Monday, February 15, 2010

The Art of Communcation

I love words. Words are dynamic. In a metaphysical way of looking at things, we exist because of words. Think about it. Words, positive or negative, are powerful. In fact, look at what this entire blog is comprised of ... words! Yummy. Simple, but true.
So, ask yourself this: How many times in my life have I been disappointed by the outcome of a situation and thought to myself, "I wish I would've said (insert case-appropriate terminology here.)" For me, the answer to that question is: Too many. However, also for me, the addendum to that answer is: ... but, at less frequent intervals than ever before. Can you claim that addendum, too? (She asks with fingers crossed hoping so ... )
Well, here's a simple phrase to keep in your back pocket: "Use your words." This is something that I tell myself over and over in daily life, and it's amazing how powerful that simple phrase is. It's a particularly important statement for those who are predisposed to introversion, but it's useful for extroverts, too. Introverts may need to use their words to communicate their true wants or desires, and extroverts may need to use them properly to convey their message so that they achieve their goals without trampling over others. In whichever case, "use your words" is a handy tool.
Whenever faced with a situation that causes inner-conflict, whether the scenario contains an innocuous question such as what do you want for dinner, or a life-threatening statement like, we have reason to believe it's cancer, words are the catalyst to helping you resolve what you're feeling inside so that you can communicate your feelings and be empowered to make the choices that are right for you. Whether that empowerment means that you get the Italian meal that you wanted instead of the Mexican option that was being forced on you, or that you can explore deeper the alternatives that are available to you in a life-or-death case, using your words will shed light on the topic and allow you to move in the direction that you so desire.
Another way of saying this is, simply, communicate what you're thinking and what you're feeling. None of us has the power to read another's mind, and further none of us can feel what someone else is feeling. The only way we really have of understanding each other is by using our words, right?
Congruently, and of equal importance, what if we, the global community of man, perfected the art of listening? Yes, "art." Think of the powerful implications, both in your own life as well as in the world out there, of using our words, and actually having them heard! Many times, we (people) run a two-for-one special on words ... along with the words we say, we also offer the words that we don't say. Well, guess what, listening - truly listening - ensures that you're getting the best of that bargain!
What is this "art of listening?"
Here's an obvious analogy; I'm not an artist. I admire those who have been born with the natural ability to make a canvass come to life, but I, by no stretch of the imagination, include myself among them. But, I do firmly believe that, if I put a little effort into it, I can learn how to produce a work of art. It may not come naturally to me, but with some training and instruction, I would be willing to bet that I could paint or sculpt something that would be a definite improvement over what I could possibly do today - maybe even a piece of work that people would admire ... okay, now I'm getting carried away.
Conversely, I am a listener. It's something that does come naturally to me. I'm a listener, an observer, a student of my surroundings. When engaged in conversation, it's important to me to hear what is being said, and to relate those words to what I know inherently, or - if circumstances dictate - compel me to investigate further so that I really understand what is being said, and the meaning behind it. Does that sound like a lot of work? It may be - are you a listener, or are you someone who needs to perfect this art? If you're not inherently a listener, it doesn't mean that you're "less than" anymore than not being able to paint makes you inferior to someone who can. What's important, though, is being able to recognize where you can, and should, improve ... and, being happy with yourself for choosing to do so.
Think about it - imagine the potential for all of us, if everyone would say what they mean, mean what they say and actually, truly hear each other? Incredible! Yes, communication - speaking and listening - is a key driver to achieving happiness, success and fulfillment in every aspect of life . Make communication a priority today, and each day going forward. Use your words ... and, your ears. You will, undoubtedly, be glad you did.
Donna Kirby

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Make A Left Turn at Avenue You!

The rocky roads of unemployment ... let's take a look at what we're dealing with:
Desperation Blvd. - Named after a pretty common feeling for lots of folks who find themselves struggling with the reality of unemployment - or underemployment - while we ride the wave of this historic recession. People want to pay their bills, they want to earn an honest living and feel like responsible contributors to their families and society. When looking for work and being consistently passed over, rejected or just flat-out ignored, it's easy for even the toughest person's usually-thick skin to start thinning a bit.
Isolation Ave. - Just down the road a bit from Desperation Blvd., this is an interesting by-product of the desperation that people have been talking about to us. When faced with the harsh reality of a bleak job market, repeated rejection from potential employers and numbers reported by the media that seem to suggest that we're in this recession for at least a while longer, some folks just don't want to cope. They start shutting down from friends and family, and cocoon themselves away from all of the bad, yucky stuff that encircles them. More than desperation, this is a very dangerous road upon which to embark. Avoid it at all costs.
Rebuilding Rd. - When Walt Disney built his flagship theme park, Disneyland, he skipped over no details in creating a worldclass destination for families to visit on their vacations. A place that would be pristine no matter what time of day you entered the park, a place that provided its visitors a safe environment and a place that would allow guests to escape reality even if for only a little while.
One of the often-overlooked details that Walt actually included in the creation of Disneyland can still be seen today on Sleeping Beauty's Castle, the centerpiece of the park. When there, or if you notice in pictures, you'll see that each turret of the castle is topped with a gold finish ... except for one. This is no flaw - this was an intentional design. When building the castle, Walt instructed the contractors to leave one of its turrets in an unfinished state - his point and logic being that he never wanted Disneyland to be completely finished ... he always wanted the park to be a work in progress, and to never reach an end, finale or conclusion because there would always be new, better ways to do things so as to provide maximum enjoyment and pleasure to the park's guests. The unfinished turret symbolizes the desire to always be striving for the next great thing.
So, how does this relate to me?
If you're the struggling, unemployed, desperate, isolated person, now is a good time to polish - but, not finish - that turret of yours. What is the next great thing awaiting you?
Something to keep in mind; it's easy in times like these for someone who is struggling to turn over the reigns and quickly assume the role of victim. I urge you to reject this notion immediately. If you find comments running through your mind such as, "... nobody will hire me ... what's wrong with me? ... I'll never find a job ..." I encourage you to give yourself a mental splash of cold water to the face. Then, instead of that line of thinking, repeat the following after me: "I am not a victim. I am not a victim. I am not a victim." And, keep reminding yourself of this until you really understand and believe that you are in control, and that you are, indeed, not a victim. In fact, just the very act of taking control of that thought is empowering. Try it out!
It takes a lot of work to manage desperation, and the emotional stress that comes with it. So, instead, reframe all of that energy into polishing your personal inner turret. Like Disneyland, you are, and always will be, a work in progress - and, that's great! Take this opportunity to discover what will really makes you shine, and polish your soul as you tread these turbulent waters and head into the next part of the journey of your life. Reframed properly, this can be an exciting time ... there are limitless possibilities if you allow yourself to see them. You have to look for them, though!
You know, I work with coaches who have been in this industry for decades who say, "Do you know what I learned about myself today ... " or "... I've never thought of looking at a situation like this before, but what if I ... " Apply that same sense of wonder and curiousity to yourself - if coaches who, day-in-and-day-out, teach people the tools to adapt to real-life scenarios are constantly learning knew ways to better manage their own lives, so should you. Always be that work in progress ... always be striving to uncover what makes you happiest and the most fulfilled.
Remember, as with any other road, there will likely be potholes and unexpected hazards that will arise. Just remind yourself that you are in control - you can avoid the speedbumps, and you can swerve around the potholes. You are not a victim - you are intelligent, you are capable and you are a value-add to some employer that simply hasn't had the good fortune of meeting you yet. You are the captain, and you are navigating this road called "Avenue You!"
Donna Kirby

Monday, February 8, 2010

What Does Success Look Like?

Well, actually, the entire question in that title should really read, "What Does Success Look Like ... to YOU?" Right? Because, chances are that your definition of success and mine differ ... maybe significantly. And, your definition of success and your brother's probably does, too. And, your brother's definition of success is likely different from his dentist's, and so on ... you get the picture. If we don't add on that "to YOU," we're just living in "comparison mode." Follow me? Good.
So, let's talk about this idea of "success" - and, more importantly, how do we measure it?
Frequently, we'll get clients who come to us saying, for example, "I have been in the banking industry for seven years, and I really hate my job - don't think I can take another seven years of this." What a terrible, trapped feeling - a personal prison. Here's this person, we'll call him "Phil," who has to make a living to support himself and/or his family, and each day he has to drag himself out of bed to go to work and earn a paycheck. He hates Sunday night because he knows Monday morning is coming, and that means another entire work week. He goes through the motions at his job, and then goes home at night only to go to sleep, get up and start the cycle all over again. But, that's not living, that's existing ... and Phil deserves much more than that. We all do, right? I'll answer that for you - YES! Of COURSE, we do! You do, I do, Phil does!
It's not uncommon for many of us to grow up with a pre-conceived notion of what success is. Some of us are even flat-out told what success looks like, "You'll have a stable financial portfolio ...", "You'll marry a doctor and raise three kids ...", "You'll be CEO of a company by the time you're 28 ..." You can't believe how many "definitions of success" that we've heard! But, be careful not to confuse "success" with "achievement" - two similar, but entirely different, concepts - and, beware of other people's declarations of what your success is. Nobody can define for you what will make you feel complete, whole, fulfilled, satisfied or happy, just like you cannot define that for anyone else - and, why would you want to?
What Phil needs to do is work with his coach on digging in to find what his internal descriptors are for success. This is where a career "coach" and a career "consultant" differ. The consultant might tell Phil the steps he needs to take to transfer to a different bank, or what skill sets he should work on to get out of, say, "mortgage lending" and into "personal banking." His coach, on the other hand, will help him to assess whether or not this is even the correct industry for him. What are his values? What does he want out of a job, other than a steady paycheck? What would make him look forward to going to work on Monday?
In Phil's case, many people in his family went into banking, and he went down their path, and on their journey, only to discover ... wow, wrong turn. But, fortunately for Phil, it's never too late to change course. Never too late - got that?
Are you experiencing this, or something similar, in your life? If so, here are some steps you can take to help change your circumstances:
  • First off, give yourself credit for trying to figure out an answer to this puzzle. It's courageous to embrace change rather than continue wallowing about in the status quo.
  • Next, find a quiet place to think, and consider the following: with money as no object, what occupation would you choose for yourself? For example, one client of mine, the president and CEO of an auto dealership, said that he would like to be a chef. Quite a change! How about you ... what would you choose?
  • Now, what does being in that dream-role look like? Are you in an office? On a beach? On t.v.?
  • What would be your first step in pursuing your dream-role? Would you pick up the phone and call a company who does what you would love to do? Do you know someone already doing this? Would you write a letter? What would you say in the letter or on the phone about your dream-role?
  • And, here's the big question - what's stopping you?
Look, I'm not unrealistic ... I understand that there are bills that need to be paid, and oftentimes having a job that isn't our ideal affords us the ability to pay those bills. But, ask yourself this - at what cost? As you've seen on our site,, I've included one of my all-time favorite quotes: "Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will succeed." (Albert Schweitzer.) Another favorite, but not included on our website is, "If you love what you're doing, you're never truly working." I am fortunate in that I stepped off of the merry-go-round and redefined success for myself, and I am doing what I truly love ... and, I've never been more happy or successful. You can be, too! Start with those questions outlined above, and if you have any questions email me at - I'm happy to answer any questions on what you can do to work on discovering what will propel you toward your own personal success.
Your success is your success. Nobody else's. Own it. Learn it, live it, love it.