The Learning Curve

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It’s that time of year when students of all ages are graduating on to bigger and better things. In my family alone, we have three graduations in as many weeks.

After a couple of decades of being out of school, my sister just completed her Master’s Degree in Student Leadership.  Her daughter is finishing her last week at SCAD and will be heading out to California to start her creative career with a hat maker. And my nephew just graduated from Illinois State University and is on his way to Wyoming with his girlfriend to experience a summer working at Yellowstone.

Oh, the thrill of the open road and a new chapter!

This is the promise of new beginnings. Anything is possible.

The reality is that new beginnings are available to us at any time, although we sometimes need a little pomp and circumstance before we’re officially ready to roll.

I prefer to start without the fanfare.

I tend to launch before I know what I’m getting into.

Because if I knew what would be required of me to do half the things I long to do, I’d never do them.

It’s too daunting.

The learning curve is too steep.

If I knew how ridiculous I would feel prior to feeling fabulous or smart or trendy, I would never conjure up the courage to connect or create in all the ways that really light me up.

If I knew how much time, energy, and effort would be required to learn something people half my age were born knowing, I’d be tempted to use the “I’m too old for this” excuse.

But it’s that attitude that ages us faster than anything else.

The thing is, before we can get there from here, we have to go through the I-have-no-idea-where-I-am-or-what-I’m-doing place.  No one talks about this place because once we get where we’re going and know what we’re doing, we often erase limbo land from our memory.

It’s human nature to want to forget our ineptitude or gloss over the obvious errors in our thinking or the epic failures we didn’t anticipate.

But these often make the most memorable stories and become the beginnings of our greatest adventures.

Countless success stories start with the adventure that went awry, the chance meeting that wouldn’t have happened if all had gone as planned, or the random recalculating of  an accepted hypothesis that resulted in a scientific breakthrough.

There is an urgency about getting to the Promised Land, wherever that may be. We want to start out making top dollar. We want to instantly become an internet sensation. We want everyone to know our name. We want to succeed in business without really trying.

But there is a necessary learning curve. This is that magical time when we are humbled and frustrated and overwhelmed and filled with uncertainty that’s only occasionally sprinkled with awe and amazement and enthusiasm about what’s possible.

It’s this grace period when we get to fly under the radar, make mistakes, and hone our craft before we get pummeled by public perception.

It’s when we realize how lucky we are not to have our dreams realized before they are fully formed.

I recently came across a book titled “What’s In The Way, Is The Way.”  This echoes the idea we’ve been tossing about in my coaching program that the life we’ve lived so far, with all its trials and tribulations, has provided the precise experiences we need to succeed.

Whatever impeded our journey informed our journey and placed us in the perfect position to offer the unique contributions we can today.

So, graduates, as you saddle up and ride off into the sunset, remember it’s the detours, flat tires, the missed turns and the learning curves they afford that hold the real gifts.

I have no doubt you will get to your Promised Land with the flair and finesse that only you possess. Just remember to embrace with grace the path that leads you there.

I’d love to hear what you are graduating from at this juncture in your life. Please leave your comments, insights, or advice for fellow graduates of all kinds in the comments below.

 

 

Farewell to a Friend

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Yesterday I attended the funeral of a dear friend.  She was the first one to “like” a blog post or leave a comment on my “latest and greatest” idea, no matter how wacky or weird it was.

If we’re lucky, we all have at least one person like my friend Linda who makes us believe in our own brilliance by reflecting it back to us.

Ours wasn’t a likely friendship but one that developed by working together.  We didn’t work together for hours on end but in the odd hours when everyone else was asleep or had gone for the day or the week.

You see, Linda was the caretaker of our building.  She was the invisible hand that kept the floors and windows clean and everything in operating condition. She would usually come in around 4 in the morning and spend a couple hours at our building before heading to her full-time job to put in another 8-9 for the day.

In her “free” time she made quilts and took in sewing projects and did all kinds of odd jobs for others.

She was a worker bee.

About a year ago Linda got bone cancer and embarked on the only route she deemed acceptable – the grueling road to recovery. She was an extremely private person so at first she simply withdrew. I’m sure she thought she could handle it without bothering anyone else and be back to work in no time.

But that was not the case.  She had a long battle ahead of her and she was forced to fight it full time.

Once as I was driving her to the hospital I remember thinking, “This is really happening to us. We are no longer immune to cancer. It’s no longer something other people deal with.” 

I got a glimpse into the impact a diagnosis of a debilitating disease has on a person. She, of course, was not going to let it get the best of her.  In fact, like many people who have had cancer, it seemed to bring out the best in her.

Despite her declining physical condition, emotionally and spiritually she seemed to simultaneously harden and soften. Harden to take on the fear and uncertainty and soften to allow others to help. This brought about a kind of acceptance and letting go that comes with finally understanding what truly matters.

During the service, the priest admitted that he didn’t know Linda. I thought about how lucky I was that I did. As he fumbled his way through a reference to some Twilight Zone episode meant to comfort her family and friends, I consoled myself with what I did know and love about her.

While he surmised she loved being an aunt, he had no idea how much she loved her “kids” Rick and Rachael, the cats who shared her life.  He made no mention of how mechanically minded she was or how, despite her fragile physical form, she was in the midst of a full DYI home renovation that had her excited about her future again.  He failed to mention her lucky streak at the casinos or her love for Manny’s pizza.

He had studied her obituary but knew nothing of her life. He hadn’t had the opportunity the rest of us did.

As the priest offered the congregation communion, I imagined Linda finally communing with Michael Jackson, whom she admired more than any other performer.  She told me once she’d love to have his music played during her funeral service but didn’t think it would go over very well.

So I came home and honored my friend the best way I knew how.  “Alexa,” I commanded my AI device from Amazon,  “please play ‘Man in the Mirror’ by Michael Jackson.”

Let me just say Alexa has ever understood or responded to any of my requests before. I believe she’s in cahoots with Siri who has the same problem. But today she responded, “Okay, Penny.  Playing Man in the Mirror – the Immortals edition.”

Then I moon-walked around my kitchen, celebrating the life of my friend.

What Do You Do When Life Gives You Lemons?

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In my effort to be more visible, to show up more fully, and put my whole self in, I’ve decided to make a series of videos called A Penny for Your Thoughts.

Each week I will explore a topic and invite you to join me in this grand adventure.  You are welcome to send in topics as well as your own videos.

If you are under 30, I’m guessing you’re totally up to the challenge and wondering why it took me so long to ask.

I can say with some amount of certainty that if you’re over 40, the mere thought of making a video is enough to cause a panic attack.

I know this because making videos is terrifying for me.  It absolutely unnerves me. Possibly because the Invisibility Cloak I got for my 40th birthday has become a bit of a security blanket for me by now.  And most likely because when a writer becomes visible, it’s a total game-changer.

No one notices my crooked teeth, thinning hair, thickening waste, or messy kitchen when I’m writing.  Everyone notices when I show up on their computer screen.

Videos = Visibility = Vulnerability

You know those dreams – nightmares, really – when you show up to a big event but somehow have forgotten your shirt or pants or find yourself completely naked?  That’s what it feels like to make a video.

But it’s also the best way I know to let you see my passion, my quirkiness, my commitment to my craft, to lifelong learning, and to you, my faithful reader.

I’ve been blogging for 6 years now. I thought we might be ready to take this relationship to the next level.  What do you say?

Okay then. Strap in.  Adjust your helmets. It’s going to get interesting.  And hopefully, even fun.

I know it’s a little hard to hear the audio part with the music. I’m using Adobe Spark and tried to turn the music down as much as I could but I couldn’t figure out how to delete it during the video segments when I was talking. Clearly, I needed to use a microphone.

I promise the videos will get better as I learn! 🙂  I am also open to any of you video wizards giving me tips and suggestions.  You know who you are!  I’d love to hear from you. Contact me at penny@wellpower.com.

 

Home on the Range

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My niece Kathryn is a college recruiter for SCAD.  Because she is a floater, most of her time is spent on the road or on a plane meeting with students from coast to coast. When she told me where she was heading this week, it didn’t take long for me to rearrange my schedule so I could accompany her to the place I called home for 14 years.

Although it’s been almost 7 years since I’ve been back to Santa Fe, I go there in my mind every day in some small way. From the architecture to the music to the art to the landscape, Santa Fe has shaped me more than any other place.

Walking into the lobby of our hotel (pictured above) it all came rushing back to me. This is my happy place. Everything is artfully designed, from the way a fire extinguisher is disguised behind an exquisitely woven twig panel to the details on the doors, the paintings on the walls, and sculptures and sconces that guide us around the grounds.

The curator not only payed attention to the craftsmanship in these pieces of art, but he or she fully expects us to appreciate it as well.

And I most definitely do. The city provides a smorgasbord of visual delights tucked in the most unsuspecting places.

More than any other place, this place holds the magic for me. Things happen here and conversations take place that don’t anywhere else.

Yesterday’s foray into my favorite shoe store, On Your Feet, was a case in point. I told Kat this wasn’t your average shoe store. It was a Cinderella shop where slipping into the right pair of shoes could shift your whole story line.

At first we were just caught up in the array of beautiful and comfortable shoes. Then we were captivated by our salesperson Jennifer who is as fascinated with self-discovery as I am and had a daughter who graduated from SCAD. We had an instant connection, became fast friends, and exchanged email addresses along with a promise to return later in the week. (So many shoes. So little time.)

It reminded me of a similar experience six years ago with another salesperson at the same store who sold me a pair of hiking boots and become a confidante and friend in the process. I wrote her a thank you note and was rewarded with a sweet response saying she received my note on her wedding day and it added to her happiness.

As we walked the plaza, we connected with a Native American named Noel who shared the story behind his jewelry pieces, what they represented, and how to properly take care of them. Instead of merely an exchange of money, our interaction was an exchange of energy. I will carry that energy with me each time I wear his earrings.

I told another vendor I lived here for many years and he said the words that melted my heart. “Welcome home.

Yes. My heart is home here.

While Kat met with students, I went to the Southwest Reading Room at the library.  I used to love spending time there writing. Yesterday was no different. I wrote until my computer threatened to lose power.

Then we went to Harry’s Road House where the roadhouse tostada and coconut cream pie were waiting patiently for me to indulge in their timeless appeal. After finishing 21 days of cleansing on Sunday, this was a welcome treat. I even got a glimpse of Harry. It’s comforting that some things don’t change.

The sun was shining, the mountains were majestic, and the pace of a tourist town in off season perfectly matched my mood. It made me realize why taking the time and making the effort to return to the City Different is so essential to my soul.

Today adventure calls so we’re off to the trails to put our hiking boots to good use.

What about you? Where does your heart feel most at home? Where is adventure calling you? I’d love to hear your story in the comments below.

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Here to the New Year in Good Cheer – Take Your Time

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When I lived in Santa Fe, I used to housesit and dogsit for people. When a friend’s mother  passed away, she asked if I would stay at her mother’s house until she and her sister decided what to do with it.

This was no ordinary house. This was a gorgeous ranch with a guest house in one of my favorite places on earth. I was sure everyone was mistaken and I was really the one who had died because this was my idea of heaven. The days I got to spend in that home among so many beautiful things were unforgettable.

My friend’s mother was a remarkable woman who had crafted an astonishingly elegant life for herself and the friends, family, horses, and canines that kept her company.

One evening as I sat on the porch watching a spectacular sunset the idea occurred to me that I couldn’t hang on to this place or this experience any more than my friend’s mother could. The only thing I could do was fully appreciate the time I had there.

This is why I’m so protective of this time at the end of the year and seem obsessed with making sense of the year coming to a close.  I’m acutely aware that, as the classic Seals and Croft song goes, “We may never pass this way again.”

So I want to make sure I’m present for it. That I don’t rush through it in my desire to move on to bigger, better, faster, or flashier. I want to take my time and give it the attention a full year of my life deserves. I hope you’ll do the same with yours.

With that said, I’ll take you through the rest of the Year in Review template and tomorrow I’ll give you a different one to look at the year ahead.

What were the products that rocked your world? Every year there is at least one thing I wonder how I ever lived without. Usually it’s an upgrade or improvement to something I use every day. It could be as simple as a new electric toothbrush, slim velvet hangers, a new skincare product, or an app that reminds me to meditate, move, or feed the fish. What are those things for you?

Who were the people who rocked your world? Just as there are products you can’t live without, there are people who make it all worthwhile. It could be your yoga teacher, your rabbi, a rock star, a writer, your next door neighbor, Alexander Hamilton, or the dog-treat-dispensing bank teller. I was inspired by so many people that this will have to be a separate blog post for me.

What books, blogs, movies, music, concerts, conversations, or workshop/seminars/coaching programs/retreats changed the way you think and feel? The thing I like to remember is I am only one thought away from a new perspective and a few dance moves or dog walk away from a better mood. As much as I like to think about things, I don’t act on them until I feel something. Often times I need a nudge in the form of reading material, listening material, phoning a friend, or giving in to the unbridled enthusiasm of two dogs who think they are going for a w-a-l-k.

How did your relationships change or shift this year? Did you get engaged, married, divorced, have a baby, lose a loved one, start a business, hire a coach, fire someone, rekindle a romance, move to a new neighborhood, or retire from your job? When your circumstances change, usually your relations shift as well.

What health, fitness, food, or spiritual practices did you try, tweak, test out, or keep up this year? Maybe you took up archery or turned into a total foodie, much to your surprise and delight. Maybe you started a hip hop class or became a Buddhist. Maybe you did a 21-day cleanse or tried acupuncture. Or maybe you suffered a debilitating illness that turned your world upside down and forced you to do everything differently. How have these new practices defined you or allowed you to reinvent yourself?

What is the smallest change you made that had the biggest impact? Did you start meditating for 5 minutes in the morning or stop drinking soda? Did you start leaving love notes in your spouse’s lunchbox? Did you take up taekwondo with your kid? Did you give up lattes for Lent and never looked back?

And finally, what were your greatest contributions this year? Maybe you spent a Saturday afternoon being a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army. Maybe you took 3 carloads of career ready clothes to Dressed for Success. Maybe you sponsored a child, saved yourself and your children and left an abusive relationship, or fed some local families during the holidays. Whatever you did, make a note of it. It mattered.

Tomorrow I’ll look at what you want to call in for 2017.  But for today, take your time and tell me about your year in the comments below.

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Here to the New Year in Good Cheer – Plan “W”

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Wow! We’re almost through the alphabet plan for the Here to the New Year in Good Cheer challenge.  The letter “W” can wait no longer to wield its words of wisdom.

To a wellness consultant like me who’s wired to write about such things, today’s tip is well worth the wait.

When you feel the weight of the world is on you, walk in a winter wonderland. If you live where it’s warm, then waste no time wearing all the cold weather warranted gear, just get out and wander around until you wake up, witness, and welcome the opportunities whispering to you.

Whimpering, whining, and worrying about what might go wrong wages war on the peace you’ve cultivated throughout the challenge.

Forget about willpower and tap into your wellpower – that wonderous well of power that comes from wooing your inner wonder woman or superman out of hiding and into action working wonders.

This can be the most wonderful time of the year if you want it to be. Or it can be the worst. You get to decide.

Watch what you wish for. Knowing why you want what you want – whether it’s whimsical or whateverwill widen your chances of feeling satisfied when get it.

I want to hear about your winter walks in the comments below.  Do you whistle and go wild when you get to be the first woman (man or child) to make tracks in the snow ? Do your dogs wiggle and wag their tails at warp speed and whoop it up when they hear the word “walk”? Especially when the walk is in the wet, white stuff? How much do you want to wager that they won’t let you wipe their paws when they return? Oh, well

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Here to the New Year in Good Cheer – Plan “P”

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It’s the Here to the New Year in Good Cheer challenge and today “P” pitches its plan. You might possibly presume for a prolific person like Penny Plautz from Prophetstown, Plan “P” is probably my preferred plan. It packs a powerful punch and promises to pour a plethora of positivity into our peace producing project.

So many words beginning with the letter P pop into this paragraph and prompt me to play with a preponderance of profoundly pleasurable ideas that promote good cheer. It’s perplexing to pick one from the predominant pool of prized philosophies.

Although I pondered plunging ahead with poetry, prevailing wisdom prods me to publish something that may be perceived as practical yet profoundly perfect.

So today I present you with this plan.

Practice being present.Your presence is the best present you can give. Or, as I like to say, the magic of Christmas isn’t the presents, it’s being present for the magic.

I poked around on Canva and created this design for you. Permit me provide you with personal proclamations you can print out and post where your peeps and pals can put them into practice.

Here’s another positive prescription for today.

Pamper yourself with a parade of possibilities for pursuing your passion – from protesting the need to punish yourself for presumed imperfections to pulling off the phenomenal and placing yourself in a priority position. This proves you are preparing to powerfully procure your place as a prosperous player in a promising New Year.

Please leave your comments below and feel free to pen your own “P” plans and share them with the particular planet of prized people who read this blog.

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