Archives for category: Five Star Stuff

Masses of people gather to participate in a "rose march" in honour of the victims of Friday's bomb attack and shooting massacre, outside Oslo City HallAccording to my Google search, the definition of leadership is “the action of leading a group of people or an organization”. Very simple and direct. The important concept is the verb in that definition – action. Leadership is not passive. 

Qualities of Leadership

If leadership is the action of leading then decisive action must take place. Direction is given and modeled. It is the display of behavior wanted in others. You have heard it before “Lead by Example.” Whatever you want from people … good employees, parishioners, or team members, the leader’s DNA has all the desired behavior. The behavior is visible, consistent, and communicated.

Not easy if one takes shortcuts. Shortcuts get around the learning experience of desired behavior. If you are running a marathon, you need to run 26.2 miles. Not one step less. Otherwise, you haven’t run a marathon.

In the Absence of Leadership

When there isn’t a leader, a team or organization flounders because people coming together for a common purpose can function in a self-directed way but when the going gets tough or if there is doubt, the group looks for direction. The group craves direction. The leader reaffirms purpose and provides that support toward the goal.

Are You A Leader

What makes a good leader? Special training? Advanced education?

I think the best question is do you have internal gift of purpose?  Are you someone who can visualize your outcome? Are you comfortable with claiming your role and having difficult conversations with people who are straying from the goal? Can you instill in others your belief for a positive change by your actions? Can you rise above chaos and create a place of peace for yourself and others?

The important piece of leadership is that leadership is not only for the benefit of self but rather for the greater good of all. Are you that generous?


Some of you may be familiar with the practice of selecting three words to act as beacons for the New Year.  Chris Brogan is the guy who first introduced this concept in one of his blogs some time ago (read his three words).

This year I struggled with the third and last word but here they are:

Deliberate – Consciously make decisions. Allow myself the time to assess what is the next step. No more knee-jerk reactions to situations or environments. I have the power to decide for myself. That doesn’t mean I won’t consult with others, but the decision is mine. 

I think this word comes from a place of control and not fear.

Intentional – And that sounds a lot like deliberate but it means I place some intention with the decision. For example, I believe that intention sets the tone for the action. I will have a fabulous day and surprise … I do. It is creating the experience before I actually have it. There is an element of spirit that accompanies my deliberate choices.

Wordsworth– No, not the poet but the words I write are worthy. I set up a daily writing goal to keep true to this word. I am writing a book that has taken on the feel of a relationship. Some days I am happy with the relationship and other days it looks like divorce court. By being deliberate in my writing, adding intention, my relationship with the process creates words worth reading.

Even when this book is complete, there are other ones waiting in the wings. A new relationship to create, nurture and publish. So, there you have it. The 2014 words Deliberate, Intentional, and Wordsworth.

What are your three words for 2014?

Masses of people gather to participate in a "rose march" in honour of the victims of Friday's bomb attack and shooting massacre, outside Oslo City Hall(Photo courtesy Reuters Norway)

I attended a fundraiser a few nights ago with a friend who was desperate not to go alone. She said she hates lurking on the sidelines looking for someone familiar. I, however, love the prospect of being anonymous in a crowd of others who are all a mystery to me.

The Excitement/Angst of the Unknown

Most people fall into two categories: those who look for the sameness in life and those who don’t.

I grew up in a family of rituals. Hard core rituals. Vacations always in the same place (photos of the same family pose year after year). Embedded behaviors – Sunday brunch 2 PM sharp. You didn’t veer too much off the expectation of “how we do things”. Predictability reigned supreme. Nothing wrong with it.

Except it is boring.

I suspect it was the result of living through a World War that made sameness a good thing.

I craved different. Different ideas. New and unusual people. Strange places. Someone with whom I had no history. Somewhere exotic that created wonder before my eyes.

Working The “Strangers” Experience

Before the fundraiser, we met for a drink and talked about the event. Venue – a large converted factory into office space and artist lofts. People – mixed group but primarily Hispanic (fundraiser was in support of inner city reclamation of empty property lots into community gardens for self-sufficiency). Outside my experience.

The only two people I knew were my friend and the Executive Director of the non-profit organization whom I met once before.

The excitement of the physical space and non-profit concept was electric. Salsa music blared. Corn chips and quesadillas. Bankers and blue-collar workers. All together in celebration of a program that succeeds for a community that suffers from lack of fresh vegetables. A perfect combination of new ideas, people and places.

Stepping Into Unknown

Consider the following: We don’t know what the next moment will bring. We can plan. We can anticipate. We can expect. But we are all traveling with the next moment as a potential for dramatic change. It’s the blessing or curse of living.

Clinging to a ritual is a nurturing activity. The familiarity helps settle the unease of life’s surprises. We can only navigate our life with our maps – our direct experience of knowledge. It helps us feel connected and in control.

Balance the predictable with the unknown consciously. Do something different today. Try a new food. Start a conversation with someone in the checkout lane. Listen to new music. Make an effort to experience one new thing every day. Keep your comfort zone wide enough to catch wonder happening every moment.

What will you do differently today?

Non-profit Pitch

If the idea of turning abandoned property into green zones clicks with you, check out Groundwork USA

Cloud Front

It’s probably the last conversation you want to have with someone.

You’re fired.

We’re done.

You have cancer.

I’m sorry; he has died.

Bad news comes in many forms but the delivery is the same.

That awkward moment when the other person may suspect something is amiss or totally unaware that tragedy has visited. It’s a conversation I don’t believe people – empathetic people ever get used to having. Doctors and healthcare people have an over abundance of bad news conversations but I believe humanity makes us feel for the receiving person.

Most of us would rather that bad news delivery be done in some other way.

Face to face is the best but most emotionally charged. The phone call seems less personal. It lets the person who has just been told something has changed in their life an opportunity to just hang up and stop the conversation. I understand that texting is common for youthful breakups.

That last method is a key indicator that our humanity is becoming less connected emotionally the more we become technologically connected. Just a thought.

And, the letter or email. More remote. More official than personable.

Why do we shun the conversation? Uncomfortable feelings are at the top of the list. Maybe we aren’t sure on the right words. And, the feared emotional outburst. Will we be able to comfort or do we even want to try?

I don’t have a step by step instruction on how to best deliver bad news. It’s dependent on the situation. But, what I can offer is the hope that empathy flows through you during the conversation and judgement pushed aside.  I hope that you can feel what it is like standing in that person’s shoes and act from the heart.

It’s why we are human.


Japanese Garden Peabody Essex Museum

[Photograph Peabody Essex Museum Japanese Garden, Salem, MA]

Every now and again, I just notice something for an entire day. Today, it is courtesy.

According to the online dictionary, courtesy is defined as: The showing of politeness in one’s attitude and behavior toward others. Easy. It’s just a showing and not an actual way of being.


In my observations, courtesy may be considered a commodity (A raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold, such as copper or coffee.) If I perceive a direct windfall for me, my courtesy meter dials up. When the opposite is true, no need to bother with niceties. So let’s review a few common instances of courtesy or lack thereof.

While I was edging out of a driveway and taking a left against the traffic, the traffic backed up due to a light. Did the man in the expensive SUV stop and let me through to my direction? No. He blocked access to the direction I wished to go. He was busy looking at his cell phone. He firmly made no eye contact with me.

Once traffic started to move forward, a man driving a company truck behind the SUV allowed me to cross over into my lane.

I went to a local coffee chain and placed my order. I guess I was like a mother wishing her child was using his/her magic words. I beamed, smiling, my head nodding in hope of a “Thank you”. None was forthcoming. I took my coffee and left crestfallen. And, then it happened … a young man held the door open for me and said “After you.” The moment was rescued.


Without a doubt, driving creates the most opportunity for politeness yet it is most notably the least courteous. Both men and women drivers are dreadful at courtesy. And by that I mean allowing one to enter traffic. Merging one car after the next. Who has the right of way when entering a four-way intersection? (Quick. Time to revisit your driving manual.) Stopping for pedestrians. Not blocking intersections.

Yes, I am from Boston where turn signal use is foreign and unnatural. Where rules of the road need not apply in parking lots. The bigger, more powerful or more expensive the car, the pecking order at intersections change.  A “No Parking” sign  is only a suggestion and a yellow traffic light means speed up not slow down.


How can you not say “Please” and “Thank-you”? “Get me” and “Gimme” are words of entitlement. As if you and only you are able to have whatever you want. Try smiling at strangers. Half of the population will feel uncomfortable. Perhaps you were smiling at the person behind them or there is something dangerously wrong with you being allowed in public unsupervised.

Allowing the person with fewer items in a shopping cart to go before you. (The universe might split apart.)

Paying for the person behind you in the drive through just because. (You’re not right in the head.)

Reaching out to folks who may need a moment of your time to listen and appreciate them. (Don’t have time for that kind of interaction.)


Courtesy is the glue that keeps us civilized. To be able to share a public place with grace. To honor the individual’s right to co-exist. It’s a kind of mashup of words, gestures and emotions that entwine in us and then outwardly as we connect with others either by chance or appointment.

It’s not as complicated as it sounds but there are layers of interconnectedness. We reflect what is in us by how we connect with the world and the people in it.

Courtesy lets us be at the top of the food chain.

It’s an honest way to greet strangers with an open attitude. Courtesy gives the other person a chance to shine for you. An opportunity to meet on a common ground.

Take a look at your behavior behind the wheel, at the checkout, or in a restaurant. Are you engaging in entitlement or courtesy?

You might be surprised.


I hate doubt. It ruins a perfectly planned post, party or project. And you never know when doubt will unleash a good attack of fear. How many great ideas vanish in the face of doubt!

So why, when doubt appears to bring nothing constructive to life, does it have the power and punch to stop you in your tracks?

Doubt May Bring Something to Consider

You know those people … the ones who say it will never work and proceed to tell you why from their personal experience. The ones who know how ridiculous your idea is. The people who have a lot to say in judgement.

Here’s a secret: It’s a protection game.

You might fail. And for some people, that is just like death, to be avoided at all costs. They don’t want you to fail. Or get hurt. Or look foolish. In their eyes. Believe me when I say those people are trying to watch out for you. Keep you safe.

The protection campaign can start early in life . Parents who didn’t encourage you to try new foods, engage in different sports, or create your own style.

Somehow, the world is perceived as a dangerous place. And your role and activity in that world should be kept to safe bets. Places where you don’t shine but you also don’t fail.  You don’t stand out and be recognized and neither do you present your ability.

It’s living small … and safe. It’s a marginalized life at best. Remember, if you don’t attempt anything, you don’t fail.

How to Handle Doubt Creatively

You will probably experience doubt at some point this week. In a good way. It’s a double-check to show that you have done your homework. The look before you leap. It makes sense to examine that doubt in a creative way to support your attempt and not hinder it. It is a way to make something even better than originally intended.

This doubt enhances the experience because you have noticed it (the doubt) and have given it an opportunity to tell you something. Not stop you. The doubt is there to impart a little self-protection but also to challenge to a higher level. Used creatively, doubt can amp up your passion to perform flawlessly. The self challenge of “Can I do this” brings performance to a new level.

Doubt can drive you to perfection.

Why Failure Is Essential

So, while you are living life, there are bound to be moments of failure or disappointment. You don’t hit every ball out of the park. But you show up at the plate.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes:

“During my 18 years I came to bat almost 10,000 times. I struck out about 1,700 times and walked maybe 1,800 times. You figure a ballplayer will average about 500 at bats a season. That means I played seven years without ever hitting the ball.”
Mickey Mantle



I just returned from a memorial service for a very dear woman. Not to be sullen and sad, her husband (my former) read a four page list, dated 2005, of things to do while she was on a business trip. She was noted for her organizational command and lack of brevity. We laughed at the assigned tasks, the minutia, and the veiled hints at areas for closer examination (the mound of mail left on the office desk may include bills). A quick witted woman with an expansive sense of humor, she found a reason to laugh with the human condition (not at it).

And, yesterday, I discovered her prolific presence in my life by her digital footprints.

She will no longer share her recipes and our daughter’s wedding plan PINS on Pinterest. A foodie, she had an amazing awareness of leading edge culinary delights. Tasteful, she had a deep sense of tradition with enough oddities to create a style of her own.

She will no longer work at her job although she remains in my LinkedIn contacts list. Her long list of skills and accomplishments seem so fresh and valuable. A headhunters’ dream.

She will no longer post photos of family, dogs, cats, camping, and other curiosities on her Facebook page. The light banter has ceased. Nothing new to like. The timestamps are all in the past collecting digital dust.

Yet, these digital footprints remind me of her in a kind and gentle way. As if she was still here with us. Vibrant.

I wonder if someday she will be digitally erased. I hope not. I like revisiting her thoughts, ideas and heroic humor. I mentally walk with her on our electronic path, leaving our digital footprints for others to cherish.

Remembering you, Beth.

Flare_and_after-flare_prominenceHave you noticed? The sun is sending large flares off into the cosmos as part of its cycle. We don’t really notice or do we?

There is some thought that we are affected by these roiling masses of energy. More from a personal manifestation. Some believe that we are energetically affected by the disruption to magnetic fields and wavelengths. We may physically become ill or overwhelmed. Our thinking might be laser-like or unfocused.

By scientific definition, a solar flare is a build up of energy that releases radiation and light into the cosmos. After a flare, a CME or a Coronal Mass Ejection typically follows. That is a massive ejection of energy –  electrons, ions and atoms through the corona of the sun and into space. This activity has a solar cycle of about every eleven years.

What Do Solar Flares Have To Do With You?

It’s a cycle of time. You too have a cycle of time or a circadian rhythm to your life. We get twenty-four hours in a day. There is a cycle of wakefulness and sleep. Work and relax. Eat and fast.

There is a larger anticipated life cycle: birth, adolescence, adulthood, old age, death. While that is more the traditional life cycle, it may not apply to all. We develop as beings, acquire skills and knowledge, experience emotions, and create. And, if we dive down into a particular phase in our life, it will have a cycle of its own.

For example, if you have a business you know the cycle of development, launch, refine, execute, and then maybe sell (death). Today, I read Danielle LaPorte’s post about grief . It is important to accept that death is a part of life. As the bible says “To everything there is a season”.

As we create, there is a momentum to our thoughts and actions. We are inspired and produce. We flare our art into the cosmos. And, then we retract and refine or build up anew. Maybe our idea gets some traction and results in a book, a line of products or services, or adds to a larger project.

It might fail. And, then you will decide what is next.

The Magic of Renewal

Life doesn’t wait for things to be right. Life creates, dies, and recreates its cycle.   We have flares and we have dormant times.

If we get trapped in one particular phase of our cycle, we don’t honor the natural rhythm of renewal. It’s best to feel the pain of loss and grieve. To rejoice a birth. To absorb the downtime. To assess the progress. To finally let go.

Where are you in various cycles of your life? Your work? Your relationships? Your inner self? Is it time to let go?

I’d like to thank Lisa Weikel for her quiet guidance which served as the basis for writing this post.


I am a hold out.

I don’t go chasing after the newest, shiniest, or flashy gadget or software. But, I’m not a Luddite clinging to archaic methods either. It occurs to me that I developed this character trait about the age of seven.

Old Methods or New Techniques

I am old enough to remember when plastic yo-yos were introduced to the market. They were colorful see through plastic with embedded sparkles. Some had noise makers that whirred at a high pitch. Really high glitzy stuff for the time. The tv advertisements claimed that anyone, regardless of age or talent, could easily develop a vast repertoire of yo-yo tricks.

Around the World. Walk the Dog.

My yo-yo was wooden, half painted red the other black. Understated in fashion terms. Functional. No noises. I purchased my unit from the local Five and Dime and stored it with my other valuables in a shoe box under my bed.

Since I hadn’t fully determined my purpose in life, I decided that becoming a yo-yo master would suit. I had no clue how to do this but I just might make it to a tv commercial. Every day, I practiced my wrist action … learning the “feel” of the yo-yo.

And, then the day came. I had mastered the initial step to learning tricks, The Sleeper. This trick requires a pitch out of the yo-yo and the patience to allow the yo-yo to spin at the end of the string. Most important is the feel of the spinning yo-yo and to know when to retrieve it with a flick of the wrist.

I discovered the balance of the yo-yo and the spin rate by feel. Major development.

Day of Decision

I pressed on to more tricks. And then one day, a kid in the neighborhood offered to let me try her plastic yo-yo. At first, I hesitated. I had developed a bond with mine. We, the yo-yo and I, had logged some serious time together like dating for years. But I relented and installed the string on my finger and pitched it out.

To my amazement, the yo-yo careened off center, string grating on the internal side of the yo-yo core. What? I pitched out again with the same results. I attempted a few more times, but each time ended with disaster (in kid terms). Why?

I didn’t get the feel of the yo-yo. The weight of the plastic model was substantially lighter and my delivery too hard. I couldn’t get the yo-yo’s balance. Dejected, I handed it back to the kid.

That day I knew two things.

If I wanted to become a master, I’d have to learn plastic. And second, I’d have to let go of my wooden yo-yo. We had traveled far together but the future was plastic. I was crushed.

Known Entity Or Shiny New

Over time, I faced similar decisions. Beta or VHS format (I chose unwisely). iPhone or Android (I am happy with my choice). Greek yogurt or creamy style (I can go either way). MS Office or Google Docs (Mixed). AIX or NT based platforms (a very long story).

Each time I decided to move forward, I examined the environment for signs of sustainability, growth and quality. Sometimes the indicators aren’t clear and I need a leap of faith. Like I knew that plastic was the way to go.

But, these kind of decisions are not without some personal angst, possible regrets and loss.

It’s life.

Boston Common

The aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing and capture of the remaining suspect created an opportunity for the city of Boston and its surrounding communities. That opportunity was to behave in a way that was good, helpful and caring.

That’s right. Good. Helpful. Caring.

Who We Are

I suspect that those words don’t normally pop into your mind when thinking about Boston. We are only marginally more friendly than NYC with less sophisticated sarcasm and a more judgmental bias.

We are the original renegades of American history (Boston Tea Party … the one in which we really dumped tea into Boston Harbor).   We are righteous souls having waited eighty-six years for a baseball pennant, and the arrest of Whitey Bulger. We immortalized a river so polluted that if you fell in you were advised to go to the hospital.

We’re a well schooled lot because of top-notch institutions (Harvard, MIT, UMass, Tufts and the list goes on) and also the wanting due to some of  the lowest school performers in Massachusetts public education (Roxbury, Dorchester, Boston, and Mattapan).

We are a cultural smorgasbord of those who are affluent and represent old Back Bay money. Our brownstones say breeding and our tenements speak polyglot. Chinatown. North End.

We blend in. For the most part.

Our Mantra

We are wicked. Wicked cool. Wicked nice. Wicked smart.

Our sports teams are hard scrabble kinds of folks. We have stars. Understated stars whose bravado is sandwiched in the spirit of the team. Mouthing off is in poor taste and most like the calm demeanor and stare of a hoodied Belichick. The fans usually provide the furor and the foul words.

How vile is “Sweet Caroline“?

Wicked. Awesome.

We Come Together

But after the Boston Marathon bombing, we rose to the challenge. People – runners, bystanders, and emergency personnel rushed in to help the victims. With no hesitation.

Communities gathered together in sorrow and prayers. With no fear.

There was a common lifting of spirit for those who suffered the most. A belief in a stronger bond. With no restraint.

People became extended neighbors. Someone who watched your back. Supported the police and federal agencies. Extended a hand to help with food, water and cheers.

We mourn the senseless deaths and the extensive injuries of those who came on a beautiful spring day to celebrate a tradition. We cry for those targeted for unknown reasons. We pray for those caught in a cross-fire.

Because we are one.

No bravado just wicked awesome.

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