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Friday, October 29, 2010

Quit asking for permission

She didn't ask for permission and look what she created.
My mother rarely flips out. She's stable and amazingly cool-headed. That's phenomenal when you consider she had nine kids. I would like to be more like her — the cool-headed part, not the nine kids part. The one time I remember her getting on my case was when she said something to the effect of, "Do I have to tell you everything that needs to be done around here?" I was a teenager and probably could have helped out around the house more. I think she must have reached a breaking point. She was tired of always having to ask her kids to vacuum, sweep, dust, pick up after themselves, etc.

Why weren't we taking the initiative? Why didn't we see that things needed to be done and do them? Why do most kids have to be told to do things? Most kids aren't that motivated. Motivation stops beyond things that they need or things that have a tangible reward. Sadly, many adults are that same way. Somehow they have to have instructions or an invitation to do something.

Why is it that so many adults refuse to do anything outside their job description —or worse— are too afraid to do anything that might be outside their scope? Maybe it's a combination of fear and laziness. What about people who are afraid someone else will get the credit? How about those that need permission in order to get through their day? Doesn't the lure of possibly achieving overwhelmingly positive results appeal to people anymore or is this world becoming a place where mediocrity comes standard?

I'm not advocating absolute chaos and mutiny in the workplace. But, having an independent thought outside the way that things are traditionally done is a start.  What would the world be like if people did something they weren't paid to do or asked to do? Some might say that's the "going the extra mile" mantra. I say it's the "take some damned initiative" mantra. Who knows, if everyone just took a fraction more ambition in their lives something amazing could happen.

This blog was inspired by Linchpin by Seth Godin. If you're interested in becoming a person who stands out from the sea of people who need to have an instruction manual to do anything remarkable, read it. This book will rock your boat — that's a good thing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The "no" list

Photo by Casey Mullins, aka @mooshinindy
I used to call myself an entrepreneur and often said "yes" to everything. Then I went to work for a large local corporation and for nearly three years I've been working really hard for someone else. Sometimes I've worked too hard. My family wondered when I was coming home some days and other days I'd get so frustrated I wasn't making a difference for anyone that I felt like crying. Then, I got pregnant and had to take maternity leave, which meant I was away from work for about three months. During that time I was able to analyze my life and where I was spending it.

I knew I had to make some changes with the way I identified myself. In many ways I had become my job. It wasn't healthy and it certainly wasn't feeding my soul. I wasn't thinking of ways to stand out as much as I was thinking of ways to garner approval from co-workers and and boss. You may think, "there's nothing wrong with that." There was for me, though. I felt that my creativity was based on getting the green light from others at work.

Since having baby #4, I've started to rethink things. One of the people who have influenced me is Danielle LaPorte. I never really paid much attention to her and her ideas until I saw her at the Startup Princess Touchpoint event this fall. Her keynote speech had some nuggets of wisdom in it that bear repeating for anyone who wants to make the most out of their life. She asks you to ask yourself a series of questions. The question I keep coming back to is: What do you want to stop doing?

She suggests making a "no" list in your life. Danielle recommends saying "no" 80% of the time. That's hard to swallow for all the people pleasers out there. I guess I'm one of them...and I always thought I wasn't. I have a hard time saying "no" to people and obligations I think I should be able to find time to do.

Without editing or over thinking this, I've made up this list of things I'd like to say "no" to. They are in no particular order. These things are going to be hard for me to stop doing.
  1. Being in a rush.
  2. Procrastinating.
  3. Buying my children too many gifts for Christmas.
  4. Waiting for someone else to clean my car.
  5. Wasting time on Facebook.
  6. Staying up past 11pm.
  7. Postponing taking a vacation until the perfect time (or until the money to do so lands in my lap).
  8. Throwing more money towards bills than towards savings.
  9. Putting too many things on my "to do" list.
  10. Getting emotional when my kids say hurtful things.
  11. Reading more than one book at a time.
  12. Complaining.
  13. Worrying about things I can't control.
So, what's on your "no" list?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Date night: Thai'd down?

If you've ever watched Date Night you know that a lot of couples slip into a routine when it comes to going out. The same restaurant. The same conversation. Blah. Do something out of the norm and voila your humdrum life becomes exciting and different. At least in the movies. Sometimes you just have to test it out. That's just what we did.

Carl and I usually go out on Saturday nights. That's our date night. This week, we shook things up by going out on a Thursday (a school night!) to celebrate our anniversary. I won and we went out for Thai. Scandalous.

We strolled up to the Thaifoon Restaurtant at the Gateway like a couple of newlyweds...holding hands.

Upon entering we were promptly seated at the water wall. The sound of water falling is like some sort of panacea for me. Bring on the food!

Our waitress, Brittany was gorgeous. Carl was too busy looking over the menu and I was too zen with that waterwall to care if he took a second look. We ordered edamame and the Spicy Tuna Tempura Roll to knosh on while we contemplated our entrees. Normally, I'm crazy about edamame, but I was too into those rolls to pay much heed to my soy favorite. With their crunchy exterior and smooth interior of spicy tuna, I was in heaven.

Then, Brittany surprised us with non-alcoholic cocktails called (no joke) Ta-Ta Tini's - a blend of watermelon, berries, and fresh mint in soda water. Thaifoon donates proceeds from their "Save 2nd Base" menu, of which the Ta-Ta Tini is from, to breast cancer research. 

Carl, being generous in his concern for breasts, ordered the Surf 'n Turf from the "Save 2nd Base" menu. Feeling feisty, I ordered the Evil Jungle Princess Beef. The beef was filet mignon for both dishes. If you're a lover of red meat, you'd appreciate that we barely spoke through mouthfuls of that succulent sustenance. To make it even better, the tunes they played there were totally righteous. Carl ate Jasmine rice while Summer Breeze by Seals and Croft gently played in the background.  Sweet.

After stuffing as much of that tasty food into our bellies, we squeezed in dessert. 
Sugar (and plenty of it) for Carl with the Chocolate Volcano (it's under a mountain of ice cream).
Since I don't eat sugar, they whipped up a bunch of fruit for me.
All in all we had a great night, even if we didn't see Mark Wahlberg or have our life threatened. The food was delicious and the people there were genuine and fun. 
Plus, they comped the whole thing! Want to have a free night out at Thaifoon, too? Go to their Facebook page, "like" them and post your favorite entree from Thaifoon to their wall. You could win a $50 gift card to Thaifoon and inject a bit of fun into your date night. No more boring nights.

Thanks Thaifoon!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Marriage: the good, the bad, the really goofy

Today is my 17 year wedding anniversary. 43% of first marriages end within the first 15 years (Divorce stats). My husband and I are not the typical married couple. Although we haven't figured it out completely (he still calls me when he can't find things in the fridge and I still don't do more than 20% of the laundry), we're pretty good at this marriage stuff...most of the time.

The Good and The Bad
Since we both believe in abstinence until marriage, our first years of marriage were largely spent in bed. Then we had kids. Those were great times (pre-kids) and we look back on them fondly. We took some great vacations together and we absolutely love to exercise together. I'd say we love Scrabble together, but I squash him almost every time (see my use of the letter "q" there?).

We've been through some rough spots, too. Running a business together was really hard on our marriage. I don't recommend that to any couple. When most of your conversations have to do with clients and accounts receivable, you're time together is more like a board meeting.

The Goofy
One of the best parts about being married is having someone to laugh with in the middle of the night. Usually it starts with a half-asleep comment that makes no sense. We snicker quietly together until someone snorts loudly or wheezes from trying to stifle an noisy guffaw. Then, the giggling reaches a whole new level and, through tears of comedy, we have to tell the other person to shoosh because we don't want to wake the kids.

We love to laugh. If we didn't, we probably wouldn't still be married. Boy, am I lucky he still finds me funny. But, looks aren't everything (rimshot).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Strong women, complaining women

The big race I was organizing is over. You can see photos of the event here

Watching a sea of over 1800 women running and walking together was thrilling. There was a tangible feeling of excitement and comraderie in the air. So much strength and vivacity. I felt proud to watch women and girls of all ages, fitness levels and body types participating in this event. I had an overwhelming sense of the power women have. Our strength is not only in our numbers, but our resilience and perseverance.

My husband jokes around that we have a way of speaking to each other — he calls it Reddy and Able speak, after Helen Reddy, the woman who sang, "I am Woman." He bases it on the words and phrases we use to talk to encourage each other. For example,  "you're amazing," "you're a powerful woman," and "you go girl." Whatever. He's never given birth or been pushed down by "the man." But, that's a topic for another blog.

I've learned a lot from putting together a race with the words "love your body" in them. First, finding shirts that fit every body type is virtually impossible and women complain. A lot.

I heard so many complaints last year, that I took it on as my problem to solve. This year I was determined to get it right. Finding good shirts has been the bane of my race director existence.  My boss and I looked at several kinds of shirt manufacturer samples. We made a very informed decision and felt good about it. But, when women picked up their shirts (in sizes they picked themselves from measurements I listed on the registration site, incidentally), the whining began.

"This isn't a medium!?"

"How do you expect me to fit into this?"

"Does it come in any other colors?"

and the most common complaint,

"Can I exchange this for a different size?"

It seems that no matter what the effort, we girls will always find something that wasn't good enough, didn't work for us, and didn't meet up to our expectations. Maybe we're strong, but satisfaction is definitely our Achilles heel.

My solution next year? Socks.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Self control

Over the last six months I've been working hard on a big event. Now I'm about three days out from the the big day and my patience is starting to be tested. Today I got a nasty email from someone who was angry we closed registration without telling them. Here's what she wrote:

I'm sorry but screw you for having closed registation! I was told there was no deaedline but have been working my tail off to enter in the race. I was so excited to run...awful, awful planning for a woman's health run and fundraiser. I am beyond pissed and disapointed by this. Maybe you ought to consider better planning for next year or more notification of an upcoming deadline well before it happens. Thanks for nothing!

Okay, maybe not publicizing our closure was an oversight on my part, but we did tell people to register early. Now I've had two downright enraged women contacting me with nothing but venom about the closure. One even told me she had the ad we ran from July on her fridge.

It seems like blaming someone for your own procrastination is like blaming Santa for bringing Christmas when you haven't purchased gifts for your family.

We knew we'd have people begging to get into the race, so we held a few spots aside. I was being judicious about who I would grant the right to get in at the last minute and wasn't about to give the golden ticket to that grouchy bear. I waited for inspiration to strike before deciding how to respond to mandabear77. About four hours after the seething email from her arrived, I received the following from her:

Sorry, my last message was a bit mean. I am upset but I shouldn't have reacted in the heat of the moment. I do apologize for being mean.

To which I replied, as I've learned to do from years of motherhood:

Now that you've cooled down, do you want to know how to get into the race?

A woman I admire told me once that she never writes anything in an email that she would be ashamed to read in 25 years. I feel good about that reply and I think I'll still feel good about it in 25 years.

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