Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Dose Of Agapi

I am biased. No doubt. You'll find most Greeks are. There is an affinity we hold for each other. Meet someone and find out they too share your heritage and you are already friends. As a child it drove me crazy. My father would point out this person and that person who had achieved some notoriety and add with great pride, a wink and a smile, "You know, Joanne, he's Greek." As if no matter what they had to say, whether I agreed with their view or not, it didn't matter, because now we were bound.

I didn't understand it. I found it lacking in judgment. Shouldn't we know more about the person than just that their last name is equally difficult to pronounce much less spell for the average person? But now I get it. In these last months since I released my novel, I have reached out to Greeks as far and wide as Australia and have felt that bond and connection that I chastised my father about.  As an adult, I too have fallen into his rhythm. I meet someone who I discover has genetic ties to Greece and I do as my friend Agapi would say, unbind my heart a little more easily.

I'm not sure the reason, because in all honesty, just being Greek is not enough to want to call someone your friend. But I do think there is something different for Greeks. Maybe it goes back to the long illustrious history, the philosophers and astronomers and great mathematicians of ancient Greece or my favorite, the Greek Gods and Goddesses. It is different to be Greek. A flavor that is more unique than just the combination of nuts and honey and cinnamon that create a baklava. It's a different brand of wisdom influenced by a culture that has stood the test of time.

Which brings me back to my friend Agapi Stassinopoulous. I met Agapi  this past summer in San Diego at a conference I attended where Agapi spoke. I liked her immediately. Not just because she was Greek, although there is no doubt that was our immediate point of connection, but because it was obvious from how she spoke and her energy that this was a woman who lived authentically and joyously and with an open heart. I learned of her new book which would soon be published and was honored when she asked me to read a galley copy.

When you read another's writing, whether it is fiction, or in the case of Unbinding the Heart, A Dose of Greek Wisdom, Generosity and Unconditional Love,  a memoir, you learn a lot about the person. You can tell authentic writing from pretending to be authentic. You can tell the difference from someone who walks from what they speak or who prefers to merely point you on the path they think you should travel.

Agapi in Greek means unconditional love, and that is what you will feel when you read this memoir. Her love for life, and for helping others jumps off the pages as she entertains and enlightens with her insight and subtle humor. Agapi is the real deal.  She writes of living with an open heart and she demonstrates it, never negating how the world wants to make that difficult. Reading this memoir you will feel like she has invited you to sit with her awhile under the shade of an umbrella at one of those beautiful outdoor cafes in Santorini, nibbling on fresh feta and tomatoes, sipping a glass of wine, with that magical blue of the Aegean as a backdrop for the stories she shares of her journey thus far.

So yes, if this sounds biased it is. But my bias is supported by this captivating read.  Unbinding The Heart, A Dose of Greek Wisdom, Generosity and Love,  is now available for sale. I encourage you to pick up a copy. You will not be disappointed.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why I Hate Goal Writing

I hate goals.

There I said it. January is almost over and the airwaves, newspapers, magazines and blogs have been flooded with  conversation about setting this goal or that goal.  Every time I hear the word I cringe. It's not that I don't like or believe in the practice of getting clear on what you want to create and setting time frames. I do. I advocate it. I've written about it many times. It's the word goal I detest. Which is why I avoid it.

I hear goal and I think of a football field or a soccer game in which all sights are set on one ball making it across a goal post. At any and all costs. With a clock ticking. It's a win or lose proposition. You either get there or you don't, in a specified period of time. And if you don't, you've suffered defeat.

While that may work this Sunday when the Giants play the 49ers, it does not sound very appealing when planning what you want to accomplish or what you want to change in your life. In fact I think it sets most of us up for failure. Life, while it may be a game of sorts, is not as clear cut in rules as a NFC playoff  game. Things happen along the way. Often you get to where you want to go by veering outside of the safety zone.  And trust me, if you think there is only one way or one set of rules to get you to your heart's desire, chances are you won't.

I'm not sure why the word goal is so overused but I suspect it has everything to do with a business model steeped in the patriarchy. Until the last few decades it was run by and for men. And guys like to talk about sports. Endlessly. And in great detail.  They are comfortable with the word goal. If I were coaching a man and asked him to write his Top Ten Desire List for me in all likelihood his thought process would shoot right to the bedroom which would take him off focus. Men don't create well when they are off focus.

As a woman the word goal just doesn't work for me. My preference when planning what I want to create in my life is to use the words desire and intention. Call it semantics, but those words conjure up a space in which I can envision and set the steps I will need to take to manifest what I want.

For example I have two lists I keep side by side for 2012. One is my Top Ten Desires and the other is my 101 Intentions. Don't ask me why 101. It is a number that just sounded right to me last year and I am sticking with it in the new year.

The Top Ten Desire list combines aspects of my personal and professional life, because really, how do we draw the line between the two anymore?  This list forces me to really think and get creative about what I would like to manifest in the coming year, with no restrictions applied and without a timeline. And with the belief that all the stars will align so it is all indeed possible.

The 101 Intentions List  is where I get more specific. This includes my intention to take specific steps towards those desires. It might even include a timeline or time frame within which I want to do this.

For instance on the Top Ten list one of those items is publishing my second novel. On my intention list I am more specific. I intend to make this happen by summer.  Another item on my intention list is to have it in my editor's hands by mid- January. I'm ahead of schedule on that one. Based on my conversation with her last week, she will have her critique back to me in 8, maybe 10 weeks. Which can keep me right on schedule. But if it is 10 weeks and needs a lot of work, I may or may not be able to have it up for sale by July 4. 

By using the word intention I have allowed myself flexibility, opened a space that will still create what I want, but will not set me back with disappointment and feelings of failure if the dates don't match. Which I have found is what happens for most of us. If we don't get that ball across the end zone in the specified amount of time, playing by someone else's rules, we deem ourselves a loser. On the football field it makes sense. But in life and in business, especially entrepreneurial business, I think not.

Intentions are not hard and fast like goals. But they still work toward a desired outcome. Usually more pleasurably and with less made up stress to beat the clock.

Try it. If you've put off writing your goals this year and you haven't been able to figure out what is stopping you, get out a fresh piece of paper, make a cup of tea, find a quiet space and try calling them desires. And then follow up with a list of intentions that are more specific. Then let me know what happens. And save the goals for Sunday's game.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Toll Booth On The Information Highway

Change will always occur, whether we want it to or not. Sometimes it is for the betterment of the world and other times we question it. We seek it in our lives, for we know without change things can get boring. Change is borne of desire for something different and so is what keeps us alive.

Yet so many of us avoid change. We hold on to what is, convinced the devil we know is better than the devil we don't. Or we worry that the change will affect our little acre of land in this world. So we resist it, holding on tight until our knuckles turn white trying to stop it.

Right now there is legislation in Washington trying to pull the reins in on change. It is funded by those who fear they have the most to lose. Financially. It has been written by those who don't fully understand the infrastructure much less the implications of what they are trying to control. What they do understand is the Internet is basically free. And while we say we are the "land of the free" we prefer to figure out ways to charge everyone for everything.  Ironically, it is one of the few pieces of legislation that has bi-partisan support.

The interesting thing is the same people trying to curtail the change are the ones who dismissed it early on.  They thought things like the Internet and the free exchange of information were a passing fad that would have no effect on their brick and mortar establishments. Turns out they were wrong and now they want to try and stop it. Without really understanding what they are doing.

Should there be rules of the Internet highway? Of course. But don't try to push through ones like SOPA and PIPA whose primary interest is to erect a toll booth on what was a freeway.

I'd like to send you to other websites for more information on what is going on. But according to the pending legislation I may no longer be able to do that. Parts of these laws would curtail bloggers like myself from linking to anything without express permission and in fact possibly shut me down if I linked to something, somewhere that was not in full compliance with the new rules. Their justification? That someone, somewhere is not getting their nickels worth of royalty on possibly copyrighted material

So to give you a taste of what that world might be like, I'll leave you to fend for yourselves if you are interested in more details. Turn on the TV. Buy a newspaper. Spend some more money.  Imagine a world without Google.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I Had A Dream

I had a dream that one day I would no longer work for someone else. In that dream I imagined being more generous and benevolent to myself when it came to things like taking days off. I imagined that I would be able to shut off my work brain in much the same manner I had learned to do when I had my corporate job, letting it rest just long enough to refresh itself before the wheels started turning again.

Turns out that part of my dream isn't so true. The wheels never stop, government holiday or not.

They don't necessarily take a break on the weekends either. In fact, it is not that rare an event where I get my best work done on a Sunday. This is not to say I now work 24/7. I don't.  But I will own up to the fact that it is often a Tuesday or Thursday when I get the least amount of work done. It's just what happens when you work independently.

Some days you are up before the sun and others find yourself in your pajamas at noon. Some days you are planning and in my case always writing....sometimes at 11PM, and others you are hard pressed to check two things off your to-do list.  Somedays it is back to life before you left the corporate world like tomorrow, when I have a networking lunch that will involve wearing stockings and heels. It's just what happens when you are your own boss. It's something you learn to relax into but always struggle with. Especially if like me you spent A LOT of years working for "the man."

I had plans to be generous to me and to sleep in today. Mostly because for some reason that I will not even try to explain, I was up before the sun on Saturday and Sunday and consequently had a very productive weekend. But the jackhammers on the construction site next door to my building had other ideas. They started working at 7AM as they have been for months. Apparently, whatever union they work for doesn't know that Martin Luther King's Birthday is now a federal holiday. Or perhaps they are just happy to be getting time and a half.

I have learned that the dream as Martin Luther King so eloquently demonstrated is the vision. What manifests doesn't always necessarily look exactly as the picture you had in mind, and that is okay. It's a first step. The key is to keep dreaming and to keep dreaming big.

As for me, I have decided to work until Noon today and then play this afternoon, or what I like to think of  as the best of both worlds.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I've Got A Feeling

This may not be a particularly popular viewpoint or very trendy, but I have a good feeling about 2012. I think it is going to be an exceptional year.

I realize the prevailing thought patterns like to believe otherwise. Our culture seems to prefer to obsess over all that is not right with the world. The media is convinced we respond better to bad news than good. and so inundate us with headlines designed to make us tune in, turn on, and click through by  boasting how bad things are and how much worse they will get. They feed on our obsessions, sometimes forcing us to pay attention to what we don't want to. We have 24/7 News that repeats the same handful of  sad stories while ignoring the multitudes of good  that never get reported.  And because we do watch and listen and read on-line and off-line what they serve up,  we get more of it.

I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to wanting to know the details behind that doomsday promotional tease.  But I find more and more, especially when I follow the story through to the end, it has little substance. Or it gives me no new news or insight. It lacks adequate factual research. Plus it makes me feel bad. And rather helpless.

And I am not helpless, nor are any of us. I have a good feeling about 2012 because I know I can make a difference, I can create my own change in my little corner of the world.  I can have a positive effect on the direction things are going. It doesn't have to be launching a new campaign to end world hunger or writing another book, although it can be. It can also be as simple as behavioral changes.

Like making an effort to say please and thank-you more often. Telling someone you love them on a day that isn't Valentine's Day. Smiling at a stranger.  Saying I'm sorry when you bump me not once, not twice but three times in an aisle at Whole Foods. Not supporting a product or media outlet whose approach you find offensive. Supporting the ones whose direction you like. Voting. Look for the good in the world. Yes, there is  good to be found. Believing you can change the world.

I'm immersed in the Steve Jobs biography at the moment. One of the things Walter Isaacson constantly refer to is what was termed Jobs "reality distortion field." When Steve was looking through that lens people didn't know what to do. They didn't have the ability to see as he did. They saw what they thought was reality which was usually synonymous with "that's impossible". But Jobs saw what he would make his reality or what I like to call the "why not?" option.

So that is how I am going to approach this year. At times you may think I am living in my own "reality distortion field." And I may be. But the only way to change what is, is by seeing what can be and then taking those steps to make the "distortion" real.

Change in your own world will have an effect on the larger world. As long as you believe.

What are you feeling about 2012?
What changes do you want to make?

Ready to make some big changes? Stay tuned for details on what I have up my sleeve to help coach you to change in 2012. And if you are not already signed up to receive my newsletter or blog, do so now!