Saturday, November 20, 2010

Life path

Our first challenge in life is to find our path. The second challenge is to continue pursuing that path, despite what others say, think or feel about our chosen direction. Satisfaction comes from understanding that we have, indeed, found the right path for ourselves. Suffering exists only when we cling to what is not or cannot be. If some in our life don’t approve of or appreciate our choices or perspective, that is their prerogative; it has precious little to do with us. Validation comes from within – not outside of – ourselves.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Of rights and risks

Elections, elections everywhere. But nary a leader in sight.

Well, that's not actually true, but it sure seems to be the mood of the people these days. Look anywhere - in your own city or across the border in the US - and the horizon is clogged with people complaining about politicians and the gravy train. Well, anger is a righteous emotion, but I'm not convinced it's prudent to make decisions while in the throes of it.

With our democratic right to cast a ballot comes the responsibility to BE responsible about that right. This means taking the time to listen beyond the 30-second sound bite and actually invest our energy in learning what the candidates are truly saying and - maybe most importantly - what the facts of the moment are.

There is so much nattering going on about "the fat" at City Hall (or in Ottawa or at the Leg or down in Washington - pick your political location)...and it's just that, nattering. How about someone in the media does some real investigating to unearth the FACTS about the fat: Is it really there? What would we be cutting in order to trim the fat? How much fat should we have in order for our lives to have some flavour, some meaning?

I'm getting mighty tired of the armchair politicos raising their voice in anger, while remaining firmly seated on the couch. Get out there and make a difference. Stop whining from the comfort of your blinkered perspective. Want to retain the right to vote? Then exercise your responsibility to be engaged in the process. With every right comes a risk. And we're on the verge of risking our collective democracy for the privilege of rule by anger.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

When the pipes burst

Nothing in life is guaranteed. Not love, security, happiness or health. The only thing I know for sure is that I am in charge of choosing how to respond to the good and the bad that comes my way.

Yesterday, I learned the city water line that comes into my house has sprung a leak -- and it's my responsibility to have it replaced. Yikes - that will be messy and expensive. I'd love there to be someone to blame, someone to take responsibility. But there is no one and nothing to blame. The pipes are old and I happen to own the property they service. Damn and blast, but there you have it. Life. When you least expect it. Smacks you in the eye.

I am overwhelmed and exhausted even before I begin to sort this out. But focusing on those emotions will get me precisely nowhere.

Pick myself up. Dust myself off. And start calling those contractors. That'll get the ball rolling and repairs happening. Even though each step brings me one closer to my lovingly tended front yard being dug up, it's the only way through this mess. And it's going to get messier.

Oh well. At least the basement hasn't flooded...yet.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Volunteer with your eyes open

I've joined oodles of organizations in my life, most of them because I have believed in the issue or cause. Never did I engage in the kind of pre-joining scrutiny, however, that Doreen Pendgracs outlines in her new book: Before You Say Yes...A guide to the pleasures and pitfalls of volunteer boards. I've recently reconnected with Doreen (we worked together in the early 90s) and am happy to offer this review of her book:

Before you say yes....A Guide to the Pleasures and Pitfalls of Volunteer Boards
By Doreen Pendgracs
Published by Dundurn Press 2010

This 145-page guide to membership on volunteer boards is a gem. Open it to any page and you’ll find something of value: a quick & simple guide to Roberts Rules of Order; a checklist of what makes for an effective board meeting; tips on how to best embrace virtual meeting technology; suggestions for how to be an effective board member; a chart of motivators that can drive people’s actions; how to consider – and manage – the risk & liability you have as a director of an organization...and more.

Doreen Pendgracs’ central message is important: If you’re serious about contributing to an organization (for free!), then take the process of committing to that organization as a board member as seriously as you would consider taking on a job. It’s about matching your skills and objectives with the organization’s needs and it’s about making sure that you mesh with the organization’s culture. Too often, we join a board because our skills match their needs, but we forget to consider whether (or not) we’ll “fit” with the culture and the obligations inherent in board membership.

The structure of the book is reader friendly: Each chapter opens with a brief recap of the previous chapter and a short overview of the current chapter. This keeps the content clear in the reader’s mind and makes it really easy to dip into the book here and there yet sill know exactly how the current chapter is framed. That’s intelligent planning on the author’s part.

The text is broken up with numerous useful graphic elements – checklists, tables, charts, etc., which make the layout very inviting. Pendgracs has included lots of references and resources for further reading and research – very helpful for those of us who can get lost on today’s overloaded information highway! And she explains many terms that are often tossed around the boardroom table without explanation – fiduciary responsibility, for example.

Written in a friendly, engaging style, the book is a compilation of the author’s own experience on boards and the experience of people she has met over her 25 years of volunteering. Pendgracs doesn’t have all the answers – how could any one person or book claim that? – but she certainly covers a lot of topics, including backroom politicking and dealing with difficult people. Anyone contemplating joining a board – or wondering why they are still contributing to a board but getting nothing from the experience – will benefit from reading this book.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Average is perfect

'Hey - it's ok to be average; being average is normal - that's why most of us are average - it's where the meaning of the word comes from - most of us are it and it's average!' So said a workshop leader the other day, and I thought: What a great paradigm shift.

Instead of spending time and energy being extraordinary, exceptional, superlative and unique, why not spend time and energy simply being authentically who we are?

Of course, we're driven these days to perfection and exception, to individualism and uniqueness. But it's hard work and it doesn't seem to make us any happier.

How about we all resolve to chill in 2010. Forget perfection and exception. Aim for happy medium. Choose contentment. Settle for being authentic and kind and thoughtful.

Cop out or wisdom for the time? What do you think?