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Archive for July, 2009

Starting Your Escape

July 27th, 2009
One of the questions I’m getting frequently via email and DM is a variation on “How do I know where or how to start escaping mediocrity when I’ve been living with it for so long?”
Reading map by Andreas Solberg.

Uploaded on March 3, 2007 by Andreas Solberg

While all the pieces of the Escaping Mediocrity Blueprint can be a place to start, one of my favorites is “Pay Attention”.  The reason I like this one so much is because by asking myself to do that – pay attention – I am asking myself to break out of autopilot (a hallmark of mediocrity) and actually notice what is around me.

Here’s what I mean: paying attention means we actually SEE what is in front of us. We notice how we feel and what we think when

 

we look around at our world. Sounds easy enough I know, but my thinking is we don’t actually do this very often.  We zone out or overload our senses so that we can’t – or won’t – engage.

(Think I’m wrong? How often do you take a walk without another person or your Ipod so that you can actually hear and observe the world you are walking past?)

Once I can “pay attention” and decide how I feel about certain aspects or my life or my business – THEN I can start making small shifts and changes that will move me out of mediocre working and living.

I’ll give you two real life examples:

1) My bookkeeping
Since I started my businesses five years ago, I’ve managed what could loosely be called “my bookkeeping” myself. Which meant that whenever tax time rolled around, I had to scramble to get all my paperwork together- which took days and thoroughly irritated my accountant. AND during the rest of the year, I was always stressed out about the bookkeeping that wasn’t getting done. It was like having an application running in the background on my computer – sapping my limited RAM.

When I finally started to “pay attention” and ask myself question about what was draining me in my business (and keeping me from doing what I loved) – this was the first thing that popped up. Notice I had to consciously ask myself the question, even though it was so clearly an energy suck.

After tossing around different possible solutions, I realized I could just hire a virtual bookkeeper to handle it all for me – what a concept! Yes, it required some (okay – a lot) of work from me on the front end but what  huge RELIEF!

Now I no longer have mediocre books for my business AND I no longer have to focus my energy on what I consider to be a mediocre task.  What a concept.

2) My towels. All of the towels in my house are over 10 years old – and some of them are even older than that. I just realized this about two weeks ago. Why did it take me so long to notice that the towels I use every single day are faded, fraying and in need of replacing? I have no idea.

BUT, now that I know – I am on the hunt for GREAT towels. I get to pick the color that I like, the size(s) that I like and the softness that I like.

And…now that I am looking (and noticing) great towels, I’m thinking I might just repaint both bathrooms, too.

Now I know both of these examples seem small and not very adventurous. But I’m accomplishing two things:

1) I am exercising my ability to “pay attention” which means I will get better and better at it.

Uploaded on September 27, 2007 by nickherber

2) I am executing a series of small shifts that will add up and/or lead to BIG shifts down the road.

passing the QM2 at sea by nickherber.

Uploaded on September 27, 2007 by nickherber

One of my favorite analogies does a much better job of illustrating this than I ever could.

Do you know how those great big ships turn around in ocean? Yes, they have enormous rudders that will turn it, but the effort and pressure required to push such a large object against the ocean would be nearly impossible. So, someone very clever figured out how to put a bunch of very small rudders all along the big rudder. So, turning that big ship begins by shifting those small rudders – a few at a time.

Neat trick, huh?

Help Them Have a Vision – Eye Care for Kids

July 15th, 2009

As most of you know I’ve been an avid and vocal supporter of 12for12k (a growing Twitter movement that raises money and awareness for GREAT charities!) since February of this year.

It is the brainchild of Danny Brown and we are committed to raising $12,000 a month for 12 different charities.

The charity for July is Eye Care for Kids - an organization that helps countless children overcome the obstacle of impaired vision to become better learners and better students.

I remember the first time I realized my vision wasn’t right. I was navigating the streets of Washington DC – where I lived at the time – at dusk.  Even though I’d driven the route a million times, I still checked the road signs, etc, to make sure I was in the right lane and going in the right direction.

On this night though, I couldn’t read the signs. They were all blurry.  Not a fun thing to discover with traffic whizzing around you at break neck speed and making the wrong turn might add 30 minutes to my commute!

Fortunately, I leaned heavily on my memory and intuition and managed to get where I was going without making a wrong turn or causing a wreck. The next day, I went straight to the eye doctor, got fitted for glasses and contacts and POOF! problem solved.

I’m guessing that’s how most of us have could or would solve a vision problem of our own or of a loved ones’s. Pretty simple thing to fix, right?

Not if you live in rural Utah – especially if you live on an Indian reservation.  In that state there are over 9,000 docuEye-care-for-kids-home-pagemented annual cases of children who need eye care and their families can’t afford it.

Which means there are children in school who can’t see the books in front of them or the teacher or the blackboard. Children who can’t clearly see the leaves of a tree or blades of grass or even their parents faces.

How can we expect them to have a big vision for themselves if they can’t see their own face clearly in the mirror?

We can change this and make a big difference for these children.

Visit the Eye Care for Kids website and learn more about what they do.  You’ll see at 12for12k widget that makes giving even a small amount super easy.  If you want to know more about the work of 12for12k, you can visit our website here.

I so appreciate that you took the time to read this post and hope you will take a small action today that can make a big difference in a child’s life/

Yet ANOTHER Lesson in Gratitude

July 13th, 2009

This is NOT the blog post I intended to write today. I had other plans – as I often do – for my blog.  Then life happened and I can either keep it pent up or I can write about it. I’ve found it’s better for my mental health, and the general well-being of those around me, if I write about it.

Floating by Attempts at Photography.Short and sweet, life threw me a curveball. No need to go into the gory details – maybe later. But I got blindsided with a ball straight to the back of the head. And wow does it smart. 

I tried pretending both a) The ball never hit me (ball? what ball?) or b) It didn’t hurt like he&* when it made contact. I should know better, of course – but hey – avoiding pain is what we humans do.

So then I decided to “feel the pain” because that’s where the lesson is, right? Except that “feeling the pain” threatened to overtake me. I started thinking about the pain ALL THE TIME. Not a valuable solution – at least not to me.

Then I remembered Gratitude.

And just to be clear – I am not one of those consistently serene spiritual people who remembers to pull out the tools that might actually help right away. Apparently I like to struggle with my own avoidance tactics first – which of course never succeed at doing anything but prolonging the problem.

Anyway – back to Gratitude (which, you may notice, is part of my Blueprint For Escaping Mediocrity).  So, after doing battle with the pain of the blow and making ZERO headway, I decided to take my own advice and give being grateful a try.  First I tried just thinking of a few things….my family…my health…my home…but that didn’t help very much.  I REALLY wanted to pain to abate, so I decided to step up the game. Every single time I thought about how I hurt (every other minute sometimes), I countered with something I was grateful for.

The list got interesting. The color of the sky, my son’s laugh, ruby red begonias, cold water to drink, a vacuum cleaner with a clean bag already in…ANYTHING that made me feel just a tiny bit better than thinking about my painful wound.  And I think that’s the secret really. Just consistently feeling a TINY bit better combined with refocusing my mind for a split second on something else.

Am I all better? Sometimes.  It takes a long time for a serious blow to heal – which means I have to tap another one of my weaker skills – Patience.  Will I make it? Absolutely. I’m not one to stay down permanently.

Someday I hope to be highly evolved enough that I don’t have to go through these struggles and these lessons over and over.  Until then, I just keep re-learning the best ones over and over again.  I’m pinning my hopes on the fact that they will put me further along the road to escaping mediocrity.

Diving Into the Void: A Lesson from Cirque Du Soleil

July 9th, 2009

Early last month I was in Las Vegas and had the chance to see a Cirque Du Soleil show. I chose to see KA- again. If you missed my first post about this amazing show, you can check it out here.

This time when I saw it, I was moving in this new direction of Escaping Mediocrity so I watched it with a fresh lens. It was as amazing and moving as I remembered it to be. So much so that I bought KA Extreme which chronicles how this amazing production developed.

For those of you who aren’t as rabid as I am about Cirque Du Soleil, I’d like to share the fact that this company is often cited in business articles and books (Blue Ocean Strategy is just one that comes to mind) because they redefined the whole concept of “Circus” and they embrace creativity and innovation as business strategies. 

Up until they hit the scene, conventional thinking was that a successful circus had to have three rings, animal acts and be targeted to children. If it didn’t look like that, then it wasn’t a “circus” and would not succeed. (Oh and you couldn’t charge more than, say, $35 a ticket and getting grownups to come was a huge marketing challenge.)

Then this band of street performers from Canada hit the scene and turned the definition of “circus” upside down. Cirque Du Soleil is sophisticated, high energy, targeted to grownups and charges premium dollar for tickets. Oh – and there are no animal acts or “rings” of any kind. Cirque Du Soleil could be THE poster child company for Escaping Mediocrity (hmm…maybe I’ll ask them about that….).

Here’s the thing I love most about them though: they NEVER stop pushing the boundaries of their creativity.  With KA – they broke the mold that THEY created. First, KA is a story – like a ballet or an opera. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. None of the other Cirque shows have that. Second, and to me most important, they created this moving stage that actually becomes many characters in the show. Looking at those words – I simply am not doing justice to the concept.

The stage pivots 365 degrees in all directions (I think) and weighs more than a 747 at takeoff. It transforms into a ship, a seashore, a mountain – and in one of my favorite sequences – a vertical chessboard.

Here’s the thing that made me catch my breathe over and over again: the performers are almost always at risk of falling off of the platform. Sometimes they even have to fall off on purpose in a freefall and you don’t see them land. “They perform on the edge of the void” as Robert LePage, KA Creator and Director says – and it is a l-o-n-g way down (up to 100 feet – yikes!) to the net below.

In the KA Extreme video, I got to watch the perfomers go throught the emotional process of learning how to overcome their fears and master both performing on the edge of a void AND making a complete freefall. And just in case you think it was easy for those amazing artists, it was not.

LePage says “We ask our performers to find the courage to confront the void”.

As if that quote isn’t enough to chew on, Lepage closes KA Extreme with this:

“I feel that my life is bristling with opportunities or invitations to dive into the void…I don’t mean emptiness…I mean the void in terms of taking risks.  The ambitiousness of this Cirque Du Soleil show is a very clear invitation to dive into the void.”

And the result of learning to “confront the void” and to take risks is a Cirque Du Soleil show that is so beautiful, so touching, so astonishing and so unlike any other that it leaves everyone I know speechless (and trust me – my friends are rarely at a loss for words about ANYTHING.)

Here’s what I learned: If I am committed to escaping mediocrity,  I have to be willing to freefall into the void and to take HUGE risks. IF I can manage that, IF I can screw up my courage and let go – I just might create something magnificent.

The RipTide of Mediocrity

July 6th, 2009
Gulf of Mexico V by anne.oeldorf.
Gulf of Mexico V by anne.oeldorf

I just returned from a much needed and incredibly re-charging trip to the beach with my son, The Young Turk, and his bestfriendinthewholewideworld. The weather was perfect and the water was jellyfish- and seaweed-free. And, except for yesterday, the whole week was uneventful – which is my idea of a vacation.

BUT, what happened yesterday really got me thinking on the drive home (I had a TON of time to think sitting in traffic, but that is another story for another day.). Here’s what went down:

Since it was our last morning at the beach, I arranged our departure schedule so that the boys would have time for one last hurrah at the ocean doing their very favorite thing – boogie boarding. They’d spent the entire week mastering the skills of watching the waves and knowing the precise moment to throw their hearts into it and kick like mad so they could ride to shore – laughing all the way.

It was early in the morning, so I sat in the sand with my book (I had a few pages left to finish Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott - hilarious stuff for any writer) and watched them splash and laugh and ride in on the waves breaking closest to shore.  They were having fun; I was enjoying the past pages of my book.  A perfect ending to a perfect vacation. Until I looked up.

They were way too far out and the waves werent’ moving them towards shore any more. I called to them to come in but as I watched them kick, I saw them moving further OUT instead of in. I’ve been swimming in the Gulf of Mexico all of my life so I knew exactly what was happening. They were caught in a riptide (“a strong surface current flowing outwards from a shore”) and they weren’t strong enough to out swim it.

Book, baseball hat and sunglasses hit my towel and I was in the water faster than you can say “ice cold”. I could feel the power of the pull as I swam out to them. After collecting both of them – which took some maneuvering –  and getting them in front of me, I had to swim with all I had to get us all back to shore safely (and I am a really strong swimmer.). 

And when we finally DID reach the shore, I was out of breathe and shaking. How did that happen? Why didn’t I notice sooner? And a million other mommy kind of questions I won’t go into here.

(The upside? Last night as I was putting The Young Turk to bed, he said, “You were my hero today, Mom. I got kinda scared out in the water and I asked God to help me and then there you were.” That is about as awesome as it gets for this mom.)

So, as I reflected on this event as we sat in several traffic jams yesterday, I started thinking about how Mediocrity is kind of like a riptide.

I mean, think about it. It’s not like we stand on the beach and say “I’d like to swim in the mediocre water, please – the more mediocre it is, the happier I’ll be!”

No – we want the good stuff. The great waves that we learn to ride in our own particular way with our own particular style (getting tips from those who know more than we do makes this easier AND more fun). We want to ride them in easily, laughing the whole time – and that’s what we do for a while. Then we stop paying close attention to where we are and what we are doing. We may get distracted by watching those who “seem” to know more or have better “style” than we do, or we may just get lazy and forget to stay aware.

All of a sudden, we look around and realize that we’re being pulled out to the sea of mediocrity. And to make matters worse, the harder we kick to get out of it, the stronger it’s grip.  We need some help – serious help – along with a little divine intervention if we want to get back to easy water so we can relax and play while we get better at whatever it is our hearts are pursuing.

I’m thinking that the collective wisdom of the tribe that is forming here at The Maverick Mom is going to become EXACTLY that kind of rescue for all of us who are looking to Escape Mediocrity. And I gotta tell ya – I am REALLY glad I’m not swimming against that riptide alone. :-)