Advice

Today's Word: 6.09.14...Even When You Can't See The Path, Begin Walking!

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When I think about some of the most incredible moments in my life, I must say that I do not know where I would be without faith.

Whether it has been packing my things and moving to New York when I felt my spiritual and creative development being stifled in my previous environment or taking on a role as a leader in a previously failing school, being able to say yes even when fear was yelling "hell no," has not only opened my mind to the infinite possibilities in this life, but it has allowed me to discover the courage that exists within me.

Some of the greatest moments in your life will come simply because you will have the courage to begin walking without knowing where the path may lead.

Thursday 6.05.14... How To Learn From Everyone

“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.” ― Pema Chödrön

Each day we are given is another opportunity to get it right, a chance to learn something about the ways of this world and who we are in it. We don't learn by closing our minds and our heart but by pushing ourselves to always be open to the infinite possibilities of life, however they may come.

If we seek to deepen our understanding, we must be willing to learn something from every source, no matter how small and simple the lesson may seem. It is not enough to sit at the feet of those we admire and trust. We have to be open to engaging with the stranger, the taxi driver, the small child who is likely more creative than we are because their perception has not yet been tainted and yes, even the ones who annoy us.

I have discovered that when I am annoyed by someone or something, it is not an opportunity for me to run, but a moment for me to pause and simply ask, "what are you here to show me about myself?"

Wednesday, 6/4/14...Deepen Your Relationships By Being Honest

“Lying is, almost by definition, a refusal to cooperate with others. It condenses a lack of trust and trustworthiness into a single act. It is both a failure of understanding and an unwillingness to be understood. To lie is to recoil from relationship.”-Sam Harris

We're all guilty of it. No matter who you are, even when it has been simple and innocent, you have lied. We lie for many reasons, some of which are scientific. Researchers recently discovered that we are less likely to demonstrate integrity as the day progresses because our self-control diminishes over time. Whatever the reason (guilt, shame, or fear), when we lie we miss an opportunity to deepen our relationships with ourselves and others.

For myself, I know that there have been times when I have lied because I was afraid of how my truth might impact someone else. Though I now understand that in many ways, I lied because I was afraid of how others might see me. At this stage in my life, I am striving to be myself in every relationship and that requires me to lean into the discomfort of my truth as opposed to running away from it.

If we want more authentic relationships, we have to be willing to tell the truth not "even when", but especially when it is difficult.

Tuesday, 6/3/14... "Lose The Meaningless to Gain The Meaningful"

"Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option."-Maya Angelou 

As you continue on your journey of personal development where you begin to live a life aligned with your calling and your unique purpose, you may discover that there are some people who no longer belong in your space. Of course, watching our circles shrink can feel daunting and it has the potential to make us feel lonely but we must protect our energy and time if we want to enrich our lives by strengthening our relationships with people who pour into us the way we pour into them.

Do not be afraid to "lose" meaningless connections in order to create more meaningful experiences in this life.

Staying Cool Under Pressure

The work that I do as a school leader is often very exciting and demanding. Being responsible for  children, adults and high stakes results, requires me to tap into a wide range of skills I've accumulated over the years from setting a clear vision to motivating others when they're lacking confidence. Though I seldom have to explain why I do the work I do, many people are often curious about how I manage some aspects of my role that can be challenging.The question I'm most often asked is, "how do you stay so calm?" Years ago when I found myself in difficult situations, I would hear a little voice whispering "don't ever let them see you sweat."I don't hear that voice much these days, but my sense is that the mentality is baked in. The underlying mindset I hold onto is that appearing stressed seldom makes things easier. It's my responsibility as a good teammate and leader to remove barriers and sources of stress for others so they can focus on what matters most. Having played enough sports, I know that when a coach looks overwhelmed or worried, it impacts the way the team feels about the game.

Though the mindsets I hold are fundamental to the way I operate in difficult times, there are some actual technical/skill-based moves I repeatedly pull that help me stay "75 and Sunny" even in the midst of an unexpected hurricane.

1) Keep things in perspective: Whenever I find myself in the middle of stressful situation, I try my best to be mindful of the fact that there are 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week and 365 days in a year. The situation I'm handling begins to look small with respect to time and energy when I keep in mind that it's only one event at one point in my entire career.

2) Rallying my team: I have seldom dealt with a difficult situation alone. Even when I have final decision rights on the best course of action, I am never hesitant when it comes to pulling in thought-partners and key players who can help me remain focused on resources and options at my disposal. I know that my work is demanding and I can't do it without my team behind me. I also recognize that I'm not always the best person to handle critical steps in resolving complicated situations so I leverage the strengths of my team to get things done.

3) Finding the appropriate release: Experiencing stress and appearing to be stressed are not synonymous. I'm not a robot! I don't hide my emotions ad infinitum, but I find the appropriate time to release in a way that does not add fuel to the fire I am trying to extinguish. When I recently handled one of my most challenging crisis in the last year, I stayed focused on being logical and rational in the moment while mobilizing my team to take the best course of action to contain an isolated event that could have mushroomed into a nightmare. But trust me, immediately after the smoke settled, I went into a private room, ate several chocolate chip cookies and prayed. Once I was calm, I took a few minutes to chat with a teammate and mentor about the experience and how I was feeling.

4) Striving to achieve the best possible outcome: Being a leader requires you to strive for excellence in everything you do. You may drop the ball occasionally, but you always push yourself to learn and grow and to serve as a model for others. This can be dangerous though if you lose perspective and ignore reality while becoming obsessed with a vision to the point that your perfectionism hinders your ability to get things done. When you're trying to manage stress during a difficult situation, you can't be concerned about how far off the reality is with respect to what you would imagine in your ideal world. I don't have any survey results, but I'm willing to bet that no one who has ever been responsible for passengers on a sinking cruise line has worried about how much their guests would miss out on the wonderful five course dinner available in the dining hall. Your primary concern needs to be doing the best you can with the best you have in the moment even when that means good trumps great for the day.

As the old saying goes, "Keep Calm, and Carry On!"

 

I Knew You When...

There are points of pain to which you must become accustomed if you desire to live with an open mind and an open heart. Despite these points, if you have the required faith in love, you will never forget the value of dreaming regardless of what nightmares may come and they will come, in many forms, like unrequited love, affection given without being earned, and sacrifices made for those who know not of sacrifice. Over the years I have left the door of my heart open or at least cracked and every so often, some damaged and discouraged creature of beauty has crept in searching for nourishment, searching for an opportunity to speak its truth without the fear of judgment.

At first I cared, perhaps too much, lavishing weakened muscles barely gripping bones, with affection and encouragement hoping that once restored and renewed, an unfamiliar guest would become a familiar fixture, transcending time, growing beside me as love propelled us forward outweighing fear enough for the trajectories of our desires to intersect like rivers flowing into one united waterfall until all distinctions became undetectable…

But I have learned that even the most broken creatures begin to dream of flying and running into the wild when they forget what it feels like to crawl and remember how to walk.

Too many nights had passed before I grew to see the patterns of my love like undiscovered constellations. Alone, partially by choice, in the most silent silence, I could feel time stop and suddenly I felt an unknown body beside me, a body of secrets forgotten; grievances untold; trespasses too readily forgiven. There I was face to face with the truth of my addiction to fixing other people. I had been wrapping myself in other people’s problems so that I would not have to see my own and when there was nothing there to distract me, I crashed into my own truth, unable to take another breath without opening my eyes to see my own pathology.

Now as I stand firm on a mountain of love for myself only second to the love and adoration, I have for my creator I can see the pain of my previous tribe, a nation of souls fixated on saving everyone but themselves. Those souls, fearful of seeing their beauty, their brilliance, churn around in a cycle of misfortune with glimpses of hope, until they fall to the bottom of an imaginary world where they can convince others to love them, where the broken bodies they find will grow to appreciate their nourishment, where they will be rewarded for accepting less than they deserve.

They will become bent to the point of almost breaking just before they too will realize that the narratives they have created enslave them to the point that being in the presence of anyone but themselves is more desirable than true emotional and spiritual freedom.

To those souls who are still fixed on loving others back to life, while they remain broken and are ultimately left to stand alone, my heart does pray for a much needed awakening… I too know what it is like to sing “I knew you when you needed me” again and again. Today I sing, I knew you when I was afraid to know myself.