Knowing For Sure in 2014

Happy New Year tiara

Happy New Year tiara

2014 in the Chinese Zodiac is the Year of the Horse, and, as we all get back into the saddle and confront the headwinds of a new year, many of us are focused ahead, not back.

Yes, the occasion of a new year often sends our thinking toward new personal goals, resolutions and challenges.

Maybe it’s a reflection of my age, but, during 2014, besides trying to achieve new goals, meet new challenges and increase my personal knowledge, I’d also like to take time to reflect on my previous achievements, previous failures and the related lessons that I’ve learned from those life experiences so far.

In 2014, I plan to continue defining my own version of this “What I Know For Sure” Top 10 list that Oprah Winfrey created a few years back and shared in one of her O magazine issues:

    1. What you put out comes back all the time, no matter what.
    2. You define your own life.  Don’t let other people write your script.
    3. Whatever someone did to you in the past has no power over the present. Only you give it power.
    4. When people show you who they are, believe them the first time. (A lesson from Maya Angelou.)
    5. Worrying is a wasted time. Use the same energy for doing something about whatever worries you.
    6. What you believe has more power than what you dream, wish, or hope for.  You become what you believe.
    7. If the only prayer you ever say is “thank you,” that will be enough. (From the German theologian and humanist Meister Eckhart.)
    8. The happiness you feel is in direct proportion to the love you give.
    9. Failure is a signpost to turn you in another direction.
    10. If you make a choice that goes against what everyone else thinks, the world will not fall apart.

Several of the above words of wisdom are meaningful to me, but the list is Oprah’s list.  Those are Oprah’s life truths. Not to sound self-centered, but, I think it’s important to define one’s own list of lessons in life.

What about you?  Do you already have a personal list of life truths that you live by?  If so, would you be willing to share some of your wisdom?

For what it’s worth and for your consideration, I’ll conclude this post by sharing one bit of life knowledge that I know for sure:

Planning is important, but the universe ultimately rewards action.

Here’s to taking action in 2014!

Maria, Marta and Mountains to Climb

NC mountains sunset view

NC mountains sunset view

Like a lot of Americans this past week, I tuned in and watched former American Idol winner Carrie Underwood transform herself into the character of Maria von Trapp in NBC’s live staging of the musical, “The Sound of Music.”

As I watched Underwood stare straight into the camera as she walked towards the alter in the famous wedding scene, I commented to my husband (who never saw Underwood’s debut audition on the American Idol TV program), “my, how far she has come.”

As I continued to watch the performance, I was reminded of how far I’ve journeyed in my life, since the days of my childhood, when my identical twin sister and I shared the role of Marta von Trapp in the former Raleigh Village Dinner Theatre’s “The Sound of Music” reappraisal.

Hearing the words and music of the play, I was carried back in time.  I remembered standing on stage as Marta and singing, “So long, farewell Auf Wiedersehen, goodnight. I hate to go and leave this pretty sight.”  I recalled the thrill of performing live on stage, the audiences’ claps and learning the true story of the Von Trapp Family singers.

Have you ever acted on a stage or other theatrical venue?  It’s a strange phenomenon to act and “become another person,” if only for a few hours.

Maybe it was because of my age at the time that I performed the role of Marta, but, somehow I still feel closely connected to the story of the von Trapps. I still am connected to their story, because their story is a part of my youth and, thus, is a part of my life story.

As an adult, I now understand more clearly some of the messages that the musical offers.  For example, I now understand the power of choice in our lives, and I more clearly see that the character of Maria must decide how and where she’ll spend her love, a decision that will equate to how she will spend her lifetime.

Maria doesn’t choose the Abbey but, instead, chooses the Captain and the kids.  She chooses to make her dream a reality, and, in doing so, she must give that dream, “all the love she can give,” because the reality of life is the fact that life is full of mountains that must be climbed.

The famous “Climb Ever Mountain” tune that Audra McDonald sang so beautifully the other night on NBC calls out to each of us, “like a lark that is learning to sing,” sounding forth these important questions for us to consider:

  • Over which mountains are you heading? 
  • Which dreams of yours will you hold on to and follow to fruition and reality?
  • How are you spending your love? 
  • How are you spending your life?

Unsure of the answers?  That’s ok, but, if she were a real person, I think Maria would advise:

Don’t wait too long to decide.

Your Golden Times Are Ticking

gold glitter

golden glitter 

In a prior post titled, “Reaching Inspired Locations,” I included a link to a blog that highlighted top songs written about the state of California.

I’ve only traveled to California two times, and both treks were business trips. Back in ’98, while working for IBM, I attended the IBM Business Partner Executive (BPEC) conference event that was held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Years later, while working for Cardinal Health, I traveled to San Diego to attend a marketing team meeting.

Though I’ve never physically visited Los Angeles or Hollywood, like so many others here in the U.S. and around the world, I certainly have, as singer-songwriter James Taylor might say, “been going to California in my mind” for many years.

What is it about California?  It seems to be a golden land, n’est pas?  Related, like the early diggers in the 1800s who were addicted to the pursuit of finding gold “in them thar hills,” so many of us find ourselves spellbound by the romantic idea of California as a place where potential gets fulfilled, where dreams come true, where beaches never erode and where stars rise to blinding heights in the sky.

Speaking of stars…when I think of Hollywood and its movie stars, I often think of golden girls and golden boys – those quintessential, California “golden ones.”

It’s easy to spout off the names of some of the golden girls…names like Marilyn, Lana, Jayne, Doris, Grace, Julie, Farrah, Goldie, Suzanne, Meg and Gwyneth.  When it comes to the golden boys, however, the list seems somewhat shorter but, by no means, less golden.  James and Robert usually first come to my mind.  But, not today.  

Today, my mind first thinks of a different golden boy, Paul.  Like a streak of gold, Paul Walker’s star brilliantly shone until it faded on a Saturday afternoon, yesterday in Southern California.  Like Jayne and James before him, Paul’s untimely death via car accident sounded the mortal bell loudly again for all of us, reminding us that our time is fleeting and that we shouldn’t waste our moments. 

Yes, our own moments, our own minutes are more golden than any promise that the mystique of California may hold.  What are you doing with yours?

Now is your time to act and make a difference.  Right now is your golden opportunity.  As Longfellow so eloquently stated in his poem, A Psalm of Life:

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Peering into Digital Windows

 

A Rear Window View

A Rear Window View

Craig Smith’s November 2013 tally of how many people are using some of the top social media, services and mobile apps reveals many individuals are “active users” of the 300 or so new digital media channels.

But, how active is “active”?  In his post, “Definition of Active Users,” Nigel Brookson took a stab at defining the term, “active user,” in relation to Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

What about all of the registered, less active users of these new digital channels?  Why would all of those people take time out of their lives to join and create new profile accounts on new digital channels, only to seldom use the services?

No doubt there are countless reasons why, however, I’d venture to guess that Alfred Hitchcock, if he were alive today, might offer one theoretical reason.

What explanation for inactive digital channel users might the famed author and moviemaker offer?

Think Rear Window.  Are you there yet?

I think Hitchcock might throw out the concept of voyeurism as a reason for less-than-active participants on digital media channels.

Would you agree?  Several friends of mine have admitted to me that that they participate in Facebook and Twitter only “to watch what other people are doing.”

Do you know anyone who has similarly admitted to inactive usage and “watching” on some of the newer digital channels?  Have you ever heard the comment, “I’m on Facebook, but I’m not really on Facebook”?

American football and baseball are often referred to as spectator sports.  More and more, it seems that the same can be said about today’s game of social and digital media.

Safekeeping and You

hot pink ballet flats with a tropical theme

the tips of my “London shoes”

I still have them.  A pair of hot pink ballet flats with a tropical theme.

Glancing at the pair, you might never guess where I purchased the flats, the answer being London, England.

I, on the other hand, have a very different experience each time that I glance at the pair.

With only a look, I’m immediately transported back to my first-time visit to Europe, and, in the blink of an eye, I can see myself, along with my mom, dad and twin sister, walking through the aisles of Harrods and walking into boutique shops along London’s famous streets.

It’s been more than 25 years since I excitedly purchased my tropically themed ballet flats, and the pair has survived many changes in my life, always landing safely inside my closet space, never being thrown away.

Like the photographs that I keep from that inaugural trip to Europe, my ballet flats seem to capture a point in time in my life that no longer exists. Or does it?

Could it be that the same excited teenage girl who purchased those ballet flats still remains within the woman who I have become?

I think the answer to that question sounds softly from within my closet.  Though older now, and a bit more worn, my hot-pink “London shoes” not only still exist – they, in fact, still fit.

What about you?  Are there any parts of you that you’re afraid to lose?

Which aspects of you are for safekeeping?

A Broad Metrics Reveal

small globe image

small desk globe

Well, I’m sure that Cissy Houston would be proud.

After glancing through WordPress metrics for MySheCave.com, I’ve discovered that, out of 115 available prior posts, the blog that I wrote following Whitney Houston’s death in February 2012 has garnered the most views.

Want to know the other topics that have been the most popular among MySheCave.com readers? Check out the below list. From Whitney, to peanut butter, to prosecco, to crybabies, one of these 10 posts should catch your interest, if you missed reading the first time:

Top 10 Most Viewed MySheCave Posts: 
Play Whit Again, Sam.
Find your golden mind
Peanut butter, poetry and sticky things
When Love Means Nothing
Forget Grey, We’re Talkin’ Shades of Green!
Are You Hooked?
Bubble gum and Prosecco
Calling All Crybabies…
Jacks in Boxes, Surprises and You
Do You Know Any Reverse Snobs?

On a personal note, I was surprised and pleased to see the below Country Views metrics table that reveals the location of 2013 MySheCave.com readers.  Like I’m guessing Cissy might be about the Most Viewed stat I referenced above, I’m also a bit proud to have a global MySheCave.com audience.

I want to thank each of you who are MySheCave.com readers, from those of you here in the U.S. to those of you in lands abroad.  And, if you enjoy reading MySheCave.com posts, please pass them along.

Country Views
United States 2,124
Canada 109
United Kingdom 89
Australia 33
India 26
Germany 19
Italy 18
France 18
Russian Federation 16
Republic of Korea 16
Netherlands 15
Spain 14
Philippines 13
Portugal 12
Hong Kong 11
New Zealand 10
Egypt 8
Mexico 8
Croatia 7
Denmark 7
Finland 6
Greece 6
Japan 6
Brazil 6
South Africa 6
Indonesia 6
Norway 5
Singapore 5
Belgium 5
Switzerland 5
United Arab Emirates 4
Latvia 4
Nigeria 4
Viet Nam 4
Poland 3
Bahrain 3
Bulgaria 3
Qatar 3
Pakistan 3
Taiwan 3
Malaysia 3
Ireland 3
Thailand 3
Sweden 3
Saudi Arabia 2
Aruba 2
Romania 2
Estonia 2
Turkey 2
Ghana 2
Iraq 2
Tunisia 2
Israel 2
Gibraltar 2
Bolivia 2
Venezuela 2
Guatemala 2
Cambodia 2
Colombia 2
El Salvador 2
Zimbabwe 1
Myanmar 1
Kuwait 1
Sri Lanka 1
Morocco 1
Argentina 1
Austria 1
Guernsey 1
Paraguay 1
Jamaica 1
Ukraine 1
Mauritius 1
Palau 1
Bangladesh 1
Mozambique 1
Maldives 1
Serbia 1
Algeria 1
Cyprus 1
Kenya 1

What’s Your Grace Factor These Days?

Wordle: GraceFactor A few years ago, I purchased and read Kay Allenbaugh’s book, “Chocolate for a Woman’s Soul.” The book highlights 77 true stories by different women contributors and communicates a variety of life lessons and female words of wisdom.

One contributor, Jennifer James, shared a story about how she had applied a theory of grace in her life.  Specifically, James shared that she had assumed a “ten percent grace factor” into her life, the result of which included “tremendous changes, all positive.”

James provided examples of how you can apply a ten percent grace factor into your life, such as:

    • “Assume that you’ll pay 10 percent more than your share of a dinner check shared with friends.”
    • “Assume that the bargain that you got will cost 10 percent less somewhere else tomorrow.”
    • “Assume that you’ll get cheated about 10 percent of the time and assume that you’ll lose about 10 percent of your property one way or another.”

James advised that adding a grace factor into your life comes with a cost but also yields personal benefits of great value.  She wrote, “Public grace will, in private, reduce tension, improve your perception of the world, improve your relationships, and increase your joy.”

What do you think about the idea of adding a grace factor of some degree into your life?  Do you think doing so would require you to lower your expectations about your life experiences in any way?  Do you agree with James’ suggestion that applying grace into your life is a good thing, or do you think the costs of applying a grace factor into your life would be too great?

I’m not 100 percent sure that I agree with James’s 10 percent grace factor advice, but I do agree that all of us should strive to practice grace in our circumstance – crediting and forgiving others where possible along life’s long and winding road.  I think another author, Seth Godin, was right when he wrote these words in his book, Graceful:

“The thing is, no one is born graceful.  It’s not a gift, it’s a choice.  Every day, we get a chance to give others the benefit of the doubt.  Every day, we get the opportunity to give others our support, our confidence, our trust.”

What about you?  How graceful do you think you are?  How graceful do you want to be?

Life Chances…Trick or Treat?

Pumpkin image

Pumpkin by the hearth

It’s fall and beautiful here in N.C., U.S.A.  Pumpkins and mums adorn entrances to homes, and it’s the season of pumpkin carving.

Do you have any experience with pumpkin carving?  I’m into my fourth decade now and have never carved a pumpkin unassisted.

My memories of my youthful attempts include the recollection of not carving the pumpkins quite right and of wishing for a second chance to perfect the pumpkins that I helped my Dad carve.

Wanting a second chance when a second chance cannot be had is a reality all too applicable to many facets of life, wouldn’t you agree?  Just for a moment, now, consider how many times in your life that you’ve wanted a “do over.”

Through his 40 Chances global organization and book, 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World, Howard G. Buffet (son of Warren E. Buffet) makes the suggestion that “each of us has about 40 chances to accomplish our goals in life.”  Would you agree?  How much time do you think you have to carve out fruitful paths in your life?  And, which years do you consider to be “prime time” in your life?

In a prior post, I referenced the Five for Fighting song, “100 Years.”  Each time I hear the lyrics of that song which include the statement, “I’m 45 for a moment,” I feel and consider the fleeting aspect of life.

Chance by definition is a random and fleeting occurrence.  And, as Sam Shepard’s character in the movie Fool for Love warned, time, like a pumpkin in Jack O’ Lantern disguise, can laugh at us and play tricks on us, seemingly stealing our moments and chances, as we are in the midst of living our days.

What about you?  Are you recognizing your chances and opportunities to take action to better yourself and those around you?

Finally, how many life treats do you plan to distribute as you greet your remaining days at the door?

What Kind of Model (Data) Are You?

abstract model image

abstract model image

As a marketer, I pay attention to how corporations are leveraging the latest digital marketing channels to promote their brands.  For example, I recently enjoyed reading this post, “Five examples of brands that are nailing Pinterest.”

I’m just as, and maybe more so, interested in how individuals are using digital channels, like Pinterest, to promote their individual selves today.  In some cases, individuals on Pinterest are giving corporate brands a run for the money in terms of their number of account Followers – for example, one individual, Joy Cho, has more than 15 million people who follow her Pinterest account.

The majority of digital channels today make it easy for individuals to convey and share their preferences related to a multitude of subjects.  For example, Pinterest provides almost a literal picture of the interests and preferences of its users.

Other digital channels, like Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, also make it easy for individuals to indicate and share their preferences (on Facebook and on LinkedIn, you can hit the “Like” button to indicate that you like certain content, while on Google+, you can hit the +1 button to indicate your preferences).

Have you ever asked yourself why the latest digital channels include functionality that so strongly promotes individual preference sharing?  As I’ve stated in a prior post, online behavior is being tracked more and more often by companies who want to identify and target more individuals as potential buyers of their products. New digital channels providers are capturing and making the preference data of their individual subscribers available to those companies, usually at a some cost.

Also, many companies today are using software solutions to collect online data, mine the data, model the data, and then create visual representations of that data – all in an effort to gain new insights and knowledge that their organizations can use to propel their businesses forward.

Speaking of data visualization, I enjoy seeing different data visualization examples on the Information is Beautiful site.  What about you?  Have you ever stopped to think about what kind of model all of your personal, historical online data would create if summarily captured?

Would your online behavioral data present a Kate MossKurt Cobain-waif-like image, or would it reveal a more robust Kate Upton-like visualization?  What trends or secrets of your life would be revealed? Which of your data points would surface as uniquely beautiful, like the mole over Cindy Crawford’s lip or the gap in Lauren Hutton’s front teeth?

When I was a young girl, I dreamt of being a model.  I had no idea that I would actually fulfill that dream to the extent that I, like you no doubt, have become a data point in someone else’s data model.

Losing and Winning at Once

Second Place Ribbon clipart image

Second Place Ribbon clipart image

Once upon a time in a land that feels far, far away, a certain blogger I know competed in a teen charm pageant, earning the title of “First Runner Up.”

It’s been more than 25 years since I earned that second place position, but I’ll never forget how disappointing it felt to be so close to attaining a goal and yet falling just short.

Sometimes in life, however, we’ve already won, when we don’t gain the top prize.

Such was the case on Friday when another young girl, 16-year old Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan, fell just short of being named the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

There’s no question in my mind that Malala is already a winner.  Why?  Beyond the fact that she has survived being shot in the head by the Taliban for her belief that girls and women across the world have a right to an education, Malala has maintained the courage to continue voicing her beliefs against poverty, discrimination and injustice in the world.

Most recently, Malala gave a speech in front of a special audience of the United Nations and called on world leaders to take action to ensure that education, prosperity and peace are guarantees for all of the world’s people, stating:

So let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution.”

I’m an extrovert, and, in living my days, I’m not too concerned about being Quiet.  Rather, I’m more interested in raising my unique voice, and this MySheCave blog is one channel that helps me accomplish that goal.

Today, I’m raising my voice in total support of the words that Malala shared in her United Nations remarks, and I’m sharing Malala’s full UN speech with you now.  In my humble opinion, Malala makes some of our current US Congress members, who are arguing over the current government shutdown and debt-ceiling debate, look like children.

I believe Malala’s personal light has already outshone the spotlight of a Nobel Peace Prize.  And, I believe her voice is a compelling reminder of how much all of us stand to lose if we allow current injustices in the world to continue to prevail.

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