Reach Out

Reach Out

When my aunt left one job for another, she told me she was so surprised by who reached out to her and who did not.  When a friend recently got a new position, she told me she could not believe – or understand – why hardly anyone said anything to her after the announcement.  When I had a bad experience in front of many people, I was kind of shocked by how few people checked in with me the next day.

 
I feel like I could write a book about this.  My recent blog post – The Right Words at the Right Time – tells you why I think it matters to reach out – why it matters to always be the one who says, “I will miss you” or “It won’t be the same without you” when someone is leaving; why it matters to say, “That is so great for you that you are in a new role now. Congratulations!” when a colleague gets a new job; or why it matters to check with a friend who has weathered a hard situation by saying “I wanted to make sure you’re doing okay.”

 
And now, there are so many ways to do this that make it easier if it’s uncomfortable in person or by phone.  There’s email, texting, social media to say nothing of a handwritten note.  (That’s a blog post for another time!)

 
But, why don’t people do it when it is so easy?

 
I am going to make my guesses based on my own experiences:

  1. People do care, but they are not good at showing it. Another way to say this is that if people do not show you they care, it does not mean they don’t care.  It is not easy to accept this, but I think it’s true.
  2. People are distracted and busy with regular life. It’s easy to forget to take the time to reach out.  Reaching out means we have to think about others more than we think about ourselves and sometimes that is hard for people.
  3. People don’t like to feel uncomfortable. Feeling uncomfortable is not easy.  People do not rush towards what is uncomfortable or hard.  Without even realizing it, people prioritize feeling comfortable and having things feel easy over reaching out to others.
  4. People have no understanding of how much their words or gestures could make an impact on others.
  5. People think that others are reaching out and generally underestimate the value of their words or gestures (i.e., they may think, “Others are reaching out so it’s okay if I don’t.”)

 

So, what can you do?

  1. Show you care consistently and as a priority. Increase your awareness to be intentional on a consistent basis with the people who matter to you.
  2. Think about others are much as you can, and if you do get distracted, reach out when you finally can with no hesitation that some time has passed. It will always matter.
  3. Remember that it’s okay to feel uncomfortable. It’s okay for things to be hard.  We can do hard things. When things are happening, people aren’t looking for their friends, family or those who care about them to solve any problems.  Mostly they are looking for people to show up and be empathetic.  As Oprah once said, “All people want is for you to show up and say, ‘I don’t know what to say but I’m here.’”
  4. Understand that your words, your gestures AND YOU matter so much.
  5. Reach out even when you know others are doing the same. There is no capacity on caring words or generous feelings, on support and love, or on kindness.  We can all benefit from this even if we are receiving a lot at one time.

 
I would love that the next time my aunt changes jobs, her story is, “It was so awesome that everyone reached out to me before I left” or for my friend who gets a new position to say, “So many people let me know how positive they thought this was and were happy for me.”  Or, when something stressful happens, for people to connect with me after, reminding me people are feeling for me.

It matters.

Reach out.

 

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A small example of reaching out – it always matters to let others know we are thinking of them whether it’s a simple gesture like this (“I saw this and thought of you!”) or something of more consequence

The Right Words at the Right Time

The Right Words at the Right Time
I once was on the phone with a friend who told me it’s important to him to matter to people.  I found myself thinking, “Yeah, me too,” in my mind when he said it.  Later, when reflecting on this conversation, I realized that while it is important for me to matter to people – I definitely want to – I think what is more important to me is that I communicate and act in such a way that all the people who matter to me know it.

 

And this aligns with another concept about which I’m often thinking: the right words at the right time – a phrase inspired by a Marlo Thomas book from the early 2000s.

 

I think there are so many examples of the right words at the right time.  It’s the colleague who takes the time – whether in person, or by quick text, or by longer handwritten note, or by email – to congratulate another employee on a new position.  It’s the family member who took the time to comment on a Facebook photo, “Your grandmother would be so proud of you.” She had no idea that just a couple days earlier I was telling a story about my grandmother and what incredible timing that comment was – and how much it meant to me.  It’s the friends who share links or quotes or whatever else with me, and say “This made me think of you” or “I know you will love this.”  It’s the friend who sends me an email after a horrific situation and says, “I have been mulling and mulling over what I wanted to say to you about last night, and I think I’m struggling because no words seem quite right.”

 

That’s just it.  The words almost always are exactly quite right because they’re being shared at all.  All of these examples – and countless others I could offer – are all the same thing.  It’s people saying “I’m thinking of you.  You matter.”  Those may not be the words used, but that’s the message I receive loud and clear.  And, to me, that’s an example of grace.  And I’m grateful for it whenever it happens.

 

I think we all get busy though, and it is hard to follow through with letting people know they matter and with sharing our thoughts.  On the very morning I first started writing this, a friend texted to let me know she appreciated a card I had sent a couple of months earlier.  She realized she had not said anything, and she wanted me to know how much she valued it.  My response was a smile and a heart emoji, and that about sums it up.  When we reach out, when we share our feelings with other people, it makes us smile, it touches our hearts and it reminds us that we matter – and that we have cultivated lives full of people who matter to us.  I was glad to know she liked the card, and I was glad she reached out to me to tell me.

 

Last year, when I was on a vacation and only accessing email and social media through my iPhone, I saw an article I knew a friend would like.  I emailed it to myself so I could remember to print it out and send it to him when I was home.  (This is an older friend who doesn’t use email regularly.)  Although I had the best of intentions and I prioritize this kind of reaching out, I totally forgot about it.  It was not until months later that I was going through my email and I found the link.  Oops.  I still printed it out, wrote a note and mailed it to him though.  I wished I had remembered it sooner, but the offering was the same: this reminded me of you, I am thinking of you, I thought this would make you smile – and there’s no time limit on those expressions.  Just like my friend who texted me about the card I sent.

 

My life is busy, and I sometimes get distracted.  This is true for all of us.  I focus back though, eventually, and I don’t disregard what I wanted to do only because a little time went by.  I still do it.  That’s the important part.

 

So I think how people matter to other people is in large part through the right words at the right time.  And those words – and gestures – that are shared every day in small moments, in person, by mail, online, through texting.  We matter to people – and we let people know they matter to us – every time we say and we act in a way that says, “I am thinking of you.”  And, when we do, we never know if that’s just what the other person needed to hear, if it was indeed the right words at the right time, or if it was a more fleeting uplift.  Either way, I think it’s one of the best investments of our time we can make, and it matters – and it’s often how we matter to other people.

 


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A favorite example of a friend reaching out from 2012 – a note mailed to me on scrap paper because she knows I REALLY  appreciate reusing and recycling.  😊

Admitting Mistakes

Admitting Mistakes

Last spring, I was having dinner with a friend who asked me, “Nicole, when should leaders admit they’ve made a mistake?”

I could barely get the words out fast enough.

“All the time!”

“Whenever possible!”

She went on to tell me about her boss, who not only never acknowledged when she could have done better or when something was done wrong, but she also never complimented anyone either.

This is a toxic combination which will create a culture of people who are disgruntled and distrustful.  This will create an atmosphere where no one is at their best.

I thought about me.  I feel like I constantly own things – sometimes things that were not even mine to own – but that’s what taking responsibility is all about.  That’s what leadership is all about.  If I feel good when staff do the right thing – which, fortunately for me, is very often – then I have to accept, show grace and take responsibility when they do the wrong thing.

Leaders can’t only take credit when things are positive; leaders have to own all of it – the imperfect, the bad, the disappointing.  Of course you hope hard times pass quickly, but you have to see them through.  To me, that’s the way it works.  There is simply no other way.

Brené Brown talks about the original definition of courage in her TEDxHouston talk.  She says:

“Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language – it’s from the Latin word “cor,” meaning “heart” – and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so…, very simply, the courage to be imperfect.” 

If you’re leading with courage, you are showing up all the time.  You are showing up when things are positive, when things could be better, when things are imperfect, when things are real.  And by doing this, you encourage others to do the same.  If you show yourself to others, others show themselves to you.  That’s something I know for sure.

I vividly remember the first time a boss swore in front of me.  Someone had done something she wished he hadn’t, and in the privacy of her office, only to me, she exclaimed that this person was a “f***ing a**hole!”  I think my first reaction was laughter, followed by shock that she shared this with me.  It made me see her differently.  She was a real person.  This was a real reaction.  And she trusted me with it.  This was definitely someone I wanted to show my real self too as well.

And that’s how it goes.

When should leaders show who they are?  Whenever possible.  All the time.

When should leaders admit when they’ve made a mistake?  Whenever possible.  All the time.

You have to own everything when you lead, and in doing so, you’ll show up for the people you’re leading – and encourage them to do the same for you.

 

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Grace

Grace

I think grace is a concept that is really hard to pin down.   What does it really mean?  It is kindness?  Is it a connection to God?  Is it a synonym for poise?  I think it’s used in all these ways – and many more too.

I saw Elizabeth Gilbert speak last September in D.C. and one of the unplanned messages of her talk – which came from someone wanting to give her a gift – was about receiving grace whenever it’s offered.

She said otherwise the energy flow is broken.

I think if you view grace like that – it’s something to receive, it’s something to which you should be open, it’s something that you should see as a gift – it doesn’t matter how you define it.  It can be God, it can be love, it can be kindness, it can be thoughtfulness or it can be something else – or maybe some combination of all of the above.  I know a lot of people think many of these are the same thing, and some people don’t, and it’s okay whatever you believe.  I think it’s almost refreshing to have a concept like grace that is so open to interpretation that it’s both personal and universal without any controversy either way.

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A moment of grace at Camp Sunshine 2014

This idea of accepting grace has been in my head for a year now, and what I know for sure is that it does not matter how you define it.  All that matters is that you know it when you see it and that you are open to it at every opportunity.  What matters is that your first instinct becomes to accept it and welcome it rather than shut it down and think you should not have it.  Sadly, that’s many of our gut reactions on this.

Two months ago now – eleven months after I first started thinking about this – I had an experience where I had a feeling grace was going to be offered to me.  I was not expecting it (that’s really important to note), but I practiced in my mind what I was going to say in case it was offered.  I wanted to be gracious.  I wanted to be open.  I wanted to practice what I preach (and a couple weeks earlier, I had been vocal in preaching it with friends).  I did NOT want to interrupt the energy flow.

And, despite all of these good intentions – and even a rehearsal in my thoughts – I was not as open to it as I should have been.  I had to stop and self-correct in the middle of my response.  I said the thing that I think is the worst thing to say when grace is being offered to you: “You don’t have to do this.”  And of course the response was – because I’ve said it myself when I’ve been the one trying to offer grace: “I know I don’t have to, but I want to.”

And it’s it. Right there, that’s grace.

And I don’t want to interrupt that.  And I don’t want it interrupted when I’m trying to give it.

So, that’s the challenge.  Recognize the gift of grace.  Recognize that it’s an ongoing possibility no matter the place or group.  Recognize that to accept grace, you may have to let go of something else.  Recognize that grace is (among so much more) a hug or a kind word or a generous offer or a treat of ice cream – or in my example above – a complimentary oil change!

You can see and have grace everywhere if you’re open to it.  Recognize that the more we pause, breathe and create space between our reactions that the light dawns on us faster.  And with that light comes the grace.  And then we’re more open and more grateful – and I think also more apt to offer grace too.

And that’s definitely an energy flow I want to encourage.



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Anna Quindlen

Anna Quindlen

This one is a personal story.

In the summer of 2001, I discovered Anna Quindlen.  I remember it very clearly because it was the summer I graduated from college and the same summer I was interning at Kiwanis International for Key Club Convention.  One night, I was alone in my hotel room in Indianapolis, flipping through channels on the television.  (I feel like when you’re alone in a hotel room, you sometimes find channels you don’t always see when you’re at home.)   I found Book TV on CPSAN, and I paused to listen to an interesting woman talking about things that resonated.   Turns out it was Anna Quindlen.  I had never heard of her, but I liked what she was saying.

It was awhile after that before I started reading her work, but when I did, I was drawn in immediately.  I appreciated her strong voice, the way she was real with her words and feelings, and her views on feminism.  In short, she was quality, and I wanted to get involved.  I set out to read to read all of her work.

(I could say then that I admired her – and I definitely still do.  I can say now that my goal to someday write a column or a book (or have this blog) was inspired first from reading her work and hearing her express her thoughts.  Others have since made an impact on my vision, but she was the first.)

Shortly after I moved to Northern Virginia – this was probably 2002/2003 – I tried to find one of her books at the Fairfax County Public Library, and I was surprised it was not there.  First of all, I loved her, so of course that means everyone else should too!  But, more objectively, she won a Pulitzer Prize for her writing so surely all of her books should be in the library system – especially the library system in a county as renowned and regarded as Fairfax County in Northern Virginia.  (Well, I may not have thought that last part at the time because I was still new to Fairfax County, but I definitely do now after having lived here for fourteen years.)  AND the book I was trying to find was a collection of her New York Times columns that won her the Pulitzer Prize!

So, not to be deterred, I ordered a hardcover copy of Living Out Loud to read and then I donated it to the library.  They accepted it with ease, putting a stamp in it that said something like “Donated by a reader like you.”  It went into the system immediately.  I checked the book out a couple of times for good measure, but then I forgot about it.

I did not forget about Anna Quindlen though and have since read all of her non-fiction and fiction books.  When she had her Newsweek column, I followed it regularly.  I’ve seen her speak at least twice and have several of her non-fiction books signed.  She is definitely a favorite.

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2004 National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

 

But, I had forgotten about that book I donated.

This past spring, I was trying to find a book by different author online in the library catalog and it was not there.  I was surprised – and a little annoyed – and I then remembered this situation.  Without really knowing what I was doing, I was suddenly searching for Living Out Loud in the catalog, and it was not there.  I searched again thinking I typed it wrong word or something.  Not there.  Sighing, I opened another window in Chrome and went right Amazon to order it.  They don’t sell Living Out Loud in hardcover anymore, but I bought the paperback, and when it arrived, I took it to the information desk at the Fairfax County Library branch closest to me and tried to donate it.  I did not realize the process for donating books had changed.

I was given a form and told that there is a lengthy consideration process from a selection committee.  I was also told that the library will not consider any donation that is not at least four copies of the same title because they do not like to have only one in the system.

So, I went home and ordered three more copies from Amazon.  And then I brought all four books to the library branch with the form.  They took them, and shortly after that, on May 15, 2016, I received an email about the donation.  When I saw the subject line, I got excited, but it turned out to be an exercise in patience waiting for me:

“Thank you for your interest in the Fairfax County Public Library. The Collection Services department received your gift copies of Living out loud.  The selection committee for gift materials will be happy to review the title for possible inclusion in the collection.  I will let you know the committee’s decision once they have met. 

We are very fortunate to receive a number of gifts from local authors and organizations, so please allow us several months to respond. Items must be approved by the Collection Services Department prior to addition to the FCPL collection.

If you have any questions about the process don’t hesitate to email me.

Thank you for thinking of the Fairfax County Public Library.”

I thought, “Several months?!” but pushed that aside to feel good that the books were in the queue to hopefully be processed.  I also appreciated the communication letting me know.

I go to the library frequently, and I wondered about the status of this a lot since May, but I tried to have trust in the process and not be bothered by how long it seemed to be taking.

Finally, on September 15, 2016, I received another update:

“Thank you for offering to donate four copies of the book, Living out loud, to the Fairfax County Public Library. 

After careful consideration we have decided to add this title to our collection.  The books will be cataloged and added to the circulating collection at four branches.

Thank you for thinking of the Fairfax County Public Library.”

YAY!

Finally!

(Also, really? All this for a Pulitzer Prize author whose other books are all in the system?!)

But, okay, okay, Fairfax County Public Library accepted the books and they are there now.

That is the important thing, and I’m glad.

But, really, the important thing is that someday, some other young person is going to discover this quality author.  And that young person will want to read everything she wrote and will expect the library to be able to assist.  And then, maybe because of the author’s books, that young person will be inspired to think about his or her own dreams.

And, as in my case, maybe years after discovery, will have a place to write about it all in a blog, which is a kind-of a very, very distant cousin to having a column.  😄

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Thank you, Anna Quindlen.


If you’re reading this and live in Fairfax County, Virginia, please consider checking out this book from the library.  (You can search it online here.)  I know one reason books are culled out of the system is because they are not checked out often enough.  I’d love not to have to donate this book for a third time. 😉

You can learn more about Anna Quindlen and her work here.

Connection

Connection

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love memoir, she recalls a conversation among friends in Italy about each city having a word: one word to describe it.  With only one word, is it possible to define a city, a place, a landmark?  Or, how about a person?  In the book, Liz Gilbert and her friends went on to each talk about their individual words.  It was hard for many of them to define themselves in just one word.  This passage always stayed with me because it took me about a second thinking about it to know that my word would either be connection or community.  These two concepts are so intricately linked for me, and I know for sure they are critical to my happiness and fulfillment.  I also believe they are necessary traits for a leader to possess and foster in others.

 

Being connected is a phrase used a lot these days.  Most often though, it doesn’t mean something shared between friends – a laugh, a smile, a memory  – or between familylove, traditions, history – but, instead, it’s often used in relation to our iPhones, tablets or similar such devices.  There’s definitely a place for electronic connections, but, for me, connection means something more intangible.  My favorite definition comes from Brené Brown: “Connection is the energy created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued.”  I LOVE this!

 

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But how do we create connection?  How does it improve the quality of our lives or our leadership experiences?

 

Listen. Be open.  Communicate.  Think about others.  Appreciate people as they really are – for their gifts and vulnerabilities and everything in between.  Really see people.  Share understanding, feelings, laughter and experiences.  Show empathy.  Remember things that matter to other people, and care.  Care with an open and whole heart, and care because it matters to you to do so, not because it’s expected or you think you should.  This is connection.  And with connection comes a feeling of community.

 

I know for sure I am happiest and most at ease when I feel connected, when things feel solid, when I am building deeper community and trust between people I know and love, and even when it’s happening with those I don’t know as well yet.  I love the small – often intangible – moments when you feel it truly building with someone new – one gesture, one action on top of another until you get to that perfect place when, there it is – a connection that’s real and true built on mutual trust.

 

The importance of feeling connection and community is not isolated to my personal life.  I think my most rewarding and successful team and leadership experiences have been buoyed by connection and community.  When we feel safe to be ourselves, we are at our best.  This will show in our work, and in the level of investment we put forth to the cause – and to each other.

 

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Happy Mother’s Day – to Mothers

Happy Mother’s Day – to Mothers

Earlier this week, I received an email that said:

“This weekend is special.  Motherhood is universal – and I include as mothers not only those who raise kids, but ones whose children are flowers, pets, crafts, and art.  One way or another, we women are nurturers.  So, this Sunday, let’s celebrate us!”

What??  I stopped reading after the second sentence.  I think Mother’s Day is only for mothers…mothers who raise children.
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There is more than one path to motherhood – you can give birth, you can adopt, you can foster, you can marry and then become a mother instantly (I’m not talking about being a stepmother in the background or on the sidelines…) – but mothers are mothers.  I’m not a mother, I don’t have children, and Mother’s Day is not for me.

 

And that’s okay.

 

Elizabeth Gilbert says there are three types of women in the world: “There are women who are born to be mothers.  There are women who are born to be aunties.  And there are women who should not be allowed to be within ten feet of a child.”  (You can watch her talking about this here.)  I am definitely in the second category (and already this morning, I was kindly recognized twice for being Auntie Nicki, which was so generous of the moms who were thinking of me on their special day).

 

The message I quoted at the beginning was sent by a fiction author I like.  I suspect she sent that note to her email list in an effort to be inclusive.  I’m guessing she did not want any of her readers to feel separate from her books or her writing.  I understand that, to a point.   I am all about being inclusive when it makes sense, but I don’t think it makes sense in this way on Mother’s Day.

 

And I think the least we can do for all of the mothers out there – especially the good ones, the ones who really do nurture their children’s growth – is to give them this day.  They don’t need to share it.  It’s theirs.  They earned it.

 

Many women are nurturing – I do think that’s true – but not all women, and not all women are mothers.  The paradox is that not all mothers are nurturing either, and some women who are nurturers are not mothers.

 

Today’s message is simple though: Mother’s Day is for mothers…mothers of children.

 

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So, Happy Mother’s Day to mothers – with special acknowledgement to my mother, my godmother, my grandmothers in heaven, the mothers whose very special children call me Auntie Nicki and to my other friends who are mothers or soon-to-be mothers (especially those who are selling it – you know who you are). xo

 

 

Holding On Too Long

Holding On Too Long

 “I think the most reliable way to take a good thing and make it go bad is to hold onto it too long. So you’ve got to let it go.” (Louis C.K.)

 

I think about this a lot – not this exact quote, but this idea.  I think about how hard it is to leave something you love.  I think about how scary it is to give up something that means a lot to you.  And mostly I think about how it requires tremendous strength and a grounding of oneself to do it.  In order to leave something, you have to have faith that something else awesome is waiting for you.  You have to believe you’ll love something else as much as you love this.  You have to know you’ll be okay without this.

 

It is hard.  I think because when we are wrapped up in love and joy for a place, a person, an experience or an entity, we can’t imagine anything being as good, but later when we think about it and look back on things, we see that so many other things were as good.  Or can be as good.

 

But, still, it takes strength to make a big change.

 

I collect a lot of thoughts on this idea:

 

“In my heart, I know it is time for someone else to have that opportunity.” (Jon Stewart)

 

“You cannot depend on people to let you know when you need to go to that next level because people love you till you leave.  When you’re walking upstairs, the stair that squeaks is the one you left, and you have to realize that when you’re getting ready to move on, you get the most noise and the most turbulence from the step you stepped away from, not the step you stepped toward.” (Bishop T.D. Jakes)

 

“Am I really doing what I want to do today because I want to do it or am I doing it because it’s what I was doing yesterday?” (Dr. Phil McGraw)

 

“I also think it’s possible to be called away from things I have been called to in the past.  I’ve been powerfully called to some things and just as powerfully been called away from them. There are goodbyes and hellos in our callings.” (Barbara Brown Taylor)

 

“I had come to the point where I had grown as much as I could grow in that space, and I could feel the energy of my life pulling me in another direction.  That’s how you know when it’s time to move: you can feel the energy of your life pulling you in a different direction.” (Oprah Winfrey)

 

These words do not necessarily make the idea of walking away something any less unsettling, but I think they help create perspective – and I know for sure they help empower me.  These thoughts also help to center me in this intention, despite how hard it may be: I don’t ever want to be the one holding on too long and turning a good thing into a bad.

 

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37 Things I Know for Sure

Another year, another thing I know for sure! Well of course it’s more than one, but I narrowed it down to what I thought was the most important addition for this purpose (I was that surprised it was not already on the list), and I also made a few small edits to the previous 36. Yay 37! 🙂 

 

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37 Things I Know for Sure

  1. “When people show you who they are, believe them.” –Maya Angelou
  2. Be intentional. Know what you’re doing and why – and own it when something does not go exactly how you intended.
  3. Operating out of fear creates stress and tension for you and everyone around you.
  4. Love is in the details.
  5. There are three ways to be when leaving something (a place, a job, et cetera): act like you don’t care/have a screw them mentality; act as if you’re not leaving/so that people wonder, “She knows this is her last month here, right?”; or just be chill, do your best as usual and have only good intentions for what you’re leaving. Choose the third option, please.
  6. Accepting that something isn’t the right thing for you is very hard, but sometimes very necessary.
  7. Using people’s names in conversation builds connection.
  8. If you can do it, do it (whatever it is – for you or for others).
  9. Always take the opportunity to tell someone you’re appreciative, grateful, happy, and/or better off because of him/her. (“Celebrate what you want to see more of.” –Tom Peters)
  10. Validate. Say thank you.
  11. Being truly empathetic is about showing up, listening, hearing, being there; it’s not about problem-solving.
  12. Technology is a tool – for efficiency, for connection. It’s not for exclusivity or rudeness.
  13. Discretion, especially in groups, is a very valuable yet a very underused skill.
  14. Friends made during life-changing experiences are often life-long friends.
  15. When you have an uplifting, escapism, Joy Rising and/or Bonus Day experience, you’re resetting and refreshing. Look for big and little ways you can do it regularly. It’s so good for you.
  16. Self-conscious inclinations limit you; try to break free from them, even if little by little.
  17. Kids whose parents divorce or have some other challenge (in their family or within themselves) could benefit from talking to a professional. There’s no shame in it.
  18. Energy matters. (“Take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space.” –Jill Bolte Taylor)
  19. Showing emotion is real and true; it’s not something about which you need to be embarrassed.
  20. When someone gets cancer (or is going through something tough), say, “That’s awful. I care about you. I am thinking of you. How can I help?” Nothing else is needed. And, you can never say “I’m thinking of you” too much to someone who’s facing a challenge.
  21. Be yourself, openly and with pride and humility. You will encourage others to do the same.
  22. Quality leadership shows itself in so many tangible ways. You often don’t realize what you have until you don’t; try to be aware and recognize it when you have it and try to be a contributor to the positive culture and environment.
  23. Community isn’t a place, but a feeling. It should be synonymous with safety, trust and connection.
  24. Honor your friends’ trust.
  25. Find your person and people – and never forget how incredible it is that you did.
  26. Traditions and inside jokes can be the best. Know when it’s the right time to bring these out though based on who’s around you.
  27. When communicating to a group, operate as if everyone is brand-new to the situation. Thinking this way helps you be very clear with the information. Anticipate what will be asked and address that up front. When people know what to expect, they feel more safe and comfortable.
  28. Manage expectations – for you and for those around you.
  29. Credibility and respect are earned through honesty, being real and having a pure agenda on a consistent basis.
  30. Invest in what matters to you – with your time, resources and effort. (“Actions express priorities.” –Ghandi)
  31. Trust your gut. Go with your instincts. (“Doubt means don’t.” –Maya Angelou)
  32. Give credit where credit is due. (Even to yourself. And when others acknowledge you, being gracious is the best response.) Don’t take credit for something that isn’t yours. Know your role.
  33. Knowing when it’s time to say goodbye or call an ending takes a lot of maturity and self-awareness. It’s important to know when it’s time to give someone else a chance and/or find out what new opportunity is awaiting you.
  34. Be careful with the word “but.” When used, most anything said beforehand is not heard.
  35. We can’t ask people to do things that we aren’t willing to do ourselves, especially as leaders.
  36. When giving a speech, remember President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s words: “Be sincere. Be brief. Be seated.”
  37. Grateful thoughts change my energy, and that means the energy I share with others changes. Gratitude is transformative, and there is always, always, always something for which to be grateful.

 

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due: Writing my original post last year about a month after I turned 36 was inspired by Drew Dudley’s “38 Things I’ve Learned in 38 Years”

Revisiting Hard Things

Revisiting Hard Things

At school the other morning, I arrived to a card on my desk that reminded me to “Breathe” because “we are doing hard things.”  Definitely the right words at the right time for me, and they also made me laugh because I thought, “This is what happens when your colleagues and boss follow your blog. They quote it back to you.”  (My boss had written me an email with similar sentiment a few days before I got that card.)

 

It was funny timing because it was the same week when I was thinking of updating my Doing Hard Things piece, which was definitely one of the most popular blog posts I wrote last year (included below).  When I wrote that in September, I was on Day 29 of the hard thing I started in August, and I was Day 64 of the first hard thing I started earlier in the summer.  A lot of people wanted to know what my hard things were when the post originally came out.  I shared with some people about the second thing, but not the first.  The first, as I mentioned then, was kind of a dumb thing (and it definitely still is dumb), but it was an important thing for me.  It was something I needed to do, and I knew it was best for me to keep doing it so I did.  (Yay me! Yay 180 days!)

 

The second hard thing is also something good for me but in a different way.  It’s running every day, and I recently hit Day 100 of that!  It has not been consecutive for a variety of reasons, but I am very proud of my one hundred days.  (One the day I am posting this, I am up to 111 days!) Most of the time I get up early and I jog outside before I start my day, but sometimes I end up jogging outside in the afternoon or in the evening on my treadmill.  For me, part of accomplishing this hard thing has been prioritizing time for it.

 

But, back to my own words being quoted back to me.  So, yeah, we’re doing hard things at school, and it’s scary, and worrisome, and stressful.  And that’s how hard things often go.  My personal hard things weren’t really stressful or worrisome, but they were, each in their own way, scary.  It’s scary to stop doing something, to leave something behind because you know that’s what’s best for you.  It’s scary to start something new.  It’s scary to keep raising the bar, to keep making it harder.  And, at school, it’s scary – even as part of a team – to be working on something big, something with a lot of unknowns, something with a lot of moving parts.  I simply have to keep remembering (and it’s nice when others around me remind me):

 

I am doing hard things.

 

We are doing hard things.

 

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Thanks, Barn Owl Primitives, for the many positive messages they offer; this is simply one of many! And, always, thanks to my friends, the Giordanos, who radiate this idea in all that they do. It was in their home about a year ago that I first saw the sign. We now have one at school, and we’ll get a second one as soon as we finish the hard thing we’re in the middle of doing right now. 🙂  

 


Doing Hard Things – the original post from September 2015:

SEPTEMBER 17, 2015 / NICOLE MCDERMOTT

Doing Hard Things

“I can do hard things” has become a new mantra for me.  Over the summer, I did something that was hard for me for a day.  After that day was over, I did it for another day. And then another. And not too long later, I realized I had been doing it for a month.

And now I’ve been doing that same hard thing (which does not feel quite as hard as it once did) for sixty-four days.

It felt really hard for me to do. And it was.

But, I can do hard things.

The longer it went on, although it would have been so easy at any point to break my habit, the stronger, the more liberated, the more empowered I felt.

Doing this one hard thing buoyed my sense that I could do other hard things.

So, I decided to try another hard thing.

And now I’m on Day 29 of doing that hard thing.

Yay!

Here’s an important truth about hard things: what’s hard for me may not be hard for someone else, and what’s hard for someone else may not be hard for me.  Hard things are personal.

The first hard thing – the thing I haven’t done in sixty-four days – is kind-of a ridiculous thing. If you asked me what it was, I probably would not tell you. It is also kind-of an important thing – for me. And that’s what that matters. It was something I knew was good for me, something that would help move me forward and grow.

I think that’s the best kind of hard thing I could do.  And it’s the reason why hard things are worth my time, attention and celebration – and why this was a good reminder that it doesn’t matter what the hard thing is, it only matters that someone is doing it.

I can do hard things.

You can do hard things.

We can do hard things.