“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
You don’t remember it now, but when you took your first steps as a small child it was a big deal. Many of us think that we need to wait to follow our dreams. We need to wait until we have more time, more money, are more successful, we get to a certain age, we retire, we are famous…None of these things are necessary, they are all just excuses. The only thing you need to do is to take the first step. You can’t go anywhere sitting still, and you don’t have to have a big idea to start small.
My first step was small, when I decided to take some classes at a professional cooking school while I was a young mother with a baby girl. Little did I know that this first step of following my dream would lead me on a forward trajectory to where I am today. The first step of acknowledging out loud to myself that my lifelong dream and passion could be a career, a business, was a small thing. But for me it was huge. It was the first step in a journey that lead to a special order cookie and cake business from my home, to a small bakery in my hometown, to a bigger bakery that evolved into the 4 bustling restaurants that I am so privileged to lead today. If I had not taken that first step, my life would have been very different today. If I really admit it to myself, I would never have dreamed that I could achieve the life that is currently mine. The me that took that first step didn’t know the challenges in front of her, but neither did she know the successes. She knew just enough to take the first step.
“Our real freedom comes from being aware that we do not have to save the world, we must merely make a difference in the place where we live.” -Parker Palmer
As the leader I am here to offer support to those that are following me. I am not here to tell them where they are wrong, instead I am here to stand beside them and work together to see why something is not working. I am here to share with them my vision of a better way. A better product, better service, better world. I am no smarter, no more creative than them. I simply have an awareness that the best way to solve a problem is together. I know that what is needed from me by the people I lead is always changing. There are times when they need me to make the hard calls, and there are times where they need me to give them the reins. A big part of my becoming the best leader I can be is continuing to learn myself, to continue getting in touch with my internal guidance system, my intuition.
Know when to lead and when to follow. I have followed, I have led, and it is clear that it is never either/or if you want to continue to grow. It is just as vital that you follow, follow someone or something that is gifted where you are not. Listen to different voices, get out of your invisible walled world and see what others are doing or thinking or making happen. No one believed a human being could run faster than a 4 minute mile, but once that record was broken once by Roger Barrister, it kept getting broken again and again. What was once impossible became possible, and we followed.
I follow so I can lead. I follow and learn from people who are making a larger impact than I am, I follow and learn about living a healthy lifestyle, I follow and learn from my children as they bring me fresh outlooks from minds less cluttered with history. I follow great leaders, present and past, who have changed the world by delivering the same message, in different voices. The message to love, to accept, to give, to embrace, to be kind. That we have free will, we are the creators of our world. Look around, look up, look upward. No matter how gifted, how skilled, how aware we are in an area, we all have some things that we are not so good at. Don’t be blind to them, and follow when you need to. Check your ego at the door.
“We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.”― Confucius
Life is like a pendulum. The seasons bring sun and heat and summer then swing to the other side to rain, cold, and snow. The nation swings left, holds for a time, then swings a hard right. We work hard with no end in sight, then hopefully live to sit back and see the fruits of our labor. Is it possible to keep the swing from being so extreme? Is there a middle place where we can have a loving world where kindness is the norm? Where the push and pull are not caused by us and our inseparable egos, but instead by nature, like the tides?
Where is the center point, and what can we do to get there? What can we do to find a middle ground, the place where the wind is still, where there is not happiness and sadness, but instead joy? It has to start with each person. We all have our own personal journeys, the lessons we were put here to learn. Some of us are slow learners, some of us learn the hard way, some of us don’t even realize that we have a choice. But once you start to see the immense power you have to create your world, once you see that the decisions you have made have led you to your life today, once you take responsibility for your life, then the living begins.
I am first and most instinctively an artist. I love to create, to build, to make things better. The process of taking my dreams and ideas and bringing them into reality is my passion. Whether I am creating a meal, baking a delicious dessert, painting a canvas, or building a new restaurant, I can easily get in the zone when I am being purely artistic.
Being and entrepreneur and being entrepreneurial are two very different things. I became and entrepreneur by following in my parent’s and grandparent’s footsteps and building my own business. But to be entrepreneurial, to be willing to take risks, that was something I had to learn. At the beginning it was easy, I had nothing to lose. We were broke, in debt to our eyeballs, and so it was easy to see only the bright side of opportunity. What became more difficult was to continue to take the risks as we achieved success. Once we began seeing the fruit of our labor, and light at the end of the tunnel, my aversion to risk began to rear it’s head. I wanted to stay an artist, creating and doing and getting my hands in there. I didn’t want to risk losing my art in order to grow. I even had proof that this would happen. My selective consciousness had latched on to conversations I had with more successful business owners. Conversations that contained statements like, “I wish I only had one location like you, things were so much simpler then.”, or “If you grow your company you won’t be doing what you love anymore, you will be managing processes and numbers and people.” These statements stuck and served to enforce my desire to stay put. Until the life changing moment when I realized that my resistance was all based on fear. Fear of failing, fear of losing, fear of being alone. This was the beginning of my education on being entrepreneurial.
The third evolution has been into leadership. Could I have tapped into this earlier? Perhaps yes, but looking back with the perspective that time brings, I can clearly see that I needed to go through the steps that I did. I needed to learn to be willing to fail again. I needed to learn to take risks to build my self confidence. I needed to learn that what stops me, what stops almost everyone, is Fear. The awareness that developed in me as I learn about myself gives me the tools and the self confidence to be able to bring people along. To teach, to inspire, and to help the people I am leading see life from another perspective. I am still an artist, still an entrepreneur, but also a leader.
It doesn’t work. Even if I am tired because I had a rough night, or I was up too late finishing the reports, or the puppy woke me up early. It doesn’t work to give less today and make up for it tomorrow. We can never give more than 100%. 100% is bringing all you have to the table. If I give 60% today, and think, “Well, it’s okay, I will just give 140% tomorrow and we will be all good”, it won’t work. There is no 140%, not even 110%. Every day give your all if you want to be outstanding, otherwise those 60’s will stack and soon you will just be average.
When my kids were little they were fascinated with these little capsules that when soaked in warm water, would emerge as tiny sponge animals. You never knew what you would get, it could be a red giraffe or a green frog or a yellow bird. The law of nature is that you cannot reap without sowing. Sometimes the harvest is instant, like the sponge. Most often you see this as the instant karma of a quickly escalating argument after a sharp word, or the ripple effect of waking up on the wrong side of the bed. But usually the crop takes a while to mature. It takes time for the seeds to germinate, and to begin to bring back what you intend them to. This is why it is so important to give first, before you expect to receive, and even more importantly, to give without expecting to receive. If you don’t like what you are reaping, look back at where it started, and begin a new crop.
Sometimes I am so zen and peaceful and I think I have figured it all out. I know to let go, I know it’s all good, I know that I can handle whatever comes my way. In this space nothing can phase me, and it is easy to be kind to myself and know that I am doing exactly what I am meant to be doing. I can even let myself think about worst case scenarios and still maintain my cool. I think this place is heaven on earth, and that nothing can jolt me. Then it happens. The little sliver gets touched, the one that is hidden still far back in my past or deep in my psyche, and all the old feelings come rushing back to remind me that I am still human. And that’s okay. It just means that I have another opportunity to learn more about myself, to uncover and heal another layer, and to give me perspective again.
All those people you see that seem to have it all together, that are smart, that are successful, even that are teaching or preaching, they are all human. We are all here doing the best we can, and we all have moments, days, years even, where it’s hard. Where we struggle, where we search, where we fall and where we fail. But when you begin to see that there is a door, and if you open it just a crack even, a light begins to shine. The light that shows you a different world, one where life is good, where you have choices, infinite choices, where you can change your thoughts and change your life. This is what it is to be human.
One session once a week is not enough when you are training a new puppy. He is excited and everything is new and he is bound to forget what you just taught him, distracted by a butterfly or the ball or the wind blowing in his fur. Quick praise when you catch him doing something right and understanding when he makes the inevitable oops is all part of the process.
New people onboarding into the organization are not unlike this new puppy. If you made a good hiring decision, they are eager, excited and anxious to learn. Too often the training is strong that first shift, day, week, then nada. The puppy training contract states “In order for you and your puppy to benefit from these classes, we recommend training in 5 minute intervals three to four times a day.”
Now I know people are not puppies, but I also know that new is new. New hires can be overwhelmed with the amount of information that they are ingesting, the new people they are meeting, the new building they need to navigate, the new rules about how to act. Invest in the time, the training, the relationship, up front while they are still puppies, follow up, and build the bond. Soon the investment pays off as you have helped to grown your team and as a side effect, yourself.
We are all perfect, divine beings with access to unlimited potential, yet the dichotomy of it is that we are also damaged goods. Infinite beings with so much light inside, but damaged by the baggage we hold onto from our life experiences. The painful, the failures, the falls, the rejections. As Grown Ups we think we handle those things. We bury them deep and are Oh So Mature about them. We think we have resolved them or dealt with them and even get better at ignoring them, until we don’t. The inevitable trigger that reaches deep and like an arrow pierces deeply through our shields to remind us again that we are human. The old feelings rise back up in a blink of an eye, the door opened by one upset daughter, or disapproving mom, disappointed spouse or judgmental boss.
If we are going to understand and accept ourselves, we need to realize that we are more than just a body. We are two fold beings, and need to take care of the non-physical side of our nature, our inner health, as much as our physical side. When we are frustrated, upset, needy, angry, sad, depressed, these are all pointing at unresolved wounds deep inside. I dream that I will become a being that won’t feel these painful emotions, yet I know that they are here to teach me to let go of the old stories, to uncover the old cuts and burns and let them feel the air, to heal another layer. As long as I am here on this earth in this body, I will have opportunity after opportunity to learn and let go.
It is a very small percentage and shrinking number of people who buy books. An even smaller number who actually read the books they buy. I am one of those individuals, and judging by the disappearing bookstores I am in the minority. There are stacks of them on my nightstand, on my desk, on my windowsill, and there are bookshelves in our garage that hold books that are not in my current rotation. The books that are stacked are mostly partially read. Some I finished and loved, so they stay nearby. Some I will never finish, and that’s okay. I know that I got what I needed to get from them already, completed or not. I read to learn, I read to escape, I read to be inspired, I read because I like feeding my mind intentionally. There is so much data and information and static coming at me all day long, from the radio in the car to the TV on in the other room to the seductive Instagram and Pinterest and all of the constant influx of stuff that bombards my consciousness. So I read, it is my quiet time, one of the ways I decompress from the day or set the foundation for it, the way I calm myself down, the way I tap into a part of me that is usually hidden. It’s the way I feed my mind.
Books I am reading now:
The Punch Escrow – Tal Klein Sci-Fi, amazing to me since what was once a dream often comes true, plus it was published right here in Oakland, CA, Love that!
21 Laws of Leadership – John Maxwell Always on my desk.
Do the Work – Steven Pressfield Easy read, helps me break through the inevitable resistance that rears it’s head.
How to Know God – Deepak Chopra Feeds my soul and gives me insight into my ever evolving relationship with the higher power.
After On – Rob Reid An escape novel, reading it slowly, but it’s in our backyard (Silicon Valley) and that’s the draw.