Sunday, February 22, 2004

The Many Faces of Silence

Silence is not a word most would consider to have many meanings. And if you plug it into a dictionary it would say 'stillness' and yet there are so many other meanings.....quiet, calm, secrecy, uncommunicativeness.

For one who wants to show respect it can mean taking that moment of silence to remember. For some, silence, by choice, is letting the world in....stopping long enough to let your entire being take a deep breath. For one in an abusive relationship, silence can be a first.....and then it's a source of anxiety as you wait for the explosion to hit. And for one who has given their heart to that special person, silence can come close to breaking that heart as there's nothing more hurtful than being ignored.

It all depends on perspective, situation and experience. For some it's's choosing to slow down the pace of a hectic life and just be. For others it's the calm before the storm and not knowing when that storm will hit, keeps them on edge, counteracting all possible benefits of the silence. And alternatively, silence from the one most important to you cuts sharper than any words spoken in anger. It creates a void.

I watch people as they react to experiences, interactions and change in their lives. What hit me, though I had no trouble understanding it, was out of all these interactions, the one they reacted the most to was silence.

Charles deGaulle said "Silence is the ultimate weapon of power." And when you look at how powerfully it can affect another person, I think he's right.

It all stems from respect. If you give respect, you'll get it in return. And if you ignore a person as if they're inconsequential, then you show no respect at all. Something to think about and act upon the next time you decide to use it as a weapon of power instead of a tool to heal.

Donna Karlin

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Living Out of Your Imagination

It's no longer enough to just go with the flow in life. In my experience that translates to a great deal of discontent where people tend to make rash decisions, leave long time jobs for the unknown and are rarely happier in the change. I'm not talking about the ones with a vision for their future and what they want to accomplish in the years they have left in the workforce, making changes to accommodate that vision. I'm speaking of those who have no enthusiasm, feel neglected, moving along with next to no guidance or leadership. They are the ones who change jobs for the sake of change rather than focusing on what they can change within their realm of control to add passion and purpose to their days. The grass is always greener, or so they think.

It's all in your head. It's there if you take the time to look for it. Everyone has a unique talent or expertise. One gets bored when they don't have a chance to let those talents "come out and play". What do you want to do when you grow up? What do you want to accomplish, learn, create, try for the sake of trying? Years from now, when you're ready to retire, what will friends and colleagues say about your contributions? When you use your imagination to create what is not yet there, you will have the passion to get out and do what has to be done. It will light a fire in you that will guide your decision-making, give you that unmistakable energy that is contagious and everyone will want to jump on the bandwagon. When you live from your dreams and imagination you have the determination to move forward and bypass any obstacles that might be standing in your way. Nothing will stop you. No one will want to.

Most of us lead more meaningful lives than we realize. Often finding meaning isn't about doing things differently, rather it's about seeing everyday familiar things in a new way.

Donna Karlin

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Is Life Worth Living?

The other day I received an email from someone I "met" (not in person but through letters) through my blog. The question was..."I think life is worth living. What do you say?" Now the question didn't end there. That would have been too easy. I could have answered intellectually however that went out the window because he added "I look forward to hear the flow of your answer from the bottom of your heart."

It was no longer hypothetical or third person. He was asking me. Given that, it was still a fairly easy question for me to answer. (And I'd love to hear your answers as well). And as easy as it was for me to send a response, it still took a great deal of thought as life is never to be taken lightly, nor are the choices we make in life.

My immediate thought was "Life is meant to be celebrated". Existing day to day is not living life. It's going through the motions numb to whatever is happening around us. I made a conscious choice years ago not to let that happen any more. That meant making major changes, including pruning my life of toxic relationships. It was like living a slow emotional death, so subtle that I hardly noticed.....until it was pointed out to me by a dear friend.

Even well meaning friends and family threw in their two cents, trying to make me see that "This is what life is. And you learn to live with it". I refused to. Life isn't settling. It's shooting for your dreams. Settling isn't living. That's coping. Life is too precious a gift to take for granted (as are the special people in our lives). Many struggle for that right. Once I was gifted with it, what would that say to those whose safety and basic right to live is threatened?

So it's celebrating each day in my life as well as the people in it. Home isn't a place. It's what you carry inside you. It's who you're with that matters. Living life is what your choices determine.....every single day.

Donna Karlin

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Stop the World I Want to Get Off

"Slow down and enjoy life. It's not the only the scenery you miss by going too also miss the sense of where you are going and why." - Eddie Cantor

Just yesterday I was talking about technology in this fast-paced world and how 'people' are forgotten. They're not always treated as human beings. Rather, because they're accessible wherever they are with their Blackberrys and Palms and cell phones....they're expected to perform as machines. This particular organization never stops. It's chaotic in an organised way ....tight deadlines (and I mean really tight) need for organisational flow and interaction so information can get to where it has to be, quickly and effectively. One glitch sets everyone off target. This is daily. And within a day, many times over. Blackberrys are ringing constantly, emails flying back and forth across the globe, which brings its own challenges as far as deadlines and stress factors go. People working there barely get time for a break. Coffee, when they have a chance to get some, grows cold as the desks these cups are set on remain empty as people rush around compiling the information needed for the next deadline. And lunch? Rarely does this group have a chance to grab something and when they remember, it's to bring back to eat at the desk, sometimes over a course of hours as it lays forgotten while the next crisis is averted.

Years ago (I know...I sound just like my parents) before computers, cell phones and even convenient long distance connections, things seemed to work just fine. It might have taken a bit longer to get things done, but overall, people had lives. They took lunch breaks, got home at a reasonable hour, didn't wake up before the crack of dawn to and come home well after the sun had set. There was such a thing as family dinners. Home life is being sacrificed for the sake of work. Somehow priorities have gotten screwed up. This isn't an exception. This is becoming the rule. More and more I hear how people are sacrificing their personal lives more than ever for their jobs. And yes, challenge is good and gets your adrenaline pumping. Health suffers, relationships suffer and at the end of the day you might have made some money in the process but at what cost?

My roles in these instances are to get the process working as well at it can so the flow is there, minimizing stress. And to help my clients focus on their priorities. And while I'm in there my life is as crazy as theirs'. But I can leave and take time off after the fact. So it balances out. And they can use me as a sounding board to vent and create and work on what needs change. Bottom line is, they are the ones that have to take a step back and slow their world down. When the pace is this fast, one is in reactive mode and very little strategic thinking takes place. And as the quote says, you miss a sense of where you're going and what the reason behind it is.

Ask yourself what it is you want for your life, both professionally and personally. Make it happen. Reacting just makes time fly by without conscious decision or choice. And before you know it, life has flown by. There is no going back.

Donna Karlin

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Not Reinventing the Wheel

Don't try to reinvent the wheel. If someone else always seems to be ahead, watch and learn from them. If someone else has a faster and more efficient way of doing something, learn from it and model your own work accordingly. If you're having trouble getting specific jobs done, ask others who are in the same boat if they have any tricks of the trade to show you. Maybe you've overlooked some shortcuts, though remember, cutting corners is not always the quickest way to go, especially if you forget a key part and have to do everything over. It's working smarter, not harder and admitting that someone else might know better.

"You know you've achieved perfection in design,
not when you have nothing more to add,
but when you have nothing more to take away."
- Antoine de Saint Exupery

Simplify. Get rid of the clutter so you can look at your priorities and make clear decisions. Once you've gotten rid of everything that distracts, takes your mind off the job or goal at hand..... you can create the path that moves you forward. Part of that clutter is observing those around you....their successes and ways of being. When you remove judgment and no longer believe your way is the only way....only then can you learn and do 'it' better......better for you and everyone around you.

One of my pet peeves is when I hear someone say "Been there, done that. I've tried everything there is." My first response is "Everything? or is it everything you thought of?" Have you opened your mind to the possibility that someone else might have a way that works better? And isn't it a feather in your cap to realise you are taking the best of all the ideas around you, getting rid of the ones that don't resonate, making something work, rather than living with the belief that change is impossible? Which shows you as a leader?

If I were hiring or choosing my team, I know who I'd choose and it isn't the "know-it-all" It's the person who admits to not having all the answers, knows who has them and, if not, is willing to find them.

Donna Karlin

Friday, February 06, 2004


It occurred to me this morning as I was writing a letter to someone much too far away, how I've come full circle when it comes to writing pretty much anything. I used to look at my son when he could sit down at the computer and just write, whether a poem or prose, to a school paper, all of which would blow me away. It comes so naturally to him.

When I wrote my food column, creating the recipes that went into it was never the problem. It was that small opening paragraph that would make me cringe every time deadline approached. It got easier the more I did it (OK so I wrote for 15 years...practice DOES make better.... I'm not going to say perfect....eventually : ) And then a good friend who was probably the catalyst to me moving in this professional direction in my life, encouraged me to put my thoughts down on paper, or computer, to write anything and everything. Encouragement turned into him challenging me to send something every day, no matter what the subject as long as it was written from my heart. If I was writing for the sake of writing then there was no point.

In order for me to do that, I had to use all my senses, not just visual stimuli. It was no longer writing about dawn as the sun came up, it was describing the colours of the sky, the scent of the air and its temperature. And in doing this, would reawaken my senses to the wonders of the world in which I live. There's nothing as stimulating as having your senses come alive, whether because of a special person in your life or life's experiences. It turns the ordinary into the extraordinary.

So for clients I encourage them to journal....and I give them one to start with. For those of you who are reading this, I ask you, when is the last time you wrote, for you, to that special someone in your life, to a family member or friend. And to take it one step further, when is the last time you wrote (not typed) a letter or card, or added your own thoughts to that perfect greeting card? Seeing your name hand written by someone special in your life gives you an entirely different jolt than seeing his or her name on the email list. Yes, it takes time and forethought. But those are keepers....very rare in this day and age of technology.

Write...type.....remove constraints of sentence order and content. Put thoughts to words. See if they resonate within you.'s an extension of who you are, what you feel and how you process and relate to the everyday experiences in your life and the people that fill it. Keep it for you or share it with someone you trust with your feelings. writing you become reacquainted with life. It's an incredible feeling!

Donna Karlin

Tuesday, February 03, 2004


def. That quality of mind which enables one to encounter danger and difficulties with firmness, or without fear, or fainting of heart; valor; boldness; resolution.

I see courage regularly in my work and personal life. I'm not always sure the people I interact with on a daily basis see it as I do.....and my wish is that they do; that they empower themselves with the knowledge they might have fears but don’t let them stand in their way of succeeding and leading.

There are those who look at their life, decide they don’t like what they’ve become and take the steps necessary to change that. That takes a, incredible amount of courage. When you look at people who have to deal with crises in their lives, the adrenaline kicks in and most often they deal with what comes their way without conscious thought...purely by instinct and only after realise the depth of their actions.

But it’s those who consciously look life in the face and bravely take the steps to better it that I’m talking about here. The saying that fear of the known is much better than fear of the unknown. At least you know what you’re dealing with. So if your life isn’t going exactly as you’d dreamed about, well, "Perfect lives don’t happen in the every day world so I’ll make the best of it" attitude comes into play. The person who turns around and says "I don’t like where I’m going. I am not happy and choose to do something about it" jumping in with both feet, well they’re the ones who demonstrate courage by choice.

It doesn’t mean you have to quit your job tomorrow, or leave the partner that didn’t turn out to be everything you’ve read in story books. What it is that I’m saying is, whatever isn’t working in your life, if you choose not to do anything about it, that’s up to you, however don’t expect change to happen by virtue of an imaginary magic wand. It takes guts to make life-altering changes. For those who have, I hope you’ve celebrated those choices no matter the outcome. Making the choice in the first place is courageous in itself and there’s nothing to say you can’t learn from it and make another choice later on.

It’s having the resolve to look at the possibilities and incorporate them into a life of your choosing, translating into a life where you attract what you want into it, eliminating what you don’t want. When you’re able to do that, have the courage to take that first step, you’ll no longer need freedom of those things you no longer want. They won’t be there in the first place.

Hats off to you! Making every day choices is much more difficult that those made in critical situations. The latter is what’s heaped on you and you deal with them with whatever you have at your disposal. The first is taking a step back and saying "I will change what’s not working and make my life better". It’s not as many will suggest in the guise of friendly advice, making the best of it. It’s choosing what’s best for you.

Wishing you just that...
Donna Karlin