Have you ever had something nagging in the back of your mind that is not so strong as to be hushed, but also not so quiet as to be ignored? I think that niggling (or whatever you might call it) has been my constant companion for a few years. Just to be clear, when I use the word niggling, I don’t mean worrisome, more like persistent.
I found this quote in a blog called That Niggling Thought, it gives voice to what I’m endeavouring to say.
Sometimes a thought returns so incessantly it needs to be investigated. Learning to listen and to simply be open to trying is more challenging than we’d like.
My niggling thought? Should I write a book? Of course, along with the idea has always come an inner dialogue with the potential to fast track me onto a roller coaster of reasoning that only a strategic thinker could conceive.
But, what if I did? What would it be about? Would anyone want to read it? Would anyone pay to read it? What if no one did read it, would it have been a waste of time and money? But…what if I did and it ended up being an encouragement to others? Perhaps even insightful? What if it made them laugh, or cry? What if it provided an enjoyable read as they relaxed on some spectacular beach overlooking the ocean on a warm summer’s day? Ok, that’s maybe going too far. But…what if?
Sometimes you just need to open that unknown door, and do it! That’s exactly where my niggling has led me.
If you’ve been following my blogs for a while, you’ll know that my husband and I spent several months in Portugal and Spain while I was on an extended study leave from teaching HR and Management at Okanagan School of Business in Kelowna, BC, Canada. We expected it to be an adventure, and it was. We expected it to be a learning experience, and it was. We expected it to be amazing, and it was. We didn’t expect it to be filled with many challenges and shall we say, growth opportunities. But it was!
The years of niggling finally provided both the impetus and inspiration to write a memoir, which I did. Having finally submitted it to a publisher, a whole new learning journey begins.
I invite you to share in this journey with me. Hopefully it will be both informational and inspirational. Hopefully you’ll pay attention to whatever is niggling at you and step through that door to adventure and learning. And hopefully you’ll share your experiences of following the niggling.
The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware before we started to write. To write is to embark on a journey whose final destination we do not know.
Make it easier to follow the journey by having the blogs arrive directly in your in-box. Simply subscribe below (and unsubscribe anytime you wish)
Hello all! No, I have not fallen off the face of the earth, haven’t gone to live on some deserted island, nor moved to a secluded cabin deep in the woods. I’ve been busy! More about that in a moment.
Christmas is now in the rear view mirror. It was truly lovely. So very different from last year in Portugal…equally lovely, but so different. This Christmas, my husband and I decided to make up for missing out on the many Christmas celebrations and traditions so common to our past experience. The month of December found us exploring our own city, Kelowna, BC, Canada, and the many events it offered. Our hearts were filled while enjoying an uplifting concert by Spectrum, one of our amazing local audition choirs, were touched by the words and music from The Messiah, did the proud grandparent thing as our baby grandson had his first stage appearance as baby Jesus in a church pageants, celebrated local artisans as they displayed their wares at the many Christmas markets all the while walking around with a mug of locally made mulled wine. It was wonderful.
Then the cold hit! We literally went from -1 C, blue sky with sun shining on Dec 14th to -25 C a week later! Just reminding us we were back home in Canada. You can imagine how many conversations we had that started with, “Remember this time last year when we were walking on the beach in Albufeira?” While it did warm up for a crisp Christmas Day walk, we certainly weren’t running into the ocean for a dip as we did the previous year!
It is amazing how much you don’t know about your hometown unless you intentionally go looking. We have lived in Kelowna since 1987, but have never spent time exploring the downtown area with its unique shops and cafés. So that’s exactly what we did the week before Christmas. We still had a couple of gifts to purchase, so we got in the car and drove the short 5km to explore new territory. It was so much fun.
We started with coffee (of course) at a café I had been to a couple of years previous, but it was new to my husband. Pulp Fiction is a coffee shop with personality…you must go visit their website and check it out. Honestly, I have no idea why I never returned there! We loved the vibe; the place was full, some folks visiting, others reading, several working on their laptops…the hum of people doing life was delicious.
From there we walked across the street to Olive and Elle, another delightful shop worth checking out for their unique and high quality home decor, adorable baby ‘stuff’, among other lovelies.
The third shop we visited was down right dangerous…in the very best way possible! Textile Apparel, I had no idea what it was, sells clothes you just want to live in! Natural fabrics, Canadian made, funky but classic…and right on our doorstep! I had no intention of purchasing anything that day, after all, we were suppose to be finishing up our Christmas shopping, but I couldn’t resist.
Have you ever had a garment in mind that you knew you’d love but couldn’t find it anywhere? That’s what happened. A long, wool coat, forest green, my size…how could I resist! I tried it on and it was love at first sight. It is now hanging in my closet, ready for me to adorn every opportunity possible. It was a good day.
We explored and discovered more places that day, but I’ll leave it there for now.
Back to the start of this post and my busyness. This wasn’t necessarily activity based, but more creative. You see, I knew back in 2019 that I wanted to go on an extended study leave for 2021/2022. I also anticipated that it would be an adventure of a lifetime that would both inspire and stretch me. That’s when I started writing a memoir that would capture the journey from inception to completion.
For the past few months I have been focused on completing the manuscript, having it beta read, and finally, submitted to a publisher just yesterday. I’m sure you see what I mean by being creatively busy! This was a huge step for me…scary, exciting, and just unbelievable! It will be published, and I hope and pray it will also sell and be read…but that’s totally out of my control.
It will be a few months before it’s ready to promote and sell, I’ll keep you posted.
For now, I plan on continuing to blog and share my learnings from life and travel.
Hope you’ll keep joining me.
Would you like my blogs delivered directly to your mail box? Happy to accommodate!
I’m happy to introduce my guest blogger, someone who is also a traveller, learner, and always curious about life. And, he is passionate about coffee! Welcome to Probe and Ponder, Nathan Sawatzky (yup, my son 😁)Nathan has just launched his newest blog site…check it out!
I was a partner at Starbucks (on and off) for six years. It took me three tries to get a job, and after my first stint with Starbucks, I was let go before my probation period was up. I’m pretty sure I was a great barista, but I was young and probably had things to learn. This experience was the first of many formational experiences that I would receive at Starbucks.
A YEAR LATER, when I joined again, I was trained by a store manager named Jamie, who used to sing to the customers in line. They loved him, and I learned so much from him. He embodied the third space , and he deeply loved coffee! I learned from him how contagious a love for coffee was, and still to this day, I love sharing my passion for coffee, making a french press for friends and coworkers, and then just talking through what we taste in the coffee.
I spent a couple of years working in a mall where, after we introduced Frappuccino’s to the world, that’s all anyone wanted. We were blending coffee, and at this very busy mall kiosk, I learned how little time I had to make an impact on someone’s day. I learned how critical 30 seconds can be, and I learned how to make the most of those 30 seconds. At every opportunity, I shared my favourite coffee, I would joke about what was happening in the world, and I watched customer after customer smile as they left our kiosk (except for the one lady I congratulated for being pregnant, I learned never to do that again).
Eventually, I became a supervisor and learned how to balance operations with inspiration. I may not have been the quickest closer, but I’m confident that those on shift with me felt fulfilled after their shifts. Here I learned that leadership was more than just being inspirational and charismatic; it was also being the person who would work harder and take on the tasks no one else wanted.
My last post at Starbucks was as part of a team that opened a high-volume store with a drive-through. I was exhausted after every shift, but by that point in my time at Starbucks, I got to spend a lot of time training new partners, and I loved it! It wasn’t as common to have managers who loved coffee as much as Jamie did anymore. Still, I did my best to channel Jamie’s love for coffee and made it a personal mission to excite as many people as I could about how vital coffee was, not just because it’s the best tasting liquid on the planet, but because of how it brings people together. The third space was, and still is, wholly intertwined with crafted beverages. I remember hearing about how you would sometimes take a shift at the Pike Place store and do tastings with guests and partners. Here I gained another lesson in leadership; you should never be too important to get involved with the core business.
I left Starbucks to join a soon-to-launch virtual world called Club Penguin. If memory serves, you too had stepped away from your post at the company.
During my time at Club Penguin, I’m not afraid to admit that so much of the training our support and safety reps was based on the training I received (and delivered) during my time at Starbucks. I’m only a little shy to admit that probably half of our early employees were recruited directly from the store. If I received good service, I would hand them a card and invite them to come in for an interview. You might at least be happy to know that many of those former partners went on to do really amazing things in my industry.
Eventually, Disney purchased our company, and we began to open global offices. I was in Australia building our new team around the time that you announced your return to the CEO role, and I saw a bunch of stores closed that week in Sydney. I also remember the day that you shut down the stores around the world (I think I was in Brazil) to reconnect the partners with coffee and the espresso machine. I was so impressed that we did a whole training module with our now global teams about how important it is never to forget what your core business is.
I’ve since gone on to work for several large (and small) technology companies. My focus these days is on online safety and digital civility. I still love coffee, although I will confess that some of the smaller roasters here in Europe have taken a prominent role in my coffee rotation. But, as I travel the world, finding a local Starbucks has been a priority wherever I go. I love seeing how the vision I was taught so many years earlier is expressed in different cultures. I think you’d admit that keeping those values front and centre wasn’t easy; I can relate. As Club Penguin grew, trying to keep the passion for our players at the heart of all our teams was increasingly difficult. I think you’d probably have some significant bits of wisdom to share about what you’ve learned over the years; I hope to drink some coffee with you one day and hear that wisdom.
My kids just finished reading “Pour Your Heart Into It,” and they loved it. My four oldest can make a fantastic cup of coffee in both a pour-over and an AeroPress. Starbucks, and yourself, continue to inspire a new generation of people trying to figure out how to find their passion and bring their best to the market.
You’ve just become the CEO again, and I am rooting for you. Congrats on all that you’ve accomplished, but more so, thank you for all you’ve taught me. Your vision and style have deeply influenced me and, in turn, have influenced others.
PS. We almost met once, but some events transpired, and that opportunity was lost. I am led to believe, though, that you at least heard about how deeply Starbucks inspired the community team at Club Penguin. In case you didn’t, though, now you have.”
If you want to know more about Nathan and all he’s into, you’ll find him right here!
I’ve heard about it, been aware of it, down played it, and now experienced it…culture shock! Shock is a great descriptor.
When I was 11, still living in Ireland, my dad, was recognized as the top sales person in his company and thus won an all expense trip for the family to a location of his choosing; my parents decided on Ibiza, Spain. It was truly amazing, very different from our home country. The language was different and the food was not quite the same as we were accustomed to. I remember one particular dinner at the hotel in which we were staying. I can’t recall what was on the menu, but whatever it was, we thought, called for ketchup. Admittedly, ketchup was like a side dish for us. Once the food was served my brother naturally asked for ketchup. The look on the server’s face removed any doubt that this was not customary for our dish…or any dish served in this establishment. Still, he returned with the requested condiment, and with the chef. They stood by my brother and watched what he was going to do with the ketchup, then shook their heads and walked away. We thought this was funny, continued on with our delicious meal, and decided that the Spanish people had strange ideas about food, and easily accepted it as being a cultural thing. No big deal. The language barrier was overcome with non-verbal hand descriptions aptly demonstrated by my dad, and learning very basic, and important, words and phrases: baño, por favor, Cuánto cuesta este?, Muchas gracias, and, Podemos tener más papel higiénico? (can we have more toilet paper?). For 2 weeks we were able to get by.
We observed another very strange thing…around 2pm, everyone seemed to disappear, leaving the pool at the full disposal of our family! We were so excited, and enjoyed our choice of deck chairs, servers, and of course, no one to worry about when splashing to our heart’s content. Later that evening, we learned of our error. 2pm marked the time when the sun was at its hottest, and the smart people of Ibiza knew to escape to the cool of their rooms. So here we were with our virgin Irish skin, washing off what little sun tan lotion we had applied by jumping into the chlorinated pool, towelling off…repeat. By bedtime we were in such pain! Our red scorched skin replaced the need for any lights being turned on that night! Again, we learned, and quickly mimicked the practice honoured by everyone around us on the resort. For 2 weeks we were able to get by.
A few decades later I am once again in Spain; it’s not so easy, and we are not on vacation, and it’s not just about the sun or getting more toilet paper, and we are not in the comfort of a resort. We are living in the old fisherman’s quarter of El Barrio del Cabanyal. The area is steeped in history; a walk around reveals glimpses of a turbulent past. It truly is a neighbourhood, not a tourist attraction. And, English is not spoken by, well, anyone! For this we were not prepared. It’s not just the language, we feel like outsiders, like we don’t belong. We’re not the ‘longed for welcomed guests’…we are trying to insert ourselves into someone else’s home, and it is hard! Not only is the language different, but the non-verbal actions are challenging to interpret. It’s almost a feeling of indifference that we are getting. Please don’t misunderstand me, this is what we are seeing and feeling…it is not an exposé on the character or hospitality of the Spanish people. When we do find someone who can speak English, they are more than happy to help, the challenge is finding those people.
Another surprise awaiting us was the constant setting off of fireworks. According to Mario, our amazing tour guide, Spaniards love fireworks; the noise, the smoke, the smell of gunpowder, everything about them. And, it is early March…time for Las Fallas. Officially, the festival runs from March 15th -19th, with Noche de la Cremàfinishing off the celebration.However, the locals start celebrating March 1, with firecrackers going off every few seconds…be still my heart! For those who enjoy an elevated BOOM, a thunderous firecracker show called a mascletà is held every day at 2 p.m. in Plaza del Ayuntamiento. My husband attended while I remained as far away as possible…by the Central Market. It was unbelievable…the ground literally shook under my feet! I know I can’t do justice to describing this event, so please visit this Fallas site to get a better sense of what this celebration is all about.
As we walk around our neighbourhood we see large groups of people celebrating and enjoying being together; it’s like multiple block parties with paella being cooked on open fires in the middle of the road, lots of laughter, and drinking. We walk by, watching, observing, but not joining. We are outsiders, not part of their history, or present, or future. It really is lovely to see the community created by these folks, it makes me miss home.
One of my projects while on extended study leave, is to study for and write the exam for my GPHR (Global Professional in Human Resources) designation. The module I am currently studying relates to culture, in particular culture shock. The context relates to organisations supporting expatriates as they go on assignments to other countries. As I read through the general ‘symptoms’ I was amazed at how many I was personally experiencing. The list includes: irritation, homesickness, loneliness, nervousness, loss of appetite (no, not in my case!), sleeplessness, feeling tired, extreme pride in one’s home culture, hypersensitivity, confusion. Pretty significant, and relevant. The good news is that, according to my study material, “culture shock is temporary, and everybody goes through it to some extent in the process of cultural adaptation.”
Good to know. What struck me about all this when considering the desire of many to work from anywhere, to mix work with travel, to relocate to a different country while working from your home country, is the lack of dialogue I’m hearing about the potential for culture shock when making these big life decisions. Organisations, when sending employees to work abroad, need to take the responsibility to support and adequately prepare their people for such tasks. However, who prepares individuals and families for such undertakings? Let me strongly suggest those of you considering such a move to do your homework, take time to make informed decisions, learn the language, make connections in your host country, and don’t underestimate the impact of culture shock.
For us? In the 2½ months until we return to Canada, we are going to continue using our on-line programs to learn Spanish, dig into understanding as much of this unique culture as possible, watch bonfires, admire ninots that make up the Fallas monuments, find the best paella valencia around, learn to make paella, spend as much time as possible at the sea, watch and observe and respect and take in all the Spanish culture has to offer. And we will be richer for it.
Growing up, our home was always filled with music coming from the record player or piano as one of us kids practiced scales and scores for upcoming lessons and exams (my brother was the “star pupil” in our home). We loved listening to both our parents tickling the ivories; mom was an amazing sight reader, while dad just heard the song and played-by-ear.
While piano was the bane of my existence, I found my stride playing the clarinet in the high school concert band, and singing in various groups. If not for music, there was simply no point in going to school! Years later, as our kids reached high school, Christmas and year-end concerts were such a highlight as these dedicated students and gifted teachers produced some of the best jazz, choral, and orchestral music to packed crowds of proud family and friends. The music continued to ring out in our home as our son applied his musical passion to jam sessions with his friends, preparing for whatever gigs they could line up. Music was, and is, core to our lives.
Needless to say, when I came across the book Yes to the Mess; surprising leadership lessons from Jazz by Frank J. Barrett, I was intrigued. As both a jazz musician and a Professor of Management and Global Public Policy, Barrett understands the meaning of improvisation. He proposes, “What we need to add to our list of managerial skills is improvisation—the art of adjusting, flexibly adapting, learning through trial-and-error initiatives, inventing ad hoc responses, and discovering as you go.”
Wikipedia describes improvisation as “a very spontaneous performance without specific or scripted preparation.” So how can this apply to leadership, especially in light of the new team configurations leaders are now called on to lead? Ask most leaders today, and they will tell you there is no script for what they are currently facing, similar to a group of musicians getting together to create music. However, the success of great improvisation, whether in music or leadership, depends on a key ingredient, the foundational skill of the players. Those hours of practicing scales, those hours of honing leadership competencies, are the things great improvisation is made of.
However, for many leaders, working without a script can be somewhat daunting. I’m enjoying revisiting complexity theory. We can see through this theory how organizations become more sustainable, adaptive, and innovative…and I love that it recognizes how a combination of chaos and order produces the most creative outcomes. A leader and team can co-create a vision around their shared values, culture, and belonging; however, the path to realizing that vision may not be that straight. The plan may change and take some side trails along the way, and you can be sure obstacles (like a pandemic) will demand a detour. Still, if the goal or vision is clear, a leader and their team can improvise and end up where they want to go.
Bottom line? Embrace the chaos, focus on your people and your shared vision, and listen for the music.
Have you ever been on your way to an appointment, perhaps with a client, or for a social event and were met with unexpected road construction causing you to be unfashionably late? Or perhaps you were set to make a presentation to a client only to discover the Internet gremlins had done their worst somewhere in the cyber space around your computer and caused the connection to be less than adequate? I have, and it was not a pretty sight! Adjustments, re-arrangements, rescheduling, and great apologies had to be made before things got back on track. Things happen, things outside our control, that call for change. It takes time to get our head into a different arrangement, to get over the frustration of the disruption, to recalibrate, to settle on what appears to be a less than outcome. But is it always a less than outcome?
Several years ago, when our kids were much younger, we set out on a family trip to Disney World where we would meet up with my brother and his family. We were all so excited! Our family was travelling from British Columbia and my brother’s family from Ontario. These times together were precious, and so much fun. Everything was packed, we boarded the plane, we were good to go. Until ‘it’ happened. Hurricane Gordon.
Our flight path was interrupted and forced an overnight stopover in Denver, Colorado. We were not prepared! Being the eternal optimists and dearly looking forward to the feeling of the Florida sun on our winter white skin, we were dressed in shorts, t-shirts, light jackets, sandals, and no access to our checked luggage (another reason to fly with only carry-on!). The excitement meter plummeted from extreme high to extreme low in a matter of minutes. Even though this turn of events was totally out of our control, the disappointment was palpable. Sitting in our hotel room, gathering our hotel supplied hygiene necessities, it was hard to fathom the ‘less than’ outcome could be anything but gloom. Until ‘it’ happened.
A forgotten shared memory was recollected by my husband. A memory I had shared but long forgotten. You see, several years earlier I had travelled throughout the US with a singing group. As it happens, at the time of my 19th birthday we were performing in Denver, Colorado. A forgotten shared memory was recollected by my husband. A memory I had shared but long forgotten. You see, several years earlier I had travelled throughout the US with a singing group. As it happens, at the time of my 19th birthday we were performing in Denver, Colorado. That’s when I was introduced to Casa Bonita the most exciting Mexican restaurant I have ever experienced. Food, cliff divers, mariachi band, caves, and sopapillas just waiting to be drenched in honey. Why I hadn’t thought of introducing this adventure to my family is beyond me! However, Rob was on it! Before long we left the warmth of the hotel, tip toed through the snow in sandals, climbed into a taxi and journeyed to Casa Bonita. It was amazing…maybe a little cornier than I had remembered, but well worth the thrill of sharing my former life with my family. And they loved it!
So where am I going with this. Some changes are totally beyond our control. Right now most organizations have been forced to make a change to their SOP. Life in the office as we know it is no more, but not because we chose it…the decision has been made for us. Some may think that the outcome will create a ‘less than’ result, however, I beg to differ. To be sure, a disequilibrium has been created in which we now need to live, but until ‘it’ happened, many organizations, or employees, would not have considered the opportunities provided by a work from anywhere concept. My intent is not to go into the many proven benefits to all involved with WFA, but rather put it in the context of change. To bring attention to how we, as leaders of people, have been handed a mulligan, a do-over. We have an opportunity to do business differently, to adapt rather than mourn the loss of how things used to be; to take advantage of an unplanned change and re-write the next phase of how we work, where we work, when we work, and what work we do.
I’m not saying any of this is easy…far from it. In fact, leaders are called to be the pioneers in this journey of discovery and transition. As leaders we are called to practice adaptive leadership. In other words,
To practice adaptive leadership, you have to help people navigate through a period of disturbance as they sift through what is essential and what is expendable, and as they experiment with solutions to the adaptive challenges at hand.
The Practice of Adaptive Leadership by Heifetz, Grashow, & Linsky
In short…everything! I am often asked why I have named my business SAM Consulting…who is Sam? Where did the name come from? Let me assure you, it wasn’t inspired by the main character in Dr. Seuss’s ‘Green Eggs and Ham’, however, it was inspired by people who are very important to me.
The full name of my business is Sawatzky and Associates Management Consulting, thus SAM. But please, let me pull some things from the name that will give you a glimpse into what I value, and what informs how I conduct my business.
My grandfather on my Dad’s side was named Sam Campbell. I remember going to visit this set of grandparents in Annalong, a little fishing village in Northern Ireland. Besides the exploring we did around the harbour, watching the fish being dumped off the boats then sorted and cleaned in the fishery (now that’s a smell you never forget!), climbing the rocks, and watching my brother and cousin jump onto the fishing vessels, my fondest memory was sitting on my grandpa’s lap listening to him tell stories and quote poems in his soothing Irish brogue. And of course, there was always a fire in the grate to ward off the chill of the Irish weather. My Grandpa Campbell was not a man of great physical stature, but was a giant when it came to his character. He earned respect in all areas of his life from those who were fortunate to be in his presence, and by reputation. He was a fair man, full of integrity, caring, empathetic, and loved his family dearly.
These values are ones I have committed to emulate in my business dealings (and all of life). Sam is a simple name, yetit holds such awe and inspiration for me.
Further to the name ‘SAM’— my business officially launched in 2009, the same month I was taking my final course earning a Masters of Leadership & Management…and the same month our fourth grandson was born. His name? Samuel. He has a lot to live up to with that name, but already we see how his character has developed in a way that his great, great grandfather would be proud.
Some businesses that are operated by sole proprietorships, use ‘associates’ in their name to perhaps give the impression of a more robust offering. While I get the intent, this was not the reasoning behind adding the term to my business name. Let me explain.
I am a firm believer in collaboration. Working together with others brings a diversity of thought that can be lacking when working as a sole proprietor. Collaborating with others also adds a greater level of expertise that, at the very least, brings value to the client. Since the inception of SAM in 2009, I have had the privilege of collaborating with others, of ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’, of benefitting from the minds of individuals who challenge me to think outside the box, and listen well.
There is a Gaelic word that I have come to greatly appreciate– Anam Cara. I was introduced to the concept through the writings of John O’Donahue an Irish Priest, writer, and poet. It simply means ‘soul friend’, and brings a further meaning of being a ‘thinking partner’. If SAM had a tag line, it would somehow express the desire I have to be an Anam Cara to those I am privileged to come along side and support, to be a thinking partner as they work through new endeavours, challenges, or simply grow in their professional lives.
The name of my blog is Probe and Ponder; to me, life is full of wonders that often cause me to stop, ask ‘why?’, then probe and ponder some more. I love the opportunity SAM provides to come alongside teams and individuals, collaborating with others as together we Probe and Ponder the many opportunities life throws our way.
For the sake of simplicity going forward, I will be posting this Probe and Ponder blog on my updated website (stay tuned for that)www.samisremote.com.
And yes, the name is once again significant; I am a remote work advocate, researcher, consultant, and coach. I am also a Business Professor at Okanagan School of Business, specializing in HR and Management, designing and teaching on-line courses.
“One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter.”
James Earl Jones
There are times in life when I so desperately want to have something profound to share…like right now. You know what I’m talking about…some way to offer comfort or encouragement to family, friends, neighbours, or colleagues. Those whose experiences during these days vary from sadness to fear, despair to frustration, from loneliness to exhaustion, appreciate to being totally overwhelmed. Some are even expressing gratitude for the forced slowing down of life. Even the simplest comforting touch or high five is not an option. All we truly have to express our love, concern, empathy, praise, appreciation or whatever, are our words.
All we have is words? All we have? Perhaps we need to remember how powerful words actually are. Remember the old saying’ “Sticks and stones my break my bones but words can never hurt me.” So not true. How many of us have been hurt beyond measure by the words spoken by friend or foe? Then again, how many of us have been ministered to by the power and beauty found in a thoughtful, genuinely crafted message offered in a time of need. Words have the power to hurt, yes, but more important, they have healing power that goes beyond what we can imagine.
“Beautifully crafted words have the power to captivate the mind of anybody.” Sam Veda
“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind
“Good words are worth much, and cost little.” George Herbert
“Kind words are a creative force, a power that concurs in the building up of all that is good, and energy that showers blessings upon the world.” Lawrence G. Lovasik
“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” William Wordsworth
“Go inside where silence is. Stay there. Let words bubble up.” Maxime Lagacé
Words are powerful. When time is taken to connect with what we want to express, to identify the feelings, the emotions, then paint a word picture that expresses those deep thoughts to someone who needs to hear them, the outcomes are nothing short of magnificent. What’s more, the beauty of the written word is in the reading, and re-reading, prolonging the joy or affirmation received by the ‘other’.
I’m not a great orator, nor am I capable of orchestrating a magnificent symphony with words, but I want to learn. Not for self-edification, but to put into words–spoken and written, what I have lived, what I feel, what I am learning, and offer them up as a gift to bring meaning and edification to others.
Perhaps together we can create verbal touches and virtual hugs offered to others through the sharing of thoughtful, genuinely crafted words, seasoned with a healthy measure of empathy.
“What if…?” is the great crippler. Think about it, how many people use this question in the positive sense? What if I win the race? What if the sun shines for our wedding day? What if I don’t get sick on this trip? What if I don’t make a fool of myself? Rather, we worry about losing the race, having a special event rained out, getting seasick, or being humiliated over a poor performance.
These questions of ‘what if’ can consume us to the point of paralysis. As a young girl, I remember standing on the second highest diving board of the local outdoor, sea water fed swimming pool in Bangor, Northern Ireland. Frozen (not just because of the Baltic temperatures), I rehearsed all the horrors that could mark the outcomes of a failed landing. Or even worse, the humiliation of retreating to ground level. “It’s now or never!” I remember thinking just before taking the step of no return. Nose held tight by shaking fingers, it was the longest fall of my life—but it wasn’t the last time I stepped off that platform! The positives what ifs won. What if I make it? What if my friends are totally impressed with my bravery? What if the water is bathtub warm by the time I land? (nope, that didn’t happen!)
As I write this blog, most of us are living in self-isolation due to COVID-19. The what ifs are very real. Our concerns around elderly parents, pregnant daughters, children living in other parts of the world, family members with health issues, friends losing their livelihoods, are very real. No one should be shamed for obsessing on the what ifs in such a reality.
It would be reasonable if our doubts were limited to such global pandemics, but they are not. As we consider a temporary leave from the life we really do enjoy in British Columbia, trading it for a year traveling with me working remote, many ‘what ifs’ bubble to the surface. What if one of us gets sick? What if we can’t find suitable accommodations? What if we can’t stay within our budget? What if we can’t rent our home out? What if we don’t get to see our daughter and son-in-law and new baby for a year? (He/she will be one by then). What if another pandemic strikes? What if my dad passing away while we’re gone? What if a family member or close friend has a crisis? What if I go through all the planning and my funding proposal is rejected? What if…? I get depressed just thinking about all the possible catastrophes!
“You’ll never get anywhere if you go about what-iffing like that.” ― Roald Dahl
But…what if we pass up such an opportunity? What experiences and adventures might we never have, never get to share with our family and friends when they come to visit (and they will)? What new learning experiences might we lose out on, or new relationships never built? What if the funding approval is given enthusiastically and all this planning actually becomes a reality? Now I’m starting to feel giddy with the possibilities!
Interesting, nothing about my current situation has changed, I’m no closer to having the trip planned or approved. However, my outlook, my state of mind, my level of excitement has brought a smile to my face, and added a few BPM to my heart rate.
What if we chose to face each day, each adventure, or each challenge, from the perspective of positive potential. What if we face life with expectancy—like a child on Christmas morning, rather than channeling Winnie the Pooh’s dear old friend Eeyore?
A year of travel and remote work would be both influenced and impacted by how we choose to face the joys and challenges presented. What if it turns out to be the greatest year ever?
We have all heard the term ‘writers block’ tossed around by those who identify themselves as writers; those talented individuals who depend on the free flow of words to give voice to the fantastic worlds floating around in their heads. I don’t claim to be a member of that class. I also have great appreciation for those types of writers who seem to have endless thoughts, ideas, and advise to share on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. If any of you happen to stumble across this blog, I’m in awe of your discipline and creativity and would love a sip of your secret sauce, and I’m amazed that writer’s block doesn’t hit you far more frequently!
But here’s the deal…even though I have a very full, satisfying, challenging, inspiring, rewarding, and fulfilling life, I totally get mental stagnation when it comes to narrowing down, or sifting through the swirl in my brain, and focusing on a theme, or topic, to articulate in words that will hopefully have some impact on a reader. All my life I have been a learner, and that has not changed, nor will it ever. I’m a business professor, researcher, remote worker, consultant/coach, international speaker (now that’s a privilege!), wife, mom, sister, grandmother, friend…I am truly blessed. Needless to say each of those ‘roles’ provide an endless array of learning and reward. Every conversation has potential to teach, inspire, drain, encourage, challenge, or even bore me.
So with all that input, why do I have such a difficult time putting words to paper? Certainly not because of lack of content! Perhaps the simple fact that there is so much input, or ‘information overload’, nothing is fully landing. It’s like going to an all-you-can-eat buffet and filling your plate with everything in sight because it all looks amazing, tastes great, and is available–right under my nose.
Even as I write this, my inner voice is sending me sarcastic messages…like ‘seriously, you don’t see an issue here? You know the answer, you know better!’ And that little voice is right.
The very things, the tools, that make constant contact possible, information access more readily available than ever before, communication between the person next to me or 3000 miles away as easy as breathing, are both the cause and the cure.
I’m currently preparing a workshop on self-management. Ironic, right? One of the questions I am asking is ‘what do we need to manage?’ Perhaps time, stress, commitments, multiple deadlines, or life balance. Yes to all of these, and more. For me, I do a great job of managing my commitments; I am organized and can discipline my time well. But as I write this I am again reminded that what I don’t manage well is time to reflect, to slow down and relish the moment I am in, to ponder those special moments that happen each day. To call up the smile on the face of a grandchild or grandniece you’ve had a chance to cuddle with, to share in the joy of good news offered, or to simply walk through the falling leaves of autumn. Check out this video by Manoush Zomorodi called Bored and Brilliant And…finally realize that when your body goes on autopilot, your brain gets busy forming new neural connections that connect ideas and solve problems.
What about you? What is cluttering your mind and keeping you from finding clarity around new opportunities; current and future? What can you do about it? What are you willing to do about it?