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Are You Nervous Saying Yes?

Are you nervous saying yes? Do you wonder, what have I gotten myself into? Do you think that maybe your misgivings are trying to warn you against what you just agreed to? If so, have no fear. This is normal. When you step out of your comfort zone it is normal to feel nervous – or uncomfortable. That is the point, right? We’re all right there with you. Everybody has had their first time at everything.

I’ve been giving speeches in Toastmasters for eight years -loads of speeches. And people will often ask me, “do the nerves go away?’ “Not really” I say, “you just get used to it”. The strength of the nervousness goes down greatly as you do it more, but there is always a little bit of it right before you present. And it is a good thing, because it shows you care about what you are going to say – you want to do it right.

And when you say yes to an opportunity, a new position of any kind, you will get surprises. You will have those times that you say “what did I get myself into?” You can do the best preparation and still not anticipate what may come up. I was in the middle of my first year as a Division Director in Toastmasters when covid hit. We were in the midst of speech contest season and all of a sudden we had to make a big switch. Not only did we have to help clubs go online, but we had to take our contest online and learn Zoom very quickly. I think we did a great job adapting but it was definitely not something I could have anticipating when I began my term of office.

Balance out the nervousness when you say yes with a vision of that old ketchup commercial with Carly Simon’s voice in the background belting out “Anticipation”. Dream of the good things that may come your way because you said yes. The people you will meet, the pleasure moments you will enjoy, the unexpected rewards – including future opportunities- that may come your way as a result of that simple “yes”.

So don’t be nervous saying “yes”.

Tomorrow let’s talk about saying “yes,but” versus “yes, and”

Get Lost, Purposefully

Nobody likes to get lost. Even when we know exactly where we are going we tend to pull out our phones for mapquest or queue up the latest version of GPS before we head out on the road. We tend to take the same route, whether to work, church, grocery store, or family gatherings. We are, after all, creatures of habit.

Getting lost isn’t efficient, we say. Even if we add in extra time to get where we are going – “just in case of accidents or traffic jams” is the way my mother put it. We don’t want to be late and yet we never seem to have the time to try something different – a different route, a different destination. And our days seem packed with activities that won’t give us that latitude.

But I believe that exploration is good for the soul and good for leadership. If people before us had not taken the time to try things differently what great things would not have happened. What inventions would not enrich our lives? Would we really have been content with oil lamps and outdoor plumbing or getting everywhere by horse and buggy? We exist as a country because intrepid adventurers set out to see to explore the world.

Whenever I moved to a new place, which I have done often, I would explore my surroundings and often would get myself purposely lost so that I could find different routes to get back home. I have always been a curious person eager to learn and discover new places, sights, and experiences.

I believe that oftentimes we beat our heads against walls trying to fix problems by using the same old methods. We could save ourselves a whole bunch of grief by trying something radically new just for the heck of it. We could surprise ourselves. Remember, penicillin came about because of moldy cheese left on a windowsill.

So I urge you to block out some time to get lost – purposefully. Embrace the unknown, the uncertain, the unpredictable. Take a chance and see what you may discover.

Throw Out the Box

You have all heard the phrase “think outside the box”, right? We say it to indicate the importance of creative thinking and going beyond boundaries and limits to come up with better solutions. Unfortunately, it has become a cliche – something true that gets overused and becomes stale and meaningless. We need to throw out the box and find a new way to express the same thought.

I came up with the term “cook without a recipe”. In my culinary experience, I have many times drastically altered recipes. Sometimes because of lacking some ingredients and sometimes by design. One of the first desserts I made – a fudge ribbon cake – I made three times each time different. The third time I made it the end result looked exactly like the recipe envisioned because I had all the recipe ingredients, but each time I made it it was just as good.

Later I took to experimenting with certain additions to recipes and then when I learned the basic chemistry and physics of cooking I went further. I began to choose ingredients based not on a recipe but on the processes I knew towards an end product I wanted. I cooked without a recipe – and now I often do that. It doesn’t work every time, but more often than not I get a fair result and learn something new in the process. Even the failures teach me.

This is what is important about being a leader. You need a sense of experimentation and risk-taking. You need to leave behind the boundaries of tradition and strive for something new. If you don’t experiment you will never know what you can achieve. Trust the building blocks of your education and training and then go beyond the barriers.

The key is thinking of the end first – what do you want to achieve. And then work backward- in some fields it is called reverse engineering. Allow yourself to think of new ways to get from where you are to where you want to go. It’s like finding a new route to a destination -which is what we will discuss next. Meanwhile, try to make dinner tonight by tossing together different ingredients in a new way – and challenge yourself to throw out the box and cook without a recipe.

Don’t Be Afraid to Crash

Don’t be afraid to crash. What a crazy thing to say. When you are driving you don’t want to crash. When you are out walking you don’t want to crash into someone. But the truth is in life you are going to crash sometimes. We just normally think of it as falling. Everybody falls at one time or another and the thing to remember is one -know how to fall, and two – get up after you fall, and three, make sure you learn something from the fall.

In sports where there is a possibility of falling, like gymnastics,, skateboarding, even football, and soccer the first thing you need to learn is how to fall. How to manage the fall so as to reduce the likelihood of hurting yourself. I learned that lesson pretty quickly in learning to ride a bike. I took off from the back yard of my best friend’s house and promptly crashed in the front yard. There was plenty of soft lawn and I didn’t get hurt. And I got back up and tried again. I have also had times, once on a bike and once skating when I stiff-armed the ground and sprained an elbow. That was the wrong way to fall.

What I learned especially in roller skating is that you can hurt yourself more by trying to not fall than to actually fall. You can pull muscles, twist your back, etc by trying too hard not to fall. It can also build up your fear of falling – which is what happened when i was little and didn’t do it very often. I would hang onto the railing in the practice area and not have much fun. Once I realized the floor wasn’t that hard I lost my fear of falling and enjoyed it more.

In my late 20’s and early 30’s, I started skating 3-4 times a week and got much better. I learned cross-over turns on the curves and even learned to backward skate. I got to the point where if I hadn’t fallen at least once or twice a night I knew that I wasn’t trying hard enough. And that became true for the rest of my life. Falling or crashing isn’t a sign of weakness or failure. Rather it is a sign of progress. I read somewhere that mistakes show that you are trying.

So leaders need to be bold and not be afraid of crashing. I use the term crashing for spectacular happenings that some would call failure. In Toastmasters we say that it is a safe place to fail, as well as a great opportunity to succeed. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, “I try every day to do something that scares the heck out of me”.

You as a leader need to be bold enough to not fear crashing. Do things that scare you and challenge you. It will build strength and others will see it and find boldness and inspiration as well. Take on the “we’ve never done it that way before” crowd and do some of those ‘never’ things.

Follow Me

Do you remember the phrase “lead, follow, or get out of the way”? It was usually uttered when someone was hesitating at the front of a group and others were impatient to start. The message was to take the lead or follow a lead, but don’t stand in the way of the group moving. Today there is confusion about leadership with most standing around looking for leaders.

Most people if you ask them will deny that they are and will profess neither desire nor competency for it. Even people who join Toastmasters, whose slogan is “where leaders are made”, will say that they joined just to be better speakers, not leaders. But I have news for you – everyone is a leader, even you. You are a leader, whether you realize it or not, whether you occupy a “leadership” role or not.

Why is that? Anytime we speak in front of a group – like at a Toastmaster or Rotary meeting or at work, we have a point to make, something we want others to learn or do. We want to move them to action, persuade them to live differently, or change their minds. And in so doing we are trying to lead them. So we are leaders.

Even when we aren’t speaking, formally or not, we are leading by example. Someone, somewhere, for some reason, is watching you and you can be and are a role model, hopefully for good.

There are many types of leaders, the good, the bad, and the ugly. We see them all the time. Part of the problem in our world is that there are often too many people sitting on the sidelines and not stepping up to lead. One result is that there are many good leaders who get burned out by having to bear a heavy load of responsibility. On the other hand, there are many who are way too eager to lead but the path they take is a downward slope to disaster.

Another problem is blind following. People will follow a leader but leave their minds behind. They possess no critical thinking skills and accept whatever the leader proposes without question. Loyalty is admirable but not at the expense of active minds that test what the leader says for accuracy and kindness.

The last issue with leadership is change. Our world is rapidly changing and we have to keep pace with it. We have to be able to adapt and not just get stuck in a rut of traditional practices and thinking patterns. Effective leaders need to be forward-thinking and willing to take risks to make progress.

Bene Brown wrote a book on just that topic – Dare to Lead. Check it out at buy dare to lead brene brown – Search (

This week in my blog posts I want to share with you some ideas for risk-taking creative leadership and challenge you to brainstorm how you will step out into risk in your own sphere of influence. I hope you will follow me and share your thoughts.

A Touch of Reality

We sometimes take our sense of touch for granted, but for Helen Keller, it was her connection to reality. Since she was both blind and deaf the only way Annie Sullivan, her teacher, could connect with her was by spelling out words on her hands. From ‘water’ the first word she learned she progressed to be able to speak and advocate for the disadvantaged.

You might describe the sense of touch as “the best of times….the worst of times”, to quote Dickens. Pain and pleasure are both parts of our sense of touch. We would rather have more of the latter, but pain serves us well as a warning of danger, a sign that something is wrong Without pain our body could be ailing, damaged, dying, and we wouldn’t know it.

Do you remember when you were little what you were always doing? Touching things. You were exploring your world getting acquainted with everything. No matter how old you get you can still learn using your sense of touch. Have you ever walked barefoot, in the grass, on the pavement, on the beach. Each time you do you get more connected, more grounded in reality. It’s like your other senses. We tend to shield ourselves from primitively letting our body experience the world.

And don’t forget that touching also means keeping in touch, communicating with others. Physical touch that can’t be replicated by email or text or zoom. Forget pictures, a hug can speak volumes to someone in need. Don’t be afraid to let yourself be touched by the world and to touch it in return.

Stop and Smell the Roses

You have to stop and smell the roses along the way. I have done that literally on my way to work many times. There was a planting of roses in downtown Seattle near my work. Of course, that was pre-Covid. Now I work from home full time and have only been to the office once in the last two years- and that was just to clean out my desk.

But I do go for daily walks and enjoy the flowers and trees and just mowed grass in our neighborhood. Have you ever savored the smell of freshly mowed grass – especially if you didn’t have to do the mowing? It is so fresh and clean and refreshing.

And then there is the aroma of cooking wafting through the air. Whether it is barbeque, cookies, and other baked goods, or even coffee brewing, it gets your mouth watering and your stomach growling if you haven’t eaten recently. I fell in love with the smell of coffee long before I learned to love the taste.

One of the side effects of covid they say is the loss of taste and smell. What a terrible thing to go happen:( I know there are much worse things about covid to be sure, but losing the sense of taste and smell is nothing to sneeze at. I remember my mom saying how her mom at some point lost her sense of smell so much that without looking at them she couldn’t distinguish between an onion and a strawberry. I don’t know how accurate that was, but I remember it to this day as a terrible thing.

Taste and smell are closely related and are very important to our awareness of our surroundings. We depend on them to warn us of food gone bad on the one hand and to heighten our sense of anticipation for the feasts that we enjoy. I happen to enjoy almost any food, with notable exceptions, and that allows me great variety in eating.

But do we take the time to savor the tastes and smells that we encounter every day. Or do we just gobble down and hurry on our way and fail to fully appreciate what our senses make us aware of? How many times have you rushed through a meal and barely tasted it? How many times have you walked by a tree or bush and not stopped to lean into the aroma? As the songwriter said “sometimes you have to stop and smell the roses along the way”

Can you hear me now?

Because of covid most of us are holding meetings online and we are facing new challenges in communication. Our meetings can be disrupted by background home noise, static, poor connections, and the ubiquitous mute button. We can have the video on or off and that in itself can affect communication. I rely heavily on non-verbal signs and often feel blind and disconnected even with full audio if many people have their video off.

Sometimes I see this happening when people are out and about. Many are plugged into music, news, or podcasts when they walk. I feel sad for them because they are missing so much audio around them. I used to listen to music when I ran because it was motivational and I listen to music when I work because it keeps me company. But when I take my daily walks I have my ears wide open.

What do I hear? All kinds of bird calls, from blackbirds, crows, and robins, greeting the morning, to the ducks and geese and seagulls as they migrate across the sky. I hear the pounding of woodpeckers and the many-song Stellar jays and the hooting owls even though I rarely see them. Recently I have been entertained by choruses of frogs. And sometimes it’s just nice to hear and feel the wind blowing in the trees.

I also welcome sometimes the things I don’t hear. in the early morning, there isn’t that much traffic so the sounds of silence are precious. A number of years ago my wife and I traveled to Moab Utah and visited with a friend who took us to Arches National Monument, where it was so quiet you could almost hear the proverbial pin drop.

Do you have times when you are able to soak in the sounds of nature? do you have times to listen to the sounds of silence? Or is your life filled with a cacophony of sounds all competing for your attention? And when you converse with others how much of that time are you speaking and how much are you listening to others? Communication is a two-way street and unfortunately, many people are listening to respond instead of listening to learn. We need to use our ears wisely.

Do you see what I see?

Do you see what I see? Seeing is believing they say. Without vision the people perish, it is said. Can you see me now? we are asked. But what do we use our sense of sight for? Scrolling through Facebook, watching inane shows on TV, staring at blank pages wondering what we should write? Too much time staring at the four walls of our cooped up lives – thanks Covid:(

We have a great gift with which we can explore our world, but only if we take the time to go out into it. All creatures great and small inhabit it, as you can see by my pictures today. I recently walked another section of the Sammamish River trail and found these two creatures along the way. I helped a yellow snail complete its journey across the path – wouldn’t want to have it get stepped on or run over. And I was able to observe a blue heron in the marshlands along the trail -was he posing for me?

I also saw many walkers, runners, and bicyclists along the way. They were all out and about to take advantage of a weekend that, though rainy, was a fine time for exercise. It takes effort to go walking but it is worth it.

In our vision, we must not only notice what we see and treasure it. We must also be noticing the things we are not seeing. I noticed the absence of chaos among the people I encountered. I was pleased to notice very little trash along the trails – people tended to pick up after themselves. I also enjoyed the absence of motor vehicles – something that I later had too much of on my journey home.

At one spot I encountered someone packing up their tent. It was their temporary home in the forest. It reminded me that not everyone is as fortunate as I to have a roof over my head. We must see those who are less fortunate and that there are still things to improve in our world. To look without seeing is not helping anyone. We must remember to always look with our hearts. Both to appreciate what we have and to be motivated to help those who have less. Do you see what I see?

Next time: hearing and listening

Open Your Mind

Are you oblivious to the world around you? Are you constantly surrounded by a cacophony that drowns out any meaningful interaction with what is happening? Sometimes the drumbeat of news, sports, and even music can be so overwhelming that we miss much of the sensations of life going on all around us. Not just us introverts, but all people need to take time out to literally and physically “stop and smell the roses along the way.

I want to examine just what we should be exercising our senses for this week. But first, we need to make sure that we are more than just analytical – gathering data. It is one thing to notice what our senses pick up. It is quite another thing to let down our defenses and absorb the impact of what they sense.

For instance, do you see things or are you actually looking at them, appreciating the differences? Do you hear the sounds of nature or of friends or are you actively listening with discernment.? Do you guzzle drinks or gobble food or do you take time to savor food? Have you ever just strolled across a stretch of grass in your bare feet and reveled in the feel of it.?

We need to not just open our senses to the world but have our brain connected to those so that we can process the input in a way that enriches us. Again not be just reactive but proactive. Let our curiosity fuel our search for meaningful interaction with the world around us. Not just with nature, but with each other, going beyond just the superficial.

Stay tuned for our sense exploration.

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