Years ago, the cutest Old English Bulldogge to ever grace the face of this earth, Cain, called me mom. Okay, technically he didn’t call me anything because, as magical as he was, he couldn’t talk - so it was more of a self-declared title. But, still…
Cain snored like a 80 year old man that had lost his CPAP machine, loved a good walk, hated to have his picture taken and loved to chase bicycles. He even caught one once and it was the best damned day OF HIS LIFE. But more than anything, Cain loved to eat - treats, leftovers, whole live mice (true story) - everything but tomatoes.
The second best day of Cain’s life, after catching the bicycle, was the day he discovered a Magical Pancake Fairy had left a stack of cold, homemade flapjacks carefully arranged around the bird bath in our side yard. The Magical Pancake Fairy being my husband who had cooked enough pancakes for a family of eight, but we were only a family of two at the time, so he placed all the leftovers around the circumference of our bird bath in hopes of building the neighborhood’s first, and best, birdie breakfast buffet.
But Cain found the smorgasbord first and gobbled it up before a single bird ever got a peck.
From that day on Cain made a beeline for the bird bath every. single. time. we let him outside. He never gave up hope that the Magical Pancake Fairy would once again visit him. It was cute and endearing. That little brown and white, slobbery, bulldogge was nothing if not an eternal optimist.
Of course, Cain was a dog and his ability to reason was slim to nil. Luckily you and I have that ability to reason and would never do something as stupid as circle the bird bath day after day waiting for magical pancakes to show up, right?
You’re catching the sarcasm I’m throwing, right?
Truth is, we circle life’s bird baths for pancakes that were once there (or maybe never there) ALL the time… the job we’ve come to hate, but won’t leave. The relationship that now sucks the life out of us, but we feel too guilty to end. The pair of pants that stopped fitting five years ago, but hang in the closet to mock us every morning.
We humans have figured out how to outsmart thousands of years of predators, build self-driving cars, send people to alien planets and have frozen yogurt delivered by complete strangers in their own vehicles to my east side Detroit neighborhood WHENEVER I WANT (#UberEats4Life!), but we collectively keep hurting ourselves, day after day, waiting for the day it might not hurt.
If we’re not careful one day it will stop hurting - because we’ve finally gone completely numb or, worse - we’ve died.
Hashtag - doomandgloom. :(
We can make different choices - though after years of circling the bird bath most of us have lost the ability to find a different path or that belief that we can carve a new path ourselves. Luckily there are lots of people among us that not only know how to help us make different choices, they want to do so. Find those that have figured out how to stop circling the bird bath themselves - or those that were trained on how to do so - or both. They have valuable wisdom to share.
Change never happens in a vacuum. Gather your people.
Who are the people that are helping you see a different path when you can’t see if for yourself? Share your story by leaving a comment below. Who knows who you might inspire!
With much love and gratitude,
There are few beliefs I hold near and dear to my heart when it comes to my work: that my clients always know their own answers and my job is to draw them out and mimic them back so that they can be heard; that defining a guiding north star is an important first step; that we can learn much by studying our own success stories; and that our solutions are often much, much less complicated than we think them to be.
It seems simplistic, but it is the antithesis of how my profession has traditionally operated - particularly in corporate settings where we waltz into a situation, pick apart and highlight every problem and then make lists and lists of all your ailments and the interventions we are going to apply to solve your problem and change you to become what or who we think you should be.
Focusing on strength and possibility is not only a research-backed best practice for facilitating change - it also feels better. And I’m of the opinion that when science supports what our heart and gut already know to be true, we must listen.
So why do we continue to focus on what doesn’t work? On the problems? Why do we feel so comfortable ticking off lists and lists of everything that is wrong with us and what we don’t have, but become paralyzed when trying to list even one way in which we are already strong?
The simple answer is, of course, we’ve been trained to be this way.
If we didn’t feel bad about ourselves there are entire industries that would go out of business. We are constantly being trained to desire tinier waists, shinier hair, brighter teeth, bigger boobs, bigger houses, faster cars, better zip codes - more, better, more, better - so someone can make a buck off of us.
You know what else has to be bigger and better? Our obstacles and our triumphs. It’s not enough that we succeed, it only “really” matters if we do so by suffering greatly and overcoming insurmountable odds first. No one’s doing cover stories on housewife Patrice from suburbia that decided to start exploring her passion of making art by giving up one day a week in the carpool to take a ceramics class, after all.
So we make up problems to focus on where they might not truly exist, or we focus on them when they aren’t truly an issue because something has to be wrong with us - something BIGGER - so our triumph can be bigger. We’ve been trained that our stories - that we - only really matter if we are sensational.
It’s what led me to joke the other day at the SheHive, “Not only did I do it, I did so while BEING FAT! I overcame SO. MUCH.”
There will always be people that have sensational stories - and people like me that can spin not-so-sensational stories into gold because it is our predisposition. They are the outliers, however - not the norm. Your “boring” story is your amazing story and it is important. The day you woke up and smiled into the mirror instead of frowning… the ceramics class you finally signed up for… the walk around the block… the fact that you woke up 30 minutes early for some “me” time… the small step you took to become more of who you are… all important stories.
What is one small, ordinary thing you did today to be more of who you are? Inspire others to embrace their important, non-sensational victories by sharing your own below.
With much love and gratitude,
Recently Ursula wrote: “It’s important to have an idea of where we are going in life. It’s more important to not hold the ideal state so tight that we miss the new possibilities. We learn something new about ourselves every day that informs the path… if we listen.”
Ahhhh….listening. That thing.
We all have defining moments in our lives. Marriage, the birth of a child, divorce, a death, the recession.
My story actually goes back to a myth that I bought into - completely, although I did not know it – perpetrated by beloved professors in grad school. Like other organization development types, I had aspirations of really truly helping my clients be better people and lead better organizations. I had trained, developed insights, knew myself and experienced the very interventions I anticipated planning for my clients. It worked for me, so why not?
After leaving a good job, I was offered a gig at General Motors, by a friend and former coworker, who had earlier left the large consulting firm where we were both employed, to live a normal lifestyle. For non-road warriors, that means Sleeps in One’s Own Bed at Night. I loved it at GM – challenging, strong personalities, stronger work norms and amazingly smart people.
About a year in, an executive associated with the project I worked on offered me a job. She needed a PMO lead – someone to manage the office that controlled the finances, metrics, reporting etc. for a gigantic program that would (and did) change the way GM’s information technology function did business. The problem was, it wasn’t stuff I knew, like team building and coaching, it was managing a Program Office in a fractious IT environment where the various suppliers were competing, by design, for future work with GM. Not only that, she informed me that it was a high risk assignment and we could all get fired if things did not go well. We were Switzerland and the others were at war. She wanted someone who could protect the PMO team from other suppliers – and GM, if needed, and thought I could do that job well.
So I took it.
My consultations were on the fly, consoling exhausted team members in secluded offices, late nights finishing status reports, figuring out new ways to explain What Went Wrong to the clients and mediating endless conflicts. What I was doing had little resemblance to the situations we confidently diagnosed in grad school or the work I had aspired to and I thought my friends were doing. Colleagues asked me why I left organization development. PMO lead? What did I know about technology anyway? I had lost my way professionally.
Like Ursula, I did not know it at the time, but that was the best organization development experience I could have had. I can function well in technology - I get how people are organized, how they think and what they fear. I have replaced my own fear of angry outbursts with firm, directive compassion when necessary.
Listening is hard. What makes us decide to take on a new opportunity, especially if it has few familiar signals? How do you keep listening when silent countervailing voices are yelling, "Mistake! Mistake!"
Looking back, I see many detours and stopping off points that were not always my choice, but that became opportunities. Not sure I could have seen it then…but they were there.
And I am better off for it.
Have a story of your own to share about where YOU are going? I'd love to hear it - and so would others! Shoot us an email or drop a comment below.