, I found an article from a woman named Tara Mohr which has a wonderful upbeat twist in thinking about how to make 2012 a very special year.
I have included it below.
Happy New Year!
If you were to ask me, “What one thing could I do to set myself up for a joyful, vibrant, fulfilling 2012?” it would be this: identify your core nutrients.

You know about the physical core nutrients you need: Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin D, and so on. You need some calcium and some iron. You need your Omega-3s.

Consider that you also have some emotional and spiritual core nutrients – things that are absolutely essential to your emotional and spiritual health. To your feeling good. To your feeling alive. To your feeling like yourself.

While we all have the same physical core nutrients, we each have a different set of emotional and spiritual core nutrients. We’ve each got to figure out what our core nutrients are.

Here’s how to do that:

Step 1: Think back on the experiences that made you feel most alive, most in flow, most like you were just fully yourself. Write down one or two of these experiences. It’s okay if you have to go back 20 years to find an experience that made you feel this way. It might be directing the high school theater production or babysitting a child you adored or climbing a mountain. Whatever shows up is fine.

Step 2: Now ask yourself, what were some of the elements that made that experience so fulfilling? For example, if your experience was “climbing a mountain” – you might realize it was a few things: the challenge, plus being in nature, plus the feeling of being in a community with your fellow climbers that for you, made this experience so satisfying.

Step 3: Next, ask yourself: what core nutrients was I getting through this experience? What things was I being fed through this – things that are vital to my spirit’s health and wellbeing? Maybe you discover that yes, nature is one of your core nutrients. Maybe you discover that novelty – seeing things you’ve never seen before is a core nutrient for you.

Step 4: Develop a list of 5 core nutrients. Thinking back on different fulfilling experiences in your life, identify 5 core nutrients. Core nutrients are always qualities – not activities. “Surfing” isn’t a core nutrient, but “connecting with water” or “being in my body” might be.

Step 5: Now, here’s the fun part. Look at your 2012 in light of your core nutrients. What will you do in 2012 to make sure you are getting your daily dose of each one? How will you shift routines and priorities to make sure you get your minimum requirement of these ingredients that are essential to your wellbeing? How creative can you get in finding them *in* your job, or *in* your parenting? How brave can you get in making time for them outside of those things?