The Little Things

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They are all there: the torn photo of the little girl, the crumbled picture of the wedding party, the ripped up school certificate. Mementos of strangers, scattered, torn and damaged, all carefully collected and curated by strangers so the prized possessions can go home. “Who does this?” I wonder, “Who goes through a pile of debris dumped by Mother Nature 20, 50, 100 miles from home because he or she might find some piece of a former life its owner thought was lost, because every material was lost?”  It turns out that many kind souls volunteer to do this. When I look through the Facebook pages created to reconnect possessions, lost in the tornados that ripped through Northern Illinois on Sunday, with their owners – I see snippets of happier times from lives that suddenly went dark. I see the kindness of strangers who reach out to say, “You haven’t lost everything. You haven’t lost your memories.”

 These photos of moments in random lives remind me that life is really a series of moments. Stop and think back on your life. I bet it isn’t an unfiltered category, but a personal slide show of unique memories. Do you replay the “firsts”: first kiss, first heartbreak, first day at work, first steps?  What about the faces and voices? Can you remember the person who reached out to you in a tough time? Gave you a hug or a smile when you really needed it? Gave you a kick in the pants when you needed that, too? Isn’t that why we collect photos, journals, programs, ticket stubs, etc? It isn’t just “stuff”; these artifacts tell the stories of our lives.

One of the creators of the Facebook pages to connect lost items with their owners understands this.  Explaining why she makes the effort, Becky Siegel-Harty shared that she lost a sixteen-year-old son last year. “If I lost everything, one picture of him would be the world,” she said.

Once again, it takes a tragedy to remind me that it’s the little things that add up to the sum of my life. This Thanksgiving, my intent is to celebrate the little things, the fleeting moments, that create my story.  I may even find some time to look at old photos to remind me how lucky I am. The fact that I can is one of those blessings.

What about you? How do you celebrate the little moments of life?

Change Up Routines: Four Ideas to Try on This Fall

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The transition from summer to fall shows up more than on calendars.  Maybe it starts with how we remember this transition from childhood. Lazy mornings replaced with out the door blitzes, meandering road trips replaced with weekly/monthly planners, beach reads replaced by term papers.

Even though it seems that lazy summers are more of a fixture of memory instead of current reality, the calendar change to September 1 still sends a message: Routine Returns. This fact in itself isn’t the problem. The problem is that I put on the same old routines every fall like old sweaters, even the ones that don’t fit anymore.

I was jolted into this awareness as a result of a terrific little book: Manage Your Day to Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind by 99u. It’s full brief but valuable ideas from creative thinkers I admire: Seth Godin, Leo Babauta, Tony Schwatrz among many others.  Started to read it on the bike at the gym and got so excited that I thought Hop off and go do this stuff…RIGHT NOW!

My “ah-ha” was not that routines don’t support creativity – to the contrary, routines are critical – but I become stuck in them. I have to find the routines that work for me now, not get back to the old ones that no longer work. It’s like the old pair of jeans I finally gave away last weekend. Stop trying to imagine someday they’ll fit again and move on to something that does.

Four Ideas to Try On

Next week, when September 1 hits, I am ready with new shoes and new routines. Like these:

1.     Great Work Before Anything Else. Do my most important work early in the day when I am fresh and save responsive work for lower energy times. No more starting the day with Gmail then finding two hours of my best energy slip by. My satisfaction comes from a sense of accomplishment, not an empty inbox.

2.     Show Up, Inspired Or Not.  Stop waiting for the right time, right mood, and right place. No more self talks of run this errand, read this blog, check out Amazon and then I’ll be ready. See Gmail lesson above. Promise myself 15  good, focused minutes on a task before I quit (and I probably won’t.)

 3.     Work On My Biggest Priorities Every Day. Calendar time every workday for the projects most important to me. Stop putting my most important goals last, when I have “time” to work on them. Even as little as 30 good minutes on a key goal every day gives me the psychological prize of progress.

 4.     Work With Intention. For me, working intention is the easiest to understand and the hardest to do. Repurpose the hope of wandering into something to focus on my purpose. This means when I research, stick to what I need, not what’s interesting. In a conversation about someone else, stick to the “someone else.” Every activity starts with a purpose or doesn’t start at all.

What About You?

This fall, these are the new or recycled routines that will help me to be more focused, productive and satisfied with my effort.  But what works for me may not work for you. So what about you? What routines will you need to put away with the shorts and flip-flops? What can you try on in their place?

Reference:

99u by behance (2013). Manage Your Day to Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind.

Check out the website for really cool ideas on creativity and productivity:

http://99u.com

 

 

Someone Exactly Like You

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Today is our 18th wedding anniversary. I could write so much about the wonderful person who is my life partner; I’ll stick with the essay below. I wrote it a few years ago after a sudden and scary illness caused my hospitalization to help me remember what “in sickness and in health” means.

I spent the decades of my twenties and thirties in a search for “The One.”  My pattern was to choose potential partners who didn’t see me in their future, and then invest my effort, energy and self esteem in convincing them to view me differently. I came to believe that my God was a Woman when She intervened on behalf of my better judgment. These relationships now only have the shelf life of lessons learned.

“The One” entered my life. He was so true to my list it was almost like he was a design from central casting. And, he was into me. He was so perfect that I didn’t see it immediately.  This time, She and a good friend intervened when I was ready to bolt.  I stuck with the relationship that stuck.

Even though I described myself as “winning the spouse lottery,” I took note of grievances and annoyances over the years. Maybe I noticed the small things missing because the big important things were already there. In the unconscious routine of normal life, I invested more in my list of grievances and annoyances than they merited.

We were married for 16 years when “The Monster” struck.  Our last conversation before he left for work on that President’s Day weekend ended with his anticipation about the welcome respite of a rare day off. Our first conversation on his arrival home that same evening started with “Let’s call your doctor.” Instead of the respite of promised of a holiday weekend, The Monster took him for a ride, too.

“The One” was never far from my side in the hospital. He snuck in contraband lemon ice after he noticed that it was the only thing I’d eat from the meal tray. He presented every variety of tea he could find so “I’d have a choice.” He arrived at my bedside with care packages of little necessities he thought would make me more comfortable. He brought my favorite pillow from home.  He held my hand when needed. He hugged when needed. When I was searching for “The One,” someone expressed hope that I’d marry someone who would help me with my bedpan, because in the end that’s what commitment might come down to.  I know for a fact that I did.

Wise people remind us that our prayers are always answered, just not in the way we expect. Today, I thank God that She knew better when I sent up my desperate devotionals during my single years.  The right ”One” did come along. Occasional storms, like The Monster, remind me that I am lucky enough to love the best person I know.

Happy Anniversary, Peter.

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Learning From a Big Baby

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First steps with grandmother

What would you say to this little guy working on early steps? Would you say?:

1. What makes you think you can do this?

2. Aren’t you worried that you’ll look stupid?

3. This looks hard. Going to be awhile before you’re good at it.

4. How long are you willing to need help? Isn’t it embarrassing?

5. What if you fall down? What if it hurts?

6. Walking isn’t all that important. Stick with crawling.

Nope. Don’t think you’d say any of this.  Besides,  given his smile, don’t think he’d listen. He’s having too much fun on this risky venture.

So, what are you saying to yourself about the wobbly new steps you need to take to move ahead?

Work In Progress

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If you read The Development Sherpa for the first time, or are a regular reader, thank you! Your time is valuable and you have many other options, so your interest in this site, even if fleeting, is important to me.

There is some remodeling work happening with this site. My human capital practice, SBK & Associates, has grown to be large enough to deserve its own dedicated site. Yeah! One of the things this means is that the talented web site designers building the SBK & Associates site are working behind the scenes to move things from here to there. The folks at Andrew Lehman Design are really good, so hopefully most of the changes occur in the black box behind your screen. But there are a few  weird things temporarily on some of the pages that will be there until all systems are go.

The Development Sherpa blog will stay; it’s just getting a new neighbor. Pardon any messiness while we pack and unpack our digital boxes.

For Robin. For Me.

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Tuscan Path. SBK Personal Collection.

Robin Conyers was my friend. This is not an exclusive set; most people who met Robin thought she was their friend. They were right. I don’t remember exactly when we became friends other than it was many years ago when we were work colleagues. Robin and I ended up on several teams together as a result of volunteering or an act of voluntold.

I struggle to introduce you to Robin with grace and brevity. The grace part is easy; the brevity part not so much. Here’s my best shot.  Robin was the kind of women you’d want your daughter to grow up to be like. She was whip smart, but you didn’t know that until you got past her charisma and her curiosity. She always wanted to know about you before you knew about her. Robin was determined. Long before we were talking about “Lean In,” Robin was jumping in. As a Black woman in corporate America, in Sales no less, Robin knew she had to work twice as hard to be considered half as good. So she worked three times as hard. She took on the tough assignments, the tough customers, and the tough teams. She moved so frequently I wonder if she ever unpacked. Robin was beautiful; stunningly beautiful. She’d always looked like the “Do” list from the fashion pages. When Robin was in the room, you knew she was there. But she cared more that you were there.

Robin was not perfect. She had a highly sensitive “B.S.” meter that went off like a smoke alarm. Robin didn’t suffer fools. But you had to act a fool to draw her fire. She had high standards for herself and high standards for you. No one got a pass.

The Walk

One October, Robin invited me to participate in a fund raising walk for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I said “Yes,”knowing somewhere in my heart that she’d ask until I agreed so got it out of the way early. Then I messed up. On the day of the walk, I failed to leave enough time to travel to the start site. Upon arrival, I was stunned to see thousands of people arriving. Finding a place to park was a nightmare because street after street was blocked off (duh, it was a walk).

After I finally parked and got to the launch site, I was well over an hour late. Frantic, I asked the grounds crew cleaning up which way they went. It was like an old “they went thatta way” scene from a Western, as I ran from person to person for help. Some were clueless and others pointed in different directions. I started off, but soon realized how fruitless it was to follow a crowd when they knew where they were going and I didn’t. “Next time,” I told myself. “ I’ll explain what happened to Robin and promise to walk next time.” I always think there is a next time.

Robin told others on the walk that day that her cancer had returned for round three. No one knew then that it would be the round she’d lose.  I didn’t know that it would have been the last time I’d see her alive. Robin passed about ten weeks later. 

The Promise

This weekend is my “next time.” I’ll join in the 40 mile Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Chicago.  I’ll resist the temptation to carry a sign reading “Shouldn’t this be a walk against Breast Cancer?,” because that’s what it is.

Other walkers do this for magnificent reasons: research grants, support of the medically underserved with the disease, and family support. (We forget families suffer from this diagnosis, too.) I also walk for those reasons.  But the main reason I walk is to keep a promise. I walk for Robin. And for me.

Two Requests

I am walking with a list of people I know who have been affected by breast cancer. They are survivors, currently in a fight or a victim. This list will remind me to keep going when I’m tired.  If they can fight, I can fight. If you have anyone you want to add to my list, send it to me on Twitter at @SBKandAssoc using #onemorestep by Saturday morning, June 1. Or, leave the name in the Reply section at the bottom of this post.

Also, I will need inspiration at about mile 20. (Oh, who am I kidding? I need inspiration at mile 5 on.) So, if you can use Twitter to send me encouragement, I will be very grateful. My husband will advise you from his marathon experience with me that I don’t necessarily act gratefully starting at about mile 14. Forgive any grouchiness. I will be grateful. Use @SBKandAssoc and  #onemorestep. 

It’s About Living

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My friend, Brynn Harrington, tuned me into this amazing video via her blog, wellfesto.  It’s about Zach Sobiech, a 17 year old who died on May 20, 2013 – about a week ago. But Zach wasn’t about dying. He was about living.

Nothing I can write will improve on this video. Watching may be the best 20 minutes you’ll spend today. Just have tissues ready.

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Too Many Words: Too Little Understanding

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Tired of sitting through dozens of Power Point slides hoping that someone gets to the point? Tired of listening to 20 minutes of explanation, then leave wondering, “What was THAT about?” Me, too.  If you’re with me, keep reading.

An associate I met at a training session last week introduced me to a remarkable tool: Six Word Stories. Six Word Stories include the beginning, middle and end of a story in six words. Legend has it that Six Word Stories started with a challenge to Ernest Hemingway: write a story in six words of less. Hemingway responded with:

For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

He later claimed this was his best work.

Inspired, I checked out a web site dedicated to Six Word Stories. Here are a few of my favorites:

A thousand wrinkles. A thousand smiles.

Nothing to declare. Much to remember.

Match made in heaven ignited hell.

Inspired, here is the Six Word Story of my life:

Started slow. Found way. Finishing strong.

Six Word Stories can be a call to action, prompt discussion or summarize outcomes. They are so much more creative then yet another slide.

What’s your six word story?