Wednesday, July 26, 2017

"Remember [Discover] who you are!"

As I listened to Angel Zimmerman's recent BYUMS Women in Business webinar, I was fascinated to hear her starting point for her remarks on time management.
"If you are going to master time, you need to know who you are."
This resonated in a place deep within me and reiterated principles that have been tapping at me for months. For example:

- I recently listened to a story about a young medical resident who was diagnosed with cancer. He'd spent hundreds of hours working with others to navigate facing the possibility of death, but now he was the patient receiving counsel from his doctor. In this difficult situation, he craved the (false) certainty from statistics about his chances of beating death (of having more time). His doctor refused to give him such numbers. Instead, the oncologist's focus was on inviting him to focus on what mattered most to him. Whatever time he had -- whether five weeks, five months, five years, or five decades -- she wanted him to get in tune with living his life with integrity to what he valued most. It left me pondering what I value most and how/if my life choices mirror those values.

- Eva Witesman, an associate professor in the Marriott School, gave a phenomenal BYU Devotional address on women and education. I loved the way she began her speech because it reminded me of a landmark talk Julie B. Beck gave years ago. Both Professor Witesman and Sister Beck reiterate the importance of seeking and receiving personal revelation. Sister Beck notes that "The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life." She reminds us that
A good woman knows that she does not have enough time, energy, or opportunity to take care of all of the people or do all of the worthy things her heart yearns to do. Life is not calm for most women, and each day seems to require the accomplishment of a million things, most of which are important.... But with personal revelation, she can prioritize correctly and navigate this life confidently.
Professor Witesman also quoted Virginia Pearce's striking warning. “[W]hen we feel that we must protect and defend ourselves . . . , our energy is used counter-productively and our learning and the learning of others is severely limited.” What better way to guard ourselves from this kind of insecurity-driven, time-sucking self-defense than to be grounded in God through personal revelation?

- On a lighter note, as I was scrolling through my dear cousin's Facebook wall, I ran across this quote: "Oh the places you'll go and the things you will see, if first you realize who you can be." ~Dr. Seuss

(The list could go on. ...A friend's raw, personal Martha-Mary story.... My husband's recent tender mercy experience after jettisoning his to-do list to do what who he really is led him to do.... )

I think so often, we think about who we are in terms of what we do. After all, "So what do you do?" is often the icebreaker question in any getting-to-know-you situation. But does that question really get to who we are? It's so easy to stay on the safe surface with each other and within our own lives.

I'm reminded of what President Monson once said:
We become so caught up in the busyness of our lives. Were we to step back, however, and take a good look at what we’re doing, we may find that we have immersed ourselves in the “thick of thin things.” In other words, too often we spend most of our time taking care of the things which do not really matter much at all in the grand scheme of things....
I don't pretend to have this figured out. (Even as I was writing this post, I got distracted by Facebook and news stories, an all-too-common occurrence for me.) I'm a work in progress! But I do notice that I've made progress over the years. I am better at making decisions based on what God has shown me about who He is and who I really am. I trust Him more to guide my life rather than clinging so tightly to my will and plans, too. I am less fearful, less worried about what others think. The more clear I am on God's plan (and His plan for me), the easier it is to prioritize on a daily basis, and to find a deeper sense of joy and purpose in this journey called life.

What helps you get clarity about who you really are and what you value? What helps you stay centered on what matters most even as you tackle the necessary to-dos of your life? How do you cut through the clutter to get personal revelation for your life -- not just about the to-dos but about who God wants you to become?

"Remember who you are." ~The Lion King

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Developing and Sharing Your Talents

As a child, I started playing the violin at eight years old with my elementary school's orchestra. After a few months, I asked my mom if I could have private lessons in order to become a better violin player. My violin teacher growing up was Mrs. Helen Mendel, and during one of my violin lessons with her, she had me listen to a recording of a performance by Itzhak Perlman. I remember listening to his violin playing and being so moved by the sound he projected that I told my violin teacher that I wanted to play just like him one day. She responded to my ambitious goal by reminding me that in order to play like him that I needed to practice as much as he had in his lifetime.

Some background on how Perlman became one of the greatest violinists in the world - he started playing the violin at three years old, and just a few months later he contracted polio and lost the use of his legs. He now walks with crutches and performs while seated. Even though he has played in concert halls around the world, appeared on Sesame Street, done a solo performance for the movie Schindler's List, won 4 Emmy Awards, 15 Grammy Awards, and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008, all of these accomplishments pale in comparison to his true passion which is to teach the violin to others.

He and his wife, Toby, founded the Perlman Music Program in 1993. Seven years later, they purchased an old 28-acre resort and made it into a campus on the shore of Shelter Island, New York. When the wind is right, the sound of music carries across the channel to Long Island's North Fork. Between tours, Perlman teaches at the Julliard School in New York. Perlman also has done several benefit concerts to end polio, a cause that is very close to his heart.

How did Perlman develop his violin talent? It might surprise many of you to learn that as a child, Perlman hated to practice the violin, but one day he asked himself "Why am I practicing the violin and what are my goals in practicing the violin?" This made him do a self-examination of his motives for practicing the violin. He soon realized that in order to become a better violin player, that he needed to change his attitude on WHY he was practicing the violin and HOW he was practicing the violin. He started to focus on practicing the violin with a purpose like creating a better sound or working on his intonation. The more he practiced the violin, the more he realized he had to be organized with specific goals each day of what he wanted to accomplish

His advice to his students is this, "If you practice something wrong-without knowing it-then you have to undo it by practicing even more." He tells his students that if they practice slowly and with true concentration, that they will be more productive in their practice time. This reminds me of the scripture Matthew 25:14-30 about the three servants who received five, three and one talents. I find it interesting that the servant who received five talents created five more new talents.

I admire those individuals in life who not only are willing to develop new talents, but are also willing to share their talents with others. In the Liahona Magazine October 1993, President Elaine Jack reminisces about her grandmother’s talents. "She made all the children’s clothes, knit their socks and mittens, milked cows, churned butter and sold it, raised chickens, ducks, and turkeys, was a counselor in the Relief Society, and gathered wheat.As hard as all that work she did sounds, is any less required of me? I don’t have to do the same physical things Grandma Low did, but I have to be just as industrious, just as compassionate, just as frugal, just as prepared for the winter as she was. This is my heritage.”

What experiences have you had in developing and sharing your talents with others?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Saying "No" in Order to Say "Yes"

Last month, Angel Zimmerman (Managing Partner, Zimmerman and Zimmerman, PA) gave an excellent webinar on time management. If you missed it, you can catch the webinar here. One of the things I love about webinars - you can listen to the recording later if you over-schedule yourself and run out of time.

If you're anything like me, time is often a struggle. I personally always think I have more time than I actually do. "Oh, I can squeeze in just one more email before it's time to leave." And then I'm late. At one of my prior companies, my colleagues joked about Michelle Standard Time, which is precisely 2 minutes late to everything. Not the best way to gain a reputation. 

So how do we fight the urge to do just one more quick thing? One of the points Angel made in her webinar was the importance of saying "No." And the reason for saying no is that you want to say "Yes" to the next opportunity. Sometimes saying no can be difficult - perhaps you're a chronic over-achiever, or a deeply-rooted people pleaser; however, saying no to things that are less important actually gives you the freedom to say yes to the things you really want and need to do.

A couple years ago I read Greg McKeown's book "Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less" which addresses this very notion of the power of saying no. Greg asserts that by saying no to the wrong things, we have the time to pursue the right things. I actually read this book just prior to having my first baby, and it was the best book I read in preparation for motherhood. I felt freer to say no to unimportant tasks and focus on time with my brand new baby. And when I returned to work, I focused on the most important work items and let go of a multitude of unimportant tasks that would have taken more time away from my family.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson summed up these ideas about essentialism in his April 2015 General Conference talk:
Many things are good, many are important, but only a few are essential.
How has saying no helped you better focus on the essential things in your life?