Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Archive for June, 2015

What is Your Song?

If you could choose a favorite song – one that speaks to you and transports you elsewhere what would it be? What are the lyrics that resonate in your heart? What melody causes you to stop and listen to the sound causing your toes to tap or your mind to escape for a moment? When you think about it music has the power to change our mood instantly. It has the ability to lighten our mood and put a smile on our face. It has been said that music is a language that is there when normal language is of little use. It’s no wonder that every culture known to man has created their own music.

I remember years ago going to a funeral of a wonderful, gentle spirit who was moving on. She requested that her favorite song be played. The lyrics were written by Lee Ann Womack, the song entitled, ‘I Hope You Dance.’ This song can still stop me in my tracks and momentarily take my breath away as I remember this special person. A few of the lyrics …”Never lose your sense of wonder…never take one single breath for granted…never settle for the path of least resistance…and when you get the choice to sit it out or dance…I hope you dance.” This person fought a valiant 10 year struggle with cancer and was totally bed ridden for a least a year before she passed on. Yet through the lyrics of this song she left us with powerful thoughts of hope, humility, bravery and even joy. The song is about the magnificence of life, the importance of love and choosing to face any fear in our life head on, not allowing ourselves to be cowered by it.

I marvel at both the song writers and musicians who through their talent can emotionally transport us to a different space and time. These individuals have a gift that they have honed through hard work and effort. As Malcolm Gladwell has told us to be an expert at something we must put in about 10,000 hours of effort. When a song can take our breath away we know the lyricist and performer has paid their price in personal time and effort. Maybe their purpose for this lifetime was to try and help us along our way.

No one has the power to take away the music in our soul. As Dr. Wayne Dyer reminds us, “Don’t die with your music still in you.” Each of our lives is like a song, partially written and played, still in the creation stage of possibilities. We are all part of the orchestra of life. We can work together in harmony and feel the happiness in our hearts or like the songwriter or performer continue to rehearse, change, adapt our views through trials and life challenges until we finally get it. When things begin to fall into place in our life – our song – just begins to finally feel right. We feel something deep inside …excitement, assurance and at peace that we are following our chosen path and it moves us to our core. At that point we know we are truly living our life purpose and it is grand.

Have a great few days!

Have you ever been wrong?

David Brooks makes a point in his book, ‘The Social Animal’ that we are more alike in our thinking as human beings than we might believe. This idea was expanded upon in an article recently in ‘The Week’ magazine. The thought provoking questions posed by the later article made me stop and think about how I have formed my ideas and positions over the years. Have I changed my mind on things or seriously thought about why I believe as I do regarding political, social or environmental issues? Or have I simply been reading and searching for things that will verify ‘my’ truth.

To challenge my own opinions, I have chosen to read and listen to ideas from ‘the other side.’ We all know that the ‘other side’ is anything and everything that doesn’t support our own world view. I must say, I have found that some of the information can seriously disrupt my mindset! Yet, isn’t that the purpose of this incredible thing we call our brain. To take in information from varied sources and let those thoughts roll around in our mind for awhile so we develop a deeper understanding or even a new way of thinking? Maybe this is what is meant by life-long learning.

Over the next 16 months we will be deluged with political adds, speeches and hopefully, substantial debates. The question remains if we will occasionally choose to tune into a channel that we know has a view that is different from our own in order to hear viewpoints that we may disagree with at first blush. When you think about it we have nothing to lose and everything to gain – information is a powerful thing!

Our ideological choices and affiliations are important. Yet, in a country that emphasizes the rights of the individual it seems not only important but an obligation to stretch our comfort zone and consider a different way of looking at something. The result may be that we continue to hold our existing beliefs sacred but at least we will feel more confident in knowing why.

Anyone running for a political office over the next year and a half would be wise to remember that the fact checkers from the national T.V. channels are alive and well and will be quick to point out the error in any statement. In the spirit of full disclosure sometimes fact checkers are our greatest hope. The beauty of this is that much of our work sorting through the ‘he said, she said’ statements will be done for us. Our challenge, as individuals, is whether or not we are willing to be influenced by new information.

As the writer, Peter Wehner in CommentaryMagazine.com said it basically boils down to being brave enough to ask ourselves “Do you think you have ever been wrong?”

Have a great few days!

Saying Yes to Life!

In 2008 Jim Carrey made a movie entitled, ‘Yes Man’ from a book written by the British humorist Danny Wallace. The movie was a box office success because it gave us something to really think about with its potent message. Carrey as a bank loan office becomes increasing withdrawn and negative following his divorce. His friends tried suggesting a host of things to help get him out of his doldrums but to no avail. ‘NO’ was his constant reply to anything and everything that was out of his increasingly narrow comfort zone. His life changed dramatically when he attend a self help seminar in which the attendees were instructed to make a commitment for one year to say ‘YES’ to people, places and opportunities. He started on a pathway to personal happiness that just made you smile inside. When a movie can do that for people we know the message is significant!

Dr. Wayne Dyer highlights this mindset of saying YES to life in his book, ’10 Secrets for Happiness and Inner Peace.’ He instructs us to have an open mind to everything and to refuse to allow ourselves to have low expectations about our own capabilities. He implores us to resist ANY pessimistic tendency (also known as being the resident critic). If we find ourself saying ‘but’ ..to someone’s idea just know that we are actually correcting and rejecting their thought rather than considering or allowing it as their authentic feeling.

When we choose (and it is a conscious choice) to say YES rather than dismiss a new idea or opportunity we are choosing to expand our comfort zone. A new idea may not be comfortable but it’s important to keep an open mind and consider it rather than automatically rejecting it. As Dr. Dyer suggests, rather than saying a new idea or perspective is wrong practice saying, ‘I’ve never considered that before.’

A mindset of ‘YES’ is healthy. It keeps us growing, learning, and becoming all that we have chosen to be in this lifetime. It says regardless of what I know today or what I have been conditioned to believe in the past today is a new day with new ideas and opportunities.

Our mindset not only affects us but everyone in our environment. We can uplift others or weight them down simply by our responses to life. Check yourself over the next few days – listen to your responses – really listen with your mind and heart – are your comments energy enhancing or energy depleting. It takes work to change a habit if it has been to control, reject, or dismiss anything that is new, different or may require a change in our thinking but it is so worth it!

We have chosen this life with the challenges and opportunities that present themselves for a reason. Being happy, open and positive just makes the ‘medicine go down a bit easier!’

Have a great few days!

Caring is the Key!

Every once in awhile we read a word or sentence that takes our breath away. That’s exactly what happened when Vice President Joe Biden commented at the funeral of his 46 year old son Joseph ‘Beau’ Biden that “a parent knows success when his child turns out better than he did.” Humility and recognition of something greater than self were so eloquently spoken by a grieving father and leader in our country. These words in context cause us to exhale slowly as we think about the powerful image that comes to mind.

The Biden family experience with loss started early. The tragic death of Beau’s mother and one year old sister in a car accident that seriously injured both Beau and his brother ‘Hunter’ was the beginning. He served two terms (2006-2015) as Delaware’s Attorney General. Beau’s life ended after a two year battle with brain cancer. Yet, through it all his father said he witnessed “the same integrity, courage and strength that he demonstrated every day of his life.”

We know that through all of the life challenges and losses we experience and all the ‘whys’ left unanswered we are ultimately left with a simple truth, ‘life is as it’s supposed to be.’ It doesn’t ease the pain or soothe the open wound of loss yet we know deep down that this simple truth somehow rings true. Some complete their journey sooner than we would have chosen.

Vice President Biden helped us all to remember our jobs, our calling and purpose in life. As parents we know our greatest success is felt in our hearts when we see the type of children we have been fortunate enough to raise. Our other achievements pale by comparison to the feelings we experience when we see them succeed.

Our legacy, what we have ultimately done to make this world a better place, comes in many forms. For Beau Biden it was dedicating his life to the service of others. For others it may be discovering a cutting edge idea, teaching a child or lending a hand to a fellow traveller. Caring is the key as Biden exemplified.

When we demonstrate love and caring to our children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews we give them immeasurable strength to face the challenges that will naturally surface in their own lives. It’s as if we give them an invisible shot of confidence. Everyone needs to feel valued and to know that their life is important to someone other than themselves. When we believe in someone we give them the emotional support that is needed as they try out their life wings. We stand by eager to encourage them to fly higher than we have ever experienced. We listen to them with our head AND heart as they talk about their hopes and dreams. We are in a privileged position, at just the right angle, to see into their souls as we cheer them on. The Universe then smiles and says back to us, ‘Well done.’

Have a great few days!

The Power of the Unconscious!

Our first impressions are powerful. Research by Willis and Todorov of Princeton found that we make a decision about a person’s competence, likability, and trustworthiness within the first tenth of a second that we meet them and those impressions hold true for us months later. Take a moment and think about how long one tenth of a second really is …. a snap judgment. Yet we are constantly advised not to make decisions too quickly … but rather to think about it, sleep on it, so that we don’t make a rash decision we will regret later. While all this advice sounds good the reality is that we rarely follow it. We form our instant opinions and then convince ourselves that we are right regardless of evidence to the contrary. The impressions which cause us to make snap decisions come from deep inside our subconscious where intuition, biases, genetic messaging, character traits and social norms have been slowly, over years incubating to become such a part of us that we don’t even realize they are constantly front and center in everything we see, feel and believe. The unconscious basically decides what we are either drawn to or repelled by on a momentary basis.

While we would like to think that we are in total control – on a conscious level – of everything we think, feel and do nothing could be farther from the truth. Our subconscious mind is constantly giving us a barrage of messages and feelings. This amazing part of our brain is the ‘true brain behind the brain.’

As David Brooks said in his New York Times bestseller, ‘The Social Animal,’ the subconscious is the source of character, love and achievement. It collects the wisdom of the ages. In fact, as we learn more, experience more of the world and develop deeper character traits this amazing part of our anatomy is so powerful it constantly orders and reorders the new information to help us become wiser and more adept at living. Brooks went on to say that his book “would not try to discern God’s role in all this but if there is a divine creativity, surely it is active in this inner soul sphere, where brain matter produces emotion, where love rewires the neurons.”

Amazing to think about right – especially when we have been taught that the subconscious simply contains the the baser elements of survival – particularly the fight or flight instincts.

Realizing that our unconscious mind affects so much of our behavior it behooves us to learn from research how to decipher the patterns, tendencies and predictable behaviors so that we harness the strength of decision making. Some of these facts I will be writing about will shock, some will surprise but all will cause you to shake your head in wonder. Think of the next few blogs coming to you as ‘The Farmer’s Almanac of Human Behavior.’

Have a great few days!

There’s More to Success than IQ!

We have all known people who are exceptionally intelligent and successful. They seem to succeed at whatever they put their mind to and relish in the hard work it takes to achieve. They have learned about different management strategies such as Six Sigma, JIT (just in time), TRIZ, the list goes on and on. Each year people trained in the newest management or leadership approaches are hired by organizations who are convinced they have finally found the Holy Grail and now their organization will soar. They think they have found people who can make decisions at the speed of electrons. Often they are told by the trainers of these new approaches to hire the best and often what that means are those folks who have graduated from an highly elite institution, maintained high grades and received the best scores on tests such as the SAT OR ACT. Ahhh if it were only that easy. One famous longitudinal study entitled the Terman study followed a group of highly intelligent people – with IQ’s of 135 or above – expecting them to win illustrious awards such as a Pulitzer, MacArthur or similar award in their fields. Most often they did not. As you may have guessed by now …there is more to the story than the latest leadership fad and IQ.

What they discovered over time was that once a person crosses the IQ threshold of 120 there is little relationship between higher intelligence and better performance. (you may want to read that last sentence again since it is so contrary to what we have heard all of our lives!) More recently than the Terman study, Macolm Gladwell who wrote ‘Outliers’ among many other outstanding books found those who won Nobel prizes in Chemistry or Medicine did NOT often go to the top of the rock type of schools. Rather they went to good schools and worked very hard.

The take away for us is that intelligence is a piece of the puzzle but certain character traits and dispositions make even more of the difference for success. Honesty, rigorous thinking about a problem before making a decision, fair-mindedness, discipline, imagination, sensitivity and the ability to see nuances – avoid black or white thinking – and of course, above all, a strong work ethic really fill out the puzzle and create a beautiful landscape of future success for those willing to work for it.

Regardless of how we score on an IQ test these character traits make us successful or not at whatever we pursue in life. The great news is that we can work to develop them on a daily basis!

Have a great few days!

Namaste!

Have you ever noticed the different ways we greet each other? In Japan bowing is a traditional sign of greeting that shows recognition and respect. In many African countries hand clapping signals a greeting. Saying hello, shaking hands, even fist bumping and hugging are different ways we greet people in English cultures. Sometimes it feels rather perfunctory and at other times it feels – well actually genuine – and it stops our brain momentarily from thinking about the next thing on our to do list. We truly see the other human being who despite all odds, trials and challenges are here in front of us at this moment in time.

A similar thing can be said for sales associates and check out clerks. You can just tell that someone above them on the corporate ladder has instructed them to greet each customer usually with a question such as. ‘Did you find everything you were looking for?’ Or ‘How are you doing today?’ As the words come tumbling out of their mouths there is little to no eye contact as they are busy surveying what needs to be checked out on the friendly conveyor belt that is going at warp speed as their manager views the action from a perch high above. Until …wait for it … you stop and look them in the eye, respond and then go to the next step and actually ask them how their day is going. Usually they will stop mid task, a bit surprised that you took even a moment to ask about their day. Such a small thing to do and yet you can just feel the person warm up inside. It is, as if, they are saying to themselves, ‘Well, my day is actually getting better with thoughtful customers like you!’

When we take a moment to look people in the eye and let them know that we see them – truly see them – it means something. We are choosing to use a few precious seconds of our life to stop and appreciate the spiritual presence of another. There is a single word that means all of this which is used in the form of a greeting around the world. The word is ‘Namaste’ (pronounced na-ma-stay). Roughly translated it means the heart and spirit in me sees the heart and spirit in you. Regardless of our background and experiences when a fellow traveler takes the time to recognize us it’s a good thing. Often this one word greeting is done with the hands together and pulled close to the heart.

I know it may sound like a stretch to suggest such a greeting to some – especially the part with the hands held to the heart but regardless of the type of greeting we are comfortable with the important part is taking the time to mean it right? To take even 30 seconds out of our busy day and offer kindness, recognition and respect to another.

Over the next few days check it out. I’ll bet you can stop someone in their tracks who is being paid to service you in the most efficient manner by looking at them and asking how their day is going. Just think you are sending out those good vibrations into the world and it didn’t cost you a cent even though it created value for others.

Maybe the big things in life are made just a bit easier when we remember to take care of the smaller things along the way.

Have a great few days!