Reaching for the Stars

Reaching for the Stars

It is the New Year, a time of reflection and resolution. A time where you may be asking yourself, “What is my purpose in life?”  If this sounds familiar, please honor me in helping you find your purpose.

 Explore the Things You Love

 Let us begin to explore your passion and purpose by outlining what you love doing and what comes easy to you.

 I love to coach, advise, consult, facilitate and develop transformational workshops. Most of all, I love bringing teams together for discussions and co-creating new approaches to our work. I invested many years in learning to master Executive Coaching skills. It was not easy, but I loved every second of it. We know it takes work to develop your talents – even the most gifted athletes must practice before their sport feels natural to them.

 I spent the first 20 years of my career attempting to master technical skills before finally admitting to myself that I would never enjoy Technology for the sake of Technology. However, at the same time, I experienced the ultimate joy of helping businesses apply the technology and leading Technologists in finding their path to success.

 If you are constantly struggling, you are most likely not living your purpose. In other words – hard work may be required, but suffering is not! A mentor once said to me, “If you keep butting your head on the wall and it hurts, you may want to stop and find a way around the border.” You get my point.

What Is Most Meaningful?

 First, ask yourself: “What are the two or three qualities I most enjoy expressing in the world?”

In the past, I focused on love and joy. Today I have expanded love to “grace.” To me, grace is going out of our way to gift love, compassion, and kindness to others, even when they might not appreciate it or return the favor. Grace must start with me.

Second, ask yourself: “In what ways do I most enjoy expressing these qualities?”

Mine are by inspiring and empowering people. I love my job as a Coach.

Create a Life Purpose Statement

 Everybody lives their highest vision of doing, being, and having everything they want in my perfect world. Create a life purpose statement by taking 30 minutes to write or draw out your description of what the world would look like if it were perfect in your vision. This vision will provide you with a clear idea of your purpose.

My life purpose statement is Inspiring and empowering people to live their vision in a context of joy and grace for themselves and others.”

 I inspire people with my stories in articles and posts and share them in coaching sessions. I empower others by helping them to discover powerful success strategies that they can apply in their own lives and on the job.

Listen to Your Heart

 What if I told you that you already have it within you to find your path forward?

It can be thought of as your inner GPS. Your internal GPS is similar to the GPS used in your car or on your phone. It tells you how to get from point A to point B.

When you get in your car and head to a specific destination, what is the first thing you input into your GPS? Your intended destination. The navigation system figures out and plots a perfect course for you. First, it finds your current location and once it determines where you are, it gives you directions to where you are heading.

Okay, it might not always be perfect or the most scenic route, but it always gets you there. All it needs to know to work is your beginning location and your end destination. From that point on, all you must do is follow the instructions to reach your intended goal.

It is the same in life. To start, you need to determine your goals – where you want to go, where you want to be. You decide where you want to go by clarifying your vision, then you lock in your destination through goal setting, affirmations, and visualization. At that point, start taking the actions that will move you in the right direction.

Every time you express a preference for something, you define an intention. What is it that you want – a promotion, a home in the country, a loving relationship?

You “input” the destination you want to get to with every picture you visualize. All these images and thoughts are creating the foundation for a positive mindset.  If you stay out of its way – meaning you do not interrupt the process with a stream of negative thoughts, doubts, and fears, your inner GPS will keep relaying the next steps in your route as you continue to move forward.

As you clarify and remain focused on your vision (you can even do this with a vision board.), the exact steps will keep appearing along the way in the form of internal guidance – helping to create ideas and new opportunities.

Be Clear About Your Life Purpose

 Once you are clear about what you want and stay focused on it, how will you keep showing up? Sometimes or just when you need to and not a moment earlier?

You were born with an inner guidance that tells you when you are on or off course by the amount of joy you are experiencing. The things that bring you the greatest joy will align with your purpose and get you to where you want to go.

As an exercise, take some time to think honestly and openly about where you currently are in your life and what you want to do with your life.

Now think about where you would like to be. If your life were perfect right now, what would it look like? What would it feel like? What would be different? What kind of job would you have, and where would you live?

By continually doing this exercise, you’ll send powerful triggers to your subconscious mind to help you get there.

 Think About the Greatest Joy in Your Life

 Another technique you can use to help you identify your purpose is to conduct a “Joy Review.” I pattern the concept of a joy review on this article I found a couple of years ago in Prevention: How to Find Joy in Your Everyday Life (Even When Life Feels Awful)

 Set aside about 30 minutes and make a list of the times you’ve felt the greatest joy in your life. Then determine if there is a pattern among these times.

In my case, I realized my “pattern of joy” came from leading large-scale, exciting programs with large teams where I was able to inspire and empower the team members to go for their career dreams. Today I recognize this same joy in every Client’s success and the feedback from their Sponsor.

Since we know that joy is part of your internal guidance system telling you when you are on course, you can determine a lot about your life purpose from completing this joy review.

 An Example of Finding Purpose

 One of my coaching clients, a successful CIO, struggled to identify her purpose beyond her role as a corporate leader. I suggested another exercise and asked her to look back over her life and answer the question, ” When have I felt most fulfilled?” She shared three periods in which she felt the happiest and most fulfilled.

First, she told me about her grandmother teaching her to bake and sew while a young girl in the Midwest.

The second was her experience of playing with her grandchildren and the delight they bring her.

The third was a two-week camping vacation with her family in the Rocky Mountains when her children were younger.

When I asked her what was common to all three of these experiences, she told me it was the sense of joy she felt and the love for those she experienced it with.

We noticed that none of her three experiences related to her profession in IT. I then asked her to tell me about her most fulfilling experiences as an IT leader.

The stories she recounted were ones of individuals she watched grow under her mentorship and observing teams coming together to deliver results that were considered to be impossible. She learned her true purpose and personal success came from seeing those she had the honor to mentor and lead, flourish.

Take Time for Yourself

 As we examined her life further, it became apparent that she took very little time for herself. She was always working late and over-committed. I asked her why she thought that was the case. She paused before answering, “Because it is expected.”

 My further questions probed deeper into the true ‘why” which helped the problem to become clearer. Over the years she developed the habit many are cursed with – “Just one more.” Just one more push, just one more meeting… “Just one more” will make a difference until that is all we know, leading us to lose ourselves along the way.

 The turning point was when I asked, “At what cost?” She reflected quietly before emotionally responding, “At the cost of my marriage and the relationship with my children.” And then she asked, “Is it too late to make a change?” 

 I assured her it was not too late and that anyone could change if their “why” was strong enough. We continued our session, penetrating her why and discussing tactics and approaches for gaining control of her time, calendar, and life.

 Your Purpose is your North Star

 We all know what we’re supposed to be doing, but we must be awake and pay attention to it. Once you know your life purpose, allow it to be your North Star, your guiding light, and organize all your activities around it. Everything you do should be an expression of your intention. If an activity or goal doesn’t fit that formula, don’t work on it!

 Aligning your purpose with your actions is most critical when setting professional goals, potentially giving you more flexibility in your personal life. Either way, learn when to say no and when to go for it with gusto!

 If you want to learn to play the piano or learn to golf, go ahead and do it! Get help and take lessons where needed. If your goal is to get fit, what stops you from moving forward with confidence? Caring for yourself emotionally, physically, and spiritually will make you more energized, resilient, and motivated to live your purpose on the personal and professional front. Only you can take action. Own it.

 If you dread Monday mornings and live for the weekends, it may be a sign that it’s time to follow your heart and pursue the work you long to do. Don’t ignore the signs that your job or career is unsuitable for you. Now is the time to seek help in figuring out your alternatives.

 Lean into Your Purpose

 When you have gained more clarity about your purpose, you don’t need to overhaul your complete life all at once. Instead, lean into it, one small step at a time. Start living a little more purposefully every day and pay attention to the feedback you receive from others, the results you produce, and how you feel. Soon it will feel as natural as riding a bike.

In Closing 

 We all have dreams and ambitions. There is no better time to start acting on them than now. Ask yourself these questions:

  1.  Are you where you want to be?
  2. Have you accomplished what you set out to achieve by now?
  3. Do you enjoy your life?
  4. Do you look forward to your workweek?
  5. Are you satisfied with the balance between work and home life?

If not, I challenge you to take stock of your life and reach for the stars. Everyone can cultivate success and discover their life purpose with the right mindset. You deserve it.

Happy New Year,

Mary

Sorting it All Out

Sorting it All Out

Usually, I love information!  I absorb it with curiosity and enthusiasm. But these are not standard times. Between COVID-19, the racial protests, the 2020 elections on top of everyday life, we are bombarded with a continuous stream of high volumes of information, much of it conflicting, contradictory, and plain old inaccurate. 
 
After several exhausting weeks, I realized I was suffering from information overload when I yet again found myself frustrated almost to a breaking point.  In a silent fit, I went about deleting all the news apps, Facebook, and LinkedIn off of my devices with the commitment to put myself on an information diet.  
 
My commitment was a bit short-lived and hit the brakes the first time I was asked about a current event. Instead of attempting to perform an unnatural act of putting my head in the sand, I decided to discover a better way of taking the information in.  The more information that comes my way, the more I feel compelled to consume it and sort out facts from opinions. In my quest for answers, I found that much of what we hear is just that – opinions.  I started to question if that was not the source of anguish, not information overload, but an opinion overload?  Perhaps I am on to something here!  
 
To dig into sorting out my thoughts, I always want to start with a foundational definition. Thank goodness for online dictionaries. 

Simply put, an opinion is an expression of personal beliefs and views. Opinions: everyone has a least one.

The opinion is often more than just an idea.

On to itself, an opinion does not have to be wrong when it is based on fact and void of bias.

Opinions can not only be dead wrong, but can be dangerously toxic when grounded in false premise:

  • Eugenics as a basis for racial bias
  • Homosexuality is a choice
  • Poverty is caused by laziness
  • COVID-19 is a hoax.

Or when grounded on dogma:

  • My God is better than your God
  • Boys will be boys as an excuse for the degradation and/or sexual assault of women and girls

The opinion is a window into a person’s mind. I want to hear a friend or colleague’s view or judgment and appreciate when they can provide the facts or knowledge that led them to the belief. Their opinion is of interest to me as it leads to discussion, and there is a likely chance, I will learn something from it. For example, my friend and colleague, Martha, and I have to be mindful of the time when sharing our opinions; we can get lost in our conversation for hours. We trust each other enough to know that we don’t have to agree. We often start a debate in disagreement, but through our heartfelt and mindful conversations, always come out of it better informed and never at odds.

Opinions are founded in experience and influenced by personal bias.

With everyone having an opinion, it is essential to understand which ones are based on facts. Few would disagree that the current world environment is as stressful as anyone alive has experienced. There is little that we feel we can control. As we search for something to control, one of our fallback position of control is our position, our opinion. The longer the stress lasts, the deeper we dig in our heels. Among the barrage of opinions, I often hear the following statement: “This is what I think—and I am entitled to my opinion!” In other words, “It is mine, and I am holding on tight.”

Comments like this give me pause. Everyone is indeed entitled to their own opinion. As a nation, we value our 1st Amendment Constitutional freedom of speech so that people can communicate their opinion without fear of prosecution. We have a right to believe what we think is right and to express our views accordingly.

However, what is not true is that an opinion is a fact. Many people believe that their opinions are facts and that their thoughts are always correct. We believe just because we think it, so it has to be true. And to prove my opinion right, all I need to do is search the internet, and I am sure to find several opinion leaders who support me. Because another person supports my opinion does not necessarily make it any more right.

What is most upsetting is that our country has grown so divided that we can no longer talk with each other as we have come to believe a different version of “reality”. The very concept of “alternative truth’s” has a very toxic impact when applied to opinions.

Indeed, the news outlets have played a role in forming and maintaining our opinions. Unfortunately, we most often choose the news source that supports our belief. Social media has a lot to do with our opinion and bias. I say this as someone who has enjoyed social media and the connections it offers and enables. Through Facebook, I’ve reconnected with friends from a past life from decades past. I keep up with my large family scatted across the US and friends living abroad. It is a good thing – or at least it was.

I no longer believe it is. I have come to realize that social media networks, specifically Facebook and Twitter (I’ve yet figured out how LI algorithm works) are suspect sources of information, and frankly unhealthy, an echo chamber. 

My Facebook page and Twitter feed became places I would go to express my opinions and have them echoed back to me. There were plenty of links to follow, but the algorithm in these tools direct me to yet more pieces that support the beliefs I already held. Somewhere along the way, I stopped using Facebook to build a social bridge. It became much more of a safe place to construct an ideological silo around me.

I know this because when people express a difference of opinion, no matter how innocuous it is, there is often an immediate reaction to declaring the wrong. Rarely, do you see the conflicted parties engage in seeking to understand. It wasn’t until lately that I began to know that I bought into this pattern, hook, line, and sinker. And I did not like it. I knew I needed to sort it out.

Sorting it all out

I began to think about the best way to break the habits that are so far afield of my core values. I share them here in hopes that others will gain from my sharing my vulnerabilities.

  1. The first step in any change is acknowledging the need to change. I knew I could not change anyone but myself, and it is not my job to change anyone’s mind. I can teach by example, I can live in integrity, but I do not need or want to push my agenda. I came across Olivia Newton John’s “Serenity. It helps to remind me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcfo5E9qYk4
     
  2. Be mindful of excessive news consumption and outlet bias. When I hear or see a news article, the first thing I seek is to understand the source with the intent of sorting out the bias of the news outlet. If the topic is particularly interesting or of concern, I purposefully seek the alternative views. Yes, it takes more time and yes, I to be discerning of what news topic I care enough to learn more about; I use ‘ad fontes media” news ratings as my guide.

 

The live interactive site is much more interesting:

https://www.adfontesmedia.com/interactive-media-bias-chart

3.   All individual opinions, be they posted on a blog or newsletter as “expert opinion or a friend commenting, are based on personal experience and influenced by their bias. Go back to the Opinion Definition – an opinion is an expression of personal beliefs and views. I will respect it as their view. Again, if the opinion causes me to question the basis or is important enough to me understand I can kindly inquire. I may ask, “Interesting. Can you share the source of facts behind your opinion?” I will understand my questions may invoke three different responses: (A) facts are shared and we hold a great conversation where we both learn; (B) silence, which I then drop any further discussion; or (C) a defensive response that spews more opinion without facts which generally results in putting both of us on the defensive. Job #1 is when faced with (C) is to focus on remaining calm and avoid falling into my own defensive trap by pushing to provide objective truths backed by facts. I accept that I have no control over another’s’ opinion, at the same time I look to learn from others.

In Closing

All that I share here is my opinion based on my experience and bias. I expect many to disagree with my view. I would love to learn your approach to sorting it all out either in the comments here or an email.

In support of focusing on priorities, this will be my last article until Fall. Think of it as a summer hiatus. I am committed to focusing on listening and learning while supporting my current clients through these tumultuous times. I will be around lurking, learning, and posting judiciously on social media.

See you in late September. Until then, I am here if you need or want to talk.

Warm regards,

Mary

Mary Patry
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach  
 480.393.0722 (AZ)
 Mary.Patry@iteffectivity.com
LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/mleonardopatry 

Let’s Talk sponsored by ITeffectivity.com an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry. 

Neutral No More

Neutral No More

We dont do neutral here.  

A client made this statement a week ago today during a conversation related to his companys culture. It pierced me to my core. Later that evening, I sat quietly for an agonizing 8 minute and 46 seconds as the network channel I was watching ran a silent tribute to George Floyd. As I reflected on the injustice of George Floydhomicide, these five words kept coming back to me – WE DONT DO NEUTRAL HERE.   

 I work hard to stay neutral, perhaps too hard. I take pride in my effort to honor my values while steering clear of offending. Emotional Intelligence (i.e. the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically) is not my natural state, but it is a learned skill.   

E-I is failing me right now. I find it near impossible to contain my emotions as I acknowledge our failure as a society. Our country is fractured, and we are in desperate need of leadership to help us heal the crack. After a particularly low day last week, I awoke with the realization that we must be the leaders we are looking to serve us. That means speaking up, expecting more, demanding more, and most important – giving more. It means moving from neutral to full speed ahead to drive the change we seek. Now is not the time for playing it safe, avoiding conflict, or avoiding offending.  

 The Last 60 Years  

 You see, I was child in 1963, listening to Dr. King with my Mom when he shared with the world his dream. He said: I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Mom cried. I did not understand the importance of his speech at the time.  

Mom was progressive for her day. She met her first non-white person at 32 when we moved to Illinois from rural Iowa. We lived in a diverse but segregated community. Our little homes back yard abutted the colored section with an alley between us. My Moms best friend was a beautiful African American woman who lived across the alley – Averne. Mom and Averne looked enough alike that they could pass for sisters except for the color of their skin. Arverne was a nurse and was the first person I would run to, to fix my bumps. Mom appreciated the diversity of her new friends, and we learned to love people without regard to the color of their skin.   

Moms perpetual pot of coffee provided an excellent spot for the neighbor ladies to debate the brewing integration decision. The community was at odds over the integration talk coming out of D.C. The argument against integration was simple in my white neighbors eyes – everything is fine the way it is. I can remember many times playing on the back porch, with kids of all colors, listening to our parents argue over integration. We could not understand what the big deal was, werent we all friends, why would it matter on what side of the alley anyone lived? Mom spoke up loud for integration.   

It mattered to many in our community for conflicting reasons.  Segregation was outlawed as a result of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Mom lost friends. Many of our neighbors moved away, and our community integrated. Despite the battle for racial equality heating up across the United States we were fine within our little community.  Between 1964 and 1971, riots resulted in large numbers of injuries, deaths, and arrests, as well as considerable property damage concentrated in predominantly black areas. Many of us, myself included, joined in to protest against racial inequality at our local level. We may have hit our alltime low when Dr. King was assassinated in 1968. The riots grew more violent resulting in some change but not enough.  To learn more about the riots:   

 https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/race-riots-1960s 

 All the while the racial protests were going on; the U.S. was suffering under a second conflict. The Vietnam Conflict was in full swing. Vietnam was the first significant conflict in which blacks were fully integrated, and the first conflict after the civil rights revolution of the early 60s.  

 Like COVID-19, black men bore a heavy burden in the conflict we sometimes call the Vietnam War.  Though the ratio of black combat troops to white ones was double that for the U.S. population, their rate of combat death was likewise higher. At the same time, there were disproportionately fewer African Americans serving as officersAfrican Americans made up 5% of the officers, but 10% of all Army troops. Civil-rights leaders like Dr. King made the case that Vietnam was an example of, race war in which the white U.S. Establishment is using colored mercenaries to murder brown-skinned freedom fighters.”   

The riots of the 1960s led thenPresident Johnson to establish a National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders in 1968. The commission identified white racism as the leading cause of the riots. The report called out pervasive discrimination and segregation, black migration to the cities as whites left them, harsh ghetto conditions, the frustration of hopes, and a feeling of powerlessness on the part of many blacks.   

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/1968-kerner-commission-got-it-right-nobody-listened-180968318/   

There is no evidence that any real or sustainable efforts were made to correct the problems identified by the commission. The Johnson administration, and those that followed, viewed the riots as law-enforcement problems rather than signs of social imbalance. The commission made no positive change.  In many ways, I suspect they contributed to system racism. If you are not familiar with the term systemic racism, here is a source that explains it well:    

 https://www.raceforward.org/videos/systemic-racism  

To add to the craziness, we were also going through a flu pandemic where 100,000 US residents died in one year – the 1968 pandemic. To be honest, I do not remember the pandemic, though my Canadian husband remembers it very well. I suspect we already had enough on our plates. If you are like me, and do not remember this pandemic:    

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1968-pandemic.html  

Our country was as divided then as it is now. After Vietnam ended and Nixon left office, life seemed to settle downI guess we thought we were healed. We never healed. We simply pretended all was okay. Many will say, and I agree, that the efforts then enabled systemic racism that continues today. We would have continued to pretend if it were not for the horrible, very public, killing of George Floyd by a police officer while one of his colleagues looked owhile two others kept the crowd from helping. Protests ensued starting in Minneapolis and then world wide.  

Today 

 As of this publication, protests continue and are now on their thirteenth day straight.  The protests are in demand for equality that we failed to deliver  back in the 60’s.  Fifty-seven years later, we are nowhere close to realizing Dr. Kings dream or solving racism. Systemic racism is all around us.  Black students are suspended and expelled from school three times more often than white students are. The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Latino households.   

Seven in ten blacks said they are treated less fairly than whites are in their dealings with police.  A quote from the ACLU website says it all:    

From our public schools where students of color are too often confined to racially isolated, underfunded, and inferior programs, to our criminal justice system that disproportionately targets and incarcerates people of color and criminalizes poverty, to the starkly segregated world of housing, the dream of equal justice remains an elusive one.  

 It is time to stop dreaming and stop pretending. It is also time to stop excusing.  I am proud of the small role my Mom played in integrating our community. It took courage to offend her neighbors and friends. Now it is time for me to make Mom proud.   

We are all in this together. We cannot change the channel. It will take more than a few bandages to fix our cracks, and it will take hard work by many. We can lean in and work together to heal the fissure that started hundreds of years ago. We can learn to listen and act in a way that is helpful.  

Let us not make this a political partisan thingMany are outraged against Trump and I am as well. As much as I would like to say this is all on Washington DC, it icertainly not. I hold Republicans and Democrats just as accountable as I hold us as citizens.  So many of the empty words we hear now need to turn to active change.  We need to hold our lawmakers accountable in the fight against white supremacy and racism. They did not fix anything during Johnsons administration or after. They owe us to fix it now. Most of all, we need to hold ourselves accountable and reject the acceptance of racist behavior and attitudes.   

Going Forward 

 You can be assured; I will not do neutral anymore. At the very least, I hope Ive provided a bit of history along with reason to support us all to be better.  If I have offended you, I will not apologize. Our fellow humans are hurting. Our community is hurting. Our country is hurting. I cannot pretend that everything is fine or that it will be okay.  Pretending never leads to change. I stand in solidarity with our Black Professionals, Business Partners, family members, friends, and neighbors to fight against the injustice still happening today.  

 Will you stand too?  Here are a few resources to help you get started: 

Anti-Racism Library Curated by LeanIn.Org 

31 Children’s books to support conversations on race, racism and resistance 

Anti-Racism resources for white people 

 Stay safe as we continue this journey together,  

Mary 

Mary Patry
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach  
 480.393.0722 (AZ)
 Mary.Patry@iteffectivity.com
LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/mleonardopatry 

Let’s Talk sponsored by ITeffectivity.com an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry. 

Learning to Adjust Your Sail

Learning to Adjust Your Sail

I took up sailing late in life and my sailing life was rather short, only 10 years start to end.  There is nothing like moving to the desert to get in the way of sailing. Nevertheless, learning to sail will always sit high on my list of major accomplishments with lifelong lessons embedded in my soul.   
 
I was 45 when I took my first sailing lesson. I had recently lost my husband to a massive coronary heart attack and was crushed by a broken heart. My husband had passed away on a chartered sailboat while we were on vacation in Aruba. I had never sailed before that day. We were there because I had gotten it into my head it would be fun to learn to sail together. We both loved the ocean so very much.
 
It was during a grief group session that I found my way to sailing. A fellow grieving widow who was also a Commander in the Navy informed me that as a surviving spouse of a retired Marine, I had access to sailing lessons at the Newport Naval College. I lived just 45 minutes from Newport. I drove down later that week and signed up.  
 
I successfully passed the Naval sailing lessons, sailed all that I could, and continued to take additional sailing courses. I bought a sailboat – a Beneteau 331. She was named “Je T’aime” – French for “I Love You.”  She was a beauty that I fell in love with immediately. Many thought I had lost my mind. Perhaps I did. But I also know sailing saved me. Sailing allowed me to heal my soul and find myself again. Eventually, someone came into my life and started to learn alongside me. We married and spent time at sea every spare day possible until my job moved us one time too many.  
 
The accomplishment of learning to sail and the lessons learned will always be the highlight of my life.  The lessons came back to me this past week in conversation with a coaching client when he asked, “Will we ever find our way out of this mess?” referring to the pandemic and its impact. My reply came out intuitively, “Sure, we will need to adjust our sails.”  
 
With that simple statement, the lessons learned across the ten or so years of my sailing life came flooding back. I was astonished to realize how close these lessons apply to life and certainly in this time of our COVID-19 life. Let me share a few experiences that apply. 
 

You are never really in full control. 

 
When you are sailing, you can’t control the wind, the best you can do is manage the situation you are in.  Sometimes there isn’t any. Sometimes there is far too much. Storms occur, equipment breaks regularly, you learn patience is a necessity. Things don’t always go as planned, and you deal with it. That is sailing, and that is life. Sailing requires you to prepare for the worst because when you do, the rest is easy.  
 
Learning coping skills to work through unexpected situations and building the skills to adapt and thrive regardless of what life throws at you, is my favorite lesson learned. We did not plan for COVID-19. Most of us (myself included) could not have imagined the impact it has had on our lives. We don’t know what life will look like in a month or in a year or two. We only know there will be a tomorrow and a day after that. Yet, we are coping; we are adjusting, we are managing the situation as the best we can. 
 

Small details make big things happen. 

 
One of the first lessons that I learned from sailing is that the details matter the most if you expect to arrive at your destination at all. You learn to read the wind, the waves, the clouds, and the sun and to come to “feel” the boat under your feet. A sailor’s earliest lesson is to learn to continually watch for shifts in the wind by watching small thin strips of yarn blowing on the halyards (the line used to raise the sail). The lay of the delicate little line would indicate a change in the wind. Failure to accurately judge the wind and adjust the sail could result in the boom (the bottom of the sail) violently swinging across the bow damaging the boat or worse knocking into your crew.    
 
In sailing, tying the right knot for the correct application makes all the difference in the world. There are many different knots used for many reasons. For instance, the bowline may be the most important of any knot, is not complicated, and has been used by sailors for over 500 years. It is most useful because it is used to tie a line around a post or any fixed object, and under pressure, it tightens and will not give away. Knowing how to tie this knot and do it quickly can make the difference between your boat unintendedly breaking away from a cleat or your jib sheet breaking away.
 
Just as in sailing, we are required to pay attention to the details while living under the threat of this pandemic. Wearing masks, keeping distance, paying attention to washing our hands, and keeping our hands away from our faces are little things in the scheme of life. These little things matter in the care for us, our loved ones, our customers, and our businesses. 
 

It takes a crew. 

 
Looking back at the few times I attempted to sail single-handed (that means alone) as an inexperienced new sailor could be thought of as comical. But it was not. It was scary and downright dangerous. It became a whole lot more fun when my someday to be husband joined me in learning to sail and manage the boat.
 
Just like in life, sailing demonstrates the power of working together. Life without support can be just as scary. No matter what your status in life is, you need to build a crew, a team to share the burden, come along for the adventures and to toast the celebrations. It is essential to build relationships, nurture them, and contribute to a broader community. I never took for granted the tight bond amongst sailors and their willingness to help each other without expectation. 
 
A beautiful life is all about people. Not everyone has what they need or the skills to maneuver under the weight of COVID. That is why we must focus on helping each other and ignore the noise of those who prefer us divided.  
 

We will persevere. 

 
One of the greatest lessons I learned from sailing is that we will persevere by working together. Like life, it is easy to give up in the face of unforeseen obstacles or what looks to be impossible challenges. Like a sailor, we do not have control of the way the wind is blowing, or where our life is heading. There is still too much to be learned about the COVID-19 virus to let our guard down. It is important to keep moving forward, ready to adjust our sails if we see signs that we are moving too fast or moving too broad. We can do this together. 
 
 
Stay safe as we continue this journey together, 
Mary

Mary Patry
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach  
 480.393.0722 (AZ)
 Mary.Patry@iteffectivity.com
LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/mleonardopatry 

Let’s Talk sponsored by ITeffectivity.com an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry. 

The Fork in The Road

The Fork in The Road

Have you ever found yourself sitting at a fork in the road, wondering which path to take? I suspect most people can readily relate to this metaphor. The fork in the road is all about choice. The choice is where you pull together your options, your awareness of the possibilities, and assess risk mitigation tactics against desired outcomes.
 
Typically, I love being in the position to weigh my options against the possibilities and potential outcomes. I more than love it, I need and want it. I recognized that my need for decision making is a form of control that I’ve taken for granted. It’s been taken away with the COVID-19 pandemic. The level and speed of impact on human lives and society as a whole are unprecedented.
 
I worry a lot. I worry about the steep climb in the number of people impacted by the virus. I fear for the healthcare workers, the true heroes in this mess. I pray my family and friends will be spared. I watch the volatile stock market and economy with angst. It angers me that anyone believes GDP growth is worth a single life. At the same time, I worry about the clients furloughed and hope my kids won’t be next in losing their incomes. I find it curious that I don’t worry about me.
 
Instead, I find myself sitting at the fork in the road, wondering what I can do or should I do next. I am fighting for a level of control that is unreasonable to expect. I am questioning which options and outcomes are worth shooting for. Most of the time,  I just want the world to be restored to normal. And then at other times, I am more curious as to what can we do better to create a new normal when COVID-19 is no longer the major threat it is today.
 
Our normal was pulled out from under our feet. We can’t take anything for granted at this time. We can’t assume we will have access to essential material needs. It is frustrating to prohibit physical proximity to friends and society. We crave our favorite things, such as going to a movie, playing in the park, or stopping at the local ice cream shop for our favorite Rocky Road. We are washing our hands and practicing common sense sanitary habits, not sure how we forgot that one.
 
At the same time, this horrible disease is enabling us to spend time and connect with our immediate family members while distancing from extended family. I miss hugging my grandkids so very much. Kids are missing school, and I see parents taking up the reins to continue their learning. Never have I seen parents and their kids walking together, shooting hoops in their driveway, drawing with chalk on their sidewalk, or riding their bicycles as a family unit as I have in these past two weeks. I’ve met more of my neighbors than ever before despite our keeping a safe social distance. We are sharing needed staples without embarrassment or hesitancy.   We are picking fruit from our trees and leaving them in bags for strangers to come, pick up, and enjoy.
 
I’ve read more and reacquainted myself with lost hobbies, delighting in the feel of a paintbrush in my hand. I have signed up for an online drawing class in hopes of renewing long lost skills. My husband and I have spent more time in the past two weeks together cooking, talking, and just basically finding us than we would have in two months. I’ve taken the time to reach out and talk with old friends and colleagues across the globe. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, and reveled in the reconnections.
 
In cities across the world, the streets are empty of vehicles and people; factories are shut down. In China, satellite images have shown a significant drop in nitrogen dioxide pollution. The skies over Bejing are blue, and the water in the Venice canals is clear. In New York, scientists at Columbia University are reporting a significant drop in CO2 emissions as traffic has dropped dramatically. The earth is taking this time to heal itself, proving the role emissions play in climate change. Will the coronavirus finally help us to see our climate is a disaster we can solve through simple actions?
 
Do we want to return to a world consumed by greed and distance? Or, do we continue to build on the new communities we have started? Are there lessons to be applied? Will we grow from the experience and develop the missing safety nets? Will we look to adopt low climate impact transportation methods and advocate for increased working from home? What more can we do to make the world safe?   Will the coronavirus finally help us to see our climate is a disaster we can solve through simple actions?
 

Reflections

 
I find myself questioning, “What outcomes should we expect?,  What outcomes do I hope for?”  As Alice answered, “I don’t know.”
 
We are all in this together. We know this pandemic has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  When it ends, which way will we turn in the fork in the road? Will we return to our way of living, or will we use this life-altering event to define a better way, a better outcome, and a better world for generations to come?
 
There is no easy answer to these questions. Please join me in continuing the conversation.
 
Take care, be safe, stay home, and wash your hands often,
Mary

Mary Patry
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach  
 480.393.0722 (AZ)
 Mary.Patry@iteffectivity.com
LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/mleonardopatry 

Let’s Talk sponsored by ITeffectivity.com an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry. 

Thriving in Trying Times – Ten Lessons Learned

Thriving in Trying Times – Ten Lessons Learned

Nothing feels normal, and we know it won’t be for a while. I know I am not alone. The last time I felt this discombobulated was when my husband passed away in April 1999. Like then, everything around is in turmoil, and I feel at a loss in search of what action to take.
 
I am like that. I know many of my readers are as well. We tackle our challenges head-on, develop a plan, and take action. We are “get it done” type people. Perhaps it’s the first time in our lives we can’t control the environment around us. Some of us may feel like victims; some of us may want to pretend it is not a problem; some of us are just plain angry.
 
I was lying awake, during my 3:00 AM worry hour, and I realized that I am feeling a sense of grief. In the silence of the dark, I wondered, “Why grief?”  I don’t know anyone inflicted with Covid-19 much less anyone who has passed away from it. But I do recognize my fear for the well-being of family and friends, especially my siblings, with health conditions that put them at very high risk. I worry about our grandchildren, whom I love beyond comprehension, knowing that the little ones do not understand why I keep fussing over them when they put their fingers in their mouths. I question if I said the right things to answer my eight-year-old granddaughter’s concerns to comfort her worries about whether Grampa and I would be okay. There is a lot to worry about right now.
 
My feeling of grief were solidified by conversations with family, friends, and clients as they sought comfort and answers to their questions, “Will my company survive?”,  “Will I lose my job?”, “What will happen with the kids schooling?”,  “Am I doing enough to keep my kids safe?”
 
Yes, I believe we are all feeling a sense of grief.
 
Grief is often described in stages, though each stage may last for a different period — for some people, the steps may be briefer or more prolonged than for others, and some people may not experience all of them. The five stages of grief, as described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross:
 
  1. Denial: This can’t be happening.
  2. Anger: Why did this happen? Who is to blame?
  3. Bargaining: Make this not happen, and I will do whatever it takes.
  4. Depression: I can’t bear this; I’m too sad to do anything.
  5. Acceptance: I acknowledge that this has happened, and I cannot change it.
While the five stages of grief may appear to step in a linear process, they are not. Even Kübler-Ross said that the stages are not meant to package up grief neatly — there is no typical loss and no ordinary or usual way of managing your grief. Grieving is as individual as we are. We all go through grief in our own way. You grieve at the loss of a loved one; you grieve when you lose a job, you grieve when any change we cannot understand or want is thrust upon us.
 
In the current situation, you may not believe your frustration has anything to do with grief. If that is the case, I ask that you not pass judgment on others as they work through figuring out their path.  We should not be afraid of taking this seriously.  It is serious.
 
In any case, I offer lessons learned from loss and change experienced from my past.
 
#1 – Stick to as normal of a routine as possible.  Get up, take a shower, get dressed, make some coffee, and get ready to work. Lounging around in your pajamas all day may sound comfortable, but I have found that if I dress for work, I am more productive.
 
#2 – Set up and stick to a schedule.  Create a plan for your workday at home that includes a start and end to the day. Staying consistent in the work environment at home is essential to your success and sanity. Refrain from scheduling in household duties. It will only serve to create conflict.
 
#3 – Create a home office space if you don’t already have one.  Set up a spot in the house and declare it your “office.” You need a workspace as similar as possible to the one you have at your office. Keep the items you need to do your work nearby. If you have a busy and distracting household, make sure you can still focus on the task at hand by talking to the family.  Letting them know how they can and cannot disrupt you through the workday. That will go a long way to making everyone happy.
 
#4 – Use headphones.  Pull out your headphones for your cell phone, so you can type or take notes during your call. Noise-canceling headphones are even better.
 
#5 – Go outside.  Social distancing does not mean you can’t take in a breath of fresh air. Leave your home at least once a day and get some fresh air and a new perspective. Take a lunch break, take the kids for a walk around the block or to the neighborhood park. Changing your environment at least once during the day can make you more productive, and the sun will make you raise your endorphins.
 
#6 – Use technology to communicate.  When working from home, you will need to change how you interact and communicate with your colleagues. Get comfortable with Teams, Skype, Zoom, Google hangouts, or whatever is an online tool of choice. Use video wherever possible!  We may need to be keep a physical distance.  We do not need to keep a social or psychological distance.
 
#7 – Focus your communications.  In a typical office setting, you may not think about connection because information just flows; everyone is right there. When working from home, you should focus on assuring your communication with key team members and stakeholders regularly. You may need to add more content and context to your communication to ensure the details don’t fall through the cracks.
  
#8 – Reframe your thoughts and conversations to stay positive.  Instead of focusing on your worries, focus on the good things. For example, because we are home, we are slowing down the spread of Covid-19. Because of Covid-19, we have more time to spend with the kids.  Because of Covid-19, we can come together as a community to help each other.
 
#9 – Reframe your thoughts and conversations to stay positive.  When my husband Tony died in 1999, I was a mess. During grief counseling, the therapist presented me a challenge:
 
“Now is the time to do something you always wanted to do but found an excuse not to do, perhaps fear, time, or money.”
 
So, I decided to take up sailing. A love that stayed with me until I chose to move to the desert. How about if you use this time for reflection and learning?  Think about it; this may be the perfect time to take up learning a new language, pick up that guitar sitting in the corner collecting dust, or merely read that stack of books that is waiting for you.
 
#10 – Trust and believe you will survive this.  Acknowledging that you may experience some or all these stages will help you understand what may be happening. Know that your feelings are reasonable, and it’s important to remember that at some point, it will get better. Most important take care of yourself and your family along with support for your friends and community. You may not get over your loss, but you will survive it.
 
In closing
 
We have the choice as to how we will react to situations in our life. We can either let them beat us down or teach us a hard lesson and grow from them. Choose to keep going even when it seems hard or impossible; there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. You will come out the other side a better person for it.
 
If you ever just need to talk, give me a call. Please trust my offer has no sales strings attached. This is not the time that anyone with honor should be bothering CIO’s and IT Executives with sales calls.
 
Take care, be safe and wash your hands often.
 
Regards,
Mary

Mary Patry
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach  
 480.393.0722 (AZ)
 Mary.Patry@iteffectivity.com
LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/mleonardopatry 

Let’s Talk sponsored by ITeffectivity.com an IT Executive Coaching and Advisory practice targeting CIO’s challenge of leading and delivering business solutions with a focus on effective people and process capabilities. Discover the possibilities by scheduling a complimentary strategy session with Mary Patry.