I just discovered a new app called Steller. It brings you short photographic stories on a variety of intimate topics like family, pets, places, food and more. I love it because it lets you go deep into a subject, very quickly and very visually. And it has video too. My favourite part is that it’s a small community that’s really supportive. I so dig it. Here’s a Steller I made of Gracie.
About a month ago, I spent some time in New York meeting with a few cool cats from some top-notch marketing, advertising and branding agencies. Over drinks, I made a bold statement in front of my fellow marketers. I admitted I kind of hate Facebook.
It felt like the ultimate faux-pas as we are supposed to be the ones who are spending hours on Facebook (or insert any other myriad social network here), discovering and exploiting every opportunity to use social networks to increase peoples’ interactions with their favourite brands or helping people find new brands that might appeal to them. Or, at the very least, we should be reading the latest Forrester or Garner reports on how brands are using social networks to grow their customer base and revenue. It’s our job to love the new opportunities these networks have forged for us marketers.
Surprisingly, the others sheepishly admitted the same. That gave me an opening, whether they wanted it or not. I briefly (but passionately) ranted about how people are starting to act like big brands and only sharing the things that make them appear in a certain light. They want to show the world they have the best spouse, the smartest kids, that they read a lot of things written by intelligent and famous people, that they take really artsy photos, that they travel lots of cool places you haven’t been, that they are clever, sharp, witty, insightful, inspirational, worthy of our attention. It’s as though people have created a social brand and now they have to live up to it by only posting on-brand content about themselves. And what’s even funnier is we judge the success of our posts based on how many people interact with them, just like companies do! Things that get lots of comments and generate lots of likes are things we will say and post again. We feel like we struck a chord when we get a response.
I have to say, what Facebook (and other social networks) has done is really quite amazing. They have created the opportunity for ordinary people like you and me to create our own personal brands in a much bigger, more visible and public way. Here’s my real beef: When it comes to Facebook, people are acting like companies when, instead, companies should be acting like people.
P.S: I did add a post-script to my rant with my NYC marketers saying that one of the things I love about Facebook is my “Only for family” group that my cousin who lived in the Middle East for 20 years created. For the first time, I feel like I can genuinely interact with my relatives who are scattered around the planet and feel connected to them in a day-to-day way. And I get to see the new generation of our family growing up, finding themselves and becoming adults. So don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate everything about Facebook. It’s kind of ironic, but the very reason I first joined Facebook is still the thing I love most about it. I can connect with friends and families.
For those of you who have seen me over the last few months, you know I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time crying. Not always sad crying, but overwhelmed crying, touched-by-amazing-stories-of-amazing-people crying, feeling-blessed crying, fear crying, anxiety crying, so-much-beauty-around-me crying, I-love-my-dog-so-damned-much crying.
Earlier this week I was on my way to a doctor’s appointment, so I tuned into my favourite radio show of all times, CBC’s The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti. I caught a follow-up show they were doing on poverty in Canada called “The 10% Have Their Say.” It was a phone-in show for people who live in poverty in Canada to share their stories. I could barely leave the car to go to my appointment as I heard the voices of Canadians who struggle every day to eat, maintain shelter, get work, and take care of themselves, their children or in one case, a seeing-eye dog. Imagine choosing between feeding yourself and your children or your seeing-eye dog. That’s shouldn’t be a choice anyone has to make. It brought me to tears (not surprisingly).
If you tuned into this show, you will have been moved. Guaranteed. If you missed it, you should do yourself a favour and listen to it on CBC’s website or download it on iTunes. There’s also a great discussion on what Alberta is doing to build a comprehensive strategy framework to end poverty. If you don’t have the time to tune in or you are afraid it will hurt to hear these stories, feel free to read some of the realizations I had while listening.
- What poverty looks like in Canada. Check out these facts. You’ll learn that almost 60% of Canadians live paycheque to paycheque and so many other things that will cause your jaw to drop.
- How invisible poverty really is. People are struggling every day and they look just like me even though our lives couldn’t be more different. They might have clothes, they might have shelter, but they could be living on the border of losing everything every day or they just can’t afford to meet their basic needs. Some of them have mental health issues which are also invisible barriers to overcoming poverty.
- How alienated poor people in Canada feel. Many of them don’t have email, internet or phone lines. It’s too expensive to stay connected to community, family, friends and there’s no extra money leftover to pay for high-speed cable to check out the latest YouTube videos and internet crazes. Many callers talked about how alienating it is to not participate in the social aspects of today’s society.
- How poverty is every Canadian’s problem. There are proven links between poverty and health outcomes and crime. This means that poverty in Canada is costing all Canadians who pay for our health and criminal justice systems.
- How many children in Canada aren’t spoiled. While I was cruising comfortably along Crowchild in my car with a heated seat, I heard an 8-year-old girl tell Anna Maria that she didn’t want to say what she wanted for Christmas for fear of hurting her mom’s feelings knowing her parents couldn’t afford her gift ideas. This young girl was racking her brain trying to come up with cheaper wish list items. The sensitivity of these children to their parents’ feelings was heart-breaking.
Of course at the end of all this, you ask yourself how you can help. I’d suggest you check out Canada without Poverty to get informed, but then look around to your own community to see if there are any local agencies that allow you to sponsor families (like Families Matter in Calgary), provide homeless people with the things they specifically need (like the Mustard Seed in Calgary or Edmonton), or take donations for broader programs and policies.
If you know of any other agencies where readers can help, feel free to share them in the comments below.
Remember that 30 day inner journey I did for the month of June? Well, all I can say is that things just haven’t been the same since. On June 19, something happened. I was in Miami with a few of my closest friends enjoying a lazy day. That night all kinds of hell broke loose. Every kind of hell broke loose.
I was lying down in bed and suddenly I felt these intense surges of heat rolling through my body. But I was also shivering because of the cold rushes that followed. I couldn’t stand the flicker of the TV, the brightness of the room lights was blinding and the sound of the laugh track on the show we were watching made me want to pull my ears off my head and hide them in a drawer until I woke up on the morning. I was surprised by a sudden bout of the runs and a recurring urge to vomit. I didn’t know whether to sit on the toilet or hug the toilet. I thought it might have been food poisoning, but I was also overcome with fear, anxiety and a rush of illogical thoughts about my past. I was freaking out. And my friend who had the same dinner as me was happily watching Rupaul and his fellow drag queens teach repressed women how to find their sexuality. I didn’t sleep a wink.
All the way home, I was plagued with fear, anxiety and random rushes of energy through my upper body. I was sweating and uncomfortable the whole journey home. I tried to distract myself by watching 10 straight episodes of Sex & the City on DirectTV. It didn’t work. My mind was racing, my emotions were all over the place and my body felt like it was tightly bound in uncomfortable clothes. I wanted to crawl out of my skin.
I got home at 11:00 PM and the hot/cold energy continued to rush through my upper body, up my back and arms into my neck. I was sweating in bed at night while I tossed and turned. I got up a few times and walked over to my husband’s side of the bed to see if he was awake. He’s an insomniac, so I thought I might be lucky enough to catch him awake. No such luck. He slept like a baby that night and I cried in bed wondering what the hell was going on. I thought I was going to lose my mind. Then, the craziest thing happened. I suddenly zoomed out and could see myself lying in bed. There were two grey silhouettes in my bed and I had the distinct sense that one of them was my body in turmoil and the other was my consciousness witnessing the former. I watched them until they merged into one single form. Shortly after, I fell asleep.
In the morning, I told Bruce what was happening. He smiled gently and said “it sounds like kundalini.” That’s what I was afraid of. He asked me a series of diagnostic questions:
“Is there energy rising up your spine?”
“Is your mind racing with fear and bullshit from your past.”
“Are you overcome with anxiety?”
“Are all of your senses on overload?”
“Yep, it’s kundalini.”
In just a few minutes, Bruce counselled me on how to manage the energy and the thoughts so I could get through the day. “Breathe down into your feet, don’t buy into the bullshit that’s coming to the surface of your mind, and call me later.” Back in 1996, Bruce had a not-so-pretty encounter with kundalini so he was able to identify the symptoms pretty damn quick. At lunch, I called my mom and grilled her about what I was going through. She confirmed it to be a kundalini experience too; she had hers in 1991. She told me to focus on my exhale, breathe deeply and press my big toe into the Earth to ground me. My mom and Bruce both reminded me that I set an intention at the beginning of the June experiment and that intention was to become conscious, aware and to know myself. I guess I had hoped the experience of becoming conscious would be less painful. After years of hearing Bruce’s stories of his “kundalini days” and having witnessed the torture my mom lived through during her spiritual experience, I never wanted to meet kundalini face-to-face. But it seems we don’t always get to choose.
So this is how we met. Me and Kundalini. I can now confirm first-hand that she’s a force to be reckoned with. And she’s not done with me. Not yet.
Here’s a crude definition of kundalini from Wikipedia. And then there’s a woman named Swami G who has written a book on the kundalini experience. She seems to be the most well versed author on this experience and has definitely helped people integrate and recover from this experience. Her book Kundalini – From Hell to Heaven is a bible of sorts to those who are trying to reconcile their kundalini experiences. I haven’t read it yet, but I think it’s time.
My mom, Ruby Bedi, recently shared a story with me that has a really profound lesson. I felt it worth sharing with all of you because it really showed me how we often times misinterpret the “signs” in our lives. It also taught me that no matter who you are – a monk or an ordinary person – you can still get it wrong.
There once was a Buddhist monk. He lived deep in the forest in a monastery with his fellow monks and masters. Every day, he engaged in his daily practices and rituals. He lived with nothing but the robes on his back and a small sash in which he could carry a few small things should he need to travel to other monasteries around the world. He practiced under a master so severe, so austere, that he had been described as cruel by fellow monks. The severity, he justified, was just pushing him to achieve the peace he so longed for.
Long before he was a monk, he was an ordinary man. He had a wife, a job and a home. He lived in a big city and drove to work and went grocery shopping. But he couldn’t deny the calling that took him to the depths of the forest to pursue a life of purity and discipline in the hopes of achieving nirvana.
It had been 7 years that the ordinary man had lived as a monk in the forest. The peace he sought eluded him. After years of practice, discipline and struggle, the monk decided that it was time for him to leave the monastery. He was angry and fed up with his master. He didn’t want to live one more moment of torture under this monk’s thumb. One day, he walked out the front door of the monastery. There was a car waiting to take him back home. He got in and didn’t look back.
The car, unfortunately, broke down only meters away from the monastery. The monk thew his head back in defeat. Dammit, he secretly thought. The Universe, God, Buddha was telling him that he had made a mistake. He wasn’t meant to leave the brotherhood. He was turning his back on his path. He was denying his destiny. The thought plagued him, but not enough to change his mind. He got the car running again, drove for hours and hours and finally arrived at home.
Years later the monk, now an ordinary man, met a master in ordinary clothes. He told her he was wrestling with his decision to leave the Buddhist path and to return home. He recounted the story of the car breaking down and how in that moment he knew that he had made a mistake by leaving the monastery. The wise master didn’t waste a single moment. “You idiot!” she said. “You got the message all wrong! The broken down car was not telling you not to leave. The broken down car was teaching you not to leave in anger! ”
I just thought I would quickly mention that my mom is hosting an Inlighten Me Experience one-day event in Calgary on Sunday, August 21. If you like the stuff that I’ve shared on my blog about her and her philosophies, you might want to check it out. As you know, if you’ve been reading my blogs, I’ve been doing a lot of her work and it’s really been instrumental in the profound changes in my life and perspective over the last number of months. I encourage you to check it out, even if you are only fractionally intrigued. This is not another new age, self-help seminar. I assure you.
At last, the final installment in my management trilogy on gifts, talents and skills. Today, all I want to talk about is gifts. ‘Cause in the end, that’s the one thing that really matters.
Remember a gift is something you are stupidly amazing at without even trying. It’s something you were born with and something that comes naturally to you. What you’ll notice about gifts is that when you use or share them, you actually gain energy, you don’t lose it. You’ll have all sorts of passion for it. It kind of defies physics which is what makes it so magical. You’ll find that your day flies by when you are in a role that allows you to utilize and share your gifts. You’ll find your work, and your life, so much satisfying when you’re aware of your gift and you use it. And you’ll very likely be recognized for it. People notice when you get to do what you are best at every day. And with recognition often comes success. Seems obvious, doesn’t it?
Here’s where a lot of people get stuck though. They don’t value their gifts because they come so easy. And they often make the mistake of believing that what they do is easy for everyone because it comes easy to them. Not the case! There’s this stupid underlying assumption that only the things you work hard at are fulfilling and rewarding. That’s total bullshit too. The bottom line is that if you deny your gifts, you are denying a deep part of who you are. You might perceive someone else’s gifts as more rewarding or worthy, but that’s only because you are an idiot. You might think you’d prefer that gift because it will make you more successful. Well, that other person you are envying is probably using their gift which is what is fueling the success. It’s not the gift itself. It’s the awareness and utilization of the gift. Seems obvious, doesn’t it?
Don’t make the mistake of undervaluing your gift. Know it. Embrace it. Share it. Realize how important your unique gift is to the world.
In my last post, I shared my personal definitions of gifts, talents and skills. In this post, I want to dig deeper into these 3 wonderful things and figure out why we often get tripped up when we are trying to figure out how they are different from each other. Here’s what I think is the crux of the confusion: One person’s gift might be another person’s skill. Let’s look at a few examples.
I have a few friends who are gifted when it comes to analytics. It just comes naturally to them. It’s just how they think. They are often graphing things, trying to understand the true value of something and wondering about what the trend is over a certain period of time. My one friend, in particular, sits by a window at work where a number of trains go by every day. I told him how I love trains, how they make me feel and what they remind me of. He told me he wonders what the average number of train cars on a train is and often thinks about tracking it on a spreadsheet to better understand the pattern. Interesting … but not to me. Another guy (ahem, my father the economist), carpools with a number of oil & gas guys to work in Houston every day. He told me about how him and his 3 carpool buddies track their fuel mileage on different routes over a period of time to determine what the most economical route to work is. Bruce (my husband) nearly died. He was like, “who cares and what’s a spreadsheet?!” I was impressed that this is how they willingly spend their time. It makes sense because neither Bruce nor I are analysts or economists at heart. Another analytical friend of mine spent the last hour of his work day with me last week teaching me algebra. I was keen to learn, and he was pretty excited to share it. He was sharing a gift and I was developing a skill.
Another great example is with my colleagues who are writers. I find writers tend to be very aware of their gift. I remember my friend Tara of Versus Boredom telling me that everyone can write, but not everyone’s a writer. It’s so cut and dry with this one. Almost anyone can develop the skill to write correctly (for some it takes more work than others), but not everyone is gifted at communicating with words.
What’s the difference between a talent and a skill? This one can get a little murky. Talents are sometimes just things that we can pick up easily. Like my mom. She’s amazing at cooking. It’s easy for her and she just seems to have a way of turning an empty fridge into a gourmet meal. She’s not gifted at it though. And she never really learned it. My mom’s gift is helping people figure out what their gifts are! Then there’s someone like Leanne from Healthful Pursuit. Now that’s not talent in the kitchen, that’s a pure gift! She’s driven, passionate and totally comes to life when she talks about healthy food. And her recipes are works of art. It just comes naturally to her. It’s who she is. But, here’s where it can get confusing. Sometimes talents are clues about undiscovered gifts. When you pursue the talent, you find you had some gifts that were lying dormant waiting to be awakened. That’s why it’s so incredibly important to explore your talents. You might find a gift, or you might just find something that you can pick up easily. Either way, you’re in luck!
So here’s a few questions you can ask yourself to get a little clearer on this whole thing: Are you aware of your gifts? Do you have any talents that need some attention? And what skills would help you do your job or live your life better? Now do something with this knowledge!
As a manager of people, I often think about what my peeps are passionate about, what they’re good at and what they can learn. My thinking on this often ends up with me trying to discern what the difference is between a gift, a talent and a skill. We managers use these words interchangeably, but I genuinely believe these are different things. And consequently, as a manager, it’s important to understand which is which in your peeps. Why? Because it determines how you help them grow.
Gifts are something you are just born with
These are things that you are inexplicably good at. Gifts come naturally. They are something you don’t even think about doing, you just do it and you do it well. Often times people marvel at your gifts because they don’t have the same gift. To them, it’s mind boggling how you can just do this thing you do with such ease.
If you have someone who is in a role where they don’t get to use or at least share their gifts, you aren’t getting the most out of them and they aren’t giving everything they’ve got. I think it’s a manager’s role to help their people discover their gifts, use them, share them and honour them. Here’s the tricky thing. People often don’t value their gifts because they come so easily to them. You have to point out that these gifts are unique to them. That what they do naturally doesn’t come naturally to their peers. And you have to balance their utilization of their gifts with the development of talents and skills, otherwise they might not grow in new and important ways doing what they do naturally every day. A little bit of discomfort and chaos is good for people – a little.
Talents are something you have a propensity for
You have a knack for it. With just a bit of coaching, teaching and training, you can pick it up with relative ease. You may not love it and you may not be the best at it, but it comes somewhat easily. And you do it well.
If you’ve got someone who is showing a propensity for something, give them little side projects to exercise untapped talents. Help them cultivate their talents by offering them ways to use them on smaller projects. Encourage them to learn more about it; see if they discover a new passion. If they find out that a talent is in fact a gift, you might want to see if their role can include this new talent or whether there is a better role for them (in or out of the organization) that will enable them to utilize this gift. I once worked with a guy who was a very talented designer. What we found through a little side project that he was incredibly gifted at product design. Within a year of discovering this gift, he changed roles and moved into the product design group. Had we not experimented a bit, we might not have tripped over this hidden gift.
Skills are something you develop with hard work, years of experience and training
These are things you’ve learned on the job or in life after having had to develop them to do your job or get through your life. They aren’t necessarily things you love doing or are astoundingly great at, but you can do it.
A lot of people don’t want to learn the skills that will in fact make their jobs easier, because that’s not what they are passionate about to begin with. For example, I’m in marketing. I need to use Excel to understand how my programs are faring – are they making money, are they not, are they meeting expectations, are they not? I don’t love Excel, I’m not super great at it, but it’s a means to an end. It helps me understand how I’m doing and ultimately do my job better. Over the years, I’ve gleaned a bit about Excel from my analyst friends who use it like it’s another function of their body. And it’s made my work better. So while your people may not enjoy the actual skill itself, it might be worth suggesting a day or two of training if you (and they) believe it will make their jobs easier or more efficient. This is not about developing a passion or a talent, this is about helping them do what they do better and faster.
Next time you are at work, stop and think about what you are doing. Is it a gift, a talent or a skill?
I love my iPhone. Not because it’s an Apple product and definitely not because it’s a good phone (it’s not!). I bought it because it would make carrying my camera, my email and my phone really efficient. But over the last year or so, I’ve come to rely on it to organize my life. What’s fascinating to me is that when you get an iPhone, your veteran iPhone friends are so excited to share all of their favourite apps with you. It’s like App School.
So … To give back to my iPhone mentors for showing me the ropes, I thought I would share my 5 favourite apps with you! Tell me what your favourite apps are (I like free ones).
GoTasks – Everyone wants a to-do list on their smart phone. GoTasks is my favourite. It’s got a super simple interface and my favourite part is that it synchs with your tasks in Gmail. Nothing fancy in here, no priority settings, no categories. Just a plain old list of things you want to get done. I dig it.
Sleep Cycle – A veteran iPhone user introduced me to this app on Christmas Eve. This app uses the iPhone’s accelerometer to gauge and graph your sleep patterns. It tells how you deep (or shallow) your sleep was, how long you slept, and it has a lovely alarm clock that gently wakes you in the morning starting a half hour before you set the alarm to ease you into your morning, instead of jarring you awake. The only caution I have about this app is that if you are at all neurotic about your sleep, this might worsen that issue. Also, you have to sleep with your iPhone by your head, which I don’t love. I prefer not to have any EMFs or radio waves near my head, but that being said, this app taught me that on the nights I eat big meals, my sleep is compromised (like on Christmas Eve).
Flixster – My friend Tara over at Versus Boredom introduced me to this one. It’s a movie app that tells you what’s playing in the theatres and what’s coming out on DVD and when. This is the perfect app for spontaneous movie planning – you can get ratings, Rotten Tomato reviews, showtimes, locations and trailers all in one app. Love it. I also use it when we are cruising the on-demand movies on our home box to see what the movie is about, who’s in it and what the reviews were like. It’s an app I use at least once every weekend. Thanks to Tara for hooking me up with this one!
P-Tracker Lite – This one’s for all the ladies out there! Period Tracker allows you to track your cycle, document your moods/symptoms, see your most fertile days on a calendar, estimate the first day of your period and more. You know how your doctor always asks you when the first day of your last period was and you’re like “uhhhh.” Well, now you can answer with confidence! I use the Lite version because it’s got everything I need, but there’s also a Deluxe version out there for a little more coin.
Hanging with Friends Free – Are you addicted to Words Free? Well, this is like graduating from Words. This is my new game indulgence. It’s basically Hangman on the iPhone but the avatars, music and animation are downright adorable! And the game combines the best of Scrabble scoring techniques with the instant gratification of Hangman. It’s such a fun little game that you can play with friends who have it on their iPhones. And the ads aren’t as annoying as they are in Words Free, so you can live with the free version.
Urbanspoon – This is an app a lot of people have on their phone and for good reason. Sometimes while travelling, I just need to know where the closest decent restaurant is without asking strangers. I used the “nearby” feature of Urbanspoon to find a hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant off Wall Street (it lived up to its meh ratings). I’ve used it to find sushi places in parts of Calgary I’ve never been in. And I’ve used it to find new restaurants to try. I don’t love the interface, but it’s got a lot of what I need when I’m trying to find my next meal.
I’m sure you’ll all agree with me. Being acknowledged is a wonderful feeling. When someone acknowledges us, something deep within is reaffirmed which builds our confidence. I’ll never forget when one of my former bosses told me he just knew I “got it” when we met for my first interview. He saw something in me that I didn’t yet see and later needed to be reminded of. His words became a rock I could rely on when I was flailing in self-doubt.
On the flip side, acknowledging others is pretty darn wonderful too. When you start acknowledging those who have brought something to your life that wasn’t there before, you get to experience gratitude. You are acknowledging something bigger than yourself and something deep within someone else. In my experience, this connects you more deeply to the people who have shared their gifts with you and allows you to experience the beauty of our interdependence. And to see the glow of being acknowledged in someone else’s eyes is truly a reward in and of itself.
Often we think that we are giving something up by acknowledging someone else’s role in our life. It can be seen as an admission of weakness. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. You give up nothing (okay, maybe you give up a little ego, but that’s not a bad thing!) by acknowledging the people around you who have shared themselves with you. In fact, you’ll see that it is as rewarding, if not more, than being acknowledged.
Ask yourself if there’s someone you need to acknowledge. And do it. And look into their eyes when you do it. I guarantee you will not be let down.