August 2013

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Meryl is speaking at Unity in the Rockies Sunday 8/1

door flowers 200If you’re local, I’d love for you to come hear me talk Sunday at Unity in the Rockies in Colorado Springs. There is a 9 AM and an 11 AM service. I’ll be talking about “A Sense of Place Between Worlds” and the art of living, loving, dancing and working in and between diverse worlds. I’ll focus on the lost art of direct experience, illumination from deep meditation, upliftment from ecstatic dancing, the calm that comes from authentic communication and a sense of place garnered from the subtle guiding whispers of nature.

And much more – in my 20 minutes.

The Spirit of the Place

Dad MantleI’m just back from a week at the family lake cabin with my son – where once again I sorted and organized and created a flow where there had been clutter. 

When I told my son what I was up to, he was concerned that I might squelch the spirit of the place. My aim was to set that spirit free. And that’s what I did. 

I spent a total of $15 for the project and tossed a total of one garbage bag of trash. Mainly I moved things we seldom use – or never use that I didn’t feel authorized to toss – into deeper storage, leaving the more accessible areas for active use and display. I placed the accumulation of once-treasured rocks from fifty years of lake living in to rock gardens. I created a “tribute to tennis” display from the tennis trinkets that were mixed in everywhere. Mainly, I’d say, I created “space for grace.” 

MantleYou can see the fireplace mantle in the above picture. Now there’s room to breathe – plus I placed a lot of original cabin antiques on it in ways that honor them. It sure seemed to me the spirits of the place were smiling when I was done. I know I was.

New Realities Invoke New Communication Habits

Lake CascadeThe skies were dark, but there were no flash flood warnings. We planned to go dancing when we finished our dinner, but when the heavens opened up and twenty minutes later we had received 1 1/2″ of rain and hail, we reconsidered. Fifteen minutes after that, our back yard was full of runoff, and a gully next to our home was a small pond. None of the local news outlets seemed aware of the intensity of the event just yet. One of my neighbors posted on a news FB page about the amount of rain we received, but it still took a while for anyone who didn’t experience it to recognize the implications.

Half an hour after that, the highway that leads to our town was a river. Cars were washed away and one man was killed.

People used to accuse the local news media of hyping the flash-flood threat. Not anymore. Experiencing disaster so close to home has made believers out of us. That said, this one wasn’t predicted. If the timing had been different, we might have gone dancing and gotten trapped in town.

Bob and I had spent a tidy sum of money mitigating our yard so if water came down like it did Friday, it would go where we want it to. Friday was a big test, and the water cascaded past our house and shed into the gully. I’m glad we took the threat seriously in advance. If we hadn’t built the diversion in our back yard, we’d still be here, but we would have spent our weekend shoveling mud out of our home.

It changes things when you know that something so simple as a small amount of rain can cause so much havoc. Now I review the weather reports even before I go out for a hike, because the trails behind us do flash-flood. I’ve never seen it happen, but I do see evidence of it with every rain we get. The gravel rivers keep getting higher and wider. 

Now that someone was killed, everyone takes the situation more seriously. The area made national news. However, they make no mention of why the rain is such a threat to us now. Last year’s Waldo Canyon Fire burned the vegetation that would slow rain water down. Some of the landscapes are like fired pottery – and totally resistant to water absorption.

Things do change, and people adapt. For one thing, new realities invoke new communication habits. Now, I don’t just check the FB news pages for updates. I post too. I posted about the inch and a half of rain. During the cleanup, I figured people needed to know that, although the highway was open, it took a full hour to get home instead of the normal ten minutes. If I had seen that before leaving, I’d have stayed home. It took a while for my habits to catch up with the reality.

Here’s the national news report. (Email subscribers many want to click the title to visit my site to view, or visit here.) 


Stop Doing Everything and Start Getting Everything Done

Get things done 11x17 200When I helped my parents transition to assisted living, out of necessity, I made a point of focusing on arranging to get things done instead of doing everything myself. I say out of necessity, because, living a thousand miles away, I didn’t have the option of trying to do it all myself.

I wrote an article about that for Office Pro Magazine yesterday that summarized it this way: stop doing everything and start getting everything done.

It’s funny how often I quicken shifts in my own focus from my writing. I’ve been learning to do everything myself in my business in large measure to help me understand the inner workings, and to help me find and harvest the opportunities in my many years of creative output. But as I wrote about my approach to helping my parents, I realized I’m ready to shift into tapping into other resources now. In other words, I’m ready to stop doing everything and to start getting everything done in my own life and business.

Enjoy the poster, (click on it to open a download) and let me know how you make the same shift in your world. 

A Wholesome, Healthy Hissy Fit

I had suspected Bob’s funk would be over soon after his assistant arrived. When I heard his animated voice on the phone, I knew the shift had happened.

Bob and his assistant often vent about the trials and tribulations of life and of running a business. Technology. People who don’t follow directions. Mistakes. I later learned that his assistant had arrived furious over a family member’s misdiagnosis and the new diagnosis that left him little time. The need for – and benefits of – a venting session were mutual. 

They had a healthy hissy fit. Both felt better afterwards (and the work got done). People who aren’t committed to staying mad, resentful, or seeing themselves as victims are good candidates for such an event. Some people will hold on to your hurt long after you have let it go. Those people aren’t good candidates. A healthy hissy fit is a communication practice, or kata, that can help you overcome communication obstacles. 

Bob and his assistant didn’t need me or a formal practice to have a healthy hissy fit. You might not either. But some people do. If you watch my recent SlideShare, you’ll see there is an art even to something like having a healthy hissy fit. It starts with aligning with your communication vision. That gives the foundation for the practice. 

I’m committed to living on the sunny side of life. Sometimes that requires me to dip into the darker side. I have had many a wholesome, healthy hissy fit myself, and I come out more empowered and ready to face life. That’s a good measure of the success of any practice. 

Tricking People into Doing What’s Good for Them

pepsodentI sent a copy of “The Power of Habit” to my dad, and he’s reading it “with interest.” He was a bit disturbed by the story of Pepsodent, however. Before Pepsodent, few people brushed their teeth, and oral hygiene in the US was on a steep decline due to increased sugar consumption. So Pepsodent wasn’t just selling toothpaste, they were selling the whole habit of brushing our teeth. The factors that inspired that new habit had nothing to do with the effectiveness of the toothpaste or of brushing. Pepsodent sold the foam and the fresh minty taste. The advertising made some false claims about those features, and those false claims, along with superficial benefits such as tingle, inspired our nation to adopt a healthy habit.

Dad rejected that completely. But I pointed out that, while it was deceptive, it wasn’t sinister or evil. I claimed (and claim) that sometimes it’s acceptable to trick people into doing what is good for them. 

I have a strong commitment to truthfulness, so I avoid false claims at almost every cost. But if foam and fresh minty flavor get people to brush their teeth, I don’t have a problem with selling foam and fresh minty taste. 

I call it conspiring for good. 

I sent the book to my father because he had complained about his inability to “stop doing stupid things.” I told him the book could give us a clue about how to create new habits. That’s the book’s “fresh minty flavor.” But a deeper benefit, to my thinking, is that it’s really powerful to discuss the nuances of my moral compass with the person who initially implanted that compass deep in my psyche. Even if the book never alters a habit for either one of us, I’ll say it’s working. 

When a Manager Lies

Stanford study tells how to spot a CEO who lies 

A recent Stanford study pinpointed communication tendencies that are common among CEOs who are later proven to be liars. Here’s what it said:

“For one, they seldom referred to themselves or their firms in the first person; “I” and “we” were replaced by terms like “the team” and “the company.” Deceitful executives passed up humdrum adjectives like “solid” and “respectable” in favor of gushing words like “fantastic,” and (not surprisingly) they seldom mentioned shareholder value.

They also tended buttress their points with references to general knowledge with phrases like “you know” and to make short statements with little hesitation, presumably because they had carefully scripted the untruths in advance and had no interest in lingering on them.”

The report also noted the tendency to swear as a tip off. 

The study lead to the question that a woman’s magazine editor asked me: “How do you get to the truth when bosses lie?”

Savvy Assistants Speak Strong: Key Conversations for Administrative Assistants

Your job is bigger than you think 

If you’re an administrative assistant, you know it’s your job to provide support, make your boss look good, and help him or her meet objectives. If you’re an administrative assistant, you also know your manager sets the direction and your role is to help him or her succeed. If you place your own agenda over your manager’s agenda, you won’t keep your job long.

That doesn’t mean you should remain passively silent while others tell you what to do and how to do it. Ideally, your relationship with your manager is a collaborative one, organized around your manager’s and your organization’s directives. It’s a relationship where you take charge of your role without taking over, you take the initiative without taking control, and when you need help, support, or resources to effectively implement your job, you initiate the important conversations that ensure your success and the success of your partnership with your managers.

Some Things Won’t be Faked

dance tutu 200Jacob brought his young daughter, Journey, to Communidance with him yesterday. He was in the band. Journey danced a little and later sat across from her father during the closing circle.

When the circle ended, Journey got up and walked across the room toward her father with the most loving look imaginable in her eyes. Jacob lit up in response, and Journey collapsed into her father’s lap for a beautiful hug. 

I felt privileged to witness it. (I also marveled over what it might be like to not fear your father as a child, but that’s another story.)

Recently, when I returned from Cincinnati, my flight was late out, so I missed my connection. I was upgraded to first class for the later flight, and I looked forward to some good rest.

But the lady who sat next to me was an extroverted flight attendant, and one of the attendants on duty was her best friend. They lit up to see each other, and spent close to half the flight in lively and dynamic conversation. I might have asked them to keep it down, but I felt privileged to witness their excitement about being together.

I remember a speaker once telling audiences to raise their eyebrows and look excited to see people. It was a how-to-win-friends-and-influence-people kind of recommendation. But there is no faking the kind of caring I witnessed in these two events.

If you do want to win friends and influence people, I say, don’t fake it. Commit to removing any and all obstacles to genuinely loving them. Cultivate tenderness, gratitude and appreciation. Some things won’t be faked. There ain’t nothing like the real thing.