Saturday, October 27, 2012

Witnessing Gratitude

Twenty years ago, an eleven year old girl and her family received boxes filled with food from strangers.  Living in war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina, she didn’t know where the boxes came from, but could sense from the writing on the outside, it was from far away.  She would find out years later that the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) was responsible for those boxes that helped her family survive.  During that time, her mother decided to send her and her sister to Israel for summer camp.  The summer was fun, safe and away from the crisis at home.  At the end of the summer, she and her sister would not return home.  For safety, they stayed in Israel and through programs funded by The Jewish Federation and JDC, she and her sister thrived and wouldn’t return home until six years later.  Within days of arriving in Bosnia-Herzegovina, she realized that this was no longer her home and in two weeks she returned to Israel. 

This week, I met this woman now in her early 30’s.  As she learned of those strangers who helped her and her family, her Jewish identity was shaped by the immense gratitude she felt toward a community who cared for her as a little girl.  As I introduced her to donors and she said, “Thank you for rescuing me and giving me my life,” donors witnessed the impact of their dollars.  It is a rare and special moment when donors meet the recipient who was nourished by their gift physically, emotionally and spiritually.   Donors were especially moved when she shared that her life today is dedicated to giving back to the community and working as a Jewish Professional.

Today, I’m grateful for my family, for colleagues here and around the world and for the generosity of strangers who faithfully donate their money to change the lives of strangers.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Women in Business – High heels or Flats?

Due to a recent back injury, I have had to wear flats for the last few weeks.  As fashion plays a role in all areas of our society, I worried how to present myself as an executive without my high heels.  I admit that I used to love wearing high heels.  I liked feeling a little taller; I stood taller, walked with confidence and carried an air of authority.
I started noticing how women dress to create the “professional look.”   Some wear dresses, some wear suits  and in the society’s ever changing style culture, the spectrum is wide of what is suitable attire for work includes leggings and boots, skirts with Tory Birch shoes or slacks with fine knitted sweaters.  All can look presentable, but which one gives you the most confidence?
I put my new flats on with a mixture of emotions - relief, comfort, frustration and anger.  How would it effect my presentation?  What does it say about me?  All fashion magazine photos show women in business with power suits and power colors and absolutely, power heels.   As I began to change my wardrobe to accommodate my new flat shoes, which are also very cute and stylish, my back immediately felt better.  I was amazed at how quickly my body healed from simply changing my shoes.
More importantly, I gained a new confidence.  With the pain removed, walking comfortably gave me a renewed confidence and new energy to create and produce.   I feel like myself, a truer and more comfortable version that inspires me.   In this renewed state of confidence, I do have power, in fact, I have always had it.  Now I see it clearly and am sure that with this power, I am more productive, efficient with my time and even more relaxed.   I am not suggesting you throw out your high heels, only that you choose clothes and shoes that inspire you to be your best self. 
Now, if only Michael Kors would make me a pair of shoes that felt like Converse!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Have Faith and Say a Prayer

A couple of weeks ago, my friend gave me a special prayer book entitled “Aneni.”   I have always had faith, but receiving this book was something different.  I have only used it once, but I have to admit that I really enjoy just having it in my purse.  Whenever I have to reach into my bag, I see it and it makes me feel better. 

Since I started meditating early last year, I have learned to pray.  I was always comfortable talking to G-d, usually in my car or on a walk.   I would try to pray for others in synagogue and it always felt forced.  But now my prayers are more thoughtful and more focused.  It gives me a greater sense of peace.

The book is in both Hebrew and English.  I used to think too much about my inability to read Hebrew and now I have found beauty and wonder in saying the prayers in English. 

Anyone can pray.  Anyone can meditate.  Meditating or praying to slow down for at least 30 minutes a week has helped to stop my mind from spinning its tales of anxiety, insecurity and worry.  I didn’t believe it at first.  I began in January and now nine months later, I have noticed significant and positive changes in my mood, attitude, and productivity.

Here is my prayer for tonight – I pray that  those who are struggling can see some hope and they take a moment to say a prayer for themselves and for others.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Have Hope

From the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.

This word has been on my mind these past few weeks.  As we finished the Jewish holidays and began this weekend, reading the Torah from the beginning, it is clear to me that HOPE is found within, could be inspired by others and lost in a tragic incident. 

I use the word a lot at work:  “I hope you can join us.”  “I hope you feel better.”  I hope my meeting goes well.”  I also use it at home:  “I hope you finished your homework.” “I hope you paid the bill.”  “I hope you are kidding.”  And “I hope you know how much I love you.”

I decided that I really like the word.  Years ago, during a sadder time in my life, I found the word to be very phony.  Whoever used it was not sincere.  I realized that it wasn’t them, it was me.  I was in a dark place and could not listen to anyone offering kindness.

And now as I begin this year of learning, sharing and loving, I am full of hope.  I see goodness in so many and I forgive people for being mean because I think they are really sad.   

I haven’t written New Year resolutions but it might be fitting –
·         Hold onto hope.
·         Hold onto love.
·         Hold onto goodness.
·         Hold onto joy.
·         Hold onto each other.
·         Hope to learn.
·         Hope to understand.
·         Love big.
·         Keep the healthy close.
·         Let the unhealthy go.
·         Meditate

Wishing everyone a year filled with love, laughter and learning.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

MINDSET will enhance your life

At the suggestion of a friend, I read “Mindset” by Carol Dweck.   While I thought it would be interesting and something that would help me to be a better parent, I did not expect to receive answers to so many questions I had about my own past behaviors.  I often wondered why I struggled so much during certain times in my life when other times I soared.  “Mindset” answered these questions and also gave me new insight to how to live a fuller and richer life.  The book illustrates two specific mindsets – “growth” and “fixed.”

Looking back, my high school days were successful.  My grades were above average, I had very positive relationships with my teachers and I loved my friends.  I lived in “growth mindset.”  That was until the 2nd semester of my senior year when I had difficulty in my math analysis class.  I had always gotten A’s and B’s in math until this class.  I loved math and was planning to be a math major in college.  In this final semester, I found the class so difficult that I became paralyzed and frightened.  I couldn’t wait to graduate and my failure in this one class clouded the end of my successful high school career.   In fact, I applied to colleges that didn’t require a personal essay because I was so intimidated by the evaluation and anticipated rejection.   I had entered into a “fixed mindset” and believed I couldn’t perform well academically. 

Fortunately, I got into college.  In the first few months, I was still having difficulty in math and rather than search for help, I had already determined that the left side of my brain had reached its limit for mathematics.  After a couple of years of struggling and feeling lost, I needed an answer.  I decided to focus on the right side of my brain and switched my major to English.    I struggled there too, but thankfully graduated.  “Fixed mindset” had severely impacted my college career.

Following graduation, I landed an internship under the guidance of a mentor for whom I am still grateful.  After 5 years of wasting my time in college, I fell in love with business.  I felt empowered almost immediately and within months of starting the internship, I was offered a permanent position and then I was promoted.  This boss/mentor nurtured my “growth mindset” and gave me my confidence to succeed back.  This experience showed me that I had not lost the ability to learn and my brain wasn’t broken.  Because of this experience, I found joy in learning again and understood how to use it to solve problems.

Twenty five years later, my desire to learn continues in every aspect of my life.  Over the years, there were still times “fixed” rather than “growth,” but none as obvious to me as back in my teens and twenties.  Like the pendulum, life moves from good to bad and then back again and back again. If we strive to stay in a “growth mindset” then the difficulties of life become learning opportunities, lessons, and for some, true awakenings.
Read Mindset – it is a wonderful resource.  Here is the link to Carol Dweck’s website -