Sunday, September 2, 2018

Life Lessons from the Wild Boars

Not long ago, the world waited with bated breath while watching the rescue of 12 boys, members of the Wild Boars soccer team, and their coach, who were caught in a flooded subterranean cave deep under the mountains of Chang Rai, Thailand. We witnessed the extraordinary worldwide commitment to their safe return to their families as rescue workers from different nationalities, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds dedicated their time, effort and means, once even at the expense of their own lives to the task at hand. Nothing mattered other than saving these children.

We see this kind of selfless devotion to the lives of others over and over again, during many times of crises, all over the globe. And once the crisis has past, we sigh with relief and turn our attention back to our ordinary lives.

But here’s the thing. If we so choose, we can infuse our ordinary lives with some of the heroism and dedication that absorbed our minds and hearts over the Thailand boys and their rescuers. We all face stressful challenges in our day-to-day lives (not as stressful as what those children and their parents went through, but stressful nonetheless). Instead of giving up, we can step up, and be the very best of ourselves in situations that cause us unhappiness, anger, grief or despair.


1. Adopt a more compassionate response toward others and ourselves.

None of the rescuers spent time or energy on the fact that they were in no way related to the Thai boys, that there would be no profit in it for them, that they had no obligation to help. The rescuers, regardless of background or belief, simply worked together toward a common goal.

You’re having problems at work? Or with your family? With your health? Appreciate a basic truth: everyone is simply doing the best they can with what they’ve got from where they are. Including you. Once you accept that, you can then forgive yourself and others for whatever pickle you/they are in, and seek to understand the situation. Understanding what’s going on from everyone’s point of view is what lets you effectively deal with the situation.

2. Skip right past blame and finger pointing.

The rescue workers in Thailand didn't waste time debating whose fault the crisis was, or insist that so-and-so be blamed and raked over the coals. They just pitched in and did what needed to be done. In other words, they got on with the solution.

Nothing good comes out of blame or finger pointing. It’s a giant waste of your creativity and mental capacity. Ditch it. Whatever your specific situation, aim yourself firmly in the direction of problem-solving and have at it. Just like the rescue workers, you’ll be much more likely to succeed.

We are all capable of far more than we think we are. It takes focus, a willingness to leave our egos aside, and engage our mighty selves (yes, you are mighty!) in doing what is necessary to resolve whatever the issue may be. It really doesn’t matter whether your personal crisis is small (your baby is crying – again!) or large (a dreaded diagnosis), a compassionate response, dumping blame and finger pointing and concentrating on finding a solution will serve you exceedingly well.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Lessons from Coffee: What Do I Want?

When you walk into your favorite coffee place in the morning, I doubt that the first thing on your mind is, “How are the coffee bean plantations doing today?” If you are a true coffee aficionado, you may know that your preferred beans come from Columbia or Nicaragua, but you probably don’t worry much about the well-being of the coffee growers.

But companies such as Starbucks, Keurig Green Mountain, Illycaffe and others who rely on coffee beans for their very existence and continued growth, do. Coffee plantations world-wide have been experiencing unusual fluctuations in heat, rain and other environmental factors, which impact the available supply of beans for – guess what – your cup of joe! And those companies are investing boots-on-the-ground, as well as substantial funds, to help local coffee-growers find solutions to their issues.

Why should you care? Beyond caring about the price of your coffee-addiction doubling or tripling in the very near future. . . because these companies are demonstrating an approach to their problems that we all should be mindful of when approaching our own.

Too often, we (I!) expend entirely too much energy on bemoaning a problem: you can’t find a job, your current job is lame, your boyfriend/girlfriend left you for another, the economy is trashed, politics are killing us all, what’s that rash on your elbow?, your cell died in the middle of an important call . . . need I go on?

Problems! We all have them, of all kinds, shapes and sizes. Just like the coffee companies. And we need to do more of what they do: invest boots-on-the-ground and funds in getting creative. Looking beyond the problem to creative ways of addressing whatever the situation. Boots-on-the-ground would mean doing your research, on the web or in brainstorming with friends. Reading books (there’s a thought!), meditating on the question, seeking advice from those who’ve had similar issues. Funds? Well, that’s obvious. Take classes, seminars, get training of one sort or another, invest in a path that will take you past the issue.

It all starts with how you think about your issue. With getting off the blame-game, the “woe-is-me” pity party, the “it’s impossible” litany, just dumping that entire way of looking at things, and adopting the “It is what it is. Fine. Here’s what I want, let’s get on with it.”

Key words? “Here’s what I want,” rather than “Here’s what I don’t want.” That simple change in semantics will change the direction of your thought, which in turn, will get you on the path to resolving your issue, whatever it is. Yay!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Solution! Solution! Solution!

Life on planet Earth is riddled with problems. Little problems, big problems, we all have them, pretty much every day.

But what matters isn’t the problem, it’s the solution! And oh, how easy it is to lose sight of that. My phones went down a couple of months ago. Since we don't get cell reception where I live, I am completely dependent on my landlines. That's why I have two of them, in case one of them goes wacky. Except this time both lines went out, and given how important communication is in my line of work, I was in full-blown panic mode.

All I could think of was “What if one of my clients can’t reach me?” Sure, there’s email, but much of my work and other matters rely on the phone. What if there’s an emergency like a fire (common in our area) and I can't phone out? I couldn’t even call the phone company to get my phones fixed! How’s that for ironic? Problem, problem, problem. No thought at all for the solution. Way too much “poor me” going on . . .

And then I remembered Autumn Michels and Rachael Steffens. Autumn, at 14 years old, has been blind since a brain tumor was removed when she was 4, which saved her life but deprived her of sight. She adjusted beautifully, navigating her home, school and environment with her cane, but when it came to her desire to play her clarinet with her school’s marching band . . . well, you can imagine the “problem.” Only no one at her school focused on the problem, they went straight to the solution. Volunteers were found to stand behind Autumn during the marching portion of the band’s activities, guiding her on the field by her shoulders.
However, volunteers come and go, and learning to guide Autumn wasn’t all that easy. But Autumn struck up a friendship with Rachael, a percussionist in the band, and the fun they had together led to Rachael sitting out marching activities to be Autumn’s regular marching guide, restricting her own playing to when the band was in the stands. Solution, solution, solution.
Nowhere in any of this was anyone going “Poor Autumn” -- much less Autumn, who according to family and friends, just doesn’t go there. Nor was anyone, including Rachael, moaning “Poor Rachael,” she enjoys helping her friend.
Stories like this remind me to get off my pity-party whenever a problem hits, and turn as quickly as possible to the solution. Because there always is a solution. How soon we get there simply depends on our willingness to turn our attention squarely in that direction.
And oh yes, once I got myself into solution-mode I did resolve my phone issue: wi-fi calling! Who knew? So now I have a backup to the land-lines (which did get fixed, a month later), peace of mind, and a wonderful way of reminding myself of Solution! Solution! Solution!
Thank you Autumn and Rachael.