Let Us Give Thanks

It’s hard to believe that the holidays are once again upon us. It seems like just a few months ago that I was making New Year’s Resolutions and committing to brand new goals, when in fact here we are with six weeks left to our year. I must admit that I do love this time of year, with golden leaves, crisp air, mittens and pumpkins and dressing up, gathering with family, twinkling lights and shiny ornaments.

My kids aren’t little anymore– my younger child will be a teen in 3 months, so I’m no longer doing the snow suit dance in which you get both kids in all the layers and then somehow has to use the bathroom. They listen to music that consists of lots of breathless men playing the ukulele and I long for some Elton John or Aretha or even Queen.  We’re not going on “hikes” in the neighborhood anymore to collect leaves in our buckets to make into pretty pictures. We still pick apples most years, but really fall has become the backdrop of a busy back-to-school season, with dances and sleep-overs, homework, soccer practices and games and lots of scheduling and logistics. We don’t have anyone dressed as superheroes with capes anymore, but my son did volunteer to go to a diversity conference today so that his classmates would know that white guys care about diversity too. My daughter no longer dresses as princess who can change bad to good with her wand, but she helped a woman this fall who had collapsed by the road. She didn’t have a wand, but she had her cell phone and called 911, waiting until the EMT arrived.

This holiday season I want things to be different for me.  I will not rush or overspend or eat until I’m stuffed. Instead, I will try to be present and more moderate, to spend time enjoying the season, to take my time. It’s not easy to do, but a great start is gratitude, remembering that most of us are not escaping war-torn countries, many of us have enough to eat and a place to sleep, and some of us have work that makes us happy.  Today I went to the mall with my family to do some evening shopping and realized how easy it is to pull away from gratitude when you are surrounded by excess– store after store with beautiful things to look at and buy and own. It takes really presence not to get sucked into believing that you will be happier if you own all the shiny objects that are for sale. I tried a few things on in a horrible dressing room with unflattering light and three- way mirrors. It’s a wonder that I bought anything and left feeling at all good about myself in that light and with those angles.

When my kids were little, we used to spend time in the car talking about what we were grateful for. My kids came up with the most wonderful ideas. Here is an excerpt from a Christmas letter that I came across recently, describing the year when my kids were 4 and 2: “Will talks so constantly that Isabel can’t get a word in edgewise. He also loves to shout, “thank you, God!” whenever we’re driving. When we ask what they are grateful for, Isabel tends to be practical, mentioning her house and her friends. Will is more specific—“I’m grateful for blackberries, rocks and gourds. And peaches and mouths.”

So this holiday season, remember that a big part of finding your world stage, is realizing the parts of it that you already have. Let us be grateful for our own version of “peaches and mouths” and shine a light on a world that so needs our joy and our peace.

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In Praise of Soldiers

Last fall my son was asked to sing the 6th grade solo in which he sings from the perspective of a boy soldier in World War I: “My name is Francis Toliver/ I come from Liverpool/ Two years ago the war was waiting for me after school. To Belgium and to Flanders/to Germany to here/I fought for King and country I love dear.” The song called “Christmas in the Trenches” relates the events that happened the first Christmas during the Great War, when both sides stopped fighting for a brief period, left their trenches and met their enemies unarmed, trading chocolates and cigarettes, and showing photographs of back home. They sang and played instruments and even exchanged a game of football. Once daylight returned, however, the men went back to war. I worked with my son as he prepared to inhabit this character to have him understand what it must have been like to be just a teenage boy not much older than he is, stuck in the trenches, cold and muddy and wishing for a real Christmas. That one night of rest from fighting must have been magical.

It’s easy to forget on Veteran’s Day that this is not just some random holiday that allows us a day off, but is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice, which ended the Great War that boys like Francis Toliver slogged through. It, of course, includes other soldiers from other wars, but the date is tied to the end of the Great War, which was called that because it never occurred to anyone that there would be another war. Once we had World War II, the term World War I replaced the term Great War.

Today’s boys have no idea what it was like for those who were the right age before these big wars. They didn’t have a choice in the matter. It was their duty to sacrifice their lives to defend our freedom. Today’s soldiers choose to go to war. They are not drafted, but decide to devote their lives to our country, because they want to make a difference and/or because it’s their chance to do something important and see the world. Whatever the reason, I am grateful for their sacrifice.

I think of my grandfather Horace, who left his young family to volunteer for World War II in his thirties because he felt that he had to fight for our freedom. He was among the early boats that landed at Normandy in June 1944, and described years later the terror of arriving on that beach, knowing that the Germans who were planted up the hill would just be shooting at them non-stop as they tried to make their way from the water on up. Many didn’t make it, but my grandfather somehow did. When I was twelve, I visited Normandy and I couldn’t believe how steep the hill was and how unprotected that beach was. It’s amazing that anyone made it out alive. And yet that landing was a key turning point in the war. With over 150,000 soldiers, the Allies’ successful attack created a victory that became the turning point in the war.
So today, I honor all the soldiers who have served our country throughout time.  I am grateful for your sacrifice and for the freedom you fought for, so that we could all be free. America is great because of all the soldiers who shivered in the cold, in trenches and huddled in boats, waiting for boredom to switch to terror. To all the Francis Tolivers out there, you are my heroes.
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Your Turn

Dear readers,

I am home sick with a nasty cold/virus and have actually lost my voice, which is ironic, given that I write about helping clients to find their voices. Of course, my work is figurative, and the only thing that will help my croaking voice go back to normal, is less work and more rest. So this week, I’m letting my readers write for me.

This is where you come in. I have all these wonderful subscribers, some of whom are family or friends and some of whom are current clients. But, most of you I don’t know yet. I really would love to hear from you to get to know you, so I can write more of what YOU want to read.

Send me an email and let me me know a few things about you. THE FIRST 5 PEOPLE TO RESPOND GET A FREE 50 MINUTE COACHING SESSION.  Just email me at: melinda@worldstagecoaching.com with your quick answers and I’ll contact the winners. The only rule is that you need to be a subscriber who is not someone I have been in contact with recently– so no family, close friends or clients.

  1. Why did you subscribe to my blog, Your World Stage?
  2. What topic do you enjoy reading about most and least?
  3. What is your biggest dream and where is your world stage?
  4. What is keeping you from finding your voice?
  5. What is your favorite place on earth?

Here are my quick answers: 1) I subscribed to the blog because I want to get a copy of my writing in my email box to save! 2) I enjoy reading about overcoming adversity and I don’t like reading about taxes. 3) My biggest dream is to sing on stage with Yo Yo Ma at Carnegie Hall with my parents, my husband and kids, and Oprah there. 4) My biggest challenge– constantly setting boundaries with my kids and others, so that when I say no, it means no. 5) Favorite place ever: Walking down Georgia Lane, in Portola Valley, CA and taking in the pungent smell of dried grasses.

Wishing you all a very healthy, non-voice-losing week. Take a second to contact me.  I’d love to hear from you.

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Me Too

After the news came out that Harvey Weinstein had been sexually harassing and/or molesting women for decades, a Facebook campaign started among women, with millions posting “Me Too” if they had been victims of harassment or assault. I wasn’t surprised that most women chimed in. Many shared horrific stories from “casting couch” job interviews to date rape. I felt incredibly lucky that my experiences in comparison were so minor. I was fortunate that I had an innocent and protected childhood and no one tried to harm me – thank God, although it’s amazing how many women, including former clients, have had that experience.

My first experience with creepy men was when I was in high school and would hang out at the community theatre production my older sister was in to watch the final part of rehearsal. There was a good-looking actor, clearly a playboy among the ladies, who was always complimenting me on my looks. I didn’t mind being called pretty, but his comments seemed menacing in a way that I didn’t understand. He would look at me in a sexual way, check me out all over, and then say in a deep, sexy voice, “Just you wait.” Every time I saw him, he said that. I knew that he was flirting with me, which I found strange, because he was over twice my age and not remotely attractive to me, but every time I saw him he made the same comment. I didn’t know what the words meant– I was an innocent 15 year-old– but I knew that the way he acted made me very uncomfortable.  He was, after all, almost my dad’s age. But I think from his perspective, he was a handsome 35 year-old and since he could have anyone he wanted, he figured he could have me too, as soon as I turned 18. I finally had had it and asked him one night, “What do you mean by ‘Just you wait'”? All of sudden, the normally suave and articulate actor started to stammer and stutter, and I knew for the first time that I had protected myself from something that was not okay. After that, he stayed away from me.

I also had a choir director I went on long summer tours with, and the girls in the choir, many of whom were very pretty teenagers, took turns sitting on his lap. I never felt anything inappropriate beyond that, but looking back, that was not okay. I realized even then that if you wanted favor with the good-looking thirty something choir director, you sat on his lap. Ten years later, I found out that he had been kicked out of the church for having sex with the minister’s daughter, one of the girls in my choir who was on those choir tours. It was unclear if he had really done it, since it was his word versus that of a troubled teen looking for attention, so who knows what really happened. But looking back, allowing young girls to sit on his lap, if they were pretty and good singers and wanted the better solos, was just plain wrong. I’m so grateful that nothing happened, but I learned early on that older men expected pretty girls to make them feel better about themselves, and that was sometimes the price to getting what you wanted.

Even though I was never assaulted, I did get a bit of sexual harassment, in the form of a good-looking associate at the law firm I worked out who told me that I should enter a wet t-shirt contest because I would win. I also had a record producer make it clear that he “wanted to make me a star” but apparently there were a lot of strings attached, which I wasn’t willing to go along with, like riding on his motorcycle and then “looking at his record collection” at his place. And I had a well-known voice teacher who was well into 80’s try to feel me up while I was singing, thinking it was all right since he was “important.” I never went back.

Now that I’m a coach and work with many female clients who are 30 and forging their careers and navigating love and relationships, it’s disheartening that nothing has changed. Even though there is greater awareness about sexual harassment and assault, women are still having to twist themselves into pretzels to get along and not offend, which is so diminishing and exhausting.  I see so many women who make statements that sound like endless questions and who apologize constantly, to make themselves seem smaller and less threatening.  I recently had a gay male priest at a church we used to attend, accuse me of being “deeply unhappy” just because he disapproved of a political comment that I made. Shame is a great poison– don’t attack the idea, but instead diminish the woman. But standing up to that is what makes it stop. I told him, “Why exactly would you think that I’m deeply unhappy just because you disagree with what I said?” And like the handsome actor from my teenage years who stuttered when I confronted him, this priest did the same. What he couldn’t say was that he felt better about himself if he could diminish another person. He clearly wanted women to stay quietly in their place. That might have been allowed in 1817, but not 2017.

To find your world stage, reclaim your voice, which means speaking out against harassment and abuse and belittling and shaming.  Go to http://www.worldstagecoaching.com and sign up for my free PDF called “5 Key Ways to Find Your Voice” and try the action steps suggested. It’s time we start speaking up and claiming our very own world stage. We don’t need permission to know that we are allowed. It’s time.

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Wheat vs. Chaff

In the Bible, John the Baptist uses the image of needing to separate the wheat from the chaff, to determine who is worthy of heaven or not. The phrase has evolved in a more secular way to mean that it’s important to separate what is good or necessary from what is not. But this is what so many of us struggle with. In this complex, 24/7 go-go culture, with stimuli coming from everywhere, it’s not so easy.
That’s what I thought until my son got really sick last weekend. In the blink of an eye, my normally healthy 12 year-old, went from happily playing to doubled over in pain.  Within two hours of his very first hint of pain, he couldn’t even walk. My athletic, energetic boy was crawling to the door, until my husband picked him up like a baby and carried him to the car. Less than four hours after we arrived at Boston Children’s Hospital, surgery had begun. Two hours later and well after midnight, the surgery was successfully completed.  I’ve never felt so relieved that it was over and he was safe.
But a funny thing happen; things started to become crystal clear for me. I had been struggling for some time to clarify who my friends were, making excuses for the “busy” friends who never call. But in a crisis, it all makes sense. People either show up or they don’t. My parents, who are amazing, dropped everything and drove down to stay with me and help out for four days and nights, since my husband needed to fly to Japan on business for a week. My friend Lorraine called me at the hospital and asked what she could do. Did I want a visitor? Could her son, who is my son’s friend, get homework?  He ended up enlisting most of the 7th grade in making cards, even though many middle schoolers feel that they are past the card-making days. But my son got homemade card after card from girls and boys, with drawings, jokes, funny sports clippings, science puzzles, and effusive lines like “We miss you so much!” Every day he read them and I’m sure it’s why he is healing so well.
In addition, my friend Ann texted her husband to come visit us in the hospital and he cheered us up by explaining exactly what they do in an appendectomy. My friend Meghan emailed a number of times and asked what she could do, and later in the middle of her two weeks of “service” as a doctor on call in the hospital– which is 24/7 work– she picked up a balloon and card and had her son drop it off, to my son’s delight. My friend Alysa called and emailed and offered to pick up groceries. Val contacted me, even though her son had had a liver transplant only weeks before, to check in. Leslie came by with her son with cookies and funny stories. Heena and her son came by with a cute card and a much-needed visit. Both Alison and Joel sent sweet texts. My friend Carol called and emailed and we caught up by phone. Riya and Hattie sent nice emails. Paula emailed her concern and followed up a few times. And teachers emailed their concerns and best wishes.
The best thing about a crisis is it really does help you to separate the wheat from the chaff. All these friends, some of whom I am closer to than others, were the wheat, the healthy part that is nurturing. But some sadly ended up showing themselves to be the chaff, including one “friend” from college who, in spite of my trying to connect with him for the past 6 weeks, well before my son’s incident, just couldn’t be bothered to return my emails or calls. When I finally texted, after my son’s surgery, he responded with a promise to connect the next day, which never happened. Before, I had been fretting that maybe I should take this personally. But after my son’s surgery, it was clear as day, that this was not about me. This was his problem and I was needing to move on. I no longer had time for the chaff in my life.
And there were other things this week. Spending joyful time with my parents matters, while catching up on bills can wait. Snuggling my kids matters, but cleaning up my messy office can wait. Watching a good movie or a funny show matters, but responding to all 130 emails like I had a gun to my head, just doesn’t work for me. Most people will just have to wait. Spending time outside in this glorious fall weather?  Yes please.  Spending one more second wondering why a non-friend doesn’t call? Nope.
To find your world stage, remember that your time and energy are precious. None of us knows when we could go from fine to doubled over in pain, needing surgery.  Seize the healthy days you have and when crisis does come, as it does for all of us, remember to separate the wheat from the chaff.  You’ll see that it’s really easy to do when you focus truly on what matters.
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Fake News

In this current political climate of Fake News accusations, it is useful to identify where in our lives we have our own version of fake news. Until this election, it never occurred to me that there was such a thing as truly fake news, but now that we know Russia tried to interfere with American elections, it’s a sobering reality. We’ve always known that advertising was fake in the sense that words are used to manipulate us into buying products we don’t need, by identifying problems we don’t have and solutions we can’t afford. But fake news exists even closer to home. The newest thing is that businesses are now calling themselves “communities” so that customers will feel compelled to give of their time to help the business. This is very common among businesses catering to coaches growing their businesses. The fact is, if you are buying a service, you have no obligation to help that business. And yet we feel compelled to, because we want to be part of a community. Schools do the same things. One of my kid’s schools tries to hook in parent volunteers by providing “opportunities” to be part of community and give school tours for free or host a student. Given what we’re paying for private school tuition, this is a big ask. This would actually be a favor, not an opportunity. But it’s spun in such a way to make it sound like the school is doing you a favor.

Churches do this too, making you feel that all are welcome and that they care about your needs and opinions. But after trying out multiple churches over the years, none of which felt right after a while, I’ve come to realize that the pattern is the same. You attend a few times, and then the requests for your time and money come in and never stop, but you need to walk on eggshells if you disagree with the priests. And if you have ideas that conflict with what the leadership wants, you will be attacked for not fitting in, even though “everyone is welcome.” We left our last church a few weeks ago because the priest was offended that I had different political beliefs than he did and sent me a very angry email, lashing out at me for having a different view. It was not clear initially, but became clear, that he is part of a radical far left movement that is so extreme, there is no room for any other way of being or thinking. I realized that this church was delivering fake news; it wasn’t about Christianity but socialist politics. We left, and we’ve never felt more relieved.

I noticed in this day and age of sound bites and tweets and social media posing, it’s hard to know if someone is telling the truth. We have a president who lies constantly and congressmen who are getting hand-outs so that they will vote against most Americans’ interests. It’s hard to trust that any politician is telling the truth. This ends up trickling down to day-to-day interactions. I’m amazed by how many people think it’s okay to just not return emails or calls, and their excuse is that they’re busy. I love the idea of “He’s Just Not That Into You” to share with my clients who are struggling with dating unavailable men. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but if someone isn’t returning calls, it speaks volumes about them. If a friend or colleague is ignoring you or disrespecting you, but comes up for all sorts of “spin” for why that is happening, remember Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous words: “What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.” Actions do in fact speak louder than words.

To find your world stage, notice the fake news in your life, the times you’re being told something that you know is a lie, the times when the truth is being spun or when you’re being sold a false bill of goods. All you have to do is listen to your gut. And once you know what is the truth, then you will know how to proceed.

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Politically Correct?

There has been a growing trend toward political correctness and claiming victimhood that is disturbing. I just read recently that many districts across the country are insisting that student as young as kindergarten are being asked to pick which pronoun they would like to have used for them. How many of us knew what a pronoun was at age 5? Children in some schools are now being referred to as “scholars” since the school doesn’t want to use the words “boy” or “girl.” Can you really call a kindergartner a scholar? At our local school, the new principal transitioned from female to male and decided to make the curriculum shaped around gay politics and gender identity, even though this doesn’t apply to most of the students. The middle school students are not reading any literature, because that would mean dipping into the white male canon, which is not politically correct. Instead, they get to choose their own beach reads to use as literature, classics like Marie Antoinette Serial Killer.

At our local high school, every student is asked to list their preferred pronouns, even though many feel uncomfortable with this and it doesn’t apply to them. In contrast, my daughter’s private school admitted a transgender boy last year and helped him to assimilate, not by alienating everyone else, but by insisting on kindness and manners. The transgender boy changed in an empty office, since neither locker room was appropriate for him or for his peers, he dressed like all the boys, and he was treated like one of the boys. And that blanket of kindness and inclusion was what changed him and made him feel safe. He was not offered 1 of 64 different genders, as public schools now educate kids about. He was not allowed to push his agenda every day or make everything about him. But he was accepted for his new identity which made all the difference in the world.

Yale University, my alma mater, has now caved into student protests to keep students from wearing “upsetting Halloween costumes”– these are young adults, not toddlers.  They have broken stained glass windows that they found offensive. They have protested until the name of one of the residential colleges, named for a pro-slavery senator, was changed. They have resisted learning Shakespeare and other “dead white male writers,” and insisted on covering up a gargoyle that was offensive, of a colonist and his gun, standing next to an Indian with his bow and arrow. The gun was covered up but the bow and arrow wasn’t. Freshmen are no longer freshmen– they are now called first year, which is confusing because that is the term that graduate students use. (And yet, most females I know refer to each other as “you guys.”) I wonder how long it will take until Yale gets rid of giving the degree of a “master” since that is offensive too.  I’m sure pretty soon students will push to have the name of Yale changed, since he was a slave holder too.

Harvard’s newest venture is that it is banning men from its coed gym six hours per week because a handful of female Muslim students don’t feel comfortable exercising in front of men. To be clear, this is not in violation of their religion to exercise with men; they just don’t want to have to wear the head scarves while exercising.  he fact is that there are women’s only gyms in the town of Cambridge and there are also women colleges that they could have chosen. So these men are barred from working out some of the time to please six Muslim women. Students have been up in arms, writing, “What if black people don’t want to exercise near white people or gay people near straight people or gymnasts near football players?” What if someone needs to work alone in a crowded office because they are bipolar and need quiet and isolation? Should they be accommodated?

It scares me how focused we are these days on our needs. Dog owners who plead that they need “comfort animals” on flights are flying their dogs for free, and others on the flight with allergies are made to suffer. One woman with strong dog allergies was actually dragged off a flight recently because she wasn’t carrying the right documentation to show that she could fly safely with her allergies. Gay men have rallied against Mother’s Day, arguing that it’s not for women anymore, when in fact there is a Father’s Day for them. I just read that some gay parents are trying to get rid of the words “woman”, “man”, “mother” and “father” because they are not inclusive enough. And now that some states have laws that anyone who feels they are female may use the female locker room, there are incidences happening where men are coming in, not even dressed as a woman, insisting that they feel female, and then showering alongside entire female swim teams. When asked to leave, they remind the pool that it is illegal to ask about their identity. Bathroom stalls are a different thing since there is inherent privacy there, but a locker room brings up privacy issues. One lawyer who deals with sexual predators wrote that these kinds of people will take advantage of these new laws.

Finally, many students today want free education and government hand-outs like food stamps for graduate students, until they start working and realize how much of a chunk of their pay check is taken out. As long as someone else is paying for them, that’s great.  But once they have to pay, it’s a whole different thing. As my dad taught me, “The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

To find your world stage, be the person who is open minded, in a world of polarized views. You will stand out for not needing special privileges, for not insisting that everything be about you and your needs. People will be drawn to you because they will realize that for the first time, they can exhale. And when you read about more and more entitled people insisting on special exceptions for them, please speak up. We need more people saying NO to this. Enough is enough.

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Put Down the Phone

This week the weather has been glorious– the last gasp of summer with just a hint of fall. I have been out with my phone taking pictures of the azure sky and green leaves just starting to turn color. Yesterday I walked around Larz Anderson Park and relished the light dancing on the pond and the explosion of water coming from the pond’s fountain. It was one of those beautiful days that was so glorious, you couldn’t help but smile and be grateful.

And yet, all the people I passed in the park were head down, staring at their phones. There was magic going on all around them and all they had to do was look up, but they didn’t. They missed it all.

I see babies looking up at their moms with big toothless grins and all they see is the top of their moms’ head, buried in their phones.

I hear silence in restaurants because families are not talking with each other but instead all staring at their devices.

I notice parents at soccer games who actually miss seeing their child score a goal because they are so distracted.

I know from my coaching clients how lonely they are because they are looking up at the world and no one is there to greet their gaze.

Recently I went on a walk with a neighbor. I left my phone at home, but she didn’t, and she took three calls during our hour walk, even though she had the time to take care of them later since she is not working and all but one of her kids is grown. And yet later in the day I spent 90 minutes with a very busy friend, who works and has three young boys, but her phone was off and her attention was on me. There is nothing more important than giving your full attention to someone else, no matter how busy you are.

My teens joke that I will never be addicted to my phone, because half the time I can’t even find it. When I do, I find that Facebook and Instagram are pale imitations of life. Why admire a picture of a park, when you can actually be in one and use all your senses? What’s the point of “liking” someone else’s dinner if you can’t be present at your own?

Here’s what I know: what is happening right now will not be repeated. It’s not like a movie you can see again if you missed it the first time.  There’s only one time when your son learns to walk those first few wobbly steps, or when your daughter learns to read or when your new boyfriend confesses he really likes you, or when you see your friend walk down the aisle. And when I see the sky streaked in a beautiful pink, there is only one conclusion I make, as I tell my kids: “God is showing off.”

To find your world stage, remember that now is the time. We think we have endless time but we don’t, even if we get to live to old age. If you don’t notice what is around you right now, it will slip away, never to be repeated. So put down the phone and open your eyes to the glorious world all around you.

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Watch the Road

I recently read about a mom in Oklahoma who was driving six kids home from a water park last summer on the way to a soccer game. It was hot and she was probably tired, and with six kids in the car, ranging in age from 7-13, three of whom were hers and three of whom were her kids’ friends, I’m sure she was distracted. But something happened around 3:20pm on Monday July 17 coming back from Tulsa, and instead of slowing down to stop behind a semi-truck that was parked in front of her, she plowed into the back of it at full speed, killing herself and two kids– her son and one of his friends– instantly. The other four kids were air lifted out, but one of the 13 year-old girls, a friend of her older daughter’s, was taken off life support two days later. The other two 13 year-olds are still battling all sorts of injuries in the hospital two months later, one on a breathing tube relearning how to move and the other in a full body cast. The only child who escaped with no injuries, was the mom’s 7 year-old daughter, who was most likely in a booster seat. The boys, however, had no seat belts on, and no one is sure if the girls were belted. It is frankly amazing that anyone survived, given that the SUV drove at full speed into the back of a semi, and just folded in on itself like a giant accordion.

I keep thinking about this accident because so often my kids are being driven by other people and I have to assume that they will keep their eyes on the road and not text and not be distracted. I can’t imagine the family getting the call that their son was killed and two daughters fighting for their lives, and then realizing that one wasn’t going to make it. Pulling the plug on their 13 year-old is not what this family had planned. The mom who killed three other people, including her son, and severely injured two more, including one of her daughters, can’t be held accountable since she’s dead, but it’s clear from the traffic report that she was “unlawfully distracted.” I don’t know if that means she was texting, but the fact that she didn’t notice the truck was parked in front of her and was barreling at a high speed without any attempt to break (no skid marks), means most likely that she was looking down at her phone. Maybe an important text came in and she figured she knew this stretch of road like the back of her hand. She might have been running late, wanting to notify the coach of their whereabouts, apologizing for keeping the team waiting as she hauled an SUV filled with star soccer players. She might have turned around to ask the boys to stop throwing the nerf ball in the back, or to answer a quick question, or to quickly glance at her daughters’ phone at a cute picture, since we know the daughter was in the front with her feet propped up against the dash– the least safe way to travel.

What’s curious to me is that everyone is saying what a great mom this woman was, not mentioning the fact that her carelessness killed all these people. But for a lot of people, a great mom is someone who thinks nothing of driving a car full of kids to the water park, and then rushes back to a soccer game, organizing things on the phone along the way to make sure everything works perfectly, until it doesn’t. After the crash, the soccer coaches focused on what great athletes these kids were, and then added as an after thought that they were great kids. But I wonder if the hyper-competitive soccer atmosphere was part of the dynamic that made this woman forget that her most important job at 3:20 on that Monday was to the keep those kids safe. I’m also curious what will happen in the aftermath. Yes, there are Go Fund Me pages for both families. I do wonder if the other family will sue for wrongful death. But then, who do you sue? The surviving husband? Some commentators were blaming the state for constant construction and unsafe roads, but that’s true everywhere. But I think it’s safe to say in this case, the problem was a tired, distracted mom who took her eyes off the road for too long and no one in that town will ever be the same.

To find your world stage, remember where you are on the road of life.  Don’t lose sight of the path or closer your eyes to obstacles. It’s okay to slow down or even temporarily stop, but if you go barreling ahead with no attention to what is around you, it could really cost you. And beyond the metaphor, remember to never mix texting and driving since it’s more dangerous than drunk driving. Always be aware of your surroundings and keep your eyes on the road, because in an instant everything could change.

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Dirty Money

Lately I’ve been hearing about money a lot from my clients. In some cases, they have a lot of money but feel guilty for having it, as though they did something wrong. In other cases, they have very little and feel bad about themselves for not making the kind of money (yet) that they want from their dream career. I remind those with a lot of money that money is a powerful tool that can be used for good, to help with an election, to fund new green programs, to add to an underfunded school. So much good can be done in the world, but money is the engine that makes it happen. Bill and Melinda Gates are two of my heroes because they turned their vast fortune into a foundation that is actively changing the lives of poor people around the world. If they had just gone and volunteered somewhere, that wouldn’t have been nearly as effective. For those clients who don’t have enough money, I remind them that there’s no shame in not having enough or struggling, but it can be a great motivator for getting out of the house and working harder. The gift of having to make money is that it pushes you to succeed in a way that people with trust funds don’t have, which is why the children of celebrities are often not as successful as their parents, since they don’t have to be.

In some cases, clients have beliefs that money is somehow evil. A lot of people confuse the famous quote about money from the Bible. They think the phrase is, “Money is at the root of all evil” but in fact it is, “The LOVE of money is the root of all evil.” In other words, greed is a problem, because it corrupts people and turns people away from kindness and generosity. But having money is not a problem. It can be an incredible force for good. And yet, many people inherit toxic beliefs about money that keep them from succeeding. I spoke with an artist recently who felt that having to work “for the man” was beneath him. He felt that groveling for money was unbecoming because all money was corrupting. I did try to remind him of all the great philanthropists throughout history, but he was not convinced. I suppose that this kind of attitude can work if you are independently wealthy– you can have streams of income arriving without having to interact with money and then you can do whatever you want with your time. But most of us need to work. And this artist needed to make money since he has little savings and no retirement. He was asking me about some “get rich easy” solutions to create enough passive income that he wouldn’t have to worry about money. I reminded him that those don’t exist. The reality is that that’s what everyone wants– to make a lot of money easily doing something that is quick and easy and not illegal.  But if it were that easy, everyone would be doing it. The internet in some ways is like a modern day Gold Rush, in that the early adopters made a lot of money different ways. But for everyone else who has followed, it’s a lot harder because so many more people are competing.

The way to have an abundant life and to claim your world stage is to look at and change any limiting beliefs about money, such as “Money is evil, it doesn’t grow on trees, or it corrupts everything.” Remember that without money, you can’t create what you want to do in the world. But with money, you can give to causes you care about, travel, give to your children, create or fund great art, and really impact the world.

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