Almost daily I tell folks in my workshops and discussions that it’s okay to make mistakes.

When we talk about topics like race, gender, sexuality and other social categories, it’s common for people to hesitate to say something because it might come out wrong or open them up to an attack.

We are all afraid of appearing ignorant and ill intentioned, not to mention being considered racist, sexist or homophobic.

So I encourage embracing mistakes. And I ask folks to let me know – in real time or privately after the fact – if I say something that doesn’t land right with them. If I can’t stand to feel the sting of being wrong then how can I ask anyone else to?

And it does sting, make no mistake. I suffer from the same desire to be perfect at all times the same way many of you do. (Imposter syndrome has to wait for another post or I’m going to get off topic.)

I genuinely appreciate the feedback I get because I have come to see it as an act of trust. You have to trust in my open-hearted listening in order to risk telling me that something I said or did came off as wrong or bigoted in some way. You have to trust my reaction will not be to attack or deny your experience.

I believe if you are “someone who gets it” you have to be willing to take it when you don’t. Apologize, learn, do better.

Because I have been practicing this in the DEI arena for a long time the sting is familiar and I can cope.

However, when I make a mistake in another arena, feelings of disaster & panic compete with my instinct to hide and obfuscate. Run! Hide! Deny! Fix it!!!!

But eventually I can get back to the place where I can own the mistake, apologize, learn and move on. And be reminded once again I’m not perfect (ack!!), and that’s ok. Ish.

Having patience and acceptance with the foibles, flaws and “areas for growth” with my clients has become second nature.

Patience and acceptance for myself and my errors and flaws is, as they say, a work in progress.

So I messed something up. The reasons matter less than what I do about it now.

Deep breathe, suck it up, apologize and hope for grace from those I hurt or offend.


On another note:

I started to name this post “My Bad”, a phrase I have been using for 30 years since I picked it up from high school friends. But the other day, during a discussion about white privilege, a woman said she gets cautious around white people who use phrases like “my bad” and “girlfriend” when they talk to black people.

Ouch. Another lesson learned.

And just so you know, Mea Culpa auto corrects to the very fitting “New Culpable”.

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I don’t know about you but I seem to have an almost magical ability to catalog every moment in my life where I fell short.

All those times I was “too much” –  too loud, too enthusiastic, too big, too flashy, too standoffish, too serious, too jokey.

And of course all the times I was “not enough” – not smart enough, rich enough, pretty enough or thin enough. Or plain old just “not good enough”, what ever the hell that means.

I consider this Too Much/NotEnough habit a special subset of the occassional 3 am litany of every wrong I have ever done to another person starting from grade 2 through yesterday.

That’s a different blog post.

The Too Much/NotEnough habit snaps to the front of my mind whenever I accidentally grab the wrong mental yardstick. I have several I reach for out of habit.

The first one was a gift from my mother – “Some people don’t have any legs”. Designed to remind her children that someone else always has it worse, this phrase was deployed to silence complaints big and small, from a skinned knee to a lost job. No whining, suck it up.

I agree that remembering that others have it worse is a valuable exercise to remind us to be grateful for what we have. Sometimes. But not all the time.

Comparison done right can remind you of what’s important. It can refocus gratitude and build resilience. It can even motivate us in a healthy way to get back up, try harder, or emulate those we admire.

But the wrong yard stick leads to dissatisfaction at best, and misery at worst.

My second yard stick is of the “Someone announced a new job/ promotion on Linked-In” variety. My dad always had those “gimme” yard sticks with hardware store names on them, so I picture this one with FOMO written in big red block letters.

That “too much/not enough” refrain starts playing to the tune of “should”, as in ‘I should be at that point in my career!’, ‘I should have that title by now!’, and ‘I should work harder!’ This particular measure highlights what’s missing like the tick marks on the door jamb that showing you are always shorter than your older sister.

The last stick in my mental tool box is the (unreali) stick. Not sure that worked but anyway…

This is where I compare myself to someone famous like like Brené Brown and discover …

“I am a FAILURE!!! We are the same age! Look at all she has accomplished! The books she has written! The people she helps! How brave she is! I never even got the PhD! Why would anyone want to work with me when they can just go hire Cook-Ross or Brené Brown? I should just quit!”

Once I peel that cudgel out of my hand and take a breath, I remember that comparison can also be a “Carrot” as in…

“Wow. Brené Brown’s success proves folks are willing to engage in change and transformation on a personal, vulnerable level. That is so cool. That means I can do DEI workshops and coaching from that same personal, vulnerable place.”

Now before anyone takes offense, know that I do not think I have Brené Brown’s chops, I am not a professor or an LISW, nor do I do the kind of leadership training she does. This isn’t really about Brené, although I do think she’s amazing.

What this is all about is the frequency with which I forget that we can choose how we measure ourselves.

Nobody makes me compare myself to Brené Brown, or a successful colleague, or a person struggling to make ends meet. That’s all straight from my tricky little mind.

Most days, when I beat back the “shoulds” and “too much/not enough” monsters, I work on replacing the carrot & stick with a clear picture of my personal best. Where I am today, how I got here and where I want to go.

So if I compare me today to with me five years ago, I can really appreciate what I’ve learned and how much my skills have improved. I can be proud of what I’ve accomplished and still focus on where I want to go next.

As I expand my consulting and coaching I am keeping this idea of personal best front and center because I want to work with folks interested in meaningful, sustainable change, achieved through self-knowledge and vulnerability.

I know where I want to go,  how I want to get there, and how I will measure success.

And I’m sure hoping you want to come along.

Onward and upward!

I discovered years ago that when my thoughts are racing too fast, and for too long, that I lose complete touch with my body. I become a head in a jar.

This is different from the “brain in a vat” of Matrix movie fame. Which, on some days, seems really pleasant – float in your isolation tank while the imaginary world takes care of itself through the computer.

What I’m talking about is my habit of living from the neck up. It creeps up over the course of months until I’m caught off guard by some physical reminder that I have a body. Usually in the form a crick in my neck or a swollen knee.

My go to method for finding my whole self again is to get a massage.  In some fantasy one-percenter future I would indulge in a massage once a week rather than once a quarter.

Over the twenty years that I’ve enjoyed massages I have only used a male masseuse twice. They made me uncomfortable and I’ve skipped getting a massage if only a men were available. I felt like a male masseuse couldn’t really understand how to work on me and they wouldn’t have that Zen, I-am-communicating-with-your-body-through-my-hands thing that I look for in a good masseuse

A couple weeks ago I couldn’t take it anymore and needed someone to put my trapezius back in order and rub all that cortisol out of me. My usual person was not available so I ended up agreeing to use the man.

All the reservations I just mentioned were compounded when I met him at the salon and discovered he was very big and powerful looking. Oh no! I thought, not the dreaded “sports massage” that’s “good for you” and leaves you sore rather than relaxed.

Fortunately for me, what I experienced instead was the massage I have been dreaming of since the woman I preferred ran off to Bali ten years ago. (Part of the salon name is “Dream Spa” so its fitting.) Carlos’ hands managed to put my head and body back together and I’m grateful I changed my mind and tried him.

And that’s how bias works my friends. It’s as simple as that. Preconceived notions, possibly from limited experience, left un-examined, and used for decision making. Happens in everything from casual interactions to business decisions every day.

So what’s the answer? For me, its reflecting on choices and calling myself out when I notice I’m operating from bias.

And also being an ally in situations where bias might be present. Sometimes being an ally is complicated because I’m not “speaking from a place of cultural authority”, but, I hang in there and try to be appropriate rather than appropriating. The reality is we can’t can make progress reducing bias if only those who experience it are considered capable of countering it. In some circles that’s still a standard position.

I know I can’t know the reality of lived oppression, but I feel – perhaps incorrectly – that I can still stand up, say it exists, and fight to change it. And of course admit when I’m wrong. Going a little deeper than just calling #WhitePriviledge or #FirstWorldProblems.

The upside of this small personal revelation is I now have a fabulous new masseuse I can go to. Who works on Sundays!

May he never quit the salon.

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I wish I had a truth mirror. I would hold it up in front of my clients so they could magically see what others see.

One of my biggest frustrations with my (usually women) clients is their inability to recognize and own their unique talents, abilities, skills and knowledge. I witness time and again the automatic downgrading of skills because if its easy for them then it must not be that hard, right?

Some of this is modesty and style, some of it is living in a culture that treats women who own their accomplishments as “pushy” and “braggy.” And I think a massive chunk is related to the fact that we spend so, so much time reflecting on what is wrong with us that we never get around to what is right.

Ask someone to list all the ways they need to improve, and the list is long.

Ask someone to list all the ways they excel and often its … crickets.

We do this in our personal lives when we name bits and pieces we like (“I have good hair and pretty hands”), but don’t find much to recommend about the whole package. I’m guilty of this one myself, see above hair and hands.

It’s hard to listen to people underrate and diminish their skills, especially skills that I don’t have and couldn’t begin to master. BUT its totally satisfying to witness them finally understanding and owning their value.

The frustration I struggle with every time is that I want them to get there more quickly. I know I can’t hurry anyone’s learning, and the magic truth mirror only works if you are ready look in it, but a girl can dream.

“Mirror, Mirror in my hand,

Who’s got the maddest skills in the land?”

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Anyone needing an easy laugh should come to my Jazzercise class on days the instructor works in routines that require clapping. Since I have yet to master the ability move my feet and clap my hands at the same time, the result is an earnest yet ridiculous, Jerry Lewis-like flailing.

Thankfully there is never more than one of these per class.

A bigger issue than my lack of large motor skills is the way I lose my rhythm when someone in my family is out of sorts. My instinct is to sidetrack even my most important and essential activities to do whatever needs doing, or shore up whatever needs reinforcing.

Let me be clear that my husband and child are NOT standing in front of me screaming for me to be self-sacrificing. It’s my own super clever brain that tells me that I’m a selfish person (and a bad mother/wife/sister/friend/human) if I don’t put others first.

Work-life balance (ha!) is manageable if and only if (iff) nothing is breaking down, screwing up, or spinning out of control due to unforeseen circumstances.  So that means never.

I know this.

I teach this.

And under pressure I forget this as quickly as everyone else.

That’s one reason the tag line for my coaching & consulting biz is “Nothing endures but change. Be here now.” To remind myself and my clients that the only control we really have is over our own minds.

Whether you follow the Four Noble Truths, Oprah and her vision boards, a religious community, or just positive thinking – getting your head back in the present moment can help get you back in the rhythm of your life. And all its various beats.

For me, its remembering even if I can’t clap along I know the song won’t last forever.

A rhythm related side note: Once upon a time I watched My Sister Eileen (a mostly dreadful movie), and saw a very young Bob Fosse doing some of his signature moves, but because I had recently seen Cabin in The Sky I noticed that John W. Sublett (“Bubbles”) must have been an influence on Fosse. Its an amazing movie. There’s also a scene where Ethel Waters sings Taking a Chance on Love and Bill Bailey does the Moonwalk. Before Michael.

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I asked my daughter what she might say to help a friend have the courage to do something new even though they were scared.

After clarifying that the scary thing wasn’t something I was trying to trick her into doing, she gave me some good advice.

“Tell them to remember that its only scary for the first few minutes and then when you get there, someone is usually nice and says hello. Or you will see someone you know that you can go stand with, or there is something you have to do like fill out forms, or find a seat. And afterward you won’t remember what you were so nervous about.”

I asked her advice for two reasons. First, because of her personality and style, she usually has a different perspective from me, and second, because I found myself on the receiving end of an invitation that I found scary, so I was gathering multiple opinions about what to do.

In my coaching practice I often work with clients who are attempting new and often scary transitions.  When that happens I help them question the assumptions behind their fears, so they can hopefully start to align what they say they want, with what they have to do to achieve it.

This recent “scary situation” helped me categorize some habitual excuses:

  • “They don’t really want me there, they just invited me to be polite”  (Protecting Self)
  • “I don’t know anyone, it’ll be awkward for everyone” (Protecting Others)
  • “I don’t really have the expertise to belong to this group” (Imposter Syndrome)
  • “I have too many other things I need to do” (Martyr Syndrome)

I ended up not attending for these and other reasons. Instead, I spent those hours, and days afterward, mentally berating myself for being so cowardly.

Then, as I was getting ready for meeting with a coaching client, I noticed that several times between sessions they hadn’t followed through on a plan, or “taken the risk”.  My notes showed we worked together to adjust plan or break it down into smaller steps. I helped them, encouraged them, provided additional tools and information.

I didn’t call them a coward.

In fact I can’t think of anyone I would call a coward for any reason. Except myself of course.

Ouch.

Based on this experience I think “learn to be nicer to yourself every day” will be my meditation for the next thirty days. I also forget sometimes to give myself credit for the risk I take every time I publish a new blog post. My opinions, flaws and ruminations are readable, searchable, and if we believe in the power of the NSA, permanent on the internet.

So maybe not totally cowardly.

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As I get ever closer to my 50th birthday its seems every where I look there is a list of something I should be paying attention to like “15 Things You Should Do Before You’re 50”, or “The 9 Things Our 40’s Taught Us”, “5 Important Medical Tests for Women Over 50”.

The worst for me are the “bucket lists” that supposedly help you organize your experiences or strive to live your best life: “10 Places to Visit Before You Die”, “Inspiration to Feel Fully Alive”, or “Once in a Lifetime Meals”.

The idea of creating any kind of bucket list fills me with a panicky anxiety. I have enough tasks to take care of without a “Life” To-Do list.

So instead I decided to create a list of “Things That I Do Even Though I Fail To Get Any Better at Doing Them”. Here they are in no particular order:

1) Dance. Love to dance, poor sense of rhythm, almost total inability to follow choreography. Don’t care.

2) Shoot pool. Never have improved beyond the highly advanced stage of no longer knocking the cue ball on the floor when I attempt to break. Any shots I make are random accidents. I celebrate this.

3) Tell jokes. Again the timing thing. One liners and witty repartee are more my speed but I tell jokes that I think are funny even if no one else thinks they are when I get done with them. Unfortunately, I think I have passed this trait on to my daughter.

4) Sing. I love to sing. It makes me happy. I sing loudly. I sing off key. I don’t think ability should dictate who is allowed to sing. So there.

5) Play backgammon. Don’t know why I never have figured out the strategy for this game, but it’s still fun.

6) Take pictures. I can’t seem remember to think about composition, contrast or perspective when I take a picture. I just go all “Ohh, pretty!” Click, click, click. I wish I knew what I was doing, but that doesn’t stop me from happily snapping away at trees and clouds and my kid.

I know as soon as I hit publish I’ll probably think of half a dozen more things to add to the list, but that’s the nature of list making. I plan to do a series of lists commemorating my now five decades of winning, losing, learning, failing and all the crisp, crunchy bits scraped from the sides that make everything so flavorful.

I can start with “3 Things I’ll Never Do Again Under Any Circumstances”, and “7 People I Regret Spending So Much Time with in My 20’s”. So much potential.

Would love to know whats on your list.

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I live in a snowy place.

Also unpredictable in that it could snow anytime between October and April and last for any duration of those seven months. This is not because I live in Montana or Wyoming or any of these places where snow is a serious business, but because I live by a lake. Which means Lake Effect Snow.

The variability of the anticipated snowfall, can make it feel like a sport. People watch the weather reports, talk about the weather reports, speculate about rush hour and highway driving, make predictions and swear by their favorite weather forecaster.

I find that a persons Winter Driving Style usually fits into one of the seven basic writing tropes:

1. Man against Man (“Why am I the only one who remembers how to drive in the damn snow!)

2. Man against Nature (“I will conquer the snow with my F-150!” I believe this one is subconscious, but I can’t be sure.)

3. Man against Himself (“Oh s**t! Turn into the slide! Turn into the slide!?!)

4. Man against God (“Oh please, oh please, I promise if I make it to work on time I will replace these bald tires.”)

5. Man against Society (“I pay enough taxes! Why can’t they plow these f*****g streets!)

6. Man caught in the Middle (“Maybe I should go early & beat the traffic…or late when it’s clearer..”)

7. Man & Woman (“Will you just let me DRIVE!”)

Knowing your winter driving style, like AAA, can be handy. Accepting your driving style and trying to change it is more like AA.

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