Purposeful Living

Could Your Definition of Success be Too Small?

Success’s Dirty Secret

Everybody wants to know the secret to success.

We know all the famous quotes, read #allthebooks, and have our own idolized images of success in our heads.

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

But the truth is there is no secret to success. Despite what the gurus will tell you, there is no magic formula.

And that’s both bad news and good news. The bad news is that success is never the result of a lucky accident. The good news is the time is always right to make a new decision about the future you want to create.

Fun fact: the word “decide” comes from the Latin word “decidare”—meaning “to cut off all other possibilities.”

When we cut off the possibilities that aren’t working for us while keeping the ones that move us in the direction of our dreams, we create the kind of future we want and that equals success.

When do you think most about what it means to be successful?

If you’re like me, then it’s probably when you’re in the same room with actual successful people. And despite what we say success is, if we’re hard pressed to define it, we end up saying things like:

  • earning lots of money

  • having lots of respect

  • being the boss

  • being happy

At least this is what I learned about success when I asked a group of rising tenth grade girls this very question last weekend. I definitely wouldn’t turn down more money or more respect or more influence, but when I’m asked about success, I often say that success isn’t about any of those things at all.

True Success

Lately I’ve been wondering if the reason my definition of success has changed is because the trajectory of my life looks different than I imagined it. Have I adjusted my definition of success to fit my life or is my life a reflection of the hard (but very good) choices I’ve had to make to ensure my life doesn’t take a wonky turn for the worse?

The thing is most of us say we want to be successful, but without a clearly defined definition about what that actually means we don’t make a plan for ensuring that what we want will come to pass. The world is big and often scary.

This is not an EXCUSE.
It’s an INVITATION.

There’s clearly potential for every single one of us to make a difference. Using our unique gifts to make the world better today than it was yesterday is how we leave a legacy. It’s the measuring stick for determining whether or not we have lived a successful life. And sure, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by “the world,” but my world isn’t all that big, and I can definitely do something around here. After all, I would love to foster a strong marriage, raise healthy kids, and contribute to a thriving community. All of those things are real and possible!

How to be Successful

1) Make sure your goals reinforce your values. Prioritize the process. Discipline and success go hand-in-hand.

2) Remember that time and people are your most important resources. Steward them well.

3) Successful results come from successful processes. Don’t confuse good luck with true success. They are not the same, and if you are successful, it will not be an accident.

4) Failure is a gift. Successful people learn from their mistakes. My daughter has a sign hanging in her room that says: Unless you puke, faint or die, keep going. Thanks, Jillian Michaels. That’s good advice!

5) Success is a journey, not a destination. Change over time yields results. Although your definition of success will evolve as you mature, may you always remember that the quality and direction of your life will be determined through the choices that you make.

And finally, I feel like I have to say that as women there are a number of things that make us feel successful in our many different roles (wink, wink).

What makes you feel successful as a mom?
A wife?
A daughter?
A sister?
A volunteer?
A board member?
A CEO?

I bet that you have a different definition of success for each one of these roles. And sometimes those definitions are in conflict with one another, which means it can be really easy to feel like you’re failing in more than one area. Who hasn’t dropped the ball at least once? (I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve forgotten to pick up my own kids from school!)

I used to subscribe to the theory that we didn’t need to itemize our various positions, that we could simply lump what it means to be a success or a failure within the context of the most important facet of our identity:

“What makes me feel like I’m successful as a WOMAN?”

Things like adequate time with my children and a thriving relationship with my spouse and time to learn and grow made me realize that I was actually defining success in terms of what I was already achieving, not what was actually possible.

This is important because our lives are not stagnant. If we’re not growing, we’re dying. I’d hate to think that I have already reached the pinnacle of my capability.

A New Way to Approach Success

The Magic of “WHAT IF?”

“What if” is an extremely powerful phrase. We often start sentences with these two words when we’re grieving time gone by, but we use the same phrase at the beginning of sentences that enable us to dream about the future.

Today, think about your own “What If” moments.

What if you felt valued and appreciated and free to pursue your dreams?
What if you were free from the expectations that come from both work and motherhood?
What if you could connect emotionally with the work you were made to do?

Successful people are obsessed with creating value.

What if you could embrace your calling without the well-intended comments of others that the thing that makes you come alive isn’t worthy of your love, energy, or attention?
What if we didn’t care what they think? I mean, who cares if they can’t see how the things you love could lead to success?
What if we didn’t allow the limitations other people try to put on us to stifle our own potential for expression, connection, meaning, and joy?

Examine your assumptions about what is and is not a worthy pursuit in your life. Decide what kind of life you want to have and how you want to live it. That’s the only way to have a life that’s not dependent on circumstances, so when you lose the job, somebody you love gets sick, the kid goes to college, and the house forecloses, you can still feel successful.

Because let’s face it: the things you love most almost never have monetary value. That tenth grade definition of success—the one that was about money, and influence, and respect, and being the boss—when you decide to be the boss of your life, the influence and respect will follow. As for the money, I can’t promise that, but I do know that when you have the love and support of your family and friends, you find that you can feel happy and successful with less of it.

Here’s to your success!

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Choices and Consequences: Is Unpaid Work Holding You Back?

Dream Jobs

I write a lot about finding your purpose and figuring out the work you’re meant to do.

I blame it on my childhood.

We’re asked at a very young age what we want to be when we grow up. We usually reply based on what we’ve seen, either in our neighborhoods or on TV. There’s probably a disproportionate number of people out there who wanted to be things like teachers, doctors, and policeman.

When my son was in kindergarten, he wanted to be a garbage man (his words, not mine).

At the time, we thought it was funny and cute.

Hanging off the back of a truck, wind whipping through your hair…what could be better?

He’s 15 now, and his new dream job is one he calls “fragrance mogul.” I don’t think he’s seen many of those around, but he likes girls, and I guess he’s started caring about whether or not he smells good when he is around them.

There’s a bunch of kids going off to college, and they are stressed to the max. Everyone is asking them where they are going to school and what’s their major. Students like my daughter, with ambiguous majors like Leadership Integrated Studies, get asked a follow-up question, which is typically a variation of “What do think you want to do with that someday?”

How could she possibly know the answer to that question?

Our first jobs rarely determine our final destination.

Case in point: I used to work in a hardware store, and my first job out of college was as a trainer in a gym.

Don’t get me wrong. Work is necessary. Work is good. My daughter’s been working since she was sixteen. All the jobs we have in life prepare us for the work we’re meant to do.

Humans were created to work. But there are so many different kinds of work and ways in which we can work and possibilities for the future that I would never want to lock my 19 year old daughter into just one way of thinking. She’s young and smart. I’ve never told her to choose a major based solely on the fact that she needs something concrete, something “she can fall back on.” I have faith that she can figure out work because she’s figured out so many other parts of her life.

And she’s got time.

So many of the jobs that sound interesting to me now did not even exist when I was her age. I never could have imagined the work I’m doing now. But (and this is the big thing), I knew what kind of life I wanted, and therefore everything I was learning would not be wasted, no matter what the future held.

Choices and Consequences

But the point is that we often don’t think about the consequences of our choices.

Twenty years ago I made a choice.

I made a choice to leave full time paid work in order to stay home and do full time UNPAID work. It was a choice I made, and the consequences were many. I have no regrets because this unpaid work has been fulfilling in other ways

If my son had thought through the consequences of being a sanitation worker, a valiant occupation to be sure, and something we can’t do without ( Does anyone remember New York’s great garbage strike of 1968?), he may have chosen a different path—even as a kindergartener. However, he didn’t think about the fact that it’s pretty stinky riding behind the garbage all day, that HE would be pretty stinky, too, by the end of it, and that lifting garbage bags hour after hour is some kind of back-breaking labor. In hot weather, on cold days, and even when it’s raining, sanitation workers are on duty.

The garbage never stops.

But just because we get older doesn’t mean we think about the consequences of our work. Maybe you have found yourself on the business end of a poorly executed choice. For example, I once thought it would be fun to run a company, which would probably mean time away from family, travel, late nights, stressful working conditions, and possibly even more education.

Is that what I really wanted?

We make the choices we can live with.

And all choices are not created equal.

As I’ve watched my children get older and my friends, stay-at-home moms mostly, go back into the workforce, I’ve noticed that even now we forget what our choices mean.

We want so-called REAL work because it means that the years we spent at home raising our children, volunteering at school, and keeping house were not wasted. We can add value. And if we can, we should…Right? And let’s be honest—kids don’t get less expensive as they get older. We trade diapers and preschool for drivers ed and tutoring. They need and want more than we can possibly give them.

Going back to work is the next logical step.

So we go back to work and discover that we are still needed at home, that children still get sick, that teachers still have conferences, that the laundry and cooking do not cease simply because we are not there to do it. We can enlist the help of our spouse and kids, but everyone is busy. So, so busy.

And we realize that what we really want is not necessarily more money, but more time. The kids are getting older. They will leave us soon. We only have four more summer vacations. Three. Two. One. And then suddenly they are off to college. And family vacations are a thing of the past. At least the way they used to be.

Where did the time go?

Real Work

I want you to know that the work you’re doing now IS real work. It’s important, and it matters. In a LinkedIn article I was reading just last week, 91% of employers say that soft skills are more important than hard skills when looking to hire a new employee. These skills are becoming increasingly important, not just in the workplace but everywhere. Those are certainly the skills I can practice, teach my kids, and cultivate in a variety of non-traditional unpaid ways.

Just because I was (and still am) what some would call a stay-at-home mother, I don’t necessarily do a lot of staying home.

According to the LinkedIn report, these are the soft skills companies need, but have a hard time finding:

1)    Creativity
2)    Persuasion
3)    Collaboration
4)    Adaptability
5)    Time Management

Where better to practice these skills than in the context of motherhood and volunteerism and community service? 

Think about what you’re doing right now. If you’re not doing REAL work, can you think of anything that’s preparing you to lead with the soft skills necessary for the future?

 It’s so easy to think that time spent at home and time spent not earning real money, is wasted time. And this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Your soft skills are getting stronger every day.

 It is possible to chase your dream without running away from your life.

You are not stuck.
You are not stigmatized.
You are not a doormat.
You are not a slave.

You are smart, and special, and someday (but maybe not now), your dreams will actually be closer than you think.

 You will not always have children at home.
You will not always need to be the one who does the cooking and cleaning.
You will find, if you’re willing to share now, that which you have, that when the timing is right, you will receive exactly what you hoped for.

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
— Galatians 6:4-5 MSG

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Love Note to a Teacher

School in Georgia starts early—August 1st to be exact. We’ve had a great summer filled with beach vacations, sleep-away camp, fireworks, lots of company, and time spent outside. My older son got his pilot’s license at the beginning of the summer, and I still have “sunset airplane ride” on my bucket list, but once I’ve done that, my life will be complete.

I’ve always been one of those kids that liked school. When somebody asked me my favorite subject, I never answered with “Recess” or “Lunch” because I actually enjoyed subjects like “Biology” and “American Literature.” I know. I was a total nerd.

The other day I came across this article about Leonard Bernstein, the famous conductor and composer.

Leonard Bernstein, the famous maestro, had a program that aired on CBS from 1958-1970. It was called The New York Philharmonic Young People’s Concerts. It was an overnight success, and Bernstein called it a “dream come true” because “young people are eager, unprejudiced, curious, open, and enthusiastic.”

But Bernstein’s greatest gift may have been as a teacher.

He believed that all art is about aesthetic pleasure, and appreciation begins with an understanding of how art appeals to our emotions. More than that, he believed that the best way to understand something was in the context of another discipline.

A little more digging, and I found out that Bernstein was also the founder of something called Artful Learning. He had a passionate thirst for knowledge that inspired him to create a process for deepening academic learning through the arts.

Most people agree that all kids are artists.

Adults can make good art, too.

Well, of course that got me thinking about all the teachers I’ve had in my life. And isn’t it true that the best ones are the ones that made us believe the impossible about ourselves?

I don’t want my best days of being eager, unprejudiced, curious, open and enthusiastic to be behind me. But in thinking about the relationship I had with teachers, I remember things they asked me to do: questions they asked, books they recommended, projects they thought I would enjoy, and invitations to participate in various contests.

As an adult it’s easy to believe that my future is already set, that my future is now. But that’s a lie. Curiosity is always cool, and this year I’m going to pretend like I’m the one going to school, which means if someone begins a sentence with,

“Hey, have you ever tried…?”

or

“Hey, you’d love this book…”

or

“Hey, let’s…”

I’m going to be open and enthusiastic about it. I’m going to be a learner.

And maybe an artist, too.

Ready to take it to the next level?

Mission Driven Monday--Kristen Witzel

Meet Kristen Witzel!

What makes your heart happy?

Meet the Founder and Executive Director of KidsBoost! Kristen is a mom and former hospital Child Life Specialist who turned her passion for generosity into an opportunity to mentor kids taking on service projects to raise money for the organizations that matter to them. In this episode, we talk about how the challenges of being a single mother and how being an entrepreneur helped her find meaning and purpose in the work she was clearly meant to do.

We both have kids who just finished fifth grade and are about to embark on the adventure of middle school. I think it’s interesting how ideas percolate over time, building tension, and ultimately inspiring us to take action.

As moms, we want to pursue our dreams and also do ALL THE THINGS. Is it possible? Kristen says she spent years living off peanut butter and a prayer. She’s working to build a culture that values working parents as they raise kind and generous kids while using their own gifts to give back to the community.

You don’t want to miss this incredible story.

Important links from this episode:

Does your kid have an idea for a project they’d like to pursue? KidsBoost would love to help!

KidsBoost: Creating a sustainable cycle of giving by equipping kids to serve others

The Moment of Lift : How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates

Big Magic: Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Ready to take it to the next level?

10 Mind Blowing Facts You Should Know About Yourself

  1. You are not defined by what you are doing right now.

    Talent and skill are important, but more important is adaptability—the ability to adjust to changing circumstances in your life. Your job is what you do. (Over your lifetime, you will have many different types of jobs.) Your work is who you are. (As you navigate these new roles, you will begin to discover who you are. That’s the magic of adaptability.)

  2. Your life is a work of art.

    Intellectually, we know this, but it’s hard to live as if it is true. If you want to begin believing it, try this: Whenever someone asks you about your day, think of the most unique thing that happened to you. Tell that story.

    “Maybe the desire to make something beautiful is the piece of God that is inside each one of us.”—Mary Oliver

  3. You do have time, and you get to choose how to spend it. Busy happens when we’re not thinking.

    Someone once told me that busy is just the brain being lazy. How ironic that when we’re busy we think the opposite is true! Lazy isn’t the antonym of busy; it’s a SYNONYM! Take time to plan your calendar, block out the things you want to do, need to do, have to do, and would like to do. Say no to everything else. “Busy” should never be an excuse for why you’re so tired, cranky, unavailable, or just plain flaky. Own your life or it will own you.

  4. The quiet voice in your head is usually right.

    Sometimes we underestimate the power of our own internal compass. We don’t trust other people; why should we trust ourselves? But let’s be honest—who knows you better than YOU?

    Unless you’re George Costanza:

    JERRY: Kramer, should I call Susan?

    KRAMER: Now what does the little man inside you say? See you gotta listen to the little man.

    GEORGE: My little man doesn't know.

    KRAMER: The little man knows all.

    GEORGE: My little man's an idiot.

    Some of the best advice ever uttered under the sun: DON’T BE AN IDIOT.

  5. The things you’re putting off are a direct result of fear.

    The other day a life coach asked my entrepreneur group to make a list of the things we’re putting off—basically all the “crap we don’t want to do.” That was a painful exercise! Define the fear and the outcome you want to achieve so you won’t be able to put off any longer the things that will help you move forward. It was one of the other girls in the group who decided to name the fears and outcomes. Now, I’m accountable for the things I’m putting off. No more excuses! I have a deadline and a person I’m supposed to call with updates on my progress. Yikes.

  6. The quality of the life you have is not based on how much money you spend.

    We’ve all been asked a version of these two questions: If your house was burning down, what would you save? And if you were stranded on a desert island what would you take with you? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say they’d save their big screen TV or the clothes in their closet. Everything you love is either free or really cheap. so you don’t need to stress about money. Love the people you’re with, and be with the people you love. That’s the beginning and end of everything that’s truly meaningful in life.

  7. You are in charge of your emotional experience.

    Emotions are like waves, building and swirling and crashing around us all the time. My internal feelings are often the result of external circumstances, and the ones that cause the most havoc are the ones that touch the most sensitive places of my psyche—my work and self-worth. If you can train yourself to both welcome and enjoy criticism, you won’t get sidelined by the emotions that try to derail you. When my emotions threaten to paralyze me, I remind myself that even though the emotion is real, the words that triggered it may or may not be true. Then I ask, “What is this experience teaching me about myself, others, or the world and how can I use it to make my world better?”

  8. Your story can inspire others to share their own.

    Every good story involves a character going on a journey (internal or external) who meets a guide, encounters obstacles, overcomes them through many trials, and who eventually reaches a climax of calamity, but somehow overcomes, thus making all her dreams come true. We have a story, too, and our story always intersects with a bunch of other stories around us. Since people generally become what you speak of them, it is wise to be generous with your words.

  9. You expect from others those things you believe about yourself.

    The greatest discovery in life is self discovery. Until you know yourself, you’ll always be trying to be like someone else. This is one of those one liners I’ve been repeating for awhile, even though as late as just last week I had an epiphany where I heard myself say out loud: “I kept hoping for a different story, but I just realized THIS is my story.” Good grief…apparently the road to self-discovery is full of distractions, detours, and road blocks. Just keep going in the direction of your dreams and eventually you’ll begin to believe that where you’re going is where you were supposed to be all along.

  10. You are not selfish because you want to be liked.

    Likeability is a trait of highly successful people. It’s actually a job skill. (I learned this from Vanessa Van Edwards, founder of the famous People School). I’m glad she said it, not me, because wanting to be liked sounds exactly like a quote I heard Michael Scott say on an episode of The Office:

    “Do I need to be liked? Absolutely not. I like to be liked. I enjoy being liked. I have to be liked. But it's not like this compulsive need to be liked, like my need to be praised.”—Michael Scott

    Likeable people are charismatic and influential. They generally have more friends and get what they want out of life. Wanting to be liked is a good thing, especially if you’re a likeable person. When I was in high school and college, I have to confess, I thought about this all the time. Like all the time. I wanted more friends, and I didn’t know if I was making them fast enough. It’s a relief to know that there’s things I can do to ramp up the warmth and be more expressive as I genuinely do love getting to know new people.

I’d love to know what you’re discovering about yourself. There’s always something new to learn! If you want to take it to the next level, I’d love to meet you!



How Not to Die

What’s one thing that scares you that you wish wasn’t a big deal?

Based on the title of this blog, you probably think I’m going to say death. But death is a big deal. And if we’re honest, we don’t really want to talk about that.

No. I’m talking about the small, scary stuff: a spider web above your bed or a thunderstorm at the beach or being at a party where you don’t know anyone.

If I asked you, that’s what you would say is scary, anyway.

But I’ve found a lot of people are actually afraid the life they’re living is meaningless and devoid of purpose.

I’m notorious for forgetting my headphones at the gym or sometimes even if I do remember them I can’t get them to connect to my phone. The result is that I end up on a treadmill simply staring into space. Yesterday was Sunday, and I intentionally didn’t bring my headphones into the gym because I was just going to do a 30- minute express body pump class and then go home. When I finished the class, though, I felt energized rather than tired so I decided to do a quick ten minutes on the rower.

But what happened was that I ran into a friend and we ended up chatting and before I knew it I had completed 45 minutes on the rower, and I was like, “Wow! I have to go!”

The point is not that I ran into a friend. Or that time went by fast. Or that I did 45-minutes on the rower.

Although all those things are true.

It was actually something my friend said while we were rowing together. She said, “You know the only reason I’m here right now is because I was bored at home.”

I get it. Sunday afternoon. Two teenage kids. One of them gone for the entire summer and one hanging with her friends at the lake. Who wouldn’t be bored?

I’m reading a book called Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness. Tucked in the middle of Chapter Two is this idea of reversible destiny, which states that “people can prevent aging and thwart death by living in a stimulating environment that challenges their bodies on a regular basis.”

I was intrigued by this idea and wanted to learn more: The founders of the movement, Madeline Gins and Shusaku Arakawa, proposed that losing balance and using your body in surprising ways to maintain equilibrium will stimulate the immune system, which will eventually stop aging and death. Their famous Bioscleave House in New York and Reversible Destiny lofts in Tokyo Japan are proof of concept. With uneven floors and windows placed at varying levels to give you a distorted sense of the horizon and about 40 different colors on the walls, the houses are meant to change your perception of the world around you. They believed that Helen Keller was the ideal way to think about art since she was both blind and deaf. She had to work really hard to understand the world around her. And if you have to work really hard within that blankness, as Helen Keller did, you may forget that you have to die. If Helen Keller had known that she didn't have to die, she may have been a prime candidate for immortality.

That’s what they thought anyway.

Umm…I don’t think that’s how death works.

And I also don’t think that Helen Keller ever actually operated in blankness. Unfortunately the architects both died several years ago (Arakawa in 2010 and Gins in 2014).

Of Helen Keller, however, Senator Lister Hill of Alabama said, "She will live on, one of the few, the immortal names not born to die. Her spirit will endure as long as man can read and stories can be told of the woman who showed the world there are no boundaries to courage and faith."

And that’s what it’s about really: AN ENDURING SPIRIT.

Reversible destiny isn’t about a body that goes on living despite its old age, but rather a spirit that continues to inspire the next generation of thinkers.

Which leads me to my original thought on boredom and something I think a teacher said to me once: “Bored people are boring people.”

Thank goodness my friend ended up at the gym after realizing that she was bored at home. What better place to challenge her body in unexpected ways and thwart the aging process?

I don’t think our friends Arakawa and Gins got the whole destiny thing right. I can’t imagine anything more heartbreaking than a destiny that points back to me.

I think all of us want to leave a legacy that’s bigger than ourselves. Your life is a work of art. Whether that art manifests in the form of buildings, monuments, or actual art, anything you leave behind will have your imprint on it. Maybe your art is an organization you lead or a family you’re raising. Your destiny is the story you’re telling. Keep turning the page. Stories are always about transformation, which is the ultimate destiny.

Arakawa and Gins didn’t achieve immortality—at least not in the way they originally imagined.

What we set out to do may not be where we end up.

Which leads me to my final question, “What are some non-traditional ways that you can share your vision for the world and invite others to join you?”

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Mission Driven Monday--Sheena Virji

Meet Sheena Virji!

“My mother saved my life.”

I leaned in.

And learned more about ovarian cancer than I ever wanted to know.

But to hear Sheena talk about it didn’t make it sound scary or awkward. I discovered that Sheena is passionate about women’s health in a way that makes her friends feel cherished and valued. This interview is extra special—for her and for me—because today is a day of both remembrance and celebration.

Three years ago today, Sheena’s mom died.

Ovarian cancer, unfortunately, is often called the "silent killer," but since Sheena credits her mom for saving her own life, she's been anything but silent in the face of it.

What do you do when your life takes an unexpected turn? When you experience a loss that stops you in your tracks? When you have to say good-bye to someone you love--and it's way too soon? In this conversation, Sheena and I talk about how our purpose is grounded, not in the work we get paid to do, but in the work that experience prepares us to do.

I was inspired by her story and the unexpected circumstances that fueled the legacy she wants to leave. Join the conversation, and follow your mission, not the madness.

Important Links from this Episode:

Learn more about women’s cancers—How to prevent, diagnose, and treat them.

Bright Pink empowers women to assess their risk and take charge of their health proactively.

Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance promotes awareness and action for ovarian cancer.

And sage advice from Sheena: “Get to know your body. If it feels wrong, it’s worth exploring. Make an appointment with your doctor!” (Friends, she is so passionate about this, she even told me she would accompany anyone who asked!)

Ready to take it to the next level?

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The Mission Driven Manifesto

Fads come and go. Things like gender reveal parties weren’t in vogue at all when I had my kids, but now everybody has one. And if you’re in high school and have a prom, chances are you’re going to get asked out in a big way, not the way I was. I think we passed the poster in the hall advertising the prom, and my boyfriend (now husband) looked at me and said, “I’ll buy tickets tomorrow.” I’m in my 40s now, and I’ve noticed this brand new trend of sharing what you’ve learned over the years, as if 40 is the age of wisdom.

But Immanuel Kant (1704-1784) was talking about writing down your maxims back in the 1700s—he was cool BEFORE it was cool! Kant believed that the highest good for human beings was being able to achieve both complete virtue and complete happiness at the same time. You could do this, he posited, even without a connection between the two. In fact, virtue and happiness often work in OPPOSITION to one another. (Kant was one of these guys who could blow your mind if you thought too much about the lofty ideas he floated) Further, Kant believed character didn’t develop until age 40, and that’s when you should write down all the things you’ve found to be true. (Gosh, do I sound boring or what?)

Kant believed these essential rules for living should be followed for the rest of one’s life. We don’t have a list of Kant’s maxims, but we do know that before age 40 he rarely had habits he followed or even moral principles for that matter, but after age 40, he stuck to his routine religiously.

Is this why we say old people are “set in their ways?”

Maybe all the old people have finally found their purpose.

Purpose isn’t the work you’re paid to do; it’s the work that experience prepares you to do.

I really like the idea of writing down what you’ve learned and living by a set of rules that you’ve found to work for you. A lot of people think routine inhibits passion and spontaneity. But I don’t necessarily agree that’s true. In the book, Daily Rituals, Mason Currey writes that W.H. Auden once said, “the surest way to discipline passion is to discipline time: decide what you want or ought to do during the day, then always do it at exactly the same moment every day, and passion will give you no trouble.”

I have my own rules for living that work for me, and you probably have yours. I realized that my personal rules are directly tied to my purpose. What I believe about the world, work, family, and love has become the building blocks of my life.

Think about the work you do:

1) Why do you do it?
2) What do you want your work to do in the world?
3) How do you want your work to make people feel? Your family? Your friends? Your colleagues?
4) What does success look like to you?
5) What are you willing to do to reach that success?

To learn more about what it means to be mission driven, you can download our manifesto here.

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The Possum in my Living Room and Why Too Much Focus Might Be a Bad Thing

The end of the year is always a stressful time. There’s just A LOT to do, and most of it is fun stuff—field days and awards day and parties galore. I’m all about a good party!

But it can also be stressful. I check and double check and triple check my calendar every single day because I don’t want to miss anything. I’m trying to find the perfect present for the graduates in my life, and also I realize just how lazy I’ve become. Meal planning has gone out the window. I’m keeping up with the laundry and even folding it, but could someone else please put it all away?

I’m a little overwhelmed with all that needs to be done before school’s out and summer officially begins.

My husband says I can tune out anything.

When the kids were little and we ‘d go on vacation, I’d sit in the passenger seat and read books while the littles took aim at each other in the back of the minivan.

Gavin would say, “Why aren’t you helping? Can you do something about the noise coming from the backseat?”

I’d casually look up from my book, and say, “What? It’s not bothering me.”

And it wasn’t.

I’d go right on reading. Or gazing out the window. Or even sleeping.

But is it possible to be so hyper-focused on something that you lose sight of what really matters?

Lately I’ve been so focused on not missing anything that I ended up missing something that was right in front of me.

That something was big.

And hairy.

With beady little eyes.

And pointy teeth.

Plus, he probably had rabies.

There was a possum in our living room.

And I totally missed it.

While I was hyper focused on all the things I needed to get done the next day, I missed the little furball creeping up the stairs from the basement, walking across my living room rug, even crouching in the corner waiting for me to go to bed.

Oblivious, I was awakened three hours later when my night owl 17- year old son came bursting into our room yelling,

There’s a possum in the living room!

Trust me—that is not a phrase you want to hear in the middle of the night.

The things is as I was sitting there typing away on my computer last night I actually DID hear something creeping up the stairs. It sounded suspicious, but since I have two dogs and neither of them made a move, I thought, “What the heck? It’s probably nothing. And if it IS something…well, I don’t want to know.

You’re probably thinking this could never happen to you. Believe me—I never thought I would end up with a possum in my living room either!

But since this did happen to me, it’s got me thinking, “What else am I CHOOSING not to see right now?”

In my home?
In my relationships?
In my kids?
In my work?
In my hobbies?
In my LIFE?

To choose is to be both willful and deliberate.

Open your eyes and choose TO SEE.


P.S. All’s well that ends well. A certain frying pan and laundry basket may never be the same again. But the possum was safely deposited back in the front yard. (Unless there was an owl who WAS choosing to see—lucky guy—he got dinner last night!)

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“There’s a possum in the living room.”

That’s a sentence that’ll wake you right up.

And it did wake us up. Last night. When there was an actual possum in our living room.

I had been in the living room all night, typing away on my computer. I thought I heard something walking up the stairs, but since the dogs didn’t bark, I dismissed the tapping and creaking and continued what I was doing.

I turned off the lights, straightened the pillows on the couch, and went upstairs to bed.

Three hours later:

“There’s a possum in the living room.”

I’ll tell you right now. That possum is lucky he was discovered by my night-owl 17 year-old son and not by me creeping down the stairs in the dark at 5:00 AM .






Spoiler alert: We got the little varmint outside with a laundry basket and a frying pan.