Thursday, July 30, 2009

Just Use It!

I'm a big believer in cherishing our inherent gifts and enjoying the material gifts that we are given. Crystal, silver, linen and china earn a new layer of beauty and context as they are used in our daily lives. One of the most unfortunate things I've observed is an elderly person's "hope chest unused". What's more special than occasions with your family and friends? When we'd entertain other families when our children were young, we'd set the table with china and silver for everyone. We were constantly questioned by other parents about our choice of china for all the children. We happily replied that "it's only stuff and we want our children to enjoy it too." Never at a dinner party did our children or our child guests ever break a plate. As is so often the occasion, everyone rose to the expectation that we'd all enjoy the special evening together. We treated our young visitors as special guests and they reciprocated by acting like "big kids".


I think there are millions of reasons to celebrate including - Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, morning, afternoon, evening, an A, a passing grade, knowledge gained, graduations, project completed, new insight, progress made, a positive diagnosis, new job, internship, promotion, preserving a job amidst layoffs, making someone's day, having someone make your day, making it through the day, a friend's arrival, relationships, weddings, births, new hires, retirements, a loving family, awards, recognition, positive press, giving a helping hand, receiving a helping hand, being valued, being loved, being cherished.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Get Up and Write It Down!

Too many sleepless nights...

I finally realized that getting up and writing down all the thoughts that were invading my sleep was time well spent.

It's hard to accept that hopping out of a cozy, but sleepless bed, will yield short-term results.

Each time I've fought the urge to toss and turn in my comfy bed and write it all down, I've ended the night refreshed, rested and with a comprehensive to-do list in the morning.

Just get up and write it down!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Efficiency v. Effectiveness

I would love to be able to give credit to the very creative person who provided this image, but alas, it was sent to me anonymously. Kudos to you and all other creative souls who can't be acknowledged for your work that makes us laugh, think and act.

My "efficient self" loves the practicality of this image and sentiment. However, my "creative and effective" self realizes the folly of not taking time to appreciate and enjoy each chance to celebrate.

May we all remember that effectiveness is our goal!

Monday, July 27, 2009

What's Your Wake-Up Call?

If you are among the lucky ones, the only wake-up call you recognize is your morning alarm clock.

For so many others, their wake-up call is much more jarring:

Today will be your last day at XYZ Company
Your medical test results weren't what we had hoped they would be
You did not pass the exam
If you don't meet objectives within the next 90 days, your employment will be terminated
You were clocked at 20 miles over the speed limit
You are pregnant
You are miscarrying the baby
There has been an accident
Though you were very qualified, we extended the job offer to another candidate
We tried everything but weren't able to save your loved one
Your bid was ranked second
Your colleague received the promotion you were expecting
You have gained 20 pounds since your last annual exam
Your charge was denied

We all get unpleasant news during our lives. How we react makes a tremendous difference in the course of our lives and those of our loved ones. The news can be a catalyst for change, renewed commitment and increased empathy for others. Or it can be the beginning of a downward spiral.

Let's be thankful for each day that our only wake-up call is delivered by an alarm clock.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Birthday Puzzles

I thought I'd do something different to celebrate Gar's birthday. I was pretty excited when I created a personalized word search puzzle for him. I started with a blank 13x13 paper grid, adding words until the puzzle was complete. Surprise! There are word search creators. Enter the words and presto, a professionally formatted puzzle emerges.

The puzzles both contain the same hidden words, but are completely different in size, letter arrangement and appearance. I began with a goal and later found tools to improve the presentation. Had I begun with the tool, the words would have been different, as I wouldn't have been constrained by fit. Though this one is more aesthetically pleasing, precious Gar was most appreciative of the one I manually created.

In trying to creatively express love and appreciation, I was reminded once again that different approaches to a project yield different solutions. And, I was reminded that heart-felt hand-made creations with their unique peculiarities are valued by the recipients.

What Time Is It?

It's time to:

It's always the time to be inquisitive, thankful, helpful and engaged!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Network it Forward

Our lives improve dramatically when we commit to helping others!

When we encounter each new person as a "friend unmet" we open the door to a fascinating circle of stories, experiences and opportunities.

We all know people who approach the world with an attitude that screams, "what can you do for me?" Their arrogance and self-centeredness are most off-putting. It's easy, however, to recognize and embrace their lovely counterparts, who are eager and willing to offer advice, introductions, referrals and assistance. These ever helpful individuals tend to be magnets for success. People are most eager to reciprocate kindnesses.

An unexpected note of thanks or congratulations provides simple and effective encouragement. So does providing unsolicited recommendations for deserving friends and colleagues on LinkedIn.

When we do nice things for others without any expectations of reciprocity, we are often pleasantly surprised by the positive ripple impacts. I've been fascinated by chains of customers "paying it forward" at coffee shops. When I googled "pay it forward coffee", 153,000 hits were found. What a vivid example of anonymous small acts of kindness making the world more friendly and connected.

Friday, July 24, 2009

"No" is a Complete Sentence

So many of my very accomplished friends are stressed by requests to do one more important thing. One of my breakthrough moments is still very vibrant to me. I'd just pulled into my driveway and answered a cell call from a passionate volunteer friend asking me to join her Board of Directors. The friend was committed and the cause was important. When I conscientiously told her that I could not commit to one more activity, she graciously thanked me. The world did not end, the friendship remained intact and I felt a sense of relief. This was a beginning for me in many respects.

I learned that boundaries can be enforced without sacrificing friendships or priorities. I learned that effectively delivering a correct "no" serves everyone well. I learned that I could use this experience to coach others.

I have ongoing opportunities to remind overcommitted associates that "no" is a complete sentence.

Are you saying "no" when you should?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Recipe for Success

To create a life well-lived:

Begin with a loving family
Add a quality education
Cultivate a wide circle of supportive friends
Blend in a heaping assortment of healthy activities daily
Sprinkle 365 days of gratitude each year
Cut in 2 listening ears each day
Pour continuous communications
Dash energy throughout the day
Blend in 6-8 hours of sleep each night
Meld passionate pursuit of a cause (family, work and/or volunteer activities)
Open your heart and hands to community
Baste with empathy
Chop negativity
Beat expectations
Mold the life you want to be remembered for
Cook consistently 24x7x365 at 98.6 degrees

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

That's Not What I Wanted to Hear

When you receive unwelcome news do you seek solutions or do you blame, accuse and rehash old problems?

Which do you say:

How can we make it better?
That's what I expected of you.
This too shall pass.
How could this happen?
What were you thinking?
Why weren't you thinking?
How can we learn from this?
How do we move forward?
How could you do this?
You don't care about me.
You always do this.
You never think before you act.
If it doesn't kill us, it will make us stronger.
It could have been worse.
How could you do this to me?
You're so immature.
We now know one more way not to do this.
That's why we're insured.
It's only a thing - No one was injured.
We're one step closer to success.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sunny Days

We bring joy to others and increase our own happiness by:

S Smiling
U Understanding
N Noticing
S Simplifying
H Hearing
I Individualizing
N Nurturing
E Empathizing

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What's Your Signature?

We all know memorable friends who are immediately recognizable by their signature look or attitude:

Hairstyle - headband, comb-over, bob, current style
Tie - Bowtie, fun tie, red tie
Jewelry - cuff links, cross, star, amazing piece, preferred designer
Drink - iced tea, water, Bayou Breeze, Martini
Greeting - curt, friendly, memorable (If I was any better, I'd be twins)
Punctuality - 1st to arrive, just on time, the meeting can finally begin
Hospitality - we're glad you're here, why are you here?, let's conclude our business
Attire - Black skirted suit, navy suit, jacket with skirt or pants, fashion statement
Attitude - Let's make things happen, let's get through with this, Why are we here?
Food order - What's your specialty?, We want to enjoy..., I'll take...
Preparation - It's exciting to see that..., Tell me about your business, do you need?
Car - classic, newest model, sporty, reliable, messy, barely running
Gratitude - I'm here, thanks so much for having me, why didn't you...?
Friendliness - How can I help?, what can you do for me?, why are you here?
Disposition - Isn't it a great day?, It's already Monday, made it through another one
Plan - We will succeed together, tomorrow's another day, can't wait til Friday

What's your signature?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Time Budgets are Not Created Equally

I've become vividly aware that everyone does not have the same access to their allotted 24 hours per day.

To equal the playing field let's assume the following time budget:

8 Hours Working
8 Hours Sleeping

That leaves 8 presumable allocatable hours.

What's wrong with this picture?

Some have 30 minute or less door to door roundtrip commutes. Others travel an hour or much more each way.

Some spend 45 minutes getting ready for work each morning. Others spend 10 minutes.

Some have to shop for groceries, plan meals, stop for dinner or order take-out each day. Others have dinner waiting when they arrive from work.

Some have children to pick up from a provider, homework to review, games to play, baths to finish, stories to read, days to review together. Others have children who have become quite independent or don't have dependants.

Some have elderly parents, needy friends or differently abled children whose needs are never-ending. Others have self-sufficient circles of love.

Some are struggling to learn a job, keep a job or find a job. Others are thriving in the positions they hold.

Some are racing from work to complete a college course. Others don't have a professional development time budget.

Some hold as sacred 30 or more minutes of exercise. Others can never find time.

We don't all have the same access to each 24-hour day. Time budgets are not created equally. We can only deal as efficiently and effectively as possible with the hours we find to allocate.

My blogging time is up!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Missing in Action

Our wonderful cat, Tiger, has been a cherished member of the family for 14 years. Aging has provided interesting behaviors and options. He's always been an inside cat, but in the last few weeks, he has been interested in exploring the backyard. Not a problem! Our backyard is safely gated, with no way for a geriatric cat to escape. Or so we thought! Why didn't we think about meter readers? We didn't think of them because we'd never had a backyard pet. Panic set in soon after my precious husband discovered that the meter reader left the gate ajar. The search began. Our very responsible yard man said he'd seen a "new" cat in our front yard. Because of the extreme heat we hoped that he'd found a shady spot and would return home as soon as hunger plagued him. When we made our umpteenth trip outside to try to find Tiger, we met our dear friend and neighbor leaving a neighbor's home from a visit. Before we posted signs everywhere, we wanted to personally alert all of our neighbors who we could find that our cat whom they had never seen was missing. Bingo! Tiger was spotted in the neighbor's yard, but no one knew who he owned. A few lucky coincidences brought precious Tiger back home.

Lessons learned: contingency planning is critical in all areas of our lives, observant friends provide invaluable insight, continually seeking the result you want often results in success, never give up if there's a possibility of success.

Plan Ahead

One of my favorite framed pieces in my office is needlework that vividly highlights the need for planning.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Sounds from Silence

Traveling to my small hometown in Arkansas reminded me of the joys of a less noisy existence. As my big-city son and I wandered outside my parent's home, he immediately observed the sights and sounds of nature.

Only when we disconnect from technology and choose to experience what nature offers can we fully appreciate the vibrant messages that we receive when we commit to engage in silence.

I offer my sounds from silence:


What are your sounds from silence?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Receptivity to New Ideas

One of the many great things about joining Sterling Bank has been the mutual receptivity to new ideas. Being a non-banker in a banker's world has given me the chance to learn a lot of new things. Each industry and company has unique requirements, expectations and processes. One common denominator across thriving companies and industries is the need to provide extraordinary customer and employee experiences.

It's been refreshing to have my ideas and those of my fellow bankers enthusiastically received. When I ask, "Have we considered...?", the answer has generally been, "No, but let's do it!" This organization's receptivity to new ideas is one of the reasons I believe Sterling Bank has been repeatedly recognized as a "Best Place to Work" by Fortune and Houston Business Journal.

Continuous improvement results as associates offer great new ideas that are enacted by the organization.

We also grow individually as we embrace more effective and efficient ways of operating.

I'd love to receive more ideas to make me more effective and efficient.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Joy of Friendships Refreshed

One of the joys of growing up in a small town is developing friendships that last a lifetime. Visiting my parents in my hometown is always delightful. The visits are enhanced by the chance to refresh childhood friendships. Attending a lovely party this weekend, I was thrilled to reconnect with so many old friends. I see some of these wonderful folks each time I visit my parents. Others I haven't seen in many years. The joy of shared experiences comes flooding back as we share our current life happenings.

Not everyone can visit a childhood hometown. But we can all reconnect with friends who have helped shape our lives.

Email, Facebook and LinkedIn allow us to reconnect without regard to distance, location or time zone. The memories come alive as friends separated by time, circumstance and geography reunite.

Friendships enhance our lives. I'm thankful for friends near and far and the many ways to keep our friendships fresh.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Are You Re-Writing the Gettysburg Address?

Early in my career I worked for an individual who made "corrections" to everything I wrote. Some of these "corrections" were grammatically incorrect. I took the editing very personally and began to dread preparing a document that would need his approval. I questioned my ability.

Two incidents changed my perspective.

I overheard two other staff members who had been on the team for quite some time laughing about the "corrections" to one of their documents. They shared a marked-up, edited version of the Gettysburg Address, indicating that the "corrections" had come from our boss.

When my boss was on vacation, I submitted a time-sensitive document directly to the Sales VP. It was approved quickly, with no changes and received very positive feedback. When my boss discovered that his boss liked the way I communicated, the "corrections" diminished, my productivity and attitude improved and my self-confidence returned.

AHA! That's just the way he is! It wasn't about me at all.

There are a million different ways to express an idea. Gettysburg Address caliber documents are rare indeed. Feedback is greatly appreciated when it improves the product, but enormously resented when it is just a slightly different way of conveying the same information.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Diversity is a Multi-Faceted Diamond

We often think immediately of race, ethnicity and gender diversity. Years ago, I had the opportunity to participate in an eye-opening exercise. A group of us were instructed to move across a courtyard as a statement was read if the statement was true for us. We were told to look at those who were standing with us and those who were not. The questions involved everything from our own and our family's educational levels, to the ability to access a sum of money within 24 hours, to childhood experiences and many more. This provided a very vivid way of demonstrating to me that diversity is truly like a multi-faceted diamond. Just as each diamond facet reveals a new brilliance, each answered question reveals an individual uniqueness or element of diversity from which we can learn.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

We See What We Look For

There is great comfort in the familiar. We enjoy being with family, friends and associates who are familiar to us. We know what to expect. There's not the discomfort of the unknown. However, this comfort can lead to taking these special ones for granted.

"take somebody for granted -to not show that you are grateful to someone for helping you or that you are happy they are with you, often because they have helped you or been with you so often. One of the problems with relationships is that after a while you begin to take each other for granted."

We fall into the trap of seeing what we look for. We aren't open to the ever changing thoughts, ideas, perspectives and aspirations of these special individuals. When we fall into this trap we can critique faults, shortcomings and our unmet expectations. We can forget to show appreciation for their time, gifts, talents, caring and unique perspectives.

We can actually be more open-minded and receptive to strangers and acquaintances because we don't yet know what to expect.

I'm going to look with fresh eyes at the special people in my life. I know I'll see amazing skills, talents and experiences that I've been missing.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

When I Grow Up I'm Going to Be My Cat

I've often wondered just what I'll be when I grow up. Today, I decided. I am going to be my cat. Tiger chose us from a shelter 14 years ago. He's been a cherished family member all these years. His life is bliss:

Associates only with people who adore him
Endless food and beverages
24x7x365 maid service
Daily groomer
No worries about weight
Sleep deprivation is never an issue
All appointments are scheduled and a driver is provided
Spa trips are scheduled each time the family leaves town
Someone else takes care of the budget
New adventures are on the agenda every day

Yep! When I grow up, I'm going to be my cat!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Random Tips that Have Improved My Life

I maintain an attitude of gratitude and it's always a treasure when I discover a tip that makes my life better or easier. I share a few random tips:

Reusable water bottles - Yes, JuJu, I am reducing my carbon footprint, but I'm also drinking more water. I put one in the dishwasher each evening and fill one each morning as I head to work. Great poolside, too!

Lip moisturizer re-purposed: Gar's lip balm didn't make it through the washer in any condition for him to apply it. However, it's a great cuticle moisturizer and you can scoop it out as needed.

Audio-Tech Business Book Summaries: This is a subscription well worth the $149 per year price tag. I look forward to receiving 2 business book summaries (text and audio) each month. Great value and learning!

Towel drying hair before applying conditioner: Why didn't anyone ever tell me before that getting a bit of moisture out of your hair before applying conditioner makes a remarkable difference in the amount of conditioner that is actually absorbed? Just takes a couple of seconds to squeeze the excess moisture from your hair, apply conditioner, continue with your shower, then rinse the conditioner. This keeps the conditioner from sliding off soaking wet hair.

Calcium with Vitamin D can reverse bone loss! When my wonderful OB/GYN delivered the news that I needed to address my bone loss, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Thankfully, taking calcium +D every day, increased my bone density the first year, and has provided status quo going forward. Yes! It's great to change my bone health without drugs!

Sudoku - Thank you, Anne for providing a daily opportunity to solve a puzzle!

Hammock! No explanation needed!

Mapquest/Televav - Thankfully I am the only directionally challenged person in my family. These tools were made for me!

Keyless Entry - What difference could a few seconds make? Multiply those seconds by each time you enter your car. Not having to dig in my purse for keys is priceless!

List of Things to Take on a Trip - Years ago I prepared a list of items to pack. What a time and stress saver this has been. My only omission in recent years was a toothbrush... This one time I packed days ahead and sent my bags with family... Easy enough to correct!

Methodist Hospital Breast Center Satellite - I asked a few less than a million questions to determine that Methodist's satellite location at Kirby and the Southwest Freeway had the same radiologists, equipment and access to my years of records. Assured by my trusted physician, multiple nurses and everyone involved with scheduling, I had my first mammogram outside the Med Center. The facility is great, access to records is instanteous and the radiologists actually take time to meet you!

WWW.HCAD.ORG - ifile is the most time efficient government tool I've ever accessed. When a disparity exists between appraised value and market value, you can easily file a protest. My experience was amazing! From the time I filed, received and accepted a fair settlement offer was only 4 days!

Random Number Generator - Thank you Amy! If you need to easily find winners among eligible participants, this is the tool for you! In Excel use the formula =randbetween(bottom,top).

Thursday, July 2, 2009

How Do You Measure Success?

Swimming laps tonight provided me a change of perspective. I wish I could say that I enjoy exercise, but alas, that is not the case. I do, however, enjoy swimming. My nature is to set and exceed goals. I realized tonight that this sabotages my exercise objectives. Though I enjoy swimming, I assigned 100 lap objectives to my swimming. If I didn't have time to accomplish 100 laps, it discouraged me from swimming. A simple change of perspective will lead me to a healthier life. Rather than counting each lap as a percentage of the 100 self-imposed laps, I decided to count each lap as improving my health by 1%. Now, if I'm interrupted at 60 laps, I'll know that I'm 60% healthier than if I'd not gotten in the pool (and not a D student at 60% of 100). It worked exceptionally well. I was interrupted at x # of laps. Rather than trying to determine how many laps I'd completed, I started over. I completed 100 +++++ laps.

Hope you also begin to measure success incrementally.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What are You Waiting For?

What are You Waiting For?

A stoplight
An appointment
Your turn
Test results
The mailman
A loved one to open the door
The checker in a check-out line
The ladies’ room
A flight to depart
A flight to land
An introduction
A sale
A train
A cat to come in
A cat to go out
The opening bell
The closing bell
A program to begin
A commercial to end
A question
An answer
A birthday
An anniversary
Cocktail hour
The game to start
The game to end
The alarm clock

Waiting anxiously is a waste of time.

Anticipate, plan, prepare, live, do.

Relish each moment!