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Pay No Attention to the Pink Elephant

Pay No Attention to the Pink Elephant. karen-pink-elephant
At a recent retreat of senior-level managers, we started the day with a yoga session.  What a positive way to open a meeting, don’t you think?

The instructor arrived early, set up the room, and greeted the participants as we entered.  We were doing the initial breathing exercises when she said, “Forget about all the emails piling up in your inbox.  If you’re worried about what might happen later in the retreat, let that go.”
Her intention was exactly the opposite of the outcome!  When we tell our minds what not to think about, that’s pretty much all we can think about.  The experience reminded me of a coach that I had who was keen on neuro-linguistic programming.  This coach often says wittily, “Forget about the big pink elephant with white spots.”  Well, of course, what do you imagine we think about whenever she says this?  Did you picture a pink elephant with white spots, just from reading this?  It’s impossible not to think about what’s being described, even if only for a split second.
This is a valuable lesson for coaching employees and for improving performance.  Rather than telling employees what not to do, tell them what to do.  For example, instead of saying, “Don’t turn in the report late again,” ask, “How will you meet the March 15 deadline?”  Instead of saying, “Don’t be cranky with the customers,” say, “Think what this customer means to our business and greet her with a smile.”
It’s a small adjustment, yet it will reap elephant-sized results.
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Communication - Parents

Do You Know the Trick?

I just came back from the National Speakers Association annual convention in Phoenix, Arizona. Bringing one of my kids to NSA’s fantastic concurrent youth conference adds a whole new dimension to my experience.For instance, one of the highlights of my trip was attending an Arizona Diamondbacks game with my son. I’m not a Diamondbacks fan, but I enjoyed watching several outstanding players. When Luis Gonzalez came up to bat, my son said, “Watch his stance, Mom. It’s unusual, but it works for him!” Four seconds later, Gonzalez hit a homerun.

“How many little league coaches do you think told Luis to change his stance?” I asked.

“That’s the trick, Mom,” he answered. “Knowing when to listen to your coaches, and when to do what feels right for you.”

Another high point was the NSA awards program. I sat enthralled as the coveted annual CPAE awards were presented to five outstanding NSA members for their material, style, experience, delivery, image, professionalism, and communication. For a speaker, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime recognition of excellence.

One winner is an accomplished photographer. He uses his amazing images to transform audiences. I wonder how many times he was told he could never make a living taking pictures. I also wonder how many people would have been able to envision a business that combined photography and speaking.

Another recipient was one of my mentors, who reaches out to others by telling stories about her life. Her real life. One time she made a presentation wearing a bathrobe and slippers because she wanted to begin on a humorous note. In her acceptance speech, she talked about balancing her profession with her family. I wonder how many times she heard people say she wouldn’t be viewed as a professional if she revealed so much of her self.

No matter what their fields, outstanding professionals often seem to follow similar recipes for success: They learn from others, they graciously accept training and feedback, and they hold tightly to their uniqueness.

How does your uniqueness fit with your profession and expertise? Whether it’s your stance, your bedroom slippers, or your photographs, what do you offer that is yours and yours alone? What’s your recipe?

Have you learned the “trick”?

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Appreciation - Self Reflection

To Give Love and Be Loved

My great aunt will be 96 this month.
Her only child died last November.
He was in his seventies.My aunt is doing quite well.
She gets up every day.
She dresses herself.
She walks, or as my kids say, she scuffles.
She eats her meals in the senior center.
She gives. She listens. She loves.
She smiles at everyone who lives and works in the center.

She is alert.
She is vital.
She is not in denial.

When I am down, or overwhelmed or stressed,
or when I have a challenging decision to make,
I visit her.

I have asked her how she manages her losses.
She says managing stress is quite simple:

Life is not perfect.
Not everyone is kind, but everyone needs kindness.
Control what you can control (which is very little),
Let go of everything else.

Keep life’s routines. Get dressed. Exercise. Be spiritual.
Give love every day.
It always comes back.

When I teach stress management, I hear about alcoholism, abusive relationships, money worries, failed health, job problems.

I know my aunt is right–managing stress is simple.
Knowing, however, is different from doing.

May you live to be vibrant at 96,
To give love and be loved by those around you.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING.

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