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postaday2011

This tag is associated with 289 posts

Beginning: Opportunity is Everywhere – Build a Beautiful Company By Filtering

“In a painting you create beauty with the addition of each brush stroke. In a company you create it with the addition of each talented, engaged person and with each thoughtful act.” ~ Bill Witherspoon

There’s a lot of lip service paid to talent management in companies and organizations, and that lip service is fine as long as it’s backed up with action. As the Board of Directors and I work on shaping Compass Yoga, we’re very conscious about the beauty of the company, staying true to the mission of serving students with mental and physical health challenges and partnering with like-minded teachers and organizations.We’re picky about who we bring into the fold, and because we are a service organization our product is our people. They are the key ingredient to making this work, and it’s such a joy to find these kindred spirits. It’s also a lot of work.

We’re discerning, and growing more so all the time. We have a filter that we use to evaluate our partnerships and our opportunities thanks to Michael Vito, one of the very talented board members:

1.) Does the partnership or opportunity align with our mission?

2.) Is there a material benefit to gain from the partnership or opportunity?

3.) Is the partnership or opportunity financially beneficial to both parties?

Michael developed this filter for us because everywhere we look we see opportunity for Compass. Because we are still bootstrapping the organization, we have to be very careful about where we deploy our resources. We need to focus so that we can keep an eye on our beautiful long-term goal – improving our healthcare system.

Beginning: Meet Your Students Where They Are

Yoga teacher Rodney Yee and one of his students

“Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Start with what they know; build with what they have. But with the best of leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say, we have done this ourselves.” ~Lao Tzu

Teaching isn’t about the teacher; it’s about the student. There’s no trick to teaching. No silver bullet. No magic. It only requires our awareness and willingness to be there for students. What does he or she need right at this moment? What can we offer to serve that end?

The best teachers I know step back so the student can shine. It’s about the cause (their students) and not the credit (their egos.) It requires great confidence and generosity to teach. When we’re that present our preconceived notions get tossed aside in favor of our intuition, our gut.

We have to give our students room to build their own experience while giving them the support that instills confidence in their own abilities. It’s this delicate balance between space and support that makes for a masterful teacher. (Thank you to one of my teachers, Arturo Peal, for that message.) And it’s that balance that helps students to rise above and beyond their own circumstances.

This is the point of all teaching – to help others rise.

Beginning: Start A Business by Starting with Your Best You

A few of my friends are in the midst of starting to craft their own businesses, either as incremental income streams or as a replacement for their full-time jobs working for someone else. The companies vary from an online stationery store to career coaching to senior care, and some have mentioned that they’re worried about the originality of their ideas. Differentiation is important. A wholly original idea is not.

Facebook was not the first social network. The iPod was not the first MP3 player. Amazon was not the first online retailer nor the first online bookseller. These founders saw an idea in the market that met a need and then they used their own spin on the idea to delight customers. It’s that delight factor that truly made the difference.

There are a lot of yoga teachers in the world. There are a number of them who are interested in working on the healthcare industry. I know Compass Yoga isn’t unique in that pursuit but we’ve got a few surprising insights, and a few plans to set us apart and help more people in the process. And that’s really all anyone needs to get going on a new venture. Just be your best version of you.

Beginning: Creativity Needs Conviction

Last week I read a reprint of an article from frog design that originally ran in Fortune. It nailed a tiny pet peeve of mine in the world of creativity. Companies and individuals often trumpet themselves as innovative, out-of-the-box, creative thinking “idea people”. It sticks in my craw a bit because there is nothing remarkable about having creative ideas. We all have them. ALL of us. What I think is rare, and much more extraordinary and ultimately valuable, is to be a person of conviction, to be someone who believes so much in a creative idea that she is willing to do whatever it takes to bring it to life and share it with others.

Creative folks get a bad wrap, too-often characterized as lazy, unfocused, and spacey. The most successful creatives I know – meaning their ideas are out in the world and people are benefiting from them – are nothing of the sort. They make a plan and drive to completion. They work hard, have laser-beam focus, and an unbelievable degree of attention. When I’m in their presence, they are there with me 100%. They’re present, aware, and relaxed even under great pressure. Those types of people are the ones I hold up and say, “Yes, that’s it! That’s creative living at its very best.” Conviction is required.

Creative ideas are all well and good. I want something more. I want more creative ideas out of our heads and onto the page, screen, canvas, pottery wheel, and stage. We don’t need permission, a business plan, or even funding to take action. We will figure it out as we go. So much creation is free or close to it thanks to the ludicrous amount of open-source tools that are literally at our fingers. Our only barrier is us. 

Creative ideas stuffed into someone’s mind without an outlet for expression are just clutter. And quite frankly, it’s selfish to keep our ideas to ourselves. If ever the world needed more creative doers to fix the complete wreck we’re making of this world on every level, now is the time. Act, act, act!

Beginning: How to Get to the Other Side

“We seek not rest, but transformation. We are dancing through each other as doorways.” ~Marge Piercy

A funny thing happens to me around 5pm every day. I can have a very tough day around the office, so tough that I feel like just curling up in a ball and hiding until tomorrow. And then I take the elevator down to the ground floor, push open the door, and suddenly the lightness returns, the fatigue lifts, and I’m ready for hours of working on my personal projects, seeing friends, and being out and about in this wild city. I don’t need rest after a tough day in cube-ville. I need a change of scene that inspires a transformation of self.

You might be looking at the screen right now and considering a pity party on my behalf. “Poor Christa. She really needs to quit her job and just work for herself.” Yes, eventually I will have to work for myself and those wheels are greased and in motion. These things take time and planning, particularly in this tricky economy. Every day I am taking one more step toward that big new beginning. I have a feeling it’s going to happen far sooner than my long-term plan suggests, though I am learning great lessons along the journey that I know will be invaluable down the line.

The people we meet, the places we go, and the experiences we have are doorways to something new – sometimes a whole new beginning, sometimes just a slight realization that causes us to take in the world with a different perspective. We do not immediately know the impact of these learnings. We wonder why we have to be put through firestorms and discomfort, why we have to wrestle with uncertainty and dissatisfaction and disappointment. And here’s why: it is the learning we need now.

It can all be valuable if we take the time to assign the value. And yes, we assign the value to our trials. We are responsible for our own learning; we are responsible for our own transformation.  

Beginning: Wander With a Purpose

Image by Pam Hough

“Not all who wander are lost.” ~J. R. R. Tolkien

Yesterday I wrote about the need to begin over and over again, to never give up, to take our punches and then try again. It’s also important to understand that it’s okay to try a lot of different avenues. You don’t need to beat your head against the wall trying the same idea over and over again until you get it to work. Give your idea a fair shake, but if it feels like the battle of your life and the fun’s drifted out of it, there’s nothing wrong with cutting your losses and going in another direction.

A friend recently told me that some members of her family don’t think highly of her because she’s not focused enough, because she’s taken her life in so many different directions. But they’ve been purposeful. She’s taken up new ideas with enthusiasm and the desire to learn something new. It takes courage to have curiosity, and it makes for a rewarding life. She wouldn’t have it any other way, and neither would I!

There’s no universal rule that says we need to be one-dimensional, that says if we get this degree or have that job then this has to be our sole purpose. I always love to meet people who mix it up – dancers who are passionate about zoology, physicists who love to cook, corporate attorneys who design clothing. It’s a healthy thing to follow our interests wherever they lead. It’s important to explore and grow. That’s what this life is all about – taking in all the wonder that the world has to offer and then finding a way to give it meaning in the pursuit of a worthwhile way to spend our time.

So you go right ahead and wander. Travel with conviction, and make it valuable for you and for others. Keep your head up, your eyes open, and your ears attuned to your surroundings. You’ll be amazed by all you find on your journey.

Beginning: Amy Poehler, Baseball, & Why We Should All Keep Trying

“This thing we callfailure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.” ~ Mary Pickford (via Leslie Knope)

Network TV is my guilty pleasure. Anyone who says there’s nothing good on television isn’t looking hard enough. Last week I took in an episode of Parks and Recreation. Truthfully, I hated it the first few times I caught a piece of an episode. Then somehow the show found its legs and Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler) stopped being a pathetic whiner and became brilliant without losing her quirks. She’s playing a caricature, but a caricature with humanity – something that’s difficult to do. She pulls out lines like the one by Mary Pickford at just the right time without making us feel like we’re being lectured by our parents. Every episode finds a genuine teachable moment.

The quote got me thinking about the necessity of runway that every new endeavor needs. NBC gave Parks and Recreation some room to find its groove. The Saint Louis Cardinals never gave up on the possibility of wining the World Series, even in mid-September when it looked all but impossible to pull that one out of the hat. At our last board meeting, I told the Compass Yoga board members that we should think about building out a second program because it appeared that we had contacted every veteran group in New York City and there were no more stones to turn over. The Board didn’t buy it. Their wise counsel: look harder. I did, and it turns out there are more stones. Stones that are actually boulders with a great deal of richness under them.

Even when all seems lost, even when it seems like we’ve run out of steam, inspiration, and opportunity, there is always more we can do. It takes extra ingenuity and some unconventional risk taking to find those additional options. Even when a way is not apparent, or even likely, we have to keep our will. We just never know when our luck will turn around.

We all stumble, fall, and make a mess. Life is not neat, orderly, or easy. However, there is a lot of good for us to do if we just keep at it. I don’t pretend to understand the magic of conviction and commitment. I just know it’s there. And I also know that if you get knocked down and stay down, then you’re denying yourself the opportunity to do truly great work and you’re cheating the rest of us who would benefit from it. Plus, it’s just plain sad and wasteful.

Take your punches and then stick your neck out again. It’s the only sure way to give yourself the best odds of succeeding.  

Beginning: Getting Reacquainted with Tanzania, a Place That Still Feels Like Home

Today I’m very excited to share a guest post from Nikita Raja. We “met”via this blog over two years ago and since then have kept up a regular correspondence. She’s one of the members of this blog’s community who is constantly encouraging me to continue to share my experience as a way of helping others.

Nikita recently sent me a collection of her photos from her first trip to Tanzania as an adult. She was born in Tanzania and much of her family history is wrapped up in that country. I asked her to share this experience in a guest post as a reminder to all of that new beginnings can be discovered everywhere, even in places from our past. 

This past summer, my sister and I were lucky enough to travel back to Dar-es-Salaam (Dar), Tanzania. Known as my birthplace, and the place I can tie my family’s roots back to – Tanzania is home! Home, because this is where so many of family’s cherished memories and stories have emerged from.

It had been twelve years since I last visited, and my trip ended up being nothing short of an adventure into the wild and a journey back to my roots. Although I was about ten years old when I last visited Dar, it seemed completely unrecognizable to me! But it was refreshing to return to a place that felt both different and familiar and still be able to call it “home”.

While I spent a lot of time bonding with family I hadn’t seen in years and indulging in eating different East African specialities like “Mogo” (Grilled Cassava) and “Kitale” (Coconut filled with potatoes and chillies), I actually got to explore parts of Tanzania that I had never seen before – a two-day safari to the Serengeti National Park, driving through endless running African savannahs and capturing photos of animals in their natural habitat. Simply breathtaking! I also managed to get away for a weekend trip, to the beautiful island of Zanzibar. Known for its paradise style beaches and resorts, spice tours, and rich history.

Through travel, we often gain new layer of wisdom. Wisdom from the experiences we had, the people we met, the food we ate, the stories we heard and the learning we gained made for such an enriching experience. Although life in Tanzania may be worlds apart from life here in North America, it’s through experiences like these that one begins to appreciate travel and cultural realties.

Travel allows us to indulge, learn, and adapt. It was the perfect trip to celebrate my graduation from university and my start into the working world.

Nikita’s photos from Tanzania:

Night time food bazaar known as “Forodhani”, with diverse crowds of tourists

Zanzibar’s Stone Town - a World Heritage Site.

Zanzibar’s Stone Town - a World Heritage Site.

Prison Island, popular beach site in Zanzibar

The Serengeti National Park

The Serengeti National Park

"Kitale” (Coconut filled with potatoes and chillies)

Beginning: Passion, Planning, and Promoting in This Wild Economy

Welcome to Saturday’s wrap-up, take 2! Thanks for your thoughts, ideas, and encouragement this week. Here’s how it played out:

Make all the plans you want and be prepared to throw them out the window. If this wild ride on the economy slide has taught us anything it’s that flexibility, liquidity, and creativity are tools we need to not only survive but thrive. Need a helping hand to get a handle on it all? Check out my posts about planning and free online sources and courses to get a base understanding of how our economy works.

A few weeks ago, Howard Schultz of Starbucks announced that he had challenged his team to figure out how to make Starbucks a jobs creator beyond their own barista counter. To up the challenge, he also wanted to give Starbucks customers a way to get in on the action. This has prompted similar discussions at other companies. President Obama is right – We Can’t Wait. Sparked by the growing need to bring Wall Street and Occupy Wall Street together, I wrote a post this week on the need to take matters into our own collective hands and become job creators.

Self-promotion doesn’t come naturally to most people. We covet humility to such an extent that we’re reluctant to trumpet the good work we’re doing as well as the good work we’d like to do for fear of coming off as attention hogs. Trouble is we can’t find our pack if we don’t howl. Ditch guilt and sing out loud. This week I launched my first Hire Me page on this site and the following day received word that Compass Yoga is now fully incorporated. We’re off to the wellness races – join us!

Wrapping up the week, my thoughts turned to a post on the role of passion in creating the lives we want thanks to a quote by David Hume. Now is the time to encourage and reward new ways of being and thinking in schools, in communities, in our families, in business, and in our government. Reason is overrated; we can and will do better. The best beat for your life can be found in your own soul – use it.

Hope you all had a good week and enjoy a candy-eating, costume-donning, and snowy(!) Halloween.

Beginning: A Time and A Place for Reason (Always In the Backseat)

“Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.” ~ David Hume, Scottish philosopher, economist and historian

Somewhere along the way, “reasonable” got a good connotation and “unreasonable” got a bad connotation in modern society. Comprise, consensus, and contentment hopped aboard the reasonable train. Renegade, fringe, and non-conformity jumped to defend the ground of “unreasonable.” And we all lost in the process. At least until now.

It’s not sustainable. It’s not good for us or for our communities. Reasonable thoughts and behaviors, when left to their own devices, lead us around in circles. They put blinders on us because the preoccupation of a circular path is the center, the indecisive middle ground that stands for nothing except appeasement, which honestly no one wants. Reason needs to be checked.

Think of all the people you admire, products you love, missions of organizations that make you see the world differently, and works of art (broadly defined) that inspire you. Do they define “reasonable” to you? I highly doubt it. I bet they go against the grain.

The trouble is that it’s only when someone achieves the heights of someone like Steve Jobs, my hero of unreasonableness, that we encourage this MO. If someone is “out of line”, meaning that they do something that many others don’t, they get a sideways glance and wide berth as we circumvent their presence, as if we’re afraid of being sucked into their circle of unreasonableness. It shouldn’t be that way. The next Steve Jobs isn’t going to look, act, or sound like Steve Jobs at all. He or she is going to do things his or her own way because that’s what Steve did.

When the phrase “why can’t we all just along?” entered the American lexicon, it was not meant  to be translated into “can’t we all just stand for nothing and never stray from the cookie cutter?” We should be accepting of all people to walk to their own beat. And more than that, we must encourage and reward new ways of being and thinking in schools, in communities, in our families, in business, and in our government.

I’m in David Hume’s camp. Reason, and everything that goes along with it, shouldn’t be vilified but it needs to be contained. For us to progress, reason must be tempered with passion. Not the other way around. And it’s not too late for us – we can turn this around.

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