Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Make It Up As You Go

Make it up 
As you go 
Future's wide open 
Nothing's written in stone 

I can't tell you what's best 
I don't know what comes next 
All I know is that I don't know anything 
All I got is today, and I prefer it that way 
Make a plan, but I know it's gonna change 
And that's okay 

Lyrics by the Plain White T’s

I have been at war with the concept of “uncertainty” for most of my life.  I like the lyrics in the song above because it helps me on my journey of trying to make peace with wanting to know what is next or feeling the need to make things black or white.

There are a number of reasons why I am slowly, very slowly coming to see uncertainty as my acquaintance, not yet my friend, but at least not my enemy.

When I want certainty so badly, I shortcut life’s lessons.  Most of the time, it takes a while to let things play out.  When I do that, I have more information with which to work.  I have more clarity because decisions I think I need to make don’t even come to pass because things change as life unravels at its own pace.

It helps if I take things more slowly and not jump to a decision. It tends to feel more in alignment with who I am.  By not rushing things just to have that feeling of certainty, it allows my internal voice to speak more loudly and stand out against the noise of other’s advice and even my own inner critic. 

Also, I find that if I don’t feel such a desperate need for certainty, I don’t make assumptions that aren’t necessarily true or miss red flags all in the hopes of shortening the process and feeling I am in control.

So, I am trying the motto, “Make It Up as You Go”.  It’s not easy, but I have to admit I am beginning to enjoy it.  

I ask myself what experiences over the last couple of years have been most meaningful and most in alignment with who I am.  They have been those I didn’t see coming and that had no certainty in them.  In fact, I just made it up as I went along and stayed open to opportunities.  I let things take their time and I didn’t rush just so I would feel certain.

As 2013 comes to a close and the new year is around the corner, it seems to me interesting questions to ask ourselves are: “What if you were really comfortable with uncertainty?  How would that change your life?  What would you do differently?”

Happy Holidays!


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ask for 100% of What You Want 100% of the Time

“Ask for 100% of what you want 100% of the time.”

I heard a friend of mine say he was living by that motto.  I have great respect for this individual and I was struck by this concept.

It seemed selfish to me and it didn’t seem as if it took the other person’s needs into account.

I asked him about that and he said, “This has nothing to do with ignoring other's needs or not being empathetic.  In my version of the idea, this is all about aligning your objectives and your heart with the future that you are trying to manifest.  My experience is that I "get" exactly what I imagine my future will be.  When I'm fuzzy about what I want, I get a "fuzzy" future.  

It is also a personal challenge to myself - I have a hard time believing that I deserve what I want.   I've come to realize that I pretend that it's all about the "other’s needs" when it's really just managing some fear and self-worth issues.”

I had a better understanding after he explained his thoughts on the idea. I have wanted to write about this concept, but I was still thinking hard about how I felt about it.

Now, I feel more comfortable for two reasons.  One, I think not demanding, but letting another person know what you are looking for is helpful.  It doesn’t mean you expect it, but it does put it out there and you never know what kind of compromise is possible.  You certainly don’t know if you don’t communicate it.

Second,  I agree with my friend who first mentioned the statement to me.  It is important to really ask yourself: “what do I want?”.  I think we are “fuzzy” sometimes about what it is we really want and taking the time to seriously consider that question leads to clarity.

It’s not so much about clarity in the details as clarity of the vision.  I wrote about this a few years ago regarding putting the emphasis on the “whats”, not the “hows” of your life.

Anyway, it’s a starting point and not a specific path.  

Asking for 100% of what you want 100% of the time is a way of being clear with yourself and others.

Let me know your thoughts.


Friday, September 06, 2013

Attitude is Everything

Lately, I have found myself being  “slightly more down” than I would like to be.  I know so much of life is how we think about it and what we tell ourselves.

I know that “attitude is everything”.  I have heard it a million times.  I also believe there is a higher authority that reminds us of what is important, especially when we are not paying attention the way we should.

Many times, I find there are signs that I have no choice but to notice and heed.

This morning, I went for a walk up into the hills behind where I live.  It was just me walking out on the trail.  It was early so there was no one around.  Then, kind of out of nowhere, this young girl walked by me and then stayed in front of me for at least 20 minutes.

On the back of her T-shirt, the words read, “ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING”.

She remained walking in front of me with those words yelling at me and then she ran off and I didn’t see her again.

Somehow, my walk was not only a good physical outing, but I couldn’t help but incorporate the advice that someone thought I should live by more deeply.


Saturday, August 03, 2013

Attached to Outcome

“Most of our troubles are due to our passionate desire for and attachment to things that we misapprehend as enduring entities.” ~Dalai Lama

I have spent much of the last couple of years reading, writing, and thinking about how I live my life and how to be a better and more content person.  Throughout those years, one particular concept constantly comes up for me:  being attached to outcome.
It means that much of our suffering and pain comes from feeling that only one ending or only one thing will make us happy.
That concept can permeate our lives, but lately I have watched myself in a pattern on a very small scale that reminded me of what I do on a much larger scale.
I am a creature of habit.  I like to try new things, but there are areas of my life that make me feel secure and give me a sense of control (not that it’s really true, but it feels that way).
Every morning, I have a cup of coffee in a very particular cup.  I love it.  It is shaped and painted in a way that is “perfect”.   A few months ago, I dropped it.  I looked everywhere for a cup just like it.  It was a hunt.  The replacement cup had to be shaped the same and look the same.
I felt lost without my old cup and the tradition of drinking from it every morning. I finally found something that looked fairly similar, but it wasn’t exactly the same.  I noticed when I was searching for the replacement that I looked only for that identical type of cup.  I couldn’t see anything else.  No variation of the cup would enter my view regardless of what store I was in.  I literally blocked out anything that could have been a new style or pattern.
Then, one day, I saw this amazing, clear, glass cup that had double walls (I know you have seen them) and it was beautiful and clean and it kept the coffee hot while the outer shell stayed cool.
I loved it!  I loved the shape, the feel, the look...it felt awesome and new!   I enjoyed it for months and then, I can’t believe this, but I broke it.  So, again, I looked. But, this time, I found a cup that was similar, but the shape was slightly different.  It was wonderful, but in the back of my mind, I missed the one I had broken and I looked everywhere for it.
Finally, a few days ago, I found the exact one I had broken.  I was so excited!  But, when I used it, I didn’t love it nearly as much as the newest cup I had been using.
OK, very long story, for a very simple point.  I was so stuck, so attached to my outcome of that original cup that I didn’t see anything around me.  It wasn’t until a new cup “spoke” to me that I opened up and let it in.  
I have seen this in my life over and over again.  Attaching to only one outcome is the end of creativity and peace and it does cause suffering, at least for me.
When I open my eyes and allow good things to come that don’t fit with my expectations or very specific goals, life changes. It isn’t exactly the same as I thought it would be, but it is beautiful and special in its own way.
I am so glad my first cup broke because if it hadn’t, I would never know how much joy is possible.  Obviously, this is not just about coffee cups.  It’s about life and what we make of it.
I feel grateful that we are never too old to change, never too old to grow, and that there are a myriad of “cups” that will make us happy.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

When You Have to Talk Yourself Into Something...

“When you have to talk yourself into something, it’s a bad sign --  that’s true of relationships, hiring and so many other parts of life.”

Paul Graham, Y Combinator Co Founder

I really like this quote.  I am a thinker...I have been trying to make decisions with my heart more, but my head is so damn noisy.

This quote means what it says.  Sometimes, you just know what to do and those are the best times.  For me, they are the quintessential decisions.  The pros and the cons are all well and good, but you really shouldn’t have to talk yourself into the answer your heart and soul already know.

Happy Summer!


Friday, May 31, 2013

Being In the Moment or Not

I know you have been getting a lot of information from me lately, but I haven’t been writing and, honestly, I miss it.

I don’t know about you, but I am finding that my will power level with technology is zilch.  I was in Target yesterday (which I actually enjoy) and between 3 text messages, 5 emails, and 2 phone calls, I didn’t focus very well.

I noticed two things: I didn’t enjoy the moment that I was in...and I did a lousy job of responding to the technological distractions.

Why did I have to even look at my phone, you may ask?  I don’t know.  I wish I knew the answer. Do I feel that the world cannot go on without my immediate assistance?  Am I afraid of missing something, the oh so ridiculous FOMO (fear of missing out)?

I don’t have an answer.  I just know it takes away from the moment and whatever I am doing, it becomes less enjoyable and less productive.

I can’t multi-task, well I can, I just don’t do it well. 

Do you have this problem or is it just me?  All I know is that I like just doing one thing at a time and I am fairly good at it.  This is the basis of mindfulness and why it brings peace to one’s life (I am told).  Anyway, I will be pursuing more mindfulness next time I am in Target.

I would love to hear your suggestions if you have found a way to temper your temptation to check your email or read a text when you are in the middle of doing something else.

I know there are times when you have to answer a text, email, or call.  That is the wonder of cell phones.  But, I am not a brain surgeon.  Life will go without me for an hour or a day or even longer.  

I am sure there is a “creative” solution I have not considered...

By the way, a very insightful reader, Johanna, just sent me this  5 minute video which perfectly describes what I am feeling.

"What The Internet is Doing to Our Brains" video


Monday, May 27, 2013

A Crash Course on Creativity - Weeks 5 and 6

Here are the final two weeks of “A Crash Course on Creativity”, the online course from the Stanford Venture Lab.

Week 5 is based on how to challenge assumptions.  Tina Seelig’s 6 minute video summarizes this concept.  She covers how to make brainstorming a truly productive experience.  

Week 6 is based on how to master a creative mindset.  Tina spends 4 minutes explaining this concept with the emphasis on the importance of failure.  She says, “If you aren’t throwing away a large percentage of your ideas, then you aren’t trying enough options.”  She discusses the two mindsets people have in taking on challenges:  those who have a fear of failure and those who are afraid of missing out.  There also those who struggle with a little of both.  It helps to know which end of the spectrum you tend to fall on.

The attitude is key.  As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”

As Tina says, “Every problem you face is an opportunity for a creative solution.” 

I have been, and continue to be, drawn to this type of thinking because it feels positive and open to me.  I feel less limited and more hopeful.

I hope you have enjoyed the summary of this course with Tina and if you want more, read her book, “inGenius:  A Crash Course on Creativity”.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Crash Course on Creativity - Week 4 - Connect and Combine

Tina Seelig summarizes the idea behind this week’s lesson in this 3 minute video.

Combine and Connect video


Wednesday, May 08, 2013

A Crash Course on Creativity - Week 3 - Reframing Problems

This is my weekly summary of the online course "A Crash Course on Creativity", taught by Tina Seelig, through the Venture Lab at Stanford.

Watch this quick 3 minute video where Tina gives you an overview of reframing problems and the importance of this tool.

In the video, Tina starts by quoting Albert Einstein,  “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first fifty-five minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

This is such an important issue.  For example, it's so easy to discuss things with people in terms of black and white which creates two problems.  First, it limits the discussion and creative alternatives don't even come into play.  Second, it increases the chance of miscommunication because you may not understand why the other person wants what they are asking for.  If you understand "why" they are requesting something, it can change the whole discussion and make it much easier to solve the problem.

Tina will also tell you, "we create frames for what we experience, and they both inform and limit the way we think".

If you are interested and want another short video which addresses reframing problems by comparing other cultures to ours and how different everyone does and sees things, here is a quick 2 minute TED talk by Derek Silvers called "Weird, or Just Different".


Thursday, May 02, 2013

Mind Mapping - A Resource for Becoming More Aware

OK, I am hooked on this creativity stuff, so feel free to hit “delete” if you are tired of it.

I have been using a resource for becoming more creative in the last week.  It has been around for years, but it’s new to me and it’s working wonders.

It’s called “Mind Mapping”.  It helps with this week’s lesson in creativity because I am seeing things more clearly than I have before with the help of this visual aid.

Many people use mind maps to organize and prioritize their daily thoughts.  I have been using it to become more aware of issues that tug at me and to help me get unstuck.

Here is a quick 2 minute video from Tina to briefly describe what mind maps are:

Mind Mapping Video

Now, I will tell you how they are changing my life.  I have always thought I was completely a “word” person.  I journal and write, and obviously, blog.  I never realized how visual I really am, probably because I can’t draw.  I get distracted just trying to draw a perfect circle (yes, for me, it has to be perfect...don’t ask).  So, a friend told me about an app called, “Simple Mind”.  This app is for the iPhone, iPad, or Android (also for the desktop, if you want).

This app has really made a difference for me.  For example, I put my problem or my issue in the center (and I have found doing two mind maps in a row really helped because I could see the parallel patterns and what I was doing).

First, I put the the main issue in the center, then each circle attached to that is a sub part of the problem and then you repeat.  Categories can represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items related to a central key word or idea.

Maybe it was just me, but suddenly I saw the patterns that I was repeating over and over.  Now, I should have been able to be more aware of this by just thinking about it or writing about it, but that didn’t happen.  When I saw the mind map, particularly two mind maps of different issues one right after another, I could see how I was getting stuck.  The clarity that came from the visual made me so aware of what I was doing that I have actually been able to stop some of my patterns.  I don’t know how long it will last, but just being aware of the pattern was a real “aha” moment, as Oprah would say.

Give it a try.  It can’t hurt and it might just help.  Best of all, it was really fun. If you are artistic, paper and pen is sufficient.  But, if you are like me, and even drawing stick figures is a challenge, consider the app or something like it that helps you overcome the hurdle of “ugly” shapes.

For just a general overview of mind maps, go to the Wikipedia link or this link on LiteMind


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Crash Course on Creativity - Week 2

Welcome to Week 2  -  Observation: Are You Paying Attention?

In this week's class, Tina is trying to get us to open our eyes and not live on autopilot so much.  Part of being more creative is noticing more about what is going on around you.

Here is a short 3 minute video where Tina talks about people who think they are lucky versus those that don't and how that affects what they see and do:  "Paying Attention".

This next video really hits home for me as I love to travel alone.  When I do that, I am hyper aware of my surroundings and the most amazing things happen to me.  In this short 4 minute video, Tom Kelley, a partner in IDEO, discusses how "Thinking Like a Traveler" changes your view, and consequently, makes you more creative and open to opportunities.

"Thinking Like a Traveler" video

He quotes Marcel Proust in the video to explain the phenomenon of paying attention, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes".

If you can have a higher state of awareness, you will see more opportunities.

I know it sounds like magic, but put into action, it opens up doors and new experiences.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Crash Course on Creativity - Week 1

As promised, I will be taking you through an abbreviated version of “A Crash Course on Creativity” offered by Stanford’s Venture Lab and taught by Professor Tina Seelig.  You can still sign up on line and participate if you like.

To get a great overview of the course and get started (and feel some of Tina’s contagious energy), watch her TED video.   

The reason I love this course is because I think creativity can change how you view your life and they way you live it.

In the first assignment, Tina mentions “that the renowned American inventor Alan Kay famously said, ‘The best way to predict the future is to invent it.’ We are all inventors of our own future. And creativity is at the heart of invention.”

So, to begin being creative, you need to remind yourself that there is always more than one answer to a question or to a problem in life.

Tina uses this simple example.  If you ask someone, “what does 5 + 5 equal?”,  there is only one answer.  If you ask, “what 2 numbers add up to 10?”, there are a myriad of answers.  

Her point, “The way you ask the question determines the answers you get.”

Consider this next time you are stuck.  See if there isn’t a different way to look at the situation and “open up the box”.  Just being aware that you have the ability to create more possibilities can sometimes be empowering in and of itself.

Just be aware, you can get “unstuck” by adding a little creativity to the situation.

More next week.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Crash Course on Creativity

I am very excited to be a part of an online class that is offered by Stanford and will begin next Monday, April 22nd.  Professor Tina Seelig will be teaching the class.  Tina is a phenomenal leader and you will find her energy is contagious and the concepts she explores are thought provoking and fun!

"Crash Course on Creativity" is free and will run for six weeks.  It is an online course based on much of the design thinking that is taught at Stanford's Institute of Design.  These concepts and more are part of Tina's new book, "inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity".

What I love about this course is that it helps you look at life in a different and more creative way.  For me, it helps me get unstuck.

This is a class you can take alone or sign up with others.  You can choose the amount of time you commit to the class or even just audit it.

For those of you that don't want to enroll and try it out, I will be doing a short blog piece for the next six weeks summarizing the content.  It will include a short five minute video and a quick summary of the concept.

I have found so many of these concepts and tools to be life changing, but I know everyone's time these days is limited, so I thought I would just summarize the ideas for you if you don't have time to take the class.

If you want more background information, you can read the article from the San Francisco Chronicle, "Stanford Professor Teaches Students to Have That Aha Moment".

Hope you will join the class or read my quick posts in the next six weeks to come.


To enroll in the class or find out more, you can click here:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Oprah & Brene Brown: Daring Greatly

It is rare that I write to you and say, "You need to see this".

Brene Brown and Oprah talk for two episodes about "Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Love, Live, Parent, and Lead".  That is the name of Brene Brown's new book which I have not yet read, but I recommend based on these interviews.

The topics discussed and the emotions they touch are so amazing in this two part conversation, I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Each episode is about 40 minutes.

Take the time to watch.  It is hard to imagine not getting at least one life changing concept out of these two shows.

I would love to hear your thoughts after you watch.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Words of Wisdom from Dr. Seuss

I love this quote.  My younger son mentioned it to me for the first time when he was 17.  He said he lived by that motto.  Sometimes it didn't make those around him very happy, but my son seemed quite at ease with himself by using those words to guide his life.

I put the quote up on my bulletin board in my office and, just lately, I have been thinking about its simple wisdom.

The older I get, believe it or not, the more I like myself.  Or, at least, I don't dislike myself as much as I used to.  I used to think that if someone didn't like me or what I did (or I perceived that was the case), I would feel rejected and ask what was wrong with me.  

But now, I think hard about the situation and whether I have done something that is inauthentic or goes against who I am at my core and ask myself "what's really going on here?".  Sometimes, someone is actually giving me constructive criticism and I learn to be a better person.  Other times, I see that quote on my bulletin board and I laugh.  I am who I am.  I have my flaws, as does everyone, but overall, I like who I am.  

And, if that means people mind what I say or do (assuming it's not mean), then it's time to move on.  I am impressed with those who have achieved a certain confidence in themselves earlier on than I have.  It has taken me longer, but that's OK, because that's also part of me too.

I hope that you too have found that place inside of you that doesn't always assume that it's you, not them that is the problem.  It's not a case of trying to be selfish or stubborn, it's just knowing "you can't please all the people all the time".  And, that is not such a bad thing.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Completing the Circle

Lately, I have been spending a lot of time mentoring college students, particularly women. I am not sure if it’s even part of my job description, but I am so drawn to it and I was trying to figure out why.  

I spend hours being there if they need me...answering emails, writing letters of recommendation, even being their friends on Facebook (which I am still not a fan of).  Basically, just being there for them both professionally and personally.

It gives me so much joy to be even a small part of these young women’s lives.  

Mentoring seems like such a win win situation.  There is not even a whiff of competition.  It’s all about connecting and providing a relationship different than a parent or friend.

I don’t know these young women that well, but I know that I want them to succeed.  I want them to be courageous, powerful, respectful and kind.  I want them to become role models for other women and, eventually, become mentors as well.

It’s this special circle that I believe in so strongly.

Years ago, when I was a law student, there was a woman who was friendly with my mother who created a women’s network.  The network group was set up to connect and help women both professionally and personally.  At least, that is what the woman who was the founder said.  There was one problem, it was all about her.  She only wanted women to be a part of the group who she thought could help her professionally.

In fact, when my mother asked if she could bring me to a meeting, the women’s network founder said, “no”.  She said I had nothing to offer to the group as I was still in school.  I kept thinking I am a law student who will become a lawyer who could maybe help the founder one day.  But, that wasn’t the biggest issue. Why didn’t she want to include young women to help them?

I swore that day that if I ever had the chance to be a mentor to young women that I would. It wouldn’t be about what I could get from them.  It would be how I could help them be the best that they could be at whatever that was.  

By the way, that women’s network failed, as it should have.  Networking, mentoring, helping the generation that is just starting out is a gift, an honor.

Every time I look into the young women’s eyes that I am helping right now, my heart feels confident that I can make a difference for them.  That I can inspire them and motivate them to take chances and be bold.

In return, I have the joy of knowing that one generation helping another is what connecting is all about.

I am grateful that I was rejected from that network when I was in law school because it helped shape my values and beliefs for years to come.

In the end, it provided an important lesson that I have never forgotten.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

25 Seconds Off the Clock

I was watching a football game with my son last weekend and he made a comment that by not using a timeout and letting the clock run, the team had lost 25 seconds and it wasn’t coming back.

I thought about that comment.  It really stuck in my mind.  Every minute, every hour, every day that you don’t use and enjoy, you lose.  You don’t get it back.

I met a wonderful woman over the holidays who said to me, “the one thing in life that is not renewable is time”.  That may be an overstatement, but it helps us remember that really thinking consciously about what you do and how you use your time is critical.  It’s not just about being efficient with your use of time, it’s about enjoying it.

Yes, I know, certain tasks must be accomplished.  But, what if not going for a walk or taking time to think quietly changes your quality of life? What if those things don’t happen or you don’t make time for them?

Lately, I have been working at a job that I love.  I spend hours doing it, thinking about it, and feeling grateful that I have a chance to enjoy this work.  But, I have also had less time to meditate, walk, cook, think, be at peace, and spend time with family and friends.

I realize that life is a pendulum and there needs to be balance.  No matter how much I love working these days, I need other quiet activities to balance the energy of the work.  

That’s where the 25 seconds comes in.  I won’t get that time back either.  I have come to learn that being in alignment or balance for me is an equal amount of adrenalin filled activity and quiet, introspective moments.  Too much of either throws me out of whack.

That means being conscious of being at one end of the spectrum or the other end and making a change.  It means knowing when I need down time, especially alone time, which re-energizes me.

Time is precious and that is not just a cliche.  What is wonderful, though, is if you are conscious about how you spend your time and whether you are truly spending time doing what you value, whether it is working hard or deep breathing. There is a sense of clarity, order, and balance when it is all working right for you.  It is different for every person.  It not as important how each of us spends our time as it is that we are consciously choosing how to spend it and acknowledging when we are off kilter.