Friday, August 1, 2014

Wave After Wave Pt 3: Signs, Risks & Upsides

All around us, there are signs  - are you watching? paying attention? Eventually, when we make decisions, get opportunities or something happens, we look back, and realize there were signs all around us - good or bad. 

Just like seeing signs for the ocean being rough - green, yellow or red flags, sometimes, the secret to success is stepping back and getting an objective view and evaluation of the environment.  Sometimes you can do that yourself, but other times you need to enlist the objective feedback of others.  Either way, taking time out to "see the signs" can be helpful in navigating and making the most of your future or that of your family, team or business.

Take risks, but know the consequences and possible outcomes.

I watch people approach the beach. I watch them walk past the waring signs. They know it's bad out there, but they go anyway.  We make choices every day - but we don't always consciously consider the consequences - or seriously consider our own abilities and think about how the environment or a particular situation affects them.

I was skiing just a few years ago.  On my way down up to the top for the 2nd run, I recognized that my knees hurt and I felt funny.  I went anyway. On the same section of the run where I fell the time before, I had a horrible accident.   I knew I something was off, so was it worth doing again? 

I don't know - you can't go back, and you never know if you hadn't made choice "A" if choice "B" would have brought a situation better or worse.  If I had have taken a different route, who knows, I could have been hurt even worse - I don't ever think about "what if" - I am simply reminded that all actions have consequences.  You shouldn't spend too much time second guessing the past, becuase it's done, but you can learn from it.

For the future, be sure you are considering outcomes and doing the things that have consequences you are willing to live with. Life is all about trade offs - cause and effect, action and reaction, intended or unintended.  It happens al the time, so do your best to consider outcomes and make decisions with those in mind. 

Considering outcomes and risks is not just about assesing the potential bad, it's about considering the potential good - the pros -  the upside.  Some people stay paralized in their life and career becuase they are't creative or bold or positive enough to get excited about the upside to the degree needed to drive action.  Why do surfers brave the currents? Because although they know the risks, the upside of the experience, to them, is well worth it.  

Take personal responsibility, initiative and caluclated risks to do great things and shape both your life and the world around you. 

Wave After Wave Pt 2: Jumping In

Over time, when I've jumped into the waves just past the shore, I have interesting sensations: so happy to be in the ocean, to be free, to be a tiny speck in something so vast.  Then, I experience the cool jolt of the water, thinking 'wow, it looked warmer from the shore - geez it's cold'.  But then it's not so bad, and I get used to it quickly. 

Occasionally stepping off the shallow section into a drop off - having some random fishy nibble at you - wondering is this thing friend or foe? (Compare this to the memories you have of joining a new group, moving to new place, or starting a new job)

An aside: different oceans (like various new jobs or places) have different experiences. Just because the nibbles on the east Atlantic coast never gave me more than the occasional mild jellyfish sting should not convince me that the little jellies off the Mexican baja coast are safe (BTW - they are small portuguese man-o-war and being stung by them is an experience capable of making you believe that the end could be near).  

This is true when you change communities, friends or companies - some times the little things are different - don't assume all people and places are the same. Pay attention, give things a chance, and don't be discouraged if you get stung at the beginning. Learn and move on.

Back to the familiar, which we all gravitate to occastionally. In the ocean, that is experiencing the peaceful feeling of looking out onto the horizon and the soft sand under my feet as I walk out.  All conjuring up memories of happy moments form summers past. Some of us just want to bliss out enjoying the comfort of the familiar. I certainly enjoy those moments occasionally.

But I have learned that sometimes, if I am just coasting, chilling and enjoying what I know and taking very little risks, things change still change anyway.  ...like the feeling of being instantly and unexpectedly decimated by the giant wave that crashes over and practically makes me choke, creating instant fear of losing my swimsuit, swallowing water, wondering if there will be a surfboard near my head when I come up, thinking in my head - oh shit - how many seconds will I have above the water until another one of these dam things practically drowns me? Will I make it? Well, if this is it, it's been a good life.  

The point is, even when we think we are playing it safe, things happen that are beyond our control.  So if "stuff" is going to happen whether taking risks or playing it safe, shouldn't we take risks and at least have a chance at an awesome outcome?

I then jump up gasping for air, sunglasses gone, ponytail holder gone, salty snot coming out of my nose and spitting up the unsolicited dose of seawater I swallowed.  Oh - and let's not forget the sunscreen in the eyes with the combo of salt water that makes it impossible to see briefly, only adding to the adventure. 

When I was in my teens, I would glance back to the shore to see who saw my catastrophic pseudo-drowning scene.  Thinking, 'oh, how embarrassing', I walked in so confident and now I am a shell of a human.  
 
Of course, I learned over time that no one cared, it happens all the time.  Now, I couldn't care less who sees the recurring episode of ocean vs. Kat domination or people who witness some of my trials and challenges - especially while I am learning. This is is an important personal evolution in life and business - learning that we all go through the same struggles and those who judge don't matter, and those who matter don't judge. You'll be more comfortable taking risks and more successful faster if you come to that personal belief. 

Eventually, I stand up (yes...stand...because all of that happens in embarrassingly shallow water).  I realize I made it, and walk, then eventually swim out a little farther before the next wave or sea creature comes. 

This pattern describes so many of the challenges and opportunities we encoutner in life and the thoughts and moments we experience.  One lesson here is that things are rarely as easy as they look or as bad as you think they might be, and taking a risk for something you really want may be tough, but is usually "oh so worth it".

Wave After Wave Pt. 1: View from the Shore



So much in life is like waves in the ocean.  Sit and stare at the waves from the shore and think.  I did just that ... hence, several ocean-inspired blog posts will follow this one.
 
Watching from the Shore

What are you thinking when you watch from the shore? Are you admiring the calm? Fearing what lies beyond? Eyeing those with the courage to take on the waves? Plotting your fearless attempt? We all experience these thoughts when observing different things throughout life. How we view things says a lot about how we have grown up, how youthful we feel, what we feel is at risk, and what's going on in our world at the moment. 

I grew up near the ocean - and I can track how my view of jumping in and going on beyond the waves has evolved over time.  From wanting to jump in no matter what the conditions, to experiencing my first undertow and thinking I might drown, to watching surfers ride with ease and seeing kids deathly afraid of jumping in. 

I've tempted fate by swimming out too far, and I've sat on the shore wishing I had the strength to battle the waves, and I've had those just right moments where it was a little rough, but I went out - had to work for it, but enjoyed every moment and made it back in no problem. These experiences with the ocean, when I think about it - mirror how we view challenges, opportunities and life in general around us.  

Looks scary? Looks Easy? 

What's the difference between those who jump in and those who don't? Fearlessness, youth, perspective, experience, motivation, curiosity? Any and all of these to some degree usually. People of equal physical capability have very different views of what is possible or not possible when they have an opportunity to "jump in".   What separates those who seem to more resilient, take more risks, or forge ahead despite challenging paths ahead from those who don't? 

I recently heard a speaker on grit...courage, stick-to-it-ness, resilience.  It's amazing what ordinary people an do when they posess "grit".  We can be inspired to each do more ourselves when we understand that the gap between where we are and where we want to be (like the gap between the shore and just past the waves) may not be as large or uncrossable as we may think.   






Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Trust is a Must

Trust is THE foundation.

A relationship or business without trust is just a transaction. ...vulnerable to distraction, competition and trade offs. Whether you are working on your own personal relationships or trying to improve how consumers or clients relate to your product or service - trust is a must to create connections and loyalty. 

Trust is what creates sustainable relationships (personal or professional) that become true partnerships.  Partnerships are connections that are more difficult to break - they form becuase those involved get to see the other's resolve tested and proven.  Are you there for your family, friends, employees, customers or community when they need you?  

Being good when things are good is easy - being there and strong for others when they need it most is not - and that is what forms bonds that are tough to break.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Dear Mr. Jerk Face


Dear Mr. Jerk Face,

I was sitting at my favorite hotel, my favorite place in my favorite city, a place for people to chill and connect with others. Many were enjoying coffee and conversation, when not more than 3 feet from us, you felt the need to berate a server, telling her what a bad job she was doing in front of others.  It was horrible,  uncalled for, totally icked up the great vibe and was way out of line.

Not only did you yell at her for simply not getting cream and sugar (although you never asked for it) you did so loudly and unapologetically in front of others.  You then told woman with you, who I can only assume is your unfortunate and mortified wife, that you didn't care if it seemed rude or if it wasn't her fault, that it should be an automatic and it "made you feel better".   Uh… “ew, gross”.

I know I was not alone in thinking how awful you seemed or in recognizing how well the server handled your meanness with grace. Everyone has bad days, clearly including you, but that is no reason to abuse people who are there to bring the things you ask for at your bidding. I would have asked you to leave (nicely of course) if I had the right to do so, but alas, it is a public place and meany-pants are yet to be proactively banned. This place is so cool, there are even signs on the table saying ‘Love thy Neighbor’…where’s the love, man?

Other human beings, certainly undeserving strangers, are not your personal verbal whipping post. I'm sad for whatever environment or events in your life drove you to easily lash out on others and seem satisfied in doing so. I hope you get some help, work through your issues, and learn to be sweet one day.

But...Your negative energy was but a blip on the radar in that happy place. Although you may have tried to ruin her day, I assure you that the smiles, gratitude and tips she received from those who were witness to your outburst buried your little nuggets of meanness.  So as you see my rude friend, the pursuit to bring others down with your your dark  and cloudy 'tude is fruitless.
We all have our moments of temporary insanity, but most of us quickly realize it, apologize or at least express some kind of retraction.  I hope you and others like you read this. Smile, be sweet, spread some good in the world, and you will be surprised how much comes back your way to illuminate your life.  

I  love the service industry, those who serve others, and great environments of hospitality  - it’s such an honor to serve and witness great teams who do that well.   Those who serve have learned to love it, too ...even despite wussie-wussie-meanie-weenies like you :).

To all fellow peeps in the service industry, sometimes there’s the occasional bad, but it's worth it for all the good and happiness the act of serving brings; serve on my friends!
Signed, Ms. Smiley Face

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ripples

I attended the funeral for a dear friend and longtime mentor today, the amazing, irreplaceable, Fritzi Woods. The number of lives she positively affected are too many to count. 

The depth of gratitude so many people have for her generosity, candor and friendship is awe-inspiring.  The closeness and strength of her family, friends and colleagues, as a result of all that she instilled in them, is nothing short of miraculous.

As people got up to speak about her last night and today, I couldn’t help but think about ripples.  Every day, we have the opportunity to create huge waves of good in the world – to create ripples that then cause other people to do the same.
In a documentary on entrepreneurs, Fritzi once described a world where she influences those around her to be self-sufficient, strong and entrepreneurial, and they then influence those around them…and so on.  Watching her children, nieces and nephews, it was apparent that this vision was not an aspiration, but it had happened.  But none of us needed to see that to believe in her view, because we had experienced it ourselves.  She made so many of us better. She made me better.
She often said, “go big or go home” and “aspire higher” and she constantly preached about the fact that “we all have choice – and that is powerful”.  Those are things you may have read or heard before, but when she said it, you knew she meant it – with a steely resolve, a huge heart and a supportive stance. 
The ripples of her love, her strength, her clarity of purpose and her brilliance will be felt for generations to come.  I am happy to have been one little dot, floating around, when her ripples came my way. I know I am not alone in feeling that way.
The world is fortunate to have had someone like her for even just a short time, and the world will be better for all those she impacted. What a reminder of how important it is to create great ripples: give of yourself, build meaningful relationships,  be there for others, and to find and follow your purpose.  
I love you Fritzi – as do so many others. You inspire us all to aspire higher.  We will all miss you terribly, but your light, drive and passion will live on in all of us. 
Rock on, sister.  

To help contniue Fritzi's legacy - you can make a contribution to the "Aspire Higher - Fritzi Woods - scholarship fund", which will help women get educational and professional development opportuinties. http://www.weaspirehigher.com/give

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Right Perspective Often Reveals Hidden Beauty

It’s amazing how things always have the possibility of being more beautiful and more special than what you initially realize.  Almost all people and places have special, positive qualities - and if you take the time to get to know them or look from a different perspective, you'll see them. 

I was walking in one of my favorite areas of Atlanta, The Atlanta Beltline, and in a stretch that to most people is not particularly appealing. I walked upon what looked to be a pile of garbage, off to the side, under the overpass.  Because it looked like trash, I typically would have walked right past it and not looked again, since I had viewed it on my approach for what I thought it was - a pile of trash. 

However, this pile of trash, as you walked to the point where you were right in front of it, had a picture frame standing, fixed into the ground.  It was a non-verbal message to “look through the frame”.  And what do you know…it was a pile of trash.  But a very beautiful pile of materials as art. 

I wrote a post on this blog about frames a while back, on how the frame or lens through which we see the world is something we can evolve and improve, thereby improving our “view” on things. Of course, I was writing metaphorically back then.  ….but this was a very literal example of that. 
This art installation is a reminder to give people, places and things a chance to reveal their value and beauty by being open to what they could be.

I am in awe of the artist who created this stunning work of art, and I hope it’s a reminder to all who experience it that things are not always just what they seem at first glance.  

 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

See What's Possible, and Help Others Do the Same

You never know how who you help can go on to help the world.  If you make someone’s day, smile at them, give them a chance, coach them or inspire them,  hold them accountable or teach them lessons, they may go on to do the same for others in the future.

By doing good for just one person, in just one moment, you can affect the trajectory of many things, of many lives, all over the world.  Even if in some situations it’s not easy to be kind, gracious or positive, keep in mind it’s not just that moment that you are affecting, it’s many moments into the future. 
Let that motivate you to see beyond frustrating moments and contribute more kindness, respect and happiness in the world.  This requires an awareness of self, an awareness of others, a genuine desire to leave people, places and things better than you found them, and a basic belief in the good in people. If you don’t have those, what I am suggesting can be difficult to do.
I have always believed in and seen what is possible when many others do not.  My family and friends will tell you sometimes to the point of going after what is quite clearly impossible, but I rarely see things that way. I am acutely aware that most people are capable of more than they know.  And because people are capable of more than they know, so are families, communities, companies and countries.   
When I am around people every day, my heart and soul radiate with the awareness that I am in the presence of greatness.  Maybe greatness unfound, or greatness underdeveloped, but the potential or existence of greatness nonetheless.  You never know who will go on to do good or even great things or become the next great influencer in the world – so treat everyone like they are that person.
For these reasons and more, I believe we should all ‘assume positive intent’.  While believing that can put you in a position to occasionally be let down, that is by far the minority outcome. In general, when you assume positive intent, that is a version of believing in others more than they may believe in themselves, and often leaves a situation’s momentum moving forward for people to act more like the person they can become than the person they may have otherwise been in that moment.
Some people are farther away from the best version of themselves than others – they are affected by their environment over time, how much good or bad they’ve seen in their lives, and what they believe is possible at any given moment.  That is why it’s so important for each person to spread as much respect and kindness as possible.  If every person on the planet gave one effort of kindness or respect tomorrow, the positive ripple effects of that are so great that they are difficult to quantify. 
Every person has the possibility to do one small thing today that can create many more great things in the future.  It’s the small things, the little actions of respect and caring, and the expressed belief in others that can create big change in the world for the better over time. 
People believe more in themselves when they believe there is something to reach for, when they believe in tomorrow.  When people believe in tomorrow, when they feel they can be a part of progress, they almost always rise to the occasion.
See what’s possible not only in the world in general, but more importantly, in people you interact with every day.  See people for what they can do, not for what they are doing – and do your part to give them access to opportunity, respectful coaching, provide accountability, and help them see that they are capable of more than they know. 
Oh… and if you do encounter the occasional exception, the person who sucks life out of the world and spreads more negativity than they do positivity, move along…swiftly,  and focus again on the rest of the possibility and good around you. J

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Making Things Better

In the speeches I give, I often tell this story:

For years, my mother, with three young daughters, convinced herself to stay with our father in a not-so-great situation because, ‘things could be worse’… and ‘we’re lucky to have what we do’.  To a degree, she was right, and grattitude is an important characteristic to have, no matter what your circumstances.

However, it got to a point, where she said, ‘I can’t take it anymore’, and finally she decided, that just because things could be worse, it doesn’t mean you can’t and shouldn’t try to make them better.  She left our father, became a single mom, made it through, and we turned out great.  It was best for everyone, including our father - all are great now.

There is a line in Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In – “Just because things could be worse, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make them better.”  To me, this is SUCH an important line that underscores the message she trying to convey – it applies to personal and career decisions.  You just have to know your own appetite for ‘better’ or ‘more’ and know your own tolerance for the effort and challenge it may take to get there. 

Don't settle - and don't convince or allow yourself or you company to sit idle, just becuause thinks are stable and predictable or could be worse. You'll miss out on great things if you do that. Your family and your business or company deserve to grow and improve and help others do the same.

So Close, Yet So Far

It’s so easy it is to be an hour, an ocean, and seemingly a world apart.

The good of that, is that examples of progress and tomorrow’s opportunities are not far away.  The bad part is that the state of a community in one area can be deceivingly positive, where a nearby village or area can be devastatingly poor and desolate.
In Kigali, Rwanda, the city flourishes, that doesn't not mean all the people of Rwanda do. In Addis Ababa, a stay at the Sheraton gives you a first rate, first-world experience of clean, blissful relaxation.  The same could be said about areas in the US and all over the world.  Although Addis is a fabulous place, the farther out from there you go, the more desperate the situation is.
This is the most resounding lesson from doing work in developing countries. In our world, things are not always as good as they seem, and they are not always as bad as they seem.  
There's usually a different scenario nearby, or in the not too distant future. It may be better; it may be worse.  In addition, things are defined as terrible, bad, good or awesome relative to the environment you are in.  
To make as big of an impact on your life, family or business as possible, don't sit idly by in bliss in your great world; don't sit and pout about how tough things are, and don't get too comfy with things being 'good enough'.
Go looking for what is happening around you, and use that to gain perspective, be a better person, make smarter choices, and at the very least, to have empathy and avoid being blindsided.  A change or the inspiration to make a difference are often closer than we think.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Complex, Systemic Problems Require Complex Solutions


To our government: your ability to work together in the short term is an indication of your belief (or lack thereof) in yourselves and each other to work through the deeper elements of our challenges in the mid and longer term future. Remember, people rise to an occasion when they believe in a better tomorrow...do you?



No Shocker - Complex, systemic problems in the real world may require complex solutions. And, yes...compromise. 
Addressing deep challenges requires a series of variables to achieve a desired end of the equation. But just like variables in a math equation, each variable does not have to be the same for every scenario to still achieve the desired outcome.  If the desired outcome is 100, it could be 50 X2, 40+20+30+10, 20X2X2X1.25, or 1+1+1+1…. Until you get to 100.  Another way of saying, there are lots of ways to skin the cat!

The trick is to understand the variables, your situation, and the real end goal, and assess which variables are, or can be made stronger to make up for those variables that are weaker.  The typical variables needed in an equation of solving systemic problems are:

Awareness, Time, money, intellect and/or skill, formal authority/power, desire, collaboration, and motivation or incentive.  

In any scenario where a systemic issue is identified, those seeking to address and solve the issue must assess the level of each of these variables between themselves and those involved in the issue or 'system'. And then work together to mazimize what you've got.
In most cases, you don't have a high level of all variables, and in some very difficult situations, you have very low levels of all of them - and that, my friends, is what we call a big bummer and a tall mountain to climb.  But not impossible – and that is what you always have to remember in any tough situation.  The desired outcome is NEVER impossible – it could be highly unlikely, but that does not mean impossible.
In business, you’ll find bad eggs, crappy people, negative vibes, unprofessional practices .  In governments, you’ll find extreme partisan positioning, corruption, and protectionism.  These things  are sometimes so deep rooted and so systemic, that it’s tough to see how things can change or how big problems can be tackled collaboratively. 
At those points, you have a choice.  (Our government is tat this point) You can leave, give up and criticize, stand your ground, and view those involved as simply opposing forces, or you can ask yourself, “if not me, who?” “if not now, when?”. If you don’t get the wheels of change in motion, who will? And if you don’t do it now, when you (or someone) finally do, will be it be too late? 
 
And for our government:
I know many of you made promises to your constituents with phrases like "I will never" and "I will always".  This happens in business, too.  You take over a company and department and have an ideal set of goals.  But if you are confronted with a new reality and now know that sticking to that for the sake of sticking to it will lead to a more negative outcome for your constuents, it is your job as a leader to help inform your teams or voters, and make necessary exceptions to general rules to do what's best.
In private enterprise, you HAVE to work together to evolve and tweak your plans, or you go out of business.  Your competitors beat you, or your customers go to others who have figured it out. In government, that's not the case - it can't be the case, but we need to apply a little private enterprise pressure to our public-sector decision making processes. We also need civility, leaders taking each other to dinner, spend time together, look at each other as teams to work together, not as impersonal opposing forces.   
You are the leaders.  You, better than most, are supposed to be able to see the unintended consequences of certain decisions, think through them, work together, and make policy that keeps America progressing forward. Your constituents need you to do that.  Is sticking to your word important? Yes! Is not compromising on values critical? Yes!
But we need to focus on the most common values and commitments, moving America forward, progressing, getting people to work and keeping them there, creating a safe and productive living and working environment, keeping this country the best place to work and grow a life or business in the entire world.
You should also engage a diverse group of advisors like non-profits, big business, small business, the unemployed, other public sector groups, etc. to ensure you're evaluating consequences and perspectives. Keep us as part of the conversation, educate us on complex issues, so we understand why BIG compromise is sometimes necessary. We won't fault you for a compromise if it prevents an eventual, major meltdown.
That means you have to work together, you may have to make decisions that aren't exactly like you thought you would make them, but you have to trust in each other and believe that you are working toward a better tomorrow.  I do.
 
 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Focus on Forward



Sometimes, life can be funny.  Sometimes it’s awesome, sometimes it’s challenging, sometimes it’s fun, and sometimes it’s just tough. But while life is giving you its crazy ups and downs, youcan stay above the craziness and make the most of it by focusing on what’s forward, what’s next, what might be, what’s possible.

If things are great – focus on how you can protect that and leverage it into future ‘good stuff’.  If things are tough, focus on how things can improve and evolve, and what good can come out of it in the future.  Smile and know you are special enough to make a positive difference in your or in another's situation.

Having a great attitude even when there are ups and downs can only make things even better – so focus on forward, make the most of the challenges and opportunities that life brings, and be a positive force in the world. That's what life is about, after all.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

You Never Know the Impact You Have on Others

I am not sure if everyone is like this, but I know that who I am is in great part a result of of all the experiences I've had and all people that have been in my life.  It's like a snowball - you roll along through life and you pick up things that add up to who you become.  I often talk about the influence my mother had in my life, and she will always remain the single greatest influence on the core of who I am. 

But there have also been other people along the way who have made an impact, given me opportunities, and helped me evolve to become a better person. Like drops of water that create ripples, the big and small things people have done for me made a difference. In particular, there were three women who were so very important in my life while I was getting an early start in the working world. 

There was Bonnie, my first Manager in the restaurant industry, Cheryl, the first Vice President of the first corporate department I ever worked in/for, and Kim (we used to call her Kimmie), who was the last executive boss I had before I myself became an executive.  They are all incredibly powerful, kind, sophisticated, smart and talented in their own way. 

Some people just automatically assume I worked for men and some even suggest the opportunities I had were because I was young and cute, and that is the only possible reason I could have had the career advancement opportunities I did at such a young age.  That couldn't be farther from the truth.  In fact, being young and female had more potential to present hurdles for me to be taken seriously when I was just getting started, but I was able to overcome that becuase of these women.

These three women were top among the leaders that gave me chances and developed me while I was just getting my start.  They all taught me very different things, but there were common threads between them that were incredible leadership examples for me. Each of them literally trained and coached me at various points in my career, and  will never forget all the opportunities they gave me.

Bonnie hired me when I was a teenager, gave me leadership opportunities at a young age, and gave me tough, honest feedback when I wasn't living up to my potential.  Cheryl hired me for my first corporate job at the age of 20, set the bar for leading with grace and composure and inspiring others.  Kimi taught me how to build a department, coach and mentor others, and just like the other two, how to lead with integrity and how to transition from Manager to Director to Executive. 

Each of them gave me opportunities that I would not have otherwise had if they hadn't had the talent to teach and coach me and if they hadn't believed in me.  Each of them cared for me personally, eventually became friends and mentors, and taught me how to lead with compassion and resilience in business.  They each were respected and treated others with great respect. 

I don't know if I just got lucky having these amazing women in my professional and personal life, or of we all have those people around us and some of us just take the opportunity to learn from them more than others.  I looked up to them; I wanted to be like them; I wanted to do a good job for them, and I desperately feared ever letting them down. 

I was so young when I worked for them, yet they gave me chances that many people my age would have never had.  They always had my back, gave me honest coaching, and did the right things for the right reasons.  Interestingly, they are all now founders or chief executives of their own or of other great businesses. I still marvel at their business expertise, grace and success today.

I wrote a blog post a few years back titled "How did you get where you are"?  http://www.katcole.net/2011/01/how-did-you-get-where-you-are.html  I try to spend time thinking about that very thing every once in a while and not miss the opportunity to be eternally grateful for those who are a part of the answer to that question.  I could write a post every day for the rest of my life to name all the people who have helped or taught me along my journey, but I specifically thought of these amazing women today.

To Kimmie, Cheryl, and Bonnie, I cannot thank you enough for all you did for me.  I know I was fortunate to have all of you in one company at one time and to have had the chance to work for each of you directly. I would not have the opportunities I do today if it weren't for the opportunities you gave me so long ago. 

You will never know what an influence you were and are in my life, but I hope this post is a little reminder of the incredible impact you make on others.You will always have a special place in my heart, and I love each of you for the incredible human beings you are.

Friday, November 16, 2012

"I Can Do That"!



An excerpt from our upcoming ebook (Working Title), Lessons from the Village: what business leaders can learn from some of the poorest villages in the world


"I Can Do That" & the "Power" of Empowerment
‘What a human being can conceive, they can then believe and achieve’ ~ Ted Turner 

We were standing near a mango tree in the village of Garmaam, looking at rows of seedlings that had sprouted in a small plot.   I asked what it was, and Jeff said, "we are teaching them planting and irrigation methods, then locals will take the sprouts and plant them in other fertile areas in the village".  They must grow these sprouts in their area and reseed the area they came from. And then, Jeff said something simple and profound, "if we show them and they see it works, they say, “I can do that" and keep it going.
There were children standing around us (the little boy in this picture in particular), and I teared up instantly at the thought of these families and children being able to say, “I can do that” about such a critical skill at such a young age.   Imagine a small child, a starving child, being shown how to plant seeds and grow vegetables, and seeing their big eyes look up at you, smiling, and saying, “I can do that”.  It’s hard to describe the magic that is inherent in motivating, teaching and inspiring people to think, and then to exclaim, those words. Especially when their wellbeing or even their lives depend on it.
Applying that to our every day lives (both personal and work), to teach skills, in such a way that simply the knowledge that it can be done inspires confidence to act, is one of the great gifts we can provide in life. Are we looking in our lives and businesses to see which people only need to be taught or see something modeled in order to step up? Are we personally looking for opportunities ourselves to say, "I can do that" about something new?
Work on teaching others and empowering them to say, "I can do that"!
 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Africa, the Tattoo on My Soul


Visiting Africa is like getting a tattoo, but instead of a permanent mark left in ink on your skin, Africa leaves an indelible impression on your soul. Just like people say of getting a tattoo, once you’ve done it, you instantly want more, the same is true of visits to Africa.  That is especially true of visits to some of the poorest villages there.  

This can be true of any developing area or exotic location, but Africa is The Motherland and one special place that captures my heart.  It is also where I have traveled several times and where dear friends of mine and I had a recent journey that inspired the ebook that will soon be released as a fundraiser for the villages we visited. 
I hope you stay tuned, find value in our lessons, and download the book to join us in making a difference in the world. More to come...

Live a Wonderful Life


One way to live a wonderful life is to be passionate about something.
You can be most liked or loved when you are driven to joy by something that stirs your soul.  

Happiness that you display silently tells others that there's hope, that there's something more tomorrow than they see today, that things really are...good. And people rise to an occasion when they believe in tomorrow.

Seeing effort, energy and momentum from others is inspiring. It's a silent call to come along on the journey, to make the most of the time we have, to use our gifts to push our lives and our world forward.
When you are affected by the world around you and moved so deeply that you feel it in your soul, share it and let someone know. At that moment, you are a purpose-driven version of yourself.
And just when others have their toughest hour, that is when you should share your strength. Likewise, in your most difficult days, you will find comfort in the strength of others around you. We end up showing each other the way to a better moment, a better life.

Live, love, and do what you can to leave people, places and things, including yourself, better than you found them, better than they once were. Follow your heart and the things that move you, and help others do the same.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Breathe

Just a reminder to take a deep breath. When the pace of business in life goes from fast to seemingly tornadic or when it seems the stressful is starting to outweigh the peaceful, pause, and take a breath. Remember, things can always be better, and they can always be worse (much worse). Ultimately, you can face the pace or the stress more effectively if you are grounded by that perspective.

New challenges will present themselves perpetually; that is gauranteed, but you only have limited time on this earth.  Don't get caught up in your own head, in the whirlwind of activity or in the negative energy others can create. Take a pause, take a breath, and smile. You only have so many minutes with others around you - make the most of it by taking a deep breath, keeping things in perspective, and beeing that sense of calm, that pilar of strength, that friend or leader that you know you can be.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Make the most of what you've got!

I've learned that it’s often helpful and fun to do more than what’s expected with the time and items that you have. Life is short, so make the most of what you’ve got!
I was fortunate to grow up in a family where my mom modeled the mantra ‘make it happen’ and 'make the most of what you've got'.  When we ended up as a single parent household, she just ‘figured it out’, and by default, I learned to do the same.  And while that is a story in and of itself, for the purposes of this post, it provides the background on why I have a tendancy to come up with little tricks to be resourceful. and create a 'double duty' for many things I have.  Some items on my list are things a woman would carry for their intended/ normal use, but I have helped out both women and men-in-need by keeping these things handy.  So men, read on!

5 things I always have with me that do double duty!

1 – Smashbox eyeliner pot: normal use:  helps me look awake and pulled together / double duty: great black shoe polish – put a little on a scrape or scratch on your black shoes, and that client, boss or co-worker will never know! Men, this thing is only an inch wide an a half inch deep - even you can carry it to keep those shoes shiny!

2 – Hollywood tape: normal use: double sided tape that attaches fallen hems in pants or skirts or closes an area of a shirt that may be too ‘revealing’ for the audience at hand / double duty: great for meetings and events to hang up flipchart paper or posters to walls without damaging paint or wall paper

3 – Sunglasses with case and cloth: normal use: obvious/ double duty: the right glasses help you look pulled together after back to back days of traveling, the glasses case doubles as a small purse/bag when I don’t want to drag one around, and the cloth works wonders on my iPad & iPhone

4 – Tiny Altoids: no description needed, ‘curiously strong mint’ – always good for post coffee, pre meeting, or to offer a friend, co-worker or seat-mate on a plane

5 – Ponytail holder – great for sweeping the hair back to look professional when the weather is crazy, when you will be around more polished groups / double duty: tying up chords for electronics and headphones

While these little tools are almost ALWAYS on me, the most important benefit is when there is someone nearby in need, I get to be the unexpected helpful buddy. 

Being resourceful: Separate of the tools I keep around to be prepared, I have to make efficient use of my time.  My mantra: “Have Time to be Still? Then you Have Time to Squeeze”

Efficient Exercise:  don’t laugh, but if you are ever sitting near me on a plane, in a car, or during other activities like watching TV-  I might just be exercising and you don’t know it.  Anytime I am stuck in one place, I try to do little isometric exercises.  Sitting up straight and contracting muscles is a nice way to keep your muscles active (consult your Dr. before listening to me).  Not to mention, it makes me giggle, because although I’m typically solo (in a  car, at a desk), if someone is nearby,  I wonder if anyone notices.
One of my favorite tricks is when I blow dry my hair or watch TV when I'm in a hotel room, I do leg lifts to the side and kick backs.  It’s great, because I don’t use up time traveling to the gym, so I feel even more productive.  Of course, this doesn’t replace a good walk, jog, or session in the gym, but in my mind, it makes a difference.  Every little bit helps.

Of course, make the most of it all applies to things much more meaningful like time with your family and friends, but even though these little tips may sound silly, it never hurts to make the most of what you've got - even the simple stuff!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

So the fabric said to the thread...

Think of a thread.  The thread is just fine the way it is – all alone.  It may be a popular, beautiful, well made, unique thread.

But, when you put stress on it, need it to hold weight, or you need it to reach farther, you need other threads, it’s not likely to do the job alone. Alone, its use and value is not sustainable in a changing environment. 

A single thread can be strong, but a fabric woven of many strong threads can go farther and handle more.  If the thread doesn’t get woven through fabric with other threads, its use and value will be easily marginalized over time and either a new, better thread will replace it, or it will become irrelevant altogether.  Separate of a fabric of many threads having more strength and sustainability, it tends to be more visible, more difficult to discard, and more beautiful on the whole.

 Now think of that thread as an idea, a person (you), a company, or a product.  If you want your product, relationship, idea, company or career, to be sustainable, you maximize chances of success by being woven through the fabric of communities.  Not just your city, neighborhood, or zip code (although that is a critical part), but any community as it applies to the scenario.

 If you want to champion change, it will go more smoothly if you have spent time building relationships with those who the change affects.  If you are opening a new business, it will be more successful if you have built connections in the community, having given first to them, so when you ask them to give you their business, they are motivated to see you succeed.  If you don’t invest in a relationship by being a part of the other person’s world, when it comes time to lean on them, it may not be as strong as it otherwise could have been. 

Aside from the fact that being woven through the fabric of a community or person’s life is the best way to make the most of whatever you have and positively impact others, it is important for another reason.  When you are tethered to someone or to a community in a meaningful way, it’s more difficult for them to forget you or pass you by for the next best (fill in the blank – product, job, friend, service).  This is what makes connections the key to sustainability.  In addition, when you are more connected to the people and places you affect, you tend to make more informed choices that benefit the whole and that have a higher likelihood of success.

The message – connections matter, create strength and sustainability and allow anything to go and grow farther than it ever could alone.  In today’s world, lonely threads are less likely to be able to bear the weight and tension that can come with constant changes.  Call it relationships, connectivity, tethering, or the art of weaving an idea, company or person through the fabric of a community.  Call it whatever you like, but spend as much time ( if not more) on connecting to your environment to learn, serve others and weave a fabric and build community.

…a simple concept to maximize chances for doing well while doing good and overall success in your life and career. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hang On

I've recently talked to several people going through a dark time in their lives - overtaken by loss... or feeling lost.  Since my last blog post about a friend helping someone through an unexpected death of a husband, there's been more.  I am astounded by depth of pain human beings can experience but also by the strength that friends and family of those experiencing loss show when they step up, listen, and provide a feeling of comfort and hope. 

In many cases, these friends themselves are dealing with that loss, albeit possibly not in the same way as the immediate family.  How do you put your own grieving aside to do what needs to be done for others, and still give yourself some opportunity to process?  I'm sure it's different in every case, but those of you who fill that role know that you just channel the energy and find a way. 

Yesterday, after receiving a call about someone taking their own life, a song I've had in my iTunes for years came on - Hang On, by Plumb.  YouTube Hang On- Plumb   It was minutes after the call - seeming a little serendipitous.   This moved me so deeply, but initial sadness was held back by the inspirational message within the lyrics and thoughts of the comfort you can bring by uttering the words in the title and text of the song, "hang on".  

Don't underestimate the power you can have by helping someone gain perspective to hang on, and if your words or support don't seem to make a difference, don't stop trying. I recently read a quote, "if you're going through hell, keep walking." I think the rest of the quote should say, "because you'll eventually get through to a better place". The belief that there is a better option, a better way, something good on the other side, is the very thread that keeps most people hanging on.  If that belief has been lost, things look dark, and it can take a village to help someone build it back up.

There is so much beauty in the world and in life, but for some, from time to time, it's a little tough to see.  Reach out to help someone hang on, and don't forget that message yourself when times get tough.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Here's to the sun coming up...

Unexpected darkness has the ability to expose the light that has been there all along, but that doesn't make the dark any less frightening, challenging and lonely.   I have a friend who is supporting someone going through a terrible, unnexpected loss, and suddenly, this recount of a little run in the dark seemed meaningful to share.  

I went running early in the morning last week  - so early that it was dark.  When I walked outside with my running partner, we couldn't see.  The sky was black as night, with stars as bright as I've ever seen.  It was odd - it was morning, so we'd expect the rising sun, but instead, it was darkness.  The darkenss was a little scary.  I knew it was morning, and I knew I wasn't alone, but every step was filled with a little trepidation. 

It was helpful to have a running mate there to encourage me to go forward while my eyes adjusted.  I tried so hard to discern light, but it was difficult. I thought about how the stars are always here, and I expect to see them at night, when it's supposed to be dark, but when I see them in the morning, they seem surreal.  I have confidence in my ability to sense my environment, but despite the twinkling stars, every step brough a little fear of falling.  It was an interesting expeirence that day. It was so dark that after an initial walk, we took a brief pause to have coffee, talk, and wait out the last of the extreme darkness.  It was nice to have a partner there to wait out the darkest part of the morning. Eventually the sky brightened up, I could see just fine, and the run went on.  

A few days later, a friend that I love and respect shared that she was herself helping someone through a dark period.  She was helping a friend who had unexpectedly lost a husband. For whatever reason, I thought of this run and the fear that came with the unknown of the unexpected darkness.  I also thought of the confidence and support a friend can bring what times like these. Nothing can describe the loss, fear, and emotion this person must be going through. I hope that although she must feel frightened, bewildered and lost, that she feels the strenghth and partnership my friend is providing her. I hope she realizes she is not alone and that it's ok to pause to let the initial darkness pass... eventually, the sun will come up, and the stars will stay in her memory. 

...all my love to the family dealing with this loss, and my continued love and admiration to my friend, who is always looking to help others see the stars around them in anticipation of their rising sun...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

On Course?

There are times in your life when you feel like everything clicks and is on course, and there are times when it feels like you're losing your way.  It can be compared to taking a trip when you have a clear destination, a map, and a GPS or compass, versus being on a trip headed in a general direction, with new roads and exits that appear as a surprise.  Even when you have a destination, map, and GPS, unexpected diversions and opportunities appear.

It's fine to veer of the road, follow your gut or curiosity, and go off course. Do that too often, and you may find yourself in a place where your compass spins in circles or your GPS hasn't yet downloaded the roads your on. Simply stated, you won't always have a perfect map for where you are going, especially when you are moving fast and in uncharted areas. That can sometimes be difficult, but it is also an opportunity to have a more enriching journey, making the most of moments in your career and life.

To avoid feeling disoriented and slowing momentum to your ultimate destinations, take the time to calibrate, reset your GPS or your compass, and lay out your new, slightly altered map.   Don't forget, if you have anyone following you or traveling with you, this becomes even more important.  If you are leading a journey and feel a little off course,  your traveling companions will feel that way too (but even more so, because they have even less control).

Refocus on your purpose, your destination and your values.  For some, this is about remembering what really matters to you (family, career, goals, etc.); for others it is looking to your religion or spirituality to realign your purpose. Whatever it is for you, in whatever area of your work or life this applies, take the time to do evaluate where you are, where you are going, and reset.  Enjoy the journey, share it with others, and relish the rewards as you all arrive at your destinations.