Today I had a lot of time to reflect on my holiday and 2018 in general. It's been an incredible year for me. I have learned a lot about myself as a person, a coach and a leader. I had a ton of joyous moments that totally filled up my life vials and I had my fair share of challenges that tested my inner self. All in all, I feel super blessed and really grateful for the life I have created for myself.
Today, I donated blood, which is what gave me so much time to reflect. They had a really good turn out (that made me happy!) so it took me a while. The blood drive was at Potawatomi casino. Not one of my favorite places. It's just the right mix of smoke and perfume and bells and whistles that turns me off. And I donʼt really like donating blood. I donʼt like needles. I donʼt like squeezing the red ball. I canʼt even think about it too much or watch the process or I will pass out (which has come very close to happening a few times). However, donating blood is one of the things I do on a regular basis because it is my way of giving back.
You see, my wife required countless blood transfusions during her almost 5 year battle with ovarian cancer. We spent many days in the hospital watching someoneʼs A positive blood flow into her body allowing her to fill up her coffers so she could live to fight another day. Once she got the blood transfusion, I could literally see the life return to her eyes. Someoneʼs selfless gift allowed us to have more time to fend off the disease that would eventually take her life, and I would have done anything, and quite frankly, I would still do anything, to have one more moment to see the light in those beautiful blue eyes. So, I donate blood, regularly.
My love for my wife Ardyth was so profound that I would find myself wondering just how in the heck I was ever going to be able to handle the day when the light in her eyes and the smile on her face would no longer be part of my everyday life. And I will tell you that when it happened, I felt like someone ripped out my heart and tore off my right arm. Ardyth was my best friend and the love of my life. We had 12 beautiful years together. She was the ying to my yang. My tether to the world. The person that showed me the most profound sense of belonging and unconditional love that I have ever experienced. I was terrified of living without her.
Fast forward almost 9 years and I find myself with the unique ability to look at her death as a gift. It sounds absolutely crazy doesnʼt it? How in the world can the death of someone be a gift? Well, I didn't always look at it that way. There were many years that I struggled with the why...why her, why us, whatʼs the bigger picture? Why in the world did we move our family 750 miles to Milwaukee only to be diagnosed with the C word? And ovarian cancer? Of all of the C words, ovarian was one of the worst. This was not in the plan. This happened to other people. This was supposed to be our new beginning, not our end. Little did I know that this was our new beginning. It just looked totally different than I thought it would.
Ardyth's death has taught me that being vulnerable allows you to connect at a deeper level, that worrying will only rob you of the precious time we have to really enjoy one another and that love is the thing that binds us when all else is gone. Love is part of the infinite flow of giving and receiving. Love is why we grieve. Why we hurt so much when we have to say goodbye to people that mean so much to us. It is the reason our hearts break with sadness and overflow with joy. The unconditional love that Ardyth and I shared together is not gone. It is very much alive. And that my friends, is a precious gift. Her unconditional love is still living and breathing years after her death. It surrounds me, it comforts me and it makes my world beautiful. It is part of the fabric of my life. I am truly grateful for the 12 amazing years I had her with me. I was so lucky!
My life today is very different from the life that she and I shared together. I loved my life then. I love my life now. I love myself. I love my friends. I love my family. I tell them all very often just how much I love and appreciate them. I live in the moment and soak up all of the goodness I can. I feel especially connected to my fellow man. I make eye contact. I smile. I talk to people. I make new friends. I have fun. I make an impact as often as I can. I do all of this because in the end, all I have to give is love. Love that will leave me connected long after my physical body is gone.
I could not have arrived at this place on my own. I could not have done this alone. It took a lot of coaching, soul searching, self-reflection, and deep friendships to get to where I am today.
I hope you have an opportunity to take a breath and reflect on your year. I hope you like the life you are creating for yourself. I hope you find your greater why. And I hope you consider donating blood once in a while.
I have a fantasy. I imagine myself serenely paddling on the water in the city I call home in a kayak. I am calm. I am confident. I am enjoying the scenery that surrounds the river that runs directly through downtown and the giant lake that runs the shoreline of Milwaukee. I am one with the universe.
Here’s the reality. I don’t know the first thing about kayaking. I would not be calm. Nor would I be confident. I would not be enjoying the scenery that surrounds the city because I would be too freaked out about avoiding the large—draw bridge large—boats that navigate that river and the choppy water of the lake. And I would be praying to my higher power to get me back to safety as soon as possible, universe be damned!
As part of my goal to move out of my comfort zone and transform myself in to my most authentic self, I put this fantasy down on paper when my women’s professional networking group asked me some thought provoking questions as part of a member connects program. And you know what happened? They paired me with another women that had the exact same fantasy I did.
Sharon and I clicked instantly at our first meeting and decided to take our desire to kayak seriously. At our second meeting which included a glass of wine and sushi while we dined river side, we decided it would be smart to sign up for a kayak basics class. We thought it would be wise to learn how to paddle, how to turn the kayak around (which is not as easy as you think), how to back up in case we needed to get out of the way of a large boat and how to haul our asses out of the water if a big wave came along and we flipped. We had so much fun learning to kayak that we decided a kayak adventure was in order. So, Sharon organized a moonrise paddle with a local kayak company.
We headed out to South Shore Park on Lake Michigan at sunset this past Sunday so we could watch the full moon rise over the lake in all of it’s glory. We entered the water in our kayaks and paddled up the breakwall on the beautifully serene water. I was calm. I was confident. I was connecting with the universe. Once we hit the end of the breakwall, our guide ask if we were ready to brave the open water. She told us that paddling in the open water would give us a great view of the city and that we would have an unobstructed view of the rising moon. Sharon’s response was immediate. A resounding “hell yes” escaped her lips. I, on the other hand, wondered if I was ready for this challenge and nervously said “sure.” Heaven forbid should I be “that person” and I thought “how bad can it be.”
As we rounded the breakwall, the city came into view. Our guide was right, the view was amazing. As for the seeing the moon, I couldn’t even think about it. I was more focused on being terrified. Sharon, the confident warrior, was paddling like a pro never once doubting her abilities to take on this challenge. I was peeing in my pants while my kayak bobbed and weaved on the choppy water. At one point, our guide said "pretend you are a hula dancer and just ride the waves.”
It was terrifiyng. It was exhilerating. And now that I slayed the dragon, I can't wait to do it again. I’m not sure I would have pushed myself to paddle in the open water like that had it not been for the brave warrior that ever so confidently said “hell yes.” I may have turned around and headed back to the safety of the breakwall the moment those waves started pushing me around. But here I was, so I set my site on Sharon, took a deep breath (okay several deep breaths), focused on applying what I learned in the basics class and knew in my heart that I was capable of accomplishing this challenge. By the time we hit the breakwall and glided our way back into calm water, the moon had risen in all of it's pink splendor. As I sat in my kayak watching the moon continue to rise from the safety of the breakwall, I was in awe to be part of that experience. Being in the kayak on the water and seeing the moon rise in the sky was like feeling connected to everything--the water, the sky, the moon, the universe, my true self.
This experience has made me think about what it takes to push yourself past your fears. To challenge yourself and step out of your comfort zone. To scare the crap out of yourself so you can have the exilerating feeling of accomplishment. Sometimes we need help getting to the next level. It’s important to have someone that can help you learn the skills you need to figure out your true capabilities and become the shining star you are meant to be. Sometimes we just need some help in finding the strength and courage to push ourselves out of our comfort zone so we can have beautiful, soul-fulfilling experiences. That’s where coaching comes in. A good coach can help you figure out your true capabilities before you even know them yourself.
This is a great article about the mindsets associated with effective and dysfuctional leadership. What kind of leader are you?
This morning my yoga instructor, Suzy Weyenberg from Empower Yoga in Whitefish Bay, started our class with what she called a 10-minute smoke break. She told a story about how when she worked in the restaurant business (long before she became an amazing yogi), she envied the people that went outside for their "smoke breaks." These were folks that took time out of their day to inhale deeply and calm their bodies while the folks that didn't smoke continued to work. I think the people that were harming their lungs were on to something. While the smoke was harmful, the deep breathing and the calming effect all of this had on their bodies was not.
As a former smoker, I remember the pleasure of taking a break and lighting up. It did have a calming effect. When I was stressed, I went outside and had a cigarette, damn it! A nice long, soulful drag. I took a few minutes to breathe deep and clear my head. And, even though it was bad for my health, it made me feel better. Maybe it was the deep breathing, maybe it had something to do with the nicotine my body was craving, maybe it was a combination of both. I quit smoking in 1998 and haven't taken a smoke break since, until today.
Today I started my morning with a smoke break...10 breaths...120 seconds of deep breathing. It cleared my mind, it calmed me down, it got me ready for the 60 minutes of intensity that was to follow, it grounded me to the earth, it made me feel better. And when my day got stressful, I walked away from my desk and took another smoke break...10 breaths...120 seconds of deep breathing. It cleared my mind, it calmed me down, it made me feel better.
I plan on incorporating smoke breaks into my daily life...10 breaths...120 seconds...sans the smoke. Thanks Suzy!
We all have those people in our lives--the people we call jerks. The ones that push our buttons and make our blood boil. The ones that test our patience and make us think unpleasant thoughts.
My jerk happens to be a 19-pound Pug named Diesel that we rescued about 10 years ago. He came to us dirty, not trained to know that the potty was outside and he lacked any assemblance of manners.
His obsession with food is relentless and given the chance, he would eat until he exploded. He once hopped up on to the dining room table and ate two dozen chocolate cupcakes. His belly was so full that it hung down to the floor. He was sick for three days. I have learned to "Diesel proof" my house since he has been known to eat Chapstick, pens, socks and parts of stuffed toys. He has even ripped through shipping boxes, tore through bubble wrap and tissue paper just so he could eat the Christmas cookies that were neatly tucked inside. He tore through a plastic bag and ate a latex glove that my daughter had brought home from her CPR class at school. He barks at everything and nothing...leaves, birds, the wind. He hates bicycles and runners and makes it well known when we encounter them on our walks. It's embarrassing really. I feel like the bad parent that can't control her child.
You get the picture. He is a jerk. The first year we had Diesel, I was not sure I could handle it. I really wasn't sure I was up for the challenge. But I have never been one to shy away from a challenge, so 10 years later, he is still mine. And he has taught me valuable lessons along the way.
Lesson #1--BE MINDFUL I always need to be mindful when Diesel is around. I can't just go through the motions. I need to be present and think about pushing my chair in so he doesn't end up standing in the middle of the dining room table scarfing down the good stuff.
Lesson #2--PRACTICE PATIENCE I'm on my journey and Diesel is on his. He doesn't mean to be a jerk. It's not like he lies awake at night plotting his next move. His experiences as a puppy and the fact that he was crated for the first year-and-a-half of this life contribute to where he is right now. I must learn to accept where he is on his journey, exercise patience and not let my anger get the best of me when a bicycle whizzes by us and he shrieks like he is being murdered.
Lesson #3--FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE Instead of focusing on all of the bad stuff, of which there is many, I choose to focus on the good stuff and tell him often when he IS being a good boy. He is a good watchdog and a great snuggler and keeps me warm when the weather gets cold.
Lesson #4--EVERY DAY IS A CLEAN SLATE I never harbor any grudges and either does he. Every day is a chance for both of us to improve, learn, grow and change. Over the years, Diesel has made tremendous progress in learning to trust me and to know that I have his back.
Lesson #5--KEEP MY EXPECTATIONS IN CHECK Diesel will never be the kind of dog that can be trusted not to eat anything that may be in reach. He will never be able to be off leash unless he is in a safe environment. And taking him to a soccer game would be a nightmare. I know and accept his limitations and his boundaries and I don't set him up for failure by expecting him to be the dog he is not.
My life with Diesel continues to teach me things that translate into life lessons. There will always be people in my life that won't act in a way the resonates positively with me. And when that happens, when my buttons get pushed, I will reflect back on the things I learned from a 19-pound Pug.
I had the most awesome day yesterday. By the end of the evening my theme for the day was Be The Change You Want To See In the World. Let me tell you how I got there.
My day started out with a Professional Dimensions lunch meeting where I was introduced to Commissioner Rocky Marcoux of Milwaukee's Department of City Development. Rocky spent over an hour running through all of the great initiatives the city of Milwaukee has completed and has planned for the future. And when I say run, I mean run. Rocky is force to be reckoned with. He talks faster than I do when I'm excited (and take my word for it, that's fast) and he gets more done in a day than most people get done in a week. His passion and commitment for this great city is contagious. Rocky cares deeply and his unflappable focus has already begun to move the needle. Do we still have work to do? Yes we do. Do we have the ability to do that? You bet we do! And it's up to each and every one of us to work together to move this city forward.
As I flipped through my DVR and reflected on the energizing meeting with Rocky, I came across the PBS show Mister Rogers It's You I Like that I recorded a couple of weeks ago. This program was hosted by Michael Keaton and featured lots of great moments from the many years that Mister Rogers aired on PBS. Fred Rogers was a unique individual and a visionary when it came to forging relationships. He believed that pretending could help us open up our imaginations and believe in ourselves. He believed in teaching kids about music and explaining how the world around us works. He took on uncomfortable topics such as divorce, racism, disabilities, birth and death and explained them in non-judgmental and simple terms that kids get. Fred Rogers was truly a kind man that wanted to see people succeed. We need to take a page from his book.
Today, I focused on being the change I want to see in the world. I smiled at strangers, said hello to my fellow yogis and told them to have a great day, and gave my neighbor a hug because her dog passed away last week. And tonight I will volunteer my time and be part of the newly formed Human Relations Commission committee in my community. I can and will make a difference because it's important to me.
Do you know what's important to you? How will you make a difference? If you need help figuring it out, let me know. A coaching session might be just what you need.
Awesome workshop today at Waukesha County Business Alliance's Small Biz Alliance. Kerrie Hoffman from FocalPoint Business Coaching lead a workshop on implementing incremental changes to your business that will lead to big impacts!
I met Kerrie at a Strong Women, Strong Coffee event a few weeks ago. She is a smart lady and really knows her stuff. And, she has the same name as me--that made me automatically like her!
I love learning from other coaches and business consultants. It allows me to bring even more value to my clients. Thanks for a great workshop Kerrie.
During my time as Vice President of Content Operations at Trusted Media Brands, I had a change chart taped to the door of my office. It's a great tool that will help you determine a feeling and attach it to an action plan. I referred to it often since the day in the life of an operations person is one big, giant change party.