There is a touching and moving video going around facebook about a boy named Owen who has a rare muscular condition that affects his balance and his adopted dog, Haatchi, who just happens to have 3 legs as a result of a train accident. Owen and his parents talk in this documentary about the way Haatchi's presence has improved Owen's life. They say that while Owen used to lack confidence and was quite self-conscious about his wheelchair and the way people looked at him, talking about Haatchi's story has made it easier for the focus to be taken off of Owen. While people used to perhaps stare at Owen, they now reportedly ask about Haatchi, and Owen speaks with confidence while he tells the story of this gorgeous Anatolian Shepherd.
While it may be difficult to watch the video without getting just a little teary-eyed, the part that moved me the most was that relationship.
I believe in trust and communication as the cornerstones of any relationship, even one between a boy and his dog. And so it goes with an employer/employee relationship, a husband/wife relationship, or even a friendship. We find connections with folks and the relationship is solidified, often even building our confidence.
With whom do you feel most confident? In which relationship do you have the most trust and the best communication? Can we learn from those? I believe so.
Just for today, perhaps we need to remember that in solitude, we have only our flawed selves on whom to rely. In relationships with others, we learn more about life, love and a bit more about our own humanity.
Count it all joy!
“On the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.”
― Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays
As a presenter about communication, leadership and trust, as well as a trainer/consultant for the Danielson Group, I am in front of people more than I ever would have dreamed I'd be when I was growing up. I love it all.
Well, just one little thing that is tough (besides delayed travel, airport food, and people who likely have the plague who are sitting in the seat next to me on the plane).....
My dear husband has often remarked that I could get evaluations from 100 people, 99 of them could say "This was great!" and I would obsess and focus on the 1 who didn't care for me or my presentation. He would be correct.
After presenting at a recent conference, I received a great deal of positive feedback ("this will help me talk to my teachers", "your passion and enthusiasm exude through everything you do", "I would love to have you come speak to our district staff", and "you inspire me to be a better educational leader" were some of my favorites). However, I also received feedback that was less than stellar (i.e. "It was uncomfortable to be sung to at the end of your presentation" and "It felt like she talked a lot about her book"). Ouch!
Dave, who is gut-level honest with me, says "Some people simply aren't comfortable with singing". He also asked, "Do you love what you do?" Without hesitation, I replied "I do!" He reminded me that presenting to people is pretty subjective---like performing, etc.---it's pretty subjective. People will either like it or not. Or, more likely, they'll like most of it but not care for something I say or do. Am I going to stop doing what I'm doing because someone doesn't care for it? Not likely. "But I can whine just a little bit and feel sorry for myself for a moment in time, right?" I asked Dave. "One moment then get to work" he replied.
In recent trainings I've done, I had someone say "Love the perfectly timed humor when you present" along with someone who said I spoke too quickly; someone who loved my dress and someone who didn't (yes, they told me that).
“A great man is always willing to be little.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
I guess I am going to pray, today, for the willingness to be little. It's not easy, but who ever said everything was going to be easy?
Just for today, are you willing to take the constructive criticism along with the good stuff? At the end of the day, I pray to hear "Well done, good and faithful servant"
Surviving in a complaint-free world
I was truly honored and blessed to be able to present at a conference in San Diego last weekend. Not only did I present, I got to attend some really great other workshops as well. One of them was Will Bowen's "Complaint Free World" , as seen on the Oprah show. Along with the workshop, we each received his book AND a wrist band that accompanied the challenge to remain complaint-free for 21 days.
Maybe I should start by saying I have been sober---totally alcohol-free-- for 16 years. I think I can handle a little wrist-band challenge. (cue the music from the scary movies that coincides with us all yelling at the teenage girl 'don't answer the door! It's a trick! You'll never make it out alive!').
I presented twice that day and the next morning, I awoke to ready myself to present one last time. As I laid out my black pants and snazzy red jacket, I looked down at my purple wristband and thought, "This band does NOT match my outfit". Luckily, I thought it and didn't say it outloud, or I would be switching arms (so the challenge goes). Then I began thinking back to what Will had said about the reasons we complain in the first place. Every complaint, he suggested, falls in one of five categories (getting attention, removing responsibility, inspire envy, power, or excuse poor performance). I stood in the hotel and actually got frustrated because I couldn't think into which complaint category my fashion faux pas frustration was going to fall . Oh dear....this is not going well so far, is it?
I'm not certain how, but I actually made it through the next couple of days complaint-free. Maybe I should note that folks who attend his workshops end up justifying some of what they say as "I'm not complaining. I am just stating a fact" as in "Eew! You just stepped in dog poo and it really stinks" can actually end up just being a statement of fact when justified in some twisted way.
Two days ago, I was trying to make reservations to head back to visit the elementary school where I used to be the principal for a great mentoring event. I had a reservation all set, when Dave found a "better deal" that would "save lots of frequent flyer miles". "Just call the airline and ask them to add this code" he said, just before I had finalized my easy arrangements.
Quick as a fox and sly as a snake, the words came pouring out of my mouth: "Now this sounds like a homework assignment!" DRAT!!! I mumbled as I sheepishly moved my wristband from one hand to the other.
You see, complaining, as Will Bowen says, has been made by many of us into an Olympic sport. We do it without even realizing it. I'm thinking a new 12-step group might need to be formed for those of us who are willing. The good news is: recognizing you have a problem is the first step to fixing it. Right?
In the meantime, I am grateful to be two days into my "one day at a time" program and I am not saying a word about being squished into a small airline seat next to a man who sounds like he has the plague. Not I......
Just for today, perhaps challenge yourself to go a day or two or 21 without complaining.
A tale of two drivers
I heard someone say recently, "We teach what we need to learn the most." I believe this is true, since as I present workshops across the country on trust and communication, I become more aware of my own need for continued learning in these skills. Dave and I frequently have conversations about communication (a bit of metacognition at its finest) and I believe as our communication grows, so our relationship and marriage grow.
I have had the distinct pleasure of presenting three workshops at the National SAM Innovation Project conference in San Diego this weekend. If you are in education and not aware of this great project, check it out at www.samsconnect.com . Mark Shellinger happens to be an amazing guy as well.
As it happened, Dave and I found ourselves able to enjoy an afternoon of trolley-riding around the San Diego area after I had finished my 3rd presentation. You know the trolleys that allow you to hop on and hop off at multiple locations, after paying one price for the narrated tour. The quality of your tour is often contingent upon the driver you get and the narration they provide. Here is where two roads diverged for us this afternoon.
When we hopped on the first trolley on Coronado Island, we settled in to our seats, enjoying the sunshine streaming in through the windows. Right before we took off, the gal driving the trolley (let's just call her Jimi) leapt out of her seat, yelling "What the hell is going on?" as she barrels down the aisle to the back of the trolley. "Oh no!" Dave and I both exclaimed. "What happened?" We turn around to see her hovering over a seat in which a couple were trying to lift the window flap so they could get some fresh air. "You can't do that yourself!" Jimi yelled (yes, really yelled) to the couple, who immediately backed off and apologized. "We were just trying to get some sunshine" they demured. "No, no, no!" Jimi kept on. "You can't do that yourself."
After that escapade, she tromped back up to the front, where she settled in her seat and began the tour. Less than a block from our starting point, we watched Jimi glare into the rear-view mirror and shake her head. "Listen up!" she barked. "No talking while I am narrating. People paid good money for this tour not to hear you talk." Wowee....Dave and I glanced at each other in a bit of discomfort. I have to be honest. I was embarrassed for her. When a couple talked quietly to one another a few minutes later, Jimi muttered, "Blah, blah, blah. I guess I'm just up here to hear myself talk. Nobody is listening anyway." Ouch.
Dave and I got off the trolley at Old Town to enjoy the sights, eat some amazing Mexican food, and ummmm....frankly, to get on another trolley NOT narrated by Jimi.
As we got on the afternoon trolley, Brian greeted everyone with a joke. He, too, asked us not to talk while he narrated, but here's how he said it, "If you can give me your full attention, I plan to teach you some new facts and trivia about this fine city. I ask that you keep your conversations to a minimum so everyone can hear." Whew! What a difference the words make. And they're basically saying the exact same thing. But the way it was said made all the difference in the world.
When I wrote my first book, I wanted to call it "It's not what you say, but how you say it". The difference between Brian and Jimi's messages may not have differed in content but they were light-years away from one another in context.
For me, if I have a choice, I'll always pick a path in which we honor people versus demeaning them.
Just for today, perhaps we can think about how our words impact others around us.