What’s your calling?

There’s a lot of pressure on people to completely figure something out before making a decision. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “What’s your dream job?” “What’s your calling?” “What will your legacy be?” And so, because we like answers, and we want to guarantee super-fantastic results for ourselves, we engage in all kinds of exploration to find out the answer that’s going to make it all make sense. Self-help books, online assessments, coaching, therapy, silent retreats, active retreats, accidental retreats, conversations with friends, family, mentors, teachers and more.

We get lots of input.
LOTS…AND LOTS….AND LOTS!!

All this data can be overwhelming, because hey, as human beings, we do have a choice, and as talented human beings, we have the ability to accomplish a variety of things. As a result, that future vision for ourselves can often become quite a hybrid beast as we try to incorporate all sorts of possibilities into one big, beautiful perfect picture.

If this sounds familiar to you, I’d like you to consider the possibility that it doesn’t have to be that complicated. That while you can concoct and run simulations for hundreds of different scenarios, you’ll do better to step away from the chatter and listen to what you’ve known all along to be true.

So let’s do it now. Step AWAY from the noise and get really quiet for a moment, or two, or three. And instead of asking what your calling is, ask yourself, “What’s calling you?”

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Make good friends and keep them

Many years ago, in the days before I headed off to college, my father sat me down to give me advice on how to make my way in the world.

“Chia-lin,” he said, “Mommy and I have provided you with a good home and education. Now you’re going off to college and you’ll meet new people from all walks of life. When you’re there, I want you to be sure to make good friends and keep them. I’ve been watching and studying how things work here in America, and that’s how this world works. With good friends.”

My 18-year-old self really had no clue what Dad was talking about. However, over the years his words have come back to me over and over again, guiding me, challenging me and becoming clearer and clearer in their meaning.

I have watched my parents create and nurture community over the years. From helping to create a credit union that helped fellow Taiwanese with their financial needs, to monthly dinners with friends, to offering advice or comfort to ones in need – my parents have been making good friends for many years. Good friends they’ve managed to keep in a multitude of ways. Now in the Golden Years of their life they have an amazing group of friends to champion them, laugh with them, cry or celebrate with them.

It’s easy in a world full of terms like “networking,” “social networks,” and “relationship management” to lose track of the true value of friendships and connections in this world. Apparently, all these networks have great value in an economic sense. And that’s just lovely, but that’s not what I want to drive the way I create relationships.

Let’s not forget this simple truth — the good friends are the ones who can be there on your journey with you. They’ll help you make it through that job transition, that life milestone or those personal moments of triumph or crisis. The good friends are the ones who can truly champion you, see you for who you are and still love you regardless.

So yes, go forth and make good friends. Create meaningful relationships and nurture them. Because, as my wise Father said so many years ago, and lives so now, that’s the way the world works.

Still learning from my Dad,
Carolyn

Carolyn Ou

Throw your name into the hat!

Martyrs, Chicago IL

Martyrs, Chicago IL

The other night, I attended my first Moth Story Slam ever.  You might have heard about it – it’s an opportunity for a person to have their name randomly drawn for the opportunity to go up to the mike and tell a story for 5 minutes. The story must relate to the theme for the night, and you have to tell it without notes…oh, and three groups of judges will rate your performance….and then there’s the audience!

At first, I was going to do my typical thing, just observe for the night, learn how it works, study the event as if it were my prey so that next time, I would be fully prepared. However that night, I brought my “what the hell” attitude with me, so I threw my name into the hat.

“If they call on me, I can do this,” I thought.”And if they don’t call on me, they will next time.” However, it was my birthday present, so I told my husband, “They’re going to call on me. After all, it’s my birthday!”

And of course they called my name. Not to tell the full 5-minute story, but to speak the first line of my story, which I hurriedly rewrote in my head as I went up to the mike. (My original first line needed the rest of the story for context! It was not so interesting without! Hmmm, maybe I need to learn about storytelling before I do this! Darn those voices in my head!)

The moments before I went up to the mike were the most heart-pounding, exhilarating, deliciously scary moments I’ve had in a while. I was totally out of my element, and it felt great!

What I got out of this experience is that I have stories that I want to tell, loudly, boldly, with humor, with pathos. So I’m going to go back again and again, and throw my name in the hat over and over, until I have my 5 minutes. My 10 minutes. My many minutes.

I’d like you to consider the possibility of throwing your own name into a hat yourself. It could be a small hat or an enormous one. A hat you’ve been eyeing for some time, or one that just happened to present itself to you, much like the Moth Story Slam did to me.

If you were to just throw your name in, what would be possible for you?

Here in the big hat with ya,

Carolyn

Craziest Boss You’ll Ever Have!

Carolyn’s Update: I first wrote this piece last October, but ever since have had the nagging feeling that there was a role missing among the three listed — the Entrepreneur, the Manager and the Technician. Having worked with a number of Entrepreneurs who are in the trenches on a daily basis, and hearing them speak of their daily struggle to keep it all going and to stay sane, I realized that this model needs another entity mixed in, one that I’ll call “GURU.” 

Guru is the one that’s going to ask the tough questions or point out the simple answers that are right in front of you. Sometimes Guru is going to tell you to get really quiet and listen to what your gut is telling you. Very often, Guru is going to tell you to get some rest, because the Guru knows how to see beyond all the chaos. So as you read this piece, add in the role of GURU to the mix, and I think you’ll find it a much more complete team!

“Craziest Boss You’ll Ever Have”

You know the type – one moment envisioning a grand, bright and beautiful future, the next moment, having a panic attack because you’re not meeting your deadlines, and then the next, vanishing for the weekend, only to be found hiding in a café finishing that research … or simply reading a really good book!

That’s right. It’s that crazy boss of yours, and every day you wonder how on earth she ever got the job.

Well, I have a secret to share with you.

It’s your fault she has the job.

Because your crazy boss is YOU!

Think about it. Who is the dreamer who gets excited about each new vision for your life? Who is the manager who creates and lives by the plan to make it happen?  And who is the doer who just wants to focus on the business of living? What happens every time the dreamer in you comes up with something new? Does the manager flip out because now you’re off track? And the doer – does she just want to finish what she’s working on?

It’s your very own 3-headed monster, and it’s not so different from the three-way battle that Michael Gerber describes in his classic book, The E-Myth Revisited. In it, Gerber writes of a business owner’s classic conflict between The Entrepreneur, The Manager and The Technician. These three roles are critical to running a business, yet they are roles that are in perpetual conflict, and in many cases, roles that exist within the single entity of the business owner!

Here are some brief definitions from the text – as you read them, consider the parallels to your own work and life. Think about which role is your dominant one, as well as the situations that allow the other two to show up:

“The Entrepreneur is our creative personality – always at its best dealing with the unknown, prodding the future, creating probabilities out of possibilities, engineering chaos into harmony.”

“The Manager personality is pragmatic. Without the manager there would be no planning, no order, no predictability.”

“The Technician is the doer. The Technician loves to tinker. Things are supposed to be taken apart and put back together again. Things aren’t supposed to be dreamed about, they’re supposed to be done. ..As long as the Technician is working, he is happy.”

“Put another way, while the Entrepreneur dreams, The Manager frets, and The Technician ruminates.”

Source: The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, by Michael Gerber (New York: HarperCollins, 1995).

So what can you do to start managing this multiplexity?? (Yes, I made that up…)

  1. Get your crazy boss out of the closet. Even admitting that it exists is a big step!
  2. Give your boss a voice. Consider journaling from the point of view of your entrepreneur, then manager, then technician. The point is to get to know your crazy boss in all its glory.
  3. Give your crazy boss a performance review.  If you feel like your boss has been making some questionable decisions on your behalf, make a list of those decisions, as well as which persona made each one. Rate each decision according to how well it has supported your greater work/life vision. See which persona has served you best and give it a raise!
  4. Give your boss a vacation. At the same time, if one persona has been running the show for too long, give it some time off so that you can explore how life works with the other two.

Give your boss time to grow on you. Remember that none of the personae are absolutely wrong. Identifying how they operate is the first step towards intentionally and effectively flexing between the different roles as you continue to steer the course of your crazy life!

Crazy with you,
Carolyn

Slow down, you move too fast!

Oh wow! 2013 has started off with quite a kick!

A quick look at headlines and emails received over the past month reveals an urgency, a need to do more more in a super-charged sort of way. There seems to be a collective need to overwrite the “sloth” of the holidays, punishing ourselves for even taking what was a well-deserved break.

Now it’s back to 100 mph, to make up for lost time, right?

Well, slow down!

It doesn’t help to be running in overdrive if there isn’t a clear destination.

I invite you to take your foot off that pedal and give yourself time to really ask yourself the following:

  • Where am I headed?
  • How am I going to there?
  • Who do I want to bring on this trip?
  • How much of this road map energizes me?
  • What can I take off the map?

You owe it to yourself to have a a year that works for you. And who knows? You might find that with a more intentional route in place, you won’t have to go so quickly after all!

With cheer from the Sandbox,
Carolyn