Dad’s Wisdom, Use Your Vacation in 2013 (424 million days of paid vacation went un-used in USA)

In 2010, my father shared some wisdom at his and my mother’s 50th anniversary party: “Have someone to love, love what you do, and have something to look forward to.” Isn’t it best to embrace what your father says, right? Why? Because 424 million paid vacation days went un-used in America in 2012 (source: WSJ, 12/2012). In our house, we have a fun discussion at the beginning of every year to openly share our annual goals, complete with some yummy Reuben sandwiches. We find that this tradition really matters, including every single ingredient, all the way down to the type of mustard on the Reuben. To help ensure accountability, balance, and adjustments that might be necessary throughout the year, we have quick planning discussions every weekend that help us plan our meals, time for exercise, commitments to others (family, friends, and work), and future trips and vacations.  Thanks to my Dad’s advice of “have something to look forward to”, we created some very special moments in 2012, centered on sports.  Here’s just a few of them:

Super Bowl. One of our bucket list items was accomplished.  Living in Indianapolis, why not go see one of your favorite teams play in Super Bowl XLVI? Plus, our dear friends, my parents, nieces and nephew, brother and sis-in-law came in to town to enjoy the festivities.  Priceless memories made, even though our team lost.

Tennis. We are huge tennis fans and had not been to the US Open in New York City since the early 1990’s. When do you get the chance to see Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Venus Williams in the same day? Without any tickets, we jumped in the car and drove a couple hours to Cincinnati and saw them play. So worth it!

Indy 500. My family loves this Hoosier tradition; we have been to the Indy 500 for many years.  But this year, I was given the opportunity to go around the Speedway track at a very fast speed.  Why not, right? Wow, those were an few exhilarating minutes. Took me an hour to settle in, but I called my dad to tell him what I did; he was thrilled I got that opportunity.  And, I got to meet and visit with Mario Andretti.

Golf. The PGA returned to The Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, IN.  Located just minutes from our place, I walked the course and watched former #1 Tiger Woods and current #1 Rory McIlroy play together.  What a treat to see this, because the PGA announced that it also was the tournament of the year.

Boston in Philadelphia. We headed to Lehigh, PA for my cousin’s college graduation ceremony.  Not only did we embrace the trip, we also went to see the Phillies vs. Red Sox and the 76ers vs. Celtics, and reconnected with a couple of friends.  This renewed relationship is now beyond strong; we’ve already  vacationed together and are planning another trip in 2013. My cousin was thankful beyond words, because we were there to see her graduate, through an outdoor ceremony in an absolute rain shower.

Half Marathon. Two of our best girl friends had never been up for running, but run we did.  The six of us gals trained for this event (held here in Carmel) and we all finished.  We proved we all could do it; the connection and strength gained by completing a difficult task further cemented our relationships. Oh, and then we ate and celebrated the rest of the weekend!

Foul Balls. As Red Sox fans, if they play at Wrigley, isn’t that a must do event? Well of course it is, and bring along your best friends (and their kids who have never been to Wrigley). And during the 5th inning, a foul ball heads our way, and yes, we grab it.  What a memory that all of us will never forget, especially as we were telling stories around midnight at the IHOP by Wrigley Field.

Like most of us, we do a great job of planning our to-do lists and daily schedule for the kids’ activities and our work.  Try a little self-assessment by asking these few questions: How well are you planning your life? What type of moments are you creating that will impact you and your family forever? What do you want your legacy to be? How will you implement accountability to plan your personal life as diligently as you do the rest of your life? Happy 2013!

How Beach Volleyball Solved Work-Life Balance

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings held hands during the National Anthem Wednesday (8/8/2010) evening. They held hands during their late night interview with NBC’s Bob Costas and early morning interview on NBC’s Today Show. This duo is a great partnership of complete excellence.

As three-time gold medal champions in Olympic beach volleyball, Misty and Kerri don’t struggle with nor complain about work life balance. They flipped work life balance on its head. Instead, they completely embraced a purposeful life with goals, and did it. How did they do it?

They are friends, who trust each other immensely. As a great partnership over a 12 year period, they went 21-0 in Olympic competition. They lost just one set in the Athens, Beijing, and London Olympics.

They are wives, with children (Kerri) or kids in the future (Misty). Their husbands completely supported them with this purposeful goal. Yes, these two are loved by their husbands and families, but now adored by the global community.

They are coached. Yes, as good as they are, they have coaches who helped guide them to their third gold medal. Although they won their third gold medal, they still only gave themselves a B plus.

They are confident. How many 33 and 35 year old women would want to play beach volleyball in a two piece swim suit? Who would be comfortable doing that in front of an audience of 15,000?

They are competitive. They weren’t afraid to state that they expected to win the gold medal in London 2012. They set the bar high, and cleared it.

They visualized success. They saw themselves on the gold medal podium, throughout their training and matches. And they celebrated after each winning point, set, and match. Regular and energetic high-fives and fist pumps were a part of their matches.

They are resilient. Misty recovered from a torn Achilles heel, one of the most damaging injuries a world class athlete can face. After having two children, Kerri rebounded to be a stronger and wiser athlete. They adapted and changed their training and communication through the 12 year journey.

They are appreciative. They thanked the 2nd place/silver medal team of Jen Kelly and April Ross for pushing them. They thanked the ‘army of support’ behind them through this journey.

They are inclusive. After every match in London, Misty spoke in to the TV camera and thanked a variety of people and teams (the American troops and the Dodgers); Kerri always recognized and gave high fives to the ball girls and boys; and Misty jogged around the stadium after each win, engaging and thanking the fans. Before one match, they warmed up with a few members of the USA men’s basketball team. Who does that? That makes them so likeable and marketable.

As a business coach, I frequently hear the phrases, “I don’t have time, I struggle with balance, I can’t delegate, I can’t find time to exercise, our team isn’t accountable.” Recommend embracing what this duo did:
1) set purposeful goals (to win their 3rd gold medal, establish a legacy, and change the face of beach volleyball globally),

2) partner with friends or colleagues that you completely trust,

3) gain support of those closest to you,

4) visualize success,

5) celebrate every step along the way,

6) expect a few hurdles along the way but don’t let them stop you, and

7) enjoy the journey.

Overwhelmed? Open up, Own it, Organize, Outsource and Get Orderly

Since I have been coaching women and emerging leaders, I am hearing a common concern: “Jen, I am overwhelmed. I just can’t say ‘no.’ Sometimes I don’t know where to start.”

When a coach hears her client truly open up, we are encouraged because we know the client is becoming introspective. As coach, it is my role to help the client reach a comfort level where she is able to open up and pull from her what is causing her to be overwhelmed. Once that difficult first step is clarified and we both have a common understanding of the current state, then we move to step two. We brainstorm and identify what the client can do to become more able to own the cause and get organized. Nearly every time, the client has great ideas and answers.

It is the third step that is most difficult: which idea(s) will the client implement to help reduce this overwhelming feeling? For example, recently, a woman leader that I am coaching implemented and owned her plan by making a handful of adjustments. She had an open conversation with her husband and they both agreed to outsource a few low priority areas of their lives that were frustrating them both. She also began saying “no” to trivial requests. With more time available to work on higher priority opportunities, she noticed her business began to thrive and she was starting to achieve the audacious goals she had set in Jan. 2012.

My client no longer feels guilty about saying “no.” At the beginning of her work day, she implements a daily task lists. She even prioritizes her early mornings, with a wellness/fitness/nutrition plan to get her rolling.

The upshot? If you are overwhelmed, open up, own the situation, get organized, utilize outsourcing, and get orderly. You’ll soon become less overwhelmed and ready to face whatever challenges and opportunities that come your way.

Transform Results? The Courage to Change

The only way we really learn how to swim is by jumping in (the swimming pool or off the dock into the lake). The fear we overcome quickly is turned in to courage. This courage quickly translates into new skills and talents. Let’s take a couple recent examples in the sports world that have transformed careers.

Cool hand Luke. As an average George Mason basketball player, Luke Hancock decided to transfer when his George Mason coach ‘jumped’ to take on the head coaching job at University of Miami. Courageously, after considering multiple schools and two of them were in his home state, Hancock agreed that the University of Louisville was his next step. Within just a few months, his teammates named him captain even though he sat out as a ‘redshirt’ during the 2011-2012 season.  Within less than two years of his transfer (change), he was deep in the NCAA tournament assuming a key role after a teammate fell due to a broken leg. And who was the one who calmed Kevin Ware as he laid on the sideline with a broken leg? Luke Hancock was there, fully present during the ‘breaking point’, looking directly in to his teammate’s eyes. Just a week later, Hancock came off the bench and led the Louisville Cardinals in not one, but two comebacks to win the NCAA title. Hancock’s ability to be courageous, calm, and lead are truly unique. The NCAA voters agreed, and awarded him the NCAA Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player award.

Come On Aussies. In July 2011, the #1 golfer in the world released his caddie, Steve Williams.  And a younger but highly talented golfer from Australia, Adam Scott, had the amazing courage to quickly hire the best caddie in golf, Williams. At that point, Scott hadn’t won a major championship on the PGA Tour. But most in the sport quickly realized that the elusive major was now within reach. Although Scott was close (he gave up a four-stroke lead in the 2012 British Open), he came back stronger and won the 2013 Masters in fabulous style (sinking a birdie putt in the second playoff hole against a previous Masters winner). Again, in less than two years, Scott has reached the pinnacle of his career in winning The Masters, all because he had the courage to change and transform.

Both of these examples remind us of how some people get ‘stuck’ due to fear of making a change, while others embrace courageous change and achieve heights that appeared to be untouchable. How are you embracing change and your future opportunities? A first few steps might be to identify where you want to go, what you want to achieve, and then identify who can help you reach your pinnacle.

Let’s Change It Up: Your Life’s Work

Recently, a colleague wrote about the common phrase of “work life balance”.  And then another colleague added that this common phrase should be changed to “work life integration.” This concerned me, as it prompted me to wonder what’s behind society and leaders allowing the move from “work life balance” to “work life integration”. In my practice, clients are teaching me a lot: if clients allow their work to integrate their life by not setting boundaries, not making purposeful & prioritized decisions, then the client is more apt to struggle with meeting their personal goals.  If a client embraces and communicates their priorities and purpose, I find that the client can begin to establish new practices & habits, balance their life better, and achieve personal goals that previously seemed unachievable.  Whether it is work life balance or work life integration, aren’t we better served by embracing life first?

I now am completely questioning this common phrase: “work life balance.”  Throughout a person’s life, one spends approximately 15-25% of his/her time at work.  Most of one’s time is spent sleeping, eating, relaxing, and enjoying life’s pleasures and treasures.  Even though the globe is more connected than ever and working 24 hours/day 5 to 7 days/week, that still doesn’t give reason for work to integrate your personal life.

I recommend we change it up.  How about we talk about balancing life into work and integrating life with work? Let’s rename it from work life balance or work life integration to Your Life’s Work. To make this shift, try answering these questions:  What are your most important life goals? What are your goals for 2012 and 2013? What are your goals for the remainder of this year? What do you want employees at work to truly know about you? Does your boss understand your personal goals and how important they are to you?

As you answered those questions, what did you notice? Are your work goals just one piece of your overall personal or life goals? If they are, then you are well on your way to Your Life’s Work.  If you noticed that your goals are more work focused, are you ready to be introspective and define who you want to be, what steps you need to take to develop your plan, and how you want to be remembered?

So, how can you change it up and move from struggling with work life balance to developing Your Life’s Work?

Talk & Ask. Who can you talk to about your life’s goals, priorities, and purpose?  Who will support you along your journey in accomplishing Your Life’s Work? Pick someone who truly listens to your plan, asks insightful questions, and will support you. A good first step is to talk about and plan your personal time as rigorously as your work schedule.

Write. Numerous studies have indicated that individuals, sports teams, and companies who write down their goals are much more apt to achieve them than those who don’t write them. Keep in mind that not all goals are met, so be ready to expect that.  In baseball, an excellent batting average is above .350.  In football, a quarterback is superb when he connects on 75% of his passing attempts. In basketball, the best free throw shooters hit more than 85% of their free throws.  Teams who win 75% of their games position themselves to win championships. Expect progress, not perfection.

Share. Let others know about your plans, your priorities, and Your Life’s Work.  When others know a bit more about what’s behind your actions and decisions, they might be more apt to support you.  For example, let your boss know that you want to take your children’s birthdays off annually, because you want the kids to know that one day a year, they are #1. That decision and action may also send a signal to your boss that you can prioritize highly important things in Your Life’s Work.

Display. If a company can post their strategy on their website and on employee bulletin boards, then where can you post your personal goals that will support Your Life’s Work? I post mine annual goals by our personal calendar in the kitchen and also carry it in my wallet. It is always present, to help keep me focused on My Life’s Work.

Go. Take the first step toward Your Life’s Plan.  Progress begins with that first step, embracing the plan, & doing it.

Let Your Life’s Work begin. Talk to someone today, so you can display and start Your Life’s Work tomorrow.