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“That can’t possibly work! The roll out time will coincide with our busiest season. And the engineers are scrambling as it is.  Siphoning off talent to work on this will handicap us.” Jeff bellowed, riled up by Amy’s presentation of a new product design.

The air was suddenly sucked out of the conference room. Amy stood stock still at the whiteboard – everyone’s eyes riveted to her face.

She was newly promoted talent; coming up fast through the ranks of design engineers as a hard-working, creative and highly efficient team leader. In addition to her design skills, she worked well with people, which is why, Michael, the CEO had promoted her.

Now he was watching her from behind his owl-like glasses, waiting for a reaction to Jeff’s
attack, calm and curious.

Amy, took a few long breaths, lined up her feet on the carpet for balance and looked at Jeff directly. Then, quietly but distinctly, she said “I appreciate your perspective. You make some good points. Let me address why I think this the right time to begin development on this product and perhaps you can help flush out the details.”

Oxygen returned to the room. MIchael, nodded and said to himself, “This conflict is going to be productive.”

Conflict comes with a bad rap. It’s never pleasant, easy or what you’d choose off a Chinese menu. Yet, if you work for a healthy organization, it is an important part of  big decisions. So you need to know how to “be with conflict” in a way that supports your brilliance, the organization you work for and yourself. (And for women, it is often particularly challenging.)

Learning to exhale goes a long way towards funding the ability to handle conflict.  And balancing, in your sweet spot, is required as well. It also helps to depersonalize the conflict – not feeling that you are under attack, but rather your ideas – a hard stretch but necessary.

Yet these skills, hardwon for sure, and absolutely necessary, are insufficient if you want to be brilliant at what you do!  They are critical first steps, but not what is at the heart of living into your brilliance.

So what is?

The big leap, a mile-high  one, is to see conflict as generative.

Yep, generative…. a welcome arena to enter into armed with the knowledge that different perspectives often hone, polish and improve your idea…build it out or repair the parts that may be slightly flawed. Sometimes, conflict acts as the much needed fuel that allows you to bolster a design, a concept, a process. Sometimes only in the conflict can you find out the strength of your commitment. And if  doesn’t serve up any of these, it may simply  allow other’s energy a valid place to come to rest.

We grow up taught to “play nice”. And in most situations, it feels right. Yet breakthroughs in medicine, science, art – any human endeavor  –  did not come about by “playing nice”. Instead, questioning, arguing, debating- subverting the dominant paradigm – brought us breakaway advances in technology, architecture, health care and so on.

If we stifle our best ideas, our controversial designs, our “outside the lines” concepts from fear of conflict, what are we really doing? And how does that playing small in the face of conflict shrivel us more and more over time? It isn’t a way to work (or to be) and you don’t have to take it on.

Sure, there are times when a great concept dies on the drawing board, or is aborted in the conference room – sometimes for good reasons, sometimes not.

Yet, killing your own ideas or more often allowing them to wilt in the face of conflict untimately shuts you down – not to mention the loss to the group, company, corporation.

So what does seeing “conflict as generative” consist of? It’s a huge mind shift. A way of taking your outworn perspective and turning it on its head –  in service of something greater – your brilliance! And it takes practice.

In the next few blogs, I’ll be guiding you through the steps that move you into this way of seeing and handling conflict. (I’ve mentioned a few of the physical ones already). If you are ready to
stand up for your brilliance, watch for the next in this series on Conflict is Generative.

Oh, and what happened to Amy? Jeff heard her out fully. He reluctantly helped her craft a plan that brought her design off the screen and into 3 dimensional reality. As they worked on it together, he became more enthusiastic, adding some of his own ideas. Jeff also grudgingly, developed some respect for Amy along the way. The new product went on to add significantly to third quarter profits, not just earnings, for the company.  And Michael, the CEO proudly honored both of them at a celebratory dinner.

How have you handled conflict at your workplace? Share your comments and ideas below.


“Flight 918, now boarding” blared the speakers. Tired after my day at a major university’s school of management, I prepared to return home, brimming with satisfaction.

It had been a good day, filled with wonderful women. These MBA candidates were poised to grab the leadership reins of various institutions. And they had let me lead them through a brainstorming session to identify specific needs of women leaders.

With the assistant dean sitting in, I began by sharing a model of embodied leadership that rocks.

It pointed out that people operate out of a story they have about “how things are”. Its their “default” understanding. Out it they act. To expand the story requires first seeing that its only one story – not reality. And in response to realizing that, people can take on a few new practices that expand their repertoire of responses to their situation.

While the language was new, the women were nodding along in understanding as I took them through each step.

Primed, they could now begin their part in the process. I divided the 11 program leaders into two groups.

I pointed to the guidelines for brainstorming on the whiteboard:

1. Judgment Free Zone: don’t edit and don’t judge anyone else’s ideas.

2. Add On’s Welcome: if something you hear sparks a thought, add it on to the original idea.

3. Shake it Out If You get Stuck: getting stuck is normal, so if it happens, get up and move your body.

Then, I asked 3 questions (well number 2 is cheating a little) :

1) What do women leaders need?

2) What would support look, sound, feel like to you?

3) If anything were possible, what do you imagine would have the most impact?

Questions when brainstorming is like oiling a finely engineered machine…

Armed with colorful post-its pads each woman got to work, in silence. Silence is important at the outset of a brainstorming process. It allows the anxiety of  comparisons ( “am I going to have ideas?” “what is she writing?” “what am I stupid? “to fade away. Enough silence creates an opening for something new to show up. In the silence, I could hear brain cells rubbing up against one another.

After the silent period, women in their groups, shared what was on their post-its. This was add-on time as one person’s idea sparked another. And add-ons proliferated. So did some stories.

Next each group pasted their post-it ideas onto a flip chart sheet, making a brightly colored display.

I asked the groups to move to  the other flip chart, review the post it notes their peers had put up and organize the ideas into into 3 or 4 themes. The conversation volume inched up a few decibels and energy rose in the room.

Finally, as a large group, we debriefed, coming up with common themes – the topics of choice.

We came away with subject areas like:

  • Conflict: When, Where, How & Why;

  • Confidence: Moving from Gravity’s Center;

  • Somatics: Leaders Have Bodies Too;

  • Creating Support Systems (Every Leader needs a “Wife”); and

  • Creating Opportunities: Effective Self-Promotion.

Wow! Suddenly these women were energized – their voices trilling up and down as they recounted tales of woe and glory! And I relaxed. Despite the shortage of time for our session, despite their harrowing schedules, despite juggling relationships, children, jobs and a rigorous program, they wanted more and more and more – recognizing that support was on its way.

Brainstorming can bring on a storm of passion…passion that gets funneled back through the body as energy and into ideas. These ideas, when broached,  sustain momentum. And in that university classroom, we were rocking it (from a place of mutual understanding and recognition of common frustrations).

And oh, the sweet clarity! I could return home to craft the workshops that would take these juicy ideas into interactive events where these women would flex their muscles, stretch a bit beyond what was comfy and grow some new skills. Naturally, the model I had shared to kick start our thinking would be a roadmap for these workshops.

It had gone well. Ten hours later, as the shuttle brought me to  my car, I sighed with the satisfaction of a day well spent.  Not only had my plane finally taken flight, so had the women’s ideas for much needed MBA workshops.


You’re smart. You’re resourceful. You’re motivated. Yet you aren’t hitting the target as a leader and wondering why.

Do you want to become a prized leader, sought after, influential, wise?

Perhaps you’re exploring the best thinking  on leadership? I bet your book shelves are sagging. So much is being written about the art and science of leadership.

The right brain folks gravitate naturally to the “art,” sometimes called “the soft stuff”.  What’s “soft?” Emotional Intelligence for example, the body of work done by Daniel Goleman and well studied. I recent years many leadership gurus have said “its ALL about the soft stuff.”

The left brainers grab onto the ‘science”. They look at models, formulas and prescriptions in hopes of “getting it right”. Time management seminars, organizational skills trainings, salesmanship workshops make it onto their “to do” lists.

“What to do? What to do?” you ask.

First, recognize it isn’t one or the the other!

What will make you a powerful, wise and effective leader is the integration of art and science. Yep, great leaders shine not in both arenas, but in the integration of the two…seamless, elegant integration.

They use tools, resources and other people that support planning, strategizing, marketing and customer service. Customer, for example is made up of “left brained” analytics matched with deep listening skills. Marketing requires a marriage between “right” brained discovery of what clients really want and “left” understanding of the demographics. And so on.

Prized leaders learn to listen in a particular way,  to their teams, peers, colleague, competitors, all the stakeholders. They learn to hold conflict as generative. Rather than seeing disagreement as personal, they operate from curiosity, learning all they can from opposing positions or differing perspectives before making executive decisions.

In viewing problems, they consider both sustainability and change. Prized leaders know how to strike a balance between sustaining the organization and moving into a larger vision.

These leaders are skilled in supporting and developing their people, with tools from both camps – the right and left brain proponents. In other words, they are aware of the gifts each side brings and seek methods that integrate the two.

Want some of that?

Investments in integrating the art (people side) and science (business side) of leadership has big yields. If you read the stats on how hard companies find it to develop internal talent, how often they import (or steal it) from outside and the salaries they offer to likely candidates, you’ll see that great leaders, those that skillfully integrate the art and science, are a prized resource.

Ready to go for it?

Here are first steps: Get support! Period. (You might think you can go it alone, but without objective feedback its hard to correct your blindspots.) Support comes in many forms – a mentor, a coach, a group of peers…folks who have “been there”.

Join a Mastermind Group. Mastermind Groups, according to Napolean Hill bring the brilliance of two or more “minds” together to synergize for greater results than the individuals, hence creating a “master”mind.

Get leadership coaching. Today, most Fortune 500 companies use executive coaches. And many executive MBA programs offer leadership or executive coaching too.

Read, read read – executive summaries if you have to, full books if you can.

What on? On Emotional Intelligence, Difficult Conversations, Negotiation (Getting to Yes) Time Management, Marketing and Focus.

If you’re a leader, new to the organization, read The First Ninety Days and implement it.

You’ll have preferences ( we all do) of course. Do a bit of inventory. What are your strengths? Celebrate those. What challenges you? Get support for those. Assess those preferences carefully. The coaching comes in as a balancing act to what you’re strong in – to build your muscles around skills that are challenging.

Remember its the integration of the art and science of leadership that separates the wanna- a- bees from the awesome!  Pick a developmental stretch. Set a goal for the next 3 months. Get support and go for it.

There’s an African saying: If you go forward we die. If we go backward we die. Better to go forward.



Jubilation!  I don’t use that word often, but its what I felt last week! Jubilant.

Why, you ask? Ah, it’s been a bubblin’ and a steamin’.

For a over a month,  I wended my way through all the ups and downs of creating my first ever webinar, “21 Days from Timid to Awesome” which came off despite some technical difficulties (always, always learning). There was a store to set up, email blasts to send out, a change in publishing to undertake, a software program to master and more. Yet, I undertook all of it.

And then, along the way, I got good news.

A prestigious university’s business school  was interested in the material and invited me to fly in for a brainstorming session. The questions? How to serve female MBA students on the cusp of leadership? How to support all MBA grads in taking on their new roles?

It happened because I had chosen to “step it up.”

Years of working with amazing women who flinched a little at standing fully in their power, led me to designing a course. And broadcasting the key components of the much needed shifts, the ways to stop undermining or diminishing themselves, the steps to cultivating their capacity instead, was a commitment I took into the market place in a new medium, with technology that I had to master. Not to mention my own fears. BY the way, you can read some of the beginning steps on my blog: http://www.thevaliantgroup.com/5-secrets-brilliant-women-in-charge-need-to-know/

I had to model the “stepping up” by making big changes to way I had done things up ‘til then. (I didn’t name my company The Valiant Group lightly.) What that meant was a lot of learning, asking for support (and getting it) and widening (often with a crowbar) my perspective about where change can happen. It was a wonderful though frightening process. Change is not easy!

Yet, look at what happened!

Not only did I create a course I am loving teaching, but I also ventured into avenues I hadn’t imagined.  Isn’t it great when life steps in to surprise and support you?

After conversations with the Dean and Associate Dean, we agreed that the business school was poised to support students in becoming emotionally intelligent, strategic and resilient leaders. Many offerings could support that transition. And my input was useful. THEY WANTED MORE. Yay!

How wonderful that business school might become the place to break the mold of “old school” leadership, often held in place by entrenched ways of doing things from the last century. How wonderful that business school might prepare leaders for dealing with themselves, their colleagues and bosses, their direct reports with compassion alongside the skills of strategic planning, process orientation, customer service, operational excellence, accountability and so on.

As the title of  a Marshall Goldsmith book states eloquently, “What got you here won’t get you there.” And the new “there” includes leadership of a different order.

As for myself, the new “there” keeps opening up. As I design new workshops, courses and programs…as I learn to interface with clients in ways other than face-to-face, as I reach out beyond my geographic area, I grow more fully into what’s possible. I learn new skills, hone some of the existing ones, master new technology, expand my vision around learning and teaching, and trust myself and my team to find direction, correct course and bring value forward.

As I said, “Jubilation.”


Why are you floundering?

You are brilliant, insightful and have incredible ideas. I know because I keep meeting you – a brilliant woman with big ideas to contribute, important organizations and businesses to build, and provocative questions to ask.

But when we “get to it” you tell me that you’re not commanding power. And when we break it down even further, it comes to this: you equivocate, apologize – even look away as you speak.

I know this pattern. I used to do this too. And then I learned these secrets to powerful, authentic communication.

You can learn to stop undermining yourself.

Here are 5 secrets that have worked for me and hundreds of my amazing women clients.

1. Drop the “just:” “I’m just wondering…”
“I just think…”
“I just want to add…”
Just demeans what you have to say. “Just” shrinks your power. Get rid of  the “justs.”

2. Lose the “actually.” “I actually have a question…”
“I actually want to add something….”
“Actually” communicates a sense of surprise that you have something to say. Of course you have questions or value to add. There’s nothing surprising about it.

3. Don’t tell me that what you’re about to say is likely to be wrong. If you’re still starting sentences with, “I haven’t researched this but…”
“I’m just thinking off the top of my head but…” (notice the “just”?)
“You’ve clearly been working on this longer than I have, but…”
You aren’t standing behind what you’re saying for several reasons. Perhaps you’re not totally sure about what you’re going to say. Or you’re really afraid of being wrong so you’re buffering the sting of a critical response.

You’re indicating that you’re not committed to your words before anyone else has a chance to strongly disagree. This takes away the power of your voice! It’s time to change this habit and own what you say, even if you later change your mind.

4. Don’t tell us you’re “only going to take a minute” to say something. It sounds apologetic. How often in presentations do you hear women say, “I’m only going to take a minute to tell you about our service (product, company, etc.)”? Think how much more powerful is it to say, “I’d like to tell you about our company.” What you have to say is worthy of your audience’s time and attention. If you only want to take a moment, do it, but don’t use an apologetic phrase to belittle what you are saying.

5. Don’t make your sentences into questions. Women often raise their pitch at the end of a sentence making them sound like questions. Listen to your own language and that of other women and you’ll see the prevalence this speech habit. Speaking a statement like a question diminishes its power. Make statements sound like statements; drop into a lower tone at the end.

No need to become harsh or domineering.

Women’s unique way of communicating tends to be collaborative, consensus-building and inviting – much needed attributes in  conscious leadership. There’s no need to change who you are or take on a style that’s inauthentic. But it is time to put away the self-diminishing ways of speaking that stem from being afraid of your own power or from believing what your harsh inner critic has to say. Its time to stop offering up your brilliance in tentative, self-deprecating ways.

So how to begin? Start moving into authentic communication by being mindful.

First, increasing your awareness of the unhelpful speech patterns you currently use by simply listening to yourself.

Then set an intention to work on your unhelpful habits one-by-one.

Pick one that stands out and spend a week or two changing it. Then go on to another.

(This works especially well when you ask a trusted friend or colleague for support. That support can look like a non-verbal signal to remind you to stay on track.)

For more support on stepping fully into your power while being authentically yourself, check out my brand new 21 day From Timid to Awesome: Living Into My Brilliance workshop.

You’ll learn and practice effective communication skills, learn strategic presentation strategies, and build your confidence, clarity and connection.

The world is waiting for your ideas. It’s time to start sharing them boldly, fully and loudly, without diminishment or apology.

Brilliant Women:  Support is on the way! Yes, you can take charge! Learn more in an upcoming webinar.  It will be recorded if you can’t be on the live call.  Details to follow.


My attempts to make some teaching videos for my website had my insides twisted and my mind bent. It was important – critical even for the new direction of my business – and I was deeply enthusiastic about the much needed transformation. A lot rested upon these efforts – the evolution of what I had worked so hard to learn and wanted so much to share with a wider audience, a coming of age within the new way coaching was done and financial stability – sorely lacking for some years, but it was not happening.

I was stuck. Frustrated. Fearful. The fear felt dark, clammy and spoke in a child’s whisper. “What if I can’t do this?’ Frustration came on as a nasty adolescent snarl, “Attempt number 74 and failing.” A well modulated adult voice offered good coaching, “You’ve overcome challenges before,” – to no avail. As I tried yet again, that coaching voice was drowned out by the others.

Attempt after attempt proved either boring, slow or worse. The voices in my head got louder. I faltered, then came to a dwindling halt.

Funny, because teaching and presenting to live audiences was a joy, a high that I loved and found effortless. But this new format, offering insights up to a screen with built-in camera, went stale. I felt dull witted and lonely alternating with frozen and stiff. And there was no “juice” coming off the silicone, juice that informed a live presentation and helped hone the contents, tone and energy…something to work off of and with, as I navigated what was needed. The juice had dried up and I was beached in this never never land.

Ironically, for much of my life I had taught educators, organizational leaders, entrepreneurs and coaches that learning involved discomfort, a willingness to forego feeling ease and confidence, and the courage to continue past wanting to quit. I had had the experience myself many times, learning to ski, lead ropes courses, speak a new language in another country, teach new curriculum, co-author a book, but now, well, now I was giving up.

I had to blame someone or something. I lined up the usual suspects. “I am too old to learn a new technology.” “It has to be a stellar video or nothing.” “This technology is not responsive to the human factor.” and so on. The rationalizations weren’t very satisfying, but I couldn’t work ‘round them.

I tried taking a break and coming back “fresh”. I watched other teaching videos – so many they became a blur. I listened to the supportive echo of family and friends cheering me on. Nothing helped.

Then a colleague, collaborator and friend, Ben Gioia, www.marketingwithheart.com asked me what my true objectives were for the video. I told him I wanted to offer folks a most basic understanding of how they were hardwired for stress – a reptilian brain function that limited them to fight, flight or freeze and what they could do to move from reactivity to responsiveness as the basis for all other change in their lives.

Stating it clearly for him, I felt a ruffle of returning enthusiasm, quickly followed by the taste of defeat. Someone else might be able to bring it off, but once in front of the camera, I went into marionette mode. And I shared that experience with him.

Ben then said something simple, heard elsewhere. He said, “Imperfect action, beats perfect inaction, every time.” And his words exploded the cement blockade I had erected.

My video didn’t have to be perfect. I didn’t have to exude ease and confidence in this very first one. It didn’t need to reach the entire western world. It didn’t represent all of who I am or all of what I am capable of…My video could be a simple, imperfect offering of a useful strategy, I knew to be helpful.

The next morning, after a strong coffee, I began again. I tossed away my scribbled notes. I deleted all the previous attempts from googledocs. I forgot about my hair. I imagined a friend sitting across the table from me and just spoke about something I knew almost as well as the shape of my son’s hands.

As I filmed, I shared my own experiences with the move from reaction to response, including the pain and triumphs. A quote from one of my teachers arrived unbidden. And suddenly, I found myself smiling, inside and out.

No, the video wasn’t perfect. There were many redos in its future. But something had shifted. I dropped the need to create “perfection”. My self-image went on holiday. And when I clarified again and again the purpose for what I was doing without the sticky attachments, I was free to be creative.

Imperfect action became the rule as I continued with a series of videos necessary to this project.
And now, as I approach bringing this part of my business transformation to a close, I feel deep gratitude for the stuckness, the fear and the frustration. I can accept them as well traveled companions who will come again and again as I take on new challenges, grow and learn. And to each I can say, “well met” and go on about the task at hand.


” I know, I know, “Paul said over lunch as I explained my many challenges and discoveries. I was talking to a friend about the process of moving from “live” presentations into the medium of video and what I was learning along the way. The content of my share was less important suddenly, than his need to pretend a knowledge he didn’t have. He had never made videos, or made the switch I had launched. Yet, he often “knew” whatever was being shared. And NOT just bout this subject. So what did his need “to know” mean?

I began to ponder the very human desire to manage Reality by eliminating uncertainty, the dark place of not knowing. Yes, there is a strong desire to feel safe… in the familiarity of certitude. And while the issue I had mentioned wasn’t major in the overall challenges of life, Paul’s response was a gateway into a BIG fear. We naturally fear the unknown – from death and dying to the mundane stuff.

Our brains are pattern making machines. We try to push everything into an already established patterns. More so, we humans as Maslow pointed out, know “security” as a primary need. These two combine as a potent force: physiology and psychology. Humans want to file everything away neatly and feel safe.

But when, if ever, are we truly safe? And what, if anything, do we really “know”?

We think we “know” until our lover leaves us, or we marry our true love or the market crashes, or the housing market collapses, or we are offered a new job in a new city, or we hold our first child in our arms, or we are promoted, or our first feature film is in the can, or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, or we start our own business, or we’re robbed or worse… the list goes on and on in the same curious way that life unfolds.

What do we really know? Facts? Figures? Even our memory is unstable. How does data like that impact our inner world, our sense of Life? Is having the answer on exams the same as managing our future?

Sure, uncertainty is painful. It gives us the free-fall sense of being “out of control.” Most people hate that and the fears and anxieties that accompany the feeling. But certainty is a myth! The next moment could bring about a life-shattering shift (the Boston Marathon) or the delivery of unexpected news: “Your pregnant” and can change the direction of our life for years.

Isn’t it time to embrace the gifts in the very real “not knowing”which booms and barges through your life? Rebecca Solnit, well-know essayist and sociologist says “Leave the door open to the unknown,the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself come from, and where you will go.”

We are uncertain about the forces of nurture and nature, about WHY “the Big Bang,” about when and how we will die!

Trying to ease our anxieties by “knowing” is like trying to blow back a cyclone with a straw. Impossible! So what shall we do instead?

More useful is embracing the generous offerings of uncertainty. They are many and profound. Humility comes to mind. How would life be if we moved through it with more? Who would be attracted to us? What opportunities might become available? How would our compassion grow?

Another offer of uncertainty is curiosity. Not only the small spurts that take us Wikipedia or google, but the larger undertakings of a travel adventure, or a university course, a new degree perhaps or a retreat, the pleasure of new book in a different field and so on. With even more impact comes the curiosity that allows us to try on new roles in the world, take on new responsibilities from the stance of “Wow, wonder what I’m capable of?’

Which leads to another offering – creativity! Breaking through the false concrete of “knowing” into the freedom of creative uncertainty allows for trying on new streams of attention – photography, opera, salsa, writing haiku, entrepreneurship, travel. And think of all the learnings and joys that unfold there. Even if living the “ordinary life in an extraordinary way” doesn’t look like a technicolor change from the outside, how precious the shift may be from the inside.

Now these ways of going into the “dark place” are painful. In the that country, we experience fear alongside enthusiasm, suffering alongside wisdom, frustration alongside delight. Or whatever emotions arise, there is always an alchemical mix of which not knowing is the catalyst.

So the next time you are tempted to prematurely “know” take a long, deep breath… pause and allow all that you don’t know about whatever is directly in front of you to arise with its cacophony of feelings.

Perhaps curiosity will arrive arm-in-arm with creativity. Regardless of whether humility shows up or any of the other players, staying with the uncertainty will be an invitation sent out to Truth.


Whether you are afraid of greatness or afraid of failure, fear will stop you mid-step. Not once, but again and again.

So whether you have clarity, a strategic plan, actionable steps and a strong vision, if you don’t deal with the fears that will inevitable arise, you won’t reach the finish line.

The first step is overcoming this “enemy” sound counter-intuitive. Befriend your fears. Study them, understand why they arise, what they are trying to protect you from. Compassion makes a better friend than resistance. Be kind to your fears, chat with them…let them speak.Once you’ve better understand your friend, fear, you can begin to work  with it. Read more [+]

How Language Reveals Our Reality: Food for Thought

Tension in the conference room hit the red zone. One VP animatedly described his current project as “a battle”. He was angry with several people who report to him for “lagging” and one for “abrogation of duty”.Others were “incompetent” as their inability “to take orders” demonstrated I was struck by his language.Did it describe his reality or help construct it?  What did it mean for the executive team’s future? Read more [+]


Where does your attention go?  Is it a homing pigeon roosting in the trifling things that are “wrong”?  Does it land on the gossipy or “dish the dirt”? Does it take you higher, to the “big picture”?

G. K. Chesterton says, ” A weak mind is like a microscope which magnifies trifling things but cannot receive great ones.”

What is your attention magnifying?  Does it play on the fields of “stuff” – things – what you have, want, desire, covet, need? Or perhaps it lands on the “people square” and gossip, celebrity talk, reality TV and the shortcomings of colleagues, even friends, looms large?

Does it hang out higher up the food chain? In the realm of the  Arts, big ideas – perhaps even Causes or service to the planet?

An easy, but not simple, practice to tame your attention begins with noticing first, where you hang out, mostly. Note by stopping a few times a day and reviewing what you’ve been a) thinking about; b) talking about; c) posting d) journaling. Is it the winter of your discontent with stuff or people or have you launched into the stratosphere of BIG ideas?  How are you feeling about what you notice? How do you know?

Next, if you find that the majority of your attention is on the lesser (in order from least to great – things, people, ideas) spaces to inhabit… move up those notches. Rather than wondering if a new iPad will solve all your problems, you might wonder how you could solve a babysitting problem for overextended friends, or if you wonder why your neighbor thinks her cooking is great when you get indigestion after her every meal, you might wonder about who you could feed in the ‘hood that is clearly going hungry.  You get the picture!

Of course the doing of these “wonderings” is MOST important ultimately, if you are putting your energy behind your thoughts,  but it  all begins with attention!!!!

So where are you hanging out attention-wise? Don’t be an attention deficit detractor from the common good (including your own). Step up – man-up, woman-up, whatever.  Begin moving your attention to the larger realm of ideas… on a regular basis and watch the launch… new energy, deeper connections, more meaningful conversations and encounters.

Tame your attention and live a bigger life!