Why Do We Doodle?

I have news: I am excited to share that as a complement to my You Pivot™ Program, I have engaged with the University of Chicago’s Leadership & Society Initiative as a founding instructor and executive life coach.

Humans have doodled throughout history. Yet, there tends to be judgment around it. We see someone doodling and often assume they are not paying attention. 

And the research says otherwise.

“To Doodle: to make spontaneous marks to help yourself think; a preemptive measure to stop you from losing focus.”

I was recently sitting in a presentation, noticing some listeners doodling, and truth be told, doodling myself. 

I remembered this Ted Talk by Sunni Brown that I watched years ago. And suddenly felt good about my doodling. 

Sunni wants us to doodle more! How much more effective could we all be if we listened to her and made a conscious effort to doodle more?

Are You a Journaler?

I am told that people who like to express themselves in writing keep journals. I am not a journaler. I never have been. Yet, I like to write.

I was curious about this, so I asked some journalers and non-journalers why they journal. Here is what I learned.

My husband is an engineer by training, and he is also an artist. He designs and makes beautiful knives. He is also a fly fisherman, another form of artistry. He tells me he keeps a journal of both activities to track progress and preserve memories.

I have a friend who keeps a journal of poetry.

And I have another friend who keeps a journal of her travels.

Perhaps these Sunday Stories are my journal.

Webster defines a journal as “a record of experiences, ideas or reflections kept regularly for private use.” I found this definition unsatisfying and perhaps dated.

Do you write in a journal about something that matters to you? What is the reason you do it?

As The Leaves Begin to Fall…

The weather here turned cold today, ending what seemed to be an endless summer. As the leaves begin to fall and we transition to winter in the Northern climes, it reminds us of the cyclicality of life. Time to reflect on what has passed, celebrate our successes, and remind ourselves that whatever may have been our failures, we get an opportunity in the new year to begin again.

In my experience, putting some intentionality around what I want to happen increases my chances of looking back at this time next year and noticing and measuring progress and success. With that in mind, I offer the following questions to consider before the year comes to an end. 

  1. Was there a significant experience in the past year that impacted you? How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired? 
  2. Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year? Alternatively, is there something you are especially proud of from this past year?
  3. What is one thing you’d like to achieve by this time next year? Why is this important to you? 

What Are You Waiting For?

For those living in Maui or who haven’t been and may have wanted to go, the tragedy there is a sad reminder — if something or someone is important to you, seize the day; tomorrow may be too late.

If you listen to the doomsayers, the world may end soon, either from climate change or AI control of the markets, atomic mishap or, or, or…fill in the blank.

While the pessimists will tell you there is no way out, the optimists fervently believe it will all sort itself out. Regardless of which point of view you align with, the fires in Maui did happen, and the death toll is still unknown. 

For me, the message in all this is to pursue a life that focuses on what matters to us. I often ask my You Pivot™ Clients to consider not what they think should matter but what actually does matter to them. And then, go after it, create your Tomorrow Story, and figure out what life changes are required to get from here to there.

Sometimes getting started is hard. People often feel selfish, putting themselves first. They have others they want to please or feel an obligation toward. Yet, every time we fly, the flight attendant reminds us that we can’t support others if we don’t put our oxygen masks on first. 

What is the Future of Writing in the Era of ChatGpt?

As a writer, I’ve pondered this question off and on. 

I’ve played around with ChatGpt, asking it to draft a story that I edited extensively or giving it an outline and asking it to turn it into prose. Frankly, I’ve not been overly impressed with the result and concluded that ChatGpt is suitable for generic writing tasks, e.g., condo rules and standard letters, not creative and inspirational writing.  

And then…

Last week I asked ChatGpt to write a 200-word blog on the value of reunions. Below is the blog it wrote. It’s good! So good it caused me to wonder, does writing have a future in the era of ChatGpt? 

As part of my pondering, I’ve been reading about the impact of ChatGpt in schools. In particular, I read that the college essay is dead. Some teachers have stopped giving writing assignments at all. 

On the other hand, there are teachers who see ChatGpt as an opportunity to challenge students with a more difficult task. These teachers ask students to use ChatGpt to write the essay, and then the assignment is to fact-check and critique what ChatGpt wrote and then revise the ChatGpt response (students turn in their critique, the ChatGpt composition, and their own).

So maybe the better questions are:

  • How will writing change in the era of ChatGpt? 
  • For those of us who seek to inspire with our writing, how do we ensure our contribution is unique?
  • When is it ok to ask ChatGpt to write for us and then share, with attribution, what it wrote? 

ChatGpt’s Blog 

Embracing the Joy of Reunions: Connecting Across Time and Distance

In a world where time races ahead, and life’s demands pull us in various directions, there’s something undeniably magical about reunions. These gatherings have an uncanny ability to transport us back in time, rekindling memories and emotions that have been tucked away. Reunions offer us a chance to bridge the gaps that time and distance have created, allowing us to connect and cherish the bonds that define us.

The anticipation leading up to a reunion is like a crescendo of emotions – excitement, nostalgia, and a touch of anxiety. As the familiar faces come into view, it’s as if time melts away, and we’re left with a profound realization that some connections remain unbreakable, no matter the miles that separate us.

Reunions are not merely events but windows into our past, present, and future. They provide an opportunity to share stories, reminisce about shared experiences, and catch up on the latest chapters of each other’s lives. Laughter reverberates, tears are shed, and hearts are warmed as we celebrate the beauty of human connection.

In a digital age where virtual interactions often dominate, the physical presence of a reunion is a poignant reminder of the significance of face-to-face connections. The joy of holding a friend’s hand, the warmth of a hug, and the unspoken understanding that passes between loved ones are experiences that can never truly be replicated through screens.

Whether it’s a high school reunion, a family gathering, or a long-awaited meeting with friends, reunions offer us a chance to rekindle bonds that time and distance may have momentarily obscured. They remind us that despite the challenges life throws our way, the ties that bind us are enduring and precious. So, as we gather once again, let’s embrace the magic of reunions and savor every moment of connection they offer.

What If Instead…

Most of the time, we have an agenda, whether it is to close a deal, persuade others to “see the light,” or simply to win.

  • What if, instead, we let things unfold at their own pace?
  • What if, instead, we seek first to understand?
  • What if, instead, we invest in understanding where they are and meet them there?
  • What if, instead, we recognize that our stakeholders are individuals for whom “there” may be a different place for each of them?

But wait, you say, isn’t it all about having a plan? Isn’t the goal to win? Perhaps it is, and I wonder if our chances of winning go up when we stop trying to orchestrate the outcome.

The Answer Is In The Question

One of the life lessons I learned early in my career as an executive coach is the answer is in the question. By asking better questions, we enable others to come to their own resolutions. The truth is, only when someone deeply understands their issue will they take action.

Most of us in business are problem solvers, and the answer to someone else’s problem or challenge often seems obvious, so we rush in with advice without stopping and asking questions. What I have learned, and continue to be reminded of daily, is that by asking more poignant questions, the resulting answer may not only be better, but it may also be different than what we perceived as evident before we asked.

When we ask the better question, we offer the other person the gift of self-exploration, and in return, we may have the privilege of witnessing a transformation.

The Under-Rated Value of Patience

Patience is not one of my strong suits, so I looked up the definition before writing this story.

“the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset”

As leaders, most of us are action-oriented. Something crosses our desk; we deal with it. If an issue arises with a customer, a vendor, or an employee, we take action. Same with our health. We have an injury or an illness, and we immediately ask, what can I do to “fix” this? How can I expedite the healing? 

And, sometimes, if we let things unfold at their own pace, we achieve a better result. 

What?? Isn’t that avoidance or procrastination, or even laziness? And…

  • Sometimes, that annoying email doesn’t require a response.
  • Sometimes, working to “fix” an ache or pain or a situation causes a new one to “fix” someplace else.
  • Sometimes action is needed, and sometimes doing nothing is simply the best strategy.

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Blank Spaces Are As Important As Flowers

During our travels in Japan, we had the privilege of spending time with a Zen Priest. He talked to us about “the way” of Buddhist teachings, including the tea ceremony, ikebana, and calligraphy. Later on, we were fortunate to participate in a tea ceremony and ikebana, and it was through ikebana that I began to understand.

Ikebana is commonly thought of as the art of Japanese flower arranging, and as with most things in Japan, there is meaning beyond what you see.

In traditional Western flower arranging, the flowers face the viewer and are fitted tightly into the vase. 

In the way of ikebana, our teacher told us, we place the flowers in the container in a way that resembles how they grow. And, most importantly, she said, “Remember the blank spaces are as important as the flowers.” She then showed us how our creations became three-dimensional when we added blank space.  

The term ikebana comes from combining two words, 

ikeru– life; and hana – flower. 

My learning — ikebana is about using flowers to experience a life lesson: blank spaces in our words, deeds, and lives enhance and add dimension to our experience.

The Secret of Life

I’ve had several conversations lately with clients and colleagues about life stages. In 1977, James Taylor wrote The Secret o’ Life. The full lyrics are worth a read, and here’s an excerpt: 

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.

Any fool can do it, 

There ain’t nothing to it.

Nobody knows how we got 

To the top of the hill.

But since we’re on our way down, 

We might as well enjoy the ride.

Isn’t it a lovely ride? 

Sliding down, gliding down,

Try not to try too hard, 

It’s just a lovely ride.

I am struck by Taylor’s wisdom at the age of 27 when he wrote this, and the lyrics remind me of a personal experience with an older man years later. 

 I was sitting on a bench at the old Union Station. The man sat down next to me, and we engaged in conversation. I asked him where he was headed, and he replied with glee, “San Francisco!”

“Wow,” I said, “that is a long way to go on the train.” His reply: “There is as much fun in getting there as there is in being there.”

Taylor’s lyrics and the words of the man on the bench have stayed with me, and I often think of their words in these situations:

  • When I am too focused on getting to the outcome
  • When it’s time to pause
  • When it’s time to remember to be in the moment

As I embark on a trip to Japan in May, I plan to practice the in-the-moment secret, beginning with a hiatus from Sunday Stories. I will publish my usual end-of-month quote next week, and I will see you in June