christine e. middleton

By day... dot connector. consumer strategist. practitioner. coach. helping executives find new ways to expand + grow their bottom lines.

In between hours... student of life. passion for inspired living + wellness. truth seeker. advocate of level playing fields. fan of creativity, art + design.

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How many of us jump from one job to the next? One friend to the next? One relationship to the next? One drama or hurt to the next?

Learn instead how to pause.

In between jobs, relationships… when you are in a new life experience of any kind… Pause.

Iyanla Vanzant often talks about her experiences reaching different levels of success - only to crash, burn and start over again. Why? For the longest time she felt unworthy when she reached a goal (based on how she grew up).

She has learned new beginnings are the moments when our patterns and past hurts come to the surface seeking to be healed, fixed, proven…

Iyanla didn’t pause when she started working with Oprah initially. She lost her mentorship, friendship and a deal for show. Not feeling worthy enough she accepted a deal with another network (aimed at taking away from Oprah more than supporting Iyanla). Little did she know and the show failed from the start.

Iyanla did what she had been taught, seen growing up, heard EVEN though she… we… said she never would. 

Why? We’re human. It’s how we are wired. BUT it’s not where the story ends, IF we are willing to work.

Iyanla eventually mended things with Oprah and has a new show on OWN. She learned how to pause.

She says that if we don’t learn to pause in the new beginnings in order to find our center, get grounded, make different decisions, seek to understand what is really being said (vs. what we heard with our filters), then we will continue to make the same decisions (and mistakes) over and over.

Learn to pause. 

When paused, look within for the truth.

Take the time to face the truth of what hurts you. Be clear just how these hurts are driving your thoughts, how you listen, actions, reactions, decisions, feelings, needs.  

Sure, initially, looking within can be hard and painful. BUT, when you do the work, new outcomes, realities and joy are waiting on the other side.

And yes, you will have to endure the “birthing pains,” as Iyanla puts it, which you soon forget as you are basking in new levels of joy, happiness, and success.

It is each one of our decisions whether we move on or spend our lives going around the same mountain (as in: “This is a different situation and people, but I’ve been here before…”).

Get to a place of openness and letting go. Heal. Forgive. The world is waiting for the real versions of ourselves to show up.

 

Have you seen this video, Look Up?  

(If, not, do. There’s reason it’s gotten over 45 Million views so far.)

Lisa Loehr, leadership and HR coach, expands on the concept how it translates at work - the miscommunication that happens by a lack of intent and tone; the inability to convey conviction or praise in ways humans need; and impact of non-verbal communication taken out of the equation.

In her post on Common Sense Leadership, Lisa drills down to the point that   “…much of the degree of our success is based on the quality of our relationships with our colleagues.”

Worth the ponder.

"Believe you can and you’re halfway there."

— Theodore Roosevelt, 26th U.S. president

"It’s braver to be Clark Kent than it is to be Super Man…”

— From Lessons from the Mental Hospital - a Tedx Talk by Glennon Doyle Melton.

We each have our own story. What really matters is being authentically who we are. That requires radical acceptance of the good parts and the not so good parts. 

Glennon’s story is honest. She gives a face and way forward through extreme self-doubt, fear and anxiety she feels every day.

Part of being a leader is connecting and inspiring others — meeting individuals where they are. Achieving this has two sides:

1. Understanding and being open to others, which requires compassion.

2. Self acceptance in order for #1 above to be possible.

Glennon used to be addicted to drugs and alcohol, sex and spent time in a mental hospital. Now she is hired by some of the biggest companies to give her unique perspective of transformation. How? Why?

Because she’s authentic. Also because no one can inspire others more effectively than someone who has walked a thousand miles, can relate, can serve as a living example…

So consider this:

What if your greatest heart ache or hurt might actually be your calling (and ultimately greatest contribution) towards making a difference in this world?

Our job, then, is to accept, heal, learn …and help others.

Ancient wisdom:

The supreme good is like water, which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain. Thus it is like the Tao.

In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don’t try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.

When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete,
everybody will respect you.

 

"The biggest human temptation is not to ambition too much, but settle for too little.”

- Thomas Merton

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great."

— John D. Rockefeller, American industrialist

A wonderful message for women of all ages, but for men too:

You don’t have to try so hard. 

Beyond the body image that Colbie Caillat portrays, this message is about being authentically the gift you are, just as you are.

It’s true in every life situation.

It’s what makes great leaders great, and is behind all spiritual practices too:

Be authentic VS. living according to please others

(Cause you won’t …AND will be overlooking the gifts you bring.)

Actually, to date, this has been one of the best pieces of career advice I have been given.

It was given to me by a dear person, who had worked with the Clintons before, during and in their rise to power, and yet never let any of it go to her head.

(We’ll call her Jane.)

It was 2001 and I had zero experience putting together events yet I found myself working with Jane to create the first ever National Book Festival for the Library of Congress and First Lady Laura Bush.

In a land of suits and power, Jane would show up to meetings in khakis and remain in the “back seat” (as I call it). She wasn’t out to prove herself or wield her position of power. Instead, Jane used thoughtful calculation run most situations without it being obvious.

She had big guns and never needed to brandish them… to validate her role, opinion, or presence. Not once. She rarely mentioned who she knew. It was of less relevance than getting the job done.

It was amazing to watch and everyone respect having Jane around because Jane was Jane. Jane knew how to build consensus. She knew how to manage power and authority. She knew where she began and ended, and how to connect from that place.

It was a glimpse into the ultimate attractiveness and power.

For me, I was green and only 10 years into my career.  I wanted to prove myself and that I can do anything I put my mind to… 

Yet, I had never volunteered at an event let alone produced one as big as this. There should have been a team of ten working on this. We were two. 

So I poured my heart and soul into it. I worked day and night to fast track my knowledge and stay one step ahead. I pep talked myself everyday:

"Never let them see you sweat!" "Fake it ‘til you make it." "Smile and sail through." 

Then came the day when all eyes - representatives from Congress, the White House, Library of Congress, internal dignitaries, media, Secret Service, etc, etc. - were all on me to unveil the vision and plan we had devised.

The mic cracked. My hands were shaking. I had a surge of defensiveness in my tone to compensate for feeling insecure.

And the words of my esteemed colleague rang in my ear, "Don’t try so hard."

In other words,

Breath.

Stop trying to prove myself - I am enough today just as I am.

I know what I know and that is enough. I am smart enough to figure the rest out.

Don’t overcompensate in any moment. The ego out of control creates enemies.

Be the best version of me where I am today.

The event was a success and continues on today, but what is more important… 

was what Jane taught me intentionally or not:  The key to true power (and beauty) isn’t forced or manufactured.

Colbie Caillat also reminds us it’s not in a lipstick tube or how the hair is styled. It’s determined by the watch you wear or what names you can drop.

As I began to separate my worth from my role/title, how I looked, what I was wearing, my need to prove myself and be perfect, I gained a freedom to laugh, consider others in new ways, become creative. Only then did I see doors begin to open. 

So I wonder, what if we all take off our armors and just be ourselves?

What would the world, our lives, families, relationships, work environments be like if we accepted ourselves and each other where we are?

Become endlessly powerful by embracing failure as something that can propel us forward and refine how we proceed rather than an end or a destiny. 

Want to get your creative juices flowing?

Just look around to draw inspiration from what others are doing in other industries.

Keep your eyes peeled for strategies and tactics that are working garner action or attention, like this grassroots campaign in NYC that:

  • Creates a story/tactics that are tied to a mission/cause and a larger strategy
  • The larger strategy is aimed at changing local politics and garnering awareness above the “noise” (of daily life, of politics, etc.)
  • Complete with tactics (active bike vigil/tour, visuals) important for what media and social media needs
  • Leveraging the power of storytelling (read stencil for one example)
  • Considers time and place - by setting up places of remembrance   using art and personalizing statistics in a way that will stand out/resonate with locals - where they shop, eat, pray - will increase levels of action for change

Think about this formula abstractly - how could you use this as a spring board to reach people about your product, service or cause? 

fastcompany:

New York City Street Stencils Remind Us Where Cars Have Killed Pedestrians

When pedestrian advocacy group Right of Way started drawing chalk body outlines at intersections where cars mowed down New York City pedestrians in the early ’90s, it wanted to send a message to the NYPD and to the city. 

In early August of this year, Right of Way revived its old mission. Upon request from the families of victims killed by cars, the organization walked and cycled to the locations of 12 fatal collisions, sprayed an ornate stencil of white, outstretched wings designed by artist Robyn Renee Hasty, and gave space for loved ones to grieve.

See More>

“Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; argument an exchange of ignorance.”

- Robert Quillen, American journalist 

Although I agree with the premise of Quillen’s quote, the word choice I do not…

 If you replace “argument” with “fighting,” then I’m there…

In life and relationships, including careers, there is going to be conflict.

In fact, there SHOULD be healthy conflict - whether we like it or not, butting heads, differing points of view, conflicting needs, etc. will be part of that process.

To Quillen’s point, arguing isn’t a bad thing IF it’s to reach a higher good.

The argument process, if encouraged, allowed, fostered correctly, results in progress, innovation, and the creation of something bigger than an individual thought (or person).

Unfortunately, most avoid conflict at all costs. 

Anger ensues. Resentment starts to fester. People check out. Leaders make decisions based on partial information. Success is limited (with the occasional lucky break).

The bottom line is there are two types of conflict:

The type proactively managed where issues never become crisis because everyone is encouraged to poke holes, think, be heard, contribute even IF the ultimate decision doesn’t include their ideas this time…

OR…

The type where disagreements are avoided at all costs and energy is redirected at being “right.” 

(You tell me which company culture, family, relationship gets ahead.)

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”

— Steve Jobs, American entrepreneur/Apple founder

One pattern in the workplace I’ve seen over and over is that of sabotage.

(Bear with me how this relates to Steve Job’s quote.)

Believe it or not people, who do not want someone else to get ahead (or something to succeed) is to find fault in the other person. To create questions around integrity or ability. 

In other words, the fault finding usually isn’t obvious. 

In fact, it usually appears over coffee and sounds something like:

"Boy, everyone on so-and-so’s team is miserable. Apparently, so-and-so is a slave driver."

Or, it can come from a boss review time or not sounding like:

"You have too high of standards."

Or, “You expect too much.”

I’m sure there are many other cloaks it wears. The bottom line is: Don’t internalize this. Instead, be wary of people who utter these words.

Why?

Because in most cases they are actually telling you more about their fears …or giving you a clue you are threatening their territory in some way.

Look at it this way…

If high standards, stretching, working hard, daring yourself to fail, “going all out” is what it took for Steve Jobs and countless other entrepreneurs to soar to new heights, then why shouldn’t everyone do so to “win”?

For me, working along side peers equally smart (if not more clever) only ups my game. (There’s nothing worse than coming to work and being bored each day.)

As a manager or boss, hiring someone with high standards is EXACTLY what I look for and support. It’s called daring someone to fail and challenging them to succeed. It produces higher levels of dedication, productivity, creativity, and innovation, that is if you manage it correctly.

And let’s be clear… having high standards is NOT about being inhumane, insensitive and cracking the whip all the time.

 It IS, however, about:

  • Demanding more than someone/your team thinks they can give.  
  • Inspiring the best from your team versus settling for mediocrity.
  • Seeing the best in others and allowing them to bring it, give it and own it (success, spotlight and all). Aligning people to where they can thrive.
  • Asking others to do what you are willing to do… and already doing yourself as the one leading. (Never ask/expect more than what you give.)
  • Setting the bar high and keep raising it with each success.

Like Steve Jobs exampled, people will surpass your expectations if you respect, reward and acknowledge them.

And, as a result of operating from a “higher place,” we become a living example how to grow one’s effectiveness, career, aspirations, thinking and standards for personal bests.

 

“To accomplish great things we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.”

Anatole France, Nobel Prize winner in literature 

"Do the best you can in every task, no matter how unimportant it may seem at the time. No one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom." 

Sandra Day O’Connor, former U.S. Supreme Court justice, who gives insight into politics, Bush Administration, important issues of our day from a judge’s perspective in The New Yorker.

 

Another aspect of this quote that is an important reminder:

As a manager, leader, CEO, PROACTIVELY seek insights from the front lines. Listen for yourself.

Be curious. Have regular dialogues to learn new ideas that save resources or innovate processes; alternatively, understand the complaints to avoid attrition or identify issues and address BEFORE they become crisis. 

DO NOT just accept reports (filtered interpretations) from those around you as truth. (Just look at GM’s most recent crisis as an example of why this is important.) 

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