Two Questions for Summer

Since I hope you’re on a beach or by a lake somewhere, I want to keep this week’s post short. I have two questions:

  1. Do you feel supported and inspired by the people you spend the most time with? We are the average of the people we spend the most time with, so whomever we spend time with matters. If you have great people around you who lift you up, then you are fortunate indeed. If you don’t, then now is the time to make changes.
  2. Do you love the work you do? Work should allow you to use your greatest gifts and make a difference. When you’re doing what you love, you’re in the flow and feel like you lose track of time. You enjoy what you do so much that you could do it for free. If you’re not experiencing this, summer is a great time to reflect on what you could do that would excite you.

Happy July from World Stage Coaching!

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Summer Quiz Pt 1

Since summer is a time to slow down, relax, and have fun, I like to have summer quizzes off and on during the summer instead of writing full blog posts every week.

The first 5 readers to answer these 3 questions and email them to me at melinda@worldstagecoaching.com, get a free coaching session.

Here are the 3 questions:

  1. What is your favorite summer memory? 
  2. Where do you like to travel to each summer?
  3. What is the summer fruit you like the best?

That’s it– just 3 quick answers sent to me, and the first 5 respondents (who are not clients or family members) get a free coaching session.

For me, my favorite summer memories have been camping each summer with my daughter at her girls’ camp. It’s a 48 hour sprint through the woods, but after seven years, it has been one of the most special things we have done. My favorite place to visit growing up was a family camp in the Sierras in California. Now it’s going to Maine and New Hampshire to see family. My favorite fruits: watermelon and blueberries are tied ūüôā

Have a great week and make sure you do what delights you!

Wishing you sunshine and fun from World Stage Coaching.

 

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Happiness is… Summer!

May this summer be filled with sunshine, adventure, family, and all good things!

Stay tuned for my summer drawings for free coaching. In the meantime, click on the title and post whether you are a beach person or a lake person, and you can win a free session.

Happy Summer from World Stage Coaching!

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Love Is All

Usually on Mother’s Day, our kids make cards for me and we do something special. But as my grandmother used to say to my father when he was little, “If you’re not going to be nice to me every day, then don’t bother with Mother’s Day.” I do feel that the overpriced brunches and corsages are a little much and not what women want. We want appreciation, and someone else to do the dishes and clean the bathrooms.

Somehow on Father’s Day, which is today, we tend to let things slide. Since it’s part of the mad-dash of year-end activities, the day often gets short shrift. This year we’re not really celebrating today because my daughter is on a school trip in Spain and my son is writing as much as he can for a musical he’s submitting to his school tomorrow for consideration for next year’s theatre season. Since I’m writing the music with him, that’s what I’m doing today, as well as sexy things like returning something that’s broken to Amazon, and contacting the doctor to fill out medical forms, and going through piles of papers. Since the laundry is overflowing, my husband is doing load after load even though it’s supposed to be his special day. This is why I love my husband. He’s not sitting around glued to the television, wondering when his snacks and beers are going to be delivered. He’s scrambling around trying to help us so that everything gets done. Given how much he’s been traveling lately, it is amazing to not only around have him around, but to have him do chores so that I can keep my sanity.

Here’s what I have to say to any of my female readers: the guy you want to marry should be the guy you’re attracted to and best friends with and someone who makes you laugh. But he should also be the one who does laundry on Father’s Day and is as happy to mow the lawn as he is to cook a Julia Child’s meal. The guy who knows how to craft the perfect email when there is a problem, whether with a teacher or a workman. The guy who can comfort a crying baby and intervene with a moody teenager.

Recently, I had my first professional singing gig in 12 years, and it was a huge successРstanding room only and such tremendous applause, that I wish I could have bottled it. My parents got to be there, which is special since they live 3,000 miles away. And my son got to hear me for the first time in his memory. (My daughter will have to see me next time since she was still in Spain.) A lot of the audience said that their favorite song was one of the originals I played, called Billy and Me, which is a love song I wrote for my husband when we were first married. Twenty five years later, it still applies, and in fact more so. There is nothing sexier than a guy who is a great dad and who really supports his wife so that she can be a happy person.  Here are the lyrics to the chorus:

Love is all I know/Take me wherever you go

Love is all I see/Cause you take in all of me

So in honor of all the wonderful men out there who are great dads, here’s to you. A big part of finding your world stage, is being that person who allows others to claim their world stage as well, both children finding their way and wives needing the space to reclaim theirs.

HPIM2501_1.jpgThis is our family 12 years ago, right after I had stopped performing, since I was focusing on these guys.

Proud

Whenever I drive around, I see bumper stickers with something like “Proud Parent of an Honor Roll Student” or I see an elite college on the back of the car for all to see. I get that people are proud of their kids, but it reminds me of all the senseless bragging on social media: “I’m just so blessed that little Timothy got into all eight Ivy League schools.” Or the endless hashtags: “#proudmama”, “#howdidIgetsolucky” and on and on. I think, though that in addition to too much bragging, we’re focusing on the wrong things. What about accomplishments that have nothing to do with grades and college or Division 1 championships? Those are the things that matter most to me.

This week has been one of those harrowing weeks in which my husband has been away on business in China, my daughter was on a school camping expedition for two days, then home for three and then off today for 10 days in Spain for another school trip. The exterminator came twice, my son had an SSAT class, then a math tutor, my daughter was the photographer at the school prom, my daughter had a cello lesson and then a tennis lesson, and my son will have had two soccer practices and two soccer games this week. In addition, one of my son’s friends had a family crisis that involved my intervention and both kids had hours and hours of end-of-year homework. In addition, my son decided he wanted to write an original music based on kids riding the rails in the Great Depression and needed me to write some of the music for his presentation– since it’s being considered for the school’s musical next year. And we had a lot of yard work that had to get done, in addition to packing. Did I mention that in all of this, I had to prep for my first professional gig in 12 years, in addition to my coaching business?

Here’s what made me proud this week. I needed to get a few hours of yard work done before Thursday morning, which was Trash Amnesty Day, meaning the town would take extra trash and yard waste. I asked my kids to help out and they ended up working in the yard until 8:30 at night, asking me to go inside after a while, since I was so exhausted from everything else, and then they finished up without me. I didn’t pay them, but they just pitched in and made it happen, even though they still had hours of homework. I needed them and they came through. In addition, one of my kids’ friends called late on Thursday night in crisis and my son was calm and supportive to him, since the boy was depressed, and also suicidal. I got on the phone and talked to him as well and then called the school the next day to talk to the school psychologist who then talked with him. She will get help for him. But it was my son who was there for his friend when he felt like he had no out. That makes me proud.

To find your world stage, forget the values of social media, which are mostly fake anyway. Remember that how much money you have or where your kids go to college or what you do for a living– those are all superficial things that in the end don’t matter. What matters is helping out your family and being a good friend. And this week, my kids showed me that they understood what mattered, and that makes me incredibly proud.

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Remembering

Those of us who are American are heading into Memorial Day weekend, which is the time that summer seems to start, even though technically that doesn’t happen until late June. It’s a time for barbecues and relaxing into summer mode, even though most schools are still in full swing. It’s also, of course, a time to remember all of our soldiers who have died, but all too often that gets lost amidst the picnics and beach time. When I was growing up, my parents would often get out the flag and hang it up to remember that my grandfather volunteered for World War II in his early thirties, because he had intelligence gathering skills that he knew would help the war effort, even though he was leaving a wife and child behind. We hung the flag to commemorate all the heroes who have fought in wars, whether they made it back or not.

Last fall, I wrote about Veterans Day, which is more specifically geared to all veterans who have served and continue to serve, whereas Memorial Day is devoted to remembering all those who died in our wars. ¬†Here’s what I wrote:

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. 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… .¬†

As we gather around our barbecues and celebrate the sunshine and the return of warmer days, let us not forget all the men and women who fought so that we could be free, particularly those who never returned. And let us not forget that democracy is not a given, but is something that must be fought for over and over. As you seek your world stage, don’t forget that we have an obligation to remember those who bravely came before us and sacrificed their lives, so that we may have the freedom to choose our own path. I will always be grateful.

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Real Friends

It gets harder to make new friends, as well as maintain friendships we have, as we get older because everyone is so busy these days.¬†It’s bittersweet because I realize how much energy teens put into their friendships, whereas adults often don’t. I have a friend from college whom I haven’t seen in six years; he never calls or emails and takes weeks to get back to me, and only after several calls or emails on my part. Another friend doesn’t work but over-schedules her kids so much, that she is constantly exhausted, driving them to different states for sporting events. The only way I see her is if I initiate. The last time I saw her was at soccer tryouts for our sons’ travel teams. She spent the whole time complaining about how much she hated traveling to Connecticut and Rhode Island for soccer games and standing in the pouring rain, but her son wanted to be on a “select” team in addition to the travel league. I said, “You know, you could have said no. You were the one who signed the papers.” She looked surprised, but I was kind of done with the excuses. After all, we’re the ones who create all the busyness. It gets old trying to chase down friends who don’t want to take the time. I think people have forgotten what friendship really means. It doesn’t mean that you post occasionally on a Facebook wall, or that you wait for the other person to contact you, but that there is a mutual give and take and a commitment to being there for each other.

This spring, my daughter signed up to host a Spanish exchange student, who just left after ten magical days, and then they will meet again next month near Madrid. Maria showed up, in a way, like Mary Poppins, full of joy and energy and support and wisdom and soccer skills and insights, and so much more than we thought we would be getting. With Maria here, our daughter was more focused in school and felt happy having another teenager girl in-house to do things with, from karaoke in the basement to basketball outside to soccer to bowling to singing songs around the piano. Maria was a guest and we certainly worked hard to make her visit special, as we did last year when we hosted a French student. But there was something different at play. Maria became a friend in ten short days, not just to my daughter, but to my son and my husband and me. She was grateful and insightful and warm and present. She was, in a word, a friend in the truest way. After a bad soccer practice that made me cry because the boys on my son’s team were so mean to each other, she was there to comfort me. Before my daughters’ audition for the school musical, she was there to make sure my daughter was prepared. She joked in the car to make my son more relaxed before his exams. She made us all laugh in English, even though it was her second language. That’s why she seemed like Mary Poppins– she arrived and magically everything was better and more fun. The fact that a Spanish teenager who is 16 could be a better friend to me in ten days of knowing me than many so-called friends, definitely made me think long and hard about who my true friends are. People seem to forget that friendship means regularly checking in about how the other person is doing, and there has to be reciprocity too; it can’t just be one person doing all the tending. But so many people schedule themselves so tightly, there is no rooms to care for others, beyond their kids and their busy calendars.

To find your world stage, take a chance and host an exchange student. It may be a magical experience. And if not, remember that busyness is never an excuse for not being a good friend. If you take the time to check in and ask about how things are and be present, you will be light years ahead of most people, who use busyness as an excuse for not being there for others.pexels-photo-541518.jpeg

Change Takes Time

One of the things that I don’t like about the coaching industry is that it sells the idea that you can have anything you want in life quite easily as long as you pay a lot of money for a given coaching deal. The expense is carefully reframed as “the investment.” Now I’m a life/executive coach, but I don’t change exorbitant fees (like over $1,000 per month), because I want my services to be accessible to people. However, there is a well-known coach who emailed everyone on his list last year to offer a “carefully curated group of top business professionals” to form a mastermind group for the “low” price of 10k per year. Not very much was even being offered for that price, except the opportunity to be surrounded by top professionals. I deleted the email, but I know a few people who were burned by this. And interestingly, a year later, there is no reference on the internet to the program that was offered at all, as though it never existed, after the coach himself pocketed a million dollars. The reality is that a lot of people think that¬†if they pay enough money, they will be transformed, but it doesn’t work that way, because change happens over time and has everything to do with how much work a person is willing to do, not just in the short run, but over time to maintain the change.

Clients come to me after they’ve been burned by programs like this. ¬†I don’t believe in fleecing people and promising the moon. I believe in working week by week on effective change. Period. I hate to break it to clients wanting a quick fix, but most change takes three months to see tiny changes, six months to see momentum, and a good year to solidify the habits associated with the change. Change is hard work and it’s not easy, which is why most people give up or don’t try in the first place. I have found in my own life and with friends and clients, that change doesn’t happen in a day or a weekend, no matter how inspiring the weekend. I know Anthony Robbins charges a lot for his intense weekend programs, but I wonder how many people are permanently transformed, and how many people could have the same or better effects reading his books and/or working with a coach? I have friends who have called after taking the intensive Landmark program (kind of like EST from the seventies), feeling transformed, but a few months later, they admit that it didn’t really do anything permanently for them.

The biggest obstacle for most people is that we have false expectations of how change happens. I’ve seen friends lose a lot of weight quickly, but the ones who lose it slowly over time find that the changes ultimately stick. And the methods aren’t very sexy: 1) keep track of portion size 2) write everything down 3) realize that sugar and junk and high fat foods should be occasional treats 4) exercise every day 5) get enough sleep and 6) lower stress. That’s it. Some people do better with more protein or less or more carbs or less, but nobody needs to adhere to the zealotry of various diet camps, like Vegans vs. Paleo, because foods work differently for each person and there is no one right diet. Ultimately it still comes down to: Eat less and focus on real foods, and exercise and move a lot more. That’s it.

As you seek your world stage, beware of the coaching programs promising you an easy solution to changing your life for a high “investment” of money. You don’t need to spend 10K for a weekend to change your life. You just need to decide that you’re ready to change, and then find the books and/or people who can help you. For some, it’s going to AA meetings, or joining Weight Watchers, or checking out Toastmasters, or getting resume services. For others, it’s finding a coach to have your back as you do the hard work of change. But just remember no matter what, that you can decide to permanently change whatever isn’t working. It’s up to you.

 

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Watch Out for Spin

Last Monday, in Brooklyn around 12:30 in the afternoon, two mothers who are friends crossed a well-marked crosswalk at a light when it was their turn to walk. One mother, Ruthie Ann, was 7 months pregnant and carrying her 5 year-old daughter across the street. The other mother, Lauren, was pushing her 1 year-old son in a stroller. Later street videos show that even though the cars were initially stopped a few feet from the crosswalk, all of a sudden a white Volvo started to accelerate in spite of the red light, right into the people crossing, hitting the two mothers and both of their children, who were tossed like rag dolls into the street. The pregnant mother ended up lying facedown in the middle of the street with blood coming from her head. The other mother was able to get up and try to give CPR to her son who had flown out of the stroller, which ended up being dragged by the car. A medical resident happened to be there, so he did compressions while the mother screamed and blew oxygen into her son. Both kids ended up dying from their injuries but the mothers survived, including the unborn child. I can’t imagine what they are both going through right now as they try to come to terms with what happened, and try to heal their broken bodies and spirits.

What struck me about this story is how the news story has been spun. This is a story that touches on a lot of different issues: money and fame and race and religion and illness came into play. The driver who killed the children apparently has not be prosecuted because she is a white middle-aged woman who has a medical history of seizures, as if that explains anything. My cousin had seizures after the birth of one of her children, and was forced to give up her license. But in this case, the driver wasn’t even scolded. Her license ended up being temporarily revoked, after some public pressure, but that’s about it. If she had been a black man driving with a medical condition, they would have pressed charges. In addition, I thought it was strange how the press emphasized continually how the pregnant mom was a Famous Broadway Actress and the other woman was “a friend” and how both moms had Go Fund Me pages that had been set up, but the famous woman had twice as much money as “the friend”– with one accruing $414K so far and the other “just” $221K. While I appreciate that people want to do something supportive in a time of tragedy to show that they care, should enough money be raised to fund a new house? It kind of seems like trading money for a dead child to me. In addition, various celebrity publications have been writing about what Ruthie Ann Miles’ net worth is, forgetting that there are two dead children and a reckless driver who hasn’t been prosecuted. Instead, people have focused on how much the famous actress has and how much she’ll get from her Go Fund Me account.

There’s also the issue of the moms’ races– it’s interesting that one is Asian married to a white guy and one is white married to an Asian guy, both with Eurasian children, and no one mentions it, which I think shows how far we’ve come in terms of race. But what if these moms had been black women from the projects, or they were migrant workers carrying their kids after being in the fields? I don’t think there would be a story or a Go Fund Me page. Finally, the issues of religion is interesting too. Ruthie Ann is apparently very religious and believes that the two dead children are in heaven with Jesus, but the other woman is apparently really suffering mentally. I don’t know what her beliefs are, but I would think it would be hard to be friends with someone who has such religious certainty when you in fact may not share that. Not everyone believes that everything happens for a reason and that your child who was murdered is suddenly in the arms of Jesus.

Finally, while locals are up in arms about the crossing not being safe– I’m not sure why it’s not safe but another pedestrian was killed there last year– people continue to walk down the sidewalk and across the street while looking down at their phones, trusting that all the cars will stop. I was thinking about this story today, noticing how often pedestrians are walking and not looking where they are going. As for the woman with the seizures, her license should have been taken away from her years ago. People with certain medical conditions should not be able to drive, no matter how much compassion we may have for them, just as crazy people shouldn’t have guns.

To find your world stage, make sure you notice the spin on any news story. Notice how often there is an implied hierarchy of values: 1) Fame 2) Money 3) Upper class white (or Asian) 4) Mothers. The quicker you understand the spin of the story, the sooner you can see what our society values, and how easily we get distracted by money and fame and forget the more important story, which is that two innocent children were murdered by a reckless driver who never should have gotten behind the wheel of a car that day.

 

All the World’s a Stage

This weekend my 13 year-old son performed in his school’s production of Mary Poppins, playing the part of the little boy, Michael. There were over 40 middle school students performing, some of whom had never been on a stage before, and the cast only had rehearsals five hours per week for three months. With a few extra long rehearsals toward the end, it amounted to about 80 hours of rehearsal total, which is only two weeks time for a professional cast rehearsing 40 hours per week, and they usually rehearse at least six weeks. So there wasn’t a lot time and there were a lot of beginners in the cast.

And yet, when the curtain came up last night, I was more moved by this production than by professional ones that I have seen, because of the amount of heart and joy that went into this. Given that the cast was all roughly the same age (age 11-13), many of them were the same height, so my son who played a 7 year-old was actually taller than his mother, his older sister, and Mary Poppins. But somehow we believed that he was a little kid. The cast was a fabulous rainbow of races– with Mary Poppins half Asian and half hispanic; George, the father, half Asian and half white; Jane, the daughter, half black and half hispanic, and Bert, part-black. My son and his mother were the only two white leads. There were kids who could hit all the notes perfectly and those who had trouble with pitch. There were strong dancers and kids who looked at their feet. There were kids who really stood out in the chorus and other kids who were happy just to be a quiet townsperson or a toy who came to life. There were kids running lights and kids moving the sets on and off, kids who sold tickets, and kids who organized the costumes, props and sets with teachers.

What I loved about this is that during this show, you couldn’t tell which kids were popular, which kids were friends or not, or which kids were gay or straight. It didn’t matter whose family dislikes Trump or not, who was what race or what religion or spoke what language at home. It didn’t matter ultimately who had the most lines or the least, because in the end, the leads can’t shine if they are not well lit or don’t have their props, or don’t have smiling townspeople behind them. Every single person was essential to the success of the play and every student knew it.

I think about what our society and our greater world would be like if we realized that, like a play, we are all necessary and important, and that it doesn’t matter if our doctor is black or white or Christian or Muslim, but that he or she can help to heal us. Same with the teacher or accountant or firefighter. We waste so much time trying to make ourselves better than others, making the point that we are the lead and others aren’t, but we forget that we need all the players of life, just as in a play, to make our lives work.

To find your world stage, remember that as Shakespeare once said, “All the world’s a stage.” Every single actor and designer and crew person is essential on the stage, as they are metaphorically in real life. Let’s forget how we’re different and start to notice not only how alike we in fact are, but also how much, in the end, we need each other.

 

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