Friday, October 30, 2009


FEAR - Fantasies Emerging as Real

Often it is only in retrospect that we can determine that our fears were without merit.  We know that things are okay when we realize:
  • We weren't ridiculed for our attire or costume
  • There were no monsters under the bed
  • Missing a couple of answers on a test did not equate to failing
  • There were people to visit with at the event
  • Our idea was accepted for review or implementation
  • We weren't the only ones who had an early curfew
  • Other parents also called to check on the party logistics
  • We were far more disappointed in our results than our parents indicated that they were
  • The customer didn't leave though we had a problem
  • The clean bone break healed perfectly
  • Everyone showed up and had a fabulous time
  • The meal was spectacular
  • We won
  • The doctor said, "all is okay!"
  • The job is yours
  • The baby is healthy
  • You've been selected for ...
  • Others felt/reacted the same way
  • The offer/deadline has been extended
  • ... is safe
  • You're covered
  • You were right
  • Things couldn't have been better
  • The outlook is improving

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Who's Watching?

We sometimes think we are invisible when we are among strangers at an event or venue. Do we act differently when we think no one is watching? I've decided we should always assume that someone is watching. Recently a friend was leaving a big box store as Edgar was arriving. He spotted her because she was walking to her vehicle, but she didn't notice him because he was camouflaged in one of the many arriving SUVs. There was nothing noteworthy about the missed opportunity to visit. It was just a reminder to me that we never know what others may casually observe without our knowledge.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

We all have our methods of dealing with the never-ending demands on our time and our ever growing number of possessions. My challenge is trying to keep up with everything once it's not visible, whether it's commitments or things.

My commitments are noted in my on-line calendar as actual appointments or as all-day events which serve as reminders of pending reports, occasions or the need to take action. And, of course, my never-ending to-do lists supplement my technology tools. Thank goodness for email folders. Different projects can be organized and the folder title provides a visual to easily find all of the relevant information.

Our stuff is easy to find when I put like items in a logical place. The difficulty is trying to locate a rarely used item that has no peer. Then the search begins. What would have been a logical place at the time the item was stored? Edgar recently asked for his grandfather's monogrammed cane. We both remembered that it had hung in the hallway of our old home with other Rice University memorabilia. The challenge was to ascertain what might have been a safe and logical location when we moved. After a search of all the readily available locations, I discovered it carefully stowed in the cabinet of the grandmother clock. Seemed logical at the time - grandfather cane/grandmother clock.

How do you deal with those things that are out of sight to keep them from being out of mind?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


My dear Mother stitched this delightful piece for me when I was young. It hangs in my laundry room, vividly reminding me to find humor in every day life.

Monday, October 26, 2009

50 Ways to Make a Difference

There are millions of ways to make a difference. Here are 50:

1. Volunteer

2. Give blood

3. Recycle

4. Donate items that are no longer needed

5. Spend time with an old friend

6. Be a role model

7. Accept an informational interview

8. Make an introduction

9. Provide a recommendation

10. Send an unexpected greeting

11. Smile

12. Offer to help

13. Make a micro-loan

14. Share ideas

15. Solicit opinions

16. Congratulate others

17. Change bad habits

18. Thank a service provider

19. Follow-through on commitments

20. Say yes when you can and no when you need to

21. Give a sincere compliment in front of others

22. Be courteous

23. Do my best everyday

24. Acknowledge the contributions of others

25. Offer ways to incrementally improve a service or process

26. Give others access to data, templates, research

27. Negotiate fairly

28. Drive friendly

29. Treat others as you’d like to be treated

30. Buy an item from a child who asks – lemonade, cookies, tickets

31. Accept an invitation to present in a school

32. Lend a book

33. Share opportunities that are beneficial to others

34. Vote

35. Opt for on-line delivery of documents

36. Purchase and use a re-usable water bottle

37. Support a friend’s endeavor

38. Accept an invitation to connect

39. Live healthy

40. Look for solutions

41. Expect positive outcomes

42. Offer a different perspective

43. Collaborate

44. Pray

45. Thank a soldier

46. Thank a teacher

47. Express condolences

48. Add to someone’s collection

49. Refrain from gossiping

50. Exhibit an attitude of gratitude

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Were We at the Same Event?

I was once again vividly reminded that we all experience things from our own unique perspectives.

A friend and I were talking about an event she'd attended where she'd heard a popular elected official present. It was her first time to hear this individual and she thought it was a terrific presentation. I mentioned that I had heard this individual many times and generally enjoy hearing this person speak, but had attended a recent event where the person was distracted and rambled. As we delved further, we realized that we'd been in the same audience.

She saw energy, openness, candor and knowledge. I'd heard this individual convey all of these attributes, but was also accustomed to preparation and focus. She was delighted; I was disappointed.

There was no call to action in this presentation, so it didn't matter that we had such opposite assessments. But, what if it had been a situation, when there was a need to have everyone receive and act upon the same message? If the feedback loop only included her representative assessment, the opportunity to miss the goal would be enormous. One might assume that those with prior experience with the speaker would automatically be aligned, and view it as terrific that a newcomer was now onboard.

This was a reminder to me that when the outcome is important, the feedback loop needs to be broad.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


It doesn't matter if we are individuals or organizations. We all seek to be relevant.

I attended an advisory meeting this week for a non-profit organization that has been a big part of my life for over 20 years. Kudos to the organization for proactively seeking multiple inputs in creating a strategic plan to ensure that this very special, high impact organization remains relevant during the next 25 years.

As individuals, I think our best way to remain relevant is to stay engaged, learn continuously, maintain our curiosity, embrace change, seek diverse young perspectives, exhibit flexibility and be willing to admit that we don't have all the answers.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Who Says These Events are Special?

We can get so engrossed in our own experiences that we don't realize that everyone else doesn't view special occasions the same way we do. It was helpful for me to view a pending ball from two different perspectives.

My view:
Exclusive event
Awesome once in a lifetime experience for the honorees
Fabulous party
Great band
Exquisitely decorated venue
Fun people (friends and chance to meet new ones)
Yummy food
Super friending
What we do!

Another perspective:
Don't like big events
Dressing up isn't my thing
Crowds are stressful
What would I wear?
Strangers aren't friends unmet; they are strangers
I'm out of my element
I congratulate you, but don't want to be at a formal event

Similar differences in perspective will exist when parties are not equally interested in a particular sport, music, drama, film, festival or cause.
May we all find the daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual and once-in-a-lifetime events that help us soar!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

25 years at a time

Edgar and I celebrated 25 short years of marriage this year. Time does fly when life is full, active and robust. What incredible children, memories and advances we thankfully acknowledge!

Last night I attended the 25 year anniversary of one of our Sterling Bank offices. The mutual successes were illuminated by the stories of remarkable clients assisted as this office has grown and prospered.

My parents' average age is 3 times 25. Thankfully, they still act like they are are only 2 times 25. Unfortunately, they've experienced the grief of a million times 25. Yet, they embrace life as vibrantly as any 25 year old.

Our children have yet to reach the 25 year milestone. Yet they have experienced the equivalent of many 25 year increments of technological advancements in their young lives.

Twenty-five years seems like an eternity when you're young, yet like an impossibly short excursion as time flies.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

When Do We Get My Uniforms?

When our first child was born, I was blissfully unaware of how very competitive admission to highly selective private schools is in Houston. This is one of the many joys of growing up in a small town where everyone attends public school. Reality sank in as we left her interview for admission to kindergarten.

Often we don't realize how badly we want something until it's something important to and for your child. Success and avoiding disappointment are mutual goals.

As we got into the car after the interview, my precious daughter asked, "When do we get my uniforms?" We'd not made a big deal about the interview and told her we were going to check out a new school. So, I said, "We need to see if you like the school and if they will have room for you in the class" I tried to hide the stress I was suddenly experiencing as she made it crystal clear, "I want to go to school here!". Prior to that declaration, it had merely been something we wanted for her. The stakes were higher now that she wanted it too.

The wait for her good news seemed forever long and so very welcome when it arrived.

This was a vivid reminder that seeking a successful outcome for someone you love and treasure is far more powerful than seeking it for yourself.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


When I was nine, I told my maternal grandfather that when I had a daughter I was going to name her Julia, in memory of his mother, a great-grandmother I never knew.

As a child, it never occurred to me that my husband would have opinions about this important matter. When I proposed this name, Edgar was initially unreceptive to the idea. Though my grandfather probably would not have remembered that long ago declaration, I did.

Happily, we ultimately agreed and I had the joy of introducing precious Julia to my wonderful grandfather - delivering on a promise made so many years earlier.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Life by Company Slogan

Ideas for Life. Imagine. Power of Dreams. Expect Great Things. Resourceful By Nature. Dreams Made Real. How Big Can You Dream? Discover What's Possible. The Possibilities are Infinite. The Power of Choice. Have It Your Way. It's Your World. Take Control. Life More Interesting. Get In the Game. Discover What's Possible. Decide with Confidence. Do More. Expect Something Extra. You Can Do This. Just Do It. Make the Most of Now. Keep on Thinking. It's Your World. Take Control. Just What You Needed. Know How. Listen and You Will See. Taking You Forward. Changes for the Better. Operate at Your Optimum. Pushing Limits. Make Progress Every Day. Watch Yourself Change. The Perfect Experience. Live Richly. Excellence Endures.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Unlikely Journey

I got a message this week from a dear friend, recounting a most unlikely journey. He reached for an interoffice envelope, and while addressing it, noticed that it had originated from me. This would have been perfectly understandable several years ago, when we worked for the same organization. This envelope, however, originated with me, criss-crossed several of our company locations and landed across town at another organization, in the hands of one of only two people who I know there.

The envelope's unlikely journey gave us an expected, and always welcome, chance to connect.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Take This Job and Love It!

Terri Langhans, a Certified Speaking Professional, author and COE (Chief of Everything) at Blah, Blah, Blah Etc. Inc., was the featured speaker at our recent Sterling Bank Women’s Business Initiative Luncheon. She motivated and entertained our appreciative audience as she presented her marvelous message "Take This Job and LOVE It!"

It is abundantly clear that Terri loves her job and she shared tips for everyone to love theirs. She urges getting a new pair of glasses, which is a vivid way of reminding us that we always find what we are looking for. If we are looking for a mess, problem or boring meeting, we’ll find that. But if we’re looking for solutions, interesting interactions or success, that’s what we’ll find.

She outlined six things that can lead to burnout – workload, control, reward, community, fairness and values. And she offered a great twist, noting that in order to experience burnout, one had to have once been on fire. Rekindling the flame can occur by changing our perspective about the cause of burnout or finding a job where these factors are a match for us.

We’re all familiar with RDA in food and vitamins. Terri prescribes creating RDA for what we are looking to achieve.

And she’s a big proponent of using questions. We need to ask ourselves what a good mom or leader would do. When confronted with an uncomfortable question from another, she suggests responding with a question. Why do you ask? What is it that you want to know? And if someone is ranting it often works to add a question to their complaint. Her daughter came home from school and spewed, “I hate my math teacher. He’s an idiot.” Terri’s response was, “You hate him? He’s an idiot?” This allowed her daughter to vent about tomorrow’s test and her misplaced book, which were her real issues.

In order to love our jobs, we need to understand what is important and let the professional inside us shine.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Highs and Lows of an October Day

I woke up early, knowing that I had a flight at 8:00 a.m. This was a day where everything needed to go smoothly and every minute counted.

Before I left the house:
Our precious son needed multiple wake-up options
Our 14-year old cat had an unfortunate encounter with a raccoon
A shower unexplainedly overflowed into the living room

On the road:
All was going 100% perfectly, until the traffic stopped. Thankfully, it was a temporary slow-down due to an 18-wheeler blow-out and residual impacts.

At the airport:
Looks like the economy is improving, due to my visual assessment of the number of early morning travelers compared to 4 months ago. Fewer screening positions open. A number of occasional travelers who don't know the drill. Made the flight! Spotted one of our dear nephews on the flight!

When I Landed in Dallas:
Urgent message to call our CPA about questions for our 10/15 return. Walked Edgar through the location of the missing data before the event began.

Our Sterling Bank Women's Business Initiative event:

When I Landed at Home:
Got the tax news from Edgar and said I'd forego the community partner celebration. Glad that I heeded his advice and arrived to congratulate my friends.

At home:
Processed all the tax returns. Edgar dressed, then sent the tax returns while I dressed for our Black Tie Dinner Dance.

Dinner Dance:
Small world continues to evolve as I discover that the dinner guest I'm seated by and I have both sequentially hired the same incredible associate.

What a day!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Goldilocks v. Gildedlocks

In this age of abundant choices we've become like Goldilocks - we want everything just right, if not better. That's simply not always possible. And in some instances, it leads to average or detrimental results.

Courses, opportunities or projects that are too easy can bore us; if they are just right we cease to learn, stretch and grow. Courses, opportunities and projects that are a bit too difficult probably provide the right challenge.

Food and beverages seem to be categories where the Goldilocks Syndrome is justified - too little or too much can be unhealthy.

We know that too little exercise compromises our well-being; moderate increases beyond the recommended levels help us achieve improved health.

Interpersonal skills tend to be an area where a deficiency significantly negatively impacts happiness and success; and exceptional abilities make a tremendous difference in friendships, careers, contacts and contracts.

What's just right in community engagement of our time, talent and treasure? The needs are never-ending, so we can question what difference one more hour or one more dollar will make. To those served, the impact can be life-changing.

Help me not to be Goldilocks, but Gildedlocks - one who always understands and applies the effort-consequences-benefit equation.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Who inspires you? I had the chance to visit today with a dear friend who is beating cancer. I'm the ultimate optimist, so I categorize him as beating cancer, though he still has 1 more chemo treatment and 6 radiation treatments ahead. I can't wait for his doctors to validate his survivor assessment. I saw it in his eyes. His attitude is far better than so many of my colleagues who are dealing with far less serious issues. Though we think that we need to encourage our friends who are suffering, fighting, surviving - it is often those friends who demonstrate a life filled with courage, optimism and thriving. We do need to encourage, support and listen to our friends, regardless of the challenges that they are facing. And, we need to listen for the inspiration we receive from them.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It Doesn't Always Matter How Big You Are

The biggest and strongest win many competitions. When position and strategy play a more significant role, size doesn't matter. This is beautifully illustrated in an exchange between two radio operators communicating from the water. The first operator says, "Move right." The second operator responds, "I'm aboard an aircraft carrier, I have priority and I'm moving left." The first operator responds, "Your call. I'm in a lighthouse."

Monday, October 12, 2009

We're All in the Same Boat

We travel amidst a sea of drivers who act as if they are invisibly cocooned in their vehicles. We seat-belt into our vehicles and begin a new journey. We sometimes forget that these are real people, with families, lives, jobs and deadlines. When we're rushing to an important meeting, cutting it close to be on time for an appointment or clearly running late, we tend to think only of our need for speed. Ever wonder how many other drivers are in your same situation? I rarely do, but everything is connected, and I imagine that my scenario is readily replicated.

We all recognize idiot drivers when they interrupt our journey. How often do we stop to think that some of the things that these idiot drivers are doing "that irritate us and disrupt our journey" are things that we've also done when we are distracted or in a hurry?

I get frustrated with those who ignore my turn signal, tailgate, think that the multiple warnings that the lane is ending don't apply to them, linger at a green light and who drive more slowly than seems possible. I'm alarmed by those who recklessly change lanes at a high rate of speed, those who carry over-sized and under-secured loads and those who weave distractedly, sleepily or impaired from the lane in which they are traveling.

I am always appreciative of drivers who indulge my adrenaline rush and acknowledge my left turn signal as I attempt to move 4 lanes left within half a block and then navigate a high speed 4 leftward-bound lane change in less than a tollway mile. It's not for the faint-hearted.

Where better than our streets, roads, highways, freeways and tollways to practice the Golden Rule?

The idiot drivers I've encountered are numerous, but thankfully I've also encountered equal numbers of considerate drivers who realize that we're all in this together (everything's connected).

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Preparation distinguishes those who excel and those who don't. It's easy to spot in an academic environment with class discussions, papers, tests and quizzes quickly showing the difference among those who've prepared well and those who've done just enough to get by.

Athletes and musicians are elevated to elite status by talent, passion and practice (preparation).

Candidates interviewing for a job are evaluated based upon their preparation: experience and fit for the open opportunity. Their ability to communicate how what they've done demonstrates the likelihood that they'll excel in the new environment distinguishes the successful candidates.

Leaders who are most prepared are able to steer their organizations successfully regardless of the economic climate. Preparation comes not only from experience, but also a willingness to continuously learn, adapt and passionately execute.

I've often said that parenting is about being prepared to treat each child as a unique individual with specific interests, abilities and needs.

When we conscientiously prepare, we are able to deliver against ever-changing expectations, situations and options.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


We all know the story of the ant and the grasshopper. Of course, the ant is the hero in this story. The ant worked diligently and prepared for the coming winter, while the grasshopper frolicked and played.

Many of us tend to be too much like the ant, scurrying, working and planning non-stop. We postpone fun for later. Perhaps we should be "anthoppers". The ant still comes first, but we inject some fun into the experience.

Friday, October 9, 2009


We hear and read constantly about life-work balance. This elusive concept reminds me of a see-saw at the playground. Generally in attempting to balance, one party is up and the other is down. That's what many attempts at life-work balance feel like - rarely are all elements in balance - mostly one is soaring and the other isn't.

I think life-work juggling is a better description of effective harmony. An experienced juggler can keep many balls in the air by touching each one in rotation. Only when the rotation is interrupted does a ball hit the ground.

Juggling works best for me when I realize that my roles and responsibilities are integrated rather than neatly siloed. Making some time each day to address each of my roles works far better than focusing exclusively on one area and resolving to make up in another area after the big project, family event or volunteer responsibility is over. Reality proves that each area won't receive equal focus each day, but touching all the balls keeps them all in rotation.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I'm Early, Now What?

All of the chefs I know, both family and paid professionals, can only meet their own and constituent expectations by planning and preparing for the event(s) ahead. Whether family meals, parties or a daily influx of new and returning patrons, they need to know who will or might be joining them. My most vivid example of extreme chef preparation and flexibility occurred earlier this year when one of my normal venues for my Sterling Bank Women's Business Initiative luncheons failed to notify the chef when the date of our event changed. Their internal change order reflected a day of the week/calendar date mismatch and they internally resolved the discrepancy without consulting me. I was traveling from out-of-town and thankfully arrived very early the morning of our luncheon. In fact, I was a day earlier than the chef and staff were expecting me. We had a challenge to create a positively, memorable event rather than making apologies and experiencing a bomb. There could have been enormous negative ramifications. My mind raced to determine what "big kid happy meals" I could procure, deliver and position (explain) with only 2 hours notice. Thankfully, this experienced, professional chef always plans ahead. And I'm the only one (plus a few trusted Sterling Bank colleagues) who know that we were so close to delivering an unexpected contingency option.

This successful event, delivered, despite severe challenges was only possible because a professional chef plans ahead.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Social Media Pet Peeve

I've never asked for a recommendation on LinkedIn, but have happily recommended many deserving colleagues. Some, I have proactively recommended, and many, many others have unilaterally solicited recommendations. Some of those soliciting recommendations have reciprocated with lovely recommendations and sincere thanks for the acknowledgement. Many others have happily posted their recommendations without ever even acknowledging that I've responded to their request and posted nice things for the online world to see.

Our time is a precious commodity. The least that an "online recommendation solicitor" should do is thank the person who takes time to provide a recommendation. Better yet, though they can't pay it forward with this advocate, they can post a recommendation for their recommender and then post some "pay it forward" recommendations for other deserving colleagues.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What Did You Mean?

Tone, inflection and intent matter in communication. “WOW” can and often does mean: terrific, awesome, or outstanding. However, it can also mean: ooh, I didn’t expect that. The words must be taken in context to avoid making wrong assumptions. This is especially important when communicating via email. What if you send your boss a message saying that you got the big deal you’d been working on at a 35% discount and your boss replies, “WOW”? Is this an enthusiastic response or disappointment that the discounting was higher than expected? If you are accustomed to receiving enthusiastic replies, such as: “WOW! That’s fantastic! I knew you could do it!”, the one word response could be a sign that the deal is not as profitable as your boss had expected. Or it could simply be a case of pressing send before finishing the intended communication.

Taking time to appropriately position our written and spoken communications can make all the difference in our relationships.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Familiar Strangers

How many people do we enthusiastically greet without knowing their names? We can feel a connectedness that transcends names: the people in our building or adjoining buildings who we see with inconsistent frequency in elevators, skywalks or tunnels; the ever-changing security guard; the family usually seated 5 rows in front of us at church; the airline representative who we see only occasionally; the waiter who moves from restaurant to restaurant.

I label these people "familiar strangers". I am always pleased to see them, but haven't yet had the opportunity to elevate them from "familiar strangers" to acquaintances with names, or friends.

Though I don't always know their names, I appreciate the mutual recognition and connectedness that familiar strangers represent.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Nothing changes my outlook like remembering that I always have options. So often stress results from feeling trapped. Many people are trapped in relationships that aren't fulfilling, jobs that aren't inspiring and expectations that are too demanding.

When we feel that we can't quit a boring, dead-end or mis-matched job, change or leave a toxic relationship or find a new, invigorating opportunity, we feel trapped.

Thankfully, I have a fabulous family, omnipotent God, terrific job, delightful friendships, rewarding community involvements and have been blessed to be born in the U.S.A.

I'm grateful for my countless options and hope that you will discover the abundant options available to you.

When I'm feeling overwhelmed, I try to remember that my situation is temporary, non-life-threatening and controllable. I try to count my blessings including success, creativity, ability to multi-task, experience and communication skills.

Silo thinking leads to extreme stress and inability to draw upon related skills to address the current situation.

May we always open our minds and hearts to the numerous options available to us.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Traveling at the Speed of Life

Most of us cannot comprehend traveling at the speed of light. Traveling at the speed of life is fast enough! Years ago, I asked my precious children if time seemed to be speeding by just because I was getting older. They wisely answered (and I far preferred their observation) that days were speeding by because we were so busy.

When I was a child extensive scheduling didn't begin until kindergarten. And it was very reasonable. There wasn't the constant barrage of birthday parties, play dates and extra-curricular activities.

When my first child was born, I felt that I was already late for my first appointment. I didn't call her special pre-school from the hospital. Thankfully, she got in, despite my tardiness.

My children's activities in pre-school were more prevalent and varied than my junior high opportunities. This was my first example that life had accelerated.

When 24x7x365 connectedness is added to the equation, we quickly realize that we'd all get a speeding ticket if our journey was conducted on any public thoroughfare.

Thankfully, traveling at the speed of life is not a traffic violation.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Is the Grass Greener?

The grass is always greener when a professional is responsible for the care and feeding.

This applies to instances when we hire professionals to maintain our grounds. It is also relevant to job search options when an individual is discontented with a current employer but hasn't professionally examined the pros and cons of his/her current situation versus an alternative employer. If we only look at the above ground (green grass) optics, we may miss the deeply rooted core fundamentals. Temporary situations may look ominous, but we owe it to ourselves, careers and employers to determine if this is a temporary (water rationing during a drought) anomaly or a systemic problem. Unless we professionally invest time to understand and examine our current situation versus alternatives we may fall victim to the reality that the grass is really only greener in very specific geographies (employers).

May green grass flourish as we professionally invest in the care and feeding of our careers.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ask, Listen and Learn

My natural inquisitiveness and concern for others serves me well. As you'd expect, I've learned from CEOs, managers, front-line associates, non-profit execs and professional consultants.

I've also gained tremendous insight from my children and other children with whom I've been fortunate to interact. When we're willing and able to listen and learn, the amazing perspectives of all of our young friends will enrich our lives.

I've benefited from the wisdom, experience and challenges shared by my office friends who are security guards and maintenance workers. Some of their children are attending amazing schools. These hard-working individuals know the difference that an education can make. Unlike many with whom I routinely interact, these committed individuals are working double shifts to ensure that their children have the best opportunity available.

Wonder what I'll learn today!