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Three Reasons Why I Start My Day Early in the Morning

Here are the three reasons why I start my day early. My first reason is backed up by a ton of articles about what super successful people do.

  1. They wake up early. The coolest thing that I learned from the morning exercise routine was I had created a new equilibrium point every single day. I was no longer at the whim of a random feeling on how my day was going to be. Exercise allowed me to always be full of energy, alert, and attack the day with more clarity. If you’re an entrepreneur, I think you’re going to find that to be a better thing to do than work late at night all the time.
  2. Train at the same time as when you run your marathon. A few weeks ago I ran my first marathon and one thing I did differently was wake up early and exercise. In the past, I trained at night for my half marathons and I was always groggy when it came time to run really early in the morning for the Seattle Half Marathon and Seattle Rock and Roll Half Marathon. The results were obviously different when I trained in the AM for the Leavenworth Oktoberfest Marathon where I’ve been waking up at 5:15am every day.
  3. Two people that I greatly admire are Annie Duncan and Katie Walvatne. Both of them have amazing positive personalities, get crazy amounts of important work done, are a complete joy to be around, they have grit and resilience, and they both exercise and wake up super early. Oh and both have run marathons!

I’ve never read an article that talks about how awesome someone is for pushing the snooze button and waking up late. I’ve also never met anyone that was super successful who was always sleeping in and coming into work late. Once you’ve made the shift of waking up early, you’re going to recognize all of the positive ripple impacts it’s going to make on your life and company!

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We are made for Labor Day.

So, I gotta be honest.  Up until writing this post, I actually didn’t know the history behind Labor Day.  Why question a 3-day weekend, right?  For the majority of my teens and twenties, Labor Day was simply the weekend I saw Dave Matthews at the Gorge before heading back to school.
 
But the history behind Labor Day is as interesting as it is empowering.

Labor Day was first celebrated in 1882 (pictured: a lithograph of the parade in New York City on Labor Day).  In 1887 it was established to be celebrated yearly on the first Monday in September to honor the American Labor Movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country (source).  A group of the key players within this movement called themselves The Knights of Labor. The Knights believed in the unity of the interests of all producing groups and sought to empower not just laborers but everyone who could be truly classified as a producer (source).

For most of us, work is a commitment that takes up most of our time.  But, though work dominates most of the hours of our week, it is also the one thing that we can routinely do week in, week out.  Think about your work week rhythm.  Now replace your work with something else.  Can you imagine doing something else for 40-60 hours, week in, week out?  Exercising?  Watching television?  Reading books? Playing golf?  I’ve heard people say, “When I retire I’m going to play a lot of golf.”  But 40 hours a week of golf?  Or television?  Try keeping that up for a few weeks.  We aren’t made to do that.

But we are made to work.  We can handle work in large quantities of time, unlike other activities.  We are made to be creative.  We are made to produce things.  Just like the Knights of Labor believed in the late 1800s, the movement wasn’t just for laborers, but anyone who produced anything.  I have a friend who is a project manager, but her passion is baking cupcakes.  She spends time dreaming of flavor combinations to try.  She carves time out of her schedule to carefully craft and decorate them.  And then she lets me eat them.  She is a “laborer” (project manger by day) and “producer” (cupcake creator by night).  You take away her labor and she is still a producer.  Take away what she produces, and she’s still a laborer.

The point is this: we are made for work.  We are made for Labor Day.

Happy Labor Day everyone!

Is irrational fear running your life?

birdsThe following story might sound like an April Fool’s joke, but I assure you – it’s not.

About a month ago, my husband (who works nights) woke me up around 3am to let me know he had accidentally let a bird into our condo.  He needed me to wake up and help him: 1) find it, and 2) get it out of the condo.  Half-asleep, I stumbled out of bed, ran down the hall, grabbed a large blanket and hid under it in the kitchen.  A major part of me doesn’t want to admit that I started to cry.  And why did I have this reaction?

Well, what you need to know about me is I have a fear of birds.  And not just a small fear of birds, but an insanely irrational fear of birds.  I think they are going to attack me.  I haven’t been afraid of birds my entire life, but there was an “incident” about five years ago (which is another story) that has caused me to fear all birds.

My husband eventually found the small tiny finch (it didn’t have the talons I imagined it did) and released it back outside of our residence.  With no help from me.

In the light of day the next morning, I was able to see how ridiculous my response was.  Crying in the kitchen?  My fear of birds is out of control.

But it got me wondering – what other areas in my life does irrational fear dictate my actions?

–  Irrational fear causes irrational behavior.
–  A large percentage of people avoid situations when they might possibly face their fear.
–  A small percentage of people say they aren’t daily affected by their fear.
–  Out of every two people, one person has a reaction to fear – like sweaty palms, panic attacks, or nausea.

Michael Steven Anthony Graziano, professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Princeton University, says: “Fear is so deep, so irrational, so immediate, that I can neither doubt it or examine it.”  

Besides birds, two other ways fear runs my life:
1) I fear what other people think of me.
2) I fear that doing one wrong thing at work will cause me to lose my job.

A friend of mine says that “Fear always lies…unless it’s a grizzly bear running at you…then run!”
It’s a funny saying, but he has a point.  Fear lies.

The lie: Birds are going to attack me.
The truth: Only one bird has attacked me in 34 years.  And the chances of that happening again are slim.

The lie:  If people really knew me, they wouldn’t like me.
The truth:  It’s okay to be yourself and let people in.

The lie: If I make one mistake in my job, I’ll get fired.
The truth: It will take more than one small mistake to get fired.

What fears are running your life?  And what is the truth behind the fear?
Unmasking the truth helps undermine the lie that fear tells.

 

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New Year’s Practices

happy-new-yearFor the next few weeks, you’re going to need an answer to the daunting question “What’s your New Year’s Resolution?”  This year, resolve to answer with something you’ll practice.

Allow me to explain.  In the past, my resolutions have had a common denominator – they’ve all shared a lofty (and usually unattainable) goal.
I’m not going to eat sugar.
I’m going to lose 20 pounds.
I’m going to stop watching TV.

These resolutions had an all or nothing approach, leaving little wiggle room and no plan to achieve them.  #Fail

Furthermore, our resolutions usually stem from unhealthy behavior, so to just resolve not to do them doesn’t deal with the root cause of why we do them.  #DoubleFail

Those two reasons combined is probably why 75% of people quit their New Year’s Resolution after the first week, and 46% of people are off target after six months (source).

So the more I’ve thought about resolutions, the more I’ve decided I’m done with them.  This year, I’m making New Year’s  Resolutions Practices.

What’s the difference?  A resolution is an empty statement, but a practice involves an action plan.

Resolution: I will get more sleep at night.
Practice: I will have less screen time one hour before I go to bed and read a book instead of watch TV/check my email/play on my phone.

So what’s your New Year’s Resolution Practice?

Pass the veggies, please.

I recently watched the documentary, “Forks Over Knives.”
The premise for the documentary:

“What has happened to us?  Despite the most advanced medical technology in the world, we are sicker than ever by nearly every measure.  Two out of every three of us are overweight.  Cases of diabetes are exploding, especially amongst our younger population.  About half of us are taking at least one prescription drug.  Major medical operations have become routine, helping to drive health care costs to astronomical levels.  Heart disease, cancer and stroke are the country’s three leading causes of death, even though billions are spent each year to ‘battle’ these very conditions.  Millions suffer from a host of other degenerative diseases.  Could it be there’s a single solution to all of these problems?  A solution so comprehensive, but so straightforward, that it’s mind-boggling that more of us haven’t taken it seriously?”

Fruits-and-Vegetables“Forks Over Knives” makes the argument that most – if not all – of what makes us “sicker than ever” can be addressed (and in some cases reversed!) by cutting out our menu of animal-based and processed foods.  The researchers (two doctors: Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn) featured in the film call for a plant-based diet.

Now, hold up.  Plant-based?  That sounds super strict right?

What about my juicy grilled steak?  What about having goat cheese on my salad?
A “plant-based diet” would say to replace the steak with grilled eggplant and the goat cheese with some kind of legume.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m totally for plant-based foods.  I just don’t know if I can commit solely to plants just yet…

But despite my inability to instantly implement a plant-based diet…I can’t stop thinking about what was presented in this documentary.

Since watching it, I’ve changed my intake.  It’s caused me to stop and ask questions like:

“Do I really need that much cream in my coffee?”  (yes, yes I do)

“Do I really need to eat some sort of meat for dinner five nights a week?  (no, no I don’t)

“Forks Over Knives”  was powerful for me to watch because of two primary reasons:
1) my family history, and
2) my current context.
My family has a history of diabetes and high blood pressure, so unless I want to be a part of the family-history-sickness-legacy, I need to take my health seriously.  And change the patterns.
My current context is working as a Chaplain in a hospital, where I see the effects of how we treat our bodies on a daily basis.  Not a day goes by that I don’t encounter sickness and death caused by poor health choices.

So…pass the veggies, please.  And keep ’em coming.  If plant-based foods can help reverse the patterns of health our country is facing, then sign me up.  I’ll try my best to keep the cupcakes and hotdogs to a minimum (really, I will!).

I invite you to journey with me in this conversation.  Let me know your immediate feedback, or watch the film – it’s on Netflix – and let me know if you agree/disagree.  See you in the comments section!

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No expectations, no disappointments.

no ex
I’m a planner.
I’m a goal-setter.
I love the strategy that goes along with discerning a five-year strategic plan.

But in addition to my goal-setting-strategic-planning posture, I’ve found that I also need to embrace the discipline of having no expectations.

The things that frustrate, anger, and irritate me have one thing in common:  I don’t like it when what I expect to happen doesn’t happen.

I have expectations of how other people should drive…how my husband should load the dishwasher…and how my boss should respond to my job performance.  And more often than not, my expectations prove to be a fanatical fantasy.

Unfulfilled expectations create disappointment.  But no expectations equals no disappointments.

Growing up, I learned to “expect the best” and all will work out.  And even as an overly-optimistic person, that mantra has not panned out all the time.

Setting zero expectations means that we are open for more creativity in the moment, as well as the unexpected surprises that never disappoint.

I recently got married.  The other day, someone asked me what goal I was excited to accomplish during my first year of marriage.  I thought for a moment, before happily realizing that my main goal for my first year of marriage is to practice not having any expectations.  But to take it day by day.  And learn, and grow as a couple.

William Shakespeare wrote that “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”  By minimizing unneeded expectations, I hope to minimize heartache at home, as well as in the workplace.

 

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If you want to have a better future, stop trying to have a better past.

don't let it haunt youDon’t let your past haunt you.

I’m a fairly positive and forward-thinking person.  But hiccups along the way usually involve dwelling too much on the mistakes of my past and trying to remedy and re-remedy them.  Even though most of the time they’ve already been dealt with.

We’ve all been told that mistakes are helpful, because we can learn from them and move forward.  And that last part is key – learn from them and move forward.  It’s impossible to be fully present when your head is stuck in the muck of the past.

So if you want to have a better future, stop trying to have a better past.

Think about someone that you look up to.  A mentor perhaps.  If you’re anything like me, your mentor figures don’t have a perfect past.
They’ve been there.
They’ve had hardship.
They’ve failed at something.
They’ve gotten it wrong.

But instead of covering up their mistakes or trying to have a better past, they’ve moved forward and made it part of their story.
A rich story with the ability to overcome.Your past has given you the strength and wisdom you have today.

So what’s in your past?
A failed relationship?
An unsuccessful startup?
An unproductive career?
Your future will only get better when you let go of the past.

Honor it, acknowledge it, but don’t let it haunt you.

Happy Halloween!

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Member Spotlight: Dan Vache of United Fresh Produce Association

UnitedFresh_logo_orange2

Last week, I sat down with Dan Vache, who is a long time member of the thinkspace community.  Dan works for the United Fresh Produce Association which is a trade organization.  Since 1904 they have been representing all parties involved with handling fresh fruits and vegetables – from the grower to the shipper to the distributer.  Dan heads up one of two remote office locations, with the headquarters being located in Washington, D.C.

In talking with Dan, I asked him a number of questions about his job at the United Fresh Produce Association.

Q:  What is a core value for the United Fresh Produce Association?

A:  A core value is protecting consumers, and trying to expand the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables for healthy lifestyles.

Because the United Fresh Produce Association is primarily located in Washington, D.C., they deal with a lot of legislative issues.  A major campaign that they are currently working on is to put salad bars in every school cafeteria.  They recognize that many children don’t get exposed to fresh fruits and vegetables, and exposing them at an earlier age can help overturn current challenges and patterns with health and lifestyle (diabetes, childhood obesity, etc.).  The United Fresh Produce Association is a strong advocate for the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, and believe that a lot of those health challenges go away when produce is consumed (rather than starchy, processed foods).

Dan concentrates on the supply chain.  Basically anything to do with fresh produce once its been planted and harvested (read more about that here).  Because of this, he has the opportunity to travel quite a bit.  This year he has traveled to Peru and all throughout North America.

Q:  What are three things you never leave home without?

A:  My laptop, my phone, and my running shoes.

In a few weeks, Dan will travel to Brussels to take part with the International Standards Organization as they redevelop standards for certain aspects of the produce industry.  For example, the labels on produce have a code on them so they are easily tracked through the system and retailers can ensure they have the correct pricing (read more about that here).

Q:  Is it true that the labels on fruits and vegetables are edible?

A:  Yes they are.  It’s food contact, so it can’t harm anyone.  You can eat those, and its biodegradable.

Q:  Speaking of things that are edible, do you have an opinion on the “dirty dozen?”

A:  There is a lot of misinformation on that.  The group that puts that out, probably in their own mind is well-intentioned, but they are very misleading.  They tend to overstate some things and leave out some good factual information.  And quite honestly, some folks that read that do not do additional research and its detrimental to themselves because they then consume less fruits and vegetables….and from my standpoint that’s not the right approach to take.

Q:  So at the end of the day, it’s probably better to just eat your fruits and vegetables?

A:  Yea, exactly.

Thank you Dan, it was a pleasure talking with you!  I’m off to go blend a nice green smoothie, filled with fresh kale, mango, banana, and carrot juice (thanks for the inspiration!).

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Maybe the grass IS greener on the other side…

grassPerhaps there is some truth to the saying “the grass is greener on the other side.”

We can always find greener grass than the grass we’re standing on.

But instead of getting caught up in comparison-mode, re-route your perspective back to yourself.

Pining for another person’s green “grass” (someone else’s life, career, marriage, etc) will work the opposite way you want it to.  Instead of focusing on the condition of your own grass, you’re wasting time wishing you had someone else’s.

Maybe the grass IS greener on the other side.
But, so what?
Instead of being jealous or threatened by greener grass, see it as an invitation to water the grass you’re standing on.  If someone has an amazing job, be inspired to lean in and set a goal to earn a promotion.  If someone has the “perfect marriage,” figure out ways to work on your own marriage (the #staymarried blog is a great resource).

The secret to a better life isn’t seeing how you size up to someone else’s life (and thank you Facebook for making this all-too-easy).  The secret to a better life is self-awareness…and knowing what fertilizer you need in order to be fruitful and productive.

 

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Can a woman have it all?

“You have a condition that usually only occurs in people over 60,” my doctor said as she typed in her lap top. “Have you been under a lot of stress lately?”

Hmmm, does she mean balancing the needs of my family, and my growing business?
Or does she mean the PTA meeting I skipped so I could meet a writing deadline?
By “stress” could she mean the lists that don’t get checked off, or the emails that don’t get opened, or the dog that doesn’t get walked?
Which stressful event was my doctor alluding to, and how could I answer “yes” without shouting, “Isn’t every working mother- are you crazy?!!”

“You know,” she continued, “You will probably get this again if you don’t do something about your stress level.”

Shingles. That’s what she diagnosed me with. Shingles is this terrible burning sensation that attacks the nerves underneath your skin until you eventually erupt into mischievous oozing bumps. Awesome. I’m a therapist. I preach self care. I believe in balance. I teach people how to take care of themselves. And I have a stress-related, immune deficiency condition that no 38 year old should get.

Wake up call.

Come-to-Jesus moment.

Time to take some things. Off. The. Plate.

So, when Marissa Mayer of Yahoo announced no more working from home, I paid attention. When Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg told American women to “Lean In”, I listened.  What are the women at the top saying about their positions, their work-life balance? What are they saying about their priorities? How do they balance it, and what are their secrets?

Turns out, they probably experience the same things I do (with the caveat of being paid just a tad bit more- wink).

Erin Callin, former CFO of Lehman Brothers before the crash, recounts in her New York Times piece this weekend that “Work always came first, before family, friends, and marriage- which ended just a few years later.” She goes on to say, “Until recently, I thought my singular focus on my career was the most powerful ingredient in my success. But I am beginning to realize that I sold myself short… there were diminishing returns to that kind of labor.”

Though admired by many young women who see Mrs. Callin as a hero and an over-comer of the gender barrier, she is fraught with regret.

University of Michigan business professor Marina Whitman, a full-time professor and a corporate executive says in a recent CNN article by Todd Leopold, “I think this thing about ‘can women have it all?’ or ‘can’t they have it all?’ is kind of a silly argument. Yes, you may have it all, but not all at once.”

And what about Marissa Mayer banishing the working-from-home flexibility? She certainly has gotten a lot of back lash. Some of my working mother buddies say she ought to be ashamed of herself. But it has got me thinking that maybe “working from home” for the working mother, is just playing into the illusion that women really can have it all. That there is some ideal out there that a woman can be at home with her smiling contented children, while sitting at a desk with phone in hand, lap top open while climbing the corporate ladder. Maybe we’ve bought into the illusion that we “should” be able to do it all. Maybe we think, “if only my work schedule was ‘flexible’ then I could make that PTA meeting, I could take that work call while mixing the baby formula,” or in my case, I could schedule myself to being two places at one time and be half committed to both. Ugh.

So what did I learn from Shingles? Well, for one thing, I’m taking the Sabbath. I’m working my tail off Monday through Friday 8:30 to 3 until Sweet and Sassy get home from school. I’m shutting my lap top until they go to bed at night, and I’m wearing them out on Saturdays with chores, sports and lots of family fun. I schedule a date night with Mr. Dashing and make deposits into the marriage bank account. Come Sunday, I don’t return e-mail, I don’t write blogs, I don’t do anything that could remotely seem like work. I go to church, I go out to eat, and I read for FUN (not for work.) Then I try to catch up on some Duck Dynasty, which really puts me into relaxation mode, because I’m pretty sure they haven’t worked a day in their lives, unless you count catching bull frogs as work.

Everything has a price tag. Everything worthwhile requires sacrifice. Some of us choose work, some of us chose family, and then the crazy ones, like me choose to work out the balance of both. The sacrifices I make as a working mother are continual and on-going. The fact is, if I throw the soft ball with Sporty Spice, then I’m not going to get that blog post done. And if bring home work to do, I won’t be available to hear mini-Taylor Swift’s original song on the piano. What am I going to forfeit? What am I going to give up? Something has to go, which one will it be? I’m the last to cast a stone at working mothers’ choices. But I’m the first to say, life is about choices, and values, and about consciously making those choices according to your values. Could I be further along, higher on the ladder, with a broader following if I chose to spend more time at the office? And if I spent more time at work, would Sweet and Sassy be as well adjusted and fantastic as they are now? I wonder. We make choices, some good, some bad. But most times we don’t know they’re bad till we feel the pain of them. Like the pain of Shingles. I didn’t know I was burning at both ends until I actually felt the burning.

My prayer is that you won’t have to.

This  is a guest post written by  Michelle Hollomon.  Michelle is a Counselor and a Coach, author of God Unwrapped, and host of Relationship Coach Radio. You can find out more about her at MichelleHollomon.com.