Nelson Mandela – A Model for Forgiveness

mandela-wave

As we continue to mourn the death of Nelson Mandela, there is so much to celebrate as well.  I have watched countless TV segments, read numerous articles about his life, I am reminded of his incredible leadership qualities that I strive to live in my own life: His Endless Courage to speak up and speak out against the brutality despite the threats to his own life; His Incredible Commitment to Serve his country and the world no matter his age; but most of all, I am inspired by his Tremendous Capacity to Forgive. (Scroll down to view a beautiful tribute poem from Maya Angelou.)

Forgiveness is a powerful tool to end the suffering and create peace.  While this may be simple, it is definitely not easy.  Mandela suffered for decades at the hands of the prison guards and the Apartheid government.  Tens of thousands of his brothers and sisters jailed, beaten or worse…left for dead in the streets.

The crimes against humanity were horrific.  Mandela had more than enough reasons to seek revenge, but he knew it would only extend the suffering; more lives would be lost.  Forgiveness would be the key to bring the country together, create a unified country rather than one of suffering and segregation.

Committed to a larger goal, a bigger vision, he worked through the pain and found a place of peace.  First within himself, he then worked to create that for his country.   It wasn’t about forgetting what happened, but about healing the pain for the greater good of the country.  When we hold onto the resentment, we hold ourselves back, we limit our impact, we limit our power. By letting go, we can attain something far greater than ourselves. By Mandela’s capacity to forgive, he was able to attain something incredible for his country and the world.

While Mandela practiced Forgiveness and created Peace on the world’s stage, we can follow his lead and create peace within our families, our businesses, and our communities by practicing forgiveness.  Where are you holding onto resentment, seeking some revenge in your life? Where can you practice forgiveness for the commitment of a larger goal, a larger vision for a friendship, partnership or business?

In celebration of Nelson Mandela’s life, I invite you this week to seek out the greater good and practice forgiveness where a relationship is strained.  Take the first step in creating a sense of peace this holiday season.

Thank you Nelson Mandela for your countless contributions
to the world. You will always be remembered!

Give the Gift of Presence

newtown-christmas620x350A strange week to say the least. Between mourning the tragedy in Newtown and the anticipation of the holidays, I am trying to sort out my thoughts and feelings of what seems like opposing experiences. How can I honor both experiences simultaneously? How can I honor the lives lost and still celebrate? How can I make the tragedy a personal wake-up call for my own life and not just for the nation?

The holidays are filled with opportunity to be around people, whether it’s family gatherings, parties, religious services or last minute shopping. These opportunities allow for us to not just be around them, but truly connect with each other.

While we often hunt for the perfect gift for our sister or best friend, we could give one that is more meaningful and FREE. We could give the Gift of our Presence. Yes, it may be cheesy or cliché, but can also be incredibly powerful.

Here are a few ways you can give the Gift of Presence:

Mend Friendships – Many people are speaking about how we can peace in our communities these days, but what about start with creating peace in our own circles. Are there any strained relationships that could use some mending? Are there are resentments that could be forgiven? I know there are few in my circles. My friend, Dr. Stephanie May, came up with this brilliant idea after much soul searching, and I just had to share it. If we can “Be the Change” of creating peace, then our communities and nation will be more peaceful.

Have Authentic Conversations – Despite the hectic schedule of the holidays, I consciously try to have meaningful conversations with family and friends, rather than surface chitchat. Far too often we speak from a place of automaticity, rather than authenticity. When people ask how are you doing, give them a real response beyond the automatic “fine.” Seek a deeper response in their answer as well; find out what’s really happening their lives. Brady Quinn, KC Chiefs quarterback, eloquently shared a similar message after the domestic violence tragedy with teammate, Jovan Belcher. By having authentic conversations, we show people that they matter and you care.

Create Gadget Free Time – The holidays often mean spending time with friends and family, but I know for me that most of that time is with my phone in hand. While I may be sitting with my family, I am checking Facebook or playing Angry Birds. As a result, I miss out on spending real time with people I care about. If we put the gadgets down, turn off the TV and spend real face-to-face time with our loved ones, we can truly stay connected.

Count Your Blessings – As the year comes to an end, it often is a time of reflection. And with this year in particular after all the tragedies, I am going to count my numerous blessings. While it may be easy to recall all the things that went wrong, it’s often more powerful to recognize our successes and be PRESENT to the greatness within ourselves and our lives.

After such a roller coaster of a year, and especially this last week, join me in taking the time this holiday season to count our blessings and truly connect with the people in our lives. With the simple Gift of Presence, we can make this holiday one to remember.

Valentine’s Day – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

heart-in-hands200x150Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that is often loaded with mixed feelings and thoughts. Between the countless ads on TV, store aisles filled with candy and cards, this day has become overshadowed by capitalism than it’s original intention – Love.

I too find myself forgetting about the true purpose and getting sucked into the things rather than the love. So why not look a little deeper at this holiday named after St. Valentine. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and even the ugly:

The Good Stuff – The cool part about Valentine’s Day is that it’s a day about all types of love, not just romantic love. In a society where we can get caught up in our busy lives, we can forget to stop and celebrate all the love in our lives. Love is an essential part of our lives and for the world to keep us happy and healthy. So the more we remember and celebrate the love that we have around us, the better.

Suggestion: Tell the important people in your life that you love them: message on Facebook, send a text, or go old school and call them.

The Bad Stuff – Expectations…unfortunately this holiday is loaded with them. With advertising everywhere you look, it’s easy to get caught up in the expectations around romance, flowers, cards and candy. The problem is not that we have expectations, but that we aren’t talking about them with our loved ones. When we think our loved ones should just know what we want, we set them up for failure and ourselves for disappointment. Even more problematic, when we believe our expectations aren’t met, it’s can become evidence that we aren’t truly loved by that person. The best way to alleviate some of the disappointment and stress is to talk about it, get it all out on the table.

Suggestion: Chat with your significant other around expectations for the day to make sure the both of you are on the same page. And try not to make it mean anything if your expectations aren’t met.

The Ugly Stuff: Singles can often be left out of the Valentine’s Day festivities. Even though the holiday is about love in general, the commercial side makes it about romantic love. But the day isn’t just for the couples – celebrate being single and love yourself and the friends around you!

Suggestion: Grab your friends, your family and other loved ones and have a V-Day Party! Celebrate with the great loves in your life! You could even exchange cards and candy.

Whether you are single or in a relationship, celebrate this Valentine’s Day by appreciating the ones you love!

The Power of Community @ Occupy Wall Street

Initially Occupy Wall Street was portrayed as complaining out of work young people, the hippies who have nothing else to do than camp out in Zuccotti Park (which is really just a small block of sidewalk). While there are some hippies in the park, I quickly learned it is so much more.

I was a witness to the extraordinary movement last Thursday, when my friend Rachel, a Berkeley, CA girl at heart, was visiting. I was also intrigued to see for myself what it was really about, rather than take the media’s portrayal of it as fact.

I saw the most amazing example of Group Process, witnessing how they navigating the decision-making as a group unified and organized for a particular purpose – to shift how this country operates. While this purpose can be seen too general, it is one that needs to be big enough to contain all the specific agendas of the group members. As I saw it, this larger purpose is to shift the minds of many to wake up and become participators again, to become engaged in how they live in community.

The sense of community was beautifully demonstrated in a way where everyone had a voice that was honored and heard while attending the General Assembly. We didn’t know it to be a General Assembly but after about an hour, we were both clear we were in the presence of something powerful.

Their method of communicating to large groups is through a “People’s Mic.” Since an actual mic can’t be used due to noise regulations, they have one person speak into the crowd and the crowd who is able to hear repeat the phrase. Not only is it powerful to use community to spread the word, but there is also something powerful in repeating the speaker’s words, as if they are the words of the community. One person’s words become the words of many. They also have structures to navigate when people can’t hear, when the group is too large to hear the echo, so they ask for a double echo. All of it exemplifies the beauty and power of community.

The other inspiring example of their commitment to community is their proposal to create a Spokes Council. The organizers have noticed that the size of the group is getting too large for the current structure of decision making with the general assembly. The proposal and details are available on their website.

When the proposal was brought to the General Assembly, they ensured all participants had a say in how this council would function. Breaking the General Assembly into smaller groups to discuss, allowing a spokesperson of the group share what the group liked and had concerns about (even their language is empowering for all) and they would allow all voices to be heard and considered. They were living what they preached – committed to transparency, horizontal leadership, and direct democracy.

In the small group, I shared that I was in awe of how inspiring this process was and acknowledged those who were participating regularly ensuring this occupation worked. I also shared that a spokes council was essential to ensuring that all voices continued to be heard, not just the loudest ones, which can happen as the group gets larger with no evolution in structure. While some may not have agreed, all were respectful of others’ opinions.

When each small group shared out, there were brilliant questions and concerns that were not mentioned in my group but important to consider. As our spokesperson shared my input to the large group, my voice was heard by the community. I was moved to be included in such a powerful community, such a powerful movement.

I was honored and inspired by my participation at Occupy Wall Street. While I may not participate again (although unlikely), I am forever changed by what is possible in community. Wherever you may live, I invite you to find a local Occupy Movement and witness the power of community for yourself.

Lessons from Steve Jobs

Steve JobsWhen someone as huge as Steve Jobs dies while still in his prime, it gives us pause in who was the man behind the accomplishments, behind the inventions. Steve has been compared to Edison and Einstein as the inventor of the 21st Century. We often don’t know the real story of Thomas and Albert, except what they tell us in history books. However with Jobs, with his life on the web, we have the great opportunity to uncover what made him a revolutionary, a game changer in the world of technology.

This man was truly a visionary in every sense of the word. He had many practices in his daily life that made him remarkable. He shared a few in his famous 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University. If you haven’t seen the video, it’s definitely worth a look.

Here are a just a few to consider for yourself:

1. BE A RISK TAKER

Apple coined the term “Think Different” when he came out with the first iMac in 1998. He put iconic courageous people, like Albert Einstein and Mahatma Gandhi, to remind us that being a risk taker pays off. It also definitely paid off for Apple too in revolutionizing the personal computer.

Taking Risks is an essential part of being a success, not just in business, but in life. It isn’t easy to be a risk taker, putting yourself out there for scrutiny and criticism. It takes determination, a confidence in yourself, so that others won’t sway you from taking action.

There are some people who just don’t care what others think. I so admire those people because it is human to be concerned about others’ opinions. The key is finding others who will support you no matter what, those who encourage you taking risks and achieving big dreams. I know the times when I risked big, like moving to NYC with no job, had the biggest payoffs, knowing that I had the support of family and friends.

Where are you taking risks? Where could you step up be a greater risk taker? Who can you have on your support team to cheer you on in your risks?

2. BE RESILIENT

Jobs and his company Apple are such great examples of resilience. In 1985, Jobs was fired from Apple, the company he started, but that didn’t stop him from creating what he loved. “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.” He joined 2 startup companies, including Pixar, where he revolutionized computer-generated animation with Toy Story.

He was later brought back to Apple in 1998 when the company had lost its vision and couldn’t compete against Microsoft and Dell. Yet Jobs didn’t lose hope. He soon produced the iMac, and Apple became the comeback kid. Now Apple is the trendsetter, making anything they put out – GOLD!

In life, you are going to have setbacks, blocks and utter failures. The setbacks exist to test you and encourage you to grow bigger, stronger, so that you can face even bigger challenges that will most definitely come your way. While it’s much easier to just give up, life isn’t as fun or fulfilling that way. You can’t have the life you want without going after it. Go out there and demand the life you deserve and be unstoppable in getting it.

Where are you not going after what you want? Where have you settled? Where you could show more resilience? What steps could you take now to achieve your goals and dreams?

3. BE YOURSELF

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” Steve Jobs followed his heart in almost everything he did, even if it was unpopular because he had a vision and wouldn’t let anyone or anything get in the way of that vision. He became unstoppable in creating what he knew to be the best product. He didn’t let naysayers stop him. He stayed true to himself, his vision and his heart.

Staying true to yourself is critical to living a life of success. So much of our lives is filled with input from others, that we often forget to listen to our own inner voice. What is it that you want? Remember to listen to your inner voice and act from there. It’s YOUR life, so make sure it’s YOU living it.

Where do you stay true to yourself? Your vision? Do you let naysayers or circumstances get in the way of your vision of what you want to create in the world? Where can you choose to follow your heart?

We are all visionaries. We have a vision for our life, a vision for our world. If you follow these practices from Steve Jobs, you too can fulfill on your vision. Remember in your quest, to use Steve’s own words, “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”

How to Have Tech-Savvy Parents

I often wondered how I would bring my parents into the 21st Century when it came to technology. Although we were early adopters of the personal computer, my parents were old-school. They didn’t understand the need to text or instant message, let alone comprehend the vast world of Google or Facebook. My sister and I tried and tried to convince them to leave the dark ages and join the rest of the technology world.

Now my father is in a race with us to buy an iPad and completely captivated by the world of apps. Can it be that my semi-retired father is becoming a tech geek?

If you want bring your parents or coworkers into the 21st Century, here are a few key elements that helped us make that transition possible.

1. Keep It Simple — For those of us who have grown up with our current level of technology, it seems intuitive. Not so for the older generation! We need to provide them with a clear map to get from where they are to where they want to go. If they want explicit instructions to write and send emails, then by all means, give it to them! My mom often needs step-by-step directions when it comes to technology, but once she has them, she is off and running.

2. Connect to Their Want
— Come from what they want, not what we want for them. Motivation to learn something will increase dramatically when they see the benefit for themselves. My parents learned how to text because they wanted to connect with their daughters. We wouldn’t call back if they left a voicemail, but we would respond to a text. They are now regular texters. They have even learned to Skype with my sister now living in Thailand.

3. Have Compassion
— When we bring compassion, people have space to change and grow. They are free from guilt or embarrassment of being judged. It was only after my sister and I no longer teased and embarrassed my parents for their lack of tech savvy that they began to truly learn the new technology.

My parents have come a long way from learning how to use email. I am proud of their willingness to become the students and allow their daughters to become the teachers. This role reversal can be challenging, however, with the right attitude and a little patience, anything is possible.

Sara Nowlin is a life coach and author who specializes in empowering others to be authentic and fully self-expressed. She is a contributing author in the book, Speaking Your Truth, Volume 2. Visit www.saranowlin.com or email sara@saranowlin.com.

Changing Lanes – First Look in the Mirror

How many of you have had a boss or coworker who annoys or frustrates you? If you aren’t raising your hand right now, you are a lucky person, but pay attention because they are coming.

Before you change lanes and ditch the job, take a look in your mirrors. Often times, the solution is simply to look within and see where you can shift your judgments about that person and see them through a different lens.

A recent experience in my own life illustrates this. Someone I was supervising was annoying me. She was asking for more breaks because she was exhausted from the job intensity. I saw her as a complainer and whiner. All I wanted to say to her is “Suck it up and get over it.”

But I knew that wasn’t the solution. I was committed to finding a way to keep the relationship intact and empower her to step up in the position because I wanted to believe she was doing the best that she could.

I needed to look in the mirror and see where all the judgments were coming from. Within the mirror, I noticed where I was responsible for the situation. She was voicing her needs and expectations and I wasn’t. I had needs and expectations that I assumed the team would execute without explicitly stating them to the team. That had set me up for the frustration and annoyance I was feeling.

Once I realized that, I knew there was something I could do about it — voice my needs and expectations for my team. I did, and the frustration cleared. Everyone on the team, even the “complainer,” stepped up and met my expectations and they got more breaks. A win-win solution.

What I was annoyed by — voicing needs and expectations — was exactly what I personally needed to do. It always seems to work out that way. I invite you to look at where you may be frustrated and want to change lanes and see if you need to look in your mirrors first.

Where are you feeling frustrated with someone at work? Are there unvoiced expectations that may be causing it?

The Power of Speaking Your Truth

After the long journey I have had to reclaim my voice and speak my truth,
I still struggle sometimes to speak my truth, but I know that it is a practice, a choice in every moment. Before I needed to fit in; I needed to belong. Now I know I have the choice, and it is very real and conscious. I continue to search for opportunities to uncover areas where I may be suppressed and I can choose self-expression. With every choice I make to express myself, my roar is reclaimed, and I seize another opportunity to speak my truth.

Deep within my soul, I know I was given the responsibility of reclaiming my voice for a divine purpose. I know I am meant to share my journey as an example for others to reclaim their voices, to reclaim their own roar. Much of my work as a life coach and motivational speaker now involves empowering women and girls to speak their truth and roar. I am constantly inspired by courageous women who allow themselves to be vulnerable enough to look at where they have been silenced. I become energized as I watch them reclaim their voices, and speak their truths. I am honored to be part of that process. A self-expressed woman is beyond strong. She is invincible.

You can read more of my story in the upcoming book – Speaking Your Truth: Courageous Stories From Inspiring Women – launching August 9th. Click here to purchase the book.

Mentoring – A Crucial Tool for Success

Mentoring is one of the most effective tools for success, both personally and professionally. Utilizing the people around us to enhance our skills and confidence, connect us with important people, and advise us in challenging moments creates a more direct path to achieving our personal and professional goals. Effective mentors open the doors to success rather than needing to break them down ourselves.

Spotting a Mentor
– Mentors are everywhere – sitting across the conference room table, but also across the table in Starbucks. By looking outside the box, the opportunities are endless. Don’t just stop at one mentor either, find many. A variety of mentors can support different mentoring needs, which also prevents over-relying on just one person to meet all of our mentoring needs. The more people looking out for our best interests, the better.

Utilizing a Mentor – Clear communication of expectations allows the mentoring relationship to be successful. It’s essential to clearly express the mentoring needs: acclimating into a new position, attaining a job or promotion, or seeking advice on navigating group politics. Knowing the mentoring needs, a potential mentor can assess how successfully he/she can meet those needs. Equally important is a structure that works for both parties, whether it’s face-to-face meetings every two weeks or occasional email exchanges. Ensuring both parties are clear in the expectations minimizes frustration and disappointment, creating a more effective relationship.

Keeping a Mentor – A mentoring relationship is first and foremost, a relationship. Both parties need to benefit from the relationship in order to sustain it over a long period of time. Invest the relationship with time and attention by getting to know the mentor as a person. This will also provide opportunities to reciprocate and support the mentor, further investing in the relationship. Mentoring relationships, like any relationships, require attentive care to ensure it’s mutually satisfying and therefore, long-lasting.

Investing in strong mentoring relationships allows us to gain access to information and opportunities vital to our development by looking for mentors outside the box, expressing expectations clearly and investing in the relationship. While enjoying the benefits of being mentored, remember to pay it forward and mentor others along their journey.

What’s a Better Answer – Yes or No?

We are taught when we are younger, ask and you shall receive. In a world where we are never enough, asking and receiving does nothing to satiate that hunger to have enough, to be enough. The grass is always greener on the other side, despite what we have achieved and received.
When we always get what we want for, we are never enough. The “Yes” from others can reinforce a lack within ourselves.

When we are told “No,” we are given a wall, a barrier. The “No” is an opportunity to question whether we want it and how much we want it. We are forced to question ourselves. The “No” is a mirror to look inward and determine what we really want.

  • Is it something we really want or something we think we should want?
  • If it is something we truly want, are we willing to go around the barrier, maybe even break through the barrier to get it?
  • Are we willing to demand what we want and do what is necessary to get it? Even if it means transforming yourself?
  • Are you willing to let go of your pride, your judgments, your perception of yourself for what you want?

All of that is behind the “No” – your growth, your opportunity to look within and know yourself.

So encourage more “No” in your life…and know yourself.