R E S P E C T

bilesWatching the coverage of the Rio Olympics this week has made me feel a lot of things that are typical each time I watch the Olympics. But this time I also felt a whole lot of annoyance at some of the truly stupid things I have heard and read. And when I’m consistently annoyed it usually means something more is going on with me. That kind of annoyance and sometimes anger usually means that something I care deeply about is being threatened or challenged in some way.

  1. While commentating on the women’s gymnastics competition, Al Trautwig, NBC announcer, said Simone Biles was raised by her grandparents “but she calls them Mom and Dad.” When the twitter-verse called him out, he then poured salt in the wound by tweeting that “They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.” He deleted the tweet pretty quickly – and later apologized. And in doing so, I hope that he – and others who have followed this story – have learned from the experience…that words like this undermine what adoption is fundamentally about, and deeply offends adoptive families. According to the AACAP, approximately 120,000 children are adopted in the United States every year. I am certain that each of you reading this knows someone that either was adopted or has adopted a child. I myself seriously considered – and even tried – to adopt a child. I know firsthand how courageous it is for people to choose this path, and I know firsthand how it feels to love children that I did not give birth to. I know firsthand how comments like Trautwig’s hurt.  I find Simon Biles inspiring in so many ways – including the way she handled this in the press by saying “I personally don’t have a comment. My parents are my parents and that’s it.” Drop the mic. Good for you Simon Biles! People can learn a lot from you!
  2. Next, Jim Watson, an NBC commentator, said the women’s gymnastics team “might as well be standing in the middle of a mall” while talking with each other during the women’s team competition. What an utterly asinine and offensive thing to say! Listen up NBC. While I do hope they enjoy earn some money from endorsements so that they can enjoy a trip to the mall at some point…please refrain in the future from making insensitive, offensive, sexist comments about a team of young women who were clearly gathered to compete for an Olympic gold medal. These young women are the VERY BEST in their sport IN THE WORLD and are competing in the freaking Olympics. About to win the gold. For the second time IN A ROW. These women played as a team, and won as a team. They encouraged each other, and excelled together. No my friends – they were not there to shop. They were there to win.
  3. This is one of my favorite headlines of the week: “NBC Blames Women for Late Olympics Broadcast, Extra Commercials” When asked about the rational for not broadcasting the Opening Ceremony live, John Miller, NBC Olympics chief marketing officer, said “The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the Games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and mini-series wrapped into one. And to tell the truth, it has been the complaint of a few sports writers. It has not been the complaint of the vast viewing public.” So somehow this is MY fault? That I have to pay for a cable subscription in order to watch my favorite events live online instead of live on TV? Let me be very clear. I will watch the Bachelor when I need my reality TV fix. I AM a sports fan. When I watch the Olympics, I watch for the competition – and am most definitely interested in the result. People – we are the “vast viewing public” and we need to speak up!   By the way, I read that the ratings for the Rio Opening Ceremony were the lowest since 1992. So – let’s learn something here and be better next time, ok?
  4. Geno Auriemma, the women’s basketball coach, keeps being asked if he thinks it’s bad for his sport that the US is so dominant in women’s basketball.Is anyone asking this about men’s swimming?? I, along with a large crowd of people, watched (live on TV I may add) Michael Phelps win his 22nd gold medal last night by winning the 200 IM. All of the coverage since has been positive about the records he is breaking…first to win 4 in a row in his event, first to win 13 individuals golds since Ancient Greece…The Ravens paused their pre-season game to watch this happen! Don’t get me wrong – he absolutely deserves this kind of attention. He’s incredible! But – no one is complaining about his dominance in his sport…no one is commenting about the dominance of men’s basketball…so why is this even a question for women’s basketball? Here is Auriemma’s awesome response (he by the way also coaches women’s basketball at UCONN. As an aforementioned SPORTS FAN, I know he also dominates there as well.) “We live in that Trumpian era where it’s OK to be sexist and degrade people that are good, just because they’re the opposite sex. We are what we are. We’re never going to apologize for being that good. We’re never going to apologize for setting a standard that other people aspire to achieve…These are Olympians. They’re supposed to play at a high level. They’re professionals, they’re supposed to put on a show, they’re supposed to entertain. So, what are we supposed to do? Just go out there and win by a little?  Just like I say at UConn, we’re not bad for women’s basketball. What’s bad for women’s basketball is when nobody’s great, because then you could say, “You know what? I don’t think anybody really knows how to play this game.” I think people will say that there are some really good teams out here and when you see them play each other, they’re great games. Serbia was up 20 the other day and lost to Canada. These are great games. We just happen to be somewhere else right now. That’s okay. I don’t mind.”
  5. There have been comments made that Katie Ledecky swims like a man…and Jim Watson said that Simon Biles “might even go higher than some of them men” on the uneven bars…So I ask the question again – why the comparison to men? Can’t we appreciate their excellence without the unnecessary comparisons? Are men’s sports the standard set for the rest of us to aspire to? I sure hope not.
  6. And finally – 6… Calling Simone Biles the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. What a brilliant response by Biles: “I am not the next Usain Bolt of Michael Phelps. I am the first Simone Biles.”

Perfection.

Athletes like Biles make me so hopeful about our future. She has managed to redirect the media coverage to focus on what is truly important and to disregard the rest. She must have been raised well be her parents ;-).

Week 1 is about to end. I sincerely hope that NBC and the rest of the media is listening to the feedback being shared and improves their commentary and coverage.

GO USA!
 

 

 

A Heavy Heart

Today is such a sad day. What happened in Newtown today is truly unimaginable. I made it through the rest of my work day, and when I came home from work, I tried to create some peace by turning my Christmas lights on, and lighting a few candles, but I turned on the news and could only watch for about 20 minutes. Eventually, I decided to sit at my computer and try to articulate some of the thoughts and feelings flying around in my head and my heart. I am finding myself trying to balance between surrendering to the deep feelings of sadness and trying to go about my business, resisting wallowing. Neither feels like a healthy choice.

It is deeply troubling to me and many others that these tragedies not only keep happening, but seem to be getting worse. How is that even possible?? What kind of evil would do this to the most innocent, vulnerable humans on earth – young children??  The noise of the endless, constant, media coverage, the Facebook and Twitter messages blasting politicians and the NRA keep coming at me…so I had to turn all of it off to sit and think…and feel.

I rarely watch Oprah’s shows these days, but last Sunday, one of them caught my eye since she was to interview Elie Wiesel about his new book, “Open Heart.” After watching it, I immediately picked the book up the very next day, and finished it in just a few days. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Wiesel, he is a Holocaust survivor, philosopher, professor, writer, (best known for his memoir of the Holocaust called “Night”) Nobel Peace Price winner, and founder of The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.

Just like when I read “Night” a long time ago, his words in “Open Heart”, though haunting, also comforted me when I reread some of it tonight. Here is my favorite excerpt:

“Was it yesterday – or long ago – that we learned how human beings have been able to attain perfection in cruelty? That for the killers, the torturers, it is normal, thus human, to act inhumanely? Should one therefore turn away from humanity?

The answer of course is up to each one of us. We must choose between the violence of adults and the smiles of children, between the ugliness of hate and the will to oppose it. Between inflicting suffering and humiliation on our fellow man and offering him the solidarity and hope he deserves. Or not.

I know – I speak from experience – that even in darkness it is possible to create light and encourage compassion. That it is possible to feel free inside a prison…

There it is: I still believe in man in spite of man.”

What happened today is completely overwhelming and can seem utterly, depressingly, hopeless. There are no answers for all of the questions that we have today. But even though it is so painful, we can’t let ourselves become numb to these tragedies that are happening too often. And when we let ourselves feel this pain, we must try to not surrender to despair.

In his interview, Wiesel says that while the world may never learn from the past, each of us as individuals can – and THAT is what matters. The question is not whether humanity will evolve, but will WE as individuals?

So today I am so very sad. My heart literally hurts for the Newtown community, and for everyone affected by what happened today. And I think it is so important to feel the sadness – to name it – and for me to write or talk about it in order to process it. I want to caution us to not brush over what happened and become numb.

Each one of us has an impact in the world we live in – whether within our families, our communities or on a larger platform. In that, we have power and influence. We don’t have to surrender to despair and hopelessness.

I saw a lot of evidence today of people hugging their kids, expressing gratitude for their them and for their teachers. I saw people recognizing healthy doses of perspective. I saw outpourings of prayers for the Newtown community, and for those affected by similar events in the past. One person at a time, we can make a difference – and in that may lie some of the answers we are looking for.

“Think higher. Feel deeper.” – Elie Wiesel

A Belly Laugh: Fuel for Heart and Soul

“Laughter is the closest distance between two people.”
– Victor Borge

When is the last time you laughed so hard that it hurt? Isn’t a belly laugh shared with a loved one an uplifting experience? A shared joy?

I was lucky enough to spend last weekend with a visit from two of my closest friends, Beth and Mary. As usual, we found ourselves reliving hilarious stories from our rich history together…races we ran, races we didn’t run, birthday cakes with the wrong name, our mystery man named Brad, the list goes on and on…and gets longer each time we get together.

We laughed so hard that we cried, with aching stomach muscles, struggling to catch our breaths. One of us may have even needed to rush to change clothes (it wasn’t ME!) – giving us yet another story to belly laugh at in that moment, and in the future.

It was a weekend filled with joy, and it got me thinking about laughter, relationships and the link between the two.

A quick Google search confirms my suspicions that there are plenty of studies around that confirm the health benefits of laughter…increased endorphins in the brain, lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system…There is even a study by Dr. William Fry of Stanford University Medical School that says one minute of laughing is equivalent to ten minutes on a rowing machine – how is that for a cardio workout? Sign me up. I would rather spend 10 minutes laughing than 100 minutes sweating on a rowing machine – or any other cardio workout – any day of the week!

Laughter is not only good for the heart – it is good for the soul. For me, a laugh shared with my friends or family is not just a good substitute for a workout. Laughter is a way for me to foster the relationships that are most important to me. Laughter is a powerful way to connect with others, to share an experience, to create a lasting memory, to not just cope with life – but to enjoy life. Laughter is a way to live in the moment. Laughter awakens all of our senses. Laugher is fuel to me during difficult times. Laughter is energy. Laughter is joy.

To my friends and family in appreciation…thank you for making me laugh and bringing me joy in our relationships.

Laugh on!

 

What do you want?

Recently, I learned a pretty good lesson from my (almost) 7 year old nephew Dillon. His 7th birthday is this Thursday, and when I asked him what he wanted. his answer reminded me of a story from this past Christmas.

On Christmas Day, Dillon proudly told me that he got EXACTLY what he wanted for Christmas. He explained that his strategy was to tell Santa just one thing because then Santa wouldn’t have to pick from a variety of options. Santa would only have ONE choice of what to bring him – the number one (and only) thing on Dillon’s list.

Dillon was lucky that he was on the “nice” list last year, and also lucky that my brother and sister-in-law were “in synch” with Santa to help execute Dillon’s masterful plan.

As I remembered this story, I was struck by Dillon’s wisdom: keep things simple, be certain of what you want, and be specific when you ask for it. He is a pretty smart kid!

Why as adults is asking for what we want so difficult to do? What gets in the way? Fear of rejection? Baggage we carry because we didn’t get what we wanted in the past? Somehow we lose the ability to make requests effectively. I know I am guilty of this – more often than I like to admit.

Think about it… When is the last time you sent an email to a group of people thinking you were clear on what you were asking them to do…and then only a handful of people actually followed through on what you asked? And then you think to yourself when you experience this disappointment: “I was so clear! I used bullet points and everything! I made a list – I numbered it for goodness sake!” This has happened to me more times than I can count.

Consider the flip side of this example…When is the last time your manager sent you an email asking for follow up on some task and you ignored it..because it didn’t pertain to you…I have been there too.

Requests should be simple – but they are not. We get in our own way – and tend to blame others when deadlines aren’t met. Rarely do we look back at what we actually asked for…what went wrong? Did we keep the request simple or was it lost in a long preamble? Was the request specific enough?

Here are the elements of a clear, complete request:

  • Requester: Who is asking?
  • Committed Listener: Who is being asked to do something?
  • Future, Specific Action: What do I want you to do?
  • Conditions of Satisfaction: How will I know it’s been done?
  • Time: By when?
  • Trust: Sincerity, competence, reliability
  • Purpose: For the sake of what?

Sounds easy, right? Hmmm. Not so much. How many times have you sent an email – and guess what – there wasn’t a “Committed Listener” on the other end?? Or you didn’t give a deadline? Or you failed to say why your request was important?

And there’s more. Here’s the kicker. AFTER we make a request that we often forget that  we don’t have an Agreement until someone actually says “Yes.”

Have you sent an email recently, making a request of someone following all of the criteria I just stated above – and then STILL you don’t get what you asked for? Or maybe you asked your team in a meeting rather than an email. Or maybe you forwarded an email to a large group of people that you KNOW can follow through on what you need. And then NOTHING HAPPENS. How frustrating, right? Guess what – I will let you in on a secret. It could actually be your own fault because it is highly likely that you didn’t have an “Agreement!”

Why are we so surprised when we don’t get what we thought we asked for?

Dillon gets it. This week, he was just as specific with what he wants for his birthday as he was last Christmas. Granted, he doesn’t have an “Agreement” yet either…he’s just a lucky boy that is lucky who has family who will gladly give him what he asks for. But at least he knows how to ask.

My advice is to follow Dillon’s example. Figure out what you want. Be specific when you ask for it. Then, follow the elements of a complete request. Clarify that you have an agreement.

And… you will get more of what you want.

Eat, Pray, Love Part 2

It took me 6 years to read this book. I guess timing is everything, because I am really enjoying it much more than I thought that I would. Everyone said that “Eat” was the best section…which yes, I did enjoy immensely.

But – I am in the middle of “Pray” and am fascinated.

My favorite line so far:

“You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be.” Page 150.

This section of the book sums up one of my biggest pet peeves of all time: the phrase “It is what it is.” Or another way to say it: “Everything happens for a reason.” Both of these statements are true. However, I personally feel that these statements represent a passive way to go about life – as if we are just pinballs in a crazy pinball machine being bounced around without any control over our direction.

I think there is MUCH more it. Here is how I see it. We make meaning out what happens to us. It is up to us to figure out what the meaning is – and to DO something about it – to BE something because of it. Isn’t active voice a whole lot more fun than passive voice??

Is life happening to you – or are you living your life? Are you wishing for things rather than doing something to make them happen?

 

Il bel far niente

“Il bel far niente” 

Doesn’t this just sound beautiful without even knowing what it means? I learned this phrase today while reading Eat, Pray, Love (page 61)  – a book that for some reason I resisted reading for the last six years.

“Il bel far niente” is an Italian expression that means “the beauty of doing nothing.” What bliss is there in just being – and not doing? What a beautiful name for what I normally call presence – being in the moment.

So rather than filling up my time tonight in my quiet hotel room in Emporia, Kansas with work, surfing the internet or TV because there isn’t anything else to do…I think I’ll enjoy my time doing nothing instead.

 

 

Stephen Covey’s 90/10 Principle & The Power of Choice

A photo of a cup of coffee.

Image via Wikipedia

A few days ago my father sent me an email about Stephen Covey’s 90/10 Principle. My dad almost never forwards mass emails, so I knew it had to be good. The 90/10 Principle states: 10% of life is made up of what happens to you…. 90% of life is decided by how you react.

As I read it the entire article by Covey, I was struck by thinking about how powerful our choices can be, and about how often we don’t realize the power that we have in our own control.

Most of the time, we are moving so quickly that we fail to see the choices in front of us.  We have information coming at us from all directions, so we hurry to keep up so that we can get everything done. When we get “triggered”, we react – sometimes destructively – without pausing to breathe, think, or feel before taking action ourselves. I felt compelled to share Covey’s wise words as a reminder to us to WAKE UP in order to be present in these moments.

What positive outcomes might be possible if you made a different decision before reacting to your triggers?

Here is the text of Covey’s article:

Discover The 90/10 Principle.

It will change your life (at least the way you react to situations).

What is this principle?

10% of life is made up of what happens to you…. 90% of life is decided by how you react.

What does this mean? We really have no control over 10% of what happens to us.

We cannot stop the car from breaking down. The plane will be late arriving, which throws our whole schedule off. A driver may cut us off in traffic.

We have no control over this 10%. The other 90% is different. You determine the other 90%.

How? ………. By your reaction.

You cannot control a red light. but you can control your reaction. Don’t let people fool you; YOU can control how you react.

Let’s use an example.

You are eating breakfast with your family. Your daughter knocks over a cup of coffee onto your business shirt. You have no control over what just happened. What happens next will be determined by how you react.

You curse.

You harshly scold your daughter for knocking the cup over. She breaks down in tears. After scolding her, you turn to your spouse and criticize her for placing the cup too close to the edge of the table. A short verbal battle follows. You storm upstairs and change your shirt. Back downstairs, you find your daughter has been too busy crying to finish breakfast and get ready for school. She misses the bus.

Your spouse must leave immediately for work. You rush to the car and drive your daughter to school. Because you are late, you drive 40 miles an hour in a 30 mph speed limit.

After a 15-minute delay and throwing $60 traffic fine away, you arrive at school. Your daughter runs into the building without saying goodbye. After arriving at the office 20 minutes late, you find you forgot your briefcase. Your day has started terrible. As it continues, it seems to get worse and worse. You look forward to coming home.

When you arrive home, you find small wedge in your relationship with your spouse and daughter.

Why? …. Because of how you reacted in the morning.

Why did you have a bad day?

A) Did the coffee cause it?

B) Did your daughter cause it?

C) Did the policeman cause it?

D) Did you cause it?

The answer is “D”.

You had no control over what happened with the coffee. How you reacted in those 5 seconds is what caused your bad day.

Here is what could have and should have happened.

Coffee splashes over you. Your daughter is about to cry.You gently say, “Its ok honey, you just need to be more careful next time”. Grabbing a towel you rush upstairs. After grabbing a new shirt and your briefcase, you come back down in time to look through the window and see your child getting on the bus. She turns and waves. You arrive 5 minutes early and cheerfully greet the staff. Your boss comments on how good the day you are having.

Notice the difference?

Two different scenarios. Both started the same. Both ended different.

Why?

Because of how you REACTED.

You really do not have any control over 10% of what happens. The other 90% was determined by your reaction.

Here are some ways to apply the 90/10 principle. If someone says something negative about you, don’t be a sponge. Let the attack roll off like water on glass. You don’t have to let the negative comment affect you!

React properly and it will not ruin your day. A wrong reaction could result in losing a friend, being fired, getting stressed out etc.

How do you react if someone cuts you off in traffic? Do you lose your temper? Pound on the steering wheel? A friend of mine had the steering wheel fall off) Do you curse? Does your blood pressure skyrocket? Do you try and bump them?

WHO CARES if you arrive ten seconds later at work? Why let the cars ruin your drive?

Remember the 90/10 principle, and do not worry about it.

You are told you lost your job.

Why lose sleep and get irritated? It will work out. Use your worrying energy and time into finding another job.

The plane is late; it is going to mangle your schedule for the day. Why take outpour frustration on the flight attendant? She has no control over what is going on.

Use your time to study, get to know the other passenger. Why get stressed out? It will just make things worse.

Now you know the 90-10 principle. Apply it and you will be amazed at the results.

You will lose nothing if you try it. The 90-10 principle is incredible. Very few know and apply this principle.

The result?

Millions of people are suffering from undeserved stress, trials, problems and heartache. We all must understand and apply the 90/10 principle.

It CAN change your life!!!