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Archive for July, 2009

Last night we spent a perfectly lovely evening at the Beaches International Jazz Festival. The weather was ideal, the crowd was energetic and appreciative and the music somehow seemed better than we’ve enjoyed in previous years (in my humble opinion). Some nights are just like that.

One of the many musical highlights for us was seeing The Disease…a young “7-piece funk machine” from Toronto. They were (in the words of my drumming husband) “tight”. I don’t know much about that, but I do like to think I know talent. And they really had it going on. While they didn’t pull the same size crowd as other bands doing jazz standards, the crowd that they did have appreciated the talent too.

Ok, so you don’t visit my blog for musical critiques. Here’s what I really loved and appreciated about this group—they “felt it”. Every last member. I was particularly mesmerized by the guy on the keys – David Atkinson. He would not, COULD not stop dancing. He played on his tippy-toes for goodness’ sake! He couldn’t contain his jubilation…his sheer joy of doing what he loved doing. It was infectious and to me it epitomized that quote that we’ve all been e-mailed ad nauseum: dance like no one’s watching.

Now I know what that means…really means. Had that wildly talented young man put a cap on his groove, the notes would have been flatter, to be sure, but more criminally, we the audience would have been cheated out of a display of unbridled excitement, energy and joy. Which I know I really inspired me.

Kids do it. They run, jump, play, sing, dance and twirl with no concern about appearances (at least until pre-puberty, and then, I’m told, it’s hell in a handbasket). Why does watching kids sing the national anthem off-key bring tears to my eyes? Because it is sung with heart, intention and purity of soul.

It’s not too late for us as adults to do the same.

So, I challenge you: give like no one’s watching; worship like no one’s watching, play like no one’s watching; love like no one’s watching; cry like no one’s watching and laugh like no one’s watching. Go on and even let the milk pour out of your nose. Those that are watching will celebrate the moment right alongside you.

Thanks David, for the reminder.

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Excuse me…I’m flawed

Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog. It’s summer, you know…and everything happens at a slower pace.

BEEP BEEP BEEP! Back the truck up. (You do realize that I only broke a Christine Kane cardinal rule of blogging: “apologizing for not writing” to prove a point, right?)

I’m curious as to why have you just accepted my incredibly lame excuse. When I say “everything happens at a slower pace” aren’t I really just saying “I’ve made things other than posting to my blog a bigger priority right now”. Same diff, right? But what am I owning by blaming the season? Nada. Zilch…niet. And ultimately, that’s what a good excuse will do for you. Absolve you of responsibility.

I’ve really noticed lately how I have a lower tolerance threshold for justification of bad behaviour. And excuses. Perhaps it’s the economy (ha…tricked you!!!) but let me ask you this….are you not tired of hearing people explain their lateness with “I’m late wherever I go…it’s just who I am”. Which is really tantamount to: “I do not value your time; I am disorganized; and fundamentally, I’d probably rather be somewhere else”. Consider the two versions. In version a) their lateness is simply a part of their genetic make-up…a flipped x or y chromosome on the double helix of life. In version b) there is choice and ownership…it may be rude ad crude and filled with ‘tude, but there is learning. And possibility.

Making up excuses is easy…taking responsibility and action, less so.

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MORBID BLOG POST ALERT!!! Really and truly. If you want entertaining go to Copyranter’s blog (check out the list of everything he hates…you may well be on it), or Zelda Lily for a fun feminist blog (yup…you read that right…thanks Sharon!)

Still here? Ok…don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Walking my daughter to daycare today, we were discussing matters of great import such as whether or not kids are smarter than grown-ups (my theory that they were perhaps just more curious was resoundingly trounced) and why sharks have to be so mean all the time. A car drove smoothly by and just after it passed, I noticed a squirrel in the middle of the road twisting and jerking frantically.

It took a moment or two for me to realize what had happened. In fact, it took me so long that for a split-second, I thought to point out the funny dance to my daughter. Once it sunk in, I sucked in my breath and grabbed my girl into my arms (intending to not let her see the squirrel’s final moments of agony). Of course she saw, asked what had happened and I started to panic. “Nothing honey…let’s hurry along and call the vet…I’m sure everything will be fine”. We turned the corner and I calmed down enough to realize what a horrid and pointless thing that I’d just done…pretending nothing happened. Besides, she wasn’t buying it.

I sat her down on the curb, and we talked about it…in as much detail as I felt appropriate for a tender-hearted 5 year old. (Can’t help but be a Mom so I did slide in the fact that the squirrel probably didn’t look both ways). She took it all in stride, asked me wonderful questions and I think she mostly got it. She was confused about the driver of the car. Why didn’t he stop? Why was he so careless? I explained that because we didn’t hear anything, he likely hadn’t even realized what had happened. He was unaware of the impact. Feel a metaphor coming on?

Without getting all Butterfly effect-y here, every action we take has repercussions…some positive and some negative, some intentional and some accidental. That driver had no clue of his impact on the squirrel (and any family waiting back in the nest), then on my daughter, then on her daycare mates, then on me, then on my clients, then on you…and so on. It was purely accidental.

So what would happen, what COULD happen, if we applied this to the positive…that we took great pains to be conscious, at every turn, to spread the good stuff and ONLY the good stuff around? Blissful karma…viral karma. We’re not always going to get it right….but we can sure as hell try.

As I dropped my girl off, she turned to me and said: “Let’s always be careful to never hurt a squirrel and be nice to everyone, ok Mommy?”

Out of the mouth of babes.

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Have you ever offered advice only to find that it’s duly ignored? Makes you feel kind of cruddy, right? Especially given that, in your mind, it was probably exactly what the recipient needed to hear?

Here’s an inside secret…no one really likes being told what to do (even if they came to you asking for advice…weird, quirky, but true). Further, and I’m sure you’ve experienced this, when people come to their own conclusions, they are more satisfied, motivated and inspired. And when they land on their own solution…BING BING BING…they’re more likely to follow through in action.

The coaching profession accounts for this by basing its work on the assumption that every person is naturally creative, resourceful and whole. Everyone has the answers to their life’s problems within them…they just need someone to help them to pull it out. And when expert advice is really required, clients will have the motivation to find that, too.

I just let you in on Coaching 101. It may sound a little abstract (perhaps), a little ungrounded (I assure you that it is not) and a little woo-woo (at times, sure). But the idea of building your own something and loving it more than something you were just handed is called “The Ikea Effect”. An article in the Harvard Business Review points to the phenomenon that “labor enhances affection for its results”. You-fab vs. pre-fab means you’ll find it more fab.

Intrinsically, I believe this to be true. I am most fond of the art in my house that my husband and I have created ourselves. We encourage our daughter to make her own mistakes rather than handing her the answers. And I’m certainly finding my own way in business as an entrepreneur (with some support systems in place) more so than when I was “corporate”. Ask around…you’ll see what I mean. Stacie Maier, very cool owner of Uprise Careers points to her favourite tattoo…a cute and simple paw print. It’s not the same caliber of the others that adorn her frame, but she did it herself (told you she was cool…and a GREAT person to talk to if you’re late-20’s and “not cubicle friendly”).

Where the Ikea Effect can be worrisome is in the power of “I’m righteousness”. We’ve seen this too, haven’t we? People who actually use and BELIEVE such 80’s phrases such as: “my way or the highway”. The HBR article points out:

Managers should keep in mind that ideas they have come to love because they invested their own labor in them may not be as highly valued by their coworkers – or their customers.

In building Ikea furniture, we all know one thing: lose the Allen key and your Galant desk will never come together. No duct tape can help you there.

Further, in coming to your own decisions, if you’ve asked for advice, please appreciate the perspective from which it came, listen to the offering for resonance with your own values and go from there. Assuredly, no duct tape will be required.

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Years ago, while on maternity leave, I read in a parenting journal about the mompreneur phenom, Jennifer Torres, Founder of Salsa Babies.

Jennifer and her inspirations

Jennifer and her inspirations

Back then, I was a budding entrepreneur myself (cf: my fleeting attempt at product development). I recall reading that this powerhouse of a woman started her company with the purpose of staying home with her kids after her maternity benefits had ended and that her intention was to generate the same revenue that she was receiving from EI. No more, but certainly, no less.

I too, wanted to stay home with my daughter and also develop a business. When I read those simple parameters, it seemed viable and …inspirationally… attainable. I felt moved to set the same goal for myself.

Our paths have crossed a couple of times over the past year, and I’ve always wanted to hear more about her. Yesterday, we shared an hour of great conversation about business, balance, goals, dreams, and why folding underwear is a time suck. She is every bit as vibrant, dynamic, energetic and warm as you’ve imagined. And she has it together.

I was hooked the moment she uttered her opening remark:

I’ve learned to follow what interests you and what you’ve loved doing throughout your life.

Bingo.

Her story

Jennifer always knew that when kids came along, she’d want to stay at home with them. So, when she was pregnant, she took ESL certification in the hopes of finding a job flexible enough to be home with the babes. Nothing came up. While on mat leave, she asked her employers if she could work part-time when she came back…and they said no. She was miserable and felt pretty desperate at the notion of leaving her babies in childcare to go back to job that wasn’t overly fulfilling. It just didn’t seem right. (And as I’ve often written…if it doesn’t feel right for you, it probably isn’t right for you. But I didactically digress.)

One fine day a friend handed her a tissue and pointed out that she could maybe integrate her well-known love for salsa dancing into a business. Jennifer was resistant at first…after all…salsa’s about heels and less about babies. Or was it?

The Birth of Salsa Babies

The idea percolated in her head for a while…and when she found herself dancing around her house to soothe her colicky baby in the carrier, the idea really started to heat up in the most picante way. What happened to turn the idea around from a ho-hum one to being her life’s passion? In a word: RESONANCE.

Before long, her network of support rallied around her and helped her get her idea off the ground. A logo was created; a plan developed; flyers distributed; a web site launched; and, since then, thousands of new moms have shimmied their way to slimmer waists and happy babies. Thanks to Jennifer’s vision.

In some ways, Jennifer’s story is a study of what is possible is you simply believe in yourself. Is there any way she could have known that 8 years after the ESL thing didn’t pan out that she’d be co-writing children’s CDs, writing books and having appeared on TV more times than she can count? As she pointed out in our discussion:

My goal was not to be a million dollar industry…but now as I look back, I could have thought bigger. I just didn’t want to be too cocky.

Familiar, huh?

S-U-C-C-E-S-S

What excites me is the fact that she THOUGHT she was thinking small, but in fact, was setting herself up for success. A business idea aligned with her values, interests, strengths and abilities? A network of support and boundless energy and acumen? That to me is a fool-proof recipe for success.

Is she successful?

Well that depends on your definition, of course, but beyond the professional accomplishments noted above, Jennifer points to two things that she’s most proud of:

  1. The fact that she has built a business that enables (at last count) 30 licensees to be doing what they love (teaching salsa) while being with their kids. This wasn’t a goal per se, but what an amazing by-product!
  2. Her girls are looking up to her in a new way. Jennifer points out that in her lottery win dreams she always saw herself at home with them and acknowledges that this may well be the right path for many…but now sees how flat that could have been for HER. Her girls see her on TV and know that she’s doing what she loves and is happy. By example, her girls are learning the value of developing something for yourself:

My 8-year old daughter started a book club and was so organized about it all. She wrote up a proposal, did up a flyer, planned the space, talked to the principal and handled all of these other details. My husband looked at me during the flurry of activity and said: ‘that’s you!’

Like all success stories, there have been some bumps in the road. She has been targeted for her great ideas and has had them ripped off (in one case, a copy cat took words verbatim from her web site). And there’s no question…like most business-parents, Jennifer knows too well the constant struggle of maintaining that elusive “balance”. “How much TV is too much for the kids? What am I missing if I don’t spend the day with the kids? What could I have gotten done if I had worked today?”

At her annual licensees’ meeting, she delivers a segment about finding balance in being a business owner. Some good rules of thumb?


What’s next for Jennifer and Salsa Babies?

She has some pretty exciting plans for the company….market expansion, program development and some new offerings and packages. You’ll just need to stay tuned. Trust me…you’ll be hearing lots more from this beautiful woman who just bubbles exuberance and energy.

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