Taking Susan Boyle to the Office

Oh, what we can learn from the frumpy lady who’s taken the world by storm!

Here’s a sensational story that is sticking with me in a good way…

Being a fan of underdogs, I was delighted and teary watching Susan Boyle blow away the skeptics in the “Britain’s Got Talent” semifinals last month.  You’ve probably seen the YouTube video a million times by now, or caught Ms. Boyle on one of her many interviews.

Arriving on stage at BGT, she was immediately discounted and disrespected – with rolling eyes and snickers from the  judges and audience – because of her frumpy appearance.  But man, did she prove us wrong with her soaring voice!  Goes to show that vocal chords have nothing whatsoever to do with hair and makeup.  But we knew that, didn’t we…Didn’t we?

Flash forward a few weeks:  I’m realizing that there are Susan Boyles all around me.  At work, for instance, there are people who’ve written children’s books, are actresses, composers and ballroom dance competitors.   Going a bit deeper in my daily conversations I catch glimpses of previously unseen dreams and passions in colleagues I’ve been with for years.  Who knew?  Full, whole, creative, authentic people everywhere! Including the office!

More importantly, I also become more aware of the immediate judgments that cause us to prematurely dismiss others.  Last week I needed input from someone who seems flighty and disorganized.  Come to find out that her Mom was recently diagnosed with cancer.  My colleague has been juggling the care for her Mom around work and her own child’s needs.   What I experienced is not incompetence – a conclusion I was too close to drawing.  It’s exhaustion, preoccupation and grief held below the surface and out of context in a work environment.  I remember the snap judgments made of Susan and appreciate even more the lesson she brings.

Challenge:

Look below the surface with your colleagues this week.  What new things do you learn to appreciate about the people in your life?

When have you made snap judgments about someone?  Examine your assumptions.  What is true about that person’s situation?

PS:  The BGT final with Susan Boyle will be blogged live at live.stv.tv on Saturday, May 30th.

Why I’m Not Hiding Any More

Too much computer-time means not enough time with what really matters.

“Where have you been?”  I’ve had several people ask why I haven’t been blogging lately.  My answer is that I’m learning to live more courageously.  For me that means living more in the actual world and less “in my head.”  The computer, particularly, becomes my chicken-out place.  Often it’s easier to be totally immersed in arms-length virtual relationships – drafting blog posts, keeping up with FB, tweeting, emailing – than to engage in face-to-face human relationships.

A couple days after my Mom’s surgery in February, I was back at home with my husband and daughter, decompressing from the stress of the past week.   I sat in an overstuffed chair deeply focused on twitter.  My daughter came to the side of my chair.  “Come Mama…walk to the store with me and Daddy,” she said gently, almost apologetically.  I felt a surge of annoyance at being interrupted, and then I realized my ridiculousness.  For a split second I chose my online world – twitter, of all things! – over my 5 year old.

I went on that walk. I looked at bugs and laughed at bad knock-knock jokes with my family.  It was the best thing I had done in months and I realized how much the computer had become my hiding place. I also remembered how divine and scary it is to love other human beings that much, and decided to commit myself to learning how to do it a little bit better.  So that’s where I’ve been. Practicing:  playing with my child, walking the dog, attending parties, exercising, and being present for other people as well as myself.  It’s a work in progress.

Note:  Loving human beings includes yourself!  Sometimes the hardest part.

Where have you been hiding out lately?

Lincoln’s Road to the White House

Aren’t you glad Lincoln kept going despite the challenges?

President Abraham Lincoln:  Heroic American icon.  Role model for many including President Obama.  We’ve certainly heard a lot about him lately, but I know little about the 16th President of the United States except the few facts that are part of our American lore.  So I was really surprised when I saw the list of his many challenges on the way to the White House, and my imagination is captured.  If Lincoln could persist and stay true to his dreams and vision, what can we do?   Adversity is a crucible that burns off excess concerns and limitations, leaving our most authentic, wise, courageous and rich selves.  This bumpy road made it possible for Lincoln to be the right man at the right time for his presidency.

Lincoln’s road to the White House:

  • Failed in business in 1831
  • Defeated for Legislature in 1832
  • Second failure in business in 1833
  • Suffered nervous breakdown in 1836
  • Defeated for Speaker in 1838
  • Defeated for Elector in 1840
  • Defeated for Congress in 1843
  • Defeated for Congress in 1848
  • Defeated for Senate in 1855
  • Defeated for Vice President in 1856
  • Defeated for Senate in 1858
  • Elected President in 1860

I first saw this list tacked on the board at my local YMCA.  I’ve subsequently seen it posted other places online including author John Fenzel’s blog.

I was so captured by what Lincoln went through, I now want to read a biography to learn more about this man.  A friend recommends Carl Sandburg’s book:  Abraham Lincoln:  The Prairie Years and the War Years.  I’ll let you know!

National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day

Small things — like pastrami on rye — ARE worth celebrating. What’s your national holiday?

Last week someone wished me a happy National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day!  Besides making me chuckle, and search high and low for a good pastrami on rye, it got me thinking about the celebration of everyday things.

Those kooky “national days” let us peek at something cherished.  After all someone had to make an effort to officially list their passion.   The topics are diverse:  According to one list, Sunday was Winnie the Pooh Day; this Saturday the 24th is Belly Laugh Day; and today is Answer Your Cat’s Question Day.  (Don’t you wonder the story behind that one!?) 

We have so much to celebrate.  Big national changes like the presidential inauguration; personal achievements like promotions and birthdays; and our everyday joys.   How often do you celebrate the “small” joys and successes in daily life?  Isn’t that the stuff we should want to share with others?  What everyday experience is so wonderful for you that you’d want everyone to experience it?  For some it’s a perfect hot pastrami sandwich.

I once attended a workshop where we were asked to envision the thing we would most want to give to other people on this planet.  We were to get very specific – even tiny – to describe an exquisite experience to share with our fellows.  For me it was a deep, deep breath followed by a long tension-releasing exhale.  Imagine if everyone on earth took a deep breath and simultaneously exhaled, releasing collective anxiety, tension, and fear.  Global Exhale Day!  A small everyday thing – a breath – could be so BIG.

What small thing is big for you?   Make it your holiday!

By the way, I finally landed my pastrami sandwich today.  Mmmm, now that IS worth celebrating!

A New Source of Fresh Hot Job Leads

Job leads for people who love an entrepreneurial adventure.

If you are looking for a job and you love the vibe and excitement of start up business, you’ll be thrilled to hear about the newly launched job board, StartUpHire.  This job board is exclusively for venture capital backed businesses, which might make them seem less risky.  These companies continue to have backing in this economy?  That’s pretty good news!  (Still do your due diligence!)  Also, I am impressed by the number and the breadth of offerings on this site considering it just started:  10,000 listings across many geographies, functions and levels.

This is a brand new service so you probably haven’t seen these job opportunities in all the usual places.  Jump on it job seekers!

Go to www.StartUpHire.com.

Enjoy!

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Are These the Best Leadership Books of 2008?

Laura is wishing for a bit more pizzazz.

Feeling the need for an infusion of leadership learning?  I just ran across a list of best leadership and management development books of 2008 in Dan McCarthy’s excellent blog Great Leadership.

I hate to admit that I have not read a single one of these, but I’m drawn to Outliers.  I’ve been fascinated by Malcolm Gladwell’s other books, especially the Tipping Point.  I might even take a commenter’s advice and read Outliers in conjunction with Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin — that’s a good “against the grain” title!

But other than those two, I’m uninspired by this list.  I’m sure they are stellar books full of wise guidance.  It’s just that these titles make me yawn.  Where’s the zing?

So now I’m on a quest for the best alternative leadership books of 2008.  Looking for great titles AND great information, if at all possible.  Quirky approaches are welcomed too!

Have any suggestions?

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