life lessons

communication, Connection, Life Lessons, Perspective

Walk With Me (3min read)

Lewis: “Betsy, I’d like to spend some time with you before you depart tomorrowbut my schedule is very tight. Would you care to join me for my morning walk so we can have a chat?”

“I’d love to. What time should I meet you?”

Lewis: “How about 5am?”

“Sounds great!” I said, trying to mask the realization that 5am in Houston would feel like 3am in California.

Lewis: “Brilliant. See you then.”

And that’s how I found myself taking a walk at 3am PST in someone else’s shoes.

Literally.

(I’d only packed sandals for the two day trip and had to borrow Nike’s that were 1.5 sizes too big from a fellow I’d met the day before.)

As I left my room it occurred to my sleep-addled brain that walking the dark streets of downtown Houston with a lovely 67 year-old man may not be the safest decision I’ve ever made. I quickly grabbed my phone in case of emergency, and headed to the lobby.

Upon meeting Lewis I was introduced to a safety measure far greater than my phone. Caleb was a 6’4, 270lb former offensive lineman with the presence of a tattooed giant and the warmth of southern hospitality. My hand disappeared in his as he shook it, and with that our mismatched cadre took to the streets.

I’d come to Houston to meet Lewis M. Senior, the co-CEO of Equilibria, and learn more about what they did as the “personality diversity experts”. Having heard Lewis speak a few times I was conscious of the fact that this walk could very well be a “Tuesdays With Morrie” type experience. Although “Walkies with Louie” made for a questionable book title, I imagined the pearls of wisdom might be similar.

2 hours, 8 miles, and 1 Starbucks later, I was certain of it.

Much like the path we took along the bayou, our conversation twisted and turned through the topics of personality, innovation, diversity, inclusion, vulnerability, communication, confrontation, connection, possibility and human potential.

I was impressed by what was included in our conversation, and even more impressed by what was not; there were differences of opinion, but there was no judgment. There was an eagerness to share, but there were no interruptions. There was a genuine desire to understand which left no one feeling misunderstood.

Not to go all Nicholas Sparks on you, but it was absolutely A Walk to Remember.

It will take a while to digest all that happened on that walk, but the moral of my story is this...

The greatest gift we can offer another person, is our time.

When someone offers to gift you their time, show up for them - even if you feel unprepared. (Josh, thank you for the shoes!)

And finally, if you’re fortunate enough to know people who make you feel safe - whether to share your thoughts or venture into the unknown - take every opportunity to invite them to walk beside you.

 

[Photo credit: GETTY IMAGES/BOONCHAI WEDMAKAWAND]

Gratitude, Perspective

Gratitude + Presence = ?

While driving my grandmother to her Silver Sneakers class at the YMCA she turned to me and said, “It’s a strange thing, this being 90.”

“How do you mean?” I asked.

“Your memory. You do things and then later you don’t remember them. It’s just, ‘poof’” as she made a tiny explosion with her hand.

For years I’ve watched as Grandma’s fading memory frustrated and angered her as she refused to accept the fact that she was aging. While I empathize with the fear she feels at being unable to remember, the silver lining in her evolution is that she’s been brought fully into the now. My Grandmother knows that she will soon forget what just happened, so she’s learning to live moment to moment.

Lately I’ve been researching gratitude and I’m finding more and more that a by-product of being grateful is being present. In order to appreciate something (gratitude) we have to be consciously aware of its existence in this moment (presence).

As we wind through the hills she whispers “Oh my…” and “That’s beautiful” and “Look at that!” with a smile that would convince you that she’d always seen the world this way.

Grandma lost her memory but found gratitude and presence, which have combined to gift her the experience of “joy”.

Before we lose anything, let’s take a moment to be grateful, get present, and experience some of the joy that exists in our life right now. Enjoy your day!

Yoda and a Grain of Sand

“And suddenly, that was all I could see.”

Lately I’ve come to believe it is no coincidence that Yoga and Yoda are so close in spelling. Some of my favorite yoga instructors sound like wise sages imparting bits of wisdom while they look at my downward dog and think, “Mmm, flexible you are not.”

One morning our class was led by a petite older man named Simbai. While he wasn’t green and wrinkly, he was very Yoda-like in his instruction: speaking little while masterfully guiding the force within us. At the conclusion of our practice he told us a story about the time he visited the Grand Canyon.

“I looked out over the expanse and was so moved by the incredible beauty.” he said. “To think that water and time had created this gigantic thing of wonder.”

“As I marveled at the view, a gust of wind blew a little bit of sand into my eye.” He winked and winced now to mimic the irritation that he felt.

“I cursed, and rubbed, and cured some more. Damn you, grain of sand!!” he bellowed.

“And suddenly, that was all I could see. Here I was on the edge of this Grand Canyon, and my entire focus had instantly been reduced to a tiny speck in my eye. I laughed, wondering how often I let something small take my attention away from all the good that surrounds me.”

“Maybe the sand in your eye is a person, or a situation, or a negative thought… Whatever it is, don’t let the little things keep you from seeing the beauty that is your life.”

[Aligns chakras. Walks off mat.]

Enjoy the long weekend my friends, and may the force of a larger perspective be with you.

Life Lessons, Coaching

The Kayak

Thanks to the generosity of friends, I’m spending August at the Chautauqua Institute in a beautiful house on the lake. I can’t imagine a better setting in which to build a business and lay the foundation for success in my new venture. The grounds are breathtaking and soon after arrival I grabbed a life jacket from the porch and made for the dock to venture out in the homeowner’s double kayak. It was a bit windy, and as such there weren’t many boats on the water. 

“Perfect!”, I thought, “less chance of being run over by a speedboat.”

Having no idea how far it was, I set my sights on the opposite shore which I guesses to be just over a mile away. I wanted to touch it - to say I’d been across the lake. Excited for a new adventure I pushed away from the dock and into an experience. 

It took about 20 minutes to reach the other side and I pulled in next to a small floating dock with a giant bobble head owl meant to keep the seagulls away. As I sat on the dock basking in my achievement I looked at the owl, “Whoo… whoo” I said to myself with a grin. My inner dialogue took a serious turn however when the owl’s coo became elongated into questions like, “Whoo? Who are YOU to be here? Who are you to be coaching coaches? Who made you an expert in communication? Who?” As the conversation with my nodding companion began to get real I decided it was time to move on. Action has always been a great remedy for fear and doubt. 

Looking back across the lake I noticed the whitecaps were clearly present now and the wind had increased.  I aimed the kayak straight across and after a few strokes I noticed that already I’d been pushed further down the shoreline. 

Uh-oh.

Since it was an open top kayak the present danger wasn’t just in getting back, it was “how do I keep the small waves from inviting themselves on board??” My rowing across a windy lake in a double kayak experience was exactly zero. But, my paddling a surfboard into choppy break experience was high, so I did what I knew and pointed the kayak directly into the waves - and into the wind - and got to work. 

10 minutes later I looked sideways and realized I was only about 300 yards from shore and that it was going to be a long journey home. This was the same moment a twinge of panic set in. I quickened my stroke rate in an effort to cover more ground and minutes later recognized the need to pace myself. I stopped paddling to rest and felt the boat immediately drift south of my landing point. Long story shorter, it took over 3 times as long to get home, and I learned a lot along the way;

When you feel called to take an adventure, go for it! Whether or not you’ve done it before, whether or not you’re fully prepared, whether or not others think it wise or have found success in it. Jump in, start paddling, and see what happens.

Be your own cheerleader. On the way back I repeated “deep-stroke-strong-stroke” in rhythm with my paddle to stay focused on what needed to happen in the moment. 

When you reach a goal, celebrate it! I let out a little “WHOOP!” when I first reached the other side, and before my questions with the owl began I took a second to savor the view. 

- Meet challenges head on to get where you want to go. It will get tough. And the times you’ll want to rest are the exact moments when it’s crucial that you keep going.

Be mindful of how you spend your energy. If you’re gonna paddle, make each stroke count! Deep and strong, as skimming the surface will only take you so far. 

At times there will be doubt. LOTS of doubt! Who are you to do this thing? How dare you? And yet here you are… sometimes in the middle of a lake with the elements working against you. Remember that you have resources (a paddle, a life jacket, a kayak) and you have intangibles (work ethic, positivity, commitment) the combination of which is uniquely your own. Keep showing up. Again, and again, and trust that you already have all you need to make it.

- The path may not be what you imagined - `and it may take a lot longer than you planned - but stay the course. It’s absolutely worth it!

- Finally, when you do get to where you’re going, be grateful. And then in gratitude, set your sights on future adventures and enjoy!