It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
For the past month I’ve been consulting at a family-owned clothing company.
The president of the firm, Rachel (names changed), asked me to coach Betsy her supply manager, a woman who is loyal to the company, is willing to put in long hours and who has strong relationships with manufacturing plants in Mexico.
The one thing she doesn’t have is people skills.
Betsy treats her team with barely a trace of respect – she yells, slams doors and habitually lies when it suits her.
When I asked Rachel why she tolerated Betsy’s antics, she told me, “I need her. I don’t want to go through a search for her replacement.”
Last week I laid it all out for Betsy.
She bristled and then declared,“Betsy is who Betsy is and there’s no changing her, do you know what I mean?”
Yeah, I did – she meant she has no intention of changing!
When I challenged her, she lamented, “I can’t change. This is who I am.”
That wasn’t the first time someone has boasted to me that they “can’t” change.
However, please understand – that statement is simply not true. It’s a lie.
We ALL have the ability to change.
We ALL are responsible for how we present ourselves to other people and how we interact with them.
No one “just is.”
Which brings me to Ken.
He and his fiancée Alice are getting married later in the summer and are in the process of interviewing officiants. Ken didn’t smile when we met and seemed uncomfortable when he sat down.
Alice was friendly and engaged (pun intended) as we talked.
Ken never looked at me, never offered an opinion and answered my questions in a low, mumbling tone.
Hey, there’s shy and then there’s “creepy shy” and Ken was creeping me out!
Something seemed “off” and finally I asked him directly if he was happy getting married.
His head shot back, he nervously smiled and said “of course!”
I asked if anything was wrong, as he seemed unhappy or troubled.
Alice gently smiled and explained, “Ken is reserved; that’s just how he is.”
Once again, there’s that phrase, “just is.”
Here’s the thing – if you need your fiancée to explain that you’re reserved, then you’re more than “reserved.”
Just because a person is reserved doesn’t mean they have to present themselves in a rude, weird manner.
Just because someone is loud and impatient, doesn’t mean they have to intimidate team members by screaming, slamming and shutting down.
“Just is” is never an excuse for feeble, off-putting behavior.
You don’t have to “just” be an a*hole.
You can “just” be someone who strives to be a more dynamically engaged person!
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
Last Fall my friend, Lyn (all names changed), popped down from Seattle for a visit. We’ve been friends since frosh year at Fordham University.
Lyn came to visit not just me. Earlier in the year she reconnected with a fellow she had served with in a volunteer organization known as the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Lyn and Bob had not seen each other in almost 40 years.
When she told Bob she’d love to spend time with him and his wife during her LA visit, he readily said, “Yes.”He shared, though, that he’s battling pancreatic cancer and is on chemo.
I’ll admit, I’m not sure if I was in Bob’s position I’d want to visit with someone I hadn’t seen or heard from in 40 years. Would I want to make the effort if I were preoccupied with such all-consuming health issues?
Lyn and her husband, Brian, found an Air B-n-B near Bob’s and over the course of two days Lyn and Bob picked-up where they had left off oh-so-long-ago as friends and fellow volunteers in a remote area of Alaska.
On the third day of their visit, I picked-up Lyn and Brian at Bob’s home. He and his wife, June, offered me warm hospitality and soon I, too, settled into hearty conversation with strangers who quickly felt like old friends.
Because of his health, our visit was less than an hour. Towards the end, though, Bob expressed gratitude to Lyn for making the trek down to visit. He enjoyed their time together just as he did when they were in Alaska and seeing her again was tonic for his spirits.
He admitted, though, that he almost told her not to come. His first thought was, “why bother after all the time that’s passed?”
He then smiled and said something remarkable. He said, “At this stage in my life, I’m resolved to say ‘yes’ to every invitation that is extended me. I want to remain open to being surprised.”
To be open to surprise.
Ever since hearing Bob quietly, with grateful conviction, share this resolution, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.
I understand you may be thinking that you’re over-extended, over-committed – to the point we’re you want to be committed to a rest home! You’re struggling to juggle calendars chock-full of family demands, work demands, self-care demands. And that neurotic boss of yours doesn’t help.
I get it. Really, I do.
BUT – there’s this guy Bob who I can’t stop thinking about.
He explained that he said “yes” to Lyn’s visit because he didn’t want to deny himself a possible pleasure that he could not anticipate.
And, no, this is not simply about FOMO.
It was something else – a willingness to risk being surprised.
If you’ve read other of my postings, you’ve heard stories about my “unusual” family. My parents approached all invites from a place of suspicion because the world was a dangerous place with people of dubious motivation.
And so, my knee-jerk reaction to an invitation is all too often – NO.
Yep, old habits sure die hard.
You might be thinking, well, Bob is dying so what else does he have to do except say, “yes.”
That’s the thing. I didn’t have the sense I was in the presence of a dying man. I was in the presence of a man who was living life. In the companionship of his wife and with the loving support of three grown children.
He chose his “yes” carefully in that he didn’t want to say “no” out of habit or laziness or convenience.
My client Steve was recently offered the option of taking on a new assignment that required he quickly get-up to speed with a different system and protocol – both of which he’d been wanting to learn for more than a year.
His first reaction was to say “no” and turn down the assignment. Too much trouble, he claimed, even though it had some attractive upsides.
When we talked, it came out that his real concern was, “What if I fail?”
I then asked him an equally legit question –
“What if you succeed?”
As you know by now, this whole Business of Confidence “thing” has many different shadings to it.
Bob reminded me – confidence is about choosing who and what we allow into our precious lives.
Sure, a “yes” can lead to a waste of time – BUT – when chosen not out of guilt or obligation, a “yes” can often lead to someone or something that refreshes, renews, reinvigorates for however brief a time.
Confident people know the power of a well-chosen YES.
now THAT’S the business of confidence!
PS: Steve has taken on that new assignment. A lot of work – and more satisfaction than he ever imagined possible. . .
It is generally understood among bloggers that an all-quote posting is a “cheat” as it is the easiest of writings. Now that I’ve made that acknowledgement, here is MY all-quote posting!
Last month my niece Mary celebrated her 30th birthday. I was flummoxed as to how to celebrate her milestone. Back in June my goddaughter Clare, who is friends with Mary, celebrated her 30th birthday and for her celebration I offered a listing of the “30 Things I Know For Certain.” In the span of two months, I haven’t learned an additional 30 new things for certain and so I’ve turned to quotes.
Mary is a collector of quotes – one of the things we have in common. I decided to gift her with the 30 quotes that I am guided by as I navigate life. So, yes, I know these 30 quotes to be true for certain, though you may not know that based on some of the decisions I’ve made and continue to make!
But here’s what I do know – embrace these flashes of truth and the next 30 years will be glorious – which is my wish for Mary and for all of you who read this posting!
The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. Mark Twain
And finding that “why” may take more than 30 years!
Don’t ask what the world needs; ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.Howard Thurman
There is a world of difference between “living” and “coming alive.”
20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. Mark Twain
That’s not to say you won’t have some disappointment by what you did – but – Twain is right on this.
You must not ever give anyone else the responsibility for your life. Mary Oliver
Including your parents.
And you ask, “What if I fall?” Oh, but my darling, what if you fly? Erin Hanson
Now there’s a scary thought – what if you succeed?
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Steve Jobs
Imagine all that would not have been if he had!
Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. George Bernard Shaw
There’s a difference between being a professional and an artist.
If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be. Maya Angelou
You want to be amazing, yes?
When we die and we go to Heaven, and we meet our Maker, our Maker is not going to say to us, “Why didn’t you become a messiah? Why didn’t you discover the cure for such and such?” The only thing we’re going to be asked is, “Why didn’t you become YOU?” Eli Wiesel
Becoming YOU – that’s what it means to become amazing.
Whenever someone comes to me for help, I listen very hard and ask myself, “What does this person really want— and what will they do to keep from getting it?” William Perry
He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love In The Time Of Cholera
A life-giving life, indeed!
Never say anything about yourself you do not want to come true. Brian Tracy
We live in a time when talk is cheap – but words have magic.
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle. Philo of Alexandria
I’ve yet to meet the person who isn’t fighting some battle.
If you want to impress people, talk about your successes. But if you want to impact people, talk about your failures. John Maxwell
Real vulnerability comes from strength and creates connection.
Our full humanity is contingent on our hospitality; we can be complete only when we are giving something away; when we sit at the table and pass the peas to the person next to us we see that person in a whole new way. Alice Waters
Or as they say in Yap, “Hosachigachig!”
A student asked Soen Nakagawa during a meditation retreat, “I am very discouraged. What should I do?” Soen replied, “Encourage others.” from Essential Zen
Perhaps the easiest of human acts.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.Maya Angelou
Why do so many forget this?
Every single job I got in Hollywood was based on knowing someone. Here’s a piece of advice: Don’t try finding people who can help you. Find people you can help. Lewis Teague – Cujo / director
From a horror film comes hearty truth.
All real living is meeting. Martin Buber
And so, there is no need to be afraid.
You can’t be everything to everyone, but you can be something great for someone. Arielle Jackson
Sigh a sigh of relief!
The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.Henry Miller
Which is why Anais Nin loved him.
I can’t go back to yesterday — because I was a different person then. Lewis Carroll
Happy present! Happy future!
Am I a success or a failure?” is not a very useful question. It is better to ask “what am I learning?” Bob Sutton
A great question from the man who wrote the book, “The No Asshole Rule.”
Comparison is the thief of joy. Theodore Roosevelt
Easy to rob yourself blind.
Just because you’ve gotten accustomed to behaving in a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the right way. Maybe it’s time to get unstuck. Twyla Tharp
Wisdom from a goddess.
The business of life is the acquisition of memories. Carson / Downton Abbey
And cherishing them.
There are only two ways to live your life: one is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. Einstein
He really was a genius.
There is no such thing in anyone’s life as an unimportant day. Alexander Woollcott
Although many days I might want to argue with this truth.
The only thing we never get enough of is love; and the only thing we never give enough of is love. Henry Miller
And in the end – as in the beginning – love is all there is. . .
Why not? Why not you? Why not now? Aslan / “The Chronicles of Narnia
Business, like life, is about how you make people feel.
It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.
Danny Meyer / Setting the Table
My brother, Peter, was in town for business and we made plans to get together for dinner. He asked if Rod, an associate of his, could tag along. Since Peter doesn’t know boring people, I said, “sure!”
That night Peter showed up alone. Seems Rod was nervous that we wouldn’t have anything to talk about and so decided to set out on his own.
I’ll admit – I was stunned. How could three world-traveled grown men not have “stuff” to talk about?!
Peter explained that Rod could be shy at times.
I get that Rod could be shy since I was painfully shy growing-up.
I was shy because I believed I was boring. And I believed I was boring because I didn’t live an exciting life by my definition of “exciting.”
Lost in the confusion of this jumble of draining thoughts, I shied away from people, claiming to be shy, lamenting that I was boring.
I really wanted to buy Rod a drink and assure him – all would be well! Alas, he never showed. . .
Conversation may be a dying art and skill. If it isn’t, there are a whole lot of people who do not understand what conversation is and why it is so needed for our well-being.
Conversation is not binary opposites centered on agreeing or disagreeing, arguing or withdrawing.
Conversation is something GRACIOUS because it is rooted in engaging another, being present to another. That means the graciousness of conversation is laced with matters of responsibility and respect and clarity and discovery.
Shy people offer me the common refrain, “I only like to speak when I have something to say,” while overly-confident people boast that they, “like to tell it like it is.”
Neither stance opens you to the possibility of conversation because neither attitude allows you to be gracious.
REAL conversation springs from a posture of seeing the other person as a Surprise.
In my UCLA class on business communication, I ask participants to reflect on who influenced them as communicators. I expect that they will tell me tales of family or teachers or friends who impacted them. It’s not uncommon, though, for people to name Oprah, Anderson Cooper, and even a Miss America!
BUT, these are larger-than-life personalities – not individuals who directly and immediately helped to shape a class participant.
We ourselves don’t have to be larger than life. We just have to be within life.
I have oft quoted the great poet Mary Oliver’s “lessons for living life” –
Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.
Victoria’s mom (names changed) died when she was 16 and ever since she has been guarded in her relationships. She hesitantly wondered if there’s a connection. When I suggested therapy, she said her dad nixed the idea since therapy is only for “crazy people.” We ended up talking about what’s really “crazy” when being willing to give-in to fear.
Bethany was not forthcoming regarding why she is defensive around her co-workers. She played with her key card and kept her head down. I found her coy attitude annoying and had to force myself to stay with her. And then she randomly mentioned that her son introduced her to the writings of Malcolm Gladwell – and she lit up! We talked about the impact Gladwell had on each of us and I was gobsmacked when I learned she’d done her Master’s thesis on non-verbal communication.
Ken cried as he shared with me that he had not been kind to women and broke several hearts when he was younger. When he met the woman who is now his wife, he did not feel as strongly for her as she felt for him. She’s the one who wanted to get married, more than he did. He married her because he believed that he needed to be punished for having hurt those other women. We ended up talking about love – love for self and the place of forgiveness in love.
Michelle, a sales person at my favorite furniture store, shyly asked if I was a Cancer. She became alarmed when I told her I’m a Capricorn and that I was born in January. She anxiously asked if it was the 10th – and was relieved when I told her it was the 7th. Her mother’s birthday is January 10th. She assured me that “Things will get better. These last six months have been hard, yes?” She then abruptly started to talk about the company’s move of the manufacturing plant to North Carolina. Just as abruptly, she asked, “Why are people afraid to love? Is it something in the dirt?” And again, I found myself talking with a stranger about love – and dirt – and Wicca!
I didn’t change any one of these folks’ lives. Nor did any change mine. BUT – in the exchange of conversation, unexpected, poignant and, yes, odd – in a moment of vulnerable authenticity – we entertained, we bonded, we opened up each other’s world a bit.
Each was gift.
All of which brings me back to the “business” of confidence. . .
Confidence is about seeing the nooks and crannies of your life. About not taking the seemingly insignificant aspects of your life for granted.
Confidence is about talking about those nooks and crannies because somehow they are worth sharing.
Sharing implies benefit – for you and for the “other.”
Can you believe that there’s something “good” you have to share?
That’s ultimately what confidence is – it is about trusting that you have some good worth sharing.
Confidence is about being open to the surprise of another who is “other.”
Interesting people know their story.
Interesting people know others have a story.
What you share doesn’t have to be worthy of mention in PEOPLE.
There is value richer than PEOPLE from your unique perspective – as there is from that of the other.
When I leave a lively conversation I feel energized because it has encouraged me to be less self-centered, less afraid.
Conversation makes you feel less alone.
And so, conversation can make you feel generously unique – can make you feel YOU.
and THAT is the business of confidence!
I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.
I mean not just standing around,
but standing around as though with your arms open.