Turning Commitment Failure into Commitment Success

At the beginning of each chapter of John R. Dallas’s book “We Need to Have A Word,” he asks the reader to answer several questions. They are: Seeing this chapter’s title word, what immediately comes to your open mind? Do you already have a working relationship with this word? Somewhere inside of you does this word instantly appeal?

As a response to a specific situation at-hand, will this word work to your and others’ advantage?

My working relationship with this week’s word Commitment conjures up images of a barren path that is straight with no beautiful greenery, no fun side-trips or surprise revelations. Because, once you commit you can’t change course, right? Au contraire my dear readers!
Author Tom Robbins, said it best, “Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.”
What I noticed about my relationship with Commitment is that I automatically went to the negative-side of my commitments. Not exercising, blowing off attending an event, not fulfilling my volunteer duties. The I more dwelled on the negative, the more inactive I became.

But, when I started focusing on the commitments I do fulfill: work, being there for a friend, cleaning my kitchen each night before I go to bed, writing this blog, I saw that I succeeded.

What I discovered as I thought about this word, I had another problem. My problem isn’t with committing, it’s with over committing.

In a 2005 study by Gal Zauberman, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and John Lynch Jr., PhD, Duke University, they found that when we commit to something we believe we will have more time, more money in the future that will help us fulfill the commitment.
According to Zauberman and Lynch, that’s false. So many things beyond our control are tossed in the way. Bad weather, traffic jams, can all wreak havoc on a commitment.
So, do I just not commit to anything? Obviously, that would be impractical.
Among the steps I’m taking to be better about my commitments, is the Tom Robbins approach — when I do commit, I’ll be flexible with my approach.
And, when I’m asked to commit, I’ll think it over and not automatically say yes as the pleaser in me is apt to do. I’ll ask myself: Is this something I really want to do? Do I really have the time to fulfill the commitment?
Margie Warrell, a writer for Forbes, who uses the moniker of “Daring people to work, live & lead more courageously” has some great great questions to contemplate in one of her Forbes article. Her first question is a gem, Is this aligned with my top priorities, goals and values? What a great question to get me focused.
As I contemplated this weeks word and answered Warrell’s first question, I was motivated to be more focused. Since I last published, I’ve been excersing more, eating better, and most importantly thinking through my ability to follow through before I say yes to any future commitment.

I am embracing no more un-focused committing. My new image when I think of commitment, is a lush green winding road with fun side trips, and surprise revelations.

Enjoy commitment!

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Authenticity: Meaningless to Meaningful

In July, I attended the World Domination Summit in Portland, OR, where there was a lot of discussion about Authenticity. The conclusion is, if you’re your authentic self, you’ll be successful and have a ton fun in life. Authenticity, this week’s word.

I’m looking for my authentic self. I have a vision of me searching in a jungle, all decked out in khaki, complete with the wide brimmed hat. But instead of a real jungle, it is the thick weeds in my brain that I’m hacking through to find my magical authentic self. There I am in the clearing, a cool woman who knows all, comfortable with herself, immune to what others think and having a blast.

Before I get there, I’m riddled with questions. Am I the good girl the nuns told me I should be? Am I the thin blond, the media tells me I should be? Am I the tough aggressive (not assertive) working girl? No, but I know these life-long influences add to my confusion of who my Authentic self is.
So what does any girl who grew up in the Cosmo Quiz age do? She turns to the jungle of modern-day quizzes to help her find her authentic self. The best grown-up one I found is StrengthFinders 2.0, which is highly recommended by two people I admire: John R. Dallas, the author of the book this blog is based on, and personal coach, Arlene Butler.

The quiz doesn’t tell you who your authentic self is, but it does identify your top strengths. These strengths, I believe can be an excellent guide you to your Authenticity.

If you know me, I don’t think there was any surprise in the results. My strengths are: Woo, Adaptability, Empathy, Communication, and Individualization.

I have to say Woo, (love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over) sounded a bit too whimsical for the real world! But, what is wrong with meeting new people and having them on your side? When I add in being empathetic, communicating well and recognizing their individuality, my woo can be pretty powerful. Therefore, being authentic is powerful.
I recognize that Authenticity is a buzz word. In a New York Times article about authenticity, Naomi S. Barton, a linguistics professor at American University, believes that authentic has become a fad. Barton believes that it has been used so often, it’s actually becoming meaningless.
No wonder I’m confused about Authenticity, it means so much and yet now nothing?

I don’t believe Authenticity is meaningless, bit overused, but still powerful. Take a look at Urban Dictionary’s definition: Being who you are, listening to yourself and making your own decisions, rather than buying all the crap society foists on you. Keep it real.

Let me know how you keep it real in a world that tells you otherwise.
Enjoy being your authentic self.
And, Happy Birthday to my sister Delia, a true authentic  person.

Civility, Washington and Ruth

We need a lot more of it. It is sometimes confused as boring, but I think if there was more civility in this world, it would be in a better place. Welcome to this week’s word, Civility.

One place a dash of civility could be helpful would be in Congress.  As we near another debt ceiling crisis, perhaps a bit of civility may help solve the problems. But, do our Senators and Representatives know how to be civil?

It seems to me that Etiquette — its history and modern day practices — which is a hobby of mine, is a big part of being civil. It’s fascinating to me how things have changed in this realm– some for the better. I can’t imagine having wear gloves with every outfit, especially on 90+ degree days. Stockings, yuck! But there are some rules that never change.

As I was writing this, I vaguely remembered a book on civility that I purchased years ago. Thankfully I put all of my etiquette books together, so it was easy to find. It’s a book by George Washington called “Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.”
Though the language in this slender booklet is very old fashioned, there wasn’t one rule that didn’t contain a germ of truth.
According to a description of the book, “The rules focus on self-respect and respect for others through details of etiquette.” These rules got him successfully through a revolution, birth of a nation and two presidential terms.
Washington’s opening rule: “Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.” Hmm. A good rule. A rule that doesn’t go out of style.
Washington discovered these rules when he was a teen. He copied them as a penmanship exercise.

Can’t you envision a young Washington sitting at a wooden table with a goose-feather quill pen, probably by candlelight, dutifully copying these 110 rules traced back to French Jesuits? These were rules he lived by for the rest of his life. A successful life. A memorable life.

When I first started writing this entry, I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to ask everyone who is reading this post to send a copy of Washington’s book to Senate Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Baynor for them to read and share with all of their colleagues.
Then I thought, wouldn’t it be better if we purchase a few as gifts to those who are in grammar school. Those who may be our future leaders?
Having said all that, there are times where being uncivil is appropriate. However, there are few caveats if you choose to misbehave:
  • You have to be doing something for the greater good, not personal gain
  • You have to be smarter than everyone in the room, I mean really be smart, not just think you’re smart
  • You have to have researched your passion and know, really know your subject
In my career, I was fortunate to meet a phenomenal woman, Ruth Rothstein, who could’ve been considered uncivil. But she had to. When she started on her journey to being the leader in bringing affordability and accessibility to healthcare, women were not taken seriously. Their roles were typically homemakers or secretaries.
To forge ahead, Rothstein had to be disruptive. She already knew her subject manner. It seems like that came easy to her. What didn’t come easy was the respect of the men in her peer group. So, she had to call it like she saw it.
She called men SOBs when warranted, she used the f word when needed, and disregarded naysayers.  She shocked people and did it well. And, she succeeded.
Using Rothstein’s example, if you’re not making headway with your cause or passion, being uncivil can be powerful. Remember, to be effective, you will need to be smarter than everyone in the room, and know your subject from every angle.
I didn’t know Rothstein as well as many of my friends did. She shocked me, frightened me, but was supportive of me.
So, this is dedicated to Rothstein, who died August 4th. She influenced so many people. I know her spirit lives on. So, look for some uncivil, yet productive behavior from those she mentored, because they are everywhere.
Civility. Share you thoughts, and recent examples of (positive) civility.

Birds and Bees Do It

Musicians do it, symphonies do it even the birds and bees do it, let’s do it, let’s collaborate. Collaborate,this week’s word.

As I googled the terms “best Collaborations” and “worst Collaborations” it resulted in some hilarious musical misfits. Eddie Murphy and Michael Jackson; Bing Crosby and David Bowie; David Bowie and Mick Jagger.

There was one titled best duets of all time. It’s an eclectic mix — there are three Nancy Sinatra duets!

The most poignant one (and apropos for this week) is a brief clip of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez at the March on Washington in1963 — you can scroll through this clip here. It’s number 8.

There’s such beauty in this collaboration. Not just with Baez and Dylan, but the collaboration of the stage participants, the collaboration of the marchers — all there to make a statement in a peaceful, yet powerful way. The longer version is here.

Collaboration can happen unexpectedly. As it did during King’s famous speech. According to CNN Reporters, Jim Polk and Alicia Stewart (and an example of collaborative writing) in an article about 9 things about MLK’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, they write:

King was the last speaker to address the crowd in Washington that day. As he spoke, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson called out to King, “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin.” Then he paused and said, “I still have a dream.”

Planned or not planned, I love collaboration. There is a euphoria when I work with a group and we collaborate. I’m also guilty of not being collaborative. It’s usually when my ego gets in the way. I wonder what great collaborations I missed.
I can’t help myself but end today’s blog on an up note. I don’t know why, every month or so, this tune pops in my head and I start laughing to myself.
Please enjoy Eddie Murphy as Stevie Wonder and Joe Piscopo as Frank Sinatra doing their special rendition of Ebony and Ivory.

Enjoy and Collaborate.

You Say Aggressive, I say Assertive

Cold, ruthless, harsh. That’s the image that came to mind when I saw this week’s word, Assertive.
Mass media hasn’t been charitable to women who are assertive. (Just look at the picture above, and this was one of the closest matches of the word I could find.) It appears that TV, newspapers, and magazines don’t know the definition. Heck, I didn’t know the real definition. Regrettably, too many times I allow mass media to influence my behavior and thinking. And, their definition of words.
Ah, but that’s slowly fading away.
In this Twitter world of instant communication, I’m taking time to learn the true meaning of words so I can communicate more effectively. By the way, don’t be fooled by “instant” communication, much of it is well planned.
When I discovered — through many hours of intense research (aka: surfing the web), of finding the real definition of Assertive, I discovered that I was confusing it with Aggressive.
I learned two excellent definitions of Assertive that I love and am going to work on incorporating into my life from this day forward. They are:
Assertive is about being confident in standing up for yourself and your beliefs while maintaining respectfor others. I urge you to take a look at this link, Claire Evans has some great communications tips.
Assertive: Behaving confidently and able to say in a direct way what you want or believe.
What a wonderful word and way to behave! Too bad it’s confused with aggression. Too bad I wasted time confusing the two words and reverting to being “ladylike.”
There are tons of web sites, geared to both men and women about how to be more assertive. There’re even medical studies (one by the famousMayo Clinic), that shows being more assertive leads to lower stress levels.
It all comes down to clear communication. I know that when I’m clearer in my communication — like when I order a venti green ice tea NOT sweetened, I get what I want. When I am not paying attention and don’t include the NOT sweetened, I usually don’t get what I want.

I also practice this in my workl-life. Though I’m better at being assertive on behalf of others, I now vow to be assertive on my own behalf. Which means I have to up my game on clearer communication. Why, or why do my communication skills fumble and my brain scramble?

Somewhere (and I suspect I know where) I was taught not to ask for what I want; I was taught to please. Oy, has that caused me a lot of problems, confusion and stress. As well as way too many over-sweetened beverages.

So, I am starting to be assertive by baby-steps. When I mis-order or get what I don’t want, I’ll politely point out that isn’t what I ordered and be clearer of what I want.  Simple. I will also not simmer with a low lever of anger that I never get what I want. Because, I am taking action to communicate in a more clear, thoughtful way.

As I mentioned in the beginning, I had a hard time finding a great picture that really depicted the word Assertive. Can you help?  Send me some pictures that more accurately portray the true meaning of Assertive and I will post them!
Assertive, enjoy the Beauty of the Word.

What is your secret Aspiration?

We all have them. Some are good, some can be dangerous and others can be darn fun. Some we share, some we keep hidden away in the depth of our soul. What are they? Aspirations. This week’s word.
In John R. Dallas’s chapter about Aspiration* he asks: “What did you aspire to as a child?” When I gave this some thought, two things came to mind. One was my youthful dream of becoming a stewardess. Remember, this was the late 60‘s-early 70‘s — the glamour days of travel. You wore great uniforms, traveled to exotic places and met men. There were piano lounges, even for those in coach. How divine!
My other goal was to be a grand hostess. I was in awe of the glamorous movies and their extravagant parties. The elegant dresses, the handsome men who liked to dance and a dreamy love affair. “Philadelphia Story” and the remake of “HIgh Society” are wonderful examples. Didn’t Louis Armstrong perform at all of the important parties?
My grand hostess aspiration was fueled by my favorite Christmas gift, Little Hostess Buffet. I was six when I received the beige plastic furniture with faux molding that had everything a girl needed to toss the most elegant of parties.  
Not surprisingly, “stewardess” disappeared from my list when I learned you had to clean up after others. Grand Hostess went out as well, because it wasn’t considered a career.
One of the many things that is becoming clearer while writing this blog is that aspirations needn’t be career oriented.

The reason I wanted to be a stewardess or in today’s terminology, a flight attendant, wasn’t because it was a career, it was because I wanted to see the world, meet knew people. The reason why I wanted to be a grand hostess, is because I love bringing people together in a festive atmosphere. Great connections can be made in both entertaining and traveling. Just take a look at Laura Schwartz’s book, Eat, Drink and Succeed! Great things can happen when having fun.

I moved away from entertaining, part financial (24 furlough days can hurt a budget–more about that in later blogs), part laziness, and part the fear of leaving someone off the list. Writing this blog holds me accountable. So world, I’ll  start regularly entertaining again and let you know the outcome. Perhaps I’ll become a 21st century Pamela Harriman (without the affairs!).
I continue to work on my aspiration of traveling and reaching the goal of visiting all 50 states. I have ten to go. I’ll knock one off this summer when I travel to Portland, Oregon for the World Domination Summit.
Maybe my aspirations haven’t changed, just the road to get there is different.

Please share your aspirations. Try putting out one that has previously been secret to you only. Perhaps by sharing you may be able to reach them.  Enjoy!

*For those of you new to the blog, these posts are inspired by John R. Dallas’  “We need to Have A Word.”  It’s my 52+ week journey of exploring the impact of words in this Twitter world.  If you would like to start at the beginning, go to: http://tinyurl.com/oyl69cn.

Mentor and Ascend

Feminine Mystique. Leaning In. The discussion of women and ascendency are back in the news after a dormant period. Ascendancy, this weeks word.

It’s been 50 years since Betty Frieden, wrote “Feminine Mystique”  A book that defined women’s lack of fulfilment in the home. Frieden”s work  started a revolution. It’s still going on, when in my mind it should be over.

I’d have to like to think the numbers of women in leadership positions in government and corporate America would’ve grown by leaps and bounds. But, the glass ceiling is still there waiting for women to take a sledge hammer and smash it wide open. Maybe it’s because women are still raised to not be violent, to be nice, so that taking that sledgehammer to the ceiling so abhorrent.

Sandberg’s “Lean In” thoughtfully addresses the reasons why women haven’t achieved the same success that’s come to easier to men. And, she gives concrete examples of how women can be more successful.

One powerful suggestion Sandberg offers is the strength of mentorship. Sandberg’s a strong advocate of seeking out mentors and mentoring — bothmen and women. This struck a deep cord inside of me.

I began to reflect on my career and noticed I didn’t have any true mentors, until now. I received help, advice and guidance from many wonderful people. But I didn’t have one (or two or three) people that I could consistently go to for advice, guidance and help. Like many women finding their way in the 80s, I muddled my way to success.

That’s why I love and try to make mentoring a large part of my career. I want to help women and men up their corporate ladder. Notice that I say, theircorporate ladder. Success and leadership are being redefined. It can still be the goal of becoming the first female President of the U.S. or not  We’re in a great age where we define our own Ascendancy.

Sandberg also changes the imagery from climbing up the corporate ladder, to ascending the jungle gym. I think the jungle gym is a heck of a lot of more fun. And, more productive than burning bras.

Ascendancy.  What is your jungle gym plan?

P.S. My new mentor is Elaine Soloway, fabulous blogger and book author. Check her book out “Division Street Princess.”   A great book to add to your summer reading list, now that it finally looks like we will have one in Chicago!