Business Bullying

Several weeks ago I registered for a 10-mile race using an online race website. I entered the necessary information — name, address, age and credit card information.  Near the end of the checkout process, I was asked to check a box that would allow a third party vendor to enroll me in a “free” trial membership of a service I didn’t want or need. I was not interested, but could not proceed to the checkout without the box being checked. In my haste, I didn’t note the fine print, the company, or the terms.

Apparently the fine print explained that the free trail membership would automatically turn into a year-long membership if the free trial was not cancelled within 30 days.

A few days ago, the company that offered the trial membership contacted me via email to inform and congratulate me that my trial had automatically converted to a one-year membership and they had charged the credit card on file.

My initial, irritated reaction was to call the bank and block the payment, but the calmer side urged me to go directly to the source to rectify the situation.

I emailed the company and took ownership of my role. I explained that I had neglected to cancel the subscription because I was unaware that it would automatically enroll me. I also explained that in order to cancel the subscription, I would have needed their contact information, which was not made available to me until I was already enrolled.

The company finally complied with my request and refunded my money but only after I shared my truth:

  1. When choices are unwillingly removed, it is bullying.
  2. When choices or information are unknowingly removed, it is lying or cheating.
  3. When you take something that isn’t yours, it is stealing.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for large corporations or the government to incorporate these tactics and call them “policies” or “marketing.”

  • Telecommunication companies add a dollar or a dime to your monthly bill without getting noticed. Then when questioned, offers no reasonable explanation.
  • The government adds “convenience charges” to process online vehicle tab renewals or property taxes – a system that should save them both time and money.
  • Banks charge a fee to withdrawal or use your own money.
  • The expense of letting go of a bad employee is more than the cost to keep him or her. I mean no disrespect to ethical, hard-working people, but the government and education institutions are notorious for this.

Conduct a google search and you’ll find more examples of bad business ethics than an honest person can stomach. The offenses are too many to mention. Poor ethics are so commonplace that even the magazine or news sites that report about it have lost sight of it. They create code that loops you back into their site when you attempt to leave their page. News flash — you are removing my choice.

Do these tactics work? Sadly, yes!  Because the more we ignore them, the more they gain permission to continue. As a society we’ve become numb or blind. We take the crap and say nothing. We allow unethical behavior because it is so common that it takes too much time and energy to change it. But that’s where we have gone wrong.

We aren’t powerless. We have a choice and we have a voice. Begin to question and question again. Demand accountability.

Because unwillingly removing choices is called bullying, not good business. Call them out. Make a change.

Community Health Begins with Self Health

Millions of Americans, particularly women, struggle to find the time to take care of their own health. When I look around at my friends who are moms, I find myself in awe of how many of them put the needs of their families, their children, their work, their community, or school volunteer time ahead of their own.

I’ve thought about how to write this blog so it doesn’t sound like a lecture or a guilt-fest, because women who can successfully juggle schedules that would be daunting to air traffic controllers deserve that respect. I would also like to believe that they might find a way to put themselves and their health first, but I’m seeing how this isn’t always the case. I get it. There are only so many hours in the day. So how is it that their needs and health are constantly pushed to the back burner?

This leads me to believe that perhaps the issue isn’t in their ability to carve out time for themselves, but instead found somewhere in the motivation to do so.

As a life coach, I’ve noticed that women tend to be inspired and motivated by giving the best of themselves to others. We see other’s needs — particularly our children’s needs — as important and worthy of our time and attention. This is their driving force – a commitment to serving others. And this is a beautiful and honorable approach.

Servanthood is the greatest motivation and is full of grace. But we are in denial if we believe it doesn’t come with a high price tag. Servanthood is only as powerful as the servant. Forgive my boldness, but a worn-down, exhausted servant isn’t doing any good to the family she wishes to serve.

With this logic in mind, perhaps it would help serve others if you first served yourself. I’m not suggesting that you shuck everything and start over – that’s not reasonable – but what I am suggesting is that you learn to say no to the things that really are not essential. Your health needs to move to the top of your list so that you are able to better manage all of your other tasks. After all, community health is not possible without self-health. Consider that this may also demonstrate to those you serve that your health is what makes your time and talent so darn valuable.

Start small by adding in one half hour of time each day to focus on your health. You can make this your time to exercise, meditate, enjoy a healthy meal or even get a massage. As you begin to realize that you can make time for you, increase this time to 45 minutes or an hour each day.

The Upside to Divorce : 5 Powerful Perspectives

A college girl named Carly recently posted an article about living with her parent’s divorce. Her blog highlighted her challenges with trust, holidays, and the relationship mistakes she witnessed that she doesn’t want to repeat. She ended the story with this perspective:

“Divorce isn’t glamorous or fun. Its heartbreak and sadness. It doesn’t just impact the two people directly involved, but all the parties surrounding those people. So don’t write us off. Know we’ve experienced things that will stick with us forever.”

As the divorced mother of now-16 year old son and a parental figure to three boys whose parents are divorced, I read this blog with intrigue. I read it over and over and each time I finished the story with a different reaction. The first time I read it, I cried. I cried for the hurt and harm that the boys in my life must inevitably be experiencing. The next time I read it, I thought about my son and his current relationship. Is he able to trust? Is he healthy? Is he kind? The final time I read it, my internal whisper encouraged this post.

My son was 5 when we went through our divorce. When we talk about that timeframe he shares that he barely remembers what it was like before the split. He may not recall, but I do.

I remember the worry and sleepless nights. I could point out countless moments when my emotions or opinions were discounted or judged as “crazy.” I could write volumes about what disrespect feels like. I may be able to conjure up a positive memory or two, but mostly I remember feeling powerless and hopeless and wondered if this was the kind of woman – now mother – I wanted to be. I remember questioning whether I had the courage to make it on my own; whether I wanted my son to grow up in a “broken home.”

Somewhere inside of the angst and confusion, I found the strength to speak my truth. I wasn’t living from a place of strength; I was operating from a place of fear. My life wasn’t being honored. Speaking may not have been much, but it was enough to awaken my senses and move me into taking action to restore sense of worthiness. It was enough to help me realize that my life had become so imbalanced that my greatest potential was no longer possible.

And so it was. The decision to find my truth was made. It was at the expense of the marriage and the “family unit” but what I’d like to share with the boys in my world and the young lady who wrote that blog is this:


Carly, thank you for sharing your truth and for doing so in a vulnerable way, but please know that everybody’s childhood and the lessons of youth stays with them. You are not broken and your parents did not damage you. In fact, what I see from your story is a well-adjusted, self-aware individual with a bright future on the horizon. Truth is, I can’t say that is always true for children who don’t come from two homes.

Being a single parent has its challenges, but I’d like to suggest that the day my divorce was final was the day I became a better parent.

It’s not lost on me that my son’s existence changed dramatically and perhaps he had adjustments to make, but that can be said of most childhoods. Having two bedrooms and two birthday parties may have been daunting, but it only becomes so when he compares it to others.

So stop comparing! There is nothing good that could come of it. Instead, I’m challenging readers to see the powerful perspectives. I’d like to point out the upside of divorce.

This is what divorce taught me.

1. To Be Present! Our time away from our children helps us value every moment with our children. Because I wasn’t able to put him to bed every night, I treasured the time when I had the opportunity. We made each moment count.

2. Self Sufficiency. There is value in shared responsibility for a family budget, but there is something to be said for learning to be self-reliant. There is a secret sense of power (and sometimes fear) that comes with knowing there is no safety net. It is sink or swim and more often than not, single parents swim.

3. There are more people in your life to love your children. I never imagined I could love somebody else’s children like they are my own, but it has happened. I’ll never be their mom and my significant will never be my son’s father, but that doesn’t mean they are loved less – they are loved more! And while having more than one Christmas may sound overwhelming, I can assure every child with multiple families that it’s not about being paraded through family functions. It’s about being loved by so many.

4. You can demonstrate what it means to have a healthy relationship – or two. I believe in the power of commitment. I believe forever love is beautiful —and rare! A piece of paper and vows spoken do not guarantee forever – they never have. More than 50 percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce. In the 1960s, you were expected to stay married, even if abuse, alcoholism and other destructive behaviors limited your greatest potential. Today, choices exist. I’m not suggesting that you throw in the towel just because it gets hard, but I do believe that people, relationships and dynamics can become unproductive and unhealthy. After sincere effort and honesty, if something no longer works, we have the power to choose differently.

5. Discernment. What some call distrust or jagged, I call discernment. I believe people have the same potential for good as they do for evil. I also believe that people will rise to the occasion and, more often than not, surpass our expectations in amazing ways. That being said, blind trust or faith is never a good idea. Being burned by a relationship heightens our sense of awareness. We learn that trust is fragile and should be earned and nurtured. Trust is at the heart of every good and functional relationship and heightened senses equip us to be better judges of character. It teaches us discernment about who is worthy of our trust. This skill may have been lacking prior-to divorce (and throughout the divorce process, but that is a different post).

So to the Carly’s of the world who think divorce causes unnecessary pain and labels, please know that divorce isn’t easy for anybody. It is tough. It does impact more than your parents. It is a lesson and a perspective that stays with you. I might suggest that it impacted you enough to take a risk, share you story, and impact your world in a positive way. Yeah you.


The Best Part of Being a Mom

trust and let goShortly after my divorce, my son’s interests in plants and trees intensified. Being new to the single-parenting scene, I was adjusting to a new routine and scrambling to take care of myself and my son. I told him his passion couldn’t be nurtured fully because we didn’t have a yard. In truth, it was my way of avoiding the responsibility of keeping the plants alive. I am not proud of it, but I was oblivious to his passion and healing process and found myself spiraling further into obsessive behaviors.

With spring approaching, my need for order and cleanliness compelled me to make a trip to the local department store for supplies. When we arrived, my son spied the garden center erected in the parking lot. This was an unwelcome distraction for my tight schedule. I tried to hurry my son past it, but his heartfelt tears touched and tiny soft voice reached the darkest place of my heart when he said, “he just wanted to touch the beautiful pink flowers.”

We walked through the make shift aisles of the garden center and I watched as my son took pleasure in every plant. He stopped to touch each rose petal and told each tree how much he loved them. I kept close tabs on my watch as I worried about the detour in the plan. We finally made our way to the bleach and paper towels and exited the store with our purchases. At home, I was too busy making dinner, washing dishes and doing laundry to notice that my son had lifted something from the store.

Later that evening a storm raged through our small town, knocking down trees and ripping off roofs. My son was frightened by the sirens and the howling wind so he jumped into bed with me for snuggle time. When we woke the next morning, we were curious about the condition of the community and decided to take a drive. As we gawked at the downed power lines and damaged trees, my son announced that he needed to check on the rose bushes. He made the statement with the conviction of a parent who wanted to protect his young. I could see in his eyes that he wouldn’t take no for an answer.

We pulled into the parking lot horrified to find every rose bush lying on its side with soil strewn everywhere. Distraught, my son began to unbuckle before I had the vehicle parked. He leapt out of the van and began picking up the overturned pots. I followed to help him understand that it wasn’t our job and attempt to get him back to the car, but was instead instructed that the plants needed our help. My young and sensitive child took over and demonstrated to me how to pick up a rosebush without getting pricked by the thorns. I watched him carefully and lovingly pick up each bush, scoop soil onto the root ball and whisper to the bush that it was going to be ok.

The tenderness in his touch and the outpouring of his love touched my soul. It was in that moment, with tears streaming down my face, that I realized how grateful I was for this new life. I knew that the message my son was sending to the flowers was the message he needed to hear – it was going to be ok.

I let that peace fill me as I watched my beautiful child nurture his beloved plants. We spent the next forty-five minutes returning order to the makeshift nursery. When we finished, we gave thanks to the flowers and sent good vibes to the future caretakers of these plants. As we were saying our goodbyes, I turned to my son to tell him what a great thing he had done. Then I hugged him and whispered it was going to be ok.

After I put my son to bed that night, I started a load of laundry. I checked his pockets for rocks, Legos, candy or gum and instead found the rose petal he had lifted from the store the day before.

I placed the rose petal on my nightstand to remind me stop and smell the roses and be grateful for my journey. But more importantly to trust that it was going to be ok.

Trust is a powerful perspective that leads us from the fear of the storm to the grace and gratitude of the garden.

Happy Mother’s Day to mom’s encountering the storm; those who dwell in the garden; and everything in between.

Earth Day Perspectives on Leadership & Parenting

When my son was younger, he was obsessed with plants and trees and soils and seeds. When most boys his age were collecting baseball cards, he was carrying around a little field guide that showed the growing regions and seasons for plants.

His first grade teacher nicknamed him Johnny Appleseed. In her classroom at Christmas, he was given the honor of planting and watering the holiday amaryllis for his class.

In second grade his Halloween costume was a cactus.

As much as I love flowers and plants and consider myself a friend to our planet, I am not well versed in the ways of plants and soils. I love fresh veggies and garden salsa, but do not have a green thumb. To say that working on this topic as a hobby stretched me as a mom would be an understatement.

My son was hungry for knowledge and he hounded me with questions I could not answer without endless searches on google. When I reached the edge of what I knew, I took him to the Como Conservatory in St. Paul and literally pawned my son off on the master gardener so he could get insights and answers from experts. The master gardener loved it.

Exhausted from the learning, I took a mini nap on the nearby bench.

One morning as my son flipped through the field guide, he noticed that the growing season for plants varied. Some plants reached full harvest in 45 days and other plants took several months. As he flipped, he asked me a question that changed us forever. I braced myself for the question I suspected would require research.

Instead, he asked, “Momma, when do I turn “3000 days old”?

I grabbed my calculator and my son and I calculated the number of days in a year; incorporated the leap years; and found our answer together. As fate would have it, the universe has a great sense of humor. His 3,000 day was April 22.

The boy with the interest in sciences and plants would turn 3000 days old on Earth Day.

To celebrate his special day and earth day, we baked made flower-shaped cookies and took them to school. His teacher already had her opinion of me and I can say for certain that she thought I was “unique.” As a single mother, I had my way and she formed her opinion about me without full knowledge or grace. That mattered little to me.

Years later I ran into the now-retired teacher at a coffee shop and we talked about how many students’ birthdays she celebrated in her 25+ years as a teacher. She proudly reminisced that she celebrated every child – even those with a summer birthday. She said she didn’t remember many birthdays, but she remembered my son’s 3000th day.

My son eventually grew out of this plant loving phase, but what I learned as I fumbled through his plant-loving phase stayed with me.

What I learned about leadership and parenting:

Encourage questions & perspectives : Questions are often more powerful than answers. Extraordinary creativity lives inside the “what if” question. Questions also allow us to understand other’s motivation and mind-set. Powerful questions can be the beginning of something memorable and unique. Acknowledging and considering other perspectives gives us a broader and more diverse view of the world and helps us grow as parents and leaders.

Recognize what you don’t know : It may seem obvious, but sometimes we think or pretend to know and hide behind what we don’t know we don’t know. Maybe it’s our upbringing or perhaps our ego, but we are afraid of not knowing something. It makes us feel vulnerable. The truth is, when we acknowledge that we don’t know, it creates a pathway for powerful questions such as “what if?”

Involve those who identify the problem in finding the solution : Involving those who identify a problem to help solve it empowers our children and/or our employees. “Why questions put us on the defense. Instead, as questions that begin with “what or how.” When we ask in that way, it changes the way we think about a so-called problems. We begin to focus on how to solve it or what it would take to remove the barrier to the problem.

Celebrate differences as well as accomplishments : Being like-minded is not the same as being the same. Being like-minded means you share similar values and can see the importance of a specific outcome. Functional teams and families have learned to embrace and celebrate differences. When we feel accepted and appreciated, we contribute our best work and ideas. When we celebrate it, we tend to get more of it.



5 Ways to Remove the Entitlement from Divorce

I’ve experienced first-hand the effects of divorce. As a life coach, I’ve worked with clients who were struggling to find their new normal and learning to forgive and accept. While divorce can and may be the best choice for you and your spouse, it is never easy – or simple.

I admire couples who can be civil and find a way to shield their children from mud-slinging ridiculousness. I stand in reverent awe of those couples who have found a way to be friends with their ex-spouse and new partner. But in the society of entitlement that has become our norm, I find it difficult to believe that friendliness and fairness will ever be a part of the new equation that would allow for it to be so.

In fact, our belief systems about what we “deserve” have created a new way of being that is not only destroying our ability to have healthy relationships, it is impacting how we shape our children’s view of the world.

I’m not suggesting that we toss aside our worthiness to appease a relationship. We are human and Americans have the right to the pursuit of happiness and prosperity. But what I am suggesting is an approach to adulthood and parenthood that is not riddled with entitlement.

A balanced and fair approach to custody and the equal distribution of assets at the time of divorce is necessary and healthy. It evens the playing field and allows for a clean slate and a fresh start. But what I’ve witnessed in the recent past is how entitlement has permeated and poisoned the healthiest intentions and has, among other things, destroyed the integrity of the court system.

Lop-sided laws have promulgated the idea that we deserve something simply for having been married to the wrong partner. How is that powerful? It allows for bad decision making and a lack of accountability because the burden of keeping the playing field “even” is put onto one party – the ex. It seems as ludicrous to me as the idea that life is fair. It’s not. In fact, it can be challenging. But at what point do our past choices no longer haunt or handcuff us?

There was a time when our society required laws to protect the rights of those who were not monetarily compensated for their contributions to the family. I support the intention of those laws, but the letter of the law has allowed for it to be abused and the truth distorted.

When dealing with two able-bodied and educated parents, there should be a statute of limitations on how long the ex should be liable for the poor decisions of the former spouse, especially when there is shared custody of the children.

I could ramble on about what is wrong with our legal system, but it essentially boils down to the attitude of entitlement – that we deserve something for nothing.

Imagine what our children would learn from observing the powerful perspectives of acceptance and accountability instead of greed and fear-based decision-making?

Following are several ways divorced couples can leave behind entitlement and move toward personal empowerment.

1. Your finances are your responsibility. Your former spouse is no longer in charge of your lifestyle or financial decisions and should not be expected to be responsible for the consequences of your choices, particularly when you are an able-bodied adult. If you’re job doesn’t pay enough for you to pay your mortgage or afford you the kind of lifestyle you desire, get a new job.

2. Life as you know it is over. Holidays, weekends and previous family-related functions will cease to exist as you know them. It seems obvious, but it’s not and it impacts some people’s ability to move forward with logic. Looking backward to what “used to be” or “what you’ve done for years” will only bring about disappointment and unrealistic expectations. The traditions you created while you were married were part of the marriage and ended with the marriage. It’s time to create new traditions with your children.

3. Your former spouse’s family is no longer your family. Your ex spouse’s parents are simply your children’s grandparents; and your ex spouse’s siblings will (and should) choose their sibling over a relationship with you (if it comes to that). Don’t expect the relationships you had with your ex’s family to be the same. Your involvement in the ex-siblings life is unwelcome and uncomfortable, at best. Be cordial, but remove the expectation that you’re part of that clan.

4. Respect, respect, respect. Schedules matter. By all means, create a new life with a new partner. That’s healthy. But no matter how badly you want to forget your past, your children’s time with the other parent deserves to be respected. Don’t make plans with your children during times when you know they are scheduled to be with their other parent. And if you don’t have a written schedule of custody, make one and honor it!

5. Avoid hashing out your differences on social media. If you need to sling mud, do it in private. If you have something to prove, find a counselor or a coach who can help you heal and find your confidence and grace again. If there are serious concerns about your well-being or the safety of your children, hire an attorney. Involve those who can help, but going social with your issues is destructive and will only delay the healing process.


The Fire and the Fuel

Fire QuoteThe relationship was deteriorating. We spent more time apart than we did together. We no longer shared the same interests. His obsession was with cold weather activities – I preferred the sunshine and warmth. I valued activities that required my body to generate energy through movement. His activities involved a motor generating speed. Not only did he detest my favorite sport (MLB), but he didn’t understand my love for the game.

We didn’t trust each other and therefore lacked respect. His actions reflected his highest values and those directly conflicted with mine. Every interaction became a heated battle and the quirks that may have once been endearing or tolerable became the seed for the next fight.

I realize now that a solid foundation was never built, but that didn’t make the inevitable any easier to embrace. I just didn’t know what I didn’t know — until I knew it.

It wasn’t difficult to see that our relationship wasn’t working. That was one thing that we agreed upon. I didn’t want to hate him, but the nature of our relationship had become so toxic that I found it hard to breathe. When he mentioned couples counseling, I felt compelled to agree. To be honest, I didn’t see a future with this person, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t figure out a way to put our differences aside and get along.

I was encouraged that he had taken the bull by the horns and made the appointment for our counseling session. It was scheduled for the afternoon and he told me he wanted to ride together. I thought it unusual that he would want to make a special trip, but I decided to let it go.

It was a quiet car ride to the appointment – we didn’t have much to say. We arrived, parked and entered the professional building. We checked in and completed the paperwork.

The lobby was decorated in bright hues and natural light shone through the windows. It was clean and spacious, but something about it felt off. There was a heavy wood door that separated the waiting area from the counseling area and the chairs were arranged in rigid, tight lines. Inspirational quotes in black frames were evenly spaced and hung on the walls. The room felt sterile and the colors forced. To describe the physical didn’t do justice to how it felt energetically. I don’t know if it was the cookie cutter feel of the space, but the longer I sat there, the more uncomfortable I became.

I closed my eyes and tried to settle my thoughts. I could feel the sunshine on my neck and I imagined myself sitting peacefully in a lush garden with flowers and tall whimsy grass blowing in the wind.

My thoughts were interrupted when a woman pushed open the heavy wood door. She had short dark hair, and an average build. She was holding a clipboard and held the door open with her hip when she called my name. I thought it odd that she didn’t call both of our names, but I stood and walked toward her, expecting him to follow suit. Then he announced that he would be back in an hour to pick me up after the appointment. Dumbfounded, I asked how this could be a couples counseling session if only one person attended. That’s when the counselor said that the appointment was made for me.

I walked over to him and asked what was going on. He said that our relationship could be repaired if I got my head straightened out. He told me I had changed and implied that our problems were all mine. But if I was willing to “get fixed” there might be hope. Blood boiling, I loudly and strongly suggested that he was part of the problem and needed more than counseling– he would benefit from a freaking lobotomy. Furious, I turned and walked toward the counselor. He looked at the counselor as if my reaction was evidence to his plight. His expression seemed to say, “see how she is.”

It was clear that the counselor was in over her head as we walked toward her office. I could hardly contain my anger. For the next 45 minutes I spilled everything that infuriated me about that man. I had reached my breaking point and nothing was sacred anymore.

It was cathartic.

I left that office with the realization that I no longer wanted to be in a relationship that forced me to behave in a way that didn’t honor me. I wasn’t willing to be with somebody who lit metaphorical matches, poured fuel on the fire and then blamed the heat on the person ablaze.

I take my share of the blame. My energy is such that I burn hotter than many, but that doesn’t make my fire wrong. It just means it’s best to steer clear of unhealthy fuel.

Golden Gift of Losing

Win or LearnI’ve watched with intrigue as the Little League International stripped Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West Little League of the 2014 United States title for falsifying boundary districts and using ineligible players.

I’ve read myriad perspectives on this story including those that claim the decision to expose the “cheat” was racially motivated; or stemmed from jealousy.

Most fascinating were the thoughts that came from Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder and former National League MVP Andrew McCutchen, who offered that “youth baseball has become a rich kid’s sport, and though the Jackie Robinson West kids can no longer boast a championship, some of the adults that we argue took advantage of them actually provided them a too-rare opportunity to showcase their skills for a broader audience.”

In Minnesota, the class AAA high kick competition became controversial when competitors claimed the Faribault Emerald dance team allegedly copied a dance from an out-of-state team and should be disqualified. The Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) investigated the allegations and allowed the dance. Faribault was awarded first place.

Coaches and athletes from five of the opposing dance teams protested the awards ceremony and instead stood, hand-in-hand, apart from the Emeralds dance team. They attributed their actions to ethical and moral codes and stood united in their victimhood to “do the right thing.”

In Wisconsin, an elementary school decided to turn “Olympic Day” into “Winner’s Day.” I’m told the decision was made to help raise the self-esteem of all students by making everybody a winner.

What I’ve noticed about all three stories is they share a pattern of delusional thinking that has led to dysfunctional behaviors and systems. The delusion is that life is fair; the dysfunction begins when we create and enforce structures that promulgate this delusion.

The root of the problem is clear. When we operate inside a delusion, reality becomes skewed and expectations flawed. We are operating from a principle that is not aligned with truth.

Kids understand that we are all different. They embrace this fact. They become confused when we are lumped together and told we are all the same. Spend any amount of time with children and you’ll realize they make no qualms about somebody’s differences. They’ll question why somebody needs a wheelchair or why Molly has two mommies; but their questions stem from curiosity, not judgment. When we arbitrarily remove the differences, we subconsciously communicate our fear around the differences. This teaches them to label, fear and judge differences and to value what their leader’s value. If being fast is valued; than being slow is bad. If winning is valued, then losing is bad. If being the same is valued, then being different is bad. This is not truth.

In the case of the little league manipulation, the offending leaders justified their behaviors because they convinced themselves that they provided a rare opportunity for their kids. Worse, they justified the lie by suggesting that those who called it out were racists. Not only did they cheat, but now they are being victimized. The underlying issue may be the system, but behaving like a victim will teach children to behave like victims; and cheating to win will teach them that winning is all that matters.

I can appreciate the point Andrew McCuthen was trying to make, but he plays major league baseball because he is incredibly talented and hard-working. I find it difficult to believe that the MLB is filled with athletes fortunate to have a privileged youth.

In Minnesota, the five teams who protested not only disrespected the governing body and their sport; but they chose to dishonor their opponents. They justified their victimhood in the name of “doing the right thing.”

In what world do we consider disrespect and dishonor doing the right thing?

When did the goal of youth competition become about winning rather than providing opportunities to cultivate character and develop leaders?

In schools across the country, our students are being taught that everybody wins. This might hold more water for me if distinctions were made about what it means to be a winner. Coming in last place is not awful until it is labeled as bad by the leaders. How does removing competition and honoring sameness teach us what winning behavior looks like? And let’s be honest, the kids know who is fast, strong, and smart so let’s give them some credit and speak our truth. Let’s remove the fear around losing and let kids learn to win and lose with grace. Instead of pretending everybody is the same, why not create an event or environment that celebrates differences and provides opportunities to see the value in all people? What if we provided the tools to deal with the reality that life is not fair? Operating from that truth may give kids the perspective to honor each other, instead of hating or fearing somebody for their privilege, skill, or difference.

The concept that life is fair is creating entitled victims. You can win without being a winner and lose without being a loser.

The distinction is clear. Winning and losing are adjectives: winners and losers are nouns. Somewhere along the way, we have collapsed them and blurred the lines between the act of winning and the behaviors attributed to winners. Bad behavior is bad behavior. Cheating, lying and disrespect are unbecoming behaviors never associated with winners – regardless of the outcome.

The sooner we embrace the reality that life is not fair and systems and structures are not perfect, the sooner we can stop hiding from our differences and teach our children about truth, grace and the golden gift of losing.

Losing is an opportunity to learn dignity, which is an attribute of a winner.

Love Advice

I will never pretend to be an expert when it comes to love. If experience dictates expertise, what I know well is that matters of the heart can cloud our vision and skew our judgment.

I once had a crush on a guy who was horrible for me. I couldn’t see his shortcomings, only his charm and wit. He wasn’t an honest man, but he was gregarious and had confidence I wish I possessed.

When a dear friend questioned what I liked most about this guy, I listed his attributes.  He was well educated, confident and funny. When she asked how he made me feel; I realized that I mostly felt anxious and unworthy. This led me to question my attraction and I came to recognize my thoughts as delusional and my attraction as addiction (as defined by “wanting something that is not healthy for you.”)

My heart wanted to feel something and my brain twisted the truth to oblige. That’s how addiction works. The addicted piece of your world will find a way to deliver that thing that you’ve told yourself you need. In my case, I thought I needed love. What was delivered was anything but.

What I know now is that we have everything we need inside of ourselves to feel what we want to feel, but it takes commitment to do the work necessary to arrive at a healthier place. That journey begins with self-awareness and moves upward toward forgiveness and love.

With the upcoming celebration of Valentine’s Day, my wish is that the powerful perspectives reach a soul who may need to be reminded of his or her greatness. If I could, I would share with my younger self the following.

My hope is that above all else, you understand that you are lovable and loved. Love is not something you need to earn or prove.

My wish is that you engage with the world form a place of worthiness– of knowing that you matter. Live the truth of worthiness by practicing self-compassion and by embracing imperfection. Practice courage by showing up, letting yourself be seen, and honoring differences. Share your stories of struggle and strength and always make room in your life for both.

Teach compassion by practicing compassion with yourself first. Set and respect boundaries; honor hard work, hope and perseverance; and tolerate differences of thought, appearance, and world views.

Learn accountability and respect by allowing yourself to make mistakes — and make amends.

Be self-aware by seeking to understand, rather than judge. Surround yourself with people who appreciate every part of you.

To know joy, practice gratitude. To feel joy, learn how to be vulnerable and move through fear.

I don’t wish for you pain, but accept that it is a part of life. Celebrate those who will allow you the gift of finding your own way through it so you may know your own strength. Because you are stronger than you think.

Be yourself. Life is a gift and is filled with perfect imperfections. Live with authenticity and speak your truth (even if others disagree) so that you may know trust.

The Crack in the Strategy

In my early twenties, my approach to life was bitter. I trusted nobody and believed the world was filled with more evil than good. All I needed to validate this belief was to watch the nightly news.

Then I turned my television off for nearly two years; and shielded myself from main stream media and negative people.

Circumstances changed and my life perspective pendulum shifted to the opposite extreme where I viewed the world as a magical place.

Inside of that timeframe, I was delusional enough to believe that if I demonstrated kindness and compassion and loved others enough, they would come to see the world as a magical place, too, and perhaps begin a kindness campaign of their own. My perspective was that the only thing the world needed was enough love to help it heal.

Unfortunately, there were cracks in this strategy. The first crack was the belief that I could change another person’s behavior; the second crack was that the world is only a positive, loving place.

The truth is this: people are going to behave how they choose to behave and the world is a mix of good and bad; light and dark. That is the nature of our planet and it is in perfect alignment with how it was created.

Without bad, we cannot experience or understand the definition of good. Without poverty, we cannot understand wealth.  Without war, we cannot relate to the power of peace. We need both. Contrast helps give meaning to its opposite.

I am not a pessimist. In fact, I am an obnoxious optimist. But what I believe is never going to change the structure of how it was created. If a piece of fruit contains the genetic code of an apple, but I believe it to be an orange, it will not magically turn into an orange.  That would require a genetic engineer.

The same is true of people.  But we are not genetically engineered to be bad or good.

We are genetically engineered to be human. We get to choose our path and what meaning we give to it.

I believe all people have the potential to be great and powerful. By power, I do not mean title, money or influence.

We are created with the same amount of awesomeness available to us, but unfortunately, some choose to dwell in fear, greed and entitlement and make decisions for themselves (and their families or organizations) based on those belief systems.

Belief systems can change and adjustments made to how we define good and bad. Power is not found in denial. True power comes from our ability to recognize and choose.

We can choose to be a victim, or we can choose to be empowered. We can choose to judge or we can choose to accept. We can choose to believe what we believe, but our beliefs do not render its opposite untrue.

We can shift our perspective to a powerful perspective of forgiveness, acceptance and love, but that doesn’t mean that those energies of our ego (fear, entitlement and greed) no longer exist. They must exist.

But because something exists, does not mean it is powerful.

Power is Choice.

Powerful Perspectives are found when we seek to understand what motivates our choices.

Are your choices motivated by fear, greed, and entitlement or are they powered by your ability to accept, forgive, and love?

You can’t do both at the same time. Choose wisely.