Archive | Gratitude

My New Best Friend


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DSC_0829-1024x681 - Version 2I have to tell you a story.

I had a job interview a few days ago, one I was very excited about. I had made it through two cuts after submitting a cover letter and answering ten essay questions. I went into it – and came out of it – very excited about the opportunity, working to help grow a small company to the next level. Their materials talked consistently about two things near and dear to my heart: Community and Curiosity, and it would challenge me to use skills acquired throughout my career.

The interview went pretty well; I felt like we had pretty good rapport. He had me start with questions for him, and I was ready. This isn’t his first startup; what had he learned from launching previous companies? What did this job really entail? The description hadn’t been very detailed.

I liked his answers. Thoughtful. Honest.

He asked me about my strengths, and my challenges. I talked about my organizational skills, my abilities to build and improve processes, my communication skills, my facilitation skills, my relationship building skills. Regarding challenges, I’ve had to learn to deal with conflict using the tools I coach others on. Keeping my writing short and succinct. Living with my voice. He asked about my voice, and I explained it has been diagnosed as Spasmodic Dysphonia, a neurological condition that is similar to stuttering, except it affects the vocal cords. I have had some success with speech therapy, and I have chosen not to pursue the recommended medical treatment – there is no “cure” – Botox injections to the vocal cords. It can be challenging, I said, to get on the phone, to do Skype calls, but it doesn’t stop me.

We went on. He asked, What am I passionate about? I told him I’m passionate about building things. About solving puzzles. Holding the space for people to do their best work. Almost as an afterthought, I added, “Working with horses. I am also a coach, and I incorporate horses into the coaching process.” He made a note, and told me he had just hired someone for another role who also works with horses. He said, “You’ll probably get along.” That was encouraging.

At the end, he asked the Million Dollar Question. This is a start-up, he said, and we expect everyone to give it everything they’ve got. What do you think about that?

I was ready for that question, as it was my only concern. I told him I had worked for start-ups before, and worked in a variety of roles where I put in long hours. And it had taught me the importance of setting boundaries, of reserving space to do the things that feed me so that my work is sustainable. So I am careful about setting boundaries, and I encourage others to set boundaries too.

He kind of grinned – or maybe it was a smirk, this is a guy who sends emails at 10pm and 5am and on Sundays – and said it was always interesting to see how people responded to that.

We wrapped things up, and he promised I would hear from him by the end of the week.

I sent him a Thank You note by email, thanking him again for the chance to talk. And I reiterated that, while they couldn’t have “everything I’ve got,” what they would get would be really damn good.

I was cautiously optimistic. But he was interviewing 11 other people, and I suspected that my unwillingness to work 100 hours a week would eliminate me.

Much to my surprise, I got a response later that afternoon. He thanked me for my time, and said,

“There’s a lot to like. On reflection, I think the speech condition must be a non-starter for us. I need you forward facing in many many situations and roles, and with people much less sympathetic than myself.

Best to be straight about that.

It’s possible at some further point that there are additional roles, but for now, presentation in diverse situations is too critical.”

I was stunned.

I had to read it several times.

Not because he cut me.

But because he cut me because of my voice.

And he might be willing to hire me in the future if he could hide me.

I sat with it for a little while, then sent him a reply. I thanked him for his honesty, and said I understood – and that I had to push back. I pointed out that I don’t let my voice stop me, and I lead meetings, conference calls without video, and even workshops – all very successfully, because of my facilitation and presentation skills. Making a lot of cold calls would not be a good fit, but when it comes to facilitating meetings and building relationships my voice has not been an issue. In fact, it has been an asset in two ways: I tend to not waste my words and I have been told that my being “soft spoken” causes people to lean in and pay attention.

Then I got furious.

And had a good cry.

I was stunned. And angry. And disappointed. He went for my underbelly. That’s not “sympathetic.” He could have just said there was someone else who was a better fit. He could have said he really needed someone willing to give it all they’ve got.

But he didn’t.

He revealed himself.

*  *  *

Four different people checked in with me to see how it went, and I told them. Each one was appalled, not just for my sake but because, as each one of them put it, “I don’t think that’s legal. Did he really put that in writing?”

Yes. Yes, he really did.

I had another good cry.

The next morning, he replied to my reply, saying,

“Of course I trust you won’t let it stop you! I’m only saying that I personally found it a distraction.”

*Facepalm*

I wrote a response, saying (among other things), that I actually expected him to tell me he was looking for someone willing to work 100 hours a week, or that he had a candidate whose skills were a better fit, and I would have understood. But he had self-selected himself out of the people who appreciate me for the quality of my character and skills rather than a physical characteristic. I suggested he consider getting sensitivity training before someone else with a distracting physical characteristic reacts less kindly to being excluded.

But just before I hit Send, the wise Voice In My Head said, “Just walk away.” So I saved it to Drafts. I sent it to one of the dear friends who was appalled on my behalf, someone who has been a hiring manager herself, because I was torn between wanting to get The Last Word (and maybe even helping him somehow) and just walking away. She sided with The Voice In My Head.

So I let it go. I took a long hot shower and went to an interview with a different company – which went very well and we are going to the next step. Then I spent the rest of the day sending invitations for my new series of retreats and workshops.

*  *  *

I have sat through many tedious corporate compliance videos in my career, but I now understand first hand that this is why the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 are the law of this land. They were enacted to help us become comfortable with being uncomfortable, so that we could look through the differences that distract us to see each person’s gifts and abilities.

These laws don’t cover everything. But if we are able to cultivate a willingness to look past certain attributes, that helps us be willing to look beyond all kinds of distracting attributes to really see the person.

* * *

But that’s not the point of this story.

Even though this episode hurt, it gave me a great gift.

It has given me the chance to reflect and articulate how my voice has been an asset in various ways, including helping me exercise courage and compassion for myself – and for others. I applauded myself for all of the times I have chosen to get on the phone, to lead the conference call, to schedule the workshop. For all of the times I haven’t let fear of my voice stop me.

It also has helped me to appreciate more than ever the people who haven’t been “distracted” by my voice and who have valued what I bring to the table, including people who have asked me specifically – and repeatedly – to use my voice in leading workshops, moderating panel discussions, facilitating team meetings, leading difficult conversations, coaching them through rough spots, asking powerful questions, and speaking truth to whatever is happening.

I am immensely grateful for all of the people who are more interested in what I have to say than in how it sounds.

They are my tribe, these people who see Me.

He is not. He can only see my “distracting” voice.

I am grateful that he revealed himself.

I am grateful that I, too, have been revealed. I got to watch myself handle this differently than I might have several years ago, when I might have taken the bullet and let it make me feel Less Than. At one time I did let my voice hold me back, let it reinforce some story that I’m not good enough. But I have chosen, and worked, to not hold myself back. I need not be ashamed – of my voice, of anything. There is no secret to hide, to hide from.

And I’m grateful for something else.

When I received the diagnosis of Spasmodic Dysphonia five years ago, I chose not to go with Botox shots in my vocal cords for a variety of reasons. Some people do; good for them. But I do not. Because…

…Botox. It’s a poison. Eew.

…I can still sing. And no one could promise that the Botox wouldn’t give me a different speaking voice but take away my ability to sing. I’d rather sing.

…Botox doesn’t work for everyone, and when it does it is temporary. It also causes people to effectively lose their voices for approximately a week after each shot. I’d rather have some voice all of the time.

But most importantly, I chose not to go down that path because for ten years I had increasingly hated my voice. I saw it as The Enemy. But when you hate one part of yourself, you hate Yourself. I didn’t want to live like that anymore. I wanted a truce. I wanted peace. I wanted to make friends with my voice again. And I felt like shooting it with poison would be stabbing my voice in the back.

That’s not what you do to your friends.

So I have spent the last five years making friends with my voice. Taking it everywhere I go, being willing to be Seen. And Heard.

And this week I realized that my voice has paid me back handsomely with a great gift.

By showing me what I’m really capable of.

That’s what friends do.

Today I can say, loudly and clearly,

My Voice. And I. Are Friends.

Hallway Angel


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It had been a long week, and it was only Wednesday.

A week of highs and lows. Of time spent with the horses, of wonderful, uplifting, encouraging conversations.

And. A week of conversations that made me think, If I am ever in another Relationship I have so much to learn, so much work to do on myself, so much I want to do differently.

A week of looking in the mirror and thinking, I’m not young anymore. I have lines on my face I didn’t have before. And they’re not laugh lines. I’m not pretty. No one will ever love me again.

(I’ve gotten pretty good, over the years, at not indulging in negative self-talk. But I succumbed. And I noticed.)

Like I said. It had been a long week. And it was only Wednesday.

But on this Wednesday I had gone into The City for the monthly meeting of coaches and, as always, it filled me up.

I was standing in the hallway outside the hotel’s restrooms, waiting for a friend to come out so we could walk together to the train station. Standing, not thinking, just basking in the afterglow of a really good meeting with friends and colleagues and a speaker who had given me a lot to ponder.

I looked up from my pondering, and there was a man standing in front of me.

“Excuse me,” he said, “but I just had to tell you. Even from across the room. You’re beautiful.”

I gaped at him.

“Really,” he went on. “Stunning.”

I’m talking to an angel, I thought.

“This isn’t a pick-up,” he hurried to add. “I’m here with a date. I just had to tell you.”

“Thank you,” I managed to say. “I appreciate that.”

“You are, you know. Really. Beautiful.” I could smell alcohol, he had clearly come out of the bar, not out of our meeting, and was headed for the restrooms. I’d never seen him before. Maybe the angel took on the smell of alcohol to make himself seem real, I thought. Or maybe the alcohol made it easy for the angel to nudge him to action. Either way, it was exactly what I needed to hear.

“Thank you,” I said again. “I really appreciate that.”

Thank you, Angel. Whoever you are.


Take notice, the next time one of your angels whispers in your ear and nudges you to be an angel for someone else.
Are you willing to let yourself be nudged?

Image courtesy of papaija2008 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Grace


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It has been one of the most humbling yet uplifting times of my life.

And the word that keeps coming up?

Grace.

It is a word with several meanings.

One is connected to being “graceful,” the opposite of being clumsy.

Another is related to being “gracious,” which I think of as being kind, polite, warm.

Yet another is the blessing that is said before a meal, sometimes recited from memory, sometimes made up in the moment.

There is also the mystical idea of grace. Growing up in a fairly religious family, and taking theology classes in college, I heard phrases like “state of grace” and “grace is a gift.”

But what does that mean?

Well, two times in my life I have (consciously) experienced it. And, in my experience, grace is laced with irony. And it is, like the song says, amazing.

Ironic because it is humbling without being humiliating. Humbling, yet exalting. And amazing because… well, you’ll see.

The Story

My path began shifting earlier this year, in many ways. Most were delightful. Others, not so much. After a breakthrough year with my business, I suddenly found myself at the end of this summer not being able to “close” any new clients and not being able to support myself. A humbling – humiliating – admission for a business coach.

I had been planning to move as part of the shift in direction that has been growing over the last six months, but being forced to move – for financial reasons – was not part of my plan.

My Plan.

Sigh. “Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

Surrender

I fought the situation for as long as I could, until I finally surrendered and put out the call for help. And when I did surrender and put out the call, I was amazed. (I told this story to a friend, and he said, “Because no one responded?” No.)

Amazed because people came out of the woodwork in response. To help.

I received four offers of places to live. People showed up to help me prepare for a Moving Sale. They showed up to run the moving sale. They showed up to buy things. They brought food, they brought coffee. They brought boxes. They showed up to help me pack. They showed up to help me move. They took me to lunch, they took me to dinner, and they plied me with margaritas. And every time I was about to dissolve into a puddle of tears (like when I sold my plants and the fountain I built), someone was there with a hug.

Some people showed up for a couple of hours. Some people showed up over and over. Some people sent emails of encouragement, or cards. Prayers were offered on my behalf. People did what they could do, even if it was just send love. And that was enough.

Wow.

I surrendered, and asked for help, and help appeared.

It wasn’t the help I originally wanted.

It was better.

Friends

The day of the Big Move, ten people came just to help me move! That night, four of those friends took me to dinner. One of them looked at me and said, “A lot of people showed up to help you.”

“Yes,” I said.

“You have a lot of Friends,” he said.”

“Yes, I do,” I whispered.

“You’re very lucky,” he said.*

“Yes, I am,” I whispered with tears in my eyes. (*Actually, I don’t remember exactly what he said, because I was crying. But it was something to that effect.)

Help appeared.

So much help I could never have imagined it. And no one said, “You should have,” or “You ought to…” They did ask questions about my plans, and make suggestions, but there was no judgment, no looking down on me.

They just showed up. To Help. They lifted me up and carried me through. And what could have been a messy dropped motorcycle on the highway of life, with a bad case of road rash, turned into… a gift.

But I had to surrender first. And ask for help.

And help arrived. Help that was unexpected, and unearned. Help that reminded me that we are all connected.

That is Grace.

It would be easy to say that help was undeserved, but I believe we all deserve it. We are not entitled to it, and we don’t earn it. But we are deserving.

Help that is unearned, yet deserved. We all deserve it. Because we are all One.

Humbling and uplifting.

That is Grace.

Grace is a gift. A gift is not an exchange, as someone recently said to me. Grace delivers gifts that are not earned, even if we have worked hard, and for which the only payment we can make is to Pay It Forward.

Doors

Many doors have been opened to me, so many that I get to choose which are most true to the new path I am on. I don’t know where this path is taking me, exactly, but that’s OK. I get to make choices that strengthen good choice-making muscles. I now have two jobs in addition to my coaching, jewelry making, photography, and writing. I am living with a generous and delightful host. I am being introduced to people who can open additional doors.

I had to surrender and allow the decks to be cleared for something new to come in.

And for a new appreciation of something I already had to come in.

Saying Grace

Today when I say Grace, it has a whole new meaning.

Thank you for the many people who have blessed my life. Thank you for the opportunity keep learning and not be stuck, and not be trainwrecked. Thank you for adventure. Thank you for a roof over my head, for health, for laughter, for Connection. Thank you for music, and for play, and the opportunity to work, and for people to share all of this with. Thank you for all the blessings in my life, those I have worked hard for and for those I did not earn but came to me anyway. Thank you for opportunities to pay it forward, for awareness to see those opportunities. Thank you for memories, and for clean slates. May I have the opportunity to be a blessing for others as others have blessed my life.

Thank you all. May you enjoy a blessed Thanksgiving, and may you have the opportunity to say Grace every day.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Want to Make a Difference?


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In a recent post I told the stories of three friends who have either recently embarked or are getting ready to embark on Great Adventures. I’d like to say more about one of them.

LaVonne Ellis – Complete Flake, Voice Coach, Customer Lover, Writer, Adventurer

I first met LaVonne Ellis soon after I started blogging. I joined a couple of online communities for bloggers and people wanting to promote their businesses ethically and responsibly online, and LaVonne showed up in both of them.

LaVonne didn’t just show up, she welcomed me. And in the faceless, potentially anonymous world of virtual “communities,” that meant a lot. Then she started following me on Twitter. So I started following her blogs and Tweets. (Two years and one week ago today, in fact!)

As it turned out, part of LaVonne’s fascinating story is that she used to work in radio. Which, of course, means she has developed (or was born with) a wonderful Radio Voice. And one of her businesses was providing services as a Voice Coach.

Well at about this time, my frustration with my voice was reaching critical mass. For ten years my speaking voice had been deteriorating, making telephone work, public speaking and online presentations well, difficult. To say the least. And my frustration hit its last nerve when I was interviewing someone over the phone and she said, “I think we have a bad connection, can I call you back?”

Sigh. “No,” I said, “It’s just my goofy voice. It’s not the connection.” *hungheadinshame*

So I reached out to LaVonne, who was offering promotional half-off half-hour voice coaching sessions. I ponied up the money and sent her my pre-session questionnaire with a recording of me interviewing someone. I was so excited to get started!

She turned me down.

LaVonne Lives By Her Ethics

LaVonne read my description of my voice problem, and listened to my recording, and declined to work with me: She said it appeared to be a medical condition which had not been confirmed and could be serious, and said her strategies wouldn’t be effective for me. She encouraged me to see a medical specialist, and she immediately refunded my money.

I was crushed.

I had finally worked up the nerve to do something – again, after being disappointed by multiple doctors who couldn’t solve my issue and brushed me off to others – and she turned me down.

She did The Right Thing.

LaVonne could have taken my money and coached me and then said, “Hmm, too bad, so sad.” But she didn’t.

And it kicked my ass into trying one more time to get my voice diagnosed – this time successfully. Which has led to a two-year process of discovery, which is still going on.

I later reached out to LaVonne to thank her, and she told me how bad she had felt about saying no and disappointing me. But she did it anyway. The right thing.

Tough love.

Customer Love

Not long after that, LaVonne and much of the online world read a post by Naomi Dunford, “Make Them Love You. THEN Ask For Money.” Like many others, LaVonne was inspired. Unlike everyone else, LaVonne decided to do something.

And she invited us to come along.

And the Customer Love Challenge was born.

I won’t go into all the details about the Customer Love Challenge – you can read the backstory here.

What I will tell you is why it matters to me, and why I hope it matters to you.

Why It Matters

The Customer Love Challenge quickly grew into a Phenomenon. A website was born. Tweetchats were held. A community formed. A free ebook was published. 28-day Customer Love Challenges were launched. Formats were experimented with. Budding business people who really didn’t have a clue – or an audience – found support and encouragement.

Nearly all for Free.

For Love.

LaVonne provided a catalyst that helped people (us) focus their (my) attention on their (my) customers rather than exclusively on making money. She helped people (me) put the horse where it belonged, before the cart. Love your customers, she taught, and the rest will follow. And she led by example.

She provided a platform, a forum, for people to connect and support each other in figuring this stuff out. Guest posts were solicited and published. Ideas were incubated and loved into life.

Ironically enough, LaVonne helped me find my voice – as a writer. I wrote four guest posts for Customer Love Challenges in less than a year and a half. I am not alone when I say the opportunity she provided me to develop my thoughts in this area and be exposed to a wider audience meant a LOT to me. And I met a TON of fascinating, inspiring, hilarious, creative, dedicated people, many of whom have become friends and some of whom have become colleagues. Several of my Customer Love confreres, including LaVonne, went on to write Captains Curious guest posts for my blog – what an honor for me! And that is just an example of another of the lovely benefits that grew out of Customer Love – members found people with complementary skills who could help each other out.

In other words, LaVonne helped me see the positive power of the internet for Good.

Evolution

As time went on, LaVonne noticed that many of the Customer Lovers, as we called ourselves, needed technical help with their websites and making all of the bits of online business work. So she branched out, and launched Trust Wanda. Since LaVonne had figured out how to do all this online WordPress, shopping cart, hosting, eeek, stuff for herself, she began offering that as a service. First to Customer Lovers, then to a broader audience.

And something interesting began to happen.

Just as many of the Customer Love peeps grew in confidence and began to stand in our abilities and plant flags on the tops of the mountains of our dreams – or at least make progress up the sides of those mountains – LaVonne grew in confidence too.

First, it became clear that the Complete Flake identity behind which LaVonne had been masquerading was, in fact, obsolete. A Complete Flake she clearly was not. So that website – and alter ego – was retired.

Then, LaVonne launched One Blue Berry and had us all hanging on the edges of our chairs, waiting for the next installments of her Green Card story.

And then, LaVonne knocked us out with her announcement about deciding to pull up stakes and set out on her Road Trip. Charles-Kuralt-style, LaVonne intends to set out and roam the continent (or at least a big chunk of it) and write about her adventures.

I, for one, can’t wait to read about them!

But first, she has to leave. Set out. Make it so.

LaVonne has helped so many of us make our dreams come true and find our voices (literally and figuratively). I want to help her make this dream come true.

How? Well, Moral Support is important and, I’m sure, always welcome. But there are other ways we can help.

  • Although the Customer Love challenges have run their course, you can still have access to three of the Customer Love tools to help you love up your customers and build your business on a firm foundation:
  • Hire Wanda – I mean LaVonne – to build or maintain a WordPress website. She’ll even help you with recording and editing audio files to post on your website. Interviews? Webinars? Piece of cake. With coffee.
  • And, of course, you can Chip In and provide direct financial support to the Road Trip in the amount of your choice.

LaVonne is someone who has made a difference in the lives of many, although she’ll probably blush to read that. Let’s make a difference in her life.

Please join me in supporting LaVonne on her Road Trip! I’m so curious about what adventures she will have, the people she will meet, the tales she will tell, and how she will be changed by it all. Are you curious? Let’s make it happen, and make LaVonne’s voice heard.

(My thanks to Jenny Thomas of DesisisterJen for inspiring this blog post. Thanks Jen!)

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sweet Moments


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My aunt was the first to arrive for our combined Mother’s Day/Birthday Party. She began assembling a tray of appetizers, and I leaned over and whispered, “Did you forget to bring Uncle Jim?”

She straightened up and said, “Oh! He’s coming separately in the Austin Healey, so he can take you for a ride.”

Squeal!!!!!

My uncle has loved these feisty little British sports cars for as long as I can remember and, although he’s had one for years, I’ve lived elsewhere since he bought this one and I’ve only ever heard about it and the rallies he and my aunt go to, much less ridden in it. Ooooooh, the excitement!

We had a lovely family dinner – my mom, sister, aunt, uncle, cousins, their spouses and kids. I only get to see them once or twice a year when I come to town, and we just pick up where we left off with stories and catching-up and lots of silliness.

As dinner wound down and we heaved a collective sigh of contentment (except for six-year-old Daniel, who had asked several times to be excused from the table but hadn’t yet been released to his own devices), my uncle and I made eye contact across the table and said, “I’m ready.”

I leapt up and ran upstairs to get my jacket (the fastest I’d moved since hurting my foot three weeks earlier). We went outside into the evening and walked up to the little white roadster at the curb. He unbuttoned the leather cover and opened the door for me, and I lowered myself in and fastened my seat belt. He got in, and pushed the button to start the electric fuel pump and started the car. The engine roared to life, and we drove off into the sunset.

(Seriously, how often do you get to say that?)

He took me on a route I knew well, down a long winding road overlooking Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains on the horizon, which were backlit by a deep orange sunset. I knew the route, but it looked different from that little roadster with its tiny windscreen, close to the ground and with nothing between me and the evening sky.

We headed down toward the water, and he told me all about the little white Austin Healey. It was a 1957, the first year they made them with six cylinders instead of four. He told me the history of the Austin Healey in general, what type of fuel he uses, the different things he’s had done to the car, what’s on his wish list for future upgrades.

We drove down to the beach and cruised through the deepening orange-purple evening. I waved a Princess Wave at people in a restaurant facing the water, and they enthusiastically waved back.

I asked him when he knew he first wanted one of these, and he said, “I tell people I was standing at a bus stop when I was in high school and one drove by, and I fell in love.”

This is my uncle, who told me I looked pretty when my mom and my aunt were hemming my first formal gown for a big high school dance and my dad wasn’t around to tell me. My uncle who called to commiserate and make sure I was ok after my first (and, knock-wood, only) accident in the Corvette two years after Bruce died. My uncle who doesn’t say much, but when he does it’s good. He talked all the way around Alki Beach.

So I asked him, “What’s the best thing about driving this car?”

He didn’t answer at once, but different things came to him as we cruised along. Here is (in no particular order) Uncle Jim’s Top 5 List of The Best Things About Driving a 1957 Austin Healey:

  • Just driving it around, and having people look.
  • The stories people tell him: “I used to have one of those,” “My first boyfriend had one of those,” “I’ve always wanted one of those.” Not envy, just sharing stories.
  • Feeling the wind in your hair.
  • Being part of a group that has something in common. (They’re members of an Austin Healey club and go to several events a year.)
  • Driving the stick shift – it’s just fun.

In other words, Joy. Fun. Community. And Making a Dream Come True. And encouraging other people to make their dreams come true.

Pretty cool stuff.

By the time we got back, it was full dark. But I suspect the grin on my face lit up the neighborhood more brightly than the moon.

Thanks, Uncle Jim.

What do you love about your life? Where do you find joy, fun, community? Have you made your dreams come true? If not, what are you waiting for?

Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sound Mass


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Hey!

Hello!

There’s been a lot going on around here lately, which is why this blog has been quiet for a few weeks. That’s no excuse for being out of communication, though. I’m embarrassed to admit it took a friend leaving me a voicemail asking if I was OK and noting that it had been a LONG TIME since she’d gotten a blog post from me to remind me how long it has been!

When I was in college, hanging out with the Music majors (they were way more fun than my fellow Psych majors), I learned about the concept of a “sound mass.” But while Wikipedia quotes Edwards’ comment that sound-mass “obscures the boundary between sound and noise,” there hasn’t been much noise around here lately. Instead, there has been so much going on that it’s like a giant chord with so many notes that it is like a wall of sound with a few themes that have managed to rise to the top like cream. (I know, that’s a mixed metaphor. But I like it.)

So here’s my attempt to share the sound mass with you in a completely different medium, with some of the recurring themes that are weaving themselves together. Lately I’ve been…

  • Working on a big project for a client, requiring a lot of concentrated effort, learning the dialect of that business. I am very grateful for the steady work and an income stream that will help fund the next couple of months.
  • “Vendorized” to work with clients of the state Department of Rehabilitation, coaching them through successfully settling into new jobs and working with my first such client.
  • Talking to an increasing number of people who are comfortable… but uncomfortable. Itchy. They’re thinking, “There must be More… but how do I find it?” There is lots of forming new habits, exploring, guiding, questioning. I am grateful and humble to be a part of their journey.
  • Consulting with several small businesses, providing coaching and consulting. It is awesome fun as they have breakthroughs and golden “Aha!” moments and lots of incremental progress. We’re working on a variety of initiatives, ranging from building new habits to delegating to attracting new customers to articulating core values for guiding the business to building a new framework for employee reviews. Good stuff, and again I am grateful and humble to be a part of their journey.
  • Helping two different friends with big garage/moving sales, paying attention to the dynamics of Letting Go of Things, enjoying the interactions and circus atmosphere of the sales, and enjoying the little community that springs up around a sale and falling in love with people and their stories and blessing them and the money they exchanged for new treasures, feeling gratitude for the friends, the wealth, the fun, the exhausted sense of accomplishment.
  • Wrapping up my tenure as the US Country Facilitator for Sedaa’s Global Brain Trust, a wonderful online community for Organization Development (OD) professionals. I have loved the time I have spent working with the founders and the Global Operations team, and it is time to bring in fresh energies while I focus on building my own practice.
  • Participating in kindred spirit Andrea Lewicki’s launch of her new website, where she explores thoughts about curiosity and its applications. Andrea, like me, believes curiosity can change the world! The Grand Opening was a two day event, with interviews with some of Andrea’s favorite curious people – including me! You can view the recordings for a while longer at Andrea’s site.
  • Launching a Facebook page for Susan T. Blake Consulting, which I’ve put off doing until just recently. But now I have a place I can post short things that don’t quite fit here, and have conversations with people. Come on by and check it out!
  • Working with my friend and mentor, Michael F. Broom, and a small team of cohorts, to create, launch and promote a new series of webinars on managing team conflict. We are looking for someone to take over promoting Michael’s Center for Human Systems via social media on a volunteer or internship basis, so if you know anyone…
  • Noticing recurring themes of balancing friendship and business. Accepting help as well as giving it. Noticing my relationship with money. Noticing what I procrastinate about.
  • Wishing for more time to work on projects I procrastinated on before and have less time for now, chuckling over “Be careful what you ask for.” Wondering, is my procrastination because my priorities aren’t my priorities after all, or am I letting fear get in the way? Fear of what?

And lately I’ve been wondering a lot about abundance, about gratitude, about creating the kind of life I want to live. As I work to grow my practice, trying to make a living and support my clients and the small businesses around me, I count my blessings during these times and abundance is more and more on my mind.

You can see the threads of it throughout my life over the last few years. I talk about the importance being grateful in “Remember to Look Up;” I have been practicing Amy Oscar’s “More of This, Please” for a number of months; I have been reminding myself and others that Everything Is Going to Be All Right. (That’s another story, which I haven’t written yet – stay tuned.) And I have been thinking a lot about the work I really want to do as a consultant and coach, and what I am willing to do to make this little business fly. Thinking about what I really want. How many people really know what they want?

So when Birdy and Mike Diamond invited me to contribute to a program they wanted to develop about living abundantly, because of the synergy between my focus on curiosity and one of the steps in their program (Hint: It’s all about asking the right question), I of course said Yes. And for the last couple of months I have been pondering and practicing and exploring and noticing and writing. We are practicing and exploring not only our material but the practical aspects of teamwork, collaboration, and distribution of duties. Noticing coincidences and synchronicities and being open. Practicing gratitude. Pondering how to invite abundance into my life, developing material with Birdy and Mike and our partner, Nathara, and writing about it over at the Awesome Audacious Abundance website.

It’s perfect, really. Curiosity is fundamental to abundance. There is always more to learn, always more to do. And in our experience, living an abundant life is an interactive, participatory thing as well as a positive mindset. And Curiosity IS an abundant mindset.

So I invite you to pop over to http://www.a2abundance.com/ and peruse the blog posts we’ve been contributing about everything from Time to Money to Courage to Perfection to Magic Carpets and more. If you like what you see, sign up in the right sidebar to receive new posts (or arrange an RSS feed if you prefer). We are in the process of developing a variety of offerings to help people live more abundantly, and you can learn more about those offerings by signing up for the Explorer’s Club at the bottom of any blog post. At the same time, I laugh and am reminded of the proverb, “We teach what we most need to learn.” Come learn with us!

Meanwhile, I’m back at work in the world of Curiosity, and happy to be here! I am looking for more contributors to the next round of Captains Curious posts, so if you are interested please drop me a line at susan @ susantblake . com.

What’s happening in your life? Do any of these themes resonate for you? Please leave me a note below!

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Gifts


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Today is my birthday, and my blog is one year old!

Momentous occasions like this tend to make one (me) pause and reflect. I have a lot to be grateful for, not the least of which is the vast number of people who have helped me over the last year…

…Friends and family who have encouraged me as I build a business…

…Fabulous people who have given freely of their knowledge…

…People who have solicited my help, which reminds me to believe in myself when I begin to forget to do so…

…Members of my mastermind/accountability groups who have been generous with their support…

…Friends, family and even strangers who have visited my blog and either left comments or sent me emails in response…

…People who have stepped up and participated in the Captains Curious series, helping to expand the conversation around curiosity…

…Strangers who have become acquaintances, and acquaintances who have become friends, many of whom I have never met Live And In Person…

…all of whom have reminded me to not lose sight of what is really important.

I have a lot to be grateful for.

In honor of the day, I have decided to have a Birthday Sale. A 51-Hour Birthday Sale!

For the next 51 hours (or so), or until mid-day Thursday…

Ask Your Customers: If you are curious about what your customers think or what they want and need, you can sign up for one of three levels of assistance in creating a conversation with your customers. Please enjoy a 51% discount until Thursday. Click Here

Coaching: Would you like to cultivate creativity and connections in your business or personal life? Whether you prefer a single targeted session to explore an issue, or a series of sessions to help you on a journey, you can purchase coaching sessions for only $51 per hour if reserved before mid-day Thursday. Please email me at susan@susanTblake.com.

Custom Training, Group Facilitation or Consulting: Perhaps you’re planning a meeting or event for your group, but there’s a problem: You don’t want to facilitate it, you want to participate. Or perhaps you would like to bring in a trainer to lead a brown bag or workshop on an issue such as Customer Service. Contact me before mid-day Thursday so we can talk about your goals and reserve a date, and I will give you a 51% discount. Please Click Here for more information, and then email me at susan@susanTblake.com.

And, of course, you are welcome to download my two e-books, Remember to Look Up and The Survey as Conversation!

Thank you for your support! I hope you enjoy these birthday gifts to you!


Photo Credit: Ian Britton www.freefoto.com

Update: Finding My Voice


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While this has been the year of Finding My Voice (metaphorically speaking), this has also been the summer of finding my literal voice. I have received a huge amount of support around my talking to people and blogging about my recent diagnosis of Spasmodic Dysphonia (SD). I want to say Thank You and provide a brief update before we return to our Regularly Scheduled Programming.

A number of things have happened since I originally posted about this on August 10:

I have had two sessions with a Speech Pathologist

I have had two sessions so far with a Speech Pathologist, and so far they seem to be helping. A lot.

We are working to improve my breathing and resonance, and the exercises are similar in many ways to those I had to do when I took singing lessons years ago. (I suspect that my familiarity with the concepts helps the process, but I think anyone can learn this.)

The exercises are a pain in the ass to do and my cats sit up in alarm (or annoyance) and then leave the room. They (the exercises, not the cats) make me speak in what feels like an unnatural way, but I am finding that, when I have done them, speaking in a new way comes more easily.

I have continued talking to people

I have continued talking to people around me about the process, and about my fears (and my successes) and that has also been helping. A lot.

As a result, I have gotten a HUGE amount of support. That support ranges from people reminding me to do my exercises to being patient with me on calls while I practice saying something, to providing me with feedback. People are telling me that they can already hear a difference in my speaking voice and that it sounds more even and less strained (at least some of the time!).

I am also learning more about how people perceive(d) my speaking voice. Some people have said that they never really paid attention to it; another told me that once she knew what was going on with my voice, she stopped hearing it. Not that she stopped hearing me, but she stopped noticing my voice and wondering what was going on – Why was my voice breaking? Was I upset? Was I OK?

I also received a lovely comment on my blog post from a woman who has had SD for years, and who is a trainer by profession. She said that now she tells her clients and students up front about her voice, and they are wonderfully patient and supportive.

I have joined a choir!

After my diagnosis, I immediately began looking for a group to sing with. I found the Broadway Chorus, a local community chorus, which meets about four blocks from my home. I took myself in hand and went to the signups; the director tested me and determined that I am (still) a First Soprano (much to my surprise). We just had our first rehearsal, and it was heaven to be singing again. It was a mixed bag in terms of how I did – sometimes doing better than I expected and other times thinking, “Yikes, did I make that sound?” But this is going to be a Very Good Thing. It will strengthen my voice, and my confidence, and it serves to remind me that there is more to my voice than how it sounds when I talk. Besides, singing is such a joy.

Oh, and the irony of the theme of our first program isn’t lost on me: It is the chorus’s 20th anniversary this year, and the theme is: Can’t Help Singing.

I am practicing Compassion with myself

This whole process continues to give me the opportunity to practice compassion with myself. I don’t perfectly employ the techniques I am learning, but I keep trying. I’ll do better next time.

Someone once said that “the difference between procrastination and time off is intent.” Well, the difference between being gentle on myself when I fail and having a lack of ambition is Compassion. (And Persistence.) Being compassionate with myself doesn’t mean I don’t keep trying. It just means there is no whipping involved.

I faced the opportunity to reaffirm my decision – and passed the test

As I came to the end of my group health insurance coverage under the federal COBRA program at the end of August, I spent a rather intense week researching my options. It looked at one point as if my diagnosis of Spasmodic Dysphonia 37 days before the end of my group coverage meant that I have a Pre-Existing Condition that would cost me another $200 per month in premiums when I switch to an individual policy. I reached a pivotal moment when I had to ask myself, “Was I a complete and utter FOOL to pursue this when I did, rather than waiting for another month?” And I embraced my decision. I was able to say, “No, I did what I needed to do when I was ready to do it.” (It also helped that several friends and family members reinforced that; not one said, “Boy, you really messed up the timing on that one!” Thank You!)

Oh, and it turns out I am eligible for extended group coverage through Cal COBRA. At almost the exact moment I embraced my decision, I got a call from my insurance carrier saying, “Oops, we’re sorry, we gave you incorrect information, you’re eligible to keep your group coverage after all.” Was that whole exercise just a Cosmic Test?

I am taking steps

I am actively working on developing a workshop I will lead; I am not letting my voice be an obstacle (or an excuse). More on that later.

I am more than my voice

If I believe that, then I have to let that More shine, and be confident in that shining. That’s kind of scary. And exciting. I have to embrace my voice. It is part of me.

Well, that wasn’t so brief after all. (Surprise!) Thank You, Thank You, Thank You to all of you who have been so supportive and who have helped me along this journey. I will continue to update you on my progress.

Now we return to our Regularly Scheduled Programming…

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