Fab Five: Blogs I Love

Over the last several months I have discovered some fantastic blogs that I enjoy reading. From leadership and growth to pure comic relief, there is something here for everyone.

1.  Michael Hyatt  I just love this guy.  From email etiquette to creating a life plan, Michael Hyatt offers insight and processes on a number of topics related to leadership and productivity.  He is the Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, and he helps people live and lead on purpose.

2.  Leadership Freak  Winner of the Best of Leadership blogs in 2010, Dan Rockwell helps leaders reach higher in 300 words or less.  His posts are short, digestible nuggets of wisdom that any leader can apply immediately.  Whether you’re a mom running a household or an executive running a business, you will find Dan’s posts useful.

3.  Goins Writer  Jeff Goins is a writer who is wise beyond his years.  He produces excellent content about writing, creativity, and making a difference.  I always learn something new from his posts.  Plus what’s not to love about a guy who moved to Tennessee for his wife, and who wants to change the world?

4.  The Bearded Iris  Oh, Iris, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!  I have a blogger’s crush on her.  She is the Chris Rock of SAHMs. There hasn’t been a single post of hers that hasn’t made me literally laugh OUT LOUD.   I embarrassed myself on an airplane last month by spitting out my coffee, I laughed so hard.  The best part for me was discovering that not only did we attend the same college, we are in fact sorority sisters!  I learned this after blog stalking her for quite some time.  The woman is a genius.

5.  The Coach’s Corner  Mike Van Hoozer is a leadership expert and peak performance coach to business leaders, entrepreneurs, and elite athletes. He is an expert in the psychology of human performance and helps individuals and organizations reach their potential in sports, business, and life.  Not only that, he is a colleague and personal friend of mine who has mentored me and had a huge impact on my life.  He also has an incredible jump shot.

I hope that you will take the time to check out these great resources and that they make a difference in your life like they have in mine.  What blogs do YOU love?

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My Grandmother is Younger than my Dad

Wait, what?  It’s true, and yes, you read that correctly.  My grandmother gave birth to my mom when she was 16 years old.  When my mom was 25 she met a tall dark and handsome man (yep, my dad) who was 42. My father is one year older than my grandmother.  Sometimes I like to imagine the scene when my mom brought him home to meet the family! My dad is also the same age as my late grandfather.  That always made for tense family gatherings great golf and fishing trips.  (BTW, my parents just celebrated their 37th anniversary and my dad is still telling my mom how to correct her golf swing even though her handicap is better than his.  They’re awesome).

So you’re wondering why I’m sharing this personal information about my family.  The main point is focused on my grandmother, who at age 15 found out she was pregnant.  She was pregnant and she needed help.  Are you pro-choice or pro-life?  I have close friends on both sides of the issue, and I would rather swim to Alcatraz than engage in the political debate. Why? We’re so busy arguing over choice itself, that we’ve forgotten about helping the women who are faced with the choice.  One thing we can all agree on is the fact that women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy need help, like my grandmother and so many others.  They need support, unconditional love, and a complete understanding of the choices available to them.  I serve on the Board of Directors at the Valley Pregnancy Center (VPC) in Dublin, CA.  It’s a non-profit organization whose vision is to be the center of hope and healing for women facing critical life choices.

The VPC provides the following services, all free of charge:

  • Pregnancy tests & ultrasounds
  • Early pre-natal care as a fully licensed medical facility
  • Pre-natal and childbirth classes
  • Maternity/baby clothes and furnishings
  • Compassionate counseling and support, with complete lack of judgment
  • Post abortion counseling
Sounds like an amazing place, right?  It is and I’m asking for your help.  This Saturday, April 30, is the VPC’s 22nd Annual Walk-a-thon.  Sponsor me, won’t you? It’s so easy. Just send an email to Tracy@TimeWithTracy.com with the following information:  Your name, snail mail address, and phone number.  Please also indicate which amount you’d like to pledge ($15, $24, $50, $100, or other amount).  This will allow me to fill out my pledge form.  You will then receive a bill in the mail from the Valley Pregnancy Center with all the details regarding your tax-deductable donation.  Will you help me make a difference?
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Say Anything

“Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person:  having neither to weigh thoughts nor to measure words, but pour them out just as they are, chaff and grain together.  Knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”  – John Oliver Hobbs

My mother-in-law has had this quote, written in beautiful calligraphy, framed and hanging on her kitchen wall for over thirty years.  A dear friend gave it to her.  This past weekend she gave it to me.  I am still blown away sitting here looking at it, because I know how special it is to her.  I need to find the perfect place to hang it.

What I love about this quote is that it describes an essential friend we all need.  So often we guard what we say and lack the freedom to truly express who we are with others. Why?  Because most people in our lives are judgmental, jealous, or conditional with their love.  Few seek to know us at our core.  Even fewer give the benefit of the doubt and are quick to forgive.  But when you have someone who loves you no matter what you say or do, it is a true gift.  Recognize and nurture those relationships.  They are the ones that matter.

Do you have friends you feel safe with in your life?  More importantly, are you the type of friend that others feel safe with?

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Haven’t You Ever Felt Shy, You Idiot?

Our words have the power to build others up or tear them down.  Sometimes we unintentionally cut people in half with what we say and how we say it.  Think about this.

After working with children for ten years, one thing in particular that makes me crazy is when adults call young kids “shy” to their face.  We’ve all heard it or said it before. While in line at Starbucks yesterday I struck up a conversation with the nice woman in front of me.  When I said hello to her 3-year-old son he covered his face and hid behind her leg.  She reacted to him in a disappointed tone saying, “Charlie!  Why are you being so shy!?!” If he could have spoken up for himself, the little guy might have said, “Because I’m leery of this stranger wearing snakeskin rain boots whose ponytail is all frizzed out like a wild woman (it’s true, I was having a bad hair day). Duh, Mom!” I know many people will disagree with me and think nothing of it, but I felt bad for Charlie.  His mom was criticizing his perfectly normal behavior in front of a large audience.  I smiled at him and said, “It’s ok, Charlie, sometimes I don’t feel like talking to people either, especially when I don’t know them.”

We should THINK before we speak.  This acronym is a good way to measure our words:

Are my words Truthful?

Are my words Helpful?

Are my words Inspiring?

Are my words Necessary?

Are my words Kind?

Here are some ideas for ways we can revise phrases that have a negative connotation:

Replace “Wow, you look tired!” with “What can I do to help you today?”
Instead of “You haven’t completed the project!?” ask “What obstacles are you facing?”
Rather than “I haven’t heard from you in forever!” say “I miss you, let’s make plans!”

What are some other words you often hear that tear down or have an underlying tone of criticism?  How can they be rephrased in order to build people up?

Posted in Life, Parenting, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Put Some March Madness in Your Life

The days are getting warmer, the cherry blossom trees are blooming, and I will talk, text, and tweet obsessively about basketball for the next two weeks.  Not only is Spring my favorite season, it’s March Madness!

One of the things I love most about the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament is the concept of seeding.  It has to be done to determine the bracket, but all that these rankings really do is create an illusion of organized chaos that results in “madness.”  The first day of this year’s tourney was a great day for underdogs.  A 12th-seeded team beat a 5th-seeded team, 13 beat 4, and 11 beat 6. That’s the thrill of it.  Any team can win on any given day.  It doesn’t matter how much better their opponent is according to the seeding.  One of the first madness moments happened when Demonte Harper, of 13th-seeded Morehead State, drained a 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds left to upset No. 4 Louisville, 62-61.  Upon learning in the huddle that the game deciding play was designed for him Harper told his coach, “I’ll make the shot.”

Do you ever feel like you’ve been seeded?  It’s a fact of life that people are ranked according to past performances and perceived ability.  Test scores, GPAs, and salaries are just a few examples.  What are some others?  Don’t let those numbers or rankings determine who you are and how successful you will be.  Believe you can win despite the odds.  Will you bring everything you’ve got when it’s tournament time?  Will you perform in the moment©?

Coach Beverly Knight once told me that every time I step onto the court I need to clear my mind of the past and focus on giving my best performance.  Otherwise, I shouldn’t even bother to lace up my shoes.  Treat each day of your life like it’s March Madness.  The regular season is over.  Now is the time to give it your all and hold nothing back.  Will you be one of the underdogs who shocks everyone with an upset?

For more information about principles that will help you perform in the moment in all of your roles in life, check out Mike Van Hoozer’s book: Moments: Making Your Life Count For What Matters Most.  Copyright © 2005-2010, Van Hoozer & Associates, LLC

Posted in Life, Sports & Fitness | 5 Comments

Chronic Pain & Attitude Gain

I have an incurable disease.  It causes me pain every single day, which totally sucks. When I was diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis in 2006, the doctor looked across his desk at me and said, “The good news, Tracy, is that no one has ever died from this disease.”  Gee, thanks.  I’m told I have to live with chronic pain for the rest of my life. There are mornings I can barely get out of bed as a result of the poor night’s sleep this condition causes, and throughout the day I often feel like crap.  (This is where I apologize for using the words suck and crap, but it really can’t be avoided in this post.)

I have learned a valuable lesson over the last five years of living with this disease, and I hope you can apply it to your life.  I am not sharing this struggle because I want sympathy, nor is it my intention to make this about me.  It is something I rarely discuss and very few people in my life even know about it.  Like I said in my post The Reality of Death Should Change You, I want to live as though I have no problems, and instead live to help others with theirs.

As I go about my daily activities, I am in pain.  But the thing about it is that nobody else knows.  It’s not like I have a sign on my head that says, “I’m hurting even though you can’t tell by looking at me.”  Anyone who has experienced chronic pain knows that it’s exhausting.  It drains you of patience, basic coping skills, and sometimes you’re just plain bitchy (like I said, this subject requires certain words to be accurately painted).  But what I’ve realized is that people all around me are dealing with physical or emotional pain.  They have suffered a death in the family, been abused as a child, or lost a job.  They have lupus.  Miscarriages.  Their dog died. They failed a test.  Can’t pay their rent.  The list is endless. People are in pain and they don’t have a sign on their back to explain why.

My attitude and how I respond to others has changed as a result of this realization.  In my encounters with people I pretend I can see the sign that announces they are in some kind of pain.  When someone is rude for no apparent reason or unpleasant in general, I make every effort to be nice.  Instead of being mean in return, offer an encouraging word or smile. Whether it’s a friend or stranger you never know what kind of pain people are in. Give them the benefit of the doubt.  Be kind to others in all circumstances; even when they complain, yell, or flip you the bird in traffic.  Stop judging other people’s behavior and focus on your own.  They may not deserve it, but it’s the right thing to do. It’s harder to be nice unconditionally than it is to love unconditionally. However once you view the other person as someone in pain, it’s easier than you might think.

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Pursue the Path

“Perseverence involves pursuing the path even when you can only see a few steps in front of you.” – Mike Van Hoozer

Have you ever felt discouraged shortly after attempting something new?  You start out strong with determination and passion, but then doubt creeps in and you stall out, question yourself, and perhaps even quit.  I hate to admit it, but I don’t like to try anything new (at least not in front of other people) if I don’t think I will be good at it.  One ridiculous example of this is the time my in-laws asked me to play bridge.  They are excellent players and I know nothing about the game.  I practically had an anxiety attack when I sat down to play a hand.  Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than “learning as I go” and appearing to have no clue what I’m doing.  I wanted to go off by myself, read a book on how to play bridge, and have some working knowledge of the subject before diving right in.  I’m sure there was some traumatic event in my childhood that caused me to be this way, but it’s irrelevant for now.

Last week I was feeling discouraged about my blog and wondered why I’m even bothering to write it.  I’m a left brained numbers person, not a writer!  Several months ago a former colleague of mine, good friend & mentor Mike Van Hoozer said to me, “Tracy, you need to start a blog!”  A what?  Why would I do that?  Impelled by a handful of friends I decided to go for it.  I am out of my comfort zone and I have a lot to learn before I become good at it.  Just the other day I was down on the whole idea of continuing this endeavor, when I received a message from a former student who I had not heard from in nearly ten years.  She was enjoying the blog and wanted to thank me for bringing a smile to her face and unknowingly helping her during a difficult week.  Wow!  The encouragement she provided me came just at the right time.

Two lessons learned:

  • Take risks.  Sometimes it’s ok to dive in before you have the entire path mapped out in front of you.
  • Make it a point to encourage others.  You have no idea how much it will fuel them to continue.

What have you pursued in life when you could only see a few feet in front of you?

Posted in Life, Uncategorized | 7 Comments