Sing in your own voice

be your authentic selfLike many famous singers of his time, Johnny Cash cut his musical teeth on gospel hymns. Music helped “J.R.” and his family escape some of the physical hardship and poverty of farming in the depression years.

Cash taught himself how to play the guitar and began writing songs while in the Army. It was there, in 1953, that he wrote Folsom Prison Blues. After his discharge, he moved to Memphis and – while working at a job he hated — put together a band. Much of what they played was gospel.

Believing he could have a successful career as a musician, Cash talked his way into an audition with Sam Phillips at Sun Records. During that audition the band played what they knew best – gospel hymns.

It didn’t take Sam Phillips long to stop them. “I can’t market this stuff. Everyone is doing it.”

Now I don’t know if it happened exactly like this, word for word, but in the movie Walk the Line, Sam Phillips tells Cash, “If you had only an hour to live, sing the song that you want to be known for.”

Cash then sang his own creation, Folsom Prison Blues, and his career as a singer/songwriter took off like a rocket. With his earthy voice and his unique style blending country, rock, blues and gospel influences, he achieved unimaginable success and fame as “The Man in Black.”

Sam Phillips told Johnny Cash to sing his own song — to speak with his own voice — to be authentically himself.

Through all eternity, there will only be one authentic Johnny Cash.

What About You?

If you only had one hour to live, what song would you sing?

What do you want to be known and remembered for? What is the mark you want to make?

Just imagine what might be possible for you if you radically embraced your authentic self and became the best YOU that you can be!

So how do you find that most authentic first rate version of yourself? These four steps will help you discover and be faithful to the indisputable YOU.

  1. Notice–Notice when you feel energized. Notice when you lean forward. Notice when you feel that shiver of electricity, that spark of excitement. What are you hearing, seeing, doing? Notice when you are bored. Notice what drains you. Notice what you tune out and what you avoid. These are all clues to your most authentic self.
  2. Reflect and remember–Take a few quiet minutes alone and remember a time from your childhood, likely in adolescence, when you felt a deep or powerful sense of connection to the world around you. Recall a time of heightened awareness when you had an epiphany about your own potential, about who you really are in a powerfully positive sense, or when you felt a connection to all beings and all nature. Don’t over think this, just let the memory come and reflect how it informs you.
  3. Discernment—Our noticing and reflections move us toward making choices that are not always clear-cut or easy. Discernment involves going past the ordinary perception of something and making nuanced judgments about your choices. It’s a deliberative, reflective decision-making process. Let’s say you’re trying to decide between two different paths. For one week, completely inhabit what it would be like to live out choosing one direction. You “act as if” the choice has been made. The next week, completely inhabit what it would be like to live out the choosing the other direction. Pay close attention to how you feel in each direction. Those feelings will tell you the truth about yourself.
  4. Prioritize—Now that you know more about who you are at the core, take some time away from work and home and ask yourself three essential questions: What two or three things do you want to accomplish in the rest of your life? What two or three things can you do in the next year to progress toward those desires? What two or three things can you do in the next 90 days to move toward those goals?

Know thyself

Most women I know have so many choices, so many obligations, we can easily get pulled off our own path and lose our own voice.

I experienced something similar myself recently (which might explain why that movie scene had a big enough impact that I felt the need to write about it!).

Then a new friend and I were discussing the Myers Briggs personality profile, comparing our personality types. When I told her my type, she read the description out loud:

“[They] see helping others as their purpose in life…their real passion is to get to the heart of the issue…need to find meaning in their work, to know that they are helping and connecting with people…using love and compassion to soften the hearts of others.”

I could feel the truth of those words resonate throughout my whole body.

That’s who I am. That’s my reason to exist. I get to continue breathing this air and taking up space on this planet to be my own version of that person.

That’s why I keep pecking away at this keyboard, to share these thoughts with you!

Take the same gift that Sam Phillips gave to Johnny Cash: Sing your own song, in your own voice, with all the passion in your heart.

Take care,

Darcie Harris

 

P.S. I love what Judy Garland said, “Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”

I hope she doesn’t sit next to me

open to possibilitiesAs I sat in the Southwest Airlines lounge waiting to board my plane last week, I noticed an unusual older woman.

She wore a flowered blouse, bright with spring pastels, a long earth-toned plaid skirt and around her neck hung a red knit scarf. Her shoulder length hair was held back with a very big bow.

She looked…well…eccentric. “I hope I don’t end up sitting next to her.” I thought to myself. I was looking forward to the time on this long flight to read.

If you’re thinking that I judged her based simply on her appearance, you’re sadly right.

I found a window seat, kept my head down, and my fingers crossed that she wouldn’t choose the open middle seat next to me.

She ended up sitting in the row behind me, along with a teenage boy who looked to be about sixteen. I breathed a sigh of relief and opened my book.

As the flight got underway, I heard her speak to the boy who shared her row, just asking him about his travels. I could tell he was reluctant at first, giving short replies. They chatted a bit and she asked him a bit more about himself. When he answered her questions, she would often reply, “Oh, that’s interesting. Tell me more.”

Bit by bit he opened up. Before long she was asking him about his plans and dreams for his life. And this teenage boy was telling her!

When we landed, the boy and the woman – total strangers two hours ago — hugged goodbye, as though she were his grandmother.

She was warm, kind, and empathic. She had a sweet gift of communication that enabled a sullen, uncommunicative teenage boy to open his heart and his imagination.

And I had judged her.

I hate to admit this, because I think of myself as being open and non-judgmental, but I had made a decision about her based simply on what she wore.

I was wrong. And not wanting to communicate with her was my loss.

That awareness led me to think about how many other times I had decided something, based on incomplete information. How many times had I closed my mind, based on assumptions that turned out to be inaccurate?

And what had that cost me?

Is it possible that you’ve done something similar, and that it’s holding you back in your business or your life?

What are we telling ourselves that may cause us to miss opportunities? What ideas have we become so attached to that we are no longer open to new ideas and possibilities?

Here are four opinions I’ve heard people share in the last week — opinions they are convinced are absolutely “right:”

  • Millennials are spoiled, self-entitled and can’t contribute anything meaningful to the business world
  • Connecting on social media is a waste of time
  • Taking time for networking takes us away from “real” work
  • Spending money on marketing does no good

Maybe you agree with these opinions, maybe you don’t. My point isn’t to say these opinions are right or wrong. What I’m interested in, for both you and me, is the possibility of blind spots like my own — of reflective assumptions made without all the information, assumptions that may cause us to miss possibilities.

Seeing this oddly dressed woman, followed by the privilege of overhearing her endearing conversation with a typically sullen teenage boy, reminded me of the importance of staying open.

My commitment to making sure I foster an open mindset involves four steps:

  1. Catch myself when I have a strong reaction to something
  2. Ask myself the question, “What am I telling myself about this?”
  3. Be intentional about opening my mind to a new perspective
  4. Re-frame the issue with a more positive viewpoint

So often we think it’s external factors that keep us from what we want, when it might just be our own head trash that gets in the way. That’s actually good news! We have control over our own stuff, and can’t control what’s external.

Here’s to new and improved possibilities in 2015!

Coming up for air…lessons about change

ChangeIt’s been eight weeks now, since my big change — moving to Southern California — and I finally have my head above water.

The most frequently used word in my vocabulary these last weeks has been “change.” Moving to another state meant changing literally everything.

From my software to my social life. From my health insurance to my hair stylist (miss you Gary!). From my writing schedule (obviously, since this is my first post in eight weeks!) to my wardrobe (don’t need those heavy sweaters now).

The entire rhythm of my life changed. Familiar things are gone. Most things are new and different.

There’s an old saying, “When nothing changes, nothing changes. When something changes, everything changes.” I definitely found the truth in that statement.

Reflections on navigating change

Change has both positive and negative ramifications.

The downside? I no longer know where to find things in my own home (still haven’t found my collection of olive oils and balsamic vinegars from my travels). I don’t know how to find places I need to be. I don’t know who to call for frequently used services.

So things that were automatic take more time than they did before. And more money. Change temporarily slows you down and change is expensive.

The upside? I love where I live now. I love the climate and the views. I love the intellectual stimulation of new business connections. I’m energized by new conversations and new opportunities. The benefits far outweigh the costs.

Change is both healthy and revitalizing. But more than that, it’s necessary. A business that doesn’t change with the times or with the market grows irrelevant. A person who doesn’t change grows stale and uninteresting.

What changes do you need to make?

As you look to the brand new year of 2015, consider all the changes you may need to make.

Five lessons learned

Consider these five lessons I learned from my big change:

1) Get help. I absolutely couldn’t have made this move without the help of friends on both ends of the move. Friends who helped me pack and unpack. Friends who helped me figure out logistics, listened to me think out loud about the hundreds of decisions this change required. Friends who took care of things and took care of me, both emotionally and physically. Professional like my attorney and my bookkeeper who provided expert wisdom. Enlist all the help you can.

2) Break the process of change into themes. You’ll feel less fragmented (therefore less crazy!) if you tackle areas with a common denominator. Consider all areas of your business or your life and try to anticipate the consequences of each area. How will this change affect your financial plans and institutions, your technology, your people, your logistics, your vendors, your family? As much as possible, have conversations with everyone involved and ask them for their input. They will likely think of things to consider that haven’t occurred to you. Your plan for change will be greatly improved by their input.

3) Make a budget — then double it. Be realistic about the financial cost of change. There can be hidden costs that are difficult to see. While I planned well for the big moving expenses, I incurred plenty that I hadn’t anticipated. Small things (like needing to buy new storage organizing gadgets and paying fees to change legal documents) eventually add up. Anticipate as much as you can, but build in a cushion for those unexpected expenses.

4) Have Plan A and Plan B.  I love it when Plan A works out, but realistically it’s usually Plan B that becomes a reality. Think through all the “What if’s” and be as prepared as you can for the time when what you think is going to happen doesn’t.

5) Create space. The change process itself takes on a life of its own. You have to manage that process in addition to all the regular stuff. So create as much space as you can. Get as much off your plate as possible so that you have the margin to deal with the inevitable new tasks and decisions.

Personally, I like change – but mostly when it’s my idea! Change can feel scary for those who aren’t in charge of it. So you’ll need to do some hand-holding.

And even when you’re the one driving the change, there may come a point when you ask yourself, “What made me think this was a good idea?” Recognize up front that while the change will create wonderfully positive outcomes, while you’re in the middle of it, you will likely feel uncomfortable. Life feels foreign and strange. So you have to resist boomeranging back to what feels familiar. Trust yourself, and create new habits.

Once you do, you’ll emerge from the change process re-energized and ready for a new adventure!

Farewell Oklahoma…Hello California!

693I am writing from my new home in sunny southern California. Yes, I moved! Here’s how it all came together.

Fifteen years ago, I met a total stranger when he stepped on to the treadmill next to me at the gym. We began to chat, and within minutes ended up in a very deep conversation about life and work and being faithful to our own inner calling.

He mentioned a book: The Heart Aroused, by David Whyte. Greatly intrigued by his description, I drove directly to the bookstore on my way home from the gym and bought a copy.

I never knew this man’s name and never saw him again. But that chance encounter turned out to be life-changing.

David Whyte’s book spoke to me in a way no other book had. His words gave me the courage and inspiration to follow my heart and take numerous risks over the last fifteen years.

I just took one more leap of faith. I moved from Oklahoma to southern California, where I grew up and where a part of my heart has remained for thirty-five years.

Each time I traveled here, I felt my heart swell as I saw the blue Pacific, the graceful eucalyptus trees, the red tile roofs of Spanish colonial homes, the brilliant bougainvillea, and felt the warm sun even in December.

  • “Take any step toward our destiny through creative action and we know intuitively that we are giving up whatever cover we had.”

No kidding! I know exactly what he means, and I’ll bet you do too. There’s no safety and security when we go off the path and explore our own deep and genuine desires.

  • “In my experience, the more true we are to our own creative gifts the less there is any outer reassurance or help at the beginning. There is a certain early stage when we are left to camp out in the wilderness, alone, with few supporting voices. Out there in the silence we must build a hearth, gather the twigs, and strike the flint for the fire ourselves.”

There is an inescapable aloneness when we honor that authentic part of ourselves, no matter how many close friends we have. Some offer well-meaning words of caution. Others may think we’re just plain crazy.

But the loudest voice holding us back is often our own. It’s the part of us that craves safety and security. Our own interior voice says, “This is too risky. You’ve got to be careful. Be grateful for what you already have. The grass isn’t always greener elsewhere.”

I had many long conversations with that interior voice over the last few years, as I contemplated this move. My life was predictable and secure (well, secure is a relative term for any entrepreneur).

But I kept coming back to David Whyte’s words

  • “In effect, if we can see the path ahead laid out for us, there is a good chance it is not our path, it is probably someone else’s we have substituted for our own.”

I wanted my own path.

I believe life is a never-ending cycle of getting to know ourselves — listening to what energizes us, what brings us joy. To be truly authentic, we must honor those creative and, yes, sometimes radical desires, even when those dreams and desires draw us down a path that looks nothing at all like the paths others have chosen.

  • “There is surely a place for the strategic mind, the ability to plan, that lays out our every step in advance, but its ability to pay the monthly bills and figure out the social security tax can become an end in itself. What would it be like to link these powers of calculation and strategy with a radical embrace of the creative unknown, to put strategy in the service of soul?”

And so I put my strategic abilities to work, in service of my soul. My soul longed for California. Though I’ve lived in Oklahoma for thirty five years, I’m a California girl at heart, and that’s where you’ll find me now (hopefully watching the sunset over the Pacific!).

It only took me fifteen years (since reading The Heart Aroused for the first time) to gather the courage to act! I knew I was giving up the safety and security of the life I’d known for the last thirty five years.

But thanks to David Whyte’s words, my soul finally told me I was safe already, safe in my own experience.

I hope my personal story will inspire you to be attentive to the longings of your own soul (and to pay attention to those seemingly unimportant chance meetings!). I hope you’ll find the courage to do the work that you truly love and live in a place that feeds your soul.

I’d love to hear your story too! Tell me about it in the Comments section.

Farewell Oklahoma, hello California,

Darcie Harris

 

 

P.S. The only part of this decision I regret is that unforeseen circumstances prevented me from being able to say “Farewell” in person to hundreds of friends, neighbors, clients and business colleagues who have enriched my life and meant so much to me. So plan your next vacation in sunny southern California – we’ll get together and watch the sunset over the Pacific!

P.P.S.  My new contact information is: darcie@darcieharris.com www.darcieharris.com 821 Via Alhambra, Suite A Laguna Woods, CA. 92637 405.205.1124

 

Put eight gorillas in a room (or how corporate culture is created)

812Imagine this…you’ve got eight gorillas in a room with a bunch of bananas hanging from the ceiling and a ladder under the bananas.

The gorillas will race to climb the ladder to get the bananas, right?

Now imagine this: every time a gorilla starts up the ladder, you spray him with a fire hose. The gorillas learn pretty quickly to quit trying to reach those bananas!

Then, remove one of the original gorillas and replace him with a new gorilla.

The first thing the new gorilla will do is head up the ladder for those bananas. The next thing that will happen is the seven veteran gorillas will grab him and drag him down.

Then, one by one, remove another veteran gorilla and replace him with a new gorilla.

Here’s what you’ll end up with — eight gorillas that have never been sprayed with a fire hose, yet they’ll make no attempt to go near the bananas. But the real issue is that they don’t even know why!

So why am I talking about gorillas and bananas? Because this little parable shows you how corporate culture is created and passed on over time.

WHAT IS CORPORATE CULTURE?

The first thing to know is that your company has a corporate culture whether you have intentionally articulated it or not. Your business has a personality, just like every individual has a personality.

Corporate culture is not what YOU say it is…it’s a minestrone soup made from what OTHERS say about your business.

It’s what employees say to each other in the parking lot or over a beer. It’s what they say to friends and family. It’s what customers say when they talk ABOUT your business, not just TO you. It’s what vendors say about how it is to do business with you.

Your corporate culture is shaped by your values and your own behavior. You might say you want a culture of teamwork, initiative and respect. But are your actions consistently congruent with those values? You can write anything you want on a piece of paper and call it your values, but your true values are what you live.

TAKE 100% RESPONSIBILITY

So when you think about your corporate culture, the first place to look is in the mirror. Take a good look at yourself, then take 100% responsibility for the corporate culture you are creating.

There are no right and wrong values that make up your culture. (Well…I take that back. Aspiring to a culture of deception or dishonesty wouldn’t be very smart, would it?)

What I mean is that each business is different. Let’s say you run a marketing firm. Creativity and imagination would be important. But let’s say you run a pharmacy. I’m not sure I’d want to shop at a pharmacy that got creative with my prescriptions! But accuracy and precision would be important.

As a consultant and coach, it’s not up to me to decide or advise what your corporate culture SHOULD be. I have one client who is an absolute perfectionist. Perfection gives her a competitive advantage in her industry. I support that. I have another client who wants a culture of fun. I support that too.

However, I do suggest that you think very deeply about your corporate culture and what you’d like it to be. Once it’s established it’s very difficult to change. When you get clear on the culture you’d like to create, then make sure you live that out in your words and actions.

If you want a company with ambitious gorillas who reach for those bananas, then think twice before you spray them with a fire hose.

I’d love to learn more about your corporate culture. Tell me in the Comments section about the culture in your business, and how you created it.

Leadership for women entrepreneurs

leadership for women entrepreneursIn my wildest dreams, I wouldn’t have thought that Sean Connery could be the source of any insight for me, relevant to leadership for women entrepreneurs. After all, he’s got a quite reputation as a misogynist, right?

So I surprised myself when I saw a learning opportunity through his role in the movie The Untouchables.

The movie tells the story (somewhat fictionalized) of how treasury agent Elliot Ness, played by Kevin Costner, assembles a hand-picked team to bring Chicago crime boss Al Capone to justice. In a city consumed by corruption, Ness is determined, but idealistic.

That’s where Sean Connery comes in. He’s a wise, older cop with the street smarts that Ness lacks.

Ness will rant and rave about what Capone is getting away with and how the corruption within the police force itself is making it impossible to catch him. Each time he vents his frustrations about Capone being so elusive, Sean Connery looks him in the eye and says, “So what are you prepared to do about it?”

His words are tough and intended to provoke.

There were no easy answers in 1920’s Chicago. Ness was blocked at every turn and had to make tough choices and take risks. Connery was simply confronting him with one simple reality: you can keep complaining or you can do something about it. But you can’t do both.

What are you prepared to do about it?

I had to ask myself that question recently. I’d been ruminating on a business challenge that had me…well…stuck. One thought led to another, which led to another. There were too many moving parts and I found myself going in circles.

But more than that, I found myself complaining about it every time I got together with my closest friends. I was like a broken record. When I look back on it, I’m surprised they were even willing to have dinner with me!

Then I remembered Connery’s character, the crusty old street cop, saying bluntly to Elliot Ness, “What are you prepared to do about it?”

That memory propelled me into action. I still don’t have the issue resolved one hundred percent, but at least I have forward movement.

I’ve seen and heard plenty of business problems and complaints in my work with women entrepreneurs.

  • I can’t afford to hire good people.
  • I never seem to have time to do what’s important.
  • My employees just aren’t motivated.
  • I just can’t seem to get organized.
  • My employees won’t work as a team.
  • I want my business to grow but the marketing people aren’t effective.

Leadership for women entrepreneurs

We can all benefit from talking over the problems and challenges we face; getting input and fresh perspectives is smart. But as women entrepreneurs, in the end, we have to act.

It’s tough to face the reality that we do have choices. Even if all our choices are ugly, frightening or risky, we do have choices.

If what we have been doing (which might be nothing!) isn’t working, making excuses won’t help. It’s time to get out of the rut and do something different. And that likely means coming out of our comfort zone.

The authors of The Oz Principle (a great book about accountability) have a powerful line. “Success comes down to one simple principle. You can either get stuck or get results. Period. Case closed.”

Are you stuck in your business? Your life? A relationship?  Do you face tough choices?

Take a cue from Sean Connery.

What are you prepared to do about it?

Take care,

Darcie Harris

 

 

Thrive: Leadership for Women EntrepreneursP.S. How much can your revenues increase in just one year if you can get unstuck and grow your business?

  • I bet that very likely you didn’t get special training in “how to be a woman entrepreneur.”
  • I bet that despite the “marketing smile” you wear in public, you don’t feel as confident as you look.
  • I bet you have dreams for your business, that you want it to grow. But sometimes you just feel stuck. And alone.

So I created a 7-session e-course specifically designed to help women get unstuck. Think of it like “The owners’ manual for women entrepreneurs.”

THRIVE! How to Get Unstuck and Grow Your Business

This e-course can help you close the gap between your dreams and your results.

It’s not sexy. It’s not glamorous. It’s the real stuff. It’s step-by-step learning to help you to learn the tools and the process to:

  • bring out the best in others,
  • get effective execution and
  • create a culture of accountability.

Tell me more...