Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Actually, I Don't Know.

Did you ever have one of those moments when you are completely aware of how much you DON’T know about a particular subject… when you thought you knew a lot?

Maybe you were sitting at the board room table making a presentation that you prepared for tirelessly… and with one question from the audience – you’re set back. You realize that you don’t know nearly as much as you thought you did. Have you ever met that person who has made you reconsider what you know about a subject? I met that person recently. His name is cancer.

Let’s pause for a second. I don’t think this blog post is going to go where you may expect it to. “Live life to the fullest, you never know what second might be your last.” “Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.” While all of these sayings I believe in and fully endorse, I cannot say that this diagnosis, or any experience I’ve had has given me the credibility or reason to exclaim them. Now, I do not know what lies in the future, but at this moment, I will take deep breaths and remain fully optimistic.

On Monday, someone very close to me was diagnosed with Lymphoma. Lymphoma is a cancer that begins in the lymphatic cells of the immune system and presents as one or more solid tumors of lymphoid cells. Your lymph nodes are responsible for fighting infections. Life is so ironic.

It’s no secret that I teach Zumba classes (a fitness class). I teach this class in 4 different health and fitness centers. I have had health and wellness articles published in industry newsletters, online and distributed to many people. Sometimes I tweet information and advice and label them with the hash tag “health.” Until a few days ago, I was completely comfortable that I knew how to advise people on how to take care of their bodies. There’s so much more to this subject, that I … just don’t know.

How much do you need to know in order to know a lot? How much do you need to know in order to know the most? This is an opinion that many do not share with me, but I feel that acting as, and considering yourself an expert on a topic shuts you off from learning. I truly hope you never label yourself an “expert” unless you would prefer to know no more or unless you are playing Guitar Hero. There are perspectives everywhere. There are lessons and points of view. There are stories and examples. The smallest comment in the board room or the biggest medical diagnosis will always make its way to you. Being open to these instances and expecting the unexpected will only build your character.

The road ahead – for all of us – is and SHOULD BE filled with constant questioning and new experiences. It will be tough at times. And some situations will be unfamiliar and challenging. And frankly – I’m scared as hell. I know very little about what my family is about to experience and I’m not sure I’m ready. But I do know - that I WILL know - a little more at the end.  And, I will in the meantime do what I do best - continue with my constant optimism and jokes of poor taste.

Climb up over the top.
Survey the state of the soul.
You've got to find out for yourself whether or not you're truly trying.
Why not give it a shot?
Shake it. Take control and inevitably wind up
Find out for yourself all the strengths you have inside of you
- Jason Mraz

Monday, June 28, 2010

But Would They Flash If You Asked?

Just about a week or two ago, I witnessed something on my 35 minute commute to work. This commute of mine is primarily charted on the Garden State Parkway. Any of my New Jersey readers know what this particular trail can look like during any rush hour. For those of you who don’t, you probably drink less than me at night.

This morning, I reached some congestion far before I normally did. I muttered a few expletives at the possible broken down vehicle, construction site or man mowing the lawn and waited it out. I couldn’t believe what I saw when I got there.

A goose was WALKING across the Garden State Parkway… during morning rush hour.

…((Time Warp: When I first got my driver’s license, I was driving down a side street by my house when I noticed a police man following closely behind. The second I took my eye off the rear-view mirror, I noticed a chipmunk about to run in front of my car. I said, “DON’T DO IT!” … but he did it. I slammed on my breaks to avoid Chip and Dale and the police man skidded up onto the curb to avoid hitting me. Needless to say, he flashed his lights and pulled me over. Sweating, I watched him approach my window. I couldn’t figure out which square was my registration, which was my insurance and which one I was supposed to give him anyway. To my surprise – he said, “Don’t worry – I would have done the same thing” and walked away.)) …

Right in front of me, this goose was walking across the Garden State Parkway.

Please imagine my stress at the site of this goose. But see – that was the thing. I was far more stressed out than the goose was. This friggin’ thing, confident as all hell, held his head high and patiently timed his moves across the 4-laned highway. Sometimes he walked, sometimes he ran and sometimes he stopped. One woman stopped her car behind him and put on her flashers. This woman actually got out of her car (on the Garden State Parkway, during rush-hour, in a hole, in the floor, of the bottom of the sea) to aid his journey to the other side. The whole time I just kept saying to myself, “doesn’t he know he can fly?”

But, it’s true. Sometimes we don’t realize we can fly. Sometimes, because of circumstances (whether they are the economy, health, injury, tragedy, etc.) we are temporarily unable to fly. Sometimes, all we can do is hold our heads high, muster up all of our confidence, all of our will-power, be patient with timing and just MOVE FOWARD.
As demonstrated by the goose thought-leader himself, it also helps to surround yourself by the right people. Take a look at who you surround yourself with. You are a product of your environment. When it’s go-time, when you have to really give it all you got… are they going to be 15 minutes late for work and get out of their car on the Parkway and put their flashers on for you? Because there are times you are going to need people with patience. I know this. Find some of these people. Oh – and if you’re anything like me, you will be happy to know… he made it across and into the woods.

Lucky for me I know many of these people. I live with one, work with them at WithumSmith+Brown, dance with them during Zumba classes and choose them as friends. So please don't be offended if I wonder if you'd flash for me.  I just returned from the Association of Accounting Marketing Summit in Washington, DC. It was my first time and here, I had the opportunity to meet so many of these people. I cannot tell you how refreshing it was to surround myself by people who deal with the exact same things I do on a daily basis. Accounting Marketing is a pretty specific niche and I am completely energized by the group of people I met. Check out the organization. AAM

So get down with your professional-development self, hold your head high and rock that confidence – it looks good on you. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone to find some flashers. That being said - I will tell you this: If you come back wearing beads around your neck or if I catch you playing Frogger on the freeway, I am going to suggest that you completely misunderstood this post.

Until next time, many high-fives.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

You Are Young

I can say that, you know.  I can say that without even knowing you.  I can even say it knowing you are 95-years-old.

Most of my readers know me and know that 9 out of every 10 vacations I take are to Disney World. (Where my Hannah Montana socks fit in.)  It’s no secret that I’m quirky and I’ll be the first to tell you that I feel right at home where you’re encouraged to channel your inner believer.  I work hard.  I pay a mortgage.  I understand business.  I negotiate contracts.  I wear a suit.  But I find myself balancing these things with my own type of pixie dust.  A certain dream.  A certain bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.  I am young.

I’ve recently had the privilege of taking off my Mickey ears and climbing out of my box to take a trip across the world and visit places I never thought I would.  This past Sunday, I returned from visiting Rome, Sicily, Turkey, Athens and Crete.

I found myself standing in the middle of certain settings that I’ve read about in text books, searched libraries for in order to complete elementary school projects, tested on in high school and watched TV specials on before James Bond-ing the remote out of Chris’ hands while he was sleeping to change.

I was where the Virgin Mary lived, where the first Olympics were held, in the Colosseum and Pantheon, walked through the Acropolis and climbed up ancient amphitheater steps in the ruins of Ephesus, Turkey.  Even through Chris’ pretend gladiator fights, I took advantage of some silence.  I learned so many things on this trip to Europe but one thing stood out the most.

I am young.

I have so many friends and family members re-evaluating their lives at so many different ages and it’s so motivating.  A family member of mine went back to work after not working for 25+ years.  I have friends making the decision to go back to school.  I graduated college sitting next to a 60-year-old woman who was so excited for her new life to START.  You won’t live forever but it’s so refreshing to know that as long as you’re living, you’re young.

And even though I’m young, the longer I live… the more I realize that attitude has an impact on the life I live.  It’s been said before, but nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Shoveling Dog Poo

This week has been anything but boring. And it has brought so many topics to mind that I couldn’t possibly put into one blog post… because then it may get confusing. Like my week has been. Understand? Let’s continue.

I’ve recently come face-to-face with a theory (that I, too, have fallen a victim of). How do you measure the success… of you? So many people measure their success by comparing it to how successful someone else is; by their qualities and their skills. What? That actually makes no sense.  I've had a recent wave of Zumba students approach me about getting certified, but then state their apprehension because their "body can't move like mine."  I'm sure it doesn't.  We are completely seperate bodies.  But it does MOVE!  Don't think I don't see you workin' back there.

Why compare yourself to others? No one in the world can do a better job of being you than you. And – for that matter, can you name the second person to stand on the moon? The second person to create a light bulb? The second lady to sit in that exact seat on the back of that bus? 

Before you can achieve success, you need to define what it means to you. What do you want? By the way, have you asked for what you want? Chances are, you are not employed by mind-reading Edward Cullen. (THAT… would be a definition of success.)

Also – I truly do believe a huge part of success is passion. I’ve heard many battles about the advice of “doing what you love.” Some people believe that this is crap career advice. These people justify this by explaining that you should work for the sole purpose of achieving the REWARD you’re passionate about. Here’s what I say to that. Is that reward guaranteed? Are you going to wake up at 95-years-old realizing that your journey did not lead you to that reward? And that you spent 95 years shoveling dog poop in hopes of getting… that really fancy … reward that shoveling dog poop gets you? (In spite of that really bad analogy – I would still like to move forward and note that my point was still golden. As most of my points are. This is all about me by the way, have I told you that?)

Passion is a key element of success. Babe Ruth didn’t wake up one day and say, “Today I will work to be the best accountant.” It just wasn’t his passion. But if it was – I’m pretty sure he’d work with WithumSmith+Brown. (How’s my raise lookin’ now, boss?)

I truly do believe you can mix your passion (what you love to do) with some creativity, relevance, discipline and innovation and ultimately create a wonderful balance of success.

Sometimes I joke about opening a Zumba studio / bar / bakery / Twilight fan base / dream interpretation / business extravaganza establishment. It sounds crazy. But is it?

Could be. But then again – the Marketing Coordinator of the Certified Public Accounting Firm gone Zumba Instructor wearing Hannah Montana socks just asked that.