Your Time Is Now©

Your heart soars on wings of an eagle
On a journey through the skies.
Upon the edge of greatness you rest;
On the precipice of glory you firmly reside.

Powerful forces working in harmony,
Wisdom. Beauty. Transformation and love.
Burst free of the bonds of fear
Yes, ready to soar and to rise above.

Awaken to your divine, my child.
Inside your beauty reigns.
Awaken to the wisdom within;
The very medicine to ease your pain.

Awaken! Rejoice and revel in love;
Know all of the glory is true.
Awaken, my child, your time is now
For you to be fully you.

Your wellspring of courage runs deep and full,
No worry shall crease your brow.
Breathe deeply, trust fully and heed these words,
Your sacred time is now.

Perspective is Power

Something happened last week, Warriors, that I’m still in both awe and shock over. I’m still processing. It’s tender. It’s fragile. It’s beautiful and it’s so deeply painful that it’s actually a visceral ache still today. It’s big and awful and everything UN-American. It’s also big and amazing and everything American. Allow me to explain.

Earlier this week I was traveling from Philly to Boston for work. I took a shared Lyft to the airport in Philly and was lucky enough to join in with a guy who introduced himself as Chris. We exchanged pleasantries that included asking where we were each traveling to. Turns out we were booked on the same flight to Boston. How fun is that? We settled into our shared adventure and began to tell each other our stories. Chris is from China. He is here as a student and on his way to visit both Boston College and Boston University to see if he wants to attend law school at one of them. He’s admitted to both (and several others!). He wants to study law and has a heart for education and languages and helping all students learn and flourish in a multi-lingual world. He especially wants to help English as a second language students learn English more effectively and efficiently. So far in his studies he has developed curriculum that is already in use at the primary level that is increasing outcomes and making a difference for American students. His approach helps native English speakers to learn other languages, too. He is young and smart and funny and curious and has a heart to serve humanity and help increase access and opportunity here in America. His face lit up when he told me all about how much he loves America and began learning English at age 5 and always dreamed of studying and living and being a part of the culture and success of America. Chris and I talked about living, learning, loving, growing, lawyering, schooling, having a family, and putting down roots. He is the epitome of the classic American Dream. This, he, is what makes me proud to claim these United States of America home and why I chose to serve in the USMC and fight to preserve our values as a melting pot of opportunities and freedoms for the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness for all. What a wonderful gift to meet Chris at this time to remind me of who we are as Americans and what we stand for. I am grateful.

We arrived at PHL and made our way to security. It was at this point that the vibe shifted. Chris began to be noticeably shaken and nervous. He started to ask me questions about documents and wanted to make sure he had everything he might possibly need like his passport and boarding pass. He was scared. He’s here on a student visa. He said to me,”in this new America, this Donald Trump’s America, I no longer feel completely welcome. I do not want to take anyone’s job or hurt anyone. Instead I want to learn and help and be a part of society and culture and I used to think and feel wanted and welcome here but now I am scared. I am not a threat to anyone and I think now some people think I am and that hurts me and scares me. I can’t go visit my family on summer break after I graduate from UPenn in May because I can’t risk my visa status. I miss my mom so much! And I’m even a little scared to travel today. Would you go with me through security?”

This gentle soul. This brilliant young man’s eyes welled up as he stood humbled and heartbroken and terrified in front of me. I felt my rage rise as my heart shattered.

I grabbed Chris’s hand, looked deep into his eyes and told him that he is most definitely wanted here. He is needed here. I apologized as I fought my own tears and anger. Together we went through security and then shared a cup of coffee, a sandwich and conversation until we boarded and parted ways. Our chats ran from the meaning and origins of our respective given names (his Chinese name means 1000 years of possibilities while legends say Kelley means warrior) to colleges to foods to musicals and singing. I’ll never forget Chris and I hope he never forgets that he is wanted and welcome here. I hope he stays safe and secure and gets to see his momma really, really soon. ❤️? Semper Fi, Chuqiao.

7 “Be’s”

Reams and reams have been written on what it takes to be an achiever. I say it’s not as complicated as most people make it. Here’s 7 simple (not easy!) “Be’s”…

1.Strength in numbers! I can’t think of a single “success story” that has a cast of only one. There are always multiple players involved. Each of us brings talents, skills, abilities and contributions to the outcome. Focus on what you do best. Know your strengths and surround yourself with those that are strong where you aren’t. It takes guts to own your challenges and is a sure sign of a winner to seek out those that bring other talents to the team. Ask for help. Be courageous.

2.Back up and re-group! There is always more than one way to achieve something. Quitting never wins. Perseverance will. Whatever the *it* is for you, stick with it. You may get an outcome other than what you expected. In fact, expect it. Life will kick you in the teeth and you will most certainly not hit every target you aim at or accomplish every mission you set for yourself. Truth is that you most definitely learned SOMETHING from every experience. Remove the word “failure” from your vocabulary. It’s not failure. It’s simply feedback. Learn from it, then try, try again another way! Be persistent.

3.Put yours on first! Take time for yourself every day to honor you and show yourself love. Maybe for you it’s meditation. Maybe it’s physical activity like working out. Maybe it’s reading a book or taking a bubble bath. Whatever the choice for you, do it! You must recharge your battery or you’ll have nothing left to give. Think of the ‘Oxygen Mask Theory’ just like on an airplane. You can’t function on caffeine, little to no sleep and sheer determination for long. You do NOT have to sacrifice yourself to be a hero. In fact, if you sacrifice yourself, there are no more heroic acts. A hero knows they must take care of themselves in order to serve others. You cannot give what you do not own. Be generous.

4.Feelings follow action! If you aren’t where you want to be today then take action. Tomorrow will be no different from today if you do the same things you’ve always done. When hard times hit us, it’s not easy to see a way out. When life overwhelms us, it’s human nature to rage and question and grieve. I know so much about courage because I am wickedly intimate with fear. I understand at a gut level about confidence because doubt is one of my constant companions. I truly get what commitment is because apathy and indifference latch onto me with a vengeance. It’s a daily practice for me to choose courage. It’s a moment-by-moment choice to face my doubts and take action when I’m exhausted and overwhelmed. It’s a visceral exercise with each breath to stay the course and keep the faith. Change happens TO you, transformation happens WITHIN. You may not feel like trying something different. Do it anyway. Be committed.

5.You are what you think! Remember those signs in your elementary school cafeteria: “You are what you eat”? I say, “You are what you THINK”. It’s true that thoughts become things and that whatever you think about most is what is most present in your life. Henry Ford was right when he said, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” Be confident.

6.You’ll pick up what you’re putting down! You get back what you put out. If you want help, serve others. If you want open and honest relationships, guess what? You have to be a model of openness and honesty. If you want acceptance, then you must accept others. The real power in this ‘law’ is just like Zig Ziglar said, “You get what you want if you help enough other people get what they want.” Be kind.

7.It’s all on you! Your life really is yours. You get to make all the choices, you get to choose the cast of characters and you get to write your ‘book’. Just like all stories, there will be an end and that end can come at any moment. Choose to make every day the best it can be even in the midst of the shit-storms. Trust that every moment in your life, every tragedy and every triumph has blessed you in some way. Actively look for the blessings in the midst of the curses. Choose to live life to the fullest. Choose to surround yourself with those that compliment you and give you positive energy. Choose to keep at it no matter the challenges. Choose to treat yourself and others with kindness and love. Choose to take action even when you initially don’t feel like it. Choose your thoughts wisely as thoughts become things. Choose to put out there what you want back and choose to live, laugh and love. Be present.

Be courageous. Be persistent. Be generous. Be committed. Be confident. Be kind. Be present.

What will you BE today?

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.” -Helen Keller

Timely Timeless Wisdom

As I was cleaning out my office over the weekend, I found myself reflecting on recent tough events. I realized after a bit of wallowing and stewing that I could continue to stress or I could practice what I “preach” , walk my talk and choose different thoughts.

Man, that’s not easy! …choosing different thoughts.

It actually takes concentrated effort, pure intention, and repetition, repetition, repetition. It also takes kindness and compassion. Once I determined the effort required, I wasn’t sure if I was up for it. I realized I was already pretty worn out and defeated. Admittedly, I wasn’t really digging how I was feeling, mentally or physically. So I asked myself, “Self, what’s the worst thing that can happen if you try something different? You’re already tired, so what’s “more tired”? You’re already frustrated, so what’s “more frustrated”? You may as well go for it.”

So, I decided to go for it. I decided to put forth the mental, and sometimes even physical effort to rid myself of my “stinkin’ thinkin'”. Physically, I stood up and threw open the window of my office and found I could hear the voices of my daughter and husband as they worked the soil in the yard to prepare the beds for winter. They were talking about growing carrots come spring time. I immediately remembered a parable my wise Mom shared with me years ago.

Then, like now, I was facing tough times. I called Mom to groan about how things were so hard for me. I was complaining and whining about how I would never succeed. I was tired of fighting, tired of struggling, It seemed like when I would solve one problem, a new one (usually much bigger!) was right behind it. Life seemed really, really hard. I was tired and frustrated.

Mom listened for a bit and then told me to go grab three pots of water and place them on the stove to boil. She had me put a carrot in one, a raw egg in the second, and ground coffee beans in the third. I thought the old gal was nuts. What in the world did all this have to do with me being ready to just give up?

Mom just lovingly told me to leave the pots alone for twenty minutes and then call her back.

I decided to humor her, expecting to be able to add her foolishness to my growing list of things to moan and groan about. I would have three dirty pots to add to my already full sink of neglected dishes and more ammo for martyrdom.

When I called Mom back, she told me to fish out the carrot and put it in a bowl. Then the egg in it’s own bowl. And finally, to pour the coffee in a mug.

“What do you see?”, she asked me.

“Seriously? Uh, a carrot, an egg, and coffee”, I sarcastically replied.

Mom had me feel the carrot. It was mushy and soft. She had me break open the egg. The shell cracked easily and inside was a very hard-boiled egg. Lastly, she had me taste the coffee. Mmmmmmm…it was strong and rich…just like I like it.

“So, what was the purpose of all this, Mom?”, I asked. “To get me to slow down long enough to enjoy a cup of coffee?”

Mom explained to me that each of the objects had faced the same adversity…boiling water. Yet, each had responded differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg went in fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid center, but after sitting in the boiling water, its insides became hardened and its outside easily shattered. However, the ground coffee beans were unique. After they were in the water, they changed the water.

Mom asked me, “Which are you, Kelley? When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or coffee beans?”

That got me thinking. Which am I?

Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and loose my strength? Do I lose my backbone and the courage of my convictions?

Am I the egg that starts with a soft heart, but changes with the heat? In the midst of the crap of life, do I become hardened? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough?

Or am I like the coffee beans? The beans actually change the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, the beans release a rich aroma and flavor. When things are at their worst, the beans get better. They change the situation. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, the beans take itself (and stuff around it) to a whole new level. I want to be the coffee beans.

I vowed to remember the true awakening gift of a cup of coffee.

Think about it…how do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?

I don’t know where Mom got that idea years ago and I’ve since heard this parable many times from many sources and have no idea to whom goes the credit of this timeless wisdom. I am just so grateful my mom shared it with me on the exact day I was ready and able to hear it all those years ago and I am so grateful I was open to the reminder today. Today I choose to be the coffee beans. I choose to remember that I have within me the power to change my circumstances, to change my actions, to choose my feelings, and to take myself and stuff around me to a whole new level. What do you choose?


Cynicism vs. Realism

What do you think is the difference between cynicism and realism?

To me, cynicism is pure negativity…choosing to see all the reasons why something won’t work or why something is a stupid or bad idea. It’s also being distrustful of the intentions and motives of others without due cause to be distrustful…seeming to prefer to think that others are up to no good or only concerned about themselves.

Realism, on the other hand, is about the practical use of things, or ideas. It’s about common sense. It’s a way of objectively viewing a situation and determining the best course of action to achieve the desired outcome.

When I think of realism, I am reminded of Admiral James Stockdale and the Stockdale Paradox that Jim Collins wrote about in Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t. Admiral Stockdale was the highest ranking POW during Vietnam. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his leadership, bravery and courage displayed during his captivity. Admiral Stockdale noticed that the unbridled optimists who were captives suffered greatly from their own mental anguish and disappointment because they would convince themselves that they would soon be rescued even though there was no logical proof for that belief–the “think your way to success” group. He also noted that the self-declared pessimists suffered just as greatly from their basic beliefs that the entire situation was hopeless and they were powerless victims–“we are all doomed” crowd. Admiral Stockdale determined that there’s a paradox from which true hope and power is born. The Stockdale Paradox goes like this: First, you must have an unwavering faith that it will all be okay in the end, however things end, while (here comes the paradox) brutally confronting your current reality. Confronting reality does not mean arguing with the circumstances, blaming, shaming, or value judging. It simply means to acknowledge the actual, factual data of your present circumstances and determine the best course of action to take to get from where you are to where you want to be.

I believe it’s worth doing the hard stuff, the scary-holy-crap-I’m-really-going-for-it stuff exactly because the odds may be against you, because it’s hard! If whatever it is was easy then anyone could do it, right? I stand in the belief that the thrill of victory lies in overcoming the obstacles, adapting to the difficulties, and improvising with what’s presented, not necessarily in crossing the line first or fastest.

Cynics rarely even get started. Realists have unwavering faith while embracing their current situation and taking prepared action, and then they celebrate success!

What do you think?

Lead with Courage

This morning I am reflecting on my Doberman dog, Gunny (GySgt).

Two years ago, Gunny suddenly went blind. No warning and no real reason ever determined. I’ve learned so much about resiliency, courage, compassion, empathy, and love from him, and our GSD (German Shepherd Dog), Samantha.

Life in a busy household can be hard for Gunny. We move the furniture. Backpacks and shoes sometimes get left in the middle of the floor. Sounds come out of nowhere and many times they are loud like vacuum cleaners, the creak of an aging chair, or the crash of someone dropping something by accident, even loud laughter and clapping can startle him because he can’t “see” it coming. Many days his normal, safe path disappears. Yet instead of retreating to his kennel and hiding, he boldly explores each new day smelling and guiding himself with his nose and sometimes with a bump to the head. Sam also helps guide him by body checking him when he’s about to run into something and she’s near enough to help, yet sometimes he still clonks his head hard. Some days he struggles to sniff his way to his bowl even though it’s always in the same place. Sure, he gets frustrated on those days, yet he stays the course. He figures out the daily obstacles and roadblocks with curiosity and courage and he wags his stubby tail with excitement and joy no matter the challenges. He has no idea what lies in front of him; he can’t see what’s happening around him, yet he lives full out anyway. He courageously trusts himself (and us, his pack)–sometimes he moves quickly when he’s sure of where he is and others he cautiously high-steps and sniffs a mile a minute–he trusts us and Sam to guide him and he refuses to be anything other than a happy, loving, expressive dog. Sure, he gets tired and sad sometimes and some days seem darker than others. On those days, he cuddles more and is gentler. I think he’s a wise and wonderful teacher and I am so grateful for him. He is a generous, loving soul and we are blessed he chose us.

Think of Gunny today when you feel in the dark; when you feel scared of the path you can’t see. Be brave, be bold; sure you may get a clunk on the head and when you do be gentle with yourself, surround yourself with love and simply back up, regroup and step off in a new direction.

Gunny is languishing peacefully on the warm couch today. His life is full and he soaks up every moment of it. He would tell us all if he could to wag our stubby tails and be happy and to go courageously on adventures because no matter how dark it seems the light is in you and those you love and that’s all you need. Oh, and a good belly rub…and maybe an ugly sweater or two (yep, Dobie dogs get cold and he loves his sweaters!) And don’t forget fresh water and good food.

Let’s all live a little bit more like Gunny today; courageous and faithful and trusting and joyful and generous with kisses, cuddles, and love. I bet the world changes.