Service Basics

Life’s hidden gems. Five people to add to your circle of friends if they aren’t there already.

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Gem

Like many, I often find myself thinking about how to use my time better. Arguably time is our most precious and most limited resource. So it only makes sense that we’d try to be more thoughtful about where and with whom we spend it.

Here are five people that definitely deserve some of your time. You may only have a few of these friends in your life right now. And that’s perfectly fine. But be on the lookout for each of these people. Each will make you a better server in unexpected ways.

  1. The friend that you want to be more like. This isn’t about competition or envy. It is about motivation to be a better version of you. This friend helps make your growth goals more clear as you see traits in them that you want in yourself. The growing you will be a better server. Keep this friend around you.
  2. The friend that always shows up. It is wonderful to have people that you can call or text at any moment. But there should also be someone in your life that shows you why actions speak louder than words. This friend physically shows up for the things that matter to you. Your first book signing – check. Your wedding – check. The day your son was born – check. They remind you to move beyond good intentions when you seek to serve. Keep being grateful for this friend.
  3. The friend that tests your thinking. This is someone that helps you test your assumptions and theories for logic and bias. This isn’t someone that thrives off being smarter or wiser than you. They care deeply for your best interests and help you see where your blind spots might be. Knowing you’re not always right will make you more open hearted and accepting of others. Service thrives in an accepting heart. Keep this friend close.
  4. The friend that supports your spiritual journey. It isn’t uncommon to have very close friends that don’t discuss their spiritual life at all. Make sure one of your friends supports your spiritual journey. No matter what your belief system is you can be sure it will change, develop and deepen with time. It is a mighty friend that walks with you on this path. Most spiritual journeys will lead you back to service. Keep this friend close to your heart.
  5. The friend that needs your service. I can’t seem to remember a time when I didn’t have a friend that was going through a rough patch in life. Which friend it is changes, but life’s challenges come and go for us all. Protecting and serving others teaches us more about love than looking out for ourselves. Always have a friend that you’re lending your strength to and sharing their load. Keep this friend in your prayers.

Are you looking for one of these people?

If so, which one?

10 questions to ask yourself before winter ends

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Ice Skates

I often tell people that winter is my favorite season, but this year even I’m ready for spring. As beautiful as the snow has been, having so many storms has been disruptive. It has thrown off my ability to accurately anticipate what the next days or weeks will bring. It’s highlighted to me that as much as I try to control my life – I’m not in charge.

When winter comes

The most common use of the word “winter” describes the season marked by cold weather and bare trees. During Mother Nature’s winter season, we are forced to retreat inside and many things stop growing. The characteristics of the winter season can show up in other parts of our lives. We experience winters in our careers, in our relationships, in our health, and in our hearts. Often our focus on serving the world around us has to shift to hibernating and healing. It can be especially hard for people focused on service to go through times of winter. We are used to serving others and have to allow ourselves to be cared for.

The last full day of this winter season is tomorrow, March 19th. If you’re coming to the end of any kind of winter, here are 10 questions to ask yourself before ushering in spring.

  1. What stopped growing this winter?
  2. Do I want to see all, some, or none of it grow back?
  3. What do I want to plant next?
  4. How much energy do I have to care for a new blossom?
  5. Which habits helped me through this winter?
  6. Which habits made this season more difficult for me?
  7. Was my home a place I wanted to retreat to?
  8. Who kept me warm during my coldest days?
  9. What will I do to prepare for the next winter?
  10. How has this winter better equipped me to serve?

What would you add to this list?

How false humility hides your natural gifts

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ornament

A few years ago, my office held a holiday decorating contest. We each had free reign to design and decorate our individual work spaces. This contest had no prize other than bragging rights, but it somehow developed into a very competitive affair. We all selected a theme and found time in our pretty busy days to shop and decorate. I can clearly remember going out and spending WAY too much money in a craft store. I also remember standing on a chair for well over an hour draping paper and gluing stars in the middle of an otherwise productive workday.

When judging time came, each person in the office received one vote for the grand honor of “Best Decorations.” No one could vote for themselves. Now I knew I worked with some pretty talented people, but these decorations were OVER THE TOP creative and well done. I walked around seriously wondering how I’d ever be able to pick my winner.

Then I saw it.

At the very end of a long hallway was an office space decked out in red, white and green with dancing elves. But not just any elves. These elves had individual pictures of everyone in the office pasted on them. It was brilliant.

The Office Elfs won the contest in a landslide. Why? Because most people like to see pictures of themselves. Whether we like our appearance or not, we’re drawn to look at what is physically unique about us. Our eyes. Our smile. And though I consider myself a humble person, I really enjoyed seeing the picture of my elf.

Humility is not at odds with us

Here’s how I view the practice of humility. Humility is the act of lowering our ego to cultivate compassion for and provide service to others. What humility is NOT is a reason to reduce your view of your capabilities. It is NOT an excuse to hide what is great about you.

  • Are you a writer? Are you a good writer? Share your writing. It can inspire, heal, entertain and inform.
  • Are you smart? Don’t dumb down your conversation to not intimidate people. You can stimulate new ideas and bring clarity to complex topics.
  • Do you have a hobby you know absolutely everything about? Make that known. Teach others and help create the feeling of community that comes from shared interests.

False humility goes directly against my definition of true humility. Hiding talents takes them away from the world you’re meant to be serving. You have your gifts for a reason and that reason is to use them to serve others. Don’t be shy. We need you.

Is there a gift you’ve been holding back from the world?

How one small change could make you a lot less tired. But you might be too tired to try it.

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Tired cat

Picture yourself in my kitchen two nights ago. My husband and I just got home from work. I came into the kitchen a little later than him. I’d just hung up my coat and was starting to think about dinner. Here’s the exchange that followed.

Him: “Were things really crazy getting the kids out this morning?”

Me: “No, not really? School had a 2 hour delay because of the weather. I had extra time.”

Him: “Oh, because you left the cereal out on the counter.”

Me: “Oh ok. Sorry.” (Meanwhile I’m wondering where he’s going with this conversation.)

Him: “…And then I saw that you put the milk away in the pantry.”

Me: “Wow. I really didn’t sleep well last night.”

Sleep matters. For most of us, it matters a lot. The only thing that makes being sleepy better is getting more sleep. I want to make that clear because this post will not help you with being sleepy. It can ONLY help you with being tired. Being tired is a completely different animal than sleepy. Tired is more about energy and motivation. Sleepy is about a physical need to restore your systems. But it can be hard to distinguish them from each other. The chart below has some examples that might help you tell them apart.

Sleepy

Tired

“I wonder if anyone would notice if I got 15 minutes of sleep here at my desk.” “I don’t really feel like taking a nap, but I do feel like laying in my bed.”
“I keep trying to get online, but the light from the screen is giving me a headache.” “Wow, have I been on this site for two hours? I can’t get anything done today.”
“Where did I put my keys? Not again!” “Since I’ve gotten up and gotten my keys, I should probably head to the grocery store. But man, I really don’t feel like it!”
“God, please give me the strength to feed these kids tonight.” “Why can’t these kids feed themselves yet?”

So are you sleepy or are you tired? If you’re sleepy, stop reading and at least rest your eyes. If you’re tired, read on.

 

  1. Chances are good that you will be getting up tomorrow. Life is short, but more than likely it will be pretty long. It’s probable that you will get up tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. Point being – You are going to have a lot of waking hours to pass time in.
  2. You will be putting in work. If you have any obligations such as family, friends, and/or a job you will be performing work during a large part of your waking hours. Point being – Doing things that need to get done is going to be a required part of your day every day.

Can we agree on these two things? Sounds simple.

Getting up and putting in work will likely happen every day of our lives. We are going to do it regardless of how we feel about it. But what if putting in work partially feed us with energy instead of merely draining it? That’s basically what “inspired action” is. Inspired action is also a type of work but it’s work that feeds us emotionally. That’s different from plain-old “action” which is work we have to do because we’re awake and we have responsibilities. In many small ways, we can shift our thinking toward viewing work as inspired action. Most if not all of that shift has to do with intentionally trying to serve others. This can be done in small ways while doing your daily routine. Inspired action leaves you more connected and energized. Since we’re going to be awake and putting in work anyway, it just feels better to be serving others.

And it makes us A LOT less tired.

 

Don’t believe me? Try it for three days. I don’t mean taking time off from your job to do more community service. I’m talking about serving as part of your normal day. Easy examples are letting someone in front of you in traffic, correcting a small problem for someone on your job, or getting a meal on the table for dinner. Consciously and intentionally think of everything you do as service and then see how you feel.

Are you tired enough to try it?

Six things to do when you’re feeling small.

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Onthebeach

Like any mother, the safety of my sons is constantly on my mind. So this week has been scary. I’ve wondered if there is an entire US state where I should not send my sons to college. I’ve wondered if a place that I associate mostly with Mickey Mouse is a place where the law can’t protect their lives. I’m not an expert on these cases. And this post isn’t about that. If I’m being honest, I’ve tried not to follow the cases too closely. They scare me too much. They make me feel small.

I was reminded by a friend on Facebook that individual lives may feel small at times, but they are powerful.

This was his response to one of my status updates.

“Think globally, act locally. If everyone looks after their family and friends, a geometric progression suggests everyone is better off and taken care of.”

Here are six things we can do whenever we’re feeling small.

  1. Be still. Notice that I didn’t say pray. Prayer is speaking to God. Stillness is allowing time to listen.
  2. Cook for someone. Sure you can eat some too, but cook with the idea of serving and nourishing another. Any recipe will do.
  3. Seek out a child. There is something about a child’s energy that neutralizes defeat.
  4. Find art that moves you. My favorite book is Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I find it hard to believe that a person could weave together a story so complex and vivid. It reminds me that humans are capable of beautiful things. Sometimes I need the reminder.
  5. Take up someone else’s cause. We all have struggles that are unique to our position in life. Help someone else with theirs. Embody the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
  6. Serve in the way that only you can. If you aren’t sure what that is yet, refer to #1 on this list.

What do you do when you’re feeling small?

Who else wants to have an honest conversation about money?

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Money

About a week ago, we had an opportunity to talk with college-bound teenagers about money. We had their full attention once they saw the charts of average starting salaries for different fields of study. Clearly graduates from some fields (mostly in the hard sciences and technical disciplines) made much more money than others. Some fields required additional graduate degrees and that meant a potential for larger student loan debt.

We still encouraged the students to follow their talents and passions. We talked to them about how passion would play out in the long run which was loosely defined as 10-15 years into their career. It’s passion that drives people to work harder, smarter and network better. Then those passionate people get promoted, make more money and far outpace their peers financially. Passion is still an important factor for long term financial success.

Honest Conversations About Money

So why even give them the starting salary data if we still think they should consider any field they like? The point was to have an honest conversation about money. It was to help them make an informed decision about which field to pursue. It’s a complex decision. We also discussed the social and emotional impact of making more or less money than their peers at any stage of life. We acknowledged that some jobs would always pay less than others even if they’re successful at them. This talk was to help them make decisions about their life and the role money will play in it. Deciding how important each factor is to them is something they will have to do on their own.

Even as adults we are often left uninformed about the social and emotional factors surrounding money. When I was single, it was hard to make decisions and place priorities on my money. Should I save more for a rainy day or take a trip with my family? When I got married again it became even more clear that I needed to learn and communicate my financial needs better. I say “needs” and not “wants” because how much we derive pleasure, connection and/or security from money is core to who we are. These factors aren’t simple preferences that can be ignored. This is something you may already know if you’ve ever managed money with someone that doesn’t share your financial values.

Luckily, there are resources to help us get informed about our financial preferences and have more honest conversations about money with each other. The link below will take you to an online tool that will “find your money mind” and uncover your personal biases about money’s value. A friend suggested this site to me and I wanted to pass it on.

Three Types of “Money Minds”

  • Happiness: The Pleasure Seeker
  • Committed: The Giver
  • Fear: The Protector

http://findyourmoneymind.com/

Once you take the quiz for yourself you can also take it with someone you manage money with. This will give you insight into your collective priorities and styles. You will also get communication tips to have better and more honest conversations about your needs.

So what does this have to do with service? Everything. Money has a huge impact on our relationships and resources. Our relationships and resources will have everything to do with how and who we serve.

Who else wants to have an honest conversation about money?

You don’t have to be a saint to build a legacy.

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Stainglass

Oh Saint Valentine – sometimes we love you. Sometimes we hate you. And we know very little about you. There may have even been two Saint Valentines. But one of the saints died on February 14th. Why we celebrate his (or their) legacy of love is the subject of much debate.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a saint.

When I look across my life it is hard to ignore that there are things I regret. I’ve hurt people. I’ve failed to be the person I hoped I was. Thanks to God that hasn’t been my whole story. I’ve also loved deeply. I’ve been fiercely loyal. I’ve encouraged and protected.

People are complex and they are neither good nor bad. We can’t be a “good person” nor a “bad person”. All the things we do are part of who we are. I’m working to make peace with that. I’m working to forgive some of my past faults and focus on my current actions.

“Legacy” appears as just a word, but embedded in that word are a bunch of questions.

  • What will you be known for?
  • How will your life have mattered?
  • Who did you serve?

Valentine’s Day is as good a day as any to work harder at answering those questions. Every day we can get up in the morning and have another shot at building our legacies. I hope you have a great one!

How are you spending your Valentine’s Day?

February Service Inspirations. It’s all about love.

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LoveKeys

It’s hard to ignore the elephant in this month – Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day stirs a variety of emotions for people (and not all are positive emotions). I feel  blessed that Valentine’s Day sits in the middle of our glorious February. It reminds us that we get to decide what a day focused on love means. We get to decide how we spend this month and with whom. We get to live our unique versions of love.

I encourage you to focus February on serving those you love. As in January, you will find this month’s service ideas below. Try them if you feel inspired or create ones of your own.

February Service Inspirations

1. Make a special Memory game and give it to a loved one.

  • Select 10 photos of you and a special person together (or places you’ve been together).
  • Print 2 copies of each photo in 4×6 for 20 total pictures.
  • Paste each photo on an index card. Make sure each index card is the same color.
  • Trim the extra photo around the edges of the index card.
  • Play Memory with your loved one revealing moments together at each turn of a card.
  • Let them win (optional).

2. Prepare an Emergency Kit for your family or someone else you love.

3. Stock someone special’s car with healthy snacks.

  • Custom made trail mix and water are great ideas. I like almonds, cashews, and dried cranberries but there are many options out there. It’s inevitable that they will end up in their car hungry or thirsty. That’s when they’ll think of you.

4. Give flowers or a plant.

  • This might seem cliché, but I’m a firm believer in the power of nature to heal and restore.

5. Give them your undivided attention.

  • This shows up in almost every list. It is one of the very best ways to serve someone. Anyone. It is especially a good way to serve those you love.

Who do you love?

How would they want to be served?

Serve Simply Service, by sharing or tweeting this post. Thanks in advance!

10 ways to serve in 5 minutes or less

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DecThis is our dog. His name is Deacon Dillon Earl. Most of the time, we call him Deac for short.

A few days ago, I was talking to an online friend (that I don’t know well in real life). He was dealing with suddenly becoming internet famous and not knowing how to adjust to it. I have absolutely no experience in being famous so I could only offer my real life experience of adjusting to divorce and remarriage. Throughout the conversation I kept referencing things my husband and I had recently discussed. He asked, “Do you two typically have such deep conversations?” And this is where Deac comes in.

Let me tell you a little more about Deac. He sleeps a ton, but when he’s awake he has a lot to say. He is sarcastic and witty. He is short tempered and fiercely loyal. He has an ongoing vendetta with my super sweet mother that happens to not be “a dog person”. He thinks he outranks the kids and they should constantly “freshen up his water”. And he has apparently lived a life full of celebrity interactions and coincidental brushes with current events. We talk about Deac and what Deac told us often. By often, I mean every day. By every day, I mean several times a day. It’s funny. We like it.

And it allows us to not take life so seriously.

 

Service can seem like a serious topic. It gets people thinking about the big things in life – love, legacy, and purpose. But it doesn’t have to be so serious and it doesn’t have to take up a lot of time. Below are 10 easy ways to serve in 5 minutes or less. So you can start serving right now.

10 ways to serve in 5 minutes or less

  1. Tell someone a joke. Laughter is good for the heart.
  2. Save someone from a work conversation they aren’t enjoying. “Hey I hate to interrupt, but can I borrow you for two minutes”.
  3. Actually take your reusable bags into the store with you.
  4. Actually take your reusable cup into Starbucks with you.
  5. Contact an elected official via social media to quickly advocate for a cause you believe in.
  6. Pray for someone.
  7. Make a small online donation to a charity you support.
  8. Teach someone something. Anything.
  9. Text someone a specific compliment. (e.g. I admire how much patience you have with me).
  10. Give someone you love your undivided attention.

This is just a start.

What other ideas do you have?

Why I’m happy to review your resume. Just ask me.

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Resume

I recently received an unsolicited message through LinkedIn. The person sending it wasn’t a friend nor a professional contact. We have two people that are mutual connections, but I don’t know those people very well. The message was asking me to set up a time to review his resume and help him make it better. So why was he sending this message to someone he didn’t know? The short answer is because I happen to work for one of the top international recruiting companies. When Microsoft or Johnson & Johnson hire a new CEO, my company may be the one that recruited them in. I also used to work for one of our peers. He reached out to me because viewing the resumes of executives is something I do frequently. He wanted my help.

I used to hate it when people asked me to help improve their resumes. Friends asked often and it became a burden to find time to work on them all. It’s funny how the gifts that come easiest to us are often the hardest to share. I can’t promise that I can spend hours on each resume, but I will review yours if you ask me to. I’m good at reviewing resumes and I can probably help you. And that’s what we are here for. We’re here to help each other.

What are you good at?

Have you been able to share that talent?