The Power of Collaboration…

I believe the world would be a better place if we collaborated more and competed less. I get that competition is what has and continues to fuel much of the world’s progress through innovation and motivation to be “bigger, better, faster” and so on, but perhaps that view is from an antiquated lens.  While it seems many on our planet are firmly planted on the entry level of Maslow’s pyramid, many more are not, yet, our behavior so often is, “I am going to win, even if that means you may lose” or worse, “I am going to win AND you are going to lose”.  That view of life is the one which makes living on this planet difficult for me some days.  I just don’t get it.  OK – I get it in that I understand from an evolutionary stand point where they are coming from and a personal development perspective but in my heart and soul, it just makes no sense to me.  It has always seemed so clear that really, no one is in competition with anyone else because we all bring unique gifts and talents to this planet and if we allow for the dance to really unfold, I suspect we will see that those gifts and talents fit together perfectly like a beautiful puzzle with all of its pieces in place.

“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.” – Bahaullah

I would stake my life on the fact that there is no one out there like me and I would stake my life on the fact that there is no one out there like you. Because we are all unique, how can we truly be in competition with one another?  There are close to 7 billion people on the planet today and our population continues to grow as more people live longer and healthier lives.

We must find a new way to live life that takes everyone into account.  I see two worlds emerging:  One in which we are all thrust into basic survival mode, fighting for fresh water and food.  Then I see a second world in which we have made a decision to accept that we are all in this life together and our choices reflect this decision.  Regardless of what many believe, no one has this place figured out and everyone is doing the best they can at any given moment. What I propose is that we collaborate to make the most of whatever time each of us have in this life; that we work together to find solutions which benefit the many rather just a few.

So the next time your in a situation where you might feel compelled to compete with another, take a moment, consider to possibility of collaboration and see if the outcome for which you are striving may actually be achieved in a more efficient and effective manner.  See if the overall outcome just might be better…

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Sometimes we just do what we need to do….

I had not intended on taking so long to blog again but I have been scrambling to get my ducks in a row during this transition from undergrads to graduate school and that has included cleaning my house, sleeping and figuring out income.  All three things (and more) that I sort of pushed aside, especially in the final shove to complete school. As the dust has settled and I’ve had some R & R, the realization that very little income is coming in, is forcing the reality upon me that I need to figure something out – and fast.  I am realizing that I am going to do what I need to do and that is to get a J-O-B.  For most, I suppose this would be a no brainer but I am an entrepreneur and have not had a “job” in 13 years.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I have worked and worked my tail off but not at a job that I have had to be at a specific time and for a specific length of time.   I have had my own small businesses and worked as a contractor but a long term job that I had to be at say, 8 am to 5 pm, 5 days a week? Well, not so much. 

Because I don’t want to move, I don’t like being broke and I especially like being able to pull my own weight in this world, I am now on the search for a regular, full-time (or well paying part-time) job.  A job that I have to fill out an I-9 form, give my social security card and wait for an official pay check.  Oh, and let me not forget, a job which I have to set my alarm on a regular basis to get up on time for.  I know, cry me a river.  All of this seems like no big deal but for this entrepreneur who would rather give a 12+-hour day, 6 days a week than get up to an alarm, it is a big deal.  A big deal, however, I am grateful to have the choice to make.  See that is the difference between my “doing what I need to do” and other people who find themselves here; mine is because of another choice I have made and that is to go to grad school.  I am doing what I need to do so I can further my education with the plan to have many options professionally, regardless of the economy.  “Short term sacrifice for a long term goal”; that’s my current motto.

“Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it.  Establish your priorities and go to work.” – H.L. Hunt

As I reflect on my choices and this new decision I am making based on those choices, I cannot help but think about all of the people who, everyday, do what they need to do (like work 2-3 jobs) just to attempt to make ends meat.  People who get up before the sun on a daily basis so they can do laundry, get meals together, get themselves together before they get their kids together  to take them to school before they go to work and on and on it goes, because they don’t really have a choice.  Everyday, they are doing what they need to do, regardless of how tired, overworked, stressed, etc. they are.  All of us, at some point or points in our lives, do what we need to do and each time we go through this process, every time our alarm goes off at 5am and it feels like we just went to bed (because often, some have), we become stronger, more courageous, more capable, often more compassionate and always, a better person.  It may not feel like it in the moment and sometimes, it may take a while before the benefits of this aspect of life kick in but they do, eventually and when we reflect on those times, even though we would never want to go through them again, we know that they toughened us up and gave us character.  We know that we would not be the people we have become if it were not for those points in time.

“Decision is a risk rooted in the courage of being free.” – Paul Tillic

You might be facing a decision of having to do what you have to do and quite possibly, be avoiding it.  Hoping that if you ignore it – it will get the hint and go bug someone else but if you look at it face to face and decide that this decision could actually be the best thing that ever happened to you – then you might just invite it in with anticipation.  That is how I see my job search now.  I am seeing this as an opportunity for new skills to be learned, new people to meet, new ways to become disciplined, and money in my bank account.  For all of those benefits, setting my alarm does not seem so bad.  As a matter of fact, I have made the decision to begin tomorrow and see if 5 a.m. and I can become friends again like we were in the past.  We used to hang out together all the time but then something happened and we have been estranged for the past several years. So there is another benefit – a renewed friendship.  So, as you have to face doing what you need to do, look at what it is and see if you can find some of the benefits and if they don’t show themselves right away, trust that one day, they will…

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Disappointment and the gifts that it brings…

People are going to disappoint us, regardless of who they are or what role they play in our lives, it’s just the way it goes. 

Disappointment begins early in life.  We don’t get picked to play with the cool group of kids at recess, our siblings seem to get preferential treatment, our favorite TV show gets cancelled and it never really seems to stop.  We don’t get into our first choice college, don’t get called back for the second interview (or maybe never get the first); the one we are crushing on likes another, and on and on the disappointment goes. 

At the end of last year, I needed to step up my game and get very clear about what I wanted to study in graduate school.  I had been researching a variety of programs, including the Masters of Public Administration at my current college but that just didn’t quite feel like the best fit.  After talking with a past professor about my challenge in deciding on grad school, she suggested I look to my passion and my undergraduate program of choice – psychology.  I shrugged it off in the moment because I did not want to do anything clinical and I thought that was pretty much everything psychology.  Not one to completely blow off advice, however, I went home that night and researched all things graduate and psychology and low and behold – I found my dream program!  I discovered this thing called Industrial/Organizational Psychology (I/O) and thought I had died and gone to grad school heaven.  From there, I searched for a school in my state that teaches I/O, offering both a Masters track and a Masters-on-your-way to the golden Ph.D track (this was my desired track) in compliance with the Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychology (I mean really, could it get any cooler than having its own society?  I think not) and I found 1. Yep, just one college in the entire state offered this program.  Seattle Pacific University (SPU).  Luckily it happens to be in my favorite city and located in my favorite neighborhood in that favorite city so I figured that was a very good sign. 

It turns out that I discovered this program and where it is offered just in the nick of time to get everything done that was required for the application process.  I scrambled to study for the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) which, by the way, I had hoped to not have to take, hit up my references for letters and started writing my essay; all of this while I was taking full time classes for my undergraduate degree and working.  Well, I pulled it all off (barely) and a month or so later, I received an invitation to interview for the Ph.D program!  I was so excited, I could hardly stand it!  This was fantastic news because again, this was really my only shot at pursuing this degree without moving out of state which I was not going to do.  Now, there are other organizational development programs taught all over, including on-line, but this was the ONE!  So the day of the interviews came and it turns out, this is a pretty darn competitive program – go figure.  I showed up 15 minutes early and there were already @ least 4 other candidates there, all dressed in black suites and looking very serious.  In that moment, I began to realize just how competitive this program/University was and I thought, bring it on God, I am ready!

HA!  Well, even though I thought the day of interviews, etc. went very well, the competition was just too tough and alas, I received word a week or so later that I was not accepted into the program.  In that moment, I was devastated.  I really thought I was going to get into the Ph.D track and that would be that for the next 4 years.  Along with the rejection (yes, indeed I felt rejected) was also an invitation to apply for the Masters track.  This is a different, larger cohort and after completion, if one wants to go on to do their Ph.D work in the program, they must apply for that track.  At first, I reacted like, well, a spoiled kid who did not get what they wanted but after consulting with my mentors in academia, I decided that I would be delighted and honored to get into the Masters track and I humbly threw my hat in the ring.  For this next waiting period, I was far less sure of my chances and waited on pins and needles, as now I questioned whether I had what they wanted/needed for even the Masters track.  And then…I got the email that said that I WAS ACCEPTED.  I was very excited and very relieved.  Although I had a back-up plan in place, my heart was set on I/O at SPU. 

  “Ones best success comes after their greatest disappointments.” – Henry Ward Beecher

As the months have gone by since I received that incredible news, I have come to realize that I really am right where I am supposed to be and that getting into the Masters program was perfect.  I also realize that the disappointment I felt was a gift; a gift of humility, of patience, of perspective and of gratitude. 

I believe that each disappointment is a gift.  A gift, which if one is willing to unwrap, is beautiful and limitless.  Disappointment can teach us to let go of what we thought we deserved, expected, wanted, etc. Disappointment can teach us humility and most importantly, disappointment can provide a perspective of what is really important in our lives.

I have been through a lot of disappointment over that last several years and each time, I gain a deeper sense of perspective of what is worth getting disappointed over.  Not getting into a Ph.D program when less than 7% of the world has a college degree, well, cry me a river.  The FACT that I am getting to go to graduate school is enough to move me to tears of gratitude.  How lucky am I to be so fortunate to not only get a Bachelors degree and figure out where I want to do my graduate work but actually get into the school of my choice and have the opportunity to pursue the education I desire.  I can guarantee you that I will begin my studies with a much deeper sense of gratitude and humility than I would have if I had been accepted into the Ph.D track. 

Disappointment, while it sucks in the moment because of all of the emotions it brings; rejection, resentment, fear and loss, also brings amazing gifts that are ours for the taking.  We just have to be willing to accept the package, take the time to unwrap it and gratefully discover what we have been given.

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Letting Go…

There are a lot of things of which to let go.  Past hurts, unfulfilled dreams, anger, resentment, lost love, fears, stuff; the list is endless.  Many spiritual teachings encourage us to let go but as easy as it is to say, it is not always so easy to do.  Letting go takes courage.  Letting go takes faith.  Letting go takes believing that our lives will be better when we let go of whatever it is that is holding us back.

 While I was thinking about what to write for this blog post, letting go just kept coming up.  I don’t hold on to a lot of stuff.  I generally just keep what I use and also, I let go of past hurts, etc., pretty well but I can hold on with the best of them.  I spin the classic, “fear” tune and am not always able to take it off the juke box of my life very easily.  I don’t fear much but what I do fear, sure does hold me back.  I’m working on those fears – working on letting them go, for good.  As a matter of fact, I stepped into the ring of fear this evening to prepare for this post.  I am very opinionated and among those who know me well, I do not hold back but…in a larger setting, I have been more reserved.  I feel I am always walking the line between wanting to speak my truth and respect those who do not feel the same way and therefore, do not want to hear something in opposition to what they believe. 

 About a year ago, I finally became active on facebook and a love affair began.  I am on the site daily and find it a very good space for staying connected to friends and interacting with new people too.  Because I am a full-time student and I work, I don’t have a lot of time for a social life so it takes the place of that as well.  The past several months, I have become more open about my political beliefs as well as my general life philosophies on the site.  This is a big step for me, to be so open, especially when a lot of my fb friends do not share the same beliefs.  Tonight I really let go and was open about my opinion of a particular political person.  I am still feeling a bit uneasy as I know several friends like this person but I realize that I can’t help other people find their voice if I am unwilling to use mine.  I am letting go. 

 Letting go takes baby steps and it take practice.  Mostly, it takes making a decision that you don’t need a garage full of stuff, or to hold onto that broken heart you have been carrying around for 10 years or whatever it is you are holding onto.  So in the spirit of letting go, I have a challenge for you:  Each day, make a decision that it is ok to let something go.  You might start with something simple like a dishtowel that has seen better days or perhaps take a bigger step and release a pain that has long outlived its welcome.  As you reflect on your jukebox filled with emotions or look around at your physical surroundings, make the commitment to let go of one thing within 24 hours and see how it feels.  See if letting go of what you no longer need helps you to feel lighter, freer.  Just see how you feel about this concept called, “Letting Go”.  Who knows what you might be willing to let go of next….

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Compassion…

Compassion…

“Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.” – Frederick Buechner

 

I really like this quote and it has taken me a long time to fully appreciate his wisdom.  Compassion is not always an easy thing to find.  Life is busy, full, stressful, overwhelming – a plethora of adjectives that run the spectrum of emotions.  According to the Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary, compassion means, “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it”   Feeling compassion for the driver who cut us off or the clerk who is terribly rude – well, feeling compassion for them is often more than we can muster. It is in these times, however, that finding compassion is the greatest gift we can give them, and ourselves.  Perhaps the driver is rushing to be by the side of a loved one in the E.R. or the clerk found out he is being evicted.  When we surrender to the “what is” in that moment – that moment when we really just want to swear at the driver and honk our horn or say something flippant back to the clerk.  If we just take a deep breath and let the other driver in, smile at the clerk, and let go of their bad behavior, it is easier to let in compassion.  From that space, we can wish them each a good day and find some happiness.  We can also allow them space for some happiness too. 

Everyone is doing the best that they can in every moment.  This concept also took me a while to fully appreciate and agree with because it sure doesn’t always seem that way but indeed, it’s true.  This includes ourselves. Understanding this and accepting this truth is the first step to living a compassionate life and ultimately, finding true happiness.

There is so much more I can write about this topic as it is deep, rich and limitless.  It is also one of my big lessons that I am here to learn in this lifetime.  As such, my compassion is tested – regularly.  For now, however, I ask that you join me in living a life conscious of compassion and each day that someone or something tests your patience; tests your capacity and ability for compassion, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “How, in this moment, can I feel more compassion towards this person/situation?”  and see if indeed, you are happier – if even just a little bit…

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Love is all around…

Love.  It’s a word that means so many things to so many people. Love is hard to define.  It would take every piece of paper ever made to write all the different things that love means to all of the different people that exist on our planet. 

Love is to feel warmth, kindness, compassion, empathy and trust for another.  Love is all encompassing, smoothing over sins and discretions.  Love is a feeling that exists within all creatures.  Love is all around.

Perhaps the strongest love that exists is the love a mother feels for her child.  It is said that no one will love you like your mother and each year that I live, I find this to be true.  This love, between mother and child, is unbreakable no matter how hard the child tries to test the bond.  No matter how many rules they smash, or how deviant they live, or how they may harm another, the love their mother feels towards them is so deep and true, it is almost indescribable. 

So to for the child; no matter how many times their mother has hurt them, their heart’s always open at the site of her.  A mother can abuse her child, physically, mentally, spiritually and the child will still love her like no other.   This love is perhaps the most indestructible thing that survives in our existence. 

Love can be effortless and chosen like the love between friends.  I find this to be a sacred love that feels like no other.  This love is flexible because everyone knows that friends come and go.  Humans are more willing to hold this love as fluid, prepared from the beginning that one day it may end.  The love one feels for a friend however, does allows for a deep connection.  It also opens the door for secrets to be revealed and sharing to occur.  Of course it wouldn’t be a proper friendship if it weren’t also filled with fun and joy.  The simplicity of friendship brings with it a splendid lightheartedness that does not often exists in the other forms of love. 

Songs have been written about love. “All you need is love” according to John Lennon or perhaps “love has caused my heart to break and it will never heal” sings the old country crooner.  Books have been written about love.  Poetry and novels, short stories and spiritual texts.  Love is all around.  Plays have been written about it; Romeo and Juliet. Operas like Madame Butterfly that make the heart cry and leave one asking, “…is that really love?”   

There is romantic love.  According to The New Oxford American Dictionary, one definition of romance is; a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.  This same dictionary gives the following definition for love; an intense feeling of deep affection.  Reading these definitions, who wouldn’t want romantic love?  Who wouldn’t want to love someone with so much depth, excitement, intensity and mystery that they would be willing to die to stay together for eternity?  With the divorce rate being what it is, perhaps too many have gotten married because of the myth that shrouds this kind of  love.  There is a whole day devoted to this idea of romantic love; Valentines Day.  Cards are out in force at the local drugstore ready to jump off the shelves and find themselves in the hands of loved recipients.  Boxes of chocolate and stuffed animals lined up like soldiers for love in these same drugstores, all given in the name and promise of romantic love. 

There is love wrapped in intimacy like you might find in a marriage or partnership.  One in which loyalty and devotion to each other has been committed and glimpses of all the other loves are interwoven throughout the partnership like a fine thread holding a delicate garment together.  This love can be broken in a heartbeat.  One partner makes a decision that can change the relationship forever.  Perhaps their loyalty and devotion wavered for a moment in time, forcing the other partner to decide how and if they want to continue to love.  Intimate love can also last a lifetime, becoming the elderly couple, walking hand in hand along the seashore together, parting only at death, or perhaps like Romeo and Juliet, together for eternity. 

There is tough love.  Putting up boundaries and rules with someone who has continually taken advantage of one’s love.  Finally one day, they’ve had enough and say “stop” to the love abuser.  The locks get changed on the door.  Keys get taken away.  Money no longer given.  This is tough and it is love.  The love giver disappearing, their actions saying, “Enough, there is no more love”.

Love does not always come with such big actions.  It can be as small as opening the door for another or smiling at a stranger.  Love can be dropping spare change into the red Salvation Army buckets at Christmas or buying a homeless person lunch.  It is the kind word said to the person having a bad day.

Love is limitless.  It is big and small.  It is all around everyone and everything.  It is within us all and what makes life worth living.  Love is life and life is love and love…is all around.

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Perfection…

Perfection.  It is an ideal that many of us strive for on a daily basis.  This pursuit is both exhausting and impossible.  Nobody and no thing on this planet is perfect and yet, we are all perfect.  It is a paradox, really.  There are many spiritual teachings that tell us that we are perfect, as we are, in this moment – flaws and all.  Yet, once we put down that wise text and turn on the TV, an ad is flickering across our screens, letting us know we need to be skinnier, fitter, stronger  That our abs need to be more pronounced and that we just don’t smell good enough.  Our teeth are too yellow and our clothes, well, the ones hanging in our closet just won’t do.  With the images that bombard our days from the moment we open our eyes until the moment they close shut for the night, how on earth are we not to feel compelled to be “perfect”.

I have spent many years of my life, suffering from the ailment, Perfectionism.  This disease has kept me from many things.  It began in high school where I did not even try out for the basketball team, even though I am certainly tall enough and had a pretty good shot back then.  I wore Perfectionism around with me through my adult life like a jumpsuit made of lead.  Blatant, never subtle, so obvious that I often found myself apologizing for it, “I’m sorry for not doing that perfectly, I will try harder next time”.  It got so bad, strangers would tell me to stop saying “I’m sorry” all the time.  After a while, it became so exhausting, this jumpsuit, I decided it was time to figure out how to take it off. 

The journey has been day by day.  Each day, I feel the need to be less perfect.  I have been afraid that by giving up being a perfectionist, I would lose my edge.  That I would not be as good at things that having to be perfect seemed to bring.  I suppose in some things that is true.  I no longer wig out if my pj’s don’t match perfectly or if I have made a mistake on something.  But after years of removing the jumpsuit, one inch at a time, I believe I am striking a balance of doing things with excellence and allowing my humanity. 

Life has been much more enjoyable and I find that people respond better to my humanness.  You are reading this blog because I am not waiting until it is perfect.  Surely this could be better written, edited more carefully, more insightful, etc. but if I waiting until all of those things could be complete – these words would NEVER get to print.  They would still just be running around in my head, waiting for the day that they could come out…perfectly.

I have taken a huge cue from Microsoft.  They will launch a product, even though they know it is full of bugs, knowing they can work them out over time.  Microsoft understands that if they waited until it was “perfect” well, I don’t even want to think about that outcome.

So…the next time you find yourself at the crossroads of perfectionism and humanity, choose your humanity and start freeing yourself of you own jumpsuit.

“Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make you a far happier and more productive person.”  Dr. David M. Burns

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