leadership dot #2431: thin mints

It started out as an ordinary enough phone call: “Hello, Aunt beth; I’m selling Girl Scout cookies. Would you like to buy some?”

After I listened to the menu of options, I agreed to buy three boxes.

“Would you like another box to make it an even $20,” my niece asked.


“And can I interest you in adding some Thin Mints to your order – you wouldn’t want to forget those!”

I admired the persistence of this young saleswoman and thought that if nothing else, the Girl Scouts were teaching assertiveness.

I wonder how many times you have settled for the initial “order of three” instead of asking for what you really wanted. The next time you have a desire, couple it with the courage to express it – and put your request out there so it has the possibility of being answered. Thin mints, anyone?

leadership dot #2420: vortex

Living in the Snow Belt is a lesson in resiliency. Mother Nature may inflict record-breaking temperatures, but the good people of the Midwest adapt and roll with the punches.

We have had multiple snowfalls this week, and by the time I am awake the roads have already been plowed and become passable. People just get up and get out the snow blower, making paths through feet-high snow banks that have drifted over the sidewalks and driveways. They bundle up in enough layers to make them look like colorful Michelin Men waddling their way across parking lots and into businesses.

And, like today, when the weather is especially brutal, not only are schools closed, but even garbage collection is suspended in the interest of the sanitation workers’ safety. You just do what you’ve gotta do to accommodate and reschedule.

I imagine that those who don’t live here cannot imagine why people do. (Sometimes I wonder that myself!) But the weather instills a heartiness that permeates other facets of life and serves as a good teacher for how to overcome obstacles. It forces people to develop that elusive skill of “grit” that has become so desired in employees.

Clearly, I am not a fan of the -33 degrees temperature projected for tonight. I will grumble and grouse – and then make adjustments and get through it. Use that as a metaphor for how you can press forward in other areas of life, even when the situation may seem inconceivable to others.

leadership dot #2223: window

Of the 40,000 windows in the World Trade Center, one survived the 9-11 terrorist attack. A window from the 82nd floor of the South Tower is on display in the Memorial, seemingly unscathed from the mayhem around it.

One of the docents at the Museum sees this window as a lesson of hope: No matter how fragile you think you are, you can deal with a big impact and still come out intact.

Keep this window in mind when your environment becomes volatile and remember that there is the possibility for you to come through it.

leadership dot #2177: lonely

Except for in a political context, you don’t hear much about only two percent of the population doing anything. So, when the graduation speaker shared that only two percent of the adult population in the United States has earned a doctorate degree, it struck me as a very small number. I earned my Ed.D. over twenty years ago and did not realize to what a small fraternity I belonged.

Then at a recent meeting with a cohort of innovation leaders, the Rogers Adaptation Curve was shared as a framework for the charge ahead of them. Only 2.5% of the population is considered as an innovator, giving context to the minority in which these leaders found themselves. The cohort was formed to provide support and counsel to similar change-oriented people since they were in such short supply in the general population.

Think about where not only you fall, but where others in your organization land. Whether it is in pursuit of a doctorate or on a mission to reimagine the child welfare system, anyone seeking to be part of a two percent finds themselves in a lonely position. What can you do to provide a safe environment, access to like-minded people and the inspiration to persevere until they reach the end they are seeking?

One may be the loneliest number, but two percent isn’t far behind.

leadership dot #2145: undaunted

The story of Lewis and Clark has always fascinated me – I wonder what it must have taken for these men and their crew to explore unknown territories with so little to guide them. People today set out on what they feel are “adventures” when they turn off the GPS, but Lewis and Clark knew nothing about the territory that they would face.

Can you even imagine setting out on a journey that you believed would be all on water, only to learn that most of your travels would be on land? And not just flat land; the explorers did not know that the Rocky Mountains existed. It would be daunting to cross the Rockies today, let alone 200 years ago on horseback, especially when you did not expect them to be there!

Lewis and Clark had every excuse to quit along their journey. The conditions were so much rougher, the mode of transport totally different and the time frame (two years and four months) significantly longer than they originally expected. And after surviving grueling conditions to reach the ocean, they then had to return – over the same rough terrain.

When you want to tell your boss that you are going to quit because you have hit a barrier, think of Lewis and Clark looking over that first peak and realizing that there were miles more mountains instead of the northwest water route that they were seeking. The obstacles you face at work are nothing.

leadership dot #2091: energy transfer

There is a woman who I would guess to be in her 80s that walks by my house every day. Every. Day. She is more durable than the Post Office who delivers in snow, rain and heat because she walks on Sundays, too. No matter the weather or conditions, this woman trudges up the hill and makes her trek.

I think about her persistence – as I watch from my heated or air-conditioned office – and doubt that she questions her activity. I would guess that her walking is a habit – just as much a part of the day as eating meals or brushing teeth.

Gretchen Rubin advocates the cultivation of habits because they reduce (remove) the mental capacity necessary to make a decision. You don’t have to think about it — and thus lose emotional energy in the process – you just do.

I admire those who engrain habits into their lives for the tough stuff. I have written 2090 dots and the process of sitting down to do them still doesn’t come easily. Often I spend as much time thinking about what to write as I do on the actual writing. I also think about whether I should take the dogs for a walk – is the weather ok, are the sidewalks free of salt or puddles, etc. I wish it would come naturally to just do it every day like this woman and not think about it.

I have quoted Susan Power before who writes that “motivation is in the doing.” Energy is generated in the doing too and depleted in the thinking-about-doing. Strive to minimize your energy loss by creating habits instead of daily decision points.

leadership dot #2010: resourceful

If you lived on a remote island in the North Atlantic, chances are that you would need to be resourceful and to develop some hearty problem-solving skills. Such was the case with the people in the Faroe Islands, a rugged country located between Norway and Island. This small country involved their sheep (which outnumber the people!) in order to get their beautiful landscapes on Google Maps in order to draw the attention of tourists.

 Frustrated by their attempts to be included in Google’s Street View option, Faroe tourist board members strapped 360-degree cameras to the backs of sheep to record the views. And it worked – Google now includes them and the number of visitors has increased since the project’s successful end.

Now the tourist bureau has moved on to addressing language barriers of these visitors – pushing to be included in Google Translate, but creating their own “Faroe Islands Translate” until that happens.

Many people would throw up their hands and claim that it was impossible for a tiny entity to influence a giant like Google, but these islanders proved otherwise. They sought alternative solutions and did much of the work themselves. If you really want something badly enough, there Is probably a way to make some version of it happen.

Read the full story here.

Thanks, Meg!