Amp Up The Childlike Wonder

Finish what you started or drop it like a rock.  Life is about choice and subject to change.   After attending a meditation class last week, I spent the last two days debating my return.  Do I have better things to do with 90 minutes on Sunday? Is it worth the time?  I decided to go back to class and there was a substitute teacher who  made a world of difference. The purpose of meditation is to still mind and be present in the moment i.e. do not let your brain hijack everything with to do lists and anxiety about your appointments on Monday. Given all that happened in class #2, my mind was quite active. When the teacher suggested we deal with thoughts like watching a movie – let them sail on by vs grabbing onto them – I figured putting them on mental post it notes would help me later on.

Today’s class was about awareness of sound, the responses sound evokes, and how to quiet your brain when sound triggers a response.  When the class began, there were a variety of musical instruments on the floor and a feeling of anxiety crept up on me. Alert!  Alert!  Outside the comfort zone!  My first feeling with tambourine in hand was the angst I used to feel before music recitals many years ago.  My first thought as I held the tambourine was, “Will I make a mistake?”  The answer?  NO!  There were no rules except to make it up as we went along.  I imagined what it would be like to play tambourine if I were part of the E Street Band.  Running out of the room was the irrational Plan B.

When the teacher asked the class to approach music and sound with child-like wonder, I realized it can be quite difficult to turn on that skill when you are out of practice. How many adults can just turn on child-like wonder on cue?  I found myself trying to remember what it was like to feel a sense of childlike wonder.  Step 1: Remove the literal, practical adult approach to observation and listening. Step 2: Focus on sounds and vibrations with a sense adventure and curiosity.  It became clear to me that it is far easier  for children to sit in a group and shake  tambourines and bang on drums with reckless abandon. Adults likely have a more fearful response.  Will I look stupid?  Do I have rhythm? Am I sweating? Where are the mimosas?

Do you remember the horrid sound produced when you played the recorder in elementary school? Neither do I.  Creating music was such a wonderful break from grammar lessons and arithmetic.  Squawk on the recorder and forget everything else is how it went.  Children innately know how to enjoy each moment, in my opinion.  Their lives revolve around activities and lessons requiring an open mind, wonder, and creativity. Many adult lives revolve around pragmatic activities, rules, processes and doing things the way others want it done.  (Flip charts and white boards are about as creative as many of us get; though I often leave a doodle on conference room whiteboards if I have the opportunity).   It might benefit executive teams to have advisory boards comprised of young people.  Imagine the logic and creativity youth would bring to problem solving and personnel issues to counterbalance the worry,ego, and stress adults often bring to the table.

It occurred to me the other day that all adults need to keep coloring books handy as a diversion of our adult lives; or any medium of creativity from years ago. Pick up a paint brush or your tinker toys or your clarinet or your crayons. The Google Doodle Contest is the very thing that gave me the idea. Every year Google has a themed contest and K-12 students from all over the U.S. can submit their interpretation of the contest theme inclusive of the Google logo.  This year the theme was “If I could invent one thing to make the world a better place.”  Check it out for some really creative ideas and illustrations.  It is really fascinating what young minds can create.

I often have experiences that leave me asking why I let go of my childlike wonder.  When did it happen and why didn’t anyone tell me to hold onto it?  Generally, it seems children are in a fortunate state of worry-free openness and without the tendency to relate an activity or event to a past life experience. Adults fill up their pockets with life experiences and let the the bad ones encroach up on new experiences.  Spring Cleaning is here!  Clear your clutter! Mental and emotional clutter that is – why am I still living with pre-music recital anxiety at my age with a tambourine in hand, in a meditation class?  Oh, yes – if I make a mistake it will mess up the whole performance even though no one would care!  It would be so much more interesting to pick up a musical instrument and think, “WHOA!  What kind of sound can I create with this!”

What triggers your creativity and sense of wonder?  Figure it out!  You may have to do something you normally would avoid or dismiss (like meditation class?). It will likely help you discover new things about yourself.  If I fail to talk myself out of next week’s meditation class, I can only imagine what might happen to again push me out of my comfort zone.

Thank you for reading this blog!

Part Two: What is Success?

Reading Thrive sent my brain in a new direction.  Success has to be something other than earning money, a grander title, a nicer office and dining on a lot of stress sandwiches.  Thrive describes success as having a balanced life. One point that really resonated with me – success is achieved by building memories in every life you touch. Leave a lasting impression, make a difference in someone’s life, or maybe help someone else find their way.  I have always been on board with this in my personal life and now to translate “humane” elements into career is compelling to me. Do I do that in my job today?  Unlikely.  Do I know people with the opportunity in their jobs today?  I certainly do.  I have a friend who is an oncology nurse.  I know there are families who will always remember her kindness and bedside manner while helping patients and the families.  I have another friend who is a health coach and has begun to do speaking engagements to promote a healthy lifestyle.  Without a doubt there will be people along the way who will benefit and remember the person who served as their guide to a healthier way of living.  I saw a Facebook “friend” was recently named teacher of the year at her school.  I truly believe her students will look back and remember the support and encouragement she provided wherever they end up.  There are careers paths that enable selfless giving with a two way reward.  Some will say “well how do you make any money doing those things”.  There are many ways of earning a living; though it likely requires a big mindset shift about career and rewards associated with success.  The rewards may include your salary and intangibles such as humane treatment of…humans.  To paraphrase Thrive,  no one will be raving about the ability to perfect a power point presentation and praising ability to work 20 hour days at funeral. One’s positive impact on others serves a greater purpose and will surely be remembered more so than any administrative skills. People who understand their purpose and find their passion have a different point of view than those of us who are drones in corporate life (no offense to anyone who loves cubicle life and conference calls).

What if success means taking an alternative path versus a cookie cutter corporate career?  Many people have amazing talents and gifts that are likely untapped while sitting in a cubicle or office, working in front of a computer all day.  How many people actually use their strengths vs forced to develop a weakness. How can natural ability and skills be preserved in an unnatural environment?  My strength is hardly crunching numbers in any capacity, however, I am required to do it at every week. I find it excessively time consuming and tedious. I have told my boss I am not a revenue analyst and that newsflash  falls on deaf ears so I plug away at my spreadsheets anyway. Do people in management positions really know how to identify and cultivate talent?  Do we as individuals know how to develop our own talents?  We apply and interview for jobs and get hired according to job specifications, based on self promotion whether or not it is a perfect fit.  There are people who are well suited for corporate life. There are people who can fit into corporate life and would thrive elsewhere. There are people who will never thrive in a corporate environment whether they have tried it or not.  I will say, working for a large corporation can be a good place to develop knowledge and skills for use somewhere else along the line.  I find it fascinating to hear stories about people who leave their suits and laptops behind to take an alternate path.  I think most say what they were doing helped them understand how to get to where they really wanted to be.

I wonder how many people realize there are more options than a corporate ladder and are unsure of how to make it happen.  How do you climb your own ladder?  How do you bypass the ladder and take the stairs to achieve your desired success?  How do you ensure what you get in return for your effort is acceptable and rewarding?  From my point of view, it is daunting to leave the security of a corporate job and move into something that may  involve an unfamiliar level of uncertainty.  I would imagine there are many people out there who place limitations upon their own success because it is challenging to step outside the comfort zone.  Conversely, there are people who are forced outside the comfort zone and end up on their own path based on fate or circumstance.  Maybe it just time for those who need to, to take time to decide what success means and find the inspiration to take a leap of faith and do something new or different.  Just a thought.


Bungalow Blogspot

My friend is keeping a blog to track a big home renovation project. Admittedly I pressured her into it because it just seemed like a great way to keep her friends and family up to date! We have been friends since we met freshman year in college and I think as the years have passed we have developed a great friendship.  She is a very successful business woman who has an amazing eye for interior decorating.  I often tell her I cannot wait to see where her design career takes her.  I believe she will do something more than side projects – interior design consultant or contractor?  She has a passion that could really turn into something great, I believe.  She has a knack for color, fabric, and furniture coordination that I find to be enviable.  She has lived in many different places and one thing is for sure, she always finds just the right space to impart impeccable taste and creative ideas.  A few years ago, while she was preparing to move from New York City to London, she was creating her interior design plan.  She had a ziploc bag of fabric swatches which amazed me as this was all she needed to style her new flat.  She took the swatches everywhere in New York City as she shopped for all the furniture and accents for her London home.   She finds inspiration for design so easily.  I would need full on home decorating magazine.  I had the chance to visit her London flat and it was a fantastic.  She worked with white, shades of grey and shades of purple.  I posted a picture at the end of this post .  She recently set up some Pinterest boards with so many great ideas that I think I will fly her to New Jersey when the day comes that I buy a bigger home.  I can always use help with the color coordination and furniture ideas.  Anyway, here is a link to Kim’s blog to see what is happening today with her new home.

Thank you for reading this blog and my friend’s blog!


The Skeletons Can Be Helpful

Have faith in what will happen. It just popped into my head  and I started thinking about various events in my life.  When I reflect back on where I have been and where I am now, there are so many things I never expected or never anticipated. Writing that sounds ridiculous to me on some level. There are so many unexpected things that happen in life.  It is necessary trust in the idea that there is a reason behind everything that happens and the timing of things will be what it needs to be. Maybe some people ponder this often but I tend to reflect when something reminds me to do so.  How did you get here?  What decisions did I make or did I not make?  How have I changed? What has changed me or what has been the impetus to change? Here is what was happening 1 year ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago.  The things in the present that were never on my radar in prior years are most interesting to me. 10 years ago I never would have imagined I would be working where I am today.5 years ago I would not have believed I would still be working where I am. It is interesting to reflect on the people who were in my life and those who have drifted in a different direction and the new people I have met along the way.

There is a saying I have read that I will misquote and it goes something like,  “Do not think about the past because you do not live there.”  I tend to look at the past as the way to learn how to avoid repeating those things you prefer to never again repeat.  You can say you will never do something again but I believe until you determine why you did something or examine what was happening in your life at a specific time, you may repeat things.  You have to look at the matter, understand why it happened, what role you played and what you can do differently next time.  I have a friend who says he nevers likes to think about the past.  He does not like to think about mistakes he has made or “stupid” things he has done.  Avoidance only leads to more of the same.   Facing yourself and taking accountability for things that have happened can be difficult and uncomfortable.  I tend to think once you take a hard look at something and you learn something valuable.   I think avoiding the past is like being chased. I think of a cartoon character running with zombie skeletons in fast pursuit.  Once you stop and turn around and address each skeleton by name and find out why you are being chased, the skeletons vanish.  We learn lessons from past actions by virtue of  facing things and setting them free.  If we choose to face a lesson or take a lesson to heart, it can only be a helpful lead-in to change. The past does not define us.  It can help us figure out who we want to be moving forward. We make mistakes, we make less than ideal decisions, we do weird things, hang out with various people and it all happens for a reason. I guess sometimes you have to visit the past and then move on versus living in the past and dwelling or letting the past continuously tap you on the shoulder.  It is like going on a weekend trip.  You visit, you look around, you experience things and then you go back to your reality.

Learning is an ongoing experience, we never stop learning whether we like or not regardless of age.  Well, perhaps on some level learning is choice or admitting there is something to learn is a process.  I was talking to a friend recently about a specific situation and I said I had nothing to learn from it.  The next day I was driving to work and realized there was something big I had been ignoring – kind of like an elephant in the room.  When you least expect it things can reveal themselves and teach you something new.  I would guess in a year or 5 years I will look back again and be amazed about what has changed in my life.  I tend to think things change in our life if we pay attention to signs and messages that lead to the lessons.  Some lessons are harder than others and some result in really positive things.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog.

Branching Out

This is a short one!  Now that I have a blog, I am learning many things about what to do and how to do it.  Something brought me to Bloglovin’ tonight.  I cannot recall what exactly, however, I found it via Google and found it will replace my Google Reader.  I am a little delayed in replacing Google Reader, however, better late than never!  I am adding a link for anyone who uses Bloglovin’ to track blogs.  It is very helpful to have a single source to access my favorite blogs even though I follow many on Twitter!

Thank you for reading!

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It’s Poetic

Sometimes when I think about something, I notice things around me that relate to my thoughts.   I suppose it is as if when something is on my mind, the answers present themselves in unusual ways.  Tonight I was pondering what to do with my life as I often do and was thinking about the obstacles we all create for ourselves in one way or another.  I had a college professor who advised me to declare the major of interest to me when we were discussing my course of study.  I conveyed my fear of two classes others told me were impossible to pass.  My professor suggested if my fear of two classes were to stop me from declaring my major, then I would likely have regrets later on in life.  I passed the two classes with A’s and can say, even after all these years, I am happy I removed the obstacles I had created for myself in that situation.

One of my biggest learnings from that professor is my understanding of fear.  I have always felt fear stops us and is what makes us create obstacles for ourselves.  It can be paralyzing, distracting, confusing, and misleading.  While I was pondering this evening, I came across a TED Talk about overcoming fears (among other things) which I will write about later and a quote from E.E. Cummings (his full name Edward Estlin Cummings, I never knew). “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” E.E. Cummings.  For some reason this quote just bounced all around my brain like in a pinball machine (bing).  It made me think of people I know and myself and what it takes to change or why a person would find it difficult to change and why (bing).   I thought it can be pretty scary to leave things behind (bing), change things about yourself (bing), or do something unfamiliar (bing).  Leaving your comfort zone takes courage because it can be uncomfortable (bing bing bing).   It also reminded me of this post I recently wrote and as change occurs, it is good to have the right people around you.  It also reminded me of the blue dragon fly I saw today.  It landed near my foot while I was outside an office building talking to a colleague.  I found it to be an unusual location for a dragon fly and actually researched the symbolism of a dragon fly because it seemed odd to see such a critter where I did.  Dragon flies represent the symbolic meaning of transformation, change, and adaptability.  Things happen for a reason, you meet people for a reason, sometimes you read things for a reason….you catch my drift.

What Color is Your Hazmat Suit?

Have you ever tried to write a blog entry while sick?  It can be really difficult.  My ambitions of creative thoughts have been stymied by a head cold and Dayquil.  I have been out of commission for several days and my brain has decided it is taking a few sick days.  My brain is clearly smarter than….um me?…because it recognizes I need rest versus my usual non-stop over thinking and processing of everything that comes my way.

In my many days on the couch, there are two things I have discovered:  national news is reporting a flu epidemic and the Food Network has introduced me to the concept of a bacon cheeseburger topped with macaroni and cheese:

Now, in the past, I would have dismissed the flu epidemic information as hype and would have found a way to get the mac and cheese burger (see my Hurricane Sandy post). I have decided to be a little extra vigilant this flu season.  I researched the symptoms and consulted with a friend who is a nurse and am fairly certain I have some unpleasant form of a cold.  I did research preventative flu measures.  The flu shot is an obvious one, however, I have mixed emotions about the flu shot.  I have researched foods and ways to bolster the immune system and have read the obvious in many articles.  Wash your hands and that’s it.  If you sneeze, wash your hands.  If you go to the gym, wash your hands afterwards.  I even washed my hands when I got home from CVS today because how many sick people like me are walking around that store?  I have to guess a LOT of people neglect to wash their hands. Shaking hands often skeeves me out because I have seen the movie Road Trip. Wash your hands.   I may spray anyone who sneezes on me with Lysol too or buy a hazmat suit after watching the news (ok not really).

That’s all I have for now.  Do check out the burger though.