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Global Leadership Speaker and Premier Work-Life Balance Speaker
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Drop the ball. All About Balance, Part III

Soon after Hard Won Wisdom was released, my insurance agent asked me to save her a signed copy. When I dropped it by her office, she thumbed through it and said, “Maybe this will show me how to juggle all these balls I have in the air.”

I looked at her and said, “The secret to juggling is to let some of the balls drop.”

Simple enough. In my last posting for this series, I talked about how important it is to know what matters most in your life. Once you have that list of what really counts, you will see that you are wasting time on activities and “pulls” that keep you from the things that really move your soul.

First, look at your calendar. How are you spending your time? How much time are you handing over to tasks and people that don’t hold value to you? It is really easy to hand over your time to obligations that are rather meaningless to your life.

I know that, because there was a time when I spent almost every lunch hour networking and trying to build my business. I thought it was necessary. A part of the job. But, I learned something. Time is too precious to hand over to people you don’t especially like or to waste on things you don’t especially want to do. I know how important it is to network. But, I got much, much smarter at it. Instead of doing five lunches a week, I devoted one-half of a day to it. I didn’t waste time driving downtown for lunch every day. I’d meet someone for breakfast, then someone for coffee, then drop by someone’s office, then do lunch. I would do a week’s worth of networking at once. And after awhile, I became much more discriminating about who I would even network. It is amazing how much time I had once I took control over that.

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You also have to be an expert at organizing yourself because there are a million distractions and “pulls” that will keep you from doing the things you really want or need to do. E-mail is a great example. What a great idea that was when it was first invented. Now, we get hundreds of them every day and have no time for our real work. It is absurdity. And then the cell phone. We used to have lives. Now we can be reached anytime, anywhere. We feel compelled to constantly check in to see what is happening. We don’t fully engage in conversations because we are trying to check the Blackberry or Treo out of the corners of our eyes.

We used to worry about balancing work and family demands. Now we can’t even balance ourselves.

It is because we have not realized that we have the power to set good boundaries that give us room to live and breathe. Who is more balanced, the person who checks e-mail while driving in traffic or the person who only checks e-mail once a day? The once-a-day person has set boundaries that create a healthy life.

Then there are those periods when everything is happening and there truly is no time to stop and take stock of anything. I know about this because the speaking industry has some peak seasons that can really exhaust me. One time, I was so stretched that I hadn’t had a day off in six weeks. I was tired and grumpy and one-dimensional. I took out my PDA and opened up my calendar. Two weeks out, there was a Friday with nothing scheduled. I wrote in the word “OFF.” And that is when I learned the secret that, if you block a day off like that, it does not exist. All of my appointments had to flow around it.

I do that all the time now — just keep a day for myself. It is healthy.

So, as you juggle so many balls in the air, realize that you are the one who decides what you are going to keep juggling and what you are going to drop. Stop killing yourself.

Vincent J. Marcus Germer, 1998-2008 RIP

I can mark each era of my life in dog years. The Honey years. The Honey/Buster years. The Buster/Vinny years. The Vinny/Reggie years.

Vinny has been at my side through four books, two houses, a coupla relationships, a career change, a lightning strike and a lot of really good times.

He’s been there. Right with his mama.

Yesterday was a good day. Playful. Normal. Happy. Today, we woke up and I filled his bowl with Moist & Meaty, the food I’ve been spoiling him with since he was diagnosed with lung cancer and no longer had to worry about his waistline. He has always, always loved Moist & Meaty. Just not today. I coaxed him to his bowl, but he was not interested.I sat on the floor and put some in my hand and held it out to him, and he took a nibble — for my sake.

Then, he gave me the look.

He gave me the look and then it was my job to keep my end of my bargain with him. I would give him a good death because he’d given me so much good life. I called the vet and asked him to come out to the house after the clinic closed. Vinny would be in his home and he would not be afraid.

All day, I watched his labored breathing and knew this was really the day he had to go. I dropped my Golden off at my friend’s house so I could have my last day with Vinny and so Reggie wouldn’t continue to try to steal the attention away from his sick brother. And I gave Vinny a bunch of toys and got him to eat a little beef jerky and I cried. All day, on and off, because a world without this dog doesn’t seem possible to me. I have loved him so much for so long, and now I don’t know where I will put that love. Or get the love he gave to me. I have no idea how I will fill the void in my heart.

But I said goodbye to him knowing he had been the sweetest gift God ever sent me. He was just for me. My special boy, who made me laugh every single day.

Now I embark on the Reggie years, sad because Reg is my old man — almost thirteen, and sad because I know he won’t t live forever either — no matter how much I love him.

With his Billy Idol Mohawk. I re-colored it brown a week later.

With his Billy Idol Mohawk. I re-colored it brown a week later.

Thank you, Vinny G-r-r-r-r-mer. For every last little thing.

What matters most? All About Balance, Part II

My first day on the job at The Miami Herald was an absolute shock. My boss really laid everything on nice and thick as she courted me in the hiring process, but the minute I got there, she informed me that I’d be working some weeknights, every Saturday day shift and, gee, when I wasn’t working until 12, I’d be expected to hang until at least about 8 — even if I was done with my work.

I went there when I was only in the third week of my marriage. At a time when I should have been enjoying life as a newlywed, I was being tested to see how loyal I was to the whims of a newspaper with insatiable demands.

It didn’t seem fair. My work was important to me — extremely important to me. I was passionate about it, and I delivered huge front-page stories. But, I had a relationship that I wanted to tend to. I’d just moved to town and wanted to get out and make friends and learn about my new city. I’d always turn my stories in on time — at 6:30 p.m. — but that didn’t matter. Nobody left that early. Nobody.

So, I would sit there, watching the clock and wondering when I could leave. I was done with my work! Other reporters were turning in their stories late, so why couldn’t I benefit from my always on-time performance and go home to my husband?

A few weeks into my tenure there, editors from The Palm Beach Post invited me to lunch and offered me a job with better assignment with better money and much better hours. I turned them down, thinking I owed something to The Herald. The editor of The Post told me that editors at The Herald wouldn’t think twice about cutting me if it benefited them. I didn’t believe them.

A month later — just days before Christmas — the managing editor came to our bureau and announced the paper was shutting the Palm Beach operation down. Half of us would be spared, half would not. I survived the cut. The ones who didn’t make it were the veterans who didn’t have the same paranoia that us newcomers felt as we tried to impress our bosses. I thought about what that editor at The Post had said, and it was so very true.

I was transferred to another bureau and worked weekends and wasted more hours just sitting there late because my bosses wanted me to be part of the team. The politics of those offices were so brutal that I routinely saw one editor setting up the next in hopes of getting rid of a potential competitor. The entire time I worked there, I was on edge. I had no time for my husband or myself.

My first anniversary was approaching and I knew they would never let me out in time for a celebratory dinner out. I knew it. So, I called in sick. I had to take a sick day in order to make sure I could go out at 7 p.m. with my husband.

When I finally took a vacation, we flew to Greece for two weeks. I still have the journal where I was wrestling with the pulls of my work versus the true priorities in my life — God, relationship, family, friends and humanity. I closed it saying, “When I die, it will mean far more to me to have people say that I loved and was loved than I really knew how to write a 12-inch story. I need to learn to live my life for the big picture.” All that wisdom, and I was just 28 years old. Notice work wasn’t even on the list. It was important to me, but it wasn’t central to my being. I came home from that trip and started sending resumes out. A month later, I was gone.

That awakening stayed with me and centered me whenever work would start to take over my life. Work is work. It is exciting and challenging and mandatory. But, it is work.

So, as you start to contemplate the balance issue, ask yourself what matters most in your life. What are the five or six “pulls” that you have to honor, and what do they mean to your world? If you only had one week on earth, how would you spend your time?

The “What matters most?” question will always serve to give you perspective and help you to decide how to divvy up your time. Some people write a personal mission statement that incorporates their personal priorities so they can always check in easily to see if they have veered off course. Before you wear yourself out trying to juggle everything, go within to make sure you are juggling what really matters to you.

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

Housework can be delegated. Life can’t. Part I, All About Balance

  I have no idea how you pull it off. How many e-mails, voice mails, phone calls or faxes did you deal with today? How many meetings and conference calls? Lunch appointments, calendar shuffles and  “emergency” interruptions?

I sure hope you made time to pick up the kids, do the wash, clean the kitchen and help with homework, because if you didn’t, you must be a terrible mother, a horrible housekeeper and a really lame wife.

Oh, I’m just kidding. I often am hired to help corporate women deal with those famous “work-life balance” issues, and I constantly tell them that they a) can’t do it all b) should stop trying and c) need to cut themselves slack. More than anything, they need to stop wallowing in guilt and start making changes that will free up time and brain cells.

It you are exhausted, frustrated, guilt-ridden and depleted by the demands pulling on you in your daily life, hang with me for the next week as I review some of the ways you can deal with work-life balance challenges. Hopefully, your life is balanced enough so you’ll have time to read it.

————

Who are you, anyhow? You aren’t a robot or Superwoman or June Cleaver. You might be able to do two things at once, maybe three. But, you can’t do ten, and the way this world operates, you feel inadequate if you can’t. If you are a star in your career, but you drop the ball for even one minute when it comes to perfect performance at home, you feel like a complete failure.

Years ago, I was working on the most exhaustive investigative reporting project I had ever undertaken. It lasted for ten months, and the last two months of the project just about killed me. I was meeting with sources from the state attorney general’s office in the basement of a McDonald’s restaurant. Staking out the mayor’s office. Dealing with what appeared to be our local Watergate. Numerous city officials were fired and criminally investigated.

Because of that work, I was nominated for the Pulitzer prize – twice. But, in the midst of it, several friends stopped by my house before we went out for the usual Friday night dinner out. Most of the house looked presentable. But, I have to admit, I’d shoved a lot of piles of paperwork and other “stuff” into the junk room because I hadn’t had time to deal with them.

watch godfather part iii the in divx I don’t know whether my now ex-husband thought he was being funny or if he was deliberately being passive aggressive, but he called everyone together in the hallway and said, “You’ve got to see this.” He opened the door to the junk room and exposed my mess.

In the midst of my greatest professional success, I’d been outed as a failed housekeeper, which somehow translated into a failed wife in my mind.

Granted, I have evolved a bit since that happened. I know I can’t do everything, and the first thing that is going to give is housework. I’ve got a relationship and family and work and life and I will take care of those priorities before I clear the pile off my desk.

Housework can be delegated, but life can’t. Remember that.

Balance? We don’t get that kind of equilibrium very often. One priority often trumps another. It has to. If you waste energy trying to be great at everything, you are good at nothing.

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

About conforming…

The right way to say goodbye…

I am having the best time.

I’m going to a party this evening for my friend who is being cared for by hospice as emphysema closes in on her. She is one of the most colorful, alive, brilliant women I have ever known, and I know she won’t be with us much longer.

Last Monday, I mentioned that my canine soulmate, Vinny, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and is not expected to make it a month.

There have been a lot of tears lately, but I’m in a euphoric moment because nobody is going to a meeting with the Grim Reaper without a celebration. I have always wondered why people wait until their loved ones go before telling the stories they would tell at a wake. Forget the wake. Share the moment in life. That’s why I am going to party with my dying friend and a handful of other wild women.

And ‘tho my sweet Vinny is starting to show signs of his illness, they are greatly mitigated because he is being fed so much people food, getting huge bones and a brand new baby every single day. He gets to sleep on my pillow in my bed and I spoon him at night. I know he has never been happier, and so that makes me happy. We are going to have one hell of a goodbye month. He is alive. He is not dead.

You might wonder why we didn’t do these things all along. Well, my friend knew I thought she was the coolest 73-year-old I’d ever met. I certainly told her that and laughed endlessly with her. And, Vinny and I never wasted a moment. I could not have given him a baby every day and fed him steak, chicken, watermelon, jerky, etc. The house would have been overrun by dog babies and he would have weighed twice what he was supposed to weigh. But, that dog knew how much he was loved.

But, as we say goodbye to our loved ones, we can either shut down or lighten up. We can lament what we are losing or relish in what we have — and had. My sadness is still there, but there is also real joy. It’s in these moments of immense grief that I find such intense gratitude. I have been blessed, and it is a moment to relish in these blessings.

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

Leaving dark for light

Do you ever notice that, when you go into a funk, it is so hard to do the simple things that will lift you out of it?

Like, you know that you feel better if you exercise, but you can’t make yourself put on your shoes and go for a walk — not even it is to just go down the block. Or, you know that affirmations work and take no time at all, but you can’t make yourself do them. So, you start off feelin’ the blues and slide into a funk and wind up in a full-blown depression. Five pounds later, you wonder what happened.

I think we have to consciously do everything we can to keep from sliding into the darkness. Too often, we wait until it is too late. I had lunch with one of my best friends yesterday and she’s on a real downswing into a depression. Note: she makes her living as a clinical therapist. So, when we started talking about what she needed to do to climb out of it, she couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t take the tiny steps she’d need to take in order to begin feeliing better.

I have had my dark moments. I felt like I was sliding into a black hole several years ago when my mother started showing signs of Alzheimer’s. She couldn’t recognize my father, and I would quiz him about tiny details from our past so she could see he knew things only her husband would know. It didn’t prove that he was her husband to her. She just said, “I wonder how he knows that.” I was devastated and the world turned dark.

But, a friend told me to meet her at Fort DeSoto park at sunset with my kayak. We went three times in one week, and at the end of it, my perspective was in check. I’d come back into the light, and it wasn’t that hard.

The people closest to me know to give me a push when things start getting tough. Someone will usually say, “Go get in your kayak.” And that usually wakes me up.

I think the trick to warding off the blues is to have people around you who give you that kick in the butt you need when you can’t do it for yourself. Know what makes you happy, and have good friends to remind you to tap into it.

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

Why not you?

One thing I notice when I am out on the road is that people “in the ranks” think they are somehow different from those who have soared above. Like the superstars have something special or have been pre-ordained for the success they achieve.

That is a complete crock. Some people are “special” because their self-confidence lets them see that they can do big things, and they have the guts to try. So, the next time you see an opportunity and hesitate, ask yourself this:

Why not you?

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What makes anyone else more deserving of great success and financial reward than you? Are the people who control the business, financial and political worlds the most deserving or even the most intelligent and competent people in the world? No! They just got in line, had a vision and started working.

I think I need to drive this home a little more. You cannot assume that those who have “made it” are any more special than you are, because they are not. I promise you. I have spent much of my career interviewing people who are held out as great success stories and visionary leaders. They are special people because they had the courage to chase their dreams and manifest their success. But, they are not always the best or the brightest. They are the boldest. They bet on themselves and carry forth.

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

Speechless.

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The vet called and confirmed the worst, so I am taking a time-out today.

-30-

I can’t tell you how many times I think to myself, “Thank God I got out” each week. That’s because there is always another story about another newspaper eviscerating its staff because people no longer read newspapers, circulation is plummeting and they can’t get the ad revenues they need. I feel a profound sense of loss.

Newspapers were my life. I was as passionate about journalism as I am about the work I do now. I escaped daily journalism in 1999 when I quit to write my first book kid for two farthings a divx download , and I was lucky to get out when I did. Many of my friends lingered too long and are now jobless. Or worse, they are still working in newspapers, waiting for the bottom to completely drop out.

I loved local news. Lived for it. But, at some point, it felt like I was repeating myself. News no longer challenged or excited me. And, the newsroom politics were brutal, especially when I went into management.

I never understood why petty infighting could affect the product, but it did. What was so hard about going out, finding good stories, then printing them? Initially, it wasn’t that hard. I’d write tough stories, the paper would run them. When critics would say that I was “just doing that to sell newspapers,” I would laugh because that was never

a consideration. But, later on, it was. I worked for one major paper that scored editions to see which kind of news sold better, then built a news budget based on sales. That diluted the integrity of the content.

There was the time that I was assigned to do a story on how poor snowfall was killing the ski season in Colorado. Industry analysts forecast real doom for the bottom line. That story made the ski industry crazy. The publisher and editor said they backed the story, but the minute there was a minuscule snowfall, I was told to write a story about how “snow saved the day” for the resorts.

As an editor, I was once ordered to run a story that was false and misleading on the front page of The Tampa Tribune — just because we had a good color photo to go with it.

Now I am not a reporter. I am a reader. I pick up the paper and constantly roll my eyes at stories that are pumped up and overplayed. If I can get a better version of a story online, why bother with a paper? I used to subscribe to at least two newspapers. Now I get one paper, on Sundays, because it has ads.The newspaper — and the industry I so loved — is irrelevant in my life. It makes me so sad.

I called this posting “-30-” which is what used to go at the end of a news story in the days before computers. This really is the end of the story. It’s not long before we write the obit.

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