Last week, I shared a little bit about the awesome Honor Flight that I was lucky to be a part of and what a great experience we had. It was literally a day of kindness… which was cool since that is one of the attributes that my great uncle is known for. He is also known for his compassion. 

Kindness and compassion aren’t necessarily celebrated as top leadership traits in the world of work and yet any one of us knows that working for or with someone kind and compassionate is a pretty great experience. 

What can we learn from this? 

  1. Live into your strengths, whatever they are
  2. Don’t worry if you lack the “traditional” qualities
  3. Actions leave a lasting impact, even seemingly ordinary ones

First and foremost, you need to identify and accept  your wonderful, weird strengths. Then use them wherever and whenever you can! If it’s compassion and kindness, like my great uncle, do that! If it’s strategy and planning, do that!

Second, the narrow definitions we see on what makes a great employee or leader often fail to take into account the first point. When we’re using our strengths, we will be most successful. That will look different for each of us, of course, but the fact remains. In the case of my great uncle, his approach was different than many educators of that time. Instead of focusing on discipline, he leaned into his strengths of kindness and compassion.

Third, our ordinary actions in our ordinary moments in any given ordinary day are often the things that are most vividly remembered later. I love the irony of this! My kids are frequent reminders to me because we always talk about our favorite part of the day before bedtime. 9 times out of 10, it’s the everyday activity that stands out for them: reading books together or playing a game or watching our favorite show as a family. No fancy trip to a theme park or over-the-top gift required! Just hanging out doing the stuff we were going to do anyway. Basically extra ordinary is all that’s required.

That brings me back to my great uncle. He’s spent his life displaying kindness and compassion, regardless of if it was in style or what “successful” leaders did. It wasn’t noteworthy or award-winning. It was weaved into his ordinary every day. And it was so memorable that many of his former 6th grade students felt the need to thank him for it nearly 50 years later. That’s pretty extraordinary to me!

#PositiveAction Think about the legacy you’re creating by using your strengths. How are you making your ordinary days extraordinary?

Photo created by me. 

 

Throw kindness around like confetti
The lesson: You can never have too much kindness

I had the privilege to fly with my great uncle, a WWII Navy veteran, on the Honor Flight last weekend. It was an action-packed, whirlwind of a day (starting at 3am and ending around 11pm!) and it took me a several days to collect my thoughts around it. 

For those that don’t know, the Honor Flight takes veterans on a trip to Washington D.C. to visit the monuments and memorials and creates a day that is all about thanking them for their service to our country. 

As part of the flight, families collect letters from friends and family members to give to the veteran to show our love and appreciation for them. Several of the letters we collected were from former students that my uncle taught in the 1960’s. Back then, he was teaching 6th grade and it was interesting to see multiple letters come from students in those classes.

One of his former students happens to live in the Washington D.C. area and asked if she could meet up with us during the day. We had the opportunity to meet at the National Mall at the WWII memorial. She showed up with a welcome sign and greeted our bus.

After my uncle’s surprise of seeing a student and some catching up, along with many photos taken, I asked her the question that had been on my mind since the letters had arrived weeks before. What was it that was so memorable about her 6th grade teacher that she would be willing to go out of her way on a gorgeous fall Saturday and meet up with us?

Her answer: Kindness.

She remembered the kindness he showed her in 6th grade, whether teaching or helping her with a problem, like the time she forgot her swimming suit for Friday swim. It was the kindness she remembered vividly all these years later.

And she wasn’t the only one! So many of the 30+ letters we got mentioned kindness and how much of a difference that made in people’s lives. 

What’s interesting is that I had noticed kindness from others all day as we participated in the Honor Flight. Flight team members, bus captains, volunteers, even total strangers all showered us with kindness throughout the day and that huge amount of kindness made it  truly memorable. I’ve never been part of a day-long celebration of kindness before and it was remarkable! 

I know that I’ll remember the kindness that surrounded us for a long time (maybe as long as those 6th grade students have!). It was a great reminder for me on how I want to show up in life and at work.

#PositiveAction How can you throw kindness around like confetti today? 

Photo by me, of my starting-to-get-worn notebook that is on pace to run out of empty pages by year’s end. 

 

I took the above picture while I was out walking last week. I try to get outside more in fall because it’s my favorite season! On my walk, I was enjoying sunshine, warm air, and all the sights and sounds of fall when I came upon this feather. It got me thinking (which I’ve learned to embrace, since I have yet to find a way to keep my brain from running down random pathways pretty much all the time!). 

This feather used to be attached to a bird. I’m no ornithologist, so I can’t tell you which one, but here’s something I do know about birds. They need feathers. Feathers help them stay warm. More importantly, birds need feathers in order to fly.

This feather was on the ground. Not helping a bird fly. I starting thinking about that fact: the bird was still flying, even without this feather.  

As humans, we are infinitely complex. We each have different strengths, skills, talents, preferences, beliefs, habits, experiences, and more. And each day we continue to add to our respective lists. However, some of those things that were useful to us in the past may not serve a purpose anymore. Just like that feather. 

Here’s how that’s been showing up in my life lately. I used to enjoy a bowl of ice cream while watching my favorite show. It was a fun treat. And then it started to become more of a habit. Something I was doing more often than not each week. I needed to let that habit go (along with several pounds!). 

Here’s another one. I was raised with a belief that a good job was one with a steady paycheck and a lower incidence of layoffs. I’d never examined that belief or questioned it to see if it matched my reality. Then, I left my safe job in corporate America to start my own business. It became apparent pretty quickly that this particular belief wasn’t serving me anymore and I needed to let it go if I wanted to move forward.

We’re entering fall, the season of letting go. It’s important to give yourself space by saying no and this is another way to do that. It’s a great time of year to step back and see what you can live and work without. Let the leaves (and feathers) fall!

#PositiveAction Find one habit or belief that is no longer serving you and let it go!

Photo by me during a walk on a gorgeous fall day!

Last week we talked about why we need to say yes more often. This week, let’s talk about why we should say no. 

I read a fantastic article about the need for saying no to create more joy in our lives. No has a negative connotation, but the part I hadn’t considered before was that every no is also a yes. 

Wait, what? Saying no to going out is saying yes to giving yourself some time to relax at home. Mind fully blown.

I’m not now, nor have I ever been, a learner for learning’s sake. I need to convert my knowledge to action. It’s not enough to know for me. I need to test things out and see how they function in this crazy little place we call reality.

Here’s an example. Since the invention of email, my inbox has always been more full than I would like. I continue to refine systems and approaches around it (although some days it seems like the Gremlins that multiply when you feed them after midnight!), but no matter what productivity approach I’ve tried, I always have more. I’ve never gotten to inbox zero for more than a split second. Time to apply this new knowledge around saying no!

What could I say no to in my inbox? I immediately found three email newsletters and hit unsubscribe. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to do that with a concise and fun newsletter like mine, but there were several newsletters that took a lot of time to read that were no longer delivering the same value I once got out of them. So I said no. Which is actually saying yes to other things that are more important to me, like time to write my first book (I know! Exciting, right?). 

It’s such a simple concept to say no and one that can be transformational, as I am finding out as I experiment with it more.

#PositiveAction What is something you need to say no to so that you can say yes to something else? Start creating that space for yourself today!

 

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Yes And is the key to collaboration and innovation

One of my favorite books that I’ve read in the past decade is Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up by Patricia Ryan Madson. It distills the concepts from improv comedy for use in work and life. 

One of the cornerstones of good improv is to say Yes And. Regardless of what someone else says to you, you agree and then add on to it. A comedy sketch dies pretty quickly if you say, “Here I am on an inflatable raft with my in-laws” and someone else replies, “No you’re not.”

You could see where saying yes becomes extremely important in improv. It’s equally important at work (since most of us don’t work in comedy). We need yes and to collaborate and build something great together. 

Here’s examples of how this has been showing up in my work and home life lately. For work, I’ve been saying yes to new opportunities and meeting new people. I continue to be amazed by the connections I’m making and the different doors that are opening as a result. Who would’ve guessed that I’d be a guest lecturer at a university? Not me! But saying yes and led me there.

At home, I have primary responsibility for taking my kids to and from school. They bring stuffed animals along for the ride most days, which then end up riding in the backseat with me until I pick the kids up again. One day, the kids asked me if the stuffed animals had been good while they were at school. 

I had two options. Shut it down by telling them that the stuffed animals are stuffed and don’t do anything while they’re at school. OR I could accept their reality and add on to it. I responded, “Yes they were good, but got a little rambunctious when I was at work.” Not only did my story delight my children, but it gave us a chance to talk about a good vocabulary word (“What does rambunctious mean?”) and gave them a chance to explain the “rules” to the stuffed animals around expected behavior (teaching is such a great way to solidify your learning!).

Now, I routinely get a chance to practice my storytelling when the question of what the stuffed animals did comes up. We all enjoy using our imaginations to add on to whatever the starting point is (yes!) and we have lots of fun doing it.

#PositiveAction Find one thing to say yes to today!

 

Image by engin akyurt from Pixabay