Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Quit The Job. Move To Italy

Perhaps you've had this dream. Of packing it all up. Quitting the job. Selling the house. Moving someplace far, far away. Halfway To Each Other is a story of a couple who did just that.

The author, Susan Pohlman and her husband decided on a whim while vacationing in Italy to leave LA. Maybe not a total whim. Their marriage was uncertain. Something told them to take the kids and just do it. See if they could repair them. The plan was to stay a year.

It was a risky move. Her husband left his corporate job. No one seems to understand that especially when there are children involved. People thought they might be crazy. But doesn't everyone when you want to do something out of the ordinary.

This a memoir. Full of Susan's observations of how this leap of faith repaired their marriage and drew them closer as a family. For me besides the travelogue portion, and my own love of anything Italian, was the bold relief the landscape provided for how crazy we let our own lives get in this country. How much of that is in our ties to our corporate jobs and the lives we are told we should be wanting and living.

I found this book in one of those six degrees of separation scenarios. My friend Michael, who also used to work for me when I lived in DC thought I would enjoy it. Susan and her husband are old friends of his from Ohio. Turns out Susan's husband and I both worked at CBS for a few overlapping years.

If you've ever dreamed of having the courage of the Pohlman family or even if you are just a lover of Italy, this is an enjoyable read.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Glambertinas

If you're wondering what The Glambertinas are it's not the name of a new martini or a new automobile. It's the name given to the group of women who have a thing for Adam Lambert. Some might call it an obsession. They call it a passion.

I admit to not watching American Idol. I admit that I barely knew what Adam Lambert looked like before his notorious performance on The American Music Awards. I admit that personally I don't get it.

But what I do get is what they discovered about themselves and created as a result of their collective love for the 27 year old, openly gay male who came in second place in Season 8 of the show.

It started last June with a blog that Allegra Huston wrote on wowOwow. The title, What is it about Adam Lambert? says it all. She hit a nerve that resulted in thousands of comments, latest count is 21,333 and an ensuing dialogue. Out of those women writing there were two prominent contributors. Xena and Juneau. They have real names, day jobs, families, fall into the age demographic known as us baby boomers, but at this point in the story they'll stay Xena and Juneau.

Xena and Juneau had never met before. Adam Lambert was their sign from the Universe that they should. Neither had ever written before. But their attraction for Adam and his eyes thick with mascara and eyeliner inspired something in them. They posted constantly to the comment thread to Allegra's blog about what they refer to as their "affliction". They began writing essays on what he stirred inside of them. Adam is their muse. Their writing spawned a blog of their own. Although they don't like that word. They prefer salon.

Writing under cover proved very freeing for both women. It opened up something in their lives, gave them a fresh direction and yes, now there is even a book. On The Meaning Of Adam Lambert.

I still don't get the Adam Lambert attraction. But what I do get is the purpose he's serving. Adam was their sign from the Universe that things needed shaking up in their lives. He serves as their inspiration as he does for countless of his fans. The women write that Adam's message is "to not be put in a box, to be true to ourselves, to take ownership of our dreams." I cannot begin to figure out how they got that message through him nor do I want to try. But I like that message. I believe in that message. And if Adam Lambert is their way of owning it and living it, then everything is happening as it should.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Girls From Poyda B

I'm old enough to remember when co-ed dorms were considered controversial. There was only one at Rider College when I attended.

Poyda was on the far end of campus on the other side of the Lake and past the Fraternity houses. As far away from the mainstream of college life as they could put us. Poyda B sat in the middle of Poyda A and Poyda C, both of which were all boys. I don't know whose decision it was or the reasoning behind it that if the school must keep up with the times they had to allow the men and women to live in the same dorms. But in retrospect the choice for the women infiltrating the men , allowing them two floors of four surrounded by eight more of men only and isolating them away on the far reach of campus, seems like a recipe for disaster.

It wasn't. I was one of the women in Poyda B. So I know. What it did serve to do was create a bond between the women. We were not Sorority girls. We thought we were too cool for a Sorority. But in truth we were as close and as inseparable as any Sorority could be. We were in the co-ed dorm which made us feel like trailblazers. We were women who were going to go out and make a difference.

Then life happens and you lose track of each other. You stay in touch with a friend here and there and you wonder what happened to everyone else. But now we have Facebook. You can find out. You can meet again. Which is how we get to the reunion of six that occurred recently on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

I was in charge of logistics. Which kept my mind off the inevitable question. Would we all get along? Would the conversation be as easy it always had been? Would I revert to my college age self and suddenly become the shy version of me, the insecure education major?

Turns out it was easy. But that happens with friends you have from before you officially became an adult. They know a side of you that no one else will ever see. The one unblemished by the choices you made along the way, the good ones and the not so good ones. The one that didn't really believe you would ever hit a bump in the road that life would force you to navigate. You became friends not because you choose the same careers, or go to the same yoga class, or you met at your kid's soccer game. You became friends because you could. They are part of that group of people in your life who knew you before you really knew you.

Plus we might have been out of practice but we were used to just being with each other. When hanging out together did not mean going to some event but it really meant hanging out. Doing nothing. Sitting in someone's dorm room, sunning by the lake or lounging long after a meal was over in the cafeteria.

Hanging out then was different. There were no cell phones or PDAs to distract. We didn't have our own personal computers, we had typewriters. Someone how we women managed to get along and communicate with the outside world with one pay telephone at the end of the hall that everyone took turns answering. If you had a message, someone wrote it on the white board that hung on everyone's front door. There was no technology to aide our connection. We were left to our own internal devices.

I had a moment as we sat at the large round table in the corner of Ed's Chowder House. A lot had changed but it was all the same. Rider is no longer a college but a University. We were older but I could see our younger selves. We had our Blackberries and IPhone within easy reach but we all could remember the relative ease of our lives without them. We were lingering after a nice meal in a pretty Lincoln Center restaurant but I could see us all sitting at one of those long tables in the cafeteria digesting barely edible food. Talking and laughing. We were older versions of ourselves but we were still us. The Girls From Poyda B.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

This Is What Reinvention Looks Like

It looks the way change does.

It's messy.
It requires determination.
It's never perfect.
It means standing in the face of fear.
It means taking the risk you might fail.
It means knowing not taking the risk is a bigger failure.
It means standing in your truth.
It means being willing to compromise as long as you keep moving forward.
It means believing in yourself and what you want to change.
It's uncomfortable.
It can be scary.
It forces you to silence all those people who don't like change, who say no, you're wrong. This isn't the right way to do it, or the time to do it.
It means standing up to those who would rather be right and see you fail, then see you succeed in doing something new and positive.
It requires tenacity and dedication.
It means not second guessing yourself.
It means knowing change is necessary, reinvention is part of the natural cycle of life, and standing still is only good if you're meditating.
It requires great faith in something or someone more powerful than yourself.
It means being willing to do the work.

One of the first things that President Obama said as Health Care Reform was passed Sunday night was that this is what change looks like. I agree. It looks like reinvention. It's never easy, it's never perfect but it's always good.

And yes, I'm happy it was passed.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The First Day Of Spring

March 20, 2010
The Vernal Equinox

A day when the length of night and day across the world is nearly equal.

A day the sun crosses the trues celestial equator.

A celebration of rebirth in nature.

A reminder of all that is new and possible.
The Universe's reminder that reinvention never stops.
Happy Spring!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Things Take Time

Rebecca Skloot is the author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It took ten years of devotion to get the book written and published. Ten years! I heard her speak Wednesday at The NY Society for Ethical Culture.

She remarked that during those ten years she would be questioned as to why she was spending so much time with one project. She would read the papers and see the timeliness of her material often. She would wonder if it would still be timely when it was published. Once the book was in contract, it went through three publishing houses and four editors.

There were a lot of roadblocks but Rebecca Skloot did not let any of them stop her. She was passionate about the story she was uncovering, she practiced patience and kept working. She didn't try to rush the birth of her book before its time. She believed in herself and the importance of her work.

Her book was published on February 2, 2010. It debuted at #5 on the New York Times Bestseller list on February 21. O Magazine bought the first serial rights and Barnes and Noble has made it a Spring 2010 pick for Discover Great New Writers. It's subject is more timely than ever.

Good thing she gave herself the time. For the book and for us.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Patience Is A Practice

My cousin used to say that patience was a virtue and neither of us were genetically predisposed to it. It's true. I come from a long line of impatience I've inherited through my mother's side of the family.

Reinvention requires patience. Things can happen much slower than you'd like. Whether you are starting a new business, trying to get a book published or looking for your next great success. Impatience just makes whatever you are working to create take that much more time to manifest. It's a sign of fear. If you have faith in your work patience requires less effort.

Some days it is easy. But since its not in my genes, there can be days like Monday.

I stood on the subway platform wondering why not one of the four trains that ran on those tracks was showing up. I felt my impatience rise up inside and start to take over my body like some alien being. I tapped my foot. I looked at my watch. I took out my iPhone just to make sure it said the same time as my watch. I let out a sigh. As if any of my actions was going to make that train show up any quicker.

Tuesday the monster was not quite done with me. This time I was waiting for an elevator on the way to a seminar.

I caught myself each time. I remembered how my days in Corporate America were filled with appearances from my impatience monster. All those things I couldn't control, thinking my fury was going to make things happen any faster.

It didn't. Things show up when they are supposed to. The subway did . So did the elevator. I knew that. I just forgot. I couldn't control when the subway or the elevator came so I let the impatience monster have its way with me. I forgot that the one thing I can control is me.

Patience. It's a virtue I am learning to own.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

This Can Happen To You Too!!

I haven't left the house for the better part of the last two days. I tried Saturday. I got as far as the gym and Whole Foods. The torrential rain wasn't what made me decide to decline dinner with a friend. It was the wind.

Sunday I had good intentions. I woke up to find that my building had not been swept to the East Side in one of those fierce gusts. I was happy. The rain had slowed down to just rain. I planned on leaving in the afternoon. Really, I did. Until I got sidetracked with that tax prep work for my accountant.

This is what can happen when you work from home. I don't recommend it. In fact I suggest that you be disciplined and create reasons and times to leave every day. Set alarms in Outlook. Or you won't. The weather or something else will get in the way and you'll find yourself taking an extra 1000mg of Vitamin D and rationalizing that virtual interaction is as good as in person. It's not. No matter how much you think you are accomplishing, you need to leave that desk. (Read this very funny post on the subject from Copyblogger )

That said, in the words of Scarlett O'Hara, Tomorrow is another day, one in which I promise to leave the house. Or is it the office? Oh, that's right, it's both!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Giving Birth

Writing a book is alot like giving birth. I say that never having had children. But I believe it. It is a creation. There is a process to it. The germination of an idea that requires patience and nourishment. It can't be rushed. It knows its own time. If you force it out before it is ready there are going to be problems.

I was in a conversation yesterday about birth. I was having a rainy Friday afternoon lunch on the Upper West Side with a young mother of three who is about to launch a blog and coaching business around the idea of making pregnancy and birthing more pleasurable. We talked a lot about birth.

In her research she consulted with the brilliant Dr. Christiane Northrup. Dr. Northrup told her two things that I have not been able to get out of my head since. That has me up at 4:30AM this morning writing.

The first is that the way we give birth is the way we live our lives. Or is it the way we live our lives is the way we give birth. No matter. I'm still digesting that one.

The second is that the thing that makes pregnancy and delivery difficult for most women is fear.

Fear. I was afraid of that.

Fear, the great obstacle to overcome. How we choose to push past those fears, if we choose to, is how the process will unfold. I've been very fearful this week. It happens. There is no birth, no reinvention of any sort without that occurring. I know that when my fears set in I tend to push against them.

Again, I've never given physical birth. I'm not the expert. Dr. Northrup and my lunch companion are. But I know enough to understand there is a difference between pushing against and pushing through.

I also know that the only way to push past and through my fears is to surrender and not try and fight them. It sounds easier than it is. But I have a secret that I'm told they use in delivery rooms. Breathe. Really breathe. It makes the process, whatever you are birthing easier.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What 64 Can Look Like

Diane Sawyer has been in the news business for forty years. You would think after all that time she would look the wear of it, have lost the thrill of what got her there in the first place, be jaded and disillusioned. But she's not.

I listened to her off the anchor desk interview with Oprah Winfrey last week. It doesn't take long to figure out why she looks so good. It's her passion. You hear it in her voice when she speaks of the fascination she still has "looking into the lives of people." The joy she gets out of working at something where she knows she can make a difference.

Yes, I am sure like many of us she works to maintain her physical appearance. But all the cosmetic dermatology and trips to the gym in the world cannot substitute what it means to have work that you are passionate about.

Diane Sawyer has been lucky. She found her passion early. Her reinventions have not been drastic but within the field of broadcast news. She is reinventing right now as she switches chairs at age 64(yes, she really is!) from morning news to the anchor desk for World News Tonight.

I grew up at a time when you were told not to trust anyone over the age of thirty. The Beatles lyrics in When I'm 64 didn't make me feel any better about what that age was going to be like. There weren't any role models, especially for women to suggest otherwise. Now there is Diane Sawyer, 64 and sensational. I'm not as worried as I was when I was younger. I know her secret. Doing what you love.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Choice Of Balance

I got an email from a friend on Saturday. He told me he had been reading my blogs and he thought I should go back to corporate life. He said I seemed too centered and I needed the imbalance the corporate world provides.

It was the second time in one week I got a similar reaction. Another friend remarked how good I looked and that my outlook was so positive. She seemed surprised as if she was expecting me to have had enough with this reinvention thing and be ready to go back and look for a "real job."

These things will happen if you choose reinvention. Especially when that reinvention is in the direction of your genius. People will wonder. They won't understand that it is easy to be centered when you are doing what you love. That even with the stress of when that next check is coming, the worries about whether you shouldn't just go and learn how to be a barrister at Starbucks, all those uncertainties that do throw you off balance, that you know are in the right place. You are on your path. And that is enough to keep you happy. That is what sustains the smile on your face.

The ones who have known you the longest tend to be the most perplexed. You have become one of those people who likes their job. You're not commiserating when they start to complain about theirs. They know you as the stressed, pressed for time, corporate executive, running so fast forward that sometimes she forgot where she was going. They thought that was who you really were, not this new calm, balanced model. You did too. For a long time.

But now you know what they don't really want to believe. That there are choices. And you've made yours.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Humor Of Fear

There's no getting away from it. Fear. We all have our own unique list of what it looks like. We have a job, we fear losing it. We lose a job, we fear never getting a new one. We have money, we fear it will disappear. We don't have money, we fear we'll never save a penny. We don't have a boyfriend or spouse and we fear we'll never have one. We have one and we fear breaking up or divorcing. We're fat. We fear never losing the weight. We lose the weight and we fear we'll get fat again.

It's a vicious cycle.

Fear creates worry. Worry is a waste of time. Nothing gets done when worry sets in. For some it can be debilitating. They take Xanax to make it through the day. My grandfather used to sit in his Barcalounger holding on to a pair of pale blue worry beads he had brought from Greece with him. That's how people dealt with worry in the days before pharmaceutical solutions. They played with a string of beads so they had something concrete to hold on to.

Fear can be looked at as a good thing. Fear is often the catalyst for change. The beginning of a decision to reinvent things.

Sometimes it can be used for distressing purpose. Terrorists use fear to try and stop what they don't like. The RNC has a new fundraising strategy aimed at manipulating fear of Socialism to raise money for the Republican party.

I can get pretty serious when my fears pop up their ugly little heads. I don't medicate and I don't take out the worry beads. A glass of wine doesn't hurt but I find humor the most effective.

Laughing at myself and at the absurdity of whatever my fears are at that moment feels a whole lot better than the fear. Working on my novel is a lot more productive than worrying it will never get published. Attending a networking event is going to get me a lot more new coaching clients than pulling out the worry beads. A quick visit to The Daily Show to see Jon Stewart's take on our political scene puts it in perspective, all through the use of a little laughter.

Laughter breaks up all that negative energy. It makes me see how silly I am being and how unproductive my worry has caused me to be. Worry doesn't make fear go away. Laughing won't either. But it gets me pointed in a much better direction. A new chapter. Finding a new coaching client. A new blog.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hanging Out At The Genius Bar

When I think of genius the first thing that comes to mind is the Genius Bar at the Apple Store. That delightful marketing tool where one of those Apple geniuses will tell you what is wrong with your Iphone.

I think Genius and I think of people like DaVinci, Einstein and Mozart. I think of exceptionally high IQs and strokes of brilliance that change the face of the earth.

I don't think of it as an aspect of a person's character and I certainly don't think of me.

According to Merriam Webster there are five different definitions for genius. Number 5 is the only one I have paid attention to. That genius is someone of extraordinary intellect and mental superiority with a very high IQ.

Now I have a decent IQ, howevered I have pretty much ignored the other four definitions.
Especially the one that refers to a marked capacity or aptitude for something. A distinctive identifying spirit. A personal genius. The genius within. My genius.

I've been engaged in reading and discussing this word alot lately. Steve Pressfield in The War of Art writes that genius is our unique gift that we were born to be. Whether it is art or writing or designing the next great computer software program. Seth Godin in Linchpin writes of the lizard, aka our personal resistance and how it hates our genius, trying to quiet it at any cost.

Both suggest we all have a genius. The thing is to first find what it is and then decide what to do about it.

In The Big Leap Gay Hendricks talks about living in our Zone of Genius, how few of us identify what that is and settle instead for our Zone of Excellence. I've lived in my Zone of Excellence for a long time. I've had two successful careers. But neither played fully to my genius.

This time I'm turning up the volume on my genius. Care to join me at the Genius Bar?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Is Reinvention A Necessity?

I had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Christiane Northrup a couple of weeks ago speaking on the Art of Reinvention. She said something about this being the time of year when the sap starts to turn around the trees in preparation for spring. Being the urban girl that I tend to be I will not profess to fully comprehend what that means. But I know enough to understand that winter is naturally a time of rest for the earth, a time of preparation for rebirth in the Spring.

She said something else that made me think. That our bodies are living examples of reinvention. The exhaling of a breath is allowing toxins to leave our system so we can breathe in clean, fresh air to replenish ourselves. Every seven years every cell of our body reinvents itself. It is necessary to our survival.

Our bodies have no choice but to reinvent. It is a natural process. The trees have no choice but to rest now, prepare for spring, blossom with new growth, flourish until that point the leaves start to turn and the process starts all over. If they stop they die.

Nothing has been created to stay static. If reinvention is not a choice for our bodies and the trees, but a necessary and natural process of what it means to survive and be fully alive, than why do we think the same does not hold true for our work?

Maybe we don't choose to reinvent our jobs. Maybe it is necessary. Maybe we reinvent because there is no other choice if we want to continue as vibrant, healthy beings.