Monday, March 20, 2017

The Romance of Anticipation

Do you like surprises?

I do. I love them, actually. One year for my birthday, two of my best friends dropped by unannounced with a piece of cake and coffee. During the course of our visit, one of them said, "Just to clarify... we stopped by without calling ahead because we knew you wouldn't mind." She paused for effect. "Don't ever do this to me." [mental note made]

On the other hand, there's something romantic -- poetic even -- about anticipation. About knowing the plan and looking forward to it.

The last couple of months were filled with hard conversations, some angst, and a decision which has changed our original plans.

To give you a little backstory... (I received a letter from a dear friend this past week and was embarrassed to discover she didn't know where we are and what we're doing... oi, talk about failure to communicate!)...

In August of 2014, we got to move from Spokane, Washington back to Germany. LeRoy took an assignment on Ramstein Air Force Base, in the southwestern part of Germany, situated about forty minutes northeast of Saarbr├╝cken and the border of France. 

(*Trivia: Ramstein Air Base and the surrounding region has the largest concentration of Americans living outside of the States at a population of about 100,000. They call this area Little America.)

The assignment was a three-year commitment with an option to apply for a two-year extension, meaning we'd get to live here for five years.

You might know this about me, but I adore living, exploring, and traveling in places outside of my cultural norms. To revel in foreign languages, foods, and sights... to take in the romance of cultural nuances, touch history, and experience life outside of my comfort zone. Though, I admit, it's not quite the same living in an area saturated with American culture. Still.

You know how your heart beat quickens and, captivated by the moment, all your senses come fully alive as you breathe deeply, wanting an experience to last as long as possible? That moment when you're in your sweet spot? 

That's what living and traveling abroad means to me. Also, I love how exposing our children to different places and cultures provides a unique education. So, when my husband arrived home a couple of months ago and suggested we cancel our extension and return to our hometown of Spokane, Washington two years earlier than we anticipated, well... we struggled through some hard conversations until we arrived at the decision to return this year instead of 2019. 

So, the new and revised plan is to arrive back in Spokane at the end of this August. We'll keep you posted as we arrange flights and dates. 

Right now, I'm joyfully embracing the reality of "Surprise! Plans changed!" and vigilantly working on creating my romantic and dreamy list of all the things to anticipate as we transition to yet another chapter in this adventure. (After all, life is intensely romantic and Grace-filled and adventurous... no matter where we are in the world. There's nothing quite like living headlong into the suspense and adventure and uncertainty and poetry and romance of it all.)

What about you? What are you anticipating? What's surprised you recently? How are you seizing the romance and adventure of your life right now?  Your turn. Hit reply and let me know. Or comment below. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

From Idea to Implementation

Is it just me, or do you ever find yourself waxing eloquent on some subject only to hear at the end, the sound of slipping record needle, rrrrrrzz, instead of the climatic wwwaaaaahh of earth-shaking enlightenment?

You know, that rousing, emotional oratory where you find your heart pounding and you're ready to jump all in?

"Never, never, never give up!"

I'm sold, Mr. Churchill. Where do I go to opt in for your email list? I want to receive weekly newsletters reminding me to persevere. To stay the course. To keep my head up and press on.

Wait.

One second.

How??? Now that you've sold me on the importance of something, what's the next step?  

Guys, that's me. On both sides. Just ask my children if I wax eloquent on things I'm passionate about.

If only we'd recorded some of my speeches, I'm sure we'd find a few nuggets of gold which we'd then go to one of those artsy websites and find an emotive background, put my quote in some italicized script, and post it on social media where it'd inspire greatness in the masses.

Then again, my children will tell you that for all my eloquence, too often I fail to make my points actionable. They listen respectfully, smile, and go back to whatever they were doing before I felt it my duty to share my flash of insight with them.

{sigh}

This is why I believe in the inestimable value of truth-telling friends, mentors, and coaches. How often I've found myself at the end of what I felt was one of my more brilliant discourses, [I know. Right?], when the person across from me responded with, "Huh. How does that work? Can you make that practical?"

Then it's my turn. "Huh?"

If this is you, I have actionable counsel for you.

Write in a journal. Invest in a coach or a counselor. Take a mentor to coffee. Surround yourself with truth-tellers. Get accountability.

The act of writing down thoughts and speaking our ideas out loud to someone who gives honest feedback, is a great way to find out whether we're simply inspiring others, (which is awesome, too), or helping them transform their lives. There's nothing like being asked questions which lead to breakthroughs. People who brainstorm strategies and plans with you. It's remarkable.

It's how to move from an idea to the actual event or thing worth making a remark about.

For me, right now, it's writing a book... and my brilliant editor who writes in the margin next to an entire section where I've described in beautiful, poetic, epic literary composition, "What's your point? This doesn't connect or tie together. Try figuring out what you were trying to say." [cue record needle slipping]



It's taking all those ideas on sticky notes and sheets of paper and dry-erase inspirations on window and turning them into something that might actually help others.

And, yes, I'm unimaginably grateful for the feedback.  



What about you? What ideas do you need to take action on? Art, a project, a conversation, or something else that you've been talking about but not starting?

Who do you need to get help from to form a plan, a strategy? And accountability?
The world needs your brilliance.


Leave me a comment below. I'd love to hear what you're working on.





Monday, January 2, 2017

"You Are The Average Of . . ."

You know the saying. You are the average of the five people you surround yourself with.

Last night, we spent the evening with an extraordinary family. Before they arrived, we were mere acquaintances. Yet, from the moment their coats were hung and the salad and side dish they brought were set on the table, the conversation volleyed creativity and ideas and possibilities.

Although dinner time was early in the evening, our conversation went late. These people cultivate a no excuses culture in their marriage and in their home. (Yes, please. Surround me with more of that.)

Encounters like these are oxygen for when the journey is long and our creative brain starts to get a little foggy. Here's a bit of motivation . . . at one point in the conversation, the husband said, "My work doesn't bring its' own reward, so I need to find ways to bring the intensity."

Bring the intensity. I smiled. I told him I hadn't heard that term used in at least three weeks, ever since Isaiah moved back to the States.

People who look for ways to bring the intensity are typically people who also take extreme ownership for their lives. They're always upping the ante, for themselves and whoever has the privilege of sharing their space. It's refreshing.

Later in the evening, we got on the topic of our personal websites. I told them about the website I've had for three years -- which only four or five people know about. His response was classic.

"Wait. You have a website no one visits? You don't share it?"

I cringed. Without an ounce of shaming, his question challenged me to face my pride and ego and move forward.

So, here it is. My website: www.sharonannolson.com

One of the ongoing projects in my life.

And thanks to our new friends, (they're brave, daring, audacious folks who foster undaunted faith and passionate mindsets), I'm rolling out the red carpet and inviting you in.

Please excuse the dust, the mess, and the noise. Hardhat recommended. We're in the process of figuring out what it means to bring the intensity.

How about you?

Do you have any projects right now which might be challenging you to take a daring step of faith? To bring the intensity?

Who are the people in your life who energize and inspire you? (Have you told them thank you?)

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Meet One of My Coaches

This business of serving and leading those in our sphere of influence . . .it's not for the faint of heart.


"We're in the middle of a corporate restructuring and I sure would love it if a professional consultant or coach would come to our headquarters to help us." I said it completely serious, our friends knowing that by "corporate" I mean our family and "restructuring" means, we're going through a season of transition. But when I say, "...a professional consultant or coach," I mean exactly a professional consultant or coach. 

I think he was half-joking, but Mark chuckled and raised his hand, "I'll do it." I looked across the room at him.

"You're on."

*Side note: He's 11-years old.

After Life Group, he and I stood in the kitchen, looking at my calendar. His mom stood off to the side as he glanced up at the ceiling as though his schedule hung there, invisible to everyone but him. 

"I believe Wednesday at 1:00 will work." His eyes met mine and then we both glanced over at his mom for affirmation. Yes, 1:00 then.

On Wednesday, one of my board members, (my son, Ezekiel), and I knocked on the door of their temporary lodging facilities, the short-term apartments for families about to re-locate to another military base. His parents apologized for not being able to stay, "We just have so many errands to run and last-minute preparations to make . . ." She hugged me and closed the door behind her. 

"Have a seat," Mark gestured toward the sparse furnishings. "So, tell me what you're working on." He sat across from us on a swivel recliner and watched as I took a notebook and pen from my bag.

Over the course of the next 90 minutes, Mark asked brilliant questions, challenged me to dig deep, discover underlying motives, prioritize, break down goals into doable action steps, and even helped me come up with a "stop doing" list. He brainstormed game-changing ideas with me. He listened. 

In fact, he didn't really talk much at all except for the questions he asked me. Sometimes, I rambled. (That might be an understatement.) And still, he was able to take my ramblings, form a concise, coherent summary, and use it to lead the conversation forward with another intelligent question.

The meeting was professional and effective. In fact, I credit that coaching session for the breakthrough in our family over the next couple of days.

Takeaway: Are you training your employees, supervisors, children, colleagues, teammates . . . to lead through coaching? 

Are you cultivating a culture that values listening, asking great questions, and engaging in meaningful conversations? 

The value of a coach cannot be overstated. If you have goals, make sure you also have someone to hold you accountable, challenge you, brainstorm ideas with, and leverage strategic and actionable problem solving techniques. 


**Mark's mom is a co-founder and Management Consultant at Overt Resolutions Group helping companies with conflict resolution and strategic problem solving. 

See where Mark gets his influence and training? ;)