Friday, December 31, 2010

Why the Mountain in Front of You Isn't a Problem

Happy New Year's Eve! Have you set a resolution? Generally, people assume that they won't fulfill their resolution because of the mountain of challenges that lie ahead. Well, I went to an actual mountain to check this out, and I found a simple solution to getting around a mountain of challenges. (If you have trouble viewing this video, you can also see it at
Contact Dawn to get your FREE 25-minute phone coaching session to set your resolutions, or give your resolutions a complete kick-start. Get the details.
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Monday, December 27, 2010

The #1 thing missing from the most guest rooms in America

No wastebasket here.   
Any guesses on what's missing from more guest rooms than any other single item?

A wastebasket. So easy, yet so often overlooked. I say this not as one who feel entitled to even more than what has been given to me by generous hosts over the years, but as a public service announcement to those who desire to be an excellent host: Get a wastebasket for the guest room.

I read once that to be a good host you should stay in your own guestroom for a night or two just to experience what your guests experience. Then, do what you can to make their stay even better. At the very least, it could be a fun adventure without ever leaving home.

To live a life of purpose and passion, it sometimes requires the careful consideration of big, lofty ideas. Other times, it requires something as easy as stocking a wastebasket in every room of your home.

Want a kick start for your New Year's Resolution? Get the details.
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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Why I Love Boundaries and Why You Should Too

While I am an avid scrapbooker of my own life, I am generally months or even years behind as I happily work on it in small doses. I revel in looking at all of the interesting papers, stickers and other scrapbook tools to find a perfect combination. That takes time. Serious time.

Last month, I was inspired to make a scrapbook as a gift. This scrapbook project had an obvious deadline. I had to make choices and start working right away. Suddenly, the rows and rows of interesting papers were too much. It was overwhelming. How could I finish and make it all look good when there was so much to consider? So I set a color scheme. I would only look at supplies within the color scheme. As soon as I set the color scheme, it was a boundary that made everything else fall into place. The boundary freed me to be more creative. The scrapbook turned out great.

As Barry Schwartz talks about in The Paradox of Choice, too many options actually create problems. (View his talk about it at the TED conference here.) Putting boundaries around your choices can actually make things smoother. To what do you need to add boundaries (a color scheme, a time line, or another boundary)?
Want to set some helpful boundaries? Contact Dawn to set up a coaching appointment.
Want a kick start for your New Year's Resolution? Get the details.
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fully Engage in Your Surroundings

I walked past a kiosk at the mall last weekend. The kiosk sold CDs of Christmas music. The employee talked to shoppers as they walked by. He played the music louder than the mall's ambient music. He asked people questions, offered samples, and laughed often. He made the best of what could be a stressful or boring holiday job by choosing to be fully engaged. He also sold a lot of CDs.

Tuesday evening I walked past the same kiosk. A female employee sat there texting. The music played quietly. She did not notice anyone who walked by. She was fully engaged in her texting conversation, but she was slumped over and appeared bored. I did not see her sell any CDs. She was there in body but not in mind or spirit.

This is not a blog post about the evils of texting. I find texting extremely useful and often entertaining, but not when it takes me out of my surroundings. Extended text conversations don't allow me to fully engage.There are many other activities that also prevent me from fully engaging, and I try to avoid them. What habits or activities do you use as a distraction? What prevents you from fully engaging?

No matter what you are doing this holiday season, whether selling CDs at the mall or attending a family gathering, fully engage. It's more productive, it's more fun, and it allows you to be fully present in body, mind and spirit.

Not sure how to fully engage? Contact Dawn to set up a coaching appointment.
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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lessons in Confidence from Maria Von Trapp

Julie Andrews as Maria in the 20th Century Fox movie
I am generally a fan of live stage versions of musicals over film versions. However, in the case of The Sound of Music, I love one of the songs that was added for the film version: "I Have Confidence." Maria has left the safety of the abbey to become the governess for seven children of a widowed captain. I think we all know how it ends - they sing, they fall in love, they escape from the Nazi's. It's all very exciting, but we often overlook that first step that Maria had to take in order for her to connect with her purpose and passion. She had to build up her confidence. Although the Mother Superior had sent her on this assignment, she was all alone as she approached the captain's estate. She has wanted an adventure outside the abbey, but when the adventure is about to start, her fear almost makes her turn back. Then she realizes that it's just seven children. She can handle it. And she sings herself out of her fear.

How often has fear stopped you from taking the step that will lead to greatness? What do you need to do to face that fear? (I recommend show tunes. Works every time.) How will you build your confidence in order to take the next step?
Would you like some support as you build your confidence? Contact Dawn to set up a coaching session.
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Friday, December 17, 2010

Time for some Thoughts on Time

When I stopped at a mall the other day, they were hosting a Salvador Dali exhibition. Among Dali's most famous works are those involving clocks melting, like the one in the picture that I took. You may have your own interpretation of his work, and if so, I'd love to hear it. To me, the melting clock represents how difficult it is to measure time. Science tells us that every day is 24 hours, and every hour is 60 minutes, and every minute is 60 seconds, but everyone knows that our experience of the time is not equal and scientific. If we enjoy a thrilling event, time passes in an instant. If we are not engaged in our pursuits, time crawls along with maddening delays.  If we are asleep, hours pass without our knowledge.

What happens when your clock "melts"? What activities are so engaging that you lose track of time? Where do you lose time that you really need to apply to other, more productive activities? Is it "time" to make a change?


Want to talk more about how to use your time more wisely? Contact Dawn to set up a telephone coaching session.

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

What do your belongings say about you?

Being an Urban Nomad means living with less things, but better things. And I like it. My world is not cluttered with belongings that I don't want, need or use anymore. Because I can't accommodate many  items, I shop more carefully. I get things I love, that I know I'll use, and that save me time, space, or weight in my bag. My things (in my opinion) are meaningful, high quality, low maintenance and indestructible.

I am not the first nomad to subscribe to this line of thinking. One random example: medieval triptychs. I loved them when I was studying European Art History during my semester abroad at Cambridge University. It's travel-sized art! These three-part religious paintings fold closed to keep the art safe while it travels from one place to the next. Meaningful, high-quality, low maintenance and indestructible.

What is your relationship to your things? What few words describe your things? What do they say about you? Do you acquire things without careful consideration? Do you have clutter or disorganization? Let's talk about it. Contact me to set up a coaching session by phone.


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Thursday, December 9, 2010

The keys to Success as an Urban Nomad are, well, keys

For someone who owns neither a house or a car, I carry around a lot of keys. Of course I generally have keys to where I am staying, but I also have other keys. Emergency keys. The emergency keys are not just for my own emergencies, they are for emergencies of my friends.

For an Urban Nomad, there is always the slight possibility of having nowhere to go on a given night. One time I subletted an apartment and they mailed the keys to my mail receiving service, but the day that I needed them, the mail receiving service closed for a snow day. No keys, no access to the apartment. I stayed that night with a friend and moved into the sublet the next day. It was no problem. She didn't have to rush home to let me in. I already had her keys.

The emergency keys also allow me to help various friends because they know I have access to their place. Need someone to meet the cable guy? Sure, it's no problem. I have the keys.

I also carry the keys to my storage at all times, even when I don't think I'm going there. How often have I been out and then been invited to an event for which I am not wearing appropriate clothing? No problem, I just get something else out of my storage.

You might say that the keys themselves are a "key" to my success as an Urban Nomad. What do you need to do to be prepared? What are the keys to your success? When you're ready to prepare for success, contact me to set up a coaching session.


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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What is your Plan?

I volunteered to help with a political campaign. My job was to call people the night before election day and simply ask if they had a plan for voting. We did not ask "do you plan to vote?" but "what is your plan for voting tomorrow?" Totally different questions. We asked things like, "Do you know where your polling place is?" and "Are you going to vote before work or after work?" Why did we do this? Someone who has a plan is much more likely to follow through and execute the plan. Through the conversation, voting went from an abstract idea to a concrete activity. The potential voters took time to picture themselves voting and made the necessary arrangements to make sure it happened.

We all do this. We carry around an abstract idea of something we should do, but we don't make a plan, so it never happens. What do you need to do? Make a plan. Where will you execute your plan? Are you going to take the first step before work or after work?

For help in making your plan, check out my New Year's Resolution Kick-Start. Get one for yourself and one as a holiday gift. Now is the time to take action.


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Sunday, December 5, 2010


I flew on the tail end of a blizzard. Bad weather leads to delays. Delays lead to long waits.

What do you do when you wait? Do you distract yourself from the situation by reading or doing puzzles? Do you disengage from the people around you by communicating with your social networks online or via phone? Do you get angry at the people in charge who may or may not be able to do anything about the wait?
As Americans, we don't have to wait for much. We can have almost everything almost instantly. My observation is that this leads to people having less and less skills for waiting itself. On some level, we don't even wait for Christmas, we half-celebrate it for weeks before the actual day arrives.

And yet waiting can be a spiritual practice.  In the church world, we are in a season of waiting called Advent. In a world of non-stop activity and instant information and cross country travel, waiting asks us for an entirely different set of skills. It asks us not to do, but to be. It allows space for quiet time, reflection and preparation.

This December, wait. Not in an impatient way, but in a meaningful way. How do you do that? The same way I did in the airport. I set up camp in a quiet corner. I ate lunch, finished some work, practiced some yoga (yes, I'm that crazy person doing yoga in the corner of the airport). Then I simply waited. I stopped "doing" and started "being."

Start being. Find meaning through quiet time, reflection and preparation. Not sure how? Contact me to set up a coaching appointment.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Going through airport security has become a three act play. I have my system down, but by the end of it everyone is generally discombobulated.

At the Milwaukee airport, they realize that you are discombobulated. In fact, they have an area right after security called the "recombobulation area."

I love what this means in terms of customer service. Someone at the Milwaukee airport said, "yes, we need to take security procedures as seriously as possible, but let's acknowledge what that's like for the 99.9% of people who follow the rules and don't cause any trouble. Let's respect them and help them put themselves back together. And let's name it something that really captures the essence of what it is: a recombobulation area."

Customer service is simply a process of seeing things from the other person's point of view. And customer service matters even if you aren't working in customer service. You still have opportunities to see things from the other person's point of view and go to the trouble of making it easier for the other person.

So do that today. Make something easier for the other person.

As for me, I'll be in the Milwaukee recombobulation area today.


Recombobulate your life. Contact me to set up a life coaching session.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


On a recent layover, I volunteered to give up my seat on the second flight. It meant that I spent an entire extra day in Milwaukee. The airline gave me a voucher for a free flight, three meal tickets and a night in a hotel. When I called the hotel to arrange for their shuttle to pick me up, the front desk manager asked, "Do you have a reservation or are you distressed?"

Well, neither, really.

Apparently when a passenger has to be housed overnight they are called a distressed passenger. As an experienced Urban Nomad, I was anything but distressed. I had all of my things because I rarely check luggage. I was able to do all of my work from the hotel, catch a flight at the end of the day and still make it to dinner with a friend in my destination city. I bonded with the gate agent, who I look forward to seeing on my next layover. I even made a short video, which you can see here.

I realize that had I not volunteered, someone else may not have been able to board who desperately needed to get somewhere. He or she may have been distressed. I find it curious, though, that the default name of a displaced passenger is "distressed." Everyone from the gate agent to the shuttle driver to the hotel staff commented on how I seemed to have such a good attitude for being distressed. Apparently it is so rare that they do not expect it. Even those who volunteer to give up their seat are not necessarily pleasant, according to the service staff. Volunteers are caught in some in-between limbo and may not enjoy the reality of it.

Learn to be OK in the in-between times. Life goes so much more smoothly. Step one: prepare for the unexpected.

To learn to be OK in the in-between times, contact me to set up a life coaching session.
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