Do the Next Best Thing


Six years ago I had a breakthrough in learning how to stop getting stuck in overwhelm by doing the next best thing.

I was working on HUGE client project which involved interviewing seventy plus people over the course of a month and a half, evaluating the data and drafting a report which was due to the client the beginning of October. Not a problem. I’m a planner and I love laying out a project step by step. I don’t even mind deadlines. I’m one of those weirdos who always had her undergrad term papers done a week early. And I majored in English AND history, so there were a lot of papers.

My best friend, Brandie Kajino, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the previous spring, was just beginning to feel like herself again thanks to an aggressive chemotherapy regimen. So we decided to make a day of it and drive to Hood River to drive the Fruit Loop and enjoy the fall colors. We picked a Friday in early October, and Cory agreed took a vacation day to chauffeur us and participate in the merriment.

I had a meeting with my client the Thursday before our grand day out, but I wasn’t worried because the report was 99.9% complete. I figured I’d attend the meeting, make a few minor edits and deliver the report by the end of the day aiming to surprise and delight the client, since the report wasn’t due until the following Tuesday.

Thursday I attended the meeting and soon realized that the client wanted a complete rewrite of a large section of the report, to include information which he had yet to send me. There were numerous other revision requests as well. And they’d like the final draft first thing Monday morning.

Alrighty then.

My mind begins to calculate how much time it would take me to redraft the document once I received the additional materials. It would easily take three full days, maybe longer.

I thought about rescheduling with my friend. Cory had already requested and received the day off work. They’d both be disappointed. Hell, I was disappointed. I’d been working my ass off. I was exhausted. The project’s schedule had shifted several times. What if it were to shift again and I’d have to reschedule again?

So fuck it, I decided to take the day off with Cory and Brandie as planned. And I was going to enjoy every last moment of it. Because life was short, Brandy’s cancer was terminal, and none of us really know how much time we have left. This was what was important.

So we did it. We laughed and we bought chestnuts and pears and pies. And we laughed some more. It was a wonderful day. A perfect day.

Stopping for bagels before driving to Hood River

And the next day I reviewed at the emails that had arrived in my absence. I organized my thoughts, all of the sections of the report, all of my notes and all of my client’s requests. I prioritized them and then I got to work on one thing at a time.

Whenever I felt like I couldn’t do it or that I didn’t know what to tackle next I’d ask myself, “What’s the next best thing?” And that’s what I’d do. Until it was done. Then the next thing.

Sunday evening around 9:00 p.m. was when I first began to feel like I was going to actually finish in time, and when I sent over the final document at 1:30 a.m. Monday I was elated. And so very proud of myself.

Brandie left us on this day five years ago. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about the glorious fall day Brandie, Cory and I spent in Hood River together. And I’m so very proud of myself.

Joy Abounds

falkorThe best part of having survived a shitty childhood is that it makes for a grateful adult. Of course the downside is that you also have a tendency to be anxious ’cause you know what kinds of serious shit can hit the fan. The stuff of movies. The stuff you don’t even see in movies.

So when I heard Brene Brown talk about fear at the World Domination Summit last summer, I got it. Yes, I’m the spouse who said to her partner, what if…? Buzz kill.

Switching gears…I’ve always loved flying. Actually I am almost always overwhelmed with tears as the plane accelerates down the runway and the nose lifts. The possibilities are endless. I could be anyone going anywhere. And for a brief moment I am.

But sometimes before I can relax into this bliss, I am overtaken with anxiety. The “what if” scenarios are endless.

But not today. Today joy abounds. And I slice through the clouds on the back of Falcor, the dragon in The Neverending Story. And the joy of it makes me smile. And I cry. Because the possibilities are endless and I am flying.

Revealing my story with help from Chris Martin

My hatred for being photographed is inordinate. I dread photo sessions like most people dread root canals. Remarkable, award-winning photographers have taken hundreds of photos that yielded only a few satisfactory shots.
So, when I scheduled a photo shoot last month, everyone asked why. They loved the old photo. The white pants. The candy-red patent Via Spiga pumps. (What’s not to love?)
I’d responded with, “It’s time…it’s been four years,” but I knew better. The lackluster photos had nothing to do with the photographers or the skills of the make-up artist or the number on the scale at the time. They had everything to do with me not showing up. The results portrayed my shell without my spirit.
So this time around I decided to focus on being present. And I chose to work with Chris Martin. Yes, the Chris Martin: documentary filmmaker, photographer, writer and speaker. I’d seen many exceptional examples of his art but had never had the opportunity to work with him. Chris’ relaxed manner and casual smile put me at ease. We drank coffee at Breken Kitchen and talked for about an hour. And then he said, “Let’s take a walk.” What’s scary about a walk? Absolutely nothing.
And so we walked and laughed. I soaked in the beautiful day, our surroundings and basked in the moment. With Chris’ guidance and exceptional skill he positioned me in the best light. Looking at the exceptional resulting photos, I find that Chris revealed the real me.
Do you need help revealing your story? Give Chris a jingle.

An evening with Michaela Murphy

Tonight I had the privilege of basking in the presence of “a good woman to know,” storyteller Michaela Murphy. These are the points that stood out to me:

  • Sometimes you have to wait 31 years for a story to resolve.
  • Stories are interactive. The more you avail yourself to your audience and what they are telling you, the better the story will be.
  • If you don’t know where to start, try this one of these: Start with yourself. What scares you? What’s something you don’t understand about yourself?
  • Relax. Enjoy. Don’t worry. Worry is like a chew toy in your mind that you use to distract yourself.

How can you use Michaela’s wisdom to better present your story?

The art of the story

My love affair with books and an engrossing story can be traced directly to my mother who began reading to me in utero. She continued reading, everything from The Sneetches to Black Beauty, to the Bible. She even taped herself reading–first on the old reel-to-reel with a mic, then onto cassettes–so that we could listen to her as we played during the day or drifted to sleep at night. Continue reading

Embracing Negative Feedback

What do you do when you notice that someone on Twitter is bashing your product? So many businesses just ignore negative feedback, using a head-in-the-sand technique. Why? They’re either hoping that by ignoring them the naysayers will disappear, they’re a little afraid of them or they just don’t know how to respond.

How do you deal with negative feedback or push-back from customers? I suggest you embrace the criticism and engage with the customer. Continue reading

Knowing when to let go

The final straw came when she couldn’t find my cervix. That’s right. You know the position: tail scooted all the way down to the end of the examination table, heels in stirrups, knees “relaxed” open. Meanwhile Dr. S. is spending an inordinate amount of time squinting into my vagina as she used the speculum to hunt for my elusive lady part.

Continue reading

The Power of Storytelling

During one of the sessions at today’s GoGreen Conference the audience was asked to turn to a stranger and tell her a story that’s told and retold in our family about one of our family members. I turned to Lisa Watson, of Cupcake Jones fame, and told her the following story which I’ve been asked to retell here:

Before heading into surgery for testicular cancer my father-in-law said to the nurse, “I sure wish I would have bought that boat.”

“What boat’s that?” she asked politely. Continue reading

Not by the Hair on My Chinny Chin Chin

Why is it that when I leave the house in the morning my chin is smooth as silk and stubble free, but by the time I get to, say, the Sellwood Bridge on my way to a meeting, a lone prickly chin hair makes a midday appearance when no tweezers are in sight? How can this be? Could this solitary sprout have experienced a growth spurt in the matter of a few hours? Continue reading