Reflections for the New Year

Earlier this morning I was doing some inner reflections for the New Year on this 3rd day of January. In the process, I read the lines of a song which I have posted on my office wall. They were sent out by a friend to all her friends as a reminder that life is short. She died over a year ago.

Tim McGRaw singing Live Like You Were Dying

The song is “Live Like You Were Dying” sung by Tim McGraw. It was written by Craig Wiseman and Tim Nichols. The lyrics came to them as they chatted about a friend’s doctor visit when he received news about a “thing appearing on his x-ray”. That led to a conversation about one of their uncles who had leukemia but was currently in remission. We all know someone who is dealing with or has died from a serious life-threatening disease. This song makes you think, “what if it happens to me”? The singer’s response is….

“I loved deeper,
And I spoke sweeter,
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying,
And he said, Someday I hope you get the chance,
To live like you were dying.”

Then I checked my email and saw a news article about someone I personally knew when I lived in San Diego. Bill Trumpfheller, the CEO of Nuffer, Smith Tucker, one of the top PR agencies in town, died of a heart attack over the weekend – at the age of 53! OMG!!

Some of the words from this song now seem especially pertinent as I continued my reflections for the new year; not just with what’s happening in the world, but even more so after reading about Bill’s death. It makes me realize how important it is to think positive thoughts, be generous at heart, eat healthily, and just live our lives to the fullest. We need to enjoy our families and friends because we never know when something can happen as it did to Bill. I’m still in shock as I write these words. He was only 53, 12 years younger than me. Yes, I’ll be eligible for Medicare this year. That in itself is a life adjustment.

I can hear the song in my head since it’s a popular country tune played frequently on Pandora and country music stations (it was the 2004 Grammy winner for best country song). It makes me think about how important it is to tell those we care about that we love them. And it’s also important that we forgive ourselves first, and then forgive others for any wrongs they may have done to us, whether intentional or not.

Forgiveness is important.

Forgiveness is a big one … especially forgiving yourself, not just for any actions you did or didn’t take, but for what you think about yourself. It’s important to focus on your talents, your accomplishments, your own uniqueness, not on your short comings. We all have areas where we can improve. But we also have talents that are uniquely ours. Those are where we need to focus our attention.

I frequently say the words as I go through my reflections and affirmations, but I know it’s important to also feel them. If we don’t feel them, how can we cement the reality in our subconscious? It’s part of training our brains to start believing. Over time as we repeat the words, our brains finally decide we actually mean what we’re saying, and we start to believe.

Affirmations work the same way as these positive reflections, at least for me. When I have pain in my body or I can’t sleep, I repeat certain affirmations. Then I’ll also ask my body to cooperate and let me sleep until a certain time. The next time I wake up, it’s usually within a few minutes of that time. And I find I slept deeply, even dreamed, and I wake up relaxed and rested. Amazing!

Perhaps starting a new year causes these kinds of reflections. I don’t know. But when I think about where I am in my life now and the things I still want to accomplish, the words from the song seem like good ones to keep in mind.

So I’m not making the traditional New Year’s resolutions. The blogosphere will be filled with advice about making and keeping resolutions. And most of the time, we don’t keep them anyway. We get distracted by life and work, and forget what we promised ourselves. Good intentions and all that. J

I’ve resolved instead to keep this song stanza top of mind and to “live like I was dying”. I’ve created a 2017 Vision Board that hangs on my wall so I can see it every day. These are pictures that reflect what I want to accomplish this year, knowing they may not all come to fruition, but at least I’ll have them as goals to shoot for.

Having a Vision Board is important.

There is something magical that happens when you write down your goals, add images, and put them up in a visible spot where you can see them every day. Read the words daily. Reflect on the pictures. These actions cement the goals in your subconscious so you naturally take the actions necessary to achieve them.

Circumstances may crop up that prevent you from accomplishing all your goals, but when you look back at the end of the year, you’ll see you’ve accomplished at least a few. That has worked for me anyway.

What’s worked for you?

The Art of Possibility: Rule Number 6

Two prime ministers are sitting in a room discussing affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts in, apoplectic with fury, shouting and stamping and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister admonishes him: “Peter,” he says, “Kindly remember Rule Number 6,” whereupon Peter is instantly restored to complete calm, apologizes, and withdraws. The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again 20 minutes later by an hysterical woman gesticulating wildly, her hair flying. Again the intruder is greeted with the words: “Marie, please remember Rule Number 6.” Complete calm descends once more, and she too withdraws with a bow and a n apology. When the scene is repeated for a third time, the visiting prime minister addresses his colleague: “My dear friend, I’ve seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Would you be willing to share with me the secret of Rule Number 6?” “Very simple,” replies the resident prime minister. “Rule Number 6 is ‘Don’t take yourself so god damn seriously.’” After a moment of pondering, he inquires, “And what, may I ask, are the other rules?”

           “There aren’t any.”   

~ from The Sixth Practice in The Art of Possibility


I’m re-reading The Art of Possibility by Dr. Rosamund Stone Zander and Boston Philharmonic Conductor Benjamin Zander. The chapter, Leading from Any Chair, discusses the “silent conductor” in all of us – the importance of leading from wherever you are in life or work. We don’t need to be managers, CEOs, and senior executives in order to lead. Everyone can be a leader, regardless of age or position. We lead by helping others do their best. If we know how to perform a task, we demonstrate and explain the process to another person trying to learn it. We don’t wait for “the boss” to tell everyone how it’s done. We don’t hold back from showing someone else because we want to be better than him or her. We help them learn so we can all do our best. In this manner, we are all leading as “silent conductors” from any seat.

The art of being a “silent conductor” is to listen and watch for passion and commitment from others. In The Art of Possibility, Zander suggests the leader look in the eyes of those individuals and invite them to share. Speak to their passion. Ask yourself, “who am I being that they are not shining?” That gives you, as the leader, the opportunity to be a “silent conductor”, to ask for feedback, and pass the leadership baton.

Even children can be leadersIn The Art of Possibility, the chapter on Rule Number 6 is about humor and lightening up. Often we take ourselves too seriously. As leaders we frequently try so hard to prove our worth, to succeed against all odds, to be better than everyone else, we forget that the goal is “together we all win”, not “I win, and therefore you lose.”

Our “Calculating Self”, as Zander calls it, wants to survive in a world of scarcity. It’s the voice that tells us take actions that get us noticed, to be strong, to be right, to win at all costs. It’s the voice that drives us on, always striving for something just out of reach. We’re never satisfied.

It takes many forms: the parent who acknowledges his child’s B+ and says, “That’s good, but with a little more work, you could have gotten an A.” Or the boss who tells his people, “I expect your work to be perfect; regardless of what it takes to achieve that.” Or the educator who tells her students, “Follow the outline exactly without deviation.”

Rule Number 6 reminds us to “lighten up” and stop taking ourselves so seriously. There are many paths to success and we each have different approaches. Rarely is there only one “Right Way”. So when you find yourself falling into the trap of the “Calculating Self”, stop and ask yourself:

What would have to change for me to be completely fulfilled?”
“What new possibilities might emerge if I were to change my thinking?”

Is it the situation or the people you are with? Is it an expectation you have that others can’t live up to? What change will bring about peace of mind to you and to others? Perhaps it’s merely to interject a little humor into the situation.

Laughter is a powerful tool for dispelling tension and opening up possibilities; such as . Zander’s comment to the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra when they were practicing Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra. The students were tired and tense, having just taken standardized tests, and were missing notes and key entrances in the music. He said, “Take it straight through the second movement, and NO MISTAKES. If you make a mistake…..a five-hundred pound cow will fall on your head.”

And that’s what The Art of Possibility is all about….seeing possibilities where none seem to exist. You can find the book on page 4 of our Strategy Book Store.

Fear of Failure…or Success

Rebecca Massey quit a safe, reliable job to pursue her dream of writing. She saved up money, and reduced her expenses by moving out of the city to a small place hours away from her friends. She faced her fear of failure and found new freedoms and success.

Her article struck a powerful note with me, since we’ve essentially done the same thing. In 2005 I left full time employment in a corporate job to work independently with my husband. I didn’t know what specifically I was going to do for work, but I knew I couldn’t continue in the job I had. Because Eric and I had worked jointly on consulting projects for five years during the ‘90’s, I was quite confident we could do even better. My health was suffering at my corporate job. Was it scary? You Bet!! But we survived, and in fact, we’ve done better than survive. We adjusted to sharing an office, working together on some projects and independently on others. We have found we work well together. We’re fortunate because not many couples can do this. We each follow our passions and collaborate where it makes sense.

wide open spacesIn 2010, we made further lifestyle changes, shifted priorities, and adjusted to a different routine. We left the city life of nearby shopping, freeways and paved roads, and moved to a small community in Central Arizona where people live on acres of land, grow vegetables, and raise cattle, chickens, goats, sheep and pigs. Life is slower and much more casual. The lifestyle focus is more about what you do, how you do it and how you contribute, less about what you have. With a larger property to look after, extraordinarily landscaped yards are less of a priority. Since many homes have unpaved driveways, everyone’s cars are dirty for a few days. However, just like in city living, neatness counts.

How you treat your fellow human beings is what matters. Here the focus is on service to others rather than self. Sure, you need to make enough to pay the bills and put some money away for the future. But paying bills and saving is a lot easier when your expenses are a third what they were. That leaves you time to focus on your goals without the stress of making ends meet. It also leaves you time to enjoy life, to relax, to travel, and to really enjoy old friends when you see them again.

Do we still have to fight that nemesis, Fear?

Yes. It still manages to raise its ugly head from time to time. But as I read between the lines in Massey’s article, The One Poisonous Thing That Really Prevents Success,, not facing the challenge is worse than living with the fear. Don’t let your mind play tricks on you. Don’t listen to the messages in your head that say you’re too old to pursue this or the market is saturated, or there’s too much competition, or you have nothing new or valuable to offer.

Think about what you know, what you’ve learned that others haven’t. Think about what makes you unique. Or how you approach a problem differently from others. Or how you solve puzzles easily when others are frustrated. Or how you see the big picture and end goal down the road when others are still mired in the weeds in front of them.

If it helps, write down your fears on a sheet of paper. Then make another column beside that list and write down how you feel now (or how you would feel) having faced those fears and made some changes. Are you less stressed? Are you living life more fully? Do you find more time and energy to be creative? Do you sleep better without the aid of pills or alcohol? Are you eating better? Is your work more fulfilling?

I find I have more time to be creative, to explore my passion for both Gluten Free cooking and creating inventive meals with Eric…and to just enjoy life. We have created a work-lifestyle balance that enables us to travel and still support our clients. Our schedule is our own. That’s hard to beat!

If you’d like to explore how to take this step yourself, contact me. Jeri[at]