Stacey

lemonade

That’s Griffin in front of his lemonade stand last weekend.

When we were getting ready, I asked him how much he planned to charge for a glass. He said 50 cents.

I said he could do that OR he could offer the lemonade for free and have a jar for tips.

He was a little dubious. (His exact words were, “Why would I give it away for free? I want to make money!”) I shared with him the research findings that we are wired for reciprocity.

That means if someone does something nice for us we practically feel compelled to do something nice in exchange.

I explained that my hypothesis was if he gave away the lemonade for free, he might be surprised by what people gave him in return.

Griffin said he’d give it a try – but insisted that we make two signs – one advertising free lemonade and the other for 50 cents.

He decided to use the free lemonade sign first. Within a minute he had his first taker, and that person left a whole dollar! He never even picked up the other sign.

There were some people who didn’t have money and simply accepted the lemonade with a heartfelt thank you. Griffin even waved down several bikers and practically insisted that they stop and have some lemonade saying, “It’s really free!”

He genuinely delighted in every interaction. When I asked him which he preferred he replied, “It’s all great!”

By the end of an hour Griffin had given away a gallon of lemonade, exchanged a ton of smiles, pocketed $20, and learned a powerful lesson about himself and his fellow human beings. Not a bad way to spend a beautiful, sunny August afternoon, don’t you think?

Whether it’s at a lemonade stand or a blog post, I want to keep spreading the message about how our ways of thinking and being have a profound effect not only on ourselves, but on others as well.

Robin WilliamsEspecially in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide, and with the feelings of helplessness any crisis evokes, I want to share with you the message of hope.

If you’ve ever felt totally at a loss when it comes to soothing a friend in crisis, I hope this article will help.

I remember when the surgeon came out after operating on my mom and said she had found cancerous lymph nodes (meaning the cancer had spread from her breast, meaning that she had a much bigger fight for her health ahead) and I felt the worst I had ever felt.

It took a lot of mental discipline to focus on what I did want (for my mom to be healthy and happy) and not on what I didn’t want (which seemed to be staring me in the face), but I discovered that it is possible to make that shift.

Danielle LaPorte said it well, “Someone is in profound pain, and a few months from now, they’ll be thriving like never before. They just can’t see it from where they’re at.”

I really believe you can sit with someone in their sorrow and pain and still see them for who they really are – a beautiful, light-filled spirit – and as they will be in the future.

I remember taking care of really sick kids in the hospital when I was a nursing student. I fought back tears all the time.

Once when I was giving physical therapy to a 2 year-old boy with severe cerebral palsy (who had been abandoned by his parents), my instructor had to pull me out of the room because I couldn’t keep the tears from streaming down my face.

I cried to my nursing instructor, “How do you do this every day? It’s just so horrible.” and she said, “You just do it. Because you can help. Because you can soothe. Because that is enough.”

It soon struck me that if I could be fully present and focus on what brought lightness into the room (a simple Cat’s Cradle from string was always a big hit), I helped.

When I could get a child to smile or laugh, I helped.

More than anything else, though, I remember how a mother or father’s face would light up when I asked them to tell me stories of when their child was well – and then projected a time in the future when she or he would be doing all the things they loved again.

There was grace, and yes, healing, in those moments.

I have never believed that we help anybody by focusing solely on their sorrows and limitations. Of course, I have great compassion for someone who’s suffering, and I’ll always try to soothe. (And you always know if you are soothing or not by the reaction you get.)

As soon as I can, though, I move beyond soothing and try to let them know that I also see their best and shining selves.

As it turns out, research supports this approach. A research study at Case Western Reserve University has documented patterns in the human brain that indicate that positive visioning is much more likely to have a positive effect on a person than an interaction in which the “helper” focuses on the problem.

The latter is almost always received as a negative judgment – even if it’s not meant to be.

Everyone has to look a crisis in the face and take it on. I’m a strong believer in learning from my mistakes, and like Maya Angelou, I truly believe that when you know better you do better.

So when you find yourself standing with someone in a crisis, focus on what’s happening with faith that change is possible.

Focus on what the person wants, rather than what they don’t want. Doing so moves them much closer to making positive, decisive change in the future.

Robin Williams once said, “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” In honor of Robin, let’s make them good ones.

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Well, I still haven’t yet managed to pull together all the photos from my Epic European Adventure with Griffin to share with you.

But I can share a few more favorite pics from our trip – this time from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Dreams

As you know, we spent about 8 hours on the first leg of our European Adventure in Paris, with my beautiful and brilliant friend, Nadine. But you may not know that we spent another 3 days in Paris at the end of our tour.

You see, when we started planning our trip to see our friends in Greece, Griffin had been adamant that we include Paris on our itinerary.

As it happens, Paris is a very important city to Griffin because it figures heavily in his genesis story: Doug and I traveled to Paris for the first time when I was about 15 weeks pregnant. Griffin now credits that early trip for his love of all things French.

Well, I wasn’t too keen on tackling the logistics and expenses of a trip to Paris, so I tried to dissuade him by insisting that if we went to Paris it wouldn’t be solely with the purpose of eating our weight in pommes frites and pan au chocolat.

It would have to include a serious study of the culture, I said, with visits to Montmartre and Sacre Couer, the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens, and the full tour of Notre Dame (including the towers with all of the fascinating gargoyles).

I thought a walking historical tour of Paris might turn him off, but he promised he’d be up for it all, and he fully kept his promise.

In fact, by the end of one VERY full day of walking we arrived at the Eiffel Tower and I was ready to call it quits. There was a huge line to take the stairs up to the top and an even longer line to take the elevator.

With my feet already aching, I suggested that we simply admire the view of the Tower from the base.

Griffin turned to me immediately and said, “Mommy, I’ve waited my whole life to see Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower, and I’m not going to stop now. We are not quitters. We are walking to the very top no matter how long it takes.”

So after an hour of standing in line we started our ascent…and after almost 2 hours from the start of our quest, we finally made it to the top (there were more lines and waiting at each of the 3 levels).

As you can see from the photos, the view was glorious (we were even treated to the “twinkling” light show that only happens once each night, right when night falls). But even more glorious was the look of joy and pride on Griffin’s face.

Once again, Griffin taught me a lesson that I thought I knew but needed to be reminded of…the time for giving up on your dreams is not when you’re tired. The time for giving up on your dreams is never.

Many of my clients ask me how to tell if their dreams are worth the almost-crushing fatigue and disappointment that reaching them involves…what if their dream isn’t worth it? What if they’re fooling themselves about its importance? What if it’s not really their true dream at all?

dreamsYou’ve heard me talk before about purposeful perseverance.

But here’s the thing: If all you need to do to succeed is not quit, then why are there always people less motivated, less talented, and less tested who have their day in the sun before you do?

And what if the thing you desired so much, or loved so much to do, just doesn’t have the same pulling power it once did?

It used to make you tingle with anticipation, and now it’s about as exciting as an old sweater, and serves you about as well.

Sure, it still fits, but it’s also moth-eaten and smells of mildew. So why do you keep it around, anyway?

I think Helen Keller put it best: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.”

I’ve been thinking about that quote a lot. I’ve also been thinking a lot about Seth Godin’s book The Dip: A Little Book that Teaches You When to Quit (And When To Stick).

They both have a lot to say on what it means to live your life as a daring adventure.

Almost everything worth doing involves a lot of time and effort. Ask any concert pianist. Excelling means doing your best and whatever else is required. There’s usually a long slog between starting and mastery.

We’re talking about a long time of doing stuff you’re not even very interested in, or that doesn’t involve your “natural” talents.

And that’s fine because you can learn all that stuff if the dream or goal truly does matter to you.

Think of anything you’re proficient at now that you once tried as a novice: You wanted to speak Spanish fluently, write a novel, play a chord progression – and it took a lot of time and effort. Most of us understand that.

Where it gets tricky, though, is when we can’t tell if we’re just going through a particularly challenging patch on our way to the final goal or beating our heads against a brick wall.

Godin describes two curves that you can use to classify all the challenging stretches you might meet as you try to accomplish something.

Understanding and addressing these two types of situations – one that might make you want to quit, and one that’s telling you that you should quit – is the first step toward figuring out whether or not to keep working.

The first of these two situations is “The Dip.” The Dip is the long stretch between beginner’s interest and real mastery. Most people who undertake something bail during The Dip – and that’s exactly why society puts such a high value on real accomplishment.

After all, if there’s anything anyone values it’s something that’s scarce – and The Dip is what makes real accomplishment scarce.

It’s easy to be Oprah – now. What’s hard is achieving her status. After all, Oprah endured a ton of obstacles and quite a few less-than-desirable jobs for almost 20 years before she landed her current gig. And society has rewarded her.

Even in small things – learning to play an instrument, say – so few people make it through The Dip that even if you’ve just managed to learn how to play with confidence and consistency in front of other people, you’ll find yourself heaped with accolades.

But the second situation – the second curve – is just a dead end. You work and work and nothing changes. There’s not a lot to say about The Dead End, except that when you spot it, turn around and get out of there.

That dead end is keeping you from what you’re really supposed to do. Your life energy is too precious to invest in a dead-end anything.

There may come a time when you are doing work you love, work you feel you were meant, no, destined to do – but it’s hard and you’re not seeing the results, the accolades, the paycheck you’d like to have associated with it.

If you reach that point, or if you’re at that point now, and you’re considering quitting, here are the questions that Seth Godin suggests you ask yourself:

#1 Am I panicking?

Panic is never a good reason to quit. That’s why it helps to think about possible crises before you start any passion-driven work, and decide beforehand the point at which you would be willing to give up.

For example, before I started my business I decided it would be time to quit if I ever couldn’t pay my bills.

Yes, I could tap every bit of my savings and invest them in my business, but I would never put anything on a credit card that I couldn’t pay at the end of the month.

If the moment ever comes when I don’t love my business or I can’t pay my bills, I’ll know it’s time to pack it in. I’ve had a lot of doubts about my business since the time I started it almost 5 years ago, but I’ve never had the desire to quit.

I’ve never had the desire to quit because I know it’s not about the pressure, it’s about whether or not I satisfy – or don’t – the conditions I set from the beginning.

Bottom line: panic is not a reason to quit.

#2 Who am I trying to influence?

If you’re trying to influence one person (like your boss), or even a small group of people (like your colleagues) – that is, if your success is dependent on changing someone else’s mind – forget it. Changing someone’s mind is difficult if not impossible.

Bottom line (and this applies to everything in life): your happiness should NEVER depend on getting a particular response or outcome from any one person.

Note, though, that if you’re trying to influence a market, the rules are different, and it’s fine to try to influence a big group of people.

In fact, getting feedback from a bunch of people is one way of keeping tabs on your progress (see #3). But don’t expect to get a big response from The Market until you’ve been tested and proven with a lot of individual players in it – until you’ve learned on a small scale what people are after and that you can give that they want.

Sure it would be great if you had tons of adoring fans right off the bat, but it really benefits them and you that they wait until you’ve honed your skills a bit.

#3 What measurable progress am I making?

This ties in with number #2. If you’re not getting a little better every day, you should quit. To succeed you have to be moving forward, even if you’re taking small steps.

If you’re standing still and you’re choosing not to quit because it’s easier or safer (or because you believe in persevering as a virtue in itself), I can promise you that there is something far better, far more satisfying and rewarding for you to be doing.

And the world needs you to do it.

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