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
http://oneword.com 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…..how 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