Open The Door

 

I’ll bet there are times during your day, or week, or even year, when you feel like no one sees who you really are.

That there are moments, maybe, when you feel bullied. As if you have a toxic boss. A very difficult situation.

You don’t know how you’re going to make it through.

Or even if it’s worth it.

You feel like there’s so little you control, so little you can do to turn it all around and get back to… something good.

Tell me the truth – you’ve felt this way, haven’t you?

Maybe you even feel that way today.

So, watch this video and then come right back and we’ll talk.

Inspiring, huh?

One kid decided one day to do one thing.

One thing that he could do.

That he could take pride in. That he could be responsible for, totally in alignment with his values and his aspirations.

And it made all the difference.

I’m here to tell you – you can be that kid.

You can find that one thing. Just one thing you can do to make the quality of your life, and the lives of others, better.

To bring things back to the good, happy, meaningful place you seek.

You can. I know you can.

Go ahead – it’s time to open a door.

 

Plan On Crying In 2015

Salt Shaker

 

When you start down a path, it’s always useful to take a quick glance behind you, too, just to orient your journey.

So, let’s take a look back. I bet that 2014 held a lot of surprises.

I bet that – regardless of how much you tried to be positive and set good intentions – it wasn’t all blissful, was it?

And, I’ll further bet that you have a deep-seated thought that if only you could get everything going the right way at once then your life would be utterly and permanently effortless.

You’d be, as we say in the South, in high cotton.

But this is a fallacy, my friends. No one lives in high cotton all the time.

Not Richard Branson. Not Oprah Winfrey. Not the Dalai Lama. Not the Pope.

Everyone – every single one of us – faces unexpected illnesses, freak lightning storms, car accidents, setbacks, obstacles and upsets in the course of our lives.

You can’t hold those things off.

You might not even want to once you realize what they do for you.

Give me one minute, here.

Think about baking. Whenever you bake something sweet, the recipe always calls for a measure of salt.

Have you noticed that?

A pinch, a teaspoon, a tablespoon of salt – some bit of salt in the mix provides a kind of contrast which allows the sweetness to really shine through.

Now, back to you.

You’re going to cry in 2015. Maybe more than once.

Because you and I know that things will never be 100% perfect.

Never.

Ever.

Try as you might, things will be…what they are. Some will be hard, some will be easy.

There will be salty tears and sweet joys in your life.

But you need both to have a full, fulfilling experience.

So the first time 2015 presents you with a challenge, don’t panic.

Don’t waste a second beating yourself up for not living a perfectly Instagrammable-Facebookable-Pinteresty life.

It’s your life. And you get to have all of it.

And, every tear you shed simply makes the inevitable sweetness which follows that much more satisfying.

How To Have Your Worst Year Ever. Guaranteed.

 

 

Calendar 2015 vector design template

 

You want to ensure you have the worst possible 2015? Honey, it’s so easy to do!  Just be mindful of these things:

1. Be suspicious

This is your foundational building block to a really horrible year, and here’s how you get started: Imagine that everyone in the world is out to get you. They want to steal your wallet, your passwords and your identity. Given half a chance, everyone out there would do something bad. Be on your guard 24/7. Hyper-vigilance and darting eyes, that’s what’s required.

2. Keep secrets

Since everyone is out to get you, there is no one you can trust. Not even yourself. So don’t say anything to anyone at any time about anything important . For god’s sake, don’t share information with your co-workers – even those on your team – because then they might get something over on you. And, please, please, please don’t tell your spouse what you’re really thinking, or about your spending, or your secret stock accounts. Or about the pool boy. No, keep all that close to the vest, just to make sure you get the year you really want.

3. Lie, cheat and steal

Hey, if they really cared about their stuff, they’d take better care of it! You’ve gotta to get yours, right? By any means necessary, because the ends always justify the means.

4. Expect the worst

Because you know it will probably happen. You didn’t just fall off the turnip truck – you know how things really work. I mean, the day you say you’re happy about something is the very day you’ll get that bad diagnosis, or get in a car crash, or your kid will do something stupid. It’s always been like that and always will be.

5. Know that any compliment you get is a fake

Anyone who compliments you is likely up to no good (See #1, above). They only want something from you, like your money. Or your car. Or to leave you in the morning. Pay special attention to people who say nice things like they believe them – who do they think they are, anyway? They’re so full of crap.

6. Be certain that there’s nothing left to learn

You already know what you’re doing. There’s no reason to learn anything new this year – it’s a waste of time and if you’re not good at it the first try what’s the point? You’re never going to get any better, so why keep doing trying? Better to just know what you know, do it the way you know and keep it at that.

7. Criticize yourself relentlessly

You’re not thin enough. Your calves are really too skinny, though. You haven’t gotten ahead like you should have. Your hair is frizzy. And thinning. You’re old. Or you’re too young to break in. Everyone wears better clothes than you do. See? If you criticize yourself enough then no one can tell you anything you don’t know. Because there’s nothing left to learn (#6), right?

8. & 9.  Hide your mistakes and blame others

These two go together because what really works to have a horrible year is pretending you are absolutely perfect and then, if something goes wrong you simply blame it on someone else! Or circumstances out of your control – like… global warming. Or parallel parking. Or spring. And, since you’re already keeping secrets, then hiding mistakes is super easy, and finding someone – anyone – to blame for what may or may not have happened when you were or maybe weren’t even there that day keeps your fingerprints off any mess.

10. You don’t need new friends

Anybody new who wants to be your friend probably has a screw loose or has an agenda (see how suspicious you can be?! You’ve really got that one down!). Friends, schmiends – you already have enough friends, plus people are such a pain. Who needs ‘em?

Yes, if you want to have The Worst Year in Your Entire Life simply follow the ten rules above and you will find – with absolute certainty…

That you get exactly what you expect.

What Do We Tell Our Daughters?

 

 

My daughter, Grace, is in her first year of college at a very competitive school. To qualify for admission, she took nine Advanced Placement credits in high school, captained two varsity sports teams, went to regionals in the science fair and wrote, directed and performed a one-person play.

Excited group of graduates in their graduation dayShe’s taking sixteen credits in her first semester of college and has begun talking about the best graduate studies for her career goals.

Her female friends, also at good schools, were similarly focused in high school and are achieving in college. They plan to go to medical school, to get PhDs, to excel.

This is what we want for our daughters, isn’t it? That they can be anything they set their minds to? That if they work hard then the sky is the limit? That there is no boundary to what they can achieve with their lives?

And yet.

And yet, here comes a new study from researchers at Harvard Business School that shows high-achieving women don’t feel a great deal of satisfaction in how their lives have turned out.

To tell you the truth, once I read the study I had to take a few days to process and understand it because it rocked so many of my assumptions.

You see, the researchers sampled 25,000 graduates of the Harvard Business School and found an enormous gap in expectations between male graduates and female graduates. It looked like this (for the Gen X group age 32-48):

- 61% of men expected their careers to take precedence over their wife’s career

- 70% of men reported that their careers did take precedence over their wife’s career

- 25% of women expected their husband’s career to take precedence over theirs

- 40% of women reported that their careers took a backseat to their husband’s

That’s a lot of disappointed women.

Think about it – they went to Harvard Business School. They expected to have a career parallel to their husband’s career – but…they didn’t.

There’s another question the researchers asked which is relevant – and it’s about child care:

- 78% of men expected their wives to handle primary responsibility for child care

- 86% of men reported that their wife was the primary caregiver for their children

- 50% of women expected to be the primary caregiver

- 65% found themselves doing so

So the majority of women expect a career-leveling partnership with their husbands, while the majority of men actually…don’t.

Women expected they’d be 50-50 partners with their spouse when it came to childcare, but men didn’t share that expectation.

It manifests itself this way: Men report greater satisfaction with their professional lives than do women. Across the board. Women feel stymied when it comes to having meaningful work and professional accomplishments. They feel like they haven’t had the chance to grow professionally the way they’d like to.

I wonder if part of the reason women are paid less than men for the same work is because the person deciding who gets paid how much is a guy who brings his own views to the table, thinking a man’s salary is “must have” while a woman’s salary is “nice to have”. Maybe women aren’t promoted because subconsciously the boss thinks she’ll step back and subordinate her career to her husband’s if he needs to relocate for his job. Because aren’t men’s jobs more important? And all women are primarily taking care of kids?

There’s a big, untrue belief that women want to opt out of their careers to care for children. The researchers write:

Our survey data and other research suggest that when high-achieving, highly educated professional women leave their jobs after becoming mothers, only a small number do so because they prefer to devote themselves exclusively to motherhood; the vast majority leave reluctantly and as a last resort, because they find themselves in unfulfilling roles with dim prospects for advancement. The message that they are no longer considered ‘players’ is communicated in various, sometimes subtle ways: They may have been stigmatized for taking advantage of flex options or reduced schedules, passed over for high-profile assignments, or removed from projects they once led.”

I also wonder if the reason so many of my fabulous, gorgeous, achieving female friends are still single is because a guy subsconsiously thinks, “She’ll never put her career on hold for me” or “She’s more successful than I want my wife to be.” If my hunch is true, how sad is that?

So what do we tell our daughters? Do we tell them to work hard, do well and excel in their chosen fields – to maybe end up graduating from the storied Harvard Business School – only to have to a secondary, unfulfilling career? Or to stay single their whole lives? Or, if they want to be truly successful, to never have kids?

And what do we tell our sons? Do we tell them that their work is always going to be the most important thing in their marriage? That women’s careers don’t matter? That good fathering amounts to less than a part-time gig?

Or do we take a deep breath and start thinking and talking differently? Talking about individual needs, the amazing power of true, loving partnerships and the joy that comes from allowing one another to be at their best – whether that looks like someone staying at home and someone going to work, or both going to work, or both starting freelance gigs so they can parent the way they want? And maybe thinking about how to best utilize people in the workplace based on their accomplishments and abilities without a thought to gender?

It’s a conversation we need to have, and a mindset we need to shift.

So, yeah, I know what I’m going to say to my daughter and also to my son.

And I’m saying it right now.

 

Pay Attention To Taylor Swift. Really.

 

taylor-swift-vance-joyA friend reached out this week to ask if I’d ever read Viktor Frankl’s classic book Man’s Search For Meaning. I told her I had, it remains one of the most important books in my life and it’s formed much of my approach to living. We had a sparkling dialogue about it (I just love sparkling dialogues, don’t you?) and the next day I pulled my copy off the shelf and settled in for a re-read.

Frankl, a leading psychiatrist and thinker, was imprisoned in Auschwitz and other camps during World War II. Coming from that horrific experience, Frankl gained deep understanding of how people under tremendous physical, emotional and spiritual pressure react. It became his life’s work. In short, Frankl believed that people can endure nearly anything if they are deeply connected to something bigger than themselves, or are doing something in service to others.

This is why you might stay in a job you hate – it provides the income you need to give your children a great education. Or, it allows you to care for your aging parents. It might give you the space to write poetry, or raise rescue animals.

You do what you do – even if it’s hard – when you feel you’re serving a bigger purpose.

In the re-read, a key passage from Frankl’s preface stood out to me:

“Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run – in the long run, I say! – success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.”

And that’s when I realized just how powerful Taylor Swift is.

You see, I recently saw Taylor sing on a British TV show called The Live Lounge. Now, the premise of the show is this: famous musicians sing songs that aren’t theirs. They cover other popular songs - a really fun concept.

So, Taylor could have chosen any song. She could have phoned it in – I mean, she’s an international superstar! She could have been silly or jaded or intent on preserving her famousness and make a boring choice.

But she didn’t.

From what I could see when I watched the clip, Taylor chose to sing a song that gave her joy, that she could be creative with.

She covered Vance Joy’s great song “Riptide.” Here’s the link: BBC Radio

If you watch it, you’ll see that at certain points Taylor is amused with herself as she sings certain words. She lingers on phrases. She doesn’t just cover the song – she interprets it.

And that’s when I realized that Taylor Swift is deeply, powerfully connected to her “why”. And it doesn’t seem to have a whole lot to do with seeking fame.

Her why, in my opinion? She’s a musician. Plain and simple.

I am sure she faces a lot of pressure to be commercial and crank out hit after hit. There are probably people who suggest she phone it in and collect the cash. I’ll bet she has plenty of haters.

But I’ll also bet that despite all of that pressure, she feels compelled – yes, compelled – to do what she’s doing. And to do it her own way.

She’d do it even if she wasn’t famous.

Which, according to Frankl, is precisely why she’s famous.

Now to you. And to me. What can we learn here?

I think it’s this: whether you know it or not, whether you’re currently connected to it or not, you’re here to create something. You’re here to make meaning with your life – to do good – in service of something larger. The more you do it, the happier you’ll be. The more you do it, the more successful you’ll be.

Try as you might, it doesn’t work to only pursue fame – you live fully when you fully pursue meaning. 

Serve your creativity – whatever it looks like for you – and in so doing, you will succeed. It might be a long path, and the success may look really different than you imagined, you might even fail a time or two. But if you are deeply in touch with your “why”, you’ll get there.

And, if you’re at a place in your life where you feel disconnected, or things seem futile, or you don’t even know why you wake up in the morning – do yourself a favor.

Read Frankl.

 [photo credit: Time]