Thursday, March 31, 2011


A while back, I did a post about being a builder (read it here). While you want to surround yourself with builders, people who work to build themselves and those around them up, you have to be careful about those who want to use their abilities for more destructive ends. In other words, be careful of those who try to build themselves up by tearing you down.

Before I make my point today, let me say this. There are times when the best thing you can do, as a friend or a loved one, is give a hard truth or some constructive criticism. However, those hard-to-hear words need to be spoken tactfully and given in love. When done that way, you are still building them up. You are helping and not hindering their progress. If anything, it's more loving to be honest than it is to just give blind agreement.

To use a building analogy, wouldn't you want to know your foundation wasn't secure before you finished building the house? There are those among us who do not have good intentions or pure motives.

These detractors know nothing is wrong with your foundation. They are unhappy because you are making more progress on your house or because they think your house will look better than theirs when its done. So instead of enlisting your help so both of you can have beautiful homes, they decide to stop you from building yours or at least help you build it shoddily. They honestly feel if they can't have the best then nobody should.

How does this play out when we move it from the construction site to the real world?

  • They see you saving money and getting out of debt, so they 'encourage' you to spend, spend, spend.

  • They give bad relationship advice and try to sow seeds of discord between you and your partner so you two will eventually split up.

  • They take credit for your work or they set out to make your job performance look bad in order to make themselves look good.

  • When you are down, they offer words of discouragement (often described as being 'real').

  • They constantly point out your mistakes and bring up past 'failures'.

Most likely, as you read those bullets, a face, maybe two, popped into mind. We all have these kinds of people in our lives and many times we aren't in a position to sever that relationship entirely. So what do we do?

Watch your back. Once you know who you are dealing with you, know how to handle them. Personally, I try not to share the details of my life with them, especially when I am facing challenges or I'm dealing with difficult issues.

Garbage In, Garbage Out. When they do get a hold of information, let them talk. Let it go in one ear and out the other. Resist the urge (and I know it's hard) to defend yourself and your actions. Your responses, and your emotions, give them the fuel they need to keep going after you. Don't give in.

Rely on your real friends. Dealing with these negative detractors is exhausting and draining. So always seek the support of those who love, care and want the best for you after dealing with them. In fact, you should be spending 80% of your time with your supporters and no more than 20% (at the most) with your detractors.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Hyper Hyperbole

Football players have been very vocal about their feelings in regards to the NFL lockout. They don’t feel they are being treated fairly. Whether that is true or not, is a debate to be had on another blog. What is relevant here is the disturbing trend towards hyperbole or choosing words that over dramatize a situation. Word choice can quickly make a bad situation worse.

In the case of football players, they are quick to equate their situation to slavery. Multi-millionaire athletes comparing themselves to slaves. If that doesn’t sound ridiculous and overblown, I don’t know what is. Slaves did not get paid … at all. Slaves were subject to extreme beatings and worse from their owners. They were helpless and had no control over their fates or their families. It was not uncommon to have families separated with wives and children being sent to different plantations. Slaves didn’t have their pick of women and the ability to live in the best neighborhoods with the biggest houses. They didn’t have agents whose sole purpose was to get them the best deal and the ability to earn even more money through endorsements. Slaves were denied an education. They didn’t receive scholarships.

How often do we do the same thing? How often do we choose words that help make a bad situation worse? We aren’t just sad, we’re devastated. Someone wasn’t just angry with us, they were furious. Using words that make our situations larger than life often helps us gain sympathy and support. It often gives us the attention we crave but at what cost.

If everything is catastrophic, what happens when something actually catastrophic happens? Remember the boy that cried wolf. He cried it so often, when it wasn’t warranted, that when the wolf really was there, no one cared to listen. We also want to be careful with our word choice because we can make ourselves feel worse with the words we choose. Doesn’t ‘devastated’ feel worse than ‘kind of sad’? Isn’t ‘humiliated’ worse than ‘embarrassed’? We want to choose words and feeling that are easier to overcome.

Consider this scenario. On this particular morning you: lose your keys, spill coffee on your new outfit, have a terrible time getting the kids up and moving, get stuck in traffic and after you get to work realize you left your glasses on the nightstand and your cell phone in the kitchen. Yes, this is shaping up to be a bad day. Is your day ruined or off to a rocky start? The words you chose help determine how you view the rest of your day. Ruined implies your whole day is shot. A rocky start implies that it will get better.

Which do you choose?

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Lifetime of Learning

I graduated from high school 25 years ago this June (Yikes!). I have officially become one of those women who can say to a teenager, “I’ve got sweaters older than you.” And even though I graduated from college four years later, one thing that has never changed is my passion for learning.

Let me clarify. I graduated from college in 1990 with a bachelor’s in journalism. And that is where my degreed education ended. I don’t have a Master’s or a PhD but I still maintain I have never stopped learning.

I did receive my core coaching certification from Coach Inc, but that is the extent of my formal education. In my jobs, I have taken every opportunity to take continuing education workshops, and daylong seminars. Since I made a transition to training and development, those courses have helped me immensely.

Yet, there are learning opportunities everywhere. Talk to people. Ask questions. Watch educational programming on television. Read books, magazines and newspapers. Use the Internet.

All you need to take advantage of the learning that surrounds you is a desire to want to know more. As a ‘why’ asking child, my parents encouraged me to find the answers for myself. They even invested in something the old folks called, an encyclopedia, so that I could find the answers. I still look for the whys to this day.

Over the years, I’ve become a trivia nut because I just love to know. On my Blackberry, the most used app I have is the Google app. Every time I come across anything I remotely want to know about, I search my Google app for it.

A positive attitude towards learning not just opens your mind but it also opens the doors of possibility. Fan your flames for learning and encourage the children around you to do the same, it will be a gift those kids will cherish forever.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Stupid and Simple-minded

We hear a lot from people about tolerance. Basically, we are supposed to tolerate the point of view of others who do not agree with us. Sadly, I’ve seen it happen all too often that the people who demand tolerance the most are often the last to give it.

I’ve been called stupid and simple-minded (and yes those were the actual words used) while answering the seemingly innocent question, “What did you do over the weekend?” The problem wasn’t that I saw a movie or that I slept in on Saturday, it was because my list of weekend activities, included church. Gasp!

Am I supposed to tolerate someone who calls me names because I don’t ascribe to his belief system? Is tolerance letting someone talk down to me and insult me without being given a chance to respond?

Politics is another arena rife with intolerance. It has become perfectly acceptable for parties on both sides to be mean-spirited, call names and treat those who hold different beliefs in contempt … all the while making their demands for tolerance. There are political pundits and blowhards on both sides who have made a career out of intolerance and it’s scary.

True tolerance runs both ways. You should give the tolerance you want to receive. It starts with recognizing that although our religions, races, politics, sexual preferences, and so on, might be different, we all share some very basic commonalities. We are all human beings. We all experience love and loss, hope and despair, fear and anger. We all need food, water, and sleep to survive. We need to treat each other with the basic respect we crave, not because someone agrees or disagrees with us but because that someone is a someone.

After recognizing someone’s humanity, the next step is to recognize their individuality. I’ve noticed there is a tendency to group people together and demonize all of them. In the diatribe that followed after I admitted going to church, my co-worker assumed that I hated gays and wished AIDS on them (which I definitely do not) and that I held contempt for atheist and people of other faiths (which I do not). I stopped being a human being and became one of them. It’s easy to detest those people; it’s harder to detest a him, a her or a me.

If you want to receive tolerance, be the first to give it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Why It's Smart to be Optimistic

I liked this so much, I am reposting it from Reader's Digest.
Expecting good things can make you healthier and might even lengthen your life, says researcher Suzanne Segerstrom, PhD, author of Breaking Murphy’s Law. Segerstrom is coauthor of a recent review of studies on the benefits of a positive attitude—and has experienced them herself. We asked her about optimism’s principles and payoffs.
1) Feeling well helps when you’re not well. "When researchers look at people who have similar medical conditions, they can predict who’s likely to live longer: the one who feels his health is better. There’s something about that feeling of wellness that’s important, even—maybe especially—if you’re ill. Optimism also seems to help buffer you against stress. I’ve been studying first-year law students for 16 years. That’s a very stressed group, but in my most recent study, each time a student’s optimism increased one point on a five-point scale, his immune response to an injected virus or yeast improved by 20 percent.”
2) Optimism is something you do. “Anxiety and other negative emotions are known to be detri-mental to the body, especially to your cardiovascular and immune systems, and having an optimistic nature seems to protect against those effects.
In addition, research shows that people who are optimistic about their future behave differently. They exercise more, are less likely to smoke, and follow a better diet. And if they get sick, they’re more apt to actively participate in their treatment. I’ve seen that myself—I have back pain from arthritis, but I think my willingness to do whatever it takes has helped a lot.”
3) Not happy? Don’t worry. “Happiness is a feeling; optimism is a belief that aspects of your future will turn out well. Happiness can fluctuate a lot, but an optimistic disposition is usually pretty stable. If you’re not optimistic, you can try creating a ‘positive events’ log. Good things happen to everyone, but pessimists often don’t take notice; spending a few minutes every day writing about at least three positive things may help you expect them more often. Or instead of trying to be optimistic, do what optimists do: Work hard to reach your goals. Each accomplishment should make it easier to be hopeful about the next one.”
Depending on which study you read, optimists …
…are 9 percent less likely to develop heart disease.
…are only 77 percent as likely to be rehospitalized after some types of major surgery.
…have blood pressure that’s five points lower, on average.
…live an average of 9.5 years longer.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What Would You Do ...

A question motivational speakers often ask is “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” In other words, if success were a foregone conclusion (which it never is), what would you do that you aren’t doing now? I think a better and more realistic question would be, “What would you do if you knew there was a good chance that you would fail?”

  • Would you drive if you realized that there was a car accident in the United States every minute?
  • Would you open a restaurant if you knew that six out of ten fail in the first three years
  • Would you get married if you considered the 50% divorce rate?

It’s not about what you would do if you knew you wouldn’t fail. It’s about what you would do in spite of the possibility of failing. In my estimation the only way to prevent failure is to never do anything, and even then, there is no guarantee. Besides, never doing anything is a terrible way to live. Where’s the fun in that?

To find success, you have to confront the possibility of failure. Since you know it’s there, plan for it. Wear your seatbelt, don’t text and drive, take a defensive driving class. Will those things prevent you from ever having an accident? Of course not, but at least they will reduce your chances of causing one.

If you dream of opening your own restaurant, don’t let the statistics stop you. You’d be better off talking to successful and not-so-successful restaurateurs and finding out from them what you should and shouldn’t do. Do your research. Find a mentor. Do what you can to improve your odds.

When it comes to marriage, I’d say that up to half of the ones that ended in divorce should have never been married in the first place! When you look at it that way, the odds improve. LOL! Still talk to a marriage counselor and maybe to several couples who’ve been happily married for a while about what works for them and what pitfalls you should try to avoid.

My point is that failure is nothing to fear. There is always a possibility of failing, so be prepared. The only way you really can’t fail is in your dreams and eventually you need to wake up.

Monday, March 7, 2011

All You Have To Do Is...

Today’s post is a cautionary tale.

Several years ago, I went on a family reunion cruise. At dinner one evening, I was seated with my father and step mother, two of my aunts and their husbands. The conversation soon turned to a CNN special that had aired the night before on the difficulty professional black women face in finding husbands.

My Uncle Johnny, of course, had a solution. You see, Uncle Johnny always has a solution. From dating to the national deficit, there is no problem my uncle can’t solve. So he gave me some of his sage advice, “All you have to do is go to the prisons. There are a lot of good men in prison; they just need a good woman.” My father almost choked on his chicken.

One nugget of knowledge I’ve gained in my 42 years on this planet is to be very weary of people who dole out advice that begins with “All you have to do is…” Normally, I’ve found, these people have no idea what they are talking about.

Allow me to give you a few examples.

A few days ago, I happened to be in the car when I came across one of my least favorite talk show host. While he has no background in finance, he was urging his listeners to invest in the stock market. He said, “All you have to do is buy low and sell high.” Really? Is that all I have to do. If that’s all anyone needs to do, wouldn’t all investors be making money all of the time?

A friend was asking me about my coaching business. She didn’t understand why I wasn’t coaching full-time (which assumes I want to coach full-time). She said, “All you have to do is find a few clients.” Really? Is that all I have to do. As any business owner can tell you, there is an art and a science to finding ‘a few clients’.

I had a blind date a while back with a man who is naturally thin (and that definitely isn’t my type), when I told him that I struggle with my weight, he said, “You look fine to me but if you need to lose weight, all you have to do is go on a diet.” Really? Is that all I have to do. Would there be a multi-billion dollar industry in diet and weight loss if it were that simple.

People who know, and I mean, really know what they are talking about know that it is never that simple. Even if the concept is easy to understand - like buy low and sell high or eat less and move more - it’s often more difficult to put into practice. Experts became experts for a reason. They put in the time to get the knowledge and the experience to know that what you have to do is always a lot more complicated than it seems.

I know people who have lost marriages, homes, jobs and life savings listening to advice that started with “All you have to do is…”If you need advice on selling your house, talk to a realtor. If you want advice on investing, talk to a financial professional (or two).

If it’s a personal situation, seek out people who experience in what you want to do. I have two friends who planned big interstate moves, both of them called me because I’ve made those moves more than a handful of times. Because I’ve done it, I was able to bring up a few things that they hadn’t even thought of.

I want to start painting and landscaping my house and I don't have a clue as to where to start, but I have several friends who have gorgeous homes, who can help me.

So the next time you hear an “All you have to do is…” you know what you need to do. Be nice. Be polite. But get your advice elsewhere. The Uncle Johnnys of the world are always more entertaining than they are informative.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Seek and You Shall Find

When quoted in the Bible, Jesus is talking about seeking and finding God, but I've found that it's true in other areas. What we seek, we find.

A friend of mine works in the hosptiality industry and recently ran into one of his most difficult customers. She was literally looking for reasons to be upset. The driver didn't know she was waiting for a ride, so it wasn't a mistake, it was his attempt to "try to make her late." When she didn't get her food fast enough, the wait staff had something against her. And so it went, on and on.

She was looking for problems and she found them at every turn. If she ran into a case where she didn't find a problem, I'd venture to guess that she'd make one up.

Seeking the good means that you will more than likely find the good but it doesn't make you immune to the bad. It does, however, change the way you handle the bad when it occurs.

I spent two years in Los Angeles. I worked as a temp for the majority of the time I was there, but I was always looking for full-time work. At one point, I thought I'd found it. I'd submitted several samples of my writing and had 3 successful phone interviews. In fact, towards the end of the process, phrases like "when you start," and "you're first assignment will be," were used. I just had to have a face-to-face meeting.

Well, it was clear that my potential boss was not expecting an African-American. She saw me in the waiting room (the only one there) and left for several minutes and came back. I think she'd thought that the white Karyn Beach might be in the bathroom! LOL! Well, our interview lasted ten minutes and she never once made eye contact. Of course, I didn't get the job.

So what did I do? I stopped by the Coffee Bean and got my favorite drink (a white chocolate mocha), went back home, wrote a short thank you letter and started looking for jobs again. It was her loss, not mine. She had seen my work and knew what I was capable of and she let something as silly as race keep her from hiring an awesome employee!

Her actions weren't going to keep me from gainful employment. She wasn't a paralyzing defeat or justification for every negative mantra I'd thought to myself over the years. Because I try to focus on the good, I knew that something positive was just around the corner. I just had to find it. She was a small pothole on my road to success.

People who make a habit of seeking the good usually find happiness, friendship, love, success, peace of mind. People who make a habit of seeking the negative usually find drama, hardship, setbacks and sorrow.

Which will you choose?