Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rewrite Your Resume and Get Real Results!

Rewrite Your Resume and Get Real Results!

With Resume Guru Leslie Bobrowsky

30 Minute Laser Teleclass

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

1 pm Eastern/10 am Pacific

Cost - FREE!

Good news -- you’ve found a great job listing! Or is it bad news because you have to update your resume – or even write it from scratch? Don’t worry! Once you know key guidelines for creating a resume that will get read, you can refine or recreate your resume successfully. In this information-packed, practical teleclass, resume guru Leslie Bobrowsky of Specialty Training Services Inc. will explain easy ways to refresh and energize your resume including how to:

  • Increase the chance that your resume gets noticed.
  • Determine what to include and what to omit.
  • Write dynamic content that demonstrates your value.
  • Choose the best format and organization of material.
  • Craft a pertinent job objective and a key skills list.

You’ll learn the five big Do’s and five big Don’ts. And, you’ll discover how to transform your resume into an effective sales tool.

Email me to get the call-in information for this FREE session.

Leslie Bobrowsky, President of Specialty Training Services, Inc., is a communication skills and selling skills consultant. Prior to founding her firm 20 years ago, she hired part-time consultants for a consulting firm, sold training programs, and taught résumé writing and job search skills for Federal government agencies. She’s seen a lot of résumés. Privately, her clients have always sought her help with their résumés, and she now combines expertise in business writing and selling to provide résumé renovation services. Visit her at www.specialtytraining.com.

Looking forward to seeing you on the call!


Stop Showing Me How Smart You Are

If you don't know Marshall Goldsmith, you ought to.

Business coach to the stars and author of one of my favorite books, "What Got You Here Won't Get You There" Goldsmith is the brains behind one of my favorite pieces of coaching advice for managers: Stop adding value.

Wha? Isn't that what they pay you for? To add value? Yes -- but not at the expense of your direct reports' commitment to execution.

Goldsmith gives this scenario: Imagine that your staffer comes to you, brimming with excitement (it could happen!) about a great idea she has. As her manager, you recognize that the idea is good (maybe a 75 out of 100) -- but YOU could make it great! So you add value (advice, tweaks, resources, suggestions, etc.), and in doing so, you take a 75 idea to an 80 BUT YOU CUT HER COMMITMENT TO EXECUTION BY 50%! Why? Because it is no longer HER idea -- it's yours.

Was it worth it?

The book certainly is.

And for those of you who like FREE, you can download and share lots of Goldsmith's stuff by visiting his library.

Happy holiday reading!


Monday, November 17, 2008

Great Question #2 from a Strategic Planning Session

So, when we last left off, our question was "Is it sustainable"?...

What an ironic question. Every time I sit down to blog, I tell myself "Keep going! Don't quit! Do another one tomorrow." And alas, now three weeks after the last blog post I realize that blogging is only sustainable for me if I commit to doing it by scheduling it into my calendar.

So enough about me: Here's the second great question:

"Does it add value?"

I mean, think about it: What's the point in doing something sustainable ("Yes, we can keep doing this!") if it doesn't add value ("But who cares if we do or we don't?")

Think about something you are doing at work. For example, you say, yes, we've committed to holding Monday morning staff meetings (sustainable). But how are you adding value by doing that? What objectives are you achieving -- or even more pointedly -- what objectives are you achieving in your regular Monday morning staff meetings that could not be achieved any other way?

Before you add anything else to your to do list, run what you currently have listed through the two questions: Is it sustainable? Does it add value?

Then, see what you can eliminate before you add more.

And keep me in the loop!


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Great Question #1 from a Strategic Planning Session

Ah...back on the road again after being home for the entire month of October (thanks, Jewish holidays!)

As I was facilitating a strategic planning session for a Jewish group, one member posed a terrific question about how the group would vet its activities: "How do we make sure our efforts are sustainable?"

I often use this question with coaching clients as well - clients who are looking to make a significant change in behavior or activities (such as lose weight, network more, etc.) If you can get past the hurdle of starting something, your next hurdle is likely to be the sustainability of the process. How long can you do what you're doing? What do you need to consider or adjust in order to keep it going?

Is eating only salads sustainable? How about skipping all desserts? How long will this last?

But of course, this isn't the only great question...

Tune in for the second part!

Deborah Grayson Riegel

Monday, June 16, 2008

Whose Brain Are You Using?

Last Friday, the kids and I went to a kindergarten graduation party (my kids were the "elderstatesmen" as first graders!). In addition to sno-cones, face-painting and goldfish give-aways (thanks a lot!!!), the kids had the opportunity to guess how many pieces of gum were in the Double Bubble container from Costco. Jacob guessed 200, and Sophie asked me to guess for her, so I said 150.

Well, lo and behold, Jacob won the entire tub, which had 250 pieces! Since we had come to the party on bikes, I had to strap the tub to the back of my bike with bungee cords. On our ride home, Sophie was bemoaning her rare loss of a contest. And while she didn't blame me (exactly), she did proclaim: "I should have used my own brain!"

In coaching, I often ask my clients whose voices they hear when thinking about what they "should" or "shouldn't" do. Many times, it's the voice of a parent, a supervisor, a friend, a spouse, etc. -- rather than their own -- which makes the decision about how to progress a noisy one. We work to clear out the clutter of other people's voices so that the client can hear their own thinking, loud and clear,

So in honor of Sophie, I ask you to think about this when facing your next set of "shoulds": Whose brain are you using?

Deborah Grayson Riegel

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Quiz: Are You Sabotaging Yourself?

Habitual lateness. Extreme disorganization. Not following up sales leads. Self-sabotage takes on a variety of guises and affects people of all ages, professions and economic levels. But it always leads to our not living the life we want for ourselves. Take this Self-Quiz to see whether you might be working against yourself in some areas.

1. It takes me at least a half hour to locate a document I need to send to someone.

2. I can be indecisive and fearful; as a result, chances often pass me by.

3. I tend to start projects with great gusto, but have great difficulty finishing them.

4. My financial situation is chronically chaotic.

5. My actions often jeopardize my relationships, my job and/or my financial stability.

6. I worry a lot about what others think of me.

7. I tend to give in to compulsive behaviors to overeat or partake excessively of unhealthy substances or activities.

8. I seem to be always struggling.

9. I’ve been told I have a problem expressing anger appropriately.

10. I often put off the things I need and want to do. Procrastination and reliability are problems for me.

11. I’m still not living the life I truly want, and I’m starting to lose hope that I ever will.

12. When I really want to do something, I frequently have the thought that I can’t or shouldn’t do it.

13. My relationships tend to eventually fall apart, or I stay in unhealthy relationships.

14. When I think about working out, I immediately start thinking about all the other things I “should” be doing instead. Exercise rarely wins.

15. I’m often late to work and late with assignments; this has hurt my career.

16. I avoid confrontation and/or fawn over others in order to be liked and win their favor.

17. I repeatedly make self-deprecating, belittling comments about myself.

18. I know I have the potential to do more with my life, if I could just get out of my own way.

Self-defeating behaviors often mask a fear of change and growing; when we deliberately hamper our own efforts, we get to avoid the knowledge that our life is up to us, and that we do, indeed, get to choose. Just imagine the life we could be having if we put as much energy and creativity into manifesting our goals as we do avoiding them. It’s not easy to change self-sabotaging patterns, but with time and practice—and a good dose of self-love—it is possible to end a self-defeating cycle and live the life we truly want for ourselves.

Deborah Grayson Riegel, MSW, ACC

Monday, April 21, 2008

Leadership is about what you DO!

"Leadership is action, not position." -- Donald H. McGannon, Former CEO, Westinghouse Broadcast Corporation

Whether you are the board president, the rabbi, rosh yeshiva, CEO -- or hold any title that makes people site up and take notice, remember what people really want and need from you -- your commitment to roll up your sleeves and participate in a meaningful way.

I believe that most of us have two fundamental needs, regardless of our role in the organization -- the need to benefit and the need to contribute. In fact, when I teach sessions on running effective meetings, those are the two criteria for determining who should attend a meeting. If a meeting participant will neither benefit from nor contribute to a meeting, then give them back their time to do something more useful than sit in on a meeting! Trust me -- he or she will thank you for it, and your meeting participants will appreciate a leaner, more focused meeting process.

Those in Jewish organizational leadership positions often benefit from title, position, status, connections, and paycheck for those in paid positions (and yes, I see you -- the one eye-rolling about the idea of benefiting from a Jewish organizational paycheck. But I won't let you distract me!).

Here's the question: does your level of contribution -- decisions made, problems solved, resources developed -- meet or exceed the benefits you receive from your position? How would your lay or professional counterparts and direct reports answer that if asked about you?

If you're not sure, are you willing to ask? If you're willing to ask, who will you start with? If you're not willing, why?

In the words of writer Elbert Hubbard, "Don't make excuses. Make good."


Friday, April 11, 2008

A "Smart Choice" for Trickle-Up Leadership

When Jacob and Sophie were 4, they graduated from tricycles to two-wheelers with training wheels. And Michael and I graduated from part-time worriers to full-time safety officers, hell-bent on making sure that our kids never, ever rode their bikes without helmets. I believe that, in a moment of typical over-reaction, I told the kids that even if they found themselves sitting on their bikes in the middle of our living room that they were to have their helmets strapped on snugly.

So a few weeks later, as we’re driving down the street in our minivan, Sophie calls out, “Mommy, look! There’s a boy riding his bicycle without a helmet!”

And without looking, I say what most helmet-obsessed, sickeningly self-righteous moms would say in that situation, “Well, Sophie, he’s not making a very smart choice, is he?”

Sophie thought about that for a second, and replied, “But Mommy, what if it’s not a choice?”

I asked her what she meant, and that when she blew me away with her reply, almost causing me to veer into oncoming traffic:

“Mommy, what if his family couldn’t afford a bicycle helmet after they bought that bike?”

Before I had a chance to process her thinking, Jacob – who was not about to be outdone by his sister (who is, after all, a whole minute younger) – chimed in, “Mom? You know what? We have a full tzedakah box in the kitchen at home. Why don’t we use that money to buy bicycle helmets for families who don’t have enough money?”

I kid you not. You can't make this stuff up.

And what does this have to do with you or your organization?

Leadership that always “trickles down” is missing a major water source. Give those whom you manage (or parent) the opportunity for their ideas and interests to trickle up.

And what does this have to do with me? Naches, baby. Pure naches.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Good for the Earth and Good for You: A Fabulous Recycled Blog!

I just saw this blog entry from friend, colleague and adult Jewish ed guru-ess Jane Shapiro, and it struck me as truly relevant to everyday life. With her permission, I am recycling it here. Boy, do I feel good about my recycling efforts...

Has anyone else noticed the relationship between heavy metal music and MRIs?
A Blog By Jane Shapiro

Jane Shapiro is a presenter and teacher on topics of Jewish history, literature and thought, and on Marketing and Recruitment for Adult Jewish Learning, at nation-wide professional conferences. She has over twenty years of experience as a classroom teacher for adults.

This week I found myself in one of those awful containers trying to do my best relaxation breathing while the MRI machine clanged away at loud decibels. That is when I began to notice that the frequencies of the magnetic resonance (does anyone remember those cool toys with the slivers of magnet that you could move around on a funny guy's head to create toupees and moustaches?) sounded a lot like some of the percussion of certain bands that I have heard. Beat boxing and bone rapping.

To keep myself preoccupied I did what I always do in similar situations: multi-task. Breathing, the clanging, listening to music on the headphones, composing this blog and outlining a presentation I have to make in June at Northwestern Hillel. Classic. Why do one thing when you can do 5?

I know that there is a lot of press on the evils of multi-tasking (the M word) but I for one find it exhilarating. How better to show that I am in top mental form, at one with the world, creative, moving, shaping, challenging myself, than to be jumping artfully from one big idea to the next. With my Mac I'm even better. I can write, check my email, listen to itunes , talk on the phone and facebook all at the same time. Life beyond boundaries and time zones, endlessly dynamic.

But then the MRI machine stopped clanging and everything felt altered. It was quiet, my breath became natural and I felt a lot of dissonant parts reassemble themselves.

Breath and soul are synonymous in Hebrew, covered by the words Neshama (yes like the singer) Nefesh. Additionally there is Ruach which means both wind and spirit.

Breath signifies life, but these words are also conveying that there is something more to human essence. A Neshama is considered something pure, Tehora, open to the world. As much as we strive to measure ourselves through our gravitas, our weightiness and productivity in the world, we are supposed to see ourselves as buoyant and holy.

So what does this have to do with multitasking? We have a time-honored tradition as Jews (literally) to balance the two parts of our selves: the creative multi-tasking one, and the Soulful presence. Like other things of value in Jewish life, it gets prioritization in time, in the calendar. March along banging metal for 6 days and then lay off, Shavat so you can enter a phase of vaYinafash (Exodus 31:16-17 for the full quote which I highly recommend.) which translates best as "ensoul yourself". Breathe, shut down some electronics, recalibrate, become not human but humane once again before the irresistible urge to be creative returns.

If you think about the expression Shabbat Shalom, it is not trivial. Shalom means a so much more than peace: integrity, reintegration of inside and out, at-one-ness. When one Jew greets another with this saying, it comes from more than a historical and communal place. It seems to me that we are wishing others spiritual wholeness for a brief period of time, that we see in each other so much more than our text messages or facebook walls can convey.

A final question to pose is how to cultivate a Jewish frame of thinking ( on your terms) that would allow you to shut down the mental heavy metal for 25 hours. What would it be like to turn off your Blackberry for 25 hours?

(Deb's note: I first read this on my Blackberry!)


Monday, April 7, 2008

RA RA for Team Ruach!

When it comes to getting your staff, volunteers, donors, members, etc. excited and engaged about their work for and connection to your organization, you're going to need to create a little ruach: "RA! RA!"

Now before you pull out your high-school pom-poms, try this less embarrassing and more effective approach to rallying the troops:

R - Recognition: Tell your staff members and volunteers specifically what they have done to make your life easier and/or how they have contributed to the organization's mission. Make sure that you meet each person's preferences for how they like to be recognized (publicly vs. privately, in-person vs. over the phone, in writing, with a small token, etc.)

A - Appreciation: The options are endless and you can find one that fits your budget and timing: take someone to lunch, give a Starbucks gift card, stop and ask them about a hobby or personal interest, offer some schedule flexibility, allot some professional development budget for them, or just take the time to tell them. Oh, and remember handwritten thank you notes? They never go out of style!

R - Respect: Trade in the Golden Rule (treat others as you would want to be treated) for the Platinum Rule (treat others as THEY would would want to be treated). So, while you are finding out how each of your staff and volunteers defines respect, here's one universally appreciated gift: Listening. Really listening. That means listening on two levels -- for both content (what is being said, and what isn't being said) and emotion (how the message is being communicated). To do this effectively, you'll need to put away the Blackberry, turn off the lap top, and get rid of any other distractions. Attentive listening is hard -- and desperately needed. But it's free of charge and looks good on everyone. Try it.

A - Accountability: When the U.S. Army was looking for a workshop on Accountability, they found my online self-assessment, downloaded it, and called us up for training. I invite you to take this assessment and see where your staff and volunteers may be looking to you for greater leadership: www.myjewishcoach.com/pdf/accountability-self-assess.pdf.

When it comes to retaining your organizations most important resources -- your human resources -- make sure you take the time and make the effort to give them what they need to keep contributing.



The Pain of Participation

My husband Michael sits on the executive committee of our kids' Jewish day school. An alum of the school himself, he takes his board work seriously, and is proudly following in the footsteps of his parents (his dad was board president and his mom was president of the Parents Association). And like so many of us involved in mission-driven work, he has come home from his board meetings frustrated at times -- with a process, a decision, a comment, etc.

When I see his annoyance, I often think about a comment I heard from Reconstructionist Rabbi David Teutsch, one of the foremost Jewish communal thinkers in America, who currently leads the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College's Center for Jewish Ethics. When discussing the interplay of Jewish values and organizational decision making, he commented that "the people who make the decisions should also feel the pain of those decisions."

I have to imagine that he meant pain both literally and figuratively -- but I do know that many of us in volunteer work -- paid or volunteer -- feel that pain, that frustration, that disappointment often enough for us to wonder if this is worth the tsuris.

While I don't have the answers, I do have an evocative question for you to ask yourself, shared with me by master coach Steve Mitten:

Do you want to serve where it's easy -- or where you're needed?

What did that bring up for you? What answers? What feelings? What considerations? Sit with your thoughts for a while. Ask yourself again on a different kind of day. Ask your professional or lay counterpart. Have a discussion.

On my last day of coaching school at Coach U., my esteemed faculty team warned us that coaches are NOT to coach their family members without their permission. I tested that theory out soon after graduation, and found, of course, that they were right on the money.

So the next time I see Michael come home from a board meeting feeling that way, I think I'll just hear him out, and maybe let him know that I have a blog entry he might want to check out...


Seriously...What's ONE Jacob worth???

The kids and I were driving to nursery school on a rainy fall day, when we stopped at a red light. The car behind us, unfortunately, did not. Our minivan shuddered with the impact, and, after catching my breath, I immediately turned around to make sure that my then 4 year old twins, Jacob and Sophie, were ok. Both looked stunned but reported that they were unharmed, and so I stepped out of the van to check for damage, which included a banged-up rear bumper and that was about it. The other driver apologized profusely, gave me her insurance information, and the kids and I kept heading towards school.

Now, if a car accident isn’t a teachable moment, I don’t know what is, so I took advantage of it.

“Is everyone ok?” I asked again.

“Yes, Mommy,” they replied.

Then Jacob asked, “Mommy, is the car ok?”

“Well,” I continued, “the car did get a little banged up, but the most important thing is that we didn’t get banged up!”

“How come?” asked Sophie.

“Think of it this way, Sophie. Which would be easier to replace – our car or our Sophie and Jacob?”

“We-ell,” Sophie philosophized, “we do know a lot of Jacobs. There’s Jacob Bernstein, and Jacob Schachter and Jacob Pomper…”

Not quite the lesson I was looking to teach, but it was a logical answer.

Here's what I realized in this exchange with Sophie that has changed that way that I communicate with clients, friends and family.

  • Don't try to teach lessons leading with emotional examples for fundamentally logic-driven people.
  • When you need to be very direct and clear with your message (i.e. "our physical safety is more important than our property."), don't make someone guess it.

And perhaps most importantly...

  • Don't overestimate personal loyalties (especially in -- but not exclusively among -- 4 year old twins!)



Monday, March 10, 2008


As my husband Michael and I were heading to JFK airport, envisioning the sun, sand and frosty beverages of our upcoming "no work allowed" weekend in St. Martin, I peeked into the car to our right to see a frightening sight.

"Michael," I exclaimed in horror. "That guy over there is driving with his knees while he texts!"

Michael turned to me, eyebrow raised. "Jealous?"

Boy does he know me. Boy oh boy.

So here are my two pledges, beginning immediately:
No work on vacations -- it's bad for my relationships, my mental health and for my own business
No texting while driving -- it's bad for my safety and the safety of those around me

Now call me an overachiever (please...do!), but I think we could all benefit from identifying ONE habit we need to attend to immediately for your own health, wellbeing or safety.

What's yours?


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Looking forward to Freckles: My Day Before Vacation

I finally did it:

I used some of the frequent flier miles I have been hoarding for years and booked a NON-WORK TRIP WITHOUT THE KIDS (see that, honey? I didn't feel a little bit faint this time!)

Michael and I are going to St. Martin. And St. Maarten. And we'll probably pop over to Anguilla -- because we can. Four days. No kids. But at a hotel with internet access (sorry, hon!!!)

So here are the questions that got me to this trip...

  • What can I do to better manage my work and my life?
  • Who am I outside of work?
  • To what extent does work define me?

...and When am I going to schedule another break from work?

What are your answers? I'd love to know! But not this weekend....


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Have Your Book, And Read It, Too!

I was speaking this morning with a coaching client, who was trying to commit to an exercise program. When I asked her what some of the roadblocks were, she mentioned that she gets herself caught up in a good book, and then doesn't want to break away from the book to go to the gym.

Now for me, I don't even need a GOOD book as a temptation to skip a workout! But here's what I do: I have a special, terrible stash of junky magazines I pick up from my airport visits (I am too embarrassed to name them here, but you probably can guess that at least one of them leads with a "Britney!" headline) -- and I only allow myself to read them on the treadmill, bike or elliptical. That way, when I am craving crap (of the intellectual kind), I take myself directly to a sweat n' read session.

I suggested to my client that she buy a stash of books she has been eager to read, and park them in her gym bag. They can only escape that gym bag AT THE GYM. They are not to see the light of day anywhere else.

Her response? "Why didn't I think of that?"

My response: "Hey, that's what a coach is for!"

Happy reading!!!


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Eat, Eat! A Lesson on Networking

"More business decisions occur over lunch and dinner than at any other time, yet no MBA courses are given on the subject." Peter Drucker

Lunch? Dinner? Who has the time?

Well, the Jewish mother in me says, "You gotta eat!" The organizational coach in me says, "If you're gonna eat, you might as well eat strategically!" No, strategic eating doesn't mean making sure that your meal has vegetables, protein and carbs (but don't tell that to my nutritionist). It means using your "down time" for a higher purpose.

I know this is not new. There are books about it, like "Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time" by by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz.

But in the same that NBC TV calls their re-runs "New To You" if you haven't already seen them, if you're not already actively networking, then this is, in fact, New To You.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  1. If your network were "perfect" what three things would be different for you?
  2. Where do you want to go in 6 months? a year? 3 years?
  3. Who specifically can help you get there? How?
  4. What's keeping you from taking a more active role in your own development?

...and one more:

5. Who in your existing network is draining you rather than giving you energy, and what might you do about this?


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My Jewish Coach Goes in Search of the Holy Grail in North Carolina

Last week, my Aunt Laurie moved to temperate North Carolina from frigid, frostbitten Minnesota. Tomorrow, I head down south to help her unpack, set-up and explore her new surroundings. In explaining to my kids, 7 year old twins Jacob and Sophie, where I was headed and why (as a frequent business traveler, I have mastered a 10-second "pitch" explaining the why, where and how long of each sojourn), I tried to engage them in my mission.

"So," I asked, "what kinds of places would you like me to find near Aunt Laurie's house for when YOU get to come visit?" Like the lawyer I am not (but my father-in-law secretly hopes I will become), I asked the question knowing the answer already. I sat back, waiting for the inevitable list: toy store, candy store, ice cream store...

And this is why I am not a lawyer -- because I never saw this coming.

Sophie replied: "Bathrooms."

Bathrooms? Not an amusement park, zoo or go-kart track?


Basic needs. What fun would everything else be if you don't have a bathroom?

It reminded me about how important it is to take a step back and distinguish between needs and wants. So ask yourself:

What are three things you really need -- in your career, in your relationships, for your health?
What are three things you really want -- in your career, in your relationships, for your health?

Not sure? Use my FREE TOOL to find out.

Oh, and be warned: it doesn't ask about bathrooms.



Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Work-Life Balance: What the Jews can learn from a Monk

Last February, I was a speaker at the Training Magazine Conference and Exposition, sharing some highlights from "Corporate Universities in the Non-Profit Sector," a chapter I wrote in a business book (or as my mom put it: "dry") The Next Generation of Corporate Universities (Mark Allen, ed.) One of the best things about speaking at conferences is that you get to attend the rest of the sessions for free, and I found myself in a session with a captivating speaker, Kenny Moore, former monk and present-day business executive. Talk about bashert -- he is the Corporate Ombudsman and Human Resources Director at KeySpan Corporation (now National Grid), where my husband works!

Anyhow, Kenny, author of "The CEO and the Monk" and host of the KennytheMonk.com website wrote a great piece in an email about Work-Life Balance that I am reproducing here, with not just his permission but his blessings (I mean, he was a monk...). BTW: He told me he loves the MyJewishCoach.com website!

So keep reading...

Work-Life Balance: A Conspiracy of Optimism
By Kenny Moore

Work-Life balance is, at best, a fabrication. At worst, a cruel hoax.

It's time to stop believing all the hype. As adults, we well understand that it's never been a question of balance. It's always been a question of choice. As the Spanish proverb reminds us: "Take what you want, says God, just pay for it."

Living with the Consequences

Sharon Edelstein has a young daughter named Rebecca. Sharon came home from work one day and found her jumping on the bed and told her to stop - she was going to get hurt. "I won't get hurt" Rebecca said, and continued bouncing. Her mother repeated the warning and added that she might also break the bed. "No, I won't," Rebecca insisted. Her mother gave up. "Fine," she said. "Do what you want. You'll just have to live with the consequences." Rebecca immediately stopped bouncing. "I don't want to go and live with them, Mommy," she said. "I don't even know who the Consequences are."

As the ancient seers stated so well, we don't get to do everything in a single lifetime. We merely get to make choices. Not all choices. Only some. And we pay a price for the one's we choose. Sort of like being at a buffet luncheon without your cardiologist. You can eat anything that's available; you have only to deal with the aftereffects.

Growing old gracefully provides more than ample opportunity to get clear about what we consider important and then make our decisions accordingly. In this journey called life, we're all free to do whatever we want. And like Rebecca, we need only live with the consequences.

But don't expect to get balance. What we'll get is stress: that dynamic tension of trying to creatively live out our lives in a less-than-perfect world. And we're required to do it all as frail, flawed and frightened mortals.

Want a high-flying business career? Go for it.
Might you desire to get married, raise a family and live in conjugal bliss? Good for you.
Maybe you'd prefer to use your artistic talents and create a world of new possibilities? God bless.
Perhaps you'd want to be independent and care free? I'm envious.
But if you expect to have it all, get ready to play center stage in your own exciting Greek Tragedy.

Finding Help in Unusual Places

I've got a wife who works full time and two teen age boys who are experts at disrupting the status quo. I spend most of my days behind a desk in a corporate job. I haven't yet found any balance. Mostly, I've found chaos. But alas, on a good day, some insight.

I no longer look to Jack Welch or Oprah Winfrey to give much help in discerning life's mystery. Rather, I look to the poets. Freud got a few things right and he was certainly on to something when he said: "Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me."

Making choices and living out the inherent tension it creates requires a focus on "being" rather than "doing." The ability to be silent, ponder the deeper possibilities and creatively craft a life-response are aspects of maturity more closely akin to the work of a Poet than a CEO.

Fostering this poetic outlook requires a personal discipline that may not be to everyone's liking. For those not yet ready to embrace it but prefer an addiction to cell phones, e-mails and non-stop meetings, e. e. cummings offers some practical words of advice:

Poetry is being, not doing
If you would follow,
Even at a distance,
The poet's calling,
You've got to come out of the

Measurable doing universe
Into the immeasurable house of being.

Nobody can be alive for you.
Nor can you be alive for anyone else.

If you can take it, take it and be,
If you can't, cheer up and go about
Other people's business, and do and undo
Until you drop.

Wasting Time: a Portal to the Divine

There's been a spate of books about Atheism surfacing of late on the New York Time's Best Seller list, but I don't think it's gaining broad acceptance. For most people, it's not a practical choice. It seems Henny Youngman's experience continues to hold sway: "I thought about becoming an atheist, but I gave it up. There were no Holidays."

The real threat for modern folks is not a lack of belief. It's a lack of time. We're so busy being productive and trying to get balance in our lives that we're in danger of missing the Divine when He shows up.

Being busy may work wonders for our Professional life, but it wreaks havoc on our Interior one.

If we want to find some semblance of sanity and advance in our Spiritual Journey, we may need to slow down, risk being less productive and indulge in the ancient rite of "Wasting Time."

In my earlier days, I spent 15 years in a monastic community as a Catholic priest. I remember once reading about "The Good Samaritan Experiment" with 40 seminarians at Princeton Theological Seminary. After waxing eloquently about their dedication to God and all His people, they were asked to deliver a sermon on the parable of The Good Samaritan. For those lacking the rigors of monastic studies, it's the story told by Jesus about a man who was set upon by robbers, beaten and left on the side of the road. A priest walks by and offers no help. Neither does a Levite, another religious leader of the era. It's a lone man from Samaria, hated by the local gentry, who goes out of his way to offer assistance - hence the title: Good Samaritan.

In the Princeton experiment, when the seminarians had their homily prepared, they were asked to walk to another part of the campus and deliver their sermon to waiting students. Half were told to hurry, because they were running late. The others were informed there was no rush, they had plenty of time.

As they journeyed across campus, the experimenters arranged to have an actor slumped as a "victim" strategically positioned along their route so that the seminarians were forced to step over or around the man.

So, who stopped to help ... and who didn't? They were all budding "men of the cloth" on their way to deliver a sermon on just such a situation.

What the experiment revealed was that those who were in a hurry passed the "victim" by. Those with time to spare, stopped and helped. It seems altruism and our commitment to our fellow man is less connected to our religious beliefs and more closely aligned with having some free time.

When the Divine shows up, most of us are busy being too productive to even notice His presence. Maybe God doesn't care whether we go to church, temple or mosque. Maybe He's already out in the world waiting to meet us, but we keep passing Him by because we're in such a hurry.

Paying a Price for Living our Lives

Since leaving the monastery, I'd had two near-death experiences. The first was with "incurable" cancer. The second, a heart attack. Both were not-so-subtle reminders that my time's running short.

We're not going to be around forever, and we're not able to have it all. Acknowledging this will generate more than ample disappointment and regret. And we'll pay a price for it: Guilt.

But don't be dismayed. Guilt doesn't necessarily mean that we've done something wrong. It's more an indication that we have said "no" to some larger authority: parent, teacher, boss. Guilt's an indication that we've chosen to live our own lives and not someone else's.

Stop trying to achieve balance and start learning to enjoy chaos. Discovering and relishing one's imperfect life sooner rather than later is what's available.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said that most of us go to our graves with our music still inside. So, forget about work-life balance and let go of the need to please everybody. Rather, get out there and make some choices and let your music resonate.

The guilt won't kill you and you'll do just fine if some folks don't like you.

And you certainly don't need to have it all. For as Steven Wright reminds us: even if you did, where would you put it?

P.S. If you're thinking about writing me, give in to the temptation. I love getting mail ... and being influenced by what you have to say. Please e-mail me at kennythemonk@yahoo.com.