mistake-876597_1920I went through the email one more time, to make sure there were no errors. My hand was on the mouse. Suddenly it went! The email got sent (I did not send it). Problem, it was not supposed to go before the company-wide webcast, scheduled for 1 hour hence. Oh no! this was sensitive information that had just gone out to almost 3000 people before it was supposed to.

I picked up the phone to the Executive Vice President.

“I made a mistake”, I said. “I sent the email earlier than planned. It was not intentional. I was just reviewing it before the webcast, and I don’t know what happened because I did not click send. “

A mistake can be defined as an act or judgement that is misguided or wrong. A mistake can be defined as an act or judgement that is misguided or wrong. Other ways of describing a mistake include          error, fault, inaccuracy, omission, blunder, miscalculation, misunderstanding, oversight, misinterpretation, misconception, misreading.

It may seem trite or cliché to say that we all make mistakes, but it is true, simple because it is not possible to always have all the facts to make a decision or a judgement; one can’t always be alert and one simply cannot control the actions of others, which are sometimes the cause of mistakes that we make.

Yet, mistakes afford us an opportunity to learn, and when we learn, we grow.  And growth is life, or at least, more than mere survival.

What is your relationship to mistakes?

If you are spending so much emotional, physical and intellectual energy avoiding mistakes, that you have no or very little time for the business of living and loving, you are on your way to stress, strain and struggle, if you are not already there.

If you are about not getting found out and letting others bear the blame, you can’t be sleeping, and that, at least, will lead you into greater trouble with your health and relationships. And by the way, siku za mwizi ni arobaini. You will run out of time, and out of people to blame. Plus, you are missing out on opportunities to learn from your mistakes. While people can forgive a mistake once, they are less and less understanding if you repeat the same mistake, or keep on blundering.

You can have a deliberate strategy to minimise mistakes, or at least, minimise the impact of any mistakes you may make. Preparing diligently for a task equips you with information and confidence to reduce the chances of errors. Maintaining good relationships, and building your reputation as someone trustworthy is like putting money in the bank. It will be there when you need to make a withdrawal. So, when you make a mistake, those on the receiving end will be ready to give you the benefit of doubt, because they know you are not like that.  Accepting your fallibility also makes you more compassionate.

I learnt that keeping the mouse hovering over a command like ‘send’ can be interpreted by the computer as the action. I also discovered that if you compose the email and only add the addresses when you are ready to send eliminates the chance that it will go to someone before it should.

Most importantly, though, accept that you can, and do make mistakes, and be ready to own up to them.  While you cannot make the other person accept and forgive your mistake, you can keep a clear conscience knowing you owned up and took responsibility. More importantly, taking mistakes in your stride makes it easier for you to avoid being overwhelmed by the business of avoidance, guilt, stressed relationships and fear of consequences. It opens you up to learning, setting you up for greater achievements at work and at home. And it presents you with possibilities when you set about discovering how else and what else.

If you are a parent give your children the gift of understanding that while they can avoid mistakes by being prepared, they will err sometimes, and that mistakes are opportunities to learn.

“We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past.  But you are not your mistakes, you are here now with the power to shape your day and your future.” – Steve Maraboli.

 

 

 

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Out of uniform

It’s the start of a new year and for form four leavers in Kenya, having received results  a few days ago, it’s a time for choosing. Which university? What course? what changes should I make to my previous selections now that my results are not what I expected?

For some, it is a question of what to do with the results received. Others will be wondering how to get their parents to agree with their desired course of action without losing their support. And many still will be asking if they have to decide on their future now.

Many will be taking their parent’s admonitions from times past literally , and doing ‘whatever they please’ now that they are 18. Have they thought through the consequences of their actions?   Are they really adults? What is their social maturity status? Is it simply a matter of attaining the age when you can acquire an ID, or are there other considerations? What challenges and responsibilities come with being out of school but still depending on your parents?

Our coaching group for form 4 leavers will help them explore these and many more questions.

Why not sign up today using this link?OOUITWFeb2018 final

 

 

 

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Are you God’s answer to someone’s prayer?

You are on your knees. You are praying fervently to God. You are asking Him to send you something or someone to help you out of a fix. Maybe you need money. Perhaps a loved one is ill and you need the specialist doctor to be available and affordable. Perhaps you are looking for a job and you want someone on the interview panel to believe in you enough to take a chance on you even though you do not have the experience stated in the job advert. You just need to get your foot into the door.

“Please God, let them trust me “, you pray.

Then you sit next to a total stranger on the bus, and it turns out his sister is a specialist doctor, and she does some pro bono work if the circumstances warrant it. Or it turns out that they are hiring at his organisation and he is so impressed by the conversation you have had that he goes and puts in a good word for you. Just like that.

Now let’s revisit this.

You are sitting on a bus next to a stranger and you notice that they are in an earnest SMS conversation. You don’t mean to pry, but you happen to notice some words, and you understand that they are looking for a specialist doctor. For some reason, even if it is not your business, you volunteer information about your sister.

Are you not God’s answer to that person’s prayer?

My daughter asked me, when she was 4, whether I had ever seen God. I said no, I hadn’t. “Then how do you know He is there?” she probed.

I told her what I had been told when I asked the same question. I asked her to look at the leaves on a tree. Did she notice that they were moving?

Image result for wind

“Yes”, she responded.

“Can you see who is moving them?” I asked.

“No”, she replied.

“Well, I said, it is God”.

“No Mummy”, she said. “It’s the wind”.

“Can you see the wind?”

She shook her head, and I went on to say that God works in the same way, you cannot see Him but you can see His work.

And sometimes He works through you.

I am not talking about being religious. This is simply about everyday opportunities to do good that defies explanation, that expects no reward.

Did a stranger do something that was the answer to your prayer? Please share.

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Through the looking glass

spectaclesI have worn spectacles for more than 30 years. Sometimes the lenses get so dirty I can hardly see. But I have learnt that if I don’t have the right cleaning tools I am better off leaving them that way because using the wrong type of cloth or the wrong cleaning agent just makes it worse.

I have also discovered that after a while I get used to the view, even if the lenses remain dirty. If I should remove them, but not clean them, the blurry view is restored and I have to start getting used to it again.

This happens in our lives too. When things first begin to go awry we notice and are uncomfortable, but if we do nothing about it we can easily get used to the status quo and the situation that was amiss becomes the new normal. This new normal is greatly enhanced by excuses we make to explain away our lack of action or resolve. Some people refer this getting used to the misshapen state as ‘lowering’ our standards.

If we should try to correct the situation, we must follow through our intentions and make the necessary adjustments, otherwise the changes do not last. It’s like painting over old paint without smoothing the surface and filling in the holes. In no time, the new paint chips and the undercoat is exposed. It’s a waste of time.

You can take your glasses off at any time to  check if the lenses are dirty and you have just got used to the view through them, or if they are indeed clean. If you need a plan to help the situation, here are some tools to help you do that:

The wheel of life

Goal setting sheet

 

 

 

 

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Happy Parents’ Day

Did you know that June 1 is celebrated as Global Parents’ Day?  Here are 10 reflections on parenting  to mark the day:

  1. Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do – Benjamin Spock
  2. Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them – James Baldwin
  3. I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom – Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum
  4. Your children are not your children. They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness. For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable – Kahlil Gibran
  5. What it’s like to be a parent: It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do but in exchange it teaches you the meaning of unconditional love – Nicholas Sparks.
  6.  Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn – Benjamin Franklin
  7. Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest – Debra Ginsberg
  8.  We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future – Franklin D. Roosevelt
  9. I don’t remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don’t even know exist until you love a child – Anne Lamott
  10. To be in your children’s memories tomorrow you have to be in their lives today – Barbara Johnson.
  11. Happy Parent’s Day!

 

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How not to listen…customer service gone awry

I have been travelling this week and stayed at a new hotel in Lagos. On the face of it looks okay. Nothing extraordinary, fairly interesting architecture. Simple black and white colour scheme, geometric  theme running through carpeting, paintings and even room shape.

Then there was an incident. I ordered room service and was asked to pay for it immediately, even though I was on a corporate account and, anyway, it’s not normal for a resident to be asked to clear a bill immediately. It was first order, day 1 of a planned 5 day stay!

Anyway, I was tired and not in the mood for drama, so I let the guy who was sent to my room with a PDQ machine he didn’t know how to operate, and so he fumbled around for 10 minutes before the transaction was finally done. I got my  payment slip but he went off with the invoice and did not return it.

Next morning, on my way out, I asked for it, because I would need it to lodge an expense claim. The reception desk did not have it, but said they would fetch it. Come evening it was still not found. So I lodged a complaint.

That’s when the drama began.

First a got a note through my office that they would reimburse the payment.

When I insisted that I needed the invoice until I could confirm the reimbursement, I got an apology from the General Manger, wine and canapes to boot.

Still, no invoice, and  no reimbursement (their suggestion).

Then I got another apology from the F&B Manager,(why? I did not complain about the food!) asking me to call about my ‘incident’.

It began to feel like a project. And all I asked for is the invoice.

I left one day early, but not before another Manager called me to apologise, still, without the famous invoice!

It’s only on check out that I got the famous document. And by the way, the payment wasn’t reversed.

The guy at the check out asked if I was happy with my stay, and when I said no, and he asked why, I thought ‘oh no, another project!

If you run a hotel, just remember, however new your hotel is, your travellers aren’t necessarily ‘new’  as well. They have expectations and standards.And, please, listen to what they need  then respond to the request. For me, at least, that’s what matters.

power-listening-2-e1406028063124

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Beginnings. Endings.

We made another start yesterday and it got me thinking about how we are constantly beginning things. In fact, life is a series of starts because we end things, or come to the end of things, or have endings forced on us, all the time! Unless it is the final end there will be a new start to go with it.

every-new-beginning-comes-from-some-other-beginnings-end1

Beginnings and endings make growth. It doesn’t matter how long you have lived, how much you have learnt. Every place you’ve been to on the journey of life leaves a mark. Some marks, like wrinkles or less muscle mass, are visible as we grow older.  Others, though not visible, like more patience, more confidence in our abilities, and a greater willingness to fight for what we believe in,  are discernible even  if not obvious.

Just because we  don’t see the marks left by our beginnings and endings doesnt mean others can’t. If we stop to listen and reflect, we too can see the marks that others tell us about.

Voluntary endings, like leaving a job for greener pastures, or moving from a rented house to one that you own, are, in a sense, easiest. We want them, we foresee them, we plan for them, we invest in them and we know exactly when they will commence. And, usually, they are an improvement compared to what we are leaving behind.

Endings that are forced on us must be endured. We may struggle for a while as we try to make sense of them. Such endings are often sudden, like death; or unexpected, like a retrenchment.  We need to look deep to find the opportunities that such endings bring. Inevitably, those too are followed by new beginnings. Depending on how we navigate the transition the new beginnings may or may not lead us to a ‘better’ place.

We get to the third group of endings by virtue of being alive. They are natural transitions which we cannot postpone or stop.  Depending on your approach, they may appear to come suddenly, catching you unawares, or you could anticipate and plan for them. Sometimes we don’t recognise them as endings, and are surprised to find that we started something new without realising it. This happens, for example, when children move onto a new phase of their lives and you find that they don’t need you in the same way.Your head might recognise the transition, but your heart lags behind, or vice versa. You may want to hold onto what was, and struggle to redefine your relationship. Or you may simply float into a new status.

Don’t be surprised if you are ‘feeling funny’ about some changes. It’s your body, mind, spirit or any combination of the three, trying to adjust. Soon enough you will recognise another beginning. Or an end. Whatever the case, don’t let the opportunity to move intentionally and purposefully into a new place elude you. remember, all the endings and beginnings in your life are connected.

“The best endings resonate because they echo a word, phrase, or image from earlier in the story, and the reader is prompted to think back to that reference and speculate on a deeper meaning.” – James Path

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Trying to be normal

confused-smileyThe KCPE exams finally kicked off. I can’t wait for Thursday when they end. Obviously it is not much respite for me as I will begin all over again on Monday with KCSE.

Somehow things are different. There is huge focus on preparing for the exams. I have been on Sunday washing up duty all year in order that my candidates have some additional study time. Well, that was the plan. We have lots of books all over the place, and I wonder whether I will recognise the house once they have all been put away. Starting yesterday we even have a candidates’ menu! (My mum used to bring out the special chair covers on CPE day).

It’s weird having candidates in this year when there have been so many changes to the familiar. Everything was well-coordinated for me when I knew that the older candidates would finish before the younger one, and I would only need to manage 3 days of ensuring she had peace to study. Now I am looking at a whole month of having one person who has completed her exams living in the same house as another who still has a month of it. .

Lately, ‘everyone’ has been sending prayers and good wishes our way (thank you, by the way). People keep on asking after the candidates like they are ill or something. (Well, two of mine sprained their ankles within one week of each one, one week away from starting their exams so I guess they are kinda ill). We have attended several prayer sessions for them, and Daddy has been particularly solicitous. Suddenly this exam thing is getting to them, and I find that I have to be the ‘normal’ one.

So I am trying not to show my concern when I hear a ka-small cough, and I am praying that no one falls, or catches a cold,  or forgets something or even misplace anything (like the clear pencil-case).  I am looking at what and how much they are eating and wondering if it’s enough for all that brain work (or whether it’s a sign that the brainwork is limited). I am trying to be so normal as not to repeat, for the umpteenth time, that ‘they shouldn’t even look at a friend’ during the exam.

Well, it isn’t normal that their phones have been under my custody practically all year, ’just in case some-one sends a leaked exam to you without your permission – and these things can be traced’. Thankfully they get that.

I am trying very hard not to be mother hen! (Is that even possible?)

I had this phase of buying and sending success cards, but the other day I found a stash of addressed, stamped, cards. And then I also found another pile of unused ones. (So I need not have bought the last lot). Goodness, what’s happening to me? Just in case you are wondering why I haven’t sent your son or daughter a card, you now know why. Please just accept the thought.

And If I look like I am really concentrating on something when you see me, know that I am counting the days to Nov 30.

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Watch that Gremlin!

im-possibleThe term “gremlin” originates from Royal Air Force slang in the 1920s. It describes a  so called ‘mischievous creature’ that sabotaged aircraft. Gremlins were responsible for otherwise inexplicable accidents which  occurred during flights

In coaching terms, a gremlin is a habit that stops people from achieving their goals in business or life. Gremlins are also known as the inner critic, negative self talk or negative fantasizing.  Gremlins are keepers of the status quo. They love to keep you locked in your comfort zone and they are experts at blocking you from reaching , and sometimes even seeing, your greatest potential. There are many examples of areas in which gremlins show up. Here I will take an example from parenting teenagers.

When your teen distances himself from you, your gremlin tells you “teenagers are impossible”, and so you keep away, making the gap wider. When your teens mood fluctuate your gremlin tells you “she is impossible to manage” and you retreat leaving  her alone to navigate the twin confusions of wanting to belong while desiring to be independent. When your teen shouts hateful words at you the gremlin says “shout back, louder”. And so you do, and send  a message that you do not love or respect her, even when that is not true.

Gremlins love to act out your worst fears.  When it comes to teens, you are already vulnerable because it is a confusing time for them, and you will be questioning your parenting skills more than ever. They can act weird, and bring back all sorts of memories and emotions from your own childhood. If these memories and emotions are not pleasant it makes it harder for you to parent your teen effectively. Still, you can break the cycle.

Awareness of what informs and influences your parenting style is the first step to breaking the cycle. Parenting is a journey fraught with trial and error. And as we navigate the roads as parents we carry along our baggage as individuals.

What are you carrying along from your teenage years that’s getting in the way of your seeing the signs and taking the right direction? How much is this baggage weighing you down?  To what extent is this baggage reflected in your parenting style? How willing are you to do something differently so that teenage become an enlightening journey rather than self defeating conflict? Is your gremlin whispering “you have too many other  things to deal with, and no energy to spare for your teenager”?

We are free to create the life we want,  regardless of where we have come from.  In the process of dealing with our childhood baggage, healing, creating, and thriving, we gift our children with not having to deal with our wounds and pain, and free them up to live a brilliant life. They get to be free too.

Don’t let that gremlin tell you “teens are impossible”. Take a step to free yourself today.

 

 

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Playing my Part

This weekend I had some profound learning.

I listened to a Westgate attack survivor recount her story. It reinforced my belief that miracles do happen. It confirmed to me that someone can overcome really trying situations. It reminded me that there are very many very good people in this world. There were many lessons.

Then one I would like to share today concerns giving. We are often called to give donations for one cause or another, and, with good reason, many of us will hold back because we are not sure those donations arrive at the intended or published destination.

This lady said “If you donated to the Westgate fund you helped pay my hospital bill”. She also said “If you prayed for Westgate victims and survivors, you prayed for me [and here I am].”Camera 034

I will not hold back my generosity just because someone else doesn’t hold back their greed. I will not be stingy with what I can give easily and freely just because I do not see the results. I will trust and believe, and play my part.

After all, I cannot play some else’s  part.

 

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