CG #62 – Don’t Let Fear Stop You

If a bank regulator for the Federal Reserve can’t ask uncomfortable questions without losing her job, what hope is there for the rest of us?

“…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

–Franklin D Roosevelt in his first inaugural address.

Carmen Segarra knows about fear and the cost of  “converting retreat into advance.”  Carmen was a a Federal bank regulator assigned to regulate Goldman Sachs, a prominent investment bank.  She was fired for being too direct, for asking questions that were awkward for people at Goldman Sachs and her bosses at the Federal Reserve.

Carmen just wanted to do her job, which was to regulate.  Her bosses at the Fed wanted to do that too, but preferred an approach so subtle it was easy for Goldman Sachs to ignore.  They were afraid that asking direct questions would offend the people they were regulating and those people would withhold the information they needed to regulate them.

It would be funny if it weren’t so very dangerous.

Friendly or Captured?

Getting too close to those you are supposed to regulate is so common, it has a name: Regulatory Capture.  In the consulting world it’s called “going native.”  There is a thin line between having a friendly, harmonious relationship and being ineffective.  It’s impossible to know which side of the line you’re on, unless you are willing to test it.

“I hate to say it, but I think a default posture of human beings is fear. What it comes down to…is that fear is an excuse: ‘I would like to have done something, but of course I couldn’t.’ Fear is so opportunistic that people can call on it under the slightest provocations: ‘He looked at me funny…’  Fear has, in this moment, a respectability I’ve never seen in my life.”

–Marilynne Robinson, author, “Housekeeping”, “Gilead

We destroy our effectiveness when we let fear run the show.  When we justify our ineffectiveness, we give fear far too much territory.  And, given an inch, fear will take a mile.  Don’t let it.  You can do the thing you need to do.

See Paris First

I quoted a poem I love in my online program for consultants, and I’m going to quote it here. When fear has ahold of us, it’s not skill we need, it’s courage.  The poem, “See Paris Fist,  by Marsha Truman Cooper gives me that courage:

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Suppose that what you fear

could be trapped,

and held in Paris.

Then you would have

the courage to go

everywhere in the world.

All the directions of the compass

open to you,

except the degrees east or west

of true north

that lead to Paris.

Still, you wouldn’t dare

put your toes

smack dab on the city limit line.

You’re not really willing

to stand on a mountainside

miles away

and watch the Paris lights

come up at night.

Just to be on the safe side

you decide to stay completely

out of France.

But then danger

seems too close

even to those boundaries,

and you feel

the timid part of you

covering the whole globe again.

You need the kind of friend

who learns your secret and says,

“See Paris first.”

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Let’s be that kind of friend for each other, shall we?

Behavioral Interview Questions for “Soft” Skills

I love writing interview questions for my clients, so I thought I’d start compiling the ones I’ve written here with this short list.  The “soft” skills questions seem hardest for people to write.  It would be great fun for me to write more, so feel free to give me an assignment in the comments below.  And, feel free to share your favorite questions there too.  If you wanted to include stories or comments about using them, I’d love to read them.

Hi Liz –

We’re looking for questions that can help us select candidates who:

1. like people

2. are happy/positive

3. are comfortable with change

4. are self-motivated

________

The first thing I do when I want to write a behavioral interview question is to picture the behavior I want in a co-worker, and the situation I think might evoke or challenge that behavior.  Then I use the Behavioral question format to phrase a question about the situation and ask them what happened.

To the extent you and I agree on what these things look like, these questions will work for you.  Whether or not they fit, I encourage you to use them as a jumping off place for your own.  In each category I included a question designed to elicit “contrary evidence,” that is a question about failing to like people, be positive, etc.

1.  Like people

  • Tell me about a time when you joined a new company needed to become part of a team quickly.  What did you do?  What happened as a result?
  • Tell me about a time when your attempt to connect with someone was rebuffed.   What did you do?
  • Tell me about a time you joined a team that was tense and not communicating with each other very well.  What did you do to become a part of the team?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to work with someone you didn’t like.  How did you handle it?

2.  Are happy/positive

  • Tell me about a time when your work was difficult – a real slog.  What did you do to keep going?
  • Tell me about a time when your boss made an unpopular decision and your co-workers were complaining and negative.  What did you do?
  • Tell me about a time when you lost your enthusiasm for your work.  What did you do?
  • Tell me about a time when the barriers to doing your work were severe.  How did you handle it?
  • Tell me about a time when you weren’t able to talk yourself into being upbeat and positive.  How did you handle it?

3. Are comfortable with change

  • Tell me about a time when your work changed due to a new regulation or leadership decision.  What did you do to adjust?
  • Tell me about a time when you noticed a problem with the way you were expected to work.  What did you do?
  • Tell me about a time when someone came to you with an idea for improving your workflow.  How did it go?  What did you end up doing?
  • Tell me about a time when the changes coming at you were just too many to deal with.  What did you do?

 4. Are self-motivated

  • Tell me about a time when you saw a way to improve your team’s workflow.  What did you do?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to learn something new that was really difficult for you.  How did you go about it?
  • Tell me about a time when you wanted to move forward in your career, but couldn’t see an opportunity to.  What did you do?
  • Tell me about a time when you were overwhelmed with work.  How did you handle it?
  • Tell me about a time when you couldn’t not seem to get motivated to do something.  What did you do?

CG #59 – Does Your Productive Group Fall Apart at Times?

Groups excel at tasks, and flounder with projects.  Learning to recognize the difference will revolutionize your meetings.

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Reading time: 2 minutes

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A task is something that can be accomplished in one step.  A project is anything that is more than one step.  Tasks are speedy and give you an immediate feeling of accomplishment.  Projects are speedbumps on the road of life.

Very few of the things on a typical to do list – or a typical meeting agenda – are tasks.  Most of us have items on our to do list – or our meeting agendas – that we move to the next list or the next agenda.  These are often projects rather than tasks.

Look at your list right now:  Is the item you move from list to list a project rather than a task?  If it is a project, you’re smart to avoid it.  It’s going to gobble up a lot of time and demand your complete attention.  And it’s going to send your group into one of those long, unproductive discussions.

 If you want to get things done, you put only tasks on your to do list. If you want your group to get things done, you put only tasks on your agenda.

Analyze Your Task List/Meeting Agenda

Here’s a typical to do list:

  • Wash the car
  • Mow the lawn
  • Do the laundry

There is a project lurking behind every one of these items.  I can’t wash the car without first parking the car away from my neighbor’s cars, finding a hose, getting a bucket, soap and a sponge, and putting on clothes I don’t mind getting wet.  It’s a project to wash a car, not a task.

If I put “wash the car” on a meeting agenda, then ask the group to help me wash my car, pandemonium will erupt.  The group will split according to the task they each think comes first.  One person will ask for the keys to the car.  Another will tell me – at length – how much they love using Dawn dishwashing detergent and do I have any while someone else warns me of the damage dishwashing detergent will do to my car’s paint job.  While they are arguing, 3 people will already be in the parking lot squirting each other with the hose and getting my neighbor’s cars wet.

My project just turned into a nightmare.  Unproductive meetings are just like this.  Which brings me to 3 principles of working with groups:

  • Groups are fabulous at tasks
  • Groups fall apart over projects
  • Groups tend to turn everything into a project

If you want to see the full flowering of the dynamics lurking in your group, throw a project at them.  If you want their help working on a project of enormous complexity, give it to them one small task at a time.  That’s what meeting planning is for:  to break down the big, undigestible project into tiny, group-sized pieces.

Task or Project?

In order to make improving your meetings a quick, easy task instead of an enormous, time-chewing project, take this tiny step today:

Look at your task list or list of agenda items and ask yourself:  Which of these is a project rather than a task?  It’s probably the one you’ve been avoiding, and now you know why.

CG #58 – Cut Your Meeting Time in Half

There’s a reason professional writers write faster than the rest of us.  What they know will cut your meeting time in half.

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Reading Time: 2.6 minutes

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“…my argument is that you should write quickly but edit slowly; and you can buff your words and pick better words when you’re in the editing phase and (can) take your time.”

“Yes, you’re right and you say it in the right order. I’ve habitually done it backwards. I’m editing a blank page into even blanker before I get going.  [laughter]. I’m deleting from nothing.

–A conversation between authors Daphne Gray-Grant and  Arthur Plotnik.

I’ve been studying how to write faster with author Daphne Gray-Grant. Her 4-step process cuts writing time in half:

1. Make a mind-map that shows you what you’ll be writing.

2.  Draft fast without editing, evaluating or thinking.

3. Take a break.

4. Edit slowly and thoughtfully.

If only this were easy to do.  I’d like to tell you it gets easier with practice, but that isn’t true. It is very, very difficult to make a mind map when I am on deadline.   I want to dive in and just get it done.  Giving in to this urge will slow me down.

Even when I get this first step right, it is very, very difficult to write a terrible first draft without improving it as I go.  When I see a clumsy construction, a word that isn’t right, a typo, it’s like the world will come to an end if I don’t clean it up right away. RIGHT NOW.

It’s as difficult to write a terrible first draft as it is to get through 3 minutes of brainstorming or round robin without heading immediately into an open discussion.

Open discussion is the meeting equivalent of editing a blank page.  The biggest problem with open discussion is it happens too early.  Discussing before all the information is out on the table is editing a blank page.  It’s deleting from nothing.

How NOT to do it

 Here’s how open discussion erupts.  The leader asks a question.  Someone gives their answer.  Maybe another person gives their answer, maybe two more do.  But the 4th person to speak is no longer responding to the original question.  They’re responding to what the first three people said.  They’re agreeing or taking exception or evaluating what’s already been said.

They are editing, not drafting.  And they are editing a blank page.  The minute someone writes a sentence, someone else jumps in to improve it.   That’s what slows your meetings down to a crawl.

The whole point of a meeting is to get to the editing stage:  You want to look at a problem together and edit, evaluate and choose as a group.

You can’t do that with a blank page.  You need a draft before you can edit it.

How to meet like a writer

1. Create the draft first without editing.  Round robin is best for this, or post-it brainstorming. (5-7 minutes)

2.  Clarify what’s up there.  If you don’t understand every word, you don’t yet have a draft.  Do not edit, evaluate, weigh in or advocate.  Just clarify. You are still drafting. (3 minutes)

3. Theme, categorize or combine to make the information easier to edit. You are preparing your draft for editing. (5 minutes)

Editing

4. Cross-off the items everyone agrees can be eliminated. Don’t push to remove anything.  Give people time to think.  You are editing. (1-2 minutes)

5. Prioritize the list that remains.   Struggle is normal here.  You are editing. (5-10 minutes)

6. Agree on action plan for the first 1-3 on the list. This can be a bit peppier, as you are now through editing. (3 minutes)

You can go from a blank page to coordinated, enthusiastic action in 35 minutes if you’ll separate drafting and editing.  Or, you can have the same meeting over and over, run out of time and make little progress on your goals.   It really is that simple.  But it’s not easy.

It’s a discipline

I like author Steve Chandler’s definition best:  “Discipline is remembering what you want.”

CG #55 – Working at Your Peak Without Burning Out

You can do anything 25 minutes at a time.  You’ll do it better if you take a short break every 25 minutes.

Word Count: 677

Reading Time: Under 3 minutes

Dave is standing on the dock, covered in sawdust.  He’s been remodeling the galley of his trawler for the last few days.  Being a trawler – a boat designed with visibility in mind, – it’s quite easy to see his progress.  Being Dave, I’m expecting an entertaining conversation.  Dave is a tugboat captain in Alaska in the summer. .  “Most days, I have a lot of time to think,” is how he describes his work life.  During the winter, he lives aboard his trawler.  Most days, I understand very little of what Dave says.

“I’m about 6 boat units in so far, probably take another 3 to finish this.”

“What’s a boat unit?”

“The minimum amount of money it takes to complete the smallest project on the boat.  It’s also a way to estimate time.  A 1-boat unit project takes 2 or 3 hours.”

I soon started seeing the usefulness of Dave’s boat unit idea.  I noticed there was a meeting unit, and it didn’t vary much across groups or organizations.

A meeting unit is the time a group can stay focused a task without tangents.

I saw that groups can work like the wind for 25 minutes, then they need a small break from that relentless focus.  They rest by cracking a joke, making a personal comment, staring out the window, or checking email.

When I designed with the meeting unit in mind, I had to do less facilitation.  Much less, especially in long meetings.

About this time, I came across the Pomodoro Technique, by Francesco Cirillo.  Cirillo has developed a simple time-management technique based on the writings of memory expert Tony Buzan.

According to Buzan, if you work for too long without a break, your understanding may increase, but your ability to remember what you understand decreases  Subsequent work can’t benefit from what you understand unless you can remember it.  The highest quality work comes from this equation:

Understanding + Remembering + Rest = Learning.

During a rest period, the brain converts understanding to learning and makes it available for use, just like fertile farmland makes use of a rainstorm.  Too much rain for too long and the water runs off carrying valuable topsoil with it.  Even a brief let-up in a rainstorm allows the soil to absorb and be enriched by water.  Taking a break does for the brain what a break in a storm does for the field.

To grow the best crops, a farm needs the optimal mix of nutrient-rich soil and moisture.  To do its best work, the brain needs the optimal mix of understanding and memory.

The Pomodoro Technique achieves this optimal mix by alternating work units with rest units. A work unit is the unit of time the brain can balance understanding and remembering to produce its best work.

The work unit alternates with a rest unit, the length of time the brain needs to consolidate what it’s understood from the work unit.  A work unit and a rest unit produce a learning unit, which makes the next work unit better.

Using the Pomodoro Technique is simple:

1. Set a noisy kitchen timer for 25 minutes and work with complete focus on a single task.

2. When the timer goes off, no matter how you feel about it, set the timer for a 3-5 minute break.  During the break, do something that gives your mind a break.  This is not answering emails or talking to a colleague about the problem at hand.  A quick walk is good, making some tea, a doodle, or just staring into the middle distance.

3. After 4 pomodoros, take a longer break, about 15-30 minutes.

I’m using the Pomodoro Technique right now.  I find  it remarkably helpful for all sorts of tasks.  If I love the task, I don’t burn myself out with my enthusiasm for it; if it’s a task I hate, I know I can get through it 25 minutes at a time.

CG #36 – Some People Can’t Take a Compliment – True or False?

You:  Bursting with appreciation and gratitude you want to share.  Them: Backing away slowly as you rave on and on.  It’s fast and easy to learn how to give praise that the recipient find irresistible.

 Word Count: 697

Reading Time:  2.2 minutes

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“Some people just can’t take a compliment!”  My friend, Sarah, is telling me about a co-worker who will not accept her appreciation.

“What did you say to him?”

“That I appreciate how hard he’s working to get this done.  He looked at me like I was crazy!  Hey – why are you flinching?”

“Because, for me, that’s the worst compliment ever.”

“But it’s true!”

“So what?  Look, when the result I’m after requires that I work hard, I do.  It’s automatic.   It feels silly to be complimented on something that happens naturally.”

“It does?  What should I have said?”

“Praise me for what I accomplish, not who I am.  Praise is premature until I’ve gotten it done.  Use the words ‘genius’ or ‘brilliant.’  That’s how I know you get it – that you get me.”

Here are some phrases you can use for the accomplishment-focused

  • “How did you get all that done across 3 times zones and in only 2 days? I’m in awe of all you were able to accomplish.
  • “The solution you came up with was brilliant. I’ve been telling everyone I know what a genius you are.”
  • “I’ve never seen anyone get a group angry people to cooperate like that. They were like old buddies by he time you got through with them. Excellent, excellent job.”[/li] [/list]

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“I get it.” my friend said.  “And I can’t wait to try it.  But Liz, I would hate to hear that.  I want to be appreciated for who I am.  I want encouragement and recognition along the way.   Is that so wrong?”

“It’s not wrong at all!  About half the population thinks like you do.”

“What phrases do you suggest for people like me?”

“You tell me.  How should I appreciate you?”

“I want people to notice the attention and caring I bring to everything.  I think the excellent result happens naturally because I consistent bringing my best self to work..  I want to be encouraged as I do things; waiting to the end is too late for me.”   I want to feel welcome – like you are glad I’m here.  When you appreciate the effect of my character and caring on others, it renews me, and I dig in with renewed gusto.

“And the phrases?”

Here are some phrases you can use for the contribution focused:

  • I love going to your meetings! I know I’ll walk away feeling valued for what I bring, and we’ll make steady progress.
  • I’m so happy that we’re working together on this project. I know we’re going to do really good work together, and that it will have your special touches.”
  •  I appreciate that there are always fresh flowers on your desk and in the break room. It lifts my spirits to see them.

How can you tell which type they are?

Watch their eyes.   When praise hits home, there is no hiding it.  Their eyes will light up, their face will soften, their entire body will relax.  If you are talking on the phone, their voice will take on more overtones as the tension leaves their face.  You’ll hear slower, more overtone-rich speech.

From their Myers-Briggs type.  Those who prefer Feeling respond best to a Contribution Focus; those who prefer Thinking, to an Accomplishment Focus.  Take this as a working hypothesis and watch their response.

CG #35 – How to Escalate Without Offending

The distance between agreement and commitment can be vast.  Here’s how to bridge that gap.

Word Count: 735

Reading Time: under 3 minutes

“I’ve asked, I’ve explained, I’ve sent email reminders, I’ve suggested strongly.  Every agrees it should happen, but it’s not getting done.”

What do you do when you need your boss to take action, but he isn’t?  Here’s a template for getting results without giving offense.

1. GET FOCUSED

There are good reasons for the gap between agreeing to do something and getting it done.  You aren’t interested in any of them.  You are interested in results.  Results don’t come from telling the story of why – why it should happen, why it hasn’t happened, why it’s so hard to get things done around here.   Results come from a relentless focus on movement, no matter how small.

2. GET CLEAR

Get clear about what you need and when you need it.  Gather evidence that supports what you are asking for.   Pick a date.  All this preparation creates clarity, and clarity creates movement.  Clarity is more powerful than job titles are.

If it’s hard for you get clear, that’s an indication you’re still stuck in the story of why.  Choose clarity instead.

3.  GET FACE-TO-FACE (or VOICE-TO-VOICE) WITH THE PERSON WHO CAN GET YOU WHAT YOU NEED

This is not a job for email.  You’ve got to interact with the person who can help you in real time.  Schedule a short (10 min) phone call or face-to-face meeting.

A SAMPLE CONVERSATION

Here’s an extended example of getting your boss to commit to open a new position for which there is no money.  Watch for the narrow open-ended questions, which I’ve put in bold type.  Notice the lack of conversational filler.

YOU:  Thank you for making the time to meet with me.  I need your help filling the assistant manager position by the end of next month.  I‘m not getting any traction on this.  What am I missing?

BOSS:  Approval for starters.  I don’t recall agreeing to fill this position.

YOU:  Great!  Let’s start there.  What would it take for you to approve this position?

BOSS:  I’d need to see sufficient volume to justify the position.  But I don’t have budget.

YOU:  Setting aside budget for now, What would convince you that there was sufficient volume?

BOSS:  Data, perhaps a chart that shows a month of volume against available staff hours.

YOU:  Would project delays be of interest?

BOSS:  What delays?

YOU:  Let’s not get distracted!  I’ll include that in the information I’m putting together for you.  So, volume against available staff time, project delays…what else would help you establish the need for this position?

BOSS:  That should do it

YOU:  I can get all that for you.  (pause.)  Assuming I can establish need to your satisfaction, what else would it take to get this position posted and filled?

BOSS:  A Job description, a hiring manager, a workspace and budget.

YOU:  We’re ¾ of the way there!  I have an approved job description, an open cubicle and I’m the hiring manager.  That leaves budget.

BOSS:  Yes.

YOU:  I have 3 out of the 4 requirements, but no authority to approve budget for this.  Who does?

BOSS:  I do, but I have no money for this.

YOU:  How are these situations usually handled?  When there is a clear business need that the budget doesn’t yet cover?

BOSS:  I ask for a budget exception.  But it won’t be approved.  There’s no money.

YOU:  That’s OK.  What do you need from me to prepare the exception?

BOSS:  The volume information.

YOU:  Is that all?

BOSS:  That’s all.

YOU:  I’m going to get you the volume information, the Job description and the date we need to have the position filled.  (pause.)

What other information would make getting the exception more likely?

BOSS:  A short description of what this position contributes to service or cost savings.

YOU:  The impact it has on the business?

BOSS:  Yes.

YOU:  Alright.  What else?

BOSS:  That should do it.

YOU:  I’ll get all this to you by Friday at noon.  Can we meet on Monday to follow up?

BOSS:  That’s fast!

YOU:  Yes.  We’ll only need 5-10 minutes.

BOSS:  I don’t know about Monday.  I’ll ask my assistant to give you my first available 10 minutes next week.

YOU:  That’s wonderful.  Thank you very much for your help.

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I’m looking for the right mix of example and explanation for these CG posts.  What did you think of this one?  Please consider leaving your feedback as a comment on my blog so others can benefit.  Thanks so much!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Unstuck

First came the desire. After the desire came the giddy excitement. After the excitement came the clear goals. After the goals, the false starts. After the false starts, the shame. After the shame came the mean voices. After the mean voices, terror descends like a visit from the dysfunctional family you moved across the country to avoid. Their voices reverberate through the house, explaining in detail why every idea you’ve ever had cannot work. Your excitement evaporates, the desire begins to seem like a weakness or a character flaw. The garage that’s been a mess for 17 years becomes the most important task on earth: You must clean it, now. The exciting project can wait. The oscillation has set in: excitement, fear, distraction, shame, self-criticism; Repeat. It’s exhausting to stay in one place. We are built for movement, no matter what your Uncle Harry whispers to your Aunt Agnes as they roll their eyes and smirk.

This is the cycle I see in my clients. The project they start, humbly, in the small corner of the organization that is theirs somehow becomes the center of the universe, and a threat to its orderly existence. So, they stop cold, disappointing those who had been relying on their leadership.

This is the cycle I experience myself, never more than this year when I declared that I would publish.

It does seem that the bolder and more clear the goal, the more fierce is the resistance to it. Thing is, resistance is merely a sign of anxiety, and anxiety is like sweat: A by-product. It’s not feedback. It’s not a warning of dire consequences to come. It doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong or you should stop. It means you’re doing it. That’s all. Anxiety is the by-product of change like sweat is the by-product of exercise. And, just like sweat, you brush anxiety out of your eyes and keep going.

If you pause for too long, you’ll start to believe the voices you hear. If you linger longer, what the voices whisper will become the truth of your experience. Uncle Harry and Aunt Agnes will nod in that knowing, irritating way they have.

Instead, find a way to keep moving toward your desire, like one of these:

1. Pick a smaller goal, a tiny, insignificant first step. I want to write, right? I know that when I set that intention, the ideas start popping up at the most inconvenient times. So my first tiny step was to make sure I had post-it notes and a pen everywhere I might need them: in the car, in the bathroom, next to the bed, in my gym bag. A tiny step, so easy to do, it engenders no resistance.

2. Resolve to do it badly. Really badly. Epically, catastrophically badly. Like the grammar of those last 2 sentences. Annie Lamott encourages her students to write a “shitty first draft.” Years ago I read about a group of friends who got together weekly for “bad art night.” Their goal was to have fun creating. Their one rule was that anyone who got into turning their art piece into a thing of quality had to immediately “wreck” it.

3. Get help. When your mind is like a rat wheel, going over and over the same info but getting nowhere, it’s time to get help. Talk to someone. Think out loud. Find a forum online and post an inquiry. Hire someone to help you. I was struggling with a vexing pellet stove problem that had gone on for 2 years. No one I talked to could help me. I read, posted to forums, brooded and froze all last winter without heat. The other day, I was talking to a neighbor and he suggested the approach I’ll be trying next week.  Now, instead of avoiding the topic because it seemed so insurmountable, I’m excited and energized.

4. Pick much larger goal, one that shocks all mean voices to silence. No, bigger than that. Really, it should crack you up with it’s audacity. If it’s crazy enough, it will make you smile inside. It’s important that you have no idea how to accomplish it.

5. Take a walk. If I don’t sweat profusely at least 4 times a week, I’m overrun with stress. In order to move forward toward my goals, I’ve got to be spending myself physically. It gives me energy and it shows me how inexhaustible my source is. It orders my thoughts too.

6. Do something you’ve always wanted to do, but were afraid to. Maybe it seems frivolous, or you could never be a person who does that, or you can’t possibly learn it. Then do it. Sometimes, the nasty voices become so involved with saving you from that crazy endeavor, it’s easier to evade them on other topics.

I still remember buying my first tambourine. I’d fallen in love with the middle eastern style of playing and gone to a workshop to try it out. I became so besotted I bought a professional quality, beginner’s tambourine for $75.00. All through the long drive home, I heard my mother’s voice saying “75 dollars for a TAMBOURINE?” For some reason, this cracked me up and I talked and joked with that voice all the way home. Years later when I bought a tambourine costing 10 times that much, mom’s voice in my head had nothing more to add.

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