Thursday, April 29, 2004

Unwanted Houseguests

Everyone's nightmare....Uninvited houseguests who come, make themselves at home and don't leave until they're literally evicted.

Such was the life in this house for the past week or so. Which, by the way, is why there's been such a long gap since I've written. And no....I'm not a miserable hostess. I'm talking about a raccoon who came, had her family and decided to stay awhile, in my roof may I add, and in the process tried to destroy the house. Fun? NO! And if I never have an experience like this again it'll be too soon. I was relating the week's events to a friend this evening and she was having the time of her life snickering about that (thanks Deb...don't worry, there's always payback : )

What I was reminded of was there are wonderful people in this world, many who helped me out tremendously. And I can't thank them enough. From the amazing technicians from AAA Wildlife Control to the insurance company, adjuster, contractor and handyman, they all came through quickly and with all the support they could possibly have given. And a few days and absolutely no sleep later, it's amazing to see how much damage one little animal can do. So major work ahead and all, there's something about knowing a professional is there to take the weight off your shoulders and help you through the chaos of something this unexpected happening, to make me realise that this world really is a wonderful place with special people in it. We hear about all the terrible ones in the paper and on the news. And most you hear about in conversation are those who cheated someone out of something or treated another badly, but rarely do you hear about those who have been supportive and there for you, above and beyond the call of duty. So many thanks to Gary, Kevin and John and the two great receptionists at AAA, David the adjuster and my friend Deb who reminded me I should laugh about something she calls "Right out of a Stephen King novel" (she's should have seen the raccoon try to rip off the roof and the siding, soffit, eavestroughing and pretty much everything else she could get her paws on. It really could have been one of his books! I'll laugh when I stop shaking thank you very much.)

I know this is just beginning because the work has to start and that alone will be hellish, but knowing I have the right people in the right place, doing what they do best is all I need to keep the sanity. I hope I never have to deal with anything like this again and learn to sleep without listening for outside crashes. But what this did do was reminded me of the basic goodness of people we come across every day. And one day I might not fantasize about Davy Crocket's hat and how I wish....OK...just kidding. I really am an animal lover but would prefer to keep the inside ones to Golden Retrievers.

Much to be thankful for.

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The Process of Learning

This past week I was back in a classroom setting......different than the last time I was in "school". There were so many flashbacks of my time at McGill University. First of all I was a block and a half from where I finished off my program at McGill, almost 30 years ago. Every day as I braved the Montreal traffic and drivers, never mind the roadways (more about that in a moment) I passed the Music Faculty where I'd practiced hours upon hours, day after day. One day melded into the next with no weekends or mornings or evenings. In order to get enough practice room time, we were there pretty much around the clock, or until the next door dorm residents would throw us out (we were percussionists after all). Each morning as I drove past the regal Queen Victoria Hall, I'd smile with memories of way back when, forgetting the cut-throat competitiveness of musicians wanting to be the ones picked as the elimination process took place semester after semester.

Now I was an adult, back in my home town, entering a realm I was at home in....well practiced......and eager to learn more.

To digress for a moment, driving through the streets of Montreal is pretty much like being trained for an RCMP licence. You not only have to avoid drivers going up a one-way street the wrong way, those making a right turn from the left lane, cutting me off in the process, pedestrians walking against lights, stepping off the curve in front of me as I rushed through the downtown core and pot holes the size of small towns (deserving of their own postal codes). My brother coined it perfectly. It's like driving through a war zone where streets look like they've been bombed. It's an obstacle course.

Class itself was amazing. There's no other way to put it. I was surrounded by knowledge. The main facilitator/teacher has about 36 published books under his belt, teaches and works all over the world and is the President of the school from which I'll receive my graduate level certification in Industrial/Organizational Psychology (focusing on Executive Coaching). There were many with their PhD's and Masters Degrees, though none had the years of experience I have. It was fascinating sharing perspectives and insights and I (patting myself on the back for a moment) am still feeling honoured that Bill, our esteemed teacher told the rest that they should have an opportunity to be coached by me as it's an experience not to be missed. So I found myself coaching non-stop, which turned into sharing the teaching as Observational Coaching came to play. I have more hours with that model than pretty much anyone. What I loved most was hearing their perspectives and using them to create yet another process and model for me to take back to my clients. In the 40 hours or so of experiential learning I was able to hone my Coaching skills and practice them on professionals. Not easy. They gave me a run for my money but I gave it back to them in spades. The way I look at it, it doesn't matter how much experience one has. You can always learn more and when I get to the point where I feel I know all there is, that's the time I want my friends and colleagues to give me a swift kick. There is always more to learn.....and everyone knows something I don't know which I can learn if I only listen.

Now it's again going back to the past in having to do a Practicum and write up a case study. Writing a paper. I never thought I'd be doing that again. Never say never (I have to remind myself of that). I look forward to choosing my client and starting that journey. It will most probably be a high level executive in the Yukon as they've requested the opportunity. In this wonderful age of technology, between the telephone and computers we can be halfway across the world and still have a close working relationship. And when I do go up there to meet my client it will be an experience I'm sure I'll never forget.

And through this experience I've met the most wonderful people who I hope to collaborate with and share what it is we learned, taking it with us on the next part of our journey. It's not easy going back to school no matter how long or short the course. But it is so fulfilling and made me realise how much I still want to learn, experience and grow.

Here's to what's to come!
Donna Karlin

Monday, April 12, 2004

When Will Life Stop Being a Struggle?

A question I hear often, along with many others. "When will I finally have time for me...for my life? When will I be successful?" or "When will I know true happiness?"

I know my answers will be controversial and cause reactions. Good. If I'm pushing your buttons in any way it means you should be looking at why I might be making you angry.

You will know true happiness when you choose the good in every day rather than the bad. You will know it when you live it, share it and give instead of having expectations of what you'll get. As soon as you approach life with the attitude "What's in it for me?" rather than "What is it I can give that will make a difference?" you'll have a difficult time of finding happiness, for it will be conditional upon others, circumstances and everything that's outside of your control. When will you have time for you? for your life? As soon as you take it. I watch clients and friends work 16 to 18 hour days and never seem to 'catch up'. They come into work tired in the morning and leave so exhausted they can't think straight. And then they lament the good ole days when things were easier, pressure wasn't there, and there were family values. There was a sense of family, period.

Everything you experience you create because of the choices you make. Your life is divided into past, present and future. No one can bring your past back nor can they predict the future. You can either dream of a time that won't happen again or make choices right now that will create a life you love, now and in the future. I believe many are angry at the rat race, not so much because of what the world has become, but because they're angry at themselves for not choosing to do something about it, as far as their life goes at any rate. We want more and better for our kids and future generations but if all we teach them is no work/life balance, how are they supposed to know better?

Change begins now. And if begins with making one choice at a time. Through choice brings freedom. I live in a society that allows the tremendous gift of free choice. Many don't. If we don't exercise those rights it's taking a precious gift and throwing it down the drain. We teach by example. When we choose happiness, life, giving, rather than receiving we teach living. That's what I want to teach my son and for him to pass it on to his children in the future. We talk about it often and he sees how I live and what I live and to him, in his words, that was the best lesson of all.

I started on my own from scratch more times than I care to remember. Circumstances threw many monkey wrenches my way. It never occurred to me that I would fail. And no matter how hard I work (though I love my work so much it's more like play) I will never give up time with family, friends and those most important to me. Nothing is worth that.

My two cents for the day. And before you start with all the comments and excuses telling me I'm oversimplifying things, and "in my life things are different..." take that anger and energy and turn it into "How can I make what I want happen?" instead.

Donna Karlin

Friday, April 09, 2004

Are You Past, Present or Future Oriented?

That is a question I ask all my clients and friends alike. How many of you live in the past and why? Is it because you are so disillusioned with the present that you revert to a time when there was far less stress and responsibility? For some it's dwelling in a time where they had someone to blame for everything that didn't go right in their lives and now they have only themselves to blame. For others, it's because their future doesn't seem very bright and they look back to a time when they were truly happy.

Regardless, as Richard Carlson says "You can't have a better past. You can only have the past you have". And it's just that. It's a time that's long gone. You can have a better present and future. Yes, I believe you can build on your past experiences...learn from mistakes, take the feelings you had then for those same reasons and share them with your children, family and friends. Someone very special to me helped me choose the name of my company. He is one of the smartest, insightful people I know. I was going to call it "A New Perspective" and when I shared that with him, he told me new isn't always better. Sometimes going back to the old ways of doing things is. So the name became, "A Better Perspective".

I watch as my clients race frantically through the day trying to play catch-up. And they never do catch up. I watch as competition gets fiercer by the moment and rather than working with people, most find their little islands and domains and try to protect them at all costs, both personally and organizationally. I watch many approach retirement and rather than plan and look forward to the time ahead, they push it out of their minds because they have no one to share it with or nothing special to look forward to, calling it a 'series of weekends' that never ends. Statistics are frightening for retirees collecting pensions, mostly because a good percentage don't live long enough to collect them.

So rather than taking all your energy and wishing you could 'go back', make choices to create a future that you love. Live the present to the fullest. Don't push those most important to you aside thinking they'll be there when you finally have time to notice. Show them you value them now and share your vision for the future with them. Create it....anticipate it. And live it. If you live in and are 'in' the present, the future will take care of itself. If you live in the past or future the 'right now' disappears and tomorrow turns out to be the same as yesterday. Nothing changes except the evaporation of time. Take back control of it and spend it wisely. There are no refunds of time. What's gone is gone, so make sure that time has given you something to smile about, from the inside out.

Donna Karlin

Friday, April 02, 2004

When Are You Most Creative?

It was a question that was indirectly posed to me this week and got me thinking. So I decided to write a blog around it, hoping for some input and comments from you to create a dialogue (that's what that wonderful comment link is for by the way).

Most people will tell me they need some quiet time to create and in the course of an insane day, they never have the time to get to what they want to do. Others tell me they're pumped only when they have others to bounce ideas off of, or are in the midst of a chaotic time when their thought processes are fine tuned and churning out creative solutions.

Just for the record, and based on the people I work with, it's usually a combination of the two. They're pumped when challenged and looking for a creative way out; solutions to the challenges not only escape. And then they need the quiet isolation to get a plan of action together to make it happen. If it's writing and creating resource material I find the best ideas come to me when I'm working with a client, see their perspectives on issues and go from there. After all it's what pushes their buttons that needs brainstorming on....not mine. There is something valid about the expression 'Two heads are better than one' and in my mind, it grows exponentially when there are three, four, five, 25 and 100. Which is why I have a blog, a collaborative of Coaches I work with and am part of an international R & D group. No matter what field you're in, if you want to be innovative and creative, become a part of an R & D group. When discussing subjects put on the virtual table, even if you're brainstorming about someone else's subject, it inevitably reflects on something you're living at the time anyway. So listen. See how it can apply to what you need and start those creative juices flowing.

And if you can't find an R & D group you like, create your own. Use friends, colleagues, clients, anyone who can help you put ideas together in a form that will help them all in the long run. Besides which, everyone likes to be asked for an opinion or perspective. Give them the chance. I learn an incredible amount from my clients. They might be technology experts or architects, medical practitioners or HR specialists. I don't have to be in their field to help them move forward in their lives. But while I am working with them, the learning curve is a steep one. And in learning, I can give more to the next client and the one after.

So to ask the question again, when are you most creative? How are you creative? What do you need to create, to expand your horizons, learn something new you never in your wildest dreams ever thought you might be interested in? And in addition to that, what about yourself would you like to change and enhance, having no idea where to start? All it takes is that first question and then the sky's the limit.

Donna Karlin