10 Little Ideas that Improve Civility and Make Life Better!

The greater good – seems by reading the news these days that many of our leaders aren’t interested in the greater good, and it is hard to hold the line of self-discipline against what benefits you and what serves the greater good, especially when we are faced with so much bad behavior. Our challenges these days are multilayered and complex, but here are ten things that are not, and that can immediately improve our sense of community.

  1. Turn Signals – and as many other forms of basic courtesy as possible.
  2. Letting someone get in front of you in the grocery store (we are all in a hurry, always.)
  3. Smiling at your coworkers.
  4. Taking one beat before speaking out in irritation; a short pause before reacting.
  5. Just…Listen.
  6. Ask questions – don’t assume.
  7. If you do assume, assume good intent.
  8. Be willing to follow intelligently and gracefully and appropriately (not sheep like).
  9. Be willing to interact with those around you (put the flat thing down).
  10. Practice kindness. This makes you stronger, not weaker.

And by the way, when you begin with an intent to improve or influence an outcome for the greater good, no matter how seemingly small…that is leadership and it is no small thing.

Dust Off Your Workbench and Get To It!


Build. The word evokes visions of two by fours and dusty construction sites, workbenches, mismatched hardware, hammered thumbs, steadfast swearing, uncomfortable yellow hard hats, cement trucks pouring foundations and after what seems like too much time, negotiation, and spent resources and patience, you have a finished product. A house, say. Maybe a school or a church.   Something that was once an inkling of an idea, a what-if; now built. A tangible thing, a place that emerged after many hours of discussion, labor, financial review, cost/benefit analysis, marital or board of directors infighting, architect/contractor disagreements, supply chain disasters and the like – a place to come home to, to work in, to spend time in. Maybe a sanctuary.

Not everyone is building a physical structure or product though, but the ideas that are true in construction are also true for reshaping a career or starting something new in your own life. And, like construction there can be a lot of difficult and questionable work and doubt before the THING takes shape. If you get a flutter in your chest though, at what began as a very small, almost unnoticeable idea, listen. Develop. Don your hardhat, pour the foundation and build. There will be swearing, there will be infighting, resources will be tight. The effort is worth the energy. Believe in your idea, dust off the workbench and get to it.

Photo:  toolreporter.com.

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Writing and Crying

Working on my book tonight and crying as I write about how so many of us women are so unbelievably harsh and unforgiving of ourselves in so many ways, and it strips the joy and confidence from our lives and accomplishments.  What happiness, satisfaction and fulfillment we could all let ourselves feel and share with our families!  As a wife, mother,  daughter, sister, employee, the days can be long and difficult.  We deserve some moments of joy.

How is it that we have accepted this?

Please, whatever you are experiencing right now, allow yourself a lot less judgement and a lot more kindness as you walk this path.  I wish this for our men and boys, too.

Tim, Alex, Carl, Mom, Lyn, Lisa, Monica, Ariel Gore, Barbara Kingsolver, Isabelle Allende, Maya Angelou, Mary Oliver (and many others)…thank you for helping me see more clearly.


The Wound

The Wound
I took myself off Facebook yesterday, just for the day, and I had such improved focus and clarity. There is so much angry noise, and I don’t have a problem with anger or noise, but much of this is picking at a wound. All sides feel this wound. Wounds need time and air to heal, and sometimes bandages. But the skin is still active, things are happening, the bandages temporary.  The skin and body supporting it need nourishment, rest, recovery.

Paradoxical thinking
The ability to hold two conflicting ideas in our mind at the same time reflects a certain sophistication of thought. Your “right” doesn’t win over (shall we say, trump) my “left.”  We are conditioned for the “either/or choice”, but often we need a “both/and” approach. Our amazing, beautiful, conflicted, difficult, still young, experimental democracy could benefit from some paradoxical thinking at every level. But first, listen. Sit down and break bread with someone you don’t agree with, and be willing to listen. When your blood begins to boil, seek to understand. Use the ground rules of building a relationship and find some common ground. We are all just people, trying to do the best for our families. If you can’t yet bear to hear, take some time.

Borrowing Trouble
Can we not borrow trouble right now? We have enough. Eyes open, but also looking out and up?

Quotes For Your Next Great Adventure


These thoughts have guided my own adventure over the past few years…

Feeling restless? Is there something you want to do your in life?
“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones that you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  —Mark Twain

And if you aren’t sure what to do next, but you know there is something…
Write down all the ideas you have, and the ones you want to throw away – look at more closely…any resistance or fear you may have may be disguising something you feel deeply about.

And once you decide what YOU want to explore:
“You throw an anchor into the future you want to build and you pull yourself along by the chain”— John O’Neal via Mom (Thanks Mom!)

And remember this, when you hear “no” after floating an idea…
“Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous patience.” —Hyman Rickover, US Navy

And when you are in that frustrating stage of learning/striving:
“Keep the work in front of you. Be tough. Be Patient.” — Pity the Man Who Doesn’t Travel, by Philip Kelly, in The Sun, February 2014, Issue 458.

Photo Credit:  The Family Adventure Project

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With gratitude, Kris

Do You Call Yourself A Leader?

climbing helping  team work , success concept

What exactly is leadership? Are leaders born or made? What are some key leadership traits that we identify?

There are many opinions about leadership in our culture, and it is my belief that many more of us are leaders than we recognize.  

Service. It is the teacher who advocates for students year after year while spending his/her own money for supplies and writing lesson plans on the weekends.

Doing the work. It is the thinly stretched parent who reads to the kids night after night because they know the value of reading and the importance of just spending time.

Tough Mindedness. It is the chef who pushes his team towards excellence every day, training them with hard earned technique and knowledge.

Courage. It is the kid who stands up to a bully for his friend, even at the risk of getting hurt.

Listening. It is the friend who takes the late night distress call, offering compassion and counsel.

Accountability. It is the CEO who makes hard decisions every day to strengthen his business and provide a livelihood for the families that work for him.

Learning. It is the manager who supports an employee through a mistake or failure, to bring about learning that would otherwise not have occurred.

Encouragement and growth. It is the teacher who makes a comment to a student that allows them to blossom into an area they would never have expected.

Do you call yourself a leader? Have any of the above actions ever applied to you, to your life? Start noticing these moments, in yourself and in others. It is important that we recognize when we are making an impact, when we are leading. It empowers us and those we are trying to help grow. While it is true that some people are natural born leaders, it is equally true that leadership can be developed. It takes guts, reflection, a willingness to put aside the ego for the greater good, and an adherence to personal values. It also takes an inclination to continue learning and practice self-leadership throughout the leadership journey.

We are accustomed to evaluating leadership on a macro level. We relate to it in terms of presidents, CEO’s and community leaders. But leadership happens every day, by all types of people – introverts and extroverts, at the national or international level, on main street and in the home.


For more on Everyday Leadership, check out this Ted Talk by Drew Dudley (6 min)

This post is a part of Gray Matter’s “What is Leadership?” Series

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Drain the Swamp!


“When one is up to his a– in alligators, it is easy to forget that his original objective was to drain the swamp.”
-William Moore

I hail from a tribe of creative, restless, responsible souls who prefer DOING as much as possible, because we can, because we like the challenge, and sometimes, because we (mistakenly) think it is more economical. This applies to baking birthday cakes, building new garages, or making holiday gifts…as well as hiring employees or delegating work: the “doer” side seeks satisfaction, which at times can be a detriment from an efficiency, cost and, most importantly, a leadership standpoint.

I was talking with a colleague last night who leads an office on the west coast and shares a similar bent. He has been struggling with finding talented help, and the increased workload has put a strain on him and his team. This was affecting their productivity and clarity of purpose.

I asked, “There has got to be a way that you can find some good help for your firm. Where have you been looking, and how can you expand that search? Who else can help with this?” He then said: “well, I haven’t been working with a headhunter, because it’s seems like such a hassle, and I’m not sure I’ll get the candidates I need.”

“That may be, but it in this case, your greatest need is to find talent, and right now, you don’t have the adequate bandwidth to recruit on your own. You need to drain the swamp. Focus on what will make the most positive impact for the office and the firm. Consider this is an investment, money well spent.

It was one of those “aha” moments. He decided to make the call that very moment and we hung up. Leadership is evaluating the need and resources available, and then making the call.

Those of us from this tribe that will bake the cake, change the oil, or personally hire new talent should use the resources available so we can do the jobs we are meant to do.   Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. Stay clear. Drain the swamp.


Side note: I first heard this from one of my bosses and it caught my attention.  Also of note: There are many versions of this quote/proverb; this was my favorite. For more, see: http://www.redstate.com/diary/barrypopik/2010/07/29/origin-and-history-of-drain-the-swamp-mother-jones-reagan-rumsfeld-pelosi/


  •  Quote Source: William Moore, 1971 from Blind Man on a Freeway
  • Image credit: khou.com