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

Saying YES when you want to say NO

So you said YES the other day, and deep down, your gut was screaming out NOOOOO! Not again!

It’s the same old story. In an effort to help out or to save the day, that YES comes flying out, time after time.

In many cases, we say YES just because we can. Because helping out has become second nature, and quite frankly, we’re pretty awesome at swooping in and saving a project, at rejiggering an entire process and creating something even more efficient, or at putting into action something that’s been in idea mode for waaay too long.

So how’s it working for you?

Yeah, I thought so.

One way to break out of the cycle of YES is to get really honest with yourself about what’s on the other side of YES. Very likely, it’s not what you have rationalized on the surface – more likely, it’s what your gut has been trying desperately to tell you.

The next time you are tempted to say YES, ask yourself these questions, and be sure include your gut in the discussion:

  1. What exactly am I saying YES to?
  2. In what ways will this support and energize me?
  3. In what ways will it drain me?
  4. What would I rather be saying YES to?

Wishing you a future of guilt-free and liberating NO’s, as well as clear space for the exhilarating YES’s you very much deserve.

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

On the long and winding road to success, and being scooped

I hate being scooped.

The first time it happened was in 1989. I was 21 and Amy Tan had published the book that I always wanted to write. You might know it – it was The Joy Luck Club – and her portrayals of the Asian mother- Asian-American daughter relationships truly resonated with me.

“Damn! I thought. That was supposed to be MY magnum opus!”

At that time, a little voice in me said, “See? You’re too late! Try something else!”  At some level, I think that’s what I did. I let go of any literary ambitions I had to pursue a more practical, safer, less failure-guaranteeing path.

Now, more than 20 years later, it’s happened again! Just last week, in planning my next piece, I drew this diagram on a napkin:

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My goal in creating this piece was to ease your pain and reassure you that it isn’t always necessary or beneficial to barrel towards an often ill-defined notion of success — that sometimes taking the blinders off can result in greater opportunities to create the right path for yourself.

And then I saw it, a very similar diagram in an article that carries some very similar messages to the one I was drafting:

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At first, I wanted to feel scooped again, just like the Amy Tan incident. A voice in me wanted to say, “See, look! What you’re doing is nothing new. Give it up! Climb back into your hole!”

But before that voice could even take over, a different one sounded out. This one said, “See? The ideas and insights you have are shared by many. Don’t stop sharing them. Don’t go silent.”

And I won’t go silent! I will persist in spreading the idea that you don’t need to buy into the old mindsets about what success looks like and how you are supposed to get there. I will persist in sharing my belief that there are simple, creative and alternative ways for you to design a life that works for you.

But being a wise and extremely efficient woman, I also know when it’s enough to share someone else’s wise words, which I share with you today in this valuable post from LinkedIN: Don’t Let a Good Plan Get In the Way.

Cool. That didn’t hurt one bit! And what a great feeling to know I’m not alone.

Smirking from the Sandbox,
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