Friday, December 9, 2016

Who Will You Be?

Who Will You BE?

“Floating, falling, sweet intoxication.
Touch me, trust me, savor each sensation.
Let the dream begin, let your darker side give in to the power of the music of the night.” 
Charles HartThe Phantom of the Opera: Piano/Vocal

Two weeks ago today, I was wending my way through the bustle and hustle of a dark, wet and rainy London evening.  People traveling home from work, going out for the evening and heading to thousands of differing destinations created packed pavements. I was on my way to a private showing of a movie preview.  Navigation between Charing Cross station, through Covent Garden to Soho and beyond was my immediate task.

I had lived in London back in the 1970s, twice in fact.  Back then this journey would have taken ten minutes max. Over thirty years later, my I-phone would not access data; alas no google maps to navigate with.  I had to find my way through the spaghetti streets that make up the Theatre district with a wet map in tiny font that I had picked up from the very posh Savoy hotel.   I had an idea and quickly ducked into the foyer, sat myself down in front of the concierge, and pled my case that I was disoriented and this was not the London that lived in my memories.   He quickly pointed me in the correct direction and handed me the typical tourist map – I admit to feeling slightly insulted by being treated as a tourist, while grateful that I now had a navigation tool – a map!

Getting to Covent Garden was easy, but beyond it, I stepped into a crowded newsagent where the kindest Pakistani fellow helped me navigate the next few blocks.  Along the street, a young couple checked their I-phones on the corner of another junction to make sure I was on track, with a bright “yeah mate, yer on yer way.”  I was thrilled to be within about four or five blocks. Finally, just as I was peering through the drizzle to read an indistinct street sign, a gentleman with collar pulled up and cap pulled down approached me to check that I was okay – something about my demeanor must have shouted “lost.”  I reassured him that I was absolutely on track, no worries and upon hearing my American twang, he reassured me that everything in America would turn out okay, and that I should not worry about the election results which had been announced just a couple of days prior.  He proceeded to explain in a broad Russian accent that there were poor politicians everywhere and that we would survive.  I felt amused, and touched, as if an angel had just touched my shoulder with a soft “it’s alright now”.

Upon reaching my destination – a French pastry shop with delicious mille feuille, the frothiest coffees, traditional bistro style tables and authentic French waiters – I was elated, happy and just a bit overwhelmed with gratitude.  I met my Scottish friend and thought – this is the world I love to live in. Within that short journey, I had interacted with the concierge at the Savoy, the happy Pakistani newsagent, a young British couple and a kindly Russian gent. The music of the night was made evident in every step of the process.

Ten Lessons Learned from a 20 Minute Journey In London

1.    People including strangers are innately kind;
2.    We never have to go it alone;
3.    It took a mini-United Nations to help me arrive at the destination;
4.    I was willing to ask and to continue asking;
5.    Course correcting was necessary along the way;
6.    Memory helps: I recognized several junctions, theatres, landmarks and blocks;
7.    I experienced mini-culture-shock: a dissonance between my memories and current reality, and my interface with the city; 
8.    Not once did concern or fear get the upper hand;  
9.    By simply showing up to the next moment and trusting that the guidance offered was good, I could keep moving forward;
10. Laughter, friendliness and a breezy attitude are magnets for support and assistance.

As we navigate foreign lands or even our old home town, we often fall prey to the internal critic who says “well that’s not the way we do this,” or “you should have checked with the phone company service before setting off.”  There is often the desire to “look good” and not look like a foreigner or stranger; but releasing the old pattern and being available to something new is the seed of freedom.

Ultimately there are masses of good in the world, and if we will but wake up to the goodness that exists right under our nose, we can navigate ourselves in any direction.  Just for today, use your brilliance, your natural intuition to carry you forward in the direction of your long term dream or short term goals, one person, one map and one step at a time.  I believe in you, I believe in me….we have got this.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Please look under your car for penguins!

Please look under your car for penguins!

If you saw this sign would you pay attention?

A colleague of mine, previously an expat for 14 years in Japan, shared that after years of using Japanese, learning the language and really paying attention and listening deeply, he found himself back home needing to acclimatize in surprising ways.  He missed the effort and the attention required to understand what was being said.  The focus, the exercise of leaning in and listening was missing.    

Free of the “struggle” to communicate, comprehend and understand all day long, he found the return to his homeland a bit of a let down, like there was a challenge missing.   He finally came to the conclusion that his brain was no longer stimulated in that particular way.  

He shared that life back in his home country was almost nauseatingly boring, that he missed the challenge that his brain had been programmed to adapt to.   Expat adaptation arrives in so many packages, and language is probably one of the largest.   Making oneself understood and learning to communicate in new ways is one of the joys and challenges of living in a foreign land. 

“Perhaps ease and familiarity are really not that beneficial”, was the conclusion he drew. Ease can make life unstimulating, boring or uninteresting. Returning home has an element of reorientation, like discovering where you are and then finding your new true north and setting course towards that. Perhaps settling “Up” towards some aspiration or visionary state, as opposed to settling “down”, is the way to create new adventures and wonders.

I have a talk called “Returning Home: Without Settling For Less.”  The topic of creating a vision of a new adventure, along with many others related to the culture shock of returning to your home country, can help you prepare for return, or cope with the return if you are already in process.  

You are probably wondering what this has to do with penguins under your car!   Well, if I found a penguin under my car, even in winter in Colorado, I would be exceeding surprised – and quite frankly delighted.  I believe that finding and even creating surprise and delight for ourselves keeps us alive.  May the fresh, the uncommon or the tiny differences be the things we notice.  Watch for the warning signs of complacency or normalization settling into your daily routine!    Is the average day becoming dull, predictable and stale? – if so, look and see, are there any penguins under your car?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Reverse Culture Shock: Climbing the Repatriation Mountain!

Have you ever got into the groove of a new location really quickly?   Yesterday I completed a task, which seemed easy enough for hundreds of people do it every single weekend.    I climbed Mt. Evans which is 14,264 feet, which seems challenging on the face of it; however the catch is that you can drive almost the entire way to the top.   

That last 150 though are on foot!    Now while this distance seems small, you get to make this climb at over 14,000 feet which proved problematic for me.    I felt very unsteady, a bit woozy and was able to make it by taking a few steps at a time then resting for a bit.    Altitude sickness is still on the list of “to be mastered in this lifetime”.

Sometimes when we move and immerse ourselves in a very different environment, culture and geographic location we can experience similar results.     Here are a few strategies to deploy or tips if you like, which I remember helped to rock my last dose of reverse culture shock.  

1.       Pick each step carefully, paying close attention to each tiny baby step.

2.       Make friends with whomever you bump into on your path.

3.       Be outgoing, willing to share the journey with others – joking, commenting cheering each other on was very much appreciated yesterday.   

4.       Stop frequently to evaluate how you’re doing, take a deep breath and relax;

5.       Become part of the community, I notice that we had a common goal to reach the top and everyone cheered each other in that direction.

6.       Get a coach!    My husband happens to be a master-coach, yes, lucky me….but yesterday he was amazingly patient, calm and asked the right and perfect questions;

7.       Persevere….put your head down and take the next step in front of you, keep momentum going by taking small but regular steps;

8.       Celebrate at the top and upon reaching the car park and driving home!    Celebrate each accomplishment and step of the way, thus keeping yourself in the atmosphere of YES!  Climbing your Mt. Evans while maintaining your positive YES energy, keeping your mood, actions and your mindset in complete sync becomes a light that others can follow.

May these Rxs for baby steps all the way up your mountain wherever you are on your repatriation journey, treat it like an adventure and follow your yellow brick road.    The view from your mountain top will be amazing, you will be grateful you took the path less travelled.    All the best of success, may your life be portable and wondrous.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

From Failing To Fearlessness And Back Again

“Failing means you’re playing.”  Translation: It’s better to be doing badly than not taking part.

In Scotland there’s an old fashioned saying “Failing means you’re playing”.      

Growing up in Scotland I used to hear adults use this phrase time and time again.   I translated and internalized it to mean that if I am failing, I am really not serious, not focused, not successful and most certainly not doing my best.

Fast forward a lot of living, travelling and fitting into countless life situations in seven countries and four continents.  I realized when I saw this written this morning that suddenly a corner has been turned and this quote has taken on a completely different meaning.

This clearly didn’t happen overnight; I have no clue about the moment when this awareness happened. When I attempt something and fail I have developed the tendency to look at it as an attempt, or a  learning or a step in the direction I am actively choosing to go.

Do I still look around to see if anyone noticed my failure?  – oh yes.    Do I check myself to see what I am noticing? – oh yes.    Am I perfect at this?  - oh definitely not.  
Like a child who takes that first step and falls down, it is critical to get up again and put energy and momentum into taking the next step.

I have had a few Expat examples of failing in the transportation department, driving on a freeway in Yokohama, Japan when suddenly the English turns to Kanji and I found myself completely lost; or picking the wrong pipeline road to follow in Saudi desert and getting stuck; or getting on the train going the opposite direction in France; and even today being slow and confused at the underground booths in London while the crowds attempt to move my dithering self forward.

Learning to laugh at ourselves in failure, and congratulate ourselves for stepping out and giving it a good try is key.

If you are failing it means:

a) you are on the playing field;
b) you are participating;
c) you are risking, stretching and growing;
d) you are willing to experiment;

Congratulations, celebrations – it’s most definitely party time!!!   Woohoo in all directions.  Yes, I am most definitely suggesting we fail a lot – preferably in small ways - then celebrate.

When is the best time to fail?   I think it needs to be a daily practice. A few years ago I learned about the principle called “failing forward fast” which essentially means playing full out, with no holds barred and being willing to speed up the failure process. All this nonsense about celebrating failure seemed completely counter-intuitive when I was so desperately looking to succeed by pushing forward with eagerness.   Over time, by taking those baby steps we develop mastery.  Being willing to fail forward time and time again naturally moves us in the direction of mastery.

Rx –  HOW to Move from Failure to Fearlessness

Release baggage in the form of:
a)  procrastination – there’s no place for it when you are risking and playing full out
b)  looking good – ending up with egg on your face, and looking silly now become ideas to be welcomed
c) taking action – any action, sometimes taking any small, silly action can break the log-jam and move the process forward. 

Here’s to your success.   

#LifeIsPortable     #RockYourReentry