Finding Your Courage

cat-and-lion-imageLast week I was in LA, celebrating Thanksgiving with my family. One of my favorite experiences with my husband and son was going on a great hike at Griffith Park. The weather was absolutely perfect and definitely beat Cincinnati weather.

As we started on the trail, I mentioned to my son that I think he misunderstood what I had in mind for the hike. You see, when we began, it was mostly smooth and flat. He reassured me that this was just the beginning and I would definitely get to have some real rigorous hiking time.


As we continued, I began to work a little harder getting up the hills. Up and down we went, as I felt my heart pounding hard to keep up with them. He had been right because I was definitely pushing myself. We didn’t have a time restriction so we just climbed wherever we wanted and marveled at the great views overlooking the city.


As we turned the corner, my son saw a trail that he thought we should try. I noticed that no one else was on this small trail. I brought up the rear and as I got further into the trek, I realized that this was quite the rigorous path. There I was, rock climbing and using my hands and feet to hold on to the dirt. I continued to climb, wondering if we should truly be doing this. As I grabbed the dirt to hold on, I looked up to see how much further I had to go. It was ironic to go from feeling like I wasn’t going to be challenged to the point where I was hoping for this experience to be over. My son yelled at the top and I saw people standing up there on the wide cement path overlooking my climb. When I got to the top, I saw that our trail was blocked off and had a caution sign. I had to climb over all of this to get out of the trail. A number of people were staring at me as I jumped over the roped off area and turned around to read the sign.


Caution: Rattlesnakes in This Area— Keep Out.


No wonder they were staring at me. They were shocked that I was so brave to risk that climb up. They thought that I had great courage to attempt that feat— despite the warning.


Do you really think I would have climbed that trail if I knew the truth? I thought back to putting each hand in the dirt and rocks and taking my time up that hill. I was pretty freaked out.


Now back to that COURAGE thing. I didn’t know that I was risking something when I started up that trail. So that doesn’t count for HAVING COURAGE.

No, courage happens when you know all the possible risks before you start, you understand what you have to lose, and you have the guts to do it anyway.


You risk losing something that is valuable to you but you do it anyway. You do it because you know it’s the right thing to do. You get way out of your comfort zone and take a risk— despite all the warning signs.


Courage is an important trait to possess as a leader. The ability to look in the mirror and see your self clearly, warts and all, takes courage. The ability to deliver devastating news to someone, takes courage. The ability to listen to your gut when everyone disagrees with you, takes a whole lot of courage.


The ability to make a decision that comes with big risks, definitely takes COURAGE.


Give a thought to the last 6 months. Did you make decisions that were safe because you didn’t want to rock the boat? Did you put off that difficult conversation because it’s just easier that way? Did you stay where you are because you know what to expect there? Did you agree with everyone instead of saying what you truly feel is right?


Are you a courageous leader? The time to start becoming one is NOW.




Keeping the Faith

can-you-give-someone-a-helping-hand-429094631On my way home from grocery shopping, I received a desperate text that we were in dire need of kitty litter. I pulled into the pet store and finally located the overpriced brand that my cats seem to prefer. When I grabbed the huge 30 lb. bag, I noticed that the price was at least 7 dollars more than I usually pay. I took it up to the counter and kindly asked if they could match the price. The sales clerk smiled and said they would call another store and check the current price.


This whole fiasco took at least 15 minutes. She helped other customers and continued to wait on hold with the other store. I figured that she was losing her patience. However, she showed no sign of anger about the situation and eventually sold it to me for 7 dollars less, with a smile on her face.


I thought to myself— she didn’t have to do that.


I lugged the huge 30 lb. bag out to my car. I was struggling to hold on and open the door when a man came out of nowhere. He grabbed the bag from me and asked me where I wanted it. Somehow he showed up exactly when I needed a helping hand.


I thought to myself— he didn’t have to do that.


When I got home, I went outside to rake some of the leaves blanketing my front yard. Believe me, it was so overwhelming. My neighbor was out there too. I worked for a while, raking together a huge pile that was going to take me forever to bag up. I went in to eat lunch and heard the doorbell ring. Standing there was the little boy next door with a smile on his face. He wanted to help me rake the leaves. We had fun working together and he made the time go so much faster.


I thought to myself— he didn’t have to do that.


All of us can agree that this election season has been downright ugly. Everywhere you go, that ugliness hangs in the air. I see it on Social Media, in stores, work and home. People are angry, desperate and some are feeling out of control. That anger and heaviness follows us throughout the day. It’s a burden that we carry into every conversation and every relationship— even at work. We might not bring up the topic but the ugliness and heaviness is still there.


It becomes “Us vs. Them”. How could she feel that way? How could he be so WRONG? How could people be so cruel and out of touch? And then we start generalizing and placing people into neat little categories. The thinking is black and white and you are either good or bad.


But here’s the truth about people. Those good Samaritans that helped me today don’t necessarily agree with me on politics. Yet, they were kind, helpful and went out of their way to support me. They went above and beyond and expected nothing in return.



People are complicated. Other’s views and perspectives can be difficult to understand especially from OUR PERSPECTIVE.


So don’t lose faith during this time. Take a deep breath and try to give other people space for their own beliefs. We have much more in common than we realize.


Most people are good.



Quick Judgments

smiling pugLast week, Miles the Pug and I were on our usual walk in the neighborhood. As I turned the corner, I noticed that the neighbor’s two dogs were in the front of their house on their electric fence. They barked and snarled incessantly at the two of us as I opted to walk on the other side of the street.


I love dogs but those two have always put me on edge. They’re much larger than Miles and appear to be extremely territorial. To put it mildly, they always seem ready to attack.


Anyway, we walked to the front of the subdivision and were finally on our way back. As we got closer to the house with the snarling dogs, the barking became louder and louder. For months, I’ve walked on the sidewalk close to these dogs, trusting the electric fence. This time, I veered out into the street. Call it sixth sense, but those two were making me very nervous.


Suddenly, the bigger and angrier of the two ran full force toward us in the street. I had Miles on a retractable leash and in my panic, I didn’t lock it. There I was, screaming and frantically trying to pick Miles up before he became an appetizer for this dog. The dog targeted Miles by the neck while I chased the two in circles, trying to pick up my dog. Finally, I got ahold of him and began to run, with Miles trying desperately to wriggle out of my arms.


When I got home, I checked every inch of Miles to see if he had any bite marks. I couldn’t find any due to his agile circle moves. I was shocked that I couldn’t locate one bite. The next day, I informed the owners, who didn’t seem that surprised or concerned. The evil dog ran out and came to give me numerous kisses and love.


Two days later, I was walking Miles when we ran into the dog being walked by his young owner. The young man stopped to apologize profusely and as he talked, I noticed his dog was on a tight leash. As he explained himself, his dog obediently stood still. Out of nowhere, Miles the Pug lunged forward to attack the dog, barking and growling. I was shocked and embarrassed.


Now there’s a reason that I’m sharing this story. There’s a lot to learn by analyzing the way Miles and I reacted to this situation. This experience is not very different from how we often react to workplace conflict.


Sometimes we make assumptions about situations and relationships that just aren’t true.


From my vantage point, I saw Miles as the victim and the snarling dog as the bully. I assumed that Miles couldn’t defend himself in such a situation. However, Miles actually handled the dog’s aggression in the best way possible. He put the dog on warning that he was not going to go down easy. I was shocked by this reaction from him.


Conflict is a common occurrence during Change Initiatives in the workplace. There are times when we tend to label and categorize situations and relationships because it makes it easier for us to understand. One person is the bully and one person is the victim. If one person is guilty, than the other person is certainly innocent. However, it is rarely that simple. Often, situations and people can be very complicated.


Peering from the outside, it is often difficult to see the nuances that make up conflict within relationships. It never is as straightforward as it initially appears. Each individual in the relationship plays a part and needs to take responsibility for that piece.


So the next time you see conflict brewing between two individuals, try to refrain from making quick judgments.


Life is rarely explained in black and white terms.