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Last week, my sister and I made plans to clean the pergola covering my parent’s back porch.  It is a cream color and gets covered in grime. Every year there have been three or four of us come together to tackle the job. This time, there was just the two of us — myself and my sister.  In the past, someone (never me) went up on the roof and sprayed a cleaning solution on the top of the pergola. It seemed like an important step.

I grabbed the big aluminum ladder on the side of the house, carried it to the back yard, set it as close as possible to the roof line.  There are many obstacles to getting a ladder up against the house in the back yard.  I climbed the ladder, moved down the roof line and perched next to the pergola. The hose and bottle of solution hoisted to me, the solution sprayed, then rinsed.  The bottle refilled.  The solutions sprayed, rinsed, repeat.  Back to the ladder I go.  

Everything has gone just fine until I attempted to get back to the ladder — reaching the ladder from the roof was different from reaching the roof from the ladder.  Due to the raised flower beds, the ladder was a distance from the roof.  Now, halfway on the roof and halfway off, I cannot squarely place my feet on the ladder.  By this time my hiking boots are wet, the ladder rungs are damp, everything feels slippery. Wobbly, wet, way far away.  As I hung off the roof reaching for the ladder with my feet, I knew there was no positive ending to this dismount.  

After some hanging and a boat loud of laughter from my sister (don’t worry, I’m used to it), I hoisted myself back up onto the roof and tried to think.  My sister moved the ladder to the porch where it could sit on solid concrete.  All I had to do was swing myself around the edge of the pergola to make contact with the ladder. Anyone taller than 5 feet 3 inches could do it.  Did I mention I’m 5’3”? Some say 5’ 2-1/2”   Again, I attempted.  Again, I hung half on the pergola and half off but was unable to connect solidly with the ladder.  Again, there was excessive cackling from below.  I’m without a doubt stuck.  

I’ve done the work to get here.  I’ve done the work required while I was here but I cannot seem to move on from here.  

There is one way, short of calling the fire department, for me to get unstuck. I have known of it all along, just never planned on taking this route.  If I climb to the peak of the roof and move half way down the other side, I can drop myself down onto a much lower roof above the shop.  The ladder can be placed on the concrete outside the shop door and I can dismount with ease.  (Let me emphasize, we have long since passed ease!)  The climb to the peak of the roof was something I wanted to avoid.  After the failed dismount attempts, excessive analyzing, and the consideration of just making a home on the roof, I’m crawling like a cat to the peak.  I lay my body flat across the peak (yes, my sister is doubled over with laughter, completely unfit for relocating the ladder), swing my legs over to the other side, begin to descend, again like a cat but without the grace.  


Later that day I was thinking about how we get stuck in life — in a job we don’t like, an organization that isn’t effective, a routine that’s not helpful, a dysfunction that’s destructive, a pattern that no longer serves, a reaction that brings no benefit.  

We try several things to get unstuck.  Until finally, we resign ourselves to this "stuckness" knowing all along there is a way to get unstuck but we’re just not willing to go higher.  Imagine the absurdity of living on the roof because the first two ways you attempted to get down didn’t work.  So often, we’re not willing to face the fear or push the envelope or challenge the obvious.  We simply settle for STUCK, like it’s a geographical location.  

Where are you stuck?
What are you pretending you don’t know?
What action step is required for you to take the higher route?

Growth is painful, change is painful but nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.
— Mandy Hale


Oh, The Voices

At a time when the current voices feed us words that divide, degrade and disillusion, I decided to look for some voices that stand the test of time.  My friend and mentor, Dan Miller, armed me with the book Great Quotes from Great Leaders. It takes a walk through the historical words of the most remarkable, like Ben Franklin, Nelson Mandela, Helen Keller and Douglas MacArthur.  

As a United Nations diplomat, humanitarian and First Lady of twelve years, Eleanor Roosevelt actively reshaped culture. She instituted regular White House press conferences for women correspondents for the first time.  Due to the President’s illness, she began to travel and make public appearances for him which redefined the office of First Lady.  She was a controversial, outspoken figure because of her stance on racial issues.  Occasionally, she even publicly disagreed with her husband.  By the time of her death, Roosevelt was one of the most widely admired women in the world.  How did she go from controversial to most admired?

Over her lifetime, Roosevelt challenged people to be more. Here are a few of her words that have stood the test of time.

“What is to give light must endure the burning.”

Where ever you are, you are designed to give light in the dark places.  If you are giving light then you are on fire; so you must be able to handle the continuous burning.  The best way to guard against burning up is to allow plenty of space in your life.  Take one full day off from work every week, indulge in a hobby, take a walk every day, just do something that nourishes your very soul.  Take a moment to figure out what that is for you.

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face . . . we must do that which we think we cannot.”

Fear gets bigger the more we cower to it.  But when we begin to just do it afraid, fear starts to lose it’s grip on us!  Think of the first time you got behind the wheel of a car as a teenager.  It was truly scary.  But now that you’ve been doing it for many years, you are comfortable with it.  The more you do what you think you cannot do, the stronger and more courageous you get.

“When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.”

Some people keep on living long after they're dead — it looks like toxicity, nay-saying, chronic complaining, and taking no responsibility.  If you are currently making no contribution to anything beyond yourself, you are starting to die.  Thankfully, it is so easy to reverse.  Just start giving to someone or some organization today.  

If the voices you are hearing don’t cultivate, encourage and foster hope in you, it’s time to listen to some new voices. 

Don't Stay on the Porch

While walking the dog this morning on our usual one mile route through the neighborhood, we encountered a BIG dog.  His owner struggled to hold him back.  Several minutes after we passed them, I heard the owner holler “Watch out!”  Without turning around I knew that the dog, now loose, was coming for us.  Confident there was nothing I could do but step away, I dropped my dog’s leash.  Thankfully it all ended well and we returned in one piece.  But it reminded me of a poster I used to have with a bunch of cute, little dogs on an old porch with the caption, “If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch.”  That was my favorite saying when I was too young to understand the implication.  

How many times do you stay on the porch because you just can’t run with the big dogs?  What are the big dogs in your life?  Fear? Doubt? Guilt? What keeps holding you back?  What if, you could design your own life and not just let life happen to you?  Would you want that?  I want to challenge you to get off the porch today!  Whatever it takes, commit to designing your life (not having it designed for you by the BIG DOGS).

If you’d like some help with overcoming the obstacles in your way or creating a design for your life, check out this group coaching offer.  Group coaching gives you the opportunity to run with big dogs like encouragement, accountability and strategies. Coaching is the most popular tool that successful people use to live outstanding lives. Click here for more details.  

Go ahead . . . get off the porch!

More Costly than You Realize

    Both of my son’s are highly intelligent, as well as strong minded.  One of my sons is extremely strong minded.  So when he was two and three years old, I found myself challenged in new and demanding ways.  We decided to shift the standards slightly for him.  Before he came along the standards were severe — you must sit at the table through the entire meal, you must eat everything on your plate, you must wear clothes at all times, you can not use your loud voice in the house.  I think you get the idea.  At some point, the standards were reduced to: you can never put scissors in the electrical outlet, you can never run out in the road, you must eat something, anything.  Basically, the standards were reduced to keeping this kid alive.  Even that shift was not enough to keep my energy levels up and my mental acuity high.  

    One day I found myself on the couch hollering.  Let me pause here and mention: hollering seldom ever helps anyone (your child, your co-worker, your neighbor) develop into anything positive.  I knew this, but my exhausted body had settle for sitting on the couch and hollering reprimands to this precious, strong-minded child.  As I was yelling out really good uplifting stuff, I thought to myself, “Why is he regressing?  It seems like he’s lost ground in this battle of self-discipline.”  Then it dawned on me.  It wasn’t about him, it was about what I was tolerating.  I was tolerating more of his poor behavior, like throwing fits and disregarding others.  I wasn’t following through with the things that helped his development.  I learned a valuable lesson that day — what I tolerate will cost me more than I really wanted to pay.  

    That lesson has been repeated my entire adult life. Perhaps I’m a slower learner than I realized.   Let me say it again,

what we tolerate will cost us more than we ever meant to pay. 

I was paying for it in big ways that day.  It was costing me my sanity, my peace, my joy.  All because I had unknowingly arrived at the decision to tolerate.

    As you reflect on 2015, what did you tolerate in yourself and in others?  Chronic stress, overwhelming fear, excessive anger, negative attitude, inaction, disorganization, guilt for not doing it all, unfinished projects, self-deprecating thoughts, poor communication?  What you tolerate drains you.  As I stopped tolerating the poor behavior of my young son, things began to improve.  I could think more creatively, enjoy the days better, and regain some energy.  

    Whatever happened in your life in 2015, we can be sure of one commonality: You. 

You are the common thread in all of those situations, circumstances, moments.

That might sound like bad news but it’s really good news.  Because you are capable of making different choices, either in your actions or your thoughts or both.  Consider making a list of the things you’ve been tolerating for the past year.  Write out why you are tolerating that mess, that attitude, that thought process.   Devote a day a month to unfinished projects, or an hour a day to focus on learning new skills, or set aside time/money for a weekly session with someone who can help you overcome a specific obstacle. Take the challenge to make a plan that will reduce the list that is draining you by the end of 2016.

    What is the biggest thing you are tolerating right now?   What are some action steps you can take today, each week, and each month to reduce the cost?  Cheers to more creativity, better days and more energy in 2016.




 “Be brave.  I need you to be brave,” said the preschool teacher as she stood by the lone red truck on the rug.  Clean up time was over and the little ones were in line anticipating the playground.  The teacher was expecting the child who played with the red truck to take ownership and come put it away.  “BE BRAVE!”

It’s astonishing how often I’ve needed that admonition in life: BE BRAVE!  Show courage!  Face the danger! Endure the pain! It will be worth it.

The three-year-old boy stepped out of the line headed to the playground, picked up the little red truck and placed it in the “transportation” container.  It must have seemed like an eternity playing out in slow motion for him; all the while, his preschool teacher was telling him how brave he was.

I stood in the doorway of that classroom watching it all unfold twenty years ago. That snapshot plays through my mind again today.  I’ve never needed to be brave more than I do today at fifty years old.  I want desperately to step out of the place headed to where I’ve already been and move in a new direction.  It’s time for me to be brave.  Maybe you need to be brave too -- in your leadership, in your community, in your home.

What does it mean to be brave, you ask?  It means — do it afraid!  It means — take a deep breath and run toward it, not away from it.  It means — don’t let fear determine your destiny.  It means — act in spite of what you are feeling.  

Bravery is something you acquire over years of practice.  To practice bravery, start by admitting you are scared and notice that you are not alone.  You may be surprised to learn that everyone deals with this emotion. Ask them! Once you acknowledge that you (and everyone else) are afraid, name what you are afraid of.  Is it failure, humiliation, others responses?  Re-frame those fears. (It might sound something like this:  Is it failure, or is it an education?  Humiliation fosters humility which is an excellent quality in anyone.  You cannot control other people’s responses, so why let that control you.)  After you re-frame your fears, embrace uncertainty.  Life is full of risks and uncertainty, so embrace your vulnerability and take a step forward.

BE BRAVE!  The world needs all of us to be brave.  Show courage to step out of the pack and move in a different direction -- a direction that calls you to more.  Face the danger of starting over, if you’ve ended up in a misguided place.  Endure the pain of disapproval from your peers and begin something new. It will be worth it for you, your family, and the community around you.