Tuesday, December 22


Many years ago, I sat next to a priest on a short flight, but I will remember something he said for the rest of my life. He told me that in order to be happy, a person needs 3 things: something meaningful to do, something to look forward to, and someone to love. I have often reflected on his recipe for a balanced, productive life. This weekend, I realized he missed what I consider a 4th ingredient essential to happiness: community. I have written many times about what I believe is an innate need to belong, whether it’s to a family, college, work team--or even our planet. I believe this need to feel a part of a larger group is so fundamental that it ranks up there with his 3. And here is why I concluded this on this particular weekend:

Exactly a year ago this week, I moved to Galesville, Maryland, on the banks of the West River, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay. Although I still have my townhouse attached to my office in Old Town Alexandria, I have been putting down roots in Galesville over the course of the last year. In the course of the last year, I met many Galesville residents I instantly liked and was certain I wanted to get to know better. Some were retired from exciting lives that took them to the far corners of the world. Others were born and raised in Galesville—and had often returned here after living and working in other places. Two very special friends are in their 90s—Jack, who has a “Galesville room” in his home devoted to the history of the area, and Eleanor, who, at 98, out-parties me!

I have also written a lot about my belief that it takes focus on something (Gladwell and others would say “10,000 hours”) over time to create a critical mass that becomes the ‘tipping point’ from one state of being to another. This weekend was the tipping point for me in terms of feeling completely harmonious with the Galesville community. I woke up this morning realizing that I embrace it as my home—even the parts that are less than perfect. A series of holiday interactions over the course of the last few weeks created that critical mass that shifted my center of gravity:

 • My cottage was on the holiday home tour, which gave me the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people, including the organizers and other home owners.
 • The community held two charming holiday events at the Community Center.
 • Colorful, festive holiday banners line Main Street.
 • Neighbors organized for numerous parties, including an oyster roast last night that tied in with the judging of holiday decorations. Note that I went along to monitor the judging, and still received an award (see photo of award. Sorry-no photo of my Santa waving from an antique tractor.)
 • A new, exotically attired friend asked if I might have an ugly Christmas sweater, as she needed one for an office party themed around such attire. I was only too glad to share my very authentic ugly Christmas sweater and noted to myself that her request made me feel woven into the fabric of the community.

In fact, I discover as I write that there are too many events in the last few weeks to even try to continue listing them. I know I made a wonderful decision a year ago to move to Galesville, a diverse community filled with people who love sailing and the Bay as well as the town we share as our home. Thanks to all the people of Galesville who have welcomed me and helped me experience my happiest Christmas ever, as I feel a deep connection to the place I am and the people with whom I share it. Happy holidays and happy new year—and may each of you create and celebrate your own community!

Thursday, December 3

Giving Thanks for Courageous Leaders

I’ve learned that many client groups have a busy season.  Bakeries and ballet companies are entering their crazy-busy seasons now, while I am just wrapping up mine.  Many of my nonprofit clients have a “back-to-school” ethic, returning from summer vacation full of determination to live and lead better, thus driving my “busy season” from October through the first weeks of December.  (Of course, a whole other batch will get itchy in January and plan retreats for February and March.)  As I momentarily paused last weekend to break for Thanksgiving after returning from several back-to-back client meetings and events, I had time to reflect on all the clients in my life for which I am grateful.

I can describe them in one word: WOW! 

I can’t believe how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to work with such amazingly caring and talented people—from neuroscience nurses to bakery owners to national service leaders.  As I processed my experiences while traveling between groups, I concluded that perhaps the most valuable quality that nurtures such remarkable success for each group is the leadership in each organization/ association.  In particular, each of these groups have a leader who seeks hard feedback.  Not only do these leaders not flinch when they receive it—they actually WANT it!  And they listen without defensiveness, seeking to first understand, and then to explore positive alternatives.  I continue to learn so much about courage from these leaders, who have become partners and friends in our shared journeys. 

As you ramp up during the upcoming holidays, make sure you give yourself time to reflect, ask for feedback on how you’re doing, and express your appreciation to those who provide it.  Growth is nearly impossible without feedback on performance. As much as we all want to hear the good stuff, sometimes all it takes for a colleague to let go of a negative feeling or opinion is the chance to verbalize it and feel heard.  Thanks to the wonderful, courageous leaders who have modeled this behavior with their colleagues and with me.  You inspire me and I am grateful!