Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When you aren't feeling creative

Everyone has those days... when answering simple questions like "How are you?" creates a blank mind... when sitting uses enough energy to make you want to lie down... Creativity on those days is not an easy task.

So try this: make up a swear word.

It's a great exercise alone or as a group. Solo effort or collaboration; it'll offend everyone in principle and almost no one in execution.

1 - determine the priniciples of a good swear word - 5- 15 min.
  • Length
  • Sounds - sibilance? hard constanants?
  • Nonsense or parts of real words?
  • etc.

2 - using your principles, create 2-3 new swear words 15 - 30 min

3 - put them in a sentence

4 - use it in public once - with a friend, co-worker or (my favourite) sotto voce in a store as you check your smartphone.

Just 20 - 45 minutes and you will find yourself recharged, laughing and ready to tackle the day.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

to my friend & mentor

One of my mentors, friends, source of inspiration has suffered a set back... this is for her...

Dearest S,

We have debated the meaning of courage, women in leadership, parenting in a modern age and the place of wine in a debate. Eating chinese take-out and pretending the broccoli made it healthy, we decided on next steps and bold career choices. Afterwards, we admired impulse fashion purchases (a cycling dress!) and crazy paper napkin decor.

I first thought about sharing my expertise with the academic world once more while scarfing down sushi pizza with you. You shared your dream to open a knitting store while we played with our new iPads and complained about bosses past.

You rock. You are a superstar. You embody the very best of change, even when the change is not a good one.

You bring trust, vulnerability and intelligence to every decision and relationship. That drive to see new solutions, the focus on what matters, the zest and zing of a life filled with adventure will stand you in good stead now. You make every moment count even when it doesn't so that the rest of us can model that excellent philosophy.

You've built a community that reaches to every shore. I'm proud to be included. We stand ready to cheer and support you in whatever direction you need, for however long we all should be able to stand together - may it be many decades more!

with great love and respect.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tiny steps keep momentum

It is easy to be overwhelmed - by time crunches; critical feedback/things to fix; work demands; crises (big or big-in-my-head); conflicts; anxiety; fatigue... you name it. There is always a big ugly something waiting to pounce and wrestle our good intentions to the ground.

Do something vs. be overwhelmed by the enormity. Inertia can lead to paralysis.

1 - Picture the desired end state... and then the first small step to move towards it that can be done immediately. The end state may shift but each small action moves us further away from the big ugly something.
If you can't see an end... don't let that stop you from creating a beginning.

2 - Share the goal and the fear with a trusted friend. Nothing makes the monsters under the bed look like dust bunnies faster than daylight. This can count as a first step :-)

3 - Prioritize with your own criteria. Easiest...fastest...most impactful... it's your choice. What one task will ease the stress first?

4 - Delegate. Who else needs to/can be involved? Big ugly hairies rarely involve only person. Negotiate support.

Don't wait for a plan to be in place. Don't wait for the stars to align or better choices to come along. Ingredients in your pantry don't become cake until you start moving things to the counter. You can change your mind /plan at any time; just keep momentum.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Anxiety and vulnerability

Feeling anxious and exposed is not the same thing as allowing yourself to take a step towards vulnerability.
  • Vulnerability is possible when you allow yourself to take a risk while believing you have some support.
  • Anxiety comes from a fear of looking dumb and having it pointed out to your detriment.
  • Vulnerabilty can generate anxiety but it doesn't have to.
  • Anxiety can occur with or without taking any steps towards being more vulnerable.

I doubt many of us allow vulnerability easily - and we define it in different terms depending on the circumstances. Vulnerability for me includes compassion and being open to influence. It can include feeling more comfortable with rethinking initial judgments. Vulnerability is tested and tempered with trust. It is, as one woman explained to me: "The willingness to explore, to be open, to share, to listen, to be wrong, to not lead but to simply be present."

Mentoring must include some vulnerability as should any meaningful relationship in a personal or business context. Some feel that women are better at vulnerability than men; I'm not so sure. I think we're all just as anxious about it but women are mocked less for it. Though women in leadership are sometimes criticized as being too 'soft' for this very quality that makes them good leaders.
Vulnerability is part of risk taking in all its forms. Anxiety - if you're taking a measured and supported risk - doesn't have to join the party.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

International Women's Day 2013

International Women's Day - 104 years old and still not an out-dated concept.

The struggle for women's equality (reducing violence, pay equity, right to education, etc.) gives me hope. A lot of speakers lately cite studies and articles that claim we are the first generation since the invention of the printing press to leave the next generation with less advantages/resources/opportunities than we have had.

While progress on the women's front has been glacial in some aspects, it is getting better. Pay equity, board and leadership representation, educational opportunities look better today than 104 years ago and there are talented people striving to make them even better.

Women are a moving force behind the economy, societies, creativity and so much more.

We are some of the world’s great artists and thinkers over the centuries. Doctors and world leaders. Village elders. Neighbourhood Watch program captains. Microfinance agents. Inventors. Mothers. Daughters. Friends. Contributors. Conveners. Collaborators.

Attend an event March 8. Participate in a program this month. Raise the conversation this year.

Check out this year's themes and programs:

2013 UN theme: A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women
2013 theme: The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum

Monday, March 4, 2013

Intonation - body language of voice

Sitting in a small airport, I noticed the voices around me - not for what they were saying but how things were said. The women to my left sounded like ducks, their voices rising and falling in a series of sharp, nasal jabs, debating something with an airline representative. Another group sounded like tires rumbling by on the highway, the coversation moving smoothly and quietly. One family sounded like a wind ensemble warming up - a few high-pitched tweets, an undercurrent of cello and a moment of harmony here and there.

I could tell the ducks were arguing, the tires were humming together and the family was chaotic but organized. All this just by the intonation as I could not hear the words.

It was the same small "aha!" moment I had when I realized that a smile can be "heard" over the phone (even if it's not reaching your eyes). It is what makes music so powerful. The melody and intonation of our voice can convey the main message - possibly better than our word choice.

That's not rocket science, I know. It's also not something we actively think about or practice beyond the moments when we have to do public speaking. Few of us are deliberate about intonation at all times.

"I have a great idea!"
"Mmm hmm."
"Let's start a lending library."
"We could do it with online and hard copy books."

Depending on the intonation in the above, even if the second speaker thinks they are conveying listening and openess, the subtext could be positive or negative. While the word choice/reaction is neutral, the musicality of the intonation will quickly give the first person a good indication even if the second person is trying to mask it.

We focus a great deal on words but little on other cues - especially in casual settings. Couple the music of our voices with our subtle body language cues and it doesn't matter what we say (good or bad).

The next time I'm trying to hold my impatience in check or my joy in bounds while choosing my words carefully, I'm going to listen to the melody of my voice to ensure I'm sending the message I actually intended to share.