Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What are you waiting for? The Courage and Commitment to Communicate

I spoke to a dear friend of mine yesterday who reported back to me that she had used the Pink Elephant Promise and tried to have a conversation about an issue that had been lingering in her relationship for the past 6 months.   When I asked how it went she said that it really didn't go so well and that it wasn't the Promise or even the set up that went badly, but rather  how "right" she felt and how that feeling of being "right" got in her way of having a conversation that created understanding.  

What is so wonderful about this is that the conversation happened, she had the opportunity to step back and reflect and agree to reconvene later in the week.    That's a win in my book and here's why...

There is nothing easy about having those tough conversations.  Tough conversations are not going to be easy, otherwise they would be "Easy" conversations.   The Pink Elephant Project and its Promise is by no means a silver bullet that will resolve the issue at hand but rather a catalyst for brining to the surface what needs to be brought to the surface.

In fact what most people including myself will find is that the first Pink Elephant conversation will actually bring up a host of other Pink Elephants.   Why?  Its because the unspoken and the fear that surrounds the conversation show's up in so many other ways within our relationships.  

These unspoken conversations are like hidden land mines that can go off with sometimes the slightest provocation.  They are responsible for the seemingly random barbs and sometimes passive aggressive behavior or in other cases a slow and gentle drifting away from one another.   Relationships take work and they take a level of commitment to one another to continue to engage one another on a daily basis as well as a commitment to be responsible for ones own feelings and interpretations.    

I know from my own experience the longer you ignore what's been on your mind and pretend you're "fine" with things the greater the suffering you will experience in the relationship.   What is amazing to me is our willingness to suffer unnecessarily and our incredible ability to mask that suffering will all kinds of things: buying things, traveling, exercise, working, food, drugs, alcohol and sex.  What I have come to know from my own life and working with others on this exact issue is that ITS NOT SUSTAINABLE.   It takes way too much effort and work to keep masking the obvious and while we can delude ourselves and have become quite adept in doing so, if we really tell the truth, we end up simply tolerating our lives and the people in it.  I've been FINE for the past almost 39 years and I'm over it!  

Ultimately we all have got to accept that for any given circumstance there are just as many interpretations as there are people looking at the circumstance.   Given that, all we can do is begin to understand what each of our perspective is based, be curious about the others perspective, and start to see where if possible we can soften our response to situations that seem to be different than what we believe is "true."

What it comes down to for me is that I would rather find the Courage and Commitment to Communicate TODAY, face my fear of criticism and rejection, say what needs to be said, and if need be have a series of follow up discussions than sit back, suffer unnecessarily, and quietly wait for the next issue to arise.  

I've heard it put a couple of ways:   You can put icing on a mudpie and pretend you've got a cake but at the end of the day you've still got mudpie. 

Or in the words of my mentor Matthew Ferry:  You can build a rose garden above a sewer and it may look pretty but at the end of the day it still stinks when you get close to it.  

What conversations have you been unwilling to have that if you had it would make a difference in your overall well being today?

I know its not easy, and one of the goals of the Project is to recognize that this is going on everywhere with everyone, it is part of the human experience.  By sharing with one another what is possible by breaking though our own fears and working through the issues rather than pretending they don't exist, we can begin to help each other and keep encouraging each other to find the "Courage and Commitment to Communicate." 

Are you in?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Why Community Matters & The Power of Vulnerablity

For those of you who don't know me and for those that do,  I have been on the road for the past 5 months on an extraordinary journey.  On December 3rd I left my life in Corona Del Mar, CA after a sudden and painful end to an engagement.  As a coach and communications consultant I was devastated by the fact that I didn't see the signs, and that I didn't see it coming.    

I had no idea what I was going to do and had no idea of where I was going to go.   I had just completed 4 consulting contracts and one client remaining.   We were going into the holidays, with a troubled economy, fear and insecurity was everywhere.   I didn't have a whole lot of money in the bank and a few thousand dollars in receivables.   Where was I going to go?  Where was I going to live?   What was I going to do?   I was suddenly all alone and not sure what to do. 

The original plan was to go back to NY for the holidays, fly back to California and drive back to NY after New Years and stay with the folks until I could figure out what I was going to do.   What unfolded for me over the last 5 months was nothing short of magical. I found Community.  

I decided to sell everything.  If it didn't fit in my 2002 Toyota Forerunner is wasn't coming with me.   I left my 79 VW Bus and Surfboard and packed my ski's, golf clubs, 2 pieces of artwork, some clothes, a surprising number of shoes, boxes of pictures, some important files, other various memories, my macbook pro, and my Iphone and started heading east.  

This may sound silly to some, but one of the first things I did was change my Facebook status from engaged to single.   It sent a ripple to those that knew me as I had just recently proudly posted an article that featured my fiancĂ©e and I in our college alumni newsletter talking about how we were at school together, how we met 16 yrs later and decided we were going to be married on Colgate Day June 13th 2009.   It all looked good online, great story, successful consulting practice, great fiancee, great dog, surfing all the time, living on the water, great sunsets....    

I was amazed by the number of people that I hadn't spoken to in years in some cases over 20 yrs that reached out to offer their support and share a story or two about their losses in life.... i heard about lost pregnancy's, family illness, dogs that have past and other heart wrenching events from some good friends but also from old long lost friends that I had reconnected with online.   Late night chats online, phone calls on the road, and messages back and forth really kept me tethered to something more powerful than anything that I have ever experienced.  I found a greater community.   It was in those people and stories that I found my strength and connectedness.  I wasn't alone and I suddenly I became inspired.   

It was December when it really hit me and I received the inspiration to start the Pink Elephant Project.   I have been fascinated by social networks and the reach of the web, but there was something missing for me in the networks that I was a part of.   What was missing was my participation!  I started off very cautious online, not wanting everyone to know my business and was worried about keeping up the "right" image.  Those concerns started to fade as what I was experiencing and looking for was connectedness.    As I started to share with others, others began sharing with me.   The more vulnerable I was willing to be, the more vulnerable others were will to be with me.   I don't know if it was just the timing and the uncertainty that we were all feeling with the elections, the economy, and our futures or something else but it seems that we were all searching in our own way to make sense out of the current situation.    There was a certain humanity that was being expressed in the emails and chats that I had never experienced before.   There was also a certain generosity and good will that I experienced from my community that redefined what most people would ever think was possible. 

I was on the phone with a good friend of mine somewhere along my journey who basically said... The violins aren't playing to loudly for you anymore... lets see you've been to NYC, Zion National Park, Aspen, Telluride, Durango and Santa Fe over the past couple of months skiing and playing in the mountains... let me give you a little insight to my life.  :)   

I had started on the road January 3rd  on my way to NY and  headed off to St George, UT to visit some dear friends of mine from my days in Alta, UT I hadn't seen in about 10 yrs.  It was lovely, I had a beautiful room right at the mouth of Zion National Park, great food, great conversations, I shared with them my story and they shared theirs with me.     I would spend half the day playing and connecting and half the day working on the Project.  While I was there it occurred to me that I didn't really have to be in NY and that I had such an incredible community in the Rocky Mountains after living and skiing in the Rockies for over 13 yrs.  I knew  that there would be nothing better for me than to stay in the Mountains and work on the project.   After all, I had everything I needed and owned in my car.  I had my Mac Book Pro, My IPhone and a virtual assistant who was turning my thoughts and ideas into organized coherent paragraphs.   All I needed was a place to lay my head down and an internet connection. 

I kept updating my Facebook status and connecting with friends sharing my experiences, the inspiration of the project, and the financial and emotional challenges that came from the break up and being on the road.   I was living a day at a time with no schedule or real plan other than to make sure I was doing what it took to get the project off the ground and take care of myself.   Incredible housesitting and petsitting opportunities seemingly came out of the blue in some of the most beautiful houses in the rockies, free ski passes, comped meals and drinks at incredible restaurants, wonderful home cooked meals, connections with extraordinary people.    This was hardly couch surfing and what I learned about was a new currency.   The whole time I was operating from a place of contribution and vulnerability.  I saw how I could help my friends and they gladly reached out to help me.   

As my housing, food, and skiing needs were being met something even more miraculous was happening with the project.   I had and have no budget for the project.  There was a laundry list of things that needed to get done that cost money.   I needed to get a web presence, I needed legal help, I needed design help, I needed accounting help, I needed fulfillment help, I needed marketing expertise and I just needed to know that I was moving in the right direction.   I started posting my intentions on line in various forums and began connecting with new people that seemed to be interesting.   I kept sharing my vision with others and kept sharing my story from a place of vulnerability.   What I received was nothing short of miracle after miracle from people that I have never met before in person.   The website is about to launch, creative has been completed, expert social marketing and social networking folks have been spending time with me strategizing, friends have been editing copy and offering their guidance and support, events are being scheduled, the totems have been ordered.   What I estimated would cost me $75K to get started has been accomplished by a team of volunteers and family spread throughout the united states and mexico for a fraction of the cost in just a few months.  

Its been 5 months and just 2 days ago I fully unpacked my car for the first time since January 3rd.   The ski season is over and spring has sprung.  I feel reborn and feel inspired as I reflect on the difference I made in peoples lives and the difference they continue to make in mine.   I find myself happily back in Santa Fe and reconnected to my community that I had been a part of for 13 yrs.   Today I also have a new community and a different understanding of what's possible when you decided to put yourself out there and make a difference. 

Resources continue to be a challenge for me personally and the project in these uncertain times but what I have come to know is there is an abundance in this universes and that the universe seems to show that abundance in unconventional ways.    In its latest gift I have the good fortune of helping a friend with some gardening in exchange for a beautiful room in a beautiful home in Santa Fe.  I've got my feelers out for consulting and coaching opportunities and if need be I can always find something to keep me going.  I've just been looking for the signs, doing the next thing in front of me, and standing firm in my commitment to see the Pink Elephant Project launch successfully.   So far so good!  

The Pink Elephant Project is nothing short of an expression of the idea of what's possible when a community of like minded people get together in the fulfillment of a common goal.   The reason why I picked the "Courage and Commitment to Communicate"  is because what the Project is about is not easy.   Its going to take the first group of courageous pioneers to bring the promise into their families and workplace and the commitment to come back to share their story with the community.   When this movement actually becomes a movement it will be because of the community found the "Courage and Commitment to Communicate" with each other and found their power through one another love, compassion, vulnerability and.... SHARED HUMANITY.  

In gratitude to those who have been with me on this extraordinary journey.  Shasheen

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Pink Elephant Project Trailer II

another inspiring video by Adriana Ochoa!

Beyond Perceptions: Right Brain Left Brain

The Pink Elephant Project's main objective is to raise awareness about how one's perceptions and experience shapes their interpretation of any given circumstances and also seeks to have individuals reflect introspectively to discover what it is about certain circumstances that has them get "triggered." 

That being said, this morning I received an interesting article this morning from my new friend Maria that suggests that not only do perceive things differently but we also think about differently based on whether or not we are right or left brained.   So on top of our past experiences in life and our filters that we have developed there also seems to be something else at work that has us "experience" the same exact phenomenon differently from one another.   6+ Billion people....6+ Billion interpretations.   Who's right?   :)

Friday, May 1, 2009

For the People By the People

As I sit here watching the sunrise on the Hood Canal looking at the mountains I am present to how this project is not mine but rather the communities.  We are just a few days away from launching the Phase I site and it is so exciting to think about what Phase II will look like.   I have contemplated all kinds of platforms, functionality, design elements, and architecture and have come to the conclusion that what is most important is that the world gets to hear and understand the message, take the Pink Elephant Promise and put it to work in their lives as soon as possible.  The Phase I site will do just that.   What is so refreshing is knowing that what comes next will be guided by the community.  I declare that this project is for the people and will be directed by the people.