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Welcome to my guest blogger Melissa Hebert, award winning writer and editor!

When did Halloween become such a big deal?

I thought it was just me feeling a bit bah-humbuggy about Halloween this year. Then other friends started sharing on Facebook their own ambivalence about Halloween. As it often happens on social media, I felt a little less alone.

Halloween has become part of the Holiday Season Industrial Complex, and thus has become excessive in a way I find repellent. humbug hats

A generation ago, Halloween was simply dress the kids up in costumes and send them out to trick-or-treat. Now, the grown-ups have co-opted Halloween and taken it over. They have to have their own costumes and participate in zombie walks. In my old neighborhood in Ohio, some parents dressed up to go trick-or-treating with their kids … and brought their own bags for candy.

If you don’t think we’re going a bit nuts for Halloween, here’s a tidbit for you. The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans will spend $6.9 billion on Halloween candy, costumes, decorations, etc. That’s more than $75 for each person participating in Halloween activities.

This is where leadership comes in. Leaders ask hard questions like, is all this Halloween hoopla really the best use of our precious time and hard-earned money? Like a business, a family has only so much time, money and physical/emotional resources. In a family, the adults are the leaders and have to set the priorities, and that means saying “no” to themselves and their own impulses as well as those of their children.

My Pinterest feed is filled with friends pinning ideas for Halloween decorations, treats, entertainment and costumes. One friend is expected to decorate her work cubicle for a Halloween decorating competition. My former workplace is having a Halloween costume competition. At home, a kid-carved jack-o’-lantern on the front porch isn’t enough anymore. Now the yard should be decorated with lights, mums, cornstalks, faux gravestones, faux spider webs, and my husband’s particular bête noire, inflatables. Inside, there should be Halloween tchotchkes, special bowls just for Halloween candy, and gold-leafed gourds and acorns.

Most of this work – planning, shopping, decorating, baking, costume-making – falls on women, mothers especially. It becomes part of the Mommy Wars competition. Moms who makes their kids’ costumes by hand “win” over moms who buy costumes at Target or on Amazon. Moms who make color-coordinated, Halloween-themed homemade caramel apples “win” over moms who make chocolate-chip cookies. Moms who make sure their kids go to all the corn mazes “win” over moms who don’t fill every autumn weekend with memorable things to do. And it all must be documented in Facebook albums, Shutterfly memory books, Vine videos and Instagram feeds.candy

But does any of this really make Halloween more special for the children? I doubt it. My Halloween memories were about my friends and me putting on costumes – no one cared if they were homemade or store-bought – then going out and getting lots of candy. The only roles our parents played on Halloween were as chauffeurs during trick-or-treating and killjoys who wouldn’t let us eat all the candy we wanted to afterwards. Are adults really doing all this Halloween stuff for the children … or for themselves?

Recent years have seen more of us reflecting on our excesses of the holiday season, focusing largely on Christmas. Maybe it’s time for the grown-ups to reflect more on Halloween excess, and their role in it, and let it go.

Melissa Hebert is an award-winning sportswriter, a copy editor, a news reporter and editor, a lifestyle and entertainment writer and editor, a social media manager, and a marketing copywriter. She has a blog, Domestic Putterings. Melissa lives with her husband, and their iguana and turtle, in New Jersey.



Furloughs and GYPSY’s

Living in the DC metro area these last several weeks has been very interesting. The government employs many of the citizens here, as well as numerous sub-contractors. When the October 1 announcement on the furlough hit, most of my federal clients thought it was only going to be for a few days. But every day I was getting emails that they had to cancel their meetings with me. It sure freed up my schedule, and it turned out to be the slow-down I needed to ramp up my business development efforts on the private sector side. And am I glad I did that! I closed two very nice pieces of business last week, and was able to focus on developing new programs and researching best-practices and the latest buzz about Millennials. 

LucyThe HuffPost College article on Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy, introducing me to "GYPSYs" (Gen Y Protagonists & Special Yuppies) that went viral was particularly intriguing to me. And apparently to others as well. Many bloggers resonated with Gen Y Lucy and her story about being wildly ambitious, only to land in a world full of unrealistic opportunities to fulfill their personal dreams. (I was also corrected that Gen Y and Millennials are not synonymous as I had been lead to believe in my research. Millennials are now 15-24 years old and Gen Y are 25-33-ish. I need to rethink on this one, and am open to this new distinction.)

They write about a simple formula: Happiness= Reality – Expectations. Makes sense to me. When our life is better than we hoped for, we are happy. If reality is a big disappointment compared to the vision you have for yourself, then you are unhappy. So what can we do to level-set expectations? To reinvigorate the Millennials so they come into their own with some optimism and realism?

I learned another acronym as well FOMO – Fear of Missing Out. Another phenomenon the Millennials are experiencing. The "I want it and I want it now" mindset, that I also had. The HuffPost article blasts a reality of three tips:

    1. Stay wildly ambitious.
    2. Stop thinking you're special.
    3. Ignore everyone else.

The more and more I read and learn about the Millennial condition, the more and more it sounds like my experience in 1985-1991. The first few years of my career I was finding my way, I hadn't found my calling. I wasn't excited, I struggled financially, I bartended at night to pay for the extra things I wanted and dreamed for myself. BUT, there were not all the extra-curricular activites available to me like there are today. Millennials tell me all the time, they want a blended life. They will work hard until their work is done, but then they want to take a nap in the afternoon like they did in college. Get out at 5 pm so they can work out and go serve in the soup kitchen. Then socialize with their friends, or play on the internet and social networking sites at night. networking2

I also learned about Facebook Image Crafting. I was not aware that I was probably doing this too. This described that the very public postings we put out there paint a picture that may be over inflated. That the people posting about their careers must be doing really well, leaving others feeling that they must be deficient in some way. Well, this all left me feeling a little bad for Lucy, and her friends. And if I look back I was not all that satisfied with my life then either. It does get better. And the more open I was to mentoring, networking and stretching out of my comfort zone, the easier it got.

Here are some nuggets I offer as a result:

  1. No one expects the Millennials to have all the answers. It's OK to ask questions.
  2. Go meet someone new at work every day. It's still who you know, not what you know, that separates you from the bunch.
  3. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Image and first impression management is still alive and well.
  4. Find a leader you admire, that seems to have the same values you have and is well thought of in the organization. Tell them you admire them; ask them a lot of questions about their career journey. Ask them to be a mentor.

Chinese Beauty

It is my pleasure to post another blog from Lexie Ermi regarding her observations of cultural nuances in Hong Kong.

The situation she describes here gives me pause. I cannot imagine what it would be like to embrace a "truth" like these young girls face. I have had the honor of working with many Asian women, and every one of them are competent, driven and beautiful. It saddens me that this pressure is pervasive in Hong Kong. Self-esteem is critical to development.

Thank you Lexie for reminding us that this world has a long way to go. In an article I read this past weekend about Why Most Women Will Never Become CEO, the author talks about the reality of appearance with women remains a significant criteria in getting noticed professionally. When will character and competence reign over physical beauty?  


hongkong"In Hong Kong, beauty maintains a high premium. In China the view of beauty is more convoluted than it is in Hong Kong because in Hong Kong there is more of a Western influence, but the insidious effects from Mainland China's view of beauty have crept into the way Hong Kongers view beauty as well. I saw the effects in my students and the way they treated both me and my team. 

When we were in training, one of the leaders from Mainland shared a story with us that illustrates the way the Chinese view their women. Our leader and his wife adopted a little girl from China and wanted to get her a doll that looked like her. Those are big with little girls. I had a Bitty baby with blonde hair and blue eyes when I was little and she was my very favorite toy. But he and his wife discovered a sad truth when they tried to find this doll for their little girl. No stores, not a single one in China, sells Chinese baby dolls. Every single doll looks like a Western girl. You cannot find Chinese baby dolls in China. Chinese beauty is not celebrated in any way; indeed the girls are condemned for not looking like Western girls. What kind of message does it send to a little girl when her "lookalike" doll looks like a blonde, blue-eyed girl instead of looking like herself?

The trend of dislike towards Asian beauty continues for these girls as they grow up. When we took our kids out one evening, they took us to a "sticker booth." This is a booth where as many people as is physically possible cram into a booth and take photos of themselves. Our girls wanted to take pictures with me and my teammate Megan. As we stood with them preparing to take the photos, they kept telling us how beautiful we were and how they were not beautiful at all. The photos can be doctored at the end on a kiosk, and as the girls showed us how to do that, they told us that this was where they made themselves beautiful. They do not think that they are beautiful at all, merely because they have dark eyes, dark hair, and yellow skin. Seeing this idea in action, seeing this truth in the girls I taught for three weeks, was heart-breaking. And the truth is that they are all beautiful; they just don't see it because they have been taught to think that Western girls with blonde hair and blue eyes and fair skin are more beautiful. hkstudents

Even the boys feed this stereotype for the girls. Nearly every boy that I taught told me I was beautiful. None of them told me I was nice or smart or kind; at least not until they actually got to know me. The initial reception we all received, arriving in Hong Kong as Westerners, was overwhelming adulation of our looks merely because we were Western. Even Dylan, our single male on the team, was constantly told how handsome he was and how much the boys wished they looked like him. One girl even asked me if everybody in the United States had "pretty blue eyes" like I do.

I think they are all beautiful. They have lovely, almond shaped eyes and the smoothest, darkest, shiniest hair I've ever seen. I, with my ridiculously curly hair in the 100% humidity, was very much in awe of that hair. But they don't see it. They do not realize they are beautiful because no one tells them, and instead even the culture itself reinforces this understanding that Western beauty is the ideal. It is tragic for those girls and boys." hkboy

When I googled "Beauty pics" to possibly post on here, I went through at least 40 images before I found a person of color, and even then, only one black woman and three middle-eastern women. Not one Asian. The vast majority were light hair, light eyes. I am troubled.


Compassion and its Role in Leadership

One of the infinite benefits of being a graduate of Georgetown University's Leadership Coaching Masters Program, is the network of gifted and talented coaches. An outrageously generous community that shares abundantly and is a resource for incredible insights. I am always inspired by the collective wisdom of this group, and for some reason, I was particularly moved by the following perceptions. Enjoy!

Maryanne Honeycutt Elliott, founder of The Acorn Group posed the question to our Georgetown alumni about how we define compassion and gives this background regarding her inquiry:

"I was curious about the question for many reasons, and particularly since my instinct says that compassion is a dynamic which exists outside of suffering, or clear physical or emotional distress (death, illness, divorce, etc.). The etymology (as mentioned by one of our alums) says that the word comes from "to suffer." However, most responses from this our colleagues and other social media sites where I posted the question did not include suffering, but to me, had a broader definition. Additionally, compassion in a more traditional sense could be seen as more "reactive" and in response to something that has already happened. I suggest looking at the impact of compassion when it is proactive and embodied in the leader, and believe this has great significance.... What does this look like? What transformation is possible? How could this shape the future? And finally, I believe compassion has the power to weave through every day activities, including those things we don't like, perhaps letting someone go, giving difficult feedback, etc. and possible change both self and others when we approach with compassion. "compassion-11

Dan Blohowiak reminds us:

The root of compassion is passion, which literally means "to suffer."

The prefix "Com" means "with."

So, compassion literally means "to suffer with another."

To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it is to feel, to be sensitive to another's pain.

In the workplace, there are many forms of suffering. The wounds of wasted time, of indignities, frustrations, slights, physical and psychic challenges. And on and on.

A compassionate person is, with a nod to Carl Rogers, OTHER centered -- focused not on one's own suffering but attuned to, caring about, patient with, accepting of, and responsive to (easing) the suffering of others.

That's what compassionate means to me.

Hope that is helpful in some small way.

Here is what Bettina Fiery shared:

"I work in a healthcare environment; we use the following definition for compassion (one of our core values):

We demonstrate a visible attitude of kindness and empathy and see the value of each person.
Healthcare is a service with a central focus on compassion. We strive to provide compassionate care and service to members of our community. We must focus on the feelings and attributes of our customers, both internal and external. We must assess their needs and strive to exceed them. We can best fulfill these needs by asking questions and understanding the feelings and preferences of those we serve and with whom we work. We seek to develop trusting and respectful relationships with each other.
Key Behaviors:

• Fully focused and present with active listening, not just hearing; use good eye contact and facial expressions that demonstrate care and genuine interest, and non-verbal behaviors match words.

• Honor and respect the uniqueness of each individual.

• Treat all individuals as equal regardless of perceived differences. Be non-judgmental and accepting of other's appearance, culture, etc. Respect cultural diversity by recognizing individual differences and support those differences. Be considerate and respond to the diverse needs of the people we serve.

• Prioritize work based on the needs of the customer." hands

Vinay Kumar of Teoco Company offers his perspective: "To me compassion is being attuned and sensitive to others' needs, pain, and suffering. AND then being willing and ready, from a place of deep genuine care, to do whatever one can do to one's best of abilities to support others in whatever way is needed, keeping their interest at heart. To build on your question, how does one know when one is in the presence of a compassionate soul? What does one observe, experience, and feel in the presence of such an individual?"

Eve Konstantine shares her thoughts:

"For me, it brings up another question perhaps worthy of debate: What do we gain by defining compassion in the workplace as distinct from compassion anywhere else?

I feel it's exactly these well-developed, long held patterns of compartmentalization that contribute to the dis-jointed, disaffected and fractured-ness of our lives in these most busy and complex times.

If we could promote a workplace where our humanity need not be checked at the door, then I think we'd end up with more content, integrated, productive employees, who could feel safe showing up as whole and authentic human beings.

I offer this as a sincere opening of a meta-conversation about the workplace as a broad domain, not a rejection of the initial question. I am sincerely curious as to what others think. Am I naïve? Are our culturally honed workplace personas just a fact of life? Can we collectively imagine a world where we travel seamlessly through the doors of home/workplace and home again without applying masks and armor?"

Lynne Brown, sees compassion from this lens:

I love this Sharing the Heart piece from Pema Chodron. This is what compassion means to me.

Sharing the heart is a simple practice that can be used at any time and in every situation. It enlarges our view and helps us remember our interconnection. The essence of this practice is that when we encounter pain in our life we breathe into our heart with the recognition that others feel this. It's a way of acknowledging when we are closing down and of training to open up. When we encounter any pleasure or tenderness in our life, we cherish that and rejoice. Then we make the wish that others could also experience this delight or this relief. In a nutshell, when life is pleasant, think of others. When life is a burden, think of others. If this is the only training we ever remember to do, it will benefit us tremendously and everyone else as well. It's a way of bringing whatever we encounter onto the path of awakening bodhichitta. compassionsign

Hsuan-hua Chang's contribution to the conversation is:

"Compassion is the ability to feel another person's pain or joy and deeply know what it must be like to be them. It implies a strong connection without losing one's emotional boundaries."

"When an individual's capacity to compassion is limited, he or she will tend to withdraw and disconnect emotionally from others when he or she is challenged or feels at risk emotionally in any way. The result of disconnection can be profound." ~ From EQ Fitness Handbook.

Personally, I think in the workplace, the stress makes a big impact to one's capacity to be compassionate. Fear-based cultures also minimize our capacity for compassion.
I think the context leads to more implication about how compassion is defined by individuals."

I want to thank everyone who agreed to this compilation. Compassion is one of those leadership competencies, that in the fury of ROI and bottom-line, gets minimized. Strategic thinking and result-driver will never fall off the performance management radar. And when you see a leader that possesses compassion, you can feel a difference in the culture and they way a team responds to crises. Like training and development gets cut in tight fiscal times, rewards for compassion may not be as visible. I challenge us all to reach deep and define compassion for ourselves, our teams, our families and lives.

Recent Comments
Guest — Renee Charney
What a beautiful collection of inspiration, Lori! Thank you so much for sharing this with the world. As I read through the words, ... Read More
Saturday, 14 September 2013 18:36
Guest — niki mathias
Thanks so much for taking the time to compile and share this - I LOVE our community! == niki mathias
Saturday, 14 September 2013 23:50

Back to School: Lessons from My First Grader

pencilsIt is hard to believe my 'baby' is going to be a first grader this week. I tried to be diligent this summer with reading, writing and arithmetic so she did not lose all the things she learned in Kindergarten since Robert Fulgram wrote that is all he really needed to know. 

As an entrepreneur-working woman, I found that I was a bit stressed trying to make sure she was writing in her journal, reading, practicing letters, while keeping focused on my work. I have tremendous admiration for stay-at-home mom's and dad's that integrate just about every profession into the course of their day. And the teachers! Wow, I cannot say enough for the care, concern, patience and resilience they project each day. I personally think they deserve the summer off after recently taking a sabbatical from my Sunday School work only one Sunday a month. It was exhausting! 

The first-grader is so good about taking one day at a time. When I ask her if she is excited to go to school, she says yes, but not like it is going to be Christmas or anything. In the last few days before the first day of school, the neighborhood has come alive with every kid congregating in one of our yards. Ripsticks, bicycles, scooters, playhouses, coloring, Legos, board games, dancing, singing, gymnastics, yard tennis, flashlight tag – and that was just today! The energy is astounding. Enjoying each moment for what it brings. Learning coping skills about conflict, disappointment and rejection along the way. And be an observer so you can learn more.

backtoschoolpicSummer winds down, and parents are counting down the seconds to freedom and creating new routines and structure.

I want to take some of these observations and apply them to my life. Take each moment and make the very best of it. Be grateful for the amount of variety I have in my day having my own business, and celebrating the instants of victory with my coaching clients.

If you haven't seen Robert's sage advice, here is a reminder.

fulghumbook"These are the things I learned (in Kindergarten):

  1. Share everything.
  2. Play fair.
  3. Don't hit people.
  4. Put things back where you found them.
  6. Don't take things that aren't yours.
  7. Say you're SORRY when you HURT somebody.
  8. Wash your hands before you eat.
  9. Flush.
  10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  11. Live a balanced life - learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.
  12. Take a nap every afternoon.
  13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
  14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Stryrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
  16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK."

― Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten




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