Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I Need a Hero

Several things have happened over the course of the last 10 days that inspire me. Sometimes it has to happen in layers like this in order for us to enter into an awareness of the little things that affect us in a big way.  This is the tale of real leadership.

A Mentor

A dear friend and mentor whom I had not seen or talked to in many, many months called me out of the blue and asked me to drive and meet him for lunch so he could “check on” me and so he could be confident that I was doing ok. I have watched this man for the entirety of my life in the chamber industry.  He is a leader, he believes in the work of chambers in communities, he has a long family history in the industry, he is passionate about professional development, about leading and supporting newcomers to the industry and he has ALWAYS taken the time to share his gifts with me. He has believed in me, even when I was having a hard time believing in myself. He has never asked for anything in return and has always made it clear that he is there for me whenever I need it.

An Ally

I got word this morning of the passing of a dear, dear man in the community I just served as Chamber President. He was only 55 years old, but they were an amazingly rich 55 years. I stopped to give mental tribute to this man and his gifts to community and to me.  As a chamber executive, you lead a very public life very similar to a politician.  It can be very tricky to discover who you can really go to in certain situations. So much of what you need to accomplish for your organization can be politically charged and sometimes controversial. That being the case, finding allies is a challenge. From the day I stepped on the job, this was a person I could go to and expect sound, unbiased, fair and balanced advice. We didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, but if I left him a message, you could be sure that he would call me back. If I asked a question, he would give me a thoughtful answer, even if it wasn’t the one I wanted to hear. If I asked for help, he would give it if it was within his ability to do so. He led with trust and honor and integrity and did it with a huge smile and an awesome hug. I miss the very thought of him not being at the piled up desk in his little cubby hole of an office……..

A Community

Yet again, our country was struck by an unnecessary tragedy that has left us all weak with worry and fear. We don’t understand why these things happen. We don’t understand why beautiful children are struck down. We don’t understand what would cause someone to inflict this kind of harm on innocent people. We are overwhelmed at how quickly a happy event can be turned completely around. And yet again, a community came together to help, to heal, to support and to encourage. Then, entering into the midst of all the chaos comes Officer John Bradley delivering milk to families with small children during the Watertown lockdown.

Who are the heroes in your world? The people who fly under the radar, who don’t want applause or praise, who do what they do because they have such a sense of pride in and commitment to what is happening. When have YOU had an opportunity to be a hero and missed it because you were just too busy to be THAT connected. Real leadership demands this of us, but we have to recognize it and step up.

Take the time to make quiet, heroic statements. Do something JUST because……

  • Something for your community

  • Something for your organization

  • Something to help another individual

  • Something to help an emerging leader or young professional on their way

  • Something to encourage

  • Something to support

  • Something to make someone smile and understand that they are not in this alone

Monday, April 22, 2013

Awareness, Acceptance, Ownership

We like to think we are tolerant. We acknowledge the differences between ourselves and others. We adamantly denounce bigotry. We make bold statements about how we embrace differences and applaud ourselves for our perspective and our balance and our ability to accept and honor diversity.

Well let me blow up your concept of acceptance.

You may think you are the most tolerant person on the planet, but are you really?

What's the reality??

When it comes to the theory of acceptance here's the reality.......

It's not just about others, you must ALSO be completely accepting of YOU!!

We must be prepared to accept all these things:
  1. Others, of course
  2. YOU, without question or apology
  3. The past; yours and others, both familiar AND strange
  4. The future; whatever it may be 
  5. The unknown; educate yourself on things that affect you, but don't get trapped in what may happen or can't be controlled
  6. Current circumstances; change what you can and need to, but you CAN'T change some things; it's ok that you are 5'8" and not 5'4", it's ok that your family are who they are........
  7. Differences; not just in people, but in positions and opinions
  8. What you are capable of NOW; where you are and what you CAN do
Getting real about the layers of acceptance is the first step. Let your awareness of each of these areas kick in and make a list of anything that pops into mind regarding each one. Take stock. Where are you on each point? Are you doing better on some than others? Are you warm and tolerant about the differences in others, but completely lacking in acceptance of your own status??

Unless you accept you, how can you truly be accepting in all areas. It is unacceptable to embrace diversity in all people except yourself. Do the exercise and then OWN the results. Acceptance does NOT mean settling or staying where you are. It DOES mean becoming accountable for tolerance both of others AND yourself. THAT is real growth!!


Friday, April 12, 2013

Acknowledging Chaos Without Living It

I am an avid labyrinth walker. Wherever I travel, I look in the labyrinth finder to see if there is a public site in the vicinity of my travels.  There is a soothing peace that happens when you walk the path. There is a deliberate requirement to silence your mind and to just put one foot in front of the other. Once I was walking a new labyrinth path in a community I was visiting. It was located at the front entry of a Lutheran Seminary. The path was beautifully laid out, there was a garden surrounding it with benches for writing or meditation. I was so excited. Then I put my foot on the path and realized quickly that the location was on an incredibly busy street and the traffic going by was very, very distracting. Needless to say, my mind became very distracted, I even got confused and angry that I was being distracted from something that was so important to me. THEN....THEN, I realized the lesson I was supposed to learn from this walk. I focused on the order of the path, I let the confusion surround me in my little cocoon, I quieted my mind, although still aware that the noise and clutter were there, they were on the outside. It was a WOW moment!!

Here are the symptoms of chaos......
You can't focus.
Everything is upside down.
People and projects are pulling you in all directions.
You feel like everything is hard, everything is falling through.
One difficult thing moves you right into another one.
Your remarks and conversations are ALL negative.
Your house, your heart AND your head are just a mess!

Been there? Done that?

Believe it or not there is order in the middle of chaos. The trick is knowing that and moving through the confusion back toward that order. Living in chaos is like being caught up in a tornado, spinning and spinning out of control. You may be the most balanced, positive person on the planet, but if you get swept up in the wind of chaos, it can be hard to instantly snap out of it!

10 Steps to moving back toward order:

  1. Understand that chaos will always exist.
  2. Keep your awareness finely tuned in to pick up the signals.
  3. Realize that only YOU can turn the tide.
  4. Accept the confusion, stop and sit in it, fully acknowledging it, but let it be on the OUTSIDE.
  5. Take inventory of everything that feels out of order. Make an actual list to refer back to.
  6. Start to put things in order. Begin with something as simple as stacking everything up on your desk or straightening the room you are in. Setting things around you in order will help you begin the process to returning your life back to order.
  7. Stop having negative conversations with others and with yourself. Make a firm decision to stop it and when you feel the negative creeping in, catch it and think about something that makes you happy or grateful.
  8. Take a hard look at your relationships and separate yourself from anyone that may be part of the overriding problem. It may or may not be a permanent separation, but at least get some distance for now.
  9. Work very hard to concentrate on just one thing at a time. One project, one task, one responsibility, one relationship. Prioritize them on your inventory list and start at the top and work your way down. This will help the confusion subside and help you begin to feel a sense of accomplishment again and control over what is required.
  10. BELIEVE that you can create order. You've acknowledged that chaos will always exist, but you certainly don't have to LIVE in it. This is your decision, under your control. Put everything in order that you possibly can, focus on order and let the confusion surround you but not engulf you.
Deepak Chopra says, "In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you." You can do it, I know you can. Knowing your "enemy" is always the biggest step towards eradicating it!!!