Category Archives: Lifestyle

How Well Do You Bounce Back?

Sometimes we have days that don’t go as planned. Sometimes we’re a little worse for the wear by the time evening arrives. I’m learning that the secret to getting to the next day with my spirit in tact involves a little resilience and a lot of grace.

This quote hangs on my fridge:

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.   – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Amen. That Emerson was one smart guy.

I had one of those days recently – one with a series of several difficult interactions that left my nerves rattled and my soul bruised. As I dealt with the issues, involving my team where necessary, people kept praising me for sounding so calm and collected. At first I brushed that off…but then I gave myself a little time to reflect upon the praise that was coming my way.

It was true, actually. I did sound calm. In fact, I was calm. It was a little surprising. Here’s why.

The toughest criticism I ever received in a performance review was that I lacked resilience. The person said that when something didn’t go well, I took it personally and struggled to recover. Let me tell you, I HATED getting that feedback. I wrestled with it for MONTHS, trying to decide if it was true.

Guess what. It was.

My angst wasn’t driven by an untrue accusation. Instead, it was a result of the dissonance between how I was showing up and how I wanted to show up. I committed myself to paying extra attention to how I handled bad days –  the ones that came with tangled messes, or big setbacks, or angry people, or harsh feedback. I wanted to lessen the impact these events had on my reaction, on my disposition, on my heart. I adopted the mantra grace under pressure* and posted the Emerson quote on my fridge. I softened my edges.

I’ve been paying attention to this practice of resilience for a number of years now, and based on the comments I heard this week, it feels like it’s starting to pay off. I’m delighted.

I’ve learned a few things along the way.

What I’ve learned from the amazing Tara Mohr is that feedback doesn’t really tell me much about me. It tells me more about the person giving it. The kind of day they are having, what they value, what they think. It doesn’t say much about who I am and it certainly doesn’t dictate what kind of day I need to have as a result. Feedback gives me a chance to demonstrate grace.

Beyond that, I’ve learned that setbacks and challenges are rarely personal. They’re blessings in disguise, more often than not. They activate my problem solving capability and allow me to rise to the challenge. They give me a chance to tap my network and my team and for us to have a shared experience that builds our culture. They also remind me that I am separate from the situation at hand. Setbacks cultivate faith.

So the next time a big problem gets thrust in your hands or you’re on the receiving end of harsh feedback, how will you respond? Consider this a reminder that the choice is entirely yours. Grace under pressure, my friends. Always grace.

*unbelievably, I just learned that the phrase “grace under pressure” was also first attributed to Emerson!  Coincidence?

Preparing to Win…and Preparing to Lose

My daughter has an audition this afternoon for her school’s spring theater production. Musical theater is her nine-year-old-heart’s desire and as such, she’s been talking about this audition since the closing night of last spring’s play.

They’re doing The Little Mermaid Jr. this year, and while as a fourth grader in a K-8 school she’s certainly not auditioning for the lead, she has her heart set on a specific part and has put plenty of blood, sweat, and tears into preparing the lines and song that will determine whether or not she gets the role.

I love to see my daughter setting a goal and going for it.  I love to see her putting in that much effort. I love to see her competing to win and envisioning herself in that costume on that stage in front of that audience. But the audition puts me in a quandary as a parent.

Because at the end of the day, her best may not be enough. Those who prepare and do their best DON’T always win.

The soccer star who practices every evening may not win the game.  The spelling bee participant who studies every week may not bring home the trophy. The well run campaign may not get the candidate into office. The perfect resume may not land the applicant the dream job. There are factors well beyond the individual’s control at play in each scenario and those factors affect the outcome.

Believe me when I say that I am an advocate of hard work and steadfast effort. And that I love winning. Really, I do. But there are lessons to be learned both in victory and in defeat and the fact remains that in a well-lived life, we’ll all experience both.

So, last night during a walk, I gave my daughter a version of the speech my mom always gave me before a competition. “Be prepared to win, so you’ll be a humble victor. But be prepared to lose, so you’ll be gracious in defeat.”

I’m not sure which is harder, frankly – victory or defeat. We prepared for both outcomes with equal care, because being prepared is half the battle. Envisioning herself as both the winner and the loser will help her handle each situation with equal aplomb.

First, we talked through examples of what it might look like to be a humble victor.

  • Where should she go immediately after finding out she got the part to celebrate in private without hurting any feelings in the process?
  • Whom could she tell right away – who could hear her news without a shred of envy? (e.g. a friend not involved with the play!)
  • What might she say to lift up a classmate who DIDN’T get a part?
  • How would she respond if someone were to congratulate her?
  • How could she show gratitude to the director or her voice coach?
  • In what ways could she shine a light on someone else’s “win” that day to pay it forward?

Then, we talked about what it would look like to be gracious in defeat.

  • Could she take a friend not involved with the play with her when she went to see the cast list so she’d have a hand to hold?
  • Could she carve out a little time and space to accept the decision before she had to talk to anyone else about it?
  • Could she offer sincere congratulations to the classmates who did get a part, remembering how it feels to be on the receiving end of those congratulations at other times?
  • Could she accept a smaller part or be in the chorus with a smile on her face and a willingness to learn?
  • Most importantly, could she trust that when one door closes, another one opens, and that no matter what she should hold onto her love for singing and acting!

I emphasized that what matters to me is not whether she gets the part or not; it’s that she had the courage to try. Because let’s face it, standing up and singing in front of an auditorium full of people is not something most adults would sign up to do. Auditioning alone would scare most of us away. And then to have the cast list posted on a door in the cafeteria for all our peers to see…I mean please. Bravery, through and through. For that, I give her all the credit in the world.

It’s like Theodore Roosevelt said in this excerpt from a speech he delivered in 1910:

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

It’s a good reminder for all of us.

Getting Ready to Work is Not Working

This morning, it was time for me to write. I’d made up my mind last night. I’d decided, in fact I’d even declared my decision out loud. I’d gone so far as to clear space in my calendar for this writing time.

“I’ve drifted too far away from regular writing,” I’ve been saying to myself.

“It’s been too sporadic, and maybe even uninspired.”

“I’m getting distracted by business-y things and losing touch with my art.”

And then the killer, “How can I ever write a book if I can’t even write a decent blog post with consistency?”

“So this is it. I’ll start writing tomorrow. In fact, I think I’ll write every day! I’ll rearrange my morning routine so that nothing gets in my way – before I’ve even poured a cup of coffee, I will be w-r-i-t-i-n-g. Just imagine the possibilities.”

By this point in my inner dialogue, my brain is buzzing with enthusiasm and resolve and I can practically see the words pouring onto the page and feel the relief coursing through my veins.

And then morning dawns.

And I begin. But I don’t begin to write. I begin to “get ready to write.” Because how can you write when there are things left undone around you?


Today, getting ready involved:

– Making the beds
– Sweeping the kitchen floor (can’t write with crumbs, can we?)
– Making coffee (because, please)
– Filing a few errant papers that were on my desk
– Answering emails (EMAILS! I mean, seriously.)
– Making toast
– Putting lotion on my legs
– Checking the weather forecast for tomorrow
– Googling the merits of the writing app Scrivener
– Cleaning the bathroom vanity and mirror

And finally, with a paper towel in one hand and Windex in the other, the reality of my morning thus far hit me like a ton of bricks. It was clear that if I kept getting ready to write, I would never write.

They’re not the same thing.  Just like:

  • Buying workout clothes and a running watch is not exercise.
  • Sharpening your knives and tearing recipes out of a magazine is not cooking.
  • Getting the piano tuned and arranging the sheet music is not playing.
  • Buying a Day Planner and a new set of Sharpies is not getting organized.
  • Talking about your passions and poring through Linked In is not getting a job.

Getting ready to work is NOT the same as working.

And here’s the issue. While the preparations can be rewarding in their own right, the real magic only happens when we take action. In fact, God Himself conspires with us when we act. You’ve likely seen it happen in your own life – the universe rising up to deliver exactly what you needed once you showed that you were serious. And how do you show that you’re serious? By taking action.

You know what you need to do – that thing that is calling out to you and practically begging to be done. So go do it. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t need the right gear, or more training, or even a sparkling bathroom vanity.

Just begin. And watch the magic happen.

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe