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

An Invitation…



Hey you! I have some questions for you! Can we grab a cup of coffee? Here’s what I want to know:  What is your highest point of contribution, your purpose? Do you know? What are you doing when you lose track of time and feel the most fulfilled? Do you feel like you have glimpsed but can’t quite put your finger on how to integrate this THING into your life? And what about the various forms of fear that hold you back? And how do you carve the time out of your already busy life? How the hell will you finance it? What will your family or your significant other say?

I realize I can’t hit people with these questions right out of the gate, but I want to, because we often get lost or off track in our lives and don’t make the most of our beautiful, creative brains and the ideas that need to be shared. My goal? Find a way to dig in and excavate the leader within each of us and be a source of inspiration for the journey towards that fulfillment. It is often a bumpy ride, and collaboration and outside perspective help immensely. I know this because I had help on my own very rocky journey, and couldn’t have done it without my people and sources of inspiration. The poet Mary Oliver has been one of those sources of strength and inspiration, and the poem below has made a huge impact on me and in helping me hear my own voice.

 The Journey, by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

I am interested in collaborating and sharing ideas and stories with those experiencing their own journey and development. Please reach out and share yours.



Mary Oliver
Greg McKeown for the idea of highest point of contribution.
Photo credit:  medicalnewstoday.com


Question The Authority

Hello friend,

As always, I adore our time together and our conversation got me thinking about some of the things that helped me during my own transition/journey. It prompted me to re-read Lean In, and I found some ideas that apply to us ladies at the table.  I’ve encapsulated some of them below.

“From a very early age, boys are encouraged to take charge and offer their opinions. Teachers interact more with boys, call on them more frequently, and ask them more questions.  Boys are also more likely to call out answers, and when they do, teachers usually listen to them.  When girls call out, teachers often scold them for breaking the rules and remind them to raise their hands if they want to speak.”

I adore our friend “The Authority”, and he truly is a champion for hungry souls. At the same time, he has a male, foreign- based world view; and he may not be aware of how his bias can affect others. His advice is like any other advice – if it applies, follow it; if it doesn’t, leave it behind, without guilt.  It struck me that his advice to you was limiting.  Here is someone who is successful and whom we all admire, essentially telling you to be satisfied with what you’ve achieved.  Part of his point was to say:   recognize what you HAVE accomplished.  But I hear you consistently saying you can do more, and have an urgent need to realize that aspiration.  Listen to that too.

My thoughts: if you want more, go and get it.  Honor that need, that ambition, that drive – while at the same time, realizing the impact you do have.  Be grateful…AND aspire to more.

2 Questions:

  • Where do you make your highest point of contribution?
  • What do you want to say you have accomplished when you are looking back on your life?

You may not have answers to these right now, but if you work on this, it will inform your next steps.

“Fear is at the root of so many of the barriers that women (and men) face. Fear of not being liked.  Fear of making the wrong choice.  Fear of drawing negative attention.  Fear of failure.

Your situation is challenging – when you’ve been part of a team for a long time, it can seem so hard to leave to move on to something else. Emotionally, you have a lot invested, as do they.  And it is really hard to move into a new position when you aren’t sure what the team is like or what you will be able to accomplish.  There are no guarantees and it is often easier to stay with the status quo.  Once you make the move though, the path becomes clearer, and you begin to build something new.

We talked about gut on Friday night, and I wanted to point out that you have your own highly developed emotional intelligence. Leverage that.

Sheryl Sandberg talks about the leadership ambition gap and asks: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?  And then go do it.”  This is great advice, and we all should follow it in the way that makes the most sense to each of us. In closing, I invite you to question the authority, take the good advice, leverage your emotional intelligence…and let yourself soar!



  • Quotes from Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
  • Highest point of contribution concept was introduced to me by Greg McKeown’s book:  Essentialism



3 Small Things That Improve Quality of Life

Dilbert jpeg 2

One of my favorite people is working way more than they should right now, and has no idea when things will settle down. Perhaps sometime next year.  I know how easy it is to get so busy that you feel you can’t step back and take care of yourself and relax enough to experience the other things in life that can bring real joy.

“You have to put yourself first.”

“Get comfortable that not everything is going to get done.”

It is so easy to give advice, and so difficult to take it. I could say this, but it wouldn’t be really helpful, because I’m wearing different shoes.  And to tell the truth, I have an appointment on my calendar at noon each day to take my walk, and I’m only honoring that commitment about 30% of the time. It’s not that I can’t get out at lunch; it’s that I get in work mode and I love my work.  And there is more to do than I can reasonably expect to get done.

In an attempt to avoid dousing this favorite with too much unsolicited “coaching” advice, (because even when solicited, advice is best in very small doses), I thought I would write down a few things are non-negotiable, no matter what.  Trial and error has shown that these things I can’t do without.  Most of the time, these things allow me to have joy throughout each day, and also allow me to enjoy my family and work.

  1. Sleep when I’m tired.
  2. Take time daily to reflect.
  3. Devices off at least one hour before bed.

About sleep – more and more people are realizing that their productivity, patience, clarity and overall health is directly tied to being well rested.  Arianna Huffington experienced her own “wake-up” call (pun intended) when she experienced a fall that was a direct result of exhaustion:

“The biggest first change that I made was sleep. At the end of each section of the book, I have three little baby steps that I recommend. They mirror the baby steps that I took. The first one was I began getting 30 minutes more sleep a night than I was getting before, until gradually I got from four to five hours, which is what I was getting before I collapsed, to seven to eight hours, which is what I’m getting now. The result has been transformational. All the science now demonstrates unequivocally that when we get enough sleep, everything is better: our health; our mental capacity and clarity; our joy at life and our ability to live life without reacting to every bad thing that happens. In everybody’s life, there are things that happen every day that we wish had not happened. How we react to them very much determines the quality of our life.”

On reflection – one of the pieces of advice I wanted to bestow on this unlucky favorite of mine is about reflecting. The recommendation would be this:  Take the time during the commute each day to reflect and spend time thinking about big picture goals, or just meditating and journaling. Phone Off. Seriously, it’s just for 30 minutes.  Reflecting has become a regular part of my life; otherwise, I am up at 3:00 am processing all the stuff I should have been reflecting on during my commute.  Now it is an essential part of each day.  I now can tell when I need a few minutes to regroup, and I take them.  This allows for a more effective, gracious, relaxed, and calm presence and most importantly, better decision making. It takes some reprogramming, and it is essential that there isn’t another distraction pulling at you.  But really – phone off, so the beeps, bells, alarms, swooshes etc. don’t tease your addicted brain.

Before Bed – devices off. Yes, more about sleep.  There has been a lot of scientific research documenting the effect our flat things have on our sleep patterns. “Careful studies have shown that even small electronic devices emit sufficient light to miscue the brain and promote wakefulness.”  (National Sleep Foundation, URL below)  So for those who read on e-readers before bed, or check email one last time, it might help your sleep patterns to read an old-school book to prepare your brain for rest.  I read something light every night before bed because I love to read, and it is part of makes up what I consider “the good life.”

So… these three things I can say I adhere to with regularity, and would invite everyone to consider. Sleep allows for greater overall health and productivity, reflection slows down our too-quick lives and allows some spaciousness in our thinking, and a break from our devices allows our overtasked brains a break, which leads to better sleep.

#Slowdown #Sleepisgood #Choosehealth