Tune for a Tuesday Afternoon #3

Elections can be such polarizing events.

I can easily get defensive of my position, sure of my rightness, and think you’re an idiot for your choice of candidates.

Or I can open my heart and be vulnerable. I can feel that under my posturing and anger, there is fear. And it gets in the way of love every time.

I mostly avoid the news, but I checked in for a few minutes of the Presidential debate Sunday night.

While I wanted to focus on differences, I couldn’t help but see similarities. Not to each other, but to me.

I wondered where all that hate had come from. Why would someone scorn people just because they look different, have other beliefs, speak a “foreign” language or are the opposite sex?

And I had to look at myself. Underneath my own disdain for the candidate there was fear. Fear that the results of this election could create more derision and division in this country. That we might widen the gap between the powerful, and the powerless and fuel more hatred and violence.

Hate’s not the opposite of love. Fear is. Hate is a secondary emotion that we often use to cover our fear. It makes us feel (artificially) stronger.

Feeling our fear makes us vulnerable. And we don’t generally like that. But vulnerability can lead to truth and intimacy.

So if I want to be truthful, I admit that this candidate is making me turn and face my own fear, and my desire to hurt. Though I’ve stopped myself, I’ve wanted to share nasty jokes about him, and dish the dirt when his name comes up. I have to remember that he’s a human with fears and insecurities that show up as posturing, armoring and bullying.

And I’m doing the very same thing in my mind when I think about him.

Realizing that gave me compassion: For the young child who perhaps didn’t have his own true nature reflected back to him in loving ways. Who maybe wasn’t taught that he’s enough, and doesn’t have to put anyone down to know his own worth.

Compassion: For myself. That I lose touch with who I really am, believe I’m separate from others and feel I have to fight to prove I’m right.

Alternate Routes, wrote this song, Nothing More, and have been using it to raise funds for the non-profit, Newton Kindness. This organization was created by the parents of six year old, Charlotte Bacon, who was shot and killed by a 20 year old who opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary, just before Christmas, 2012. Joel and JoAnn Bacon faced a parents’ worst fear, not with hatred, but with love. Their organization teaches and promotes kindness and tolerance to young children, as a way to honor their daughter’s life.

It would be easy to turn this man into a monster, and make him the enemy, but he too was a human being with great pain. There’s nothing we can do to save the victims now. But we can remember that in each of us there is potential for great love, and how we treat each other matters.

So, when I catch myself feeling disgusted by a candidate, I’m going to pray for them, for me and for all of us. Because We are how we treat each other… and Nothing more.


Love Debra


How to Accelerate your Success

When I worked for Renewal Partners, a private fund, entrepreneurs would pitch me on their businesses. I’d determine if their product or service matched our mission, if there was a viable market for it, and most importantly if I believed in the leadership. Was this a person (or team) that could do the job? Did we want them in our portfolio? Could we work beside them and support them to achieve their goals?

One day I met with two entrepreneurs who presented a great pitch. I liked the guys but something bothered me, so I went directly to my boss. Joel Solomon, the President of the fund, has taught me so much over the years, but this lesson struck me like a slap across the face that I needed to wake up.

I told Joel I was concerned that both these men had business failures in their past. He responded, “Just because a man has failed, it doesn’t make him a failure”.

That simple statement shocked me. Though I felt the truth of it in my bones, I’d lived quite differently. I had seen all my own failures as reflections of my tragic flaws. Each one a small death. They were signs of weakness in the survival of the fittest. They were parts of me I wanted to hide.

Constantly facing the bright light of goals and achievements, I had tucked my failures behind me, where they’d stayed in the shadow of shame, weighing me down and holding me back. Though I’d often been a risk-taker, the fear of failure had stopped me at times, made me anxious, and killed my joy. My inability to truly embrace each failure and integrate it into my experience squelched my opportunity to really learn from them, laugh about them, and lighten up.

Joel’s statement turned failure upside down for me. If they weren’t failures because they’d failed, then neither was I.

I was successful because I’d failed. I’d failed because I’d tried something new. I’d followed the impulses inside me. I was successful because I was willing to try, and therefore willing to fail, again. This buoyed me to risk, experiment, and fail some more.

Then Joel added, “My mentor taught me to never trust anyone who hasn’t been through a bankruptcy.”

That was a hard one for me to swallow at the time. Seriously, dude, my mind is imploding from your first slap, and now you add that! Bankruptcy is the ultimate business failure. But Joel saw it differently. It meant truth-telling, learning, slate-clearing, and humbling.

Frequently, Success + Success + Success = Hubris. Often folks who haven’t failed and learned are less open to collaboration, less compassionate, and less fun. And that limits their future success.

Not everyone who’s failed has learned from it, but people who take responsibility for their life and strive to do great things see each failure as an opportunity to re-examine their beliefs and behaviours, and experiment some more.

So I encourage you to Embrace Failure to Accelerate your Success.

When you embrace failure it becomes just one experience among many. It’s simply what happens when the result of your actions doesn’t match your expectations. It loses its power over you… and you become truly powerful.

You don’t have to take my word for it, or even Joel’s. Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, said “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

Stop fearing failure. Don’t shun it, hope to avoid it, or even reluctantly accept it. Get to know it. Open your door and welcome it in like a long-lost friend.  Wrap your arms around it and give it a hug.

I’d love to hear how failure has shaped you:

  • Have you learned and grown from it?
  • How has it contributed to your success?
  • What tips do you have for overcoming fear of it?

If you know someone who is definitely not a failure, and may need some encouragement to try again, please share this post with them.

If you want to fly you have to jump.

A friend of mine is going through a big change in her life. Not the kind that’s thrust upon you when you least expect it and have to deal with it. This is a change she’s been talking about for some years. She’s choosing it. Deciding to change is definitely easier than having change thrust upon you, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

I can see that this change is a calling from deep within. It’s a nudge to spread her wings and fly. She has decided to leave something that had been secure and safe for almost three decades. It was good in many ways. Comfortable. But staying won’t satisfy her heart, which is longing for freedom, expansion and joy.

She set this transition in motion several months ago. Since then there have been decisions to make, difficult conversations to have, logistics to figure out and lots of work to do. And she’s been doing it all courageously. She’s experienced fear, relief, laughter, tears, doubt, grief and happiness, sometimes all in an afternoon.

As she neared the final stage of this transition she said to me, “I’m thinking of delaying for three months”. My immediate response was “DON’T STOP. KEEP GOING. I know you’re afraid, but delaying it will only prolong the pain. You’re almost at the edge…. JUMP.”  That was scary advice because she felt that much of what she was stepping into was unknown.

When I lived in a little village in Mexico I would lie in bed watching paragliders soaring over our little coastal town. Catching thermals they’d rise and fall with the hawks and vultures. They’d glide over the homes, jungle and ocean to land on the beach.

One day I decided to do it too. I chose a “flyer” who had a very safe reputation. I followed him up the mountain through a narrow path. When we got to the top I was exhausted. He unpacked the sail and secured himself to it. He then harnessed me in front of him, and gave me these instructions:

“Look way out beyond the edge of the cliff and run towards that spot. Run to he edge of the mountain.. and then keep running. Everything in you is going to want to slam on the breaks when you get to the edge of the mountain. Don’t. I’m running behind you and we’re attached. You have to keep running… no matter what.”

I did what he said. I ran. And when there was no more ground beneath my feet I kept on running like a cartoon character hanging in mid air. Suddenly the wind caught us and we were lifted up. We soared. I loved my village, but I had a whole new appreciation seeing it this way. As we glided over homes and hills and trees I got to know it more intimately in a way I never could by keeping my feet on the ground. I saw things I had never seen. I was elated.

Jumping off that cliff required a crazy kind of trust. In my self – I’d done my research and chosen the best person available on the best possible day, In him – his skill, his reputation and his personality gave me comfort, and mostly in life itself. Life will give me what it will, and most of it is out of my control.

If you want to fly JUMP.


Be Willing to Fail

When someone asks:

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”:

Do you get inspired?
Does your heart race as you think of the one great thing you’ll do immediately?
Do you rush off and begin it?
Do you dream of the wildly successful life you’ll have because you did that great thing, knowing you couldn’t fail?

Or do you think “Wait a minute, there’s no guarantee I won’t fail.”

And tuck that dream back into your pocket.

Now that question, that’s been asked millions of times, is a perfectly good question because it gets you thinking beyond your fear of failure for a moment. And sometimes your fear is so great it stops you from imagining what you might do. But the moment you begin to imagine yourself attempting this great thing you want to do, something happens.  You realize you might just fail.

It’s a different way to approach it. Rather than imagining your assured success, which feeds your desire for certainty, which is fueled by your fear, you’ll connect with the love that is urging you to act. And I’ll just bet there is something you’d love to do, but fear of failure is holding you back. It may be a passing thought, a flicker of an image at the edge of your peripheral vision, or a longing that won’t let you go. There is something you want to experience, something within you that wants to be expressed. But your fear of failure gets in the way.

What if you change your relationship with failure so that instead of shunning it, fearing it and avoiding it, (poor failure – nobody likes it), you see it as an important part of experiencing life. So much can be gained from failing. Though you think you might die of embarrassment, most failures won’t actually kill you.

I’m willing to fail for love.

I play the ukelele badly. And it makes me so happy every time I do. Yes, I would like to be better, and every time I hit a wrong note, (which is more often than not) the perfectionist in me cringes a little, but the joy of playing it keeps me failing my way through song after song.

I garden without having a clue what I’m doing. I rip up lawn and level dirt and plant food and flowers, and lots of it fails. But more of it thrives. The joy I get from sitting out there listening to nature, feeling the life growing around me and sharing my bounty with butterflies, birds, bees and neighbours makes me happy to be alive.

My first marriage failed. It ended in divorce. But we loved and still love each other. We are friends. The marriage no longer served us. And love made me willing to marry again ~ I’m risking failure for love. (ps. I don’t really think my first marriage failed. It just transitioned into something else)

One of my businesses failed. I started a business in an industry that didn’t exist when we were creating it. We raised capital during the financial crisis of 2008. We failed by missing every goal we set. But I stayed connected to the love that birthed this business into the world, grew closer to my investors through the struggles, and stretched myself more than I thought I could.

I’ve also had lots of success, but within everyone one of those successes are failures big and small. If I’m not failing I’m not challenging myself and growing, and neither are you.

What are you willing to fail for?

Love Soars. Fear Cages.

During my early morning walks, my heart delights at the marbled godwit dancing its breakfast tango with the ocean. I revel at the soaring wingspan of silent pelicans cresting the waves. The seagulls squaking make me laugh out loud.  I love seeing these air borne creatures and the different ways they kiss the sky.  They carry my breath on their wings.

But today I thought of their caged companions. Captured birds have always made me sad ~ An animal built to glide through the skies, sentenced to a life in a small cell, often in solitary confinement, unable to live its true nature, to spread its wings and soar.

We don’t cage birds because we want to be cruel. We do it because we love them, and we want to be close to that which we love. We want to possess that which we love. But that desire to possess is not an expression of love. We want to possess it so we can control it. Love makes us feel vulnerable. Control makes us feel safe. Our actions are always motivated by either fear or love.  Our desire to control comes from fear.

I apply this thinking to my own life and wonder what aspect am I domesticating that wants to be wild.

  • Have I confused my love for what is with an unconscious fear of change?
  • Am I playing it safe, fearing how great it could really be?
  • What am I caging in my life, afraid to let it soar?

I love my husband and our relationship, so I often ask myself – is an unconscious  fear of risking what we have keeping us from being what we could be?

Consider this:

Is there a part of your life, or a part of yourself that you control, afraid to let it be wild and free?

Are you staying in a less than fabulous job or a relationship because it feels safe, afraid of what the unknown might hold?

When love would have you risk it all, are you playing it safe in your gilded cage?