Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I Had A Dream...

The other night I had a dream, and the interpretation was so clear and made so much sense to me that I thought I'd share with you all.

I was in a school and there was a basketball game going on. I wanted to go in and watch the game, but people told me I was going to need permission first. I went and looked for the guy who was in charge, and he was a normal looking man, except for the fact that he had a clock for a head. When I asked him if I could go in and watch the game, he gave me a very firm "no". He was very arrogant, and very difficult to work with. I couldn't figure out why he wouldn't let me go in. So I went over to the door to look into the gym, and saw that it was just a kid's game going on. In the bleachers were parents (whom I recognized). I decided there was no reason I shouldn't be able to go in there. My friends were in there, I should be able to go! So, I went in! Afterwards I went with my friend to this spa where we were going to get these special showers with these amazing massaging faucets and showerheads. My friend went first, and when it was my turn to go in I heard a staff member outside my shower knocking and asking me to leave. I was like "What? I'm not leaving I'm going to finish my shower!" But they insisted. Turns out the "clock-head" guy owned the spa, and he found out I was there. Since I didn't listen to him in the gym he was going to make sure I paid by making me leave the spa. I was outraged to say the least.

I have found in my years of dreaming and interpreting my dreams, that sometimes dreams have more than one interpretation. In one season it may mean one thing, while in the next it may mean something totally different. Sometimes I get the interpretation immediately, and sometimes I never get one at all. This was one of those dreams I had an immediate interpretation for. It felt like a representation of my battle against time. I feel like time is always trying to dictate where I go and what I do. I realized when I had this dream that I would not let time bully me around anymore. And that has been a huge revelation for me.

This is a short blog, but I hope as you read you feel inspired to not let time dictate to you anymore where you go or what you do. Since having this dream I keep singing the song in my head "time is on my side....yes it is!" And I have decided to really embrace that idea. There were some things in life that have been on my "to-do" list for years now. And I was beginning to feel like I would never accomplish them. But I no longer feel that way. I have decided my 30's are going to be about pursuing those things and accomplishing those things, even if I had pre-conceived notions that it was already too late to do them.

What will you decide to do, now that time can't tell you what to do anymore?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hopefully this blog answers all your questions about our move!

I thought I'd write a brief summary to explain why we are moving the end of this month as everyone keeps asking me individually and I can't remember who I've told and who I haven't.

Jon and I moved from St. Paul, MN in 2003 to start a new life in CA. Back then we didn't know what we wanted to do when we "grew up". We were still searching for the things that mattered to us, and there were things in CA we wanted to pursue. While we were here we discovered so many things about ourselves. The first thing we found out was that we were very disconnected as a couple, and we needed help to fall in love again - and stay in love. We didn't know there was a better way, or how to be different. And now that we know what it's like to be connected on a daily basis, we can't imagine going back to the old way.

We learned how to be different parents. We realized that kids need to feel powerful too, and that by giving them choices and giving them the respect we would like as adults, we can remain connected to their heart through out their life. We also learned that kids are professional mistake makers, and it is not our job to keep them from making mistakes, but rather helping them navigate their way through it when they do.

Jon learned that he has a passion to be a business owner, not just an employee. So since 2004 he has been part owner in a financial investment company. Changing his mindset from an employee to an owner was an adjustment for the whole family. You don't just clock out at the end of your day when you're an owner. He has grown so much and learned so much that he is ready to pursue even bigger dreams in the business world. In 2008 the majority of our company was bought out by a group called "Mariner Wealth Advisors" in Kansas. The CEO of this company is the adopted son of the man who started Pizza Hut, so you can imagine he has a lot of wealth to manage. His vision is to build a company that provides every imaginable tool and product to help individuals, families, and corporations manage their wealth.

We are still minority owners in the company and our partners are spread out all over the place, some in WI, some in CA, and now some in Kansas. We are the only ones who were able to move to Kansas to strengthen this new partnership with Mariner. So, we're going for it!

I learned that the things I'm most passionate about are social justice issues, and coaching people on relational issues. I have several different things I'd like to start pursuing when we get to Kansas. I have been thinking about going back to school for photo-journalism. I love taking pictures and I love writing, and I love talking about things that need to change in our culture. I also look forward to volunteering at crisis pregnancy centers and adoption agencies. And because of connections we have, I'm kicking around the idea of volunteering to be on Sam Brownback's campaign (senator of Kansas, soon running for governor of the state).

So, a lot of change for the Franklin family coming. I will miss the mountains, I will miss the ocean. I will miss the AMAZING warm winters here. I will miss the dear friends and mentors we met. I will miss my house that we poured so many hours of blood sweat and tears into. But I am excited for the change, for this new season that is opening up before us. I'm kind of digging the idea of seeing Jon in a suit and tie every day as well, there's just something about that look....eh hem....ok back to the blog.

Oh, and the other question I get asked all the time is, how do the boys feel about this? Well, they are not super excited and they are bummed to say goodbye to the life they have here. Which tells me we did a good job of building something good for them. And, that also tells me that we can do it again in a new place. I keep encouraging them to be hopeful for the future. There are good things ahead of us. Yes, it is difficult to say goodbye to the things you love. But change can be really good, and this could be an amazing adventure for our family. So, they are accepting the idea more and more everyday.

That is the update on our lives and what is coming for us in the near future. We close on our house end of the month and plan to be packed up and on the road by Oct. 29th. We appreciate your support for us, and we'll keep you updated as much as we can!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Why You Should Care About Sex Trafficking in AMERICA

The other day my best friend met someone who was creating a documentary on sex trafficking in America. She sent me the link to that documentary. Today I clicked on that link and now it looks like I have another reason to fight for justice (as if I needed another battle!).

Their story: In 2007, a group of students embarked on a journey through 20+ nations on every inhabitable continent, motivated by their love for photography and their passion for justice. At the outset, their experiences seemed diverse, even random. However, a common thread of human suffering would soon emerge as their travels exposed them to a dark, seldom discussed side of humanity-- children being bought and sold to satisfy the sexual pleasures of other humans.

As I scrolled through the different webisodes I became glued to the screen. I was definitely aware of the problem in this nation and other nations, but their work is superb and their perspective is fascinating. They are taking people behind the scenes of the porn industry, the prostitution industry, and the modern day slavery operations. It's real, it's raw, it's eye opening and it will be a phenomenal documentary.

This is going to be a trend in our country. There is a "transfer of influence" coming to this nation. The young people are rising up and finding their voices, and they are using their gifts and talents to expose corruption and atrocities. People will listen to them, and they will change our culture.

It seems like recently all I can really watch and focus on are documentaries. Documentaries are really the next "big thing." The power will no longer belong to deceitful politicians that make empty promises. The slanted news networks and journalists no longer hold the power. Religious figures out to make a buck have lost their appeal, and Hollywood's sad attempt at getting people immersed in fantasy has lost it's luster as well. All people are craving now days is what's REAL. REAL information, unbiased information, real stories, real problems and real solutions. People want justice. And justice they shall have!

I want to end with the webisode that impacted me the most. I encourage you to check out the website and watch them all, but this one was by far my favorite:

That man's poetry is powerful. Some lines that are burned on my heart were;

"I witnessed images I didn’t have a right to and I can’t erase my memory,

So I have to write you and apologize for taking something that

I paid for a price but no matter how high shoulda never been mine.

...I’m sorry, and that’s all I can say

But I promise when I raise a son I’ll raise him to respect you

Sisters and mothers I’m sorry

Husbands sons and brothers please pick up your bats

Because the women of this world are waiting for us to step up!"

The website is http://www.sexandmoneyfilm.com - check it out!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why I'm NOT the Perfect Mother

Motherhood - the greatest job in the world, and sometimes the most difficult job in the world. There are so many emotions, ideas, opinions & stigmas that go along with this very important role. I have learned a lot about myself along the way - and just thought I'd pass those lessons on.

I was the first born in my family which immediately gave me a leadership role full of responsibility and obligation. First-borns tend to fall into two different categories personality-wise: *compliant, nurturing and caregiving OR aggressive movers & shakers. I was the latter. I did my duty with babysitting my siblings, but only because I had to, it was not my natural instinct to want to mother or nurture. All through high school I preferred restaurant jobs and administrative jobs over babysitting for other people. When I was young I imagined that one day, in my late twenties or early thirties I might have children. But that was a long way off in my future, and definitely not one of my short term goals in life.

And then...at the age of 20 I found myself in an unplanned pregnancy with my first son, Nicholas. I did not feel ready for motherhood and my life was a mess at the time. My first instinct was to go the adoption route as I had no tools to be a good mother, and I did not want an innocent child to have to enter into the crazy world called my life. However, over time and with the help of loved ones and family, I realized I was ready for this adventure called motherhood. And I'm so glad I said yes to that adventure! I will never forget the waves of love that rolled over my heart and left me speechless and in awe the first time I looked at my son and held him in my arms. I realized that even though the high-nurturing instincts were not apparent in my life up to that point, they were still there in my heart, waiting for the day when they would be needed.

When that new bliss wore off and the reality of motherhood set in, I realized there were other obstacles I was going to have to face on this journey. Like, the fact that I have a high need for change and can't stand the daily grind of mundane routine. Also, the fact that one of my primary needs in life is to have a significant impact on my world around me (see my blog about the 4 main motivations in life - http://nicolesthoughtsandmore.blogspot.com/2010/05/4-main-motivations-in-life-which-one.html). And then there was the day when I took the test to find out which love language I am, and I found out "touch" was not even in the top 3! Kids need a LOT of touch. How was I going to bridge that gap? How was I going to change the world when I was stuck at home all day long changing diapers? How was I going to do the same routine every day without losing my mind?

It wasn't until recently that I realized for the past 10 years I've been (for the most part) operating outside my strengths. All the things I'm bad at, thats what I've been doing for the last decade. No wonder I had doubts! No wonder I felt insufficient. I imagine someone who is high nurturing by nature, has touch as their top love language, and is motivated mainly by connection would feel the same way if all they wanted to do was be at home raising their kids, yet had to work full time outside the home to make ends meet. The grass is always greener right? So even though this motherhood thing has been difficult for me, and not as "natural" as it is for other women, I've also realized that I would have been incomplete without the experience. My kids have taught me so much about life. And I hope I've been able to teach them that we all have strengths and weaknesses, but we shouldn't let the weaknesses hold us back from embracing all life has to offer.

When I'm stuck in the trench of doing all the things I'm not good at, I think about what makes it all worth it. Like the fact that I have four healthy, smart, amazing young men in my life that continue to impress me every year they are alive. I think about the snuggles, the giggles, the funny sayings, the accomplishments, their personalities, the vacations, the holidays, their futures and the possibilities of all the things that are still to come. Now that I understand myself better, I don't even wish for this part of my life to hurry up and get over with. It will go fast enough, I know. I embrace it fully. The other side will be a new adventure. It isn't going anywhere, it will wait for me. For now, bring on the hugs & kisses, the daily grind, the messes, the homework, and even the part about being hidden away changing diapers instead of changing the world. I'm not trapped, I'm blessed!

*You can read more about this in the book "The Birth Order Book" by Dr. Leman

Friday, September 3, 2010

Principles of Powerful People Part Three

A while back I began a series called Principles of Powerful People. If you want to review part I and Part II, follow these links:



And here is part III:

XI. Powerful people know how to respect and honor even the smallest and seemingly most insignificant members of society. They take care of their planet, their children, the orphans and the widows, and the elderly. They have respect for animals and the environment, and they are not living only for today. They think multi-generationally. They plan and live for the lives of people they will never know.

In the movie Food, Inc., one farmer put it very well when he said the following; Joel Salatin: A culture that just uses a pig as a pile of protoplasmic inanimate structure, to be manipulated by whatever creative design the human can foist on that critter, will probably view individuals within its community, and other cultures in the community of nations, with the same type of disdain and disrespect and controlling type mentalities.

Powerful people think community, they are not individualistic.

XII. Powerful people don’t wait for justice, they fight for justice. There is one song on the radio today that just irritates me every time I hear it. It’s “Waiting on the World to Change” by John Mayer. Here are the lyrics:

me and all my friends
we're all misunderstood
they say we stand for nothing and
there's no way we ever could
now we see everything that's going wrong
with the world and those who lead it
we just feel like we don't have the means
to rise above and beat it

so we keep waiting
waiting on the world to change
we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change

it's hard to beat the system
when we're standing at a distance
so we keep waiting
waiting on the world to change
now if we had the power
to bring our neighbors home from war
they would have never missed a Christmas
no more ribbons on their door
and when you trust your television
what you get is what you got
cause when they own the information, oh
they can bend it all they want

that's why we're waiting
waiting on the world to change
we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change

it's not that we don't care,
we just know that the fight ain't fair
so we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change

and we're still waiting
waiting on the world to change
we keep on waiting waiting on the world to change
one day our generation
is gonna rule the population
so we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change

we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change

I just don’t agree with this approach. People who keep waiting for change are victims. Everything happens to them, and they stand-by powerless to do anything about it. Why live like that? Why settle for that? If every person used their voice, and their influence, change is easy. I challenge you to never just wait for change. Have the courage to fight for justice! The dominant state of the people will rule a nation. Will we let neutrality and complacency be the labels of our generation?

XIII. Powerful people don’t have addictions, they live a balanced life. Addictions are an indicator that there is an immense amount of pain in your life and you don’t know how to cope with it. So you have turned to a substance or an activity in order to attempt to drown out the pain. The problem with that vicious cycle is pain doesn’t ever go away until you fix why it was there to begin with. It may temporarily retreat, but then it comes back with a vengeance. Powerful people realize that pain has a purpose, and when you take care of the problem that is causing the pain, pain goes away. Pain is unpleasant, but it is not something to be terrified of.

If you google addiction, you will find this definition in wikipedia:

Historically, addiction has been defined with regard solely to psychoactive substances (for example alcohol, tobacco and other drugs) which cross the blood-brain barrier once ingested, temporarily altering the chemical milieu of the brain.

Many people, both psychology professionals and laymen, now feel that there should be accommodation made to include psychological dependency on such things as gambling, food, sex, pornography, computers, video games, internet, work, exercise, idolising, watching TV or certain types of non-pornographic videos, spiritual obsession, pain, cutting and shopping so these behaviors count as 'addictions' as well and cause guilt, shame, fear, hopelessness, failure, rejection, anxiety, or humiliation symptoms associated with, among other medical conditions, depression and epilepsy.

If you could identify with any of those crutches, I challenge you to get to the root of the issue. What is the pain you are running from? Powerful people don’t run away, they stand their ground and have the courage to face the things that are scary. They don’t always do that alone, they ask for help if they need it. But powerful people know that running away is not the answer.

XIV. Powerful people have the character and integrity to be the same person at home as they are in public. Many times I have witnessed a leader with an important title fail in this area. They have one message when they are in public, yet they live in hypocrisy behind closed doors. I am not impressed with someone’s success unless their spouse, children, best friends and closest colleagues are too. Because those are the people that are around when the cameras aren’t, and that is when your true colors show.

People who live one way in public and another way in private usually carry a great deal of shame. They may not even be aware of it consciously, but the failure to be true to yourself always has consequences. Powerful people don't carry shame because they have nothing to hide. Powerful people become more impressive the closer you get. I always get really excited when I see someone up-close and personal, and they are who they said they were! It’s rare, but when you find it – it’s a treasure.

The tolerance for hypocrisy is coming to an end. People carry cell phones now that can record conversations and video awkward moments whenever they please. Technology has drawn a line in the sand and has demanded a higher level of accountability and responsibility from leaders. Leaders don’t have to be and never could be perfect. But long gone are the days of faking it. Long gone are the days of pretense and empty talk. This makes me happy because now the genuine ones can step forward and have the influence over culture and over the world that they deserve. They are the ones who have truly paid a price, they are the ones who deserve it.

XV. Powerful people understand that unity is not always possible. There are times and seasons for everyone to come together for a common mission. And then there are times when you will be called to “rock the boat” and go against the grain. There is a tension to this principle. On one hand we are called to bring harmony and peace, understanding and tolerance. Powerful people don’t require others to think like them or agree with them. And then on the other hand there are times where we find ourselves in the midst of corruption and immorality where “tolerance” is not the theme to run with. In these moments powerful people have to stand up for what is right, for what is moral, and for what is healthy. The very delicate yet highly volatile debate comes down to the fact that usually both sides feel they are morally right. In the end the winner is either the majority or the loudest voice. Either way, powerful people continue to engage because they care.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'm Outraged! It's Time to Speak Out!

The other day I found myself singing along to a song on the radio, not really thinking about the lyrics, just singing along. I must’ve heard the song again last night and decided for some strange reason to google the video. I was absolutely horrified at what I saw. The song was “Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem. Keep in mind, I was not put off by the language or by the fact that it was Eminem. I mean I expect that his songs will be vulgar and ridiculous. What horrified me was that the song stood for everything that I am against relationally. The basic premise of the song is that love = pain. And not just the pain of heartache, but an addictive, dysfunctional abusive pain that leaves people devastated and sometimes dead. What???? NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. Not on my watch. Not in my lifetime. I am taking a stand today against this message, and I’m hoping after you read this blog you’ll stand with me and repost this blog.

One reason I am outraged is that Eminem took his message to a new level. This video is so Hollywood. It stars Meagan Fox, Dominic Monaghan, Rhiana and Eminem, and it targets young people who still don’t know what real love is. He has gone above and beyond to make abuse look glamorous, seductive and appealing. It’s not. There is no magical deep connection that turns into rage and beatings. It’s a lie. Don’t buy into it!

Love does not abuse, it does not beat, it does not lose control. It is not jealous it is not crazy. Love doesn’t cheat, love doesn’t betray and love doesn’t use you and throw you away when you’re not convenient to deal with. Love doesn’t threaten and it doesn’t punish. Let’s call all this what it is, it’s insanity. I’m going to go through some of the lines he writes to really dissect what’s being said and promoted by all involved:

High off my love, drunk from hate

It’s like I’m huffin’ paint and I love it the more I suffer

That’s not love Eminem, that’s sick. It’s called self-hatred when you love to suffer, which brings me to Rihanna’s section of the song;

Just gonna stand there and watch me burn?

That’s alright because I like the way it hurts

Just gonna stand there and watch me cry?

That’s alright because I love the way you lie, I love the way you lie.

Here’s the deal, I believe you Rihanna when you say you like it, because you keep engaging with it, you keep choosing that for your life. It makes me so sad when people choose this, because we all decide for ourselves what we believe we deserve. Rihanna’s not the only one believing this lie, the lie that she deserves burning pain. What I hear her saying is she not only deserves it, but has come to embrace it as something to feel affection for.

Back to Eminem:

You ever love somebody so much you could barely breathe when you with ‘em?

You swore you'd never hit 'em; never do nothing to hurt 'em

Now you're in each other's face spewing venom in your words when you spit them

You push pull each other's hair, scratch claw hit 'em

Throw 'em down pin 'em

So lost in the moments when you're in them

It's the rage that took over it controls you both

And how is it that you can live with yourself displaying that kind of relationship as sexy, enticing, and enchanting? With great influence and great power comes great responsibility. Your voice holds a lot of power and influence in this culture (Why? I will never really understand…but that’s another topic). Millions of kids, and young adults look up to you Eminem, and you Rhianna. What kind of message are you sending here? What are you telling them, what are you promoting? It is the greatest perversion of love I have seen lately. I have lived this kind of torment. Thank God I got out, I don’t even know how I got out, I just did. I was saved from this by grace and now I don’t have the prison sentence that some have given themselves by living that kind of abusive life from here on out. Because I’m free, I have dedicated my life to helping others be free of it. So, this is personal for me, very personal.

You may wonder why I bother speaking out. I do it because “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” (Martin Luther King Jr.). To me this video is no different than if he had created one that made child molesters look glamorous and sexy. The picture of love that he has distorted and perverted is an abomination to me. I said this once already, but it goes against everything I stand for. It’s wrong, and someone needed to say it’s wrong. Someone needs to use their voice to fight for what’s right.

Sometimes I don’t even fully understand myself why I react so strongly to some issues and not strongly to others. I think I sense at a deeper level when things have the potential to shift a nation, or a culture, or a large group of people. This can be positive or negative. In those moments I will either get behind it or I’ll want to fight it with everything that is within me. I’ve been helping so many couples lately get back on track with their marriage. I’ve been contending for their families, helping them heal from wounds of the past, hoping to salvage what is left of their lives, and then this video comes along. This video screams “we’re so hot, we’re all about what’s hot right now, you know you want to be us, this is the glamorous life.” And I know some will buy into that. Some already have. But please don’t let it be you. Please don’t let it be your friends. This is not reality, this is not truth, this is not love.

It’s time for the good guys to win. It’s time for marriages to succeed and for families to heal. It’s time for young women to know they are worth far more than that, and it’s time for young men to rise up and be the protectors they were created to be.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Passive Men & Pushy Women

Passive Men

There are so many classic dynamics that come into play when you talk about "nice guys". We've all known them, we've all dated one, and a lot of us married one. I want to start with the strengths of a passive/nice man. First of all, he is a peacekeeper. He is a nurturer, and he is a protector. He wants all those around him to feel valued and honored, and he cares deeply for those he is close to. He gets along well with many different personalities, and he is not intimidated by the strength or intensity of a woman. In fact, he is drawn to a woman like that. He tends to be a great listener and sympathizes well in difficult situations.

However, until he has found his identity and knows he is a powerful man, here are the constraints you will run into; because he is a peacekeeper, he will most often sacrifice taking action when someone has been inappropriate or crossed a boundary. People will take advantage of him and in extreme circumstances be abusive with him, and he will accept that kind of behavior from friends, family & strangers. Passive men that are high nurturers can sometimes end up protecting the wrong things. They will protect dysfunction and keep cycles of unhealthy behavior running for years. They do this because they don't know how to protect healthy core values, and set healthy boundaries. Because he wants everyone around him to "feel good", he won't be honest when someone has hurt him or crossed a line with him. He becomes a people pleaser who is disingenuous with his words, therefore not trustworthy.

The woman who married a passive man with the hopes he would never hurt her, well, she has a harsh wake up call when she realizes he is too weak to protect her. It's like hiring a body guard and then realizing you are stronger, smarter, quicker, and more efficient than he is. Which leads me to talk about...

Pushy Women

Just like I did above, I'll start with the strengths of a high maintenance/pushy/controlling woman. She is independent and often has ideas that will make the world a better place. She is tough, but the common misconception is she is so tough she doesn't feel pain. She feels pain deeply as well as rejection, don't let the tough exterior fool you. She is highly motivated and can perform well under pressure. She also cares deeply for those around her and feels highly protective over her closest friends and family members. She is perceptive and discerning and often picks up on the more subtle aspects of people and situations that others would miss. She requires a lot of deep connection from her mate and her friends, and her standard for life is very high (for herself and for those in her life).

Having said all of that, if she has never known the protection and true strength of a man she could be way out of control. Because she has so many ideas on how to "make the world a better place", she will fight for ideas instead of fighting for people. Because she feels pain so deeply, she will often use threats and punishment when she feels scared, hurt or intimidated. Performance can become her identity, and she will sacrifice relationships to get to the top. When she can't find a man strong enough to lead her or protect her, she will try to be her own bodyguard, and that is not pretty on a woman. She views vulnerability as weakness. When her discernment tells her something is wrong she can often let judgement and fear dictate her behavior. Because her standard is so high for herself, she can become unreasonable in expectations from friends, spouse and children.

The passive man who marries a pushy woman, his wake up call feels like, "hey - you don't need me to protect you, the rest of the world needs me to protect them FROM you!!"

So the pushy woman starts to feel misunderstood, unprotected, abandoned and this unfortunately translates into rage and even more outrageous, out of control behavior. She has chosen to act crazy instead of communicating what she needs.

The passive man starts to take on the identity of a martyr, "look at this insane woman I have to deal with!" He builds a case in his mind that he really is a saint and she just needs to get herself together. He is clueless as to why she has just gone off the deep end, and has no ownership whatsoever that it might be in response to his passivity.

So what's the answer? I have to give you the short version in this blog. Basically the man has to find his strength, and know that strength doesn't mean intimidation, or over-powering, or bullying or being pushy. Strength can be quiet, but it is firm. It is a wall that can't be moved. It is comforting, it is safe, it is fierce, and it is brave. He has to know that he chose a dynamic, intelligent, bright and strong woman. That choice will require more from him. My family pastor used to say, "If you buy a Ferrari, you better know how to drive it and take care of it."

On the flip-side, the woman has to find her vulnerability. She has to know that vulnerability doesn't mean you're weak and helpless. Vulnerability will be the bait that draws him in, it will be the thing that invokes his strongest instincts, to provide and protect. Vulnerability means you know your value and your worth, and you communicate that to those around you. A woman who is vulnerable is one who feels safe and secure. She is beautiful and attractive in that state, and she is most at peace with herself.

Jon is a self-proclaimed recovered Passive Man. And I am a recovered Pushy Woman. Through the years we have been on this journey of finding strength and vulnerability and we can both tell you from experience, the journey has been worth it! Life is better now than it ever has been, and it can be for you too!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Encouragement vs. Flattery

This blog somewhat piggy-backs off my last blog. It's all about defining these terms a little better so we are communicating with each other in the most efficient and most genuine way possible. I want to start by using some of the words the dictionary uses to define flattery and encouragement:

Flattery - honeyed words, sweet talk, smooth talk, buttering up, blandishment, excessive or insincere praise.

Encouragement - inspiration, motivation, support, morale-boosting, championing, promoting, furthering, nurturing, help.

Right off the bat we see which word feels more genuine and more effective. Yet, I think we still get confused as to how and when to use these tools of communication.

In my opinion, flattery is useless. If it were a literal tool in my toolbox I'd throw it out. There are things you can replace it with that will do the job so much better. For example, if you are using flattery in order to gain influence with someone, like a boss or a leader, you are using the wrong tool. People are perceptive and they will discern very quickly when you are being insincere in order to gain favor. Also, those around you who are at your level will resent your shortcut ways to get ahead. You will be dubbed the "brown-noser" of the group and that is a difficult label to shake once it's been given. Instead of using flattery, use genuine interest (encouragement) and observations to gain influence with people. For example:

"Wow, you handled that meeting with a lot of wisdom, I think I learned a few things watching you."

"You seem to lead with great confidence, I like that about you."

"I find it very easy to work under you, thanks for being a great leader."

The key is to only say it if you really mean it. And, choose an appropriate time to deliver your observations. Don't over-do it.

Another common scenario where people use flattery is when a friend or loved one asks them for their opinion, and they don't have the heart to tell them what they really think. So what are some ways to get around telling someone the blunt truth that may hurt their feelings? Let's say a stay at home mom decides to take piano lessons for the first time in her life. She plays her first song for you, and it's terrible. Here are some things you could say that would encourage, rather than flatter:

"I think it's amazing that you are stretching yourself and learning new skills instead of just living an ordinary, day to day life."

"I'm really impressed you are pursuing something like this, is it everything you'd hoped it would be?"

"Is piano your preferred instrument? Does it bring you joy to pursue this?"

Where it gets different and more specific is if this same person says they want to take out a $50,000 loan to cut a new album or start a career as a musician. Then you may have to sit down with them and say, "I'm not sure this is the area you've been naturally gifted in, are you sure you want to invest in something so uncertain?" Or, "To be honest I don't see you having a successful career in music, but I do think you are an amazing parent. You have so much to share with the world in the ways of raising good kids, have you ever thought of developing that more?"

Flattery is a dead end. If you tell someone they are good at something they are not, you could lead them on a wild goose chase, or at the very least, allow them to keep believing a lie. Encouragement tells the truth, but in a way that takes the spot light off what "sucks" and puts it on what is amazing. Everyone has an area they shine in. Not everyone was meant for the stage, but everyone has greatness in them. It doesn't take a genius to point out the flaws. A teacher of mine used to say that people are like gold mines. Keep digging until you find the gold. Anyone can find dirt, but why stop there?

How about the infamous question, "do these jeans make my butt look big?" What do you say if they do? I always like to say, "that's not your best look, I think that other outfit compliments your body shape much better." Or, "Well, your legs are your best feature, so I would wear something that shows them off" instead of "your butt looks huge in that!"

It feels like people are either like Simon Cowell, and just say what they think without any regards to someone's feelings, or they swing to the other side and they are Paula Abdul saying ridiculous things that don't even make sense in order to be the "good guy."

My challenge to you is to use balance, truth and encouragement with your feedback. Don't be lazy by just saying the first thing that comes to your mind, and don't be a coward and basically lie to avoid awkwardness.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Constructive Criticism - How to Give it and How to Receive it

Constructive criticism is one of those topics that can really scare people. I'm sure everyone can remember a time they received criticism that devastated them, or gave criticism to the wrong person at the wrong time, and now that relationship is strained. I want to go over some simple guidelines that will help you determine in the future if it is the right person and the right moment to give constructive criticism, as well as some principles that will help you seek out healthy criticism for yourself in the future.

Let's start first by defining healthy, constructive criticism. If it leaves you feeling hopeful and renewed with passion to make something better or try harder - it's healthy. If it leaves you feeling devastated, hurt, torn apart and hopeless, then it's just plain old good for nothing condemnation.

2nd - let's talk about who has the right to give constructive criticism, and why should we pull those people into our lives to give feedback and point out the flaws or weaknesses of what we are doing?

I have a few hobbies I'm passionate about. One of them is photography. I started out taking thousands of pictures of my kids, and that led to a passion to capture many things with my lens. As I grew in my skill, I would notice other photographer's work that caught my eye, and I would ask a lot of questions. I generally chose photographers who took photos in the genre I was attracted to. I love the farm life, the country feel, the dreamy emotional side to life. I am somewhat traditional in my approach and yet I don't settle for boring. So I wouldn't have gone to a high-fashion, edgy, more abstract photographer to ask advice or to ask for feedback on my photos. It wouldn't really make sense to compare apples to oranges. I looked for people who fell into the same genre as me (not necessarily the same exact style as me). And then of course, I found people who had gone further down the road of success so I could glean from their perspective and experience.

The other thing to consider is I am not trying to launch a career with my photography. I cherish it as something that allows me to archive & preserve the best moments of my life, as well as meet my need to create and design something beautiful. So I'm not going to submit my work to the experts of the world and spend hours and hours perfecting and obsessing over it. I take a casual approach, welcoming honest feedback and asking those I
trust to critique. Those I trust would be people who I respect, people who have more success than I do, and people who have my best interest at heart. I would look for those who would want to build me up & not tear me down.

Now, if we are talking about something more important in life, like say, a marriage - then the rules change a little bit. I still look for someone who is more qualified than I am. I look for someone who has my best interest at heart, someone who wants to build me up and not tear me down. I also look for someone who falls into the same genre, or in this case someone who carries the same core values that I do, for example: if I am in a more traditional marriage where God is at the center - I would seek a marriage expert that would uphold and give advice lining up with those core values. However, I don't take a casual approach to the feedback I get in this realm. I hunker down, take serious notes, study and listen very carefully. Outside of my relationship with God, my marriage/family is the most important thing to me in this life. That warrants a very intense, focused approach where constructive criticism is not a luxury, it's a necessity.

Christians tend to get confused with constructive criticism because telling the truth is not always pleasant or fun. Some churches have a horrible worship leader on stage for years because no one has the courage to say "your gifting is not singing, sorry." It doesn't do anyone any good to tell them they are great at something if they are not. But there are things to consider the next time you give constructive criticism. To summarize:
  • Are you an expert or do you have more success and experience?
  • Are you comparing apples to apples?
  • Do you have their best interest at heart?
  • Are you seeking to build up and not tear down?
  • Have you been invited to give feedback or are you just offering?
  • Do you leave someone hopeful with your style of constructive criticism?
  • Are you able to point out the strong as well as the weak?
  • Is the person asking for feedback looking for casual or detailed and intense?
  • Is the person your addressing looking for constructive criticism or encouragement?

Some things to consider when seeking constructive criticism from others:

  • Do you really want the truth or do you just want to hear you are good at something?
  • Are you asking the right people? (those who have more experience/success)?
  • Were you left with a feeling of hope or hopelessness?
  • What's the intensity level you are looking for, casual feedback or detailed & intense?
  • Do you invite people into your life to give feedback or have you built your life to be unapproachable? Are you the singer that's been terrible for years but no one has courage to tell you?
  • Are you seeking out people who carry the same core values to give you constructive criticism (remember - not people who are exactly like you, just carry the same core values)

I hope that helps you to begin to view constructive criticism as something that can be valuable, helpful, and even welcomed into your life with the right motive and the right person.

Friday, August 6, 2010

"Reality is just not good enough for me anymore!" (from the movie Inception)

*Spoiler alert* Don’t read if you haven’t watched Inception yet!

As one who dreams often, and vividly (ever since I was a little girl), Inception was one movie I was really looking forward to. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint. I could tell immediately from the previews whoever wrote this script was a dreamer himself.

There were so many times they made references to dreams that I could really relate to. Like, when Cobb says “Dreams feel real while we’re in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.” How many times has that happened where, when trying to describe your dream to someone the next day you start saying “now this is going to sound very weird, but in my dream it was normal!”

Then there was the scene where Cobb takes his protégé to the world that he and Mal built. I have constructed similar cities in my dreams, vast and empty and abandoned, waiting to be filled with people and ideas. I have visited old homes I once lived in, and places I have affection for from when I was a little girl. I have gone up and down the elevators of memories to different levels. Some are light and bright and full of joy, and some are dark and deep and not often visited.

Another aspect of dreaming that is so true is that you “never really remember the beginning of a dream, do you? You always wind up right in the middle of what’s going on.” And, “in a dream, your mind functions more quickly. Therefore, time seems to feel slower. Five minutes in the real world gives you an hour in the dream.” Again, so true! I can wake up at 8am, look at the clock, fall back asleep for 30 minutes and feel like I’ve dreamed a whole night’s worth of dreams!

Coming next is one of my favorite parts of the movie. The strategy for inception in Fischer’s mind:

Cobb: “I will split up my Father’s empire”. Now this is obviously an idea that Robert himself will choose to reject. Which is why we need to plant it deep in his subconscious. The subconscious is motivated by emotion, right? Not reason. Which is why we need to find a way to translate this into an emotional concept.

Arthur: How do you translate a business strategy into an emotion?

Cobb: That’s what we ‘re going to figure out. Fischer’s relationship with his father is stressed to say the least.

Eames: Can we fun with that? We could suggest breaking up the company as a “screw you” to the old man.

Cobb: No, because I think positive emotion trumps negative emotion every time. We all yearn for reconciliation. For catharsis. We need Robert Fischer to have a positive emotional reaction to all this.

Eames: Well, why don’t we try this? “My father accepts that I want to create for myself, not follow in his footsteps.”

Cobb: That might work.

I love it! Once again, a key revelation we should remember. A positive emotion trumps negative emotion every time. Sometimes we believe the power of negative experiences is the ultimate power. But they tapped into something so true here, true for life and for dreams. Positive trumps negative, every time. Even though their mission was to go in and plant a lie, therefore making the entire mission "evil", they still brought out that huge whopping nugget of truth - and accomplished their evil mission the very best way possible :-)

I say evil because the other premise of the movie was even when you have the very best of intentions, when you plant a lie in someone's soul, in their subconscious, eventually it will destroy them. Even if you meant it for good, to protect them, a lie is a lie. Lies destroy. So Cobb's experience with inception never did work for good. He learned the hard way with Mal and lost the thing that was most precious to him, and then unfortunately chose to do it again. Although I understand why he did it the 2nd time, to be reunited with his children. So, Cobb is still a good guy in my book. I just wonder if he'll learn that inception destroys, inception is the negative, and positive trumps negative every time.

To conclude, I want to quote Cobb's monologue with Mal in the end. This one made me tear up - so powerful:

Mal: I’m the only thing you do believe in anymore.

Cobb: I wish. I wish more than anything. But I can’t imagine you with all your complexity, all your perfection, all your imperfection. Look at you. You are just a shade of my real wife. You’re the best I can do; but I’m sorry, you are just not good enough.

That statement was so powerful to me. He recognized that even in his deepest levels of his subconscious he could never imagine his wife in all her complexities. He let her go because she was just a snap shot of who he knew. Even in the lifetime they'd already had together, he only knew a "shade" of her. Woman was created with so many mysteries and levels of depth. It would take a man many lifetimes to explore them all, and it would take him an eternity to understand them all. A man who is willing and eager to pursue and explore all of that, well...that's one you want to hold onto. That my friends, is love worth fighting for.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hi all!

I just wanted to log in today and blog a little bit about what my world has been like (and will be like for the next couple months) and to touch base with you all.

Every summer my family and I go to North Dakota (yes for the whole summer). My husband's parents own a ranch here and we are blessed to stay with them, and have been doing this routine for 7 years now. It's a unique opportunity to be able to live the city life during the school months and the farm life during the summer. This also means my personal routine changes a bit (less time to blog and do the things that require personal time for me). And then as we were unpacking I realized I forgot my book, "The Flipside" so I can't finish my blog on personal constraints that hold you back in life.

The good news is I did bring some other great books to read this summer that I plan on blogging about so no worries! I just won't be able to blog as often.

I really appreciate all my readers, and starting this blog this year has been such a fun experience. Please bear with me as the summer months steal me away, and thanks so much for faithfully coming to visit!



Thursday, May 20, 2010

Start Your Day Off Right!

This morning I saw this video on Facebook and it was just what I needed to start my day off right! I have had a crazy month of activity including a HUGE garage sale, several miscellaneous appointments, birthday parties, goodbye parties, school recitals, and more! I was starting to feel like life was just taking over.

I was also starting to feel like everyone else seems to do life better than me. Do you ever get in that mode where you begin to compare yourself to those around you? I should know better, that kind of thinking never puts me in a good mood. The problem is, there is always going to be someone that does something better than me. Like, there has to be a million women out there who are skinnier than me, and managed to lose more than 10 FREAKIN pounds over the course of 9 months! There has to be a million women who have a cleaner house than me (who am I kidding, 2 million!). Surely there are at least a million people that blog better than I do. There are better parents than me, better wives than me, better sisters than me, better cooks than me, and the list could go on and on and on forever!

But then I saw this video. And today I'm going to take instruction from a little girl with a big idea. "Out of the mouth of babes..." right? Well I hope you can follow my lead today (or rather Jessica's lead). Drop the negative self-dialogue, drop the comparisons, and just repeat after Jessica..."I can do anything good, I like my hair, I like my body, I like my husband, I like my kids, I like my house, my whole house is great, I can do anything yeah yeah yeah yeah..."

Friday, May 14, 2010

What is Holding You Back in Life? Part II:

Fourth Killer Constraint: The Critic (Too Demanding, Nitpicky, or Harsh)

Critics tend to be very intelligent, and at the heart of their nature, I believe they are the world’s problem solvers. They see the flaws of this world and they have the answer. However, they could really work on their delivery and their attitude. No one enjoys constant criticism (even if you add the word “constructive” to it). Critics tend to focus on the flaws, so the flaws become so big in their mind that they can’t see anything else. Critics don’t take time to smell the roses, they just complain about the thorns. Critics can also be very judgmental, and they love building cases against people or organizations. Critics can be near impossible to live with and they often times end up isolated and alone.

One of the most important things for a Critic to learn is restraint. Critics need to earn the right to give input and opinion, especially if it is a negative one. I came across this article about how the brain process negative information vs. positive information and found this quote to be very interesting: “How many positives are needed to offset one negative? At least two-to-one, experts say. Researchers have concluded that when applying this formula to our most intimate relationships, the ratio of positives must be even higher. Among those researchers is psychologist Dr. John Gottman at the University of Washington. Gottman says the formula should be five-to-one for married couples.” Here is the link if you would like to read the entire article: http://www.kyria.com/topics/marriagefamily/marriage/communication/7.26.html

Critics would be wise to keep that ratio in mind, two-to-one in normal relationships, five-to-one in intimate relationships. Flip says that children who have critics as parents are “destined to have a fear of failure.” (pg. 92)

How do you deal with a critic? Validation is extremely important to a Critic. Telling them they make good points and communicating to them that you will take their advice into consideration will greatly reduce their anxiety, and it will model for them how to interact with others in a positive fashion.

Try not to take it personally when a Critic comes at you with all of their opinions. It’s not really about you, it’s about the way they see the world. If you are feeling overwhelmed, tell them. And ask them if they could point out the positives along with the negatives.

Fifth Killer Constraint: Icebergs (Low Nurturing)

Icebergs are the world’s highest achievers. They are independent trail-blazers that work best alone, and they have little or no value for other people. It’s not that they don’t love others, it’s that generally they don’t need others. I believe Icebergs were born to run ahead of the crowd in order to discover new things. Their nature is to do it alone. But because of this, they can seem very cold, distant, unloving and devoid of affection. Icebergs usually don’t say out-loud what they are feeling or thinking inside. So they may feel very passionate about someone or something, but they don’t remember to express it. This in turn makes the people around them feel shut out. Icebergs think logically not emotionally. Flip says “They can be distant, demanding parents, and they make tough, detached bosses.” (pg. 97)

My oldest son, Nick tested very high on the Iceberg scale. I’ve been working with him to develop this constraint at a young age, because I know if I left it and didn’t address it, it could really hold him back in life. One thing I’ve done is constantly stressed to him that right now he doesn’t feel like he “needs” his brothers, but one day he will. One day they will be his best friends and they will share their ups and downs of life, and be there for each other like no one else will. I told him one day, “Nick, you don’t even like sleeping alone so you need your brothers just to sleep at night.” He thought about it and said very non-emotionally “Well, I only need one of them to sleep at night.” Hehe, let’s just say it’s a work in progress.

Icebergs need to change the way they see others. They need to see that people all around them have true value. Not because of what they can do for you, but because of who they are. Training themselves to outwardly show value and affection for people will make them much more approachable.

How do you deal with Icebergs? It is best to be direct. Asking questions like, “do you love me, do you like what I did, are you mad at me?” will work well with them. Think of them as a well of information that you have to patiently draw from. And remember, they are not purposely withholding information. It is just not natural for them to offer it up. Be prepared for them to accuse you of being needy. It’s not you, it’s them.

Sixth Killer Constraint: Flatliners (Low Passion, Vision or Drive)

Flatliners struggle with accomplishing anything. They are very indecisive and they often times float through life trying to find where they fit in. They have a hard time identifying what they are good at and feel like they don’t know themselves very well. Many times they are able to maintain a lifestyle like this because somewhere someone is supporting them (usually enabling parents, sometimes an enabling spouse). Passivity can be devastating. Flip states that research has found that passion and drive are learned behavioral traits. But once you pass the age of 30, it is extremely difficult to develop those two things.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “If you do what you love and are passionate about, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Flatliners really need to find something that brings them joy, and then pour their energy into that thing. Flatliners also need to get rid of excuses they have been using their whole lives, show up early and push themselves harder.

Without Flatliners in the world everyone would be super uptight. It’s ok to appreciate easy-going laid-back personalities. To motivate them though, offer small rewards for completed tasks or goals. Baby steps are the key for Flatliners. Small successes will build their confidence and soon they will have large successes.

Next blog: Bulldozers, Turtles, Volcanos, and Quick Draws.