Once Upon A Time

In the stories about life for kids there is a confusing array of choices for good outcomes.
If I was a deer or an otter, my life as I knew it was over and I would have to be strong on my own.
As a girl, I could depend on someone rescuing me. Even if I was rich and then poor, I would be taken care of. Even if I seemed trapped, someone would give me the answer to a secret – sounds like “life’s persistent problems” as told by my good friend Guy Noir!
Personally I was always afraid I wasn’t going to figure it out. Whatever “it” was.
These many years later I have learned to give my heart and sometimes receive. I’ve been through mountains of too little too late too close too far. I saw a sign today, I think it was an ad for a McDonald’s sandwich, it said, “sized for satisfaction.” Honestly, I thought those messages were supposed to be subliminal, not outright description! But it reminded me of the fairy tales, the princess and the prince and all that. It reminded me that we are educated to look outside for love and forget that it’s an inside job.
I give my heart doesn’t mean I loose it or myself. Though I might for a bit.
I’ve been painting hearts. I love painting hearts. Each one is a gift for me and for you. Each one is to you and to me and each one takes my heart’s colors to my hand and back again.

Love and Marriage

The other day I was sitting in my living room having a wonderful cup of coffee I had just made and suddenly I felt myself be twenty years old, listening to a song about love and yearning. I remember very well what I was yearning for. It had nothing to do with my past, nothing in my past was yearning material. It had to do with my future. I was yearning for my future.

I’m pretty sure – even though it feels crazy to me now – that young girls and women are taught to yearn for a future. A future they may or may not get. I didn’t get mine, but it was more from my tastes changing than sitting here writing this and feeling unfulfilled.

Every Wednesday in my school – it went from kindergarten to twelfth grade and in the auditorium/chapel the first row on the right as you walked in were the fourth-graders(K – 3 not allowed), the grades went up to the last row and then down to the first row on the left side where the seniors sat. I make that point because that meant the whole school of girls, 500 of us, got the same message week after week, year upon year.

Our headmaster would ask us how many were going to college – most of our hands went up. He would exclaim the benefits of college: it was where the young men would be and the better qualified we were to go to the best schools, the better marriages we would make and the more happiness we would have.

Year by year as I went up the rows of seats and down again I would find out there were easy two-year colleges situated not far from the so-called better men’s colleges. These had secret mottos like, “a ring by spring or your money back.” You think I’m kidding. I’m not. We were serious, our futures depended on it.

There was no way out. That was it. Marriage and happiness. Frank Sinatra was singing, “Love and marriage…. go together like a horse and carriage.” So when I got married, I would be happy. It was in all the Disney movies, too, it still is. So there I was remembering twenty and yes, I was married. The happiness bird hadn’t landed yet.

My husband had settled into a routine of “we’re married, you do it, whatever “it” is, and we both have to go to bed early, forget sex, and be responsible. Responsible for what? I didn’t ask, I was not the questioning kind. Authority spoke, I listened and either ignored, acted or rebelled. Those were the choices I saw. When my husband and I had lived together, we had shared doing dishes, the bed never got made and we went to sleep and got up in time to go to classes or work or do whatever we were doing. This imposed schedule of up at six and to bed at nine was incomprehensible to me.

Back at my school, not so very long ago in my life, everything had a point. Our headmaster knew everything and the teachers made sure his dicta ran smoothly. We were all bent to the same shape. Every year each rising senior class would vote on their school ring. Each year the senior class voted for the same ring. When it came our turn I thought it would be a good idea to change. I found another design. I showed it to the rest of the class. I showed it to the leadership of the class and got them to think it was a good idea.

We voted on the ring. We voted for the new style. I felt triumphant. I had changed a hundred years of rings. I had persuaded my class, at the time the largest graduating class, to be different. I was ecstatic.

Well you know I wouldn’t be writing this if my plan had succeeded. I won the battle but it had sparked a war. Our Latin teacher, who had changed my grades whenever I had gotten higher than a C in any of my classes, called another vote. We were gathered into a room, told about the value of consistency, of history, our place in it, how gratifying it is to be part of a larger whole, how unattractive it is to be different, how unacceptable.

Another vote was held. Pieces of paper in a box – just as before. The box taken to the headmaster’s office. We waiting in our classroom. And when they came back they were happy to announce the old style had been chosen. We were back in the fold. History could go on and we with it.

Yes, she changed my grades. I didn’t know this until a few years later when I happened to speak with two of my teachers and I lamented working so hard to get my grades up and getting the grades but it not being reflected on my transcript. They were not completely shocked to hear and said yes, they had given me grades reflecting my work and Miss Stevens had changed them. They both knew other instances. Other girls like me not really part of the school “picture.”

I’m pretty sure the headmaster became my template for authority. And I’m also sure that I put my husband in the role. And he came up way short. We were both playing to roles more unconscious than conscious. There’s a lot of research now showing that as children we take in our surroundings and believe in them way before we understand what anything means. We get our concepts of fairness and duty in the world without choosing them. The messages are clear before we have any clarity about what we are doing, whose rules are we following.

This applies to us our whole lives. We choose with our history firmly grasped but not understood. We base our choices of jobs, spouse, partners in business, cars, food, on what was our norm. That includes what we love and hate, what we resent or think is essential.

It’s important to uncover your truth, your self. Listen to the unexpressed values you hold. “following your bliss” only works if you know who you are and are willing to take the risks associated with that knowledge. It does not mean to do what you want. It does not mean to do what you think is right or what someone tells you to do. It means to seriously get to know yourself, see yourself and have the courage to stand up for yourself, take responsibility for what you want, what you care about. That’s when you become your best friend, that’s when you can be trusted, when your compassion includes yourself.

I’m going to make another cup of coffee – different this time – and remember who I really am.  What about you?

Do something unexpected, even maybe uncomfortable, often!

My Uncle Ben

“The individual who wants to reach the top in business must appreciate the might of the force of habit and must understand that practices are what create habits. He must be quick to break those habits that can break him and hasten to adopt those practices that will become the habits that help him achieve the success he desires. ” J. Paul Getty 1892 – 1976

My Uncle Ben was one of my idols growing up. I never knew him except through his books and stories about him. He was well adapted to his time, which spanned from about 1860 to 1930. He had no interest in the telephone. “If someone wants me, they know where I am.” And they did. And he was there. He was an inventor, manufacturer, reader. I don’t think he had a degree of any kind, he just knew what he was doing. And he did what he loved. And he didn’t do anything else. I have his wardrobe and by the look of it, “practical” would have been his ethos. It is elegantly straightforward, as are the family tales of its owner.

His younger brother, my grandfather, was more impetuous. I was told that my grandfather Frank once tried to run after a streetcar. Ben pulled him back, “there’ll be another.” My grandfather used the telephone but thought typewriters were a lot of clacking. He demanded quiet in the office he oversaw. The transition from scriveners to typists was a moment my father would step into.

We all have to adapt whether we want to or not. My forebears stood with their ideals, they walked their talk – or didn’t – they lived as best they could in the changing times they had. The world changes, it’s what we can count on; it’s what we can know or fight or feel betrayed about.

How each one of us grasps the present defines us. It is interesting to note that while the world changes we as humans are essentially the same as we were thousands of years ago. We can’t access the thoughts of our earliest ancestors, but the ones we can read point to our human condition being pretty much the same as it’s always been. There is no concomitant growth in our natures, much as we might like. In fact there is more likely a loss, something we’ve forgotten, a piece of wisdom lost to us. We often look at those before us as not quite with it, a little old fashioned, like our parents who never had sex. But when we open ourselves to looking deeper, to listening without judging the language, which may seem quaint to us, what is written or spoken benefits our lives as we are living them right now. I often read books written a century ago, or many centuries, and am completely supported emotionally and intellectually by what is written.

Any time we feel we are plowing through new ground, we are, but it is our ground and it’s been plowed before. Computers, iPhones, Blackberries, are stepping stones to assist us. The newest technology is old as it leaves the suppliers’ shelves. Our hearts and minds are a constant through the ages. We can’t touch the past or the future with them, we touch with our hearts and minds. It is ourselves who will push through those new doors, and we haven’t changed. Don’t let your new phone get wet, but take care of yourself. Take care to practice what you want, take charge of who you want to be. Stand up for what is real for you. Do what you know. Love what you do.

This is a good day, how can I serve you?

Have you ever thought about the difference between caring for and serving? Well, in my experience, if I care for you, I don’t get much – respect, money, or acknowledgment. But if I serve you, I give you something of value and I get more for it. Including your looking me in the face.

You don’t get as much either if I take care of you, I may be a faceless servant doing a job. If I serve you, you probably asked for it; went to a site, signed up. Went to a school, filled out a form, maybe even paid money.

I take care of many beings. I have rescued dogs, cats and horses. If I see an animal on the road, I help it. And while I am not a nameless, faceless entity to them while I am cleaning litter, picking poops, mopping up grass and throw-up, I am not using much of my skill set either. In my service of the animals I am fulfilling my need to be useful – of service. It comes from my heart and that makes a valuable contribution to my idea of how I want to be in the world and how I view myself.

By doing this service I am forwarding my sense of good in the world, I am participating in a higher vibration than just myself. It is not a job.

If I have a job, when I go to it, when I participate in living and working amongst/with other people, I feel a brightness, I come to them with a full complement of participation. I am not needy.

If people are nice to me – or not – I have a sense of myself within myself and the world within myself. I have done important (to me) work and what I receive from the world is the icing, I have eaten my cake and I don’t have to choose whether to eat it or have it.

Branding – your message is your name.

Not your business name but the name people think of when they read your statement, your copy, your bio, your blog. The name they give you in their mind (nice person, want to know them – that kind of thing) the minute they see something you’ve put out into the world. Is it the logo you chose, the background of your Tweeter page? Is it the way you presented your ideas in Squidoo? Did you talk about yourself, what you like, trust, want and stop there? Did you include thoughts and facts about yourself in addition to trying on the needs and wants of others?

For me it’s the personable way you might explore yourself to me. A misspelling won’t turn me off too much but if there are too many txt’s and lites, I’m gone. I love dashes and I personally use too many parentheses – which I hope won’t be a problem for you, I know a little cuteness goes a long way! How you expose your life without too much information but enough to help me know I can trust (or not) your ideas, what thoughts come to you, how much we might share.

This last is crucial. What might we share? It’s a key in the deciding route we all take on the road to purchase. We are all looking for the Something that will make our next – career, baby quiet, dog lie down, smell go away, best cup of – there are no exceptions, we are going to contact someone for an issue we are dealing with. That Someone is going to fill our needs and make us feel good at the same time.

I’m a poet in one of my lives and when I send poems out for consideration I hope I have done my homework and looked at the magazine before I send and I hope the editor will actually look at my work before it’s sent back in the envelope provided. I was an editor once and I noticed that I wanted as much from the poet as they wanted from me. I had a problem to solve, an itch to scratch and I hoped that every piece of writing coming to my desk would be the one I’d be excited to read and want to publish.

There are no exceptions to this dance. We are all in the market for something. We all want to pay for some things and get some things free. We don’t want to pay for everything and we don’t want everything free.

This is a great time to be a small business in a big world. We are all looking for the niche where we will find comfort. The best places in my kids’ schools were the reading nooks where they could curl up and read or just look at books. They could be surrounded by comfort and get some cool information or a great story. Let your business be a nook, it’ll be on everyone’s list of things to do.

I love Seth Godin

I just got a new blog from Seth Godin. I love Seth Godin. There isn’t anything he says that’s not worth listening to, looking at, and really taking in. Every one is a “head’s up!”

This one was about College graduates. They are not finding jobs. According to Seth, only 20% are being hired. He spelled out a plan for the other 80%.

This is directly from him – and it’s worth repeating:

“How about a post-graduate year doing some combination of the following (not just one, how about all):
Spend twenty hours a week running a project for a non-profit.
Teach yourself Java, HTML, Flash, PHP and SQL. Not a little, but mastery.
Volunteer to coach or assistant coach a kids sports team.
Start, run and grow an online community.
Give a speech a week to local organizations.
Write a regular newsletter or blog about an industry you care about.
Learn a foreign language fluently.
Write three detailed business plans for projects in the industry you care about.
Self-publish a book.
Run a marathon.”

Seth Godin June 9, 2009

Does that sound like “make a Self to believe in?” It does to me. You know there was a time when that kind of learning was a part of growing up. Maybe you were fortunate and had a playroom. Maybe you and your friends and/or siblings made up plays, did projects, made costumes. A child’s world was full of challenges in groups with objects they made or made believe.

Maybe your opportunities didn’t include something so structured but maybe you didn’t know that it was so important. Whether your parents had money or not I bet you found it paid to be inventive, to put yourself out and you found out at least a little bit of who you are by bouncing around in a group not just awash in your daydreams or one on one games.

More than likely your parents participated, they watched you, clapped, gave you pointers. Maybe you hated it, maybe you loved the chance to be in front of your peers and your leaders. It almost doesn’t matter because no matter what, you were getting something out of it. I bet the put downs you may have felt look less harsh now than they did then. I bet if you had some of these experiences time has worn off the edges and what you’ve gotten into since has made them look smaller.

My teenagers are heavy with the weight of their studies, their friends, their social networks. They think this is the heavy time in their lives. They are sure they have more eyes on them, more commitments, more drama and tragedy than they ever will again. They feel experienced and unsettled yet they expect a steadiness to their lives that what they rail against most gives them. They feel the hang of their safety net but not the support of it.

And, as Walter Cronkhite used to say, “and that’s they way it is.” And ever was and no doubt ever will be. But that doesn’t absolve us as parents, as leaders, as friends and mentors of our responsibilities to show them how we feel, who we are and what is important to us and to the world we inhabit.

We need to look at that list, get a head’s up, see what we see, who we are, what is important to us and what do we want to do about it. Then let’s all of us take some of those tasks to heart. Do them well. Because if college graduates are not getting jobs, if they are at loose ends, they need us now more than ever.

Are you Tweeting me or Am I tweeting you?

Seth Godin writes, “The presenter who loves his [sic] audience the most, wins.”

In the business of internet networking, in the daily communication of all of us with all of us, there is some confusion as to who is the presenter and who is the audience. When I tweet, am I tweeting you or me? If a tree falls in a forest with no one there is there a sound? Are we listening to each other? Do we have anything to say? Where is our focus? Is the goal of the market simply to perpetuate itself?

In the confusion of who is presenter and who is audience lies for each of us an opportunity. For business, for personal growth, probably for both. You really can’t have one without the other. Mindset is key, focus is key and the value we place on ourselves is the outstanding balance in the middle. I could say that the person who loves his or her audience is loved and respected in turn. If I love myself chances are that I will love you because there won’t be much of a commute between us. That’s where we get the value of all the communication strategies that are open to us. We can exchange and change in bits and bytes, in leaps and bounds.

Once upon a time it seemed to matter whether a tree fell and could be heard. With our communication portals it is almost certain someone somewhere will hear. What matters to us as entrepreneurs is that they care enough to keep going, to click, perchance to buy.

We are powerful when we take the communication possibilities offered and focus ourselves, our hearts, our truths to such a degree that we are presenters who love ourselves, our audience, our product and its persuasions to inspire the click. For us to be successful we have to inspire and delight. We need to create lightness in ourselves and each other. Is that why it seems so important to talk about every plane trip, every line we wait in every movie we see, song we hear. It’s shared experience, the trip of Life. We get to be with each other on every journey we choose to share. How cool is that? Lucky us. Let’s make it work, let’s give ourselves value. Believe in yourself, share your opportunities, make work together and play. And, don’t forget, breathe, always breathe.

And click on http://www.pamwhiteccpro.com/

Little Fish/Big Fish

I was listening to NPR the other Fri and heard a clip about the oceans being overfished. Ok I knew that. But it wasn’t just that. It was about the fishing of the Big Fish. Everyone goes after the big fish. So if big fish are being overfished what does that leave? Little fish. And little fish breed more little fish and more little fish choose each other as mates. So you have the evolution of the little fish.

Ok. So the science guy was saying that Darwinian selection is happening – by humans and the world of little fish is being made bigger.

So I extrapolated that to our current economic situation. The “big fish” are being taken out of the equation. Big companies are down sizing, ceo’s are loosing their jobs as well as the employees. It used to be if you worked for a big company you were fairly safe. But some of the oldest, biggest companies are going and lots are gone.

So what does that leave? Little companies, small business. This is a great time to be an entrepreneur. A great time to start your own business, make your own policy, be independent. This is the time of the little fish in the business world.

Be a little fish and be success. Low overhead, you work at your own pace, commute time is radically shortened ( more low
overhead),time with what you care about. Coaching kids, volunteering, building something in the shop you put in your garage or basement and then didn’t have the time to use it. Writing poetry for yourself, your kids, your grandchildren. Telling someone you love that you love them. It’s all easier when you’re physically closer to them and not on some freeway stuck in traffic and hating everyone and everything when you get home.

Be a little fish, see an opportunity – grab it! Be big yourself in yourself for yourself, let the big companies go.

Here’s An Opportunity

Research has shown that people tend to go along with the majority view, even if that view is incorrect. A study targeting neurons in the brain shows that when people hold an opinion differing from others in their immediate group, their brains produce an error signal. The “group” could be a jury, a classroom, a board meeting, any meeting, or a party. In other words, in any human gathering a person with a “different” idea or perception will feel “wrong” or “too different.”

This study that I just read about on CNN brings to mind how amazing it is when someone like Harvey Milk – the movie is a must see – consistently goes against the flow of opinion. We can thank Harvey, Martin Luther King whose birthday we celebrate, Barney Frank and all the thousands of people historic and among us who change our lives everyday because they are able to override their feelings of needing to be with the pack.

Those independent thinkers and doers among us who blow the whistle, who stop an act of aggression, who see a need and step in are our most valued citizens.

There are independent thinkers, entrepreneurs, some we know in our lives and some we read about. People who make a difference, who have a focus of adding to the good in the world, who override their need to be quiet when they see injustice make a lasting impression. You can do that anywhere. No job or task is too insignificant to be a platform for just action. We can all participate.

I got a video e-mail from Michelle Obama this week asking all of us to participate in volunteering next Monday, doing something of benefit to others. Today is Martin’s actual birthday, January 15, but we celebrate the holiday next Monday.

For me to know that president-elect Obama and Michelle will be reaching out and focusing on problems other than their own is a long-dreamed of hope to have such effective role models in leadership.

May the Force be with each one of us as we step into our lives, our roles, our hopes and dreams. We can all be role models, we can start by looking up to ourselves.

In These Changing Times We’re Steady

That should be a question. Are you as steady as you can be? Are you consistent? Do you make a plan and then stick to it? Can people count on you?

If you can answer yes to those questions – read no further. Congratulations, you are in the .0000001 percentile of  people who wake up in the morning.

Here are five ways to make yourself more reliable:

1. Look at yourself and what you do, have done and plan to do with the utmost respect and love. Tell yourself how valuable you are and that you couldn’t get anywhere without you.

2. Take the time to make a plan, a commitment to yourself  to do the stuff you say you will, be your own best friend. I don’t have to say it but then you’ll be everyone else’s too.

3. Be accountable. Check every day to see how you’ve done. Each night while you await sleep, take a moment to reflect on the day. It will set up the next day – but only if you are open and committed to non-judgement and a compassionate affection for yourself.

4. Do one thing at a time – yes, you can do something while waiting for something else. Do what you are doing and don’t do anything else while you are doing that.

5. Take a breath, a break. Every hour, make sure you notice your breath for 1 minute. Shift your position. Do something a different way. If you open letters with one hand, do it with the other. If you always lean to one side while waiting for something to boot up, lean the other way.

These are important. If you really do them you will see a change in yourself and if you see a change other people will too. One of the reasons you’ll change is that you will trust yourself more. You won’t be in so much resistence to what you are doing, what you’ve planned. You’ll be a better partner for yourself. And do I have to repeat that if you are there for you, you’ll be there for me and everyone else. Most of us reading this work by ourselves. We don’t have a lot of measurements or grades to see how we’re doing, how much we fit in or don’t. It’s important to know that we’ll be there for ourselves, that we won’t be expecting endless hours of work, there will be breaks, there’s an acknowledgement that we’re human. One of my mentors says the most important object on her desk is her timer. It tells her when to take a break. Be a good employer, give yourself a break. You’ll work better and smarter, the world will look cheery from where you sit.