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How fortunate am I? My friend Claire reads horoscopes written by Rob Brezney and only sends me the ones she believes I will like. This is a very kind and loving gesture, don’t you think? Horoscopes á la Brezney are rich in imagery and his command of the English language is impressive. I am not into astrology but love his creative knack.
According to my latest horoscope, you can call me Ms. Velvet!
Don’t try harder, Cancerian; try easier. Don’t turn your focus into a white-hot beam of piercing intensity; relax your focus into a soft-eyed enjoyment of playing around with the possibilities. Don’t tense your sphincter, marshal your warrior ferocity, and stir up your righteous anger at how life refuses to conform to your specifications; rather, send waves of tenderness through your body, open your heart to the experiment of blending your energy with life’s unpredictable flow, and marvel at the surprising revelations and invitations that are constantly flowing your way. Halloween costume suggestions: Mr. Smooth, Ms. Velvet, Dr. Groovalicious, DJ Silky.
My last post was about me wanting to me more of a court jester in my daily life and in my coaching (in service of my clients, of course) so it’s fun to play around with a combo of court jester and Ms. Velvet!
Illustration Copyright @ University of Cinncinati Archives
This past weekend I assisted in Fundamentals. It’s the first coaching course I took a few years ago. The course is set up like an appetizer buffet, giving students a taste of all the juicy coaching tools and techniques they will learn as they take the entire curriculum.
One of the exercises in Fundamentals involves hearing what everyone sees in you…”you are courageous; you are sweet; you are not afraid to speak up…” In coaching lingo these are know as acknowledgements. We aren’t used to hearing acknowledgements in our day to day lives. It more common to hear “you did a great job” (if you get feedback at all). As one of the leaders pointed out on the weekend, we are “human beings’ and not “human doings”. This is the reason that acknowledging who someone is being can be so much more powerful.
Part two of the exercise has everyone calling out what they would like to see more of in you/ what you need to stretch into to expand your range. Having been through the exercise before, the course leaders helped the assistants come up with name tags before the course day started. Mine: Court Jester. I got this moniker because I shared with them that I needed to stretch into being more foolish and having more fun. I have let being 5 months pregnant (and a little sick and tired sometimes) as well as pressure to maximize revenues in 2010 zap me of my fun.
Coaching a participant from this name tag “Court Jester” was both really challenging and brilliant fun. It’s so freeing to be foolish! We danced some tango and at one point I found some gum in her ear (inspiration from my friend Claire who likes to find candies in kids’ ears). the point wasn’t to coach well. It was to stretch into what a court jester would do. Of course, I realize we cannot play the fool all the time AND this weekend reminded me how great it is to laugh and let go.
And so my dear productive, kind, compassionate, strategic, _______ (fill in the blank) reader, what archetype would stretch you?
Warrior goddess? Bag Lady? Chip N Dale? Beach Bum?
By stretch, I mean, what persona would make your really uncomfortable? What would take you from middle C and have you play in the high notes and the low notes of your life? What would make you almost throw up? Good. That’s your stretch!!
P.S. The entire co-active coaching curriculum is being offered for the first time ever in Montreal thanks to the work of some dedicated CTI grads who are passionate about the program and about co-active coaching.
Ian Sherwood plays a house concert at my place in Montreal, Oct 2010
Last night I hosted an intimate and communal experience at my house. Almost 20 people partook and everyone seemed to have a fantastic time. Before you go too far in imagining what I am describing, let me stop you in your tracks. The event last night was a house concert and the artist was Nova Scotia singer/ songwriter Ian Sherwood.
House concerts have been around for centuries (think of chamber music from the middle ages) though the concept of hearing modern music in the home seems somewhat novel. There are some online hubs which create a network of hosts much like the couch suring concept for travellers.
Ian is a good friend of my sister Jill. He and she performed in dinner theatre together more than a decade ago and Ian spent about a month living at my house in Toronto about 5 years ago when he needed a short term rental. When I heard he was passing thru Montreal en route home to Nova Scotia from his latest CD launch in Ontario, we connected and decided he would do a house concert at my place. I had gotten the idea from my cousin Sarah whose boyfriend John Connolly did a recent house concert tour in the west. Ian has done dozens of house concerts and loves them so the idea wasn’t new to him.
Since I am not a music critique (and loved every minute of Ian’s concert last night), I am going to focus instead on the process of hosting a house concert and look at it from a business perspective (as in: the artist as a business person).
With only two weeks lead time and both of us being fully booked with our respective work, we decided we would put the word out via social media (a Facebook event) and that I would send an email invite to my Montreal friends, colleagues and neighbours. We would take whatever response we could get and Ian confirmed it would be worth it for him even if our audience was tiny.
In the end, we were almost 20. Ian played two spectacular sets. He’s an extremely accomplished singer/ songwriter and an incredible storyteller/ entertainer. I looked around the room often and sensed that Ian had really captured his audience.
While my motivation in hosting the concert was twofold: 1) help Ian establish a small following in Montreal and make a little extra money on his short tour 2) host a novel event for friends and neighbours, it’s interesting to look what it took to pull it off and what came out of it.
1-2 hours online creating the FB event invite and inviting people via FB and email;
3-4 hours picking up some groceries, cleaning the house and preparing some food for the concert
Approx $75 on food and wine (with lots leftover because some people brought booze and no one consumed much anyway)
2-3 hours travel and set up/ take down time for Ian from where he was staying in Montreal (and a lot more hours than that to drive back to the Maritimes today)
30 min clean up post concert
3 hours of fantastic music in an intimate living room enviroment for 20 people
Socializing and mingling over a drink before concert and at intermission; perhaps some new connections were formed
Maybe half a dozen CDs sold and an additional $150+ in voluntary donations for Ian
Almost 20 news names/ email addresses for Ian’s database (so he can promote future work/ tours etc.); these same 20 people will remember Ian far better than if they had seen him playing in the background in a bar or coffeehouse
My friend Christina Sciascia attended the concert. She is owner of Shaika Cafe in NDG, a popular coffeehouse that features live music nightly. Ian is welcome to contact her to book a gig.
Smiles on everyone’s faces when they left and lots of praise for Ian’s talent and thanks for my hosting of the event
Was it worth it for me? Definitely. I thoroughly enjoyed hosting it and hearing the concert. Was it worth it for Ian? He shared my sentiments. He seemed to have a lot of fun and left with a little extra cash and a little bigger following.
Would I do it again? Without question, Ian is welcome to play here if he needs a venue next time he’s in Montreal. I might even host other artists because I have the space and it was fun. I am not plugged into the music scene though so I am not sure where the next artist will come from.
What would I do differently? I would plan the concert a little earlier, sell tickets in advance for a fixed price (as I believe this would generate more revenue for the artist and encourage people to buy a CD the night of the preformance as well), and aim to have 30 or so people in my space (again to make it worth it for the artist).
If this post has sparked your interest in hosting a house concert, I say go for it. You will be building community, encouraging creativity, helping an artist/ solopreneur and you will make yourself happy in the process. What’s to lose?
Here”s a little bonus…Ian performing a portion of Dixieland Dirt Bovine last night from his first album (the video is shot sideways and is very dark. I am a coach not a producer!).
Conversation can be the most sublime of human experiences.
This comes from the German poet Goethe. Many would agree. To have a real conversation is a great joy.
So how do you do it in your day to day interactions? And more particularly how do you do it at work? It being a “have a real conversation” (not the “it”, which is typically frowned upon at work!).
Step one, according to Hargrove, is to give up being in agreement all the time. He says to bring in the paradoxes, real conflicts and dilemnas. Say what is really on your mind. It might just have the effect of holding up a mirror to yourself and others. You might just cause a shift from posturing and defensiveness to authenticity, creativity and learning.
Most people are more concerned with “looking good” than “being good” (this Hargrove has some excellent viewpoints and I am not just agreeing). Looking good at all costs leads to turf protecting, colluding, covering up mistakes and growing resentment inside as anger and frustration build up. I would say it even leads some to perfectionism which serves no one and in particular truly punishes the perfectionist himself.
So what undisscussble thing have you been harbouring?
In what areas of your life are you “looking good” instead of “being good”?
Sounds like answering these questions could be the start of a great conversation! I am all ears.
You and I do not just have a story, we are our stories. Our stories shape, limit, and define our way of being, the way we think, and the way we interact with others (Masterful Coaching by Hargrove).
Often times our stories keep us from reaching for our “impossible future”. Enter coaching! In coaching (well, when done masterfully), we help people surface, question and redefine their stories when their current story is called into question by others or breaks down in some way.
At the moment, I am reading Robert Hargrove’s book Masterful Coaching and I have to say I am really digging it. Now I don’t expect you non coaches to rush out and get a copy but I am going to share a little part of it here to see if there is anything you can relate to.
Image by Raiiya, Photobucket
Hargrove divides people’s stories into “rut stories” and “river stories”. River stories are stories of personal growth and transformation. Rut stories are the opposite.
They fit into five+ categories:
The “I Need Other People’s Approval” Story-people may not broadcast this story aloud but they often construct a whole series of pretenses and defences in order to look good or gain approval. The consequence: the intention to look good often displaces the intention to be good.
The “Artful Victim” Story-likely the most common…it involves people skillfully using defensive reasoning to create an open-and-shut case as to how other people or circumstances are doing them in. The consequence: they often get stuck in this story, forfeiting all their power to other people or the situation, and then being unable to create what they want.
The “I’m Affraid to Lose What I Have” Story- this one is told by people who put off their visions, dreams and aspirations in order to seek or keep their security. They complain about their lives not being satisfying but create lots of reasons for standing still. These people are generally non players in the workplace though they may look like they are playing along. The consequence: spending a whole lifetime getting reading for everything to fall into place until to realize that, like sour milk, they are past their expiration date.
The “Tranquilizing” Story- sometimes when people do not achieve a result, are incompetent at a task, or do something that gets them into trouble, they come up with reasons and excuses. The purpose is to tranquilize them and make them feel better about themselves. The consequence: people do not highlight their own incompetence (which limits their learning), errors are covered up (which can lead to more errors) and reality is distorted (which leads to individual and collective illusions).
The “Why Bother?” Story- People who tell this story say they cannot create what they want because their possibilities and choices are limited: “I don’t have time”, “I don’t have authority”, “It’s not in the budget”. Often times the story is a cover up for them wanting to stay in their comfort zone or for not wanting to take responsibility. There is often an underlying attitude of resignation. The consequence: people get stuck in this story and lose the ability to see the possibilities and options that they actually have.
Now, in case you think I am on my high horse here, I assure you that I have stories I tell myself (and others) in most, if not all, of the categories above. Those who know me well could say better but if I had to pick I would say my primary rut story is likely in the “I need other people’s approval ” story. Damn.
What’s your primary rut story? What are the consequences in your life? What would be possible if you turned it into a river story? How can a coach help you?
I used to mimic the people who ran the games tables at the fair grounds. My favourite was the colours game. You simply put your quarters on a colour and watched as the wheel spun, praying all the while that you would get a big payout of….$1. Most times I would lose but I won enough to keep playing. From early on, the message was clear. You cannot win if you don’t play. I guess the reverse is also true. You cannot lose if you don’t play either but I am not interested in safe.
I had a minor failure this a.m. while rolling out pastry for a pumpkin pie. I will spare you the dull details. Pie is made now and looks lovely. Well, it looked lovely. Now it is mostly eaten. (This is simply the Thanksgiving mention as I feel funny writing a post about losing and failure on Thanksgiving weekend when I could be writing about all that I am thankful for).
Anyway, back to the point. Someone I love dearly had a more significant failure earlier this week. It was 50x bigger than screwing up pastry. He/ she got thrown an unexpected curve ball. In the moments after learning the news, he/ she had no idea what to do with it.
Failure is like that. It can level you…for a time.
A recent speech at Toastmasters has stuck with me. The speech was entitled “Be the Babe”; it was delivered with passion by Peitro Di Benedetto (who doesn’t do anthing without gusto by the way!). Here’s a key exerpt:
We’ve all experienced unexpected challenges from time to time in our lives. The more curve balls we’re thrown, the more practice we will have at hitting them.
In 1923, Babe Ruth broke 2 important records:
#1- The record for most home runs in a season;
#2 (and one that most people don’t know about)- The record for the most strikes outs; he struck out more than any other player in Major League Baseball.
Babe Ruth was not afraid to strike out and it was this fearlessness that contributed to his remarkable career. When “The Babe” retired, he had 1,330 career strike outs – a record he held for 29 years until it was broken by none other than another Yankee legend, the great Mickey Mantle.
Around the same time, my favourite blogger, Penelope Trunk, wrote about taking intelligent risks. It’s all tied into willingness to play and lose/ to try and fail. Here are Penelope’s top five on how to take intelligent risks (read her full post and check out the great new wallpaper she hastily applied with Elmer’s glue) :
Long term regrets are usually about not taking more risks;
Being wrong costs very little;
People bounce back faster than they expect;
Don’t make the risk bigger than it needs to be;
Most risks turn out fine.
So what does this seemingly meandering, hastily written post boil down to?
It seems the logical conclusion is to take lots of intelligent risks (i.e. play often). Swing at the curve balls and strike out often in order to hit more home runs. And know that even when you lose/ fail, like my friend did this week and I did for two years in trying to have a baby, that you will be feeling better in no time. The costs are small in the long run and you will forget how much they stung when you eventually win. And by the way, the people who love you will love you just as much if not more for playing in the first place.
“Looks like it’s gonna be, and it is….GREEN…luck of the Irish!”
This image is a human embryo five days after a single egg was fertilized with a single sperm cell.
Ultrasound Scan of Fetus at 10 weeks Gestation
This is an ultrasound image of the same embyro at 10 weeks gestation. It already has a beating heart (and had one since 6 weeks gestation).
A view from the outside!
This image, much less clinical, shows the same fetus from the outside. In this image the fetus is 19 weeks old and is the size of a large mango!
And if you hadn't guessed already...
Yep, if you hadn’t already guessed…this baby is growing in me. As of today, I am 19 weeks pregnant!
I gave a speech called “Creating a Meaningful Life” last night at my Toastmasters’ Club. I got quite emotional at one point while delivering it. You see, it’s a pretty big milestone for me to be almost halfway through my pregnancy. The road has been long and winding. One surgery, six cycles of increasingly invasive treatments, and 3 previous pregnancies all ending in very early stage miscarriages….this has been the road.
If you had asked me when I was 30 years old what I envisioned for my future family, my answer would have been far more traditional. Now I am embarking on single motherhood (for now). I feel confident the right guy will come along at some point AND I made the decision to proceed anyway because my biological clock was tick tocking really loudly (and yes, it really does become a lot more difficult for many women to conceive after their mid thirties).
Fear, anger, sadness, confusion, uncertainty and even jealousy–these were some of the emotions I cycled in and out of over the past few years. And the doubt. Oh my goodness the doubt! When things weren’t going well I would ask myself,
Is this a sign that I am not meant to be a mother?
Is it time to pursue adoption?
And the most difficult question of all (and one I came to hate because I really struggled with it)
Do I even want to be a mother anyway???
Fortunately for me, I had many cheerleaders along my winding road, most of them mothers themselves. They, in my darkest moments of doubt, affirmed that having a child would be my greatest joy and that I needed to continue on the road to create this in my life. I am so grateful to these women. They know who they are.
We recently read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years for our bookclub. The premise is essentially this: that we create meaning in our lives by the stories we live. Our lives, just like great movies, are more meaningful when the main character wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.
Well this story, my current story, still in progress, is creating great meaning in my life. And I needed to share it simply because I am looking at my life, my business, and my future though a different lens these days. I am still the same me. I still want to be a masterful coach helping high-aspiration business owners and professionals create their great story. I still want to be a loving daughter and sister and a true blue friend. And I still want to tango.
So don’t count me out. In fact, count me in more than ever. The plot is about to thicken. And so is my waistline!