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

Friday, July 16, 2004

Beware of what you ask for because you just might get it…..

Years ago I was interviewed by Fast Company Magazine on just this subject and yesterday, responding to a thread in a coaching forum I frequent this came back to me.  Many of my clients don’t bring me in because they want to get a promotion or learn to be leaders, rather they bring me in to work with them because they’ve gotten the promotion, are leaders, and are extremely unhappy because for them the haunting questions are “Is this all there is?  What now?”
Here they are, successful, at the top of the ladder….a place they’ve strived to attain all their working lives.  They have the house, the vacation house or two, make six or seven figure salaries, have the cars, can take time off when they want, are the decision makers and….. 
Now they have no vision for their future, no dream to work towards.  They’re there.  They have few if any allies in the workplace as they’re as high up as one can go.  Their friends aren’t interested in hearing how miserable they are.  After all, here’s a person who has reached his or her highest dream, is there….the picture of success, something few ever attain.  And they’re miserable?  Who would be interested in listening to that when they’re struggling to pay the bills, squeeze in a few days holiday here and there and then have to figure out a way to pay for it the rest of the year.  They’re going to want to hear complaining? I think not.
And thus starts a downwards spiral.
A favourite quote in this instance comes from Dale Carnegie when he said
“Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get."
They are not always one in the same.
And for some, the reverse is true.  I’ve spoken to clients more times than I can count who tell me how they want their boss’s job or to be promoted to EX level.  My first question is usually “Why?”  I want to know why they want that promotion and what they see their life looking like when they get it.  There are ramifications to all choices even those that look great on paper.  But what responsibility and life changes come from that choice?  Some answer to the effect that they want to move upwards because everyone else thinks they should.  And more than you can believe don’t want that promotion after all.  They’re happy with their lifestyle, income and level of responsibility the way it is.  It’s not a matter of work ethic or drive in our competitive society.  Rather it’s keeping that work/life balance and knowing when to say stop and enjoy life as it is.
I’ll leave you with a short story about a fisherman which I think says it brilliantly….
An American tourist was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.
Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The tourist complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.
The Mexican replied, "Only a little while."
The tourist then asked, "Why didn't you stay out longer and catch more fish?"
The Mexican said, "With this I have more than enough to support my family's needs."
The tourist then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"
The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life."
The tourist scoffed, " I can help you. You should spend more time fishing; and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat: With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor; eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You could leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles and eventually New York where you could run your ever-expanding enterprise."
The Mexican fisherman asked, "But, how long will this all take?"
The tourist replied, "15 to 20 years."
"But what then?" asked the Mexican.
The tourist laughed and said, "That's the best part. When the time is right you would sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions."
"Millions?...Then what?"
The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."
Wishing you the best of life….
Donna Karlin

Friday, July 09, 2004

Looking Within Myself

The other day I asked two colleagues if they would read my case study and critique it before I submitted it. They agreed to happily, without a moment’s pause and really gave of themselves, as they always do, to help me look at what I’d written from all perspectives. Leave it to two other Coaches to ask a gazillion questions along the way : ) I got way more than I could have hoped for. Not so much for the feedback which in itself was fantastic, but for the self-awareness it brought.

One thing that came to mind, was how I am so focused on my clients and their growth, speed of learning, challenges and victories they experience every day, that I don’t realise the impact coaching others has on me, and how much I learn from it.

Today it really hit me. I was in a strategy and debriefing meeting with 4 clients and when I shared with their boss my own feedback about facilitating a retreat with them all, it occurred to me how I rarely see myself in the context of learning and being coached, especially as I am the Coach.

When I was talking to her after the meeting (and subsequently shared this with one of the group as well), I learned how a collaborative partnership between a Coach and willing client goes way past the coaching experience, level of newfound awareness and growth. For me it was the realization of how they trust me absolutely. This group puts themselves in my hands, no matter how many buttons I push or bizarre exercises I ask them to participate in. They do it, knowing they will learn from it. Oh they tease me to death and know the unusual is the usual when it comes to working with me, but they do it and do it happily and can’t wait to share the results afterwards.

So now I have to learn to balance being mindful of my clients as I shadow and coach them through their day, as well as myself and how these new insights can enrich the experience for us both.

Thank you Danielle and Sylvie……you did it again….opening my eyes to what I was missing! A Shadow being shadowed….even long distance. Working with you is like “looking through a wide-angle lens that lets you see the entire forest, not just the one tree limb you walked up on.”

So of course, as I sit here translating that to various scenarios….I wonder how you would all benefit if you let your colleagues shadow or observe you in various situations and help you become aware of what’s right under your nose. Just how powerful would that be?

.........a deep in thought, wishing you the best…
Donna Karlin

Friday, July 02, 2004

What is life?

"What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset." Crowfoot

I love this quote. I keep seeing new things in it. It's not tangibles.....has nothing whatsoever to do with money earned, material possessions, where you live or what you do. It has to do with what is, not what's always in our control. This quote also says to me that life is fleeting, so we have to treat time as the treasure.....not throw it away.

I feel very fortunate. The work I do gives people awareness.....possibilities for change by choice. It allows them to reach for the sky but at the same time celebrate what they already have. It's not chasing rainbows. It's embracing the magic at the end of them. Years ago (as I shared with you before) I decided to prune my life of toxic relationships....those which sucked me dry of energy.....those that made me feel used and discarded. Now I give of my time and energy because I choose to. That in itself energizes me.

Once in a while I find myself pulled down by someone who wants to take control of me and compartmentalize who I am. I can't even do that as I continue to grow and morph into a new person every day. That comes with learning. It's knowledge, skills, and life choices that teach me day by day. The best thing Thomas could ever have shared with me was the concept of ‘Attraction’....choosing what you want in your life as opposed to falling into a life. If I'm not happy with my choice, I have only myself to blame. Recently I made a choice that started sucking me dry of energy. Almost like that voice on the other end of the phone....when you hear it after you've said hello, you close your eyes and wish yourself a thousand miles away rather than listen to complaints, criticisms, or gossip. It can happen on the phone, through email, where everything you say is turned back on you.

What I learned over time, was that once you let go of the rope there is no more tug of war. Why would I want to interact with someone who decided they knew exactly why I said things, do things, knew what it is I wanted (or so they thought) without asking and then judged you based on their own preconceived ideas?

How many of you have people in your lives that do just that? And you go back for more. That's the part that boggles my mind. Today I had an "AHHA!" awareness that I was allowing the same thing to happen to me and put a stop to it. I love my life. I am blessed with wonderful family, friends and clients. I'm at the stage where I don't take on clients I know won't be a good fit with me. Unless I approach them from a position of energy and enthusiasm, I am no good to them. If they're there to do battle with me, I would just as soon let them battle someone else. As hard as I work, and lately that's an understatement, I take time for life as well, meeting friends for dinner, having them drop over for coffee, a walk or just a chat on the phone. My vow has been that work never consumes my time at the price of living life. I choose life and laughter and the company of those I love....just as I choose not to take that time and throw it away on those who want to mold me into their idea of who I am or should be....not mine.

There isn’t a work me and a private me. I am who I am and bring both to the table in both realms of my life. A vow I made today was to take more notice of those fireflies, shadows and fleeting moments that would shape my life for years to come. It will be learning how to say “No” with more ease….”No”, because it’s not what I want or what’s good for me, and to remember to celebrate the freedom to be me that choice gives me.

May many “AHHAs” enlighten you to find your own place in a life you create……a life you love…….

Donna Karlin