Written by Regina Brett, 90 years old, of The Plain Dealer Newspaper, Cleveland, Ohio. ”To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most requested column I’ve ever written. My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:
1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short – enjoy it.
4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don’t have to win every argument. Stay true to yourself.
7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone. Read the rest of this entry
Archive for 'advice'
Last week I wrote a post to inspire you to be kind and to show unconditional love to those around you. The response I received on social media was overwhelming, and a beautiful discussion unfolded on LinkedIn as professional women from all over the country shared incredible stories about the kindness of others. From strangers providing shelter after tragedy, to mere acquintances staying by hospital beds and offering financial assistance, the stories were so heartfelt and meaningful that the conversation has lingered with me all week.
What struck me most is that the stories were often of unsung heroes who had no idea that their random acts of kindness would have such a lasting impact on these women’s lives. Though there were no medals and sometimes even no contact past the moment shared, the impact rippled through their lives in unimaginable ways – like real life examples of the movie, “Pay It Forward.”
We know kindness is powerful, especially at times when others are down and out, or when they seemingly least deserve it. The world would be a wonderful place if we were all kind to each other all of the time. Sadly, we know that this is not the case, and that unkindness can be equally powerful and have lasting impact. For instance, there’s been a lot of news coverage about workplace bullying lately, which includes acts like repeated and unwarranted criticism, unjustified blame, disparate treatment, verbal assault, exclusion or social isolation, and purposeful humiliation. Such acts are incredibly cruel, and they would most certainly chip away at even the strongest optimist. Who wouldn’t eventually start to wonder what they do wrong to deserve such treatment? Read the rest of this entry
This video gives you a sneak peak into some of the events that transpired, though it doesn’t capture the drama in full. Seemingly sweet in front of the judges, Kaci spat out venom behind the scenes and failed to win favor with the judges or America. Kaci’s actions were so distasteful that even Simon Cowell – one of America’s most controversial talent judges – called her a “vile monster.” Now if you’ve ever watched Simon Cowell in his prime on shows like American Idol, you’ll know that comment says a lot coming from him.
Like Kaci, we can all get wrapped up in ourselves sometimes. Eager to chase our fires, we forget that we need people in our corner along the journey. No (wo)man is an island. Ambition and a desire to be successful can be wonderful things, but no-one likes someone who is self-absorbed, dismissive, or publicly critical of others. In Kaci’s case, America responded by booing, laughing at her expense, and eventually kicking her off the X-Factor ‘island’ that she so fiercely staked claim to.
Though most of us will likely never face the public ridicule that has ensued for Kaci, stepping on people to get to the top still has major consequences. Not only can it severely damage our social standing, reputation, and careers, but it can also lead to lasting pain for others.
I recently stumbled upon an inspiring TED Talk by Tali Sharot, author of The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain, where she discussed the value of overestimating the positive. “Some people say the secret to happiness is low expectations,” she explained. “If we don’t expect greatness, if we don’t expect to find love and be healthy and successful, we’re not going to be disappointed when these things don’t happen. And when we’re pleasantly surprised when they do, we will be happy. It’s a very good theory, but it is wrong.”
Someone please give that woman an “Amen!” I’ve never understood the reasoning behind low expectations, as it seemed to often belong to people who perpetuated mediocrity. I’ve always been more in favor of the school of thought that says that good things come to those who challenge themselves, work really hard, and believe in their ability to be successful. Those folks have good reason to be optimistic because they are they are the architects of their own lives. Along similar lines of thought, Tali shares the following reasons why low expectations do in fact not lead to happiness:
“Whatever happens, whether you succeed or fail, people with high expectations always feel better, because how we feel – when we get dumped or we win employee of the month – depends on how we interpret that event.”
Tali reminds us that we have choice in how we interpret the things that happen in our lives, and this choice can very well determine our happiness. Does failing (whatever that might look like for you) tend to make you lie nose first on the ground feeling sorry for yourself, or does it motivate you to get up and fight for the future you have imagined? When life goes wrong, do you blame yourself, call yourself bad names, maybe even feel worthless? Or do you accept that some things are outside of your control and have nothing to do with your ability to be successful? If you make the conscious choice to interpret events positively and to attribute constructive emotions to such events, you are allowing room for success and happiness in your life. Read the rest of this entry
As a child, I was seemingly fearless. I’m not sure whether I didn’t know to be afraid of what others might think, or whether I just didn’t care. Either way, childhood Vera was a force to be reckoned with. Seemingly oblivious to social pressures, I bravely catapulted myself into the world (bucktoothed and chicken-legged), excitedly carving my own path.
Without reservation, I tried my hand at just about everything. You might not know it looking at me now, but it turned out that I was quite the little athlete in my youth. I competed in nearly every athletic event known to man (including shot-put and javelin) and brought home trophy after trophy. Admittedly, my “talent” didn’t take me much further than regional competitions, but those shiny trophies sure did make me feel like I could do anything. I never worried about being inferior to others; I was just having fun.
I also loved being creative from an early age. My saint of a mother allowed me to stake claim to our dining room table for days on end, and to my father’s dismay, dinner was often served among craft supplies. Nothing made my heart sing more than loosing hours of my day in this way. Well, truthfully, nothing except maybe the moment where I could proudly share my work and beam, “I made that!”
I was never afraid that others would not like my handiwork. Quite the opposite, in fact. I saw worth in what I had made and I created opportunities to share it with others. I would walk door to door in our neighborhood, fearlessly selling my “masterpieces.” I even had my own booth at my school’s “Entrepreneurship Day” and was pretty excited when my classmates sported my jewelry. As a child, I felt confident in myself and unstoppable, really. I believed that the world was my oyster.
When I look back on those days now I can’t help but miss the innocent optimism and fearlessness so characteristic of my youth. As is the case for many of you, growing up meant learning tough lessons about social acceptance and the penalties of putting yourself out there. I quickly learned that my best efforts would not always win trophies or be received favorably. Instead, there were now others who seemed compelled to remind me that the world was in fact not my oyster. In tough times my dad would lovingly say, “The tallest trees catch the most wind!” Honestly, sometimes it really sucked being a tall tree.
Like millions of Americans, I have been glued to my TV screen since the start of the 2012 London Olympic games. My usual evening programming has been diverted to DVR and replaced with swimming, diving, and, my favorite, gymnastics. There’s nothing quite like bearing witness to athletes in their prime, showing the world what they’re made of.
As you likely know (unless you’ve been living under a rock), this has been a big week for Team USA in Women’s gymnastics. The media was abuzz when world champion Jordyn Wieber failed to qualify for a shot at all-around Olympic gold. The raw emotions we saw as her dreams were crushed in front of billions of viewers was simply gut wrenching.
Somehow, though, young Jordyn was able to pick herself up within a day. ”After the biggest disappointment of her gymnastic life… Jordyn Wieber got down to business,” said Mark Sappenfield. “There were some tears,” Coach Geddert said, “about five minutes’ worth – and some loving words from her teammates. Then, it was time to get to work. Because, that is just what Jordyn Wieber does.”
Boy, what an understatement! Forever etched in my memory is the moment when the camera zoomed in on her face as she stood in the starting position of her floor routine during team finals. With determined eyes she stared right through the camera into each of our living rooms as if to say, “Don’t worry. I’ve got this.”
Jordyn’s smile during her final performance was incredible to see. She knew she had it every step of the way. She was having fun out there. Most importantly, despite crushed dreams, Jordyn continued to live her passion in front of billions of viewers. It was an incredible moment for Jordyn and all who understood her struggle. Read the rest of this entry
You are at a dinner party working the room, mingling with familiar faces and meeting new ones. Dressed to impress, you introduce yourself with an inviting smile and a firm handshake. Your new acquaintance expresses what a pleasure it is to meet you, and then uses the all too familiar fallback conversation starter:
“So, John…what do you do?”
How many times have you had to answer that question? Probably more than you care to answer. This age old form of small talk illustrates how identity is often tied to profession by an awkward blurry line that merges who we are with what we do for a living. As if in our minds we believe that in order to understand someone else, we must first know what work they do.
This is not a new phenomenon. In years past, people were often known by their job titles. In South Africa, for instance, many family names stemmed from the husband’s occupation. The now common first and last name “Piet Poliesman” literally translates to, “Peter the Police Officer.” Talk about personal branding!
Sure, the activities that we are involved in (including work) take up a large portion of our time, energy, and attention and therefore does determine the focus of much of our lives. But does work define our lives and our existence? I think not.
The world of work is different today than it was for our friend Peter. Those living in the 20th century learned that if they were loyal to an organization they would be rewarded with stable employment and likely also financial security – the ingredients that offered them a firm foundation for a life and future. Unfortunately, in today’s world of work, this is no longer the case, so it is foolish to try to define ourselves in the same way. Today:
The 21st century has brought with it rapid advances in information technology which vastly expanded world markets. Globalization has necessitated that organizations operate and make decisions not only quicker, but also smarter. Consequently, barriers between functional units are often removed, thereby essentially flattening hierarchical structures of the 20th century to create organizations that are in essence boundaryless. Read the rest of this entry
“Vera, I have a question for you,” my friend Rebecca said shyly during our lunch date today. “Your message about chasing your fire has gotten me really excited about the prospect of living truer to myself. But…
I am 35 years old and I still don’t know what my passion is…
What if I don’t have one?
Phew, what a question! One that I’ve heard many times over and one that takes a lot of courage to ask of yourself – let alone out loud. It’s a confusing thing when you are not sure what brings meaning to you and your life other than your loved ones. There are many things that we enjoy doing. The type of television shows we watch, the kinds of magazines, newspapers or websites we gravitate to, or the kinds of activities we like to be involved in all point to our interests. But just because we enjoy doing something doesn’t make it a passion. I think this is what concerned Rebecca.
There is a distinct difference between enjoying an activity (whether it be writing, public speaking, knitting, playing tennis, volunteering, etc.) and feeling compelled to do it. Like you don’t have a choice in the matter. Like if you don’t do it, you won’t be able to feel at peace until you do. As if your soul is threatening to just shrivel up and die if you don’t listen to it. Read the rest of this entry
What is the world’s greatest lie?” the little boy asks. The old man replies, “It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate.”
(An excerpt from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho)
As children, we eagerly conjured up fantasies about our future grown-up selves. We imagined what careers we would have and what we would be like. Innocently optimistic, we imagined a life for ourselves that would be exciting and fulfilling. When asked about our futures, we got a twinkle in our eyes as we told others, “When I grow up, I’m going to be… (A ballerina! A fireman! A Doctor! A Basketball Player!)”
Don’t you sometimes wish you could recapture that childlike wonder? Sadly, somewhere along the way to adulthood, dreams often get buried under the realities of daily living. We can barely make it through the day, and chasing our fire is often the furthest thing from our minds. The focus shifts from ‘living the dream’ to just ‘finding a good job that pays the bills.’ Life, as messy as it is, often teaches us that we are mere products of fate and circumstance, and that dreams can only be realized if you are one of the lucky and/or wealthy…which (let’s be honest) most of us aren’t.
Thankfully, Paulo Coelho blows a hole right through that theory. Allow him and I to assure you that fate and luck have very little to do with happiness. Life doesn’t just “happen” to us. We are not mere passive recipients of fate, living the life that has been dealt to us. Oh, no. Our lives are a culmination of choices (big and small), each breath building on another. Read the rest of this entry
If you knew then what you know now,
what advice would you give your younger self?
In the discussion that followed, several incredibly talented and accomplished women offered a wealth of candid career and life strategies. I felt compelled to share them with you – not only because I am a sucker for a good quote, but because I believe there is value in taking a moment to learn from those who have gone before.
The advice that followed has been presented in three parts, based on focus. This is the final post in the series, which shares success tips related to seeking balance in life (finances, health/diet, and self nurturing). The first post shared advice about career and education, while the second focused on relationships and raising a family. I hope you’ll find the comments as inspiring as I did!
1. All that glitters is not gold. Save, save, save, but be kind to yourself by using some money to explore, travel, learn. - Kay Rice - Database Application Specialist / Ohio Farm Bureau Federation