Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Power of the I AM

I was watching an interview Oprah did with Joel Osteen. He said, "What ever follows I AM will come looking for you." In other words, when we say, "I am tired," we can expect to be tired. If we say "I am never going to find a better job" or "I am never going to have a satisfying relationship," what do you think you'll be bringing into your life.

In the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, the First Agreement is to be Impeccable with your word. Mean everything you say and only say things that you mean.

Here is a video that gives you dozens of positive, affirmative I AM statements.

When YOU Know Best

When I was volunteering for a job readiness program, one of the things I really enjoyed was reviewing resumes. However, I could always tell who had relied blindly on the spelling and grammar checkers. I could tell because I would come across sentences that made absolutely no sense. The job seeker often knew the sentence wasn't correct, their defense was that they just went with the grammar checker.

The assumption was that the grammar checker knew better than they did. Who were they to question something that the computer said. The computer is always right, right? Well, no. The spell check is good if you are close to the word you are trying to spell. However, with a language as complicated as English, the grammar checker is only correct a fraction of the time.

It is interesting that people will often abdicate their common sense, smarts and instincts because something or someone has more credibility. We lose the ability to question. We assume that we don't know enough and rely on the advice of the 'expert', whether it is a software program or a professional.

I remember when I purchased my house. I had a sizable amount in savings. However, I knew that the money was already earmarked for a specific purpose. The mortgage lender pre-approved me for a lot more than I could afford. Sure, I had shared with them some of my larger expenses, but I knew what I had day-to-day. Had I purchased a home for what I'd been approved for, I would have been in foreclosure within six months. Despite what I was told, I knew I couldn't afford that much house.

A close relative almost started a painful and expensive round of treatments based on what her doctor had told her. Luckily, her daughter got her to seek a second and then a third opinion. It turns out that what the first doctor proposed wasn't necessary. If she hadn't questioned that first diagnosis, she'd be going down a painful and costly path that was completely unnecessary.

Whether it is a software program, a doctor, a financial professional or someone else with an air of authority, we have to have the courage to ask questions and seek the information that we need. Real professionals expect us to have questions and would not be offended by a second opinion.

At the end of the day, we are the ones that have to live with our decisions, so we need to make them with all of the information at our disposal.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Lessons from Reality TV: Really Real?

From The Real Housewives of Atlanta to Honey Boo-Boo, reality TV is here to stay. What can we learn from some of television's most guilty pleasures.

If you are a fan of Reality TV, I want to leave you with one final fact. Reality TV isn't real. It's called reality TV because it features real people, not paid actors and because it is (allegedly) not scripted. These facts do not hide the fact that it isn't real.

Let's start with the casting agents. They cast types: the slut, the player/jock, the diva, the angry black woman, ... I considered going on a reality show several times but I'm not the quintessential angry or manipulative black woman that they frequently cast on The Apprentice, Celebrity Apprentice or Hell's Kitchen. In fact, I had an acquaintance who participated in a reality show with an Apprentice-like format. They went out of their way to make her look bad. However, casting the right types is critical to the success of a show. Real Housewives has been known to recast after a season if a certain wife isn't 'interesting enough.

Story Editors are the 'writers' for reality television shows. They pour over hours of footage to put together a story. In the case of my acquaintance, they took a comment she made days earlier and had it voiced over over another scene to make her appear snobby and a bit rude.

Producers are there to help make the reality a little more real. They egg their hand-picked participants on and get them to 'perform' and move the story in a specific direction. They send cast members to certain places to film coached reactions.Look Honey Boo-Boo is going to a wig shop to find hair. Let's see what happens!

Even competition shows aren't really real. American Idol is notorious for casting types. On the Biggest Loser, they train for hours every day and several winners resorted to starving themselves, not eating solid food, and getting in and out of hot saunas prior to the final weigh-ins. This is not how real people in real life lose weight.

Are you a Reality TV Junkie? Good for you. Enjoy it! Just be aware that reality on TV is a far cry from real life/

Thursday, May 23, 2013

You Get What You're Worth

A while back I created a website for a family friend. I made the mistake of  not stating clearly what I would charge him. I said I'd do it for "a few hundred". Basically, I took a one-page flyer and turned it into a five page site. He gave me $100 and thought that covered all of the work I'd done plus unlimited updates. I was insulted. However, I had to admit that it was more my fault than his.

I didn't state what I needed objectively. I left it open and vague. I can't really blame him for taking advantage of that situation. I've learned my lesson. Now I state my fees and my expectations right up front. I even ask for a percentage to be paid before I begin working.

Next, I had to admit that part of the reason I didn't state my fee upfront  is because I might not have gotten the job. In retrospect, would that have really been a bad thing? I've had to learn that it is okay if people say 'no' especially when a 'yes' is going to take up an exorbitant amount of time, cause a number of headaches or end up being far too much work and effort.

I have to know my own worth and recognize that people who don't recognize it are people I don't need to be bothered with anyway. It's one thing to offer someone a deal or a discount. It's another thing entirely to give the cow away for free.

I've found that recognizing my worth goes far beyond the occasional freelance client. It applies to my career, my family, my friendships and my romantic life. It starts when I recognize what I'm bringing to the table. You'll pay more for a filet mignon than you will for a hamburger steak. I need to know my worth and be confident when it coming to knowing what I have to offer and what I still have to learn.

Once I became aware fully of who and what I was, I had to dispel the fear that it wouldn't be enough or that maybe, on the other side, it might be too much. I realize now that not everything is for everyone ... and that is okay. There are people who want more than I can offer and there are also people who think that what I'm offering might be too much for them. ... and that's okay too.

Water seeks its own level and, I've found, so do people. Eventually, you meet the people who connect with you right where you are.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Lessons from Reality TV: Nice Guys Don't Get Cast

From The Real Housewives of Atlanta to Honey Boo-Boo, reality TV is here to stay. What can we learn from some of television's most guilty pleasures?

If a nice guy or girl manages to get cast, rest assured they will be booted out in the first few episodes. Unless, of course, they are fodder for the angry, manipulative, or evil characters. In that case they'll stay around a while.

Underhanded, unethical behavior and dirty tricks will get you far. This makes for good TV but in real life, no one ones to run across this type of shady individual. On shows like The Apprentice and Survivor,  they call it strategy: making and breaking alliances, under-performing on someone else's project, using teammates to get ahead with no regard or respect for them as people. On shows like The Real Housewives, Jersey Shore and Love and Basketball, materialistic, catty and self-centered behavior is a given. Of course, this is how people behave.

I would be lying if I said that these behaviors never worked in the real world. The fact of the matter is that some times they do. Everyone has worked with the person who takes credit for another co-worker's work, or the one who schemes behind your back to get their way. And most of us know someone who would throw their own mother under a bus if the price were right.

However, is this the type of behavior we really should be rewarding? As our kids watch these shows, is this the type of behavior we want them to emulate - win at any cost and to hell with other people as long as you get what you want? For many people, seeing something on TV, especially repeatedly on TV, is an endorsement of sorts. It gives value to those behaviors as if to say, "This is how people really act. If just a few people acted this way, we wouldn't put it on television."

When it comes to children and teens, I think these shows can be a jumping off point for a discussion about how people in real life should behave and what consequences these kinds of actions generate for people who live their lives off camera.

On Reality TV, nice guys and girls might not finish dead last but they usually don't win either. In real life, it isn't always about winning, it's about living. And in the game of life, they normally do pretty well.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lessons from The Great Gatsby

I love movies! In fact I write movie reviews on one of my other blogs. Over the weekend, I saw The Great Gatsby. I was really looking forward to it as this is one of my favorite books of all time. Leonardo DiCaprio does a fantastic job as Gatsby a man smitten with the notion of winning the heart of Daisy Buchanan. In fact, he wants to erase the five years of war and marriage and bootlegging that has come between him However, his new friend and neighbor warns him that “You can’t recreate the past.” To which Gatsby responds, “Can’t recreate the past? … Why of course you can!”

Unfortunately Gatsby finds out that you really can’t recreate the past. You can’t recreate it. You cannot return to it. You cannot relive it. No amount of money or time or force of will will bring it back. So what can we learn from Jay Gatsby.

You cannot spend the present trying to recreate the past. How many of us live a life of regret, trying to make up for past mistakes and missteps? We think, “If only” or “I should’ve” Everyone thinks those thoughts once in a while but when they begin to consume the better part of your days, you are getting into trouble. The scary part is that one day you’ll wake up and see all the time you lost and will never be able to get back.

Was the past even the past? Some people say hindsight is 20/20 and I guess it does have that sort of clarity when you can look back and see your mistakes and review your decisions and actions with maturity and an emotional distance that only time can bring. However, when you look at the past through distorted rose-colored glasses, it is anything but 20/20. The past is made up of memories and thoughts. Memories and thoughts are never objective; they are always seen through our own very specific filters. 

Just like you can’t see through another person’s prescription glasses, none of us look at the same events the same way. We all have fond memories and things we’d rather forget. Yet with time, those fond memories can become idyllic illusions and the dark memories can become darker and denser. Were the good old days really that good? Were there a few bright moments during those dark times?

Learn to Let It Go. However, good or bad, the past is the past. There are no time machines or do overs. Some wounds leave scars but a scar is never as bad as the actual injury was. As adults, we have a responsibility to ourselves and those in our lives, to heal those wounds as best we can. However, we need to keep our good memories in perspective as well. In some cases, we make monuments of people and events from our past and nothing can ever compete with those images. You compare your great past love to every other man (or woman) you meet conveniently forgetting his faults and idiosyncrasies in the process. The time that separates us from our past lives is usually a good thing.

The past is history … our personal histories. We can learn from it and take those lessons into our present but that is all we can really do with it.

Want to know what I thought about the movie? Read my review at

Monday, May 13, 2013

Lessons from Reality TV: It's NOT All About You...

From The Real Housewives of Atlanta to Honey Boo-Boo, reality TV is here to stay. What can we learn from some of television's most guilty pleasures?

Nothing is more beautiful than a bride walking down the aisle on her wedding day. Of course, if you are a fan of Bridezillas and Say Yes to the Dress, you know that a bride can be awfully selfish and downright ugly when it comes to planning her big day.

Lesson #2: Sometimes it isn't all about you
The number of women who end up divorcing shortly after having their 'perfect' day is shocking but sadly expected. Well, after watching the tantrums and fits these women exhibit, seeing a divorce on the horizon isn't really shocking. What shocks me is that someone actually proposed to these women and entertained the thought of spending a life with one of them!

True, a wedding is referred to as the bride's special day. I get that. Yet, I don't think that means that they have the right to make everyone else's life a living hell in the process. A wedding is one day, a marriage should be for a lifetime. Yet, a lot of these women can't see pass the dress to get to the rest.

Once again, on reality television, immaturity rules the day. It's fun to watch dramatic train wrecks and meltdowns. In real life, it isn't so much fun. Children want what they want when they want it and overreact when they don't get it. As adults, we should know better.

So what are the lessons we can learn from brides behaving badly?

Don't put excessive demands on others. You want the moon and the sky from everyone around you but behave as if you are wallowing in dirt. Put yourself in the other person's shoes and make a request that they should be able to handle without any undo burden. If it is your dream and your goal, be willing to work with them to achieve the result you want.

Be sweet, not sour. Remember, you get more bees with honey than vinegar. Making your request in a way that is respectful and pleasant will get you further than screaming will. Well, screaming might get you the desired effect, but you'll be burning bridges and damaging relationships in the process.

Be considerate of others. When it comes to a wedding, the family, friends and dare I say, the groom, want to share in the brides happiness. Allow people to share in your happiness when possible. Honestly, how happy will your happy day be if you've made everyone else miserable.This applies doubly for a wedding but it applies to other areas as well.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Lessons from Reality TV: No Fighting!

From The Real Housewives of Atlanta to Honey Boo-Boo, reality TV is here to stay. What can we learn from some of television's most guilty pleasures.

I am a television junkie; but when it comes to reality TV, I mainly stick to music competitions (The Voice American Idol) and anything with celebrity chef and rage-aholic Gordon Ramsey (Hell's Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, Hotel Hell, ...). Yet for a lot of people the lurk of personal train wrecks is positively addicting. So this May, the Monday series is devoted to mining what good and positive lessons we can find out of hours of bad behavior.

Lesson #1: No fighting. Keep your hands to yourself!
I'm 44 years old. I haven't been in a fight since elementary school. Yet, grown women on reality shows routinely resort to violence or otherwise childish behavior to solve problems. They slap, punch, spit, and turn over tables. They yell, scream, get in each other's faces and use language that would make your grandma blush (if not just pass out altogether). Ladies, and I'm using the term very loosely, is this any way for adults to act? Shockingly, most of these women are mothers to boot.

These kind of antics might make for good TV but they wouldn't fly in the real world where that behavior is  called assault. Police get called, doctors and paramedics are often involved and in most cases the offender is charged and faces jail time or probation. Definitely not worth it.

Adults should be communicating and solving problems with words and constructive actions. Got a problem? Try on of these techniques in the real world.

  • Talk to the person directly. Talk. Don't shout or yell, try not to cry, don't make threats or invade someone's personal space to make your point. Talk.
  • Work towards a compromise that both parties can live with. Compromise means that both people are willing to meet the other half way. The parties make concessions for the sake of keeping the peace. 
  • If you are wrong, admit it. Apologize and mean it.

Granted, watching a show where people act like real adults wouldn't be nearly as fun as the latest row between Phaedra and Kenya on The Real Housewives of Atlanta. But that kind of drama is best left on the small screen.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Get Happy

In any given day, you run a gamut of emotions. You are grouchy in the morning. You are annoyed and impatient with the traffic or the super slow driver in front of you. You get upset with a coworker who isn't pulling his weight on the project and tries to take credit for your work. You laugh at something funny the kid or the pet did.

Happiness isn't found in day, week, or month increments. It comes from in the form of moments. The trouble with moments is that they tend to be fleeting. By the time we realize it, it's gone, often replaced by something annoying, confusing, infuriating or kind of sad.  So how can we learn to appreciate the happiness we have?

  • Recognize the transient nature of happiness. It packs light because it won't stay long.
  • Savor the happiness you have. Take a moment to take it all in. Be fully present in those moments.
  • Let go of the mundane trivial emotions. You can't change the traffic so why let it get to you? Put on some music you love, call a fun friend and turn traffic into a happy moment.
  • Handle what you can and then let it go. Confront your co-worker or let your manager know who did the work. After you've done something about it, sometimes you can let it go (other times it might get worse, but, hey, that happens).
  • Seek happiness by spending some time each day with people you enjoy and doing things that are enjoyable. 
Try to bring as many smiles into your life each day as you can!