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Global Leadership Speaker and Premier Work-Life Balance Speaker
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Archive for the Hard Won Wisdom Category

Labor Pains

My 70-year-old chosen sister-in-life is about to deliver a baby, and the labor pains are a killer. Her “baby” is her first book and the labor pains are especially horrid because she has to upload everything electronically to a behemoth publisher that doesn’t have time for hand-holding its first-time authors. It is a insanity-inducing process that is taking its toll.

She sent me an e-mail last night asking me for technical advice, which I didn’t have the expertise to give. Instead, I wrote back, “Calm down. This will not kill you if you lose a few days. There have been many times when I’ve had to just let things go to the wind. Your book will be ready when it is supposed to be ready, men in black movie not one minute sooner. So, just go through the motions and enjoy the process!”

It was probably not the most sensitive way to handle my loyal friend’s feelings, because she’s so close to what she is doing and is really striving to push this thing through right now. She wrote back and reminded me of the chaos I faced when my first book, Hard Won Wisdom, was released the day before 9/11. “I doubt if you relaxed and enjoyed that. True, there is no comparison, at all, with my little technical speedbump, but it just shows how anything, at any time, can throw a curved ball.”

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The truth is, I didn’t enjoy 9/11 any more than any other American, nor did I like having to figure a way to make my book succeed in that difficult environment. But, once the shock of the unthinkable tragedy set in, I did regroup, figure out a strategy and enjoy my moment. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I’ve got so many photos of going on the road, catching up with old friends, promoting my book, speaking, doing television and pushing for my dream. It was an incredibly chaotic time and I had no control over what happened with my book. I could only control one thing: My enjoyment of the moment. I laughed through it. I lived it out loud. I had so much fun, because that was the only first book experience I would ever have.

I want my friend to have fun with her moment. She has earned that. She’s worked so hard on this book and she should be able to soak that up at every turn, even when it gets a bit gnarly. If publishing were easy, everybody would have a book out there. I just hope she embraces this huge achievement for what it is, enjoying it in all its magnificence. So what if the computer is giving her trouble. Look what she’s doing!

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Yes, life throws lots of curve balls. That’s what makes it so interesting.

Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of four books and speaks to corporations and organizations about courageous and creative leadership strategies.

The Slump

I am about to admit something embarrassing. It goes back a couple of decades, to my first years as a reporter out of college. My old boss at The Florida Times-Union got himself one of those Commodore computers in the early days of the home PC and figured out a way to categorize and calculate how reporters were performing. We’d get points for the number of stories we produced and the placement of the stories. If the stories were scoops or blockbusters, we got bonus points.

At the end of the month, good ol’ Nick Bournias (still one of my favorite bosses) would publish his “Nicky Points,” ranking us from first to worst.

We’d all commiserate about his stupid rating system, griping that we weren’t manufacturing shoes but rather, performing an immeasurable public service as journalists.

When I finally left the paper, Nick published a special edition of his newsletter, praising me for all the times I was on the very top of that list and teasing me for the times I was on the very bottom.

It was so true.

What was it they used to say? “When you’re hot, you’re hot. When you’re not, you’re not.”

Well, I’ll admit it.

I’ve been through plenty of spells when I was not hot. Or warm. Or even lukewarm. My performance was excruciatingly cold.

And, I wish I could write this in past tense, as though my slumps were all a thing of the past, but there are weeks when, as a writer, I am on fire and weeks when I am in recharge mode.

Sometimes my brain needs a break.

Remember that. Brains need breaks.

Bosses label those spells when we shut down or slide from excellence into mediocrity as slumps, but, I see those moments as crucial brain vacations that let me recharge my batteries so I can perform again. It took a lot of years for me to learn that I can’t drive in fifth gear every day without completely burning out my internal shifters. I remembered that when I became a manager and saw my people go through the same experience.

We need those down periods so we have the energy to perform when the time comes. We do not have an inexhaustible supply of energy; we have limits. Success comes in cycles. It is never a straight shot from earth into the stratosphere, so when you catch yourself sliding a little, don’t panic. It has happened to everyone.

What the negativity does

Don’t be so skeptical of the value of positive self-talk until you really look at the wonders of all the negative self-talk with which you’ve filled your brain. Yes, isn’t it a wonder how some of us voluntarily build ourselves up to be worthless, unattractive failures?

If you look in the mirror and see “fat,” you will be fat. If you look at your career track and think “average,” you will be average. If you look at possibility and see impossibility, you will encounter impossibility. You know it’s true that when you say you can’t, you can’t.

So this blog will, in part, teach you how to believe you can, because you can.

The beauty of it is, it is not hard at all to erase those negative tapes and overwrite them with positive ones that will drive you to a less stressful, more productive and happier life.

The power of repetition

The tapes inside your head are powerful. If you repeat a negative remark enough times, it will load itself into the permanent memory on your personal internal hard drive. I don’t believe you have the power to completely erase those tapes because it does seem like they are ready to play themselves again, as soon as you stop repeating your revised versions through affirmations. But, you have great control over the tapes and possess the ability to write over the bad ones, recording positive, constructive and productive affirmations that your psyche will absorb and use if you repeat them enough.

Like I said, I am no different from anyone else. I have had good times and bad in this life. When I am in a bad spell, I have to remind myself how easy it is to fix things by saying the right words to myself. It’s so easy, but it can be so hard to get started.

So, make up your mind. You want an easier way? You can have it.

Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of four books and speaks to corporations and organizations about courages and creative leadership strategies.

You Can Do Better

“You can do better than this.”

I can still hear my mother’s voice.

I was in the tenth grade and I had brought home a report card that boasted a few As, a couple of Bs, a C and the only  D I’d ever gotten – in geometry. I didn’t see anything wrong with that report card because it wasn’t much different from what my friends brought home, except for that little episode with geometry, for which I still don’t apologize.

But, Mom did see something wrong with that report card.

“You are not average,” she said, “So you can’t bring home a report card like this. If you were average, it would be all right. If I knew this was the best you could do, it would be all right. But, it isn’t the best you can do and you know it. You can do better.”

I hadn’t really thought about it before, whether I was smart or talented or anything else. I was just a kid who wanted desperately to fit in despite being hindered by a major case of nerdiness. I wanted to be average because then I would blend in with the others. Teenage life would be so much easier blending in with the crowd. No one would expect me to do anything more than the minimum. Hanging there with mediocrity seemed like a pretty safe way to get through high school.

If you think about it, I was right. And it applies to our work situations today. Mediocrity is a very safe place to hang. You don’t have to deal with the risk of being extreme – either too excellent or too poor. You aren’t a problem child that needs to be put on probation or dealt with. You aren’t a model of excellence who is a target for people who are jealous or threatened. You’re just in the crowd.

My mother’s tone of voice made it very clear that I would be making a few changes with regard to my academic approach.

It’s amazing how quickly I turned things around after that lecture. All As, and a B in geometry. I just had to make the decision.

I’ve had to make that decision again and again throughout my career. It is a conscious decision to ratchet things up another notch, to produce more, to concentrate harder, to work longer, to deliver. It is a decision to leave the pack and be excellent.

Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of four books, including an Oprah pick. She speaks to corporations and organizations on courageous and creative leadership strategies taken from her interviews with the best-known leaders of our times.

Your Big Plan: The Greatest Piece of Fiction You Will Ever Write

I often joke about the initial plan I had for my life as an author. I would write the book in three months, then sell it for the high six figures, maybe seven. The book would then come out six months later, debuting on top of the New York Times ultracet no prescrition best-seller list. Oprah would see the book on the shelves while out shopping at the Chicago Barnes and Noble, then buy it. She would love it so much that she would call me up, have me whisked off to Chicago, then have me on the show as she told the world to buy my book. She would so fall in love with me that she’d invite me home for dinner with her and Steadman. attacks effexor with treating xr panic

Quite a plan, right?

Your “life plan” is the biggest piece of fiction you will ever write. You can try to organize and structure your plan, but you can’t make it fit perfectly in a world of so much unexpected drama. I certainly never counted on my book being rejected the first time by every major publisher, or it being released right around 9/11.

If you must have a plan, have a plan. But, plan to change it, because life will demand you change it. The seemingly clear path you devise to turn your vision into reality will twist and turn and run into dead ends. It will lead you into brick walls and open fields. Things you expect to be hard might be very, very easy. Things you expect to come easy might never come at all.

The plan helps you refine your vision and gives you direction so you won’t stall out. But, success does not happen according to plan. It happens, but you have to help it happen by being flexible, shrewd, quick-thinking and resolute about what you want. You can lament the twists and turns, or you can learn to expect them, and enjoy them for the extra challenges they present.

Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of four books and speaks to corporations and organizations about courages and creative leadership strategies.

Fear Our Own Power

For the most part, I think we fear our own power because acknowledging it requires us to take action. Taking action requires energy, stamina and presents us with the possibility of failing. It’s much easier to blend in with everybody else, all the fearful people who don’t venture into their zones of discomfort.

I look back on the great cynics I have known in my life, and I have to admit they provided a great deal of entertainment for me with their smart-aleck remarks as we watched one of our peers dare to chase some cockamamie dream that none of us thought could possibly work. Years later, the cynics had done nothing new with their lives. But, look at what the visionaries did:

There was the night city editor who quit to open a restaurant. It wound up being Ryan’s — an extremely successful chain and franchise. At the height of his success, the late Eddie Ervin owned 25 of the restaurants himself.

There was the television assignment editor who left to go to medical school and now is a great doctor with a huge practice.

There was the very lame reporter who left for law school and became quite well-known for civil rights work.

And when those dreams worked, we’d make some snide remark about it — and you know that came entirely from jealousy.

Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of four books, including an Oprah pick. She speaks to corporations and organizations on courageous and creative leadership strategies taken from her interviews with the best-known leaders of our times.

Just Start

One of the most consistent sources of inertia in our lives is our fear of tackling daunting projects. We don’t take time to realize that there are few tasks that can’t be broken down into manageable parts. We see all of the things that need fixing in our lives and we don’t fix any of them because we think we must fix them all – and that prospect is frightening, intimidating and exhausting. So, we just wait and wait, and nothing happens. We need to just start!

I recently consulted with a man who has toiling in a job that pays him well every Friday, but does nothing for his psyche. He is miserable, and has been for a decade. He wants out, but thinks he isn’t mobile because he is middle aged. He is so stuck, and it is all his choice. He just doesn’t see that he has colluded with the negative forces that have made him miserable.

“I can’t get anything that will pay me better than this,” he said.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“I’m a middle aged white man and…”

“How do you know you can’t get anything better?”

“There are people more qualified and…”

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“How do you know you can’t get anything better if you haven’t done the first thing to try?”

Finally, he admitted what was giving him so much trouble: “I don’t even know where to start.”

“Do your resume,” I said.

Oh, that look. It is the same look I get every time I tell someone to do their resume. It is the look of dread and fear and doubt. You’d think it was absolute torture to do it. And, why? Seriously, why is it such a bad thing. They even have software programs to make it easy.

The lack of an updated resume is probably the most universal reason people are stuck in unhappy and unchallenging career situations. Doing that resume is the fundamental and essential first step that leads to all other opportunities, but thinking about doing it puts such a bad taste in our mouths.

Well, how long does it take?

Really, if you just spend one night doing your resume and give it three good hours of concentration, you’ll be done and good to go. It isn’t fun, but it certainly doesn’t justify the near total paralysis that it provokes in so many people who need to change their lives. So figure out what kind of job you are targeting and give your resume three hours. Then write a good cover letter. Then mail the stuff out.

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The only thing stopping you from changing your life is your unwillingness to do whatever it takes to get moving. So, quit whining and start moving.

In a Rut

Years ago, the argument for my inertia  was strong: I had a secure job, decent pay, good health insurance, five weeks of vacation, the best friends I’d ever had. On top of all of that, I got to live in glorious Colorado. My argument for change was rather short: I was in a rut and was unhappy at work.

Someone wanted to hire me in Florida. The job looked good, the pay looked fine and I’d be near my family. But, I couldn’t seem to take the leap.

One of my mentors told me: “Don’t let security be your dangerous anchor.” And then, she said it again. “If you aren’t doing something,” she said, “you’re doing nothing.”

I took the job and never looked back as I created a new life of challenge and adventure, quickly learning that change is nothing to fear.

Ruts are comfortable and comforting. We know what to expect of our outside world, but there isn’t much cause to challenge ourselves. Our measurement of what we accomplish tomorrow is too often based on old goals that have lost their significance.

How often do you celebrate the goals you have reached, then take a moment to dream a little larger? Don’t measure yourself against the expectations of others, and don’t focus on competing against your peers. What do you want for your life? More money, more time, more freedom, more wisdom, more credentials, more perks, more love, more adventure? Know yourself, and measure yourself against your own dreams. Don’t fear change – seek it out. Don’t let security be your dangerous anchor.

The Ten Tell Tale Signs that you are in a Rut

1. You aren’t having fun

2. You aren’t challenged

3. You enjoy your job less and less

4. You don’t feel like talking about your work with your friends and family

5. You are smarter than your bosses

6. You keep reminding yourself of the good attributes of your job, and they all have to do with “golden handcuffs” – good pay, benefits and time off

7. You can predict your future and it looks exactly like your present

8. People say, “Are you still working there?”

9. You are jealous whenever someone “climbs over the wall” and quits

10. You feel stuck

Fawn Germer is the best-selling author of four books and speaks to corporations and organizations about courages and creative leadership strategies.

 

Own Your Calendar

Own Your Calendar

Going crazy because you’ve got no time for yourself? Stop right now. Get into your calendar. Pick an hour — any hour — and make an appointment with yourself. Then, learn this important lesson: You own your calendar. You don’t need to complain about work-life balance, you don’t need to ask for tips on work-life balance. You just need to balance your life by owning your calendar.

Just as you find ways to make time for your hairdresser and physician, you can make time for yourself. All you have to do is decide to own your calendar. It’s your time.

Really. You get one life. Your time is spent the way you spend it. You do have many, many, many obligations, but those are your chosen callings. You can say no to a few things. You can do a few minimums on other things to create time for yourself. But, it is an amazing thing when you just write the word “off” in a slot on your calendar. Everything else fits around it.

This may sound overly simplified — especially if you are a parent who is truly juggling too much. But your time is your time. You can still, love, honor and adore the people around you, as well as be devoted to your work and community without putting yourself last every single time. You matter. You can’t be good for everyone else when you aren’t good for yourself.

There are times when you don’t have time to do anything except the insanity at hand. But those are exceptions. They must be exceptions. If they are not, then you need to make life changes that will give you enough calming moments in your day so you can function and actually live your life.

Look at your calendar. Give yourself an hour tomorrow. A day off within the next couple of weeks. Take the time, because it is your time. If you give every minute away, were you even here on this earth?

Bestselling author Fawn Germer is popular worldwide for her inspiring keynotes. She is recognized as one of the premier experts on work-life balance. To check availability for motivational speaking keynotes or workshops, or for information on life and executive coaching sessions, call (727) 467-0202 or write info@fawngermer.com.

 

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