Merry Christmas everyone!
If you don’t celebrate Christmas, I wish you a very Happy Holiday season!
“ All these, however, were mere terrors of the night, phantoms of the mind that walk in darkness; and though he had seen many specters in his time, and been more than once beset by Satan in divers shapes, in his lonely pre-ambulations, yet daylight put an end to all these evils; and he would have passed a pleasant life of it, in despite of the devil and all his works, if his path had not been crossed by a being that causes more perplexity to mortal man than ghosts, goblins, and the whole race of witches put together, and that was – a woman.”
― Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Lost in a breathless moment
The hand trembles holding the tension in the shoulder, eyes intently focused on a small round red pin top.
A warm breeze whispers: “Relax, keep your eyes center on where you want to go.”
Willing with heart and soul the straight path to be clear of obstacles and easily followed.
Soft elk leather brushes the skin of my cheek; the tip of my middle finger finds the corner of my lips letting me know my shot is anchored.
My body, bow, arrow and world stand ready.
All I need to do is have faith and trust in myself.
To not worry about the wind or anything else steering the waiting traveler I am holding off their course.
Finger tips slip loose releasing the dark twisted prisoner they restrained.
A soft hiss rapidly fills my ear as the lone adventurer is now thrust forward, hurtling through time and space, dancing in the wind and blue sky of a fall day.
Finally I am greeted with the soft percussion of steel finding its mark.
The voyage ends as quickly as it began.
I exhale straightening and lowering my arm to see if my aim was true.
Seeing the way the red coloring encircles the gold feathered shaft like the welcoming embrace of a lover.
The longed-for goal was achieved.
The sun seems to be warmer and the Fates congratulate me with another gently blown breeze ruffling my hair.
A triumphant smile slowly spreads across my face at the small victory gained…
Ahh… the simple joys of an archer.
Written for J.M. Guillen’s Alchemy Challenge last fall. J.M. writes some wonderful futuristic tales when he is not attempting to take over the world. Check out his site and work some time at http://www.irrationalworlds.com/
This means that shortly, I will call together the board of me, (consisting of myself, a glass of vino, a pen and paper), and begin my annual strategic planning conference to determine 2014 Strategic Goals and review / update the Dematurity Plan. I bet a bunch of you are wondering what a Dematurity plan is and why is Caterina having a strategic planning conference with herself?
The Dematurity Plan is the easiest thing to explain. It is similar to a bucket list, except it has a shorter period in which to execute. I want to do these things while I am relatively young versus waiting until my golden years. I set a goal of achieving all items within 5 years of adding them to the list. They can be anything and everything. They are whatever tickles your fancy! They can be travel, random goals, and wild things you want to try. It includes whatever you want to do, as long as they energize you and keep you young at heart. Hence the name: Dematurity plan.
No doubt, you are thinking that the Dematurity Plan sounds fun. It’s dorky in a way, but fun. Now, what about these strategic priorities? It sounds a little too businessesque and not too much fun for a person. Truthfully, that was my initial reaction as well. After all, New Years resolutions were made to be broken, right? I sure as hell couldn’t manage to keep mine for one reason or another. Obviously, simply making a resolution doesn’t work for me. I need to commit to whatever I state and see it in front of me to bring it to life.
A wise woman once told me that resolutions weren’t actionable. She actually said that same thing many times to me, along with the other leaders in the department I worked in, when building out goals and priorities for our teams. When she was assigned as my professional mentor, she suggested I start applying the same principles to my personal goals since I backslid on them all of the time for a hundred and one different reasons. I thought she was crazy! Who in the hell does that with their personal life?! That is really way too much work for personal goals.
Being the smart woman she is, she reminded me that I did this professionally every year and it had served me well. Why not do it personally too? If it didn’t work, I could walk away from it. She also identified early that my work/life balance was way out of whack and I needed to put it back in balance if I was going to deliver every day at work and at home. So I trusted her, bit the bullet, and dreamed about what I could accomplish for myself personally in a year. None of what I am about to share is rocket science and many business minded folks do it every single day at work. A handful will also do it at home.
My annual plan consists of 5-10 items depending on what is top of mind when I find a quiet moment to really think through what would be amazing to accomplish that year. I pick 3-4 heavy hitters. That way I can make them actionable and not take on more than I can really handle. I have a tendency to do that. I also have trouble saying “no” to myself and others if an interesting project surfaces. After brainstorming the big goals, I pick a few lower priority items that I would like to do as well. The world won’t end if I don’t finish them or merely make little progress. These are also nice if you need to see something accomplished every now and then to stay motivated. Lastly, I set rough target dates and outline actions I need to take each step of the way to move towards the end goal.
Every quarter, I schedule time to sit down and review the goals against my progress in achieving them, and adapt them as needed. I celebrate each one I accomplish, especially the stretch goals. Additionally, I celebrate my failures. This is important as we learn from failing as much as we do from succeeding. When I fail, I take the time to ask myself why and what I learned. Is it something I want to attempt again now that I know where things went wrong? Or is it better to walk away and fight another day or another battle?
For whatever reason, the above works for me. If you find yourself wanting to set goals, but can’t seem to make progress towards achieving them, try a Dematurity or Strategic Priority plan. Some folks, even non-OCD ones like me, need a little more structure to be successful. Most of all, have fun! The journey to completing the goal is where we really grow and triumph, not when we cross the finish line.
Oh, one more important thing! Share the goals with someone who can help keep you on track or put them some place you can see them everyday. I leverage both and have yet to miss a major goal in three years.
I would love to hear what you are striving to do in 2014 and what helps keep you on track with your goals and dreams!
Happy New Year to all of you!
Finally finding a few minutes to write! I’ve been mulling over decisions and choices for the future the past couple of weeks. I am constantly weighing the dark reality of a dismal economy and disappointing job projections against my future goals and dreams of pursuing one of those supposed “worthless, high risk” PhD’s, (per the media, fellow academics and just about every expert out there). Who in their right mind could possibly want to be a historian with specialties in Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Middle East? A person who will learn dead languages serving no value in the business or technology sectors along with a complicated modern language spoken in a high risk region to compliment their Italian? The one writing this very entry is that person. I just hope I can find a program that will take me. 🙂
What can I say? I hate math. I hate science. I can do them well, but my heart simply isn’t in them. Numbers make me cringe unless we are talking money. Instead, I love languages, history, mythology, epic tales and music. I enjoy writing and peeling back layer after layer of cultural onions to learn how that onion truly formed and what its heart looks like. When I got my first degree, I was told it was a dead-end path to follow. Boy, the people who told me that were so wrong. While I didn’t end up a world-famous opera singer or ruling Sony records as a powerful industry exec pushing the label and talent to new heights, I became, in my mind anyways, a pretty nice success story in the Insurance industry. I climbed up from entry-level adjuster to Director over 10 years. The skills I acquired from my Music Management degree were invaluable and served me well. Soft skills just aren’t taught in math, science or accounting classes. They are learned in the Arts and in real life. Don’t get me wrong. We desperately need highly skilled technicians. But we also need dreamers and innovators. We need those that can communicate and create strategic vision and goals for people.
Coming into the real world with a fine arts background, I knew how to relate to people. I knew the type of discipline it took to train for the impossible and strive to reach for the next level. I could look at the obstacles and walls one would encounter working towards impossible goals and not be intimidated. I knew enough about the business world to navigate it and the performer in me knew how to inspire others to achieve. I had the pleasure of holding a coveted leadership position on a management team for the number one customer service leader in the world for consecutive years. I had job security, great employees, supportive mentors and opportunity. I made a salary I certainly would not complain about. However, I traded my family, my health, and the passions I really have in life for that. Is the path I found myself on back then worth it? My honest answer is I don’t know. Some days I would tell you yes, others I would firmly say no. Is the dream most folks have in the corporate world the right one? Guess it all depends on what your priorities are.
I can tell you, I no longer need to be rich, live in a mansion or drive a Ferrari. Well, I haven’t given up on the Ferrari. We all need long-term stretch goals to stay motivated. However, my world won’t end if I never get to set my hands on the leather steering wheel and drive at mind-blowing speeds in my dream car. I also believe more than ever that we can all find what we are meant to do and be successful at it, even with the odds stacked against us. I can hear the cynics reading this scoffing at my words and see them rolling their eyes.
Need proof that it is possible to find your way to be one in a million or find your way out of the darkness? Need help believing that the smallest or greatest dream can be achieved? That the average joe can become greater than that guy dressed in blue with an “S” on his chest?
Here are some real life examples to inspire you:
A once chubby, unknown boy from Jersey, (an island off the English coast, not the state below New York), is now conquering Hollywood, (over 2,000 miles from where he called home), is one of the most in-demand actors and is now being called one of the sexiest men on earth. Give you a hint as to who he is. He portrays the guy with an “S” on his chest described above and his initials are Henry Cavill.
A college drop-out built a computer company from scratch and became one of the most innovative minds the technology world will ever know. His story is hitting the big screen this month.
Too unrealistic to inspire you as you think only 1 in 10 million can do what these two did? Maybe success can be defined at a less extreme level. How about just having food to eat, a roof overhead in a nice neighborhood, a little spending cash and driving a car not on the verge of breakdown? Try this less glamorous example on for size if the two above failed to motivate you and you are striving for just the preceding.
My mother was a divorced, single parent with a partially completed nursing degree. She had two young kids to raise on her own and wondered how she would do it. She went back to school. We struggled at times, but we grew stronger as a family. My mother went on to join the military after completing her degree, retired an US Naval Commander with a distinguished career including a deployment to the Middle East as a field nurse. Was it hard on all involved? Hell yes it was!! Was the journey worth it in the end? She would tell anyone who asked “Definitely!” so would my brother and I.
While we aren’t all destined for fame and fortune as Jobs and Cavill were, we are all still destined to do great things in life. We all have the potential to achieve whatever we really, truly dream of doing if we never give up on it and work through those dark times. That dream or goal will evolve with us as we grow. It also may not play out exactly as planned, but you will find a way to incorporate it into your life. In those moments you are alone and ready to quit, find the inner strength to climb to your feet again. When a helping hand is extended, have faith in its owner and grasp it tightly; allowing them to help you over the wall. Sometimes we don’t see those hands in front of our face or are so lost in our own battles we bite it as it is just reaching out for us.
I will leave everyone with this note. When I look back, my regrets only fall on the times I feared taking risk when an opportunity was extended and my gut told me to jump on it. I also wouldn’t value half of what I have if I hadn’t struggled. If I hadn’t had those breakdowns and heart wrenching moments of incredible doubt, screaming my frustration, hurt and discouragement up at the heavens on my knees. While I hate going back to that place, if it is required to teach me, mold me and thrust me forward by giving me drive that only those who have stood in those places can have, I will dive into the darkness head first praying I come out of it stronger and successful. As I define success versus the world’s definition. And if fate happens to drop a Ferrari in my lap . . . you’re damn right I will find out exactly how loud that engine can rev and how fast that car can really go!
The rolling Italian countryside surrounding the medieval walls of Urbino and the historic streets just inside the red-brown brick perimeter, are blanketed in white from fresh fallen snow. The pristine environment conjures images of innocence in one’s mind. Depending on who you are the winter wonderland could be the rebirth of a world made new by its sparkling winter cloak or a reminder of childhood fun, making snow angels and catching snowflakes on your tongue. As you dream of times gone by, hidden under the soft powder a sinister predator lurks silently. Just waiting for that one misstep by its next unsuspecting victim. Fate chooses you to be the longed for prey. Your feet find the hidden trap of a glass like surface that doesn’t play nice with the sole of your shoes. Your foot suddenly slips forward becoming airborne. You find yourself suddenly falling towards the earth with the…
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There is something romantic about riding a train across the Italian countryside. I love train travel in Europe. Some of my favorite images of England were the trees, ponds, country homes, flowered walls, gardens and ancient cottages/flats on the train ride from Stratford to Windsor. Train travel is so much easier than flying. No security checks, reasonable lines, friendly faces of conductors who are happy to help you even if you butcher their native tongue when asking which track your train is on. No extra bag charges, no weight limits as you pack whatever you can lift.
I love watching the countryside with its lush green fields, little yellow stucco farm houses with red-brown tile roofs and sleeping vineyards as we are on the cusp of spring waking the vines. When you ride south you run into business travelers, tourist and southern Italians with warm personalities. Go North towards Milan and you can see the fashion capitol’s influence over the country as clothes change from average Joe to men in well cut business suits or designer jeans. The women dress in tights, sweater dresses, boots or stilettos with big sunglasses and beautiful London fog style trench coats.
The soft clack of the wheels hums a soothing lullaby that summons daydreams or a nap. You put in your earphones, play your favorite music and you’re off to a world uniquely your own. Sometimes I think about the beauty of whatever place I am in. Other times my mind wanders to times gone by or sharing the train ride with a special someone who appreciates it as much as I do. Even though my special someone is not ever sitting beside me on my journeys. At least not yet. Perhaps one day.
The longer rides allow for good conversations with friends or when I feel brave a chance to practice what little Italian I have learned so far with a fellow passenger. That is one thing I love about the Italians. Many of them are more than happy to help you learn what is in my opinion the most beautiful language in the world. Though Arabic is a close second. I am also going to offend the French as I believe Italian is the true language of amore. The only thing that comes close to making my heart race at the thought of a honey dipped, inviting masculine voice tinged with its own unique diction whispering in my ear is a British accent or the easy lilt of the Cajun/Creole tongue. Anyways, I digress. Back to the trains.
If you ever travel by train you definitely have to experience the dinning/snack car at least once. There is a strange joy that comes from wandering through the cars to reach it. The cappuccino, snack or whatever you choose to seek out in the car is a satisfying reward for braving the journey through narrow aisles and bumping into fellow passengers as the train rocks around curves. You can sip your beverage in the car while chatting with the bartender. I guess that’s what we can call him or watch the scenery from a large rectangle window. I have yet to run into a female server in the dining car in Italy. I wonder why that is as there are many women conductors? A new subject to explore another day.