I remember the week vividly. By Friday afternoon, I was to submit our forecast and budget model for the upcoming year, probably my single biggest corporate project ever. In the 16 hour days, I couldn't find the time or energy for writing - and I broke my habit. That was two months ago, and the block staring back at me has grown bigger by the day. I couldn't figure out how to get started again. Has that ever happened to you? Perhaps you were working out consistently, and then an injury or illness forced you to the sidelines for what should have been a couple of weeks. Instead, you sat out a few seasons. Or perhaps you were eating well, and then a vacation messed up your routine, and you haven't been able to find it again. You're not alone. It happens to all of us. And I think there's something we can do about it.
I spent half of August doing what I once thought was impossible. A year ago, I decided to purposely seek extended travel periods and make choices that were in support of that. Every month, I visit my family in north Texas and travel frequently as President of Texas Business Women. Quarterly, I take a week and visit family farther away or attend conferences. I went to the other side of the world for 21 days, kept my job, and didn’t use a bit of vacation time. Looking back, I realize I could have been doing this for the last decade. I just didn’t have the courage to make those choices.
After last week's post about deciding what to learn, I received several emails asking what skills I thought were most important. Certainly, skills like project management, public speaking, and self awareness are essential to building a career or a business. I doubt you're surprised by any of those. So, here's a list that might surprise you. Here are five skills you probably don't even know you need. If you don't have them, they're likely holding back your career (or your business), organizations you volunteer with, and even your parenting.
There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say there are things that, we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don't know. -Donald Rumsfeld Forget any political connotations to the statement above and think through the concept it conveys. It's absolutely true. To thrive in modern society, we must persistently remind ourselves that the third region exists. And we must work to shrink it, both by knowing more and by knowing what we don't know. We must learn how to learn, and we must learn to decide what to learn.
Gandhi told us to "be the change you want to see." John Maxwell teaches us that the first act of leadership is to start with yourself. I thought I understood that. I've been studying leadership for years, but it wasn't until I viewed it through the lens of parenting that I understood this principle: We can't lead anyone to the mountaintop unless we've already been there. This is true for our children, our employees, or anyone we love. If there's a mountain we're not willing to climb or a giant we're not willing to face, we're simply passing it on to the next generation. Thinking about that stopped me in my tracks.
One month ago, I lost one of my mentors. She'd guided me for more than half my life. The finality of our last conversation replayed over and over in my mind. Thankfully, it was an encouraging one, symbolic of our relationship. I cried harder than I have in years. In the days after, I realized something even more painful: This was likely only the first. Obviously, most of my mentors are older than me. And many of them are struggling with their health. Selfishly, I want them to get better. I want to enjoy several more decades of their friendship and leadership. They've helped me through several difficult stretches, and I want to celebrate the other side of that together. I also know that I'm not alone. I know that you want those you love to be healthier, and that you want to set a good example for those who love you. More than that, I've made the journey myself. Just over three years ago, I was there too. My clothes were always too small. I had headaches every afternoon. My digestive system was a mess. Nearly every day, I took some sort of pill to feel better. I never had enough energy to do the things I wanted. Like an explorer without a map, I stumbled frequently and often found myself in uncharted territory. Through trial and error, I discovered what worked for me and my family, and eventually my friends. In the years since, I've been able to back up my experiences with scientific research and case studies. I'm confident that what I know will be "common sense" in a decade or so. There's just too much evidence to be ignored for much longer. But I'm not willing to wait.
From Winston Churchill to Thomas Jefferson and Ernest Hemingway, plenty of historical figures were fond of standing desks. Based on a slew of current research about the negative health impacts of sitting, standing desks are making a comeback. There are also simple and inexpensive options for getting started, and I thought it would be fun to share them with you since several readers are giving it a try.
When I started offering formal coaching services, I was stunned by the first official client that came through my website. It was someone I already admired and respected tremendously. I'd seen her leadership in action. I'd heard her speak and knew she was changing lives in a positive way. I was terrified. I didn't know what I could possibly offer her. Somehow, I quieted that screaming voice in my mind and moved forward with the coaching framework I'd developed over the years in working with employees and colleagues informally. I'm so thankful I did. Because it led to one of the best friendships of my life. Over the years, I've realized that we continuously coach each other. I'm a systems gal and can help her in those areas. And I learn from her tremendous communication skills and grass roots leadership. In fact, when I read Proverbs 27:17 this morning, I thought, "Yep, that's Alene!"
We want to be a healthy example for our families. We want to live longer and feel better. We want to avoid taking pills to get through the day. But we don't know where to start. I know because I was there. A month before my 30th birthday, I felt like I was closer to 80. My joints hurt. I had constant headaches and stomach problems. I barely had enough energy to get through the day, and stress was taking its toll. On May 7, 2009, I decided that had to change. Since then, I've spent hundreds of hours researching our bodies and how modern life affects us. I've experimented with different approaches and closely tracked the results. I've assisted friends and family with making similar changes and watched their transformations as well. I know it can be better. I've lived it, and I've seen it. And I firmly believe you can have it too.
I discovered Brett Kelly in the summer of 2010 through a mutual love of Evernote. I'd played with the service and realized I was only scratching the surface of its potential. A quick Google search turned up his recently released ebook, Evernote Essentials. I bought it immediately and felt my memory and organizational capacity expand overnight. At the time, I was part of business project making an early attempt at online learning. Knowing what a difference Evernote and his guide had made in my life, I cold-emailed Brett to ask if we could use his guide as the foundation for a new course for our students. He agreed immediately and even shared our course with his network - which was significantly larger than ours. Over the years, we kept in touch through Twitter and met in person at the first World Domination Summit in July 2011. There, I learned that we also shared a common faith and affinity for tattoos. But it wasn't until I read Chris Guillebeau's $100 Startup that I knew the full story. After several stressful years of working opposite schedules with his wife to make ends meet, Brett had the idea for his ebook and worked for months to make it "exactly right." Right before the guide went on sale, Brett and Joana made a pact. If it sold at least $10,000 worth of copies, she could quit her job and be able to stay home with their kids full-time. Eleven days later . . .