Be Thankful…For Yourself

Photo Credit: Tasha Herrgott at Red Bird Hills

The last few weeks, you’ve been on my mind. I’ve been thinking about you because I wanted to share, in the interest of Thanksgiving week, how thankful I am for this small community. I’m thankful that real live people read this blog (Yes Mom, it’s not just you, Leah and Emily). You not only read it but actually get something from it and implement it. You share with me on a regular basis how this serves you. Some of you share the blog with your friends, family and social media community. I’m so thankful for that, I had no idea how this thing would pan out. It’s a little scary putting your words out to the world, hoping they serve someone.

This week, I’ve been gathering my thoughts about what I’m learning from many of you. I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to learn from you and celebrate your ‘wins’ with you. When I write blog posts, an incredible thing happens, you share back to me the things going on in your world. Things that you should be incredibly proud of. Keep sharing back!

With that in mind, I thought I’d change this week’s message up and share with you all the amazing things you’ve done or in the middle of doing that seriously amaze the heck out of me. Again, thank you for sharing! I am so grateful. Today, on your list of what to be grateful for, be grateful for yourself. Celebrate the woman that you are and that you’re still becoming. You are doing incredible things, hard, messy and beautiful things. You might be 85 years young and still learning and growing as a woman and leader. Celebrate her and be grateful for her. I am.

Here’s what is going on in the lives of the EncourageHer Community.

  • She got up at 5AM. And, she’s not even going to Mexico.
  • She tried again for a baby even after loss. A baby is on the way.  
  • She faced her fears and scheduled the biopsy.
  • She ran a marathon.
  • She ran a 10-mile race.
  • She ran a mile, on purpose.
  • She fell in love after a messy and heartbreaking divorce. She trusted love again – it was hard. It didn’t work out but she still loves herself and can trust herself.
  • She applied for the job and got it. She’s the newest female CEO in Minnesota.
  • She said yes to a promotion even though it was scary to put herself out there. She chose not to stay small.
  • She said no on purpose, even though she felt pressured to say yes. She can trust herself.
  • She fought for more information and other professional opinions around her child’s diagnosis.
  • She researched her tire purchase on her own – AND – negotiated the price down.
  • She decided she didn’t have to stay stuck in a job within a company that didn’t value her. She had her first networking meeting this morning.
  • She hasn’t been feeling well. She trusted her body enough to continue to advocate for her health. She has a new doctor that’s partnering with her.
  • She put her career on pause and decided to stay home with her children.
  • She fought for her marriage even when it was extremely difficult.
  • Her addiction was strong, but she and Jesus are stronger.
  • She’s realized that she’s made over 7,000 dinners for her five children. She can do anything.
  • She kept to a budget and realized she’s really good with money. Now she’s taking on investing.
  • She wasn’t sure if she could afford it, but she gave anyway.
  • She led her team through an extremely hard season. They’re in a better place and grew as leaders because of her leadership.
  • She started a small business and put herself out there in a very public way. It was a huge success.
  • She lost her husband but she still woke up every day. She realized she still had herself.

Each of you amaze me. Thank you for being part of my little world. Thank you for reading my words, but most important, thank you the most for sharing yourself and the things you are doing with me. It makes me want to continue to EncourageHer.

Today, on your list of what to be grateful for, be grateful for yourself. Celebrate the woman that you are and that you’re still becoming. You are doing incredible things; incredibly hard, messy, courageous, scary and beautiful things. You are incredible!  

“Give her the reward and respect she has earned. Praise her in public for what she has done.”

Proverbs 31:31

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!

Elena

Repeat After Me, No

Photo Credit: Tasha Herrgott at Redbirdhills.com

Next week we officially roll into the holiday season. I want to remind you (and frankly myself) that the holidays are a great time to reinspect healthy boundaries with family, work, community, church, your checking account or credit card and your to-do list.

I saw a post on social media this week that said, “This is your weekly reminder that you can handle whatever this week throws at you.” I know that whoever authored this just meant to encourage all the internet peoples to have a great attitude about being able to handle the week ahead of you. In a lot of ways, I resonate with it. So many of the things that we “have” to do are truly things that we “get” to do and should approach with a mindset of gratitude. I totally get it. However, it’s this time of year where I like to believe that I have to be everything to everyone. So in response I need to actually say to myself, “This is your weekly reminder that you don’t have to handle everything that this week/season throws at you.”

I know it might seem like semantics. It’s not. So much gets thrown at us, most figuratively but sometimes literally. I live with two boys. At any given point in the day, a ball could get thrown at me. Guess what, you don’t have to try to catch everything that gets thrown at you. It’s ok to just to let it bounce off you. It doesn’t even hurt (ok, sometimes it does, baseballs hurt).

I know how tempting it is to say yes around the holiday. We want to help, especially when an ask is aligned with our values or our interests. But why are we so tempted to say yes when it’s not alignment with our values, interests or even within our responsibilities? It’s ok for you to just say “no.” Repeat after me, “No.” It’s the only two letter word that feels like a four-letter word. It’s a complete sentence all on its own. Once you say it, nothing needs to follow. Most people that ask something of you don’t need anything beyond the ‘no.’ But, if you’re like me, you might feel the need to let people down easy (still working on releasing the people-pleasing over here). “Sorry, I can’t do that.” “Sorry, that’s not mine to handle.” Sorry, I love helping, but I can’t do that.” “Sorry, I can’t commit to that right now.” You know I’d love to say yes, but the timing isn’t right.”

If you’re like me, saying no might be hard, especially during the holidays. Maybe you’re an agreeable person. Maybe you have the StrengthsFinder strength of Harmony (that actually isn’t one of my strengths but it’s probably pretty high). You are driven (to an extent) to cooperate with people, to avoid conflict, because you desire people to come together in harmony. Maybe you don’t like to risk social capital by saying no to someone for fear it might rock the boat. In turn, you end up saying yes more often than you might want. When this happens over a period of time, people know exactly who to go to pass off work, to gain consensus on an idea or to drive their agenda. By the way, this doesn’t mean you’re a pushover. This means you value harmony. It’s a beautiful strength to have within teams, families, and communities.

One of my favorite authors is a woman named Jen Hatmaker. Jen has a phrase that she’s shared over the years that’s so beautifully straight to the point. “If it isn’t a Hell Yes! It’s a No!” It might be a really nice thing to do. It might really help someone out. It might even be something you’d eventually like to do. But if it’s not a Hell Yes right now, it’s a no! How do you know it’s a Hell Yes? It totally aligns with my values and/or goals and it’s an appropriate request given my current other commitments. It’s not enough anymore to just align with my values. It also has to be the right timing given the other items on my plate. “Sorry, it’s not a forever no, it’s just a no right now. Can we discuss it again in a month, next quarter, or in a year?”

But what if no one asked you to do the thing you’re doing. What if over time, it just became assumed that you would do it at work, in a relationship or within a community. Over time, it was just assumed that it was your job to do it. It was just assumed that you would go along with the plan. It was just assumed that you would pay the bill. It was just assumed that you would do the work. It was just assumed you would host the gathering. It was just assumed that you would take the notes (can we just all agree that the one woman in the room should never be asked to be the note-taker!!! Guys, please tell me you know this? Unless you’re actually shooting a scene of Mad Men reenacting the a 1950’s office environment, don’t ask the one woman in the room to take notes). It was just assumed that you schedule and take the kids to the dentist. Some of these assumptive yes’s happen innocently over time. No one is pulling a fast one or trying to manipulate you. However, this is your weekly reminder that you don’t have to do everything that is thrown at you. At any point it time, you still have the self-agency to say no or ask for help to determine another plan or arrangement. You don’t need to keep doing something just because you’ve been doing it. Even though it’s hard and your brain wants you to keep doing things because you’ve always done them, you can adopt new habits and roles. You can change. You can say no. And when it makes sense, you can say yes!

Agency is a beautiful thing. You have agency over your thoughts and your actions. You also have agency over the consequences of your actions. There are times when my plate is way too full. That is a consequence of saying yes when I should have said no. Here’s the hardest thing about saying yes when I should have said no, it often hurts the people that I love the most or hurts the things that I value most. If I’m overwhelmed, my husband and family feel it the most. If I’m overscheduled, my family and my team feel it the most. If I’ve mindlessly accepted un-inspected meetings, my leading indicators within my work are most negatively impacted. If I’ve said yes to too many requests, my goals and dreams are delayed. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

This is your weekly reminder that you don’t have to handle everything that this week throws at you. You have the self-agency to say no. Repeat after me, “No.”

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!

Elena

Love Like Pat

Eight years ago Pat left this world. She was someone special. She was like no one I had ever met. She was so selfless. She was an educator. She was a friend and a neighbor. She was an artist with her words, her music, her garden and with her love. She was a wife, a momma, a grandma, a sister, an auntie, and a beautiful friend to so many. She was a prayer warrior, my prayer warrior. She was a lover of people, she loved people so dang well. Now, she’s our angel.

Pat loved me. She loved me like I was her own, from day one. There was never any judgement. There was never any competition. She saw the very best in me and loved everything else about me. She chose not to see my bad. She knew that I could love the very best and everything else in her son. In a short time, she showed me how to be the most loving and supportive mother-in-law. She showed me how to celebrate these people that would eventually come into the lives of my boys. I’m so thankful to have had her example.  

Pat celebrated our love, our child and our decisions even when we did things out of order. She was the first person we told that we were unexpectantly pregnant. Gasp…before we were married. Her face told us everything that we needed to know. We were loved and our baby was loved and nothing else mattered. From that day on, there would be no more shame for me about bringing this beautiful baby into the world. I would mother with love and pride for my family, just like her.

You might wonder if your work on this earth is valued. You might wonder if your leadership matters. You might wonder if your art speaks to people. You might wonder if your love permeates. You might wonder if people can sense God’s love through you. It all matters. You might just be one person, but you’re the person God intended you to be. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, you matter to so many.

Today is always a reminder to live life on purpose. Life isn’t guaranteed. Love like it matters, it does. Love like Pat.

Don’t Stay Small. Grow.

red flowers in middle of grass field
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Several years ago, I worked on a project with colleagues of mine. I brought an idea to the table. Together we developed it further and brought it forward as a solution to drive results. It worked. It was the right idea and together we made it come alive. As the results rolled in, I noticed my one colleague taking a lot of the credit. This colleague shared it as “their idea and process.” I think they actually started to believe that it was their idea. They eventually got some serious recognition and likely financial rewards. I was happy. This person is extremely talented. I was also proud our team. I never said anything at the time, I’m not sure I even allowed myself to acknowledge that it bothered me. It did bother me. I knew that it was my idea and our team’s execution that helped contribute to the success of the project. The idea without the strategy, development and execution is worth nothing. We couldn’t have done it without our entire group’s contribution and influence. It was the unique gifts that we each brought to the table that allowed the project to be successful.

At the time, I remember thinking “I’ll just keep my head down and work harder.” I did nothing and I said nothing. But by doing nothing, I allowed myself to become smaller. I also look back on that time and notice something about myself. I was comfortable staying small. I chose to stay small. I didn’t step into my leadership or influence as fully as I could.

In the moment, staying small sometimes feels like the right thing to do. “Why make a big deal about this? Why does it matter who gets the recognition? My work will speak for itself. Eventually I’ll get recognized as well. Eventually the financial payoff will come. This isn’t a big deal.” I have said those things to myself more times than I care to admit. In my 17 years in financial services, I found one benefit of staying small. You don’t rock any boats. You keep things comfortable for other people. As a result, you keep things comfortable for yourself. Sort of.

I know about comfort. Comfort feels comfortable. Duh. But comfort doesn’t allow for growth. My coach Ray Kelly used to always ask me “do you choose comfort or growth?” Choosing comfort and staying small doesn’t serve you because you aren’t growing. If you aren’t growing, you aren’t fully stepping into your potential of serving others. You were not designed to stay small, you were designed to grow.

“You were not designed to stay small, you were designed to grow.”

Encourage Her Elena

It took me years to realize the negative aspects of staying small. I realize now that staying small actually delayed my leadership growth and potential. I stayed small to keep other people comfortable. As a result, I was uncomfortable with my own personal growth. It’s not about me and it’s not about you. It’s not about who gets the recognition. It’s not even about who gets the money. This isn’t about satisfying a spirit of entitlement. The bigger picture is that it’s about you and I serving people with our unique gifts. Gifts that no one else has. Gifts that were meant to be known, embraced and stewarded. Gifts that really serve people. When you stay small, you aren’t sharing your gifts and abilities to their fullest extent. You may not even be sharing them at all. When God gives you gifts and abilities, he doesn’t intend them to stay small, diminished or hidden. He intends them to serve and love people. Staying small, although comfortable, only prevents you from serving to your fullest extent.

In your leadership in business, in your leadership at home, in your leadership in the community, are you unintentionally or intentionally staying small? Sometimes this is because smallness is projected on us and we aren’t even aware that we’ve fully stepped into that identity. Sometimes it’s because no one has come right out and said, “I expect you to fully step into who you were created to be. Stop staying small for the benefit of others.” That’s on my heart today. Whatever the reasons there are for staying small, they are preventing you from serving someone else. Don’t stay small in your relationships, parenting, work life, spiritual life or in your community. Step into who you were designed to be. Like the Table and Tide quote I shared last week, “Someone somewhere is depending on you to do what you were called to do.” You were not designed to stay small. You were designed to grow.

Do the Damn Thing

Photo Credit: Tasha Herrgott at Red Bird Hills Photography, redbirdhills.com

I need to just jump right in today because I have zero time for storytelling this morning. I am fired up. Write this next phrase on a post-it and put on your mirror, your computer, your fridge, your car dash, wherever your eyeballs see things.

Somebody, somewhere is depending on you to do what God has called you to do.

Table and Tide

Picture that person who needs you. Picture her/him in your head right this very instant. Give her a name. Understand the stresses she lives with that your work will alleviate. Picture her experiencing the joy she will feel when she uses your product. See the potential she will step into when she is on the receiving end your leadership. Picture the freedom she will enjoy when she hears your advice and wisdom. Imagine the change she could experience in her life because of you. But take it one step further, imagine you don’t get to her. Imagine her staying in the status quo because you didn’t step forward in doing what God called you to do. She needs you to do what you were created to do. Your life matters in the life of someone else. We don’t just live in a bubble. We are co-dependent creatures. Not co-dependent in a negative way – Codependent in a crazy, awesome way. We ALL benefit when we ALL live out our potential and our calling.

Today, you need to silence the voices in your mind that are saying “you’re not good enough. This isn’t the right time. I’m too old. I’m too young. I’ll do it when I’m in better shape. I don’t look like the type of person that does this. I don’t have enough experience. I don’t want to put myself out there. What will people think? I’m not good at learning new things. I’ll do it when I get the right sign.” This is your freaking sign.  You are enough and somebody, somewhere is depending on you to do what God has called you to do.

It doesn’t matter if you’re day one in a new business or if you’re 40 years into a seasoned career. You are feeling the nudge to grow and change. You are feeling the pull to step more fully into who you were created to be.  God is not done with you yet. You’re not at point of arrival. Know that your calling, your gifts, your work, your impact still matters to people. They need you.

Run the race. Ask for the raise. Make the investment. Start the business. Quit the job. Be a stay-at-home-parent. Sign up for the class. Move away. Move home. Ask for forgiveness. Ask for the business, the date, the chip dip. And don’t just do the damn thing, do it like you were created to do it. There’s no need to do it apologetically. Do it as if someone’s life depends on it. There’s a scene from Home Alone that I love. Kate is trying to get home to Kevin. She’s a desperate mom that will do anything to get home to her son, to be with her baby. She’s arguing with the flight crew and finally says “Now that I’m this close, you’re telling me it’s hopeless? I don’t care if I have to get out on your runway and hitchhike. If it costs me everything I own. If I have to sell my soul to the Devil himself, I am going to get home to my son.” There wasn’t anything that was going to stop her, she was fighting to get home.

Fight for yourself today. Fight for your calling. Fight so that you can be there for the people that need you. If you grow, people are served. If you have to step outside your comfort zone, step right out of that zone. If you have to get out on the runway and hitchhike, do it (just bring those flashlight wands that the flight crew uses to guide the plane, that way they’ll see you). Your people will thank you. Those people matter. Serve them. You know who else is served? The people that see you do what you were called to do. You will inspire them to do what they’re called to do. Somebody, somewhere is depending on you to do what you’re called to do.

Do the damn thing.

Love Yourself and You’ll Realize You’ve Always Belonged

This week I have a professional conference. I’m excited to be in a room again with professional colleagues and new friends. Investing into my own development is a form of self-care and self-love. This event brings back a memory of the last time I was at an a similar type event. At the event, a person at my table shared that they almost didn’t come because they didn’t think they would fit it. They were intimated by the other people in the room. They shared their struggles with believing that other people’s gifts and abilities just dimmed their own gifts and abilities. They believed that they didn’t belong and that they should come back when they’ve done more to deserve to be there.

When we say no to things that are good for us because we don’t feel that we belong or that we aren’t worthy is not ok. Hearing this smart and talented person say this broke my heart. I was devastated because I know all too well what that felt like. Not even ten years ago, I had an executive coach tell me the same thing. He said “Elena, I think you struggle with self-love. As a result, I think you feel that you owe the world something in order to receive love from them or in order to love yourself. You don’t owe anyone anything.” I immediately dismissed his comments in an effort to self-preserve. When I look back now, it was one of the earliest nudges that got me on the path to examine my self-love and eventually on the path to fight for it. I knew I needed to fight back. I knew that in order to really believe that I belonged, I had to believe that belonging wasn’t the most important thing. The most important thing was loving myself whether I belonged or not.

I knew that in order to believe that I belonged, I had to believe that belonging wasn’t the most important thing. The most important thing was loving myself whether I belonged or not.   

The table conversation wouldn’t have bothered me so much if I thought this were an isolated issue. It’s not isolated. Some of you might be reading this and realizing for the first time that sincerely loving yourself is even an option. You might really struggle with believing that you belong. The world has reinforced in every way that you need to be something else for someone else. That unless you’re on a mission to change yourself, you don’t have the right to even be here. This isn’t a female issue. It isn’t a male issue. It’s a people issue. When you really think about it, we’ve all been there. We’ve all been the person feeling like we just don’t belong at the table. If we just changed this one thing, we’d fit it. We often laugh as adults about the feelings of insecurity in middle school or high school. That feeling exists now and is stronger than ever. That feeling exists in the workplace, in the home, in the PTO meeting, on the football field sidelines where parents sit, at the gym, at the golf course, at the book club, and in the church. That feeling is often woven into every place where there are people.

About ten years ago in my professional life, I remember seeing this alive and well when the funky sock trend originated. It was a trend where many men in the professional workplace decided to ditch the traditional black professional socks and transitioned to the funky socks. I loved it. I still do. It was a creative expression to start, and it caught on like wildfire. Men I knew that hadn’t done their own clothes shopping for decades, started proactively going out to order their own unique funky socks. While you might downplay it as a trend, it was a reminder to me that people just want what makes them unique to be celebrated. When that happens, they feel like they belong. My male colleagues would find the craziest and most unique socks, many of which aligned with their hobbies, their interests, their sense of humor. The more their socks celebrated their uniqueness, the more they actually belonged. Funky socks aren’t isolated in this way, really most trends that catch on are an expression of people wanting to be part of something. People want to be special and unique, and also belong.

I feel like in my short time of writing this blog, this is a message that just keeps coming back to me. When I feel something so strong on my heart, I have learned to just share it. Every day, I want to tell whatever audience reads this blog that you are an amazing and gifted person that is unlike anyone else. Hearing this message every day wouldn’t be enough. I wish you could hear this message a thousand times a day. I wish I could hear this message a thousand times a day. Because we need to fight against the thousands of messages we hear and see every day telling us we aren’t enough and that we need to change who we are in order to be enough or to belong. I want you to know that you deserve self-love and God’s love, no matter how you define God in your life. I want you to know that it isn’t a decision that you make once and the fight is over. You need to make the decision to love yourself every single day. It doesn’t matter what you offer this world. It doesn’t matter if you wear funky socks. The fabric of who you are is unique. You are worthy and enough. When you truly do the work and take the time to fall in love with yourself, you will realize that you always belonged.

 I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!

Elena

For Everything There is a Season; Time to Plant and Time to Harvest

It’s fall people, and more specifically, harvest time. I discovered this on my walk. The natural world is giving me all these clues, that’s how I know. See photos. Since we’re talking harvest, we’re also talking farming. Before we jump in, I just want to make one thing clear, I’m not a farmer. I know that might surprise you, the dirt under my nails is actually brownie batter. But, growing up in a rural area made me fascinated by the business of farming and the natural seasons of farming, especially the season of harvest. It’s a beautiful time of year here in Minnesota from a literal perspective and from a metaphorical perspective. Farmers are the ultimate entrepreneur, they run a business. They take time to plant seeds, nurture those seeds into plants for months, and eventually those plants bear fruit. The harvest season is literally about enjoying the fruit of their labor. You finally get paid for months of work. Anyone else have a long sales cycle?

For everything there is a season, there’s a time to plant and a time to harvest.

I think we all understand this cycle. However, whether you’re running a farm, a home, or a business, some of our work isn’t always as cyclical with the calendar as my viewpoint of farming. We find ourselves always planting, always nurturing, and hopefully always harvesting. While that’s the reality of our homes and businesses, this natural season of harvest has me wondering if there is some wisdom in identifying a time to be intentional about certain activities of our businesses, especially harvesting.

Back in 2004 when I was first growing my business as a financial advisor, the planting came very easy to me. I loved prospecting and sharing my work in order to invite people to learn more about what I did as an advisor. When it came time to harvest, to close the business, it took a lot more courage for me. I figured out really quickly that getting people to the finish line didn’t happen by accident. At first, I just planted enough seeds hoping that eventually some of them would bear fruit. I’m sure that would happen to a certain degree. If a farmer plants a field and doesn’t nurture it or water it, some seeds will be successful on their own, mostly due to luck. They were planted in exactly the right spot, with the exact access to light and the exact access to rain. In reality though, what a waste of resources if the farmer just plants a million seeds and then forgets about them. Good luck guys, grow! In the same way, what a waste of our energy if we plant seeds in our life but never nurture them enough to get to harvest time. I learned that a great harvest has something to do with the seeds that were planted but more to do with what happened after the seeds were planted. The additional steps of getting my prospects to a client was in my control and was on me to get done. I needed to do the work to get them to that point of saying yes.

In my mind, the decision a farmer must make to start harvesting seems like it would be easy. You see that the crop is ripe and ready to be harvested and you just harvest. I’m guessing there’s much more to it. If the farmer is like any typical entrepreneur, we know they likely will over think this, there’s an internal battle. Just like you and I, they don’t have a crystal ball. If they let the crops stay out longer, they could get more yield (I’m writing words here like ‘yield’ that I don’t really understand but I’m hoping it works). If they do that, they risk rain and weather ruining the crops. At some point, the farmer has to make the call. In the same way in our lives, if you’ve planted the seeds, you’ve worked to nurture the seeds, you need to make the call and decide to harvest. You need to ask for the business. You need to ask for the raise. You need to ask for the date. You need to ask for the budget and support. You need to take the exam. It will take courage but for everything there is a season, there’s a time to plant and there’s a time to harvest. I want to challenge you that the time to harvest is now.

As a new business owner, I had some misplaced guilt when I received financial gain and success when my clients would make decisions to hire me and implement my advice. In response to my feelings, one of my leaders at the time said “Elena, you serve no one when your clients receive your advice and don’t implement it. When they say yes and implement the advice, you know you’re serving people. Stop making it about you. It’s not about you, it’s about them.” In other words, you serve no one if you just throw a bunch of seeds out there and don’t nurture them to the harvest. If the seeds were planted and nurtured in your home, in your organization or in your business, take this nudge and know it’s time to harvest. We don’t serve anyone if we’re just planting seeds all day long. Step out in courage and harvest the crops.

Let’s pause on courage for a minute. Harvesting is all about courage. In my opinion, it’s one of the biggest ‘muscles’ I see in successful people. Notice, I don’t say ‘it’s one of the most common character traits I see in successful people.’ That implies that you have courage, or you don’t. Courage doesn’t work like that. We all have a courage muscle. It just depends on whether you’re using the courage muscle enough to strengthen it and grow it. The most successful people I know use the courage muscle a lot. It’s a lot easier to access courage when it’s aligned with our ‘why.’ When we’re feeling scared, when we’re experiencing doubt, we may need to take five seconds and access our ‘why’ and then step forward in courage. It’s not about us, it’s about serving people. There’s no perfect time to harvest, the time is now.

My challenge to you going into this fourth quarter is to make the decision to access your ‘why,’ your courage muscle and harvest the crops you planted. The harvest season is literally about enjoying the fruits of your labor. Don’t plant seeds for the sake of planting. Get your people and business to the finish line. Harvest the crops. Then make sure to celebrate your courage and results.

EncourageYou Opportunity:

If you are feeling the nudge, put a plan together to harvest your crops, to get the results. Access your ‘why’ and grab hold of courage and do the dang thing. If you need some help or accountability, phone a friend or phone me.  One of my personal goals this quarter is to do things every day that get me to a point of needing to access my courage muscle. I want to do this in my faith, in my marriage and family, in my work, and in my health. In each area of my values, I’m wanting to challenge myself in doing things that require me to access courage. I know that if I’m doing enough courageous things, I’m getting closer to harvest. Join me in this challenge.

EncourageHer Opportunity:

In this next week, who is a woman (or person) that needs you to encourage her to harvest her crops. Can you challenge her to access her ‘why’ and grab hold of her courage to harvest her crops drive results. Also, don’t forget to help her celebrate her success! Maybe you’ve successfully walked through this and can just be someone’s biggest cheerleader. If this is you, you’re a woman in position to help another woman! This is great news. Just go ahead and pick up the dang phone to EncourageHer. You are amazing!

EncourageHer Leader’s Corner:

As a leader or business owner, you have a unique opportunity to create a season of harvest right now for you and your team. Whether you have a specific cyclical business and the season to harvest is now, or not, there’s no time like the present. Can you use the natural season of fall to rally your team to drive the results they’ve been working hard to drive, to focus on bringing in the business and closing the deal. If your year fiscal year ends 12/31, this is a great time to rally the troops.

Does everyone on your team know how they can contribute to a successful harvest or year end? You hold the power to decide that this is a focus right now. Remember from last week, once we tell our brains a story about what’s going to happen, our crazy powerful brains will work behind the scenes to make the vision/story we tell ourselves come true. Set a goal and vision for you and your team . Remind them of the why. This isn’t about them, it’s about the client/customer. Challenge each person to unleash their courage muscle. Then don’t forget to celebrate the courage and the results.

If you need support or coaching, or an accountability partner in this area of your business, please reach out to me to learn more about the work that I do as a coach.

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!

Elena

Kim Crawford is Not a Woman. And Other Lies I Believed

Photo Credit: Red Bird Hills, redbirdhills.com

Today I need to interrupt our normally scheduled content to share an important announcement. In a recent conversation with a friend, I was made aware that she was living a lie. She believed Kim Crawford was a woman. I feel compelled to take you back to the day that I too realized I was living a lie.

It was a Saturday in November of 2020. I made the coffee and I scrambled eggs for my little guys when they woke up. I sat down to do my devotions but got distracted by Instagram…typical. As I was scanning the Gram, I came across startling news about a friend of mine, a friend I’ve known for years. She’s someone I will meet on a patio on a summer evening. She’s joined me countless times on a sunny day on the pontoon. Over the years, I’ve swooned over her God-given gift of winemaking. She’s a tall, blond, talented, and successful business woman. She’s a staple of my summer memories. Of course, you’ve probably guessed, I’m talking about one of my best friends Kim Crawford…the wine maker.

Here’s where things get weird. Instagram informed me that Kim Crawford is a man…GASP. What in the world? As it turns out, my girlfriend Kim is an actual man. This isn’t new, he’s always been a man. He has a five-o’clock shadow and hairy arms – I couldn’t confirm any other physical traits.

 My world was turned upside down. What I was so certain about was actually a belief I created and held on to but was never actually accurate. Kim Crawford, the celebrated female winemaker and coincidentally a very close friend (please don’t be envious), doesn’t exist. But Kim Crawford, the celebrated male winemaker does – he’s alive and very well it seems.

It’s a silly story but it made me think about other beliefs I have held on to that aren’t accurate at all. Our brains are so crazy strong. Kim was a real woman to me. I literally conjured up what she looked like. What we think about becomes real to us. Have you ever caught yourself thinking something into reality? We usually aren’t taking the time to think potential positive outcomes into reality (note to self to start!). Unfortunately, we usually are allowing the negative what-if thoughts to swirl and grow. We also allow this to happen by default. Beliefs are projected on us, and we don’t take the time to challenge them and rewrite the story.   

My challenge to you and me today is to think about beliefs you hold that just aren’t true. I set a timer for five minutes to think through some of the thoughts I’ve struggled with over the years that simply aren’t true.

  • I can’t be a great mom and excellent professional at the same time.
  • I need alcohol to dance.
  • I can’t be healthy and eat treats. I can’t trust myself to eat in moderation.  
  • Only men can be President.
  • Financial success will only come when I’m incessantly hustling.
  • I’m an excellent singer. OK, this still isn’t true. Just wanted to make sure you were paying attention.
  • I can’t influence my professional results as much as I want to.
  • My worth is tied to my results and my physical appearance.
  • Women and men need to have set gender roles in the home.
  • I can’t love Jesus and gangster rap.
  • I’m not a good mom if I’m prioritizing my needs.
  • Men can’t resist their sexual urges. The sexual harassment and assault I’ve been a victim of is my fault. It’s my responsibility to be modest and to protect them from themselves.
  • I can’t be a good steward of my finances and spend money on nice things.

Each one of these things is a lie that I’ve told myself enough times that I started to believe them or a lie that was projected on me. What if I slowed down to rewrite the stories enough times until I believed them?

  • I can be an excellent mom and be an excellent professional at the same time.
  • I am a great dancer because I have fun whenever I dance.
  • I am healthy. I can trust myself with food.
  • All genders deserve to have a seat at every table, especially at the Presidential table.
  • I can be successful and I can live according to my values. Hustling is not one of my values.
  • I enjoy singing. Ha – this one is cracking me up. I don’t know how to make it true that I’m a good singer.
  • I have the most influence on my results. I will spend time at work doing things that will influence or control my professional results or the results of the people I lead.
  • I am worthy to be loved and to love others before I offer any results to the world.  
  • Women and men have unique gifts and services to offer the family, we don’t need to adopt gendered roles unless those roles work for us.
  • I can love Jesus and be ‘Big Pimpin.’ If you don’t know the song, you may want to look it up now, just trust me on this one. Jay-Z, if you’re reading this, I love your music and Jesus.
  • I’m a good mom when I’m prioritizing my needs.
  • Men and women must both own the practice of consent. I am responsible for only myself.
  • I am a good steward of my finances when I’m living in balance, spending, savings and giving.

If I spent more time on this, I could uncover a lot more lies that I believed by accident that just aren’t true. Kim Crawford is a man. I’m a good mom and a kick-ass business woman. They aren’t mutually exclusive. They can occur at the same time.

If there is an area of your life or business where you are finding yourself stuck. Check into the beliefs you are accidentally believing. Rewrite the story. Retell yourself the new story every day. Guess what, you’ll start believing your new story. Your crazy strong brain will start to make it true. Today, when someone brings up my friend Kim Crawford, all I can picture is her five-o’clock shadow and hairy arms. I fully believe and know that Kim Crawford is a man. See how I did that?

EncourageYou Opportunity:

If you’re stuck in an area of your life or one of your values, take time to think through the stories you’re telling yourself. Challenge them, rewrite them and start believing the new stories. If you are a parent, challenge the stories your children are believing.

EncourageHer Opportunity:

In this next week, who is a woman (or person) that needs you to encourage her to think differently about the stories she’s believing?  Can you challenge her lovingly so she can step into exactly who she was created to be? Maybe you’ve successfully walked through this and can just be someone’s biggest cheerleader. If this is you, you’re a woman in position to help another woman! This is great news. Just go ahead and pick up the dang phone to EncourageHer. You are amazing!

EncourageHer Leader’s Corner: I have learned that many of the people that read this blog are people leaders, leaders of leaders, or entrepreneurial leaders in their own businesses or organizations. As a result, I want to provide some context for you specifically as you step into your leadership.

As a leader or business owner, you have a unique view of the people you lead and the challenges they face. You also hold the power to rewrite your vision and what you and your team believes is possible. You can reframe how your team thinks about the challenges they face. Instead of focusing on the problem, can you retell the story so that you and your team start spending the energy and brain power to make the new vision come to life? Remember, our brains are so crazy powerful, our brains will work behind the scenes to make the vision/story we repeat come true.

If you need help or a partner in this area of your business, please reach out to me to learn more about the work that I do as a coach.

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!

Elena

Photo Credit: Tasha Herrgott at Red Bird Hills Photography

Rest Creates Productivity

This weekend my husband and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. We went to Madeline Island, one of the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. We didn’t know that the island really slows down after Labor Day. The businesses on the island go 150% between Memorial Day and Labor Day. From my first-time perspective, once Labor Day weekend is over, things settle into a slower season and pace, and eventually a season of rest and recovery over the winter months. As a result, we weren’t “entertained” by the island like I assumed we would be. The first day, it felt a little weird if I’m being honest. Typically, when we get away for a weekend, we pack every minute with beautiful meals, fun cocktails, live music, and the relevant area activities. We don’t always slow down because we want to see and do as much as we can in a new city. Madeline Island on a late September weekend is not there for your (or my) entertainment. Madeline Island is starting her season of slowing down during that time. Then after the slowing down, she rests. This isn’t because she just wants to, it’s because she knows that she’s going to give it 150% when the season starts up again. She knows that in order to be her best in the on-season, she needs an off-season. By the second day, we settled into her schedule. It was exactly what we needed. We found a deserted beach and watched the waves for two hours as we talked and shared a bottle of wine. We literally had nothing to do but rest and connect. Thank God the island insisted on projecting her feelings on us.

On our last morning, I had a brief conversation with one of the resident business owners that stays open year around. The owner was exhausted. You could feel it. It’s like the feeling when you walk into a first-time parent’s home during the first few weeks of having an infant. You wanted to tip-toe across the floor of the store so you didn’t wake “the baby.” The business owner was tired and the business was tired. I asked if they were also getting ready to close for the off-season, the owner said “Unfortunately, we stay open all year. I don’t know why but this was a hard season, we’re exhausted here.” I think the owner immediately felt like they had overshared and then put on a fake smile and said “What can I do for you?” In a weird way, I realized in real time that I didn’t want anything but to leave the store. The business owner’s frenzy was off putting. I put in my order and left.

You have probably been in that business owner’s shoes – maybe you are right now.  I have been there. There were specific seasons where I put off rest thinking that productivity needed to trump everything. I look back and can see so clearly when I was exhausted. Those were also the times my business was tired too. Productivity doesn’t trump rest. Rest trumps productivity because rest creates productivity. Rest is THE precursor to productivity. If we aren’t as productive as we’d would like to be as business owners, leaders or parents, how often are we closing down the store for a season, if ever?

During those times where things felt unproductive or where I felt lacking in momentum, I often would look for systems or discipline to get productivity back up. I’d try to tweak my morning routine by getting up earlier to do more. I’d hire a consultant to evaluate our productivity or operations and systems. I’d reach out to a mentor for advice. {Insert face into palm.} Now I realize, I should have been reaching for rest more often.

I used to think that rest was only a reward for my productivity. If I delivered so much, I would reward myself with rest. Can we just all agree that we need to change that narrative in our businesses? We know intellectually that equation does not work. If my child is struggling to perform, function or be productive, I don’t keep them up until mid-night. I put that child to bed. Why don’t we allow ourselves this luxury? In almost every other area of life, we know that productivity is a reward for proactive rest. Why don’t we apply the same logic to our work life? If I rest, I can expect to be productive. If I rest, I can expect growth. If I rest, I can create. If I rest, I can do my best work. If I rest, I can do my best learning. There is peace and abundance and productivity on the other side of rest.

If we know better, why don’t we do better? We can still be crazy, productive in our businesses and incorporate more rest. We can deliver crazy, great results to our companies and still incorporate rest. We can be crazy, awesome parents to our children and still incorporate rest. Rest trumps productivity because rest creates productivity. Do not be the crabby, tired business owner on Madeline Island. Be the business that takes rest and is ready to serve with a smile. You’ll attract more business, more clients, and likely better results. But in the grand scheme of things, you’ll be happier.

EncourageYou Opportunity:

Is it time for a rest? Consider the sign you’ve been looking for, put yourself on rest. Maybe you don’t need a full season, but you may need a day, a long weekend just to rest yourself. Perhaps your calendar runs you, find a time to block out an afternoon as you soon as you see white space. Don’t schedule over it. Don’t have a sitter for your kids, trade rest days with another family or parent. I’ll watch your kiddos while you enjoy a rest day. Next week, you watch mine. No matter what is getting in the way, get creative in finding a way around it. You need to rest.   

EncourageHer Opportunity:

In this next week, who is a woman (or person) that needs you to encourage her to take rest?  Maybe you’ve successfully walked through this years ago and can just be someone’s biggest cheerleader. If this is you, you’re a woman in position to help another woman! This is great news. Just go ahead and pick up the dang phone to EncourageHer. You are amazing!

EncourageHer Leader’s Corner: I have learned that many of the people that read this blog are people leaders, leaders of leaders, or entrepreneurial leaders in their own businesses or organizations. As a result, I want to provide some context for you specifically as you step into your leadership.

If you work in industries that value productivity over everything, this can be hard to do. Trust me though, rest creates productivity. If you are the business owner, find consistent rhythms of rest. Your productivity will go up. Even if you don’t think you need it (you do), it creates an environment in your business that will allow for your employees to take rest. If you are a people leader, and you have some perennial high performers that are struggling, check in on their rest. Help them connect the dots. Rest trumps productivity because rest creates productivity. They’ll thank you when they get back.

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!

Elena

Weather the Storm. The Sun Will Rise.

Photo by Benjamin Suter on Pexels.com

For two of the best humans I know.

The first memory I remember feeling disappointed was in second grade at the local Spelling Bee. “Weather, W-E-T-H-E-R, Weather.” “That is incorrect. The correct spelling is W-E-A-T-H-E-R. You may be seated.” I remember hearing those words so clearly. I don’t remember anything after those words. Literally, no other memories of that day. When I think about the disappointments I’ve experienced in life, I always remember the first phrase exactly as stated. I don’t always remember much of the rest of the conversation. The burn of the first statement stays with us a long time, over thirty years in the case of my Spelling Bee. I don’t know how I responded or what I said, I just remember the tears immediately stinging my eyes. I remember thinking “I never want to feel this way again.” My immediate response was feeling the shame of rejection and then immediately trying to avoid the feeling of disappointment as much as physically possible.  

“We decided to move forward with another candidate, and he’s accepted our offer.”

“This is going to be a hard conversation.”

“I’m seeing someone else.”

“You’re not the right fit for us.”

“These are the terms…”

“You’re probably having a miscarriage.”

“I recommend he sees a specialist right away.”

“That is a lump. We need to do a biopsy.”

“She’s gone.”

If you’re a human being, doing life with other human beings, you’ve been disappointed. I’m no different. I’ve learned that there’s a lot of different ways to react to disappointment and it’s not a one size fits all. Sometimes, I immediately want to argue back, confirm there’s been a mistake, convince them they’re wrong. And you know what, sometimes that’s exactly what you need to do. You need to fight back. You need to ask for another conversation. You need to get help. You need to plead your case. You need to go down swinging. I never want look back on situations and say “I wish I would have fought harder.”

In other situations, the disappointment is the end of the road. There’s no fighting back. There’s just a journey to acceptance, and it can be a long road ahead. But when you step forward on that road to acceptance, somewhere along your journey you realize acceptance can lead to a new destination all together if you’re open to it. Not getting the job leads to other career opportunities. Getting dumped leads to a new relationship or contentment in being single. Being rejected leads to a new friendship. A potential miscarriage leads to a passion to experience motherhood. A child with a medical disorder leads to a child with enhanced empathy. A lump turns into an opportunity to build faith and trust. Sometimes there are new beginnings and beauty even after death. New beginnings don’t diminish the pain and sheer disappointment of losing someone we love. The pain is still real.

If you are human, you might be dealing with disappointment. While we can’t avoid disappointment, we can seek wisdom from others people’s experience. We can learn from their reactions and choose our reaction accordingly. Jesus shows us in so very few words how to deal with the ultimate disappointment. In the book of Matthew, after he is sentenced to death, the first recorded words after his sentencing don’t come until he’s actively dying on the cross. He states out loud “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Even in his last moments on earth, he’s teaching us by example. If it were me, I’d have some choice words and fight in me after hearing my fate. I would argue, try to convince them of a different solution, I would plead my case. In Jesus’ example, doesn’t respond until much later. When he does, he goes right to the source. Even though he feels abandoned and totally rejected, he goes to God to plead. He seeks understanding. He doesn’t phone a friend, he doesn’t perpetuate drama. He simply goes to the source. He knows that even in his death, there are new beginnings and bigger impact coming. His acceptance led to a new destination, new beginnings and significant impact. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard for him. He felt forsaken and alone. You may feel forsaken and alone and that’s real. My prayer for you is that you find the strength to go to the source and that your journey to acceptance leads to a new beginning and new impact. This isn’t the end of your story. You are are here on purpose with a purpose. The world needs exactly who you were created to be even amidst your disappointment. You are loved and God knows your heart and your desires. W-E-A-T-H-E-R the storm, the sun will rise tomorrow.

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!

Elena