Thursday, October 30, 2003

My Mask

In the course of a day I come across many people who, when asked how they are, give the standard answer “Fine. I’m just fine.” An interesting answer when their body language says otherwise.

That’s not to say some aren’t fine, because most are very happy in their lives. But at the same time, many aren’t and are dealing with challenges in their own way. If they’d share them, enlist the help of friends, family and professionals, they would be able to deal with these challenges and get past them. It takes more energy to hide a problem than deal with it.

So when your someone snaps at you or shuts you out...think of this. It’s very powerful.

Donna Karlin

"Please Hear What I'm *Not* Saying

Don't be fooled by me. For I wear a mask. I wear a thousand masks.
Masks that I'm afraid to take off, and none of them are mine.
Pretending is an art that's second nature with me, but don't be fooled,
for God's sake, don't be fooled.

I give you the impression that I'm secure, that all is sunny,
and coolness my game; that the water's calm, and I'm in command,
and that I need no one.
But don't believe me.....Please don't!

My surface may seem smooth, but my surface is my ever
varying and ever-concealing mask.
Beneath swells the real me, in confusion, in fear and in aloneness.
But I hide this, I don't want anybody to know it.

I panic at the thought of my weakness, and fear being exposed.
That's why I frantically create a mask to hide behind...
a nonchalant, sophisticated help me pretend,
to shield me from your glance ....a glance that "knows".
But, such a glance is precisely my only salvation
....and I know it!
But, provided that glance is followed by acceptance, and then
followed by love.
It's the only thing that will assure me of what I can't assure myself....
that I'm really "worth" something.

But, I don't tell you this. I don't dare. I'm afraid to. I'm afraid you
will think less of me, that you'll laugh and your laugh would kill me.
I'm afraid that deep down I'm "nothing", that I'm just no good,
and that you will see this and reject me.

So I play my game, my desperate, pretending game, with a facade
of assurance on the outside, and a trembling child within.
And, so begins the parade of masks, the glittering, but empty parade
of masks, and my life becomes a front.
I idly chatter to you in the suave tones of surface talk.
I tell you everything that's really nothing, and nothing of that which is
everything...of what's crying within me.

So, when I'm going through my routine, do not be fooled by
what I'm saying.
Please listen carefully, and try to hear what I'm "not" saying....
what I'd like to be able to say, what, for survival,
I need to say, but I can't say. I dislike hiding....honestly, I do.
I dislike the superficial game I'm playing....the superficial, phony game.
I'd really like to be genuine and spontaneous, and"me".
Help me!!!!

You've got to hold out your hand....even when that's the last thing
I seem to want or need.
Only you can wipe away from my eyes the blank stare of the breathing dead.
Each time you're kind and gentle and encouraging.
Each time you try to understand, because you really care,
my heart begins to grow wings....very small wings, very feeble wings...but wings.

With your sensitivity, sympathy and your power of understanding,
you can breathe life into me.
I want you to know that.
I want you to know how important you are to me.
How you can be a creator of the person that is me, if you choose to....
please choose to.

You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble.
You alone can remove my mask.
You alone can release me from my shadow-world of panic and uncertainty
....from my lonely prison.
So do not pass me by. Pleas don't pass me by!!!

It will not me easy for you. A long conviction of worthlessness
builds strong walls.
The nearer you approach to me.....the blinder I may strike back!
It's irrational, but despite what the books say about man...
I am irrational. I fight against the very things that I cry out for.

But, I am told that love is stronger than strong walls,
and in this lies my hope only hope.
Please try to beat down those walls with firm hands, but
with gentle hands ....for a child is very sensitive, and I am a child.

Who am I , you may wonder? I am someone you know very well.
For I am every man you meet.....
And I am every woman you meet....
And I am you also!!!!!

- author unknown

Wednesday, October 29, 2003


"The first task of a leader is to keep hope alive"
- Joe Batten

It doesn`t matter how well meaning the head of an organization is. If he or she doesn`t keep hope alive, then loyalty wanes and effectiveness in the workplace suffers. Even worse than that, trust is destroyed. And once you lose trust in your leadership, it`s next to impossible to motivate the staff to get the job done.
(See Rebuilding Trust)

Dwight D. Eisenhower said "Pull the string and it will follow wherever you wish. Push it, and it will go nowhere at all." The same goes for being a leader. If you inspire, keep your word, show vision and work WITH your staff they will grow as individuals and pull themselves forward. But try to push them in the wrong direction, you create a tug of war and possibly worse….no movement at all.

Stagnation in an organization is a killer. Indecision from leadership translates to stagnation. With no
foundation and few deliverables, the organization questions direction from above with the attitude `Why do the work when things are going to change again anyway? Effect of which is no "buy_in" or shared vision.

Thus the leader is no longer a leader.

A leader is visible. Good leaders meet with their key people regularly….daily if possible. They brainstorm, sit and listen and translate great ideas into tangibles WITH the help of those around them.

There are three types of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch
things happen and those who wonder what happened. Which is your choice?

Donna Karlin

Monday, October 27, 2003

Tea With A Friend

A Cup of Tea

I’m a coffee the smell and taste of a freshly brewed cup of coffee.

But on a day such as this...when it’s cold, damp and rainy there’s something about a warm cup of tea to calm.....warm rom the inside out.....bring a bit of civility to the day.....and a reminder of a very special friend.

Her name is Linda. She used to live here in Ottawa and I met her when my son started junior kindergarten, almost 20 years ago. She’s one of those people you read about who leave footprints in your heart and even though she and her
family, who I adore, moved back to their home town of Toronto, her presence is felt every time I put the kettle on for tea.

And in my mind, I’m ready to pick up the phone to ask her if she wants to come for a cup.

She’s one of those unique individuals whose door is always open. You never feel intrusive to ring her bell to say "hi". Howmany people can you do that to these days without calling first to make "an appointment?" You’re always made to feel welcome and at home, whether visiting for a week, a weekend or an hour.

Her house is always bustling...phones ringing, people coming and going, a grandchild being babysat or a family member dropping by. But she’s special....always wanting to help the world, even one person at a time. Represents a sense of family in every way.

People like Linda are rare and are a reminder that home is what you make it. It’s who’s in the house, not the house itself that makes one feel welcome and part of it all.

I miss her...miss all of them and wish they were back in Ottawa... a few minutes down the street, in dropping in distance for that cup of tea or an ear.

And even though they’re in another city, she’s close by every time the water is boiled for tea. And with every cup comes an inner smile and the thankfulness that I’m blessed to have her in my life.

Donna Karlin

Saturday, October 25, 2003


Begin to live as you wish to live. And it will start to happen.

Many would say easier said than done. And truthfully, it’s easier than you think.

When you conjure up all the excuses in the book why your dreams aren’t meant to happen....that they happen for others but not for you, then you deserve the outcome.

Not callous.

The truth.

If you start living what it is you want, then it will be. If you’re exhausted and want a more peaceful, energized life, then it’s up to you to prune it of toxic relationships and tasks and choose what and who it is you DO want to spend your time and energy on. It’s not selfishness. It’s self-care-ishness (OK, so I made that word up). The best lesson we can teach our kids is of self-care and by practicing what we preach. And the best gift we can give family and friends is for them to know you’re spending time with them because you choose to....not because you have to.

Last night when I was with some dear friends....some old....some newer and others who I met for the first time, we spoke of today’s challenges....familial responsibilities, lack of time, exhaustion. The topic of most conversations these days. And the comment I received was one I hear often.....which was "I don’t know what it is you do, but I can feel your energy and you look SOOOO happy".

I am.

I have a great career, wonderful friends and family and am doing exactly what I want to be doing. That’s not to say I give up all responsibility. I approach it differently, that’s all.

So over time I began to live what I wanted to live. One step at a time. And now I am.

It’s simplifying my life....learning from everyone around me.....balancing what I do with what I don’t do....and whenever I DO do’s not expensive energy. Doing something against your will becomes expensive. It starts a trend that will eventually suck you dry.

You know you’ve achieved your idea of perfection in life not when you have something more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away. There’s always room for a new person or experience. It’s realising that everything you have right now....every person in your life.... is exactly what you want and is a keeper.

You choose.

Donna Karlin

Monday, October 20, 2003

Everyone's a Teacher

One of my favourite books is My Grandfather’s Blessings by R.N. emen, M.D. In it there’s a short story about when she was in third grade after she had done an IQ test in school. Her teacher told the students that being in her class meant that they were brighter than most people in the country. And as she alked with her mother down a street in Manhattan with a puffed up eight year old pride and shared this with her, her mother stopped, knelt down and told her that "every one of the people around them had a secret wisdom .....that each of them knew something more about how to live, about being happy than they did...."

Those words have stayed with me ever since.

And as I watch people pass by, whether in the buildings where I work or walking to a movie (see posting from Aug. 23, 2003 on Mindfulness) I’m mindful of them, and wonder what their secret is to a happy, fulfilled life.

Those words from her mother were the smartest words a mother could say. She could have puffed up her daughter’s ego even more and bragged along with her to their friends and family and instead her mother chose to open her daughter’s mind to the fact that life is our best teacher.

Robert Frost said " I'm not a teacher, but an awakener."

The ones who feel they are the smartest and the best at something have the smallest minds, And matter how brilliant, or unschooled, who realise there's always more to learn, are the wisest of all.

Donna Karlin

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Best Executive

Theodore Roosevelt said "The best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it."

A constant complaint from clients.....their work is checked and rechecked and half the time discarded. It’s demoralizing to them and deflates their desire to produce. The best way to validate the work your staff produces is to leave them
alone to do it and encourage them to make choices, decisions and brainstorm with colleagues to get the best results.

What’s the point in delegating if you’re going to redo everything you task others with? What results do you think you’ll get if you’re inferring their work is second rate?

Ralph Marston wrote "Let go of your attachment to being right, and suddenly your mind is more open. You're able to benefit from the unique viewpoints of others, without being crippled by your own judgment." By doing that, you not only empower those who work with/for you but grow and learn at the same time.

Ask yourself this question....if you lost your title, position and power tomorrow, would others still support you and want to work with you? A difficult question to ask, but an important one at that.

Donna Karlin

Monday, October 13, 2003


I was going to write a blog on memories that have been coming back over the past few days....and since it’s Thanksgiving, I thought what better time to write about being thankful for these wonderful times?

I’ve stored these mental snapshots away and revisit them now and then, almost like a scrapbook of my mind. It all started with coming across a website by accident, of an old lodge that was a couple of doors down from our country house. It brought back the wonder of a place that never seemed quite real. The moment we drove through the red gates, the rest of the world ceased to exist for me and was replaced by nothing short of heaven.

Pure water from a mountain spring fed the lake, the runoff being on our property. How many times we walked down to the water’s edge to fill a jug, or put bottles under the runoff to keep cold no matter how hot the day.....the changing of the leaves, a kaleidoscope of fall colours painting the landscape....sitting by a roaring fire at night, doing jigsaw puzzles or needlework late into the night.

A very important time in my life....

So many memories came to mind today, from the country house in Lac Paquin to the first time I flew on a plane, going overseas to play in an introduction to Cel-Ray soda. And’s not as bad as it sounds, but the memories of that day and the ones before and after, and all the other experiences that went with it remain stored in my mind and heart in that special place where mental keepsakes stay with you forever....

There were day trips with my Uncle and cousins, my grandfather waiting for us when we got home from school with a peppermint stick or fresh coconut he’d crack with a hammer on the back patio....drives with my
cousin Jeffrey...he’s a one of a kind driver. A couple specifically come to mind, one of which was him driving across a field between two New York freeways because he had to be "just one thruway over", and I’m still alive to talk about it! So many memories to be thankful for....all fill me with such joy. Times I want to bring back, if not to relive the moments, then to relive the feelings these moments gave me.

Just sharing with you, brings them all back...

Wishing you a Thanksgiving best,
Donna Karlin

Lac Paquin fall scene

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Our Highest Potential

"There comes that mysterious meeting in life when someone acknowledges who we are and what we can be, igniting the circuits of our highest potential." - Rusty Berkus

Years ago I met someone who would change my outlook on life forever. He saw what I could be if I would only get out of my way....refused to acknowledge there was anything I couldn’t do if I just put my mind to it. I have no idea what fates conspired for us to meet, but we did and it changed my life forever.

Life circumstances guided me into the work I do now. The inner certainty that I’m doing exactly what it is I was meant to do, keeps me here.....and inspires me to learn and grow.

And in working with people in various stages of their lives, I see in them the best they can be and mirror it back to them. If we see greatness in others, they will give it willingly. And if we expect nothing, we’ll get nothing back. People
need to feel we see their value and talents. If all we do is point out their weaknesses, that’s how they’ll measure themselves.

Voltaire said "Appreciation is a wonderful thing; it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well."

There is good in everybody. Boost what you see possible in them....don’t knock and you’ll get exactly what it is you’re seeing.

Donna Karlin

Thursday, October 09, 2003

"Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake" - Henry David Thoreau

I’m sitting here trying to write around this, though my thoughts probably wouldn’t make much sense to the rest of the world. I love this quote....and it makes me think that others have lived their dreams and wrapped their lives around them. I’ve had a few in my life (so far) that have become reality and, for some of life’s experiences, they so far surpass anything I could have ever dreamed of, that if they hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have thought them possible....even in dreams.

Have you ever had something happen to you that just takes your breath away? And in your wildest dreams never thought possible? If you think really hard I’m sure you can come up with at least one instance. That is
how I interpret this quote. And I truly believe that if we open our minds and hearts to infinite possibilities, anything can happen.

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, October 08, 2003


"I beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.
Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given you now,
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually,
without ever noticing it, live your way into the answer."
- Rainer Maria Rilke

I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and it’s not always clear what that reason is. The way I look at it, we’re not the ones creating the reason in the first place, so why should we always have all the answers?

Many would argue with those comments. And I’d love to have a dialogue on that. Even if the reason is to learn something new, whether a fact, skill or something in ourselves, it’s all a part of growing in life.

But if we spend all our time trying to figure everything out, we won’t be just doing, living, growing, creating. We’d be in the midst of a tug of war which might never be resolved. And what’s the point in that?

So many things have happened in my life for which there’s no rhyme or reason. Some were my greatest learning experiences (which, truthfully, I would have loved to have lived least then) and some were my greatest gifts. Now, looking back, I realise they were all gifts!

Donna Karlin

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Family and Friends

The saying "You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family" has been used many a time for those who don’t have a great relationship with their families and use it as an excuse. I’m so lucky when I can say if I COULD choose my family they would be exactly who and how they are. And at the same time I’m lucky to have friends who have become family over the years.

Some I’ve been friends with from way back, either families have grown up together or we’re old school friends from our "home town". And others are newer friends, but the kind you seem to have known forever. All make my life very full and special.

Last night when many of them were here for dinner, I looked around the table at them talking and laughing and had this feeling of being so blessed. I was quieter than usual (a feat for me : ) just soaking it all in, thinking that I can’t wait for the next occasion where we can all be together again.

Some were missing and I hope the next time we’re all together, they’ll be present and that’ll make it complete.

I’ve always maintained it’s who I have in my life that makes it so special....not what. Last night was a reminder to me never to be too busy to make a point of having more of these occasions....and never to get so caught up in life’s routine that the important things in life go by the wayside.

To my friends and family who were there and to the ones who couldn’t be....thank you for being. You truly are a gift to me.


Donna Karlin

Sunday, October 05, 2003


I love this time of year....when the weather is crisp and "clean" and when the sun shines it warms you just enough to entice you to stay outside as long as the daylight lasts. It’s when sunsets streaks the sky with an artist's brush and the leaves begin to change into a myriad of colour.

It’s nature at its most exquisite.

And as many mourn the loss of the leaves and end of the warm summer days, I look at fall as an anticipation of what’s to come as nature finds its way to rest and replenish and surprise us with wonders to come.

It’s a time for renewal....

B. W. Overstreet calls October "A symphony of permanence and change".

It’s a special month.....when my son was born.....when I began my own company.... and when, as I did today....I realised my life is pretty wonderful just the way it is, and as it’s the beginning of what’s to come next spring, I wonder what surprises it’ll have in store for me.

All the best...
Donna Karlin

* Photograph taken at Gatineaux Park

Our Hidden Potential

"It is as hard to see one's self as to look backwards without turning around." - THOREAU

As illustrated in the Johari Window, there are four sides to our selves. One is the quot;Me" that I know, that you know...that’s apparent to the world.

The second is my mask or the part of me that I don’t want anyone else to know....whether good or bad, it’s something I keep to myself and takes a great deal of energy to do that. The third is my blind spot or the area I refuse to admit to. Have you ever had 10 people tell you that you’re soooo stubborn? And your first reaction is "Me? I’m stubborn?" Well maybe if you hear it often enough, it’s time to take a look at it. It takes a lot of energy to fight that as well.

And lastly there’s the hidden potential window pane where you or the rest of the world hasn’t yet discovered what’s possible. Now can you imagine how quickly you could develop that part of your being if you took all the energy you wasted in panes two and three and concentrated on four?

We are all capable of doing extraordinary things. When we open our minds and hearts to the possibilities, anything can happen. And it’s not just for the "other person". It holds true for ourselves as well.

Something to think about...


Donna Karlin

Friday, October 03, 2003


“Stand often in the company of dreamers:
they tickle your common sense and
believe you can achieve things which are impossible”
- Mary Anne MBL Radmacher

The key people in my life are dreamers...the ones who spur me on and make me believe, without even trying, that I can do anything I can put my mind and heart to. These people share their dreams with me as I do with them and through them, we truly live our lives to the fullest. Few try to stop me from achieving my dreams. Those who do have had a difficult life and feel only a select few deserve to realise their Mexican Crabs (I’ll post that one later).

My dreams can take me me create, imagine, paint a picture I want my life to look like. That place is magical. we dream is what gives our lives value. How we choose to live is what determines whether our dreams have value.


Donna Karlin

Mexican Crabs

Mexican crabs are very interesting creatures. When a friend was in Mexico watching a fisherman catch these crabs, he noticed there was no cover on the basket. He thought the crabs would escape so asked the fisherman why he didn’t use a different with a cover on it.

The fisherman told him "These are Mexican crabs. If one tries to escape the others pull it back in".

There are many in life who try to do the same thing....keep others back because they’re not growing in their own lives. How many times have you shared with a ‘friend’ that you were on a diet but the friend (who usually is overweight) would come back with "Oh one time won’t kill you. Have dessert". Or another so called friend hearing you’re going to try for a promotion and since he or she isn’t as high as you’re going to be, tries to hold you back from competing for the position.

If you have Mexican crabs in your’s time to rethink your Rolodex! Enjoy the weekend....

Donna Karlin

Thursday, October 02, 2003


"Let the tears come, let them water your soul" - Eileen Mayhew

Years ago, when I was going through a particularly tough time in my life, a dear friend from Holland told me "Celebrate your tears, because if you don’t have them, then it means you don’t feel. Celebrate each and every one because it means you’re living again". Those words shocked me. I never in my wildest dreams expected them from him.

He was right.

If you don't cry, you're suppressing feeling. And many friends, clients and family who are going through their own personal hells or challenges always seem to apologize when the tears start. It's gotten to the point where I pack my briefcase with a wad of clean tissues because inevitably in a session the tears do the apologies. But if that’s what they need at the time....then that's what they should be experiencing

I can hear one of my favourite clients now "Oh! Touchy feely stuff". Yep. It’s that all right. A part of living.....

There's something to the saying "Have a good cry" because cries are cleansing and nourishing to the soul and when they're over, it's almost as if you have a fresh start...a way of getting rid of the emotional baggage that started the cry in the first place.

Touchy feely stuff aside.....a cry is as good for you as a hearty laugh. You do them for different reasons, but all in all it's a part of feeling and living, being and growing in a world that changes day by day.

From a point in life where I thought feeling would mean being able to get hurt.....I opt for the touchy feely, living, emotional, jubilant kind of life.

So have a good laugh....a good cry...whatever works for you right now. And celebrate them all!

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, October 01, 2003


We all do it...all try to do more things in the same amount of time. It used to be synonymous with being a working mother but more and more men are catching up, and fast.

In these days of craziness we all need to do a million things at once. Well it’s time to stop, take a step back and focus on one thing at a time. How many times have you forgotten to do something very important because you were SURE you did it? Whether a phone call, meet a deadline or even missed an appointment. You were sure you did it and you did. In your head and as quickly as you thought of it, it flew out the window and was quickly forgotten.

And in the process you’re not only less efficient but are missing tons along the way. You’re not experiencing much of anything. You’re running from one task to another. Not only aren’t you learning you’re not remembering what it is you might have learned.  You're not remembering, period.

Does this sound like you?

"I realised I forgot to pay a bill so ran downstairs to find it to take to the bank.  While in the kitchen I put away the food I had forgotten to put in the fridge and while there, got a call from a friend asking for a recipe. I promised to email it to her and then forgot what I was in the kitchen for in the first place. With a shake of my head I started the laundry, put soap in the machine and turned it on only to get another call. Ran upstairs to get the phone, spoke to another friend, hung up and then remembered I needed to return a book to the library. Ran into the den to find the book, got in the car and went to the library. Came home in time to start dinner, saw the bill on the kitchen table and realised yet again I forgot to pay it. Late charges here we come!

Went into the basement to retrieve something from the cold storage, passing the washing machine, seeing the laundry still in the basket. The machine had done a full cycle with nothing in it! Oh and there was something else
I had to do for a friend but couldn't remember what. I'm sure that'll come to me....."

Sounds almost funny. Made up? No! Got this first hand from a client....a usual state of affairs for her. If she concentrated on one this at a the very least wrote it down, all would have been done on time leaving her with extra to do something for her. And this is what happens to her at work on a regular basis....always behind the eight ball, trying to play catch-up.


Take a breath, finish one thing before you start another. Who knows? You might learn something and actually enjoy what it is you're doing!


Donna Karlin