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.

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

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The letter “V” is the visiting today to validate and vouch for the various strategies we been voicing to get from Here to the New Year in Good Cheer.

If this were a tv show, I’d be asking you to vote for your favorite strategy. But I’d like to give you a vacation from vocalizing your views or vetoes and simply ask you to practice the strategies that add value and verify what works for you.

Venting about what vexes you may be all that’s necessary to vanish the stress.  Or visualizing a vibrant,  healthy, happy version of yourself may do the trick.

The variety of tips vying for your attention may vary. So I’m going to volunteer one of  my very favorite strategies.

Find a room with a view and let your imagination veer you towards that venerated state of a virtual Valium like quality peace and serenity. When you can vacate the need to control events and open to the vulnerability of being present, the volume of vibrant ideas you recognize as vital signs to your well-being may astound you.

One of those ideas for me is to venture into video. So slave-driving Santa will be bringing the equipment I need to up my game, face my fears, and be more visible in the New Year.

I’d love for you to voice your viewpoint in the comments below.

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P.S. How would you like a perfectly sized Resolve to Evolve journal to record your resolutions, write out your to-do or ta-da! list, or record the many vistas you see out of your room with a view?  Just let me know where to send it below and I’ll get one to you in time for the New Year. Please know your information is safe with me because selling your information violates all that I hold dear.

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

It’s time for Plan “U” of the Here to the New Year in Good Cheer challenge. Plan “U” urges you not to underestimate the appeal of the ugly sweater. It’s undeniable!

If you’ve got one, it’s time to usher it in with unbridled enthusiasm. Understanding this fashion trend is not important. Unraveling the mystery is unnecessary.

Wearing Santa underwear or elf pajamas usually falls under the ugly sweater umbrella. But have no fear, upgrading to ugly sweater apparel does not undermine your authority. On the contrary, it unquestionably upholds it as it unifies us by unleashing and acknowledging a kind of universal dorkiness in all of us.

When you dare to be vulnerable or silly or uncharacteristically unconcerned, you uncover the truth that it’s what’s underneath the ugly sweater that counts. I’m guessing for most of us, that’s ultimately a uniquely loving heart and an utterly amazing soul.

Use the hashtag #midlifemacgyver to send me photo of your ugly sweater on Instagram or leave me a comment below describing your ugly sweaters or other apparel and the adventures they uncork.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Cake , recipe for winter holiday party

P.S. If wearing an ugly sweater leads to your undoing, then make an ugly sweater cake. The possibilities are unending!

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

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Skipping to the front line of the Here to the New Year in Good Cheer challenge is the letter “S”, stacking one stone upon another in seasonal style.

There are several “s” words and ideas that strive to serve you. I could shower you with strategies that leave you staggering with a sprawling spread of spirited suggestions, but sticking to something more subtle suits us better.

You don’t need a series of solutions to get through the day. All that scheming, scripting, scouting, and scheduling may sacrifice your sanity. Where’s the satisfaction in that?

So without further speculating I shall spill the beans and sow the seeds of what I hope will be a shared sentiment.

Slowly succumb to the sights and sounds of your sacred space. If you can’t physically be there, go there in your mind. Soften your sharp edges. Seize the opportunity to shimmy, shake, shine, shout, or seek shelter in this place sanctioned solely for the spectacular surrendering of your stress.

It may seem silly or sound self-indulgent and you may be tempted to shrug it off.  Do it anyway. It will soothe your soul, sweet pea. Splurge. Savor. Soak it up.

You deserve some serious stress relief. And I’m here to see that you shift your sights slightly sideways so you might be seduced by a shameless sashay into a silent night – or seconds if that’s all you can sequester – to sleep, shop, or shovel snow in heavenly peace.

Score some stickers or snag a sassy Resolve to Evolve mini journal  by sharing your “S” stories in the comments below.  I never sell the information on my list so your secrets and your emails are safe with me.

P.S.  Here’s a bonus book recommendation for Plan “S”.  Start With Why from Simon Sinek. If you prefer watching TED talks to books, catch his sensational talk here. (Thanks, Tom, for sending the book to me in the (saint) nick of time for Plan “S”.)

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

 

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Plan “R” is ready to report in for duty in the Here to the New Year in Good Cheer challenge.

Although there are many “R” words in the running for today’s top tip like relax, rejuvenate, roam, radiate, read, renew, receive,  reveal, respect, restore, represent, reflect, reign, and shake-rattle-and-roll, one of the revolutionary principles I like to coach people on is resolving to evolve.

Although I have written Reasonably Radical Resolutions to Redefine Your Reality in response to regular resolutions that tend to last as long Rocky Road ice-cream on a ridiculously hot day, resolving to evolve means you repeatedly return to the place where you get to rewrite, re-do, or reinvent yourself as a result of your most recent reach for something outside your comfort zone.

This quote by Rumi sums it up.

Respond to every call that excites your spirit.”

The reward for risking everything is that you reveal who you really are and this reminds you of what is possible for you.

Instead of removing yourself from any chance encounter with a roly-poly bearded guy and his flying reindeer, see if you can recapture a bit of the Christmas magic by reclaiming your  own superpowers and rising to the challenge of realizing your potential.

I know you may resist and possibly resent me for requesting this of you at this time of year, but I want you to ride this year out on a wave of remarkable moments made possible by your commitment to reigniting your rousing curiosity and rejoicing with the totally righteous dudes and dudettes who recognize your rebellion as your resurrection into right livelihood or reassurance that you’re already rollicking along the right track with no regrets.

And one more thing.

Release the need to ricochet or rush around. It will rob you of any peace of mind you may have recovered while reciting riddles in a padded room. Rely on your own rhythm to move at the pace of grace this holiday season.

What rings true for you?  Report in and recall your reasons why you rock and your Plan “R” rules below in the comments.

Right on. Or write on, as I like to say.

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P.S. I almost forgot… more Good Cheer here! Remember I told you there would be goodies? Well, I’ve got goodies galore!

If you would like Resolve to Evolve or Here to the New Year in Good Cheer stickers to put on packages or love letters, or a mini Resolve to Evolve journal, respond in the comments below. Please leave your contact info below so I know where to ship your goodies.

It’s my way of rewarding you for reading and responding. (And don’t worry, your privacy is a big deal to me. I don’t let anyone have access to the information you share with me.)

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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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