It Will Hurt...

The band aid may pull out a few hairs when you tear it off. 

There will be sleepless nights when you begin planning your exit strategy from that dead-end job. 

At times you will experience doubt and a sense of loneliness when you decide to end the relationships that bring you more misery and heartache than joy and safety. 

You will cry when you stop begging them to stay and finally watch them walk away. 

The anxiety you will feel when you have no choice but to ask for help will be real. 

You will feel abandoned by a few familiar faces when you finally begin living the life you were created to live and not the life someone told you was good enough. 

It will hurt.

So why do it?

Do it because you deserve it. Do it because after the sting, the sleepless nights, the doubt, the loneliness, the tears, the anxiety, and the abandonment, YOU WILL STILL BE ALIVE. 

How Will You Respond?

We all know that family member, friend or colleague who seems to always be juggling a string of unfortunate events and challenges. Certainly, in many instances, the misfortune is the result of a poor decision. It is also the case that these events are sometimes brought on by factors outside of the individual's control. 

It's not that misfortune only happens to some people and not others. What does vary is how we behave when misfortune appears. Lisa might be late to work once and decide that going forward she is going to leave ten minutes earlier and find a less congested route. Andrew will be late to work fifteen times and blame the alarm clock or the school bus taking its time getting kids on before it tucks away its most powerful weapon, a stop sign. Robert may forget to pay a bill and then decide to set up automatic payments and set more money aside for emergencies each month. On the other hand, Tracy will come up short on multiple bills each month and be constantly stressed about money but she will continue going to Starbucks every morning and eating out four times per week. 

It is not that some people have lives that are divorced from misfortune and mistakes. It is really that when the mistake is made or the obstacle appears, some of us act as owners of our lives and some of us behave like victims. 

The question is not whether challenges will emerge. The question is how will you respond when they do? 

Who Has Your Ear?

Is it the group of people who always complain? Is it the person on your team who has the unique balance of paranoia and optimism? Is your calendar filled with appointments that will require you to listen to those who come to the table to tell you all of the reasons why you are going to fail even though that's not what the data says? 

There is some truth to the old saying that we were given two ears and one mouth so we should use them proportionally, and we should use both wisely. Who we listen to matters to our ability to stay focused on the cause, to end the day feeling like we made progress, to hear all of the evidence we need to make an informed decision. 

You words are valuable your ears are invaluable. When someone wants to borrow your ear and you know the cost of listening is too much, be bold enough to say "not now," "no thank you."  

What Matters Most

If it is a priority then prioritize it. Make it visible and sticky so that you don't have to call it a priority because it clearly lives as one. 

People know what you care about by what you do, not by what you include on the first or last slide of the PowerPoint Presentation. 

Align your behavior, time, and money to what you say matters most. Otherwise, you are mostly kidding yourself and a few spectators who will catch on eventually and be disappointed. 

The Pieces of You

Managing people is an illuminating art. It sheds light on your strengths and weaknesses. It makes your insecurities rise the surface.

You're asked to lead and perhaps you imagine yourself walking calmly through an open field with a team of adventurers loyally following behind you, even if their steps are cautious. In reality, at moments you find yourself trying to wrangle in people who want to stay right where they are while also trying to catch up with a few who are already ahead of you potentially  running in different directions. 

Being a leader in many ways is like putting yourself in a room surrounded by mirrors on all sides. Each way you turn, you bump into some part of yourself. Each person you are responsible for represents some part of you and you're charged with balancing all of them at once.

The one who says, "we've always done it this way," is your fear of change. The one who says, "let's try it this way," is your curiosity about what is possible. The one who lashes out when things aren't fair is your love of justice. 

The task is to listen to all of them because of course their voices have value. It is then through listening within the context of the larger goal that you can determine which voices to cultivate. 

So What?

As our world becomes more and more connected, the rate of feedback we receive increases. We post a picture we think is worth sharing and twenty-four hours later, three people have liked it and one of them happens to be our mother.

We publish our latest post and we think the thought-provoking sentence we wrote and edited four times would be enough to capture the interest of at least one reader who might leave a comment. One week later, nothing.

This sort of feedback can increase the insecurities of anyone who is touching the surface of their creative spirit. We find ourselves doubting the impact of our work and question everything before we even begin to type, sing, dance or wet the tip of the paint brush. 

An idea comes crashing down from the creative heavens and we begin interrogating ourselves with questions that leave us right where we were when the idea found us. 

How am I going to find the time to make this happen? 

What if I pursue this and it doesn't work out? 

What if I pour energy, time and even money into this project and it flops? 

What if no one reads it? 

What about all of the other voices out there that are more popular than mine? The last time I tried this, I saw someone else do it and it was ten times better and it was far more interesting. 

There is nothing empowering about these types of questions. In fact, they're quite crippling. What if we let our little insecure spirits take a few minutes to name all of the reasons we might fail and then simply asked ourselves, so what?

Those of us who change our little piece of the world just by living our best lives, don't do so by playing according to the rules because the rules keep us doing what "makes sense."

You're not supposed to come home after working ten hours and write a best-selling novel. No one tells you that after your last kids graduates from high school, that you are supposed to go back to school and finish your own degree. No one is going to blame you if you don't go back to dancing because you've gotten a little older and you have other priorities that matter more to other people than the joy you get when your body and music become one.

The rules don't account for these things. And you know what, so what? 

 

Let Us Pretend

When did you stop creating? Was it a series of small events or did it happen with one experience that was so remarkably painful that it stopped you immediately?

Was it a teacher who told you had too much rhythm? Did a coach or mentor tell you to do it their way? Was it an overprotective parent who wanted to shield you from the embarrassment of certain failure at some point even if it was on the path toward your well-deserved success? Find the moment. The sad truth, is that it doesn't take much effort.

Whether it was yesterday or twenty years ago, the voice that broke the sound of our most joyful moment to simply say "no" or "don't do that" can be heard forever. Find the moment...

Now, reactivate your imagination and pretend it never happened. 

What would you do? Who would you be? Where would you live? Who would you love?

Jump! 

Between What You Have and What You Need

The space you feel between where you are and where you want to be is real, not imagined. It's the bundle of anxiety you feel on Sunday night before you return to your Monday morning routine with the only exciting thought being that the next weekend is just five days away. 

How you got to this point in the job, the relationship, the steadily climbing debt, doesn't really matter. What's most important is that you get out! Change is scary, but so is facing the end and wishing you had taken the exit on the right you passed years ago.

Be grateful for what you have but don't ignore what you need. It could be yours if you started walking in a different direction and stopped accepting a life of business as usual. 

Dont' Become A Played Out Song

If you keep asking the same question, it's not because you don't know the answer. It's because you don't care that you already know the answer. 

You're seeking out answers and explanations. You call the best friend, your mom, or your mentor. You bring it up again to your therapist only to hear the same answer, the same wisdom you've heard over and over again. Yet, you haven't accepted the answer as final. You spend more time trying to disprove the truth than you do trying to figure out how to change direction now that you have found it. You'll keep this up until you become too tired or worse, everyone you keep going to for answers stops responding. 

Have you ever listened to the same song so many times that it now annoys you when you hear it? It's because it was a fun song that fit a moment that passed long ago. That's what you are becoming. A source of questions that were answered long ago in multiple ways and they won't be put to rest because you are afraid to move on. 

Accept. What. You. Know. 

Quit Blaming Time

You talk about the dreams you have of writing a New York Times best seller. You hear someone speak in another language and its beauty reminds you of your desire to learn something other than your native tongue. Perhaps you finally want to get back into the dating scene after recovering from a relationship that ended. Whatever the desire is, you have it and yet you do nothing about it. Why is that?

If someone asks you, you'll say "I don't have the time." That's easy, isn't it? We all share the reality that every day we are given is made up of the same twenty four-hours. The day ends and too often it's hard for us to clear our heads to see the progress we've made even if in the smallest way. Blame time and people understand. 

What we will inevitably struggle to understand is the day we wake up and realize that the end is near and we spent much of our time blaming time for why we didn't obtain the lives we wanted. Our legacy will be limited by the safe actions we took. Our dreams will whither away, evidence of the risks we were too afraid to take and we will settle for what we have and conclude that life has been good enough. 

Couldn't life be better than "good enough" if we found the courage to reject the idea that time is our enemy and began looking at it as a true friend.  Time gives us a chance to say sorry. It gives us an opportunity to change direction, to start over. It is probably the best friend we have, more forgiving and encouraging than we could ever imagine. 

Brother?

Can you believe those words that fell from his mouth with such ease? He found the nerve to mention his leadership, his experience, his credentials, as though those things give him true power in a place that knows little about privilege. It was the position that got to his head. Made him think he had authority. What he really had was a satchel of insecurities heavy enough for its strap to tear into the ivory flesh of his shoulder blades. It's troubling to think of those who come to save and grimace with tremendous astonishment the very moment they are commanded to serve. 

It's always unfortunate when the comrade proves to be a cancer, eager to make swift decisions that play to his personal interests and desires more than those of the very people who open their arms and say, "Join us in this fight foreign brother. This isn't about you but it's about our children who may live to never know of the awful things your people have done." 

The Sheep Count Me...

The sun was up before I laid down. It was supposed to be a quick nap. Following an afternoon of heavy, sinful food and wine, a soft pillow seemed like the perfect place to chew on thoughts about what the evening might promise. The hours passed us by. The cell phone, face down on the nightstand, vibrated gently. Messages piled up. Posts and pictures accumulated in the far reaching arms of lives only known through the glow of a screen. This and that friend posing in aclub or on a beach in this or that city, country, village and town. None of it compared to the sight of the moon's kiss upon an arm sprawled across my chest, its owner inhaling and exhaling to the beat of silent drum. I was at peace.

Sometimes a weekend filled with stillness and silence is the most fun the soul can have. 

Puppy Love

He ran and hid under the bed like a monster walked into the room. A memory of my father crept into the doorway where I stood looking down at the hardwood floors. My voice, heavy with anger. My heart, filled with love and disappointment all at once.There were fragments of cotton and plastic scattered around the legs of my bed. A pool of what I hoped was water sat still near the wooden chair where I place a few books for nighttime reading. The day had been long.

Thirteen hours had gone by since coffee kissed my lips and I wondered, why on earth should I have to come home to his mess. I could smell shit breathing in a dark corner somewhere. An old pair of socks, attacked by immaturity, were left helpless and out of place. The laundry basket I re-organized  long before sunrise had tugged around the room. How did the little rebel find a pair of underwear exposed at the bottom of the bin just enough for him to chew on? I could not have imagined that a ball of white, brown and grey fur could make me so damn angry when just weeks before he was content with being perfectly still, his two pound body curled up at the intersection of my neck and shoulder, his breath still sweet and innocent.

Having another heart beating in my home had been a thought, for four years prior and now I finally had him. I had been searching for the time and the capacity until I realized it would never come. There was my career, my friends, travel. I had no time to care for anything other than myself until I saw those eyes, brown buttons, brown little liars that whispered, I will cause no harm. Who was I to think that he'd just sit there, still and quiet until I returned home?

Who was I to think that he owed me something because I swiped my debit card and rescued him from wires, shreds of old paper and siblings that ate their own feces while he slid into the back corner of a tight space and looked at everything and everyone with suspicion until I held him close and said his name, a name I chose long before I chose him?

There I was, tired, too tired and then suddenly reignited by anger, so palpable, though I chose not to show it. I chose not to say anything or blame him for being a puppy.

I chose to take off my tie. I chose to roll my sleeves up. I chose to step over the pool of whatever and to get on my knees. I chose to lift the bed skirt up and there I found those brown buttons, brown liars that whispered, I know I made a mess again. Love me anyway. 

And I do... My God... I do.

Today's Word: 6.09.14...Even When You Can't See The Path, Begin Walking!

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When I think about some of the most incredible moments in my life, I must say that I do not know where I would be without faith.

Whether it has been packing my things and moving to New York when I felt my spiritual and creative development being stifled in my previous environment or taking on a role as a leader in a previously failing school, being able to say yes even when fear was yelling "hell no," has not only opened my mind to the infinite possibilities in this life, but it has allowed me to discover the courage that exists within me.

Some of the greatest moments in your life will come simply because you will have the courage to begin walking without knowing where the path may lead.

Thursday 6.05.14... How To Learn From Everyone

“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.” ― Pema Chödrön

Each day we are given is another opportunity to get it right, a chance to learn something about the ways of this world and who we are in it. We don't learn by closing our minds and our heart but by pushing ourselves to always be open to the infinite possibilities of life, however they may come.

If we seek to deepen our understanding, we must be willing to learn something from every source, no matter how small and simple the lesson may seem. It is not enough to sit at the feet of those we admire and trust. We have to be open to engaging with the stranger, the taxi driver, the small child who is likely more creative than we are because their perception has not yet been tainted and yes, even the ones who annoy us.

I have discovered that when I am annoyed by someone or something, it is not an opportunity for me to run, but a moment for me to pause and simply ask, "what are you here to show me about myself?"

Wednesday, 6/4/14...Deepen Your Relationships By Being Honest

“Lying is, almost by definition, a refusal to cooperate with others. It condenses a lack of trust and trustworthiness into a single act. It is both a failure of understanding and an unwillingness to be understood. To lie is to recoil from relationship.”-Sam Harris

We're all guilty of it. No matter who you are, even when it has been simple and innocent, you have lied. We lie for many reasons, some of which are scientific. Researchers recently discovered that we are less likely to demonstrate integrity as the day progresses because our self-control diminishes over time. Whatever the reason (guilt, shame, or fear), when we lie we miss an opportunity to deepen our relationships with ourselves and others.

For myself, I know that there have been times when I have lied because I was afraid of how my truth might impact someone else. Though I now understand that in many ways, I lied because I was afraid of how others might see me. At this stage in my life, I am striving to be myself in every relationship and that requires me to lean into the discomfort of my truth as opposed to running away from it.

If we want more authentic relationships, we have to be willing to tell the truth not "even when", but especially when it is difficult.

Tuesday, 6/3/14... "Lose The Meaningless to Gain The Meaningful"

"Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option."-Maya Angelou 

As you continue on your journey of personal development where you begin to live a life aligned with your calling and your unique purpose, you may discover that there are some people who no longer belong in your space. Of course, watching our circles shrink can feel daunting and it has the potential to make us feel lonely but we must protect our energy and time if we want to enrich our lives by strengthening our relationships with people who pour into us the way we pour into them.

Do not be afraid to "lose" meaningless connections in order to create more meaningful experiences in this life.

Staying Cool Under Pressure

The work that I do as a school leader is often very exciting and demanding. Being responsible for  children, adults and high stakes results, requires me to tap into a wide range of skills I've accumulated over the years from setting a clear vision to motivating others when they're lacking confidence. Though I seldom have to explain why I do the work I do, many people are often curious about how I manage some aspects of my role that can be challenging.The question I'm most often asked is, "how do you stay so calm?" Years ago when I found myself in difficult situations, I would hear a little voice whispering "don't ever let them see you sweat."I don't hear that voice much these days, but my sense is that the mentality is baked in. The underlying mindset I hold onto is that appearing stressed seldom makes things easier. It's my responsibility as a good teammate and leader to remove barriers and sources of stress for others so they can focus on what matters most. Having played enough sports, I know that when a coach looks overwhelmed or worried, it impacts the way the team feels about the game.

Though the mindsets I hold are fundamental to the way I operate in difficult times, there are some actual technical/skill-based moves I repeatedly pull that help me stay "75 and Sunny" even in the midst of an unexpected hurricane.

1) Keep things in perspective: Whenever I find myself in the middle of stressful situation, I try my best to be mindful of the fact that there are 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week and 365 days in a year. The situation I'm handling begins to look small with respect to time and energy when I keep in mind that it's only one event at one point in my entire career.

2) Rallying my team: I have seldom dealt with a difficult situation alone. Even when I have final decision rights on the best course of action, I am never hesitant when it comes to pulling in thought-partners and key players who can help me remain focused on resources and options at my disposal. I know that my work is demanding and I can't do it without my team behind me. I also recognize that I'm not always the best person to handle critical steps in resolving complicated situations so I leverage the strengths of my team to get things done.

3) Finding the appropriate release: Experiencing stress and appearing to be stressed are not synonymous. I'm not a robot! I don't hide my emotions ad infinitum, but I find the appropriate time to release in a way that does not add fuel to the fire I am trying to extinguish. When I recently handled one of my most challenging crisis in the last year, I stayed focused on being logical and rational in the moment while mobilizing my team to take the best course of action to contain an isolated event that could have mushroomed into a nightmare. But trust me, immediately after the smoke settled, I went into a private room, ate several chocolate chip cookies and prayed. Once I was calm, I took a few minutes to chat with a teammate and mentor about the experience and how I was feeling.

4) Striving to achieve the best possible outcome: Being a leader requires you to strive for excellence in everything you do. You may drop the ball occasionally, but you always push yourself to learn and grow and to serve as a model for others. This can be dangerous though if you lose perspective and ignore reality while becoming obsessed with a vision to the point that your perfectionism hinders your ability to get things done. When you're trying to manage stress during a difficult situation, you can't be concerned about how far off the reality is with respect to what you would imagine in your ideal world. I don't have any survey results, but I'm willing to bet that no one who has ever been responsible for passengers on a sinking cruise line has worried about how much their guests would miss out on the wonderful five course dinner available in the dining hall. Your primary concern needs to be doing the best you can with the best you have in the moment even when that means good trumps great for the day.

As the old saying goes, "Keep Calm, and Carry On!"

 

Sitting In Silence & Listening

"When I remember to sit in absolute silence, I hear great things." -Dymir 

My first experience with meditation came in my senior year of high school. My principal, Mr. Palatucci, selected several students to be members of a leadership development program he ran and I was honored to be one of his pupils.

In the spirit of cultivating leadership, we studied a variety of executive skills such as planning and effective communication, but the most powerful lessons came in moments when we were forced to turn inward and think more critically about who we were in the world and what power we possessed both individually and collectively.

I remember being asked to close my eyes one day during class when Mr. P was discussing the power of meditation and reflection. My peers and I sat in a dimply lit classroom and under the direction of his carefully orchestrated words, we were transported into a world of calm energy; a state in which I felt at total peace.

It was as if I had discovered some hidden energy within myself that had always been there but from which I had always been distracted.Meditation is now a part of my daily rituals and it has served me well in some of the most challenging moments in my life.

What I love most about my practice now as an adult, is that I have grown into a sense of comfort with listening in silence. I sit in a comfortable wooden chair in my living room before the sun rises and I listen, with an open heart, to what the universe has to offer. Words and stories come to me  and I am made  aware of my role, my responsibility to share them with others, for they are not my own.

The moment when you realize that there is great power in silence is the moment when you realize how much time and effort you've wasted on distractions on your journey toward understanding who you are and what purpose you serve. It is the moment when you embrace the tremendous power that exists within you and you decide to become who you were always meant to be: a powerful source of energy, divinely created for a unique purpose.

Happy Listening,

Dymir

I Knew You When...

There are points of pain to which you must become accustomed if you desire to live with an open mind and an open heart. Despite these points, if you have the required faith in love, you will never forget the value of dreaming regardless of what nightmares may come and they will come, in many forms, like unrequited love, affection given without being earned, and sacrifices made for those who know not of sacrifice. Over the years I have left the door of my heart open or at least cracked and every so often, some damaged and discouraged creature of beauty has crept in searching for nourishment, searching for an opportunity to speak its truth without the fear of judgment.

At first I cared, perhaps too much, lavishing weakened muscles barely gripping bones, with affection and encouragement hoping that once restored and renewed, an unfamiliar guest would become a familiar fixture, transcending time, growing beside me as love propelled us forward outweighing fear enough for the trajectories of our desires to intersect like rivers flowing into one united waterfall until all distinctions became undetectable…

But I have learned that even the most broken creatures begin to dream of flying and running into the wild when they forget what it feels like to crawl and remember how to walk.

Too many nights had passed before I grew to see the patterns of my love like undiscovered constellations. Alone, partially by choice, in the most silent silence, I could feel time stop and suddenly I felt an unknown body beside me, a body of secrets forgotten; grievances untold; trespasses too readily forgiven. There I was face to face with the truth of my addiction to fixing other people. I had been wrapping myself in other people’s problems so that I would not have to see my own and when there was nothing there to distract me, I crashed into my own truth, unable to take another breath without opening my eyes to see my own pathology.

Now as I stand firm on a mountain of love for myself only second to the love and adoration, I have for my creator I can see the pain of my previous tribe, a nation of souls fixated on saving everyone but themselves. Those souls, fearful of seeing their beauty, their brilliance, churn around in a cycle of misfortune with glimpses of hope, until they fall to the bottom of an imaginary world where they can convince others to love them, where the broken bodies they find will grow to appreciate their nourishment, where they will be rewarded for accepting less than they deserve.

They will become bent to the point of almost breaking just before they too will realize that the narratives they have created enslave them to the point that being in the presence of anyone but themselves is more desirable than true emotional and spiritual freedom.

To those souls who are still fixed on loving others back to life, while they remain broken and are ultimately left to stand alone, my heart does pray for a much needed awakening… I too know what it is like to sing “I knew you when you needed me” again and again. Today I sing, I knew you when I was afraid to know myself.