A Whole Heart With Half Of A Table: Helping Through Hardship

I walked into a loaded coffee shop to sit down and get some work done. There were no tables available except for half of one across from this man. I’ve seen him sleeping downtown on sunny days and cold nights.  He’s usually on the move.  

I walked up to ask if he would mind sharing and before I could say anything, he offered it. I gratefully sat down and introduced myself as I pulled out my computer. I offered him a coffee or something to eat and he politely declined. All he could do was offer me help: plugging in my computer, making room for my bag, and asking if the shade was ok. He’d been listening to a sermon behind us. As it came to an end, he stood up, gathered his only belongings in 3 stuffed bags, tipped his head to me as he grabbed his cane, and off he went to his next destination.  

He never told me his name, but he remembered mine as he said, “Have a blessed day, Darah.”

The Risk We Take For The Change We Make: Overcoming Disappointment

Optimism is a peculiar thing.  It’s so great to have and helpful to keep.  But what on Earth are we to do when we’re getting scared of it?
Time after time, we each face disappointment in our lives.  The source can be anything from work projects falling through to plans with friends becoming no plans at all.
But then there are times where that optimism reaches far deeper than you realized.  That’s where it turns into risk.  Moving forward can sometimes be so painful and scary, you’d rather stay where you are and halt any chance of having to change anything.
Lately, I’ve found myself a little confused.  I’m going to be 34 and I’m starting again.  I’m absolutely comfortable in my own skin and know exactly what I love and what ways I take in the details of life.  I’ve found my passion and my courage to pursue it thanks to the help of people I love dearly.  I have so much acceptance from friends and family who welcome me into their lives without question.  It’s scary, though.  There are certain aspects of myself I’m having to make vulnerable in order to keep moving and evolving.  Things like the prospect of dating again and the idea that I’m back to a blank canvas looking to fill it ultimately with more love and hopefully a new location, or the opportunity to test myself.
Well, it showed up.
And I got burned.  Quickly.  Unexpectedly.  Really, though, it’s been a learning experience.  I wasn’t expecting to finally let myself get excited about a possibly new thing or connection with a person.  But I did.  Just a little bit-  Enough to have hope that I might be able to find some butterflies in there again. It was sad, exciting, new, unknown.. And then it was completely over.  The situation changed literally overnight and I was left to decide if “heartbroken” was OK.  Turns out, it is.
It’s perfectly OK.
But I wasn’t heartbroken over a person.  In fact, I respect him a great deal in the very short time I’ve known him.  I was disheartened over the fact that it took me so much to finally be alright with the idea of a little crush again and then finding out that I’ll have to rebuild that strength again so quickly.  At least it was a quick burn with absolutely no hard feelings at all.  I’m seeing it as just a little reality check-  an opportunity to recalibrate and check my levels.
Regardless of what is happening in our worlds, disappointment is real and, as it turns out, weighs about 19 tons.  We give the benefit of the doubt and even a little of ourselves to the unknown and it goes dark.  We’re left wondering what happened as we’re gathering what’s left of what we gave.
This is what I’m learning, though- Each time we are disappointed by a person or a situation, we’re given an opportunity to push ourselves a little further.  We know now that whatever happens next will be handled- expertly or terribly.  It will be handled.  We know it’s still going to work out alright regardless of if (or when) it all hits the fan.  Disappointment can shed light on things you’re already experiencing to make you that much more grateful they’re happening.. OR that they’ll stop.  Personally, this recent experience just leaves me grateful in general.  I have no doubt that I am the luckiest still.
Sometimes it’s exhausting.   It’s hard to think about it when what you’ve had for years is something you never want to replace.  I won’t ever replace that.  But I can move forward knowing how lucky I’ve been for every experience I’ve had.
In the toughest moments, look around you.  Watch for those who are unchanging and completely undaunted by the prospect of having to help you out of the dark.
They’re the ones who are pushing you forward even when you’re not sure another chance is worthwhile.  They will not disappoint you.

One Word = Two Words:  Which One Have You Heard?

Progress:  n.  A forward or onward movement toward a destination.
Progress:  v.  To move forward in space or time.
The discussion surrounding “Progress Through Compassion” has covered a few key aspects to developing and maintaining a personable working relationship with each of your employees.
The word heard most often?  Progress.  It’s one of those strangely ambiguous English words that can take on two entirely different meanings.
Which one did you hear?
From a management standpoint, this is absolutely crucial to decide two things:
–How you interpret progress in relation to your ultimate goal
–How you put it in action
Now that we have touched on how you relate to your employees and how they relate to you, we can look at how we move forward with those elements in place.  You have your goal set to work jointly toward financial gain and personal fulfillment as anyone with a passion for their business should.  So how do we tie both definitions of progress together?
We open our doors.
All noise, chatter, and tapping of keyboards aside, your door should be wide open.  This isn’t one-sided.  It will allow your employee with a question to know they’re heard.  It’ll allow them to know you’re there just as they are.  It will allow you to stay in-tune with their situations.  It’s a visual representation of compassion.
By literally opening our doors, we allow the concept of Progress Through Compassion to fully evolve.

Progress Through Compassion Take Two: Keys To Learning The Curve

While composing part two of this short series on Progress Through Compassion,
the topic of empathy often comes up when I hear from management teams who are struggling to balance productivity with workplace independence. Employees want to be able to assert their independence as everyone works differently toward the same goal.  This is a beneficial thing, however it can also be detrimental.  Many times, employers find themselves feeling a loss of direction as their employees scatter into different procedures and methods.
So how do we find that sweet spot where our employees feel appreciated, respected, and independently productive?  For many in an employer’s position, this is where empathy becomes a skill to learn.
Here are two key points from that new baseline to regain balance and productivity.
 
Expand your vocabulary to avoid words like “control” or “policy”.
These words are obviously functional and important in any working environment.  But what if we flip that into this:  Control is actually a function of maintaining balance.  Approaching the same principle with a less polarizing perspective by simply switching a word helps to give you a platform while letting your employee stay open to ideas and even constructive criticism.
Take notes.
Take notes-  Not about work.  Not about profit margins or Power Points.  Take notes about what makes your employee tick.  What makes them thrive?  What changes their demeanor or makes their day?
We often get lost in the technical side of conducting business while losing site of WHO is conducting it.  This is your baseline-  your key to moving forward.
I often think of a particularly fantastic Seinfeld reference where “Anyone can take  reservation.”
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Think of this as learning how to “*hold* the reservation.”

Empathy: Progress Through Compassion

Most days, we set out to experience the world with our own perspective-  Our own shoes.  But what happens when empathy is a core value with no set line? How do we draw it?  What if we don’t know how to express or experience it in the first place?

 Empathy is a peculiar thing. It’s a vital form of existence that some possess to an almost torturous degree. We feel deeply both positive and negative things. It’s a gift and a curse all in the shape of one human.  Turbulent and ever changing, it can make or break a life.  The goal for empaths is to balance and sustain it for as long as possible.  We will never give up feeling what we do because we’re lucky we can.  On the opposite end, we wish it would stop to let us feel nothing for a few.
As I experience empathy in my core relationships, I struggle to find a line between two key points:
– Letting it become so strong that I lose sight of my purpose and focus entirely too much on whether or not someone else is struggling.. and..
– Letting it be as it is so that I may trust that things work out as they will.
Just as it applies to our personal relationships,  empathy can be the key to progress in our work relationships. It can be the one link that fills the gap between managing your workload and owning it. Throughout the next two weeks, I will be discussing a few key points to help find, balance, and pursue progress through compassion.

Help In Hiding: 6 Ways To Be Helpful When You Feel Helpless

I took a break from as much as possible yesterday to focus on using the feeling of heaviness the best way I could.  I still couldn’t.  The news surrounding so many recent events has had  millions of us shaken and confused.  For me, silence is key.  I want to stay out of the frenzy, inform myself as much as possible of the necessary facts, and figure out a way to help.
I drove into a dusty sunrise hearing chatter on the radio with updates of new statistics and speculation.  I knew the recent storms and violence shed a lot of blood and I was saddened by the fact that I cannot give mine.
Due to my heart condition, I cannot donate blood.  As I see Red Cross trucks setting up in the parking lots of various offices in the city, I thought about those who can’t use them.  Here are a few ways to help when you can’t give yours for a host of personal reasons.
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My view this morning was stunning.

1.  Pay it forward-  This does not require money as many of us do not have enough of that to give, either.  This can be in the form of helping someone carry heavy items to their car from the store.  Your act of recognizing another human as a fellow human is priceless.  This can even include going with someone who can donate blood-  Support is key.
2.  Donate time-  Many of our resources (time, energy, supplies) quickly dissipate once help is needed elsewhere.  If you’re able, donating time to spend with people who need company or kids who need distraction is more valuable than any check you can write.
3.  Volunteer at a shelter-  This is one I’ve always had a heart for ever since spending my first Volunteer Thanksgiving in one.  Serve food to those who are not only dealing with the heartache of a chaotic world situation but are also facing their own.  Sit down and share some conversation over coffee with fellow volunteers or guests.  You will be amazed at what you learn.
4.  Don’t click the bait-  In our world of instant information, news streams and media channels are running rampant with headlines and feeds.  There is a major setback to this.  The rush to get the first lead is a prime breeding ground for sensationalism and misinformation.  Help us save the unnecessary stories from polluting the real ones by stopping to consider if it’s correct, if it’s necessary, and if it’s going to help someone else.
5.  Call your representative-  This is one not many of us think about on a daily basis.  If you have concerns over policies regarding the response to catastrophe or the availability of weaponry.. Really anything-  Call your representatives and voice your opinion.  You may think that your voice won’t count or be heard.  But even 10 voices are really, really loud.  Be that guy.
6.  Inform yourself-  I cannot stress this one enough.  Informing yourself of current events and causes is the groundwork for making change happen.  We cannot move forward without knowing why we should.  It is crucial.

7 Years – 7 Letters – 7 Truths

7 years ago today, I took the first of many chances.
Chances–  7 letters spell the outline of what your life could be.  I’ve had to figure out how to spell it for my world.  Here’s what 7 years and 7 letters have taught me:
C– Change–  This has been the most challenging aspect for me.  The decision to change comes first.  The struggle to keep it stays the whole time.
H– Help–  Helping myself became the key to helping anyone else.  After realizing the difference between doing it selfishly and doing it productively, it has become one of my most valuable resources.  It is often the first word of advice I share with anyone struggling through a personal transformation.  Breathe in your own oxygen first in order to share your energy with others.
A– Ambition–  Setting goals can be overwhelming.  If you’re anything like me, you’re totally not OK with waiting for them.  This is where the smallest goals are the biggest.  I’ve found that setting small, seemingly mundane goals throughout my day or week has been the only way to keep the long-term ones from burning up in a cloud of flames..
N– New– We have all heard about the days being new and how we’re supposed to magically forget our troubles along with the last one.  Here’s what I’ve learned in 7 years of trying to convince myself that it’s possible.  It isn’t.  New, to me, means accepting new perspectives from wherever they show.  New means appreciating a pair of thrift store jeans you couldn’t ever wear before because there weren’t many size 28 Talls around.  New, to me, means looking back and finding the experiences of yesterday becoming an avenue for tomorrow.
C– Challenge–  Challenge comes in many forms.  One of my favorite and most loathed-  Running.  I love it.  I despise it.  It’s agony some days and pure bliss through others.  It’s a challenge and it’s ever-changing.
E– Experience–  We all have it.  How do we share it?  The point is-  We get to.  My scars tell mine quite literally.  My Frankenbody is the paper and I am the pen.
S– Silent Stories–  7 years of transforming physically, mentally, and emotionally has taught me something I never knew I’d need.  I’ve finally applied a term to this.  These are the stories your experiences tell without words.  No one may know where our past started or how it ended up to be our present.  They may judge us before they know.  Even once they do, they may still.  But our silent stories are worth more than we can ever imagine as long as we tell them each day in our actions.
7 years have given me my life back in more ways than I thought possible.  Mostly, they have handed me an infinite amount of chances. 
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(Ok.. And a sweet pair of bat wings I’ve grown to love.)  

How do you spell your chances?