National Friendship Day

 

From what we get, we can make a living; from what we give, however, we make a life.

Arthur Ashe

 

Undeterred by a pandemic, my friend Doris recently bought a car equipped with Bluetooth. Although she made the first call to me, she later admitted the Bluetooth made her realize she doesn’t have many friends – I was the only person she could think of to call!

 

Last Fall, Marcus (identities changed), an IT executive from France, began a year-long sabbatical here in Los Angeles. His wife and seven-year-old son joined him for the year.

 

He told me that on the first day of class, after the teacher introduced his son, the boy smiled and said to the class, “raise your hand if you’d like to be my friend!”

 

You’re smiling, yes?

 

When I was growing-up my parents didn’t encourage me to make friends as they didn’t trust people.

 

As the years passed, though, what I learned is that the great gift of friendship is that friends bear witness to our lives – they help us make sense of the journey.

Today, July 30th, is National Friendship Day. 

 

I suspect it’ll come as no surprise to learn that Hallmark Cards established the holiday – back in 1919. Enthusiasm for the day waned and by the start of WWII it had faded away.  Then, in 1998, the United Nations named Winnie The Pooh the world’s “Ambassador of Friendship” and so Friendship Day was revived. Who knew the U.N. could do “cute?”

 

I wrestled with writing a post on “friendship” – what could I say that Winnie The Pooh hasn’t already said?!

 

Then I came across an article by CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, in which he writes:

According to estimates by University of Chicago psychology professor John T. Cacioppo, PhD, coauthor of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, at any given time at least one in five people, or roughly 60 million Americans, suffers from loneliness. By this I mean both the acute bouts of melancholy we all feel from time to time, as well as a chronic lack of intimacy – a yearning for someone to truly know you, get you, see you.

 

His article was written pre-pandemic and so I wonder how many more are struggling now with loneliness.

 

In her movie, “Letter From An Unknown Woman,” Joan Fontaine’s character remarked, “My life can be measured by the moments I’ve had with you.” 

 

While it’s a desperately romantic notion, I think it also applies to enduring friendships.

With real friends, there are established rituals for celebrating the relationship.

 

In the years after college, my friend Buddy and I would always go to the World Trade Center’s “Windows on The World” to celebrate a momentous occasion in either of our lives.

 

When my friend Norman makes his yearly visit from the South Pacific, the first place we go is Jerry’s Deli for a drink and a corned beef sandwich.

 

On the wall of my dining room I have a collection of framed menus that I stole from restaurants (what can I tell ya?) – each tells the story of a memorable visit with a memorable friend.  (see photo)

 

BUT – there’s more –

 

Back in the lost time of January, my friend Valerie had surgery. I hadn’t seen her in a while and wanted to visit before the operation. I said I’d pop in on Tuesday.

 

Well, things got busy and I couldn’t make it, so I assured her that I’d stop by the next day (surgery was slated for Thursday). Wednesday was just as hectic BUT I knew I had to visit Valerie.

 

On the way to the hospital I realized I was feeling – annoyed?  Anxious?

 

I felt out of sorts that I had to squeeze in a hospital visit on top of everything else I had to do.

 

I was embarrassed.  How could I feel this way since Valerie was a friend?

 

It was a great visit and within minutes I’d forgotten all the “stuff” I was worried about.

 

Back in January, all that “stuff” that delayed my visit with Valerie seemed so pressing. And now? Well, I’m shamefaced to admit how much of January “stuff” was and is actually inconsequential.

 

The simple truth is that many of us are lonely because many of us have carelessly  forgotten what it is to prioritize “friendship.”

 

Any day we stop the nonsense of saying “I’m too busy” and simply make time to mindfully luxuriate in the company of a friend can be National Friendship Day.

 

Of course, today, that luxuriating has to take place in creatively Zooming ways.

 

And, YES, there’s even more –

 

Here’s the thing – many of my clients will say, “I don’t know how to talk to people.”  Which is another way of saying, “I don’t know how to make friends.” 

 

People show up to my classes and workshops wanting to learn how to talk to anyone with confidence and ease. Yet, people typically walk into a room, sit down, take out their smart phone, and ignore the person next to them.

 

Marcus’ son was able to ask who in the class wanted to be his friend because he believed he was good, funny and interesting enough that other kids would want to be his friend.

 

AND he believed that in this new class new friends were waiting for him.

 

He also was able to ask the entire class because he was happy to have a range of new kids in his life.

 

Now THAT is confidence!

 

In the messy exhaustion of these days I invite and urge you TODAY to –

Reach out to a friend you’ve not spoken with in a while.

Reach out to a co-worker, a client, an old boss and say “thinking of you.”

 

Sure, we’re bleary-eyed from Zooming, but, arrange for a virtual whatever. You know you even can do a virtual wine tasting?

 

Covid-19 has made life harrowing to so many and in so many ways. Let today be a respite.

 

At the risk of being unabashedly schmaltzy, I’ll end with the words of the U.N.’s Ambassador of Friendship –

You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you.

You have to go to them sometimes.

 

 

Do you want to break through the negative thinking that is preventing you from being influential and heard?

 To explore how one-on-one communication skills coaching can help you present you with enhanced confidence,

contact me at:

  [email protected]

818-415-8115

 

Asking Tough Questions In A Time Of Fear

 

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail.

If you can’t be a sun, be a star.

For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Last week I Zoomed with Clay (name changed), a client who is a manager in the IT department of an international company.

 

Clay hates his job.

 

He’s the classic case of a person who was promoted not because he showed managerial promise but because he was good at what he did.

 

Although he has the potential for becoming a solid manager, he has no desire. Rather than take charge of his career he’s resigned to failure.

 

In fact, I think he welcomes the idea of getting fired.

 

Oh, how we complicate our lives!

 

I asked Clay what he’d like to do instead of managing an IT team.

 

Without hesitating, he said, “I’d like to write operas.”

Wow – I hadn’t seen that coming!

 

He explained that he had wanted to pursue a career as a classical musician, but his parents guided him down a more stable professional path.

 

Sometimes stability can come with a steep price tag.

 

Lately I’ve been doing spring / summer-cleaning and for me that involves not just tossing out the “stuff” that’s been collecting dust. It’s also a time to sort through clippings and links to articles and posts that I convinced myself someday I’d use.

 

Here’s an edited obit clipping I passed along to Clay. It’s for Michael Masser who died last July at the age of seventy-four.

 

A stockbroker-turned-composer, Masser wrote hits for Whitney Houston, Diana Ross and Roberta Flack.

 

It’s the kind of obit that I hope someday can be written for Clay.

 

Here’s how Masser made his career and life changing decision (as written by Sam Roberts in the New York Times).

 

As Mr. Masser biked to work as a broker in Midtown Manhattan in the 1960s, he would detour to the Juilliard School to putter on a piano. A self-taught pianist, an inner muse was urging him to switch careers and pursue his true calling.”

 

“‘I was working as a stockbroker in New York and had the seemingly perfect life,’ Mr. Masser told The Chicago Sun-Times in 1988.  ‘But I was unhappy, and someone I knew convinced me to see a shrink. I walked in and told the doctor I wanted to write music.  He said, ‘What’s the problem with that?’  I told him that didn’t go over well in my family. He listened, took my money and said: ‘Here’s a note of permission to write music. That’s all you need to clear your conscience.’  And it’s funny, because that’s all I was looking for: permission.  I had been the dutiful son and husband for so long, I had forgotten about living for myself.’”

 

In this time of unnerving pandemic, many are fortunate to simply have a job – and so many others worry if and how they will work again.

 

The fear is real.

The challenges are real.

 

Both need to be respected.

 

BUT – fear does not have the right to blot out hope and vision.

It is still legitimate to ask yourself where you want to ultimately put your energies. Who you want to be and become.

 

Even in these frightening times, I gently ask you:

 

What about you? 

Is there something you’d like to be doing other than what you’re now working at? 

What are you going to do about that desire?!

 

Do you want to break through the negative thinking that is preventing you from being influential and heard?

To explore how one-on-one communication skills coaching can help you present you with enhanced confidence,

contact me at:

  [email protected]

818-415-8115

 

 

“Courting Life” In a Pandemic

 

Long ago and far away – back in February of this year (!) – I attended a networking event. I arrived early and headed straight to get a drink. One bar station was serving just wine – sponsored by Le Grand Courtage.

 

I’m not a wine connoisseur so all I can say is that I enjoyed my “Blanc de Blanc.”  However, what got my attention was the company’s motto:

 

Embrace life. Dream big. Accept all invitations.

 

I later checked out their website and this is how the founders describe their story:

Le Grand Courtâge is our vision. We decided to pursue our passion, take a risk and move to France with the goal of making a well-priced sparkling wine unlike any on the market.

Our motto is Embrace Life. Dream Big. Accept All Invitations and to that end our goal is to provide an affordable luxury that is perfect for “courting life” and celebrating its special occasions, as well as all of the everyday moments in between.

I’m charmed by their romanticism, but even more, I’m challenged by their commitment to “courting life.”

The demands of life, particularly in these unsettling days, are so harsh and mercurial that the notion of “courting life” seems a radical act of bravery.

 

EMBRACE LIFE. 

You can only embrace life if you refuse to see life as the enemy – admittedly, a hard thing to do in these crazy times.

I once had a client whose mantra was,“life’s a bitch and then you die.” In some perverted way, life for him was a form of punishment.

The opposite of love is actually not hate – it’s indifference.

The opposite of embracing life is walking away from life.

For the person living in a dark place of disappointment, the mantra he or she clutches is, “why bother?” 

Embracing life means “bothering.”

It means coming to terms with the reality that not everything can be ours.

But here’s the thing – maybe what you want isn’t worth having.

Maybe what you want isn’t really what you want.

Maybe what you want now will come to you, but only later.

And maybe what you want is wonderful and you should have it, but it will be the one thing you’ll never have, for a host of reasons.

Sad for you, though, if you don’t see what else is being offered you because there is always something being offered. Even in the middle of a pandemic.

And maybe that’s what embracing life is all about – seeing and receiving the “something else” that is being offered.

 

DREAM BIG.

Years ago, I came across this story and tucked it into a journal book –

An old man approached the 19th century poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti and asked him to look at his portfolio to see if his work showed potential talent. After looking through several sketches, Rossetti gently told the elderly man that the pictures had little value and showed little talent.

Disappointed but not surprised, the old man apologized for taking up Rossetti’s time but asked if the artist might look at a few more drawings done by a young art student. As he looked at each creation, Rossetti became enthusiastic in his praise.“These are very good; this young student has great talent and should be encouraged. Who is the artist? Is it your son?”

“No,” said the old man sadly. “This is my work from forty years ago. If only I had heard your praise then! For you see, I got discouraged and gave up too soon.

William J. Bausch

 

There are two often overlooked components to dreaming big. 

 

The first is that in order to dream big, you need to be kind to yourself – as you let the dream become a part of who you are without defining who you are.

 

Without kindness, you can’t nurture that BIG dream so as to let it give you life and energy, even if you receive no encouragement.

 

Without kindness, you will walk away from your dreaming self.

 

While the story packs a surprise punch, I have reflected on which was sadder – that no one encouraged the painter when he was a young man OR that he allowed the lack of encouragement to seep into his soul and stifle him?

 

The real tragedy is that he could not muster enough kindness to offer to his own talent.

 

The other overlooked component to dreaming BIG is that if you are dreaming big then you have an obligation to encourage other big dreamers – to encourage those who don’t dream big to dream big.

 

To be obsessed with your dream and not hear or see or sense the dreams of others turns you into a megalomaniac and not a dreamer.

 

To dream big is to embrace life. . .

 

If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye, which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what is so sparkling, so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!Soren Kierkegaard

 

 

ACCEPT ALL INVITATIONS

Accept ALL invitations? My first reaction was – not practical! We’re just too busy to accept most invitations, let alone ALL.

 

I heard the ghost of my mother who didn’t allow my brother and me to go trick-or-treating in our Bronx apartment building where everyone knew every one, as she was afraid the candy might be tainted!

 

As a young adult I had to learn how to accept people’s invitations, to move beyond my mother’s suspicions.

 

I learned that the exquisite aspect of an invitation is that it’s a gift, a surprise.

 

My mother believed nothing good could come from an invitation. She thought the inviter probably wanted something, that they had an ulterior motive.

An invitation, though, can be the promise of something unexpectedly good – something that surprises us with its unique perspective on life.

 

Invitations hold the promise of connection. And isn’t that what we all need right now?

 

The best invitations are like the feel of a breath of fresh air blowing by our face – we feel refreshed.

 

How do we court life? 

 

Simple, really.

 

By not becoming so jaded that we look askance at every invite.

 

When I think of the life-changing experiences that have dotted my life, I realize that each one came about because I accepted an invitation, whether it was to teach on an island in the South Pacific or to babysit an infant who would eventually become my godson.

 

Albert Schweitzer, a humanitarian of the mid last century, maintained that,

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.

Even in a pandemic we are summoned to COURT LIFE!

 

 

Do you want to break through the negative thinking that is preventing you from being influential and heard?

To explore how one-on-one communication skills coaching can help you present you with enhanced confidence,

contact me at:

  [email protected]

818-415-8115

The Year Is Half-Over – What Have You Learned?!

 

The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory. Victory comes from living as human beings should live.

Howard Zinn

 

Hi! How are you?

 

Have you noticed how hard it’s become to answer that question? Back in the good old days of February, a“Good. How are you?” would have sufficed for an answer. Now, I’m hesitant to use this cliched greeting for fear the other person might tell me how they really are!

 

I Zoomed recently with Alex (names changed) a client who is a partner at a boutique financial firm. Alex mentioned he’s been able to guide his team efficiently via remote conditions BUT he’s uncertain how they’re doing personally. He doesn’t know how to check-in on their overall well-being because he views Zoom as an agenda driver. As he said to me, “Just asking ‘how are you?’ seems lame today.”

 

I suggested Alex ask his team non-cliched, unexpected questions, so as to get non-cliched, revealing answers. For instance –

 

  • Now that we’re headed into the 3rd Quarter, what’s something you’ve learned about yourself these past months that will help you going forward?

Or

  • What have you learned about yourself that surprised you?

Or

  • What do you NOT want to return to when things return to (new) normal?

Or

Well, you get the idea. . .

 

I told Alex that asking thought-provoking questions will reassure his team that he’s actually thinking of them.

 

BUT – here’s the thing –

 

You don’t have to lead a team to ask thought-provoking questions.

 

In fact, the first person to whom you should ask thought-provoking questions is – YOU!

 

The year is half-over.

What have YOU learned about YOU that surprised you?

That encouraged you?

That disappointed you?

 

I hear people offer the refrain of how they can’t wait for things to get back to normal. I get it. I’d love to be offering workshops and keynotes on site again. BUT – I sense that too many people consider all of what has happened as a huge, pain-in-the butt interruption to life as it should be.

 

A pandemic + a historical racial reckoning are not mere interruptions to life!

 

We are living in a time of transformation. Personal. Collective.

 

As we ask collectively who we want to be as a society, we need to ask who we want to be personally.

 

According to philosopher and theologian Richard Rohr, there are only two ways we really learn:

Great Love + Great Suffering.

 

Look around you and you’ll see both in abundance. And so, I have to believe that there is a lot of learning going on!

What have you been learning?

Who do you want to become more of as a result of these both numbing + exhilarating days?

 

If we do not ask our own self these questions, then truly this has all been an utter waste of human spirit and effort.

 

But there’s more. . .

 

Asking these questions excites me. Why?

 

Remember back when you’d be asked why you did something in the way you did it – and your cliched answer was, “Because. That’s the way I’ve always done it!”

 

These are the days when you can ask yourself – do I have to do it the way I’ve always done it?!

 

What better time to reassess your life than when life has been turned upside down?

 

What better time to determine (as psychotherapist James Hollis puts it) if we are pursuing a life that enlarges us or a life that diminishes us.

 

As unnerving as this time has been and continues to be have you learned in however bittersweet a way what really matters to you? Have you developed a renewed appreciation for friendships, reordered priorities, living in the moment, small acts of kindness?

 

When the crisis subsides, we might have occasion to ask whether we want to return to normal, or whether there might be something we’ve seen during this break in the routines that we want to bring into the future.

Charles Eisenstein, economist

 

In the words of New York writer and director Julio Vincent Gambuto, “We get to Marie Kondo the sh*t out of it all!” (LOVE IT!)

 

This is the time to examine all the dusty, cliched, cluttering aspects of our lives and ask why we’re keeping habits, modes of thinking, half-baked decisions, draining relationships and some- day dreams. What do we want to keep? Why? What do we want to toss? Why?

 

By the time life reverts to whatever its new normal will look and feel like, sure, it would be nice if you had created a money-generating side gig or could speak six Babble languages – BUT – the real question and hope is –

 

Will you emerge from head-spinning 2020 with a clearer sense of what and who matters in your life – andwill you have more of the confidence you need to create, endorse and cheer-on  that renewed and new YOU?

 

The simple truth is: A change in the world begins with a change in our own self.

 

Change grounded in an attitude of possibility and a posture of generosity – to oneself and to others.

 

Here’s to the second half of 2020 – may it be days of grace and kindness and confidence!

 

Do you want to break through the negative thinking that is preventing you from being influential and heard?

To explore how one-on-one communication skills coaching can help

you present you with enhanced confidence,

contact me at:

  [email protected]

818-415-8115