Friday, December 31, 2004

Something to Think About for the New Year

"Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier" - Mother Teresa

Every year I write a blog with my New Year's thoughts and wishes for you and was sitting here thinking of what I wanted to say....what I wanted to share.

I do believe that it's what we give in life that makes a difference not what we get, and for those who are takers....who want to know what's in it for them, they are always disappointed. In giving, sometimes it's the easiest thing that makes the most difference; giving not only the gift of your time, but attention.....the gift of an ear without your two cents attached, and the gift of a hug when there aren't words or, just because hugs are a great thing to give!

Then I came across this quote that says it all. For if we all adapted this way of being, could you imagine what our lives would be like? So I leave you with the wisdom of these words along with wishes for a very joyful, fulfilling, wonderful year to come.

All the best for 2005!
Donna Karlin

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

A Request

"Humanity is always stronger than any disaster if we all participate as part of the solution!" The Tsunami was far far more devastating than what people might thought at the beginning. The reported death and casualties are mounting by the hour. Some villages were totally wiped out with nothing left other than the surface of a temporary sea.” - Asmir A. Agoes

This is a part of the account a friend of mine from Indonesia just sent to me. The devastation is far beyond anything in the realm of imagination…. except it is very real.

I urge you to help in any way you can. If you can donate to the relief effort then I ask you to contact your local Red Cross or any other organization supporting the efforts in Asia. And if you can’t afford to give financially, then donating your time to help process the overwhelming number of calls coming into these organizations is equally appreciated. Help comes in many forms. The ripple effect is astronomical. You can make the difference in the lives of one or many, but bottom line is, you will make a difference. Isn’t that what you would hope for if something this horrific happened to you?

Donna Karlin

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Creating a Life You Want

The New Year is dawning…..people dust off their New Year’s resolutions and try them out for size yet again. For those of you who know me, you know my opinion of those pesky resolutions. You mean well at the time but do you remember them a week or so later? I was sitting here thinking of many of the things I work on with clients and suggest to friends and family alike. And the only reason they listen is because they’ve seen me live it, each and every point as I make changes in my life. I want to create a life I love, not just exist through its days. Life is much too precious for that. I want to learn more, be open to experience and surprise…not to have control over life or exist through it but truly live it. The promise I made to myself is to be my authentic self, not what someone else wants me to be…and, from that basis, to give of myself by choice, not demand or expectation.

If you answer and reflect on these points, you too will create a life you love. And if you have any to add….I’d love to hear them!

What are your environments? Is your foundation strong? i.e. taking care of health, people in your life who nourish you in all ways, physical space, mental space. Time to clean it up and choose what you want within every environment.

Reach for the moon but be happy with what you have, regardless of circumstance. Whether or not you feel it is so, your life is perfect the way it is even if it’s to teach you what you’re made of.

Do you want to expend energy on reacting to things in your life or choose how you use that energy? It isn’t limitless. And if you’re going to spend time, which is a precious commodity these days and energy which, if anything, decreases as the years increase, it better be worthwhile and of your choosing. Take at least 10% of your time to make the other 90% easier. Eliminate delay. If you do that, you avoid a lot of wasted time catching up.

Never stop learning…knowledge feeds you in every way. And while you’re learning about others and life’s lessons, take time to learn more about yourself as well.

Ask yourself what it is you can give in life, not get. What gifts do you have that you can share with others?

Your values come first. If you live from that basis, everything else falls into place. Live your life according to your vision.

Get out of your own way. Let yourself succeed and celebrate those successes. You’re allowed.

Get rid of the baggage of the past. If it’s still hurting you then it’s your memories that are doing it, not the person or event. Let go of the future and live in the present. If you perfect what is right now, the future falls into place all on its own.

Make sure any goals you set for yourself are those you want with a passion. If they’re what you feel you “should do” you won’t do them. It’ll be a tug of war.

Start planning for financial independence. Now…. not next week. That ten dollars a week adds up really fast and disappears even quicker.

Don’t change your behaviour. Grow into who you are. See what works for you and what doesn’t and evolve into the person you want to be.

Life is more than making money. You need to take time to nurture your spirit. There’s intellectual and emotional banks to consider as well. Do you have reserves in all?

Hang around people who will help you grow, not pull you down. Energise don’t deplete. The fastest way to suck your energy dry is by hanging around with takers and users and those in perpetual bitching mode. Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you.

What are you waiting for? Act! Call, do, move, create, initiate.

Have a problem? Even if it was handed to you? Solve it. Get rid of it! Saying “It’s not my problem” or “I didn’t start this!” lets it fester. Get rid of it before it becomes costly baggage.

Enjoy change. Have fun with it.

Love. There’s nothing like it!

"There are times when life surprises one, and anything may happen, even what one had hoped for" – Ellen Glasgow

I hope the new year brings you all sorts of wonderful surprises…those you wished for and those beyond your wildest dreams.

All the best for 2005 and beyond… Donna Karlin

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Holidays

I love this time of year. Oh not the traffic and crammed stores and the 30 minute wait in the express line at the grocery store when I want to buy a carton of milk. It’s the colour and the music everywhere and the old movies. It’s pretty much the only time of year when I have the time to watch old movies. And I can’t miss Jimmy Stewart with his friend Harvey….the 6 foot 1½ inch rabbit : ) I think I watched that movie every holiday season growing up when I was up in the country with my family.

Snow birds might scoff, but I love being able to light a fire, put music on, tackle a jigsaw puzzle which I open up in all its million pieces on the dining room table every winter. It’s a hectic time when I slow down. An oxymoron I know, but true. I’d hate to miss the pulse of this time of year, listening to people scrambling around looking for that perfect gift, the look on their faces as wonder if that person they’re thinking of would love that piece or another one better.

I guess you could say I love the energy.

Many people I know don’t. Many find it incredibly stressful. All I could say is, for this time of year, for all times of the year, remember to celebrate yourselves as well. Oh it’s wonderful to acknowledge all the people in your life who you want to wish the best for, but remember to do the same for yourself. Give yourself a pat on the back for all you did that you could be proud of.

This has been a year of intense change for me. I feel as if I’ve grown as a person, I’ve met (personally and virtually) and worked with the most extraordinary people. Oh many will ask how could they all be extraordinary? Ahh but they are. Each and every one has a unique talent, perspective, kind of humour and intelligence and in sharing even a part of themselves with me, has given me the best gift ever. For that I am extremely grateful.

These gifts are intangibles, but priceless nonetheless. If I can help a person have a better outlook on life and celebrate who they are in some way big or small, then, to me, that’s all I could ask for.

And if I could have a wish for all of you, it would be to celebrate what you have right now, find laughter, give someone else a smile, relearn (for those of you who have forgotten) how to hug and give them regularly and most especially, when you see something wonderful in someone else, tell them!

Wishing you all the happiest of holidays…
Donna Karlin

Saturday, December 18, 2004

First Impressions, Assumptions, Judgments

Years ago when I was doing group workshops, very intensive ones, one of the dynamics of these programs was to pair the participants off in a very unique way so they would have a ‘buddy” through the week-long process. You were accountable to your buddy. If you didn’t get all your work done by the end of the day, then your buddy didn’t go to sleep until your homework was completed. And since sleep was at a premium to start off with, let me tell you, you didn’t want to be late with deadlines or you heard about it BIG time! The part I loved was the pairing off process. This is where it got interesting, and, based on feedback at the end of the program, one of the most powerful lessons they learned.

What we did was ask the group to form a circle. They were anywhere from 22 – 30 as we capped the class off at 30. At this point most of the participants didn’t know one another so it was quite quiet, uncomfortable for some (hey this was ‘stretch-beyond-your-comfort-zone 404” never mind 101!). We asked everyone to look around the room at those in the circle….to choose who they thought they’d want to be partnered with (friends or acquaintances were not allowed to become partners), then the second person they’d choose and so on and so on, and when we said “GO!” they should rush to that person and ask if they wanted to be their buddy. Chaos? Yep!

From an observer’s point of view, it was amazing to watch some of the men beeline over to the prettiest women, women to the best looking men, those who had a control-type personality to go over to someone who was much smaller in stature etc etc. Basically people were chosen by how they looked. How could they do anything else when they didn’t know the others, right? The odd one would stand back and look to the eyes of the others in the circle and choose by what they saw shining back. But that was very rare.

At the end of the week, these classmates were like family. They knew everything there was to know about each other and then some, the good, the bad, the hidden secrets, everything. Many of the participants ended up pairing off with their least ‘favourite’ choice initially and were angry about it to start off with. Bottom line was, each person in the room was there to support the others and to be supported by them through the process. They all said (not almost all, but all) how lucky they were to be partnered with the best buddy in the world… they should have looked past the surface to the person beneath before judging who they might be.

So why am I writing about this? How many meet someone for a brief meeting, and judge that they don’t want to meet again? How can one possibly know who a person is after speaking to them for only 10 minutes, an hour? I’m not talking about your intuitive feelings where you sense your safety is at stake. I’m talking about not talking to someone because they’re not dressed well or aren’t beautiful or handsome. Whether or not they have the perfect physique or a disability doesn’t matter. That’s not who the person is. A person isn’t their disability. They are a person WITH a disability. Some are visible, some are hidden.

Someone can be the best groomed, most with-it, business-like person in the world who looks intelligent, can read but doesn’t and is basically a functional illiterate. That person might get by on looks alone. But can you have a conversation and be stimulated by that for long? A person might struggle with all sorts of challenges, but if they don’t give up, show courage and strength, wouldn’t you want to get to know that person?

How can you find their hidden mischievous streak, warped sense of humour, keen intelligence if you don’t give them the time of day and truly get to know who they are?

One of the things I often hear from clients is how I see and bring out the best in people. Those ‘lost causes who are inherited in an organization’ who turn around and strive for more. If I see what shines in a person and help them see it as well, then eventually others will glimpse at it too. When I walk on a floor, everyone who knows me knows I will want to hear their victories and what they’re happy with in their lives, well after our contracted period is over. They know I celebrate knowing them, having worked with them and having earned their trust for them to share the deep-downs with me. I respect them, see their talents, strengths and love the person I see, as a whole person, not just a piece here and there.

So next time you walk by a stranger and might take a moment to smile at him/her, remember it’s telling them you value them for being and for taking a moment to share a second of your time with them. And when you see yourself judging because someone you meet isn’t perfect at first sight, take a moment to have a deeper insight. You might never know what you’re missing but on the other hand, taking the blinders off and seeing people three dimensionally will teach you a whole lot more, not only about them but you as well.

Best on another snowy day : )
Donna Karlin

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Seeing the Deeper Aspects of Life

It’s funny. I remember a conversation that Thomas Leonard had about opinions. He didn’t argue back after sharing his point of view (pushing many buttons along the way of course : ) and when he was asked why he didn’t argue back from someone who, believe it or not was becoming angry because he wasn’t arguing his response went something like…. “Who am I to argue? Mine is just one opinion. Who am I to be ‘right’? I'd rather listen and learn what I don't know”.

If we all did this at least some of the time, listened, opened our minds to what isn’t right in front of our noses, it would open our hearts to acceptance, to learning and growing in a world where, let’s face it, few “fit the mold”.

Tonight someone I have the utmost respect for reminded me that just because we don’t see something, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The question that was up for debate (why, I still can’t fathom) was “Does cognitive impairment equal disability?” Many think a disability has to be visible. Not so.

The definition of disability is 1) A disadvantage or deficiency, especially a physical or mental impairment that interferes with or prevents normal achievement in a particular area. Or 2) Something that hinders or incapacitates.

Those with cognitive impairments face the same issues and challenges as the physically disabled, however, with the added frustrations and challenges of those who don't have a visible disability. Many need to compartmentalize things, people, situations, religions, races. Why not just accept an individual based on their individuality and help them become the best they can be? I’d love to begin a discussion on that topic.

Those who are even debating the issues, why pray tell should they be right? Theirs’ is only one opinion and an opinion at that, nothing factual.

Becoming more neutral is the first step toward non-judgment. Eventually, you begin to see the deeper aspects of life and people that are really wonderful, some might even say divine. Instead of quickly identifying people's faults and seeing them through that lens, you begin to lead with love. Not only do the people around you start to look better, but your entire spirit is enhanced by that generous, life-giving quality.” - Doc Childre and Howard Martin

Can’t ignorance, self-imposed when one chooses not to learn or open one’s mind, hinder more than anything else?

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Fulfilling Life vs. Impressive Lifestyle

The second step in being personally mindful is to choose what it is you want in your attract what you want with the absense of anything else.

“Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands, but like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them, you reach your destiny.” - Carl Schurz

Ideals are what we reach for as we move forward in our lives. It’s being in tune with our core values and ways of being. When we fight those ideals we forget what it is we stand for and if we don’t make decisions based on who we are, we fall for anything that comes our way. My clients struggle the most when their actions and decisions aren’t congruent with their values. They not only fight a plan of action, they fight themselves in the process. As Carl Jung said “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside awakens.

I don’t want my clients to change. I want them to learn, to grow, to live their lives and make choices based on their personal ethics and integrity. It’s one thing to fight for what you know is right, quite another to fight what you know doesn’t sit right deep within your heart. Success at what price?

Don’t fight your intuition. Go with it. Let it guide you on your journey to growth. Listen to what your feelings are telling you. They will be your highest truth. Choose what it is you want in your life….people, ideas, experiences, feelings, environments. When you chose there is no room for anything else. The 'don't wants' cease to exist. And when you let your choices be your guide, you will create a fulfilling life, not just an impressive lifestyle….unconditionally.


Donna Karlin

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things

Every year Fast Company Magazine runs a challenge….a worldwide search for ordinary people doing extraordinary things. This year, thanks to support of friends, clients and colleagues I’ve made it to the second level and am in the running for the finals. If you’d like to read the entry, vote and perhaps leave a comment (based on the work I do) I’d very much appreciate it. You can find it and vote at

I love this challenge because it brings to the fore a reminder of all the good that’s happening in the world every day when people who are passionate about their work, life, goals and dreams go out there to make a difference, even if it’s one person at a time.

With you, your feedback and support I continually grow in my life and work and can continue to help people discover how extraordinary they really are. Even though it’s one person at a time, the ripple effect is immeasurable. I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to watch people fly as they reach for their dreams, then sit back applaud them as it happens. I celebrate your victories!.

Donna Karlin

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

A Cup of Memories

I have a very special friend who, even though she moved to Toronto too many years ago now, is in my thoughts every day. She’s the type of person who welcomes you with open arms, and always has a cup of tea waiting or just ready to be made, about to be made or could be made. And over the tea we share, catch up, solve all the problems of the world and create some new ones of our own. We have tea in the afternoon and after dinner and maybe even late at night when we curl up on the couch cradling a mug, going over the events of the day and perhaps what’s to come on the following one. And every time I see a tea commercial or put the kettle up to boil there’s Linda, if not in my kitchen or me in hers, definitely in my mind and thoughts.

So when I saw this, I immediately thought of her and how it seems to tie all parts of life in with it…the good, the bad, the unexpected, the silly and the smart. But isn’t that what life is all about? Good friends, wonderful memories in the making and possibiliteas : )

"Tea Mind

Humilitea, Possibilitea, Qualitea, Solidaritea, Abilitea, Equalitea, Individualitea, Serenitea, Insanitea, Confidentialitea, Vitalitea, Creativitea, Sportea, Claritea, Realitea, Activitea, Longevitea, Impossibilitea, Familiaritea, Humanitea, Puritea, Levitea, Longevitea, Immunitea, Digestabilitea, Electricitea, Sensualitea, Femininitea, Festivitea - Adapted from: Letters to a Young Zentrepenur - The Republic of Tea"

Donna Karlin

A Found Day

No. I hadn't lost one. I seemed to have gained one.

Amidst the chaos of the season….and I don’t mean the holidays but I’ll get back to that in a moment, something comes up or happens to give you a bonus day. Do I mean an 8th day of the week? No. But in a way it almost is.

First of all when I say season I mean the time productiveness within organizations seems to peak. It’s late fall, new projects are underway, strategy is being tweaked and readied to implement in the new year, most staff are in place as vacations haven’t started yet and things seem to be going at the usual chaotic pace. That usually translates to basic insanity for me as everyone wants to ‘do things’ before Xmas.

When I was a kid a found day meant a snow storm where the ploughs couldn’t make it up the streets, so classes were cancelled. We played in huge snowbanks, built snowmen on the front lawn and if we were really daring, we’d walk the few miles to the nearest store for some milk and bread and whatever we absolutely needed. And it meant lighting a fire and working on jigsaw puzzles or crafts while we listened to the radio or music on the stereo. Priceless times.

This found day for me was thanks to President Bush. The city streets were pretty much closed off from last night and will stay that way until late tonight or tomorrow morning when he will fly on to the next leg of his journey in Canada. Then everything will get back to normal. Cars will reappear on the streets, barricades removed and people back manning their desks and boardrooms.

And even though I’ll have to cram all the meetings that had been scheduled for today into the tomorrows, it was kind of nice to spend the day with my son, readying the house for winter, debating political issues, and just sharing the what ifs and what will be-s. So even though President Bush’s visit angered many, disrupted the entire downtown core and centre of the city, most government areas and overall lives of residents, store owners and workers alike, it was kind of a treat….a found gift of a day, filled with sunshine, decent temperatures, no hustle and bustle of a typical day and time to write.

Mmmm nice.

Best to you!
Donna Karlin

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Not Good Enough…or in other 'words', a perfectionist

I have had so many responses to my last blog on writing. The comments and emails continue to flow. And for those who wrote to tell me they’re taking up writing, to create, heal, share, whatever the reason or goal, BRAVO!

I was trying to combine the topic of writing and being a perfectionist in one entry. I know I’ve written about perfectionism in the past but not how it stands in the way of expressing oneself in a creative mode. Ideas ebb and flow beneath the surface. Our creativity is there if we only tap into it. That translates itself into all sorts of modes….writing, music, painting….any of the arts for that matter. If you speak to some artists, they’ll tell you they start with an idea and let it take form as they work. Very often they don’t have any idea how the work will end up. They know it when they get there.

Writing is usually a bit different…a way of creating pictures in one’s mind, sharing ideas, concepts, images….a journey of sorts with the author to guide you. It’s when that author needs to keep tweaking it making it just so, that it has to be ‘professional’ where the blockage begins. For the perfectionist, there’s always something to improve, to add. And instead of making a work better, what it does is tell us we’ll never be good enough, that we should try harder, work longer. It’s more about the process of writing than the words that fly across the page.

So, for you perfectionists out there who really do want to share what’s in their minds and hearts….take a piece of paper. Put one idea in the centre of it. Perfect grammar is not allowed. Just words that stimulate, make you want to write more words. And write them down like spokes of a wheel, wrapping around your original word. No writing on lines, within margins. It’s time to scrap conventionality and to have some fun with all those pent-up ideas. Is an article emerging? A book perhaps? Something comical about how you feel about writing itself? If you keep fixing it, you’ll lose sight of the bigger picture. And this picture is just about writing…ideas…insights. The joy of writing. Period.

For those of you who are really daring, try this blog One word…so little time. You choose one of the words on the screen and have seconds in which to write about it. No time for fixing, changing, spell checks. Just time for writing. Go for it! Anything to nudge that creative door open a little bit more.

Writing in any form is not about conjuring up the perfect idea or story. It’s about getting it down. The best part of blogging for me is to start with an idea and create dialogue around it. If I’d waited to share the perfect idea, concept or notion, you’d see an empty screen and that wouldn’t have benefited anyone including myself.

Besides which, the way I look at it, how I share an idea in words is one way to look at that idea. Just as with the spoken word, it changes with interpretation and as others read it and see a side of them in it, the idea continues to grow, to morph and before I know it, I has become something else entirely. The fun part is when I can take that new perspective and weave it into the original idea. Coming full circle.

What one word gets your creative juices flowing? I’d love to hear, and whether or not you created something with it.

Best! (look ‘best’ up on the visual thesaurus and see what happens!)
Donna Karlin

Saturday, November 20, 2004


It’s rare that I write two blogs in a day. However there were two waiting to happen so here you are. This one is on the simple joy of writing. Is writing words on a page (or typing on a computer) simple? Easy? Not by a long shot!

Years ago a dear friend of mine challenged me to write. I had never written anything before….didn’t keep a diary growing up, hated writing papers in school. I was a music performance major….why would I ever want to waste time writing when I could be playing? Every spare second I was at my instrument(s) practicing, perfecting, getting ready for a concert or audition. Taking time out to write what I though was out of the question. And even when I went back to school to study training and development and human behaviour, I hated having to write papers on it. I would much rather discuss and listen and share ideas and concepts with others. To write them down made them concrete, unchangeable. And behaviours are ever changing and morphing with every passing minute. How could I get that on paper?

In one way I was too critical. If it couldn’t perfectly represent my thoughts and feeling in a very grammatically correct way, I wouldn’t write them. Until one day when my friend wrote me an email challenging me to write back. No specific topic, just what I was thinking at that moment in time. And when I wasn’t forthcoming with an answer, two more emails and a phone call followed, pretty much daring me to write.

So I looked out the window at an incredible sky streaked with colour and decided to write about that. I described how it looked as though someone ‘up there’ took a paint brush and stroked the sky with a myriad of colours. I wrote what I saw…felt. No grammar, just words to create a picture.

I haven’t stopped writing since.

"I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear." - Joan Didion. This describes exactly why I write.

I write for me and if others enjoy what I write, then wonderful! But they aren’t the criteria for writing. I just share my words with you in case it might spur you on to writing as well and sharing your insights, thoughts and feelings with others who might feel the same way and realise they have a kindred spirit somewhere out there. Through writing I constantly have new insights and perspectives. I now write blogs, material for clients, letters just because….

I write lists of things I love, things I will do in the future as in to experience not shop for groceries. I write about how meeting someone new made me feel or someone who’s been in my life forever has enriched it. I just write. And when I removed all restrictions i.e. ‘proper grammar’ and sentence structure (I drive my son crazy when I put … in a sentence) I write for the joy of it not the parameters I can set to it.

Do you know the best part of writing this blog? The comments and letters I get back from all over the world. When I write, it gives way for others to share their insights back. And through them I see what I wrote in yet another way, write back and in some instances have made friends from the other end of the world. All through words. Simple words. It’s freeing. It's illuminating!

"A word is a bud attempting to become a twig. How can one not dream while writing? It is the pen which dreams. The blank page gives the right to dream." - Gaston Bachelard

The topic possibilities are endless. Why don't you give it a try? And if you do...please let me know.

Donna Karlin


OK….so I created a new word. For those who know me, it’s not an unusual occurrence. One of my clients will be happy as she has a Donna Karlin dictionary : ) 'Humanness'…. defNo matter how powerful a person you are, you still maintain your sense of humanity and compassion. Or, in other words, “getting over yourself.”

My brother is a world renowned surgeon. Am I proud of him and the work he does? Better believe it! What I’m most proud of is not his work, though it’s extraordinary. It’s who he is not what he does that continually blows me away. I watch how people relate to him….colleagues, staff, peers….to the janitorial staff in the hospital. They all love him. It’s his ‘humanness’.

And (here’s the Shadow Coach™ coming out in me) as I observe others, famous and not so famous alike, and how people interact and relate with those I’m observing, I see the connections. When one gets rid of the inflated ego and realises he can change for the better in some way, it makes him more ‘human’ and approachable. So many people and organizations are talking about ‘Leadership’. Talking, not attaining. It’s so much easier to talk about being a leader than actually being one. In my opinion, the first step to being a good leader is to demonstrate ‘humanness’….to get over yourself and realise there are other people in the world who might have ideas better than your own. Collaborate with them…help them grow in their roles and you will lead. Nothing is more seductive than showing someone else they count, they have talent and you recognize it. If you truly believe in them, they will follow you anywhere and work with you as often as they can. Because you know they count. Many leaders take for granted you share their ideals and visions for the organization. Not always so.

"Certainly a leader needs a clear vision of the organization and where it is going, but a vision is of little value unless it is shared in a way so as to generate enthusiasm and commitment. Leadership and communication are inseparable." - Claude Taylor

A leader who demonstrates ‘humanness’ is even more powerful in creating a collaborative environment in which everyone has a chance to work in an area that they’re passionate about, helping them grow as individuals in the process. If you really look at who you are and how you lead others, can you honestly say they evolve because of 'humanness'....your leadership, helping you evolve as well along the way?

Donna Karlin

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Two Kinds of Leaders

Henry Kissinger was asked what he had learned from the presidents he had worked with. Kissinger replied, 'Presidents don't do great things by dwelling on their limitations, but by focusing on their possibilities. Good leaders engage the world. Bad leaders entrap it, or try.”

I have written a great deal about Leadership over the years and in the last few days realised how people look at the term ‘Leader’ and automatically take it for granted that all leaders are good ones.
Not so.

Good leaders lead by example….are able to communicate their dreams and goals effectively and even more important than that, bring others on board with them through inspiration and good example. Bad leaders intimidate, instill fear in those who work for them, thereby leading with an iron fist. Both lead. The first example grow new good leaders along the way and the second, pretty much make sure no one measures up to them, not caring about succession plans or future of an organization. They just want to go down in a blaze of glory no matter what the consequences.

Leadership’ is big business these days. There are courses around it, books written about it….it’s the lingo used in almost every board room across the country. It’s very easy to talk the leadership talk, however it takes more than talk to attain the level of a true good leader. It is being open to the possibilities, realizing others might know more than you and working with them to create a strong vision. Politicians, heads of companies and organizations have the desire to lead, but are they taught how to in the true sense of the word? The debate continues re: “leaders are born, not made.” I believe leaders are born (well, one has to exist in order to do anything) AND are made. They also continue to grow as they learn and accumulate experience. It’s the poor leader who thinks he/she knows everything there is to know about anything. As the world continues to evolve, so do intelligent people. Through awareness and change come paradigm shifts that might be seismically altering to an individual and organization. Leaders continuously reinvent themselves…they live in advance, knowing whatever decisions they make right now will have an impact on how they invent their future.

Bad leaders get away with their actions because those who follow let them get away with it. Don’t let them!

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Looking Forward to the Possibilities

For years now, I’ve signed many a letter and email with “I look forward to the possibilities”. def. Possible …. that something may happen, exist, be true, or be realizable.

Even if there is an inkling that it may happen, may come to light is enough to make me jump in with both feet. And when it does happen, I’m on top of the world, not only because something I really wanted happened but because I attempted it in the first place. My two favourite words….possibility and serendipity. One flows into the other.

Being open to possibilities makes things happen. For years I’ve wanted to teach Shadow Coaching ™ to seasoned coaches and waited for the right time and interest to see where this would go. After the ICF conference and being inundated with requests to teach and start a school from people who had heard me speak years ago, I decided if I did start my own School of Shadow Coaching ™ I could create my own possibilities. So stay tuned as it’s in the works!

If I could do one thing for clients, friends and family alike it would be to help them see the concept of possibility….to get out of their routines and well-planned lives at least in some way and reach out for an elusive dream….something they’ve thought about but shelved for years. Almost anything is possible, however you’ll never know if you don’t take that first step to making it happen. I hear from people who have lived trauma, injury, illness and they are the first to reach out to whatever is possible in their lives. Why not those who haven’t? Why would it take a traumatic experience in your life to go after a dream? Makes no sense to me!

Last Saturday I watched Ben Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic coach a quartet of young musicians in Quebec City. Do you think a year ago, in their wildest dreams they thought it would be possible to perform for him, never mind be coached by such an extraordinary conductor? It wasn’t only possible but it happened.

Think impossible and dreams get discarded, projects get abandoned, and hope for wellness is torpedoed. But let someone yell the words “It's possible” and resources we hadn't been aware of come rushing in to assist us in our quest. “ - Greg Anderson

Remember… we dream is what gives our lives value. And how we choose to live is what determines whether or not our dreams have value.

Looking forward to the possibilities..
Donna Karlin

Friday, November 05, 2004

A City of Coaches

Quebec City….a gorgeous place, especially from the vantage-point of the 22nd floor of my hotel next to the conference centre. The lights sparkle in the old city and as magnificent a place as it is, it pales next to the incredible people I’ve been spending my week with at the International Coach Federation Conference. 1,300 people from around the world fill the rooms absorbing and sharing trends, knowledge, perspectives and ideas for the future of this fairly new profession.

One of the challenges Coaches have is explaining what it is we do….as nothing about our craft is cut and dried and able to be compartmentalized. My favourite part of these events is meeting new like-minded people and listening to their approach to this strange world of facilitating change. Many a time I feel myself wanting to skip a session to keep the conversation going. I know I will go home having new friends who already feel like long-time, lifelong friends. In sharing my perspectives with these extraordinary people I feel myself growing in leaps and bounds, ready to create new concepts, materials and ways of working with my clients. They help me see who I am in the truest sense of the word. It’s like being turned inside out where people can see into the depths of me and see the possibilities of what’s to come. For those of you who have worked with a Coach, just imagine being around 1299 or so more of them! Boggles the mind. The energy is tangible. We all speak to strangers and begin a conversation in a heart beat. Because of this and the greatest room-mate anyone could have, I’ve been introduced, talked about, shared future plans with and come away with an experience to remember and friends who are keepers.

Ideas are germinating (get ready those of you I work with ‘cause you are going to benefit from all this new-found energy and ideas).

With all that’s happening, the city fades into the background. Oh I’ll remember the view, but that memory will fade. Those memories shared with new friends will stay for a long time to come.

And if I come away from this with only one lesson it would be to make connections. A meeting of minds and sharing of future dreams far surpass geographical location as they stay in your mind and heart forever.

Donna Karlin

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Our Uniqueness

People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering. - St. Augustine

When was the last time you really looked at yourself and saw how extraordinary you really are? I’m not talking about solving the problems of the world, but of your talents and strengths and how, without doing anything special you touch other people’s lives in some way?

One can only demonstrate their strengths when they’re aware of them and the first step is to take notice.

It is the child in all of us that creates our uniqueness….the parts of us that we don’t restrain or erect barriers around. It’s letting the best of us come out and play. Try it and see how freeing it is. Let your creativity come to the fore and watch as your whole being takes a deep breath and plunges in with both feet.

Donna Karlin

Friday, October 29, 2004

Meetings....Waste of Time?

When was the last time you walked out of a meeting pumped, energized, enthused about what was to come? And to add to the list, when was the last time the meeting you called stayed on topic and actually spawned an action item to bring your organization forward?

Most people walk into meetings dreading there’s going to be a meeting. And those same people walk out wondering why there was a meeting in the first place. How many meetings are scheduled just for the sake of “just in case we need to talk about…” In this day and age of filled schedules, double booked meetings, 15 hour days and no more lunch hours, as meeting take place during lunch, or are held over through lunch, stress levels are increased, effectiveness decreased and habit changes mind set to start off as “Meetings are a waste of time” rather than “Let’s see what we can accomplish, brainstorm about and collaborate on!”

I was recently joking with a client (not so funny actually) that since the staff is so overtaxed with workload, crises, and tight deadlines, the powers that be should put conveyor belts around the desk areas so that drinks (even water) a sandwich during lunch, or anything else considered sustenance could move by the offices, as they rarely get time to breathe, never mind eat. Tempers flare, staff fighting is up, blood sugar down and heaven forbid, those who smoke and have to leave the building for their smoke breaks ….well, we won’t even go there.

Since I often work with the “powers that be” I’m going to push a few buttons….blogger’s prerogative. Taking a lunch break and allowing the staff one, isn’t an option. At least one 15 minute break during each half of the day isn’t an option either and that’s not for checking emails and making phone calls. It’s for getting out of your office, meeting and talking to staff and getting the blood circulation flowing. And if at all possible, fresh air. What a concept!

If you schedule meetings, make sure there’s a need for them. And if body language is telling you nothing sunk in and you’re not going to get much in the way of action or deliverables from it, then time to change the format of the meeting. If you always do what you’ve always done….

Let’s talk about what needs to be changed…

Donna Karlin

Try this great meeting template: The Rickover Method

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Our Unique Capacity to Shape Our Lives

“If we do not rise to the challenge of our unique capacity to shape our lives, to seek the kinds of growth that we find individually fulfilling, then we can have no security: we will live in a world of sham, in which our selves are determined by the will of others, in which we will be constantly buffeted and increasingly isolated by the changes round us.” - Nena O'Neil

For some it’s easier to let others shape our destiny for in doing that, when we fail, we can place blame. The reverse is true as well, however. In allowing others to have that power over us we also have to give up our right to celebrate our successes, as we wouldn’t be responsible for them.

I know I would rather fail than never try and I would rather celebrate my successes, knowing I was the one who achieved them, than give that joy over to someone else.

So I share this with you….”I accept complete responsibility for everything I think, say, feel, and do. I am not afraid of making mistakes or of taking reasonable risks. I am a life-long student. I am always ready to learn, and I know growth takes sustained effort. And through that, I own and celebrate my successes and failures as they are both instrumental in that growth.”

Can you say the same? Something a Coach can help you with, for sure.


Donna Karlin

Monday, October 25, 2004

Sacrificing Life

Don't sacrifice your life to work and ideals. The most important things in life are human relations. I found that out too late. - --Katharinde Susannah Prichard Australian Author

One day flows into the next….deadlines come and go as does one project after another. And before you know it a week has passed, then a month and then years where all you have to measure them by is the dollar or the deadline met or even a plaque given to you by your organization thanking you for a ‘job well done’.

And as you’re patted on the back and congratulated, your life has gone by the wayside. I hear from clients who have recently retired that the weeks are like a series of weekends. They had so looked forward to retirement and everything they were going to do. The time came and after a few weeks discontent set in. When I explored the whys with them it was usually because they had forgotten their life. People had come and gone without them even noticing and they were left with a great deal of emptiness. Then what?

I can almost hear the arguments coming….how it won’t happen to ‘you’. My question is, especially if you're that angry….hasn’t it already?

It’s the people in your life that will make the difference, not the things, the plaques or the company watch. Companionship they are not. The person who would have debated with you, explored, shared and laughed with you has moved on, tired of waiting for you to take notice or take the time. What have you sacrificed for work? What have you gained by losing the people in your life? Tough questions, aren't they?

I teach balance. Some scoff and wonder if I practice it and the answer is yes. This week will be spent recuperating after an intense contract….exploring, taking pictures, writing and sharing time with some of the special people in my life. And for those who are too busy to join in, even on the weekend….I wonder if they’ll notice when the time comes and those they treasured just won’t be around anymore?

I know…I’m pushing your buttons right now and you’re getting angry. GOOD! It’s a wake-up call. Time is the one thing you can never recapture. It has to be taken… now, not later. Time doesn’t work that way.

So If I’m making you angry, I’ve achieved my goal. And instead of arguing with me about it, take that same amount of time to do something about it.

Wishing you the best RIGHT NOW…..not a day, a week, a month…..or a year from now….
It might just be a lifetime.

Donna Karlin

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Myths and Truths of Coaching

Another week has flown by. A lot occurred to me this week as I began to work with a new client. First and foremost was how much I learned in such a short time. Oh my client learned a great deal too and repeatedly shared with me his insights and perspectives as we debated and talked and shared our way through the chaos of the week. I walked in on Monday knowing exactly what it was I wanted to do with him, but not knowing the first thing about the work he did. I walked out at the end of the week actually understanding most of it.

Coaching Truth: A Coach can learn as much as he/she teaches and still be very effective. And in opening myself up to learning, my clients can learn by teaching and realizing just how much knowledge and experience they have. It’s not important to know what work a client does. It’s important to know how to Coach.

Another thing is the perception others have when I’m introduced to the rest of the staff. Very often the first question in others’ minds is “What does my boss need to fix?” or “Why is he/she bringing in a Coach? What’s wrong?” There’s a Coaching Myth for you! Something doesn’t have to be wrong to bring in a Coach.

My clients are awesome people who are great at what they do. They just want to be better. I’m not there to fix anything. I’m there to help them come up with new paradigms…to figure out what’s not working as well as they’d like, turn it around to make it work better…. to change their Personal Operating Systems (POS) and come up with new ones that fit their present life, job, challenge, or vision.

Once in a while a Coach is lucky enough to work with a client who wants to absorb everything like a sponge. Usually we’re approached with an idea of what the client wants to change, improve or learn, however in observing them, rarely are those changes the ones needed. Usually it’s a hidden dynamic that I share with them through observation that creates the AHHA! or lightbulb that goes off and only then do we create a strategy for change. I worked with such a client recently who wanted everything I could dish out to him, to process, debate, take from it what he needed to created positive change by choice. Generally it’s not changing as much as looking at things through new eyes or perspective that makes all the difference in attitude and choices. Feedback from an impartial observer is very powerful. Very often my clients are extraordinary people in many ways yet don’t see themselves as such.

Coaching Myth: The Coach is the one to come up with ideas for change. Not so. The client is the one to create and implement the changes. Not me. Once they discover the glitches or roadblocks, they just soar and figure it out along the way. I just facilitate the process.

Coaching Truth: Many think they have all the answers. They love to spar with a Coach and hear all the ideas to debate them or knock them down. However if they used all that energy to listen openly and be honest with themselves, they could do amazing things to attract exactly what it is they want in their lives. But they’re stuck. They think it’s a sign of weakness to work with a Coach. It’s fine for “everybody else” but they don’t need it. I’d like to hear their response to people like the CEO of Home Depot, Bob Nardelli who believes that “Without a coach, people will NEVER reach their maximum capabilities".

"Between 25 percent and 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies use executive coaches." --Recent survey by The Hay Group, International. I am proud to say many of the department heads of the Canadian Federal Government see the value of Coaching to increase effectiveness and grow new leaders.

As you’re reading this, I would love to hear what your gut reaction would be in working with a Coach. Would it be an immediate “I don’t need one” or would it be “I wonder what it would be like to work with a ‘partner in crime’, someone who would support me no matter what, be non-judgmental and help me get to exactly where I want to be?”

And I’m thinking…who would be interested in contributing to my R & D group in creating new Coaching Concepts and perspectives for you? Your ideas, even through the comments on my blog are listened to and utilized to create new ways of working with people just like you. Question is….are you open to the possibilities?

Life is full of them if you only take a moment to grasp them.

Donna Karlin

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Coaching in Health Continues.....

Well this last blog certainly created a flurry of activity. The emails are coming fast and furious from people who would love to see coaching within healthcare happen. Some, Americans are skeptical but still urge me to persevere and Canadians who are cheering me on from the sidelines. (and Senator Kerry, if you’d like to see the American people healthier and more proactive in their ‘wellness’ this is the first step in making this happen).

Train the trainer or in this case, coach the coach. Front line health care providers coaching patients as they’re being treated….not only does this empower the patients to do their utmost in partnering in their health care but gives an added boost of energy and feeling of “I made a difference with this patient” to the one coaching. Now how much better does it get than that?

I realise many believe (especially in the US.) that as long as drug companies and physicians benefit from giving long term care and rely on making their big bucks only when patients remain needy and continue to return to their doctors again and again, this concept will never become a reality. Yet I do believe most physicians act from a basis of integrity and if their patients were more proactive in their own care, they would be more than happy. And with that, there is a possibility that the mind set and culture will change ….albeit slowly, however there is light at the end of the tunnel. For those of you who know me, I always look forward to the possibilities and in a case like this, where there are only benefits, I won't give up.

I encourage your comments and suggestions and ideas for how to speed this up and make it happen in your neck of the woods and mine. If we put our heads together it will happen sooner rather than later.

Let me leave you with a story….an simplistic example, but a powerful one...

About two years ago, someone close to me was diagnosed with cancer. It was treatable, but still the idea he had cancer was more than he wanted to handle. Success rate for his type of cancer was very high. He couldn’t even verbalise the “C” word. He was sure he was going to die. He was so miserable from his treatments that he wanted to die, and blatantly told me so.

I sent him a planner…an agenda with the instructions that he was to take responsibility for making his doctors appointments and to keep track of all treatment schedules. As well, when he was up to it, to plan his social calendar and record everything himself, not to rely on others to do that for him.

He agreed.

A week later, I called him and asked what was on the agenda for that coming weekend. He listed off a few things he had planned. My response to him was “So you are planning to live after all, hmm?” There was silence after which he laughed, called me a wise guy and waited for me to continue. I responded with “If you had no intention of living then you wouldn’t have planned ahead. There would have been nothing in your agenda. So tell me, what exactly IS your intention?” and we went from there.

It was an eye-opener for him. He didn’t realise he had sounded so depressed and had almost given up. It’s almost three years since we’ve had that conversation and I’ve sent him 2 refills for that planner. It’s still being filled. Now I realise it’s a simple example, but it was very powerful in effect. It was what he needed to get past what was stopping him from working towards health, not death.

A huge difference for his family and friends. A huge change of outlook in life.

Any suggestions? Comments? I’d love to hear them. Let's get past all the reasons why this isn't going to happen (human nature....people always share those first) and start working on solutions and plans of action.

Let’s get this going.

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Coaching and Health Care

My goal….to bring the coaching model to health care so health care providers coach patients as well as treat them. Easy to implement? No. A win-win situation? Definitely…. which makes me wonder why it is so difficult to get a program like this going. One would think health care providers would jump at the chance for a model that has no downside. However that would entail them thinking outside the box and in a profession of ‘old school’ mentality when it comes to the dynamics of health care provider vs. patient or recipient, implementing this model might be a very long way off.

Benefits of coaching are evident. The increased effectiveness in the workplace, appreciative approach to staff and colleagues and reduced levels of stress in the workplace are well documented. Throughout the years, working with long term care patients I have personally seen the benefits of coaching patients through their challenges. What could be a better scenario than patients being more responsible for their well being, stretching beyond their comfort zone and accepting where they’re at in their lives without guilt or feeling sorry for themselves? And what could be better for the providers to know they are helping the patients have a better quality of life, no matter what the challenges?

I can’t see any downside, can you?

I would love your opinions on this.

Donna Karlin

Monday, October 04, 2004

Memories of the Yukon

There is so much to write about my experiences in the Yukon, but I'll begin with this.....

My stay in Whitehorse came to an end much too quickly. It was filled with teaching, coaching, learning and laughter. The people there welcomed me with open arms and were eager to learn and experience as much as they could absorb about Coaching. In the interim, I learned all I could about the First Nations people and their history. It was fascinating and I couldn’t believe how much I didn’t know about their past and present….a history rich with culture and pride.

One of the class shared with me some books of stories of his people of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. The stories were so simple yet each one touched a place deep inside me and will stay for a very very long time.

On the last morning, as I wandered with old friends and new, meeting up with some of the class on street corners and in shops, the week flashed before me. The 9 days flew by and now that I’m home I know I’ll look for the streaks of colour in the sky at dawn and snow capped mountains covered with morning mist in the distance….wishing this magical place was just around the corner so I could visit it often.

The time flew by way too quickly for me to learn all I wanted. Will I go back? I can’t imagine anything else. There is so much more to see and explore and learn and for me to teach whenever the opportunity strikes. And in the meantime I’ll have my photographs to remind me of its magic. Looking back at that brief moment when I questioned whether or not to go, I know now to never question anything like it again. If I had let this opportunity pass me by I never would have seen anything like this…

Donna Karlin

Bennett Lake - Carcross, Yukon

For more pictures, click here " Memories of the Yukon"

Sunday, September 26, 2004

The Yukon, A Magical Place

In my wildest dreams I never would have imagined I’d be writing you from the Yukon, but here I am. We drove yesterday……and around every bend the most extraordinary vista would appear before us. We’d stop, walk around, take pictures that could never do this magical place justice. So many times I’d say to my friends “How could we ever capture this on film?" Lakes that stretched for miles and miles on end with snow-capped mountains seeming to rise from them. The water turquoise or green, looking more like the ocean water in the tropics than fresh water lakes in the North.

From Emerald Lake to the smallest desert in the world we were in awe at its beauty. We stopped to speak to a wonderful woman in an isolated Post Office post in the middle of nowhere on the shores of one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever seen. She was thrilled to have company as she couldn’t leave her home/post all day and only had her two dogs for company. We talked and shared a bit of what we’d felt about being in the Yukon, even for a very short time.

It really is a wondrous place. We could drive for an hour without seeing another vehicle or person. The peacefulness permeates your entire being. It hit me how in times of crazy schedules, running from meeting to meeting how the quiet was so welcome.

This opportunity fell into my lap. For a split second I listed in my mind all the reasons why I couldn’t take the time to come up here. I’m glad I didn’t listen and quickly dismissed it. If you ever have an opportunity that sparks your imagination, don’t even think of not jumping at it. It might never present itself again. And you might miss something you couldn’t even conjure up in your wildest dreams.

I mean where else would someone tell you to drive slowly because there’s probably moose wandering around? : )

Donna Karlin

Emerald Lake - Yukon

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Communication or Lack Of…

I love to listen, to observe, watch how people communicate or don't. It never ceases to amaze me when people think you can read their minds, know how or what they’re thinking or feeling without them uttering a word. For some reason they think we’re clairvoyant and can read their minds, when in reality, we can’t do any such thing.

It’s impossible to learn, find out more about people who intrigue you, when there’s silence. The first building block of communicating is when you feel every person is unique and has value. In feeling that way, you automatically listen to what they have to say because deep down you believe they know something about something that you don’t know and want to learn. Whether it’s information or intangibles, i.e. how they interact with others and bring energy to a conversation or relationship or drain it, you learn from both. It’s next to impossible to learn anything especially when there is no communication at all, or, in other words, silence.

As Dale Carnegie stated “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic but creatures of emotion”, he hit the nail on the head. People think with their insecurities, confidence, and from past experience. They don’t think with facts. Their first reaction to silence is to feel insignificant; unworthy of basic acknowledgement. Instantly they react and either close up so they won’t feel that sense of inadequacy any more or get angry and possibly (if this mode of communication or lack of continues) sever the relationship altogether.

In a work environment it could make the difference between success and existence. In a personal relationship it almost always results in its inevitable end. No matter what the dynamics of a relationship, it takes two people to make it work.

Remember, the most complimentary thing you could ever do is ask questions of another person and be interested enough to listen to the answer. The most devastating and demeaning thing you could do is ignore them.

I leave you with a Japanese proverb to make you ponder: “One kind word can warm three winter months”.

Winter is coming. Who can you touch today in some way to make them realise you value their presence in your life?

Donna Karlin

Monday, September 13, 2004

Past Present and Future

To create a future you love you have to be in the present…to grow each day, do the best you can right now and to be open to the possibilities as you make choices, not for five, ten or fifteen years hence but today.

To live in the past is to be so wrapped up in the “what was” that you lose sight of what you’re experiencing in the present. To be so focused on the ‘what might be one day’, is to miss all the opportunities that will fall in your lap if you were only paying attention. Besides which, who knows what tomorrow might bring? Best laid plans can be tossed to the wind as a new path appears before you. That path might be the one you were meant to take after all.

Enjoy the journey.

Donna Karlin

Sunday, September 12, 2004

The Paradoxical Commandments

Ron Huxley posted these commandments in his wonderful blog . Many thanks, Ron for this reminder.

The Paradoxical Commandments - by Dr. Kent M. Keith (© Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001)

"People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.

Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway."

Ever since reading it, I’ve been thinking about how often we allow outside influences, i.e. people, circumstances and experiences to dictate what it is we do in life, for ourselves, others and the outside world. Many sabotage their own success for the simple reason they feel guilty to succeed when others close to them have failed.

When we act based on everyone else’s values and ethics, we compromise our own. Just as one person should not be held responsible for the actions of another, we should not determine our choices based on others’. Acting and living from a basis of personal integrity should be our guide. Adopting the philosophy, “do it anyway” gives momentum and strength to act from our convictions. Only then will we learn what is possible for us in our lifetime.

Donna Karlin

Thursday, September 09, 2004


Power - def. Possession of controlling influence

All the definitions of the word are impressive in themselves. A powerful individual is commanding. That same person demonstrating power with people is extraordinary. Not only are you a force to be reckoned with but now have a group who are helping increase momentum.

I was talking to my brother yesterday as we sped through the streets of Ottawa. He is a world renowned surgeon, unobtrusive in his manner, always looking to make things better. We discussed egos and the difference between power with people and power over people. Many in medicine and corporate worlds alike who are of the old school mentality believe that putting the fear of God into the students, or staff will make them tow the line, revere them and never question the status quo.

That scenario doesn’t create anything powerful. It’s using power destructively rather than constructively to build a viable, strong and growing organization. When the heads of any organization use power over others, it breaks down creativity, knowledge and growth and eventually, when these people retire, there is no one in any position of power or strength to take over.

"The path of leadership transformation is a journey from control and domination to one of inspiration and service." - Kevin Cashman

Are you a true leader?

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Who Will Be You?

If we are incapable of finding peace in ourselves, it is pointless to search elsewhere. - Francois de la Rochefoucauld

The same goes for happiness and contentment. Once we find peace with who and what we are based on our own truths, values and integrity, we can find that centre of quiet peace. The first step is in accepting ourselves no matter where we are in life. From that perspective we can build and grow into our dreams and aspirations. When we are continually fighting ourselves, then we are so wrapped up with what isn’t working, we run out of energy to continually grow as individuals.

This is also true for those who approach others from the perspective of what they think the other person wants or needs in a friend, colleague, partner or relationship rather than who they truly are. How can one ever build a relationship built on illusion? Your ‘true self’ will always surface, especially in times of crisis. Once that happens the relationship doesn’t go back to square one. It morphs into something completely different without trust or a solid foundation. Generally, within a very short time, the relationship breaks down.

Something to think about when you think you’re ‘fooling the boss’, ‘pulling the wool over someone’s eyes’ or going into a personal relationship based on deception. If you’re always trying to be someone else, who will be you? How could you ever find peace within yourself if you’re not being yourself? Once you accept yourself with all your strengths and weaknesses, everything else will seem to fall into place. It really is so much easier to live your life that way. All the energy you save in trying to be someone you aren’t can be channeled into becoming exactly who you choose to be. Which do you think will work better for you in the long-run?

Donna Karlin

Saturday, August 28, 2004


Receiving feedback is a way for you to clarify how you interact with others, how well your working relationship is going and, from another person’s perspective how they view you in the scheme of things. I stress the words “another person’s perspective”. It’s how they process your interactions based on their own needs, awareness factors and skills. Feedback isn’t sharing what you do that’s wrong. It’s how another person perceives you in various capacities.

What you do with that feedback, however is up to you. If you use it as a way to view yourself through another person’s eyes openly and honestly, emotions aside, you can then work with that person to strengthen the relationship further. If you take issue with the feedback and argue with it, then your relationship will either stay as is or deteriorate even further. The fact a person can give you constructive feedback is a compliment in itself. It’s only when issues are held back that they have no chance of improving. Through the feedback process and verbalizing your appreciations of your colleague as well as your needs, all cards are placed on the table so you can work on them together for the future.

Think for a moment before you react. Did that person have a valid point in sharing something that might have pushed your buttons, and, if so, what are you going to do about it that shows leadership and integrity? Fight, pout or meet with that person to listen, share possible changes and, perhaps in some instances, give them more information so they might have a broader picture of things?

If you believe someone doesn’t see your value, then ask yourself why that might be so. Is it because your communication skills are lacking in some way? Do you seem unfocused? Do you fade in the background and not make your presence known or heard?

No matter how much you accomplish, if your boss isn’t aware of those accomplishments, he/she has no way of knowing how effective you are. Just because everything might be running smoothly does not make you stand out as a valuable resource or leader in the organization. Sometimes lack of information gives the wrong impression; something for you to communicate effectively in a one-on-one.

Instead of reacting to feedback, see yourself through their eyes. Do you like what you (they) see and, if not, what will you do to change so you do?

Donna Karlin

Friday, August 20, 2004

The Power to Decide

Well it’s official! My first e-Book is written and published. Clients, friends and colleagues have forever been asking me to write a short, sweet, to the point quick read to remind them of some of the principles and concepts we work on. Finally I relented. As it was pointed out to me so eloquently, “You can’t be shadowing everyone all in one fell swoop. And we all want a 'piece of you', so it’s only right you should create a guide to keep us on track when you can’t be around.”

‘The Power to Decide: An Executive’s Guide to Conquering a Chaotic Day’ was born. That’s how most of my clients and friends who are executives describe their day….chaotic and insane. If one concept in this guide helps them take back control, then it’s worth it. That was my raison d’ĂȘtre for doing this.

Writing it wasn’t as easy as you might think as I had to think of the key concepts that would keep old clients on track and give possible new clients a taste of what we might cover when I would work with them. It’s a reminder to make that decision and feel how powerful saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is, even if it’s just opening an email. It’s deciding to be in control of the day rather than reactive to it. How many find themselves reacting to one situation after another and before they know it, the day is gone and everything they intended to happen flew out the window? Is anyone not nodding yes to that question?

A book doesn’t have to be long to be powerful. All it needs to do is spark a desire to change something that isn’t presently working for you and give you that bit of insight to do it. What is even more powerful is what you choose to do with those insights.

Stay tuned for the next one which will delve more into choices and their consequences and, as I’ve also been asked for time and time again, perhaps an e-course is on its way as well. Time will tell.

Wishing you the best!
Donna Karlin

Sunday, August 15, 2004

The Power of Communication

"They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel." - Carl W. Buechner

I was thinking a great deal about what this quote says. This past week has illustrated that to me in so many ways. Being one to experience through multi-dimensions I realised this is exactly how I perceive and experience those around me. It’s by how they make me feel rather than what it is they say. Part of it stems from where others are in their lives and how the communicate (or don’t) with me and a great deal has to do with body language, tone of voice and the unspoken word.

I seem to have experienced the entire range of the spectrum this past week, being with old friends, in that place of comfort where you know you’re accepted no matter what, meeting long time correspondence friends for the first time and experiencing that sense of anticipation, knowing the face to face experience is one I’d remember for a lifetime and meeting new people, some who pleasantly surprised me and others who surprised me in their curtness and coldness. For some reason the latter always surprises me as I can never understand how people can choose to be cold and uncommunicative when there’s always the alternative. But that’s who I am and if nothing else I’ve learned over the years through training and life’s experiences not to expect others to behave as I would in any given circumstance.

…An ongoing learning experience for me, as I’m sure it is for many others.

I do believe, however that if people realised how they made others feel with their words, they might change how they share them. I might not remember specific words someone tells me but I will always remember how they made me feel in the telling, or writing of them.

This was a milestone of a week for me in many ways, one of which was completing my first E-book. (Stay tuned because it will be published sometime this week). I asked some colleagues and clients to give it a read and comment on it. One of them said she’d travel miles to meet the person behind this book. I know she doesn’t give empty compliments. It made me feel on top of the world. Another client who has become friend told me “You are always giving to others on all sides of you” which touched me beyond description. I will always remember how these people made me feel, not necessarily in words but in moments in time.

I suppose the reason I’m sharing this in the first place is because once words leave your mouth or are sent in a letter, you can never take them back. That instant feeling the recipient will have, either of elation or hurt will linger and will not be forgotten. It might fade in time, but some trace of that feeling will remain. It’s all in what you give….how you communicate. How do you want others to remember you? How do you want someone else to feel when they read your words or listen to you? Once you ask yourself that question, the answer will, I hope, help you choose accordingly.

Donna Karlin

Monday, August 09, 2004

The Jester's Family....Meeting Face to Face

This past week I was fortunate enough to meet the Saltzmans, who were instrumental in bringing the book about the Jester and Pharley to children and adults everywhere. (See my post from 5/30/2003). We had been corresponding for years but had never met in person. We lived in opposite ends of the continent, the Saltzmans living in L.A. and us in Ottawa.

This is an extraordinary book, called The Jester Has Lost His Jingle, written by their son David. Tirelessly they spread the word about the book, accompanying Jester doll and the story behind its creation to sick children and adults far and wide. It’s been years since my son had his last surgery, but the book and doll keep a prominent place on our bookcase in the family room. Just glancing at them reminds me to keep my sense of humour no matter what challenges have entered my life. And I know my son feels the same way.

Barbara Saltzman shared story after story with me about kids from underprivileged homes, going to hospitals to read this wonderful story to sick children. I sat there enthralled as she shared these anecdotes with me, shivers going up and down my arms as one story turned into the next. Kids with basically nothing, spent their free time and precious pennies to be able to provide a book for a child in the hospital. Children really needing charity, were giving it instead.

And from a story and a doll came literacy and outreach programs, school curriculum supplements, and smile carts all which enrich the lives of children and adults everywhere.

Once in a while I hear a story such as the creation of the Jester and Pharley Phund and it captivates me…leaving me wonder what it is I could do to help, to make a difference. I know what the presence of the book and doll did in our lives as my son went through surgery after surgery. The reminder alone, to keep our sense of humour, was often enough to make the difference between having an overwhelming day and one we could take control of, at least when it came to attitude.

And what’s more important than that? To be able to smile and laugh no matter what is going on in your life is a huge gift. They give us and so many others, this gift every single day.

And as they’ve shared the gift of laughter with us, I wanted to share it with you, along with a story that tugs on your heartstrings and makes you want to reach out and share with someone else.

After all, it’s not what you get in life that makes a difference. It’s what you give.

All the best…
Donna Karlin

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Giving Up The Power to Change

“When you blame others, you give up your power to change.” - Dr. Robert Anthony

A wise man told me a long time ago to look at the last two letters of the word blame…’Me’. He also said the only person to blame for the choices you make in your life is yourself and no one else. You can blame others, circumstance, experience and history for everything bad that’s happening or not happening in your life, but what does that ultimately give you, an excuse to continue whatever it is you don’t like? Is it used for an excuse to continue with what isn’t working in your life or a vehicle to change? That is ultimately your choice.

When you do place blame you ultimately give your personal power away to someone else and don’t take responsibility for yourself. And usually (this is what always blows me away) it’s to someone you least respect at that moment in time. Why is that, I wonder? I keep telling myself, if I’m going to give my power away to anyone, at least it should be to someone I respect and admire. That is rarely the case. Besides which, the choices they might make for themselves aren’t necessarily the best ones for me. So I’d just as soon keep that control myself.

In the Johari Window exercise, we talk about our blind spot, or as some people teasingly refer to it as their stubborn spot. For example, when someone tells you “You are SO stubborn” and you spend the next 10 minutes fighting them on that, it takes the focus away from listening to the feedback and using it to see if you want to change. If you get that same feedback from ten people over a course of time, then may I suggest you look at it closely? If you fight them on it……explain every reason in the book why they might be looking at something in the wrong way (their fault, right?) then you will definitely not have the power to change what isn’t working for you. A mild example, I know.

How many times have you argued about what you know to be true of yourself? And how much more powerful would it be if you listened instead? Who’s in control now?

Donna Karlin

Saturday, July 31, 2004

You Can Have Anything You Want But Not Everything

Life’s version of not having your cake and eating it too. Once you’ve eaten it you don’t have it anymore. And in life you CAN have anything, but have to give something up to get something else. You can’t spend 100% of your time on your career and still have time to sleep, play, eat, be with friends and family. Uh uh. You can spend a portion of your day on your career, yes. Or you can spend all your waking time on your work, but what do you have to give up to maintain that? You lose those closest to you, have no time to learn, experience or just ‘be’.

And is that what you really want?

Recently I worked with someone who wanted to never be afraid again. We did an interesting exercise. “No fear?” I asked her. “Absolutely none?”

“Yes!” was her response.

I remember doing this exercise in a group setting which was a huge eye opener. This was the perfect time to try it out on her.

“OK”, I said. “There’s a jar on the shelf on the wall….it’s a special kind of place where there are jars holding just about anything and everything you could imagine. But you need to give me something to take something away. If you want to give me all your fear, what is it you want in return? But remember it has to be all of that, not just a small portion. And if you give me all your fear, remember you will never feel fear again, in any context…. any circumstance. Are you sure that’s what you want?”

She started to waffle. If she gave me all her fear, she wouldn’t have any defense mechanism if someone unsavory was approaching her on the street or if she was in danger, or being threatened in any way. We discussed that. Did she want absence of all of it?

We might think we spend ‘all our time’ on something, or want something so badly we lose focus of what it is we already have. Some take their lives for granted, financially, environmentally, and emotionally. And because of that, lose sight of what is important or precious. Focus is so acute on one goal, task or event, everything else gets left by the wayside. And once they open their eyes to what they’re throwing away (usually when it’s way too late to recapture it) only then do they realise how much they have given up.

Life’s lesson. You really can have anything. Ask yourself what you need to sacrifice to get it, what do you really really want for your life and what makes you feel alive. Then choose wisely.

Donna Karlin

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Two Ways to Live Your Life

"There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as if everything is."
  - Albert Einstein

I very recently began to correspond with someone who looks at life as something to be enjoyed but not taken for granted.  Quite a rarity.  In these times of rushing through days to the point where one’s focus is more on how to get through the day rather than enjoy and experience it, this perspective is so refreshing.

Once can’t catch up to life.  It changes moment by moment and we change along with it.  When we are truly present and mindful of all that’s around us, we learn and grow and move with life.  It’s taking everything we’ve learned in the past and building on it.  And as we live in the present we build a foundation for the future.

I learned a long time ago that one can’t mould life in a specific way without changing and bending with the serendipitous events of day to day living.  When we’re open to the possibilities of whatever the day may bring we can be touched with something so magical, it takes our breath away.  And for all those who rush from deadline to deadline, setting strict parameters on what is wanted without any thought to the unknown, so much can be missed.

If I could wish one thing for you it would be to not wake up each morning and treat it as just another day.  Instead, see it as a child with eyes wide open, taking the world in, in all its wonder.

Donna Karlin

Friday, July 23, 2004

Budget Crunch

I watch my clients struggle with budgets….budget meetings, templates, gathering information from staff as to what’s needed to “keep the lights on”. 

Important?  Yes. 

Staff hears this day after day and in some cases week after week.  The powers that be consistently come back with directions to cut further; create a “leaner” organization.  So again meetings take place and budgets are further trimmed.

First thing on the chopping block, training plans.  Staff is told both directly and indirectly that they’re growth isn’t as important as a piece of new software, new desks, lights, telephones.  Budgets are cut yet expectations of deliverables stay the same.  “Do more with less” they’re told. 

Knowledge in itself isn’t power.  Applied knowledge is.  People are the most valuable resource.  Without them what is the point of “keeping the lights on” and for whom exactly are those lights kept on?  People.

Who runs our computers, collects and shares that information and to what purpose?  Hopefully to make people’s lives better in some way.  Yet the people in an organization are the first to be discounted, ignored, burned out and held back. 

Leaders create an environment in which everyone has the opportunity to realise his potential capability.

"Learning is not compulsory... neither is survival." - W. Edwards Deming

To grow future leaders we must give them the opportunity to learn and expand their skills and knowledge.  Not only does cutting their training stem that flow, but the work overload assures the fact they’ll not have the time to do anything more than the same old same old nor the energy to pull themselves forward.

Organizational leaders meet to create strategic plans for the future.  Ask yourselves, without the human resources to implement the strategy, are you moving forward at all?  Who will your next leaders be, or will you get to the point where you’re ready to pass the baton on to the next player only to find he/she doesn’t exist?

Succession plans don’t solve these problems.  Making changes right now will.

"The goal of executive coaching is the goal of good management: To make the most of an organization's most valuable resources." – Harvard Business Review. 

The first step is showing your people they count.

Donna Karlin


Monday, July 19, 2004

The Future Created

“The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created--created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them, changes both the maker and the destination.” - John Schaar

When working with clients the first thing I ask them is, “If you invent your future (and they do) what will it look like and what did you do to get there? Not what will you do, but looking at it as having already happened, what choices did you make to invent your future? You don’t fall into what might be. You create it along the way.”

I’ve mentioned before how I rarely sit down with clients these days and work on long term goals. For most, it’s so far in the distance they can’t even “see” it. They talk about a dream they had way back when, don’t really have an idea how to go about making it a reality….and set (usually) unattainable goals for them to reach towards, later beating themselves up along the way because they hadn’t even started looking at those goals, never mind working towards them.

Life keeps getting in the way.

“I’ll take care of me when….” or “I’ll look at that when I have time….”

When will you slow down to the speed of life? What is happening right now? The future is created in the present. Ignore the present and there is nothing to build upon.

The same goes for one’s personal life. It’s not specific to professional goals. Many are so busy making money and progressing in their careers that they forget to live life. Your future is created based on the relationships and foundation you build as you go. Putting off the important people in your life will almost guarantee they won’t be there when you decide to pay attention to them. It’s presumptuous to imagine anyone will stand by and wait, giving up their lives for a time when you might remember, consider or take notice of them. It demeans them.

Look at what the future has in store for you based on what you’re doing right now. What is most important? What will your future look like? It is by choice….your choice. Choose wisely.

Donna Karlin