Under Water

“Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget, truly forget, how much you have always loved to swim.” ― Tyler Knott Gregson

I have tried, as a matter of course, to stay away from the discussion of all things political and societal on my own social media over the last several months, simply because I feel like enough people are already talking about these things. I have nothing new or especially significant to contribute.

This past week, however, I did post one small item that went mostly unnoticed, with the exception of one commenter who brought up some salient points about the contents of the article. I try mightily to stick with the idea of “try being informed instead of just opinionated”, so my response was that I thought the topic deserved more reading with those thoughts in mind.

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Rate of Exchange


“Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand.”- Emily Kimbrough

I’ve been sort of floundering around over the past few weeks, trying to come up with a topic worthy of discussion, and failing miserably. I’ve decided it’s because my musings here tend to be rooted in conversations I have with friends in the normal course of life…and there’s been far too little time spent lately with some of the people who inspire me and make me think.

Because our house is still practicing social distancing, the precious little socializing I have been able to do has taken on a very special quality. When I saw a friend recently after months apart, I was surprised by the depth of the emotional reaction I had to seeing her in person again. I mean, I’ll be honest, I always feel a little bit like I’m getting away with something in my friendships; like I’m getting the better end of the deal without the other person quite being aware of it. That feeling is even more pronounced now, because I feel the absence of these interactions so keenly.

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Heavy Lifting

I recently published an article in Forbes titled “How to Cultivate Mental Toughness In Uncertain Times”. I hadn’t put up a blog about it until now because I’ve spent the last couple of weeks thinking about this concept and how it applies all through our lives.

The primary reason I focused on this topic to begin with was that I was hearing from so many friends about how precarious they feel their balancing act is during these weeks of social distancing. People are facing brand-new professional, financial, relationship and parenting challenges—all at once, on a large scale—and it’s taking a toll.

No doubt about it, quarantine has turned many of our lives upside down. I think, however, that we have to be very careful and not forget that in the midst of all this, people are also experiencing hardships that have absolutely nothing to do with this virus, or quarantine. They’re dealing with past traumas, new illnesses, and losses of all kinds.

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So Emotional

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”– Edward Everett Hale

Emotional intelligence—sometimes referred to as emotional quotient or EQ—is the ability to recognize and manage both your own and other’s emotions. Two researchers, Peter Salavoy and John Mayer, developed the concept in the 1990s, and used it to define and improve communication within marriages.

Over time, it’s become clear how emotional intelligence is critical to maintaining relationships in their various iterations, including those we foster in the business world. The concept is of such interest to employers that it’s being researched extensively to gain a better understanding of its impact on leadership and success. (Data shows EQ is the number one predictor of performance. You can see my Forbes article on that topic here.)

Emotional intelligence is more important than ever right now, because it feels a little bit like we’re living in a world under siege. It’s not just about the threat (and reality) of this specific virus. We’re all operating under new pressures. Millions of people have had to change how they function at work and are trying to juggle personal and professional obligations in a world that’s no longer compartmentalized. Millions more have lost their jobs or businesses entirely because of forced closures. How will they pay their bills?

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Life, Interrupted

“Be unprepared, that’s my motto. Let life surprise you.”― Marty Rubin

One of my favorite topics of discussion is communication; it’s benefits and pitfalls, and how it sometimes goes by the wayside when we’re pressed for time or exhausted by the demands of everyday life.

Point in case: this blog. I’ve not posted anything recently because life has gotten in the way, as it tends to do. This month has been full of surprises and insanely busy. It’s also been immeasurably precious, and given the opportunity, I’d spend my hours in exactly the same way a thousand times over.

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Hostage to Negotiation

I’ve spent many hours this month researching the topic of financial negotiation as it applies to women in the workplace. The data is thought-provoking, especially when you consider leadership competency and education. (If you’re interested in seeing why effective negotiation is critical to career success, especially for women, you can see that Forbes article here.)

One main concept I gleaned from this work is that most people (both men and women) express discomfort with the idea of having to negotiate things like a salary or benefits at a new job. In fact, any transaction where finances are involved becomes instantly more stressful when you add a negotiation component into the mix.

Here’s an example: In a highly scientific straw poll I conducted this week, most people said the excitement of purchasing a new car is dampened by the idea that they’ll have to negotiate the price. The effect is two-fold. They (1) hate having to haggle, and (2) always walk away feeling as though they could have done better. After all, if the other party agreed to the current terms, what else might they have agreed to?

You’d think we’d all be experts at this negotiation thing, given that we’re all doing it, all the time, in every aspect of our lives. Oh, sure, we don’t always call it that— we may call it bargaining, compromise, or conflict resolution, but it all amounts to the same thing.

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Change of Pace

Lean on me, when you’re not strong”. – Bill Withers

As some of you may know, or have gathered from previous postings, I’ve had a fun medical year with a broken foot that ended up needing surgery back in September. I am on my feet and walking around now, but I’m still having trouble with mobility and tend to move at what feels like a snail’s pace.

Last week, a friend and I attended an event that turned out to be much larger than I had anticipated. As a result, parking was at a premium, and we wound up in a spot a couple of blocks away.

When we got out of the car, I apologized in advance for the fact it would be slow going, even over such a short distance. Without missing a beat, my friend looped her arm through mine and said “There’s no hurry. We’ll take as much time as you need”.

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Character Study

The better you know yourself, the better your relationship with the rest of the world. – Toni Collette

My son is in his first term of college and is taking a career class that is helping him narrow down career options based on his interests and personality. It’s a pretty brilliant idea, actually. I wish I’d done something similar in my first year of college; perhaps I’d have realized that my chosen career wasn’t a good fit for me and changed tracks.* Instead, I had to figure it out the hard way in my 20’s, when I finally started to realize what I was good at, and what I enjoyed.

I don’t suppose I’m the only one who missed the mark on understanding certain things about myself as I established my adult identity, but I got so many things wrong. There really should be some sort of “adulting” certification, and personality testing should be a mandatory component.

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An Ounce of Stress Prevention

There’s some really interesting research out there on stress and the physical, emotional and mental toll it takes on us. You’re not the only one feeling it’s effects: up to 90% of doctor’s visits are now for stress-related issues.

As I poured through information on life’s most stressful circumstances, it seemed a large number of them fall into three specific categories, and that’s what I’ve written about this month in Forbes: how to reduce common types of stress and feel better.

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Diamond in the Rough

“I, myself, am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions”. – Augusten Burroughs

Raise your hand if you agree with the idea that “We’re all our own worst critics”.

Everyone’s hand up? Yes? I thought so.

It seems to be part of human nature that we all give more weight to our flaws, slip-ups and inadequacies than our good choices and successes. It’s not an entirely bad thing; we do need our brains to tell us right from wrong so that we learn the correct lessons in life. The issue, however, is that the mechanism rarely stops there and too often flows into destructive self-criticism.

“Hey”, your brain whispers as you lie awake in bed at night, “Remember that totally awkward remark you made the other day? Other people don’t say that kind of stuff. Your social skills are the literal worst. In fact, YOU are the literal worst”.

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