Archive for the ‘Helping others’ Category

Follow the leader: a game for adults

January 21, 2010

I have been accused of being a leader. The word has been tossed my way enough lately that I stopped dodging it and let it splat right in my face. Why am I a leader?

First, I gathered all the other words that people say defines a leader.

… inspiration, imagination, vision, mission, goal, courageousness, inspiring, fair minded, competency, honesty, listener, analytical thinker, ambitious, enthusiastic, wisdom, belief in others, calm, team builder, communicator, know self, relationship builder, confidence, optimism, dedication openness, creativity …

I guess people call me a leader because I possess many of these qualities. I’ve always been creative, goal-oriented and a natural communicator. The rest of these characteristics are a result of being stubborn, nosy and a know-it-all (or if I don’t, I learn.) Leadership qualities aren’t innate can be learned.

In the past few months, I’ve studied a local leader – in professional sales training, in a procrastination workshop and in his radio interviews. Tom Cox teaches leadership to CEOs and business owners, but that’s not what intrigues me about him.

Tom’s manner, listening skills and astute questions are magnetizing. He seems poised and fearless. Tom seems flawless except that he uses his flaws to educate. When Tom explains the importance of systems in his life, he first illustrates his life without organizational tools. He says he lacks discipline and is easily distracted. Plus, he succumbs to bad habits. To combat these destructive traits, he studies systems, leaders and successes. He interviews leaders, blogs about their systems and shares their successes so WE can improve.

This is where our traits intersect. I also covet the lessons of leaders, healers and innovators. I put courage in my heart and fear the icebox. Most importantly, I am honest and transparent about my faults, weaknesses and doubts. I will tell a room of strangers that I struggle with frustration and negative thoughts.

Yet, like Tom, I’m not complaining. I’m sharing to grow; to be educated and to educate. I learn how you battle negative traits, mimic your successes and then tell others. I set goals and fail. I set them again and make it.

We need leaders in families, groups, religion, government and work places. Even born leaders must work to improve themselves and their habits. You and I can both be great leaders if we do three things.

1) Be stubborn as hell. Tom recounted how Winston Churchill had a terrible stutter and was told to seek work that didn’t require talking. But he was stubborn as hell and look what happened.

2) Study yourself. Who are you? Who do you want to be? Where do you need the most improvement? Can you learn from events in your life or do you taint life experiences with unnecessary judgments?

3) Seek knowledge in others. As babies we learn by watching, listening and imitating. Why do we stop? Regardless of your leadership level, there is plenty more to learn.

Thanks Tom, for leading by example.

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Know-it-all aims to listen instead of solve

December 18, 2009

I have always been quick to answer a question. I am smart and bold in most situations and therefore tend to speak up. Lately, this fearlessness seems a blockade to wisdom.

A couple of weeks ago a life coach spoke about listening instead of solving. He was a guest speaker at Sandler President’s Club, a professional sales training group. My eyes – and my ears – were truly opened.

My habit of solving has helped people, I’m certain. People often come to me for help or answers and I enjoy the creative problem solving. But this coach pointed out that I could help people more by asking guiding questions. What? Not produce answers for everyone all the time?

Launcher (coach) James Warrick says people will act on their own answers and leadership 65-80% of the time. Meanwhile, they act on what we say 15-25% of the time. “Ask, don’t tell” keeps rolling around in my head.

In the weeks since his talk, I have caught myself just about to spit out a solution. And then I try to use questions instead. What would you like to do about this? What do you see happening in the situation? What could you do this week to make a difference? What would it look like from the other person’s point of view?

Little disclaimer here for those who know me well: I will always be a know-it-all. It’s in my DNA. As a “bighead” (according to the thesaurus) I want to know this too. How do I help people by asking good questions so they may take action and responsibility? The first step is the toughest; shut up and really listen.

When James repeated what I had said, a neon light flashed. I had the answers to my pondering, yet wasn’t listening to myself. So I set a few goals for using this technique with loved ones and in my job search.

1)      Ask myself and listen. Listen to my body, my heart and my words.

2)      Listen carefully to others and ask what they mean. Don’t assume I understand what they are saying, really strive to understand.

3)      Find out what a person – or company’s – needs are and ask how the needs could be filled INSTEAD offering solutions. There may be a point where I can suggest a book or discuss ways I fill the need. That point is when they ASK me.

In closing, I must mention that other people who heard this talk have helped me by asking “what do you hear yourself saying” or “it sounds like you know the answer to your question” instead of TELLING me.

I have no problem asking someone “what do you think I should do?” However, it’s my job to figure it out. So, I will try to banish “I think” and “I heard you say” from my lips.

Instead, as James would put it, “what will you walk away with from this conversation?”

How my friend’s suicide opened my heart

December 17, 2009

(This is a seriously hurtful blog. If you are from Montana and knew my friend, I urge you to read this only if you have time and energy to process some pain.)

I promised myself I would read the diary and my police statement about the day my friend killed himself. I promised I would do it by today, the day. I want healing to continue.

It’s been eight years. Although the pain is still fresh, I am mostly recovered. I no longer believe I failed him. I sleep at night without pills, booze or nightmares. I rarely start crying for no reason.

I’ll tell our story as briefly as possible. Brandy had been my friend since 8th grade. He knew me better than most girlfriends. We were reunited at our 10year high school reunion, after years apart. Best friends again, we went kayaking, camping and to concerts.

But my friend was suffering from depression and head trauma from falls at work and climbing. His hands shook and he drank to still them. The drinking got him in trouble. He was more frustrated with life every day.

I did not remember before reading the diary, but he often called in the middle of night seeking comfort, insight and someone to listen. I have been to the black place, so I understood. I told him medication and therapy could help him. I told him depression is like kayaking, sometimes you have to paddle against whitewater.

I had blocked much of our last conversation. I was on lunch, cramming down a baked potato when he called. He was scared; too scared to go outside or leave the couch. He said it was all over. I tried to talk him out of it. He told me the gun was cocked and put it in his mouth.

I had forgotten that I said “I love you no matter what.” I only recalled my last words, which were “If you’re going to talk to me like that, I’m going to hang up.” He hung up and pulled the trigger.

Why would I share such a horrible story? My heart wants me to share how my life changed.

Now I treat every day like my last. I quit waiting to say or do things. I reconnected with my biological father after 24 years. I evaluated my life and realized I wanted out of journalism and out of Wyoming. I set a timeline for leaving (and left!)

With my heart split in two, it was truly open. My relationships became more intimate. I learned to trust. I fell in love. I met angels, personally.

People in distress still befriend me and impart their suffering. I have lost two more friends to suicide since moving to Oregon. I realize God calls me to listen and love without attachment to the outcome. And to tell people that suicide may free you, but it lives in me – and your loved ones – forever.

(Please seek help if you think suicide is an answer. It is a thought you can defeat.)

I resolve to stop hunching over this keyboard

December 8, 2009

New Year’s Resolution are too trendy so I gave them up. Instead, I set resolutions and goals frequently and display them in obvious places. A new resolution prompted me to pick the brain of our roommate Nick – a physical therapist intern and bodybuilder.

What can the average person do to improve well being? He said, “health (fitness) is not a destination. It’s a journey, a change, a habit. Ask yourself if you really want to change. If you’re not ready, it’s not going to work.”

He says a drastic overhaul is nearly impossible to maintain, while building on small changes leads to success. In 21 days, that small change becomes a habit. Good, I am not ready for a drastic overhaul; I’m already doing that on the career front. Before sharing his advice on workouts and eating habits, I need a basic change – better posture.

Nick says poor posture lands more people in physical therapy than trauma. Hunching over while typing, lifting incorrectly even doing exercises improperly. My other friend, a PT assistant, reminds me constantly to unlock my knees. Her comments sparked the habit of watching how I stand. I really need a habit of proper body alignment. Yoga does me wonders, but it’s not 24-7. I struggle to keep my ears in line with my shoulders, standing and sitting. When I see an elderly lady with osteoporosis, I want to kick myself.

Nick offered these tips:

1) Set a reminder (on computer or cell phone) to check your posture hourly.
2) When sitting, your hip, shoulder and ear should be inline.
3) The low back should have an inward curve; this may require a rolled towel. A great trick he demonstrated is to put a soft belt in a dishtowel, roll the towel around it and then tie the roll to your chair so it stays. Cheap and comfy!
4) Keep knees and arms bent at 90 degrees; arms close to your body.
5) Bring things (like the mouse and monitor) closer to you; don’t reach for them.
6) Adjust the monitor so the top is at eye level; this keeps the chin up.

It’s not rocket science, yet I keep catching myself in bad posture. I hope good habits are set before month’s end. Until then, Nick warned that changing posture habits will probably cause aches in new places. Great, more aches.

My favorite tip from Nick is “act like a cat. Cats lay in the same place for hours. What’s the first thing they do when they get up? They stretch.”

He says we should take a couple minutes every hour to stretch. Because we do so many things in a forward motion, he recommends a back bend to open the chest. Ah, much better.

The OSHA site backs up this info and offers images. http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/positions.html

(Nicholas Adams finishes his third internship (of four) in Portland this week. Although he wont’ typically tell you how to live, he will graciously offer advice if asked. Nick is on a vigorous workout schedule and food regime, but makes room for treats and Thanksgiving carbs. I will be sharing more of his insights soon.)

Could my four-leaf clovers change your life?

December 7, 2009

Believe

Four-leaf clovers in resin-filled bezels dry in the sun on my kitchen table. I see them and am encouraged.

You see, I married a beautiful musician who had never seen a four-leaf clover and therefore did not believe in them. I insisted they exist because I found one on my 14th birthday. I wrote him a poem seven years ago that began like this:

Searching for a four-leaf clover
to prove you are an angel
when you sleep
and dawn fills your mouth
Music is conceived in your veins
A pin prick and it
will drip laughter and sorrow …

But with no proof, he had a hard time believing. Then a few months ago, my friend and I plopped down in the yard and I said “you should sit by those clovers because I know there are four-leafed ones out here.” And there were. She found two that day. I found a third the next day. Three times since I have been in the yard crying and begging for a sign that everything will be okay. I found 11 more four-leaf clovers.

Now I believe and others do too.

Our beliefs create our realities. My reality is formed by these beliefs.

Angels surround us and conspire on our behalves at all times. You can call them out in an emergency or just realize most coincidences aren’t. (Example: the day you are late for work for some stupid reason. Racing toward the office, you come up on a horrific accident that could have been your fate.)

Miracles happen, AND can happen from “bad” things. In hindsight, it is easy to see how traumatic events opened glorious doorways. Not so easy in the moment, I know. So I ask, what good can come from my struggle today?

We all get second chances … to start over, to say I’m sorry, to love, to achieve a failed goal, to be a better person. On that note, I also believe that people want to be good and do good things, yet sometimes it is easier to act poorly, do wrong or simply look the other way. If we don’t believe in luck, angels and miracles, then how the hell are we going to offer kindness to strangers? Please, just get out of my way so I can pick two lemons and go home.

I believe today has something for me. You have something for me; a smile, a message, a blessing – a parking spot! And I have something for you; a heart full of wonder. I wonder how I can help you, warm you or heal you. I wonder if you believe in my four-leaf clovers, could that change your life? I believe so.

… So with fingertips stained
like lawn-mowing shoes
I part leaves
Searching for your solace
Proof
of what I smell in your skin
See in glacier eyes.

Dousing stinkin’ attitude with Jedi mind tricks

December 6, 2009

I don’t want to blog today because I’m irritated and don’t want to express this mood. I guess it’s a good day to share my tricks for triggering gratitude and happiness – and put them to use.

Exercise is a biggie and I should probably hit the gym when I finish writing. I prefer a brisk walk in nature, but 38 degrees and 40-mile-an hour winds are not that appealing. Regardless of the exercise venue, I tend to shift thoughts as soon as I sweat.

Often I do yoga while listening to one of my favorite sources of positive information; http://www.healingwiththemasters.com. Jennifer McLean interviews healers, teachers and positive thinkers a couple of times a week and posts replays of the audio. Sign up is free and the lessons are priceless. I hope there is a replay in my inbox today.

I have learned many mind tricks from interviews with people like Jo Dunning, Guy Finley, Marci Shimoff and Neale Donald Walsch. Plus these short talks lead to fantastic books, CDs, coaching and other programs.

Daily affirmations are a necessary way to stay positive and I need one today. When Stuart Smalley of SNL introduced affirmations … “Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggonit, people like me!” … he was hilarious. Now I know this is a seriously good way to empower myself. Some of my affirmations are simple like “I can handle whatever happens today.” This site, http://bit.ly/uvvPF, gathers people’s affirmations and helps me write my own. From today, I plan to use daily blogging as a reminder to write an affirmation.

Making lists of things I love or am grateful for is another nifty tool. My heart fills with thankfulness when I list all the things I love. On a day like today, I open the journal and recall the reasons life rocks.

Visualizing also lifts my spirits. This is a tool I believe every positive person uses and something I should do more often. If I picture my happiest memory, my favorite place in the mountains or my dream for the future, this minute’s frustration fades. I use photos to stimulate these visions sometimes. I looked at several before typing today.

The last stunt I use on myself is self-inflicted laughter. Whatever it takes to rouse the giggles is fair game: playing with the cat, comedy on YouTube, a favorite movie, or the never-fail stare down in the mirror. Laughter is the best reminder that happiness comes from within – and it is always in there if I dig. Thanks to digging, I feel better already.

Giving from the heart, since the wallet’s empty

December 5, 2009

If you are struggling to cover the bills and keep food on the table, how do you give to others? This year I hope to change lives by giving from the heart … and the hall closet.

You can’t dodge the deluge of holiday paraphernalia on the street, in the media and at the grocery store. Rather than focus on my wants, I’m concentrating on ways to give – both to friends and family and those less fortunate than me.

A friend shared this story about a homeless man who froze to death in Eugene last year – http://bit.ly/88Nm2c.The article explains how we can volunteer or give to warming centers.

The glint of sun on frost this morning reminded me that I have extra blankets, socks and warm clothes to give. I can warm someone without spending a dime.

Portland has a new shelter in need of everything – http://bit.ly/5scdXo . You probably also have something to give. That ugly dish from Aunt Betty could really do some good here!

I hope items homemade or re-gifted from the hall closet will also warm friends and family. (Thoughts of Popsicle-stick figures and ugly sweaters just flashed through your mind, didn’t they?) I’m not going to give away crap, but nice things I don’t use. Here are a few ideas.

1) Recycled gifts: My girlfriend and I have a knack for finding unbroken sand dollars, but they are collecting dust. So I strengthened a few with Mod Podge and glued on chains (from broken jewelry) for hangers. Pretty tree ornament now and house decoration after!

Other gracious recycling ideas are books, recipes and holiday containers filled with inexpensive candies.

2) Re-gifts: Sometimes we receive, or buy, things that we don’t like such as smelly lotions, framed art or jewelry you never wear. If you know someone the gift fits, why not pass it on? (Just not to the original giver!)

3) Time: Sharing your benefits both the recipient and giver. I helped my girlfriend decorate her tree because her daughter no longer lives here. We both enjoyed the camaraderie and I came home with decorations she no longer needed.

Baking with a friend, helping young parents or running errands for an elderly person are a few ways I can give. My husband and I love to cook so we often feed friends at our home and theirs!

This effort to give from the heart and warm people on the street distracts from the economy’s pinch and personal stress. I feel warmer already. If you have other ways I can give at little cost, please share!

Happy? Not always. But Larque every day.

December 1, 2009

I might have been born happy but cannot recall those early years. Thankfully, I don’t recall my mom and biological father fighting for my first six years either. I do recall a surly teenager who bore my name and thought life was a miserable waste of time. Yikes!

“Happy as a Larque” is a personal trek in boots that don’t always fit right and the disregard of blisters caused by life friction. I haven’t discovered a magical way to disregard the friction itself, so I am not always happy. On the worst of days I go to a terrible dark place and think the worst of thoughts.

My adventure is about gathering wisdom so I may experience bliss and help others. I stash these tools in that dark place so I can navigate my way back. Every time it gets easier.

My goal is to amass strategies and reasons to be happy so that I may be a beacon of light to others. I have already experienced countless paths to happiness; some little jaunts and others grappling, scraping, gut-wrenching climbs. I hope to share with you both types of excursions. I hope that sharing some of the painful points on my journey will comfort you and further strengthen me.

When you pass me on the street and I look deep in your eyes and smile (which I will), don’t assume I am some Pollyanna, Gandhi or Einstein. I am merely one girl who desires to be a mix of the three … optimistic, loving and brilliant.

Cynics around me who scoff at my “fairy dust” education might want to look a bit closer. The sprinkles of faith, trust, belief and passion that glitter around me are bling you can’t buy with money. You have to earn this stuff the hard way – one lesson at a time.

(NOTE: This is the first blog in the Jumping Duck Media 30 Days of Blogging Challenge. http://bit.ly/6bUdVx)