Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Phenomenal Women

“The house does not rest upon the ground, but upon a woman.” ~ Mexican Proverb

I read this and had to chuckle as it is either a statement of profound wisdom or a proclamation made by the Mexican Ambassador to the Lollipop Guild upon seeing the legs and red shoes of the Wicked Witch of the East. Seriously, though, I do feel that women play an important role in the development of nest of home and the heart of any successful business.

Sitting by the fire yesterday evening after having put my sons to bed I found myself reminiscing about the days of my youth. I recalled the great challenge faced by young women my age in high school, namely, that it wasn’t “cool” to get good grades or to appear too smart. How tragic! I don’t know if that paradigm persists, but it certainly placed an artificial limitation on what could have been achieved in school by many who subscribed to that policy.

I am equally thankful for the men and women in my life. Father and mother. Aunts and uncles. Girlfriends and guy friends. All of them made important contributions to the rich nest of home that served as an introduction to me of love and truth.

That said, there were and are certain women I have and continue to be privileged to know. My mother. My childhood girlfriends. My teachers, counselors and professors. Co-workers. My mother-in-law. My wife. Truly phenomenal women. Dedicated. Passionate. Intelligent. Beautiful. Diligent. Devoted. Fearless.

If you haven’t had a chance to read Maya Angelou‘s rhythmic verse describing women, you’re in for a real treat.

Phenomenal Woman, by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I would love to hear from you as to what makes a woman a phenomenal woman in your eyes!

The Real You

“It is required of every man,” the ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and, if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death.” ~ Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”

How abundantly has your spirit within you walked abroad among your fellow-man? Are there times where you were more at rest with yourself, more willing to let your spirit “travel far and wide” than others? If so, why? What was different?

Many people have lived their lives running to and fro in the earth, desperately seeking a way to extract joy, pleasure, fulfillment and happiness from the world at large, while many others have lived their lives motivated almost exclusively by a deep-rooted fear of loss. Either approach misses the point of life entirely and both tend to end in the same shallow grave.

One of my favorite aspects of my company’s corporate culture is the idea that my team and I can build a safe place where the spirits within us can find safe harbor. I know of no one who has escaped the jaws of life as it now is without a bruise or two, and letting down the barriers and fronts to reveal one’s inner spirit can be a bit daunting at first. Over time, however, the spirit within shines more and more brightly, illuminating the way for others.

This all sounds a bit airy-fairy as I write this, but it is a very real, tangible and at times visceral process. When someone believes in you more than you believe in yourself, when someone trusts you more than you trust yourself and when someone pushes you more than you push yourself you have an opportunity to let go of self-constructed limitations to the expression of who you really are, The Real You.

It will likely take time, as those walls, defenses and scar tissue took time to build and grow, but given the right nourishment and surround, you can and should blossom. Holding back is the only thing that will stunt your growth or retard your progress.

I believe that people can always change for the better. Scrooge did it late in life in what is perhaps one of the most inspiring pieces of literature ever written, and so can you! It is never too late to give more freely of yourself to the world around you.

The question is: will you do what it takes to let your spirit travel farther and wider than you’ve permitted until now? Life is too short to hold back. Whether or not the ghost’s warning is true, I see no reason why anyone should tempt fate and fail to do his or her part in allowing for the unconditional and unrestricted flow of spirit into expression no matter how big or how small the task at hand might be.

Ernest the Earnest

Whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do it well; whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself completely; in great aims and in small I have always thoroughly been in earnest.” ~ Charles Dickens

We recently celebrated my father-in-law’s 70th birthday. His middle name is “Ernest,” a homonym of the word, earnest, that describes him to a “T.” One of the most diligent, dedicated and focused individuals I have ever met, he dedicated his life long ago to serving others, primarily through the profession of sales.

He told me the story of a sales conference convened in the 80s, where he was called on to speak words of inspiration to the assembly. Rather than pump up those attending in the usual fashion, he instead asked them to take 10 minutes to write down what they saw as their purpose in life.

Here’s what happened, in his words:

At first they seemed to be shocked with the question, perhaps even a little resentful to have to think in the terms of “purpose.” Their reaction was understandable; these were independent contractor outside sales reps who had it drilled in them to think almost exclusively in terms of goals.

After a few minutes, a few of them started writing, and pretty quickly all of them were writing. Some of them took quite a while with this exercise, especially those who took a while to get started. However, once they were on a roll they really got it going. Their entire countenance started changing, some of them even starting to smile at me (remember, I was not their manager but was their managers manager)!

At any rate, when they were finished I asked them if any would like to share their purpose with the rest of us. Slowly but surely (again) they started articulating their purpose to all of the others in the room (perhaps 20 of them were there). And here was the common theme: in all cases their purpose had to do with providing for others.

You can imagine the light bulbs that went off in the room during those moments. They actually started thinking of others rather than themselves. So we started comparing goals to purpose and discovered that goals were pretty much about what we could get
and that purpose was about what we could give or provide. We than wove that back into the essence of sales, which is service.

Later many of them had feedback that showed that though their goals changed, their purpose did not.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with wealth or material possessions, what truly matters in life is not what you have but how fully you give of yourself to others. Your fulfillment depends on your ability to assist others to theirs and there are no exceptions to this rule.

It’s never too late to begin to live your life in earnest. Betty White, for instance, lived what was likely one of her most productive and prolific years in 2010, the year she turned 88 (she’s old enough to be my father-in-law’s mother!). Just voted “Entertainer of the Year” by Associated Press, White beat out the cast of Glee, Conan O’Brian and other remarkably talented actors for the title. Were everyone to accomplish so much in their golden years!

In the spirit of my father-in-law’s question to those within earshot 20 plus years ago, I encourage you to take time today to write down – as clearly and as plainly as possible – what your purpose is as you see it right now. Then set about fulfilling it…in earnest!

“Collaboration is the stuff of growth.” ~ Sir Ken Robinson

Anyone concerned about the future of the world should spend time considering how we educate our children. I have friends who have children in different educational programs – public schools, private schools, Montessori programs, home schools, international schools. religious schools and so on and I know that they would all agree on at least one thing: education is important.

I came across this presentation by Sir Ken Robinson, a remarkable presenter I wrote about months ago in my post called “Bring on the Learning Revolution.” This lecture is well worth the next eleven minutes of your day:

I’ve long felt that education should be more about drawing out the inherent value, talents, radiance, etc. from children than it should be about stuffing them full of facts and figures that will hopefully be useful at some later date. Individuality creative expression suffers in our current system, and this unnatural homogenization is resulting in a pressure that our youth are increasingly incapable of bearing and navigating.

It appears that the presentation stops before you hear Sir Robinson’s suggestions as to how we might best revitalize education in this new era, but I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter!

To Be a Pilgrim

To Be a Pilgrim by John Bunyan

Who would true Valour see,
Let him come hither;
One here will Constant be,
Come Wind, come Weather.
There’s no Discouragement
Shall make him once Relent
His first avowed Intent,
To be a Pilgrim.

Whoso beset him round
With dismal Storys
Do but themselves Confound;
His Strength the more is.
No Lyon can him fright,
He’l with a Gyant Fight,
But he will have a right
To be a Pilgrim.

Hobgoblin, nor foul Fiend,
Can daunt his spirit:
He knows, he at the end
Shall Life Inherit.
Then Fancies fly away,
He’l fear not what men say,
He’l labour Night and Day
To be a pilgrim.

Life is a pilgrimage for those who chose to live and a slow march to the grave for those who prefer to simply exist. A pilgrimage, or a quest for a great moral purpose, is the aperture through which your significance is established. In fact, each day that you live is an opportunity to give expression to the blessings that surge forth from the fountain of life that you are.

As with any pilgrimage, obstacles and pitfalls must be met and overcome on a daily basis. Some days will be harder than others, but if you keep your heart and mind centered on the desire to reveal the highest and finest expression available to you, progress will be certain.

Do you see your life as purposeful journey filled with circumstances that serve as stepping stones or do you feel that you are wandering aimlessly through random experiences that lead nowhere? Where there is clarity of vision, you will flourish.

Your purpose isn’t something that you can cook up while sitting by a fire on a cool winter night. It isn’t something that you can learn from a book and neither is it something that another can outline for you. Your purpose is yours to discover and reveal.

Purpose is made known as you serve others. It is revealed organically. The more you focus on blessing and complementing those around you, the clearer your vision will become. Clarity of vision leads to clarity of purpose.

Take care that your pilgrimage does not end in mediocrity. Embrace life – both the good things and the bad – and make the most creative use of everything that comes your way. You deserve it and so does the world around you!

Worry and Choice

“Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen.  Keep in the sunlight.” ~Benjamin Franklin

Talking somebody down from the wall of worry is not an easy task. To do so you must deftly skirt accusations like “you just don’t understand” and “you’re not hearing me” while reassuring, distracting and refocusing attention on what can be done here and now.

Troubles are fed by the attention you pay to them. Wise is the person who understands the scope of his problems without succumbing to the temptation to fixate on them. Problems are resolved with solutions, not worries.

“Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.” ~ Mark Twain

One of the silliest things you can worry about are those things which you have no control over or any means of influencing. They are what they are and stressing about them will only drain the very battery you will draw upon to handle the challenges that pass through your sphere of influence.

If you have a list of worries, take the time to cross out those about which you can do nothing. Next to those crossed out write something you can handle or influence as things are now. You can either spend time worrying or moving in a productive direction. The choice is yours.

“You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.” ~ Pat Schroeder

Adding Value

“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” ~ Albert Einstein

I’ve been meeting with various members of my team about their plans for 2011 and while the details are unique to each one, a common theme is emerging.

Success follows those who add value.

If you care more about adding value than you do about what you can get out of the world around you, you’ll find that decision-making is cleaner, being free of the sticky tentacles of self-concern.

It’s easy to add value. The process begins with being observant, listening and asking questions on occasion and ends with offering whatever help is within your power to provide. It might be a word, a gesture, lending a hand or making a valuable connection. Help comes in many forms.

Many people fill their days consumed with self-interest, desperately trying to find ways to eek more satisfaction, pleasure, financial reward or fulfillment out of their immediate circumstances while dwelling on how the world makes them feel. Whether robed in gold or bronze at the end of the day, such an approach constrains to emptiness.

As the resolutions of the New Year begin to take shape in the womb of your mind, make a point to base your resolutions in the desire to add value to the world around you. Whether it is a fitness goal, a change of heart, habit or attitude, focus on how you can increase your ability to a blessing.

I am convinced that most diets and fitness plans fail because the individual goes into it hoping to get something out of it for him or herself rather than focusing on how he or she might be able to help others more effectively because of the change. Self-improvement is more sustainable when its focus is outwardly instead of inwardly focused.

2011 is full of promise for my team and for you. I trust that best use will be made of whatever comes our way. Onward and upward!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 134 other followers