57% of Books Purchased Are Never Read Through to the End

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Wow! I am sure that is true of me too. I own a lot of unfinished books. There are so many fascinating topics out there and I am always finding one for my work or just to read for pleasure. But halfway through I get distracted and end up on another adventure. The book gets left behind, with a marker keeping my place, until the day I rediscover the book and continue my journey of enlightenment or reading pleasure.

A girlfriend mentioned a book to me the other day and asked if I had finished it. We were given it at midnight mass on Christmas Eve at our church. I pulled it out of the double deep stack of books on the bookshelf in my office and checked it out. There it was, a third of the way through the book, one of my favorite book markers with stars on it - "Shoot for the Moon, Even If You Miss You'll Land Among the Stars." True of any risk or undertaking. I ended up spending the next few days finishing the book, thoroughly enjoying the wisdom it shared, vowing to buy several copies of it for my friends and family members.

How many times does this happen with not only books, but projects, ideas or risky adventures. We start with purpose and passion that sometimes fizzles or gets waylaid by a distraction. How can you stay connected and make it successfully through to the end? 

The key is to make a plan and focus on sticking to it. In addition, make sure you have the desire to even do it and picture yourself working through it and finishing. Imagine the emotions you will feel when you do.  Along with enjoying the emotions associated with being "there", create an environment that is conducive to staying on track by surrounding yourself with supportive people and eliminating distractions. Maybe put the book or whatever you want to focus on right where you can't ignore it. A client used to hang the dog's leash on the bed post so when she got up she would take him for a walk right away, before she had time to make excuses for them both not to exercise that day. These all help - but the key is to have a plan mapped out. A well thought out risk with a plan will ensure action and ultimately success!

As Much As You Would

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When I was a little girl my mom would always make our birthday cakes with frosting from scratch. I remember attempting to make frosting one day and asked my mom how much confectioner's sugar and milk to add into the bowl. "As much as you would", she would reply. The problem is, I didn't know how much I would because I'd never done it. I hadn't developed the feel for how much I would, like my mom who had made the frosting at least 100 times - (actually so many more times if you figure nine cakes a year minimum for all of us kids and our dad's birthdays). She just knew. It seemed right. It just felt right.

And that is how I developed my favorite recipes, chocolate chip cookies especially. I just knew how much of each ingredient to add as I played with recipe perfection over the years.

Many times, when we take a risk or leap to attempt something new, it requires a bit of "as much as you would." We don't really know but we tap into our intuition and along with our knowledge and experience are able to figure out the next step forward. It may require tweaking along the way, but with experience we are well on our way to perfection.

Lights Out?!

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I was sitting in the living room four days after hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast, wreaking havoc everywhere - including and especially Houston (on the dirty "wet" side of the storm) with epic flooding. We were blessed to have power, running water and no flooding in our house. I'd ventured out that morning,when we finally could, with my neighbor, to see how far we could get and to check in on some school shelters to see if we could offer assistance. We were able to help at one school and started to offer our services to friends and strangers that might need help cleaning out their flooded first floors. So many need so much help.

I was on the couch and all of the sudden the lights went out. I had that little moment of panic - "oh no - here we go too". It fortunately wasn't anything but a momentary glitch. But is was enough of a reminder to remain grateful for our situation. I pray that this attitude of gratefulness, caring and compassion, and positive action in me and others continues way beyond the next few weeks. It's been such a delight to witness personally and via the news - with none of the anger, hatred, political opposition, and arguing we typically see projected on late night TV or the news visible to us - at least not here in Houston. I ponder how I can continually remind myself to stay in this place mentally. Visual reminders, cell phone alarms and other ways have worked for me in the past. but frequently we go back to our old ways as if nothing happened when we get back to our normal work week. 

It is a pattern I see when I teach business classes or speak. The course or talk really inspires and motivates. People get fired up and make a plan. Then after a few weeks or even days - they are right back to their standard operating mode. 

What methods have you developed for yourself to maintain that desired new change?
What risk are you taking by not making a plan to take action to truly incorporate the new ways into your daily life at work or home? What happens if you keep the old behavior patterns? 

A fellow coach, Don Gutridge (www.wingsondreams.com) developed a process he calls R2D2 to take new knowledge and move forward with it. After every learning experience, be it a real life event like a hurricane or a formal training, - 
R1 - Recognize that one principle, idea or technique that is shouting at you - reflect on the results you see that are possible if you follow that principle
R2 - Relate that idea to your personal or professional purpose - how it relates to your personal goals - relate it to yourself for more impact
D1 -  Determine exactly how you can use this principle to bring you closer to any goal you choose
D2 - Deliver on the action promised and this idea will work for you

Now get to it and do it! Don't let the lights go out on your plan.

Friend or Foe?

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A few years back when I was in technical sales, I was new to the Company so my boss accompanied me on a trip to a chemical plant. When we met with the outage manager, my boss proceeded to tell him all about our services and how great our Company was. He didn't seem to give the gentleman much of a chance to tell his story, but the meeting went fairly well for the most part. 

When I returned to the plant for another visit on my own, I delved deeper into their situation and history with other vendors and the maintenance/installation situation in our region altogether. The vendors all pulled from the same pool of mechanics, so when jobs were in progress at different company's plants, the best were split between them - leaving some of the not so great to fill in the gaps. I suggested to the client that they split the job into two - with different companies each taking a turbine or compressor - and that way they would get everyone's best on the job without the previous problems. He loved the idea - but unfortunately we never actually tried it out.  

I did get us on their bidders list for future maintenance/installation jobs at the plant. When we attended a joint meeting to review the required proposal details for one job, all of the vendors were there. The client was surprised we all got along so well and were friendly. Why not? - I thought. We are all in the same business - competitors - not foes. 

I recently spoke to a group of corporate trainers and consultants on creativity and freely shared ideas and techniques with them. One consultant/coach asked after if she could use some of my exercises with a company she was teaching team building for. Of course, I replied. We are also meeting up to brainstorm and see how we might be able to work together in the future.

Sometimes we think that because someone is our competitor we must treat them as a foe. What kind of risks are you taking by treating them as a potential partner - or by not connecting? Who could you partner with that you wouldn't typically think of connecting with. Take a chance - reach out to them.

Leader of the Pack - With Position Comes Responsibility

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The HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes on the freeway are typically for cars with two or more people. But there are a few hours when you can use the lane if you are by yourself. You pay a fee using your toll tag called an EZ tag. You are allowed to do this outside of the high traffic hours of 5-6 in the evening and 7-8 in the morning during the work week. Depending on the time you enter the HOV lane, you pay a higher fee the closer it is to the rush hour.

I love driving on the HOV lane when I am at the head of the pack. You are separated from all of the traffic on the regular highway and have your own private lane. I've always said that if you are the leader of the pack you need to make sure you are going at least as fast as the freeway traffic we are avoiding. Sometimes I am behind someone who isn't driving at least as fast as the speed limit and it can be a little frustrating because we paid a fee for the privilege of moving faster.

The other day I had just entered the HOV and there was a car ahead of me in the lane. They appeared to be matching the speed limit but flashed their brake lights as we headed up over the first overpass. Much to my surprise, they pulled over to the side so that I could pass. Freedom! At the head of the pack again.

When we become a leader of the team (pack) it is important to take on the responsibilities. There are a few key strategies you need to be aware of.

Just like the first person on the HOV with no one in front of them, you need to accept your position of leader. If you don't know where you are going, what to do or what the rules are of the position - you need to find out. As a new manager or supervisor, accept the position and responsibilities that come with it. If you don't set expectations for the team, act appropriately or address issues in a timely manner among others, you won't be respected or be able to manage effectively. 

A lot changes when you are promoted. The relationships between your former co-workers and bosses and your responsibilities are two important changes. Take the time in the beginning to think about areas where you need to set boundaries so that you are ready for situations when they arise. One is how will you behave around former co-workers you now supervise and another is responding to behaviors such as tardiness - what is too late? Be clear on your expectations and follow through on check-ins.

Understanding the communication styles of yourself and your team as well as developing relationships at levels you might not have before, especially with higher ups, are key considerations. 

Like the woman that moved over to let me pass, sometimes you have to take action and resolve an issue. Other times you can listen and stay aware but not overload your things to do list. 

When given the responsibility of leader - it is a risk to not take some of the steps detailed above. I wish you success on your journey onward an upward. Give me a call or an email (margaret@ideasandbeyond.com) if you would like assistance in your new role!

No Cats Were Harmed in the Pursuit of Curiosity

They say curiosity killed the cat, but I grew up with cats and never once lost one due to curiosity. They always seemed to survive whatever predicament they got themselves into. Maybe that is why they say they have nine lives too!

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A recent article in the Houston Chronicle invited the reader to think like a genius. Apparently the secret of Albert Einstein's creative genius was that he refused to follow the assumptions that were made by every other scientist. Einstein along with other geniuses "recognize that some truths are what we know as a matter of observed fact while others are what we think we know as a matter of received wisdom" (Roberta B. Ness - Houston Chronicle - Think Like a Genius - 6/5/17). By not realizing the difference between the two we can get ourselves wrapped up in a lot of incorrect assumptions. If we do what everyone else is doing and think like everyone else is thinking, we will miss out on the opportunity to engage our creativity and come up with innovative solutions to everyday problems.

As a credentialed coach we are trained and encouraged to remain curious to assist our clients in making progress. The power of our work is in not knowing and allowing the client to figure out their own solutions. Our powerful questions allow the client to self discover and experience delightful ah-ha moments and insight.

Get curious - leave behind the assumptions you know - ask questions - broaden your world view - a more adventurous exciting life will be yours! The best way to practice? Make the phrase "What If?" part of your vocabulary. What If there were 48 hours in a day? What If I am wrong about my boss being difficult? What If the state of the economy really has no effect on my success?...

I'll be presenting a lunch hour talk on Unleashing Your Curious Creative Genius next week Tuesday August 15 in South Houston for ATD (Association for Talent Development).  The event is free and open to the public - lunch is on you. For details and registration - click here

It's Wishing Time!

My husband and I recently vacationed in Cozumel Mexico for my birthday. We were staying at an all inclusive resort that had a number of activities throughout the day. One of my favorites, that happened three times a week at sunset, was Wishing Time. 

This gentleman above would dress up in this outfit and bring his conch shell horn to the pier with all of the wishers following behind in a procession, my husband and I included.  He claimed it was an ancient Mayan tradition to throw shells into the water at sunset, one for each blow of the horn, making a wish each time. For a lover of fairy tales, sunsets, wishing on stars and all things related, this was one of my favorite events (besides my husband's performance in the TV game show-like Minute to Win It the night before on the hotel stage!).

Once we reached the end of the pier, we all lined up single file so that each of us had room to throw our shells without hitting anyone in the head. We paused to contemplate the three wishes we desired and waited for the horn. Each time he blew the horn, we would make a wish as we threw one shell, (very tiny shells - they really wouldn't hurt anyone if we hit them in the head!), into the sea.  We delighted in the possibility of our wishes coming true. Before we knew it, the ceremony was over. 

When we returned home to Texas, I grabbed the conch shell we use as a doorstop and attempted to make beautiful music like our ceremony guide. It actually did work for a few short seconds. I am determined to practice and make a decent performance at the next sunset we decide to honor with Wishing Time.

I believe wishing time would be a great habit to incorporate into our day or week. Taking the time to think about those things we want to happen and dream about happening can open up our creative minds to possibilities.  Then, we just need to take the necessary steps and associated risks to have the dream come true. Some are more work than others, some aren't any work at all.

What will you wish for at the next Sunset Wishing Time?

Ace Was the Place with the Helpful Hardware Woman!

I have fond memories as a teenager working in the hardware store as a cashier and hardware retail assistant. My dad loved the discount he received on all of his purchases there because I was an employee. I loved working in the store - mixing paint (we had to measure everything manually back then!) and helping people find the plumbing and hardware parts they needed for their home repair projects.  Maybe that is where I picked up my inclination for engineering.

One thing I'll never forget is what often happened at closing time. The doors would be locked, the registers closing down and there at the door or window would be a poor soul looking so desperate as he held up an old plumbing part or dropped to his knees in a begging position. You knew they had something break at the house and they just needed one little thing - and we were closed. It was definitely after closing time - we didn't lock the doors early, I always felt so sorry for them. Much to my delight, one of the managers always did too. He would open the door and listen to their story and help them out, letting them buy the part they needed even though the registers were closed - sometimes just letting them have it for free if it wasn't too expensive. I'll never forget the look on their faces - of gratefulness - and it just felt SO good to be a part of it.

Then there were a few very different experiences I had looking in from the other side of the door.

I needed to get a package out after the post offices were closed and ran to a little package shipping store around the corner. Their sign said they closed at 6:00pm and it was 5:50pm when I arrived. Plenty of time, I thought. As I grabbed the door to pull it open, it resisted! It was locked. I could see the owner in the store standing at the back table. He looked up at me, I pointed to my watch and he looked back down, completely ignoring me. I had a few choice words for that one and never returned to that place of business.

I experienced a similar situation at the eye doctor's office. They closed at 2:00 on Fridays and I had received a call that day notifying me my contacts were in. I was out of contacts and really needed the new ones. The employee told me that if I could get there by 2:00, I would be able to pick them up. I headed out right away and was walking up to their door at 1:52 - which is before 2:00 in my books. I was shocked and fairly upset to find the door locked, the front desk obviously vacated, lights out and not another car in the parking lot. What was up with that? I no longer get my contacts at that office!

So what does this have to do with creativity or risk taking? We take a risk when we close up shop a little early. How happy was that guy that came to the hardware store after hours? What kind of message was he spreading to friends, family and others? How happy was I at the shipping store or the eye doctor's office? What kind of message did I spread?

A little bit of empathy and kindness and a few more minutes before locking the door or turning off the phone will make a world of difference in your world and mine.

Skipping Stone Ripples

“We’ve got to get to the water before we leave”, she pleaded. We were on one of the most beautiful islands I’d ever been to, the Isle of Capri. It was the vacation of a lifetime with my sister-in-law, nieces and their friend. We’d been traveling about the island walking, riding a bus and a ski lift to see the views but hadn’t actually touched the water yet. We made our way down to the tiny cove of rock and pebble covered beach before jumping on our ferry back to the mainland. She slipped off her shoes and started searching on the beach for the perfect smooth rock specimens. Delighting in her finds, she started pitching them back into the water one by one, counting the skips as each one skimmed the water’s surface. Each time improving on her skip count little by little. I tried too, but my stones failed miserably, sinking quickly after a mere half skip or so. Satisfied with her last pitch, she watched the small rock sink back into the clear water. Then we grabbed our shoes and headed toward the boat dock for our ride home.    

 

 

 

There is something special about standing on the shoreline and skipping stones across the water. The beautiful ripple produced by a perfect skip is mesmerizing to watch. The small changes we make in our lives are like the ripples on the water. They affect everything about us in a subtle way – and we continue on for the better. What small change or risk will you take today to send positive ripples through your life?

And What to My Wondering Eyes Should Appear - Girl Scout Cookies!

I was a Girl Scout when I was young and always enjoyed selling Girl Scout cookies. When you knocked on doors and had Girl Scout calendars to sell it was not the same delightful reaction you received when they opened the door and found out you were selling cookies. 

And I loved eating them too.

As an adult I've always supported the Girl Scouts by purchasing more boxes than I should of my favorites, like the thin mints. I thought I was clever and put them in the freezer - thinking that would slow my consumption. It didn't. They actually tasted better frozen!   

This cookie season they came out with a new gluten free cookie. I don't have to eat gluten free but tried it because it was temptingly chock full of oatmeal and chocolate chips which are favorites of mine. And they were pretty good, especially straight out of the freezer. But they were hard to find. I was delighted when I found a troop at the grocery store with them, scooping up their supply and sharing with a friend that has to eat gluten free.

But inevitably my supply was depleted and I craved that oatmeal and chocolate chip combination but could not find them anywhere.

One Sunday as I was headed to Galveston Island to host a yoga on the beach, I traveled south on the freeway. When I reached the island, for some reason I missed the exit for the seawall. I've been to the beach countless times and know the route well, so I surprised myself. I had to wind from the main street on the island through one way streets and dead ends to get to the beach. Somehow I ended up right next to the Kroger store by the seawall. I honestly couldn't have found it if I tried but there it was and there was a Girl Scout table out in front. I decided to check and see if they had any of the prized gluten free gems. They were out but told me the leader ran home to get more cookies and would be back in a few minutes. They weren't sure if she was bringing the gluten free ones since they were so popular and usually gone in minutes. I ran inside for a quick errand.  When I returned I noticed from a distance a few of the famous bags sitting on the table and quickly moved to purchase them. I was delighted with my prize stash, slipped them into my cooler and headed to the beach.

Desire.  You can have goals, you can make plans - but the key is desire. When you set out to take a risk and make a change - add desire to the mix. Imagine what it will be like to have accomplished the risk goal and made the change. What will life be life and how will you feel? I know it's only cookies - but obviously my desire was so strong and I could definitely imagine what life would be like with them. The way to get them came to me in the least obvious and strangest way - missing an exit. But desire along with persistence will get you to where you want to be.