Soundtrack Of Travel

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From the balcony of my workspace I hear the sounds of the street below. There are taxis honking and the faint hum of people greeting each other as they pass by.

And then it begins, “ Ah, cinco mil pesos!” a vendor shouts through the streets. The familiarity of this gentleman will become synonymous with my memories of Santa Marta for sure.

You would think that hearing this chant throughout the day, each day (he works Saturdays and Sundays too) would become annoying, but actually it has become quite comforting. He has a rhythmic way of shouting this out, almost like the melody of a familiar song, and the precision – wow, I hear him say this so many times a day so many days and each time it sounds identical to the last.

I can almost mimic him at this point because of his consistency.

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Carrera 2 traffic, both old and new

This is just one of the sounds that will remind me of this part of Colombia, together with the clip, clop of hoofs from the horse drawn carriages riding up and down Carrera 2 in Rodadero. Some were work carriages, some were giving tourists rides, but the sound almost always brought me to the window just to enjoy the sight of the old times combined with the current times.

This is part of the experience of travel for me. You see, in the US, the buildings are closed up, the street sounds are usually traffic and there is no sense of what is really going on in the community. You can tell people are busy, but you don’t know what they are busy with because everything is so buttoned up!

I may not know what this gentleman on the street is selling for 5 million pesos, but I know he’s a vendor. I do not know him but he has become part of my day and will be deeply engrained in my memories when I leave here.

When I lived in Belize I had a similar chant from below my 2ndfloor balcony apartment.

“Alejandro!” This chant was not nearly as rhythmic as my Colombia gentleman and did not have consistency at all. Sometimes it was drawn out, sometimes it was quick and other times it was welcoming.

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You see, I quickly figured out that Alejandro was a little boy and his mother would call his name in varying frequencies depending on the day or what the boy had gotten himself into.

My son and I still recall this memory fondly each time we think about our time there.

It is the sounds of a location, the pace of life and the ability to find yourself immersed in a new culture simply by listening to life around you. In many places around the world, houses and transportation are open so connection with the community is simply part of the fabric of the location.

Learning a new culture is not simply the one-on-one interaction with people but it is allowing ourselves to become enveloped by the community. To pay attention and listen to the melody of the streets and the people within them is to know life in the community.

One of the most beautiful gifts I take from my travels are the songs inscribed on my memory like an audio keepsake souvenir.

Thank you “cinco mil peso” vendor, for you have become part of this soundtrack of my time here in Santa Marta, Colombia.

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Vendors setting up for their day on Carrera 5
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Valuable Time

We arrive in December each year and remark how fast time slips away.IMG_5922.JPG

I hear often, “it felt like only yesterday we were celebrating New Years Eve!”

So as you reflect over the year that has passed and plan for the year ahead, I’d like you to add something to this exercise. I encourage you to take this opportunity to consider what I call value-based living.

This is a missing component to many people’s reflections I’ve found. I believe it is an essential step to making the most of your time.

What is Value-Based Living?

Value-based living is exactly as it states, living your life by your values. Many of us believe we do this, however upon deeper reflection there is often room for improvement.

I remember growing up hearing the saying that dust bunnies were ok if you had happy children.

The point is that so many of us spend a huge amount of time at work or chasing something that when all is said and done, is not part of our value system.  If you spend all day chasing your kids out of the house so you can clean it and keep it clean and your family is where your values lie….

Can Values-Based Living & Reality Co-Exist?

But E, you say, money is not where my values lie, but I’ve got to make money to live!

I do know this, and yes, you can have a values-based life and make money. The key is to know your values both individually and as a family if you are part of one. In this situation it is more about how much money you “need” to live your values.

The reason this is key is that it gives you a touchstone.

A Fishing Story

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There is a story I love that talks about this perfectly. A fisherman with a small boat went out every day to fish. He would come in from a few hours on the ocean and sell his fish at the local market and go home with some money.

A businessman met him one day and asked him why he didn’t have more fish? The fisherman replied, I have a small boat and this is what I can bring in.

Well, the businessman said, feeling very smug, “Why not get a bigger boat then you can catch more fish and make more money?”

The fisherman thought for a moment and replied, but then I would have to stay out longer and I wouldn’t get to bring my children to school and spend the day with my wife.

The businessman went on to explain the merits of a business plan to catch more fish, make more money, and in the future expand his business and then hire others to do the work and make lots of money.

The fisherman contemplated the plan and said, so when I expand my business and hire other people then I can be home to walk my children to school and spend the day with my wife?

Smiling, he walked away to go home to be with his family with the money he had earned in his pocket.

THIS is values-based living.

I find so many people get caught up chasing things that are not important to them at the expense of things that really are.

It’s no one’s fault, each day we are bombarded, pinged and flashed with things we’re being told are important to us. After a while it is hard to remember that we know in our heart what deserves our time and attention.

I have been through this myself, which is why I can talk about it and how I actually developed this philosophy of values-based living.

I found that the closer I live to my values, the happier I become. I have incorporated this into my work with others and regularly ask them to really think deeply about their values when they are considering a change in their life.

Making Your Time Count

imagesI haven’t found the cure to slowing down time. What I have discovered is that when you consciously match how you spend your hours, days and months to what is truly important to you, your time feels expanded.

I encourage you today to sit down and really think about what you value. Once you have your list as long or as short as it is, I ask you to consider the year that just passed. Did you spend your days in concert or conflict with your values?

Where you find your gaps is where change will bring the most fulfillment and happiness.

 

Inspiration In Practice

I am always taken aback when someone tells me how inspiring my life is to them. It certainly makes my heart happy that I am helping others consider options that they may not have thought possible originally and I am so grateful for the reminder of the ripples my life generates.

I love to set big goals that most would shy away from because I have learned that there is as much ability to reach an amazing goal as an average one! I have also learned by stretching myself over the years that I am far more capable than I allow myself to believe most days.

I want to let you all in on the whole story though – I have the same fears, insecurities and self-doubts as everyone and I don’t always get it right.

Leaper

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Look, you all have been in my world long enough to know I’m a leaper. I have had tremendous success and a few epic failures. I know there is more than one side to this coin I’ve chosen for my journey.

What fuels my courage?

The possibilities of each leap I take are my main inspiration.  I do a lot of research on the bigger leaps I take, but there is always an unknown. I plan for what I can and anticipate as much as possible, however I have learned that I cannot control the outcome.

I have  learned that control an illusion, and my grandest idea of the best outcome is limited by my experiences. There might be a far greater outcome possible if I get out of my own way and let it unfold!

Epic Failures

I have also had the benefit of failures of epic proportions both business and personal. The benefit to these experiences is that at my lowest point, I was never out. I got pretty low and close to the absolute bottom and I learned that if you jump in a body of water and hit the bottom, you can propel yourself to the top at a speed that shatters a slow swim from the middle!

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Plan B

My sister and I have a history of making plans that somehow might just not turn out exactly as we originally planned. My Type A sister has come a long way and now without any hesitation will say, “Oh well! What’s plan B?”

We call ourselves the Plan B Girls now because it never riles us and because we have a goal in mind and we are determined to figure out a way to get to what is important. We  have learned not to waste time with what could have been and go around what is inconvenient or unplanned to reach our end goal.  It’s brilliant!

When Contingency Planning Gets In The Way

I am a risk manager by trade (20+ years in the legal field will do this to you) however, there are times when you can sabotage your goal by planning on “what if’s”.

Sure I recognize that things won’t always go the way I am hoping and planning. When setting goals with others and myself, examining the full picture is critical to be prepared for what might come up.

Be careful though not to scare yourself right out of your dream!

Right before I left California I almost did this to myself. I was halfway done selling all my items and planning my move to another country and I woke up one morning in a complete panic!

What if my clients don’t follow me online?

What if I get to Panama and I don’t have any way to make money?

What will I do if I can’t run my business in Panama?

I worked myself up so much that I actually considered scrapping the entire move and going back to the workforce and getting another paralegal job (gasp!)

My Truth

It was in the moment that I was considering scrapping my business and getting a “real job” that the nausea set in. It was immediate and visceral and unable to be ignored.

The one thing I have learned is that my body speaks to me! In those moments of self-doubt and insecurity when I retreat to the familiar, my body says, “I don’t think so! You don’t belong there anymore, you’ve learned what you were supposed to – time to move on!”

Wow, I’m so glad for this!

Conviction

In the case of my Panama move, well, you all know how that turned out and I am happy to say, I’m having one of the most successful years in my business to date.

I had to do a couple of things to get here though:

  1. Decide that this was the path I wanted and it was indeed possible to succeed.
  2. Determine what markers I would use to signal a need to reassess my move.

Once those two items were in place, I was ready to move on with confidence that I would not hit total bottom and become homeless in Panama before reassessing my options. I further committed to making it work because I believed in my business and I’d seen my clients follow me when I moved from Boston, so I had proof it could happen.

Your Turn

So now I ask you, are you talking yourself out of what you really want to accomplish? Is there a possibility you are selling yourself short?  I am certain you are far more capable than you give yourself credit for!

I encourage you to set your real goals this year, you know the ones I’m talking about, the ones that maybe you’re even a little afraid to tell others about because maybe they’ll laugh or try to talk you out of them.

As I head forward into a new year in a new location, I am filled with gratitude for this audience with whom share my journey. It is you who continue to inspire me to see how high I might reach and if I in turn inspire you a bit to reach as well – then I am doubly grateful!

Let’s do this!

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In Pursuit of Crow Pose

I have recently returned from a week away at a yoga retreat.  This was one of those things I’ve always wanted to do, but for one reason or another, had never actually done.  I can’t even tell you how I heard about this event, or why it came across my radar, but when I saw it something said I needed to do it now and this was the one.

Our initial evening we were asked to write our intentions for the week.  What did I want to get out of the week?

I was stumped!

This goal girl had no goals for the week, except, maybe to finally get into crow pose for more than a millisecond before toppling.

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Toppling crow

As I pondered this question and searched my soul to figure out my goal for the week, I realized it was just to have this experience.  My goal was to let the week unfold and teach me what it wanted and for me to just be curious and a allow myself to be a novice in this experience.

Now you all know, I am an action person, I like to set goals, make plans, allow them to change but always I seem to have my eye on some prize, some goal.

I have begun to explore another way, to see if there may be times when I would benefit by allowing life to unfold for me. The idea to not drive my life every step of the way and to allow the path to reveal itself with each step is new for me and I’m seeing how much it might benefit me to listen, watch how each move I make changes the landscape before me.

I’m not saying that I believe sitting on a couch eating bon bons is the way for me, nor do I believe you can just OM your way to a fulfilling life. I am saying, maybe releasing my grip on the driving wheel might have some benefits at this point in my life. How about you?

The challenge for me is to find a way to both allow life to unfold while still having a strong direction and taking action and steps. Lord knows I can’t just sit around and wait for life to happen to me – I’m never going to be THAT chill!

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For example, the action I took was to attend the yoga retreat, the release and the unfolding was that when one came across my plate and it struck me, I didn’t question it and I jumped on board. Once I determined I was in a safe space, I further released to the unfolding and allowed all of the people I came into contact with during that week to teach me and share whatever it was they chose to share.

I did not have a list of questions to ask others nor did I have any agenda of accomplishments I hoped to achieve. I did not have to be the best yogi, I did not know anything about the topics that were being taught.  In fact, I knew very little about the stories that were shared or any of the activities or rituals that occurred during the week. I was in a “child’s mindset” which I could have embraced or fought – I chose to embrace it.

Curiosity Is Action

What I learned during this week was precious and not entirely what I could have thought to put into an intention at the beginning.

One of the most important items I continue to learn as I practice my crow pose, is to take careful assessment of how I feel, align myself well, take my time as I move and concentrate on the moment as I look forward, let go and trust myself.

Although you may or may not be a practicing yogi, I believe these lessons may prove helpful in all that you pursue.

Are there places in your life that you are safe enough to let go of the driver’s wheel, be a novice and just be curious? Are there times when you are so busy setting goals and being the best you can be that you miss what others share with you?

I encourage you this month to consider where you might loosen your grip on the driver’s wheel in your life to trust and allow some of life to unfold for you and show you what it has to teach you.

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Gratitude In Practice

IMG_0798The practice of gratitude gets a lot of publicity each November in the US. The tradition of gathering together in community and sharing harvest was the custom we have since derived this tradition around giving thanks each year.  The very inception of the practice was an act of sharing abundance.

In this season of heightened awareness, I see people begin to post their 30 days of gratitude, which is always sweet, but somehow it often seems to be missing something for me. This practice feels incomplete to me.

As always, not being one to leave something untouched I took some time to uncover what about this month of statements of gratefulness left to be desired in my opinion. I stumbled upon the same issue I have with the “law of attraction.”

For those that know me, and know me well, it probably comes as no surprise to you that I find the need to add action in this practice. The whole idea of simply speaking or writing words of gratitude either privately or publicly falls flat for me without any action tied to it.

So where am I going with this you ask?

I think the practice of gratitude or giving thanks involves more than words. I think if someone or something has made such a difference in your life as to merit gratitude there must be something you could pay forward from it.

So in practice, I thought about my own gratitude and took an example from my own life. I am thoroughly grateful for my health and my ability to gather in community to exercise. The running groups, boot camps and fitness groups I have connected with over the years have made the difference to me in my attendance, enthusiasm and ultimately my overall fitness.

I could be privately grateful, I could even acknowledge them to my social media, directly to the organizers or even write a note of thanks or send them a gift to let them know how much their products, tools and organizations have helped me. This would feel good to me and if it was not a private silent gratitude, I’m sure it would feel good to them as well.

However…

I haven’t done this, I have decided to pay my gratitude forward thus adding a ring to the ripple effect that was begun with me. I began a fitness group in my new community. I created a space for people to join together to become the same type of support that brought me through the beginning stages of creating a fitness habit.

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Do you see how the latter effort adds giving to the thanks? This perpetuates the goodness I’ve experienced in my life and offers it to others. The ability to recognize the importance of something in your life and to translate that to share it with others is the highest form of gratitude I can think of.

Bringing this all forward, giving thanks for something is simply the first step, the follow up to this is to determine what actions created this in your life and what

action of gratitude or appreciation could bring this same joy I am feeling to another. To be grateful for your health is one thing, and to offer this great gift to another is the opportunity to expand the beauty.

Being grateful for something is not the end game, it is simply the beginning of the process. Recognizing something, especially the small things, is the first step to identifying its importance in your life.

Gratitude without action seems to me like a missed opportunity. For me it is important to express in a meaningful way my gratitude to a particular person in a way that identifies their importance in my world. To then share my gratitude in a tangible way instead of a silent prayer in solitude brings life and energy to that which I adore having in my life.

I encourage you to think about those things for which you are grateful during this month. Once you have your gratefulness in mind, think about how you might be able to share or create these experiences, feelings or things in someone else’s life.

The cycle of gratitude begins with acknowledgement and is amplified by sharing the gift.

My gift to you this month is this practice of sharing your gratitude with others.

-E

Who Are Your 1,500 People?

WDS in LightsAnother year of WDS has passed and although the lead up to it this year was different for me, the result seems to only get better.

There are many reasons why WDS is on my list each year as a “must budget for” conference. There are the amazing speakers, many of whom I don’t know until I get there, the academies by some of my favorite mentors and of course Portland, it is such a wild and amazing city, it’s a definite draw.

I will say though that when the stage darkens and the closing party is over, it is the people I have met that I carry with me from this experience.

IMG_2460Each year I am amazed at the number of people from all walks of life and with all different ideas and methods about how to make this world just a wee bit better. My spirit is always renewed that this many people care – just simply care about me, you and helping others live good lives doing nice things.

I spend the days, weeks and months after WDS reaching out to those I’ve met, following their progress on social media and supporting them in any way I can because we are now connected. I recognize faces even though I may not know their names or names that I can’t place the face to, but I feel a bond because I know we have a common ground through WDS.

I see people from this group soaring through the clouds doing amazing things and I am not jealous, I am grateful because I know a rising tide lifts all boats in the harbor. I reach out to those in the community with compatible projects or skills and look for ways to share or combine our gifts to create even bigger impact.

In this space I feel no competition; I feel unity and encouragement. I feel as though we have a common purpose with unique solutions that combined could really dominate the world in a great way!

IMG_2549The five people I spend the most time with are very important indeed, and I can say most of them are WDS attendees, but the 1,500 I spend a week with each year have an enormous impact on how I feel about what I can accomplish and how big I can dare to dream.

Thank you for the assembly of these stars in my life, they are a necessary beacon throughout the year. They are as reliable as nightfall and they often are there to help me through the inevitable storms to the next sunrise.

A Few of my 1,500!
A Few of my 1,500!

Independence Day Rewrite

Independence Day

I was seven years old when my parents divorced and my mother went from being a housewife to the main provider in the home while battling her first stage III diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Disease, a lymphoma.

I got a clear message from my mother at that time, not sure if it was said, or simply implied, or both, but she was determined that her three girls would not be dependent on anyone, they would be independent women! Even after she remarried, her theme was clear and consistent, you will learn all the skills and capabilities you need to not be reliant on anyone.

True to form, when I got my license, like any teenager, I was anxious to take the car out and feel my newfound freedom. My mother had no problem with that, but of course, I first had to demonstrate that I could remove and replace a flat tire if need be.

This is one of the many examples of the teachings that I received. Being raised to be independent has some great freedoms with it; I know I can do anything I need to do to get where I want to be. Unfortunately, I can no longer change a tire, because of those darn air guns that put the lug nuts on so tightly I don’t have even enough weight to jump on a crossbar to get them off! That said, I am rarely left stranded in a situation because I was raised to rely on myself to figure it out and get it done.

The other message that I never quite picked up on clearly enough at the time was that in life you’ll get further by building a team and asking for help, or even just comfort when needed. While battling her illnesses over the years, my mother had regular trips into the city for radiation, chemotherapy and numerous appointments. She was often too weak or tired to cook or maintain the home and of course there was the time spent in the hospital, complicated by single parenthood and what to do with the kids!

Everyone that knew my mother recognized her as a force! She was well known in our community as a “get it done” and independent woman. She was smart, driven and capable, however these traits did not stop her from accepting kind gestures of meals being prepared, driving trips into the city or even carpooling so us kids could get to where we needed. It took years for me to recognize this skill is not only important in life, but makes the journey better.

Let’s face it, the human race was not meant to exist alone. We are community-based creatures with need for connection and interaction. So many people are trying to “do it on their own” this relates to everything from work to entrepreneurship to life’s trials and celebrations.

It took me such a long time to figure out how to reach out for help, accept or invite assistance with anything I was trying to do – even when it was just trying to survive! All this has taken even longer to put it into practice, and let’s face it, I am still working on it, but I am convinced inter-dependence is the one of the keys to happiness.

As wonderful as independence is, our lives are more fully lived when we have connection and inter-dependence. The feeling one gets when they help someone is a gift we give to each other. The distance we can go when we work together is much further than what we can cover alone.

I’m not saying not to develop your own talents and skills, nor am I saying rely on others for everything. What I am saying is that you don’t have to know it all, do it all and manage it all alone.

I encourage you this month to look at what you want to accomplish over the upcoming month, and see where you might reach out for assistance or develop a team. One of the beautiful benefits I see each day as a coach is what can be accomplished together.

I know there are amazing dreams, big goals and everyday tasks that are on your plate, I wonder how much easier, faster and enjoyable they will be when you stop trying to do it all yourself and ask for someone to join your efforts.