Born for This, and This, and This

Today I had a reward day. After a rough start with some weird office politics, I had the joy of meeting up with two of my former colleagues (separately). They are both women I hired at Housing California who did amazing work and continue to grow as people and in their careers. They both took a moment to thank me for being myself. They cited specific things I did to make work fun and fulfilling. It was a better reward than a paycheck.

Tony Martin with better teammate photoIt made me think about my values and why I believe how we do things is as important as what we do. Many career counselors focus on the what.  We ask children, “WHAT do you want to be when you grow up?” I have had many roles in several fields and for me the common thread is HOW I go through the world. Do I treat people with respect? Am I encouraging people to reach their full potential? Am I limiting time wasting tasks and avoiding petty concerns and instead helping people to focus on the bigger questions the more strategic actions?

Born for ThisChris Guillebeau has a new book, Born For This. I started reading it with enthusiasm. I am thrashing around again to find real meaning and satisfaction in my work. I had great hope that it would help me gain clarity around what I should really be doing.  This book certainly has some good ideas about how to get unstuck if you are in a job you hate. It takes the romantic idea that we are born for a certain career and says that career satisfaction is not limited to people who have always known what they want to do. Guillebeau suggests that if you pay attention each of your jobs will give you important clues about what you were born to do.

While the second part of the book has some great life hacks for how to help the process of self-discovery along, I lost momentum. Today I realized why I lost interest. I was getting distracted by the search for the ideal field or role. Whereas in my life I find that I can work towards any number of goals and find meaning. Instead I am looking for the environment where my skills and talents can best be used in service of something larger. Today I was reminded the who and the how is more important to me than the what.

I have always had to earn a living and so I have done some pretty weird jobs from assistant director of the Cavalcade of Horses, cleaning toilets at a Christian camp, to a nonprofit Executive Director. The places I found the most work satisfaction did not always match up with what others were most impressed by. As I think about deep job satisfaction, I am asking: When was the last time I really shared a laugh with people at work? When did I last make a deep friendship at work?

Yes we are “born for this” at work: we are each endowed with a unique set of gifts and a something to offer our teammates. We do our best work when we are able to be ourselves.

It is time to search for the right work environment with a team who appreciates me.


Wishing Lent Would Not End

I realize most people are counting the days until Easter when they can eat chocolate again or have a glass of wine. I am wishing that it could go on through Pentecost.

foot washingI read a couple of blog posts from Christians suggesting that instead of giving up food or alcohol for Lent, to set aside time for to prepare your heart for Easter. It is my first real Lenten season. The other churches I have attended have not given as much time and attention to Lent. I am now attending St John’s Lutheran church and they go all out for Lent. It is like Advent only better because the rest of society is ignoring it for the most part. It is personal without the social obligations.

The last time I attended a Maundy Thursday service was so long ago I cannot remember. Tonight was especially moving. They had three elements that I have never experienced together in a service. First there was a pastoral laying on of hands to individuals for the forgiveness of sins. It was an emotional experience. Then about half of the congregation elected to go forward for foot washing. This was also the topic of the sermon and a wonderful reminder of how humble our faith is meant to help us become. And then we celebrated communion as it is the night of the Last Supper in Holy Week.

The end of the service was especially moving as the pastors stripped the altar of all decoration and the entire front of the church became dark and the crucifix was draped in black. We all filed out in silence.

I have been enjoying the Lent devotions provided on-line by the Auckland Anglican Diocese. It has been really helpful to stay focused for the full 40 days. Sometimes the devotion is a call to service or action, sometimes a meditation on scripture or music. It also occasionally provided links to videos.

I also discovered an artist who lived in England in the Victorian era who dedicate her life to taking the gospel to the Arab people in Algeria. I watched the video Many Beautiful Things: The Life and Vision of Lilias Trotter with the Sacramento Friends and then began reading her biography A Passion for the Impossible by Miriam Huffman Rockness.

There is no reason to stop the reading after Easter. And I can look for a similar devotion. And at the same time it is good to have a season set apart for spiritual focus.

Happy Easter.


How to Give Without Burnout

On BeingHow do you give to others without overextending yourself? I have struggled with this question since I left my job as Executive Director of Housing California and moved to New Zealand to redesign my life. I liked my choices to work for an important cause and to give to friends and family with love and service. This extended to my church family and to others in the world. The cumulative impact over time was stress and burnout. I started listening to Krista Tippett’s podcast On Being at my friend Gigi Johnson’s recommendation. I just recently went back into the archives to hear her interview with Adam Grant.

Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist and teaches at Wharton School of Business. His research is on the givers, the takers, and the matchers of this world and he has learned that we find meaning in any kind of work if we feel that we can be of service. Furthermore, failed givers help anyone; successful givers are more intentional and keep good boundaries.

Ah boundaries. I have been taking Brene Brown’s on-line classes at and watching various interviews with Professor Brown. This video from the Work of the People website is a great summary of the importance of boundaries.

Give and Take book thumbnailMy challenge is converting my head knowledge to practice. In fact, this is true in almost every area of my life: eating, finances, exercises, work/life balance. I know what is in my long term interest and yet I make choices based on short term emotional needs. Boundaries–established and practiced–could make this all much less fraught. The “knowing-doing gap” is great in this area of my life and leadership.

This is my new practice. I feel a sense of urgency because I get great joy from giving and I do not want to be stingy out of some misguided sense of fear that I cannot maintain healthy boundaries. I want to be living into each day with joy and anticipation, knowing I can begin again tomorrow if I blow it and that balance is an ongoing act (not a static state).

I am going to check out Adam Grant’s book Give and Take and see if I can learn any more good ideas for avoiding burnout.


Why Black Lives Matter to this White Chick

Between the World

Recently finished reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and pondering his perspective of reality and what it means to me. The beauty of reading a book is, if you let it, it can expand your view of the world and your experience. I can travel to Antarctica and vicariously experience the long dark cold winter with the scientists living on isolated outposts. In Between the World and Me Coates takes us on an inward journey to live as a person with dark-hued skin in America.

I have often thought that moving through life as a woman was an approximation of what it is like to be a person of color. It may be on the same spectrum of fear and lack of control or power in society. As a woman, people project all sorts of judgements and assumptions based on my sex, regardless of what I do, say or wear. After reading Coates I realize that being a woman is a 2 or 3 on the spectrum, being gay is probably a 5 or 6 and being black is an 8.

This need to have an group to scapegoat or villify is a chronic problem for humankind. At different times Irish people, Italian people, or Japanese people have been others in our “American Dream”–the one we tell ourselves about who we are as a nation and as a society. Today Mexicans or Muslims fill that role in the story. Unfortunately for black people and for our nation as a whole, they have been a constant “them” in the us vs. them since our country began: first as slaves, then as expendable workers and disenfranchised citizens and now as convicts.


I thought of Brian Keenan‘s brilliant book An Evil Cradling. He chronicled his long captivity as a hostage of the conflict in Lebanon. He observed so much about what it means to be human and wisely observed that his jailors were really the captives–captured by an ideology and a false reality. By knowing this he experienced freedom in spite of his chains. I read this book in 1999 after it was recommended in a Dublin pub crawl and it has impacted me profoundly. I thought about it again after reading Between the World and Me and realized that in this drama none of us is free.

By believing in a false reality about the American Dream–one that increasingly does not match the facts or people’s experience and that requires that a large swath of the population be made Other or as Trump likes to say, losers–I am actually a captive too. But I want true freedom. I want to be myself and for every other person to be the person God created them to be regardless of constructs like race or sex or national or religious identity.

I do not think this a Dream: American or Martin Luther King Junior’s or any other kind. What it requires is to awaken. “Perhaps that was, is, the hope of the movement to awaken the Dreamers, to rouse them to the facts of what their need to be white, to talk like they are white, to think that they are white, which is to think that they are beyond the design flaws of humanity, has done to the world.” (Coates, p 7)

The world you and I live in will not know peace or ecological healing until we find a way to face reality, to accept some sacrifice and suffering, and to feel pain without numbing agents, and to know that we are not special and yet, that each of us is a reflection of the divine.



A Dose of Much Needed Hope

Rob Bell's Everything is Spiritual
Rob Bell’s special white board for Everything is Spiritual with Rob seated for after performance Q&A.

You all lived through this past November and December (2015), so I do not need to tell you that a bunch of shit was going down. Between mass shootings, everyday violence against poor and colored people, and hate toward Muslims and refugees, it was a bleak holiday season.

I bought the tickets to Everything is Spiritual a performance by Rob Bell months earlier, so the timing was serendipitous.

If you are not familiar with Rob Bell’s work. He was a pastor of a postmodern church in Michigan breaking all kinds of new ground in how he communicated the gospel, when he started down a different path. At first it seemed like he was going on a parallel path, but his theology eventually broke from the Evangelical mainstream and for some fundamentalist Christians he is a heretic. Ultimately, his writing books like Love Wins led him to quit his pastoral job to move to Laguna Beach and focus on creating stuff. He is also part of the Oprah entourage, appearing on Super Soul Sunday on OWN.

I appreciate Rob Bell’s blog and podcast. I had seen an earlier version of Everything is Spiritual on YouTube, so when I read that he was taping it one evening in a Santa Monica theater, I thought it would make a fun adventure for my daughter and me.

The taping will be made into a movie within a few months so please wait and watch the better quality, more advanced-in-his-thinking version when it comes out. I will give you a sneak peek.

Rob Bell, like great comedians, has a unique way of seeing the world and is very smart and articulate. He created this presentation to help people make sense of our world. He does not answer all questions (even with the concluding Q&A); instead, he presents a framework for continuing the exploration.

He begins at the beginning of the universe an estimated 13.8 billion years ago when a big bang set off a creation process that resulted in the world as we know it. If you stand at this beginning point and look forward you begin to see that creation is moving toward greater complexity, depth and unity. However, if you look at the creation from today and look backward, you may see the world as fundamentalists do, that is, the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

Rob Bell’s presentation gave me a much needed shot of hope because it reminded me that God’s love is pulling the whole of creation forward. S/he invites us to join in the creation. We have to ignore the “resistance” and persist in joyful creation: An epiphany* for the New Year.

*Some Christians celebrate the Epiphany on January 6 when tradition says the three wise men came to worship baby Jesus.



Change Your Beliefs, Change Your Life

This Advent season I am motivated to glean the stuff, and the commitments that no longer serve me. I am making room for new adventures and new challenges in 2016.

I am also examining my beliefs to see if there are any self-defeating thoughts that can be put on the curb. This video has been a powerful reminder to me of truths I learned in CTI Co-active Leadership training. Especially at a time when people in our communities are acting out of fear.

Dr. Nick Hall’s thesis is that we do not control our circumstances, but we do control our own mind. Achieving our goals will depend on our beliefs. Our conditioning based on these beliefs can also undermine our attempts to achieve our goals.

The good news is we can change our beliefs. Step one, identify a belief. What do you believe? Step two, ask these three questions:

  1. Is this belief justified?
  2. Is this belief serving a useful purpose?
  3. Does it make me feel good?

This process is very liberating because the first step starts you on a journey towards choice and freedom. Most of the time we are operating on autopilot on beliefs–and they do not always serve us or our goals. In a recent Bloomberg interview, Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital. “When asked about Sequoia’s lack of women, Moriz said they were looking to hire more. But ‘what we’re not prepared to do is lower our standards,’ he said.” (from Upworthy article)

His statement reveals his beliefs that women are not as capable as men. As long as he does not examine this belief and ask Hall’s three questions, he will not achieve his goals of hiring (and retaining) women employees.

Hall offers more insights in the video and in his two books:

Change Your Beliefs, Change Your Life

I Know What to Do So Why Don’t I Do It

Join me in this mind adventure.

Getting Started on the Journey: World Domination Summit Part 2

The second day of #WDS2015 opened with the photographer Jeremy Cowart’s multimedia presentation. He explained his journey from an average student who frequently told his parents, “I can’t.” His dad’s refrain was the bible verse “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Jeremy discovered he could draw and focused on design in University. He was an early expert user of Apple computers and design software. He got a job with an ad agency and enjoyed the money but did not find creating ads for air conditioning units particularly inspiring. This ultimately led to starting his own ad firm and then becoming a digital photographer.

Dr. Lissa Rankin explains Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey.
Dr. Lissa Rankin explains Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.

His success as a photographer has allowed him to do special projects such as his project chronically the aftermath of Haiti or creating portraits of Rwanda survivors who have forgiven each other. When his older brother died unexpectedly before age 40 Jeremy realized that none of us know the length of our lives and he was determined to share everything he knows about photography with his children. He created hosting 120 different video lessons to pass on all of his photography expertise.

Dr. Lissa Rankin presented her story of how she discovered her life purpose or calling. She quoted Martha Beck from her book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World, about those people who are members of the team who feel an special call to make the world a better place. She left her traditional and soul sucking ob gyn practice to create the Whole Health Medicine Institute. She has written one book, The Fear Cure, about how to overcome fear to accomplish our goals. We make fearful assumptions, such as uncertainty is unsafe; I can’t handle losing what I cherish; It’s a dangerous world; I am all alone. By changing our perspective we realize that uncertainty is a gateway to possibility; Loss is a gateway; We live in a purposeful universe; We are all one.

In between speakers WDS alumni spoke about some of their projects. Tess Vigeland, former NPR radio host, announced her forth coming book, LeaP. Another alumnae shared a new college forming to help young men and women figure out their life purpose and then go on to University or other training at Wayfinding Academy. Another gave all attendees a $150 gift certificate to classes on

After the afternoon break we enjoyed two final speakers. They were tasked with offering practical advice on how to get started with our own journey. I especially appreciated Asha Dornfest. Her gentle humor and down to earth approach was helpful. As she said, sometimes we can hear all of these great speakers and beat ourselves up for not having a more epic life. Her presentation was called, “How to be a Grown-Up.” She shared some basic myths and truths about being an adult. Myth 1: grown-ups stick to the plan. Truth: Embrace course corrections because variables always change. Myth 2: Baby steps are for babies. Truth: small consistent steps are the surest way of reaching your goal. If you meet resistance, then go smaller. Start small and keep going. Myth 3: Grown-ups are sure of themselves. Truth: Self-confidence grows every time you keep a promise to yourself.

The final speaker Derek Sivers gave us an excellent example of how this is practically applied. He created CDBaby.Com as a hobby and created one of the first on-line music stores. He eventually sold it for $22 million, then gave his money away to support music education. He challenged us to know what we want: money, prestige, fame, legacy or freedom. Then focus and optimize for that value. Do not get distracted by your business plan. No one knows the future and your business plan is fiction. Commit to a problem you want to solve and do not get attached because no plan survives first contact with the customer. Ask instead of answer; learn instead of preach. Derek shared many stories of how CDBaby set themselves apart by simple things like answering the phone by the second ring or paying musicians weekly.

Closing questions: What have you been afraid to try? What steps will you take to get started?

Finding my Voice at World Domination Summit 2015

Outside the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

Jon Acuff, author of several books including Do Over, anchored #WDS2015. He called us forth to rediscover our voice. He invited us to get back in touch with our 3rd grade self and ask if our 3rd grade self would be happy or full of regrets if we met him/her today. I thought back to my long drive to Arcata on Wednesday when I reconnected with an idea for a fictional story I want to write. My third grade self would say “work less and write more.” He went on to give us some inspiration and some tools (including a worksheet on

We were all abuzz about Kid President. Robby Novak, aka Kid President, and his uncle and producer Brad Montague taught us some dance moves. Then Brad explained how Kid President evolved into the phenomenon it is today. On the one hand Robby and Brad’s messages are simple: 1) Be nice or treat everyone like it’s their birthday; 2) You matter; your voice matters; 3) Sharing is good; 4) Invite everyone to the party; 5) Enjoy it. My favorite quote, and one that relates to the previous post on failure, “There’s always a reason to complain and always a reason to dance. Choose to dance.”

I discovered Chris Guillebeau’s blog and book Happiness of Pursuit last year. Through his website I discovered the World Domination Summit.The WDS asks participants “How will you live a remarkable life in a conventional world?” Intrigued, I tried to buy tickets last year and learned how quickly it sells out. So this year I signed up for alerts and set my calendar, then I bought tickets for me, Sarah and Marcos as soon as they were available. That was months ago, and I had to reconnect with my motivation. The speakers have made it easy.

I was especially inspired by Lewis Howes‘ moving presentation calling us to be super humans instead of super heroes. I added his podcast School of Greatness on Stitcher. There is another day of speakers and a few more world records to break.

Path into the Abyss or to the Summit?

The abyss is just a couple of steps away...One of my weaknesses as a leader is my lack of certainty. Oprah knows “one thing for sure” every month in her magazine. I am hard pressed to come up with anything I know for sure, and less so as I get older. I am hoping the process of writing this blog will help me sort out my thoughts. I will be as honest as I can be.

This morning I read a post by Donald Miller in the Storyline Blog, where he said, “The reality of leadership is this: the world is standing before you, curious, asking where you’d like to take them.”  Leaders are meant to be confident and certain that they are leading to a summit and not into an abyss.

I recently finished the novel The Goldfinch. I found it profoundly disturbing. It is hard to find a quote from the 771 page novel that neatly sums up Theo Decker’s nihilism. So many things in life go badly and he himself is self-medicating with pills. While I do not make as many bad choices as this fictional character does, I can relate to the pull of the whirlpool and the desire to just let go. Stop trying to make sense of it all. Stop trying to identify a mountaintop to summit.

Miller would say this disqualifies me for leadership. I do not disagree. At the same time, how many people who are confidently asking people to follow have a flippin clue where they really are or where they are really headed?

A part of me wants to put my faith in God’s purpose and another part of me is full of doubt. My ambivalence has muddled my leadership.

I just finished listening to Rob Bell’s RobCast interview of author Elizabeth Gilbert. She talked about her vow to herself made at 16 to be a writer. This resonated with me. I know in my knower I need to prioritize my writing and contemplation, including leadership.

I have been struggling with finding a meaningful life purpose since my kids are grown and my mid-life redesign is more or less complete. I got an inkling of the path forward when I was inspired to start this blog. I look forward to continuing on this path and see where it leads.