Go the Extra Mile

I bring cold eucalyptus scented towels to my Sunday indoor cycle class as a treat for the participants. Why? About two years ago I stayed at a hotel on the beach with some friends for a few days. Every day while we were out at the pool they brought around cold scented towels. They were a welcome relief from the heat. As I enjoyed their cooling effects I thought they would be a great treat for my cycle class members. So when I returned home I purchased some washcloths and essential oils and made a batch for my next cycle class. They were such a hit, I still continue the process. 

The other day, a young woman came up to me after class and thanked me dearly for the towel. She said she wouldn't have made it through class without it. She loved my class and the towels. She said was about to leave class at the halfway point (it was about that time I brought them around), but the towel saved her. She then proceeded to tell me that ever since she went through chemotherapy for breast cancer she couldn't tolerate the heat and 30 minutes of cycling was all she could handle at a time. I was so glad I was able to give someone exactly what they needed at exactly the right time without knowing then how much I was really helping them. Isn't that a cool feeling? We probably do it more often than we know, but don't always get told about it. 

She then shared she was going to have some additional surgery in two days and was going to be at the gym working out the next morning in weight lifting class since she didn't know when she was going to be able to come back to the gym. I filed that comment away and told her I would be thinking of her on surgery day.

On the way home I decided to Go the Extra Mile. I stopped at the store and bought a pack of washcloths affixed with a pretty bow and a bottle of eucalyptus oil. I packaged them up in a colorful little bag with tissue paper and put it in the car to take to the gym the next morning. I don't normally go to the gym on Mondays, but decided I was going to get up the next day and attend the weight lifting class that member was going to be in. 

Sure enough she was there, just like she promised herself. I gave her the package and she was delighted to find what was inside. It made both of us so happy. I just saw her at the gym tonight and the surgery went well. She looked happy and healthy. 

We see it and do it all the time. Maybe it isn't so noticeable - because it is part of how you act all the time - or we are not aware of every little thing other people do. I noticed it recently when I visited the bulk discount Sam's club. When I entered the store, there was the greeter getting a cart ready for me, pulling it out of the tightly packed cart line and cleaning it off with a sanitary wipe. How wonderful I thought. But it stood out even more the next time I went to the store and the greeter was just sitting behind a table looking bored. That made the person that pulled out my cart even more special - and it reminded me to pay more attention to noticing people going the extra mile.

There's a Chick-Fil-A commercial airing about a woman with several children that had a hard time getting them all together to get to the Chick-Fil-A restaurant in time in the evenings for family night. A restaurant worked realized her plight and was able to get the family night hours extended by an hour so this woman would be able to treat her family. That is Going the Extra Mile. It first involves noticing - then it takes action.  

I encourage you to Go the Extra Mile and connect with people at a deeper level. What's the risk if you do? What's the risk if you don't?

What's SUP? The Day I Almost Didn't SUP

In July, we visited family in Minnesota - the land of 10,000 lakes. I was talking with my niece, Amy, about plans for the week and we started to throw out ideas around what we could do to enjoy the area. SUP - Stand Up Paddleboarding came up as an option. Neither of us had ever done it so the idea sounded fun, adventurous and a tiny bit scary all packed into one. I suggested we could do some yoga on the boards too, as teaching yoga was one of my many treasured jobs. Amy checked in with her sister by phone for tips and then checked out which lakes had the sport option. We opted for the closer lake. Her sister assured us it was easy to pick up the techniques and the rental company would surely give us a lesson on how to SUP. So we changed into our bathing suits and headed to the lake, still a little nervous underneath our excited facades.

It was a gorgeous sunny day and many people were out enjoying the lake, hanging out on the beach and in the water, We checked in at the equipment rental shack, but were dismayed to find that the wind speed was above the limit for paddleboarding and they couldn't rent to us. Our first reaction was disappointment - we were physically and mentally prepared. Then there were a few seconds of relief - at least on my part - that we weren't going to have to scare ourselves out on the water. We considered just hanging out on the beach to wait and see if the wind would die down. Then Amy, with her growth mindset in high gear, (mine usually is - but that day I was comfortable sitting back and not growing!), said - "let's check with the other lake, maybe their rules are different". She called them and sure enough - their wind speed limit was a lot higher, (me - silently questioning if that was a good thing or a bad thing), and we headed off to the other lake. 

We arrived at the new location, a bit busier but just as beautiful (what lake isn't!), and headed toward the rental shack. Once we were checked in, we were directed to the paddleboards on the beach. The young man let us know the guy down by the water would show us what to do. We grabbed boards and headed toward him. He set mine out on the water and told me to step up, placing my feet on the markings on the board and said, "Ok - go!". "What about my lesson?", I exclaimed, "That's it! Just go!", he replied. And so I did. Amy was right behind me, and soon ahead of me though I tried to keep my paddling rate even with hers. It was a lot easier than we both expected. Though there were a few times when the wind blew us off course toward a pile of anchored boats or the side of a bridge (maybe that wind speed was a little high!) - but never too much to handle. We had a great time exploring the lakes and even tried some yoga without falling off. We were quite proud of ourselves. 

I mentioned the growth and fixed mindset above. Fixed is where you believe things are as they are and your personal qualities and capabilities are carved in stone. A growth mindset believes that you can develop your qualities through your efforts, strategies and help from others. I like to apply this here - where my temporary fixed mindset believed our options were limited by one lake's rules and I threw up my hands accepting our fate while my niece's mindset didn't stop there and she set out to explore other options. (What was holding me back? - a little bit of ridiculous fear!). The growth mindset opens up the thinking to be creative and solve problems. It can be applied to our paddleboarding adventure in another way. It wasn't a skill we had and we approached it as if we could learn it anyway. We continued to express that mindset by watching others paddle and imitating their expert moves. 

Your mindset may fluctuate from fixed to growth. If you stay aware you can steer it toward growth every time. What area of your life is in need of a mindset adjustment?

Flip It - Like A Pancake!

Occasionally I treat my yoga class with a format I've dubbed Sock Day! I bring dozens of clean socks to class and give each participant a pair. During several parts of class we put on the socks and do yoga poses, sliding from one challenging pose to another (i.e. from a forward one legged lift sliding both legs back behind us for a plank), playing with creative plank jumping jacks and with other vigorous atypical yoga poses. It is a great fun challenge for all. 

One member delighted in the format and claimed we needed to do it more often. So the next time I knew he was coming to class I decided to bring my socks for a Sock Day. But I had been working late into the night for weeks on a work project and didn't have time to make up more Sock Day pose challenges. So - I decided that we would still do a Sock Day but the members would suggest poses when my list was exhausted. 

And so they did.

And they were great ideas that we played with until we couldn't slide any more.

I flipped the classroom and made the students the teacher. It turned out to be a great idea that I will definitely use again.

I actually heard about it years ago at a training conference. A gentleman relayed a story in which they had a speaker set up for a session at a conference. The speaker didn't show up and they were stressed out about what they would do with the 200+ people gathered to hear him speak. The host ended up having each table in the ballroom select one subject from the missing speaker's agenda and discuss their tips on the topic. Each table ended up sharing their best tip with the whole room. It turned out to be a great alternative. (The speaker had an emergency and couldn't make the event). The attendees became the experts in the room - flipped!

So what can you flip in your organization, during your next speech, or in your work or home project to add creativity and a new twist?

All In - No Exception!

All In - No Exception! Do it or don't do it but if you are going to do it - go all in.

There is a program called Whole 30 - a 30 day program in which you eliminate a number of foods from your diet including sugar, dairy, processed food and alcohol to reset your body. The point is to see how different you feel without those foods in you. Most people lose some weight, feel 100x better and even recover from some medical conditions including skin issues. You basically eat vegetables, protein (meat, fish, eggs), and some fruit. Everything is clean and as close to the source as possible. I eat that way most of the time but do enjoy an occasional Diet Coke (love those bubbles), chocolate every day and I sure can't turn down great bread at a restaurant. 

I first went on the program last summer right before Hurricane Harvey hit. I decided I was all in and followed the program 100% to the tee. To me it was easier than cutting back on M&M's or limiting bread to one serving a day. Most people think it would be so hard but to me - going in 100% left out the decisions and the hemming and hawing that waste time and energy. There were no decisions to make - it wasn't allowed and I wasn't going to eat it. And I was very successful. Within two weeks I noticed significant changes in how I felt - no aches and pain, I was stronger and less tired. It was amazing. I gradually added a few things back but to this day have not had an M&M. I did try a Diet Coke one day when there wasn't anything else to drink - and it tasted like chemicals to me - so that was the end of that! 

Jack Canfield, author of the book series, "Chicken Soup for the Soul" shared many of the struggles in his life including how he got rejected by over 140 publishers. In a video of his I recently viewed, he shares the story of how much easier it is to go all in at 100% versus 99% and says that 99% is a bitch and 100% is a breeze. 

Are you ready to go all in? Take a chance! Take that step! Take that risk!

The steps for taking a risk are - 

·                select your smart/heart goal (S - specific, M - measurable, A - actionable, R - realistic, T - time-framed - Heart - means something to you - ask yourself why you want to do it and you will have the Heart part)

·                get creative about ways to accomplish the goal

·                select a path considering your personal risk-taking style

·                increase your chances of success - with research, taking more time to plan, share risk with others, try a prototype

·                go all in 100% take action!

What do you think? Is it a bitch or a breeze? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 


What Would Happen to You If You Tried to Follow Every Piece of Advice Ever Given to You?

I was attending a day long women's leadership conference at a local university. It was an annual conference with a few hundred attendees. I remember attending the previous year and wished that instead of all panel discussions on a specific topic, that they would sprinkle a few workshops or presentations by an individual speaker on popular leadership issues. The conference did have a keynote speaker at lunch, which was delightful.

I was sitting in on one panel and one question posed to the panelists really intrigued me. It was about stolen ideas at work and how to respond. Everyone had a different opinion. One person said to pick your battles and sometimes when another claims your idea for their own it isn't worth it to correct them. Another person said to state that you liked how they picked up on your original idea and added their own twist to it and go on to clarify your idea and thoughts on implementation. Others said to address it in private. Each panelist had a different opinion based on their style and personality. It was important for the listeners to realize they needed to take the advice under consideration, assess their situations and determine their own best path. They also needed to reflect on ways they could prevent their ideas from being stolen in the first place. Paying attention to our inner guidance is key.

I also participated on an SPE (Society of Petroleum Engineers) MIT (Members In Transition) panel around the same time. We were providing advice and tips on finding a job, including interviewing and resumes. One person asked how long a resume should be. One fellow said don't worry about that - just get in front of people. A second person said no more than two pages. Another person in the recruiting industry said four or more pages were ok. I said it depends on your experience and what the interviewing company is looking for - that two pages were a typical recommended length but if your career has spanned decades and the job requirements are expansive, you may want to include more. So everyone had a different opinion. It would drive the listeners crazy to try to please all of us or adhere to all of the recommendations.

Following everyone's advice will have you running around like a squirrel, darting from one idea, plan or project to another and you will end up exhausted.

It is ok to ask for and listen to advice. But don't act on it without thinking it through. Pay attention to what parts of it resonate with you and what parts don't feel right. Formulate your own plan forward based on what you perceive to be the best route for you. Copying other people's ways of doing things will not necessarily get you the same results they experienced.

When have you asked several people for advice on the same issue - what kind of responses did you get? How did you decide what to do?

Need a sounding board? Contact me at www.margaretajohnson.com


There's Risk In Fixation

I've always wanted to own a beach house. Over the years I've rented quite a few in various parts of the country - from the shores of Lake Michigan to Folly beach in Charleston, South Carolina. A few years ago I checked out some houses in Galveston to rent for a weekend yoga beach retreat I was planning. I found one in the second row from the beach that was offset so it really had a front row view. It was perfect and I put my deposit down. It has been on my list as the dream beach house to buy ever since. 

It wasn't until recently that I seriously started to look at beach houses in Galveston to buy one. I searched on-line first and found quite a few I loved. When I was looking at one of my favorites with a roof top balcony and hot tub, a message popped up to "contact realtor" and I spontaneously checked yes. Within a minute I received a call.  I set up a date to meet with her to see the houses on my list. The rooftop balcony one quickly became number one. I decided to rent it out to really check out its condition, inspired by a call from some Michigan girlfriends that wanted to escape the cold. And soon we were sitting on the living room porch looking out at the water. The house across the street caught my attention. Sure enough - it was the house I rented for a yoga weekend retreat a few years ago. No wonder this area and the street seemed eerily familiar every time I drove down it. The beach house I had been waiting for was right there in front of me. I totally missed it with all the other visits to that area. The fixation on the rooftop balcony caused me to totally miss the house that was right across the street.  Unfortunately it's still not for sale - but something tells me it won't be long since I keep coming back to it. 

A few years back I was coaching two executives who wanted to grow their well-established corporate consulting business. One shared his dissatisfaction with a recent airline experience and even detailed the angry letters he had written to the company. I asked if he had considered offering his company’s services to the airline instead of just expressing his customer dissatisfaction. He hadn’t, but in hindsight, thought that would be a great idea. His focus on being frustrated with the airline caused him to miss seeing the situation as a potential opportunity for his business. 

Sometimes it’s hard to remember to look at the big picture. Are you so focused on your current ways of doing or being that you are missing opportunities placed in your lap? Consider intermittent checks from a trusted advisor or coach to help keep you focused yet open to possibilities. Focus on the tasks at hand, but remain open to other ways of accomplishing the tasks or other beach houses to buy! There's a risk in being fixated!

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Parties Get Your Butt In Gear

Our niece coaches a women's hockey team at Stevenson University in Maryland. Students from the hockey team, golf and basketball teams and a few non athletes from the school volunteered to come to Houston to work with Habitat for Humanity. They spent the last week up early every morning working til dinner time rebuilding homes devastated by Hurricane Harvey. They did their own fundraising to make enough money to make the trip - 28 of them in all. My niece asked my husband if he would cook for them on their last night and of course he said yes. He spent two days cooking brisket, chicken, pulled pork and stuffed jalapenos along with his famous macaroni and cheese. I contributed chocolate chip cookies and brownies. But I also did a few major things to the house that I had been procrastinating on. 

Our back yard has been in need of a landscaping makeover. I called our friend/landscaper and asked for a yard update. I was delighted he was able to spruce up the place in time for our party. I also got into some boxes in the garage that had been sitting there for quite some time. Some boxes contained CD's from years of teaching fitness classes, others had old workbooks from business classes, and a few were full of pictures from the beginning of time - our time at least. I was amazed how many I was able to get through - with all of the "stuff" ending up in a save, dump or donate pile. Uplifting! The third area I was able to take action on was the old patio table and chairs. The chairs were starting to rust a little as well as the table though they were still functional and looked fine to the casual observer. When I looked up patio tables to find a new one, conversational patio sets also came up. I already had a few wicker chairs with cushions and decided to add two more with a love seat and ottomans. There was also a table that went nicely with the set. And there you have it - a "new" backyard ready for summer parties.

What I love about having parties at the house is that it almost forces you into doing things you know that you want to do or need to do but just haven't found the impetus to get them done. They become a driving force - a strong motivator to get things done. You find more energy than you ever had to make it to the party deadline.

There are so many things we are procrastinating on for different reasons. There is risk in not getting things done. Maybe that potential loss is enough to get you moving. If not, how could you apply the party lessons to your story? There are a lot of why's and what's behind it. Part of it is the deadline staring you in the face. Part of it is the way you want things to be when you are done making your adjustments. What will motivate you to stop procrastinating and finally get those things done at home or work?

For a complimentary strategy session to assist you in making the move to action - sign up here https://www.margaretajohnson.com/schedule-an-appointment

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Do You Want A Cold Towel Now Or Can You Wait Until Later?

A few years ago my girlfriends and I went to the San Luis Hotel in Galveston to celebrate one of our birthdays. While we were sitting out at the pool on a delightfully hot July afternoon, the waiters walked around passing out super cold, wet and wonderfully scented towels to refresh ourselves with. What a grand idea! It sparked an idea for my indoor cycle class. I ordered a bunch of washcloth size towels from Amazon, rolled them up and soaked them in eucalyptus scented water and put them in the refrigerator to cool. The next time I taught class I brought them out midway through class. What a hit they were - especially for those that just get red and overheated and don't sweat much. The reaction was so positive, I continue to bring them every Sunday for my spoiled indoor cyclists. 

I have a few members that really need the towels to cool down in the middle of class. The rest of them are fine waiting until the end. While I was walking around the room at halftime with the towels asking if anyone needed one right now or did they want to wait, I was reminded of the marshmallow experiment and shared it with the class. In the Stanford marshmallow experiment they offered children a choice between a reward now, or if they waited about 15 minutes they would get two rewards. The rewards were marshmallows, cookies, or sometimes pretzels. In the follow-up studies they found that the children who were able to wait longer for the two rewards tended to have better life outcomes in reference to education, health and other measures. So I teased the class about their wanting the towels now and a few said - never mind - they could wait! 

It is an interesting experiment that can be applied to our lives in many ways. The waiting or not waiting can be a risk. Will we miss out on some important opportunity by waiting or will we miss out on personal growth by jumping in right away? Weigh the situation and decide the best move forward for you. 

If You Do It I'll Do It

I am partnering with a new group of trainers, coaches and consultants. We had our first in-person meeting the other day at an interesting restaurant venue I'd actually been to before with the kids. It's called the Conservatory. It's housed in a neat old building that has a variety of fast food options from Italian with pizza and meatballs to BBQ, sandwiches and soups.  Everyone in your group can get a different kind of food for lunch and grab a table in the common area to enjoy lunch together.

Since I'd been there before I knew they had beer and wine too. We were seated at the table sharing and enjoying our different selections when I decided a glass of wine would be perfect with my Italian meatballs, so I got up to find the wine. When I returned to the table with my glass, several others at the table commented on what a great idea that was and some ended up getting wine too. It was like I broke the ice or the boundary and it made it ok for everyone else now.

It's actually very common for people to be thinking about doing the same thing - but not stepping out there or taking a chance until someone else does it. Check out this story regarding a paper airplane game. 

One of the most results-producing and fun exercises I’ve made a part of my presentation games is the paper airplane game. The point is to get participants to think outside of the box, and open up their creative thinking while enjoying a fun game with a little competitive spirit mixed in.

Groups are divided into teams of four or five players with each team given a stack of different colored paper. A starting line and a landing zone are marked on the floor with masking tape. The team players are not allowed to cross over the starting line when launching their airplanes. Only planes that are completely in the landing zone count, and the goal is to be the team with the most paper airplanes in the landing zone at the end of the time. Teams are given two minutes to play the game. 

The first time I played this game, my inclination was to pick up the entire pack of paper and throw it into the landing zone. But I told myself it was the paper airplane game and we had to fold planes before throwing, so I proceeded to fold planes. Then a minute later another team picked up their entire pack of paper and threw it over the line to win. I was appalled they’d “stolen” my idea! Of course, they really hadn’t; I was just upset with myself for talking myself out a great idea. 

Until we see others do something we hold ourselves back. We watch what they are doing and model their behavior. 

So - what are you holding yourself back from doing? Are you waiting for someone else to do it first? What will it take for you to be the first one? What are you missing out on by not taking that first step?

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Whirly What? Whirly Ball!!!

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After my niece's wedding in Minnesota, we were able to stay in town an extra day. Our nephews invited us to play Whirlyball, a game which we had never heard of. It is a combination of bumper cars, jailai and basketball. Two teams of five all riding in bumper cars compete to score points by shooting a plastic ball from a jailai like scoop at a basketball backboard while the other team is trying to bump them. It is a hilariously fun game.

We liked it so much we gave our son and his wife a Whirly ball party for Christmas. (The only Whirlyball facility in Texas is near their house in Dallas.) While visiting them last weekend at their home, we used the gift card to play the game with a group, including our Houston friends' adult kids. A good time was had by all. We went out for snacks and brews after at a local restaurant/bar. Our group of ten was seated at a long rectangular table. It was easy to talk to those next to you, but not very easy - if at all - to communicate with those at the opposite end of the table. My husband, our son and his wife were seated near the middle. We were talking with the young ladies that all worked together at one end of the table, and I noticed the three guys at the other end of the table who didn't know each other before that day were a bit quiet. I thought I should get up and go talk to them, but didn't at the time.

A while later I noticed my son had moved to the opposite end of the table and was engaged in a lively conversation with the guys. I didn't know if it was an intentional move or he just happened to go to the other end for some other reason - but I noted it and planned to point it out to him later.

When I did mention it to him, that I noticed his kind act, he said it was intentional. He noticed they were kind of quiet and moved to sit with them to engage and enjoy them more.

It was a beautiful example of Emotional Intelligence (EI) in action. EI - the awareness of feelings and emotions in yourself and others and taking appropriate action to manage them effectively. EI is made up of four competencies -
self awareness
self management
social awareness
social management

Tips for self awareness and management include -
observe your feelings - keep a journal
think about why you behave the way you do
spot your emotions/behaviors in tv and movie characters
breathe or count to ten before reacting or responding to an event
pay attention to and take control of your self talk
connect with an outside observer of your behaviors as a witness and sounding board

Tips for social awareness and management include -
pay attention to body language
people watch your family or co-workers and note observations
try to step into the shoes of others
be curious - test assumptions
acknowledge others' feelings
take action to build trust

Tapping into these areas of life could have the most positive impact on your effectiveness in your personal and professional life. Not doing anything is a risk I don't recommend you take.

Making the changes - a small risk with a major payback! Check your EI out - with free on-line assessments, books or partner with me to assess and work on your skills.