Why Networking is Crucial to Achieving Your Goals

Networking.  We’ve all heard the word, and some may even get a ‘sketched out’ feeling when hearing it.  For some, it translates to: “self-promotion to the point of nausea.” But I think those 10 letters just got a bad rap! It’s simply putting yourself on the playground of like-minded people.  That’s it.  Not very complicated, right?

I recently attended an “All Class Reunion”.  There I met a BFF, a former BFF and another who I was scared would stuff me in a locker in high school if I held eye contact too long.  I had an AWESOME time with all of them!! I learned who they are today, without the fog of self-absorption that most high schooler’s are afflicted with.  What a gift!  I “met” 2 adult women who are different from who they were last time I saw them.  They approach some aspects of life very differently than I do, but I loved learning new perspectives and I gained a whole new respect for the way they are navigating their lives.

Now while this example isn’t exactly “networking” in the traditional sense, it felt like it, in that we all shared a similar interest: (memories of graduating from a particular high school) and, I’m going to go out on a limb here and presume, we were ALL a little uncomfortable initially.

Whether you would benefit from connecting with others professionally, personally or spiritually, all I can say is, GO!  Put yourself out there with others.  You’re awesome!! REALLY!!  Think about some awesome things you’ve done and some questions you have.  If this is professionally based, jot down some accomplishments you’ve made and some goals you have.  If this is personal networking, note some cool “conversation starters” you may have.  Cool things you’ve done, cool stories you could share and the types of people or activities you’re looking to engage in.  If it’s spiritual connections you’re looking to make, put some thoughts and ideas into concrete words so you can more easily communicate your beliefs.  Don’t overthink these though.  You will learn the most and connect the best if you listen more than you speak, and ask more than you tell.

Why is networking so important? Because who you hang with is a HUGE factor in whether you achieve your goals or not.  Think about it…if you want to be a sought after guru in the Marketing arena, drinks with your same old buds on Friday night likely isn’t going to assist in that goal.  Looking to get your name out there? Your partner and kids already know your name, so hangin at home isn’t helping either.  Have you always had a desire to rock climb, yet no one in your immediate circle has that same desire? You need to get out there and meet other people pursuing and living their dream.  You’ll learn something, they’ll learn something and you each will have added a new connection to your “network”.

Utilize your resources, whether this is your address book or social media. Facebook (personal & professional networking), LinkedIn (professional networking) and if you’re looking for more, check out www.meetups.com (personal & professional networking). This is a great place to find like-minded individuals near you.  Would I steer you wrong?  Of course not.  Check it out!!

Already belong to these sites?  When’s the last time you reviewed your contacts (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) and personally reached out to those people you know could offer you a highly beneficial perspective?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.  Stop procrastinating and go meet some new people.  Then tell me all about it in the comments section!!

Oh, Be Nice! How You Can Contribute to World Peace

I’m a lover.  I love to love on people.  I love finding the lovable aspects of people.  It makes me feel good and it makes others feel good.  It does, however, make me an official CORNBALL!  I’m okay with this.  I don’t just walk around doling out loving comments to every person, every day.  That would be weird.  But if I see something worth mentioning I will.  I do this so the recipient knows I was lucky enough to see something great about them.  All this “goodness” must benefit the world somehow, right?

There’s even scientific research to support this. In an interview with Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project”, Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky from the University of California stated, “Research shows that there are many simple activities that reliably make people happier.  My favorite is doing acts of kindness. We have found that almost any types of acts of kindness boost happiness. The recipients of kindness “paid the kind acts forward” and even acquaintances of the givers became happier and were inspired to act more generously themselves.”  Hot damn!

Furthermore, regarding her research on happiness, Professor Lyubomirsky said, “A review of all the available literature has revealed that happiness does indeed have numerous positive byproducts, which appear to benefit not only individuals, but families, communities, and the society at large (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005).”  So you can contribute to world peace?? Yep, you sure can.

It’s worth mentioning that I compliment free of charge.  If I were to give them only to have them reciprocated then it’s an exchange.  Like an emotional transaction.  I’d be sitting around waiting for you to pay up. Emotional prostitution? Yuck!

There is also something thrilling (and scary) about complimenting an unsuspecting person.  There’s that moment when I wonder if the person is going to completely ignore me, accept it ungraciously (hate that!) or speed walk away clutching their child’s hand. More often, however, I get non-verbal communication which I’ll translate for you here: “Are you talking to me?”…”Ummm, where’s this going”…”Really?”…”Do you think so?”…”Wow”…”Thanks”.  It can completely shift a person’s thoughts from skeptical to “damn right!”

Underdogs hold a special place in my heart! That person with absolutely ZERO fashion sense who is always the most pleasant to everyone?  Yep, she’s mine! The “Bitch” who appears unapproachable, but is actually terribly insecure?  Mine too! That Parent who is clearly on their last nerve, but is showing Superhero-strength in patience? Them too!!  I adore the cocky professional who talks a good game but actually is all show, or the mom who hasn’t quite lost the last 15 pounds from her pregnancy…twelve years ago.

Bottom line is I try to be transparent and honest and I will do that at risk of being rejected.  But in the end, it’s worth it.  So often, the self-talk in our heads isn’t very nice.  We are hyper-critical of ourselves.  But when someone, with no apparent motive, gives a sincere compliment, doesn’t that feel good?  Don’t you walk a little taller, feel a little prouder when someone recognizes something beautiful about you?  Or when they think of you, and tell you, just because?  I think so.

So, I write about this for two reasons.

  • #1 – Consider yourself warned
  • #2 – Is this something you could do more fearlessly?

Think about it. It’s easy, it’s free, it’s fun!  Give for the sake of giving.  Love for the sake of loving.  And in case you’re wondering…I think you wear those extra pounds rather nicely…more to love! 🙂

Thanks for reading and won’t you share ANY thoughts you have on this topic? <3

Taking Your Success to the Next Level

As many of you know, I design and teach leadership development classes and programs.  In these, I stress the importance of reaching beyond the walls of your physical location or company and reaching out to others you could learn from.  This is especially true if you’re involved in the strategic planning of your organization.  Looking to take your success to the next level?  Whether you’re the CEO of a large corporation, run your own business, have your own Etsy site, or are on the board of a non-profit, you should absolutely be part of a “Mastermind Group”. So get your “Einstein” on and let’s plot and plan!

I recently attended a conference where this topic was discussed.  These professional groups conference regularly, (phone, skype, in-person) to discuss ideas, challenges and successes.  In speaking to others, it amazes me how many executives, business owners and directors of non-profits are not taking advantage of this type of strategic exchange of information.

There should be a minimum of 3 members and a maximum of 6.  Unlike traditional networking groups, a Mastermind Group needs full trust from all members. In other words, you probably don’t want to be in a group with any direct competitors.  These groups are tight-knit, bonded teams who are fully committed to their own AND the other members’ success.

Don’t limit members to one industry, geographic location or stage of career.  When discussing strategy, there is much to be learned from others. Someone in Finance could offer insights to an Art Shop owner and vice versa.  Similarly, someone in Melbourne, Australia could have much to offer someone in Boston, Massachusetts. I would encourage a mix of members in varying stages of their careers.  This could offer some very rich discussion and perspectives.

Each member must be fully committed to meeting regularly and participating equally in the discussions. Meetings should include each member sharing a success and a challenge.  Every effort should be made to address each member’s presented challenge and to brainstorm solutions and ideas.  Egos should be left out of these and no single member should dominate.  Ideally, meetings should last between 1-2 hours and be held weekly or monthly.

My leadership development classes have proven time and time again the power of perspective.  Stepping outside the “box” of your company or industry will demonstrate the power of creative solutions. There are universal truths in any business, so share what you know and allow the recipient to translate your knowledge into a language that is applicable to their circumstances.

Now what? Think of others you’d like to collaborate with.  In fact, I challenge you to make a list of professionals you highly respect and trust.  Reach out to them (or even share this post) and tell them you’d like to include them in a Mastermind Group.  Also, don’t wuss out and think “I don’t have anything to offer.”  That’s capital BS!! If that thought even enters your mind, make a list of topics you have some insight on.  Then, comment on your progress.  Are you part of a group already? Share your insights in the comments section below.

Top 10 Back To School Tips

I know we just started August, and we all want to pretend that back to school isn’t right around the corner so we can enjoy the remaining days of summer.  As much as I hate being a kill-joy, some of these tips require a little preparation or completion prior to the first day of school.  If you do not have school-aged children, don’t rule this post out.  I have some tips for everybody here! I also added school grades after each tip so you know whether it pertains to you or not and the best time to begin this step.  So check ‘em out, schedule tasks in your smart phone or other calendar and return to oblivion.

1 – Start a Tradition (K-12)(2 weeks prior to Day 1)

If you haven’t already, start a tradition for your kids and back to school time.  Back-to-School is practically a holiday in my household!  Other than school clothes shopping, there are ways to make the first week of school exciting.  As a working mom, I take a vacation week the first week of school.  We start each morning with a healthy breakfast, pictures in front of our old oak tree in a rockin new outfit, and chatting after school to hear all about it.  We have a full, healthy family dinner every night.  This focused attention has always been a fav of my kids.  Plus, this week allows me time to organize myself and my home.

 2 – Organize (K-College) (2 days prior-first week)

Week 1 can be crazy for parents and students.  For school-age parents there are all the papers that need to be signed, fundraisers to begin, PTO meetings to plan for, etc.  To make this process easier, go to the school’s website, find the school year calendar, and put all important dates in your organizer/smart phone.

For high school & college students, do the same, but add in any pertinent information from your syllabus.  Even if a date isn’t listed, note any rough times an important paper or project may be due.

 For high school students/parents, start a “portfolio” noting “worthy of mention” projects, grades, accomplishments, volunteering, etc. and reach out to your guidance counselor for advisement on this very important college-bound step.

3 – Prepping (K-College) (1 week prior)

I know as my kids got older, I got more lax on bedtime during the summer.  Several days prior to Day 1, is when I require a regularly scheduled bedtime routine.  Those late night parties & picnics and morning sleep-in’s can really mess with a body, so allow a little time to acclimate to any new structure.

 4 – Travel Time (Everybody) (1 day prior)

Allow extra travel time.  If you travel outside the home during typical school start or finish times, your commute is likely to be affected during these times.  Allow extra time to arrive at your destination.

 5 – Re-establish rules (K-College) (1 day prior)

TV, computer, gaming, phone, whatever.  I’m a big proponent of speaking with people and getting their feedback on decisions that affect them.  Having age-appropriate discussions that make the rules clear, provide your reasoning and allow them an opportunity for their input can result in a fantastic compromise and easier transition from summer free-for-all to school time focus and fun.

If you’re the student, giving yourself rules and abiding by them, can really help you focus and balance, while doing well and having fun!

 6 –Food (Everyone) (2 days prior)

For some reason, many of us (myself included) allow more “naughty” foods during the summer.  Plan ahead and get everyone back on track with healthier choices.  Fruits, wheat crackers & peanut butter, for snacks and more homemade meals for dinner is a great way to get everyone back on track. Planning is key to eating right!

 7 – Exercise the Brain (Everyone) (1 month prior)

If you’ve allowed yours or your kid’s brain to hibernate over the summer, it’s time to spark this organ back into action.  Homework is right around the corner.  If there is an assigned reading book, it’s not too late if you heed my advice.  Plan the number of chapters that need to be read between “now” and “then” in order to meet any deadlines.  If this is a book or several books your child needs to read, read it with them.  You can discuss highlights together, and I bet you’ll find it more fun than you thought! At the very least, they will enjoy discussing it with you.

If you’ve caught up on required reading, now is a great time to get back into the habit of reading regularly to stay sharp. Be sure to subscribe to this site to become a VIP which will automatically enter you into the August VIP perk prize, which is a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card! Nothing encourages reading more than reading what interests you.

 8 – School Clothes Shopping (Everyone) ( 1 month prior)

Full-on fun for kids, full-on expensive for parents! Check out this link for “Tax Free” dates in your US state which will help lower the expenses.  http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/08/02/2013-state-tax-holiday-calendar/ Also, for younger kids or frugal students, consider shopping at local consignment shops which typically carry hot brands, like American Eagle, Hollister, Gilly Hicks, Coach and other name brand clothes at an incredibly discounted rate.

 9 – Responsibilities (K-College) (3 days prior)

We all have them.  Kids and students are no exception.  Define what these are, discuss these with your child and communicate clearly.  Not only does this foster team work, it also prepares them for the business world.  Make sure chores are age-appropriate but don’t be too easy.  Life after schooling is tough, start preparing them for that now.  We are all part of a team. Family, school, work, church, etc.  We all play a role in making that team better.  This instills pride and responsibility.

 10 – Your Education (Everyone) (1 month prior)

Learning should never stop.  Have you reached a point in your life where you could squeeze in a little “you” time?  If you’re waiting for an invitation, here it is…”Dear (your name here), you are cordially invited to invest in your own education.  Whether through your local community college ( http://www.utexas.edu/world/comcol/state/ ), state college, adult education program, or any other program, I encourage you to review all available classes and enroll in any one that interests you!”  Learning never stops.  Music, Art, English, History, Zumba!  Stop making excuses why you can’t, and start, or finish, that degree or take a class that you’ve always wondered about.

 Learning is AWESOME!  I am lucky enough to know some fantastic teachers and instructors and some amazing students.  Happy New School Year and Happy End of Summer!   I’d love for you to comment by adding any “Top 10 Back-To-School Tips” you may have.

 

Fencing with a Secret Keeper

Last week we talked about that voice in your head not speaking very nicely to you!  This week we are going to talk about the Secret Keepers and how they show their Confidence Deficiency.  While the Self-Saboteurs are usually quite lovable, the Secret Keepers are a little more prickly.  Nothing we can’t handle together, so let’s get to it!

Self-Saboteurs use their sword against themselves, Secret Keepers fence against others.  They are hell-bent on keeping their secrets, and will undermine any potential exposers.  They don’t want you to know that they have flaws.  They will lash out if you do anything to expose them.  These Secret Keepers will verbally attack you and are often blame-avoidant, defensive and tend to deflect negative attention onto others.

Life is viewed skeptically with an eye on the ulterior motive.  It’s difficult to want to help a Secret Keeper as they can cause a lot of stress in our lives, but these people have been hurt, so the idea of being vulnerable is more painful than any guilt they may feel when they hurt someone.  They can justify any action that hurts another by simply believing that person was going to eventually hurt them anyway.

As a coach, I can provide a safe place to feel vulnerable.   If you are a Secret Keeper, it’s important that you connect with someone you trust has no ulterior motives.  This could be a mentor, friend or coach.  I would recommend that you start by acknowledging to yourself, your “secrets”, ie: not smart enough, too sensitive, out of control, etc.  Then, list everything you can think of that “disproves” the claim. For instance, if one “secret” is that you don’t know as much about a topic as you’d like, list all the examples of times you did just fine, like the last project you pulled off, or helping a co-worker who knew even less, etc.

If your chain mail is being yanked by a Secret Keeper, I have a technique you can try.  Keep in mind that the more threatened this person is by you, the more time you’ll need before you’ll see a shift.  If you have felt their wrath, a good approach to try (after settling your own emotions) is to personally approach them and privately tell them how their action affected you.

Heather: “Hi SK, I’m hoping you can help me with something, do you have a minute?” 

SK: (defensive, but less so since you’re looking for help) “What’s up?” 

Heather: “Yesterday you made that comment about how I ‘always seem to have time to chat everybody up’, so maybe I could use some more to do.  Initially that really hurt me because I try to do my best and felt like you were calling me out in front of others, but then I thought maybe you were trying to help me.  Do you really believe that I don’t work as hard as everyone else?”

The key here is to cool their jets (by asking for their help), show your vulnerability (by showing how you perceived their comment, while being cautious of how much you share for your own protection.)  Following this up with the idea that perhaps they were trying to help you gives them an “out” for their behavior.  Calmly and sincerely asking if they really feel that way is where the rubber meets the road.  You have acted unexpectedly, likely confusing them.  Being confronted like this may cause them to back down and rephrase what they “meant” by their remark.  Regardless of their response, don’t get defensive.  Say you’ll have to give it some thought, and thank them for their feedback.  This approach doesn’t attack them.  The key is to get them to drop their guard bit by bit.

The problem with Confidence Deficiencies is that the sufferers (and they really do suffer) rely so heavily on external validation.  Because both types allow that negative chatter to continually play in their head, they don’t have the confidence within, so they seek it from others.  Unfortunately, these comments just go into the Ego Jar, which has no bottom, resulting in an insatiable need.

Whether a Self-Saboteur or Secret Keeper, these people just need a helping hand from us.  Being kind to the nice ones is easy.  Being kind to the not-so-nice ones is much harder.  Show some love and patience with others and remember we all have demons we are battling.  Use your sword to help someone fight their demon.  Be nice to yourself, talk nice to yourself and most of all love yourself!  I’d love your comments, but if you’re too busy lovin on you, that’s cool too!!

When the Voice Saying ‘You Suck’ is Yours

We have a big problem people.  I say “we” because even if you aren’t afflicted with this deficiency, I guarantee that you’re affected by someone who is.  Someone lacking in this vital element is missing out on a happy, healthy and hopeful life.  This element is Confidence.  Not the “fake it til you make it” kind.  I mean the true, “I’m flawed, but I’m awesome” kind.

Every human being deserves to feel confident, happy, healthy and hopeful!  There are two main types of Confidence Deficiencies.  There are the Self- Saboteurs who I’ll discuss this week and the Secret Keepers who I’ll discuss next week.   I will list the most common symptoms each type possesses to help you better identify if you or someone you know suffers from a Deficiency.

The Self-Saboteurs are very easy to spot and are less of a threat to others.   They are, however, a significant threat to themselves.  The most common symptoms include: negative comments about self to others, self-pity, and over-explaining decisions made in anticipation of another’s criticism.  They frequently use sentences that include, “I’m too…” or “I don’t…”  Here are some examples:

  •  When asked to go to the beach, Self-Saboteur will reply, “No thanks, I get too many autograph requests from people thinking I was the whale in ‘Free Willy’!” (Often said with a chuckle or smile).
  •  When a friend suggests they apply for a great job, Self-Saboteur will reply, “I’d love that job, but I don’t have the formal education I’ll bet the other applicants do.”
  •  When a co-worker says, “Hey Lisa, thanks for that report…” Self-Saboteur may interrupt by saying, “I’m sorry it took so long, but I’m a total tool when it comes to that software…”

This negative speak continually reinforces how much they suck.  They have convinced themselves that they are just saying out loud what the other person is thinking.  While self-deprecating humor can be funny and show humility, these folks take it to the extreme.  It’s bad enough when you have to be around Mean Girls or Mean Guys, but to have one living in your head, speaking in your own voice…Oy vey!

Self-Saboteurs create their own self-fulfilling prophecies.  They give others permission to criticize, demean and view them as less valuable and less deserving of good things.  Unfortunately, some people will take them up on this offer.  Self-Saboteurs may find their personal relationships verbally or physically abusive, or they so exhaust their partner and friends, that eventually those people bow out of the relationship.  At work, Self-Saboteurs may sabotage their own career growth as they make statements that make others doubt their ability to do more.  Often times, these people battle depression and/or addiction.

So what’s the remedy?  If you can identify with being a Self-Saboteur, then you have to start by being nice to yourself.  When coaching Self-Saboteurs, I often have them start each day with a sentence that begins with, “I am awesome at ____________”.  No repeating sentences, it must be posted somewhere visible throughout the day and it must be done every day for 30 days.

If you know a Self-Saboteur and want to help them, try to stop them in their tracks.  I’ve found it effective to frown at their self-loathing and sternly say, “That’s not very nice!”   You could follow that up with a sincere compliment.  For instance, if a visibly overweight Self-Saboteur say’s “I’m a big fatty”, don’t reply with “I think you’re skinny”, but if you sincerely think their curves are beautiful, say so.  You could also follow up your statement by saying “I don’t like when you put yourself down like that, because I think you’re a nicer person than that.”

Remember, these people didn’t become deficient overnight, so it will take time to get them to start viewing their positive qualities.  Continue discouraging their mean talk and take the time to point out their positive qualities as you see them.  If you or someone you know is struggling with this I know a great life coach who would be happy to help 😉

I’d love to hear your comments on this topic, so please share your perspective below.  Stay tuned for next week’s Secret Keeper symptoms and remedies!

Finding Your Spiritual Mojo

As a child, I was very “spiritual”.  Still am.  While my parents instilled good values in me, they weren’t church going folk.  As a child, I wanted to be a nun.  To be fair, I also wanted to be a firewoman, mom, teacher, wife, truck driver, and even toyed with the idea of being a prostitute (I thought they just hugged people for money).

Upon starting a family, I became very active in church.  I taught Sunday school, sang in the choir, joined the “reading group” and took the family on week-long church sponsored summer retreats.  Despite all this, I never felt truly connected.

Coming to this sad realization, I went on a journey to learn about the other major religions and try to rediscover my spiritual mojo.  I learned about Judiasm, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and even more about Christianity.  I was surprised at how many historical facts, virtues and morals overlapped between the religions.  There were many similarities.  There were also many rules.

I struggled with aspects of each religion in one way or another and recounted how some of these seemingly unimportant rules affected me.  For instance, when in my twenties, I attended a funeral and after receiving bread and wine, I was reprimanded by a co-worker who told me that in the Catholic Church, only Catholics are allowed to receive.  Oh…my bad.

I never lost faith or thought that God didn’t exist.  Ultimately what I came to believe is that the religions I’m familiar with and the books they follow were written and designed by man.  I just can’t help but to see some human motivation for some of the rules that exist within religions.  The idea that we have religions that preach hate, and intolerance, a la Westboro Baptist Church, make me doubt that this is God’s design.

I’m not saying I’m right, that’s the point of faith.  We don’t KNOW, we just BELIEVE.  However, after spending years ruminating over the whole religious thing, and feeling guilty and bad for not “belonging”, I choose to practice the good in every religion.  I choose to try really hard to always be nice and kind and loving and accepting.  To not judge, condemn or hate.  Call me crazy, but that’s what I believe God intended.

I think God is way too big to fit into some little man-made label.  That being said, the churchgoers I know are kind, loving, generous people who are practicing what they believe is right and I don’t begrudge them that.   I just would hate for someone to think that if they don’t believe in one, than they believe in none.  Take the good, leave the rest.  Focusing on our differences is so unproductive.  If we focus on our similarities, I’m bettin’ there’d be more peace in the world.

Have you ever struggled with this topic?  Share in the comments section below how you found your spiritual mojo.

Immigrants and Roller Coasters

This week I was going to write about my views on immigrants.  Due to all the political hoopla that surrounded the topic I opted instead to focus more on a universal emotion.  Originally, I wanted to highlight who these immigrants are and why they leave their countries to come here.  I considered the emotion they must feel when arriving in an unfamiliar place and then I thought about roller coasters.  Huh?

I try to walk in the emotional shoes of others to better understand them.  So what emotion connects immigrants and roller coasters? Vulnerability. (It’s all making sense now, isn’t it?) Both of these situations take a lot of control from you.  There are more questions than answers.  Yet, despite the uncertainty, the risk of failure or loss or pain.  There’s equal risk of joy, success and pleasure.

If you’re still here, thanks, I know it was a crazy wind-up!

WARNING: PROFOUND STATEMENT APPROACHING!!  To be your best, most authentic self, you have to be willing to be vulnerable. A lot.  It means you have to be willing to admit that you’re scared or need help, or tell someone you love them, even if you don’t know if they can reciprocate the emotion.  You have to be willing to do this over and over again.

For me ‘vulnerable’ is synonymous with ‘brave’.  To be (not just feel) vulnerable, you have to be brave.  That’s exactly how I feel on roller coasters.  I don’t like them and I have the face of Quasimodo in EVERY picture taken at the peak of each one.  But I’m brave and I go on them every year in all my homely glory.

I am surrounded by brave people who openly share their vulnerabilities.  But I’m also surrounded by others who see vulnerability as a weakness and I can assure you, it’s holding them back from truly enjoying their life to its fullest.  Is it scary being vulnerable? Hell to the Yeah!! You could be wrong, or embarrassed or hurt, but you know what? Do it anyway!

When you truly put yourself out there, not only are you closer to your true and authentic self, but you’re making it okay for anyone watching you, to be as well.

Next time you are around a person who is clearly vulnerable, why don’t you show ‘em a little love?  Then tell them how brave they are.  Maybe it’ll be an immigrant or a roller coaster rider or maybe it’ll even be you…

This Authentic Life blog and business is a vulnerable pursuit for me and I thank you for giving me a little love each week.  Oh, and I love you…even if you don’t love me back! <3

Do you have a story about a vulnerable moment and how sharing it helped?  Comment below oh brave one.

Is The Declaration of Independence the Answer to Our Problems?

On July 4th, 1776 The Declaration of Independence was signed, freeing us of control by the Kingdom of Great Britain. In today’s post, I will be sharing what the most famous line on that document means to me in the present day and age.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

“…that all men are created equal…”

This would include:  Women (I believe ‘men’ is short for mankind, not identification of gender), Gay men, Black men, Christian men, Muslim men, Poor men, Democratic men, ALL MEN.

“…that they are endowed by their Creator…”

THEIR Creator.  Not my Creator, not your Creator, but their creator.  Whether they call their Creator God, Allah, apes or the Universe.

“…certain unalienable Rights…”

Unalienable =  inalienable =  absolute; cannot be transferred or sold or taken by anyone else.

“…among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Every life is valuable and important.

Every life should enjoy freedom from arbitrary or tyrannical government or control.

The pursuit of Happiness is entirely subjective to each individual, so long as it doesn’t violate the other two rights. (In case you happen to be debating this line with a rapist or child molester)

I think of all the Hot Topics being discussed right now and feel like this is a good reminder for all of us.  I believe this statement could solve so many debates and questions right now.  Same-Sex Marriage is a perfect example.  How we interact with other countries is another.  If this is what we believe, then shouldn’t we believe it for everyone in the world?  Not just Americans.  If we believe this and live by this then aren’t ALL of us in the world created equal?  Don’t we ALL have the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness?  Shouldn’t we believe this even if we are dealing with someone else who doesn’t?  Isn’t that called “Integrity”?  Just wondering.

I’d love for you to share what The Declaration of Independence means to you in the “Comments” section.  The cool part is you don’t have to agree with me, that’s your right too.  Either way, have a Happy Independence Day!!

Where Do You Go to Meet Your Soul?

Ahhhh… While my VIP’s know exactly why I’m doing that, some of you may not.  I just returned from vacation at my Happy Place.  “Happy Place” (aka Ogunquit, Maine) is where I find my serenity.  When I’m there I revel in the beauty of nature.  The ocean, in all its awesomeness; The sun, in all its magnificence; I am not even remotely concerned with how I look because nothing could compare to the beauty of this place.

While here, I explore the caverns of my soul.  Deep, I know, but really, I am more introspective than normal (which is saying a lot).  It is in this place that I feel I am most able to hear God’s message to me.  I contemplate my purpose.  Not my purpose for myself, but my purpose for the world.  Am I doing enough to truly leave this world a better place than I found it?  (I tend to come up short here).  I think of all the little things I could do if I paid more attention to the bigger picture and less to the day-to-day hustle and bustle that ultimately adds up to so very little.  I ask myself and honestly answer where I’ve fallen short in staying true to who I am.  I consider ways I could love others better.

The vibe of this place screams “LIFE”.  The ocean is alive, the air is alive, the sun and moon are alive and of course the shops and sidewalks are alive with people.  Despite my best efforts, nothing I purchase here will truly capture the feeling.  Because the feeling doesn’t come from “things”, it comes from “life”.

Upon arrival, it is completely unnecessary to use your vehicle again until you leave (assuming you are comfortable walking short distances).  While we did drive to a nearby miniature golf course and the nearby town of Kennebunkport, it wasn’t necessary.  All necessities can be found throughout the town.  There are typical gift shops and boutiques, countless restaurants with menus to please the youngest to the most mature taste buds and prices to match.  The locals are welcoming and informative but it’s the sights that will likely get ya.

Before this post becomes too infomercial-like, I’d like to reiterate that what I love most about this place is me.  My authentic self.  My true, non-judgmental, how-can-I-be-better self.  My flawed yet perfect self.  Not because I’m the Best ME, but because I’m TRYING to become the best me.  I’ve created a video montage for you (because even when I’m on vacation I’m thinking of you!)  If you choose to watch it, make sure your sound is on as the sound effects will help you enjoy your virtual visit.  Clicking this link will bring you to the YouTube video I created, ENJOY!   Happy Place 2013

If you’d like to learn more, check out the site at www.ogunquit.org

In the comments section, I’d love to know what your Happy Place brings you and your soul.  I hope you’ll share in the comments section below.