It’s Not My Only Line in the Play

I heard this quote at a conference in October. It really put things into perspective. We have a lot more shots at a goal than we imagine. I think back to grade school theatrical productions and not wanting to flub the one line I was given. But in reality, we have a ton of lines. For that matter, a ton of plays in life. I can get wrapped up in perfection in the job interview, or the presentation to the board, or the first date. It’s freeing to realize there are a lot of opportunities in life and it’s grand to not get wrapped up in the perfection of your next line in the play.

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I can relive conflicts in my life where I have an epiphany about what I should have said. The perfect comeback. The perfect redress. The perfect reparation. Finally putting someone in their place, and yet, the opportunity is long past. I can live in a loop in my head about how I should have played the situation differently. It takes energy. It zaps me. It’s completely unproductive. It was only one line.

So here are some ideas on how to move on to the next line in the play:

Piece it out

I facilitate a bunch of different trainings. They can range from Ethics, Sexual Harassment, or Human Resource Certification. Sometimes I present about CRR Global’ s “Lands Work”, Gallup’s Strengthsfinder, or Leadership Retreats. The thing is, when I first started facilitating, I would get completely caught up in the three upcoming events I had scheduled. I’d be worried about the one in three weeks when I was prepping for the one tomorrow. I would be overwhelmed and not sleep well. The secret is to focus on the next project. The next training. The next coaching client. By piecing it out to one project or event or client at a time, I can focus, be calm and better prepared. Focus on the next line in the play.

It’s about them

Delivering a line or a song or a presentation is all about the audience. Moving off of my own ego and onto the group in front of me is lifting an enormous burden off my shoulders. It’s not worrying about if I look fat in this outfit or if I can get a laugh out of the room. It’s delivering one piece that helps someone in their day. When you focus on them, it becomes a service. It makes it easier. I know that can seem like a lot of pressure but if I go into a room of two hundred people wanting to impress them all, it’s overwhelming and sure to fail. If I go into that same room with the intention to impact just one person’s life, it’s much easier. If it helps more than one person, terrific. If everyone gets it and loves the presentation? Even better. But the goal remains all about them.

$hitty first draft

Practically everything I facilitate, coach, or write is a first draft. I try not to overthink things. Granted, I have an editor for my blog, but the rest of what I deliver is on the fly. It’s in the moment. I’ve said some dumb things; I’ve said some witty things; I’ve said things I want to completely forget about (and usually don’t). Aren’t most conversations in life just $hitty first drafts anyway? Let go of perfection and be in the moment. If you mess up this line, there is another line coming up.

Be present in the moment

I’ve spent a lot of time rushing ahead. Planning. Mapping things out. I can be exhausting to be around. I can also spend a lot of time dwelling on the past. The Monday morning quarterbacking type stuff that is just as debilitating. The important thing is this moment right now. I facilitated a new group a few weeks back. I had never worked for this organization before. There were a bunch of unknowns: the audio visual; wall space for flip-charts; seating arrangements for the table. That’s all just flotsam. The real object is being present for the people in that room. It’s being present to tease out the wisdom in the room. It’s letting other folks shine their light for everyone else to benefit. If I’m more worried about the perfect room set up and refreshments, I’m not present for those in the room. So maybe you have to adjust the line in the play to fit the group in the room. Be present so you know it.

Be silent

It’s okay to be quiet. Not everything has to be filled with words. Time for folks to reflect is super important. Time for you to reflect is important as well. I think back to my first date with my boyfriend, Roy. There was plenty of silence. I was okay with not filling every moment with language. I remember becoming certified to deliver a Myers-Briggs facilitation. The instructor told us to wait 20 seconds after asking the group a question. Count out twenty seconds in your head. Go ahead. It’s an eternity, right? It’s an adjustment to be okay with silence. You don’t need to have language filling the air at all times. Give everyone time and space to reflect and digest. Some of the most profound moments in a play are when it is silent. Think back to all the pregnant pauses in a Hitchcock film. Rear Window would not be as griping without the silence. Silence can be powerful.

At the heart of all of this is just being authentic and present for as much as you can. Give up the need to know how it’s all going to end up. Every play is going to be different. Every line you deliver will have a different impact. What’s your next line in the play?

5 Surprising Impacts from Going Vegan

I started dating my boyfriend Roy almost two years ago. On his dating profile, he said he had been a vegan for about 9 months and found it boring. Being that I am quite the foodie, I assumed I could convert him from the “dark side” of boring bland veganism back to being an omnivore. Well here I am, 18 months later, and I am practically a vegan although I have succumbed to cheese pizza and my beloved cambozola cheese. There is also the about once-every-two-months bite or two of seafood, but that has occurred less frequently over time.

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Roy slowly indoctrinated me into going plant-based by first sharing a few documentaries, Forks Over Knives and What The Health. These are films not about animal cruelty, but focused on the health affects of eating meat and dairy. I come from a long background of seeking out and preparing culinary delights, regardless of if said culinary delight had a mother or not. Alligator, escargot, caribou, foie gras, yellow tail…I have tried it all and enjoyed it immensely. Vegetables and fruit were in my diet, but I was lucky to be having one or two servings a day. After the documentaries, Roy turned me on to NutritionFacts.org by Dr. Michael Greger. He sent me YouTube video after YouTube video on meat, chicken and pork. I asked him to not send me anything on dairy, as I was not ready to give up my beloved cheese. I finally acquiesced and he started sending me the YouTube videos on the evils of cheese. I am at this point of being 95% vegan, with only small amounts of dairy products in my diet (perhaps some cheese in a salad or a cheese pizza about once a week).

Here are the 5 surprising impacts of going vegan:

 

Cheap

I have saved a ton of money going vegan. I thought it would be more difficult to find ingredients, but every grocery store has apples, blueberries, grapes, mixed greens and a whole plethora of dried and canned beans. I have had a more difficult time finding vegan cheese at my local, rural Walmart, but as long as I stock up when I am at a specialty grocery or natural foods store, the rest of those items are incredibly cheap. I think I used to spend $10 per meal on flank steak, chicken tenders and lamb chops. Focusing on having meat for one, two or three meals (bacon and eggs for breakfast) is a lot pricier than two cans of beans, a bag of greens and several types of fruit. Outside of specialty items like vegan cheese or substitutes like beyond or impossible meat items, the rest of the items are very inexpensive.

Cholesterol

Two years ago, after I had lost 50 pounds from eliminating alcohol.  I had high cholesterol when I visited my doctor. I was on a low carb diet at the time. I had assumed with a dramatic weight loss that all of my “numbers” would have been terrific. Not so. My doctor threatened me with statin drugs if it didn’t improve in the next year. I assumed it would work itself out and that the cholesterol was just a fluke or age-related. I became a vegetarian about two months later and mostly vegan about five months later. When I returned to the doctor for my annual exam, all of my cholesterol numbers were in range. I have to say, I was shocked and assumed that when I returned to the doctor, I was going to walk out with a new prescription for statins.

Prescriptions

I have been on asthma and allergy medications for the last twenty years. I am allergic to dogs (yes, I own my beloved Brittany Spaniel, Baci), cats, dust mites, trees and grasses. I read Dr. Greger’s book, How Not to Die, about a year ago. He addresses how being plant-based can eliminate many drugs from one’s diet. Well, I decided to drop one medication for about four weeks, and then another, and then another. So that now, I don’t take any medication related to my allergy-induced asthma. I went from 5 drugs daily down to zero. I have no scientific reason for it except that meat and dairy cause a lot of inflammation (which is why it is tied to so many cancers). So here I am prescription-free, which is a huge cost saving and hassle-free.

Interesting

I love a challenge. I want to figure out how I can take an old tried and true recipe and make it vegan. It might mean finding a vegan cheese or meat substitute, or searching the internet for how to make cashew blue cheese. It’s all out there. I will say, the last gauntlet for me is trying to figure out how to use my sous vide for vegan recipes and I’m going to try it this week. I have some terrific cookbooks like Thug Kitchen and But I Could Never Go Vegan, which really helped in the first months I took this challenge on. There was a point where I just didn’t care about trying to replicate something I would have had as an omnivore. The impossible and beyond products are great but replicating meat isn’t my desire anymore. I prefer beans, tempeh and whole grains. It’s taught me to flex my culinary muscles and I can make a chili now that you would be hard pressed to even realize it’s vegan.

Easy

When I asked Roy about being a vegan, he said it was easier than he thought it would be. I think that initially I figured I’d be out there buying tofurkeys and chorizo substitutes. I did a little of that and bought crazy ingredients like EnerG Egg Replacer, Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, White Miso and Nutritional Yeast Flakes on the Internet. It’s now mostly buying seasonal items, like butternut squash, figs and Cosmic Crisp apples (they are awesome). Going to a restaurant has gotten easier as well. There are more vegetarian menu options (they will frequently have cheese…usually too much cheese) or even at chains like Cracker Barrel or BBQ restaurants, you can order three or four vegetables as an entrée. Almost everyone has a salad on the menu – you just need to make sure there isn’t any bacon or feta cheese in it. I do carry a vegan protein bar in my purse, but it’s rare that I have to resort to that. Peanut butter on an apple or banana is a perfectly healthy vegan meal…it’s just not that hard.

I never thought I would be a vegan at this point, but as I have been culling out my kitchen over the last few months, I decided I needed to donate my electric knife, whose sole purpose over the last twenty years was to slice up turkey on Thanksgiving. I can’t see going back to being an omnivore at this point. There is no upside and I’ve lost my desire for bacon and foie gras. If you had asked this foodie ten years ago if I would be a vegan today? I’d have said you were crazy. Seeing all the positive impacts it’s had on my life, I can’t imagine going back. What stops you from being a vegan?

Appreciation. A Lesson From My Dad.

I posted this back in 2013 when my father was still alive. His memory continues to have an impact on my life even as he passed away last year. I love you, Daddy.

There isn’t a conference I attend or a book that I read that does not bring up the importance of appreciation. It’s critical to everything: employee engagement, child rearing, influencing others and business success. Appreciation is the root to success in all things. But where is it? Dig into your pockets and see if you have had your full load of appreciation today. It’s doubtful. Unfortunately, it can be less utilized. Showing appreciation is that disappearing path in the woods that is covered in brush and kudzu. Most just don’t bother.

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My father and me in the early 1960’s

 

When I was younger, my mother cooked for my family every night without fail. My father complimented her on her cooking prowess every night without fail. There we were, the five of us, sitting at the table as a family and with the first bite, my dad always said, “Hmm, honey, this is good.” This could be part of the reason she cooked every night. She knew she would be appreciated.

Dale Carnegie, Tom Rath, Marshall Goldsmith, Stephen Covey, Gary Chapman and  Patrick Lencioni (plus countless others) have all touted the benefits of appreciation. And the benefits are countless. So let me give you a few pointers on how to start down that road.

  1. Notice.  You are going to need to pay attention to the world around you. Awareness of what is going on, or not going as the case may be, is the first step. Did your son actually put all his clothes away without any hesitation? Did your partner mow the lawn or finally replace that light bulb in the bedroom? Has your assistant updated that monthly report you haven’t looked at in three months? If you aren’t paying attention, you will not have the opportunity to appreciate.
  2. Value.  It’s the little things that matter. The chore I hate the most in my life is emptying the garbage. It’s a little thing. It takes all of 3 minutes to haul the garbage bag out to the trashcan, but I loathe doing it. So when I run across an emptied garbage can, it is a gift. If the implementation team worked extra hours over the weekend to make the new software seamless first thing on Monday morning, it is a gift. If I value it as a gift, then I know I will appreciate it. My dad valued a hot, home cooked meal and he showed his appreciation.
  3. Spontaneous.  Appreciation is not very effective if you drag your feet before you give appreciation. OK, so for a wedding gift, I think the etiquette books give you up to a year—not true with the receptionist’s new haircut. If you wait on complimenting her for, well, a year, it turns out to be kind of pointless. If you love that color blouse on someone, tell them. If you just realized that the dishwasher was emptied by the dishwasher elf (…the only person in my house that would do that is my dear sweet lovable boyfriend), make sure you thank them.
  4. Gossip.  There is nothing better than to hear that someone else spoke highly of you. This happened to me this week and, frankly, prompted me to write this post. A colleague of mine met, by happenstance, a Rotary friend of mine. The colleague told me how my Rotary friend had been singing my praises as a Rotarian. Wow. If that isn’t the best appreciation to get…through a little gossip.
  5. Park it.  Your ego, that is. If you are worried about getting a compliment in return, this will not work. If you come strutting in to the office with your new Jimmy Choo wedges, and start working your way down cubicle row complimenting everyone’s shoes; it will be obvious that it is more about you than them. The appreciation faucet works best if it’s running in one direction…and that is towards others with no expectation of anything in return. If you don’t park your ego, it could appear as if you are not sincere.
  6. Bask in it.  This is going to feel good. Being an appreciator is like being a ray of sunshine. You never know who you are going to run into that you get to shine that light on but it is really gratifying. Paying it forward with one compliment at time.

So go out there and take a few steps down the road of appreciation. See how many steps you can take each day. As Ellen always says, “Be kind to one another…”

4 Keys to Amor Fati

Definition of amor fati : love of fate : the welcoming of all life’s experiences as good

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche describes Amor Fati: “That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backwards, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it…. but love it.” Appalachian Trail thru-hikers (an epic, several-month-long trek over 2,000 miles) would express this as “Embrace the Suck.” Bryon Katie wrote a whole book on the topic called Loving What Is. I’ve spent decades trying to recreate history and control the path of my future, my kid’s future and my family’s future. I imagine I have a giant eraser to take back a failed marriage and wallow in regret, or project forward that my father will miraculously cheat death as he slowly succumbs to congestive heart failure. I have learned over the last few years that I am powerless to rewrite history and to meaningfully alter the future. Amor Fati.

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Here are the 4 keys to Amor Fati:

Quit Complaining

As Will Bowen says, “Complaining is like bad breath – you notice it when it comes out of someone else’s mouth, but not when it comes out of your own.” Bowen is the creator of A Complaint Free World  and challenges folks to go complaint free for 21 days. I remember taking this challenge some 7 years ago and I have to say, it’s pretty tough. I mean there is the weather, the traffic, my son still hasn’t responded to my text, the soup is cold, the package is late, my assistant hasn’t responded…but I digress into complaining. It’s so easy to deny what is. It’s like the negativity bias that saved your ancestors from saber-toothed tigers. It is constantly scanning the environment to track everything that is wrong. Try it for today. Just today. Be focused on what’s right with the world. With your world. I have a roof, a loving dog, a warm house and potable water. Welcome the rain, the red light, the screaming infant. Amor Fati.

Jump Forward

When I was going through my Brain Based Coaching training some eight years ago, I remember a tool we used called 10:10:10. This is a concept developed by Suzy Welch for decision making. “Here’s how it works. Every time I find myself in a situation where there appears to be no solution that will make everyone happy, I ask myself three questions: What are the consequences of my decision in 10 minutes? In 10 months? And in 10 years?” So, if staying late to complete a project for your boss means missing your child’s play at school using the 10:10:10 process there may be a happy boss and perhaps a more resilient child. As Ryan Holiday wrote, “The loss of a loved one, a breakup, some public embarrassment… In five years, are you still going to be mortified, or are you still going to be wracked with grief? Probably not. That’s not saying that you won’t feel bad, but you’re not going to feel as terrible as you do now. So, why are you punishing yourself?” I’ve been thinking about selling my house for the last year or so. I remember selling my house some 18 years ago in California. I thought, at the time, I will never live like this again. It was true, not because my current situation is worse, it’s just different and I never would have imagined how terrific things are right now. Maybe the future is so much better than you think. Amor Fati.

Embrace the Challenge

When my ex-husband left me hanging after my home was flooded by Hurricane Matthew, I was devastated. And then? I decided that this was a challenge. I was going to get the home repaired, fix my devastated finances and create a space of tranquility and comfort. I had an endless punch list and day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month, I took it on and conquered it all. I would not succumb regardless of my lack of knowledge of plumbing, HVAC or foreclosure. In retrospect, the challenge of overcoming all the obstacles was the best part. I didn’t want to go through it, but now that I have, I am so glad I did. As Holiday wrote, “It’s like in a game, right? Let’s say I throw you into a football game. If you stop and spend all your time arguing over the rules, you’re never going play. Maybe it doesn’t make sense that the overtime rules are this way or that quarterbacks get special protection, or this or that, right? There are all these different rules that make no sense that are arbitrarily how the game has developed since its inception. The Stoics are asking you in some ways to accept the arbitrary rules. Then they’re saying you play the game with everything you’ve got.” Play the game and embrace the challenge. Amor Fati.

Grateful

Amor means love. It’s not just about accepting the suffering or fate; it’s about loving it. I think about this a lot as I sort through the aftermath of my divorce. I am grateful for the process, for each and every decision, good or bad, for the pain and the release, for the deception and the triumph. I would not be where I am now without the journey, without the emotional bruises, without the struggle. I am so grateful to be the woman I have become. Sober, independent, present and courageous. I do a loving kindness meditation every morning. I wish happiness, peace, health and living with ease to everyone in my family, my boyfriend, my sick cousin, my enemies and, lastly, my ex-husband. I imagine embracing each one. I love them all for what they have brought to my life and love the hand I have been dealt. I am most grateful for my ex-husband leaving me to live my life to the fullest. Amor Fati.

It’s all about reframing the journey. Instead of dreading the court date, looking forward to and loving what fate has in store for me. I think a lot about, “Hmm, I wonder what exciting twist will occur?” or “What does the universe have planned for me now?” I’m not sure where I will be in 5 or 10 years but I know the journey will be exciting. Amor Fati.

The Magic of The Everglades

My son Benson has lived in South Florida for over 5 years and in all of my trips there, I have never experienced the Everglades. That was a huge oversight. When my kids and I planned to spend the end of 2019 in Miami, I told my son that I wanted to take an airboat ride in the Everglades, and I am glad I did. I have suggested that we visit the Everglades before but it was always met with resistance. I get it. Holiday crowds, parks promising that you can hold an alligator and who wants to spend the day in the middle of a huge swamp getting eaten alive by mosquitoes? I wasn’t interested in spending hours in a tourist trap, and based on the advertising I saw on the internet, I asked Benson to make the arrangements. I figured a local could figure out which of the options was the best for us and he did not disappoint.

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Me, Roy, Natalie and Benson on an airboat ride in The Everglades

Here is why our trip to The Everglades was so magical:

Airboat Rides Miami

First of all, I wouldn’t have selected this airboat ride based on the name alone. I wanted to go to The Everglades, not Miami. Well, Miami is right next to The Everglades. The three main airboat ride providers were about 10 miles outside of Miami city limits. I mistakenly believed that the only way to enjoy the natural beauty of The Everglades was to drive an hour or more outside of the city. That was a false assumption. Airboat Rides Miami also had ample parking which at least one of the airboat providers we passed did not. There is comfort in knowing that if they could get us parking, they could handle the crowds that were lined up to take an airboat ride. In retrospect, Airboat Rides Miami also had the highest trip advisor ratings. I’m not sure why my son chose this provider but it was the right one for us.

Private Boat

When Benson was setting up the ride for the four of us, he asked if we wanted to pay $25 per person on a large boat or spend $305 for a private boat. I decided that a private boat seemed like it wasn’t too expensive, and we would have a more customized ride. This was the right decision. While we watched hundreds of people lined up waiting for airboats that held upwards of thirty passengers, we waited for our private boat. We did have a fifteen-minute wait but it sure was worth it. The difference between the large boats and private boats is that the large boats have all their seats on one level about a foot off the water while the private boats have seats that are elevated on levels anywhere from 3 feet to 6 feet off of the water. In the private boat, we could see for miles above the glades and it lent itself to a feeling of floating above a carpet of grass. If you have a choice, select the private boat.

Birds

When we started our trip out to The Everglades, we went down a main canal with many other boats coming in and out. Our guide pointed out a heron on the left-hand side of the boat. I swear to you, I saw the bird standing there like a statue and thought, “What the heck, have they stuck a stuffed bird there so that we can see a heron?” I really thought it was fake as it perched unmoved with all of the boat traffic. I found out when we returned that it was a live heron, now walking through the grass. The more amazing part is that as we flew through the grass, there where egrets, herons and snail kites that magically rose from the grass alone and in pairs. It was like a ballet, each bird took off magically as we approached to pirouette across the sky. I had contemplated kayaking in the glades but we never would have seen so many birds as we skimmed across the water.

Alligators

My daughter and I were nervous about potentially seeing alligators on our trip. I think the height we were sitting above the water, but we saw upwards of 5 alligators. They were especially predominant along the canal close to the beginning and end of the tour. It made me wonder if they liked seeing humans.

There is something about watching alligators sunning with their eyes closed that makes you feel like a lucky observer not in danger. I was surprised that I wasn’t scared. I guess if the alligator was being aggressive, I would feel differently. It’s like I was the voyeur passing through their bedroom as they napped. Like I was on a moving sidewalk as we passed through their home.

Magic Carpet

I have always liked the Disney movie Aladdin and its magic carpet ride. That is the closest metaphor for gliding smoothly over the water and grasses of the everglades. There are no seat belts, no walls, no roof, no barriers between you and the abundance of nature that surrounds you. There was no turbulence or bumps in the road (water). We glided over grass and water and grass again with seemingly no boundaries. Our guide Gary would bank hard to the left or right and I never felt unsafe or as if I would topple over. There we were practically doing donuts in the everglades and I felt as light as air.

My advice to you? If you are in Miami, go to The Everglades. Experience the 1.5 million acres of diverse flora and fauna in southern Florida. If you can, take an airboat ride whether it be a large or small boat and go in the dry season which is from November to March and has a lot less bugs and the largest variety of migrating birds. Do not miss this treasure.

Bennett Place and Why You Don’t Know It

I’ve lived in North Carolina for over 18 years, I am the daughter of a Civil War buff and my daughter lived in Durham for 7 years, but I never set foot at Bennett Place until the weekend before Christmas of 2019. So what? Bennett Place is the actual spot where the Civil War ended. Not Gettysburg, Appomattox, Petersburg or Spotsylvania. Bennett Place right outside Durham, North Carolina.

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Bennett Place in Durham, NC

I must admit that I became interested in Bennett Place because it is my boyfriend Roy’s last name. I thought maybe there was some distant family tie or perhaps there was a confederate General Bennett that lent his name to the historic marker. I was incorrect. Bennett Place was the family farm and home of James and Nancy Bennett and was the site of the last surrender of a major Confederate army in the American Civil War, when Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to William T. Sherman on April 26th. It was also the largest surrender of the Civil War. This surrender agreement ended the war for the 89,270 soldiers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Here is why you’ve never heard of Bennett Place:

Appomattox Court House

Appomattox Court House is where the beginning of the end of the war started. General Robert E. Lee commanded the Army of Northern Virginia, while Major General John Brown Gordon commanded its Second Corps. Early in the morning of April 9, Gordon attacked, aiming to break through Federal lines at the Battle of Appomattox Court House, but failed, and the Confederate Army was then surrounded. At 8:30 A.M. that morning, Lee requested a meeting with Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant to discuss surrendering the Army of Northern Virginia. Shortly after twelve o’clock, Grant’s reply reached Lee, and in it, Grant said he would accept the surrender of the Confederate Army under certain conditions. Lee then rode into the little hamlet of Appomattox to the Court House and waited for Grant’s arrival to surrender his army. About 28,000 confederate troops were surrendered, but Lee and Grant were the main leaders, so Appomattox is credited with being the end of the war.

Lincoln’s Assassination

John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln on April 14th and Lincoln died on April 15th at Petersen House in Washington, D.C. The news of the assassination overshadowed any war news since Lee and Grant had already signed what is referred to as “The Gentleman’s Agreement” just five days earlier. The nation was grieving the first presidential assassination and he was lying in state for three days in Washington D.C. This was followed by a two-week funeral train ride home to Illinois which commenced on April 21st. It traveled through Baltimore, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, New York, Albany, Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, Chicago and finally arrived in Springfield on May 3rd. The assassination held the nation’s attention.

John Wilkes Booth

Once Lincoln was shot at Ford’s theater, it was pandemonium in Washington. Booth and his accomplice, David Herold, fled to southern Maryland. Booth had broken his leg after he leapt from the balcony after shooting Lincoln. He found a Doctor Samuel Mudd in St. Catherine, Maryland who reset his leg after Booth told him he was injured by a fall off a horse. Federal troops pursued Booth and Harold to Bowling Green, Virginia. Booth and Herold were apprehended in a tobacco barn by a cavalry detachment under the command of Lieutenant Edward Doherty. After Herold gave himself up, Booth was shot and killed by Corporal Boston Corbett on April 26th. April 26th is the same day that Johnston and Sherman had come to terms on the surrender at Bennett Place. The news of the president’s assassin’s death was a much more newsworthy event.

Timing is everything. Appomattox will always be revered as the end of the war. It is a National Historic site. But for the horrific murder of one of our greatest presidents and the pursuit of his killer, maybe Bennett Place would be more than just a lost footnote in the saga of the bloodiest war on American soil with over 620,000 lives lost. Just to set the record straight, there were several more much smaller surrenders throughout the south with the final declaration of the end of the war by President Johnson on August 20th, 1866. But for the surrender at Bennett Place, there could have been guerrilla warfare for countless years. I am grateful that James and Nancy Bennett lent their home to bring a bloody chapter in American history to an end.

The Less Traveled Roads of Eastern Carolina

I travel frequently. It might be driving by interstate to Atlanta, taking a train to Washington, DC, or even flying to Prague. I try to use the most expeditious route or transport in order to spend my time at the ultimate destination, whether it be with family, friends or for business. I rarely take time to take trips by less-traveled, more circuitous routes. I have to say that giving emotional and practical support to my boyfriend, Roy, as he thru-hiked almost two thirds of the 2190 mile length of the Appalachian Trail this summer was an adventure for both of us. This took me to some very remote areas, and at one point, I found myself on the wrong gravel road. I admit, this was very disconcerting to me. It can be intimidating to get off on the road less traveled. Roy, my partner in crime, is always game for the road less traveled and therein lies an intrigue for me. And that is exactly what we did Thanksgiving weekend: we took the lesser traveled road.

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1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse

Here are some of the roads we traveled:

Mattamuskeet Road

Getting to Lake Mattamuskeet is not something that happens by accident. You have to want to go to Lake Mattamuskeet; you don’t just ‘happen’ on it or assume you will simply find it. That was our first destination on this roadtrip. Mattamuskeet Road travels across Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, which is a stopover point for migrating snow geese, tundra swans, as well as shore birds, ducks and songbirds (in the spring). The road passes several swamps and shallow lake beds that in early December are swarming with tundra swan. We stopped to stand on an overlook, and it was magical. The strange murmur of the tundra swan and small groups of birds taking flight was breathtaking. I have to say I wanted to be closer to the swans, to see them at arm’s length, and I hope we can come back with kayaks in the future. The drive to get here is desolate and flat, but the payoff is terrific.

NC Route 94

This road traverses Lake Mattamuskeet which is the largest natural lake in North Carolina. The lake’s average depth is 2-3 feet! You could essentially walk across the largest lake in North Carolina (if you had waders or sandals and a bathing suit on). It all depends on how you like to roll.

Route 94 crosses the middle of the lake replete with stopping points. The lake itself is flat and pristine. We stopped at an overlook and saw a pair of nesting bald eagles on top of a tree in the middle of the lake. Apparently, the refuge attracts many raptors. Eagles rest in trees so that they can fish in the lake. I was amazed that I could see the eagles with my naked eye as we approached the overlook. Knowing this habitat is only a few hours from my home is intriguing and comforting.

Highway 12 towards Corolla

Roy and I drove north on the venerable NC Highway 12 towards its bitter end in the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge known as Corolla. As reported on their website, “The refuge is home in winter to thousands of green-winged teal, mallards, American widgeon, black ducks, pintails, northern shovelers, ring necked ducks, and tundra swan.” Along the way, we saw plenty of ducks in a town called Duck, several egrets and blue herons on our weekend in early December. A gem of the trip was going to the Currituck Lighthouse and climbing the 220 steps to the top. The historic town of Corolla is home to Banker Horses. They’re a breed of feral horses who are primarily found on the barrier islands of the Outer Banks. Roy and I did not see any of them the day we traveled there. Another reason to return.

Bodie Island Lighthouse Road

Bodie Island Lighthouse is the third version of a lighthouse. As seen on their website: “The lighthouse was originally constructed on Pea Island, south of Oregon Inlet in 1847 but was abandoned 12 years later due to a poor foundation. Rebuilt in 1859, the then 80-foot tall lighthouse was blown up by Confederate troops in 1861 fearing that the tower would be used by Union forces during the Civil War. Across Oregon Inlet in the current location on Bodie Island, construction of the new 156-foot tall black and white horizontally-striped lighthouse was completed in 1872 with the installation of a first-order Fresnel lens, eventually electrified in 1932.”  Unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately, for my knees) the lighthouse was not open to climb (it’s only open during set days in the summer).

Highway 12 to Pea Island

We rode over the Herbert C Bonnet bridge to Pea Island on highway 12. Highway 12 is famous. When you travel it south of Oregon Inlet, you can see both the Atlantic Ocean and vast Pamlico Sound from your car. Here is this long spit of what appears to be nothing but sand dune and asphalt threading through massive bodies of water. Hurricane Dorian had ravaged the area recently and the dunes were taking over the highway. As we headed back north some of the roadway was completely covered in sand. This is the only road down to Hatteras, Avon and Frisco. It was intimidating to see the sand dunes creeping and taking over the road.

Route 32 to Edenton

When we headed home from our visit to Kittyhawk, I selected a route that put us on track for the town of Edenton. I had no idea what to expect but I had read about the town in a Nicholas Sparks book, The Rescue and wanted to see the place. I had no idea that it was home to yet another North Carolina lighthouse. Sure enough, as we traveled into the town there was a sign for the ‘The 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse.” I had no idea that rivers even needed a lighthouse! But there it sat, proudly over the water, in all its glory. We went through a bunch of farmland to get there and it was worth the trip!

Taking the road less traveled brought us to some unique sights and sounds over Thanksgiving weekend. I’m glad we really didn’t have a plan, which afforded us seeing some lesser-known sights. I’m always amazed, after living in North Carolina for more than fifteen years, how many natives have never been to the Outer Banks or Lake Mattamuskeet. My advice to you is to get out of your comfort zone and travel some lesser-known spots and see what discoveries you can make. Where do you want to travel to next?

4 Reasons We Succumb to the Sunk Cost Fallacy

Individuals commit the sunk cost fallacy when they continue a behavior or endeavor as a result of previously invested resources (time, money or effort) (Arkes & Blumer, 1985). My boyfriend Roy and I went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina over Thanksgiving weekend. In our traveling around, we decided to check out the Currituck Lighthouse in Corolla. The Currituck Lighthouse is a brick lighthouse that is not painted, unlike the other famous lighthouses of North Carolina like Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout. We parked, took pictures and one of the employees asked if we were going to climb to the top of the lighthouse. Well, since it was open and it was the last weekend it was open for the year, we decided to check it out. We climbed the five steps up to the entry way and heard the liability speech of climbing the 220 steps to the top. The entrance employee said, “Well there are 220 steps to the top and you have already gone up 5 of them.” Sounds simple enough but in my head, I thought, “Well you’ve already gone up 5 so you might as well go all the way to the top.”

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The Currituck Lighthouse in Corolla, NC

This is an example of the sunk cost fallacy. It’s obviously non-sensible in retrospect. Why in the world would 5 steps out of 220 steps with 215 steps remaining make me feel: “Well, we’ve come this far, might as well climb the thing”? Have I mentioned that I have a bit of acrophobia and claustrophobia? But the entrance employee’s statement of my sunk cost of the five steps that I just came up? I was hooked. I had to complete it now. I had already done part of the work. Let me finish this. The sunk cost fallacy is constantly showing up in life and there are some good reasons why we succumb to it.

Here are four reasons we succumb to the sunk cost fallacy:

  1. We fall prey to the stick more than the carrot

Punishment is driving you more than pleasure. We all have loss aversion. I had already “suffered” going up 5 steps. I rather suffer 215 more steps than going back down the 5 I already went up. There are apps for this (StickK, Beeminder, etc.). Where you make a pact to give up smoking, alcohol or chocolate, and if you fail ,you pay money to some organization that you despise, like a political group you are opposed to. The stick is mightier than the carrot. It is why you stay in a relationship where you aren’t happy. You’ve already invested 5 months, 5 years or 5 decades with someone and the loss of hurting the person’s feelings through a breakup is too great. So, think about if you are just being loss averse or if there really is a good reason to go up the 215 steps. In my case, there was a view at the top and the unique experience of climbing a lighthouse. Try and focus on the carrot and whether it’s worth it.

  1. We don’t want to be wasteful

It might be my upbringing, but I always remember being a part of the clean plate club. My parents would tell me to think about the starving Albanians while I pushed Brussel sprouts around my dinner plate as a child. It’s also why I hold onto clothes and shoes and random electronic cords that serve no purpose. I don’t want to be wasteful. I can’t stand giving away a jacket that I bought three years ago that still has its price tag or the pair of shoes I spent more than $100 for that do not fit and have never felt comfortable. I have to say that I love the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Marie goes to people’s homes and helps them go through their things. She asks the person to hold the item and see if it sparks joy. That jacket that is hanging in my closet with the price tag on it? It does not spark joy. I need to thank it and donate it to someone who can use it. The random cords that go to something I no longer own or use? They need to get thrown out. I’m working on letting go of things even though it might feel wasteful.

  1. We want to look back instead of forward

In an article by Mark Reipe for Charles Schwab, “In the case of the sunk cost fallacy, the fear of acknowledging a ‘loss’ can keep us looking backward at events that we can’t change, when our self-interest lies in thinking about what comes next.” When my marriage fell apart two years ago, I kept focusing on what went wrong. I kept looking back and not looking forward. I was examining the sunk cost of 17 years of marriage in hindsight, instead of looking forward to what was possible now. I sort of imagine now, what would happen if I spilled some milk and kept thinking about that spilled milk over and over and over again. It’s pointless. The milk is cleaned up and gone now. What’s possible if I don’t focus on past history and see what’s possible now?

  1. We can’t recover what we’ve already invested

I love the analogy that Reipe wrote: “A rational approach to sunk costs is to say that money you can’t get back should have no influence on decisions about what you do next. Only additional future costs should matter. Say you throw $100 into a wishing well and your wish isn’t granted. Would you throw another $100 after it?” This says to me that we need to start where we are and move forward. Quit tallying up the cost of the car repairs or the dead-beat client that refuses to pay. Move on. What will it cost to keep the car running right now? Who cares if the shoes were over $100, if you won’t be comfortable in them, donate them to someone who will wear them? I cannot recover what I have already spent. Move on.

I survived the 220 steps, along with my acrophobia and claustrophobia, all the way to the top of the lighthouse. And the 220 steps back down. I’m glad I did it. The sunk cost fallacy might have spurred me to the top, but the experience of climbing a lighthouse and testing my fears is what sustained me. It makes me think about what else I might be forging forward on that I really need to let go of. What are you holding onto because of sunk cost?

Find Happiness Now

I have struggled over the last two years with finding happiness. I have strained, pushed, and worked on finally arriving at the railroad station, boarding the rail car called Happiness. Having taken this very circuitous route, I’ve come to realize: it’s not a destination; it’s not arriving or departing. It’s not being on standby. The thing is that it’s always been in me. It can be in me right now. It’s funny because as I write this, my dog Baci just relaxed into my lap as I wrote that sentence. She isn’t struggling any more; she is just deciding that laying next to me is perfect. And that is just perfect with me.

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I recently read Michael Neill’s The Space Within. It’s a thought-provoking book about just letting things be. About giving up control and focusing on what is. To letting go of your thinking and worrying and just letting things be. I think this is about just deciding to be happy right now. Just let life work itself out and yet embrace happiness now. It doesn’t take a milestone like buying a house or the divorce to be final or for you to complete the marathon; be happy right now. The key is to decide. So go ahead and decide on happiness right now.

Here is how to decide on happiness:

Happiness is not the goal

This seems counterintuitive. If you view happiness as the goal, you never find it. There is always one more hurdle to jump over. One more thing to check off the list.  You never seem to arrive. I have the new car but I won’t be happy until it’s paid off. Once the car is paid off, then I’ll need to get new tires. Once I get new tires, then the brakes will need replacing. There is always one more thing before happiness is ours, right? The finish line keeps getting extended. We never achieve satisfaction. We never ever arrive. Quit focusing on happiness being the goal.

Happiness is not dependent on others

I can remember thinking as a kid that I would be happy when I found the love of my life or when I had children. Basing your happiness on someone outside of yourself will lead to disappointment. It all starts with you. When it’s dependent upon others, others disappoint. They let you down and then your happiness evaporates. When you can find it in yourself, there is no disappointment. There is only your mindset. If my dog wants to snuggle next to me or not. If my lover tells me they love me or not. If my child gets the job, or graduates from college or not. Happiness is within me and is self-created.

Happiness is not about getting what you want

As Neill writes, “The secret to happiness is simply this…your happiness does NOT depend on getting what you want.” This means that similar to The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy always had home in her heart. She just needed to tap into it. Happiness is within you right now. You don’t need to get the next thing: The new car, house, jacket or coffee maker. Happiness does not exist in the striving for what you want but rather in you right now. Let go of the wishlist and be happy right now.

Happiness is not in the doing

Neill writes, “If you are doing things in order to be happy…you’re doing them in the wrong order.” For me this means to be happy while doing. It starts with the mindset of being happy right now. Start with being happy. Start between the ears. Doing will follow. Just start with a smile on your face and bliss between the ears. Neill suggests looking for the space between words. It’s difficult to look for the space between words when you start looking for it. It’s in the space. That pause. That moment where the infinite is. For me that is being present. Not multitasking. Not looking at your phone. Just be.

Happiness is not a short cut

Neill espouses, “By taking the time to live life in the slow lane, we quickly experience a deeper, more profound experience of contentment.” I opted for a walking meeting with a coworker of mine. The meeting took at least 30 minutes longer than I had expected. The thing is, I connected with the coworker and found out about some recent health issues she was having. I only had thirty minutes on my schedule but the walk and the conversation led to places I didn’t expect or anticipate. It’s letting go of control and letting the path unfold as it needs to. No need to rush, take short cuts or push through. Take the long way, the slow lane and don’t miss a thing.

I wrote myself a note in the Silence Course I took over a year ago. The first item on the note was to smile more. Several people at the course had told me what a beautiful smile I had and how it lit up my face. We all have beautiful smiles. We all need to smile more often. Don’t wait to smile or be happy. Be happy right now. Smile right now. It’s infectious. Are you happy right now?

7 Strategies to Overcome Assumptions

You assume that your boss remembers that you will be out of town on Friday. You assume that your partner remembers that you have a late appointment this afternoon. You assume that your co-worker didn’t include you in the invite because your opinion isn’t needed…or wanted. You assume that the CEO knows that you’ve been burning the midnight oil for weeks to get the financials done. You do it. I do it. We all make assumptions. It’s a dangerous path.

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Left unchecked and unexamined, assumptions can destroy relationships, teams and organizations. Your boss is expecting you at the ad hoc meeting she set up on Friday and is disappointed that you didn’t show. Your partner is angry that she left work early to surprise you at home, only to find you missing in action. You resent your CEO for not acknowledging all the extra work you’ve been doing on the financials. Assuming is easy. It doesn’t take a lot of effort. Just a jump or two. Tying two dots together that really aren’t related. But looking down the assumption path a little further can reveal resentment, lack of trust and undermine your relationships.

Here is what you can do to fix it:

* Clarify. It seems simple to clarify. Obvious, really. But it takes effort. Your brain is hard wired for negativity. You have survived extinction because of this negativity bias, but there are no more saber-toothed tigers chasing you. It is easy to assume that not having been included in the meeting is an intentional slight rather than an oversight. But if you clarify with the meeting organizer that you would like to attend the meeting, if at all possible; or if you proactively tell your CEO that you’ve been working hard on the financials, you change up your personal dynamic. This is clarification and not boasting.

* Listen. Part of the Assuming Process is not actually listening. We ask a question we assume we know the answer to, and then don’t listen. I am so guilty of this. I think I know the answer and as a “show of concern”, I ask the question but never listen to the response. Just a short cut to save time, but so disrespectful. I get distracted by my grocery list or trying to remember if I need to go to the bank, and never hear the response. It could be the time of the meeting that you assume is at 10, but has been pushed to 10:30. You are smiling and nodding but never connect to the answer. Listen.

* Be open to conflict. Yeah. I know. Most of us are conflict averse. We’d rather hold onto our assumptions than actually step into a conflict. Keep everything copacetic. Keep everyone happy. Don’t rock the boat. As a consequence, the safety issue is never brought up, or the budget short fall isn’t discussed, or the poor performance issue is never addressed. Just this week, I addressed a performance issue (i.e. stepped into conflict) with an employee and tested my assumption that they wanted a job modification. Once addressed, I found out that she did not need a modification. Unchecked, it could have lead us down a completely different path. Step into conflict–you can resolve it.

* Slow down. Part of what fuels an assumption is taking a short cut. If you slow down the pace, you will stay in your prefrontal cortex, where you do your best thinking. When you are in a reactive mode, you’re in the back of your head, where your flight or fight response is. Where you don’t do your best thinking. This is why it’s called jumping to conclusions. Your anxiety is up, your cortisol is pumping and your body is ready to run from the saber tooth tiger. My coach starts off every session with a breath-in for the count of 6 a total of 3 times. Slow down and breath to quit jumping to conclusions.

* Forgive. This can be for yourself, as well as others. As Nelson Mandela said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” I’ve grappled with this myself. It’s hard to forgive someone for an assumption you created and may have carried for decades. It can be the frenemy who didn’t invite you to the graduation party back in 1979, or the family member who never thanked you for the gift, or even when you continued to meddle in your child’s life. The resentment is hurting you more than them. Take out a piece of paper or journal, and forgive them one and all–even yourself. Forgive early and often.

* Use technology. When I travel out of town now, I send my partner a meeting request with the airline information. I will frequently forget to tell him that I’m going out of town, and this keeps him proactively informed. Give your assistant access to your calendar. It’s still a good idea to inform people but a sure-fire safe guard is to use your technology to keep them informed.

* Be positive. Envision the upside. I recently saw Rick Hanson and his great Ted Talk on the topic “Hardwiring Happiness.” It’s so easy to just decide that we are going to be worry warts for the rest of our lives. The thing is, you can develop a positive brain that lets the worry go. It takes work and practice, but we ALL have the capacity to have more positive reactions. This can help keep harmful assumptions at bay. Build positive pathways in your brain.

This is not accomplished overnight. We are all works in-progress. Even if you just spend 5 minutes a day meditating on what is positive in your life, you can start breaking down the pathways to assumptions. One assumption at a time.