Just Met

I like this quote:

“There’s not a word yet for old friends who’ve just met.”
Jim Henson

Today was a good day because my friend, Joyce, chose it as her official retirement day. I couldn’t send this email yesterday because it would have tipped her off to a surprise party we threw!  I love the idea of people moving forward to doing the activities and work they want to do. My newsletter has the theme that in everything we do we believe in pushing through boundaries and the edges of limitation.  Pulling the trigger on the decision to stop work – that’s blasting right through a boundary!

Here are some excerpts from my remarks at today’s party:

Weekly Snippet
One of the first reasons Joyce and I were drawn together over a decade ago is that when Joyce joined the firm people got us confused. ”Joyce!”  I’d hear repeated urgently behind me. “Hey, Joan…” Joyce would look up surprised the person was talking to her. We tried correcting people but it didn’t always take.  With similar hairstyles and roles our mix-up was understandable. Finally we decided to have fun and sit next to each other in meetings just to mess with people.

It wasn’t just hairstyles we had in common. We also both started our professional careers as secretaries. At that time women were rarely hired into managerial roles. We broke through glass ceilings and carved an unfamiliar path through those companies; Joyce especially was a pioneer in her company. It’s wonderful that today women (and men) assume female leadership is normal.

What is abnormal, however, is Joyce’s inspiring ability to elevate dry abstract ideas into a visual expression that engages people’s intellect and emotion, a rare talent that lifts a two-dimensional message into an experience in which the audience doesn’t just understand a message but feels the message. So many events and presentations have been elevated to an experience by her…

Joyce also has a mind that can form a snapshot of operationalization. Describe a situation and connections of inter-dependencies and key relationships snap into place in her thought. This has enabled her to be a connector, untangling inter-woven programs like Pedal the Cause and Tour de Ted. She makes the complex look simple, and then rolls up her shirtsleeves to operationalize the task at hand.

All of this is just the external window-dressing though of a sisterhood and friendship that’s developed between us. A friendship and love that runs deep and steady and calm underneath the sometimes choppy waters of our professional workplace, a place of overall blessing but not always an easy place to be.  So I have the happy message of not saying goodbye but saying I love you, Joyce. And the fun between us has barely begun...

I’m fortunate that Joyce just lives a few miles away. Let the fun begin!

Thank you for reading,

 
 

Leadership

What I’ve been thinking about…

It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.
Harry Truman

With so much self-promotion on the airwaves during our national party conventions – last week the Republicans, this week the Democrats – these words are a refreshing relief from so much pompous self-aggrandizement.

Over the last few weeks I’ve binge-watched Season One of the political intrigue Scandal on Netflix. My curiosity had been piqued by all the office “OMGs!” from Scandal’s story line. So with my husband out of town on business I tucked-in on the sofa for a number of nights with the cat. It was in one of the episodes that the chief of staff counsels the president something along the lines of “Men don’t make heroes. History does.” It was this line that made me think of Truman.

This may not make it into my blog but our current Presidential race has brought him to mind.

Weekly Snippet
Harry Truman would probably be a foggy high-school history-class memory for me if it wasn’t for a handshake deal I made with my mom. A few years ago I mentioned that I’d always wanted to see a U.S. Presidential Library. Just curious. Mom reminded me that Harry Truman was from Independence, Missouri, so his library was just four hours away. She’d be willing to go with me. “Excellent! Nice and close by. But first we need to read a biography.”

Who chose it, Mom? You or me? All I know is we ended up with biographer David McCullough’s 992-page volume, Truman, as Christmas gifts.

Our first attempt to visit the library got high-jacked by Congress. In one of the budget stand-offs that led to temporary closures of government buildings, the library was closed the first weekend we planned the trip. Undeterred we drove out anyway.  Yes, the library was completely closed-up but my daughter Cristina lives in Kansas City so we salvaged the weekend with an eclectic girl mix of an Italian dinner, the movie Gravity, and, a meandering walk guided by a brochure treasure-map to find all the Henry Moore sculptures on the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Several months later we made our second library attempt: Success! Mom and I ended up spending nearly five hours there. Absorbed by the multi-media exhibits we walked through history with the help of films and artifacts, letters and photos. There’s even a replica of Truman’s office with “The buck stops here” nameplate. 

This short essay can’t possibly give Truman justice. He served as our 33rd U.S. President (assuming office upon the death of Franklin Roosevelt). During his time in office he oversaw extraordinary events: the end of WWII, the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end the war with imperial Japan, the founding of the United Nations, the issuance of the Truman Doctrine to contain Communism and the enactment of the Marshall Plan in order to rebuild Western Europe. He was also behind the creation of NATO and asked for UN approval to respond to North Korea’s invasion of South Korea with U.S. troops -- a stalemate that continues today.

Remarkably, at the center of these out-sized events was a really simple man. In my journal I wrote that Truman was consistent in the small decisions, not just the large. He is an example of ego-less leadership. Vilified by the media, government adversaries and industry leaders, Truman bore the weight of a country that scapegoated and turned sour on him by the time he left office.

Yet, just as the fictitious Scandal official commented, history has gradually provided perspective.

For such a humble man Truman led our country toward a bigger vision of itself. Instead of being isolationist, he encouraged global involvement and leadership. Instead of punishment and revenge, he enacted the means for governments we’d conquered in war to recover with supervision.

He said, “America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”

It would be wonderful if we could hear similar words from today’s politicians. Leading away from fear instead of toward it.

You know as a young teenager my husband got to meet Truman. In the late 1950’s, after Truman had left office, Juan spoke with President Truman several times when Truman visited New York City. The President was known for his daily “constitutionals,” or the walks, he faithfully enjoyed every morning throughout his life. Juan tells the story that as a school monitor at Wagner Junior High he’d lounge outside the school doors every morning with his friends “supervising” kids as they entered the building. He remembers President Truman striding down 76th Street with two bodyguards. On many occasions the President would stop and talk with him and his friends.

I asked Juan if he remembers any of the conversations. No, they were kids. Just that he was always dressed impeccably in a shirt and hat. And really friendly.  

Friendliness, humility, courage, taking responsibility…sounds refreshing, doesn’t it?

Thank you for reading!

 
 

Quarter Turn

Here’s a quote I picked up in Michigan when Juan and I were visiting the north peninsula:

We’re all a quarter turn away from where we want to be.
Kyle Bigford

Just a small adjustment, a slight fine-tuning. A mere quarter turn? No way, I thought, a catchy thing to say, but in reality not that easy.

Then today I accidentally did it! I discovered I was just a quarter turn away from where I wanted to be. I made an adjustment and a big arc opened up, Smoother, less effort, more power. The type of change that if only I had known about it from the beginning so many things would be so much easier. 

I am talking about my golf club grip. OK, if you are not a golfer, bear with me: The grip is the way one's hands clasp the golf club. The correct grip gives your golf swing more strength and accuracy. Over time mine had gradually shifted to a more comfortable (lazier) grasp but as a result my strokes had become increasingly terrible, hacking and topping the ball, and this made playing more and more frustrating. 

So this morning I took just a 30-minute lesson from a pro and with one small adjustment my drives, pitches and chips (different lengths of a stroke) are better. And what’s funny is that I’d prepared for the lesson by dissecting my golf challenges into nine different questions, thinking that each would need a separate answer.  Nope, all nine questions taken care of with one solution: My grip. 

I’m trying out a similar single-shot, quarter-turn adjustment with my writing routine. Last week’s newsletter came out after an unintentional 5-week break when other obligations got in the way. In searching for a solution to try to avoid this happening in the future I came across a practice called Morning Pages by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way. Cameron claims that the bedrock of creativity is a daily practice of writing three pages every morning by longhand. There are no rules. You can be whiny, get stuff off your chest, bubble with blessings or nothing at all — it’s stream of consciousness and anything goes. So far, I really like it. Because it turns out you can’t really write about nothing for three pages. Or, as Cameron writes: "The second page-and-a-half comes harder, but often contains pay dirt."

So, I’m not sure this is pay dirt but here’s a bit from a Morning Page, the new quarter-turn exercise I’m trying.

Weekly Snippet
I’ve often felt pressure that mastery needs to be the goal of activity but recently I’ve been freed by the idea that an activity could simply be exposure to a new experience. As an example, Murray in Boston (older senior now retired, 30 years and counting) told me that he’d just returned from a language school in Aix en Provence where he took French classes for two weeks. He’d go to class in the mornings, lunch with classmates, take a nap, do homework and then try out a different restaurant every night for dinner — all for the fun of being in a new place and learning a language. He said offhandedly, “Maybe next year I’ll go to Lisbon and learn some Portuguese.” His motive is simply to have some experiences, not mastery. 

I love this idea of not getting caught with unfinished business. For example I’ve always thought that I need to return to some activities and skills because I’d gotten rusty, such as playing the piano or speaking Spanish. Yet, mastery is a high standard and takes prioritizing with time and practice, which means I put them off for “some day when I have more time.” This idea of simply trying things out has opened up a whole new world of permission: Instead of rewarming my Spanish, I could learn German or Arabic! Instead of restarting the piano, I could take lessons to play a guitar or recorder. You know they’ll be complementary somehow… wouldn’t it be fun to find out how. 

Perhaps you’re just a quarter turn away from where you want to be?

Here’s to trying a little twist this week,