Inspiration: Sheku Kanneh-Mason

June 5, 2018


I discovered Sheku when watching the royal wedding ceremony on TV and was instantly drawn to the passion and emotion of his music. I could literally feel it in my soul. Now I am obsessed.

my writings, poetry

Dreamless Sleep

February 24, 2018

How can I feel
what I need to
as I never did before

How do I walk
a path of sorrow
to emerge without fragments left behind

Please tell me what I need to know

I’ve been walking for so long
in this dreamless sleep
during every waking hour

It’s morning for the very first time
and every strand of life
weaves right through me

Tasting sweet and sour
equally  momentous
I open my eyes, my heart, my soul






my writings, poetry

Soul Melody

February 24, 2018

The violin
that pierced my soul
made me feel
for the first time in a thousand moments
what joy is

Being Thankful, work

A Manifesto for Being Amazing at Work

February 6, 2018

I love manifestos. I love the way they clearly and passionately articulate how things should or could be and provide guidance about how to get there. I was recently inspired by Maddie’s  ICYMI: The Future Of Work Manifesto and Gretchen Rubin’s series of manifestos, so I decided to write my own about something I spend a lot of time doing: working.

My topic: A manifesto on being amazing at work, no matter what.

Let’s face it, we all have to work (unless we are independently wealthy), and hopefully we at least like what we do. The reality is that life is short, and we must remind ourselves that idly waiting for the perfect job or amazing project is a waste of time (it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue our search, though) and we never get that time back. So why not be amazing right now no matter what you are doing? 

I have written before about finding your true purpose, and what really matters at work. Most of us are on a journey to find work that we truly love. But what do we do in the meantime?

All I really want to do is amazing work – and make a difference (big or small) in the lives of the people I work with, the people I serve, and those I work for. I want to be inspired by others — their ideas, creativity, and the way they support and treat people. I want to come up with new ideas, make things, talk to people, help them solve problems. What about you?

So here’s the secret: Even if you don’t love your job, your boss, your coworkers – you can still be amazing – it’s your choice. We don’t need validation from others to do this. Just amaze yourself, every day, by being the best version of who you are.

My manifesto to be amazing at work is totally aspirational – it’s what I try to do, and I have to put effort into this each and every day. When I do, I am much better for it.

So here it is – my 13 point manifesto for being amazing at work:

        1. Treat everyone with kindness and grace. No matter who they are or how they treat you (which is usually more of a statement about them than you), it’s really important to do this. The world needs this right now. Don’t wait for others to be nice to you before you return the sentiment – this is a bad cycle that needs to be disrupted by kindness.
        2. Listen to others without forming a response. There is usually a lot of talking going on, but nobody’s listening. Really listen to the people around you. Be inquisitive and learn more about perspectives and ideas that others have. You never know, something awesome may come from it!  
          Read this: How to be a better listener.
        3. Be open to learning new things, every day. This includes learning new skills (big or small), reading about something you have little knowledge of (the other day I read about wolves), learning new software, etc. Remember, no matter how much experience you have, there is always more to learn. Here are a few online resources for learning new skills:
        4. Relentlessly focus on one task at a time, and work in short bursts. Stop multitasking. Just. Stop. You will thank me for this later. Turn off your phone, shut down email, close your browser, put a sign on your door.
          Here are some approaches to guide you:

        5. Learn how to deal positively and productively with criticism and/or negativity directed at you. This is probably one of the most difficult things to do. It requires ongoing work – but you will be glad you did it. Spending time wallowing in defensiveness, self-pity or anger just makes you feel (and look) bad. Instead, try to disengage, remember you are awesome, and dissect the information and learn from it. I meditate daily (for only a few minutes if not more). No one is perfect, and yet it doesn’t mean we are not amazing. Just be the best version of yourself, all the time.

          Here is a useful article and a few mindfulness tools:
          Thick Skin Thinking: How To Use Negative Feedback To Your Advantage At Work
          Headspace App – 10 minutes a day could change your life
          Meditation Oasis Podcast – and it’s free.
        6. Get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour. If you already walk around for work, do it anyway – but somewhere different. This helps stress and is good for your body and circulation. My Fitbit told me to do this and it totally helps me get my steps in and it clears my head. If you have a desk job, try a standing desk so you are not sitting all day.
        7. Stop working a gazillion hours every day. Do something completely different before and/or after work. It gives your brain a break and helps productivity and creativity. Working more hours does not mean better work or more productivity. Companies (and people) who focus on this and praise others who do this are missing the point.

        8. Take a break during lunch, eat or walk with your coworkers a few times per week. It’s important to do this for camaraderie, a brain break, and your overall health.
        9. Listen, Smile and sympathize when someone is complaining about something or just being negative about everything. But don’t engage. It’s important to let people know that you are willing to listen to them, but also that you are not going to participate in the negative talk.
        10. Redirect conversations if they turn into gossip. Again, smile and sympathize but don’t engage. Gossiping and talking about others can be negative and hurtful, and isn’t good for anyone.
        11. Figure out what time of day you are most productive and/or creative – and what kind of space you need. I do my best work at 6am, and lose functionality quickly after 3pm. Even if there are constraints here for you, simply being aware of this can help. Minor adjustments in your schedule and/or space can really make a big difference.
        12. Put some music on and take a dance break at your desk (or wherever you work) for a few minutes. Ok, this may not be for everyone but it does help.
        13. Start or end your day with this journaling exercise: Write down three of each of the following:

          – amazing things
          – things I am thankful for
          – affirmations
          – things that could be better
          – things to make today/tomorrow great

          I have been doing this for a while now and it really helps me maintain the right perspective. I can also see trends around what I write – particularly with the things that could be better – helping me to be more self-aware.
inspiration, work

Purpose and Passion: Why a “true calling” doesn’t have to be just one thing

March 7, 2017

For years I thought that for my work to really matter it had to be my passion. Or, I had to work for an organization with the meaningful philanthropic mission, or simply have work that allowed me to directly make some sort of epic difference in the world. The reality is that most of us just have to work, period. And hopefully, we will generally like what we do.

Growing up, and even now, we are all told to find our passion and work accordingly. We are sold countless books, meditations, workshops, assessments, and tests that supposedly help us to find our true purpose and passion. It has always been difficult for me to understand why it’s not enough to just be who we are, as we are, and why we have to search for something else. I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent hours years on all of these things, and still have yet to figure out what my real singular purpose and passion is.

I have always been in awe of people who live and work their passion. Where the line is blurred between what they love and what they do to make a living. Somehow they have shirked the rules that the rest of us seem to think we have to live by, breaking free of the supposed “limitations” imposed by our day jobs.

You can spend a lifetime searching and never find it. While searching, your entire career and life can pass you by. Many of us experience this, and then give up thinking that there is nothing special about what we do or have to offer. I was the person who used to let this type of thinking get out of control until I began to understand that my path is unique to who I am and is no less awesome just because I do not have just one, single-minded, focused purpose. Like many others, I am curious and eager to learn new things, fascinated by nature and technology and history and helping others among many other things. I get very excited about projects that involve any or all of the above. I immerse myself in “bursts” (could be weeks, months, years), and then finish a phase or project and usually move on to something else. My colleagues and friends have criticized me for this because (in their minds) people are supposed to focus on one thing for the majority of their life and career. Truth-be-told, some of my friends have told me that I change jobs and focus more than they change their underwear (which is gross, by the way, because these bursts could be weeks, months or years).

Turns out that there is a phrase for people like us – we are called Multipotentialites. According to Wikipedia, this term “can be used interchangeably with polymath or Renaissance Person.” Well-then, we are in good company – Darwin, Jefferson, Leonard DaVinci and many others fit into this category.

“When it comes to our abilities, it feels as if we have two options. We can either spend our time developing depth in one particular skill or interest – perhaps becoming a 9-dan player of Go, a master musician, the best software developer. Or we can spend our time becoming quite good – but presumably less good – across many diverse activities” —Emily Wapnick

Career coach Emilie Wapnick describes the “multipotentialite” — those of us with many interests, many jobs over a lifetime, and many interlocking potentials.

[ted id=2341]

It’s a great relief to me that finding our purpose, passion, and meaning in life doesn’t have to happen in one, massively focused and linear way. We can all do small things in a big way and/or amazing things in small ways and be just as impactful, fulfilled and inspired – and more authentically true to who we are.

Learning, work

On failure and being a whole person

August 22, 2016


Failure is pain. It bruises our pride and our ego, and pokes holes in the image we have worked so hard to create… it disappoints. Failure shows that we are vulnerable and imperfect beings.

No one likes to fail.

In all honesty, I have failed miserably – and on more than one occasion. Failed projects, relationships, jobs, managing finances, Marie Kondo tidying, diets, interviews and much, much more. As I read this I cringe because I sound like such a loser. These are things I would usually not admit during job interviews, first dates, or on my resume – even in regular conversations with others because under no account should anyone know who we really are…

Or should they?

I was recently very inspired by Johannes Haushofer, an assistant professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University, who shared his resume of failures (after going viral on the Internet) – where he inventoried all of the the things that didn’t work out for him.

Haushofer lists to all of the things that didn’t happen for him (professionally). Refreshingly honest and authentic, he says  “Most of what I try fails, but these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible…I have noticed that this sometimes gives others the impression that most things work out for me. As a result, they are more likely to attribute their own failures to themselves, rather than the fact that the world is stochastic, applications are crapshoots, and selection committees and referees have bad days.”

He shows up as a whole person. And I like whole people.

Contrary to popular belief, people who have never failed are not superior than those who have. Do we really want to hire someone who has never failed over someone who has?  Resilience and resourcefulness arise from failure – how can we truly know about the stuff we are made of if it has never been put to the test?

In her famous TED talk, J.K. Rowling  tells the story that only after having failed multiple times, did she have to the clarity and focus to do something really amazing – because for her “Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential”. She went on to influence an entire generation by writing one of the most popular series of books ever written.


Many of us spend our entire lives in fear of failure, and most organizations do not have a culture and process that acknowledges failure as a possibility, or as a learning opportunity.  I was lucky to have a leader and mentor early in my career who helped me when I failed, taught me how  to learn from it and move forward – and ultimately to help others when they fall.

Instead, many companies invest a tremendous amount of energy working to prevent failure. I am not saying that we should do everything we can to fail, I am saying that we should work towards amazing outcomes rather putting all of our energy towards preventing failure.

Ask yourself.

Do you want to accomplish amazing things? Or do you want to simply not fail?

Even if you put your best foot forward and still fail, it’s best to own it, walk through it, and spend time with it. Showing up as a whole person and owning both your accomplishments AND your failures makes for greatness.

Because in the end, the real test of your success isn’t whether you win — it’s how you respond when you don’t.

Aaron Orendorff

More articles on failure:

Random Ramblings, work

What really matters at work

April 12, 2016

Working with great people. Coming up with great ideas. Working together on projects. Accomplishing big and small tasks, together. Solving problems. Learning new things. Helping others. Figuring sh*t out. Inspiring each other. Navigating obstacles. Contributing to a purpose outside of yourself. Making someone else’s day brighter.

Together, being better that we were yesterday. I think that sums it up.



Random Ramblings

Dear Life: Thank you for

April 11, 2016
2012-10-26 16.41.47

Mountain Road in Virgina

Inspiring people. Fabulous shoes. Birds in the morning. The promise of spring. Mountain roads. Great wine. Music that gives me goosebumps.

Hell yeah.

inspiration, life, Random Ramblings

Why trying to find my passion led to distraction

March 18, 2016

For many years I was asleep.

Perhaps it was my brain simply trying to protect me from the hurts of the world, both past and present. Or perhaps it was just the”default” mode of operation that I ended up in after years of closing the doors and hiding from the truth of my life during that time.

In 2007, after having 2 beautiful children, 16 years of an unhappy marriage along with many many extra pounds of padding on my physical body, I began to wake up.

Now this is where my story really begins – because in my quest to live a more fulfilled and connected life,  I thought I was supposed to look for my “true calling” and “pursue my passion.” So I set off on a journey to do just that – and now here I am 9 years later feeling like I wandered down the wrong road. I cannot say it’s not difficult, at age 52, to realize all of those years are gone, and daresay wasted?

Fast forward to 2016. I read an article last fall about finding your passion – and why spending all of your time in pursuit distracts you from enjoying the now. #truth. I am over it…

This TED video about “multipotentialites” explains why I have been wondering down the wrong path.

Finally things are starting to make sense.